The Day I Met the Feds

A memory from twenty or so years ago.

 

“I’m going to grab my laptop and head out in a few minutes,” I shouted to Rowena. I always said goodbye to her, the languages department secretary at Cochise College, Douglas Campus.

“No you’re not. Come look at this.”

I headed into the office next to mine. Sitting on Rowena’s desk was an open box, a white powder sprinkled around it on her desk, her lap, even on her face.

“What in the world?”

“I don’t know, but I called Security. We’re not supposed to leave the building.”

It was the height of the anthrax scare, spring 2002, and the deadly poison had been sent to Democratic Senators as well as others, killing several and infecting many. Although this white powder we’d received wasn’t the same as the more coarse, tannish anthrax, it was still considered suspicious and had to be investigated.

We watched out the windows as campus Security joined Douglas policemen to string yellow Crime SceneDo Not Cross tape around the building. Six of us were confined until … well, we didn’t know until when. 

Until whatever happened next.

It wasn’t long. Within a few minutes, a Security officer opened the outside door and called into us to come board the van. We’d be driven across campus to the gym, enter through a back door, and head to the showers where soaps and shampoos awaited us.

As we walked out, we saw a small crowd of campus staff and teachers, held a good distance away. Many were in tears.

They’d been told nothing, but seeing the tape they’d assumed someone had been murdered. They shouted to us as we went to the van. What happened? Was someone killed? Who is it?

We shouted back that no, no one had been killed, but Rowena had opened a box filled with a white powder, and the entire building might be contaminated. 

We climbed into the van. The driver was the campus Dean, Chuck Hoyack. He’d volunteered to drive us.

I told Chuck I needed my computer. I’d spent days preparing a PowerPoint slideshow on my office computer. I’d transferred the presentation to my laptop and I was ready to leave.

In the morning, four of us were due to drive to Las Vegas to present at a conference. I had to have that laptop!

Chuck told me I couldn’t have it, that no one could go into the building. He dropped us off at the back door to the gym, and we filed out, me still insisting I had to have the laptop.

In the shower room, a woman gave us clipped instructions. 

Strip. Put clothing into a bag. 

Seal the bag. Write your names on the sticker on the bag with the pen provided. 

Shower and scrub from head to toe. Do it again. 

And no, there was no lotion. 

We were to put on white jumpsuits and plastic flip-flops afterwards. The outfit, other than the flip-flops, looked like something a scientist would wear to avoid contamination.

We all scrubbed twice, toweled off, and stepped into our white one-size-fits-no-one jumpsuits and flip-flops. We walked across the drive to the administrative building and someone told us to wait until called, that we’d have to give our story. 

We sat. 

We waited. 

Questioning went pretty quickly. I think there must have been two interrogators. And they weren’t cops. 

When I sat, an obviously government guy flashed his credentials and introduced himself. His badge read “FBI”.

FBI? I was immediately puzzled at their arriving so quickly. Rowena had made the call maybe thirty minutes, max, before they’d arrived on campus. 

Where in the world were these guys stationed? They couldn’t even have flown in from Tucson so quickly. Sierra Vista? Maybe Bisbee! 

I regret I didn’t ask.

I don’t recall the questions or my answers, but do I know I told him I hadn’t witnessed Rowena opening the box, that I’d only walked into the building to gather my things to leave.

I was out of the interview in under ten minutes. 

The woman who’d given us instructions in the shower room gave us receipts for our bagged clothes. She said we’d get the clothing back once the investigation was complete and/or the clothing deemed safe. 

She cautioned us to go to an emergency room if we had any strange reactions. I assumed she meant other than my raw dry skin that was already itchy. 

Or is that a reaction??!! No. I know how itchy my skin is when it’s dry. 

She then said told us to leave.

By this time, I knew I was really late leaving. I’d been pretty late before the fiasco began. So I took a moment to call home and let my then-husband know I’d been delayed and had quite a story to share when I got home.

I don’t recall how I got my purse. I must have, though, because my keys had been in it and I know I drove home. Plus, I had ID and such when we got to Vegas. 

Then, as I left, a little bonus: Chuck handed me my laptop bag and told me NOT to tell anyone he’d gone in. He then headed off to the showers to double scrub.

And that was the end of it. No one ever told us what the white powder was, only that it wasn’t dangerous. They never told us if they’d tracked down the person who’d sent the box. We did get our clothing back a few months later, however. And the Vegas trip and presentation were a success.

Bisbee B.R.A.T.S

Who goes to a rolling art car parade, fully intending to write a blog post, and gets there without a camera? Apparently I do, so these photos were taken with my cell phone, an old iPhone with a not-so-good camera. Sorry they’re blurry.

The Bisbee Rolling Arts Transport Society (B.R.A.T.S) holds a parade each year. I think the only rules are to be creative and use no mechanization.

First, a few people walking.

And then some more walking plus some rolling things. Most in this group were part of a penguin contingent.

Now here are this year’s cars. Colonel Sanders sat in his bucket and tossed chicken feathers.

More!

Vince even rolled along in his wheelchair.

Here is the last photo, a Sandhills Crane. The photo I took during the parade had its head cut off.

How “Luisa” Came to Be

I met Cosme in Bahía Kino five-and-a-half years ago. He worked for Prescott College’s Kino Bay campus. His job was to drive students to study sites, take them out in the college’s boats, (pangas), and also maintain the vehicles and boats.

He’d been a fisherman for years, as many young, healthy, strong men there are. But he got hired away from fishing by the college.

Cosme did turtle tagging on the side, and the college supported his efforts by allowing him to use one of their pangas. I asked to go out with him one day, and that began an activity I continue still.

PANGA AT SUNSET

A panga at sunset

Bisbee friend Cinda was joining me. We swung by my ”brother” Roberto’s restaurant and ordered two dozen burritos for the following morning. The next day we rose early, well before dawn, on a cool March morning. We dressed in layers knowing the day would heat up. Our packs held hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water. We headed to Roberto’s for the burritos just after 6:30 and then went out to the estuary (estero) to meet up with Cosme and his brother, Pepe, before seven, at dawn. 

We left my car parked on the beach.

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My trusty RAV, Lucille

We climbed into the panga, and Cosme headed out to the middle of the estuary’s waters. There we dropped a fishing net attached to buoys. The net line was four feet tall – just about the depth of the water – and around eighty feet long. After that, Cosme took us on a brief tour of the estero.

Heading out

Heading out

We saw egrets, blue-footed boobies, herons, and osprey, and I got a good look at my first green heron We also saw mangroves, and tiny islands that existed only at medium to low tide. We got out on one of the islands to roam a bit. 

EGRET

Egret

osprey

Osprey

I asked about the turtles. If they were caught in our net, wouldn’t they drown? Cosme explained that a turtle can stay under water for about four hours, but he planned to be back at the net in about two hours. 

When we got back to the net, we had a turtle! The men hauled her in and got her into the panga. Cosme had me cover her eyes with a damp towel. Like many animals, if they can’t see, they don’t panic so much. The thrashing turtle, all 180+ pounds of her, settled down once her face was covered.

Getting turtle into boat                                          Pepe getting a turtle into the boat

Cosme then showed us how to remove the barnacles attached to her shell and head. He said he’d seen two terrible situations with barnacles on turtles. One was when was a turtle had a barnacle growing over her mouth. She could eat only with half a mouth, and he felt she was quite malnourished and underweight. The second instance was a barnacle covering most of a turtle’s eye. He was able to safely remove both. 

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A turtle with barnacles, thankfully not covering an eye

We recorded placement of each barnacle on a chart. Every turtle had her own chart, and yes, all the ones we’ve netted have been females. Males head into the ocean when they hatch and never return to land. Females return only to lay eggs. Likely the ones we caught over the years were in the neighborhood to lay eggs, though some could have been there for the sea grasses they enjoy eating. 

We later brought this turtle and two others to shore. We measured each one – her length and width, and length of tail, and recorded the information. Cosme weighed each big girl and had me write it down. Then we tagged each one, noting her tag number on her chart. and released them back to the sea.

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Me measuring a turtle, her face still covered

COSME WEIGHS

Cosme weighing, Pepe reading the scale

One day, I asked Cosme if he’d become concerned with turtles since working for Prescott College. As it turned out, it was the other way around. It was his interest that got him hired. And he proceeded to tell me the story of how he became interested in turtles and then, as a fisherman, one who’d once enjoyed turtle soup quite regularly, began working to save them.

I remember thinking at the time, Wow. That’s a good children’s book!

The idea rolled around in my head for a little while, and then I sat down to write the story. Several revisions later, some inspired by friends who read it and one inspired by my then five-year-old grand niece, I had a final draft.

I sent it to my friend Teri, a professional translator in Hermosillo.

But I sat on it for many months. Then I sent it to my niece Jessie, who draws quite well. She sent me back a sample drawing and I fell in love with it. 

It took Jessie quite a while since she worked full time and helped do some child care on weekends, but she finally had drawings for the whole book. The drawings and their locations had all been determined by my grand niece, Aenea.

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Jessie’s drawing of Luisa eating

So I had it all. But I sat on it again, for about ten months. The only thing remaining to be done was create a map that showed Luisa’s route from Baja California to Sonora, yet I sat. Insecurity, I imagine.

Finally, one day I put an entry in my calendar for the following day: Do the damn book.

And I did. I made the map, printed photocopies, colored it in, drew the route, then photographed it. I organized all the photos and emailed the whole to Debora, the woman who lays out books for friends of mine and, now, for me.

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The dashed line shows a typical route for turtles headed to Kino

And here we are, two months later. Luisa the Green Sea Turtle, a bilingual read-to book, is on Amazon, sitting there waiting to be purchased. It is, basically, Cosme’s story come to storybook. I am forever indebted to Cosme, Pepe, their cousin Matilde, and all the tortugueros of Tortugueros de las Californias, an organization that does tagging, like us, and more. Some locations rescue and rehab injured turtles. Most, including folks at Kino, protect turtle nests. 

BOOK

Five years ago, many Kino residents couldn’t remember the last time they’d seen a turtle nest on the beach. Last summer, the town rejoiced in the seven nests that were faithfully monitored. Townsfolk turned out to watch the “eruption”, the time baby turtles emerge from the sand.

And I am a small part of all of this!!

Interested in reading Luisa the Green Sea Turtle? Here’s the link (it may not be live – I don’t know how to add them into WordPress, so copy and paste!):

 

 

 

 

Living in Luxembourg: A True Tale of (mis)Adventure

Well, apparently I live in Luxembourg.

Not right now, actually, since I seem to have just returned. But I’ve been a resident there for about a week. Without my knowledge, I might add.

My sudden departure began when I filled out forms with Createspace, the company that does book publishing for Amazon. I’d written my first book and was ready to publish it. To work with them, I had to set up an account. I dutifully filled out my name, address, banking information, and SSN. I signed it electronically and was done.

Except I wasn’t.

I must have typed something incorrectly because Createspace told me the IRS thinks I live in Luxembourg. But I didn’t know this since I hadn’t logged back into my account. There was no reason to. I believed I’d completed my mission.

But apparently I chose a good county, in some ways, to flee to. It seems more expats live there than in any other European nation. Still, I’d have preferred Spain or Italy.

It was just this morning, around 6, that I learned where I was living. Debora Lewis, the woman who laid out my book and does all the technical work regarding uploading and and such, said when she went through Createspace to do it, they told her she couldn’t because I hadn’t finished setting up my out-of-country account.

Well, she is out of country. She’s in Canada. I, to my best knowledge, am right here in Arizona. But not according to the IRS.

I wrote to Createspace. No resolution. So I asked for a callback, and wow! A man named Paul called me immediately. 

I explained the problem. “I’ve never heard of such a situation,” he said. He had me fill out the Createspace form again. I’d already tried that and been stopped because I couldn’t continue without providing the information about my Luxembourg residency. 

He walked me through it but it seems I was still overseas. He was mystified. He put me on hold to talk with a few higher-up folks. When he returned, he apologized and said I had to take it up with the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS. Do you know how impossible it is to try to speak to someone at the IRS? On top of that, who in the world wants to connect with them other than when our taxes are due?

I called. I negotiated their automated system. Repeatedly. And each time (six times) I ended up getting a message saying no one was available. Or they needed more information (followed by “goodbye”). Or some other lame ending that basically cut me off.

I was steaming.

I contacted Createspace again. Then, I finally found an email address for the IRS and sent off a request for help.

I contacted my “local” IRS office in Tucson, nearly 100 miles away. They don’t do that kind of work, it seems, and I was referred back to the IRS 800 number.

And then a miracle! I received a return email from the IRS!!

Well, they don’t help with that via email. Only by telephone. But the automated letter told me exactly what numbers to punch on the automated phone system. So I tried it.

And I got a human!! Glory be. “I’ve never heard of such a situation,” said she. So she sent me over to someone in records. After sitting on hold for quite some time, I got another human!

I explained my whole sad story. And sad it was! I wasn’t even able to enjoy my time in Luxembourg!

“I’ve never heard of such a situation,” said the woman in records. She said it must be a Social Security problem. So I opened my Createspace account and read her what it said, and yes, it said the IRS didn’t find me in the US. Luxembourg was suggested as my place of residence.

She then took all my info and confirmed that I seemed to be who I claimed to be, living in the US. Perhaps suspiciously close to Mexico, but in the US nonetheless.

While I had her on the phone, though, I attempted once again (eighth time) to edit my account on Createspace. I spoke each line aloud to her as I entered my info.

And then it happened. It sent me on to the the second page! The one that had been repeatedly denied me because of where I appeared to be living! I filled out the second page, and I saw, in big yellow letters, VALIDATED. 

Validated! I’m a US citizen! Living in the US!

I got back home from Europe in a split second, just as rapidly as I’d departed a week ago. I wish all my long-distance flights were like that. 

I texted my sister to let her know all was well. She responded that it was mean of me to live in Luxembourg for all that time without letting her know so she could visit. I told her I’d been on a top secret mission and was allowed to tell no one. 

Funny thing is, though, I can’t remember a thing about the whole trip.

Luisa the Green Sea Turtle

It’s out! It’s out!

Book 01

The book that started as a whisper and became a dream is now reality. Here’s the email I sent friends this morning:

I am ecstatic and overwhelmed. I am also in a bit of shock. The book I ran through my brain several years ago is PUBLISHED!!!

The book is Luisa the Green Sea Turtle, a bilingual “read-to” book for 1st to 3rd graders (although my grandniece who just finished 1st grade can read much of it on her own.) It’s about Luisa who gets trapped, faces being turned into soup, but is set free.

It’s available on Amazon at this link: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=emilie+vardaman

Or, you can simply log onto Amazon, enter ‘emilie vardaman’ and get to the book that way.

If you have young ones in your life or are simply inclined to make a purchase, I’m asking folks to do so on Monday, July 2. If impossible, try to do so on the 3rd.

 The idea is if a lot of people buy on the same day, the book goes, however briefly, to the top of the sales chart and then is closer to the top of a search page at Amazon. So if you’d like to make a purchase, please do it on July 2. 

THANK YOU!!! 

Luisa’s illustrator (my super duper fabulous #1 niece Jessie Stout) and I are so excited we’re  having champagne! We’re 1700 miles apart but coordinating the champagne.

Emilie

 

High Lonesome Road – High Desert Adventure

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It began as a small adventure Friday evening: Head to the north side of the Mule Mountains to photograph the Judd Fire. It had already burned about 4000 acres and I hoped to get a few good evening shots from High Lonesome Road.

What’s that line from Robert Burns? “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.”

I drove out as the sun was just easing behind the Huachucas. The sky burned crimson and tangerine. I bypassed photos knowing I could miss the light I’d need to get a good fire shot.

And so I continued. Twelve miles to Double Adobe Road. Left, then sharp left onto High Lonesome Road.

The pavement lasts only about half a mile, but before I even hit gravel I could see black smoke wafting up, muddying the sunset.

I breezed along at thirty-six miles an hour, the perfect speed, in my car, to avoid the noise and bucking of the washboard road. Four-and-a-half miles in, I found a good spot. Plus, the light was almost gone and I had to do it or miss it.

I grabbed a few shots, carefully turned around, and headed back out. I looked forward to getting home to watch an hour on Netflix.

But then, there on my dash, there was this light. A light no one really wants to see. The tire symbol was lit up.

Well, I’d had a few problems with a slow leak every few weeks, so I wasn’t too concerned, but for the sake of the tire, I slowed down to nineteen. I felt more bumps but thought it could be easier on the tire.

As soon as I hit Double Adobe Road, I thought I heard a noise. When I accelerated on Highway 80, yup. There it was, the whup-whup-whup of a flat tire. 

I pulled over, turned on my flashers, switched my phone to flashlight mode (dark had almost fallen) and did a quick walkaround. 

Right rear tire. Pancake flat. Crap.

I figured I’d already killed the tire, and since I was just about across from Grace’s Corner, I limped my fearless Prius, Lula la Roja, across the street and into the parking lot. The closed, worn bar stood boarded up and sagging. I had a brief flashback to days long ago when I used to go dancing there. 1974, I believe.

I called AAA, of course. That’s why I give them nearly $90 each year. But that was a bit complicated. The roadside assist number had disappeared from my phone. Also, I couldn’t find my card, so I called Alfredo. He had his and read me off the membership and phone numbers.

AAA had no record of me. They had no record of my account number nor a record of my phone number.

What?? I know I paid. It’s automatic. They ding my account each year. But still, I did not  exist. And it was impossible to get through to an actual person. After hours, you know. What, I should plan emergencies to occur during business hours?

Out of frustration, I texted my sister. She suggested my car insurance company might help. I called, but after twenty minutes on hold, I refrained from tossing the phone and just hung up.

I called my tenant. Early to sleep, that one, and her phone went unanswered. I tried my former housemate. Straight to message. 

I decided to call a friend. His number, too, had disappeared from my phone. I had to call Alfredo back and get his number.

But then I remembered. He has a few drinks in the evening. By 8:30 he might be unsafe. Ah! Another friend. Oops. Same situation. 

Alfredo called me back with the number of a roadside assistance place in Douglas. I called. They didn’t serve the area.

By this time I was ready to shoot the car. Oops. No gun. Maybe that’s a good thing.

So I called my friend Debbie, also one who is early to bed. But she was still up! In her nightgown, but up. She agreed to come get me. Hallelujah!

And so I waited. Not very long, just fifteen minutes or so. It gave me time to pee, put important things in my purse, snarl a bit more, and offer up a prayer to the Goddess that Lula la Roja would be safe overnight.

Debbie came, took me home. Profound thanks were given repeatedly. I silently cursed my tenant and former housemate, though.

I went straight to my computer, and yep. My bill had been paid in full on May 25. I went online to contact AAA, put my complaint in writing. I got a return message that my questions would be answered the next business day: Monday.

The next morning during business hours, I again called the roadside service number. It took about ten minutes to negotiate the automatic system and get to an actual human who found me in the system immediately. One reason they hadn’t found me the previous night is my policy number had changed, though that didn’t at all answer why they couldn’t find me by my telephone number. 

I then spent nearly twenty-five minutes negotiating the system again to get to a human who could assist. The auto system didn’t like that my car and I were in different places, so eventually I got bumped to a human who was frustrated that I didn’t have an address for the location of my car. Highway 80 under the Budweiser billboard across from the cell tower didn’t help her as she scoured her map. I kept telling her it was just west of Double Adobe Road but she trying to locate me somewhere on that road. She finally got it. I was actually on Highway 80.

I got a confirmation via text, and my tenant (wide awake) and I were off to wait with Lula.

Partway there. I got another text saying the service would be there in about 75 minutes. Glad I’d brought a book. 

Lee didn’t want to abandon me in the wilds of Grace’s Corner so we cleaned out the back of my car and opened the tire area. It wasn’t flat!! Hooray! We settled in to wait.

Just after the serviceman was due, he called. He was in his big truck in case I needed a tow, and the truck inspection station was open. He said it could be an hour before he got through there.

He was pretty accurate, arriving a little over an hour late with many apologies. But big trucks can’t just slide past an inspection station.

Once Lee knew all was well, she left. The serviceman made short work of getting my bad tire off and the donut on. I was outta there less than ten minutes after he’d arrived.

In all, the simple tire change took nearly 15 hours. I now proudly (and carefully) drive on the spare, the donut, which of course ended up being a bit low on air and is causing that blasted tire light to stay on.

Monday. I’ll visit Firestone on Monday.

Corolla Wild Horses!

A few months ago, my sister invited me to go along on the family vacation with her, her husband, several adult children and one of her granddaughters. To the Outer Banks. Let’s see. Two weeks in a house on the beach, or stay in Arizona during the beginning of the long hot summer. Which shall I choose?

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View from the deck

The destination was Corolla (pronounced Cah-RUH-la. I immediately went online to find out if turtles might be laying eggs (too late) or eggs might be hatching (too early). But I did find out there were wild horses just up the road. No turtles, but wild horses!

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These horses are descendants of wild Spanish Mustangs and have been roaming the peninsula for nearly five hundred years. This makes them some of the earliest full-time residents of the area, second only to Native Americans who were here. It also makes them the first permanent settlers from Europe.

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And of course, there were horse tours available. As on the whale tour I took in Baja Sur a little over five years ago, there was no guarantee we’d see any of the animals. There are a number of tours available, but I ended up choosing the Wild Horse Adventure Tours.

HUMMER

I had wanted to schedule a tour in the morning before it got too hot, and I wanted it early in the week before predicted winds and rains. I got one early in the week, but at 2 pm. Hot time. But we had a fabulous tour guide named Will. Will Smith.

WILL

My brother-in-law, one niece and two nephews decided to go along on the two-plus-hour tour.

family

We headed north to the end of Corolla where Highway 12 ended. Oops. No, only the pavement ended. Highway 12 continues for quite a few miles along the beach. No pavement, no grading, just sand. Good thing we were in a Hummer!

HWY12

That little road on the far east is on the beach!

Highway 12

Highway 12, taken through the windshield

We drove along the sand, then up into the dunes covering some beautiful area. Will pointed out a tall dune named Penny’s Hill (sorry, no photo). He said it was a kind of “walking dune” that, like all dunes, shift and move. He told us there were once several houses at the base of Penny’s Hill but the dune “walked” right over them and buried them.

Will also told us that the dunes near the beach used to be a kind of forest but all the tress had died out. He said they were just old, but I wonder if seawater may have helped kill them off.

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After the trees died, humans created the high dunes closest to the ocean. They were created under the New Deal and they serve as a buffer for inland areas.

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Inland a bit

After driving the dunes without seeing a single horse, we headed back for the beach. I began to wonder if the trip was going to end up being an expensive dune ride.

And then … there they were. Wild mustangs!

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They were right on the beach near the shore, likely just cooling off in the seawater. It was a small herd, as they all are. Most herds are one male and several females though there are a few bachelor herds roaming about also. There are only about one hundred twenty wild mustangs in the area. Since they aren’t an indigenous species, they aren’t protected by the federal government.

Will slowed, even stopped, so we could take photos. We then headed further north and into another area of dunes.

We were still excited about seeing the horses on the beach when suddenly another small herd came running up the road right toward us!

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Small herd headed toward us, taken through windshield

Will slowed and eased to the side of the road so they could pass, and then moved on. About a minute later we spotted two males up on the dunes. The two bachelors headed down to the road and to the herd we’d just seen.

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One of the bachelors

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This boy came off the dunes in search of a mate

As we turned around, it seemed a horsefight was about to break out. We caught just the beginning and then the herd and the two bachelors tore off into inland dunes and we lost them.

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No photo of the fight – they took off too quickly

It was then time to head back south. We passed the old Wash Woods Coast Guard station.

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Will told us a little more about the area on the ride back. In the two small developments we visited, all building materials had been hauled up the beach. The areas had their own community wells and, amazingly, had trash service. Will claims pizza is even delivered. “If you’re willing to pay, someone will do it,” he said.

On the way back, we again saw the horses on the shore. A crowd had gathered around them, snapping photos. We paused for him to remind the crowd that they need to stay back at least fifty feet – that’s what the law says – from the horses because they bite and kick. He said last year a woman was petting a horse when it suddenly kicked her. She landed in the emergency room and while there was issued a ticket carrying a $500 fine for not staying fifty feet away from the horses.

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These tourists are way too close to the horses!

Ah, our tour was over. It was wonderful. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

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The Prime Suspect

I got a message from my housemate, Debbie, while I was in Bahia Kino, Mexico, relaxing on the beach. The message totally unrelaxed me.

Don’t worry, it said. It is taken care of.

Just the beginning scared me.

We had an attempted break in last night. But Chloe chased him off! Nothing appears to be gone or even touched. She must have gone after him immediately.

When Debbie got up that morning and wandered into the kitchen for her coffee, she noticed a long slice in the screen of the sliding glass door. The door has a security door over it but I have never bothered to lock it figuring everyone would believe it was locked. The security door was ajar.

And Chloe was missing! Debbie had watched her go to bed. Later she closed the dog door and then headed to bed herself. So where was Chloe? Still chasing the perp? Who knows. Then Debbie went back to the kitchen, examined the screen, and dialed 9-1-1. When she called, she was told it would be an hour or so before anyone could come. Unfortunately, Debbie had to get ready to go to work, so she arranged for a deputy to come by in the evening.

As she left for work, Debbie saw Chloe across the road and got her back inside quickly with a dog treat. She opened the dog door and left the house in Chloe’s capable hands, er, paws.

Debbie arrived home and just before the deputy arrived, she noticed Chloe out across the street again. What the hell? How did she do that?

That evening, just a little after Chloe had again been rounded up, Deputy Morales came by. Debbie said he was exceptionally soft-spoken and sweet, just the type to be reassuring for a woman who was understandably concerned.

Any suspects? the kindly deputy asked. Debbie could think of none.

He talked with her awhile and in doing so found we occasionally forget to lock up the house. He was, appropriately for a law enforcement officer, horrified. He told her to check the doors each night and to buy some rods to drop into the tracks of the sliding door and all the sliding windows. He also discussed video surveillance.

As Debbie and Deputy Morales talked, Chloe kept nosing about and Debbie proclaimed how she was so proud of the dog for chasing off the would-be burglar. My pup earned a few more treats and scratches.

And then, the lightbulb moment. Debbie and the officer took a closer look at the screen. Not a slash, but sort of sliced up. And how did Chloe get out again that evening?

A short time later, a look around the yard showed the gate to the road had been dug at and dug at and the gate shoved and shoved. There was room for a thirty-five-pound dog to slide through.

Clearly, Chloe had gone to bed and while Debbie’s back was turned had gone back out again – right before the dog door was closed. When Debbie closed the dog door she’d inadvertently locked Chloe in the yard. Desperate to get back in to food and water (and her comfy bed, no doubt), Chloe had broken out of the yard and scratched at the window trying to get in or at least get Debbie’s attention.

Chloe hadn’t chased off a burglar at all. She’d merely been trying to get into the house for a good night’s sleep.

With a reminder to lock up and secure the sliding door and windows, Officer Friendly departed. Chloe, I’m sure, had a bit of a grin on her face for getting all those extra treats and scratches.

Suspect 37408

Chlose-side

Chloe-front

 

Mazatlán – the Photos.

 

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Mazatlán is the sea.

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Mazatlán is high rises.

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Mazatlán is traffic.

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In front of the mercado

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Busses and more busses

Mazatlán is el Centro.

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Inside el mercado

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Potatoes and chiles in el mercado – potatoes about 28 cents a pound

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The main Cathedral

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Inside the Cathedral

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A well adorned entryway

Mazatlán is public transportation.

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A Taxi

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Another kind of taxi

Mazatlán is small enterprise.

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Fresh squeezed juice

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Ice cream cart

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Shoeshine at the plaza

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Sidewalk café

Mazatlán is sidewalk nightmares.

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Mazatlán is her people.

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Piñata party

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“I’m a happy guy”

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Fishing with just a line

Mazatlán is still the sea.

img_5882Fountain along the Malecón

img_5818img_5891Another statue along the Malecón

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img_5789El Faro (the lighthouse)

and finally, Mazatlán

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Mazatlán

Mazatlán is the sea. The Oceano Pacifico. Twelve miles of sandy beach. El Faro, the lighthouse, the highest in all of the Americas, or in all the world, according to Mazatlecos, those from Mazatlán. It is rocky islands just off the coast and statue after statue along the Malecón, the walkway along the ocean. Rows of pangas, small boats used by fishermen and used to give short rides to tourists. Parasailing and kayaking, snorkeling near the islands. A water slide into the ocean. Sunbathing, bikinis, and topless women. Gaping men.

Mazatlán is high rises on the Zona Dorada, the Gold Zone, the tourist zone. Entire neighborhoods that cater to the the wealthy tourist. $300,000 condos and $200/night hotels. Trendy cafés and signs in English.

Mazatlán is drug wars. The war among those trying to replace Chapo Guzmán. It is extortion and gangsters in the neighborhoods. It is gunfire at night, in the clubs, in the barrios in the streets. It is the thirteen who were shot the night before I arrived.

Mazatlán is kindness. Men holding doors for women. Strangers helping a lost tourist, even walking out of their way to point out the correct street. Offers of food. Young women stopping to pick up something I dropped.

Mazatlán is traffic. Pedestrians scrambling across six lanes of moving vehicles. Cars and busses that blast through yellow lights. Honking horns and screeching brakes. Bicyclists and men on bicycle carts competing with trucks and busses on the roadways. Traffic jams in downtown Mazatlán Viejo, Old Mazatlán.

Mazatlán is El Centro, the downtown area. The mercado that fills an entire city block, bursting with stall after stall after stall of meats, vegetables, cheeses, taco stands, clothing, trinkets, purses and jewelry. And more. It is the the cathedral and the main plaza, Plaza Republica. Park benches and shoeshine stands. Wandering musicians. The small clubs where anyone can get up to sing with the band and old men play dominoes. Streets filled with shoppers and tourists, huaraches and Birkenstocks, mini skirts and aprons over housedresses. A man with no legs on the sidewalk, begging.

Mazatlán is public transportation. Truck-taxis with benches along each side running the length of the truck beds, the whole covered with tarps for shade. It is open-air taxis of small cars that look like offshoots of a Volkswagen Thing. It is city busses, each one decked out with photos, fringe, crucifixes, posters of the Virgin, saints and the Playboy bunny. Bus drivers who switch lanes into spaces so tight I wouldn’t try to put my car there, who talk on their cell phone while they drive, who text when stopped in traffic, who let their wives and children board without paying.

Mazatlán is small stores and enterprise. Tiny grocery stores every few blocks. Small restaurants on corners and in front rooms. Vendors on bicycle carts. Home garages turned into stalls where women sell snacks or men repair toasters.
Mazatlán is sidewalk nightmares. Sidewalks rise, they fall, they disappear. They are level with the street or two feet above it. They change levels, textures, angles and stability a dozen times in one block. Holes and cracks abound. Concrete, tile, dirt and brick, often all four along three connecting storefronts. Sidewalks in Mazatlán are to be respected, attended to while walking, and are not for the faint of heart.

Mazatlán is cosmopolitan. Many races, many nationalities, many languages. Theaters and museums. Public art. Business meetings in a café. Excellent coffee. Baguette, lobster, mocha, sushi. Fine dining. Nightclubs and waterfront restaurants, trendy shops. Women breastfeed in public.

Mazatlán is its barrios, its neighborhoods. Cars with speakers atop them cruise the street announcing fresh fruit, bread, or bottled water for sale. Neighbors in front yards or on the steps, chatting. Children playing soccer in the street. Fireworks at night because … well … because.

Mazatlán is her people. Mothers with babies and a gaggle of young children. A school outing with a long line of first graders and two harried teachers. Tourists with cameras, everyone with cellphones. High heels click click clicking down the sidewalk. Lovers oblivious to all others.

Mazatlán is still the sea. Fishing and fish markets. Dolphins and sea lions, seagulls and frigates. Turtles lumbering onto the beach to lay eggs, hatchlings erupting and scrambling to the water.

Mazatlán.