I just got back from Baja Friday morning at 2AM (February 22, 2002) after a week long incredible adventure in insanity. Many thanks to the unbelievable help rendered by "Wild Bill", an unbelievable good samaritan in the Vagabundos, for coming down and picking me up outta the prison in Ensenada.
My buddy Ray and I are avid freedivers and have this as our central reason for going to Baja - since the spearfishing there is totally awesome. We have been doing this for years and had heard there was some possible early yellowtail action in the Bay of LA, so we decided to go down for the long weekend and see what gives.
We drove down on Friday (February 15) in Ray's '72 Chevy pickup, pulling his 15 foot Boston Whaler. We just camped in Guillermo's, and then dove up north at Pelican Island, and at the North end of Smith Island on Saturday. The water was very cold (56 deg F) and all the yellows were too deep to dive - so we comtemplated going to the Guardian Angel on Sunday. As Sunday rolled in - so did a minor Chubasco, so we talked it over and decided to come home a day early since Ray couldn't wait another day.
I am extremely safety conscious when driving, and wanted to drive the winding part up to San Quintin since Ray is always getting his foot into it, and I just wanted to get out in one piece. Also for those who know me (freediver) I ended up giving up booze about 2 years ago cause every drink would make me feel like I had a spear shot right through my gall bladder area (pancreatitis), and I never smoked, and don't do any drugs. (Giving up booze is a good thing especially if you ever get in a wreck!)
We made easy time and had lunch there around 1:30 or 2 PM. I felt good and offered to drive up to San Vincente - this worked well with us getting there around 4 PM Sunday. It had then started to mist, with us firing up the windshield wipers about every three minutes to wipe the drops off the windshield. Given the deteriorating conditions I said I would continue on to Santo Tomas and change drivers there.
I was going about 30 MPH with a big line of cars following at a reasonably spaced distance behind me. We were around K-marker 79, coming up on a blind corner, and a military tranport vehicle, at high speed, comes blasting around the corner straddling the yellow line. I react by applying the brakes as it is straightening out and, as the brakes are catching, the front left brake locks up. This now puts our truck in about a 45 degree lateral skid - the truck is now not controllable, and we are closing on the military vehicle in a collision course.
I now am thinking our life is over because we are clearly going to have a left front - left front head-on collision, with no recourse. This occurs in what seems like slow motion with a wave of glass coming into my face, and I feel us being pushed back and to the right, crashing the tail end of our truck into the cliff face on the right, and jack-knifing the boat next to my side of the truck and planting it into the cliff as well.
I also see the military vehicle going thru a weird undulation, and then going airborne over the cliff on the left side of the road. This whole thing was extremely surreal and, when the dust settled, we were both very surprised to still be alive and seeming to be in one piece. My shoulder hurt a bit, and I had some blood dripping into my face, but not much given the impact - and Ray was unhurt!
Now I yell at Ray - "Man, get outta the truck before it catches fire and we are toast for real." My side of the truck was totaled and no exit possible - his was OK but jammed - so I yell "Roll down the window and jump out", and he does, and I follow.
We go over the side of the road and the whole cliff face is covered in what seemed to be lifeless bodies - totally disheartening and beyond belief that this is happening. The other wierd thing is the front axle of their vehicle is still sitting in the highway with the rest of the vehicle at the bottom of the hill!
Next some policeman of some type shows up - starts screaming at us "Who was driving?" - I raise my hand - he grabs me - pulls my injured shoulder behind my back and handcuffs both hands together, and shoves me in the back of his car.
I say "Excuse me - please attach my seat belt" - he gives me some scum of the earth reply and we take off on the wildest ride of my life in what is now a downpour - hitting speeds of up to 160 KPH back to San Vincente. I just figured it was really all over now - I was only going around 40-45 KPH and we are now going four times that fast!!!
Somehow we get there in one piece and we end up in some dead-end jail - just a cement box with a steel door and a hole with rebar for a window - they throw me in with no notice or anything, and lock the door - and after about three hours I figure they threw away the key and went home for the rest of the weekend.
I am in this cement box of a jail cell in San Vicente - there is no water and I am thirsty beyond belief. It is raining outside and the thing that is a "window" is a wooden framed hole with five one-inch rebar pieces set into it.
Around 5 PM the rain really picks up so I stick my hankerchief out the window to catch the drops of water rolling off the roof and then suck on it to get a drink. My left shoulder is hurting more now (the rotator cuff is torn), and my left elbow is dripping blood - but I can use my left foot to stand on a little cement piece in the corner about two feet off the floor (I guess you are supposed to pee into it?), and am able to look out the window.
I can tell if one of those rebars were removed I could squeeze out between the other two and get outta there. I'm not the kinda guy to take shit lying down - and since they didn't even ID me I figure I would give it a shot. So I start using my keys to saw two slots in the wood frame parallel to the middle rebar and then pry out the wood chips between the slots to form a channel to break out the rebar from the frame so I can escape.
I figured everyone had gone home and I could just go over by the gas station in San Vincente and hop into the first car with California plates and offer up a hundred bucks for a ride to the border. The idea of spending a long period of time in that cement box just wasn't getting it. (God how shitty it must be to be a prisoner of war somewhere!!!!).
About 6:45 I hear some banging going on at the outer metal door - I guess they didn't go home after all! They come in and grab me and take me to the outer room. Some guy with a modicum of English asks me if I am OK - I reply NO, tengo mucho dolores en mi 'shoulder' (I pointed to it since my Spanish is as rusty as a 40 year old tin can, and I can't remember the word for shoulder).
So somewhere I hear the word 'medicos' and they hustle me into the back of another cop car (at least this time I was allowed to put on the seat belt) and off we go again. Only 140 KPH this time, down the left side of the road with lights flashing! -- What is with these guys? Do they all have a death wish?
We get back to the accident scene - it's more surreal than it was when I left - at least 10 emergency vehicles - medi-vans - even Americans (look like firemen), and still bodies on the side of the cliff!! So far I hear that no one is dead (a complete miracle from my point of view if it is true!). Ray is still there - all wet - he comes up and tells me that an American had stopped and offered to take all our stuff outta there (it was "Wild Bill") - I reply great - really not sure what good that was going to be for me - but better an American get it than a roadside bandido.
They put me in the medi-van and the paramedic grabs an ace bandage and wraps it around my arm immobilizing it, and now "I am fixed!!" So they jam me back into the cop car and I luck out a second time in a row, and get to use the seat belt (this cop was quite nice and led me to believe that they just needed to take us to Ensenada for some formalities about logging the apparent accident, and then I would be released (sounded too good to be true - and was!!!).
My buddy Ray (I aughta call him "fast talking Ray") also managed to talk his way into the cop car to go along for the ride (a very good thing for me), and away we go again.
Another 140 KPH ride almost exclusively on the left side of the road, with lights flashing, passing by all north bound traffic like it was standing still -- What is with these guys?!!!
We get to Ensenda about 8:45 or 9 PM and it looks like some warehouse down around Hussong's, where they take us into what I think they called the interrogation room, and sit us at a picnic table. And then Ray begins fumbling around trying to find his insurance info in this mass of unorganized paper he has in a big plastic bag - I keep saying - "Yo Ray, you do have insurance right??" He goes "Yes - I just can't seem to find it though."
Other than the story value here, there are some Very Important Lessons to be learned and heeded by Baja adventurers - as I unfold the story I will also point out what I believe to be the important points for others to note before they repeat my mistakes (or make their own). Needless to say, I musta done something right because I am no longer in prison, and am back home!! At this point in the story, you should have picked up this point:
If you are going to drive someone else's vehicle in Mexico,
- MAKE SURE THEY HAVE INSURANCE;
- MAKE SURE YOU SEE THE PAPERWORK;
- MAKE SURE THAT IT COVERS A WHOLE LOT OF PROPERTY DAMAGE AND PERSONAL INJURY, AND THAT THE COMPANY IS REPUTABLE;
- DO ALL THIS BEFORE GOING INTO MEXICO!!
I am now in the interrogation room in some weird warehouse in Ensenada - Ray is fumbling around trying to find the insurance stuff and I am starting to worry about "What if he can't find it!!" Then he leaves to look in some of the other stuff he salvaged outta the vehicle before we left the scene, and I am thinking there is no way I am going to sleep tonight. Finally Ray reappears with a smile and says - "I found it" - I'm relieved, and the cops are on the horn to get the insurance agent over there right away (it's after 9 PM - but no one seems to work what I consider normal hours anyway - just try to get something happening between 2 and 5 PM - impossible).
Her name is Olivia Salcedo Ramirez - a totally competent and confidence-inspiring professional. She shows up and then the show gets on the road - she knows everything that is happening and is supposed to happen - takes Ray aside and tells him exactly what he has to begin taking care of for me tomorrow - and where to look, arranges that I be taken to a hospital (I didn't understand the complete significance of this until later), and that Ray also be given the privilege of staying in the hospital room.
We are then transported to the hospital where I am checked in (things become confusing again) - they decide I need x-rays (necessary for reasons that were not yet clear to me - basically to substantiate that I needed to remain there instead of going directly to prison - which again I didn't understand until later into the ordeal).
The x-ray machine itself, and the guy running it, were truly comedic. The thing looked like a World War II reject - and the guy looked like a baboon with all his hair falling out. I think I know why - because to take the x-ray he would insert a key and basically shake the machine, like some sorta pinball wizard, while standing right next to it. When it finally went off and fired the x-rays, it seemed to only work about one outta three attempts, so I guess he was too lazy to go hide behind the lead wall to engage it like they do in the states - he probably glows in the dark!!!
Anyway they take three x-rays, develop them, and then stare at them until they deduce the "problemo" - and lo and behold I appear to have a cracked scapula - therefore I must stay in the hospital!!
This is all well and good because the diagnosis and opinion of the doctor cannot be challenged - so I am good to go (I guess I should say STAY - as the case may be). So I get checked into a room that comes equipped with a police guard - Ray who was to stay in my room gets shuffled off somewhere (I dunno where or what has happened to him), and then three burley guys show up and grab my arm and start trying to insert IV needles into it.
I start yelling at them that I don't want or need that - they just keep doing it and I keep yelling - I am yelling what I think shoulda meant just gimme pain pills - not needles (deseo papillas - NO nedelos, NO nedelos). Dunno what it really meant, but finally someone else showed up and waved em off. They took the needles outta my arm and went and got some water and a pain pill. I took it and went to sleep with the guard on the couch next to me - wondering what the heck had happened to Ray and what tomorrow would bring.
I awoke Monday morning back into my nightmare - Ray eventually showed up and told me he was allowed to sleep in another room. We talked over the strategy and he thought we ought to try to get the best lawyer possible - I wholeheartedly concurred. Then Ray was off on that mission.
Ray, thru a stroke of luck, had also brought his cel phone down. We had noticed that it was getting a signal but were unsuccessful in making any calls (basically we didn't know how to use it in Mexico) - this is another must have!!!
IN A DEAL LIKE THIS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED A CEL OR SAT PHONE - AND YOU ALSO NEED TO KNOW HOW TO USE IT!!!!! This isn't a luxury, it's a damn necessity!!
After Ray left, the doctor showed up and wanted to know how I felt - I told him my arm hurt - he says as long as it hurt then I should consider staying in the hospital - then he told me if he released me they would take me to prison - this was certainly a wake up call -- so now things are becoming very clear on why being hurt (but not too bad) is a very good thing to be!!!
A couple of hours later a guy shows up and introduces himself as a lawyer - says the doctor told him I probably needed one. I told him my amigo was out getting one right now - so he left me his card and told me to call if I wanted to follow up. I kinda figured if a guy had to come to me to hustle business then he probably isn't that well known or popular - (and I needed a really well-connected one) so I wait to see what Ray came up with.
About an hour later Ray returned and said he had been in contact with the tourist bureau and the American Consulate - they had both recommended Jose Sanchez Zaratuche as the man for the job (he was the past president of the Ensenada Bar Association and had a good track record). Ray had contacted him and I went with his choice - but now we needed $300US in cash to retain him. We pooled our money and it came to around $320US - so Ray took it and went off to make the down payment - he had also learned how to use the cel phone - so he could contact my wife to wire more of the magic ingredient ($$$) to complete the mission. This became necessary that afternoon because we needed to pay Zaratuche $3800US more for the case. Somehow my wife figured out how to do the wire transfer, and the money came thru with a little extra for Ray and me as padding.
THERE ARE TWO MORE KEY THINGS YOU NEED TO SURVIVE SUCH AN ORDEAL - LIQUID ASSETS, AND A SUPPORT SYSTEM THAT HAS ACCESS TO THOSE LIQUID ASSETS, AND AN ABILITY TO TRANFER THEM TO THE POINT OF NEED!!!
The cops kept changing out the guard, and things seem to be moving along - later Ray showed up and said we have a problem - basically, it is next to impossible to deal with the Army - they wanted me to buy them a new truck, 20 new machine guns, and a whole bunch of other stuff not to mention the pain and suffering of their gente!! Bottom line was that $140,000US aughta about do it!! That's cash please!!
Hmmm - prison is looking like the only option if that's the case - and from my point of view - prison just ain't happening - I am one year away from retirement, and spending the rest of my life in Mexican prison has a real negative effect on my outlook. So now I go into overtime thinking about options that aren't normally considered in cordial discourse. Most of the stuff that was going thru my head was really going to put me over the line if I did it - plus my damn arm was screwed up which was gonna be a big hinderance.
I figure I better get my plan well thought out before going into execution or else it would be like a sandlot football team where the plan is - "you go out for a pass and I will throw it" - cause I knew the probability of success needed to be a helluva lot better than that given what was at risk.
Ray needed to go back to the lawyer's to come up with other options, and I was left to play the role of the proverbial mushroom - but now in much dimmer spirits.
Me and the guard watch Mexican TV - basically just a collection of violent acts followed up by other violent acts (hmmm - maybe a source of ideas here) - the popular show seems to be something called Extreme (?? horseshit or something), where they catch guys kidnapping people (then getting shot by the cops) or robbing some place (then getting shot by the cops), etc., etc. - it always ends by getting shot by the cops - why it's so popular is beyond me, and I really got sick of it after a couple of days.
It's getting late in the day and the Doc steps back - wants to know how I feel - I really have it down now and I "tengo mucho dolores" but I make sure I don't overdo it cause I don't want a return of the goon squad with the needles.
I go to sleep - about 9:30 PM three guys barge into the room - one (a big fat one) is introduced as Doctor (dingbat) or something like that, and he is the interpreter. Funny thing was his command of English was absolutely terrible - (some of my guards were about as good!!). The other guy was introduced as the prosecutor - and I forgot what role the 3rd guy played.
They were there, they said, to take my statement as to what happened. The interpreter would ask me questions (many very peripheral - like what's your mother's maiden name? - I said both my mother and father were dead. But due to bureacracy they REALLY need to know their names!! How old am I? - Where was I born? - etc., etc. - then the key question "How much money do you make?"
Now I think I'm getting the drift of all this shit with that question. Anyways, after a good 40 minutes of bull they finally get to the issue of what happened, and the paragraph or two that it takes to describe it. Then they pack up and leave with a promise to return in the future, mas or menos, with it all typed up for me to sign.
I ask if I can get whatever comes back intrepreted prior to signing, and have my legal represenative present - they say yes. So I doze off - one day futher into this madness. I received a few other phone calls during the day - one or two from the American counsulate - where they seemed concerned, but also helpless, so I didn't weave them into the story.
Tuesday starts out a little different - a new doctor shows up and wants more x-rays. I'm starting to think this just isn't looking real good - especially since I don't know which doctor is really in charge, and I surely don't need to be pronounced "well," cause that means curtains - and I go VFR direct to prison. This would also put a real pinch in the already poor communications, cause I learned from the guards that you are entitled to one phone call and one visitor a week in the prison.
So I go with the glowing baboon guy back to the pinball x-ray machine. This time the machine was really acting up - the guy keeps putting the key in it and kicking it, and finally he puts me outta the room and bangs and screws around with it some more.
I start thinking of those horror stories where there was some radiation treatment controlled by a computer, and the computer program had a bug in it, and ended up frying the patients - except this time it's the baboon pinball wizard instead of the computer program, and I guess we are both gonna get fried.
He puts me back in front of the machine and it takes eight tries for it to work - I really don't know what the effect of the misfires were, but I sure as hell didn't like it!! Then we go back to the room.
Next, around 8 AM, my main lawyer Zaratuche shows up - this is the first time I'v ever seen him - he is smooth and refined and this at least made me feel a little better. He tells me he brings "good news and bad news"
. . .which would I like first?
I go - "just dump the whole thing on me and make it quick" - what I hate is the non-communication and the suspense. He tells me he has cut a deal with some connection high up in the Army, and they will work everything out, and Ray's insurance will cover the whole thing - I will be just out his fee (this sounds real good to me cause I'm still trying to figure out where the hell I can get my hands on a quick $140K). The bad news is that someone in Mexico City has to sign something in the insurance company chain of command, but it's just a little problema.
Maybe by 2 PM they will locate the proper signature and the ball will be really rolling. They will let me know by 4 PM and I should be outta there the next day, by noon at the latest. This really was sounding good, but I was getting used to the first words outta everyone's mouth being "We have una problema," so I had adopted a wait and see attitude. Then Zaratuche left and I am back to taking the crash course (no pun intended) in Spanish by trying to have a continuous conversation with the guard in Spanish. I figured if everything went to hell in a handbasket I'd better be prepared for prison with at least some ability to communicate!
Next Ray shows back up and he had been making the rounds with Alejandro (the Lawyers junior partner) going to all kinds of government offices and doing incomprehensible bureaucratic things. Ray says it looks like progress is happening, but he will need to go back to Irvine that evening.
He had just changed jobs and could not afford to be at a required performance the following day - but would stay there till the last bus. Then he left and I am back into wondering what the hell is really going on!!
Then another doctor shows up and says the x-rays show that I could be released tomorrow - shit is going downhill fast!!! Two hours later Iliana and James from the US Consulate in Tijuana show up - they tell me that they are attempting to do something thru diplomatic channels and now I am really concerned and confused!! I had never heard of James before, and Iliana had called a couple of times, so I didn't know why they were engaging and was starting to think that someone really had it in for me. So I began plotting Plan B in earnest.
You can't believe what a shitty position it is to be in the center of a maelstrom, and also clueless as to your predicament. Every time something or someone shows up there in a new "una problema" that somehow negates the stuff you were just beginning to hope for. I really empathize for guys like Pearl (who just got killed in Pakistan) or others like John McCain who were prisoners of war under much more trying conditions.
Well they left and I am back waiting to hear something. About 5 Ray shows back up to say progress has been made with the deal - but the timetable is slipping - I'm figuring that tomorrow is curtains for me, and Ray is about to exit left. The evening arrives and the first doctor shows back up and says it's OK if I stay another day, if that's what I want to do - I go into the "tengo mucho dolores" routine and say you're darn right that's what I want to do - I NEVER EVER want to see the inside of that prison, and I wanted that absolutely clear!!
My Plan B is starting to gel in my mind - the guards tend to zonk out around 3 AM, and there is a sliding glass door and a veranda with about a three foot wall. If you hop the wall it's a short dash to the street, and some random turns and you've disappeared into the night.
Either I hoof it all the way back to the border (least risk of getting caught - but takes time and stamina - I could have easily done it with my arm intact since I am in tremendous shape and work out daily) or else try the hitch routine with greater risk. What I didn't like about the hiking was I didn't have a good knowledge of the terrain and thought maybe going up the beach instead of the mountains would work after I made it as far as Rosarita, and I could follow the bicycle race route to that point a bit off to the side in case I needed to duck for cover.
If I knew for sure they planned to throw me in prison tomorrow then it was going to be Plan B - but the uncertainty of everything was fouling up my planning process. The other part I really didn't like was I didn't have any money left - it all went to the lawyer retainer so I didn't have many buffer options.
Anyway I went to bed early so I would be rested if I opted to carry it out. I'm sleeping and about 8 PM two of the three turkeys that barged in yesterday barged in again!! The third one was Alejandro (my abagodo's junior partner) - now I can't complain that my lawyer isn't there, but they want me to sign the statement (Aljeandro looks a bit confused and he also doesn't speak English very well).
The fat Dr. Dingbat, who is the interpreter, says it's my statement to the prosecutor that is typed now. I go fine - read it to me in English! He says that isn't necessary. I say bullshit - it is too - I don't know what it says and I want him to read it to me. He says - what it says is what you said yesterday and just sign it. The damn thing is three pages long - my functional statement shouldn't take more than three paragraphs and I am fit to be tied!! We go back and forth for five minutes, with me going what does it say - and him going it says what you said (I don't think the turkey can read and translate, and that is what the problem was!!). So, under duress, I sign it. Go back to sleep and wait for 3 AM.
I am asleep in the guarded room of the hospital - about 11 PM a new guard shows up and they go thru some paperwork exchange - it always cracked me up because they could never quite get who I was straight. My name is William George Kitto - they would alway get some permutation of this - sometimes I was Senor George, mostly Senor Williams (dunno why they added the "s") - hardly ever did they get it right.
Anyway this new guard moves the chair around into the hallway that goes out to the main hospital hall and sits down watching TV. (The prior guard had talked a pretty young thing (candy striper or something) into the room and was making out with her most of his watch in that little hall while I was in bed around the corner.) I could just see the side of him from the bed - I waited - about 2 AM he turns off the TV - pretty soon he is snoring.
I get up and put all my clothes on, including shoes - he is still snoring. I also had my sleeping bag in there and am going back and forth as to whether I outta bolt and take it too. I get back in bed - he is still snoring. I am thinking it would be better to sneak by him into the main hall and go down and out the sliding glass door in another room. This is gonna be hard because there is only about a foot from his feet to the wall. If I get caught it's not gonna look good.
I get up and down a couple of more times - he seems to be waking - then he gets up and goes into the main hall. I get up and walk over to corner to look - he is standing there looking back in - says "a donde vas?" I go "yo no voy a nadia - tengo mucho dolores," bend over and play like I'm trying to relieve the pain. Get back into bed - damnit, I blew it!!!
When the morning arrives this guard writes a whole lot more stuff on his little paper - the next guard is not at all friendly and he handcuffs me to the bed!!! I will remain handcuffed or shackled to the bed for the rest of the adventure (I never did try to bolt - from their perspective all I did was be up at night with my clothes on, and I am reasonbly sure they can't read my mind). Mi abogado (lawyer) is supposed to show up today (Wednesday) at noon with the news about where all this stuff in Mexico City is. As far as I can tell this is the next milestone I am waiting for.
At about 11 AM five people come barging into the room - the guard and I are completely surprised (they now make the guard write down everyone who comes in the room - guess they need to know who is helping to bust me outta there or something). The one in charge is a big (read fat) lady who speaks semi-reasonable English - she goes - "hola - estoy su abobado de defensio" - in other words she says she is my defense attorney. I go - hmmm, nope, my defense attorney is Jose Sanches Zaratuche - I dunno who in the world you are - but I have his telephono so maybe we better call him. She has a cell phone (I tell you they are a necessity!!), calls him, and he is there in five minutes.
While he was on the way she tells me she is the court appointed public defender - because being such a sorry looking cuss they figured I couldn't have had a real lawyer. Anyway they are here to take my statement - I am now confused again - I tell her I just made a statement and the turkeys came back with it and had me sign it and would not let me read what it said. She goes - well you gotta make another statement - I can't believe this system (you should probably study their legal system a bit if you intend to journey in Mexico alot!!) - also, remember their whole system of justice is based on Napolianic law - the fundamental premise is foreign to English law - in Napolianic law you are GUILTY until proven INNOCENT - under English law it's the other way around - i.e., INNOCENT til proven GUILTY.
We go thru the process of recreating the statement - basically the same set of inane questions - including the key question - how much $$$ do you make (each of you should get this one straight in your head). They also had a copy of the other statement and when they read it back to me it was full of mistakes - it says I said I was going uphill at the time of the accident (I corrected that and told them that the "translator" - imposter that he was, didn't translate it back for me - she seemed to take great note of that).
They typed it all into their laptop using their most up-to-date software - Windows98 and Office97 (thanks Bill Gates), which was giving them fits. Then they needed to go print it somewhere. I think my abogado sent them over to his office (it was just down the street) and about 20 minutes later they came back with it printed. This time my main lawyer read the whole thing - he signed every page - and I signed every page. Then they left and my lawyer remained.
He told me that he tried to inform their large leader of the state of the case - he also showed her the paperwork he had that was going to settle when the last part is signed in Mexico City - however there was friction between him and her (I'm thinking oh shit!!). So I say - What is going to happen next? - he says they take my statement and all the other crap before a magistrate now - the magistrate will then set the amount of the bail. I have 24 hours to pay it or else it's prison!!
He says if you don't mind going to prison for a day or two - I'm sure I will have the stuff from Mexico City and get you out at no additional cost. I say from the track record so far - that a couple of days could be a couple of months - besides that, I DON'T WANT TO GO TO PRISON for a nanosecond!!!!! So what other options are there?? He says - when we know the bail, you need to have that sent to me and I will post it, and they will release you. When the other deal comes thru - you will get most of that back. I am thinking fat chance but what the hell.
So he thinks that we should have the bail set by 2:30 PM - I tell him to contact my wife and have her get the stuff in order to wire the bail (if it's in the ballpark that she can come up with) and to post it and get me outta there - I don't want to wait on Mexico City, and I really don't want to go to prison. He leaves and I return to mushroom status.
I knew now time was definitely not on my side. The whole Mexican business infrastructure seems to take a lunch break from 2 to 5 PM - American banks close around 5 PM - so I don't see how in the world this is going to work. Anyway I just get to wait to hear something.
I'm sure a bunch of other stuff happened Wednesday afternoon, but I don't recall it - the thing that sticks in my head is I am still waiting and at 7 PM - the fat interpreter, some skinny guy with wire rimmed glasses, and a third guy show up with a bunch of official paperwork. They want me to sign the declaration!!! I'm going, What declaration??? They go - Why the one we have right here. I say - now wait a minute - I was read my rights just around noon - and one of em is to have my abogado(lawyer) here when you are having me sign stuff - so I keep going - A donde esta mi abogado?? They keep going - no es necessario el abogado! I am going nuts!!! They proceed to roughly translate - you owe $12,000 dollars (American) for the truck - $6,000 dollars for the soldados, and $2000 dollars for the "get outta jail" pass.
So basically it was 200,000 pesos by tomorrow if I wanted to see the light of day tomorrow. I keep saying - What the hell are you telling me this for?? Tell my abogado - he is the one primed to do something about it. They say - no - we need to tell you - after all your abogado may be a crook - he might tell you that it's 400,000 pesos or something - besides it's your responsibility to tell your abogado. I think I said - dammit - if you did things according to my rights, and my abogado was here - we could both hear the statement at the same time - that outta solve everyone's problemo - what planet are you guys on anyway?? They go - Are you gonna sign it? - I reply 'Donde esta mi abogado' for the hundredth time. They say no es necessario - we will just sign it then - so they signed it and wrote a paragraph on it that I guess basically said I was an asshole and would not sign it - then they left!!
Now I am freaking out - it's 7 PM - there was no way in hell that the money could get there in time - plus I don't know if my wife is able to scare up that much money anyway!! (She was trying to arrange a loan - but I don't know where that was!!) Some time tomorrow I transfer to prison - I don't know when the clock starts ticking - when the judge declared what the amount was, or when those turkeys tried to get me to sign the declaration that I refused to sign - besides that I need to tell the abogado and I have no means to do that!!
About an hour later they call me to the nurse's station for a phone call. It's my abogado - he goes - "We have una problemo"!!!!!!!!!! I go - yer damn right we do - I am supposed to tell you that we gotta come up with $20,000 dollars by tomorrow. He lets me know that he is way ahead of me on that - he had already contacted my wife and she had sent the money. She had to send around $24000 because of various rip-offs in the exchange rate and wire transfer fees and other associated micky-mouse clingons.
But the new - "una problema" is this - the ATM network, or whatever gobbly-de-gook, has a $5000 limit on a packet transfer or something. So she had to send 5 packets of cash to make up the amount. The good news is that two of the packets made it to Ensenada, and the bad news is that three of them are missing in action!!!
They think that the three packets of cash are lost in Mexico City - but right now the systema is down!!! I am dumfounded - the packets are lost in Mexico City!!?? My geography isn't that good - but last time I looked, and from the drive down - I don't recall going thru Mexico City on my way from LA to Ensenada!!! So I dejectedly return to my shackled life - suffering from not only bureaucratic, but now information technology problemos!!!
I awake early Thursday morning - soon the guards show up and change out. The new guard is "Angel," but his nickname is Diablo. I haven't dwelt much on my interchange with my guards - but they were for the most part all friendly. They appreciated my attempts to speak Spanish (which I was doing as part of my back up plan - and only one of them wanted to expand his horizons in English - so I accomodated him). So me and Diablo shot the shit about various things - there was one of those flat cactii growing outside, and I asked in Spanish how to cook the napalito's, and he gave me various receipes, etc..
About 8 AM my lawyer Zaratuche shows up. He tells me that his partner Alejandro is at the bank fighting the systema to get the money so we can complete the bail process. The systema has come back up but the new problemo is that the money wasn't lost in Mexico City after all - it was really lost in Texas!!
At this point it coulda been lost on Pluto, and that would not surprise me - oh well, prison is looking like it's gonna happen. He tells me he expects it to be found by 10 AM and I outta be a free man around noon. Yeah right! - the algorithm is double the estimate and then add three days as I see it. So mi abogado departs with a noon update promised.
I sit down to bullshit with Diablo during my final hours of gentlemanly incarceration before I hit the big time. About 9 AM is another phone call - it turns out to be my daughter calling from London - saying she is really sorry her old man is locked up in Mexico - I tell her she ain't half as sorry as I am - but there is nothing I can think of that I could have done to avoid it - the whole thing was a strange act of fate - with me doing my upmost to be cautious at every step, and it happened anyway.
I return to the waiting game - around noon my lawyer returns to report that Alejandro has finally gotten the money and he is downtown posting the bail - hmmm - things are looking up. He also tells this and some other stuff to the guards (there are two of em now), and then he leaves with an update promised around 1 PM.
Around 2 PM I get a phone call from mi abogado - we have "una problema"!!! The new problema is that Alejandro has posted the bail, but there is a typo or some trivial shit in the documents, so the officials have to go back and retype everything - Jesus!! What nonsense!!!
About 3 PM I get another phone call - this time it's my wife - she says Wild Bill is enroute to pick me up and should get there around 4 PM. I tell her that's great, but I'm still locked up and don't know what is going on!! I asked her to call Wild Bill on his cell phone and let him know I am still at the hospital for the time being, but I think my number is about up!
Me and the guards are playing poker - I'm shackled and feel like the prisoner right before it's time to go to the gallows. I get one more phone call from my abogado - he tells me I have "uno mas problema." What's the next problema?, I say. Well - you need to pay your hospital bill. Shit - how much is that? Oh, not too bad - just like a good hotel stateside, say $100 to $150 a day he replies.
I'm not sure how I am going to do that - he says they take Visa. I guess I forgot to mention that when he was there last he took all my remaining documents, etc., with him - he said you don't want to take anything into prison with you since the jackals in there will rip it off - so I no longer had my Visa card. He tells me - it's a good thing if they drag you off to prison - cause then you don't go thru the hospital check out process. I reply - hey - I just dropped $28,000 on this exercise - whats another thousand?
I go back to poker. 4 PM arrives - along with it come two more guards - now there are four guards there - two minutes later Wild Bill shows up in the hospital room with his girlfriend, and now we have a crowd. Wild Bill is yacking with the guards, and I just wonder what the heck is going on.
It wasn't two minutes later that the 5th guard arrives - he has some new official paperwork with a bunch of yellow marker stuff on it. I guess that's my order for execution - they grab me and say the jig is up - let's go!! I wanna know where - they go - with US!!
They drag me outside and there is a van that basically looks like a dogcatcher van. They open the outer door to reveal a small inner cage-like box of aluminum with a few holes drilled in it so you won't suffocate, and they stuff me into the cage. They lock the door - close the outer door - the red lights are flashing and off we go.
About 4:15 the van stops and they open the doors and I get out. We are somewhere out in the boondocks (on the road from Ensenada to San Filipe it turns out). There is a big hill that is a graveyard off to the side and in front of me is a large walled structure with about 20 ft. high walls and machine gun nests on the top in the corners.
They indicate that I go in the door. I go in and then go thru another door into a man-trap entrance. There is another guy in there with his girlfriend - and he seems to be getting his mug shot taken - I guess that's my next stop (I dunno what is going on here but it seems like I am being in-processed into the prison). After he gets his mug shot he and his girlfriend go into the next man-trap - they tell me to follow him (I don't get a mug shot). I hobble into the next man-trap and they put me up against the wall and take my shackles off. Then they indicate that I should go out the next door.
I do, and I arrive into the most surreal place in my life. It's like a giant playground with jackals prowling all around - there are areas cordoned off with concertina wire on the top of the chainlink - when I come into that place there are two lines with people standing in them. They tell me to go stand in line 2. The guy and his girlfriend are also in line 2, so I am not at all clear what this line is for.
Immediately, one of the roving jackals comes up to me and says - "Hey you - gimme your watch!" Luckily I had given everything to my abogado - so I go - "I don't have a watch." He goes - "Gimme your lighter" - I go - "I don't have a lighter" ... this continues - "Gimme your money" - "I don't have any money" - "What you got?" - "Nothing - they already took everything I have."
Some other inmate comes up and says - "Hey you - you're in the wrong line" - so I go get in the other line. Then another one says you're in the wrong line - so I go back to the first line. I'm really getting tired of this bullshit so I start ignoring all of them - the thing that is really bothering me is I only have one good arm and if I end up in a fight I will be severely handicapped. Some guy comes up and wants to know if I wanna buy a pillowcase - I can't believe it - what the hell do I want a pillowcase for. I don't have a pillow or any intention of going to sleep in that place.
There are a bunch of telephones in there - to use one you need a phone card or a pocket full of 5 peso coins. I don't have either, and don't know how to use their phones anyway - but this is food for thought for anyone tossed in jail.
There is a constant crowd milling around the phones, and on the other side of the fence, about 10 ft. from where I am standing in line, is a growing crowd all looking at me. They keep yelling at me - Hey you!! trying to get my attention - I figure they are drawing straws as to what order they get to deal with me in!! Needless to say this is all very disconcerting - there appears to be some wierd economy going on in there - it seems like you have to buy everything in prison - what isn't clear is how you get any money to do it. At the end of the two lines are windows with people inside calling out names, and people in the lines then going to the window. I still don't know what the lines are for!!
It's getting to be around 5 PM now and the sun is going down - it's starting to cool off. I zip up my coat. We are getting closer to the front of the line. About 5:15 the two people inside the windows both pick up all their stacks of paper folders and leave. It's just like that old commercial where the guy is in line at the post office, and when he gets to the front the clerk pull down the "Out to Lunch" sign and leaves him hanging.
Now everyone except me and the guy with his girlfriend leave - it looks like there is a lockdown going on and just us three are left wondering what is happening. Some guy comes by and says - manana. I guess we get to sit out there till tomorrow. I ask the guy with girlfriend why he is there - he proudly tells me it because of assault - he tried to cut some other guys head off - "With his machete!", his girlfriend pipes in. I think - oh joy!! what are you into now!!
Pretty soon someone comes and drags off the guy and his girlfriend - that leaves just me sitting there wondering what is going on. Around 6 PM the skinny guy with the wire rimmed glasses that was there when I refused to sign the "declaration" shows up in the window and calls my name - I go up there and I see he has some paperwork with "Libertidad" on it, and my name on the thing. Now things are really looking up. But of course we must have "una problema" - I can't sign it without a translator - and they don't have one.
So they scramble around the jail and fish out an inmate "Arturo Basura" (or something like that), and he is going to be the translator. They read all the stuff that says I must live in Ensenada and sign in every Monday or Tuesday, and let them know something every 15 days or 30 days or something, and whatever it is has a sunset clause or some other nonsense - so I say "Fine - lemme sign it." Not so fast - Arturo needs to sign it first. Now we have another problema. Arturo can't sign it without an ID - and guess what - he is an inmate and doesn't have an ID.
Well this can be fixed by the skinny guy writing about a two page description of Arturo (dunno if he also had to make a statement as to what his annual income was or what - but it took a hellua long time). So Arturo signs it - then I sign it - then I say "Can I go now?" Not so fast - we need to go type up some more stuff, so sit down again. I sit in the dirt again and about 40 minutes later he comes back with two more papers. Again they need to go get Arturo to translate - they read it to Arturo and Arturo says - "Man, that says the same shit the other one did!" I said, "Fine, sign it!" - he does, I do - they send Arturo back to lockdown and signal me to go out of the mantrap.
I proceed out the multiple mantraps to the outside. Alejandro is there - I get in his car and we drive out the prison entrance - some guy is checking me out - we tell him I am George Williams - this works for him - Wild Bill is down the road a bit and gets in the caravan - we go over to the lawyer's and pick up all my stuff and head for the border!!!! That's all folks!
I don't know what the insurance company is going to do or where this whole thing is going. I had to pay $28,000 outta my pocket just to get outta there. I might get some of it back (but I sure as hell won't go back there to claim it!) but it will take time for the case to go thru their process - a couple of months, I guess.