I named this blog “Creative Hands of Mexico” because while I knew most of posts would be dedicated to handcrafts and folk art, I did not want to be completely tied to this topic. There are other ways to be creative. Goodness knows that Mexico and its culture seems to bring out the creative in many people, including us gringos.
On Facebook, there is a group called Mexico Writers, dedicated to supporting writers who are writing in relation to Mexico and/or writers living in Mexico. Usually both. Most of the members are fiction writers, with yours truly being an oddball non-fiction writer.
It is quite amazing how Mexico makes its way into these books. These range from Katie O’Grady’s blog on living in Mexico to Carmen Amato‘s mystery and crime novels set here, to Penn Wallace‘s travel and aventure stories, along with the history writing of Michael Hogan.
The following is an interview of Ted Higuera, a main protagonist in a series of crime novels, written by author Pennington Wallace, who also has a blog at http://www.pennwallace.com/index.html
Ted, thank you for participating in this interview. Let me start by asking, for most of Middle America, you have an unusual family. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Hi Penn, it’s great to be here. As a matter of fact, I was a little surprised that you asked me. I can’t think of anything I did to make me interesting enough to interview.
My family is everything to me. I guess that’s pretty typical for a Mexican family. Mama and Papa ran away from home when they were teenagers and came to the United States because Mama’s parents wouldn’t let her marry Papa.
For most of my life, Papa was a cook in a restaurant in East LA and Mama worked as a maid in Beverly Hills. A few years ago, Papa won seven million dollars in the lottery. He bought the restaurant where he worked for twenty-five years and became the patron.
I grew up in a lower income working class family, but my younger brothers and sisters are growing up in this well to do family. It’s quite a difference.
I think it’s fair to say that you caught a big break with the football scholarship to the University of Washington. Can you tell us about that?
Man! That was the turning point in my life. There was no way I could afford to go to college. If not for that scholarship, I’d probably have ended up cooking in a Mexican restaurant somewhere.
I was pretty good at football in high school. Who am I kidding? I was awesome. I set a single season record for rushing yards and touchdowns, but none of the major colleges would take a look at me because of my size.
I never considered myself small, but the college coaches wanted two hundred twenty pound running backs.
When this other tonto decided to go to another school at the last minute, the U Dub had an extra scholarship. The running back coach gave it to me, but the head coach never believed in me.
I had a couple of great games, but maybe that’s a story to tell at another time. Let me just say that getting the scholarship brought me to Seattle where I met Chris Hardwick. That changed my life.
What about earlier, as a young man, before college?
Man, I was hot shit in high school. Big football star. I was always athletic. I was always one of the first ones chosen for teams in grade school. And who wouldn’t love my magnetic personality?
You once told me about the racial prejudice you faced as a child. How did that figure in?
Okay, life wasn’t always a bed of roses, especially in grade school. There wasn’t a day that went by that someone didn’t call me a wet back or a beaner or a taco bender. The big white kids always picked on the younger Mexican kids. You just kinda learned how to get by.
But all of that went away by the time I was in high school. There was a lot of emphasis on diversity at that level. The black kids always hung together and the Mexicans hung out and the Asians stuck together and the whites kinda stayed to themselves, but in the classroom or on the football field, we all just kinda got along.
Since I moved to Seattle, I’ve seen almost no discrimination. Except for the time a gang of skin heads jumped me, I’ve never seen any racial bias in Seattle.
In your books, you’re always referring to Spiderman. I presume he is one of your heroes. Can you talk about him a little?
Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can. Yeah, I was a big Spiderman fan as a kid. I’d wait at the local drug store on the first of the month for them to restock the new comic books. I didn’t want to take a chance on missing an issue.
Why Spiderman? I guess it was because of the dichotomy between Peter Parker and Spiderman. Hey, that’s a pretty good word, “dichotomy,” ain’t it? I guess those four years at the U were worth something.
Anyway, one the one hand, you had Peter Parker, this clumsy, skinny, science nerd. He couldn’t make any time with the girls. All the popular kids made fun of him.
Then you had Spiderman. A powerful superhero who could go up against the Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus. And they were the same guy.
I felt just like that. I was Peter Parker in my everyday life, but I knew I had Spiderman inside me somewhere.
Your little sister, Hope, turned out to be a real kick-ass broad in The Mexican Connection. Did you think she had it in her?
Dude, did she surprise me. I always knew she was bad growing up. She never took nothing off of nobody. I used to let her think she won when we got into a fight, to make
her, you know, feel good about herself, but she never got into fights at school or anything.
I got to tell you, when she started throwing those knives, I almost dropped dead. And when she pulled out that little automatic of hers? Well, she saved my life. She’s quite a girl.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
I had a bunch of jobs growing up. I had a paper route, I helped Papa in the restaurant where he worked. Every Saturday morning, he got me up early and dragged me down there with him. I scrubbed the grills and cleaned the deep fryers and swept and mopped the floors.
I worked with my uncle Ernesto in his auto shop too. I love mechanics. Figuring out what’s wrong, then finding a way to fix it. I don’t think I could have been an auto mechanic though, I hated always having dirty finger nails.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
Huh? What’s self-doubts and fear? I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid of anything in my life. When I’m in a tight situation, everything seems to slow down. I have lots of time to think and figure out what I’m going to do next.
I never thought much about it, but now that you mention it, I guess that’s what’s kept me alive a couple of times. I was able to stop and figure out a solution faster than the other guy.
What makes you happiest?
My family. It killed me when Papa died. Mama went into this depression that we haven’t been able to get her out of yet. But I love my family, my Mama, my sisters and brothers. I guess I have to add Chris to that list now. I’d do anything for him.
And maybe Maria. Yeah, being with Maria.
Can you tell us about how you met Catrina Flaherty and what it’s like working with her?
I mentioned earlier that I had been jumped by a gang of skin heads. I think there were six or eight of them, I don’t remember it too clearly. I got hit on the head a lot.
I remember being down on the ground, and those babosos were kicking me with their steel-toed boots. Then I saw this angel.
Cat, with her blonde hair and blue eyes suddenly appeared and kicked the shit out of a couple of those guys. She had Jeff with her and he held his own too. They held off the gang until the cops arrived and the rest, as they say, is history.
Working with her? Wow! That’s a whole other question. She is undoubtedly the most complicated person I’ve ever met.
She’ll spend hours in the gym, working out with a punching bag, sparing with guys twice her size. Then she’ll drive over to Children’s Hospital and take the kids a bunch of Teddy bears. She’s scary smart, not on the genius level like Chris, but street smarts. You can’t put anything past her.
She’s a knock out looker, but doesn’t seem that interested in men. She has a kinda on-again, off-again boy friend, but I never see her dating or taking a second look at a good looking guy. It’s like that part of her brain has just switched off.
I don’t know what happened to her, but I’ve heard rumors that her ex-husband really did a number on her.
With your skills, I know that you could make a lot more money working for Corporate America. What motivates you to work with Catrina?
You know that Chris and I were almost killed in that terrorist attack against a cruise ship up on Canada’s Inside Passage, right? Well, we made a pact after that.
We realized that we were given a second chance at life and that we had to make it worthwhile. We lost a couple of good friends in that little fiasco and we feel that we have to make it right for them.
I swore that I would spend my life watching out for and taking care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves. I know that Chris feels the same way.
You’ve lost a couple of people that you were very close to, can you tell us about that?
Do I have to? I really don’t like talking about that kind of stuff? Okay, first there was Meagan. She was Chris’s girlfriend. I never liked her, she was like this, what to they call them . . . oh yeah, gold digger.
I knew that she was only interested in Chris’s money. Then he invited her to spend the summer sailing with us his dad’s boat, the Defiant. I coulda died. As a matter of fact, Chris and I had one of our only fights over that, but she ended up going with us.
Then she turns out to be this all right chick. I mean, she got with the program and really pitched in. She knew a lot more about boats and sailing that I did.
It was kinda complicated. I thought I was falling for her, but I couldn’t, you know? I mean, she was my best friend’s girl.
Then we got in the fight with the terrorists. I guess I shouldn’t say anymore about that. I mean, what if someone hasn’t read your book yet?
Then there was Papa. He was the best man I ever knew. He was smart, but he was also wise. He was my conscious. I’ve never looked up to anyone like I did my father.
Jeff was good people. He was this gay guy who quit the Seattle Police Department because of discrimination. Cat picked him up and he was her partner. Then he bought it in Mexico.
It isn’t fair. None of them deserved to die, but they all died trying to help other people. They put the welfare of others before their own. How could I do any less?
You seem to have an interesting relationship with your cat, Oscar. Can you tell us about him?
Oscar is the Man! He was Meagan’s cat and I gotta tell you, I don’t really like cats. I was pretty pissed off when she brought him along on the cruise. But, when Oscar survived the terrorist attack, I had to take him in. I couldn’t let him go to some family that didn’t really know him.
Now, he runs my apartment. I pay the rent, but he really owns the place.
I know it sounds crazy, I don’t want to really say it myself. Do you think I can get committed to the looney bin for something I say in an interview?
Okay, here it is. I think something magical happened down in Mexico. It’s nuts, but I would swear that Oscar was down there, that he saved Chris and me a couple of times.
Is that too weird?
I’m preparing a new book about your adventures trying to locate Dick Randall. What’s that story about?
Randall is this dude that owns a bunch of coffee shacks along the highway up in the Seattle area. The thing is, though, that all of his employees are pretty girls and they all work in their underwear or bikinis. He started the bikini barista fad in Seattle.
Well, anyway, he disappears. His truck was found burned out in the middle of the California desert. No one knew what happened to him.
His wife, wife number four and six, hired Cat to find him. It led us on quite an adventure.
If you could do any job in the world what would you do?
That’s a no brainer. I would be the tail back for the Seahawks and we’d be back in the Superbowl again. And no last minute interceptions this time. I’d run that pill in for the winning score.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
I don’t want to get into politics, but I get mad as hell at how divided our country is. After 911, we were the most together we had been since Pearl Harbor. Now we’re the most divided we’ve been since the Civil War.
We need to find the common ground and keep this country moving forward. This is the greatest country in the world. I think I have that perspective since my parents came from another country, but man, we got it good here. Let’s not mess it up.
What makes you angry?
Bullies. In the school yard, in the corporate world, in international politics. I hate it when someone throws their weight around just because the can.
How important are friends in your life?
They mean everything to me. They are family, man. Chris, Cat, Abiba, Maria. I’d do anything for them. And I know they’d put their lives on the line for me. We got each other’s backs.
What is your favorite food?
That’s easy. Mama’s chile verde. She makes it a little different from everybody else. She doesn’t use tomatillos, she uses red tomatoes instead. It’s the best thing in the world.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That’s a pretty weird question. I’m not thirty yet and you’re asking me about my obituary?
Well, I guess it would say that he helped a lot of people. That he made a difference. That he always stood up for the little guy.
But I got a lot of miles to go yet, this story isn’t written yet.
Ted, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with our readers. I know that they’ll enjoy seeing what makes you tick. We’ll see you in the funny papers, man.