Tuesday, January 10, 2012


“During the summer months between my sixth and seventh grades, I read How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, and The Iliad. The international best-selling Win Friends seemed to be more about sucking up than being honest, which would eventually pay dividends when dealing with the nuns at my school. Unfortunately, thinking and growing rich never took hold on the slippery slope of my mind, then or now. I understood Homer’s great work about the Trojan War only after buying and reading the Classics Illustrated (“Featuring Stories by the World’s Greatest Authors”) comic book version of the epic. These versions, I confess, helped me through more than one book report. But Adele Davis’ classic work on the connection between what you throw down your throat and how your body responds to it was a second Bible in our household. ”

“Not many can say this—or would be willing to admit it—but we eventually bought a Yugo, which at the time was the cheapest new car in America and still overpriced. Our logic was flawless: we owned a business and needed to make trips around town, picking up and dropping off assignments, so why not get a car that was fuel efficient and cheap? Unfortunately, the best thing about buying a Yugo, as it turned out, was the T-shirt they gave each new owner. In bold letters on the front, the shirt proclaimed: ‘Wherever I go, Yugo.’”

“Speaking for myself, I had neither the brain power nor the will power, not to mention I lacked the patience, to continue on to levels two and three of Spanish. I admired those expats who did. But I was too lazy. It seemed to make more sense to hire a bi-lingual Mexican to shadow me around town and pop out and translate whenever I needed him. We could become local superheroes: Expat Man and his loyal sidekick Berlitz. Better still, since it was my superhero story, I could be followed around town by a perky twenty-something female named Rosetta.”

“Of course he wouldn’t get it, and therein was my problem. He would fail to understand that I was, as we like to say in the smart-ass biz, just cracking a joke, and a lame one at that. It’s bad enough to explain your jokes in your native tongue; the prospect of trying to do so in a foreign language can cause cardiac arrest in an Olympian. Besides, the waiters in San Miguel were extremely polite, so I doubt he would have even protested much. He would have apologized, looked hurt, and removed the soup to the kitchen while mumbling under his breath, in Spanish, the words ‘brain dead’ and ‘gringos.’”

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