Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Cave of the Sleeping Sharks




July, 1975: It turned out to be a bad idea to paint the Bronco camouflage before driving down to Central America. Our idea was to be able to hide the truck in the jungle while we were out SCUBA diving. But mostly it meant we’d be repeatedly stopped by military police to be interrogated, the Bronco ransacked, and the contents strewn out on the highway while they searched for weapons and drugs. At one Mexican checkpoint, the federalistas became suspicious when they saw the SCUBA tanks and then reacted with alarm when they found my bag of tampons – complete with string fuses... They were sure this was some serious bomb-making gear. Fortunately they were so abashed by my description of what tampons were used for that they squealed away and left us to pack it all up and be on our way.

I like to be open to whatever comes along when I travel, but my boyfriend Steve was a compulsive and paranoid planner. Every evening, with the sweet, clamoring racket of tropical birds in the trees above, I swung in a hammock with a Dos Equis while he pored over maps and guidebooks, obsessively choreographing every minute of our trip. So I wasn’t that disappointed when the Bronco broke down constantly, forcing us to hang out in backwater villages and make new friends. Steve also didn’t speak a word of Spanish, so I got to be an expert at explaining what was wrong with the engine while he stood by helplessly. The mechanics snickered at him. By the end of the first month, I’d started to hate Steve, his wispy blonde mustache and his control trip.

We did do a lot of SCUBA diving. That was something Steve and I had in common. We brought a portable air compressor so we wouldn’t be tied to dive resorts to refill the tanks. .. Explored virgin coral reefs with explosions of tropical fish; big parrot fish and trigger fish followed us; fearless and curious about our purring bubbles. Occasionally there would be barracudas with menacing teeth. I used my hand to cover the regulator over my mouth because I heard they tend to strike at shiny things. Once in awhile the fish would all disappear and an ominance would grow. You could feel the ghostly presence just before you saw the shark. Black, hollow eyes, a large form undulating past with the economy of a perfect prehistoric machine. They terrified me.

From the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico we took a ferry to Isla Mujeres. I had heard about the island from an episode of “The Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau,” right before we left on our trip. The show was about sharks discovered to be mysteriously lying motionless in a cave off the coast of Isla Mujeres. A few species, like nurse sharks, have developed the ability to breathe while lying still, but most other types have to keep moving, to force water into their mouths and out their gill slots in a process called “ram ventilation” in order to breathe. The ones in the cave at Islas Mujeres were said to be bull and reef sharks, definite “ram ventilator” breathers, but – inexplicably - they were either sleeping or stoned. Cousteau got word of this and flew down to Isla Mujeres to investigate. Of course I wanted to investigate it, too. Steve pointed out that Cousteau was on the island for months and had to dive numerous times before he saw any sleeping sharks in the cave. And only one fisherman knew how to find the spot, so of course Steve poo pooed the idea. I ignored him.

We found a “hotel” with hooks on the walls for our hammocks and strung them up. While Steve re-organized everything and laid out his maps and guides, I took off on foot for the wharf. I asked around and within half an hour, I met a fisherman who said his cousin, Carlos Garcia, was the guy who discovered the sharks and who guided Cousteau there and yes, he’d introduce him to me, “just wait here un momentito.” Back he came with Carlos, a lobster fisherman locally nicknamed “Valvula” for his ability to deep dive with no extra breathing apparatus other than what he had in his huge, barrel chest. For a small fee, Valvula agreed to take us out on his boat, warning that the underwater currents could be very strong and we’d have to be careful. He also told us to not to get our hopes up about seeing the sharks, as he’d rarely found them there. Jose Luis, a local who ran the dive shop on the island overheard us and asked if he could come too – he’d never had a chance to see this - and we said sure. I didn’t like the sound of dangerous currents, so having someone along with local diving experience sounded good.

I gathered up Steve and all our gear and we headed out with Jose Luis and Valvula in his little dorey. The surface was choppy but the turquoise water was so clear, we could see the ocean floor far below. Valvula dropped anchor, tied a net to his waist, pulled some flippers onto his feet, and jumped overboard, swimming quickly to the bottom. For an impossibly long time, we sat in the boat and watched him, holding his breath and paddling casually around the reef. Then he surfaced with two big lobsters in the net. He restarted the motor and we continued on.

The water got rougher and the boat was lurching when Valvula dropped anchor again and told us to follow him. He’d show us the cave, but warned us not to stay long because we might drift too far from the boat. It was too late to back out, so I pulled on my mask, flippers, weight belt and SCUBA tank and followed the others over the gunwale of the dorey. Fighting the current, we followed Valvula down, down, down to where the anchor wedged in the reef above the lip of an overhang. He curled below the ledge and quickly pointed, then he kicked back up to the surface and left us there. Lying ghostlike against the wall were two huge bull sharks. Jose Luis swam in closer and we followed. We touched the sharks. Touched them and felt their sandpaper skin. Other than the tips of their tails slightly rolling, the sharks sat perfectly motionless. It was astonishing.

Below 50 feet, divers can experience Nitrogen Narcosis, or “raptures of the deep” caused by breathing gases at high pressure. I could feel this “martini effect” as we drifted and paddled through the super-clear current and touched sleeping sharks. It’s risky to stay very long at that depth. I wandered… and then felt a sudden stab of panic when I looked around and my diving partners were gone. The buddy rule is one of the strictest codes for SCUBA divers – a diver is never left alone. But alone I was. The anchor rope was some distance away now. I looked up toward the surface and made an initial kick.

That’s when, from the corner of my mask, I spotted the large fan of a tail curving around behind me. I was being followed by a shark; what seemed to be an enormous shark. A shock of adrenalin buzzed from my fingers to my core and my vision narrowed to blackness for several seconds. There was no way to flee. I remembered hearing that divers ascending - like swimmers at the surface - resemble helpless fish to sharks and are more likely to be attacked. So I didn’t look back, but headed slowly down to the sandy floor and, as graceful and natural as I could pretend to be, I swam along the bottom like I lived there, with this large predator shadowing me, his snout close to my fins. The panic dissolved and I felt the peaceful calm that comes with knowing that one has absolutely no control of any outcome. I was a visitor and didn’t belong. And then, finally, the shark slowly swerved off to the right and disappeared.

Back in the boat, I confronted the guys for abandoning me. It wasn’t the current that had separated us. Jose Luis and Steve had seen the shark behind me, looked at each other, pointed to the surface, and got the hell out of there. They said they thought I was coming up, too. Maybe they did, or maybe they just didn’t want to be caught in the feeding frenzy. I remembered the statistic that a shark can detect a single drop of blood from a quarter mile away. My legs were still raw from washing up on fire coral the day before and I was menstruating.

As we headed back to shore, Valvula laughed nervously and told me I was lucky. He said it was a Tiger Shark. Tiger Sharks are responsible for more unprovoked attacks on humans than any other species besides the Great White. Jose Luis quickly added that they were lucky, too. We looked at Steve, who was quiet and avoided eye contact, like I often saw him do when he knew he was wrong but couldn’t admit it. Instead, Steve gazed at the horizon and then pointed and said, “Hey look, flying fish.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

our family in black and white

"My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," President Obama said. "All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves." My husband and I are white and, when Trayvon was killed, our hearts broke for his parents and we thought of *our* son.


In 1990, as Peace Corps volunteers in Jamaica, we adopted our first child, our baby son, Nigel. Our Jamaican neighbors were confounded by the white people with the black Jamaican baby. Did we plan to keep him? Were there no white babies available? The man from the shop on the corner consoled me, saying, “Don’t worry, he’ll ‘clear up’ when you get him home,” as if dark skin was something that could be cleared up like a case of acne when we got back to the US. How could they think we wouldn’t be thrilled by this beautiful, chocolate colored baby?

We were rank amateurs at parenthood, and just learning to live in a new culture in a village on the north coast of Jamaica. Family in the US sent us a Care Package that included new-fangled baby bottles with disposable plastic bag inserts, baby toys (that the kids in Jamaica had never seen before) and Baby Care books by Dr. Spock and T. Berry Brazelton, MD. While flipping through the books with the ladies on the corner, I wondered aloud why all the pictures in the book were of white babies. Straight faced, Ivy looked at me and said, “That’s because White people are the only ones who read books about how to raise children.” Later, when baby Nigel got a bad cold and couldn’t breathe, we tried the little nasal bulb syringe we got in our care package, but couldn’t get any suction in his big African nostrils. So my husband went to Ivy’s house to ask her for advice. He came home and said he found out what to do... he picked up Nigel, sealed his mouth over one nostril at a time and sucked out the snot, spitting it into the sink. That’s what I call bonding.

The ladies who lived behind us hung over the fence and giggled, watching my husband wash diapers by hand and hang them on the line. Folks teased me from doorways and corners, “Jacket baby!” A “jacket baby” means he wasn’t fathered by my husband. When they started to realize this wasn’t a joke, they decided we needed help. Then the advice started to flow and I made a list of 35 new rules: “Don’t cut his hair until he learns to talk or he will stutter, don’t cut his fingernails or he’ll become a thief, put something red in his hair to protect him from evil spirits, na pick him up every time he cry, mon, yu does spwoil im so! If he plays with his shadow, the duppies will follow him home. Wash out his mouth with a urine soaked diaper to prevent thrush.” We accepted all the advice respectfully.

Once I took Nigel to Hellshire Beach near Kingston when the fishermen had just brought in a catch. You could pick out a fish and some ladies in a big lean-to would cook it for you on the spot. Turning our fish over the fire, the woman watched me. “A fi yu pickney dat?” (Is that your baby?) I didn’t feel like having the adoption discussion, so I just answered, “Yes, he’s mine.” She looked at the lady next to her and remarked, “im fadda blood strong.”

The week before we left Jamaica, I had my picture taken with a line of 6 neighbor ladies, all of them in various stages of pregnancy. We had planned to produce a homemade baby to go with our imported one soon, but I didn’t realize until we got back to the US that I was also already a pregnant lady standing in that line. Our baby Olivia was born in New Mexico 7 months later.

When Nigel was a year old, we had gone back to the US and our family changed from being a "normal baby with white parents," to being "normal parents with a black baby."
While black folks in Albuquerque were never unfriendly to me, I now realized that out in public they also almost never *started* conversations with me before. I worried that African Americans would judge me as a “do-gooder, save the world” white parent out to save the world by adopting my black son. But I hardly ever got that response. When I went into the grocery store in Albuquerque with Nigel in the cart, the black guy standing by me in the produce section said innocuously, “These apples don’t look so good and look at that price!” Why did it surprise me that he spoke to me first? An older black lady scolded me, “You need to put socks and a hat on that baby. Black babies catch colds through their heads and through their feet.” She felt like, if she didn’t tell me this, who would?

Something else I noticed in grocery stores; with Nigel in the cart at the checkout stand, the clerk always asked for ID with my check. I wasn’t asked for my license when I was alone or with my white daughter. On future visits, I did a case/control study and proved it to be true; as a mixed race family, we were treated as though there was something dysfunctional and untrustworthy about us.


Nigel has always been a bubbly, friendly kid who trusts people. He identifies with African Americans but has friends of all colors. His white sister, from a young age, was attuned to any perceived racism. Picking out the furniture and family members to go in her doll house, she complained that the toy store didn’t have a little black boy doll to be her brother. Other white parents sometimes pretended not to notice the color of Nigel’s skin. Out on the soccer field, in identical uniforms, all the other little kids on his team that year were white or Hispanic. Another mom asked me, “is your son the taller one, in jersey #14?” I said yeah, he’s the black kid! She gave me an uncomfortable look. One of the most sincere expressions of privilege is to be able to choose to not see race.

By far the majority of the time, being a mixed race family is fun and rich; eye-opening in the best ways as well as the not so good ways. We never would have gotten to experience Black barbershops if it weren’t for Nigel. On Halloween at age 5 he wanted to be one of the Temptations, so we got him a huge Afro wig, a leisure suit and platform shoes and he rocked the Motown look. At 8, he asked to be Mr. T, and we put him in camo with layers of chains and shaved his head into a Mohawk to fulfill his request. In the park, we’d send Nigel to join a birthday party and he’d go get a hotdog and some cake, wearing a birthday hat, joining their photos. The parents would scan the park looking for his parents and we’d be sitting right there laughing.

Sometimes it was complicated. A teacher, maybe feeling some white guilt, would let Nigel get away with lower performance or bad behavior that she would never have allowed from the other kids. Then, when he didn’t improve, she might harden and overreact the other direction. There’s no way to prove that it was related to race. It’s not always about race. But you get a sense about when it is.

We see and hear things that black families don’t; the time a white co-worker talked about the fear he felt when he was stuck in an elevator with a black man. He wouldn't have told that story if any of the listeners were African American. The jokes white people tell, after looking over both shoulders to be sure there are no black people within hearing shot. People who know our family censor themselves in front of us now, too. I don’t like to admit that on road trips I always made Nigel stay in the car while I went into the hotel to ask if they had any rooms available. I know from experience that it made a difference in the answer.

Here is another story you wouldn’t hear from a black parent. Once in a store I saw a teenager – who happened to be black – stuff some merchandise into his coat and walk quickly out of the store. I ran to the customer service desk and said, “that kid just stole something!” Another customer (white) said to me, “Just because he’s black doesn’t mean he’s a thief.” I appreciated the sentiment, but I saw him do it, and here is what motivated me to snitch on him. I want that idiot teenager caught so he won’t do it again. Every black kid who becomes a criminal perpetuates and aggravates the stereotype that makes my kid continue to be seen and treated like a suspect.

I won’t ever know what it’s like to be black, but I have to teach my black son to be careful. Don’t cut through people’s backyards at night, don’t run from cops. Now he drives and gets stopped by the police all the time, but at least he’s learned to charm his way out of tickets.

So watching the George Zimmerman trial brought up a lot of emotions in me. Demonizing this unarmed teenager coming from the convenience store with candy and a soda… That 17 year old Trayvon – in that spontaneous instance – might have become so suddenly threatening that George Zimmerman had to shoot for his life? What evidence was presented that could excuse the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who – against police advice - began to stalk this kid with a gun? Trayvon must have seen him coming and was understandably – and reasonably - afraid for his life. Which one of them acted in self-defense? Travon could run, but he couldn't outrun a gun. Or he could fight back. The vigilante stalker was the credible one, apparently.

Nigel is 23 now; he loves hiphop, electronic music, Motown and the Beatles. He rolls his eyes at how we don’t get Black culture and sensibilities. He curls up with our dog to sing to her. He works in the grocery store and helps little old ladies load their groceries into their cars.

Sometimes I walk behind my big, friendly, peaceful son down the sidewalk, through a store or coming out of the movie theater and I can see the frightened, distrusting looks of people coming towards us. They don't have a clue that I’m with him, as I watch the security guards follow and interrogate him, I see the white woman shrink away, squeezing her purse to her side, the white parents pull their kids to the other side of the street.



How simple and comforting it must be to think it’s not about race anymore.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Dad's watch



When my dad was a young man, his big dream was to be a pilot. He joined the army during WWII, but was heartbroken to find out the astygmatism in his left eye disqualified him from flying. He became a helicopter mechanic during the war and did various kinds of mechanic work throughout his adult life. Then, in about 1964, he took private pilot lessons and - together with four other guys - bought a Cessna Piper Cub airplane. He was so excited! We took lots of trips in that plane, including one - our family of six in a four seat plane - from Santa Cruz, California to El Paso, TX, where my dad grew up.

A few months ago, when my dad passed away, my brother sent me a few of his things. I was touched to get his pocket knife, that I gave him as a gift about 40 years ago. He carried it every day. Also amongst his things was his Breitling Navitimer watch! I remember being mesmerised by this watch when I was little. I think he bought it around the same time as he got the Cessna.

It seems to be in beautiful condition, though it isn't running and one of the sub-clock hands fell off and is loose on the face. I want to take it to a local watch repairman who specializes in vintage watches to have him clean, oil and repair it. I am curious to see the serial number inside the case, too. From pictures, it looks to me like an original mid 50s Navitimer, though he didn't buy it until later.
Anything anyone can tell me about this watch (pictured) I would love to hear.


http://www.watchlife.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=144

http://people.timezone.com/breitling/bfaq/Reviews--Navitimer.html

Do I have the rare Navitimer with Valjoux 72 movement? Will find out when the watch repairperson opens the back!




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beads.


I was running an errand in the NE Heights yesterday when, without even thinking about it, I pulled over and ended up in the Beaded Iris Bead Store. I’d never been in a place like this before; Beads everywhere! Mounded in baskets, rows of plastic tubes organized by color, and hanging from the wall in thick ropes of many strands. The lady asked if she could help me, but I’m sure she saw that newbie look in my eyes and it seemed to worry her.

So I decided I did need some beads, but I didn’t have a specific plan. First I collected an assortment of colors in plastic tubes, then I put them back. I decided on bigger beads that came in strands – earth colors instead of the bright ones in the tubes – and then changed my mind again. The lady handed me a straw basket and helpfully offered to put things back for me (she probably figured I was putting them back wrong, which would be a real nightmare in this place). Then she went back to the counter and fell back into bead lingo with the other bead lady. This bead store was different from, but similar in ways, to the yarn store with the yarn ladies (see my previous story, "A Yarn Yarn" posted on Oct. 31, 2008).
Again, I kind of wanted to belong; but not too much.

After my third question that was stupid, “Why does the price tag say $3 on one side and $10 on the other side?” (Turns out $3 is the price and #10 is the size of the beads), and my second question that made the bead lady uncomfortable, “Do you have any skull beads?,” she decided to just leave me to shop by myself.

Until she heard that sickening sound: POIK! skudder skudder skudder – a rope of bead strands exploding in my hand sending millions of tiny beads flying behind the wall racks and all over the floor. I apologized, but I didn’t offer to pick them up, so sue me. I decided it was probably best to go on ahead and finalize my purchases and get the hell out of there.

But on my way to the register, I thought of something else. “Do you have thread or something to string these beads?” Duh; a whole wall of string, line, thread and wire in a hundred sizes. She answered me in a different language so I just grabbed some white thread and then asked, “Do people use needles to string beads?” Back in the hippy days we just used fishing line which was stiff enough that you didn’t need a needle to string beads.

She looked me right in the eye and said, “Do you want twisted wire needles or English beading needles? What gauge and length?” Okay, now she was just fucking with me. “I think short needles with a large eye,” I said, which I thought sounded good for a beginner. Tubes of beads, thread and needles and, $76 later, I was out the door and discovered a little Thai restaurant next door. Mentally exhausted, I ducked in there and ordered a beer and some vegetable curry.

I spread my purchases out on the table and opened the intricately wrapped packet of needles, which were microscopic and seemed to be pointed on both ends, until I held one far enough away from my eyes to see that there was actually an eye on one end. Finally got it threaded, when the waitress brought my cold beer, curry and a bowl of white rice. Ate a couple spoons of rice while waiting for the curry to cool, then – how to get the cap off this tube of beads? Using my teeth it came off suddenly, filling my mouth with blue beads. The waitress showed up in time to see me spitting blue and white rice into my hand. (Later the cook peered at me from around the kitchen door, so the waitress must have told him) I swallowed some of beads; had no choice.

Carefully, I poured little piles of each color of beads on the table and started to string them. This is fun! Until the waitress set a bottle of hot sauce on my table and the beads shot everywhere. I can’t handle these tiny beads! I still had a lot left, but my little piles were now scattered all over the carpet. A bus boy came by with a carpet sweeper, but the beads just scampered in front of the vacuum and spread out even more. They’ll never get them up that way. I thought for a minute about suggesting they go talk to the bead lady next door, who probably knows all about the best way to clean up spilled beads. But for some reason I didn’t want the bead ladies to know what I had done.

Left a good tip and headed back out into the hot afternoon to finish my errands in the Heights. Last night I dreamed that I made intricate beaded Rasta hats and sold them in a European open air market.

It was only a dream.





Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Unhelmeted injury



ATGATT stands for "All The Gear, All The Time"; a rule I follow *every* time I get on my motorcycle. Armored outerwear, leather boots, gloves and full-face helmet.


However I *do* take off my helmet when I'm in the shower so I can shampoo my hair. So today, before leaving for my evening shift at the UNM Emergency Department, I was in the shower, enjoying the new Olay Luscious Soothing Cucumber Cleansing Body Wash, Infused with Avocado Oil.” Rinsed and done, I turned off the water, opened the shower door and reached for a towel and BAM, feet slid on the Luscious Body Wash and hit the bathroom tile floor face first. I wasn’t even able to get my hands down first to slow the fall. I crumpled back into the shower stall, sitting on the floor with blood gushing from my nostrils, nausea welling from the shock. The dogs looked at me in horror and fled the bathroom.




I drove myself to the ED; not as an employee this time, but as a patient. Parked and tried to get out of the car, and sudden pain shot through my hip. Pathetically, I joined all the other pathetic patients, including the omnipresent “Fuck-You, Fucking-Goddamn-Assholes (to the endlessly patient Triage nurse), I’m-Going-to-Fucking-Sue-This-Bullshit-Hospital!” guy in the ED waiting room. And the lady who is also always there, howling "Help!" between her zoo animal shrieks.



Finally back in a hospital room, in a gown, Xrays done, infused with Olay Luscious Soothing morphine. Fractured my nose, dislocated my jaw, bruised my hip. And got three stitches on the bridge of my nose. My jaw relocated itself, thankfully, and I didn’t chip a tooth (as my tech buddy said while he tucked me in with a blanket – “you could buy a new motorcycle with what it would cost to replace a front tooth”) With all the fancy outdoors risks I’ve taken in the past, it’s come to this? Stepping out of the shower and faceplanting on the floor... really?




Just before I was discharged around midnight, the old and new shift of doctors stopped in the hallway outside my room doing rounds, and I heard my case being presented, “57 year old female, fell in the shower and fractured her nose.” I called from behind the curtain, “That’s a lie! I’m 29 years old and I was motocross racing!” Tomorrow, first thing, I’m heading to Bed Bath and Beyond Your Behind to get some of those sandpaper stickers to put on the shower floor. You should, too. Don’t think you’re better than me.


(Aging rockstar Stephen Tyler recently injured himself falling in the shower, too.. ew, forget I said that)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scamming the Con Artist


Today was my lucky day! I got a call this morning from a man with a Jamaican accent, telling me that my name had been selected in a grand sweepstakes and that I have won $500,000 and a Mercedes Benz. The prize is to be delivered tomorrow morning, but first, he says, I need to arrange to pay a delivery/tax/handling/fee to them so as to speed up the process when they arrive tomorrow with my new car and the cash. I asked for details, and agreed to go buy $350 worth of Visa gift cards to cover these fees. Small price to pay, I say! He said he'd give me time to do that and would call me back.

This gave me time to think for about 45 minutes until he called back, asking for the 16 digits on the cards. I made up some numbers for him and he read them back correctly. Then I told him I had some news for him. I told him that I recognized his Jamaican accent, so I knew that he would understand what I was about to tell him. He balked at this, saying, "mi muddah she frum Jameeyakah, but mi faddah he from Florida and I grow up all my life in the US." Ah, okay. Well, he might have to "check with his mother" to understand what I was about to tell him then.

I told him I'd spent two years in Jamaica, studying Obeah. "You know what that is, right? I think they call it Voodoo in Haiti, but in Jamaica they call it 'Science.'" He was quiet for a minute and then responded, "What you saying? We don't dwell on such things!" I said fine, you don't have to dwell on it. But, I continued, "Hear me now, I'm serious." I told him that until now, I had only used Obeah for good. That I hated to do it, but - because he was conning innocent people out of their money - I felt the need to call on the dark side.

I explained that usually Obeah spells involved face to face encounters in which magic powders are sprinkled on a person or around their house or doorway. Sometimes personal articles are taken from the victim and used to mix up a potion. (He would know these things to be true.) "But I studied with an Obeah woman who taught me to cast spells from a distance, just from a recording of a person's voice."

Now he switched from his faux American accent to Jamaican Patois. He says, "Cha, What bullshit is dis yu seh? A whe' you learn such ting?" I said, "I lived in a small town in the mountains of Portland Parish called Moore Town. It is the historic home of the African Maroons, and I became friends with Colonel Harris there. He introduced me to a descendent - the 8X great grand daughter - of the great female Maroon warrior, Nanny, who used Obeah centuries ago to protect and hide her people in the mountains after they escaped from slavery. The Obeah woman I met didn't trust me at first, but then had a feeling about me, and finally agreed to take me under her wing as an apprentice.

(When we were in the Peace Corps in Jamaica 20 years ago, we rode our mountain bikes up to Moore Town and we did meet Colonel Harris, the leader of the modern Maroons. Nanny, the historic female leader of the Windward Maroons - born in the mountains near Moore Town - is venerated as a hero in Jamaica for fending off the British in the early 1700s, using ingenious military strategies along with some mystical powers. It is said - among other things - that she caught bullets in her hand and threw them back.)

I walked outside with the phone so that Byron could hear this while he worked on the motorcycle in the driveway. "Now that I have your voice, I'm going to cast a hex on you and soon you will start to feel sick. It will come on slowly, like fatigue and maybe some itchiness, but it will get worse."

He slammed down the phone.
Five minutes later, he called back.

His voice is an octive higher. He says, "You hear me now. I cast a spell on you, too! Tomorrow, on your way to work, your car will hit a trailer and you will be killed. Tomorrow you will dead!" And he began to chant his own spell on me! I held the phone out to Byron so he could hear him: "Aah bada Dalaa Daa Baaaa"... Byron's eyes widened.

I scoffed at his bluff. "You obviously don't know Obeah. Most spells don't kill people suddenly. Instead, you're going to suffer. It will come on slowly and you will start to feel very ill... probably starting tomorrow. You can call me back then if you want. I'm sorry to do this, as usually I don't cast evil spells. But you are cheating innocent people out of their savings, so I had to do this."

He squealed, "You mother fucker, son of a bitch!"

I have his phone number, so I may call him back tomorrow and see how he's doing. If he gives up his evil ways and promises to be nice, I may rescind the spell.

Google search: Obeah, Moore Town, Colonel C.L.G. Harris, Nanny Jamaican Maroons for more information.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fajardo Genealogy in New Mexico

Picture: Margarita Jaramillo, married to Floriano Fajardo

From old church records, census reports and other sources - including correspondence with a number of distantly related members of the family - I've put together an extensive family tree for the Fajardos of New Mexico going back to the mid-1600s. I don't just have one direct line; I have most siblings and descendents, too. Fajardos seemed to have played a part or at least been around during most important eras and events in New Mexico. The deeper I go, the more fascinating this exploration becomes.

So I saw a message by this guy Benny Fajardo on a genealogy website who mentioned that his family came from Sabinal, NM and his grandfather, Floriano, died in Denver in 1963. I wrote to ask him if Floriano could be the Flavio Fajardo I have in my tree? He said no. I gave him a bunch of other names and he didn't recognize any of them. Benny finally tries to run me off by saying, "None of those people are in my family tree, so there must not be a blood relation." Did I drop it?

What do you think?

I did some more research and then wrote back to Benny:

Benny, your father was Daniel B. Fajardo, right?

gfather: Floriano b. 1895, married to Margarita Jaramillo

ggfather: Leopoldo b. 1871, married to Maria Felipe Chavez

gggfather: Catalino b. 1846, married to Maria Jesus Gabaldon

ggggfather: Narciso b. 1820, married to Maria Gertrudis Barela

gggggfather: Joaquin b. 1787, married to Maria Rafaela Romero

ggggggfather: Francisco b. 1748 (in Tomé, NM), married to Francisca Ana Montoya

gggggggfather: Antonio b. 1718, married to Maria Gomez Duran

ggggggggfather: Cayetano b. 1681 (born a year after the Pueblo revolt, in El Paso del Norte, where the Spanish fled to escape the Indians) married to Maria Ledesma

gggggggggfather: Alonso b. 1656, married to Magdalena Lujan from Taos

You share Alonso and Cayetano with the branch I have.

Your gggggggfather Antonio had a brother named Juan Antonio. So coming back to the present:

Juan Antonio b. 1756, married to Maria Dominga Armijo

Jose Antonio b. 1789, married to Maria Guadalupe Chavez (lived in Sabinal)

Juan de Jesus b. 1829, married to Maria Soledad Alderete (original settlers of El Colorado, later called Rodey, next to what is now Hatch, NM)

Antonio Abad, b. 1853 married to Telesforo Martinez

Felipe, born 1884, married to Susana Lobato (Felipe came to Albuquerque as a sheepherder before the railroad came in. He met Susana, who was part of one of the Atrisco Land Grant families They lived on Williams St. and the house is still there)

Antonio, born 1908, married to Catalina Baros

So, I tell Benny, these are your seventh cousins and your sixth cousins once removed.

Was Benny impressed that I added several generations and mothers' names to his family tree and connnected it to a vast other Fajardo family tree in New Mexico?

No. Benny knows I'm not even a Fajardo. At best he knows I'm crazy and at worst I wonder if he'll put a restraining order on me.



Floriano Fajardo and Margarita Jaramillo