The Mormon question.
"How do you find them, Baxter?" we ask. But he's mum as a carp. He's afraid of competition driving up the price of non-smoking, non-drinking, non-cussing local labor. I suppose there aren't that many Mormons in Mexico City, by which I mean Mormon Mexicans or Mexican Mormons and not those missionaries fresh off the plane from Salt Lake City in their short sleeve oxfords that you see canvassing door to door.
"Go on Baxter," we tell him. "Give us the dirt on these Mexican Mormons. You mean to say they don't use profanity of any sort?"
Baxter gets a dreamy smile, "Not an off-color word, boys, not a guey. They are clean-living and hard-working with a Teutonic attention to detail and matching punctuality."
"Come on Baxter," we hound him. "Give it up. Tell us where you find these Mormons." Because we all ran businesses of different sizes and we were always looking to hire someone good.
But Baxter just shakes his head and sometimes he orders a round of drinks to palliate our frustration.
One Saturday afternoon I was in my house pondering the Big Expatriate Question when a pair of these American Mormons, or perhaps they should be called Mormon Americans, knocked on the door. The Big Expatriate Question is whether to return to the States or to stay in Mexico City. It used to be I would ask myself the B.E.Q. once a year, usually on the anniversary of my arrival, Then, as the economy started to go soft and the peso withered and the new government started to look as bad, although in different ways, as the old government, I started to examine the B.E.Q. with greater frequency. Recently I've been kicking it around just about every weekend.
When the Mormons knocked I was thinking about something a gringo down here named Berkeley said about the B.E.Q. the other day. "There's not much difference between growth and rot," he said. Berkeley is an aspiring writer who has been down here for a few years attempting to channel the spirit of Malcolm Lowry. Since he doesn't run a business, he gets bored by our talk of the mythical Mormon work ethic and prefers instead to pontificate on the B.E.Q. He's got a lot of theories that you get the feeling he practices at home in front of a mirror and then trundles out in public as if he just thought of them.
"What's that, Berkeley?" Baxter asked.
"It's the expatriate dilemma. You come down for the opportunities. But when does the freedom lead to a corruption of the soul rather than its advancement? Growth and rot are pretty indistinguishable in their early stages. Both are characterized by a softening and tenderness of tissues at the extremities."
That made us all laugh pretty hard, although I don't think Berkeley meant to be funny.
"To the softening of tissues," I shouted.
"To my tender extremities," Baxter shouted.
That's what I'm thinking about when I open the door.
"Halo, somos de la iglesia de JesuCristo de los santos de los ultimos dias," one of them says in mutilated Spanish. They are blonde-haired and blue-eyed and their names are Jacob and Joshua, unless their shiny black plastic tags are lying.
"Your church sent you down to the Big Taco speaking such poor Spanish?" That wasn't very nice, I know. It was probably a reaction to them being so clean-cut and young and maybe the fact that they were down in Mexico for a fixed amount of time and would never have to struggle with the B.E.Q., and also partly due to pent-up frustration with Baxter and his trade secrets. I had an urge to tease them a bit, to make them uncomfortable, maybe scare them. But then I had an idea.
Jacob started in on how fast their church was growing and something about golden plates and an angel named Moroni.
"Say no more, boys," I said. "You and your Moroni have convinced me. Just tell me where you Mormons gather down here in the Big Taco."
And for a moment I was happier than I'd been in weeks thinking about how angry Baxter was going to be.
Tom Parsons is an entrepreneur from New York City, currently residing in Mexico City.
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|Date:||Apr 1, 2003|
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