About here, Diana asks a perhaps simple question which I was somewhat taken aback by. I think I gave a somewhat curmudgeonly and conceited response.
For here, today, the below may be an appropriate narrative response to her question, though I must also apologize, in advance, for its conceits, formal and otherwise.

04:00:00 AM CST exactly, Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec, Mexico City, D.F. I awake from deep sleep to the simultaneous sound of three different alarm tones. Each is highly annoying.

This was planned by me, yet not quite what I planned.

There is a disadvantage to the “Network Time Protocol,” which allows any device connected to the Internet to synchronize its clock mechanism with the version of time maintained by our world’s atomic clocks. Its disadvantage is its exact precision, which allows me to state the exact moment I woke.

I had not considered this disadvantage when, four hours previously, I had set three pieces of electronic gear to sound their alarms at four, and programmed them to require me to go through a cognitive task– a password entry, a small graphical game, a mathematical calculation– to disable the alarms.

I thought this routine would get me awake, but it didn’t quite.

I also thought that one alarm would sound, and that I would have time to disable it, then to shut off the alarms on the other devices before they went off. And that this series of tasks would require my brain to be half-functioning by the end.

But I wasn’t entirely present when I set this up.

Now all three are going off at the same time, and I hope I haven’t woken Nessie up.

By the time I disable them all, my head is hurting, I am conscious, but I am not awake. And I think Nessie is still asleep.


7:34 PM, 22nd November, Colonia Cualetemoc. Vanessa and I have just finished up at the office, and she suggests that we go for “a drink” because this is the worst time to try to drive home in Mexico City.

Or for some such reason. Nessa’s Volvo happens to be parked in the driveway at home, and while it is probably an hour’s drive there at this time of day, it is only an half-hour’s walk.

The first “drink” she orders are double vodkas. Since the bartender is on Nessa’s side, I’m careful to note that they are poured equally.

This is my final night in D.F. (that’s “deeh-effe”) for this visit, and the first time in several years that Nessa isn’t going to convince me to change to a later day’s flight. So Nessie will turn to me somewhat later and say, “I don’t suppose I can convince you to stay, can I?” … “That’s alright. You need to be with your mother on Thanksgiving.”

I’ve come to know that the above is the sort of beginning to expect, to the sort of “heart-to-heart” I first learned to conduct during breakfasts with Cara and Cindy at Dodd, — and that I am about to be asked something, to do something unexpected, something I would never thought part of my future, — until it was asked of me.

What a wonderful life.

(To give a hint: it seems I may need to add the skills of an economist to my bag of tricks, and have something of an opportunity to step into the shoes of ——- —–, if I can stretch myself that far. What a surprise…

But that is another story.

Halfway through the first vodka, just after the comment about mom and Thanksgiving, Vanessa picks up her phone and says that it is time to reserve a cab to the airport. It’s time to put practical matters aside, and to attend to what matters.

Finally. Partnership. It’s been too long. Finally a few hours away from events, to discuss partnership. And such. (Didn’t we plan to do this in July? and September?)

Always at the last minute, it seems.

My flight is supposed to take off at 7:30am; Vanessa tells the cab to come at 5am. If I wake at 4, there should be plenty of time.

Such are plans, and promises.

We don’t get as far as I’d hoped.

Per the usual.

4:04 am, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec. I’m already behind schedule. The alarms turned off, I stumble downstairs, hoping I haven’t woken anyone. I skip the coffee I left on the dining room table– not the best of choices.

I’m going to shower in the small stall next to the long unused servant’s quarters, because I would certainly wake someone if I used the bath on the second floor. (Vanessa told me to shower upstairs anyway, but…)

I tiptoe into the foyer in my pajamas– I’ve left my keys upstairs, so, preconsciously, I latch the inside door to the foyer to the unlocked position.

Sheila is at my side in a few seconds, before I make it to the outer door.

“Sheila!,” I whisper. Sheila is half German shepard, half golden retriever, quite too big for her britches, just loyal enough to have my attention when she comes to my side, and spoiled enough to be a pain in the rump when she chooses. She’s no collie, and I didn’t train her, but I have a natural affection for her nonetheless.

But I haven’t been around enough to give her the instruction I would wish, and as soon as the outside door is open, Sheila bolts into the garden. In her ideal world, four a.m. is “playtime.”

(In a ‘loud whisper:’) “Sheila, ven!,” Sheila pats back to the foyer and lays in her bed as I give her my best “no more” look and latch the outside door. I am another minute or two behind schedule, and quite unaware that Sheila has more plans.

The downstairs shower is a 4′ x 4.5′ tiled room hatched into a former passageway between buildings, a combination of toliet, sink and shower that might be judged comfortable only in comparison to aging Soviet facilities in the Czech Republic of a decade ago.

I’ve never tried to shower here before, and after a few minutes spent learning how to engage the gas mechanism that creates hot water, I spend a few more minutes dancing with the shower curtain, which has hardened over time, which, in this tight space, serves no clear practical purpose other than to sit a half foot from the center of the room and cling to whatever part of my body which I would like to wash.

I am now getting seriously behind schedule.

After an interminable time moving the curtain from side to side, I finish the shower and run through the garden, tiptoeing back into the foyer. The inside door is open. Sheila is nowhere to be seen. That dog!

On the balls of my feet, I jump three steps at a time to the second floor, looking for Sheila. Instead of poking her nose into people’s rooms or any other of the mischiefs I suspect, I find her “sleeping,” curled in the center of the bed in the guest room. She shouldn’t be on the bed, but she raises her head and gives me the best and most innocent “I’m not causing any trouble” look she can manage. Sometimes I’m a softie.

Especially when asleep and distracted. I glance at the clock. Twelve minutes to five. How did that happen? It’s time to move. I start to dress and to throw the last of my baggage together. Old routine.

I grab my wireless headset from the table and hang it in my breast pocket, then bend over my hang-up bag to put suit and pants on top. As I rise, Sheila sees her chance. She jumps from the bed and over my open luggage, right between me and the bag. Balancing on one foot, I try to grab Sheila as she tries to pass and to topple me, and the headset falls from my pocket.

I think I hear the headset hit the floor, and Sheila has her diversion. I decide to let Sheila go where she will, and to look for the headset. After two minutes fumbling on the floor searching under the bed and furniture, I give this up too and zip up the bag.

The headset is now either in the bag, or Vanessa can bring it to France.

This is just about the time that Vanessa, who has to be up in two hours and should be sleeping, stumbles in the room and says, in a voice remarkably similar to what I’ve been using on Sheila, “Ken! Sheila can’t be up here, she’s going to wake everyone up!”

And it is just about the time the cabbie rings the doorbell for the first time.

Am I forgetting something?

8:18pm, Wednesday, Colonia Cualetemoc. Vanessa and I have just reiterated our running conversation on telecom and consumable goods in Mexico, skimming over Ecanal’s research projects from the past weeks, which show goods and services in Mexico cost twice what they do in the States– while the average salary remains less than a tenth.

“The richest nation in the world, next to one of the poorest,” Vanessa repeats. Why?

“And how are we going to change that?”, I ask Nessa, again.

Ness looks into my eyes and says, “We’ve never experienced neo-liberalism.” Not quite with tears, but with a serious, sad tone I’ve come to know over the years.

She’s hasn’t been in an optimistic mood tonight, but I reformulate, and repeat the question I’ve learned to ask, “Then how do we get that done?”

2:48pm EST, October 18th, 1990, LEAD USA office, 18 Spring St., Williamstown, MA, USA. “Shared time” for the office. I’ve just explained the dilemmas of Kentucky’s economy, the choices and limitations my parents face, as best I can.

Mary Richardson, Mary, turns to me and asks, “then what do you have to do to change that?” Dom Kulik reformulates the question, with comments.

But I hardly have the courage or confidence, neither the arrogance, to give an answer.

Yet.

8:26pm, Colonia Cualetemoc I’ve given Nessa my ideas of what to do if the Congress ignores “our” administration’s first proposals, specifically, does nothing to curb the privileges of the the monopolies. My sketch of an alternate path forward, to the alternate path.

And again, Vanessa asks me to spend my time in Mexico, where she cannot remain. I tell her that this is indeed exactly what I had been planning; and something of the relationship I wish to build, with Obrador.

“How do we finance that?,” she asks first. I respond, “I’m working on that.” So she reminds me I’m also supposed to be working on a support fund for the Obrador administration; and that’s also another story…

I rattle off another series of ideas for breaking apart the monopolies without governmental or legislative support, and a sketch of a series of businesses that could be built in Mexico to do this, mixing in my concerns for the course of my nation of birth, and for finding a common path. The embassy staff who are getting drunk next to us must be enjoying the parts that I speak loudly enough for them to overhear; that’s their job.

They in fact don’t have any idea what I have in mind, that I’m not saying. Neither, quite, does Nessa. This, too, will have to wait.

But Nessa looks into my eyes again and says, “Then let’s do that. And I want to you take the copy of Obrador’s Proyecto [his alternate vision of Nationhood] with you.”

That’s her signed copy, perhaps the most valuable object we have. So I look at her and say, “Well, you sign it too, and someday it will be worth something.”

Nessa can’t help but smile at this, at the suggestion I keep making. A quarter-hour earlier, she had been doubting herself in comparison to the fellow students she will encounter at INSEAD, and their “greater business experience,” and now I’m asking her, again, to think of how much more she might accomplish.

‘We?’ I guess it’s been “we” for a while.

“I’m beginning to like how you think,” she responds, and I’ve just made her smile twice, in a hard day, amid a long year, filled with doubts and trepidations, all promise and all peril.

Four months ago, we were part of assembling the government of a nation, and —–, together, our President’s —– ——- — — ——.

I’m still a guest here, and I can’t reveal that, and it was — —— ——-, and in no sense a literal translation, a heck of a Spanish lesson; —— — —– –, and how can Nessa continue to doubt herself, after being given such a task?
(Apologies for the omissions.)

As for me, I’m been having the time of my life for a while, but I expect nothing, and everything, and see each day and moment as a gift, with no time for doubts. Vanessa is also just coming to terms with the reality that she might have died a few weeks ago, and we are about to discuss that again.

And then Nessa looks at me, furrows her brow, and says “I could never be Minister of Finance, in six years.” Maybe not, maybe, but I have her asking the question. “How?”

What I have always wanted.

5:03am, San Miguel Chaputepec. I’m escorting Sheila, who is for her part obediently following, into the foyer, as the doorbell sounds again. I’m throwing folders of documents into my carry-on when Vanessa says, from above, “Ken!, tell him to wait, else he’s going to keep ringing the bell.”

I run back through the foyer, giving Sheila a don’t-you-dare-move-or-I’m-not-speaking-to-you-for-a-week glance, cross the garden and into the street, and mutter some Span-ench like “por favor de se patienter quelques minutos” at the cabbie. Evidently he’s used to this– and someday I’m going to have to spend a month or two, running a cab, in a nation where I barely speak the idioma.

Back upstairs. Bag, carry-on, jacket, coat, itinerary, ID… everything?

I’m still not awake by the time I get into the cab. We’re about three blocks away when I check for my phone. Four when I’ve checked each pocket and am sure I haven’t brought it.

It’s still on table, on top of the copy of Obrador’s Proyecto, the two things I had to take. My memory turns back to the shelves with the AMLO project at Ecanal, twenty-thousand pages or so of analysis and suggestions that I tried again to digest, in the past days.

We make it five and a half blocks before I make the decision that I have to go back for the phone. Mom (and I) have no idea what flight I’ll be on from O’Hare to Nashville, and I don’t know mom’s new cell number.

“Ay, no! Hay olvidado mi telefono!” Spanish is a new language to me, and I get the accents more or less correct, and the cabbie slams into reverse before I can think of what to say next, not to mention before the cab has come to a full and complete stop of its forward motion.

I swear the cabbie makes it back faster than we came, driving in reverse on one-way streets, despite the cross-traffic in the intersections. There are no stop-signs in the reverse direction, not that cabbies in Mexico City pay much attention to stop signs on side streets in the small hours of the night.

I’m still not awake. But I am out of the cab before it stops, searching for options that don’t involve waking Vanessa. I left the keys to the house on the dining room table about four minutes ago, which in retrospect was an unnecessary and not-so-practical gesture. I can get in if I want– but I am wearing a suit– and after fifteen seconds of analysing the razorwire over the garage and the potential routes over the roof, I press the doorbell.

Nessie’s windows cantilever three feet over the street, and she opens one frame and yells out, “Ken, what’s happening, are you still drunk?”

“No, but I forgot my phone.”

A second’s pause. “Where is it?”

“On the table in the guest room.” On top of the Proyecto, which I want to grab too, if I can get in.

“Just a second, I’ll throw it to you.”

I was hoping Vanessa would come down and open the door, but she needs her sleep, coming downstairs will take another couple minutes, images of what is going to happen to my RAZR when it hits the ancient cobblestones of Gobernador Garcia Conde are filling my mind, and this is Vanessa, and this is how she’s going to play this situation.

I’m getting used to following directions, and Ness is getting used to being in charge.

Seconds later, and Vanessa is leaning, very sleepily in her nighty, far outside the two open windowpanes, her hair flowing down her cheeks. I look up, and get to fall in love again.

Ness gives a perfect toss, and I make a perfect catch, the phone ness-tliny in the curve of my palm. We do work so well together.

“See you in France,” Ness says from the balcony.

“See you in France,” I respond, as I drop the phone in my coat pocket and, in the same motion, get back into the cab. The Proyecto, and so much else, will have to wait ’till then. The cabbie is accelerating to make up time.

How did I ever find this one, this woman, this human being, so suited to me?

It is now five-twenty-five a.m., on Thanksgiving morning in “dee-effe,” in the Distrito Federal, as the abbreviation is pronounced, of a nation and Republic that that I have come to consider as my own, my obligation and commitment and duty; and I have been given my first occasion of the day to consider all I have to give thanks to, that I keep being given more than I ever expected from life.

It will be a long and wonderful day. But I’ll tell you about rediscovering the headset, and my conversation with a Customs agent in O’Hare, and Vanessa’s little memento in my phone, and Thanksgiving dinner at Ellendale’s in Nashville, some other time.

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