Here is a story about why Donald Trump is not going to pay for the wall he is not going to build anyway: It happened maybe 10 or 12 years ago, and the details, including the protagonist’s name, have been lost to memory, or in other small ways screwed up.
The man was a Canadian who wanted something from Mexico. He had piles of money but he’d had it up to here with snow and cold and Canadians. He had a pretty wife—there may have been one previous, but this one was half his age and the god of butts and tummies had tuned her like the skinny string on a violin—and a new car. Call him Larry.
Larry had a fear of flying, and made the long, treacherous drive from Canada to Cabo San Lucas in a Lexus, which I understand is a pretty comfortable ride but does nothing to improve the 1,000-mile view of garbage strewn along both sides of Highway 1, from the Mexican border to the southern tip of Baja, California. Highway 1 is also the narrowest highway you will ever drive, most of it unlined, without warning signs or guardrails. There are drop-offs hundreds of feet straight down. Cows are hit by trucks and left for months along the roadside, and eventually explode or are eaten by vultures.
In any case, for a long time—while he was building his house—Larry made the drive two or three times a year, Canada and back. His wife, on the other hand, saw Highway 1 only once, and that was as much of it as she could stand.
So Larry came to Cabo San Lucas—this was back before the place was complete bedlam—and bought a plot of land several times as large as the next biggest plot in the development, and hired a Mexican builder to construct a house, also several times as big as the next biggest house. He also hired a Canadian builder to come along to make sure the job was done right.
Like many people with piles of money, Larry was always worried that someone was trying to take some of it away. As a matter of principle, then, he made his Mexican contractor and all the subcontractors sign agreements, in addition to their bids, saying that regardless of circumstances, any breach of their contract would result in legal action.
You can threaten builders until your lawyers die of old age, but Mexico is Mexico and builders are builders, and things are going to go wrong. And the bigger the job, the more trouble you will have. It is God’s law.
Yet strangely enough, Larry’s house came in exactly on budget. This he took as testament to his old business skills. On the other hand, the place was finished exactly three years to the week late. Which is also a testament, to Mexico. Which is still Mexico.
Larry instituted the promised lawsuits. Not just late penalties, he wanted reimbursement for the outrageous $300 and $400-a-night hotel accommodations for both Larry and his Canadian builder, who as you remember, was along to make sure the job was done right. He wanted reimbursement for the other, smaller homes that had gone up in the meantime, ruining his view of the ocean. He wanted gas and travel expenses.
But more than those things, what bothered him most was that during the three extra years, an adjacent housing development built an open, home-made septic treatment plant—about the size of an Olympic swimming pool—within ten yards or so of the property line of Larry’s back yard. And the breeze blew in from the Gulf of California, off the gulf and over the sewage pond, and most of the winter he sat in the sun, drinking beer in a Hawaiian bathing suit, staring at the sewage pond, Buddha-like, brown as a bean.
There was also a barefoot kid out there in the afternoon, standing on a cement conduit with a 20-foot paddle, slowly stirring the contents, stirring and studying what moved beneath. And if you could put out of your mind what the kid was studying, the scene was in its way picturesque. And you could say this: even with the breeze coming, as always, off the water and over the sewage pond, Larry’s patio still smelled better than the city. Compared to the city it was ice cream.
And as it happened, the development where Larry built his house initiated a fee, a few hundred dollars a month to cover maintenance and fix the road, and when Larry found out that a neighbor—a German—was refusing the pay up, Larry confronted him on the street.
There was a short wrestling match and then the real duel—the race to the police station. He who is first to the cops is presumed to be telling the truth.
The German won—maybe he had a Porsche—and when Larry arrived to file his complaint, the police threw him in jail for the weekend. This was the soonest a lawyer could post bail. A weekend in the Cabo jail told Larry everything he needed to know about the fine points of the law there—for instance, the prisoners were separated, gringos and locals, and gringos had to learn where to stand so the cups of urine lobbed over from the other side couldn’t reach them.
And Larry went home, packed the Lexus, kissed the trophy, and headed north for the border, and a long time later, bicyclists spotted the car and the body, two hundred feet, straight down.
It took two more days to lift the wreck back to the highway, and the federales were polite to the gringos and shrugged at each other. As in: sue me.