Monthly Archives: September 2013
I will not knowingly lie to my readers. I sometimes stroll through the plaza with the sole intention of listening in on other people’s conversations. (I think they know anyway). It’s a great way to get a story and I’ve yet to get caught. Remember the two old timers in the dark hat and the white hat? Well, just the other day they were back on their bench. It took me two trips to get the whole story but it was worth it. Here’s what I overheard.
DARK HAT Tecate is just not the same anymore. The traffic these days! Just look at all those cars!
WHITE HAT The noise! Listen to those horns, the screaming sirens!
DARK HAT Tecate has changed.
WHITE HAT I used to come in here and have a drink at the Diana. I tied up my horse right over there where you see that traffic signal.
DARK HAT And I used to come into town in my horse and wagon and deliver vegetables. Doña Teresa had her grocery store right over there where you see that computer store. Computers, humph!
WHITE HAT Tecate is just not the same anymore.
DARK HAT I don’t like it.
Neither spoke for a while. They just sat and watched the people in the plaza, young boys and girls flirting, walking arm in arm, cuddling, stealing kisses.
WHITE HAT Look at that! I remember when we used to do the same thing.
DARK HAT. Me too! We were always chasing after the pretty girls, teasing, flirting and – I can’t seem to remember why anymore.
WHITE HAT It’s old age.
DARK HAT I don’t like it.
WHITE HAT Neither do I, but what can we do about it? I’m so stiff in the morning I can hardly get out of bed. My wife crushes arnica leaves and make a poultice and rubs it on my back so I can get up.
DARK HAT I know what you mean. My back hurts something awful and then I get cramps in my legs.
WHITE HAT You get up to go to the bathroom at night?
DARK HAT Not anymore. I suppose you get up at night to go pee.
WHITE HAT Worse than that – I wet the bed!
DARK HAT No!
WHITE HAT Sí It’s that damn dream.
DARK HAT You mean the dwarf?
WHITE HAT Sí, sí the ugly one. Every night I have a dream and it’s this ugly dwarf with bumps all over his face. And he says to me, “did you make pipi?” And the next thing I know my bladder lets loose!
DARK HAT Yes, I remember! That used to happen to me.
WHITE HAT Really?
DARK HAT Sí, but that cabrón doesn’t bother me anymore. I got rid of him.
WHITE HAT You did? How did you do that?
DARK HAT Next time that ugly dwarf show up and asks you if you made pipi, you just say, “yes, cabrón, I’ve made pipi!”
WHITE HAT That’s all – and he goes away?
DARK HAT I worked for me.
WHITE HAT I’ll let you know how it works out tomorrow.
Well, you can be sure I was skulking behind their bench the nest morning. I was not going to miss part two of a great story. Presently they appeared, settled into their bench and I listened.
DARK HAT Well, how did it go?
WHITE HAT Worse than ever!
DARK HAT But, what happened? The dwarf didn’t show up and you wet the bed anyway?
WHITE HAD Oh no, the ugly dwarf showed up last night. And he asked me, “did you make pipi?”
DARK HAT Did you do what I told you?
WHITE HAT Yes. I yelled, “sí cabrón! I’ve made pipi – now get out!”
DARK HAT Then what went wrong?
WHITE HAT Then the stupid dwarf asks me – “did you make poopy?”
Readers and follower of these chronicles have been asking me for a story so today I thought I would tell you about Cosme. He’s a fixture here in the plaza. The plastic cup you see in his hand is an extension of the man himself. No one has ever seen him without it. His trademark, you could say. He’s been a beggar as long as I’ve known him. His main beat is on Calle Cardenas somewhere between the Diana and the Libreria Aleph, Tecate’s oldest book store. I’m of a generous nature so I always make it a point to drop a ten or even a twenty in his cup (pesos) whenever I pass by. I’ve known him for years but I don’t know much about his past. He is educated, articulate, but rarely talks about himself. I put him somewhere in his late fifties.
A few days ago I saw a tall American come out of the Diana and look at Cosme standing there with his cup in his hand and hope in his eyes. He was a good looking man, fortyish, well groomed, wearing about $900 in Ralph Loren Black Watch polo, tan chinos, and suede ankle boots. Maybe even a couple of hundred dollars in Ralph Lauren underwear. He probably paid more for his watch than I did for my car. The big guy immediately reaches for his wallet, pulls out a crispy twenty dollar bill and drops it in Cosme’s cup.
He had a big friendly voice. “Aw, you poor miserable fellow. I know things are tough now, but I hope this helps until things get better for you.”
“Oh, thank you, señor, thank you! You are right when you say I am poor, but I am not miserable. No señor, I’m a very happy man. In fact, things couldn’t be better!”
“What! You’re out here every day holding out your cup hoping that enough will drop in for a decent meal and shelter for the day. And tomorrow you’re out here doing the same thing. That ain’t happy!”
“Well, señor, I am a very happy man. I didn’t spend an hour stuck on the freeway this morning on my way to work here. I didn’t have to suffer two hours in a meeting with a bunch of retarded MBA types saying stupid things to impress the boss. The friendly service manager with a hyena smile didn’t call and tell me that the estimate on the Mercedes was $3100. My computer didn’t die on me in the middle of a client presentation. The pool man didn’t tell me that the pump on the swimming pool has to be replaced for $1200. And my wife didn’t call me at the office to tell me that the maid didn’t show up today and the dishwasher is gushing water all over the kitchen floor.”
A woman came out of the book store at that moment and dropped ten pesos in his cup.
“Gracias, señora, muchas gracias. Vaya don Dios.”
Cosme returned his attention back to the American. “My house is small, only four rooms, no giant screen TV, no swimming pool.But it’s all mine. No bank, no loans, no payments, no interest, no foreclosure. No, señor, I don’t mind being poor. I am a very happy man.”
A few days later the affable American in Ralph Loren was back. I watched him come out of the Diana and give Cosme a big grin. I noticed he was holding a plastic cup in hand.
“Hey, do you mind if I share your corner today?”
Cosme made room for him and smiled.
A well-dressed man carrying a briefcase came around the corner at that moment and dropped a coin in the American’s cup then dropped another coin in Cosme’s.
I watched the two beggars exchange a high five.
Summer in the plaza is happy time. The plaza in Tecate is where you come to leave a troubled world behind and brush away the cobwebs of the mind. Romance is always in the air. There’s comfort food at a sidewalk cafe, frosty margaritas, and music that will melt your heart. Think of it as a tune-up for the soul. There’s also strolling, shopping, and flirting. Maybe even hugs and kisses.