Iggy and Cal are the two ghosts who haunt the Paso Robles Library/City Hall building. They bubbled up with the steaming sulfur water during the 2003 earthquake, which reawakened the long-dormant hot spring in the building’s parking lot.
Iggy is the ghost of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the concert pianist who was like a rock star in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1914, he found relief for his overworked arms and hands in Paso Robles’ hot springs and mud baths. Cal was a California grizzly bear, who in earlier days eased his arthritis in the hot spring.
The other night they sat in the darkened library discussing the proposed Walmart store in Atascadero. Cal said, “It’ll draw swarms of shoppers like a bottlebrush bush draws bees.”
“Yes,” said Iggy, “Atascadero city officials predict they’ll have to expand a freeway overpass, build roundabouts and improve streets at a total cost of S4.5 million, but so far Wal-Mart hasn’t volunteered to write the check.”
“Well,” said Cal, “I’ve been studying this. I have figured out how Atascadero officials can get money out of Wal-Mart. All they’ve got to do is stop talking about stuff like ‘traffic fees’ and ‘road improvements.’ Instead they should just say ‘bribes,’ or maybe the Mexican word for bribes.”
“What!” said Iggy. “Bribes? You’re kidding?”
“No,” said Cal, “I read in the April 22 Tribune that investigators discovered Wal-Mart paid $24 million in bribes to build stores all over Mexico. So now Walmart de Mexico is Wal-Mart’s biggest foreign subsidiary. Bloomberg Businessweek says Wal-Mart now has 2,123 stores in Mexico.”
“So,” said Iggy, “asking Wal-Mart for bribes is the way to get a Walmart store?”
“It worked in Mexico,” said Cal.
Cal also said, “And I have some advice for the Department of Homeland Security. The April 24 Tribune said the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico living in the U.S. has ‘dropped significantly.’ Five years ago, we had nearly 7 million. Now it’s only 6.1 million.”
“Really, a reverse migration,” said Iggy. “Did it happen because U.S. jobs dried up, or because some states passed anti-immigrant laws, or because border patrolling got stricter?”
“None of the above,” said Cal. “It’s because of all those new Walmart stores in Mexico. Mexicans no longer have to cross the border to get those everyday low prices. If our immigration officers would bribe Mexican officials to allow more Walmarts, the illegal immigration problem would be solved.”
“I think,” said Iggy, “your keyboard is defective.”
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.