Friday, December 27, 2013

Extortion vs. Extraordinary In Nogales

December 27, 2013

   Working hard on several cover ideas for The 66 Kid. Here's a little study I did this morning:

Daily Whipout, "The 66 Kid Straddles The Centerline"

Of course, the arrow is based on this classic service station:

Al Bell's Flying A, Hilltop, Arizona, c. 1957

   Meanwhile, here's a tale of extortion vs. extraordinary on the streets of Mexico. Last Sunday, Kathy, my son and I crossed the border at Nogales and looked for a cab driver. We traditionally like to have a cab driver give us a tour of Nogales, Sonora and see all the new building, etc. (the border town is at 500,000 souls with new arrivals all the time). The last time we did it, several years ago, the price was $30. Thomas Charles speaks fluent Spanish so he talked with one Flaco Corrillo (Flaco is Spanish for skinny) who told us he would give us a tour for $15. That was a red flag, so I was on guard. Flaco took us by the old Canal Street, which has been completely made over into a legitimate business park. Then we drove up to a ritzy neighborhood with Vegas style homes. One of them was pock-marked with dobs of plaster and Flaco told us there was a big shootout a couple of years ago with 45 narco-trafficers who were holed up in the house. Quite a few were killed and then five wounded dudes were being transported to the airport and the cops hit a speed bump and flipped killing all five of the wounded bad guys, plus the two coppers.

   On the way out to the suburbs, Flaco informed us that our $15 was up. We were quite a ways from the border by now, so I'm extra hyper-sensitive, but Tommy is in the front seat and the guy is telling him jokes and having fun. T. asks Flaco what his favorite Mexican food restaurant is, so the cabbie hangs a Uie and we barrel down to Asadero De La Salida, a little covered, outdoor restaurant. We order the special and it is fantastic. When the food came I got up and took this photo:

Flaco Carrillo, Nogales cab drive extraordinaire

  Flaco looks a bit sullen here, but he was quit funny, laughing and joking the entire time. Forty-five minutes later we tell him we want to go to La Roca for a nightcap before returning to the U.S. so Flaco battles his way down the main thoroughfare and we pull into the alley where the legendary La Roca sits, and it is closed. So we decide to call it a night and tell Flaco to return us to the border. He has to go back south for about five blocks, then turns into the traffic jam heading towards the border and my blood pressure is rising as we inch towards the line.

   By now, I'm really paranoid. I can see him charging us $50 or more. It's not that he didn't earn it, but I'm irritated by the way it got set up like this and I'm really nervous about what the price will be. He could charge us $75 or more. Fifteen minutes later, he pulls up to the cab station by the crossing and we all get out. He comes around to our side of the cab and Tommy asks how much we owe him. Flaco shrugs sheepishly and says, "Is $25 okay?" T. gave him $30 and we thanked him profusely for a great time.

   I wanted to hug Flaco! This totally restored my faith in humanity, not to mention Nogales cab drivers. What a good guy! Made me so happy. It was a great little Christmas present.

"Everybody in the world loves Mexican food."
—Flaco Carrillo