number, the amount, and when the price was mentioned, he'd say “Por qué?” with a face
requesting a discount. In a cantina Don would brightly say, “Es posible tomar (to drink)
una cerveza (a beer)?” At a restaurant he began, “Es posible comer (to eat)?”
Pagar (to pay), ir (to go), venir (to come), encontrar, (to find), salir (to leave), usar (to use),
were parts of Don's vocabulary. When he spoke at length, he sounded like Jeff Chandler
playing the part of Cochise in an old western cavalry movie, clipping the jargon but get-
ting the job done.
On a trip to Mexico, Don took me sightseeing. Frequently, Don asked directions, "Per-
dóneme, es posible, Taxco?” (Taxco: a colonial silver town east of Mexico City). A wo-
man walking barefoot, carrying a bundle, pointed the way, speaking, “Allá, allá, (that
way).” Don replied, “Usted es muy amable.” She smiled and nodded her head. We traveled
and shopped. Don bargained. At a bar in Zacatecas, Don asked, “Es posible música (mu-
And we got a nine-member Mariachi band to play at our table.
They were also
Don never conquered Spanish grammar. Word-to-word memorization added to his vocab-
ulary and understanding. He appreciated most conversations and watched the Mexican
soap operas. “There are only six occupations in Mexico,” he said “doctor, lawyer, engin-
eer, gardener, maid, and mistress.” He got the sense of most newspaper headlines but re-
lied on “The News,” a Mexican paper printed in English for expats.
Don died in 1994. He lived in Mexico for over twenty years, married, and raised a family.
I like to think that when Don knocked on the Pearly Gates, he asked, “Perdónme, es pos-
ible entrar?” And St. Peter, indicating, “come in,” replied, “Usted es muy amable.”