(a recently-told story from 1962)

Ray Comstock loves to tell stories about the adventures he and his family have lived through during the Yerba Buena years. In 1989 when the author asked Ray if he had any particular story he wanted to share with the readers of this book, the following was offered. It's printed in its entirety, in Ray's own words, not only because it's a funny story about Antonio Díaz (see Sun-God & Moon), but also because it touches on problems of "red tape," which certainly have figured prominently in Yerba Buena's development. Moreover, the manner in which the story is told reveals a good deal about the man Ray Comstock.

"In March of 1962 we brought Antonio and María Díaz of Yerba Buena Hospital to the U. S. A. for six months. First we had to go to the Foreign Relations Department of the Federal Government in Mexico City to get passports for the Indians (Antonio and María). We had had pictures taken of the Indians separately because we thought that we would need a passport for each of them."

"The Chief of Foreign Relations asked if the Indians were going to travel together in the U. S. A. I said, 'Yes.' He replied, 'You only need one passport then. It will cost you much less if you get pictures of them together. You can go down to the corner and up on the third floor is a studio where you can get pictures of them together."

"We went down to the corner building and entered into the elevator. It was a self-service elevator. Antonio and María had never seen an elevator before. I pushed the button for the Third Floor and the elevator started up very slowly so the Indians did not realize what was happening. However, when the elevator stopped with a jerk on the Third Floor, Antonio grabbed María and cried, 'The building is going down in the ground!'"

"When we came back to the elevator I said, 'We will go back down now on the elevator.' Antonio said very emphatically, '¡No, no, es muy peligroso!' -- 'No, no, it is very dangerous.' I said, 'OK, we will walk down the stairs.' I was thinking, 'When we go to the American Embassy we may have to go up to the 22nd Floor. We'll see what happens.'"

"Back at Foreign Relations we started working on the passport. The Chief of the Department then said, 'This young man has never done his military service. In order to finish this passport you will have to go to the "Pentagon" and get a special permit from the General in charge of your area of the country.' He gave us the General's name and we took a taxi to the 'Pentagon.' After waiting three hours we were ushered into the General's office, only to have him inform us that we had to see a different General. After waiting another two hours we were admitted into the second General's office, only to have him inform us that we would have to see a General on the next floor above. We finally were admitted to this third General's office. Again we received the same runaround. The same thing happened with the fourth General. Finally the fifth General said he could take care of us, but that he could not do it until the next day."

"The next day we went back and the General told us to come back the next day. The next day when we went into the general's office he was really angry. He pounded the table with his fist and said vehemently, 'This Indian man is thirty years old and he should have done his military service when he was eighteen! We should throw him in prison!' Needless to say, poor Antonio was frightened half to death. He could see himself rotting in one of the terrible prisons he had heard about."

"After the General had ranted for about five minutes I thought, 'He cannot do anything to me unless I hit him.' So I said to him, 'Shut up!' He looked at me in surprise and I again said, 'Shut up!' I then said, 'Señor General, you know as well as I do that a new law was passed this year making it possible for a young man like Antonio to leave the country, providing he is back in the country by January 1 to do his military service.' I continued, 'The governor of my state is here in the capital city and I talked with him this morning. I'll go to him and if necessary I will go to the president of Mexico. I want that permit!' the General said, 'Espere un momento,' -- 'Wait a moment.' He went into the back office and in about five minutes he came back with the permit. Needless to say, I breathed a sigh of relief."

"We finished up our work at Foreign Relations and went to the U. S. Embassy for the necessary visas. The lady in the Visa Department on the First Floor said, 'You will have to go up to the 22nd Floor to get a special permit to travel in different areas of the U. S."

"Antonio and María crowded into the back corner of the large elevator where Antonio grabbed the pipe railing with both hands and closed his eyes. Antonio and María were dressed in their native Chamula costumes, and the Mexicans that crowded into the elevator looked at the Indians and smiled and shook their heads. Some of them asked, 'What is the matter with these Indians?'"

"After getting the visa on the 22nd Floor we walked up to the restaurant on the 23rd Floor and out on the balcony. Antonio and María really jabbered to each other in their San Andresero Dialect. When my wife and I talked together we spoke in English; when we talked to the Indians we spoke in Spanish. This talking in three languages caused many people to turn their heads during our travels in the States."

"When we were back into the streets, Antonio turned to me and said, 'Don Ray, how is it? We get in that little room and then the building goes up and down and then we get out right where we want to?' I replied, "it isn't the building that goes up and down, Antonio, it is the elevator. It is pulled up and down by cables.' He shook his head and I thought he understood. How wrong I was you will see later."

"When we arrived in Niagara Falls we wanted to take the Indians over to the Canadian side to get a better view of the falls. The Border Officials said that if we left the U. S. we would have to go to Ottawa to get a new entrance visa. We said, 'Forget it, we will see the falls from the American side."

"We walked out on the big platform high above the river where we could see the falls up the river, and far below us was the boat 'Maid of the Mist.' I went and bought tickets for us to go down the elevator to the level of the river. I said to Antonio, 'I have tickets for us to go down the elevator to the river.' Antonio walked over by the elevator room and looked down, down to the little room at the lower end of the elevator. In between there were just steel beams connecting the upper and lower rooms. He shook his head emphatically and said that no way would he go down that elevator. I said, 'But Antonio, we don't want to waste 25¢ for each of these tickets, and after all, you and María want to see the ice and snow down by the river.' He asked, 'Are you going?' 'Certainly,' I replied. He stood and thought for a number of minutes and then said, 'All right.'"

"We crowded into one side of the elevator where we could see better. As the operator kept up a running conversation about the depth of the falls, the number of gallons of water per minute, etc., I translated, and Antonio kept looking down toward that little room below. He was holding onto my arm with both his hands, and as we went down, down, he began to shake more and more. I thought, 'What is wrong with him?'"

"Finally he said, with a break in his soft voice, 'Don Ray, how far can those cables up there stretch before they break?'"

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