Coming to Amerika

We have not always had the best of attitudes toward the United States. Many of us expats dis the U.S. pretty hard. Usually there is a defensive tagline that goes something like this, “If I didn’t have a kid(s) and family in the U.S. I would never go back”.  There is a lot to be irritated about the U.S. starting with its current President; but were not going there this morning.

We have been in the United States for about 5 weeks. The end is not in sight, however we are getting ready to head from Las Vegas to Capitan, New Mexico where we have a house with a couple of garages.

Mexico has been our primary country for about eight years. We have turned the corner on calling ‘home’ the U.S. to ‘Mexico is home’ for some time now. Let us be honest here Amerika is not all bad. Of course we enjoy seeing family – but there is more….

We become sports fans each time we visit enjoying the hundreds of channels of television – mostly its sports offerings. We saw all the important futbol games from the World Cup. We watched a lot of tennis matches from the U.S. Open. Today is the last day of the British Open. We have been getting up as early as 1 AM local time to enjoy the action ‘Live’.

Of course we could bring in television from the U.S. to Mexico – but we do not. So there it is.

Then there is the shopping which starts even before we arrive stockpiling wants at my sister-in-law’s house in Las Vegas. I should mention here she is an angel who represents us in the U.S. and she and her husband open their home to us, often for more than a month, like this time. By the time we are ready to leave their guest room is piled high with the many acquisitions we have garnered – things nearly unobtainable or certainly more expensive purchased in Mexico.

We will avoid providing an embarrassing laundry list of all the things we have bought. They include things we really need for sure; and a lot of things we could live without – but why? I have seven new and used guitars. As Anita reminds me when I get a notion to do something I get all the stuff! So guitars, amplifiers, strings, capos, string winders, truss rod tool and assorted others, foot pedals, cases, cables, books and media lessons etc.

So the U.S. is a treasure trove of things – we must give them that. The diverse restaurants and food items are astounding – but we will say the food is healthier and better in Mexico, just less choices.

The roads we drive on in the U.S. are remarkable compared to a high percentage of terrible roads in Mexico – there is that and the fact that the greater demand for safely operating vehicles and drivers is a benefit here.  One would never consider using a cell phone on the roads in Mexico – too many hazards to be on constant watch for. The roads are so good in the U.S. the cars almost drive themselves (and they are working on that).

We certainly do not feel safer here in the U.S.  The principal question when encountering others here remains, “Is it safe to be in Mexico? Don’t I risk having my head cut off?” Bottom line is the world is a dangerous place to live these days. We are in a fortress of safety here at my Sister and Brother in-law’s. People here spend more monthly on security than the average Mexican family spend on groceries. It is more likely a cop will come to your aid here – but not to be counted on. Security systems are a growth industry here – have yet to even see one in our parts of Mexico.

To sum it up the occasional visit to Amerika makes life south of the border more livable. My brother-in-law and his mate that moved sight unseen to Puerto Escondido a year and a half ago is just days away from returning to the U.S. Mexico did not take for them. The warning about not just packing up and moving to Mexico remains – truly it is not for everybody.

The Calypso Couple continue as Mexican residents. It is highly unlikely that will change. We suggest if you are considering living in Mexico to realize a visit back to the first world now and again remains a good thing.  Stay Tuned!

A Happy Ending

Everybody loves a happy ending.  Here is one for you.

Recall back 7 months ago how we had a startling visit at Puerto Escondido from our friend’s son and his wife and one year old. They arrived unannounced to work with us on the beach house for a couple of months. They had taken a 17 hour bus ride from Xico to Puerto ostensibly to help work on the beach casa. We had not authorized such a trip. Because we were scheduled to leave town we had to put the little family on a bus going back home (here in Ursulo Galvan, Xico) nearly immediately.

The reporting of said mix-up (READ HERE) caused a flap with one of our next-door neighbors here in Xico. She apparently misunderstood the situation to the point of her being labeled a total wacko.  It was actually quite ugly. Even now reading through the comments from that entry – wow!

So anyway life has moved on these seven months. When we returned here about a month ago, the main characters involved in that situation resolved the mix-up (save the next-door neighbor who there is no rational talking to). The youthful worker assured us he would pay us for the costs of him and his family’s miss-adventure. We gave that no thought realizing a couple hundred dollars plus was pretty much unobtainable for him.

We had written it off as a learning experience well likened to a quip provided by one of our then commenters, ” ‘Música pagada no toca buen son’. (Music paid in advance will not sound good) — If you are going to have a wedding celebration and you hire the musicians, DO NOT pay for their service until the end of the celebration. You can pay half the price, or make and advance payment, but do not make a full payment in advance. You may regret it later.”

On a couple of occasions the worker and his family have visited us to reassure us of their commitment to reimburse us. The good news in his mind (and ours actually) was the fact that the quick return from the unauthorized excursion had enabled him to answer a call for a really good job. A job in which he would have missed the opportunity had he not returned when he did.

We were all happy to gather a positive from the ashes of the mess. Anita and I thought how terrific it was for him to find good in an otherwise not so positive situation.

Yesterday the young man came to me with the full amount of pesos owed. We were taken back not having expected to ever see those pesos again. A very pleasant surprise. Not so much about the money, but the fact that this young hombre by way of his good new job was able and willing to make all things right. Gives one hope and faith in young people. There are still some good ones out there.

Stay Tuned!

Happiness is a Warm Guitar

 

It is an oft used comedic scenario – for example: A couch potato decides he is going to take up jogging; get in shape. Before he takes one stride to that end he drives to Big Five or the local athletic supply place and buys a jogging outfit, an expensive pair of running shoes, a head band or three, one of those distance-covered watches, a couple water bottles, cooling-off jacket, rain gear, maybe some new sun-glasses…you get the idea.

Then the runner goes to the local high school track; after stretching and getting the headband just right he runs the equivalent of a 440 (that’s a quarter of a mile folks); gets winded; goes back to the car and returns home to the couch and the television. All that stuff will find its way to the bottom of his closet – thank you very much. It is humorous.

I mentioned a few Blog entries back that it was my intention to take up learning and subsequently playing the guitar. I wrote that I had a smattering of experience with this in my youth – now ready to enter the effort (read hobby) with fresh eyes and energy sort of speak.

So here is the update to that thus far. I have acquired the following: Two Seagull acoustic guitars; two Epiphone electric guitars; two Paul Reed Smith guitars and a Martin Back Packer guitar (for those moments when I an out of touch with my six aforementioned guitars). A small practice amplifier; a larger one that includes reverb, delay and 500 modeling settings; two hi-end guitar cables; three digital tuners (don’t ask); a slew of various guitar strings; a speed winder; more than 100 picks; and some upgrade electronics (pots, capacitors and resistors). And I am buying lesson programs at the speed of a Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar solo – Whew!

What Curves!

My current dreams are filled with fret boards, neck nuts, truss rods, bridges and head pieces.

Keep in mind I have yet to see ANY of this stuff as it is waiting for me at various locations in Capitan, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada. My son, my sister and brother-in law, my other brother-in-law and my next-door neighbor have all been enlisted to help get that stuff. I am sure right now they shudder at the appearance of an email from me?

I do not even want to check my credit card bill for a total of all this STUFF. Anita is in the background in wonder and not so great amazement kibitzing about how I better really get behind using all this stuff, albeit lovingly tolerant of an old man’s folly I think. Yikes!

Beautiful Bottom!

Today I plan to organize my closet here in Xico – relocate the tennis rackets, bowling balls, bags of golf clubs, baseball bats, gloves and balls – oh and the horseshoe sets in order to have space for my new hobby. More later….Stay Tuned!

Tortillas and Filthy Lucre

 

What expat hasn’t written about the Mexican tortilla – particularly the handmade jobs?

But, there is another kind – more like the grocery store variety north of the border, these are machine produced – the operation often looks like a franchise situation where one pays to have a machine and associated gear to have tortillas spewed out onto a conveyor belt and wrapped within a piece of paper in half – whole or even two kilos stacks.

They are deft at wrapping. I can never get them re-wrap so well.

My father-in-law (RIP) and I use to go to a Mexican Mall in Las Vegas, There we would buy hot tortillas and Mexican cheese. Then out in his car we would sit and eat the cheese enclosed by the hot tortillas.  It was kind of a ritual he and I had.

Making handmade tortillas is not a small task – one Anita does not relish to perform. In Puerto, just around the corner there is a woman that makes the handmade variety – a peso a piece (considerably more expensive). Homemade tortillas are usually larger than the machine variety – so just a count would not be fair. I am guessing you will get about 10 handmade tortillas in a half kilo – that for about 80 US cents. The machine flat bread is one-half kilo for 4.5 pesos or about 35 cents – either a bargain compared to the U.S. packaged tortillas.

16 count here this morning. Sometimes we get 20.

It seems universally at these tortilla sales operation they collect money with a plastic throw away glove on. They will stop and put on a glove before accepting any payment – period – no touching the filthy pesos.  It is their demonstration of proper hygiene. Funny that – in that there is usually a boy or two (shouldn’t they be in school right now) working on the machines – totally unsanitary . The machines would never pass OSHA muster I assure you.

But hey this is Mexico and tortillas are to Mexico what apple pie is to Amerika.

Homemade or off the conveyor they both taste better than the stuff NOB. Viva Mexican tortillas.  Stay Tuned!

 

Happiness is a Warm Gun

Recall the Beatles tune:

Happiness is a warm gun

Mother Superior jump the gun.
Happiness is a warm gun (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
When I hold you in my arms (Oo-oo oh yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (Oo-oo oh yeah)
I know no one can do me no harm (Oo-oo oh yeah)
Because happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm, yes it is, gun (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Well, don’t you know happiness is a warm gun, mama? (Happiness is a warm gun, yeah)

I am NOT FOR gun control and I wish Mexico would allow me to have my guns. What can I write – it is the libertarian in me (through and through). Guns help level the playing field between the innocent and the banditos.

There is my rant; and to mellow things out – these musicians do something seldom accomplished – the cover tunes are better than the originals! Five Steely Dan tunes (just let the Utube player run). The Paul Reed Smith guitar playing has me sold – I want one!

ENJOY!

Stay Tuned!

My Sister Died Today

On a personal note: My little sister died early this morning in her sleep; not unexpected. She had been battling cancer for a couple of years.

Life is not simple – it is complex – and one of the complexities is the division of life into fragments of longer or shorter length. It was not supposed to happen like this. My sister was 16 months younger than me – and being a woman – statistics would have you and I believe first my own death. But it did not happen that way. The youngest of three siblings leaves this mortal coil first.

Life is a great network of possibilities consisting of grasped opportunities and pitfalls for all the players. Every entity – every act – is part of the great manifestation.  Every living thing adds its note, its song, and its contribution through every moment of its existence. As we live our lives we leave our mark. Whatever the world may be like a hundred years and beyond from now, it will be influenced in part by what each of us has been, has said, has thought and has done. Thus the marks that my parents, my sisters, my children, my longtime mate, Anita, and I myself have made together and separately have helped shape the world. Truly my sister shaped some of the framework of my life and that of others.

My sister was imbued with ideals, dedication, and direction, determined to live at her highest and not to be swayed from her main aim – her Spirituality.

She was a good person; dare I say better than me. Very different than me. She followed her convictions and stuck like glue to her commitments. But at this moment this is about loss not our differences. For me Life will be different from here on out. I have learned over time that the playing field is not even. But I will continue to wonder WHY? And every day forward will miss knowing she is here.

Getting Connected

We had several emails and a couple bold commenters requesting details regarding the UHF radios we are using here in Xico and have used in Puerto as well.

I could write a lot about this but if you read the Reviews and Questions on Amazon’s site you will be well versed on what they can do and even how to connect-up.

AMAZON LINK HERE

We will show a few photos here in support of the above. We bought a couple of units in Mexico on an emergency basis.  They were each over $100.00 USD. However they are only $67.00 USD ordered through Amazon (free shipping) Current pricing. One Important note: be sure that the units are USA capable devices (these will have the highest possible output).

Television remote added to show size. The Radios are quite small and weather resistant.

We also purchased a high quality Ethernet cable-end tool (a bit spendy) as well as a cable checker (inexpensive). You will need CAT5 cable and connector ends too. Or figure your lengths and have some cables made at your favorite computer store. It is easy to get a flaky Ethernet cable or with some use they go bad – with the tool you can make repairs easily.

Start off as simple or complex as you want. Store bought cables will be fine as long as they meet length requirements. Remember one cable will go to the radio at the top of your mast. The other end connecting to your electrical power and nearby your computer and/or modem.

Sighting the radios in is relatively easy – especially for short distances (a few blocks or less). The radio signals are quite directional so be prepared to work at sighting-in when you get to distances of a a few kilometers to as much as 15 kilometers plus (approximately 10 miles).

In my latest installation I pointed both radios in the general area I thought would work. I did not have to move them – they came up to full power when turned on ;-) No guarantees you will be that lucky – just relating my experience.

The caveat is you must have some knowledge of networking. You will be setting some static IP addresses and assigning some values. That written there is a wealth of information and help on the Internet. Probably the Reviews ans Questions on the Amazon LINK will give you enough information to setup. And…

always happy to answer questions and help you get off the ground.

Stay Tuned and CONNECTED!

Making Radio Waves

My little corner workstation – Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, MX this foggy Sunday morning.

We are getting better with the radios.  I am after all an electronic engineer by education (and much practical experience I might add). The radios to which I refer are ones used to relay Internet connections.  We had a dandy installation between John and Jane’s place (recall the robber’s tienda they lived in across the way a couple of kilometers).

But alas those fun loving, persevering victims, enchanting fellow seniors  and good friends have escaped the house of ladones bounty, moving to safer digs in Coatepec. So we chopped a few sections out of our very tall bamboo mast; lowering the radio to communicate within the Hood and voila we garnered a connection with ease.

Tancho who reads and writes from a mountaintop in Pátzcuaro  turned us on to the possibilities of radioing Internet long distances (in excess of 5 miles). As communication possibilities develop the radios eventually become unnecessary – but before Internet comes to your neighborhood  they are a wonderful thing.

The catch for the Calypso Couple is having to maintain “mainstream” local internet connections at locations wherein we reside for 6 months or less only.  The service providers demand contracts and ongoing connections.  If there is one operating condition in the process of multiple abodes that irritates it is having to pay for ongoing services we do not use. So listen up all you potential part time expats – some of that can be foiled.

We pay for continued water and trash service as well as electric connections in three houses (not counting our storage warehouse in Capitan, New Mexico. You can see the problem – multiple Internet connections really add up and contribute to our services frustrations – hence the radios here in Xico.  We retired their need in Puerto securing a shared connection with our next door neighbors. By the way when we are at our New Mexico casa our neighbor and friend George allows us a logon – ah George he is a terrific fellow in so many ways.

The point here is there are alternative methods to being strapped with ongoing service requirements. It just takes some Yankee ingenuity and friends.

Last night we watched our Cruz Azul soccer team play to a tie on HD television (free air no less). Being connected to the rest of the world makes living outside of the United States a more comfortable situation – rest assured.

We are settling in. Yesterday was the annual Capilla at the top of the drive celebration.  The weather did not cooperate. It was a small and mostly peaceful event (smaller and more peaceful than previous years).

It is cold and foggy this Sunday morning. I will go read my electronic copy of yesterday’s Washington Post and maybe flip through the electronic June Esquire magazine until my Guapa Señora rises. Life is Good – Stay Tuned!

On-Line in Xico

Dateline Xico, Veracruz: We finally obtained an Internet connection. Will not go into the details.

“Acuario” is aquarium in Spanish – interesting choice of words. I suppose the local Internet Cafe is somewhat fishbowl like ;-) Our connection is at home in Ursulo Galvan.

In fact there have been so many details recorded and then abandoned during the hiatus. As mentioned on a number of occasions we have written well past the combined word count of 8 books since the inception of this Blog almost exactly 8 years ago (Happy Anniversary to us).  Too much information one might say. In those uncollected volumes the protagonist (in this case me) is so determined to record every detail of his personal history that his writing becomes ludicrously complicated and confused and yet he has barely even touched on the music years.

Recording his entire existence proves to be an impossible task, as there is limitless information that is always being added to. Truly digital lifestyle monitors (read Blogs) may have their benefits. But surely in the end there is simply so much information that it will be impossible to analyze and the accumulation of data will become an end in itself? Dear diary – so on and so forth. This never was the intent. We are here to talk about a foreigner couple living in Mexico.

The news in short:  just one half hour from arriving at the Calypso Casita here in Ursulo Galvan Colonia, in the city of Xico, state of Veracruz we encountered a freak tornado like weather event that included a record sized hail – the mass of which pummeled the Jetta, destroying the windshield and applying enough dimples to severally reduce market value at a time when we had just hours before been discussing selling said mostly pristine low mileage vehicle. In a few brief moments the decision was made – we will keep said burgundy dimpled Jetta until its end. She no longer shows the value in which we were vested up until that freak storm. Oh well new cars are just something to worry about.

The hail storm was truly frightening. Like one of Mother Nature’s other blunt power reminders the earthquake, hail is powerful, threatening, and nearly impossible to retreat to safety from with its short notice and intense wrath. It was a brief storm the likes of which we have never experienced. In the aftermath we observed hundreds of cars with substantially more damage than our Jetta sustained – to its credit. In the news the following day it was reported 2400 vehicles were damaged as well as some destruction of fixed features like houses, buildings, signage and more.

The good news is we arrived safely to a secure casita. Other than six months of dust and a few home invasion leaves from our neighbors encroaching tree all was well.

We are adjusting to new temperatures and of course rain – lots of rain. As memory serves the last time we spent 6 months here it rained at least a little every day without fail. A repeat performance seems to be headed this way.

It is assured it will be a noisy weekend here as our local Catholic shrine at the top of our drive is celebrating its existence – party on!

 

Stay Tuned!

Life Update

We had planned on heading to Xico, Veracruz (our other home) two Sundays past. Recalling our return to Xico last year, it was cold and rainy leaving us wishing we had stayed in Puerto longer. So we cancelled the early departure and will remain here until the 27th – two weeks longer than originally planned.  Follow the sun – the Calypso’s path.

Our Beach Across from Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido

Jane, half of our friends John and Jane who are living near Xico wrote spontaneously the other day, “Burrr! you two are lucky you did not come back yet”

Because we were nearly packed up to leave we are living a bit awkwardly, not wanting to unpack. Will try and plan this better next year.  In the meantime we are laying low as the town is FULL of tourist enjoying our fair pueblito.

Over on the other side of town Anita’s brother is packing up to head to the States for two months. Sadly he and his mate have decided to leave Puerto Escondido after living here a year and a half. Brother-in-law’s daughter is with child. Grand-parenting is calling, giving him the desire to live closer to Las Vegas and daughter. He will be missed.  We enjoyed having family across town.

We have been shopping online for guitars (yes – more than one). At 67 we have decided to revisit an old hobby with more time to devote to it – time will surely be needed. Author, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Ten thousand regardless of one’s possible inherent talent. We are shooting for something less than being a master at guitar playing.

Willie Nelson’s Classic 1969 Martin “Trigger”

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent: Not Important is claimed.  

This suits me ;-)

I called upon my calculator which revealed 10,000 hours practicing 4 hours a day is nearly 7 years’ time – ouch! Let’s just work on being able to scratch out Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a goal.

“Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
The whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
And you can tell that’s true…”

I leave you with this appropriate cartoon about Jimi Hendrix shopping for guitars (he did not have Amazon, Ebay or any other computer shopping place)

Peace – Stay Tuned!