Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Drifting in the Land of Memory and Adventure


Suddenly....after dozing off, listening to the rain...finally....my favourite messenger can be heard.  His mount is striking hard ground still, in spite of the bit of rain. It has been almost four months since any significant water has been squeezed out of the skies.

    El Gringo Viejo bolts up and strides, fairly quickly for a geezer, to the gallery outside the front door. It is, to be sure, El Zorro but he is on a different mission....riding up briefly and reining Diablo to a tippy-toe stop.  He hands me his letter of commentary, declaring, "This is to set the record straighter!" He smiled, saluted, and whirled off, shouting, "....the tax people are shaking down the hacendados and even some of the vaqueros.   El Capitan says that they must pay another 25% because of the new medical coverage!  And he told everyone it would be cheaper in the long run.....!!  Wish me luck!!"
     In just a few seconds it was as always...as if he had just disappeared into the darkening dusk and the oak motts at the base of the hills. I unfolded the letter and saved the envelope back inside, turn up the lantern to fight the darkness a bit, and commenced to read.  It was an order of revision and extension of El Gringo Viejo's previous post concerning having been the lowest ranking  White House Staffer in history....lower than an intern.   But,  as usual, there are things said in this fleshing out of those days that should be said.
     It is well that two curmudgeons allow folks to know that each of us has seen it all...or almost all....and we have even made some of it happen to folks....and some folks made it  happened at us.   But, there is not a lot of fiction involved in these recountings, if any.
As to the first part, El Gringo Viejo is pseudo correct.
     As the lowest ranking White House Staffer, or technically shortly thereafter, he was assigned to the Office of Economic Opportunity’s (OEO) field office in Edinburg, Texas called the “Associated City County Economic Development Corporation (a non-profit)” of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (easier said the “ACCEDC”).  In the summer of 1971 El Zorro (pseudonym) was discharged from active duty and returned to civilian life to pursue his BA degree in the Government curriculum offered at Pan American University, now University of Texas at Pan American.
     While working at the community centre at PAU and as an intern working at the Hidalgo County Judge’s office to supplement the GI Bill for education he was approached by El Gringo regarding a not-so-minor position at the ACCEDC to participate in a “low cost housing project” study.  The actual purpose of the study was not to justify and deploy low cost housing for the below-the-poverty-line families but rather to justify massive funding.  Here is where El Gringo Viejo would arbitrarily be the second lowest ranking White House Staffer.  To be perfectly honest, El Zorro is not sure El Gringo was at that time still a White House Staffer, but he was the Republican plant at the ACCEDC with token credibility.  His position was third in command behind the Executive Director, Eliseo Sandoval and the Vice Executive Director, Luis Ramirez.
     So he did have considerable influence but, being inserted into the agency by a higher power against the will of the directors, he had to fight for every smidgeon of respectability.  That being said he made an mid-level position for a low-income housing-study technician.  The irony is that El Gringo and El Zorro very diligently prepared a study and justified actual low cost housing which, if implemented, would have actually been a worthwhile project that was affordable and practical.  The problem with the study is that it was too good and would not bring in the massive amount of federal funding that the agency had anticipated.  The Director and his sidekick thought that by hiring a "low level" employee with no background or expertise in the area of low cost housing they could just throw numbers on the wall with the uneducated and impertinent documentation and the money would come down.  Ultimately, at a final conference where El Gringo and El Zorro presented and argued for  the results of their study, El Zorro was interrupted by Luis Ramirez with, “Don’t you ever shut up?”.  With that El Zorro walked out of the conference room and the ACCEDC never to return.   El Gringo Viejo has much more insight into the workings and purposes of the OEO and the ACCEDC but this is an example of the attitudes and ideology of the elites.  They have all the money but dish out small amounts to the recipients.  When the projects fail the reasons given are “not enough funding” while the administrators still wear their sharkskin suits, Italian shoes, drive expensive luxury cars, live in the finest neighborhoods and look down their noses at the “proles”.
      El Zorro has been on the fringes of this inbred socialist system from the President’s staff on down to the lowest local level.  El Gringo Viejo and El Zorro (before they were El Gringo and El Zorro respectively) were conversationally acquainted to John Tower, Lloyd Bentsen,  locally in the Rio Grande Valley.   Later supporting George Bush the first, El Zorro offering insight to Marlin Fitzwater * (Vice-President George H. W. Bush's campaign in 1988) as El Gringo advised George H. W. Bush.  As El Zorro made a personal and professional change, El Gringo has kept his right index finger on the button and his right ear on the ground (having been slammed on the left side of his head with a water sprinkler by a low life… sorry for the divergence…) but he is and has been a great inspiration for me.  His journal is worth every word, whether you agree or not, you cannot refute the logic and truths.
*minor addenda:
    El Zorro was an "on-call"  security-cleared "point-man" who could be used with confidence both as a partisan and as a secure contact in terms of moral, criminal, and psychological examinations to handle events such as a formal round of meetings, public and private, which in this event cited by El Zorro, included the Vice-President of the United States (soon to be President of same).   In truth, El Zorro's security clearance was higher than El Gringo Viejo's.
    My task was to make sure that the people to be closest both physically and in terms of socio-political situations...would be the most adept intellectually.  I had to turn in a list of names, and none could know the other, and I had to name the "lead-dog" of the group of names.   Modesty, perhaps keeps El Zorro from pointing out that in this particular case he was the chauffeur of Marlin Fitzwater, the Vice-President's press co-ordinator, spokesman, and closest advisor in those days.  He had the most "face time".
  During this particular episode El Zorro had to advise Marlin very closely, and very frankly, about the  stupid Elephant Cannibalism that the Hidalgo County and much of South Texas Republican Ranch was practicing.  El Gringo Viejo's problem was that he was a well-known rightwing crazy and El Zorro, although the same rightwinger, was/is more controlled and understated.    Far better he than I to orient Marlin, and to show him the various land mines to negotiate.  I had little or no contact with anyone except at the hotel....Mr. Fitzwater and the Vice-President were very complementary.   Fitzwater stayed up, we talked at the bar for a bit, both of us drinking tonic and lemon juice, and after 16 or 18 minutes we parted company.  That was the entirety of my time with the XO...and I had spent less time with the CO.   
    El Zorro did three calendar days of work...all of this stuff is unpaid, and worked magic without detracting from the Star.   In those moments, the governor of Texas was a Country Club Republican like GWH Bush, but had booked an event in a very large venue to purposefully interfere with the Vice-President's Campaign....and the VP (soon to be President) was a member of the same Texas  Country Club Republican faction!!!
     We had to really watch out because LLoyd Bentsen was from McAllen - Mission.  He was also fluent in Spanish and was a powerful, adored, and despised political personality throughout South Texas and the Houston Big Business arena. He had been put on the ballot by the Democrats as the Vice-Presidential nominee.  When all was said and done, Bush duplicated, almost, Reagan's 44% of the Latino vote...and much of that was due to holding the skilled, blue-collar, professionals,  and small business Latins in where they were supposed to be anyway.  Texas went heavily Republican   King George the First was actually unaware that we could do that well simply by being accessible.   El Zorro was a very successful cog in that wheel of success.   Among other successes.
     The matter of the housing thing was understated.   Luis Ramirez always felt threatened by anyone who was competent.   Neither he nor the Executive Director would have known what to do with our neighbours-building-neighbour's houses with a very simple construction format, relying on Master-level blue collar tradesmen and pre-prepared plans instead of contractors and architects.   Frightening...to jerks who want to "help the poor" by paying themselves tonnes of shekels while "helping the poor".  Later, the Executive Director Eliseo Sandoval, was convicted of fraud and misappropriation and made license plate for a couple of years.   He and another "Executive Director" of the County's employment training program (millions and millions flushed) set up a janitorial service for the night-cleaning of various public buildings, using totally subsidised "trainees" to keep their costs down.  El Gringo Viejo had people ask me to drop a dime on them, but someone else did it before I had chewed the cud on it.
A laugh...and a waste of part of my life for the Republican Party.  But it was all worth it!
El Gringo Viejo