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We're in Mexico

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I've always had trouble sleeping, always the same trouble, never frequently, but regularly enough. I remember Dad advising me in the middle of the night to breath like my brother, sound asleep on the other side of the room. That was my first lesson in yogic breathing, pranayama, and it worked.

Later, when I was 14, I remember staring out from my third floor dormitory window at the quadrangle of my prep school gradually filling with the dawn. Relating the peacefulness of the experience to Dad, he told me to write about it. More good paternal advice, which I am putting into action right now.

My problem sleeping is always the same; too much thinking. These days I fall asleep okay, but now, usually around 4am, I wake to answer nature's call, and, instead of pleasantly drifting off again, I have a thought.

Now, thought will be had. During meditation thoughts also arrive. The goal, whether meditating or falling back asleep, is to not follow them. There, cross-legged on your pillow, you observe your stomach growling. The trick is to not then think about what you will have for breakfast. My anti-insomnia strategy is the same; keep the thinking part of my brain quiet; don't go there. For this I keep in mind whatever I was dreaming about just before I woke. Sex also works.

Veronica visits on weekends. Last Saturday night, early Sunday morning, (the Spanish use the lovely term la madrugada) I woke unable to remember what I had been dreaming about. Some ill-defined eternity later, I decided to put an end to the torture, admit defeat and get out of bed. Veronica, lying aside me, despite my stealth, noticed rising and drew me into her loving embrace. I slept like a baby until 10:00.

At the time Vero's 19 year old son was sleeping on the couch in my office, having tagged along for the weekend to use my internet, because the electric company turned off their power after seven months of non-payment; "The bill never came." Ten days after receiving payment the juice is still not flowing. No one answers the phone and the line of complaintants at the electric utility's office on Loreto is hours long, out the door.

It used to be that in such cases the company would have removed the meter, leaving the wires exposed. Rather than waiting in the dark for weeks you could connect the wires from one side to the other and voila; "Let there be light."

Visiting, I got Veronica's neighbor to come over and look into just such a jump. After a quick survey he informed me that these new electric meters (inactive, but still in place) have locks and computer chips and that the good old days are gone. When Vero complained to him that it was already seven days since she paid, I cynically interjected, "Estamos en Mexico" (We're in Mexico). The man, bien Mexicano, (very Mexican himself) thought enough of my response to repeat it before giving her advice on how to check her bill in the future.

This morning, in la madrugada, my anti-insomnia strategy failed again, not because I could not remember my dream, but because the dream was not the type to lull one back to sleep. In it Veronica and I were at an upscale cine-plex with plush carpets and lots of polished wood. I went through the lobby the proper way and opened a low swinging door (like in a courtroom) for her, to make a short-cut, because she has trouble walking. The movie we wanted to see was not playing. The ushers were discussing other options with us, when a wraith, a short, pale, thin, insubstantial woman approached and in a sinister tone suggested we watch "Satan's Ague" (an antique medical term, "palsy" you might say; doctors are great at making up meaningless names). Knowing evil when I see it, I wanted none of that. I grabbed the imp by the short locks of her hair with one hand and by her throat with my other and, pinning her head against the wall, angrily refused her offer, adding dramatically, "What's that sulphrous stench?" I was all for immediate departure. Veronica looked on fascinated, not anxious to leave. End of dream.

Just after that I heard from the church bell chiming the end of some hour. Waking or dozing (like a tree falling with no one to hear, dreaming about insomnia is not restful), finally in the darkness the steeple bell rang again and I got out of bed.

Not just dreams, but our lives sometimes stand in need of interpretation. Even our interpretations can be interpreted. Here's mine.

My prep school, with its neo-colonial architecture and its love of learning, embodies Western Enlightenment ideals, you know, tolerance, free speech, open debate, science rather than ideology... The Satanic wench, with her sly offer, stands for the disordered tide rising against our culture's rules of fair play, however imperfectly those have been applied; "We are living in a period of competing moral certitudes, of people who are awfully sure they’re right and fully prepared to be awful about it." (Banned NY Times editorial) You cannot fight discrimination with more discrimination.

Enlightenment values have only imperfectly penetrated Mexico. Here, far too frequently, corruption sacrifices rationality, order and the free market to the special interests of privileged groups. If the electric company had competition they'd have to shake a leg.

The other day I interrupted the man as he tacked my new fiber-optic internet cable in a somewhat zigzag path across my living-room wall. I tore out his work and the two old cables, then suggested a more discreet route. (I'll touch it all up with a little plaster and paint.) He complied, but I don't think he understood. If you aren't bothered by barking roof dogs, surely you can ignore an awkwardly placed cable on the wall. And if you are not paying attention to it, who is to say that it's awkwardly placed? We're in Mexico.

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***

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