Oh Boy it’s Snowing

Chicago, Illinois
Christmas 1978

Shortly two customs agents came over and asked me to step aside and wait. They then proceeded to search my bag really well. It didn’t take too long because it was just a single small red daypack and it didn’t have much in it. Tropical clothes, which was all I had, don’t take up too much room. Then they searched me. No one told me what was happening until another agent came in and said that there was a 3 1/2 year old warrant out for my arrest for auto theft. He said it was probably nothing.

“Usually these things are taken off the computer every year, but yours seems to still be on.” he kept a straight calm almost nice expression on his face as he continued, “It’s probably an error, but we need to check it out.”

For the next few hours they tried unsuccessfully to find out some more information on it. The same nice man later told me that they could not find out anything, so they were going to have to turn me over to the Dade County Police. The handcuffs, he assured me, were just a requirement.

Everyone was very nice to me, but none the less I began to feel very foolish in my outfit. I asked if maybe they would let me change. They wouldn’t. I think he said it was some stupid rule. The Dade County Police were also very nice. We had a pleasant conversation while they transported me from the airport to the jail. I had to be locked in the back, they said, because of regulations you know.

Once there, I pleaded again with them to let me change into some more suitable jail clothes, but to no avail. I was taken into a room by two nice detectives who then carefully explained the situation to me.

“You see, we don’t want you. It’s Illinois where the warrant was issued. But we have to hold you for them. Right now you have two choices according to law. Either you can decide that you will go back voluntarily. In which case we can only hold you for 20 days. Or,” he added, “you can say you won’t go voluntarily in which case by law we can only hold you for a maximum of 60 days.”

My first view of TV in many years was in the Dade County Jail

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was numb. I was in shock. “20 days! 60 days!,” I shouted. “Who is this? What’s is this all about?”

The two agents kept their composure and further explained that they didn’t know any more than that, but that they would have to hold me until Illinois responded.”

“Meanwhile,” he added with a pleasant smile, “We will have to process you.”

Which is just what they did. They escorted me to a holding cell filled with many other gentlemen. At first no one seemed to pay the least little notice of me. I laid down on one of the empty metal benches and tried to watch television. You see it was my first look at it for quite some time. It even managed to take my mind off of my problems until some big burly guy walked over and stood between me and the screen. He didn’t say anything to me but just kept on talking to his friends.

“Boy, I can’t wait till lights out,” he said using an accentuated pleasant, almost sweet tone. “That’s when all kind of things can happen to new meat. “Hey, Joe it’s almost lights out time already isn’t it?” I was no fool. I instantly knew he was talking about me. The conversation went back and forth across the room. I stared straight ahead at he screen, even though it was still blocked by Convict No. 1. After a while he took notice of this fact and leaned down and said in that same pretend kind of gentle voice, “Oh, excuse me am I blocking the TV?”

Anyway. I won’t bore you anymore with the particulars They are not pretty, but then not devastating either.. The next morning they released me. I was in such a state of shock that I spent the next 2 weeks just laying on the beach in the Florida Keys before making finally making my way to my family and the snowy north–Chicago.

I was certainly not in the tropics anymore!

Merry F**kin’ Christmas to Me!

I Gotta Get Outa Here

Border of Honduras
September 1978

Border city of Leimas in the wintertime.

Needless to say I began rapidly developing a new PLAN. I searched around the port city of Bluefields looking for a fishing boat that was heading off in the direction of Honduras. I quickly found one that was willing to let me hitch a ride. It seemed like everyone was trying to get out the hell of there, and with just the clothes on my back I was once again off, but this time on a forced adventure. The trip was unremarkable except that when I arrived at Leimas on the border with Honduras and Nicaragua. The customs guard looked at my passport and saw that I had been in the country without a visa for the last year, He scowled at me for a very long time, until I offered to buy his kids, all 11 of them, new shoes. After a trip to the Tienda, where I bought 11 pairs a shinny rubber shoes, he kindly stamped my passport, and said, “Bien Viaje!”

The trip was very slow, and uneventful. At that point I really believed that the war would only last a few months so I was just looking for a safe place to wait it out. Why I thought that it might be a good idea to go to Guatemala and find my ex-wife Rainy, once again I can only attribute to the excess in drugs.
I easily found her in Panajachel, or “Gringotenango” as it was know locally.

Rainy had rented 3 small house to try and rent out.

Things quickly turned sour with her. She had rented 3 small one room houses, which she was trying to turn into rentals. A mutual friend of ours, who had a case of hepatitis, was living in one of them. Once I found out that her dishes were being mixed in with the households dishes I decided that it was probably a good idea to get the heck out of there. My Mom, who I had now not seen for many years, offered to pay for a plane ticket to visit Chicago. I had about $100 in my pocket. Now, I thought might be a very good time for to take her up on that offer.

Guatemalan pantelones

It was the middle of winter in Chicago, so of course I thought that I might make a stronger entrance by arriving in tipico style clothes. I boarded the plan with a pair of three quarter length Guatemalan pantelones, a multi colored woman’s repeli that I had made into a vest, no shirt and a pair of rubber sandals made out of old tires. Heck, it’s not like I had any winter clothes anyway! Of course I had beads made from sea shells, and I carried on a faded daypack. When I landed in Miami to go through customs the alarm went off and I was pulled off to the side. Soon a customs agents showed up and escorted me into a little room. It seems that 3 1/2 years ago I had had a warrant put out for my arrest. Shit! This was definitively not going as PLANNED.

Ok, Let’s Get on with Our Main Story: Trouble in Paradise

Corn Island, Nicaragua
June, 1978

Our dream was almost complete

By June, Rainy and I were quickly running out of money. At this point we had been traveling for over 5 years with many adventures, but we had done very little earning. Our dream was almost a reality. We had the beach-front land. We had one house almost finished, and enough materials for 3 more. We had it all. The dream was so close, but we just couldn’t convince ourselves to be happy — together.

Rainy saying farewell to me and Corn Island

So, being a “modern” couple, we divided up the remaining travelers checks. I stayed on in Corn Island, and she walked off down the beach heading out to build a new life in Guatemala. To say that there was “depression” on my part, would be an understatement. I spent days swinging in the hammock, listening to Stevie Nicks on the portable music player, while just staring at all the unfinished work. With my friend and partner now gone, and funds down to about $800, I needed another PLAN. What was I going to do?

All alone

Looking back on that time, drugs played a large part in my decision to take my remaining funds, get on a fishing boat, to cross the Caribbean channel to the port city of Bluefields on the Nicaraguan coast where I would buy a horse! Somehow I imagined that if I only had a horse, I could start making money again. Believe me when I say that it was indeed a better PLAN than any of the others. I buried everything that was valuable to me, deep in the sand. My diaries, photos, diving gear, mandolin, etc. I left Nevada, my other best friend and dog (mind you, for the first time in my life) with a 12 year old boy who had done some work for me. After all I would be back in a few days–wouldn’t I?
As soon as I got off of the boat in Bluefields, a Corn Island friend came running up to me and said, “Hey mon, dey started a war and dey got military guys everywhere. I tink from Cuba. From all ober da place. If’n dey see you, dey gonna shoot you, mon!”

“So, the best laid PLANS of mice and men……!”

Footnote from Wikipedia:
The initial overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1978–79 was a bloody affair, and the Contra War of the 1980s took the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and was the subject of fierce international debate. During the 1980s, both the FSLN (a leftist collection of political parties) and the Contras (a rightist collection of counter-revolutionary groups) received large amounts of aid from the Cold War superpowers (respectively, the Soviet Union and the United States).

Back Home

Pipe creek, TX

Why have we come home so early? Circumstances just all led this way.
First, as I already said it was hot-hot during the day. The flies, of which there were thousands had now begun to bite.

Kim reading her book in-between bug bites.

All of that we could have put up with, because the mornings and the evenings were glorious, but then as we sat hot and sweaty staring out at the mountains, three cars pulled up in the campsite directly across the way and out popped some very young ladies. Immediately, in unison, they all put on their pointy witches hats. Because of the dry conditions, open fires were not allowed. They must have done their homework, because one of them pulled out a huge propane tank and a portable fireplace. We had begun to expect a pretty rowdy night, and we were mow debating on how to best handle it. Kim suggested that she had brought along her earplugs, and I always had my music player. That’s when 4 cars full of teenagers pulled into the campsite right next to us. “Oh, oh!”, Kim said, and just like that we knew that this trip was indeed done! We packed up and began our 5 hour trip to San Angelo and then 3 hours to home.

There is Kim painting the cave.
And there is Kim again on one of our many walks.

It was a wonderful trip filled with photos and paintings, walks and bike rides. Hey, I need to finish up blogging my life’s story anyway.

There were beautiful views everywhere you looked