The kids that roam this neighborhood are terrorists. Of course, we were all such terrorists when we were kids, at least to one degree or another. But here - in a place where I don't have a front yard or a driveway or even a backyard beyond a three foot wide space that houses a washer and dryer and propane tanks and a water heater - there is no space to separate the terrorist children from mischief. A few weeks ago I noticed that our small mat in front of the door was gone. Good thing that the little bastards didn't take the door itself.

So, when I looked out of the window the other evening, late and after all of the traffic got tired of pestering an otherwise peaceful night, and I noticed a dog sleeping on something that resembled what was once used to wipe our feet before entering the house, I had to grin. The dog, apparently, was not attached to any owner, as it came and went as the days wore on. I would go to bed in a second story bedroom here and look out of the window as I undressed in the dark and most of the time, across the street, the dog would be asleep on that mat. Even during the morning at times.

Mexico can be a cruel place for domesticated animals, and at the very least it can be an odd place to have to adapt to. I awoke the other morning and lit a cigarette, looked out of the window, and noticed that the dog was no where to be found, but watched a white cat on the neighbor's roof. It walked slowly, appearing to be amused at nothing. Then it suddenly took a crap, right there on the neighbor's roof. The funny part came when the cat tried to bury its poop. No dirt, no rocks.

No way to hide the evidence.

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing to prep dinner, and I looked out of the front door and noticed the dog again, napping on the mat. I went to the refrigerator and found two cooked bacon-wrapped hot dogs that no one would likely eat, so I took them out and opened the front door. I walked slowly across the street, careful not to approach the dog directly, I didn't want to spook it. It noticed me and seemed unafraid. I came up to it and it rolled onto its back. If the dog could've talked, it would have said this:

"I don't want any trouble, I love you whoever you are."

I gave the bacon-wrapped frankfurters to the dog and went back in and cooked dinner. The dog didn't follow me, didn't want anything more. In fact, the dog was nowhere to be found when I went to bed that evening. People ask me why I don't have a dog. It's because the more you give a dog, the more it wants. But that dog, well, that's my dog now. It can go wherever it pleases, and I don't have to house it. We never grew close enough to care about each other. We don't rely on each other. I gave it some hot dogs one time and it can sleep on my old mat. Otherwise, no one is asking for anything.

* *

Children are sometimes an entirely different matter, and last Saturday, I was fleeced. So far as life goes, this is inevitable sometimes. One gets stuck between the proverbial rock and the hard place. My own daughter turned on me. Imagine that. The kids were over a week and a half ago along with their mates and my sister-in-law and two babies and so on. As dusk went dormant, some of us sat out in front of this place, smoking and drinking, and then I got stuck somewhere in the darkness of that Saturday evening.

"Dad, I have to ask you for a favor," my daughter said.

Oh, hell, here it comes.

"I work tomorrow at six, can you walk me to work?"

Six, as in, the morning six hours after midnight. As in leaving the house at four-thirty, and I thought about how many times in recent days I had gone to bed after that hour. Should I decline, then my wife would go, just to make me feel like a jerk. As though I needed any help.

"We'll see," I said.

And, of course, four-thirty in the morning came very quickly, and her husband gave us a ride to the Otay border. I took Anna, who volunteered for whatever reason, and while my two daughters enjoyed a relatively painless border crossing, of course I get the third degree for not having a passport. By five o'clock, in the early morning darkness, we hiked the flat mesa through what's left of fields, about five miles in all. This, on a day where the buses don't run, all for her minimum wage job at a convenience store.

Dropping off my married daughter, the younger one rewarded herself with a two-dollar donut and I got a small coffee. We hiked the five miles back to the border, refusing a ride with a stranger in a van (what, do I look old or just stupid?), and once back in Mexico I felt safe again. Except, oh hell, everything is different now in Otay. We walked another five miles before I admitted to Anna that, perhaps, the taxis didn't use this road anymore. Eventually, we made our way back home.

That evening when I went to bed, I looked out the window. My dog was sleeping on my mat across the street. Everything was quiet. Somewhere on top of the neighbor's roof, there was an uncovered pile of cat poop. Somewhere in the night, there was a white cat that didn't care a bit about what it couldn't bury. Anna and me didn't care anything about walking anywhere for a couple of days.

* *

Anna has started school, this time enrolled in the United States of America for her senior year of high school. I see her on weekends. This last weekend, she brought home an assignment in English: write an essay. The essay was about reading. Fun stuff.

So, I instructed her. Organize your paragraphs; topic, then illustrative, and ultimately conclusive. Sentences should follow the same pattern. Make an outline first, and then write a draft and edit it. And so on.

She handed me what was supposed to be her outline, and it was more of a draft. Complete sentences with many misspelled words. But she did one thing correctly, she wrote as if she were speaking, nothing came off as contrived. I never taught her a damned thing about English.

"Why didn't you make an outline like I asked?"

"Dad, I can't do that. This is what I feel comfortable doing."

I didn't argue. How does one tell a painter how to apply a loaded brush to canvas?

"Fine. Put it away, don't look at it, we'll get back to it tomorrow. Go screw around on the internet or watch some television, don't think about it. Tomorrow, I want you to read it again and correct anything you see that you don't like," I said.

The next day, she had changed nothing, happy with what she wrote. I went through it and corrected her spelling, and we discussed minor points in phrasing, and she rewrote the essay neatly in ink. Monday she turned it in to her teacher, who said he would "get to it" when he could. Anna emailed me with that information. She said that she didn't have an opportunity to talk with him because he was giving a quiz.

"Obviously, they won't allow me to take the quiz," she wrote.

Obviously? While Anna has certainly been inserted in the middle of the school cycle of this year-round school, I am puzzled by their treating of her as though they shouldn't expect much of her. But then, she did relate to me that her counselor told her that she didn't expect much from Anna since she was schooled in Mexico and didn't show much interest in achieving high grades there. I only grinned at that because I know Anna. She's lazy, like her father. Must be a genetic flaw.

* *

Tomorrow, I'll be sending an email to her counselor. It will read something like this:

Dear Ms. Counselor,

I am Anna's father. While I have lived almost two decades in Mexico, I was in fact born, raised, and educated in the United States of America. I state this only so that you understand that my concern is not that of someone who might not be knowledgeable of schools in California. At least, I would presume that not much has changed since I lived there.

It has come to my attention that some of Anna's teachers are not requiring her to complete exams because she did not start at the same time period as did other students. This is very nice of them, I appreciate their consideration. However, this is not helping her. It is also not allowing me, as a parent, to understand what she now lacks in the requirements of your school system. I cannot tutor her unless I understand where she would fail. Failure is important, because we have nothing to learn unless we know what we are lacking.

The other morning, I woke up and lit a cigarette and looked out of the second-story window in my room. I watched a white cat take a crap on the neighbor's roof. I chuckled as I noticed the cat attempting to bury its poop, as there was no sand and no dirt. The cat, thinking that it had done all that could have been expected of it, simply walked away. Meanwhile, there is a pile of crap on my neighbor's roof.

Without sand or dirt - in the form of quizzes or other assignments - my daughter is no better off than is that cat, and society is no better off than is my neighbor's roof.

I have a dog. I haven't named it, and it doesn't belong to me, it simply sleeps on a doormat I once had in front of my door. That door mat is across the street now, oddly just below a neighbor's house which probably still has a pile of cat poop on the roof. The dog asks for nothing and takes what anyone is willing to give to it. Sometimes I give the dog frankfurters. It's a very nice dog.

And that dog will never learn anything because suckers like me give it food and walk away.

My daughter is not my dog. Please contact her teachers at your convenience and ask them to treat my daughter as though she had been at your school all along. When she fails, I will be able to teach her something. Do not give her any more hot dogs.

Thank you,

Anna's Father

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Comments

antigeekess Sept. 1, 2010 @ 12:15 a.m.

Oh, I LIKE this. A lot. :)

August 31, 11:49 pm. Just under the wire. Nice.

Oh, and as for this:


"Why didn't you make an outline like I asked?"

"Dad, I can't do that. This is what I feel comfortable doing."

I didn't argue. How does one tell a painter how to apply a loaded brush to canvas?


Exactly. I never could do an outline either. Still can't.

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David Dodd Sept. 1, 2010 @ 12:27 a.m.

Heh. I actually started this on August 22nd. It was just going to be about the dog and the cat poop until this evening when Rocio passed along the email address of Anna's counselor. Then the structural conceit was complete ;)

I told Anna that at some point, should she continue writing for an extended amount of time, that the outline wouldn't be necessary unless she was writing a thesis. She's as stubborn as her mother. I won't fight her on it, I just need to know that she's trying.

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MsGrant Sept. 1, 2010 @ 8:32 a.m.

This made me laugh out loud - "A couple of weeks ago I was preparing to prep dinner" - I know that feeling well:) This was a really good story. I hope you send that e-mail.

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Evelyn Sept. 1, 2010 @ 9:07 a.m.

". . . and once back in Mexico I felt safe again."

I love this line. It's the antithesis to what most believe of Mexico and the US now.

Oh, and the laziest people are sometimes the smartest, with the highest grades, in public school (or even college). I was one of those annoying kids that never study and get high grades. My younger brother is smarter but lazier.

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nan shartel Sept. 1, 2010 @ 10:32 a.m.

i sat for a while and read it twice...let the ambiance just flow over me...i know Mexico dogs...i would see them when i took my pedigrees down to the international shows...

~~ur dog is perfect!!!~~

and i think maybe he doesn't need a name...it's a secret between the 2 of u and engraved on ur hearts

this piece is as warm as homemade baking soda biscuits straight from the oven...already buttered by ur writing ability serve with grace to all ur readers

mi corazón estalló casi con el calor de esta escritura!!

~~Refried u r blessed~~

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JohnEdwardRangel Sept. 1, 2010 @ 1:15 p.m.

Belated congrats on your recent award. I also cross regularly without a passport. Depending on what time you do it or who you see makes a big difference. I'll shift to a longer line if I recognize a face inside the booth. I'd rather wait an extra bit of time to see a smiling face than a cross examining one. When I went to the passport fair last year, held by state department officials in Chula Vista, I learned that an American citizen can't be prevented from entering the USA.Detained but not prevented without cause. That and a lack of funds prevents me from reapplying.

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David Dodd Sept. 1, 2010 @ 5:04 p.m.

Ms. Grant: Thanks, and I have yet to send the email, I want to make sure that things haven't changed this evening when Anna logs in. If they still aren't giving her quizzes, I'll send that letter tonight.

Blue: The funny thing is I can remember back a couple of decades ago when I first entered Mexico on business, I was scared to death. I felt so relieved once I entered back on U.S. soil. It's funny what twenty years does :)

Nan: Gracias :) It's so funny when I look at the Mexican street dogs, there is absolutely no way anyone could guess at which breeds are mixed in most of the time. I feel that way about my own heritage, I have no idea about my European mix, only my American Indian percentage is not a mystery.

John: Thank you. I would love to write a large piece on my failure to procure a passport (I tried, they won't give me one), but the government side of the equation will not grant me so much as a hint of an explanation as to how they are told to handle people like you and me. I need their side of things or the article will appear one-sided, and likely uninteresting.

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JohnEdwardRangel Sept. 6, 2010 @ 9:29 a.m.

re 7 One of the few benefits of being injured is that I have time to read your stories twice. This summer our thirteen year old grandchild moved in with us. We are putting her through school so this is my first encounter with the Tijuana school system. I'm still trying to figure it all out. Very different from what I remember growing up in East Los Angeles. Just wondering what your take is on the whole system.

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David Dodd Sept. 6, 2010 @ 1:41 p.m.

Re #8: It certainly is different. Middle school here is grades 7,8, and 9, and then prep is 10-12. The kids get a lot more math, much earlier than in the U.S., and a good dose of science. Everything else is Mexico-centered. In other words, very little in the way of World history. They also have a foreign language in there, usually English. And at some point, there are community service obligations.

And while it is "free", it isn't "free", as you've probably found out. You pay for uniforms and other odds and ends along with a "voluntary" inscription fee. Everyone finds a way to afford it.

Unlike in California, Baja schools do not get paid according to attendance. Therefore, they don't put up with bad behavior, they will kick a kid out of school in a hurry. They also don't put up with bad grades (5 and below is failing, 10 is the highest grade). If a kid fails a course, they will allow a make-up test, and if that fails, the kid is kicked out of school.

And they give a lot more homework here than over there.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 6, 2010 @ 2:53 p.m.

It certainly is different. Middle school here is grades 7,8, and 9, and then prep is 10-12.

In CA some middle/Jr High schools go 7th, 8th and 9th. Southwestern Middle School in Chula Vista uses this model. Most are 7th and 8th grade though. Many-particularly in the LA area- follow the 6th, 7th and 8th grade format.

I have no idea why it is not uniform throughout the state, except to suggest the individual districts are allowed to use whatever model they feel works.

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David Dodd Sept. 6, 2010 @ 3:48 p.m.

In Baja, everything is mostly uniform - same books even. The exception would be private schools and Federal schools, although the Federal schools are more bound by State guidelines than are private schools. A combination of excellent grades and passing an exam might get you in to a Federal school. Anna went to secondary in a Federal school, but whatever combination of slightly above average grades and the exam (they don't give you the results) shut her out of Federal prep school, so she attended 10th and 11th in a State prep.

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David Dodd Sept. 22, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.

Thanks, Silvergate, I very much appreciate your encouragement.

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nan shartel Sept. 23, 2010 @ 2:10 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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JohnEdwardRangel Sept. 24, 2010 @ 9:46 a.m.

re#9 Good info RG. This whole uniform and supplies thing is new to me. But I'm finding out different things every day. Our grandaughter told me the other morning about how every class has to line up before entering the room. They are then checked to make sure they comply with the uniform code. If not, they are not allowed into the classroom. She tells me that the teachers are sticklers for detail. Suffice it to say the torn bluejeans and Grateful Dead concert jerseys that I wore in school would never have passed muster. But I have to admit, I agree with this dress code thing.

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JohnEdwardRangel Oct. 12, 2010 @ 1:48 p.m.

Hey RG Have you tried crossing the border without a passport lately? Talk about Americans treating their fellow Americans badly. The sad part about it all is that if you drive back across instead of walking you won't be separated and left standing unattended. An American in a car will thus be given preferential treatment over an American who walks back across. Kind of goes against the grain of democracy.

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David Dodd Oct. 12, 2010 @ 2:36 p.m.

John,

No, not in a couple of months. I'm supposed to go over there tomorrow. Things changing again? I'll be walking. Now you've made me quite curious...

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