Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Mexican Drug Wars: How Far Away Are They?

Of the 45,000 deaths
thus far, says Grillo,
“each involves a real family,
a real story, real history.”

Ioan Grillo, author of the new book about the Mexican drug wars — “El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency” — has been covering Mexico for over 10 years for magazines and newspapers. He talked about his experiences covering Mexico Monday night at the Half King in Chelsea.

It was such a good talk and people asked such good questions that I decided to make use of the notes I always take at these things and write a bit about Grillo’s presentation. Though Half King is a pub/restaurant, things quiet down considerably when someone like Grillo steps up to the microphone. And because the mike didn’t work last night, people listened more attentively and more quietly than usual.

In 2004/05 when the violence in Mexicao started to get bad, the Houston Chronicle told Grillo he should “cover it like a war.” He began by getting to know addicts and he started to see the horrific transformation of Mexico through their eyes. “When I first got to Mexico in 2000,” he said, “it was a time of burgeoning democracy.” In a few years time, he said, tragic changes resulted in what he now calls a “low-intensity war.”

A single massacre in Mexico resulted in the deaths of 72 people. And killings take place every day. By comparison, the most Al Capone ever killed was 7 people — in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Of the 45,000 deaths thus far, says Grillo, “each involves a real family, a real story, real history.” The implications remain bad for most of the country. “Society operates quasi-normally, with electricity and schools running and yet you have this extraordinary thing running through all of it.” Franchises entrench themselves within a community and grow from there, enlisting locals and corrupting ongoing events.

Grillo says this kind of thing could happen in any number of countries with similar conditions, such as a weak government amid powerful organized crime. Brazil, parts of Africa and Jamaica are a few of the vulnerable places he mentioned.

The people of Mexico, says Grillo, are used by the drug cartels’ “machines of murder.” For payment of 1,000 pesos, or $85, they’ll take a human life. The head of the police in Mexico City used his own key to get into his home, where he encountered assassins who shot him dead. Police from his own force had been co-opted by the cartel and gave the assassins access. “Your best defense as a journalist,” he says, “is not to piss anybody off.” Five people who contributed information for the book have been murdered. Even the elite and the political class feel scared, but they are divided among themselves and cannot find common ground from which to attack the problem. The cartels now run massive kidnapping schemes as well.

At the end of his talk, Grillo listed three major areas of reform:

1. Realistically assess current policy and be realistic about future policy. The war on drugs isn’t working. The ludicrous UN motto: “A drug-free world. We can make it happen.” There is now a considerable drug trade within Mexico. As for the United States, both the US and Mexico have a role in this. 90% of the cocaine in this country comes from Mexico, for example. And, says Grillo, “It’s impossible to shut down the border.”

2. Rehabilitate communities within Mexico. Nothing comes into the impoverished communities. Imagine what good 1,000 social workers could do, says Grillo. “We’ve found that kids just doing art in class discover a worth in themselves and want to make a choice about how their life goes.”

3. Build a unified police force throughout all of Mexico. Right now police operate independently from town to town.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life lessons from a senior sexpert

'It takes intention to keep

movement and sexuality in our lives.'

Happy Birthday to Joan Price, author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. You are like a sister. And, sister, you make me proud.

It’s your birthday on Nov. 10 and you are at the top of your game. You work it like no one else I know. At 68 you live more in a day than most people do in a week.

How is that? How can someone who once was in such a serious automobile accident she shocked doctors merely by surviving, who suffered injuries that plague her still, how can that person go on to teach aerobics six days a week and, later in life, teach line dancing three and four nights a week for hours at a time, walk for one or two hours a couple of times a week, lift weights when time allows and do advanced Pilates with a personal trainer every week? That was a long sentence with few pauses because that is the kind of life you lead. Then there are the speaking engagements, the workshops and television appearances, the writing of books, the social media updates and maintenance — you have 774 friends on Facebook, the blog, the testing of sex toys for their makers and for the readers who buy them. What have I forgotten? You review books, you’re compiling a book of erotica for Seal Press, you respond to emails in a timely fashion. I’m sure there’s more.

Your answer is that you exercise so that you can exercise, if that makes sense. You move to stay mobile is another way to put it. You are a vegan and you eat delicious, nutritional foods. You say you don’t want to be bored so you commit to doing what you are passionate about. And because nothing beats boredom like acquiring knowledge, you’ve made learning a priority. And you teach others what you’ve learned. Because of you, because you talk out loud about senior sex, we know how to maintain our vaginas to keep them in good working order. That’s just for starters. Recently one of your readers said you helped save her marriage.

When you had a reading in early July at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, you were a guest in the NYC apartment where I spend time with Jim. We gave you the couch, a blanket and a space at the table for computing. In the mornings Jim made you strong hot coffee the way you like it, without cream or sugar. The only time you weren’t working or making connections with others throughout the city was when I was talking or when you were sleeping. You are a marvel. You model the way it should be done.

You had a profound loving relationship later in life. Robert Rice, your husband, died just as you had begun working on Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex. How hard that must have been but you got through it, found ways to grieve, work and carry on. Because of you and your book Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, we got to see for ourselves how true love and sexual intimacy are bound by no rules and heed no expectations.

Here, for those who are interested, are excerpts from a conversation I had with Joan over the telephone in mid-October. I wanted to present the woman behind her two most recent books.

The “ick factor”

“I found that people didn’t want to look at senior sexuality, face it or address the problems in a positive way. It isn’t just the youth-oriented culture that has stereotypes about sex. We seniors have them about ourselves. We think we lose enjoyment, we lose function, we lose our appeal. For every problem, there is a solution.”


“I think of myself as a hard worker. I thrive on challenges and sometimes on confrontation. Ninety percent of the people I speak with say thank you for the information. Ten percent say, ‘Tell me no more’ or they make fun of it. That just spurs me on even more. Bring it on, I say.”

People are shy

“I spoke at my 50th high school reunion recently. People listened attentively but no one asked me a single question. I know why. The last time we saw each other was when we were 17. So I told them if they had any questions, I’d consult with them in the corner of the room. People came up to me throughout the reunion saying, ‘I want my consultation in the corner.’ Every time I speak, I learn something.”

Being physical

“With regard to enjoying the pleasures of our bodies, it’s not just line dancing or having sex or walking in the sun. We need to be in relationship with our bodies.”

“People ask me: What’s the best exercise? I tell them: The one that you’ll do!”

“Exercise should be a treat, not a treatment.”

Senior foreplay

“One way to get started is to do something physical together like dancing in the living room. Walk or bike ride together. This lets you enjoy your bodies together and lets the blood flow. By the time you begin making love together, you’ve already started. Part of what makes us pull away from sex is the depletion of blood flow to our muscles, our brains and our genitals. Exercise reverses that.”


“People aren’t aware that it’s happening little by little, week by week, year by year. Athletic people I knew at 17 are now 75 pounds overweight.”

“It takes intention to keep movement and sexuality in our lives.”

Solo Sex

“Make a date with yourself.”

Joan Price’s contact information
website: http://www.joanprice.com/
Blog: http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com <http://www.nakedatourage.com/>
YouTube: http://youtu.be/MN6_HVD-Jdg <http://youtu.be/MN6_HVD-Jdg>
Naked At Our Age Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/JoanPriceAuthor <http://www.facebook.com/JoanPriceAuthor>
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JoanPrice <http://twitter.com/JoanPrice>

You can contact me at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read my book, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” available online or in bookstores.