Chapter 25

This entry is part 26 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Twenty-Five — Mexico City

The engine of the Palace was pleasant to hear and the tires were singing sweetly on the hot pavement. We were headed south toward Nicaragua. The cactus was taller and greener; and, as we sped along even the buzzards looked blacker.

“Chuck, tomorrow we ought to be in Mexico City.” I said thoughtfully.

He nodded. “It’ll probably be late when we get there, Joe, but I think we can make it.”

It started to rain and it poured! Ahead were high mountains and down on the other side of them was Mexico City. Now we were out of the cactus belt. The mountains we climbed were covered with dense forests of pine and other trees we couldn’t name. It continued to rain in torrents but we didn’t care. It was sure better than looking eternally at sunburned cactus.

How high those mountains were, I didn’t know, but they seemed to reach to the sky. Mexico City has an elevation of about seven thousand feet, yet we went a long way down before we arrived there.

Mexico City! Approximately five million people lived there. The downtown section reminded me of Chicago. There were many new and modern looking buildings that stood ten to twenty stories high. Beautiful architecture. We registered at a hotel then took the Palace to a garage to have it serviced.

I asked the English-speaking hotel clerk if we could get a guide to help us with our passports and visas, and he assured me he could find one for us.

Promptly at nine o’clock the next morning we met our guide and he gave me his card. “Dick Domonick, Passports, Visas. . . .”

Dick was a handsome Mexican, about six feet-four and he must have weighed about two hundred and twenty pounds. His first words were, “Who are you. Where are you going. Where do you come from.”

This was a little confusing but probably standard for the beginning of a conversation south of the border, I thought.

I told him we already had our passports but must get our visas.

He took us to his car, a highly polished late model Chrysler, and drove us to the Guatemala Embassy. He showed himself to be very efficient. In no time at all he obtained our visas and permits to drive through Mexico. Then we went to the El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaraguan Embassies where we got more visas and permits.

As we left the Nicaragua embassy and approached Dick’s car parked in front of the building in an ordinary restricted time zone, we saw a police officer walking away from the car with a bunch of license plates under his arm. Dick saw that his own license plates were gone and he yelled something to the officer in Spanish. They stood arguing angrily for several minutes. Then Dick gave the officer a hand full of pesos, and the officer handed him the plates and walked on.

“What was that all about,” I asked.

Dick’s dark eyes were flashing. “We couldn’t have been more than a minute overtime in that parking place, but I had to give that bandit twenty pesos to get my license plates back!”

“How come?”

“He said I’d better give him twenty pesos because the judge would charge me fifty. He said he needs the money more than the judge because the price of beans and meat is so high it’s harder to buy enough food for his family.”

Chuck and I tried to help him replace the license plates, but, it was impossible as the bolts had been broken off. After some expressive and eloquent language Dick tossed them on the floor of the car, and we got in and drove on.

Soon we heard the familiar high-pitched wail of a siren and I noticed that were being crowded to the curb by a police car. “Now what?” I thought.

Two policemen got out of their car and came up to us. After much spirited arm waving and highly colorful Spanish, along with Dick pointing to the license plates on the floor of his car, he finally handed them ten pesos.

“How come?” I asked after they left. “Do those fellows also need pesos more than the judge does?”

“Something like that,” grumbled Dick. “More damned bandits.”

Dick took us to the garage where we had left the Palace, then suggested that he guide us through the city as it would be too hard for us to find our way around alone. So he took the wheel of the Palace and off we went.

What a wild ride! Everyone should have the experience of driving or riding through Mexico City in an automobile for it would dispense all fear of any kind of traffic hazards they might ever encounter.

In the middle of the streets, too dangerously close to the lines of traffic, young fellows stand as if to dare a car to hit them. But just before it can, they wheel aside quickly and slap the side of the car. I asked Dick why they acted so reckless.

“They are practicing to be matadors,” he said.

“What a hell of a way to practice,” I said, being unable to comprehend the workings of such minds.

Finally we made it to the edge of the city. Dick’s fee added up to forty American dollars which I knew must have included his fines. He was another bandit, but he had been an excellent guide.

“Anytime you need passports and visas just call for me, Dick Domonick, and I can fix you up.” He gave us a merry smile as he waved us good-bye.

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