One night I was jamming with the cats over at Leo’s place. Leo was a bass man, who’d played with a well-known rock band. He had a peculiar idea about Scotch.
Leo thought that alcohol could not hurt him if he followed two rules: Drink only Scotch, and always drink it mixed. So. One tune turned into another, as it does, and round about 3 a.m. Leo discovered he was out of mixers. The stores were closed. We wouldn’t have let Leo drive anyway. He searched his refrigerator for a mixer; he searched his house. Nothing. But The Jam Must Go On, so Leo solved his problem … by drinking Scotch mixed with Ranch dressing …
Here’s another bad idea.
Adrian moved to Mexico and set up a small-time dope smuggling operation. Mexican tourist traps sell stuffed armadillos for a couple of bucks to gringos. Don’t ask me why, but the gringos buy them.
Adrian did too, when he found he could stuff a kilo of marijuana into each armadillo and send it through the mail to … oh, let’s say Illinois.
Back in the day, Adrian didn’t have to send too many armadillos north to maintain himself in princely fashion in Some Town in Mexico. And his partners in Iowa — excuse me; what did I say? — his partners in Minnesota, I mean Illinois, weren’t doing too badly either.
Until the day the U.S. Postal Service rolled them all up.
Postal inspectors thought they were smuggling armadillos.
Here’s another one, involving yours truly.
All these stories are true, by the way. I’ve changed some names because no one is innocent. And once we start prosecuting people for not being innocent, we could prosecute anyone for anything. And soon will, I suppose.
Yours truly was writing a novel in which a spoiled rich white kid gets busted with drugs in Mexico and thrown into prison.
Our Hero has to rescue him.
So I drove down to Ensenada to see what would happen to a kid like that, and how Our Hero could do it.
And — here is one of many reasons that I love Mexico — on Day One, without an appointment with anyone, I strolled into the offices of Baja California del Norte’s chief federal prosecutor, a federal judge, and a prominent defense attorney, and all of them received me graciously, fed me coffee, let me interview them at leisure, and told me everything I wanted to know.
Try doing that in the United States, even if you’re from The New York Times.
Try to do it by telling the gatekeepers that you’re writing a novel and just want to ask an Important Person a few questions …
So that day, having gathered all the facts I needed, before noon, in Mexico, I drove out to the federal prison on the south side of Ensenada. There the highway has turned away from the coast and all there is on every side is rock. The CERESO (Center for Social Readaptation) is surrounded by ugly, enormous walls, under a mountain of bare rock.
I couldn’t get into the prison, despite my bogus plea that I wanted to see how my imprisoned countrymen were doing.
What a liar I am, in pursuit of truth.
So, thrown out of a Mexican prison — ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d — I stumbled back to the parking lot, and looking back at the prison, saw a white gash: the road to the top of the mountain. I cranked up the truck and drove up there.
On top of the mountain, no shade anywhere, leaning out the shotgun seat of my old pickup, staring through binoculars, I sketched the layout of the Mexican prison. I still have that notebook.
Then suddenly, my brain returning to its seat, I thought: Are you out of your mind? What will the Federal Judicial Police think when they see your little sketches?
And I got out of there, with a pretty good idea of what it might be like in a Mexican prison.
Here’s another one.
On the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2016, 139 million supposedly literate citizens elected a degenerate semiliterate Russian-mob-connected sexual predator as president of the United States.
Boy, was that a bad idea.
Guess what happened next?