Based on my last couple of posts, and e-mails I’ve sent to friends and family who have read about the violent goings-on both in Guadalajara and around Lake Chapala, several have expressed concern for our safety here. Suggestions range from “come back to the States IMMEDIATELY while you still can” to “Get yourself a gun and learn how to use it” to “get a couple of big nasty dogs” and so forth. Well, we already have a (useless but cute) dog AND we have just adopted my mother’s two cats (more on this later) so we now have FOUR, count ‘em, FOUR gatos, so no more animals for us; and naaah, we ain’t gettin’ no gun. First of all Mexico has stringent gun control laws not only for the general populace, but especially for foreigners. You can get an exception and get a permit but I am not about to attempt to turn myself into Annie Oakley (maybe Minnie from Fanciulla del West would be a better role for me, come to think of it) at this stage of my life. We have really high walls around our house, an alarm system we actually use, and we bolt the place down pretty securely every night.
I remember taking a women’s self-defense class waaay back in Oakland after a couple of bad guys followed me to my car one night when I’d been working late. The good news was, I was driving (as was my wont back in the States) a powerful and fast little sports car and I was able to leave them in my dust. The bad news was, even if I had had self-defense skills back then, I wasn’t able to use them. My only defense in that particular situation was to run like hell and then drive even faster.
But when the guy REALLY had a gun at my head, during the theft of my car back in 2007, believe me, I could have been the aforementioned Annie Oakley and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. He trapped me in a split second in a place you never in a million years would have expected such a thing to happen. He was trying to pull me out of the car by my arm and at that point he pulled the gun. In situations like that you do what you have to do to survive and my instincts told me to just be really nice to the guy and get out voluntarily; back slowly away from the car with my hands visible, leave the engine running, and let him have it. It was insured and I managed to stay alive.
It is true, however, that of late my undoubtedly hyperactive imagination has been tormenting me with every imaginable bad thing that could happen to us here. Undeniably, during the past couple of months the tension level here has soared for everyone. In spite of my tendency to overreact – probably justified because I still DO have some fallout left over from the carjacking – it occurred to me the other day, that thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, Arnold is still alive. And for god only knows what reason or sets of reasons, so am I. While I was twisting and turning in the wind, tormenting myself with thoughts of what we might do and how we could extricate ourselves from our lives here and return to the relatively safety of the States, things inexplicably may have begun to quiet down. It further occurred to me that in the “random violence” department we could, indeed, pack up and bail and head back to the Ancestral Homeland only to be mown down there by one of those nut jobs that goes berserk picking off people from a freeway overpass or something. There ain’t no free lunch, I guess.
In any event, I was startled out of my nosedive yesterday, an astonishingly clear and beautiful day, when even Carlos the gardener (whom we refer to as “the Daily Tagblatt” because he watches the TV news and obsessively reports every single crime to me each morning when he arrives) commented “You know, Señora, I haven’t heard anything really bad on the evening news for a couple of weeks now…what do you think of that?” I did think about it, and it did feel to me like the level of fear has subsided; I’ve noticed people out shopping and in restaurants again, and maybe indeed, at least for now, things are improving a bit. There is a whole new crop of white roses starting up to replace the ones I’d brought in and stuck in a vase, and Ricardo had just been by to clean the pool, which had nary a leaf, nary a dead bug, nada, and boy is it warm and nice now. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I should forget all this cartel stuff for the moment, pour myself an Esquirt Light and throw some good tequila into it and get into the water.
Which is precisely what I did, remembering for some weird reason the motto I painted on a ceramic tray I made years ago: Fluctuat nec mergitur.
For those readers who have forgotten their high school Latin, it means “it is tossed by the waves but it does not sink”. It is the motto of the City of Paris, which surely has seen far worse ups and downs than our little village.