Monthly Archives: February 2015
Praise for Daniel Reveles’s previous books.
ENCHILADAS, RICE, AND BEANS
SALSA AND CHIPS
TEQUILA, LEMON, AND SALT
Irony…earthy characters…a Mexican O. Henry! Highly recommended.
___ Library Journal
The flavor is close to that of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.
___ Los Angeles Times
Gentle ironies and clever twists…more than just a playful excursion.
____ Washingtonn Post
Magical! Full of love, laughter, irony and tears…
For Andrea West
who ignited the flame
my GPS who helps me navigate the tricky shoals and reefs of prose.
Cover design, Andrea West
Technical magic, Michelle Ross
Recovery from cyberspace, Sonia Esther Garcia Guttierrez
A troupe of mariachis, with their happy brown faces, and fiesta smiles under resplendent sombreros studded with silver, gathered around my corner table at La Fonda and surrounded us with a glittering melody, sweet as a kiss, painful as love. Weeping violins, plaintive guitars, and a sweet trumpet that could break your heart, spilled into the restaurant. My dinner guest was Kinsee Morlan, a young journalist from San Diego. It was easy to see she was enraptured. I ordered another margarita for both of us.
“What was that!” she gasped.
“El Pistón must be in the bar. You’ll meet him later,” I promised.
Kinsee was here to gather local color for an article she was doing for San Diego CityBeat. I ordered dinner, and over a hot plate of enchiladas, rice, and beans, I related the whole story of the Guacamole Gang as foretold by a few splaters of duck poop.
When I concluded my narrative I saw an unmistakable expression of doubt in Kinsee’s dark amber eyes.
“How can a duck make a prophecy!” She did not phrase it as a question.
“Marcelina, our local psychic did the actual reading,” I explained.
“What’s to read?”
“It’s called scatomancy.”
My guest looked pensive now. She twisted her lips into a wry pucker which I figured had to do with the fiery salsa she was dipping into. Then I recognized the sarcastic grimace characteristic of the born skeptic.
“You’re telling me Marcelina is a poop psychic? I don’t want to believe it.”
“All this happened back in those halcyon days before 9/11, those happy days when you could get on a plane without taking your clothes off, and the only terrorists we were acquaintaed with were in thriller novels.”
“And kids didn’t pack a gun to school.”
“Exacto. And you could go to a movie reasonably sure you wouldn’t be shot dead before it was over. And in those days Mexican border officers would considerate it highly discourteous to search a visitor’s car for explosives. And your driver’s license and a smile were all you needed to re-enter the U.S. But everything I told you came to pass. You see, here in Tecate, we merely play our role in life at the whim of Doña Fortuna.”
“You call her Lady Fate in your country.”
I hid a smile. Here in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, we have long known that reality can be a major cause of stress. And yet Americans seem so obsessed with it. Get real is a popular American aphorism. T.S. Elliot once said, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” Well, here in Tecate we licked that problem faster than you can say Popocatepetl.
Shortly after the conquistadores invaded our shores, we exchanged reality for illusion. Things got better immediately. But the Spaniards also arrived with a monster called Time. Well, Quetzalcoatl, the great Aztec chief, ordered the tyrant brought to the altar where the high priests ripped out his clock – while it was still ticking! And Time died. Then Doña Fortuna came sweeping down just like Athena did on a previous occasion, and made an announcement.
“Sheath your swords, paisanos! From this day on I’m in charge here and you might as well know there is no armor against Fate.”
Our first thought, of course, was to bribe her, but it didn’t take us long to discover that Fate is incorruptible. The end result is that today in our little pueblo it is impossible to distinguish truth from fantasy. I tell you all this because you too might find the adventures of the Guacamole Gang put a strain on your belief system. But believe me, the whole story will hold up under the lamp of truth. I actually met all the players. I saw the whole thing happen. I heard the sweet love songs, the gunshots. I saw the tears, the hugs and kisses, and the
Just as the sun is the controlling body of our solar system life in the drowsy pueblo of Tecate revolves around the plaza, one square block of green lawns, towering leafy poplars, and flower gardens, a spraying fountain. At the center is a tiled kiosk, a favorite place for young lovers to meet in secret to whisper sweet perjuries with a kiss under the arches. The plaza is under the constant vigilance of various heroes of Mexican history cast in bronze who hang out on marbled pedestals.
Benito Juarez was standing at his usual place when his attention was drawn to a dark man entering the plaza from the opposite side. He was wearing a crumpled white linen suit and gave the impression that he had just stepped out of his first-class compartment on the Orient Express on his way to rendezvous with Humphrey Bogart behind a beaded curtain at the Topkapi Bar in Constantinople. This was Trinidad Contreras, Tecate’s Peter Lorre look-alike.
Treenie, as he is known locally, was headed in the direction of La Fonda where he indeed had an appointment, but not with Humphrey Bogart. He slipped in through the back door and spoke to Nito the bartender in his characteristic laryngeal whisper. Treenie was also a Peter Lorre sound-alike.
“Hola, Nito, have my clients arrived?” he rasped, forming his words with thick flexible lips.
Nito looked into a pair of dark hooded eyes. “They have not yet put in an appearance, Treenie. Take the table in the far corner. I’ll bring you a drink.”
“An excellent suggestion,” Treenie hissed, and moved in the direction of said table. Treenie claimed an interesting diversity of skills and professions developed over a lifetime to meet the needs and opportunities as life presented them. There was nothing Treenie wouldn’t do, and by reputation, nothing he couldn’t do for a fee. He was always available twenty-four hours a day. No job too big, no job too small. Today he was a casamentero. He claimed to be the only state-licensed introduction service in Tecate. In truth, Treenie carried a variety of municipal, state, and federal facsimiles to accommodate need.
Treenie was scarcely seated when Nito put a tequila shooter and lemon slices in front of him . “As soon as I see your clients join you I’ll bring you a pitcher of margaritas, sí?”
“Exacto.” Treenie surveyed the restaurant. “And what if Señorita Trouble shows up?”
“If she comes in through the bar I can detain her for a few minutes while you make your exit. But if she comes in through the front door, your nalgas belong to Doña Fortuna.”
Two blocks east and around the corner on Avenida Juarez, the Señorita Trouble just alluded to sat at her desk with the door closed. She was baptized Sabrina twenty six years ago and held the position of office manager for El Gavilán Pollero, the Chicken Hawk, owner of Espinoza Insurance Group. The locals think of it as Espinoza’s Chicken Farm, owing to the ample staff of young chicks Señor Espinoza keeps on the payroll for his own personal amusement. Sabrina was presently employed shredding her past and erasing sweet memories with a pair of scissors.
She withdrew a photo of Lalo from her desk drawer. He grinned at her, that boyish grin she fell in love with. “You lied to me! You borrowed my car to take your grandmother to the doctor and ended up on the beach at San Felipe – and that girl in the bikini was not your grandmother.” Snip! Snip! Snip! And whatever was left of Lalo’s boyish grin was now on the floor.
A snapshot of Paco was in her left hand now, scissors in her right. Paco looked into her eyes through that black fringe of disobedient hair she thought was so cute and loved to comb it back with her fingers. “You cheated! You thought I didn’t see you at the fiesta with your hand up Magi’s skirt.” Snip! Snip! Snip! Little pieces of Paco and that cute fringe followed Lalo.
A glossy photo of Rigo she’d taken at the beach was now in her hand. She could still remember that ripe warm day at Rosarito Beach, Rigo’s bronzed body beaded with sea water, his smile as bright as the sun, the blue Speedos with that interesting bulge. “You were disloyal! I gave myself to you and all that time you were doing coochie-coochie with Yoli!” Snip! Snip! Snip! Fragments of Rigo’s bronzed body splashed with sea water, and the blue Speedos with that interesting bulge, joined Paco and Lalo on the floor.
“It’s easy to be a man,” Sabrina sighed. “They make their own rules. Beauty is an obligation for a woman. The day we are born we are condemned to be beautiful. Men don’t have to make themselves beautiful every day. A woman has to spend half her pacycheck at the salon just to avoid looking like Medusa on a bad hair day. Every day is the same for man. He’s not inconvenienced by that uninvited guest who comes to every woman and says, “Hi, it’s me!” They can cheat, they can lie, then, when something new comes along and raises their erectometer reading, they pin the horns on you and it’s hasta la vista, mi amór.
Sabrina looked at the clock, swept up the fragments of her life, and headed toward La Fonda where she had some unifinished business with that slippery asp.
Treenie sipped his shooter, licked the lime, then prepared for flight when he saw the front door open. It was only El Pistón, owner/operator of a blue taxi No. 28. He went straight to the bar and perched on a stool.
“What’ll you have?” Nito asked, although he knew.
“A Volcano Especial.”
Nito reached under the bar and brought out a black motorcycle helmet with a red Suzuki logo. He handed it to El Pistón and began to prepare the beverage.
“Nito, do I have to wear this stupid helmet?”
Grumbling audibly, El Pistón placed the helmet on his head, jiggled it into a comfortable position and adjusted the chin strap. Nito served up his Volcano.
The rear door opened and at first glance it appeared General Zapata had had enough of the heat in the plaza and came in for a little cooler. It wasn’t general Zapata, however, it was El Coronel, Don Perfecto Mendez Morales de Vega.
“Buenas tardes, Coronel,” Nito greeted.
“José Cuervo double.” El Coronel snapped.
“Right away, Coronel!” Nito served him a double shooter of tequila, slices of fesh lime, and a salt shaker.
By the time the Coronel shot back the cactus juice, sprinkled salt on the back of his hand, and licked it off, the glass was full again. “So, how are things with you, Coronel?”
“I shot another cabrón last night.”
“Tried to flirt with your daughter?”
“The foolhardy rooster sang at Amparo’s window last night.”
“Not a bad tenor.”
“Did you see who it was?”
“The cabrón had an incredible voice! It would have been like killing a lark so I aimed a little high.” Another lick of salt and a taste. “So if you see some young rooster in here with a .45 caliber hole in his sombrero, let me know.”
The front doot opened again and Nito saw two delicious señoritas with golden faces and eager eyes join Treenie at his table. He was there in seconds with a pitcher of margaritas.
“You must be Trinidad Contreras,” a silky voice inquired.
“Your servitor,” Treenie whispered and came to his feet.
“We spoke to you on the phone,” one of the ladies explained, “and we are interested.” They had answered a small announcement in a local paper.
MEET AMERICAN MEN
Call Trinidad Contreras
“But,” her companion added, “we need more information before we give you money.”
“But of course!” Treenie filled their glasses. “I am in constant contact with dozens of American men who implore me to introduce them to refined Mexican ladies.” Treenie opened his eyes wide, something he often did when contemplating a new client. Much the same as a snake would eyeball a mouse around supper time. “Most of them are rich, of course, big cars, big spenders. Americans are the most generous people in the world. They really know how to spoil a woman. And they do half the housework! It’s a cultural thing. And one of them is looking for you___”
El Piston lay flat on his back on the floor, his legs tangled in the rungs of the barstool. Nito came around the bar, removed the Suzuki crash helmet and helped El Piston to his feet. He paid for his Volcano Especial, got into his blue taxi No. 28, and drove away.
Treenie ignored the activity at the bar and refilled the ladies’ glasses like an attentive host. “Just think of it, señoritas, in a few short weeks you could begin to live happily ever after.”
“Your fee is two hundred and fifty U.S. dollars?” one of the ladies asked.
“When you think of it as a lifetime investment in happiness, it is an insignificant sum,”
The ladies still didn’t look convinced. “And you want it in advance.”
“If I cannot deliver Señor Right into your arms, I will return your money in its entirety. How can you lose? You risk nothing.”
“We would like to discuss this in private.”
“But of course!” Treenie made a valiant effort to hide his disapppoinment. He came to his feet. The blossom of hope returned when he saw them enter the ladies’ room. It will be a quick conference, he reasoned. The basic human need to be loved will bring them back with the cash. Treenie could hardly contain a cat-in-the-cream smile.
A beam of light illuminated Treenie’s table as the front door was pushed open and the cream on the cat’s whiskers curdled. A red balloon sculpture, twisted and tied to form a voluptuous female form, stepped inside. Her skin was the color of cinnamon. She marched toward Treenie’s table. Hot sparks flying up from big dark eyes gave the impression she was preparing to perform a human sacrifice. Her costume, a stretchy red tube that adhered to all her curves and contours, ended flush with the lace trimming on her calzón restricting her to small mincing steps if she intended to keep the color of her lingerie a mystery.
Bolting for the relative safety of the men’s room was Treenie’s first thought but the red balloon sculpture now impeded his intended flight path.
“There you are, you slithering serpent, miserable snake! You rotten, cheating asp!”
Treenie reacted instantly to the emergency. “Sabrina! So nice to see you, mi amór. How are things at the Chicken Farm? You look beautiful at this hour of the day. Maybe it’s the light, but then you have always been a creature of luminous beauty.”
Being a man of infinite skills in delicate matters, Treenie was on intimate terms with hot water. He gave Nito the high-sign and he knew the margarita was on the way. “Now, Sabrina, mi amór, calm yourself and tell me, in a modulated voice, what seems to be the problema.” He sneaked a quick glance in the direction of the ladies’room.
Nito put the margarita in front of her. Sabrina drank deep. “The problema,” she hissed as soon as she gained breath, “ is that I want to cancel my contract and I want my two hundred and fifty American dollars back. Now!”
Treenie’s personal fiscal policy and monetary system was modeled after that of the country of his birth. He faced a perpetual currency crisis. His total liquid assets at the moment consisted of the two ten-peso notes tucked in his left sock.
“I answered your ad and gave you my last two hundred and fifty dollars dollars. And still no Señor Right. That was three months ago!”
There are five hundred dollars in escrow in the ladies’ room, Treenie thought. If his two ladies returned before he could get rid of Sabrina, his life on earth was over. He would have to do something now. The nuclear warhead was ticking. Seconds counted!
“Ssssh! Calm yourself, mi amór. I have your man.”
This simple announcement, while unashamedly an offense against Truth, had the desired effect. It stopped Sabrina cold. Two pulsebeats of life-saving silence followed. Sabrina put down her margarita. “You do? You really do, Treenie?”
“Guaranteed. And he’s a beautiful. American, tall, blue eyes. You should see his hair! Thick, and wavy, the color of ripe wheat at harvest time. Rich,of course.”
“When do I meet him?” The voice leaped into the coloratura range.
“He had to go back to Los Angeles on important business but he should be back before long.”
“Are you lying to me you slippery rat?” Sabrina slipped off her black patent leather pump preparatory to bringing it down on Treenie’s head.
“Sabrina, mi amór, if I don’t present Señor Right to you at this very table ten days from today, I will put your entire two hundred and fifty dollars into your pretty hands.” Treenie got to his feet to make his scalp less accessible and imply the issue was settled thus encourage departure.
“Okay,” Sabrina agreed, also rising under the power of suggestion. “Ten days from today. But let me tell you something. If you’re lying to me, Father Ruben will be performing a requiem mass.” Sabrina replaced the black patent leather pump on her right foot, set her mincing steps on fast-forward, and the red balloon sculpture bounced out the door.
Treenie had no idea in the world where he was going to come up with a tall, rich blue-eyed American with wavy hair the color of ripe wheat. He was running an ad in the American newspapers that read. MEET BEAUTIFUL MEXICAN LADIES! But he hadn’t had a nibble in weeks.
The door of the ladie’s room opened and Treenie held his breath.
“We decided we’re going to think it over.” The two lovely creatues headed for the door.
Sitting alone now, Treenie had a sobering thought; if I don’t have a handsome American here in ten days, I’m in deep caca.
But Doña Fortuna never takes a holiday. Treenie couldn’t possibly know that the happy ending to his problem was at this very moment being revealed by a few splatters of duck shit not fifteen minutes away from where he now sat among the ruins of the margaritas.
After long days of snow, and ice followed by 76 mph Santa Ana winds, I had to get outdoors. Sonia, my trusty housekeeper of many years who claims she knows everything, served me a nice deep dish Don Julio prior to departure. It felt good to get out into the hills and stretch the limbs. As I came around a bend in the road I suddenly saw a huge Jurassic lizard poised to attack and suck my blood. I got this shot only seconds before the creature could come down on me. It was a close call. I learned two things that afternoon. One: prehistoric lizards do not suck blood. They rip the flesh from their prey with their powerful jaws. Two: no more deep dish DJs before setting out on a hike in dangerous territory.
Hey, where did everybody go? Where’s the music? Where are all the happy people strolling along the gardens? Where are the lovers whispering sweet perjuries with a kiss? Where are the happy squeals of the children playing in the spray of the fountain? When the renovations began last October the City promised a beautiful new plaza by February 14th. We’re counting.