Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Ray Cliffort enjoys 'un dia de campo' at Recreational/Picnic area Chimulco about 15miles outside of Guadalajara

Monday, January 28, 1980. “¿Quién es Jack?” inquired the tall, fair-complexioned man with wavy brown hair wearing a long tan coat. The intimidating man moved as would someone of authority. I was seated with my back to the wall opposite the front room fireplace, in the process of raking in multicolored poker chips won on the very first hand I had played. A second man, wearing a short brown jacket with a noticeable bulge on his right hip, positioned himself by the game room doorway. It was approximately 10:00 p.m. The apparent ring leader and point man handed me an official looking document written in Spanish, as Joe Anderson and others asked me who they were. A sense of extreme nervousness overwhelmed me as I attempted to read the paper while being peppered by questions, initially from my friends, and now from the interrogating official. “Departamento de la Defensa Nacional” was stamped at the top of the bogus document. I had sufficient experience with cutting and pasting articles for Mexico PVA's El Sombrero News to realize that the supposedly official document was nothing more than an amateur attempt at legitimacy. The “official” seal had been cut and pasted. I had never heard of“Departamento de la Defensa Nacional.” The paper listed my name (spelled incorrectly) in the first sentence, followed by a number of charges, including drug possession and distribution, prostitution, gambling, pornography, and more. There was also mention of me going to Mexico City to face charges. The misspelling indicated someone had set us up, as all official chapter correspondence with my name on it looked nothing like the hatchet job now being done on my Polish surname. As chapter president (having taken office on June 14, 1979), I was now the alleged ringleader of this notorious band of dangerous quadriplegics who had settled in this fair city to rain evil of all sorts upon the populace.

I wasn't given time to read the complete document. The extreme nervousness had long since turned to a feeling of fear unlike any, save for a few isolated incidences that I experienced while on duty in Vietnam.

By this time, the second man had moved into the game room, and another man took his place at the doorway. The third man was the most menacing in appearance. He was a short and heavily built ranchero type with a large droopy mustache, wearing a multicolored sarape, and brandishing what members later described to be a .30 caliber carbine complete with banana clip. The second man, who looked familiar and spoke English fairly well, had begun the process of taking possession of poker chips, cards, and eventually the wallets of my confounded fellow gamblers.

I was taken from the game room as the interrogation began in earnest in the hallway leading to the Mexico PVA chapter office next door. As I opened my mouth to answer, I was literally speechless; no words in either Spanish or English passed my lips for a long moment. Asked for my wallet, which I never carried in Quadalajara, the intimidator readily settled for approximately $200 worth of pesos that were in my shirt pocket.

Once inside the chapter office, the man questioned me about some of the listed charges, specifically gambling and pornography. The high stakes poker game was the worst kept secret in Quadalajara. Everyone knew about it, and any Clubhouse visitor could readily see playing cards with stacks of poker chips on the game room poker table. It was a wonder the game hadn't been “raided” since 1971.

The desk of the official chapter office was open. Macario, Gil Turetsky's helper (who I later learned was rifle-butted when he bravely asked if these men had a right to be doing what they were), had borrowed the key to the desk so that he could retrieve the phone lock key for Gil to make a local call. The phone lock was kept to prevent people from making expensive long distance calls. With the desk open, another item, namely a book titled Sexual Options for Paraplegics and Quadriplegics that was also kept locked in the chapter desk, was visible. The book conveniently opened to an apparently often-viewed page depicting an aroused male quad engaged in an intimate sexual act with his able-bodied female partner.“¡Pornografia!” declared my interrogator. Could things get worse?
For the first time, the threat to take me to Mexico City was articulated. I was totally paralyzed with fear. The situation was getting worse, as I was pushed back into the Clubhouse game room where the “innocent” Monday night poker game had originated. Ray Clifford and Chuck Hawkins were the only players still engaged in battle across the chessboard when our visitors arrived. Monday night was Chess Club night and a convenient excuse for the diehard poker players to take full advantage of the game room and open kitchen facilities. Poker players outnumber Chess Club members by about 2:1. Some of the members and guests participated in both, as I did. I had just finished a game of chess when Bill Bailey and Bob Brassfield left around 10:00 p.m., opening up two seats in the first-come-first-served game of chance.

Within minutes, personal care attendants Javier and Ramon, were relieved of their valuables and told to join us. Teresa, our Clubhouse kitchen cook, and her waitress daughter Patti, were next. Once inside, the English speaker started questioning certain members. When he attempted to search the bag John Rogers carried on the back of his E&J, the slightly inebriated fellow quad voiced his displeasure. My buddy, the interrogator, quickly took charge and rifled through John's bag. Once he got past the stuff on top, he came across Roger's personal bottle of hot salsa and a suspicious looking bottle of pills. “¡Drogas!” exclaimed the interrogator. Indeed, the main intimidator had found Cevelin—vitamin C tablets that were supposed to make the urine more acidic and reduce the chance of urinary tract infections.

When the realization of how ridiculous he looked set in, both John and I were ordered back into the Mexico PVA office. More harassing questions followed, but the limited Spanish speaker and fuzzy thinking poker player was useless to Mr. Interrogator. Back into the game room went John, but the point man, up until now, continued past the doorway while physically leading me into the front room. Chess boards still sat unattended to as pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, king, and queen were frozen in time awaiting further orders from their absent human field generals.

The English speaking man was holding the keys to my '79 Cordoba. The threat of facing charges in Mexico City was repeated. I was now as scared as any time in my life.
“El Comandante quiere hablar contigo,”declared the interrogator. El Comandante? Wasn't the interrogator the leader of this gang of three? The rifle toting sarape wearer was guarding the main Clubhouse door. Could he be El Comandante?

"Dale una propina al Comandante,” the interrogator suggested.

“No puedo,” I responded. “Usted tomó todo mi dinero,” I added, surprising myself. It must have been an instinctive reaction. Where did I get off giving this man a semi-sarcastic response under these circumstances?

A medium height, graying man wearing a blue jacket appeared from nowhere.

“¿Tiene cocaína aquí?” El Comandante questioned. I had heard the word before, but wasn't aware of this narcotic and wouldn't recognize it if I saw it.

“No,” was all I said.

“Prometes que tu no vas a seguir està operación ilegal,” (referring to the drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography).

Si Señor,” I assured him, showing as much respect as my being could summon.

Te voy a dar otra oportunidad,” the fifty-something-year-old man announced.

Gracias,” was all I could say.

El Comandante and the English speaking man, who had entered the poker room approximately one hour before, walked out the front door. The interrogator motioned to the sarape wearing, rifle-toting “ranchero,” and he now physically pushed me back into the game room, semi-automatic on his right arm and my wheelchair handle gripped tightly in his left hand.

Once inside, the intimidating interrogator ordered, “No salgan de este cuarto hasta que yo les de permiso.”

Nine quads, one para, three attendants, and two kitchen employees sat around dazed, but able to freely speak for the first time since the hour long ordeal began. After about ten minutes, long-armed Joe Anderson used his functional right hand to slide open the double doors opposite of the main game room entrance.

One by one we filed out into the Clubhouse front room. All confiscated wallets lay empty on the long meeting room table, all except Paul Saine's, which I theorized might have been taken for identity theft purposes since it was close to the Spanish surname Sainz. Somehow, Joe Cella, an incompletely injured quad able to stand and take a few steps, had stood up and flipped his wallet from the poker table while sitting back down on top of it unnoticed.

I requested that all members, guests, and employees present list the valuables which our recent visitors had taken. Inventory revealed the following:

Total cash (pesos) 3,000
Total cash (dollars) 700
Camera (approximate dollar value) 85
Silver Coins (approximate peso value) 3,500
Traveler's Checks (dollars) 300
Check made out to “Cash” (pesos) 2,800

A total of over $3,000 U.S. dollars

Ironically, non-poker playing Ray Clifford, who had come for Chess Club and was waiting for the Clubhouse kitchen to close, was hit the hardest. Clifford, who didn't trust leaving his valuables at home and who had recently returned from the States, lost cash in both dollars and pesos, two troy ounces of silver, Mexican 100 peso collector's coins, and his camera. A good guy helping fellow members on Chess Club night, as well as one of Mexico PVA's most tireless workers, Ray Clifford lost between $700–$800 worth of money and property that night.

From Chapter 19 www.QuadMexico.com QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was


Post a Comment

<< Home