Saturday, May 20, 2006


As some of you know, I live on a boat. At least, I own a boat... and I'm supposed to live on it. But I admit that lots of times I'm tied to the shore. For the last half a year I've worked for the State with an agency that housed me in a little place called Winter Haven, Florida... with an apartment in an old classic property in Lake Wales... about seventy five miles to the marina where my boat is sitting, waiting for me to get my shorts on and get out of town. Lake Wales is an interesting place in that there are a lot of migrant laborers on town to do agricultural work and to do construction labor in the booming Orlando area.

Because I've cruised my sailboat extensively on the Gulf coast of Mexico I've met lots and lots of Mexican folks of all classes... and I can say with some certainty that they are pretty much like any other large group of men: some good and some bad, some civilized and some brute, mostly hard workers and conscious of their honor, quick to defend their women, children, and their own notions of right and wrong. Lots of them live in the area of Lake Wales that I am currently camping in. Most of them without immigration papers, here just for the work, their families back in Mexico.

The other day, when I was walking back to the apartment building I'm in, I made the mistake of walking into the lobby during President Bush's speech concerning immigration on the cable TV in the lobby. Needless to say, there was a crowd of illegals there watching his words in silence. I stood to join them, dividing my attention between the President and the crowd of potential citizens glued to the set. One fellow was cursing the TV violently. The manager, a white woman with children staying with her in the apartments, came out and told him to cool it. She may be American but she knew exactly what puta and chingar meant and she wouldn't have it. The guy apologized but he didn't stop cursing, both in English and in Spanish. He'd been drinking and was wearing work clothes. A fruit picker.

Another resident, a black restaurant worker and a native Floridian, told him to shut up... that cursing was "unseemly". The Mexican guy thought he had said "unmanly" and in an instant the two of them were rolling around on the floor, coating everything with blood from the Mexican's pocket knife and the American southern black's straight razor. In the end, the police had to settle the politics of the incident and both of the guys would be lodged in the Polk County jail after getting out of the hospital. The Mexican guy will get a bus ticket back to Sonora when he gets out and the black guy will probably do thirty days in the county jail for displaying a weapon. Both of them were treated for knife wounds. None fatal.

Lessons learned: First of all, the local man learned that while Mexican guys may have some courtesy to women they are passionate and willing to allow their tongue to overload their tails, no matter what the cost. And second, the Mexican guy learned that they aren't the only ones to keep a friend in their pocket. Older Southern American blacks have a habit of carrying a straight razor in their back pocket and they learn how to wield them at an early age. That's why you see so many older black men with long scars on their arms and faces. The same sort of scars that the Mexican patriot will be taking with him back to Mexico.

I need to get back to my dock home. Life here on dry land is dangerous.