Monday, October 11, 2010

"Ex-pat Extraordinaire"

The blogger I once rather crudely referred to as the thermometer up the backside of ex-pat life in Antigua has been apprehended and deported in the last few days, and the town suddenly feels a bit like a room which no longer has an elephant in it.

A Guatemalan friend of mine once had the misfortune to act as a real estate agent for 'Don Marco' at a time when he was looking for a new crib. These were occasions when he tended to use his blog to complain bitterly about Chapin landlords, which smokescreened the fact that his tribe were moving on with unpaid rent and uncompensated damages to the property left behind in their wake.

Anyway, amidst the smalltalk, my friend happened to confide that she only has one child, a teenage daughter, and 'Mark' responded by telling her that she must be a real codo, because he has ten kids and there's nothing that any of them could want for. This has to be one of the smaller ironies left behind in the ruins of this proud southern man's reputation.

As a final few comments dribbled into GuateLiving, I was amazed to see that someone still thought it an appropriate forum to recommence the debate about their dishonest, soap-stealing Guatemalan lackeys. Others have been moping around swapping email addresses and promising to stay in touch, like employees handed their pink slips at Enron.

Amdist sentiments ranging from Who Moved My Cheese? to outright luto, a minority of commenters have been daring the delete key of GuateLiving's new underage administrator by tendering tales from the darker side of its erstwhile author's local notoreity — some of them sneaky enough to link to information offsite — including nights on the office couch after booze-fuelled poker games in which Cassman juggled his "three bitches" on his iPhone, and from which he was eventually ejected. Hearsay has it that one of these "bitches" was a young compatriot of mine with a penchant for drive-by dissings of the indigenous population. Meanwhile the refrigerator at the defunct hotel on the road to Alotenango which was to be the Cassmans' final hideout, was reportedly getting emptier by the day.

But really, gambling, infidelity, alcoholic excess and bad parenting are all very reprehensible, but also quite ordinary misdemeanours. As I writer I find human beings that much more interesting when they are sitting on the edge of the abyss looking down; before the start of the long tumble into infamy.

And so posts like this one — where 'Don Marco' took his waiting spider persona out into the real world, ominously 'channelling his inner liberal' with the help of a puro (Honduran, not Cuban of course) and a snifter of Zacapa Centenario — were a particular creepy pleasure. How he revelled in hiding in plain sight as the black-clad agentes of the PNC hovered ineffectively.

I'd be lying if I said GuateLiving hasn't been just a little fascinating. At times it was hard to tear one's eyes away from (in a car-crashy kind of way, as my mate Scott once observed), and in some ways still is, as, like the proverbial headless chicken, it continues to run around offering free nachos con lomito at El Muro several days after that establishment's most recent champion has been carted off by the FBI. Could we not have one last nostalgic indirect reference to the size of his tackle?

Anyway, readers will recall that for the first six months or so in Guatemala 'Mark' consistently played the victim, the conman forever conned by the locals, the racist forever paying the white man's price* How he entertained us with all those receipts of his. (Doña Chica must be missing him...)

But then a noticeable change occurred. Suddenly he was on the front foot, a man with a plan (at least a man with a business address) with all sorts of local knowledge and contacts up his sleeve. He even boasted of his ability to secure forged documents and extended his arms cybernetically to would-be retirees thinking of relocating to Guatemala, hinting at the ease of becoming an ex-pat entrepreneur for those who'd risk putting their IRA on the table; his table.

This sudden ascendency was fed by a soaring confidence: 'Don Marco' seemed to think he had the whole town eating out of his hand, but as is often the case with those who would openly bend our conscious minds to their will, he left open the barn door to his own raggedy subconscious, and as a creatively-inclined reader of the last few months' worth of the 'Mark Francis' perspective, there's really nothing more tantalising than a maturing hypocrisy.

I do feel sympathy for Cassman's stranded dependents, though not knowing 'the wife' in person, it's hard for me to think of her as anything other than either a sometime willing accomplice or a bit of a mula. Or indeed both of these things.

If they were Brits I'm sure the consulate would have already taken care of them, but then Mark was never a great believer in the helping hand of the state or the "culture of dependence" that it apparently fosters.

* If Cassman really had ever worked in a major bank or anywhere else in the service industry, he would know how it's common practice to charge different clients different fees based on criteria such as propensity to pay.


Begonia said...

Wow, two posts on Jeff Cassman! You are really loosening up. ;)

It is interesting to watch the expat community process this sequence of events from afar. I think that the blog has an interesting set of perspectives, and I'm glad to see them stepping into the blogging void.

One thing that I haven't heard on any of the blogs or the Nashville Post is any news of how the Cassmans might be faring right now. You are right, the US Embassy would hopefully step in to make sure they are taken care of.

Speaking of giving consideration to the family, I have to give the FBI and PNC some credit: It probably would have been easier for them to nab him in the early morning hours as he was asleep in his secluded Alotenango spot.They avoided creating a searing memory for the Cassman kids by apprehending their father when he was not at home.

I am willing to withhold judgment on Sarah Cassman for now. I don't know her history or her situation, or her reasons for allowing her husband to dictate their decisions. There might be some emotional or mental instability there that was present before she met him, or that was created after 14 years of being berated by a domineering, arrogant man who was extremely forceful in his opinions. Who knows.

norm said...

Mark er Jeff was a busted conman before he went south. In the US it is common practice to use a felon to catch other felons in exchange for consideration before the court. A spider web is used to catch other law breakers. From what I can tell, Jeff was down for maybe a year or two in jail for his dealings in the US but he had a large clan to support so why not do what they asked and avoid paying out a few years of his life to the system?
Why do I think this? He was just too high profile to be hiding from the US government. When I met him, we always sat in the same place at the RUM BAR, his conversations seemed to be off a list that was tailored for a wire. My natural lie detector was going off most of the time I was talking to him. His body talk was all wrong. He wanted fellow runners to think he was one of them. Too bold by half to be hiding from the government.
When I first lined up to meet him in Antigua, I had no set time, he did not know what I looked like yet he called out to me on the street by name. I figured him for a skip from reading his blog but from that second on I knew he was doing a little spider work-the US government has my photo from my passport, they were there to help. I even asked him about it and he said it was his great powers of deduction-bull shit from the word go.