Brothers Abroad brand

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Your Man in Hermosillo - A Dispatch from the Desert

Once I was a senior lawyer and Vice President at a major record company, but I went out in search of even more variety in my career…the rich fabric of life. Today, as a consultant to one of the U.K’s top ad agencies, my mission is to fly out to a remote town in north-west Mexico, with a view to, er, obtaining a B1/B2 U.S. visa for a beautiful, local, transsexual. ‘’Is that enough rich fabric for yo’ ass?’’ she herself might reasonably have asked! This is ‘’Miriam’’, to her friends and fans, a new transgender, entertainment force coming to a screen, stage or loudspeaker near you…very soon.



I had never been to Mexico before and the closest I had come to this surprisingly large country was Los Angeles. My only real reference points were images from decades of clichéd scenes in dodgy westerns – I could hear the pseudo-Leone soundtracks playing already. But I have been to some remote places – from rural China to the Arctic Circle is a decent range for a sub-Saharan African – so I figured that this no-horse-town hoping to borrow one from somewhere else was nothing I couldn’t take in my globe-trotting stride. The real problem would be running the gauntlet of macho, moustachioed and probably gun-toting officials at the U.S. Consulate, with my precious and extraordinary charge…I straightened my back with purpose, reminding myself that my name was Dej, Dej M., entertainment lawyer and would-be diplomatic envoy – ‘‘licensed to deal’’.


Having transited through L.A., the first real indication that I was going to “another place’’, was the Farah Fawcett-coiffed bombshell of a latin hostess who greeted me, as I boarded the Aero California DC9. They don’t make them like that anymore on the mainline routes, I mused, pleasantly stirred but not shaken. The second give-away was the smoking section at the back of the aircraft. Welcome to the year 2002! The journey was happily uneventful and we landed at a provincial-looking, very relaxed and friendly airport. Truth be told, this dangerous mission behind enemy lines had wrongly caused me to anticipate - as described by Andy Kershaw in Haiti - the kinda airport hustler wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the unwelcoming words: ‘‘I like your approach, now let me see your departure’’.


Miriam had told me that she’d booked me into the ‘‘Hotel Fiesta Americana’’ – full of western promise, I thought – maybe an indecent amount of it, if I’m lucky!? As I (possibly unfairly) assumed that bookings and admin weren’t really her thang, I was still nursing that faintly nauseous anticipation of the no-reservation-no-room-at-the-inn scenario. But I was wrong and was soon settled into my room with a panoramic view of tiled roofs amongst fruit trees in the foreground and a backdrop of rolling, rocky scrubland, as far as the eye could see. I checked in with Miriam by ’phone (true to its name, my fancy, new triband cellphone was trying in vain to lock onto a local service) and we arranged to meet in the lobby at 8 p.m.


Most un-diva-like, Miriam comes sashaying through the revolving doors at 8.03 p.m. precisely. She is wearing a sexy, black, not-very-buttoned-up dress; her hair is tied back and she is looking the business - indeed, she is carrying a bundle of paperwork and magazines in her Chanel tote bag. She is a pleasure to be with: funny, smart, professional and attentive. It’s hot; we’re on exotic location in a hotel bar; the vibe is right; she’s looking me deep in the eyes; and nobody knows us…But we diligently go through the papers and I try to prepare her psychologically, as best I can, for what I imagine could be a traumatic ordeal. The waiters meanwhile are also unusually attentive, clearly as enchanted by Miriam, as they are bewildered by my apparently greater preoccupation with her documents than with her décolletage or indeed, her ever-rising stretch of exposed thigh. By 9.30p.m., I’m beginning to fade after back-to-back nights of three hours’ sleep and we both feel confident that we’re as well prepared as we will ever be. So we agree that she’ll collect me at 9 a.m. for the consular appointment and off she goes, sashaying back out into the night. The waiters are incredulous at my woeful display of manhood, giving me that despairing ‘when-you’re-in-the-box-son-you’ve-gotta-bang-those-sitters-into-the back-of-the-net’ look.


When I ring Miriam at 8.30 on the following morning, her brother answers and announces that ‘‘Miriam is coming to you; she says you can wear normal clothes’’. I do a mental double-take, then remember our tactical debate as to whether or not I should wear a suit. But I’ve taken the trouble to bring the suit all this way and although it’s going to be 90+ degrees today, I just feel that I need to look vaguely official: serious and smooth, if possible, but not hard or slick. There is great potential to look like the shifty, hanger-on boyfriend or worse still, the sleazy pimp. I compromise slightly and go for what I like to think is a London Vice 2002 update of Lieutenant Tubbs’ 80’s suit ‘n t-shirt look: my whistle is a safari-style, light blue linen number and the t-shirt is a V-neck. Shades are of course mandatory and to be removed whenever addressing officials, for that nothing-to-hide vibe.


The punctually un-diva-like diva is waiting in the lobby when I come down at 9 a.m.: black shirt (appropriately revealing much less décolletage than last night), knee-length, white, Marc Jacobs skirt with black trim, and black heels; as the doctor ordered – comfortable and sober, but not at the expense of her glamour. We get into her Mum’s over-sized sedan and Miriam swings into action, announcing that she needs to drive by the bank, almost opposite the hotel. Because she pulls into the only disabled parking space and leaves the engine running, I’m half-expecting her to come running out with a bag of swag in one hand and a previously secreted beretta in the other, but as far as I am aware, the transaction has been unfeasibly quick, but legit. She seems calm and collected, driving confidently and finding the Consulate with ease. The streets in the area are kinda busy, so it takes the most accomplished driver to fit into the only available and very tight space. ‘’Miriam, that was fantastic!’’ I hear someone cry. ’’You definitely don’t park like a girl!’’ I realise that the voice is my own, but I feel vindicated for my political incorrectness by the sight of Miriam bent-double with laughter, as we head towards the stars and stripes. She is obviously feeling lucky; she is turning heads as usual (if only they knew…they probably wouldn’t care!) and as she later tells me: it’s St. Hugo’s day today, 9th April. Miriam was christened Hugo at birth.


I had been warned by our Germany-based, El Paso-affiliated (long story!) attorney: a) that there is an unwritten, official presumption that Mexicans want to go to the USA, never to return; b) to expect a good deal of chaos at the Consulate, as well as a lack of privacy – no private interview rooms and c) that I probably wouldn’t be able to accompany Miriam to her interview anyway. It didn’t look too bad as we approached, except that it was difficult to form a game-plan when you couldn’t make out exactly what the procedure was. Just when I was feeling good about having slipped through the first line of officialdom, it became apparent that he was only the alfresco bag-check attendant – we were only allowed to take in paperwork; no bags, no electronic equipment of any sort; nothing. Miriam had not retained her appointment reference number, so this gave the next official, a Mexican mama, a fine opportunity to make Miriam dance a bit, once she had absorbed the fact that the applicant before her was in fact, one Hugo Mendoza. The bizarre ritual involved Miriam ringing a freephone number from a public ’phonebox down the street to ascertain her reference number. She then had to begin the first of many explanations as to my status as a senior representative of the sponsoring company in Londres, who had flown out specially to endorse her application (…well, I think that was roughly her line). On each such occasion, I clutched my papers with purpose and did my best to give off as much gravitas as I could muster, painfully aware of the oddness of her coupling with a suited ‘n booted Gambian from London.


We then walked down a grim, narrow corridor, reminiscent of ‘‘Midnight Express’’ and the next guy (yes, moustachioed and gun-toting) was obviously so preoccupied with Miriam’s vital statistics that he failed to notice that he was dealing with a ‘Hugo’ on paper. He confidently informed us that the supplementary, post-911 security visa form was not necessary, as it was only relevant to males. By now, we were deep behind enemy lines and I wasn’t going to blow the mission after all this. I made an executive decision (tricky when you only have ‘si’, ‘no’ and ‘gracias’ for vocabulary ammunition) that we should try to see ‘’Mr. Shea’’, Head of the Visa Section, to whom our attorney had spoken and whom she had hopefully softened up to some degree. He was ‘‘the Man from Del Monte’’, who I believed could say ‘‘yes’’ and now was no time to be leaving things to chance. The nature of such Men the world over is that they are always busy, because anybody and everybody is trying to get a ‘‘yes’’ out of them at any given time. So in keeping with the age-old tradition of southern climes, we were asked to wait for him and that instruction inspired in me all the hopelessness that the same words would have carried, had they been uttered by a customs official in Lagos, Nigeria. It began to look as though Miriam’s number was going to come up soon and that we would have to present ourselves to a lesser mortal, who inevitably offended by any request for us to see his superior, would reject the application in a fit of Mexican pique.


St. Hugo must have been smiling on us, because as we approached the booth, he who had been pointed out as Mr. Shea appeared and asked if this was Miriam before his eyes. I paraphrase, but it was as though in the instant he saw her, it all made sense and we only needed cruise-control from there on in. When he asked me who I was, I apologised for not speaking Spanish and proceeded to lay on the serious, London professional bit. He hardly spoke to Miriam after that, preferring to explore through me, the agency’s credentials and the motives behind making Miriam a star.


Fast-forward a few hours and we’re back at the Consulate, waiting for the final verdict and most importantly, physical evidence of it…


‘‘Hugo Mendoza?!’’ Somebody has come out from behind the booths and is brandishing a number of passports. Miriam has to go up to collect hers – and, as I only later found out, would actually have liked me to be a (gentle)man and collect Hugo’s passport for her. She brings it back and hands it to me without looking at it, as much out of fear as an attempt to confuse onlookers as to whose passport it really is. I flick through the blank pages of her new passport and the inside of the back cover bears the reward, looking like some million dollar bill stuck in there: B1/B2 visa valid until 8th April 2012! Miriam is stunned into silence and looks at me in disbelief:


‘’We did it, Dej?’’ she asks, still not sure how triumphant she should be.

‘‘Yes, Miriam, we did it’’ and grabbing her hand, I say sotto voce ‘’let’s run…!’’


In all the excitement, she drives the wrong way up a one-way street and is pulled over by a swarthy, moustachioed, gun-toting bloke on a big bike. She surrenders her…er…informal documents and gets booked as Miriam; but of course, Hugo officially gets away clean.


Over an hour at the travel agent’s, sorting out Miriam’s flights to New York and beyond is a major anti-climax, when all we want to do is to roll over and have a cigarette - or in my case, get some sleep. Exhausted by the output of nervous energy, we drive in near silence, until Miriam pulls up outside my hotel.


‘‘Dej, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me.’’ Then she adds, sincerely and innocently (I think), ‘’if you need anything at all, just call me…’’


I kiss her on both cheeks, conscious that I am saddle-sore after my cattle-class odyssey all the way from London via LA…Would a massage be outta the question? Of course it would - this is a professional, professional relationship after all and Hugo isn’t really the woman for me….or is she…?!




© MMII Ayodeji C.R. Mahoney


Posted by Dej on 03 Aug around 3pm

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