Wednesday, 16 February 2011

And Finally....

     This is be a parting shot concerning the issue in San Luis Potosi' and the attempted carjacking that took place earlier this week.  My compere reminded me in a note about how they used to drive around in a rented VW while doing their rounds, servicing Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) accounts.    At other times, while in service to a well known and wealthy industrialist, he reminded me that they drove all around the central part of the Republic in an old Ford for many, many miles and many, many episodes.     My compere had certain expertise in evaluating pumps, valves, and gauges which led to other industrial aptitudes that served him and his family well for many years.
      We have, I think, a peculiar fraternity because we have very, very similar backgrounds and understandings.   We are almost like the twins who finish each other's sentences.   He, however, thinks quite a bit more deeply and methodically than your humble servant.   I am given to hot-headedness and impatience. 
      The hour cometh and now is, that I begin preparations for a return to the Quinta.   My neighbour informed me yesterday that my Sargento Mayor had been busy completing the "repaving" projects with gravel that  my neighbour and I bought for the improvement of the approach to our properties.    The work was not mandatory, but aesthetically that time had come.  The hurricanes and tropical involvements of the previous rainy season brought matters to this point now.   We are making improvements on our pathways and drainways, and then a couple of very minor adjustments to the guest's room.

     It is a matter of considerable interest to me to see how our flamboyans (royal poncianas) are coming back from the freeze.
More later,
El Gringo Viejo

Roadblock? With updates

      This matter of the ICE agents is a real tragedy.   No two ways about it.  I have a couple of questions....and several of our gang have already commented about it, and even requested my observations.    Among them is my compere who stated, much more clearly and in many fewer words, almost precisely my thoughts. 
      (1)     Who in the Hell decided to let these guys drive around in an Embassy vehicle from Mexico City to Monterrey?     It makes no sense.    There are at least 26 flights each way each day....probably more.    There are at least 200 deluxe busses who make the trip....completely via 4, 6, and 8 lane expressway now....that are commonly used by middle class, upper-middle class and the extremely wealthy, highly placed princesses, grannies, and children of the rich and powerful of the world.....not just Mexico.   That does not count at least 1,000 very nice 1st class busses that make the same run in an express or semi-direct manner.  
       The Embassy vehicle does not have Embassy of the United States of America painted on the side, nor does it carry twin US flags on the front fender....It is black, with dark windows, and moderately well armoured.  It might or might not have had embassy plates.....I have yet to determine that.  The probability is that the plates were the normal "D.F." plates of the Distrito Federal.   Many embassies choose to use common plates for the "walking around" vehicles in the Mexico City area.

     (2)     The notion that there was a "Zeta roadblock" on this particular highway is a stunning, purposeful lie on the part of the leftist American press, and, lamentably, even FOX....who, I hope, is only mistaken.      This highway, right at the point of the incident, has about one-third the traffic load that exists between San Antonio, Austin, Waco, and Dallas/Fort Worth.   At night one can witness at some of the passes with 40 or 50 miles of straight line of view, literally hundreds of headlights coming up from the South and hundreds of taillights heading down from the North.
      The precise place where the incident took place has an average traffic count of 200,000 vehicles of all kinds per 24 hour period.  In a rural area (!).  

      (3)     This was not a roadblock.    It was probably a team of Cartel people, perhaps from the defeated remnants of the La Familia Cartel.    They were on a foraging expedition, looking for SUVs and Escalades and late model deluxe pickups to replace their "remuda" (word for a group of horses used in commercial, farming/ranching, or military applications).    There is no way an illegal roadblock could be established at that place.    Perhaps.....for two or three minutes, but no longer.    The long-distance truck drivers, who can tell a cartel thug attempting to dress like police or military personnel literally from a kilometre's distance,  would have rammed the "roadblock" with their trucks, as they have done at times in other areas.  
     This particular incident was conducted by a "team" of 3 to 6 individuals, not by a two-platoon Army-looking deployment.     For instance, there were none of the "Inspeccion SEDENA - 2oo metros" ,  "Alto Obligatorio 100 metros" at this particular scene.   So there was no attempt even to make it look like a "real live " military checkpoint.    (SEDENA means Secretaria de Defensa Nacional).

       Oddly, all kinds of things have been going on with reference to the violence issue....almost all of it has been positive.   It was a real crusher for us to hear about this incident.   If they had asked my compere and me about going to Monterrey in a black SUV....both agents would be in Monterrey to-day.    I would have been glad to drive them in my old jalopy, on the same route, day or night.     Please consider, my compere and I have almost 70 years of combined experience driving in Mexico.

     More later as I glean some more information from my sources.   Thanks as always for your attention.

      As assumed, there was no roadblock.   The "sicarios" (evil doers, a term used by official and civilians in Mexico) were looking for the vehicle, and did a "box in " maneuver.    The particular vehicle being used by the two agents is one that is commonly associated with the cartel people.
      The notion that they were going from Mexico City to Monterrey....AS REPORTED BY EVERY AMERICAN NEWS SOURCE....was, of course, ridiculous.    This begs the question even further concerning why the agents did not use the deluxe or first class busses that roll out every 8 - 11 minutes between Mexico City and San Luis Potosi'.       For those who wonder...San Luis Potosi' is almost precisely midway between Mexico City and Monterrey.   This horrid incident took place....if I identify it correctly by my experience over the years on that particular stretch of the highway....about 20 miles south of San Luis Potosi' the southbound lanes.
      It is reasonable for Americans to scratch their heads about the bus thing, but if you were to live and/or work in Mexico it becomes second nature to use their very excellent autobus service.   There are about 20 deluxe and first class carriers throughout the country....all private sector....that provide a relatively inexpensive (not cheap) and comfortable ride to almost any destination.  These companies are used by almost all classes of people, including the wealthy, the professionals, and the rest of us who can scratch together the centavos  for the service.  Each day there are 700,000 boardings on this class of service.

     My estimate is that there will be two weeks or less before the perpetrators are found, beaten to a pulp, and brought before the cameras.    At this moment a disorder is occurring in Zitacuaro (not far from the famous  monarch butterfly wintering area) and I feel that it has something of a connection with what happened with our agent outside of San Luis Potosi'.   Government forces essentially destroyed the La Familia organization about a month ago in Michoacan State, adjacent and to the south of San Luis Potosi' state.   To me, this activity...poorly executed....was done by stragglers who escaped the wrath of the Army during that episode around Zitacuaro, Valle del Bravo, and such places....about an hour's drive to the south of Santa Maria del Rio & San Luis de la Paz (where this incident took place on the main highway south of San Luis Potosi' city).  

The Old Gringo

Monday, 14 February 2011

Back to Court

     We have a long term guest coming to us at  the end of the month.    This is a blessing for an operation such as ours, as you all might imagine.   Long-term in our business is anything over a fortnight, and this particular guest might become almost semi-permanent.   So, I shall be going down soon to make final preparations, oversee the post-freeze pruning and gardening necessities, help with a minor interior repair to the mansion de la Quinta, and also to oversee the distribution of a large dump-truck load of gravel.    We shall be putting about 60% of the gravel on the road that runs in front of our property, while 40% will be dedicated  to freshening up the perimetral drainways that surround the house, the parking area, and the pathways that lead to points down in our "controlled wilderness" adjacent to the Rio Corona. 
     The client will be going down on the bus from McAllen.   It is the client's desire that we deliver on our promise of "absolute boredom".....tranquility is the number one requirement on the list.    The client is also a reader, a walker (5 miles per day), a veteran of living and travelling in Mexico, and a person of multiple interests.    As well, our new guest is a non-drinker and does not smoke,  likes dogs and cats, is an early riser, and I believe is a bit of a bird-watcher.   So, we have a pretty good fit.     I shall provide a couple of weeks of to catch the busses....we have what must be the best, most deluxe rural bus service in North America, with nice, fancy busses going by in each direction about every 12  - 16 minutes.   The client is an expert on Mexican bus that helps.   Later the intent is to bring the pickup back down, but for right now there is no need for it.

     My biggest problem, if it can be called such, is that I have another jury summons.    I receive more jury summons than final offers for AMEX, Visa, MC credit cards.   Normally I serve without whining or moaning because I really do look forward to jamming up a punitive damages lawsuit filed by the guy who wants $32,000,000 in damages because there was no warning posted on the chainsaw that he bought stating that he should not brush his teeth with said chainsaw.
     Sometimes I really am down in the remotest parts of Mexico...on the edge of telephone service....and attending to clients.   So about a third of the time I request to be "re-inserted" for another date....not exempted or excused.  The rest of the time I show up.   My last case was a criminal proceeding....sexual abuse of a child....and we were fixing to go to final selection of the empanelment.   The charges were dropped about 90 minutes before trial because the defence attorney (a newly retired Naval Adjutant) had indicated that she was going to call the other seven men that the aggrieved had filed charges upon during the preceding two years.
     The final potential jurors on this case thought they had been over-paid, abused by a dunce-like assistant prosecutor, and generally imposed upon by being assigned into a case that could never have resulted in a guilty verdict even if the accused had been 100% guilty.

      This time, I have a federal court summons.   It may be for Grand Jury service or it might be for petit jury.   It will be necessary for me to be present in the McAllen area on March 5th.    The  procedure now is to call on the evening before the appearance date to receive recorded instructions concerning any changes/lack of changes in the summons date.    If service is not required, the potential juror is also advised at that time.     We shall see how that works....apparently it has served well to this point.   It makes more sense than the State's system of having 600 people trundle into an auditorium, listen to a dull repetition of what is already commonly known and/ or written down, and then wait around for a week to be put into a pre-trial pool or not.
      My mother served on a federal grand jury back in the late 1950's....and that involved over a year's coming and going to Brownsville (65 miles one way from McAllen) at various times during the session....It might have been 18 months, now that I think about it.
      Now everyone knows more about my future than anyone cared to know, but I shall strive to keep you even more well-informed as the paint dries. 

Thanks you all for your kind words, questions, and interest.
The Old Gringo  

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Questions Folks Ask...

     There are times when questions are asked and observations made that must be addressed.  During the episode of the couple who had a contretemps near Nvo. Cd. Guerrero's original founding site some months back, jet-skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, I made my observations.  
      It was more than a little surprizing to me to learn that the survivor...the wife of the individual who was purportedly killed in the affair....was making the rounds as an official guest of various potentates and poobahs at the Texas Capitol.    She was being received as a messenger and victim.

       The latest event, concerning the missionary and his wife, occurred on the same highway, at the same place and moment give or take a mile or two and 10 minutes or so, as when I was going down to the Quinta last time.    In this affair there is little doubt as to the accuracy of the reverend gentleman's accounts.    He and his wife and their efforts in the outback of Tamaulipas are fairly well known.   They are not shallow do-gooders.   They have striven to bring the wayward to the Truth and Redemption in their Protestant way and they have done other good works while forwarding this effort.    They are good people.   She is in another place  that Yahweh reserves for good Protestants.   He has another place for good Roman Catholics....and He reserves yet another much smaller, but special place for a few good Episcopalians.   I think they all meet in the same rec-hall for bingo and barbeque night....but I am not sure.
       There were questions and comments about this case here locally.   Those questions were:

     (1)     Why them, why there, why then???   The "them" part is simply bad luck.   They were there at that time, and they happened to have a particular type of pick-up truck (double cab, one ton) that is most favoured by the cartel people for drug/personnel transport.
       The "there" and "then" part goes hand in hand.    It is also due to a particular irony which occurred  less than a week earlier.    Irony nowadays is a word that dumbo reporters and others use when they mean 'coincidence'.   Irony however does not mean that.   It means that a particular, usually negative, result happens precisely because of an activity that was meant to avoid the undesirable result incurred.     For instance, Jake went across the street to the pharmacy to pick up his essential, life-sustaining heart medicine.    As he left the pharmacy a city bus hit him as he walked into its path while reading the new instructions about dosage.   That is ironic.
      About a week before this dastardly event, the Mexican Army received an anonymous tip (coming in with greater frequency now) concerning a ranch outside of Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas.   The unfortunate name of the little community (I know not why) is "El Mocotito" (roughly "Little Booger" or "Little Snot"   It can also be a vernacular term for "urchin").   The place....actually more a long-abandoned farm-stead than a ranch....was said to be a training center for cartel thugs.    The Army swept in early the next morning....killed 10 miscreants....freed three people who were encountered bound and blindfolded in an outbuilding, and decommissioned various arms, munitions, and 11 motor vehicles.   Two soldiers were wounded but not seriously. 
     So, the grab for the pick-up just north of San Fernando on that sunny day was, ironically, due to the success of the military operation a few days before.   It was essentially part of an effort to replace lost transportation. 
       Without vehicles such as that pickup and certain popular SUVs,  the miscreants' efforts are extremely...severely....restricted.

(2)      Why did the reverend missionary not stop in Reynosa, a place he knows well, at any of a number of trauma places in order to seek medical attention for his wife?   It had been almost 40 minutes of driving, at very high speeds, to make it that far, and going to McAllen would take another hour....bridge congestion, Valley traffic, McAllen traffic, etc.
       The reverend missionary seems to have thought it would just be better to make it to the "other side" to seek help.    I think, however, that he knew his wife was gone, and that he just did not want it to develop into a Mexican and international legal morass.    Me....bury me in Mexico.   My written orders are to never forward my useless body over any international boundary....and never, never involve the United States State Department.
      The reverend missionary was under extreme duress, however, and he narrowly escaped with his life.   Whatever decision he made at the time was the right decision.    For him,   for that moment, it was the right thing to do.   Ten years from now we can keep debating about "Why didn't he....?"   but it is frankly none of my business or anyone else's to contradict what decisions he made....especially at the time he made such decisions.
      So, the "there" and "then" of the issue;    ''There" is only about 9 miles by straight line from the Army assault against the place at El Mocotito, and "Then" is because it was about 6 days before that that Army success, ironically provoked the disaster in the life of the missionaries.

      Now you all may know a bit of why a keep my 1992 model vehicle.   I always advise folks to try to leave their fancy 1-ton pickups at home, and try to avoid driving the Escalade (or facsimile) around.    AND FINALLY, with regard to this topic, if they want your motorcar, of any kind, let them have it.    It is a rare occurrence, made to seem numerous by the press, and in 99% of the cases, they just want your vehicle.
       If you think that you are immune from carjackings by remaining in the United States, it might do you well to review any medium or large city newspaper, daily.....or check into web-based information concerning the topic, as it pertains to our beloved America which is daily more contaminated by people who are devoid of the merest catechism.

       It should be noted that the Reverend Missionary has determined to go back soon to his work in the outback of Tamaulipas.   The local right-wing radio station (my station) seemed stunned by this and submitted the issue to a "People Poll"....and they seemed stunned by the response.   It broke down to 50 - 50 concerning whether or not folks thought the Reverend Missionary was doing the right thing.   My opinion (I voted in the poll) is that those who live, work, and generally deal with matters "over there"  voted in approval of his decision, while those who base their reasonable decisions solely on what is emanated by the American and other foreign press voted in disapproval.

     More later,  You all have probably had your fill of my grumbling, so I release you to your liberty, only to threaten you all with more of the same later this afternoon....concerning my own return to the Quinta....and a client up-date.
As usual, Thank you all for your kind attention.
El Gringo Viejo....   

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Long, Tough Two Weeks....

Hello again.
We are back in town for a bit, driving up yesterday.

     Yes, yesterday afternoon at around 2:00 pm,   arriving in time to wait at the Anzalduas crossing for and hour and a half.   The bridge is a nice and convenient crossing point for people who live/work from western McAllen , Mission, and the Palmhurst-Penitas-La Joya area of the Magic Lower Rio Grande Valley.     It has a problem, though,  in that the people who have the "quick pass" to avoid the using a pre-paid, pre-screened profile, bioscopic pass (about 250 dollars/year)....have a lane of approach, but no inspection booth...(????).
         One hapless fellow, apparently a well-to-do person from the city of  San Pedro de Garza Garcia, part of the Monterrey metroplex, drove up the vacant line, passing quickly by the rest of us dopes who were moving up at about 100 yards every 15 minutes.    He soon saw the fact that his lane lead to nowhere, except to some place called "Aekuandri".  I think it is the town they named after TaeKwanDoh's sister.
    He stopped beside me, lowered his window of the new Audi sedan, and inquired, "What do I do? "   He chose me because I was the only Gringo in the left-most line....all lines having 300 or more vehicles.    It serves to note that we were about 20 vehicles from the finish line.  He still addressed me in Spanish, probably because he was impressed with my 92 Dodge with the scars of 350,000 miles of service.
     I advised, "Sorry, but I do not go into service until 3:00 pm......You have to understand that we are the most advanced people in the world, so this is not actually happening.    I think it is what happens when the bridge is designed and operated by the government in Washington."    We laughed a bit...and he showed me his "Sentri Pass Card"....declaring "I am really not trying to break the causes me a bit of shame to be here like this".....
     Interrupting him, I observed, "The deal is that you paid a lot of money for your expedited pass and had to sit around in American Counsel for two or three days to obtain the pass...and you come to a bridge that says the have Sentri Pass....and then find out at the last minute that the system is not installed as of yet.   There's not a lot of shame in that....." .    Then I told him to pull in front of me with the next movement of the line and he could go with the flow.    If anything it was a little embarrassing for me as an American....but I shall allow the President to apologize in his next round of teachable apologies for the shortcomings of America and the Americans.

       THIS HAS BEEN A fairly tough period for an Old Gringo.   The cold finally arrived with a vengeance.     By Wednesday last  the tongue of Arctic invasion oozed into the Mexican tropics, splashed along the face of the Sierra Madre Oriental, leaving the Monterrey area covered in ice, sleet, and copious amounts of snow at all elevations.    Our mountains had a good amount of snow, freezing rain, and freezing fog.   The Quinta had a few brief flurries and a bit of freezing rain.   From Wednesday night through Friday night the temperature never went above 32 degrees F.   My lowest recording was about 21.5 degrees, and the majority of the episode vacillated between 26 to 30 and night.
       One of the disadvantages in revelling in the low-tech environment of exposed wiring and plumbing.....(It's easier to repair, don't you know, by the rustic maestros when things need fixing) the fact that if the plumbing and wiring are exposed then the chance that repairs will be needed at all are substantially enhanced.
       In this case I had to, of necessity, stay awake during the entire period, with very small exceptions, in order to keep going back and forth to run each and every water line however briefly so as to prevent tubing ruptures from ice expansion.    One time the Old Gringo managed to fall asleep in front of the television for about 2 hours.
     My efforts were rewarded with having a still intact system on Saturday morning, when the temperature went back above freezing for the first time since Tuesday before.   The electricity stayed on for the entire period, save for the brief moment that power was turned off while electricity transfers were being made to Texas.    That later proved to be an impossibility because as the hours went by it became apparent that the cold wave was probably going to be as bad or worse in northern and central Mexico as it was being in Texas.
     As the weather events worsened to unanticipated levels it became apparent that this was not going to be a two-day affair with an overnight frost.  Freezing temperatures continued all the way down to between Cd. Valles and Mante, which are situated well below the Tropic of Cancer.

DEALING WITH THE CATS and DOGS during prolonged inclemency

 Nephertiti takes a personal interest
in my special, prize winning cats

    The poor dogs found the shelters I made for them with boxes,  old blankets and towels.....they still appeared  forlorn and mournfully long stares at the cats who excersized  their Pharaohnic discretion to come and go, inside and out of the house at will.     Prince, Pinto, Trouble, and New Puppy could only imagine life inside the adobe walls, sprawled in front of the fireplace on a personalized bathroom throw rug for each Daughter of Nephertiti.....Smokey, Cleopatra, and Calico.   I would even allow old Sylvester, Smokey's black and white son with the two-crooked tail, most of both ears still, and one good eye still to come in and eat Whiskas in his personal bowl,  with an after-dinner bit of warmed half-and-half with three kitty-kookies as a little extra favour.    Nothing too special, because you never want to spoil a cat.
       I did feed the dogs at "their time", which is 04:00, warmed Gravy Train, and one large dog biscuit, plus one small dog biscuit, followed by another similar feeding around 14:00 hours.   These feedings require more supervision, because Prince is accustomed to "forgetting"  that "this bowl is for Pinto, and this bowl is for Trouble, and this bowl is for you".   He usually "forgets" when I go back inside, eating freely of all three sometimes, even in the cold,  one needs to keep an eye on things.
      "Prince!   Bad Dog!  That bowl belongs to Pinto!"  
       Prince skulks off, head down, tail lowered, but not between the legs.  "But you told me in English and I did not understand."
       To which I respond with an accusatory glare, "Yesterday you said that I had told you in Spanish and you did not which is it?"
        There is no response as he slow-foots off to his personal box to curl into against the brutal wind.    He knows I won the feels really
good to beat a dog in a domestic dispute....kinda rather re-instates me as the Alpha Dog in this pack.   Keeps things on an adult level.....

       There are always things to do and check into.   One of the main reasons for being here this time is that we have a potential long term client....also an active person who has lived in some very interesting places in Mexico over the years.    This potential client has interests in Texas that require being a little closer to the border, and it is very probable that we can develop a mutually advantageous long-term relationship.    Tomorrow we should know.
       Other matters are the purchase of a sundry of supplies for the Quinta.
The time has come to close this post as things change and remain the same.   Thank you all for your attention.   Your many comments have been reviewed and sincerely appreciated.
El Gringo Viejo