Saturday, March 24, 2012

Junior Bonner Is Gone...

"Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door..."

- Dylan, Knockin' On Heaven's Door


The Paz Files

COMBES, Texas - Writer Junior Bonner was laid to rest here early Friday morning in a ceremony attended by family and friends, all of whom said humanity and the world had lost a giant. Bonner died last weekend after suffering a heart attack. His body, carried by four Paz Files reporters dressed in World War II uniforms, was walked to a lonely grave in a field behind his doublewide mobile home in this dusty, one-horse town. As a large, bright sunball rose to greet the day, a single bugler played Taps on a nearby hillside.

"He was only 44 years old," Cylantra De la Torre told those gathered at the gravesite. "But Junior lived for centuries. His life will not be defined by his drinking or womanizing, but by his big heart. That is why he left the mobile home and its contents to me."

In the somber crowd was the husband of a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Bonner in the weeks before his death. Leopardo Elizondo, dressed in black, said he arrived to offer a send-off to a man he never met, but had heard much about.

"It's too late for me to be freakin' mad at him, for what he did with my wife," Elizondo told story-hungry reporters. "I think that we could have been friends, in fact." Elizondo confirmed reports that he and his wife, Ruby Archuleta, had called their marriage quits, adding that, indeed, Ruby had moved to Chicago.

At daybreak, soulful funeral music burst from inside Bonner's mobile home, where a woman had been assigned to handle the recordings on Junior's aging turntable. As the dirges played, those in attandance began to leave the home in a single file, women and children leading the way. Reporters kept a short distance away behind barbed wiring all lowered their heads as the procession ambled by, some sobbing heard from a Brownsville blogger who had angered Junior by posting photos of a fake, Gay-like Bonner. Stern-faced Combes police, joined by a few of their Harlingen brethren, enveloped the mourners as they headed toward the humble grave.

There, Father Gamaliel Galindo, read verses from Revelations someone said Junior Bonner often quoted before Cylantra, his longtime girlfriend, gave the signal for the wooden coffin's lowering. It was then that a three-member Mariachi stormed into a traditional Mexican burial tune, spooking a flock of birds from their nests in nearby mesquites.

"He's gone," someone said when the gravedigger filled the final resting hole...

- 30 -

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Valdez Brothers...

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Vince was the one who made advances at his older brother's wife. Joe was the one who bedded his neighbor's old lady. And Raul was the one who'd been married five times. The Valdez Brothers, owners of a tire shop on Paredes Line Road, don't often talk about their escapades, but a lot is known about them in this rowdy bordertown.

Born in a three-year span back in the late 1960s, all three sons of Julio and Apolonia Valdez graduated from the same high school, Porter High, and all three served the American military. Vince attended Texas Southmost College here, studying auto mechanics and earning an associate's degree. Joe Valdez returned from an Army stint in Germany, married a girl from Mexico and cheated on her pretty much daily. Raul saved his money while in the U.S. Navy and came home with a new pickup. The tire business was one they inherited from their father, himself a veteran of the initial years of the Korean War.

What the Valdez brothers say now is that life along the Mexican border is to blame for their failings, for their philandering and for their lowly status in life. Says Vince, interviewed at La Palma Lounge during a night when Mexican boxing on TV excited the portly, mustachioed patrons, "I am living, and have lived, a Valley life. I am not to blame for anything."

Joe Valdez, seated next to Vince, throws this out: "Maybe if I had moved to Califas, man. But Vince is right. Brownsville is a loser and that makes me a loser. How long you been in town, man?"

The fourfth person at the bar's table says little. But Raul Valdez will tell you - with astonishing ease - that his five marriages are par for this community. "Everybody was after my wife, man," he says, shaking his balding head. "That's why I dumped them and kept getting a new one. You know what that's like, man - when you lose trust in your wife? It happens here every focking day!"

Vince admits he made a sexual move at Raul's third wife, a woman about his size, a woman he thought would fit him in the sack. "She was a wild broad," he lobs as he walks back from the bar with a bucket of beer bottles. "I knew I'd go for it from the moment I first saw her. Nice hips and small breasts, my favorites. A guy just knows, man. My brother, Raul, didn't know what was happening at the time, and I'm glad. I'm glad he dropped her cheating ass."

The recollection leads to wild laughter from Joe, who then runs through that episode that had him stalking and then bedding his neighbor's wife. "That one wanted it, man. I could tell just by looking at her. Her face asked for it. Ha ha ha. But, you know, I couldn't tell you what the hell ever happened to that broad. It was meaningless, man. I couldn't pick her out of a line-up, even if they put her up there naked."

The life the Valdez Brothers have chased here is not unlike those lives lived by any of a thousand other local men. The newspaper is full of stories about spousal abuse, spousal betrayals and spousal knifings. Not that anyone shies away from the portrayal. It is said that confessionals at the local Catholic churches offer the best in erotic literature, that hairdressers know the score, that if you ask a hotel chambermaid for a few tips on call girls, that those same chambermaids will soon have someone's painted wife at your door.

On a recent evening, while this bordertown played footsies with its neighboring Mexican community in paying tribute to the Mexican charro, the downtown streets were full of bar-hoppers and fun-seekers.

Joe Valdez strolled into his favorite cantina not far from the international bridge, walked his best dollar bill to the jukebox and plucked at the numbers to his favorite corridos. Minutes later, Vince walked in, followed not much later by Raul.

Once more, Los Hermanos Valdez were on the prowl...

- 30 -

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Soldier, A Vigilante...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - Robert Bales and George Zimmerman are in the news this morning, one for reportedly assassinating 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, and the other for gunning down a 17-year-old kid in Florida. Both cases carry arguments of the quick-decision mold on innocence and guilt. And both are now getting much closer study.

Bales is the U.S. Army staff sergeant with a deadbeat past, a soldier who stands accused of murdering unarmed civilians asleep in their homes and who, it seems, had a questionable record in this country. Bales is now further accused by elderly Gary Liebschner of bilking him out of $852,000 when Bales worked for MPI, an Ohio brokerage firm (see photo of both men above).

That case is unfolding in its own slow, but steady manner, with new revelations surfacing about Bales and troubles with the law prior to his enlistment, with a marriage on the rocks, with personal financial problems that may have contributed to his losing it in Afghanistan. Part of his story also includes reports that he was drinking on the night of his rampage.

Bales is in custody at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His case may take years to unravel, its journey through the military courts the first stab at justice. Bales is married and the father of two young daughters.

In Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman stands acused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on the night of Feb. 26th as the youngster walked to the residence of a family his own family was visiting after buying a soft drink and some chips at a convenience store. Zimmerman, 28, is said to have shot the teenager after leaving his vehicle and following him. At the time, Zimmerman was acting as a civilian neighborhood-watch resident. He is accused of using a 9 mm weapon to shoot and kill Martin, a weapon he was prohibited from carrying while performing his citizen policing.

Where Ohio resident Liebschner says Sgt. Bales "robbed me of my life savings," the family of Trayvon Martin says their son's shooting was largely ignored by local authorities. Today, a Florida Grand Jury and the U.S. Department of Justice announced investigations into the killing of young Martin and into how the case was handled by local authorities.

Both cases bear some similarity - armed individuals taking the vigilante route.

Bales is in deep water on a variety of fronts. Liebschner, of Carroll, Ohio, wants him prosecuted for fraud, something he says the Army should have looked at before allowing him to enlist and avoid prosecution for theft of his retirement funds. Zimmerman faces the first serious review of his actions. According to his father, Robert, who hand-delivered a letter to the local newspaper saying his son was not a racist, George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was just protecting his neighborhood.

Sgt. Bales may also say he was protecting America by soldiering in a country home to terrorists out to do damage in the United States. Both positions may ring with some truth, but perhaps not as powerful as the bullets they fired into the night...

- 30 -

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Border Women...

"No es ninguna aberración sexual
pero me gusta verte andar en cueros;
al compás de tus pechos aventureros
víctimas de la gravedad.
Será porque no me gusta la tapicería
que creo que tu desnudezes tu mejor lencería..."
- Ricardo Arjona, Desnuda

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - You could take a yearlong survey and look at the results that way. Or you could just walk around in any of a dozen Rio Grande Valley towns and see it firsthand. You could move there and live it. The full-bodied Hispanic woman is in these days. Local men may deny it, but there they are, chasing them across the fleamarket landscapes, hiding behind the crowd of elote-eaters while eyeballing to their content.

Not much is written in national publications about Brownsville women. You won't see them on the cover of People magazine. You won't see them on television, shooting the breeze with Oprah or Dr. Oz. They'll pop up in the news, although usually as victims of crime or spousal abuse. Here, a few would argue that this bordertown is no different than those upriver, that the lifestyle is such that geography deals them their daily day, and that, well, that geography is harsh and unforgiving, a clear and present bastard.

But back to our reason for being here, and that is to write about the community's female fare. To be fair, it is a full-card menu consisting of the usual skinny, annoying ones, the overbiters, the fighters, the hefty and the discarded, as in divorced. Any first-year photographer would tell you Brownsville women are due their own exhibit at the best museums across the world. Border Women, A Study in Stone Faces, would be the title, the attraction. Downtown, they flit about like butterflies in colorful regalia, shopping for shoes and bags. In the bars and cafes, they amble-in like sexual animals on break, eyes of the male clientele on their bouncing breasts, on their Jell-oish buttocks. It is free TV, the mental undressings coming with each new patron angling for a table. "Psssssssst," coos one uncouth vato, his ignorance offered willingly. She sashays onward, chest thrown out, hair in a splay, leaving him to his misery.

Of course, women across the planet know their place. They know the power they wield over men, however momentary. They know the biological clock better than men. They know their time and beauty is fleeting. In relationships, they know the ending before it unfolds. They know, and men know they know. Local women fall into the same column in the Life ledger, all of them wild-eyed dreamers in the beginning and sad-faced realists in the end. Fate may just be that wink at the bar, that permission in the backseat, that decision to unfurl on a cold, dark night. The female brain also schemes...

- 30 -

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Writer Von Bulow wrote this after a long night of drinking at a South Padre Island nightclub, on one of those outings when he threw out his line, but never landed a fish...]

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Combes, Sadness Sets In...

The Paz Files

COMBES, Texas - He was Junior Bonner's neighbor and best friend, a drinking and partying buddy who saw it all from across the street. Arnoldo "El Soquete" Lara, shown in photo above, does not want to let go of the friendship. Now, following Junior's death on Saturday, Lara wants to bury him here, in town.

"They say he's being taken back to Colorado, where he was born, but Junior's from Combes," Lara said as he cleared brush from a section behind his mobile home, where he hopes to provide Bonner a neat final resting place. "Junior used to sit here with me under these trees and drink beer. This is his land, too. You can't ignore that."

Bonner, 44, died of a heart attack while making love to his latest squeeze, the Harlingen bar waitress Inez Jeantete, who told police the two were "mixing it up nicely" when Junior gasped in pain and reached for his chest.

"I don't know that gal," Lara went on. "But when Junior was with Cylantra, his steady woman of many months, he was a blackout drinker. This Inez I had never seen before, but, lately, after Cylantra left him, that wasn't out of the ordinary for Junior. He was the last playboy here in Combes."

As the sun fell late Sunday, he was hauling big rocks to the site he hopes will be Junior Bonner's Rio Grande Valley shrine, a place where his fans can come and toast to the old goat. "I have an idea for a headstone, but maybe I should run it by his family," Lara said, as he cleared his brow of perspiration. "I know Junior would have liked it. He'd have done it for me, yes sir."

Lara said a small admission fee will be asked of all visitors. "To help maintain the site," he noted, smiling the smile of a neighbor who's lost a friend, but can'tquite let go yet...

- 30 -

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jr. Bonner Dies (1968-2012)...

"Write it down what you've found out, songwriter
Don't let it all slip away
Speak your mind all the time, songwriter
Someone is listening today..."
- Willie Nelson, Songwriter

The Paz Files

HARLINGEN, Texas - Doctors at the local hospital here pronounced Paz Files writer Junior Bonner dead at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, hours after he suffered a massive heart attack at his doublewide trailer home in nearby Combes. Bonner was 44.

"He fought like a sumbitch, but his heart just gave out," said cardiologist Dr. Henry Lafontaine Aguilar. "Most men die instantly when they suffer as much damage as Junior suffered. You could say he worked that heart for all it was worth. We were trying to save a heart that, to us, was the heart of a 78-year-old man. Mr. Bonner got all he could get out of his."

According to Harlingen bar waitress Inez Jeantete, who was with him in Combes when Bonner first grabbed at his chest, the two were "in the middle of some aggressive, but beautiful lovemaking," something the doctors say may have contributed to his demise. Bonner, Ms. Jeantete told story-hungry reporters gathered outside the Emergency Room, had been cutting down a pair of craggy mesquite trees in the property's backyard when she arrived at his home on her day off. "He said he was glad to see me, dropped the axe and directed me to the bedroom inside the trailer home," she noted between sobbings. "We were doing fine and then he gasped in pain and I freaked out. I mean, I was nude and I'd never had a man die on me in bed."

Bonner is survived by a brother, Elmer, who resides in Pueblo, Colorado and is a known figure in the national rodeo circuit. According to hospital officials, Junior Bonner's body was on its way to the morgue for preparations ahead of a trip west.

Paz Files readers first got a taste of his writing when they found it on The Brownsville Herald-Tribune website, where he regaled them with stories about drinking, womanizing and general partying. Bonner, however, was fired for drinking alcohol while covering a Harlingen City Commission meeting last year. He then moved to Amsterdam and became the object of a cult following when word moved across the Atlantic that he had been viciously murdered in the city's Red Light district. He later returned to the Valley, where he took up with an El Salvadoran spitfire by the name of Cylantra De La Torre. His latest escapade involved another waitress, Ruby Archuleta, a married woman whose husband threatened to knife Bonner.

"Junior Bonner was a singular talent," said Brownsville Blogger Jerry McHale. "He was the kind of person officials wish to jail at first sight. He lived his life as if every woman he met was sent down for him. And you didn't have to be a raving beauty for Junior. No, sir, he found some beauty in every woman. His kind come around only once in a lifetime."

STIJA, the South Texas Independent Journalists Association, will soon begin bestowing The Junior Bonner Award, McHale added. "It will go to the border blogger who chases the green light, who isn't afraid of anyGoddamnbody, who best personifies our style of unapologetic journalism," he said. "That was always Junior Bonner rat there, as he would've said."

Editors at The Paz Files said the website would "go black" on Monday in tribute to the passing of a loyal staffer...

- 30 -

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Junior Bonner Hospitalized...

"He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he's traded in tomorrow for today
Runnin' from his devils, Lord, and reachin' for the stars,
Losin' all he's loved along the way
But if this world keeps right on turnin' for the better or the worse,
All he ever gets is older and around
From the rockin' of the cradle to the rollin' of the hearse,
The goin' up was worth the comin' down..."
- Kris Kristofferson, The Pilgrim, Chapter 33

The Paz Files

HARLINGEN, Texas - Libertine writer Junior Bonner was admitted to a local hospital late last night after suffering what doctors said was a massive heart attack while making love at his mobile home in the tiny community of Combes north of here. The prognosis is guarded, a spokeswoman for the hospital said early this morning.

"He's an old goat," said Arnoldo "El Soquete" Lara, a neighbor who helped the 44-year-old Bonner onto the back of his pickup for the ride to the emergency room. "I mean he looks old, but the guy is not that old. Too many weemin', as he likes to say."

A Colorado transplant, Bonner has written for The Paz Files and other area publications. No one knows if he has any relatives, although another neighbor said he'd heard it from someone who'd heard it from someone else that Junior has an older brother in the national rodeo business. "But he's alone in the Valley," Lara went on as he smoked a Bugler outside the hospital. "The guy drinks like crazy and and he parties way too much, but he's got no relatives here."

The woman at his side during the heart attack said everything was fine for the first 30 minutes.

"He was doing what he always does with naked women," said Inez Jeantete, a waitress at a Harlingen bar who declined to give the name of her employer for fear of being fired. "Junior is a healthy man, but he lives a hard life. His mobile home could use some cleaning and that bed is just too damned saggy. Maybe the cheap mattress had something to do with the heart attack, quien sabe?"

Jeantete, who gave her age as 24, said the two met shortly after Bonner ambled into the bar and she walked up to him to ask about his cowboy clothes. "He looks a mess, like someone you want to take home," she explained. "Plus, the guy smells like cookies, and what woman can ignore that."

Bonner, said an editor at The Paz Files, had been lax in submitting articles during the past few weeks, but was reportedly working on a story about a monster in the Laguna Madre he told editors was known to Port Isabel and South Padre Island residents as "The Loch Mex Monster." Bonner had been stalking the waterway in hopes of landing a photo...

- 30 -

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Book Pushers...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - Now that Arizona has banned the teaching of Ethnic Studies in its state colleges and universities, while also cutting funds for books by Hispanic authors to public schools, a few Hispanics have banded to smuggle those same books into America's state of brotherly hate.

The operation is going by the name of Librotraficantes, and efforts are underway to ferry truckloads of books by Hispanic authors beginning this week. One of the pushers of the drive is Tony Diaz, himself a novelist. Diaz and his friends from Houston are enroute to Tucson and Phoenix with a load of books Arizona says it does not need or want.

As noted in a brief editorial carried by today's New York Times, the effort is "a response to an educational mugging by right-wing politicians, who enacted a state law in 2010 outlawing curriculums that advocate 'ethnic solidarity,' among other imagined evils."

Among the books Arizona has trouble with is "The House on Mango Street," a book by San Antonian Sandra Cisneros that tells the tale of a young Hispanic girl growing up in Chicago. It has been praised nationally and is often assigned-reading in high schol and college literature classes.

"Arizona has tried to erase our history," Diaz told The Times. "So we're making more."

Diaz and his group promise to hold a ceremony at the Arizona border, where they will wrap some of their books in plastic and carry the "wetbooks" across the stateline.

The Times calls the journey an "inspiring act of indignation and cultural pride."

For others sympathetic to the movement, mailing a book by an Hispanic author to an Arizona public school or college library might also help Arizona understand the idea that you can't remove a culture simply by banning books. Under the state's law, Mexican-American Studies was banned in Tucson's public schools last year...

- 30 -

Thursday, March 15, 2012

GOP War Against Women...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - Big dollar Republican Mitt Romney minced no words yesterday in repeating his mantra against women, saying he will, if elected president, de-fund Planned Parenthood from any federal government money. It is, frankly, only the latest assault on American women by Republicans eager to feed their worst beast - the Far Right, extremist wing of their party.

How can this play in today's America? Are women simply going to take it? It follows Romney's main opponent's rant against contraception, that one being blustery, Born-Again Catholic Rick Santorum, a candidate whose own wife worked - and shacked-up - with an abortionist doctor before marrying Santorum. It is an eye-opener for the rest of the country.

Of course, it all comes after radio prankster Rush Limbaugh's cruel attack on a female law school student who dared to testify before Congress on the need for healthcare for all women, including programs such as those availed by Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings. Republicans want no part of that, and now the backward State of Arizona is seeking legislation against contraception in general. Birth control, once the darling of the conservative Zero Population Growth crowd that thought the country's population needed to be curbed, is now front-center as an issue they want to re-frame. Women are fighting back.

That "slut" slur against law student Sandra Fluke voiced by Limbaugh two weeks ago has cost him more than 50 advertisers. Others of his talk radio ilk are also feeling the pinch.

But what exactly is behind the party's strange attack on women?

Some pundits say it has come because women overwhelming support Democratic President Barack Obama, unlike men, both Democrats and Republicans. Yet, even if this is the reason, well, why antagonize them to band even closer, and in larger groups, to back the president? Republicans have a habit of blindly going after issues that ultimately sink them. It is the false bluster they seek, this idea that to go after anything related to President Obama will resonate with their crowd. It will, but, at last check, the number of Democratic Party voters in the country outnumbers their Republican counterparts. You'd think that, as with the Hispanic vote, Republicans would want to sidle-up to that important electoral bloc.

It's not happening for them.

Slowly, the Republican candidates still in the 2012 nomination race, Romney, Santorum, adulterer Newt Gingrich and fake Libertarian Ron Paul, continue to campaign as if only Republicans will vote in the general election later this year. Americans as a whole are listening, and these Republicans are in for another surprise this cycle. They have beat the drums for war against Iran, words that trouble the petroleum industry into raising gasoline prices at the pump. And they have continued to push tired lies about the president's religion and birthplace.

It all adds up, all collects in the part of the brain that says these guys are losers.

Women will make the diference in the upcoming election, and, again, sheltered Republicans will wonder where they went wrong...

- 30 -

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The American Face...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - In wars past, the image that moved across oceans of U.S. soldiers in foreign countries showed them passing out candy to children in rags, offering a drink of water to war-ravaged citizens and generally providing the world with a kind face in the name of America.

Lately, the opposite has been true.

In steady reports, the U.S. military has brought shame to a nation that long had worked toward its reputation of being the beacon of freedom and benevolence. From Germany to Korea to South Vietnam, America's soldiers did their fighting, but never were they photographed urinating on residents of those countries, never shown burning local religious books and never did they, with the abberation that was My Lai aside, go on a house-to-house killing spree of women and children. All three happened in recent weeks.

U.S. soldiers are said to have "inadvertently" burned dozens of copies of the Koran last month in Afghanistan, angering the local population. In January, it was that ridiculous display of shameful bravado that had young U.S. Marines peeing on the corpses of dead, presumably members of the Taliban enemy. And, on Sunday, it was a yet-unnamed U.S. Army staff sergeant walking into three Afghan villages to kill 16 civilians, among them nine children.

So, what's this all about?

In the case of the most recent atrocity, some pundits are blaming psychiatric problems. They say the staff sergeant may have been suffering from battle fatigue, having served three tours in Iraq before being assigned to Afghanistan. Perhaps that's why he did it. But the steadiness of these anti-Afghan killings is troubling. It could also be argued that these soldiers simply see all Afghanis as enemies, as people who should all be killed. The American soldier, himself, needs analysis. Most are young, uneducated men, some with ties to neo-nazi groups in this country. They need no reason to kill foreigners.

The Obama Administration has promised a full investigation of the most recent murders. It must go wherever the facts go, and those responsible should be tried. If convicted, they deserve the Death Penalty. It is a shame not only for the entire Free World, but also for the staff sergeant's family. He is said to be 38 years-old, married and the father of two children. At present, his family is in the protective custody of the military at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was posted prior to shipping overseas.

What's left from this mess is that, to Afghanistan, a country that is supposedly helping us fight the remnants of Al-Qaeda, we are the world's travelling terrorists. There is no question that it is exactly what this American soldier respresented to the nine Afghani children...

- 30 -

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Border Candidate...

"Have you seen her dressed in blue?
See the sky in front of you
And her face is like a sail
Speck of white so fair and pale
Have you seen a lady fairer?..."
- The Stones, She's A Rainbow

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - She knew where she stood. The game had been defined long-ago. Here, as she postured herself for public office, Astrid Barrera wasn't talking about promises or problems or ethnic gains or any of those tired topics favored by male candidates. Her reasons for seeking the office were simple: Do what's right, and do it without corruption, of her morals or of her beliefs. Astrid took a few questions from the press and allowed for a photograph. The story of her campaign would begin in the morning edition of the local newspaper.

There were others in the contest. A goofy-looking bureaucrat who worked for the city also wanted the post. He'd ben in politics a bit longer, and he'd lost his last election decisively, but there he was asking voters one more time to grant him a better, however-flawed social standing. His name, she believed, was Ted something or another. Astrid thought he was too ugly to serve the community in any capacity other than dogcatcher, but she'd never have said it. That was the game played by the Machos, the men who forever promised a better town, but never delivered. Too many of them, she knew, had visited with her kingmaker father, Manmountain Barrera, and asked for his blessing. The old man, however, had grown weary of the long line of liars and had lately turned them away from his front door.

Another time, Astrid might have simply stuck to her domestic duties. There were three children in the house, the oldest being 16 and the youngest eight. Her husband had been killed in a traffic accident near an intersection home to three cantinas. The driver of the car that had broadsided her husband's SUV had managed to keep going, crossing the nearby international bridge in a cloud of smoke. He'd never been captured. Her husband's burial, she remembered, had been a gathering of most of the city's leaders, from the mayor to the chief of police. But that was now going on five years ago. Astrid had her eyes on another phase in her life, one that she knew would make her family and her husband proud.

Later that day, after her interview at the newspaper's office, she sat down to work on her campaign's progress and plans. There was a speech she would deliver at several nursing homes and an appearance on a local radio show. The weekend would bring opportunities to press the flesh at a variety of public venues, from the local fleamarkets to the busy shopping mall. One thing bothered her: There was a clear taste in her mouth that she could fall into the same-old manner of campaigning the males practiced in town. She wanted to do something different, to create a new kind of buzz, to take the lousy mold and break it on the tiled floor of her resaca-front home.

Astrid was busy at this when the telephone rang. She took the call in the kitchen, on the wallphone near the refrigerator.

"This is she," she said, replying to he caller's question.

"What?!" she asked next. "Can you say that again?"

Her body fell back to the kitchen wall. A certain dificulty in breathing followed. She could feel her heart beating faster than normal. Astrid hardened her grip on the phone and asked, "Who is this? Who are you?"

She got nothing return. And then the line went dead.

A bird landed on the window sill outside her kitchen, fluttered its feathers and then flew off again. Astrid held the phone to her chest, still unable to make sense of the call and the caller's words. His tone had been the tone of a thug, a gravelled, menacing voice thrown out with ease, the sort that threatens the worst. She placed the phone back on the wall mounting and slowly slumped to the floor, her butt landing softly on the cool floor.

"Get out of the race," the man had said. "Get out if you want your children to live."

When the police arrived, Astrid gave them a full account, but had troubled repeating the worst sentences. No, she had no idea who the caller had been. And no, she could not even venture a guess. No, no, no, she replied in a series that followed questions from the police.

The next morning, Astrid Barrera announced plans to withdraw from the race. What she said by way of explanation was that she'd lost her taste for politics, that she'd be concentrating on her family. A number of letters submitted to the newspaper questioned her sanity, one writer saying the town was better-off without her public service and another labeling her "the usual female ditz."

She read them all.

On election day, Astrid stayed home and did not vote. When she watched the results coverage on television later than evening, Astrid struggled to overcome the urge to puke...

- 30 -

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Dad's Daughter...

"I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you..."
- Paul Simon, Father and Daughter

The Paz Files

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas - Late for supper, Pablo Benitez set his signal and sped around a muddied truck carrying grapefruit before passing a car full of kids, this one being driven by a stoic-looking Mom. Laura would be home and he hadn't seen her in months, home from school upstate. He'd talked to her briefly on the phone earlier in the day and told her he'd try and be home for dinner. It was now almost eight. Trouble at work had extended his day, something still unresolved about an employee at his insurance office saying something she should not have said to a policyholder. Aggravating work stuff, he knew.

At a quiet intersection, where he usually turned right to head into his neighborhood, Pablo spotted an opening at the corner store and beelined for the parking spot. He'd get her a few of the single roses he'd seen displayed near the register many times before. Laura loved flowers. In fact, he was sure she loved life. Twenty years old. How times flies, he thought as he reached for his wallet to pay for the flowers.

A few years earlier, she had been the family rebel, wild with wanting to hurry life, with needing to be an adult, with this thing she thought was the most important thing in life - being left alone by her parents. She'd not been in trouble with the law. It was her battles with Mom that had taxed Pablo, had placed him between the two. He'd hated it and often stayed late at work to avoid the ongoing war. Laura had her freinds, most of whom her Mom did not like. There was a by named Joe who did his best to look homeless and speak in gruntings only he could understand. And there was Patty, her classmate who smoked and, rumors had it, was an easy girl. Pablo had survived all that. Laura had completed her high school studies and was now in her second year at Baylor in Waco.

He'd been up there twice, on the day she first moved into the dorms and that one Christmas when she'd not wanted to make the long drive home. Pablo placed the flowers on the front passenger seat after sliding into his vehicle. He recalled she'd said something about wanting to forget the Rio Grande Valley, to finsih college and move farther north, to Dallas, perhaps Chicago. He'd asked her about it and Laura had said, "I don't get the Valley thing, Dad. It's too passive and there's no future for me there." He'd nodded and wondered.

As he moved down his street, Pablo ran a few things across his brain. What would he say to her, what would he do first? She was now a young woman, not there so much to take orders anymore. He was proud of her. And there were no stories or rumors chasing her home. He inhaled deeply as he moved into the house's driveway. Seconds later, his life brightened.

Laura was running out of the home toward him, her face gleaming real love, her arms outstretched and ready for the hugs he loved. She looked beautiful.

"I love you, Dad," she said when at his side...

- 30 -

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pain Of A Son's Loss...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - It is without a doubt my biggest weakness. Something within me says children should never cry, never feel pain, never hurt. They just shouldn't.

Friday's New York Times and Washington Post front a story about the current strife in Syria. The war is not news. It's been raging for weeks and coming for years. Bombs are dropping, homes are being destroyed and families are being devastated as the Middle East country strikes for something other than its current dictatorship. That's all well and good.

But that photograph, shown above, eats at me. That little boy, likely about 10 years old, is crying the real tears of sadness and pain. His father has been killed, shot dead by an army sniper. There's a whole story about the day's battle in the town of Idlib, where this little boy was born and barely grew up. His story is not the story in The Times or The Post..

But that boyish face says so much.

He is emotionally-broken in the picture, crouched at his father's gravesite, with relatives, his little face elongated by his desire to cry for his dad. Those eyes. Tears filling every little space, before streaming down his cheeks. A hand pats his head, comfort that comes perhaps from his grandfather, his own innocent, little hands holding a scarf that may have belonged to his father. It is the portrait of what is worst in Humanity, a child hurting.

Who knows about his father? Perhaps he was a criminal, or maybe he was fighting for freedom, for a new world in which his son, Ahmed Abu Ahmed Khrer, could have a better life than that he himself had been living under an oppressive regime. You simply want to reach out and tell that little boy that all will be better soon.

But who knows about that? The Middle East is in flames.

All I know is that the photo published by the country's two best newspapers ruined my morning, because, as those who know me know, I am a man who will respond to anyone abusing a child. It's just something that comes from somewhere deep within me, from a place in my heart that says children should never have to cry.

The look on this particular kid's face will haunt me for some time. It's just too powerful, too obvious in its manner of showing us that what we as men do for politics often harms our young. I truly hope this kid slept well, even through his ceaseless crying, through his futile desire to bring his father back to his side, through his sobbing wish for a better God-damned world...

- 30 -

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Man Who Cried...

"Dicen que los hombres no deben llorar
Por una mujer que ha pagado mal
Pero yo no pude contener mi llanto
Cerrando los ojos, me puse a llorar..."
- Pedro Fernandez, Los Hombres No Deben Llorar

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - When he was nearing 12 years old, Salomon Zamora's grandfather sold his bicycle, promising a new one in the weeks that would follow. He never got the new bike, and, after the old man died, Salomon would walk to the cemetery and sit there at the foot of his grave and tell him he loved him, repeating, "It was just a bike, grandpa. It was just a bike."

As he grew into his teens during the late 1940s, Salomon came to love a few other things. His first car was a used Packard, a charcoal-colored beauty he struggled with mechanically, but eventually got running. Service in the U.S. Army made him stash the car in an uncle's garage. He often thought about it, even when the military dispatched him to Europe, that car forever front-center in his mind. He saved a few dollars and thought he might use the money to buy a new engine when he went back home. In the meantime, he kept writing to an older woman he'd befriended shortly after leaving for Germany.

Her name was Genoveva. Salomon thought she was the most beautiful woman of 1952, her auburn hair pulled up over the top of her head in a popular hairstyle of the times. When he would think of her, he always pictured her naked, there on her bed, those flowy clothes she wore on the floor, the boot-like shoes not far away. They had made love only three times, but Salomon could bring up any of a hundred frames from those scenes without even trying. She had been his first woman.

Things and time happened. He came home from the army to find that Genoveva had married another man, a heavyset man with a bulbous head fast going bald. His name was Baldemar and he owned the town's profitable tortilleria. Salomon had initially wondered why she hadn't said anything about the new romance in her many letters. Ultimately, he understood, however. Balde was a sucessful businessman, someone who would fill her needs, keep her warm and dry. She hadn't said much about it when they met after his return, only that she regretted not telling him. When she asked if she could keep his dozens of letters, Salomon nodded, but then said he had an appointment with owner of a car repair shop he hoped would give him a job. Genoveva looked at him with her big, brown eyes, but said nothing. As he got up from his chair in the cafe, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. The walk to the job interview had been tougher than any forced march he'd made in Army boot camp.

Salomon lost track of her over the years, and it wasn't until the morning he saw her face in the newspaper that he felt a huge knot in his throat. Genoveva had died. The obituary in the paper said she was 81, and that she had died after a long illness. There had been few survivors listed in the obit, only her husband, Balde, and her two brothers and a sister. No children.

It was easy for Salomon to think she'd died of a broken heart, the long illness being that life she'd lived without him, without his love and without their kids...

- 30 -

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Canseco Banned in Mexico...

The Paz Files

HARLINGEN, Texas - Jose Canseco, the disgraced former major leaguer who excited local baseball fans while playing for Laredo, has been banned from the Mexican League. A team spokesman for the Tigres de Quintana Roo said the 47-year-old Cuban-American was not given a contract after he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Canseco, a slugger known for mammoth homeruns, once thrilled Oakland fans when he played for the Athletics, and later when he played for the Texas Rangers. Drug-use hounded the last years of his MLB career, which was followed by crazy, publicity stints as a boxer, a wrestler and a string of player-manager jobs with a series of insignificant minor league ballclubs. Last year, he managed a North American Baseball League team in Yuma, Arizona.

Here, fans saw him perform at Harlingen Field against The Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, visits the local club promoted as if promoting a clean ballplayer. To reputable sportswriters, Canseco has been dirt for years.

Rumors are circulating that the WhiteWings may try and sign him as a way to boost the club's recent sagging attendance. That would be a bad move...

- 30 -

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ignored By Rest Of Texas, Brownsville Shines Light On Itself...

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Even putting aside all that silly jazz about the Blues coming to town, any observer of the doings here these days would have to say that, yes, business is taking a shine to little Brownsville. Locals are turning their backs on the rest of the indifferent region and state to shine the light on themselves. Bloggers are having a field day with every little new enterprise opening its doors to local patronage.

A coffee shop opened here the other day and bloggers Jerry McHale and Jim Barton flashed onward with breathless stories and an album of color photographs. The same was said and written about a string of bars and lounges that have found a place on the bordertown's dusty entertainment shelf. And word has it that a line of new laundromats and taquerias are on their way here. For the moment, Brownsville is enjoying the courtship of new trade. At City Hall, commissioners are standing before mirrors in their offices, all of them working on speeches claiming responsibility for the new dawning, that jingling of the cash register across the colorful, multi-ethnic downtown district.

"We're all in," said resident Alonso "El Frajo" Contreras, a newcomer whose last home was taken by drug cartels in his native Matamoros, Mexico barely a 9-iron across the Rio Grande. "I have learned English and have said goodbye to Mexico, tierra de mis padres."

Just how many of the entrepreuners are newcomers from the drug-infested country to the south is anybody's guess. But, like McAllen some 60 miles upriver, Brownsville is also welcoming deep-pocket Mexicans who either move here or invest in local businesses. It is being called "The Es Nuestro Tiempo Era" by a sector of the population openly giddy at the prospect of seeing new stores, bars, restaurants, lounges and comedy clubs, as well as the jobs they will bring. And while most of the state has yet to hear of Brownsville's luck, a few locals wonder if the influx of Mexican money is a good thing.

"They could pull up and leave own from one day to the next," said Jaconda "Que Mala" Ayala, a local waitress who has applied for a variety of the new jobs. "Then what? Do we go back to being like what we were before - boring?"

For now, the blogs are buying into the mirage, perhaps hoping that the glowing words thay are expending for these new businesses pan out. City leaders need the sales tax revenue and wish like crazy that the ongoing mess with the city's bidding imbroglio would segue, like a cumbia to a taconazo, into something more excitable and, yeah, fun.

As he walked a downtown sidewalk on his way to a beer at The Crescent Moon, Guayabera-attired blogger Jerry McHale couldn't help but imagine Brownsville completing the picture of the entertainment district he has envisioned for - what? - the past 5,000 brews: cobblestone streets, bars with outdoor patios, cafes with sunlights, streams of sexy women in too much makeup and short shorts, cab drivers honking at everybody, fat cops walking the beat, playboys providing the aroma with their Hai Karate, bartenders whistling traditional Mexican songs, strolling mariachis offering-up the mating soundtrack, that scene.

"I'm living it, vato," he says as he waits on a traffic light at an intersection, munching a hot dog he'd purchased from a Gay street vendor. "It may not be here yet, but I see it, and I feel it. That's all I know."

Mirages tend to evaporate at close review. They get those here daily. It's always something new, or something old thrown out in a new way, but always promoted as new & improved. Most of the city's grand plans, schemes some say, have gone the way of the downtown shoeshine boy.

So, we'll wait and see about this Brownsville...

- 30 -

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

From The Newsroom...

The Paz Files

HARLINGEN, Texas - It's been, and remains, a wild time in American news. Things are happening, things are being said and things are forever on the way. We try to catch it all, but that's impossible. What we hope for, then, is a venue where the worst news finds a stage, where the day's top story gets billing, where the worst of newsmakers get pilloried. Here are stories that have fallen through the cracks, as they say in newsrooms across the land:

1.) THE DEAD BLOG - Amateur blogger Tony Chapa is the proverbial easy target. He used to operate an okay blog here. His had a following. Today, it is in ruins, abandoned by readers and ignored by commenters who usually want a say in the doings of their community. Chapa's blog has died, and a lot of the credit goes to a rival blog with the name of It is in hiatus, according to its editor, a student at UT-PA. The short-in-stature Chapa still sits at his computer keyboard 24/7/365, posting steady attacks on his competition, daily Bible verses at odds with his personality and a mind-numbing number of press releases. In between, he posts self-aggrandizing notes about his "Big Time" presence on Facebook and Twitter. But it's all over for the once-noisy, mini-Rush Limbaugh. His rants are ignored and that stuff growing at his feet while he sits at his computer has now been identified as weeds, the sort one sees in vacant lots. There will be no public viewing of Chapa's blog. Residents here are conducting a collection for a cardboard coffin that'll be walked to that pauper's grave at the city cemetery by his last two readers - Juan Jose Ortega, who is banned from most other sites, and the pathetic Jake, a man, we presume, whose homosexual desires accounted for the overwhelming majority of his comments on Chapa's comatose blog. Across town, residents are asking, "What? Who is Tony Chapa? Huh? Nah, don't know him, and that's probably good. Is he a U.S. citizen? What - really?" We would be remiss to not end this vignette with, as he likes to post at the bottom of his attack missives, Ha ha ha...

2.) The Idiot Judge - Richard Cebull, chief federal judge for the State of Montana, fired off a racist Email last week in which he said President Barack Obama was the son of animals. The Republican appointee of George W. Bush has apologized, but civil rights groups are asking for his head. Cebull has said he won't resign, but even his homestate's biggest newspaper, The Billings Gazette, has asked him to leave the bench willingly, and quietly. In its editorial, The Gazette said Cebull, who is White, could not possibly be seen as a fair and objective judge by any defendant appearing in his soiled court. Federal judges are appointed for life, and they generally keep those jobs short of being convicted of murder, but Cebull's fate may rest in knowing no one wants him in a position of authority if his brain does not know the difference between intelligence and stupidity. Goodbye, Cebull, you Goddamned dope...

3.) The Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings - Hope springs eternal. And these are the days when one feels the joy of baseball's impending Opening Day, as majestic a new dawning as there is in life. We have been hard on the team's management and its inability to stay current on bills it has not paid to the City of Harlingen for use of Harlingen Field. The team is $50,000 in arrears as it heads into the 2012 season. We wish the players luck, and we wish the citizenry even more luck. Fronting 50 grand in cash before the season opens to come current on that debt will not be easy for this minor league operation. But we hope they do pay. It's the right thing to do, and local fans are eager to see the team succeed. We are making plans to be there for the first pitch, but are having trouble finding a worthy, safe hotel. So, we are now looking at South Padre Island...

4.) THE RETREAT - We are aware that bloggers make concessions. We know that some bloggers want to make a little cash off their enterprise. It's there, of course. Politicians always seek those who will support them by way of glowing write-ups that may or may not be true. But we are dismayed to see Jerry McHale, editor of, hand in his journalism flamethrower in exchange for a few Advertising dollars. McHale likely knows more about city politics than any other three bloggers combined. His trenchant editorials used to be must-read columns. No one was spared, no jabs were held back for the later rounds, everybody was whipped mercilessly in stories sandwiching soft-porn he availed to his readers. Not these days. Today, McHale posts ridiculous political campaign posters no renegade would ever consider. He augments those with columns that are clearly neutered, his age-old barbs aimed at the local college president now likley etched on both sides of his skull, there where he can easily pluck them for quick use. Brownsville is in a mess. Little is shaking out of City Hall. Nothing comes from the county. This, it says here, is still the time for revolution in the bordertown at the end of the Rio Grande, the so-called colostomy's mouth. The Old McHale, like the Old Trabajo, is desperately needed in town. No one else can wield the principal's paddle like McHale. Residents familiar with his old ways remember he would hold it like Hammerin' Hank Aaron held his bat that year he broke the Babe's homerun record...

- 30 -

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Valley Women Want...

"We want to cuddle after sex
because we're fucking freezing..."
- Anonymous woman

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Gina Vasquez hated her husband for years before she finally told him it wasn't the fact that he watched porno on the Internet that bugged her; it was that he hid it, or thought he did it behind her back. "I'm okay with porn," she finally told him during dinner at a local taqueria, when the sight of a taco had spurred her husband, Milo, to mention sex. "I just hate it when you go online and think I don't know what you're doing."

"So, you're into it, too?" Milo asked.

"Oh, absolutely," she went on. "I get off on it, but from the other perspective, the woman's."

Milo had smiled and then nodded. He was cool with it. It was an innocent escapism for him. He watched a bit of male-on-female sex and then went hunting in his own bed.

Women are funny that way. They know more than men give them credit for, including the idea of being chased in bars. "Even though I won't give you the time of day, I'll still feel good about being hit-on," Gina explained. "I'm married, but it's cool. You can buy me a drink, or ask me to dance. Ask. It's okay. You may not get anything out of it, but it's okay to do it."

Rio Grande Valley men have long had the reputation of being cruel and uncouth lovers; that is, of being men who know little about sexing a woman other than the insertion part. That reputation is accurate, although some pop-psychologists say the problem is that RGV men are insecure bastards. "They will lie and cheat and do everthing they have to in the mating game," said one observer. "But they never look beyond the act. They're not like real men elsewhere. They would never arrive with a dozen roses or a box of primo chocolates. Sadly, that's not the romantic mindset down here, and so women pay the price."

Don't look for a Valley man to hang around and take long-term responsibility; they are quite comfortable doing nothing on the couch for a few hours of TV and then rising to walk to the unemployment office. Their dreams are brief and narrow, if they have them at all. You ask a local man, for example, what his plans are for the weekend and what you'll hear is something like this: "I'm up for anything, vato."

Women have lived needy lives for years. They hate to hear bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo at the dinner table, like "At the end of the day." Sentences prefaced by "Tell you what, honey..." funnel cold water into their veins.

But what do they want? It is an age-old question that goes back to Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. The answer has eluded Man for centuries, and today's Man is simply not interested in offering a reply. Here, in Brownsville, home to some 140,000 love-starved denizens, women have learned to take it, to lump it, to endure the moment in the sack, and to live to starve for love another day.

By her estimation, Gina Vasquez has made love more than 5,000 times.

"Only two-three-four of those did anything for me," she says, laconically. And then, she continues: "I would like a man to take me, to do me in a way that'll make me remember the moment, the color of the sheets, the movement of the mattress, the lightbulb coming off & on while I am being taken, my eyes feeling as though they are about to explode, my nails buried in my man's back, my legs unable to control their muscles, my butt on fire, my loins feeling the coming eruption, my very existence threatened to the max..."

- 30 -

The Ted Jasso Show...

"La mucura esta en el suelo
Ay mama no puedo con ella,
Me la llevo a la cabeza
Ay mama no puedo con ella..."
- Texas Tornados, La Mucura

The Paz Files

BROWNSVILE, Texas - Ted Jasso took the dimly-lit stage in his usual fashion, like an insane Pendejo, which was his signature artistic personality. Balding and wearing his advancing years none too well, he was trying his damndest to make things happen in this dead bordertown, doing his part to erase the false hope brought here of late by the Blues, a dream that had died a merciful death. Ted Jasso thought he had the idea of a lifetime.

By day, he was a carpet-layer apprentice, laboring mostly at new construction homesites, earning a humble living, but fully believing better things lay ahead. The rapping had been the idea of his best friend, Burton "El Analfabeto" Jimenez. Both had graduated from Porter High School. Jimenez, half-Black and half-Mexican, had married a mountain of a woman from neighboring Matamoros, Mexico; Jasso had never found a woman who would tolerate him, much less like him. More than one had told him he dressed like a nursing home desk clerk. All of them had kindly told him to get lost. Ted Jasso had one thing going for him: he was a loser, but he knew it.

At a club known as El Pocito, a dingy underground joint operated by a leg-less war veteran patterned after the famous Cavern Club that had birthed The Beatles in England, Ted would take the stage before the joint opened to work on what he called "Conjunto Rapping." He would strap on his beat-up accordion and step up to the microphone to throw out raps about God, the border, politics, Homos, fleamarkets, fajitas and fast, heartless Chicanas. The owner, Louis "El Sin Piernas" Infante, would watch him from his office and laugh his ass off. Ted Jasso couldn't see him from the stage, so he acted out his part with gusto, thinking himself as rapper with a bit of Elvis thrown in to spice up the act.

"I ain't heavy, Chevy," he would rap as the bar sweeper ran his broom in front of the stage. "I'm my brother. He ain't my brother; he's heavy."

This would go on until Infante would tire of the crap and storm out of his office in his electric wheelchair, yank the microphone's electrical cord from the wall socket in anger and tell Ted to get off the stage. By the time the first customers strolled in, Ted had packed his accordion and beat feet, without bidding Infante adios. In his mind, he knew he'd be back and that one day the bar owner would beg him to serenade his customers.

"Conjunto rap is the next big thing," Ted kept repeating all the way home.

Two weeks later, a local newspaper reporter knocked on his door and said he was interested in writing an article about him. Ted Jasso nodded as if he knew this day would eventually arrive. He waved the young reporter in and motioned him toward the ragged living room couch. An hour later, the reporter said he had enough info and bid his farewell.

"When is the story being published?" Ted asked, his tongue sweeping across his lips, his tone the tone of a third-rate circus acrobat suddenly getting attention.

"Don't know," the reporter told him, walking away.

That Sunday, the newspaper published the story. The headline was telling: "Local Man Lives Weird Rap Fantasy." It was more of criticism than a story about someone trying something new. In it, he was quoted liberally, which Ted thought had allowed hima chance to explain his act and his vision for the new music genre. The story, however, was a disaster. The reporter had paraphrased much of the interview and, as Ted read it, he got the idea that readers would laugh uproariously from beginning to end, at him, at his goofy idea.

At noon, Ted Jasso's telephone rang. It was Infante, the club owner.

"I don't want to see you at my club anymore, Ted," he said, succinctly, not waiting for a reply.

Ted had fallen back on his old couch and stared at his apartment's ceiling. Conjunto rap is a freakin' winner, he repeated several times. Conjunto rap will sell. He dozed off dreaming of the day he would fill arenas with adoring fans. He could see himself being whisked around in limos, tended to by a number of flunkies. He could hear himself mouthing the lyrics to his raps. He could. He just could.

Two days later, a friend found him dead in his backyard. Ted Jasso, a self-described visionary, had blown away half of his face and fallen over a used tire he'd converted into a birdbath...

- 30 -

[EDITOR'S NOTE:...This story is a work of fiction. Any similarity to living individuals is merely coincidental...]

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Super Tuesday Showdown...

The Paz Files

AUSTIN, Texas - Long, long months of insane jockeying and crazy politicking has brought the ragged Republican Party to this moment: Super Tuesday, March 6th, the day residents of 10 states cast their votes and spread the 437 delegates candidates hope they get on their way to the party's 2012 presidential nomination.

It'll be people living in the states shown in red in the map shown above. The battlegrounds stretch across the country, from Massachusetts to North Dakota, from Georgia to Alaska. The main prize is delegate-rich Ohio.

Candidates need 1,144 delegates to claim the nomination. At present, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the pack, with ex-Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick santorum second and also-rans Newt Gingrich, the party's official adulterer, and fake Libertarian Ron Paul rounding out the final four. The latter two are given no chance of winning the nomination, and pundits are saying Santorum needs to win big on Tuesday to have a chance at continuing the fight. Romney, battered and bruised of late, nonetheless is seen as the eventual nominee.

Observers have painted this contest as one of the dirtiest in recent times. Romney is considered a world-class flip-flopper on major issues such as health care and immigration. Santorum's vigorous morality campaign has grabbed a portion of the republican Party's extremist Right Wing, but is seen as poison for any national fight. Gingrich is banking on a big win in Georgia, but is now generally considered an annoyance. Paul has not won a primary and has largely been branded as a Romney foil; that is, he is the one candidate who has not blasted the former governor during any of the recent debates.

What the campaigning has done, however, is completely soil all of the Republicans in one form or another. Chasing moral issues in the face of a bad national economy is seen as bad news in the eyes and ears of voters, who want to hear ideas on curbing unemployment and the rising federal budget deficit. Republicans have mysteriously steered away from those rocks, focusing instead on opposing every tiny move made by the Obama Administration, on such things as contraception, in general, and contraception in the religious world.

Tuesday, nonetheless, may finally yield an opponent for popular President Barack Obama. It'll be one of these guys shouldering the frayed Republican flag, perhaps carrying it at a falling angle after the party's nomination wars.

The results may - or may not - be dramatic...

- 30 -

[EDITOR'S NOTE:...Thanks to a series of re-districting legal battles, the Texas Primary, included in the yellow states on our map, is now scheduled for May 29th...]