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Posted Thursday, August 7, 2003
David "El Codo" Eidell says of himself:
I grew up in east San Francisco Bay Area and went to Vietnam in 1966 in Uncle LBJ's Brown Water Navy (Basaac River Mekong Delta). Came home thin, brown, and very tired (with some Chinese party favors, inside).
In short, I went to Vietnam to avoid college.
But now for the GOOD part:
Following my tradition of doing things back assward, I first went to Baja, Mexico in the SUMMER (!) of 1964, riding in the back of my brother's new CJ-5 Jeep. I rode on four cases of warm bubbling Cerveza Corona. I was so dumb that I had to ask how to say "no" in Spanish (one cannot enter Mexico for the first time more naive than I was).
We arrived in Mulege as the guard blew the conch shell for the prisoners to return to their cells in the penitentiary up on the hill. We camped by the estuary and were devoured by hordes of hungry zancudos. The next day we camped at Bahía Concepción. A pocket thermometer revealed that August days then averaged about a 105 F in the shade. At night, it cooled down to 80 F or So. I spent most of the time in the water.
In Mulege, I purchased a fifty pound block of ice to use as a seat in the back of the Jeep. The guy who lifted it in for me scuttled away keeping the ice tongs handy in case my obvious dementia got out of control. Who in their right mind would pay six pesos (about 45 cents US) for a seat that melted? When I stepped around the corner to take a leak, my travelling companions promptly chopped the block into shards to ice down the beer.
I returned to the USA and forgot about Mexico for four years.
In late 1967, I travelled to Tijuana, then eastward to Nogales, then down the Pacific Coast to Guaymas and Mazatlan, then overland to Guadalajara, Morelia, DF and Veracruz. I wandered around Puebla for a while before returning home through the colonial cities region. I reentered the USA at Brownsville. It was then that I figured hour how large Texas really is. I drove 80 mph for 10 hours and STILL had a ways to go before El Paso.
From 1967 to 1982 I made "area specific" trips. In short, I found myself sidelined in one village or town for most of the trip, usually because I made friends and in turn, they made me reluctant to leave.
I started towing a pickup behind a converted school bus in 1978. My trips became much longer and more detailed: Rural camping in Michoacan for most of the winter. Camping on my own private cove near Puerto Escondido for six months. Spending an entire Spring and summer on the Caribbean near Xcalak, fleeing before the ravages of hurricane Gilberto in 1988. Winding a 33' superior 66 passenger bus through San Cristobal de Las Casas on my way to Ranch San Nicolas for a summer parked beneath a rain cloud. The following year found me in the Peten jungles of northern Guatemala. I was delayed in a small village by a group of rebels, who spoke to the entire assembled village through a scratchy bullhorn in a language that I did not fathom. When I started to tune up the propane powered engine on my bus, they abandoned ideology and watched me closely.
I found myself travelling through Honduras, finally chickening-out at the border with El Salvador. I detoured to the east coast, but after being hemmed in by summer, I retreated to Lago Atitlan. I was out of the USA for so long that my bus license was 2 years expired.
I believe that I am among the few who have sailed from Baja to the mainland aboard a Mexican shrimp boat. Later I returned to Baja on foot, abroad the ferry and then accompanied a fellow camper back to Tucson. From there I hitched a ride back to Punta Chivato in a twin engine private aircraft.
I may also be the only living gringo to install strobe lights in the flat black interior of a Disco owned by a Mexican Secret Service agent (at least one that was operated by a former tortilleria owner).
Oh yes, I once went deer hunting with a bilingual Indian and his son in Guatemala. The only problem was that we started our hunt in Mexico. But I'll save that one for a future story.
Salud, Pesetas, y Suerte
I Am Thrifty, Not "Scrooge"!
Perhaps it would be wise to add a caveat to the description of "El Codo" the cheapskate. We all know that I am thrifty but various readers seem to interpret this as meaning "price is everything".
I think "value is everything" would be a more apt description of my propensity to squeeze every peso until the Aztec farts.
"The religion of 'El Codismo' is not merely choosing the cheapest way (that would be a piece-of-cake), but 'being Codo' means that every centavo is utilized to get the best for the Peso: Sometimes I have felt that I have been ripped-off with a taco that cost the equivalent of fifty cents, while other times I felt like a twenty dollar dinner was a bargain.
Too often I run into folks who reach way down into their pockets to shell out an outrageous sum of money for goods or services "Oh well this is Mexico" they explain. Paying twenty dollars for an RV parking spot (the equivalent of six hundred US per month) might be a bargain, depending on the amenities, but I feel that paying twenty dollars a night for a flea bag cubicle with a five foot bed, no bathroom and a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling to be an extravagance.
I have come to the realization that much of my attitude stems from the fact that I approach this subject with a perspective much like a campesino, a country person. The planks of the American economy are such that a person like myself would have no problem falling through a crack. I need to apply my money wisely which is totally different from being a scrooge.
Being El Codo means looking at things from somewhat the same perspective of the majority of the citizens of Mexico. Rather than being a curse, over the years a lack of surplus funds has caused me to seek "The Real Mexico", which is priceless.
And yes, consider me to be "El Codo!" for sure!
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