Monday, January 16, 2012


Sunday, January 08, 2012


Is the tequila worm fact of fiction?

Kinda, Tequila is made from fermented cactus from a specific part of Mexico called Tequila. As far as I know it was never common practice to bottle tequila with a worm in the bottle. Mescal on the other hand, is a liquor very similar to tequila also made from fermented cactus. Originally when mescal was being made the people would put a worm into the fermenting product to determine if it had a high enough alcohol content yet. If the worm died it meant the mescal was done, if it lived it meant that it needed to ferment further. The dead worm would be left in the bottle and it was tradition that the person who finished the bottle had to eat the worm. Some modern mescal producers still put a worm in the bottle. (Source: WikiAnswers)


Saturday, January 07, 2012


Paraplegia News (PN) April 2006

Reason & Remarks

Editor Cliff Crase

Utopia Remembered

"Did you have a hard and trying winter? Did you just pick up your Paraplegia News after pushing your cold-rimmed wheelchair through a snow bank? Why not get away from it all? Visit Sunny Mexico! The El Dorado of the Western Hemisphere! Mexico, a Paradise for Paraplegics!" The aforementioned were some of the intriguing introductions of numerous articles in PN in the mid-1950's, written by nomadic paralyzed veterans searching the tantalizing territory south of the Rio Grande for a warm climate. What was discovered were friendly folks, accessible housing, and affordable personal attendant care - a perfect place to vacation or settle down.

In subsequent issues from the 1960's and 70's, appealing advertisements accompanied the "come hither" articles: "Why Mexico?...Because it offers a new kind of wheelchair living. Special facilities for quadriplegics and paraplegics mean that Guadalajara's famed hospitality, perfect year-round climate, and relaxed colorful living can be yours now - at an amazingly low cost for vacationers or long-term residents. Modest rates include personal care, wholesome meals, laundry, a private swimming pool, and chauffeur service. Nursing care available, sightseeing tours, and entertainment arranged. Accommodations from single rooms to family units."

The claims in the ads were answered prayers to hundreds of wheelchair users who were holed up in long-term medical facilities, inaccessible houses, or apartments up north, in many cases with limited funds. This definitely sounded like an affordable haven just south of the border.

Decades ago one of the many reason Mexico was such an enticing destination was that a person could enjoy a comfortable life after surviving a catastrophic injury. Few World War Two veterans who incurred spinal-cord injuries (SCIs) on the battlefield could anticipate longevity. Subsequently, when PVA was founded the mission was to work with the medical establishment to address the lack of knowledge about the care, cure, and first-response treatment of SCIs, and, just as importantly, to strongly encourage Congress and the Veterans Administration (VA) to recognize the lack of facilities to accommodate paralyzed patients and their special needs. Thus, with the progress of modern medicine and vastly improved medical facilities, survival years dramatically increased.

For those of us who never took advantage of the Mexico experience, and for the folks who were not around at the time and are just curious, we're in luck. A book coming off the press, QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was, is written in first-person by Jack Tumidajski. Yes, so many quads flocked to the historic city of Guadalajara, 50 miles south of Mexico City, the gringos spelled their new-found paradise with a "Q" instead of a "G."

Don't even think about correctly pronouncing Tumidajski. Don't even ask. I did, and...well, the Polish Kid took a deep breath and explained, "I was taught by my family 'Tum i dice key, ' accent on 'Tum.' But recently two Polish sweeties, one a therapy student in San Diego and the other a Red Lobster employee, pronounced it 'Tu may das key' and 'Tu me dice key, ' accent on 'Tu.'" Then, he mentioned how his siblings and cousins had their pronunciations Americanized. But I digress. I gave up and just called him Jack.

The book covers Jack's family life prior to enlisting in the Army, and his Vietnam experience, including the R&R trip to Bangkok. He survived combat action and the exotic Bangkok nightlife only to become a C6-7 quad as a passenger in a car accident while home on leave. Jack details his never-ending road to recovery, the multiple setbacks, and his longing for independence. After taking a couple of trips to Las Vegas to hone his gambling skills and, ahem, socialize with the locals, Jack continued to seek more independence from an existence that can only be experienced by someone who constantly has to rely on attendants. Jack headed for the border, where he found a whole different world and could live the good life paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He had plenty of good company and found his niche in the friendly community of Quadalajara.

Jack takes readers through the creation and politics of the Mexico PVA Chapter, the success and eventual demise of the clubhouse known as Paradise Central, gambling gringos, and his and others' love affairs. The lad from Pawtucket, R.I., bundles up the saga with numerous photos, press clips, and a narrative that exudes a feeling that you were there - and, finally the migration north and adios, Mexico.

To order a copy of QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was, go to

(Personal Note: Cliff Crase passed away in 2007. Rest in Peace, My Friend...)


The cute little guy with the cute puppy in the cute photo is referred to as my "Son" in his pics because..."Within 24 hours, Maria had gone into labor, had her child, and was discharged from the Hospital Civil, where many poor women gave birth, and returned home with her baby boy. I saw Armando for the first time on my 25th birthday. My girl had just come home from the hospital on my birthday with a new son--only Maria was not "My Girl." (From page 101, QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was)

I had been in Guadalajara since early March, and as the year drew to a close, I had a decision to make. I wanted to return to Rhode Island to visit my family. I knew that Mom liked the idea that Maria and I were a couple, and Armando completed our little family. Maybe Mom harbored the same wish as Maria --- that we would marry?

My other option did not include Maria or Armando. I could visit my family taking Alberto along as my attendant. I wasn't sure how long my relationship with Maria would last. And marriage was not in my plans. I thought constantly about what would be best, not for me, not for Maria, but for Armando. I was definitely more concerned with my eight and a half month old boy than either his mother or myself. I also thought that maybe what would be best for Armando and Maria would be to reunite them both with Maria's daughter Elizabeth. I had only met Elizabeth briefly when Maria's father brought her to Guadalajara looking for his own daughter. The inquisitive then two and a half year old me pregunto, "Tio Jass, donde compro su bicicleta?" I guess that to a toddler, there wasn't all that much difference between a wheelchair and a bicycle Maybe she understood that better than most grownups?

I again asked Reverend Hunter to stop by the house. I was certain that he would give me good counsel --- even though I was aware of his reputation for playing cupid, for encouraging many quads to opt for the ready-made family.

As things turned out, Reverend Hunter and I were on the same page. He pointed out that obtaining a visa for Maria and two children would be next to impossible. We agreed that reuniting her family, at some point, would be best for them all. He didn't push the ready-made family option, probably being able to read me better than I realized....

...I took Maria and Armando to the bus station on January 2, 1974 for a one way trip back to Tijuana. Back to her family and daughter Elizabeth. Although I was still in denial and refused to believe the rumors and gossip, I said good-bye to my pretty senorita in a similar fashion as the condition she was in when I first laid eyes on her back in March.

Maria gave birth to her second son --- seven months later!"
(From pages 111,112 - QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was)

(Personal Note: I thought about my "Son" often over the next year or so. Did I do the right thing? What would become of him? Memories fade over time to the point that you barely think of important times in the past. In 2000, I received a phone call from one of my sisters. Maria had called my family home inquiring about me. A brief reunion took place about a week later. Then I learned that my "Son" was now a school teacher in a neighboring state. Sometimes we do make the right decisions! :)

Twitter: @QuadalajaraJack