Red Bank (1)


By the mid nineties I had determined on a long range plan of living in Mexico.  The practical and legal difficulties of doing business across an international border made it infeasible to move to Mexico before shutting down my business and retiring.  So I determined on an intermediate course of moving to the southwest american border.  There I could continue business while making forays into Mexico for exploration and general familiarization.  I assumed, too, that there would be many families in the area living on both sides of the border, and that if I made friends with those on the american side I could ask them to introduce me to their relatives on the mexican side, whom I could ask for further help and advice in getting myself established in Mexico.

Early in 1997 I prepared for this move to the southwest along two lines.

First, I began disposing of movable property, getting rid of some things and storing others.  I found storage space for free in the basement of a church in Chattanooga and there stored a truckload of gear, including my library of close to a thousand volumes.

I also began making my business portable.  I had computers and cables spread out over a whole room.  Disassembling and packing all these machines would be a day’s work, and another day’s work to reassemble them after a move.  These computers included one for my programming bench, one for my desk, and three servers.  So I designed and built a rack, with casters, on which the three servers could be mounted, along with a shared monitor and a few other gadgets, such that the rack could be moved with all the computers and cables in place, excepting only the machines for my desks.  I further bought steel shelves to hold business supplies and household items, and designed a way easily to attach handles to each rack such that two men could pick up a rack and carry it the way a man is carried on a stretcher.

Second, I identified three counties in New Mexico which looked as if they might meet my temporary residence needs.  I wrote to the county executives and chambers of commerce of each, stating that I proposed to move myself and my business to the west, and invited them to send me information on their area.

Only one responded.  From the Lordsburg Chamber of Commerce I received various promotional materials, a telephone directory, a county road map, and a recent issue of the Liberal, the weekly newspaper.  So I determined on Lordsburg as my tentative destination; and I conceived, and acted upon, the masterful idea of ordering a subscription to the paper, that I might familiarize myself with the town and its people before even making the first trip to see it.

I began these preparations with no clear idea of how, or when, to go about making a move to the west.  I did know that I had to stay in the east, near my clients, until such time as I felt confident I could handle all aspects of their support from a distance.

As it happened, in the middle of 1997 I was approached out of the blue by a lady who wanted to buy my house for renovation and resale!  And she offered me more than I had ever thought the house would bring, and more than three real estate men thought it would bring.  But I was hardly prepared to go west.  So I went south instead, letting the house go and taking an apartment in Red Bank, a suburb of Chattanooga.

And as it happened, it was in Red Bank that I made my first entrance into the hispanic community.  Two floors above my flat there lived three gorgeous venezolanas [venezuelans, female].  These were Jelitza, a divorcee in her thirties; her teenage daughter, Jordania, a high school student; and her best friend, Ligia, a girl in her twenties.

These spoke no english, nor did anyone else at the apartment complex speak spanish.  But I determined to give it a try.  One evening, as they left the pool and passed my patio, I summoned up the courage to get out –¡Buenas noches!  [good evening, good night] as they passed.

The response was only a faint echo of my own greeting.  But I was later to learn that I had made a strong impression indeed.  They spent the rest of that evening discussing what might be the meaning of this, a gringo neighbor who bade them goodnight in their own language.

One attempt at communication led to another, and before too long Jelitza, Ligia, and I were spending an afternoon a week at a pleasant picnic table in the yard teaching each other our respective tongues.


© 2004 Joseph Mansfield