TOLEDO, OHIO Former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, was the guest of honor at Thursday’s Junior League event, Toledo After Hours, held downtown at the historic Valentine Theater. I had read about his upcoming visit in the Hispanic newspaper La Prensa and asked my editor for some cash to cover fuel expenses. He lured me to a deserted parking lot and tried to run me over with his PT Cruiser. Failing to kill me, he forked over $60 and sped away. My hillbilly logistics team, one V Mann, agreed to drive us to Toledo in his van but backed out of the trip at the last minute after getting his beard inextricably tangled in his banjo, so I was forced to borrow my roommate’s Escort Wagon to make the trek on my own.

Upon arriving I noticed little security at the door, so I handed the lady sergeant at the press check-in several large knives and a can of mace so I could better pinpoint the security staff. I later counted seven men in suits staring at me suspiciously the entire time I was in the theater. If you see one gorilla in the wild, there are at least three in the area that you can not see…this rule of thumb holds true for Secret Service agents as well. (The catering staff told me that several black-suited Americans had refused champagne because they were “working”, so one can assume that the Mexican Secret Service was augmented by our own.) Whenever One plans to drink heavily around a Head of State, it behooves One to know how many highly-trained agents One can count on to whip One’s silly Ass. After assessing the security situation I got busy with the champagne and waited for the IPO, Condessa Croniger, to make contact with me.

Vincente Fox gives me the stinkeye.
Croniger, a member of the Junior League of Toledo, found me in the dining room of the theater. I had done no research whatsoever on the particulars of the event, so she filled me in on the details of the Junior League, an international organization that trains women to be more effective advocates and volunteers within their communities. Founded in 1901 by Mary Harrimann, a 19-year-old debutante in New York, the organization quickly spread to other parts of the country and world, with Toledo opening their chapter in 1933. Their annual fundraiser traditionally includes a guest speaker, and their event has been graced by the likes of General Tommy Franks, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright, among others. Croniger assured me that the speakers were chosen for their ability to garner interest in the event and not for their politics, but the list certainly suggested a list to the Right for the Junior League; this easy suspicion was confirmed by the numerous oil barons and insurance executives that stumbled drunkenly by my table throughout the night, praising the foresightedness of Dubya and sympathizing with his tragically over-convicted Cabinet.

I inquired as to their decision to invite Fox, who has incensed women’s advocacy groups in the past for various misogynistic Lapses in Judgment ranging from quips referencing ‘two-legged washing machines’ to the staggering number of unsolved murders in Juarez, the Chihuahuan border town where literally hundreds of women have been raped and killed since 1992. I was again told that the guest speaker invitee was merely a high-profile name used to attract ticket buyers to the fundraiser.

The crowd, perhaps 800 well-to-do Toledo jetsetters, was dressed much more nicely than was I. The dress code (unbeknownst to me) was “black tie” and I wore a brown suit and the sheepish smile of someone who has pocketed all the cologne in the theater’s beautiful restroom. But no one smelled better than I, not even Fox, who smelled mostly of hairspray and confusion. He was in the lobby posing for photographs and making faces to himself when he thought no one was watching. When he shook my hand, I scraped the nail of my middle finger against the inside of his palm and smiled at him cross-eyed. His heavy eyebrows jerked skyward in alarm, and as I released his hand he stepped quickly back to make room for the tackle. I snapped a few photos of him and, losing interest, retreated to the dining room for more champagne. Ms. Coniger found me there and gave me the rundown on the press schedule for the event. She was an incredibly thoughtful press liaison and brought me a plate of fish. I captured an entire table in the dining room in the name of the Independent Media, a terrible affront to the extravagantly gowned-and-tuxedoed folk who had forked over $175 for a ticket. I laughed and ate my fish. Occasionally careless guests would set their drinks on my table while they embraced each other’s plastic surgery; these I quaffed while their backs were turned. When One is confronted with the Enemy in formal wear, One is wise not to take prisoners.

After dinner we moved into the auditorium to listen to Fox’s speech. The former president began with an anecdote touting his prowess in shooting dogs with slingshots. I was tempted to shout out some sort of affirmation, as that kind of thing sounds great to an idiot like me, but I sensed a collective stiffening of spines in the room, and realized that there were probably loads of PETA types in there. Not wanting to make a hasty flight from them with Vicente riding shotgun in my borrowed station wagon, I kept my enthusiasm to a professional level. Fox praised the work done by the Junior League of Toledo in empowering women and enabling them to take on leadership roles in the community. I waited for him to remark on the women of the EZLN, as the Zapatista uprising of 1994 was led primarily by the fearless indigenous women of Chiapas…somehow that set of ‘empowered’ women must have slipped his mind; indeed, here seemed to be a shortage of references to women, or women’s rights, or women’s anything. He instead spent most of his forty-five minute speech woofing in his endzone, bragging about what a sweet-ass president he had been. Straying into the touchy arena of foreign relations with the U.S. he let fly several criticisms of Bush’s immigration policies, using the wall under construction on the U.S./Mexico border as a metaphor for the political “walls” between our two countries. He invoked the tried-and-true Kennedy Reference, citing JFK’s opposition to the Berlin Wall and his infamous claim to being a pastry.

“Let us not build walls, but [instead] build opportunities…we are, all of us, Americans on this continent.”

Fox, who served as president of Coca Cola Mexico prior to his election in 2000, is no stranger to Ohio. His grandfather was born in Cincinnati, and he last visited Toledo in 2001, just before the attacks of 9/11. He availed us with tails of his childhood, going to school in Wisconsin and collecting empty Coke bottles for a penny each so that he could afford Milky Way candy bars. Fox also bragged up the NAFTA Accords and the “growth” they had created. He used several examples to illustrate his point:

“Before my administration, there were only forty different kinds of cars in Mexico. Forty kinds of cars! Now there are over 850 different models for the people to choose from…This is the American Dream!” Instead of a few cars they can’t afford, Mexicans now have a dazzling array of automobiles that they can still not afford. Fox bragged that the Mexican economy had converged with that of the U.S. and that Mexico had even experienced a lower rate of inflation than us Northerners. All in all, Fox seemed pleased as punch with himself and all that he had done for Mexico, asserting that “The only way to defeat poverty is to create more wealth.” I felt my eyeballs twitch a bit as I tried to comprehend his lesson in advanced economics…

…hold on, I think I get it…if everyone…umm…if no one is, uh…I mean…dammit…wait…I think I’ve got it now…if everyone is Rich, than, er… there…won’t be…any Poor People…? Is that right? Is that what he said?

Whoa, wait a minute…Fuck. That’s Dumb.

The man even bragged that information technology was available “Everywhere in Mexico; even in Chiapas they have the computers with the Internet connections, in the schools.”

Now, I don’t mean to step on any toes here, but that is a Lie. It is such a bald-faced Lie that I can’t even really make fun of it. They don’t even have electricity everywhere in Chiapas, or roads, or food. Listen here, El Presidente, I know I didn’t pay for my ticket or anything, but goddammit, Don’t piss down My Back and call it Rain.

After a little more jabber, Fox closed by remarking about the sad plight of the people in Venezuela, saddled as they are with their ‘populist dictator’.

“Chavez wants to take the place of Castro, and his socialist policies will only make his country poorer.” Interesting sentiments coming from a man whose major failing as President was the fact that he couldn’t stop the citizens of his own damn country from illegally migrating north to find work. Are there many countries dealing with illegal Venezuelan immigrants?

He might have forgotten to mention the wonders of Democracy in Mexico, as evidenced by the presidential elections last July. Fox wasn’t even allowed to take the stage for his Farewell Address; he was physically blocked by his own Congress. Ouch.

As part of the negotiations to secure him as a speaker included a provision against interviews or answering questions from the press, the audience was permitted to write down questions for Fox, of which several would be selected and answered. One of the questions chosen was about President Bush’s Crawford Ranch; Fox said it didn’t stand up to his own San Cristobal but he did like how clear the stream was. A weird look crossed his stately features; I have seen that look before; it is the look of one who has farted loudly in a small car. That’s right, fucker…why IS the water so Brown and Smelly? Barely missing a beat, he admitted that pollution was a major problem in Mexico but failed to offer any suggestions. Hard to pity the bastard; he is the one so fond of Free Trade, right? American companies build in Mexico because they don’t have to pay the workers Shit and environmental regulations are a sad joke. Can’t make an omelet without raping some peasants and shitting in the water, huh, Amigo? Do you remember the movie Prophesy? Not the one with Christopher Walken; the other one, with Armand Assante and the ten-foot-tall-mutant bear…but it’s all okay, really. I have been to Mexico. They barely use the water at all; they even make their coffee with milk, and it’s Delicious.

Fox talked about his plans for the future, saying that he and his wife Marta plan to visit their “indigenous friends” in Chiapas, and indicated that he planned to stay prominent in the public eye through “continued struggle for reform”. He concluded his speech and we all returned to the dining room for water-based coffee and dessert. I again invaded his personal space with my camera, this time mostly out of spite, and prepared to leave the theater. As I had parked several blocks away, I accepted the offer of a ride from an older gentleman who waited patiently while I retrieved my knives and my mace. On the way to my car he offered me his own perspective on Vicente Fox:

“I came because of my wife. She always wants to go to this kind of shit. I was not at all excited to see Vicente Fox; as far as I am concerned, he has been no friend of the U.S. He is too damn soft on all them illegals; he all but drives them across the border himself. We have laws for a reason, goddammit. And you know what else? I don’t think babies born to illegals over here should be considered U.S. citizens.” I pointed out that it was a provision of the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land. “Yeah, whatever. Some laws I don’t care about. That is one of them.”

I tried to pee myself in his Lexus SUV as we pulled up to my car, but I suffer urinary stage fright around Rich Peckerheads, and when he realized what I was doing he pushed me out of the vehicle and sped away. Fuck that dude. Douche though he be, I would far rather help Vicente Fox smuggle “illegals” across the border than shoot them with slingshots alongside the Great White Bigot.
    It turns out that these men and women of corn went to speak with the first gods.
    “So here we are”, they said.
    And the gods asked: “Why do those men and women fight so much? Don’t they know that all that noise they are making isn’t letting us sleep? What do they want then?”
      “They want light,” said the true men and women to the great gods.
      “Light,” said the first gods.
      “Light,” repeated the true men and women.
        -Subcommandante Marcos
Live it large while you can, Vincenso, while you wait for the Reckoning. The Jefe comes around, cabron. Montezuma was stoned to death by the ancestors of your Mexicans for far less grievous sins; and even he knew not to shoot dogs, for Christ’s sweet sake.

David S. Lewis, Correspondent, The Free Press