But Mama, that’s where the fun is.
– B. Springsteen
I remember chatting with a family friend years ago about one of my trips down into Mexico to work with the churches and orphanages in and around Hermosillo. He said he’d never go down to Mexico, for any reason, because he couldn’t carry a gun there. At the time, I didn’t understand his feelings. I’d been to Mexico time after time after time on both vacation trips and church trips, and not only did I not see any reason to avoid Mexico because you couldn’t be armed, I saw no reason to be armed in Mexico (or, if I’m honest, Arizona as well. Hey, I was young and stupid.).
I knew Mexico. I knew what to avoid, and how to not act like a dumb Norteamericano. In other words, I knew how to avoid the acting stupid and going to the stupid places. Also, I was with church people, so the “Stupid people” part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of.
The Farnam Rule runs into trouble, though, because a significant part of the fun stuff in our lives is usually stupid things done in stupid places with stupid people. For years, the best place to go for New Mexican in Phoenix was in a fairly stupid place, as was one of the best Mexican bakeries. You knew it, you accepted it, and you balanced the risk and the reward. About 10 miles away from where I am sitting and writing this, there are a dozen or restaurants, all of which are in a town that is the epicenter for violent crime in our county.
Am I hungry for la verdera cosa when it comes to Mexican cuisine? You bet I am*.
Am I willing to go to stupid places at stupid times to do non-stupid things** surrounded by people who may or may not be stupid? Nope.
Stupid varies from person to person. What is safe for me may not be safe for others, and what is safe for them might be sheer insanity to me. To quote the 20th century’s greatest philosopher, a man has got to know his limitations.
If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.
– Some old Chinese guy
Update: Thinking more about this statement, “I was with church people, so the ‘Stupid people’ part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of,” it’s not actually true in this instance. Church people in church or in their usual neighborhoods are not stupid, but church people dropped into someplace that’s outside of their comfort zone can do very, very stupid things. Yes, the chances of doing tequila shots off a stripper goes WAY down when you’re with (most) church people, but the chances of being blissfully ignorant about how dangerous the world is goes way, way up.
Stupid is a relative term.
* Here’s a hint: If they don’t have corn tortillas available and there’s no cabbage or radishes for toppings, it ain’t a REAL Mexican taco joint. It may be good, but it ain’t the real thing.
** Eating tacos is never, ever stupid. Ever.