When I step out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport it’s so hot it feels like my eyeballs are cooking in my head.
“It’s been 110 degrees for 3 days straight,” the van-man says.
That would be perfect if I was in town to cure meat.
“Take me to the bone yard my good man – and step on it.”
He shoots me a confused look.
“We only go to Sun City,” he says.
“Close enough. But hurry man. I have delicate skin.”
My van-man’s a retiree from the Midwest. A nice enough guy. But it doesn’t take me long to realize he’s got issues.
“These damn Mexican immigrants,” he says, shaking his big red head at the pickup full of Latinos on our left. “They’ve ruined the economy. But thank god for Sheriff Joe. He’s not giving them to the government for deportation. He’s rounding them up and throwing them in jail.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the son of immigrants, is known to some as America’s toughest sheriff, and to others as a liar, bully, and megalomaniac. According to the local paper Sheriff Joe has been raiding local businesses, and pulling over anyone that looks a bit too swarthy. It’s an illegal practice. But …
“We don’t mind,” the van-man says, his gold flag pin glimmering under the city lights. “As long as we get rid of these damn illegals.”
It’s perhaps one of Arizona’s greatest mysteries. Midwesterners move here, hire Mexican gardeners, painters, cleaning ladies, food servers, mechanics etc., and then begin whining about Mexicans slipping over the border. You have to wonder why they’re too cheap to pay for white help. And why they think anyone but a desperate immigrant would be willing to change their dirty diapers.
I can see the van-man’s milky eyes watching me in the rear view mirror. He seems dangerously excited. As if someone pulled off his hood on the way to a rally. I need to get out of here before I punch him in the back of the head. I tell him I need a drink.
“No stops,” he says.
“Were you expecting a tip?” I say.
We stop. When I get back, I drain a Corona, burp, and tell him that even if I believed immigrants damage the economy, George Bush and the republican party have done much more damage.
“Billions upon billions wasted,” I say. “Perhaps we should round up Republicans and throw them in jail.”
Then I hold out an olive branch.
“Let’s stop for Mexican. My treat.”
I could really go for a burrito about now. I haven’t eaten since I left Panama. But I figure the irony is too much for him. He declines. It’s about 11pm when we finally roll into the bone yard. Immediately, I crack open another beer. Cold beer is the only thing when you’re dealing with old people.
I left Panama only 12 hrs ago and already I miss the rain, the food, my girl, and the legal poker. Here I mostly just watch it on TV. Honestly, I’m afraid to go out. If the sadist Sheriff doesn’t bust you, the heat doesn’t kill you, the toxic dust doesn’t choke you, then you’ll probably be cornered by some flatulent grandmother.
And they wonder why I drink.