The Man of La Manga!
Ariba! He appears again.
There had been about a
5-year gap when i actually had not heard the voice or even knew with any certainty the location or whereabouts of Michael
Hager or his wife Sherry.
I knew by his own accounts
sometime prior to September 1998, Michael had made a fateful decision, which would supplant for all practical purposes the
normal freedoms the average American would enjoy. It would change his course of involvements with those that loved and were
close to him, his family and two sons, but it was also not mis-cast, nor was it not inevitable.
It would lead to a period
of an underground lifestyle for over 5 years. Where we had once "made a run for the border" for Tacos, Michael had made a
literal dash, in hopes of Old West Predecessors before him. Gone South, escaping into the Mexico badlands, via Nogales, Arizona and
a cautious if not surreptitious life.
As Michael had recounted
to me sometime early in 1998 he had made a decision perhaps consistent with one who had not fully forsaken the momentums and
exceptions to living within "legitimate" means to acquire compensations. His choice of "services" were ones, which many of
almost equal creativity and disdain for secular disciplines have taken. Living in Arizona, its proximity to its own environment
of entrepreneurial endeavors, Michael attached himself again to the risky and rewarding? World of transporting
Marijuana. It might have been the low road to those of righteousness looking in and for Michael Hager, already 50; he had
no reason to claim inexperience or lack of wisdom. It was and always is about choice, especially when any of us become enamored
to the apparent "ease" and access such opportunities afford.
As, it has been with Michael,
almost wondrously and maddeningly so, he paid a hard price, his unfoldment as follows, also includes his paradoxical Nature
to find purpose and be a recipient of great graces and bear hardships.
Still it is the story of
the human and the divine, not intended to be opposing forces, but certainly if not oddly playing out in the landscape of free
will and providence...and eventually, the "Man of La Manga." was born.
Michael, quite characteristically
was easily able to embellish about himself and his experiences. He told me he had fallen for a "ploy" at a DEA (Drug Enforcement
Agency) checkpoint on a Missouri Highway, advising of an ahead stopping, which inspired those with contraband, to make
Michael's reasoning to
pull over at the "previous" exit, played right into, the agency designs to dupe the "guilty" one (holding) to such a precise
Sure enough, they were
waiting, Michael commenting, the drug sniffing dog started to do a "Mexican hat dance" around their rented truck full of and
secreted with 150 lbs of illegal contraband.
Michael, i had already
know by picking him up from a Tucson County Jail once for some minor offense was hardly inclined to Prison. In fact, that
night i went to get him in Tucson, he did not even wait for me at the Jail, preferring to flee and amble in the night on his
immediate release. I found him, gasping and nervously running alongside an unlighted road. Hardly, a picture of a accommodating
or matter of fact business as usual prisoner. I knew this bust would put him on the ropes and in drastic measures.
As indicated, Michael himself
assessed his circumstances and had made a decision to elude authorities and avoid attempts to prosecute him. Unknowing of
any real plan to speak of, he took refuge in one of Arizona's lake regions and camped out, and even there, narrowly missing
Back, in Tucson, he had
also only been moments and literally several feet from being captured, federal Marshals, bounty authorities and one's inner
aversions and fears soon catapulted him to seek the outlaw's haven and hope for some type of life on the run. Fortunately,
Hispanic and fluent in the language, Mexico was a had to go, geographical.
No mere Border town would
suffice, Michael had learned of the coastal towns and villages of San Carlos on the Gulf of Mexico and 300 miles from the
On arriving in San Carlos,
bereft of much currency and raining conditions with no place to go, Michael with Sherry parked in their recently purchased
older used Van alongside Hotel Fiesta in San Carlos. As their "luck" would have it, they were waken up by locals who informed
them, they had to leave, " a hurricane" was coming.
As is often the case when
we most need it, without trying to judge Michael's circumstances, mercy and intervention comes in the helping assistance
and overtures of others. Such as it became, Michael was informed of a nearby stretch of ocean, known as the fishing village
of La Manga, where groups of Mexican Nationals and families had carved out their livelihoods and home fronts in makeshift
living quarters, vehicles and tents. In other words, a place Michael and Sherry could fit right in.
One thing that was a credit
to Michael and Sherry, and certainly an asset in this situation was their almost complete willingness to live amongst, and
thrive in communal and cooperative environments. Michael was very endearing to people and could make do, as Sherry also, in
circumstances and with few resources, in ways that most people would become dismayed by.
Here, in the humble and
relenting sanctuary of La Manga, Michael quickly was accepted by the community of families and actually became an advocate
and organizer, even a representative of the Village in local matters.
Mexico is one of those
places that can absorb a man's past and if you can embrace and liken yourself to its culture it can quickly and easily make
you one of its own. That was no more true than here in La Manga and what began as a haven, had lovingly befallen to Michael,
Sherry and at least one of their sons, home and in a larger sense loving, nurturing community. Here Michael, may have been
openly known as, "EL Renegado" (the renegade) but had come to represent the hopes of these people, their advocate and
in his own heart had found rest, safety and a true purpose.
Michael and Sherry would
spend 5 years in that Village and while Michael discovered renewal and won hearts over as his was also softened, he must
of had a measured type peace.
For he knew, as all who
have lived with the uncertainty, the possibility that some type of disagreement, some form of an enemy or dislike, even
a remote encounter, could come at any moment, could dislodge him, and lead to an unraveling and yet..... He remained.
I have had the perspective
that while Mike, may have seemingly eluded some "sentence," he was certainly "serving,".... to, much good in La Manga.
Only in magnificent complexities that higher mind can see, does the true and just unfoldment of God's purposes outplay itself.
Where can any of us sit and evaluate the rightness and season of another's merits or justice. Though, i knew nothing
of Uncle Mike's doings for those silent years, i would occasionally offer up my prayer and let my thoughts soar to him, missing
his flame and spirit, though not relinquishing his presence.
Little, did i know God
and Universal mind had perfect presence to place Michael, precisely where he could serve and be served most. How perfect is
thy plan, how amiss we humans can be in our knowing, how great is our need in understanding.
Five years had gone by
for Michael and Sherry and as much loved as they were in La Manga, they were Americans. They loved their freedom and
for all its beauty the shore kissed Village of La Manga offered, they were in an exile of their own making. Soon the
currents of life would come, and upturn their lives again.
Word would come through
their youngest son, Josh, back in Tucson that the U.S Attorney had sent an official letter indicating, courts had determined
the seizures and arrests, brought about through DEA checkpoints were invalid. The searches were deemed unconstitutional. Those
arrested, incarcerated for, or under indictment for, were to be freed or have their charges dismissed.
Michael was for all practical
purposes a free man again.
An amazing turn of events
and an almost completely rare occurrence and Michael, after having to get over that it was a ruse, a government trap could
experience an unbelievable sense of relief and grace. Even so, more completely compelling circumstances and personal challenges
would await his tired and tested soul.
In a way Michael's life
was a clearing to the return to the borders of the North.
U.S. soil, freedoms renewed,
families in both directions, he must have felt almost supremely confident, he too had earned his keep in the desert and it
had sent him back free, he was unencumbered, even Victorious and yet he was carrying within him yet another axe to bear.
It was about this time,
i had finally received that call i knew would eventually come, 5 years since i last spoke with him, i heard the voice on my
an awning garage in South
Lake Tahoe. It was Michael. "Heffe?," i said to his confirming response and knowing him like i did it was not really any surprise.
He had splashed back
on the scene; his announcements were bittersweet in the truest sense between friends. He had offered as only Michael can,
that he had emerged from a life on the lam with a fantastic occurrence of Karmic grace, he was free and on the other, that
he had been diagnosed with stage 4 inoperable throat cancer.
Michael, after all this
time had the side by side helpings of vindication and something I can't even describe and yet to me he was expressing himself
as i always knew him, compassionate and self revealing.
I knew with Michael, in
spite of what was happening to him, he had much to share. There was still adventure in his voice; he would not just give himself
over to any conventional sense of diagnosis. I would learn, he would go after and embrace every inexhaustible means to assist
himself. He was after all, a counterculturalist. He was also calling us, to come and be before him and i knew with Michael,
traveling across the desert was all that would suffice.
Upon seeing Michael, he
quickly leveled a first launch upon my graying hair and told me, i was an old man, as he held out to hug me. That was like
Mike also, he might have been on the ropes, but he was never shy or unreservered about lobbing, his grenades
into the barracks of your persona, testing you and yet very welcoming and grateful for your presence.
He certainly still had
the "spirit" i knew in him.
This whole experience in
La Manga, Mexico seemed to consume him, in spite of his regimen of alternative therapies and diet, his energy and life
force elevated when he spoke of his experiences and role to the people at the fishing village.
It was obvious Michael
was intent on getting a party of his friends to go back to La Manga with him. I was probably the most reluctant, probably
because i must have some past life aversion to even being in Mexico, but overcoming that and "sharing" in my friends’
wishes was well enough..
Clearly, Michael's energy
and anticipation increased as we made the long (it seemed) journey to San Carlos. I traveled with a Doctor, a friend of Michael's
from Tucson and a Youth Probation officer, from Santa Cruz, Calif in one vehicle as we followed Michael, his wife Sherry and
We certainly played the
part of somewhat soft American's as we lamented about the length of the drive and the frequency we seemed to be getting "shaken
down" for increasing toll costs as we traveled deeper. Finally, we did arrive later at night and i myself felt unimpressed,
having difficulty being this far immersed in Mexican soil.
We did get to the following
day, to the Village of La Manga, where Michael had become so fully integrated with and was obvious he was hardly removed.
It may have been a complete
makeshift community on a beautiful shore along the Gulf of Mexico, but Michael was clearly in his element. He would drive
in his Bronco, stopping it seemed at every home or hut, to greet, embrace and visit with the people there. All of them seemed
equally pleased and in joy to see him.
It reminded me of how Indians
viewed the way of the white man and how Michael was living in the way of the human being.
Indians would say, "The
White Man, greets everyone, stops for no one." I knew what that meant now, watching Michael, get out of his vehicle
each time, somebody noticed or waived to him. We must have taken hours to drive through the small stretch the Village encompassed.
I could see why Michael
and his family had become transformed by this land and its people. You kind of surrendered into the peace and blend of ocean,
mountain and sky. It serenaded the soul and drew you inside to a more simple, less crazy way of being.
Michael had told me he
served as an "interpreter" and found initial favor with the village families helping to speak on behalf and negotiate for
the people living there.
In fact, Michael eventually
became positioned to "broker" the sale of "hectares" or 2.45-acre parcels of land on behalf of the stakeholders. He had
experience from his stint in the services as a medic and had helped the community there as well as doing what he could to
modernize supplies for their fishing vocations.
Michael, spoke over and
again of his visionary hopes he held for this Village, its people and its lands. Obviously, it was a great grace and
find for Michael to be placed in an opportunity to be able to find such purpose and receive such great love.
I began to wonder why Michael
did not decide to move back here and live, so clearly was the benefit of living in balance of serving and needed, the beauty
and simplicity of life here and the people.
Michael, confided to me,
he felt equally desiring to be near his son Josh's family and grandchild back in Tucson and if that had not been the case
he would be here in La Manga.
Either way, Michael had
showed us and shared with each of us there what was so special to him and something words cannot do. Even greater was seeing
Michael finding his Joy and Peace and the eagerness he met with each step he took on that shore, each time he draped his arm
around these easily loving and accepting souls, each time he dropped of a toy, he had brought for the Village children.
It was a good match, a
divine match if you would. Circumstances may have put unknown forces in play, but it brought out the best in Michael. I think
we really glimpsed into the true nature of Michael's spirit, the desire of his soul. I think he knew he found it there also.
There is an inner home and a heavenly home and here in this humble community of people Michael might have known both. He did
what he always tries to do...to share it with others. Thank You, Michael!