THE MEXICAN VS. FRANK BORMAN
A well-humoured middle-aged Mexican man shuffles along the dank streets of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; moving from car to car… to car… to car.
He is a legless man, exhausted, walking on his hands – not his feet… clearly strong enough to propel his muscular upper-body forward – not unlike the Virunga Gorillas you read about living in the Congo and Rwanda – or kids playing with crutches; his torso lifts up, then “flings” forward – remarkably fast. For less urgent needs he purely scuttles on his stub butts… butt to butt… to butt… to butt.
Precisely when or how he lost his legs does not matter. Perhaps he was born defected. Perhaps an accident. His job tonight, like most nights, is to stump-along thrusting one dirty hand upward – slightly passed the height of the car door – where hopefully an impatient driver spares him some loose change – gently placing a few pesos or US cents into his callused hands. To each driver, the beggar imparts a genuine ‘please be generous’ facial expression. Then, with his humorously hopeful gaze he patiently awaits his fate. Now it’s time to move to the next sitting car at the Juarez, Mexico // El Paso, Texas (USA) boarder crossing – he recollects himself and prepares for the next car. Interestingly enough, he smiles and jokes with absolutely everyone and his friends readily tease him while he slogs.
I’m with my friends. A group of young, well-inebriated, university students slowly returning home – across the Rio Grande, back to the USA. Most of us are scholar basketball players and thus seeing the Mexican’s awful plight temporarily sobers us up. (Even so, the Mexican appears completely comfortable with his demise, situation, and appearance and is surprisingly good-natured).
The next morning, I am called into NMSU’s basketball office to see head coach Neil McCarthy.
“Pootz, how you doin?… I want you to meet Frank Borman. Frank’s been to the moon and was just bringing me some, what-ha-call-it Frank, Moon Dust, …here have a look.”
ME: “A sincere honour and distinct privilege to meet you
(ME also thinking) Wow, I can’t believe it, moon dust, and meeting the man on the moon, Frank Borman. I’m really loving NCAA Basketball.
Somehow, that day, I’d only come to the basketball office to share my story about Juarez, Mexico’s plight – only to be completely rattled by the profound socioeconomic differences among people on Earth.
Separated by 50km and the Rio Grande river, I was left stunned by the overwhelmingly different lives and opportunities these two men lead/had. One man, begging legless in the filthy streets of Juarez …the other bouncing off the untouched sands of our moon 384,400km away.
To quote Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life…That’s what the people say.”