Several weeks ago, I attended a Free El Chapo rally. Yes. That El Chapo, jailed drug lord Joaquín Guzmán. As I walked home, I wallowed in my embarrassment, wondering how I had totally misinterpreted the flyers I’d seen promoting it. I thought the event was a giveaway of free chaps. You never know when you are going to play the cowboy in a Village People tribute band, I thought, so I went, thinking I’d start piecing together my costume. You have no idea how stupid I felt when I learned I was at a rally supporting the release of the El Chapo. You’d think I learned a lesson about reading and interpreting signs, flyers and posters correctly from that experience. But I didn’t.
I passed a sign on the carretera yesterday I had seen at least 100 times. “Free Maps” it said and until that moment I did not realize what it meant. What, I thought, did Maps do to be incarcerated, to need to be freed? Why was he being held hostage? He surely had not dealt drugs or murdered people like El Chapo had. And why had his parents named him or her Maps?
I flashed on the “Free Huey” signs of the 1960s that I had ignored. I did nothing to free Huey. I remembered signs more recently demanding “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” a Burmese woman political and pro-democracy activist. I did nothing to help free Aung San Suu Kyi. I thought about the countless bumper stickers I had seen during the past several decades that said “Free Tibet.” I have done nothing to support this cause either.
I remembered a sign in my neighborhood in the 1980s that said “Free Coffee.” But it was not about snagging a free cup of joe at a business’s grand opening. This specific “Coffee” was the dark brown dachshund a mean neighbor, Ida Slapter, had kept caged in her backyard during the depths of a Northwest winter. I had done nothing to free the suffering Coffee.
This habit of inaction, I decided as I stood staring at the sign, was going to stop now. The helpless, perhaps unjustly jailed, Maps was going to be freed. I raced home, made a phone call, worked out some details, and I returned prepared. I dressed so I would not draw attention, so no witnesses could give a detailed identifiable description of me to the police, news reporters, or temporary Attorney General Jeff Sessions. I wore a mask; it was a pink sequined domino mask. I had on my handwritten orange “Free Maps” T-shirt and my bold red and green plaid 1990s golf pants. And I wore my turquoise Crocs.
I burst into the office behind the “Free Maps” sign, scanned the layout and yelled “Where’s Maps?” The young receptionist, her eyes agog, pointed slack-jawed at a counter. There was no one there, just a stack of maps. Oh, I realized, maps with a small “m.” But what had they done that caused political activists to demand they be freed? I grabbed them, and bolted out the door. A male voice from the back of the office roared, “What the hell! as I fled to the getaway car driven by my new friend Clive Darrow, who I had just met at the Free El Chapo rally. I jumped in, tearing a pocket of my golf pants and leaving a scattered mess of tees.
We had been smart and had taped white paper over the license plates so my lilac-colored Volkswagen would not be identifiable. It was several layers thick. Clive raced the car uphill on the libramiento to the outskirts of town, turned into an almost hidden dirt road, drove nearly a mile, and hid the car behind a camouflaging lilac-colored bougainvillea. This was no coincidence; it was planned, again demonstrating how smart we were. We jumped from the car, and, in the middle of a wide dirt circle, set the liberated maps on fire.
“Do you have any idea what these maps did to be held against their will?” I asked Clive.
“No,” he replied, “and I still can’t figure out why I couldn’t find any free Chapstick at that giveaway.”
How stupid is this guy, I thought, if he expected the “Free El Chapo” event to be a Chapstick giveaway? Then I remembered why I went.
As the evidence burned, I changed my clothes and threw my outfit into the fire. The pink sequins crackled. Suddenly a gust of wind caused the fire to grow. Flames leaped at the lilac VW, immediately setting the paper license plate hiders on fire. Panicked, I remembered my trunk was full of American magazines for Mexican children to use to learn English. Moments later, the entire car was on fire. “All those Maxims, Playboys, Playgirls, and Penthouse magazine gone, like that. What a waste!” I shouted. Then, a second gust, much stronger than the first, sent several tentacles of red-hot destruction into the surrounding shrubs. In seconds, the area was ablaze.
“Damn!” I screamed, “This wasn’t part of the plan.” Frantic, Clive and I began running down the dirt road to the main street to escape the flames and scene. But, without warning, or perhaps we just weren’t paying attention to the sky, a torrential downpour let loose, dousing the fire, drenching us, and turning the dirt road into a quagmire. We slogged to the main road as fast as we could, yelling at each other for not bringing an umbrella and boots, and were met at the intersection by a police car with three officers, guns drawn.
It turns out my new “friend,” Clive, was an undercover American cop brought in as part of a sting to catch American non-citizens taking part in local political activity, which is against the law. He was thanked, handed his return flight ticket, and given a small baggie of marijuana. As the police car taking me away, passed the office I had allegedly stolen from and at which supposedly caused a disturbance, I noticed its name. It was Trumpencildick Real Estate.
The “Free Tom” rally will be held Sunday at noon outside Chapala’s jail. If you need directions, newly printed maps are available at Trumpencildick Real Estate.