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The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check + Readers Letters

We're All Fine
James Campion
Hazy Reflections On America's Economy South Of The Border

"We're going to be fine," I told a young exporter from Cincinnati, as we sat with our wives in the cramped bar of a dilapidated restaurant on the Westside of downtown Cabo San Lucas. It had been another warm later-November day and the wife and I decided to interrupt our Mexican Booze Marathon to charter a sailboat at Puerto Los Cabos and watch the sunset. It was on route to a port along the Mar de Cortés when we offered passage to Mr. Cincinnati and his wife.

I hadn't so much as seen a sober American since being accosted by a round-faced Oklahoman at the pool bar fourteen hours earlier, but these people were different. They looked desperate, claiming to have been forced to dock an ill-conceived marlin expedition when two local fishermen brandished a pistol and summarily ordered the Gringos to "hand it all over".

    I was responding to a conversation that began when Mr. Cincinnati, drawing hard from a bottle of cheap Chablis, repeatedly bemoaned his doomed trade and the sinking American dollar. "I'm afraid," he stammered. "I go to sleep with CNBC scrolling disaster every goddamned night and I am fully convinced my children will starve."
    "Don't watch that miserable crap," I told him. "Those people are programmed to peddle hype. It's the first thing you learn in broadcasting school, how to pronounce "W" and pitch hype masked by news-speak. Fuck CNBC. All is well. You're children may starve, but it won't be a result of the American economy."
    "The stock market is killing my future!" he shouted.
    "Future? It's a myth," I counseled him. "Live in the now!"
    "Jesus, we forgot to cancel our stolen credit cards," Mrs. Cincinnati interrupted.
    "No problem," my wife told her. "The people have controlling interest in the goddamn banks. I read it in my husband's column."
    "Are you two with the press?" Mr. Cincinnati blurted, his sagging complexion turning a greenish alabaster as the ocean began to go haywire.
    "Take that back," my wife sneered, holding fast against the crash of erratic swells. "Just because my husband slums, does not implicate me as media."

    As we veered into the Pacific, a sudden bout of seasickness caused Mr. Cincinnati to violently disgorge what he said was once a fine platter of Chili Mariscos. A fair amount of it grazed my khakis and part of my wife's sandals. She had ample opportunity to avoid the surge, but was transfixed by how Mr. Cincinnati's weird combination of odd facial hues mixed with the crimson sunset. As he doubled over in retching convulsions, she clicked away on her Pentax K2000D proclaiming madly, "This is why you must always bring a fast-action shutter when boating!"
   Appalled, and still in post-traumatic shock from the heist, his wife proffered a conciliatory dinner engagement if we "made it back alive". Moreover, there were serious overtures to having an "in" with a select eatery only a few blocks from our hotel. "We've been coming here for over a decade," Mrs. Cincinnati explained, as she frantically ushered her heaving spouse into the tiny bathroom below deck. "We have a 30-year timeshare."
   "I would sell that," my wife chuckled, still clicking away. "The economy is screwed."

    But safely back on terra firma, Mr. Cincinnati's appetite was approaching ferocious, as was my beloved's insatiable lust for stronger Tequila and a halt to our endless harangue on the Death Of The U.S. Dollar. She took to growling,
"I swear I'll open my wrists if someone mentions 'fiduciary tailwind' one more time."
    "Aren't you the least bit worried that things are beyond repair?" Mr. Cincinnati asked.
    "Fuck that noise," I said. "America was never in a better place while crippled. This is not the Depression. Do you know anything about history, son? After '29 the world closed its doors on us, and we recoiled in horror at the thought of international aid. Those days are over. In 1930, we hadn't done a fucking thing for anyone. Shit, World War I? We came in for land grabs in the last seventeen months. Before that it was stealing this and colonizing that. Since then we've dumped billions upon billions all over this globe, not to mention bloodless coups and weird assassinations. Hell, we went to war for god-knows-what from Indo-China to Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait and Nicaragua in order to drag the Third World into the 21st Century. We won't be allowed to go under, not now, not ever."
    "What about China?" he argued. "They will eat us alive!"
    "China? Shit, do you have the slightest inkling of what the average American citizen spends a year on crap from China? Our demise would be suicide. They'll keep lending us money and we'll keep spending it on their crap. We're like a deadbeat junky to a dealer. No matter how deep in debt, he cannot afford to lose him. Fuck China. They need us. Everyone needs us."
    "Fuck China?" my wife asked. "Fuck this hideous feed-shack! How long have we been sitting here?"
    "Nine Modelos, five Margaritas and one Tequila Sunrise ago," Mrs. Cincinnati quantified.
    "Holy mother of Christ, we need service here!" my wife yelled in the direction of the chubby waiter, who sprinted over to slam an entire tray of Pacificos on our table. He was sweating profusely from the heat and breathing dangerously hard. "On the house, señorita," he exhaled.
    "We don't want this piss, bring us four more Modelos until a table opens," I said.
    "No table, amigo. We are overbooked."
    "I don't care about food, four more Modelos!" I said.
    Obviously frightened, the panting waiter whispered, "No more Modelo. We're out."
    "Corona then," the wife said. "Bring us four Coronas with limes, and no chincy curved slivers, real chunks of lime this time!"
    "Sorry, señorita..."
    "No Carona?" my wife shouted. A hush fell over the bar. "Aren't we in Mexico? Can you go into any dive in the U.S. and scare up a fucking Budwieser?"
    "I'm going to pass out if I don't get sustenance soon," Mr. Cincinnati said, bolting from our table to confront the perpetually angry Maitre D'.

For nearly two hours we watched in utter fascination as she physically evicted six patrons without explanation.
    "That woman looks like a pissed-off Frida Kahlo," the wife observed. "She's going to kill that poor schmuck."
    "What the hell is wrong with him?" I asked his wife.
    "Aside from being trapped in Los Cabos for Thanksgiving Weekend with a lousy time-share, robbed at gun point of everything he owns, and waking up in cold sweats for a solid month with the sound of his financial advisor repeating over and over that three weeks ago the Untied States fiscal stability hung by a thread, he's pretty chipper."
    "You've got to ride this stuff out, take the blows and keep coming," I instructed.
    "I know," she said, keeping an eye on her husband, who was raising the ire of the scowling Maitre D. "We're weak."
    As she let "weak" escape her lips Mr. Cincinnati's hapless recon mission had succeeded. Waving us over, we followed Frida through the crowded entranceway into a tunnel festooned with cheap jewelry and trinkets out to the main room. It was too bright, too loud, and reeking of dried sweat, stale beer, and soiled children. The sound of nervous laughter was oppressive. Mr. Cincinnati looked woozy, so we sat him down at an oval wooden table, where an imposing gray-haired waiter stared us down. "You are in a rush, no?" he asked.
    "Rush, yes," my wife told him. "This man here is dying; he is living in expatriate who has suffered a grave injustice at the hands of pirates. He needs refried beans and guacamole immediately or there could be an unpleasant incident."
    Looking perplexed, the gentleman smiled, "Who told you we served refried beans and guacamole here, señorita?"
    With that the wife and I got up from our chairs, and walked briskly to a waiting cab and back to our corner table at La Guadalupana Cantina. Before the door closed we could see Frida smiling broadly.
    We never saw the Cincinnatis again. They're weakness was not needed stateside. This is the Land Of Survival. We would be there soon to weather any storm. But first, Cohibas, refried beans, guacamole, and two Caronas, please

© James Campion December 5th 2008


Nice job on this one. (WHAT'S WORTH VOTING FOR)
A rare look into your personal life/values (such as they are, of course).
Peter G. Blasevick

It's always entertaining reading about your inner-most political demons, but having been an avid reader of your weekly nonsense for years now, I am still surprised you're as high on Obama as you are. I know you've stated, in the end, he is not an Independent and he is still a politician, and we are talking about The System here, but when does true change come: real and binding change? If ever? Not sure this guy isn't on the road to disappointing us. And how can he not disappoint you -- the ultimate outsider. There is only so much you can do against a structure you ran so rabidly to lead. Perhaps, since you point out we do get the leaders we deserve, that best reflect us in our present milieu, then maybe Barack Obama is sitting on miles of bad road.
    In other words I guess I'm just telling the preacher himself that no matter who takes the wheel, it's still the same old damned lemon.

This is one of your finest pieces. I applaud your honesty, in a place where I think we rarely get that. It is a strange glimpse behind this terrible monster you drag out for show and tell every week. I think Obama has uncovered the very reason you have spent the better part of a lifetime attracted to this miserable profession of politics, while staying as far from blame and reconciliation as you possibly could.
    The barricades have shown some signs of cracking.
     I fear when they tumble.
Felicia De Santo

Well said- let us not forego just yet the plans to fortify Compound Unit 1B- if you do get disappointed by the anointed, the last refuge of your fragile psyche will be behind a 6" loft cannon firing indiscriminately as rants of rage attain previously unattained heights and vulgarity- I'll be with you.
Joseph Vengen

Wow! Two weeks in a row of fantastic deconstruction into your warped psyche. (AN OPEN APOLOGY TO AMERICA )I feel like I'm privy to a sick reality show inside James Campion's skull. I'm not sure we can get to sleep anymore knowing you've gone soft. Have you begun the final decent of all balls-out writers like Mencken or Bangs, a pathetic backslide into nostalgic whining. I don't read this craziness to be waxed poetic.
    Get back on the hill with that mortar and start firing, you pansy ass.
RR 167

Once PA went it was OVAH JOHNNY!!!!! As I hoped, 'twas the electoral blowout!  Now the hard work begins. I think people will find Obama very middle of the road and even conservative in some respects. I bet he keeps Defense Sec Casey and he might even tap Dick Luger (Rep) as his Sec of State, although that would be a little too far maybe.
 Yes, truly an historic moment. Just goes to show that sometimes you really do need to hit rock bottom to see change. I think Obama's even tempered manner and desire for consensus will serve him well, giving him the ability to adapt and hear all sides but then be confident in his decisions.
Chris Barrera

Congrats on the well deserved victory...Obama's speech was excellent...I wish him well over the next 8 years (and am still very happy that this wasn't Madam Shoo In's big night!)...I thought McCain also gave a classy concession speech...I do find it a bit odd that the closest poll out of ALL of them taken leading into yesterday was 7 1/2 points...and it ended up being only 5 points (52% - 47% in the popular)...confirming that all polls taken are clearly biased by anywhere from 3 points on up.
      Looks like the Republicans held up fairly well in the Senate by winning 5 of the close races by slim margins (KY / GA (no runoff needed) / MN (currently going through re-count, but 762 vote lead should hold up over Franken)  / AK (shocking that Stevens held on) / OR) where near the 60 that the Dems had planned for a filibuster proof Senate...this gives me some consolation in defeat.
     I know that you and Erin must be very poured your heart and soul into each of your well written columns and I know how much this means to you both...Change is definitely coming...Hope he protects our interests (including oil) both home and abroad...
Peace out
Don Brown

So... problem...How are we going to keep him alive?
    Last night all I could think while he was doing his acceptance speech was back... and to the left...    back and to the left.... 200,000 people and no one shot him? That was amazing...
    I seriously can't watch him without worrying that he's about to be shot..
Move over cynical boy... ;)
Bo Blaze

Are you kidding me? President-elect is in the pocket of, Hollywood, Oprah and lobbyists, and the far left. And he better tap to the sound of their music, as MoveOn already told him how much they invested. Get over yourself, Campion. God help America, not God damn America as Rev. Wright so eloquently stated, (not that Obama heard that - LOL).

I'm speechless. Well done, James.
Your friend,
Nicki Figaro

Still hard to believe. I just hope it goes as well as we think it can.
Vince Cyzyz

Dear, dear James:
I have been reading--and anticipating--your screeds with great delight for almost three years, now. I call you my brother in the same way that Django Reinhardt did when seeing Louis Armstrong play live. Well, it's not like I wept with my head in my hands, but I claim fraternity just the same.
    I like to read opinion articles. Sometimes the arguments are sufficiently cogent to provoke thought, and sometimes they just suck ass. I guess that's the price of having paid attention and invested time and effort in the English courses I've taken. It's one thing to denigrate the contributions of those with whom I don't agree. That's too easy, and is very likely the single biggest problem we face as a culture. I've tried the blind faith approach several times in the past, and I've found it to be a dead end, or as our politically correct traffic signs now say, there's "No Outlet."
    Sometimes I read what you write and it resonates like a well-crafted guitar. Sometimes it takes a little more on my part to get what you're saying. The well-worn phrase, "a voice crying out in the wilderness" comes to mind, and true to my training, I go to look it up, and wouldn't you know it's right out of our mythology, describing John The Baptist. Rather fitting, I think: You come across as wild and unconventional, and although I have a hard time imagining you railing about a coming Messiah, you have a way of being impossible to ignore: Unconventional, but consistent, and obviously stuck with a stubborn sense of integrity. I imagine that you've cursed this part of yourself, wishing that you could just shrug off your conscience. Any fool can open a can of worms. You seem compelled to dig in and address the slimy and unpleasant issues that you discover in the exploration.
    I eagerly await your next missive from the edge of known territory.
Brad Morrison

Beggars and Choosers
James Campion
Hard Promises On The Road To Automotive Welfare
The American Auto Industry is weeks from going belly up in an already eroding economic slog

An Open Apology to America
James Campion

I was wrong.
Despite my hard-line skepticism, serious doubts, and relentless cynicism born from over two centuries of recidivistic dementia, you did not elect a middle-aged Anglo-Saxon,

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