Talking Trash

In our last Blog we reported the passing of our neighbor. The Mexicans have quite a ritual for the dead. A traditional Hispanic Funeral will consist of 3-4 days of services and vigils to honor and pray for the departed soul.

Our neighbor’s body was discovered on Sunday after 13 days missing. His daughter informed us this will not be an open casket event – too much time had passed.

Upon discovery the family and friends sprang into action immediately. I think part of the process of busying the principals (wives and children host the saddened friends) reduces the immediate pain or at least distracts it?

The Calypso Casita property fronts the roadway that leads to the neighbor’s casa. Theirs is a very narrow piece of land down along the river’s edge (southern end) of our contiguous lots. Literally hundreds of folks have come to pay their respects. Space is very limited in their little casita and outside beyond.

Many hombres crowd around on the roadway. They talk amongst themselves in little groups, often sharing an alcoholic beverage.

It seems the drink of choice is aguardiente. Essentially a Latin compound word for fire water – and it is that! Some very high percentage of grain alcohol and cane sugar liquor. Often it is mixed with Coke in a 32 ounce bottle. This is passed amongst the grieving throng – all hombres. And they spend hours drinking and chatting while the ladies sit quietly in a room with many chairs and a folding table displaying flowers, lit candles and the framed photo of Emilio.  Emilio’s mother, sisters, wife and children are seated sitting in shifts accepting condolences near the table. If you are there you will be offered tea.

It is as if it was all suddenly choregraphed, which I suppose is fact. Yesterday it started before daylight and finally became quiet around 2 AM. A few short hours later it started all over.

Before 8 AM I caught a glimpse of the casket passing by our house – This hand carried by a group of pallbearers. Groups of people started heading down the road on the way to the cemetery in Xico (about 4 miles away).

A Typical Mexican Cemetery – Colorful and Compacted

An hour and a half later a 4-wheeler ATV came up the road pulling a small trailer loaded with folded metal frames and plywood tops – components to be assembled as tables for the food to be served when the folks return from the cemetery.

It will be another long day of activity just beyond my office/bedroom window.

Earlier I went out and policed the area picking up many Styrofoam cups and beer bottles as well as food wrappers. Anita and I agreed leaving a garbage can out front might reduce the amount of trash just deposited where one is standing – we shall see.

Mexican people in the country-side handle trash differently than in the U.S. They quite simply throw their trash in the roadway with no thought for who or how it will be picked up from there. It is just the way it is.

It seems over the years this condition has lessened, but it is far from cured – far from it – especially a bunch of hombres drinking along the road for hours on end.

I suppose the thought of trash has diverted my own thinking regarding the loss of our neighbor – my friend. We will send up a few prayers for a successful journey from here to there. Rest in peace Emilio.

Stay Tuned!

Our Missing Neighbor Found

Sad to report that our neighbor was found dead. His body was discovered in the local river a ways down from here. Needless to say it is a very somber time here in the Hood. We will go to Coatepec and have a large print made and framed of the photo we took of him a while back and take it to the family.

Emilio will be missed.

Our Missing Neighbor

Xico, Veracuz, Mexico: Here in the Hood we are saddened that our neighbor Emilio Cortes is missing. We have lived next-door to one another for 9 years. We watched his daughter grow up.

MISSING!

 

Emilio has always been pleasant and a gentle man. He always greets me with Don John como esta? As he says this he extends his hand. We shake the gentle Mexican shake (Mexican men do not try and out squeeze the hand of the greeter like U.S. men – perhaps they are more secure in their strength?)

Thirteen days ago Emilio told his family he was going out for a little while. He has not returned. He has no history of this kind of behavior.

It should be noted Emilio has had a drinking problem over the years. It is possible he laid down somewhere and or was very inebriated to the point of having a memory problem?

Of course the family has checked with police, hospitals, dry-out hospices and known places he might frequent.

We want Emilio back home with his family.  PLEASE if you have any information contact us here or see the phone numbers on the flier enclosed.

A better photo of Emilio –

Emilio in 2012

PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS MAN

  Stay Tuned!

A Visit to the U.S. by Enrique Peña Nieto

Disclaimer Right Up Front: I am a libertarian or one believing in a political philosophy that upholds liberty and freedom as its principal objective. My public religious stand parallels this statement by the Dalai Lama, “My religion is kindness”.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, was just in Los Angeles, California politicking for better immigration policies that might improve migratory reform in the United States. His speeches included the declaration that the position of Mexico is very clear:  “We want to be a factor of cohesion, not of division, with full respect for the sovereignty of the United States.”

He stated there are those that believe and support exclusion, discrimination or opposition to diversity, “The future will show them their ethical error, time will show us right.”

We agree.

The objective typically of those wanting to migrate to the U.S. is quite different than those wanting to migrate to Mexico. In each case the advantages are quite different: move to the U.S. and get a better paying job; move to Mexico and get more bang for your retirement bucks. Mexico sees an influx of dollars (pesos or USD) from the expat invasion into Mexico.

The United States see dollars being paid out to foreigners that leave the country as well as jobs robbed and a lot of burden of support via social welfare programs, something Mexico pretty much disallows and any opportunity in that regard is minimal.

Mexico seems more bent on sovereignty in that unlike the U.S. it is not a country of diverse ethnicities. The U.S. has no restrictions on foreigners owning land for example. They are not worried that their melting pot society should be protected and preserved from foreign invasion; that is its foundation.

So some big difference in motivations and policies. I do not mean to oversimplify this very complex relationship of neighbors, but the principals have less meaning than the practical realities from my perspective.

Obama (I am NOT a fan) has just announced he may have to delay any immigration reform ”….at a news conference on Thursday, Obama was circumspect about the timing of his announcement, which will be controversial ahead of November midterm elections where Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.” Continuing his do nothing about anything policies.

Personally my next encounter with all the Mexican red tape will be connected to my becoming a citizen of Mexico. In the mean time we hope for better relations between these distant neighbors.  Stay Tuned!

Moto Review

We have not checked in on our Cruise Azul motor scooter for a while. Also have not reported that we sold our beloved Burgman 650 Suzuki scooter in New Mexico a month ago. It was impossible to get the Burgman in Mexico for a reasonable import fee.

For those that have not been here for these many years – six years ago come October we purchased our 2008 blue motor scooter (better known as Cruise Azul). It is a Chinese knock-off of a Honda 150 cc moto – however built with lesser quality in China as opposed to the more refined Japanese manufacturers – Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda for example.

That October we tossed the numbers around – We could buy FOUR China dolls for one of Honda’s finest. As is often the case, we opted for the cheap route – we would see how it goes. We bought two scooters at Chedraui grocery store in Coatepec. We bargained for a 1000 peso discount (each) buying two – an acquaintance came in with us. We each paid $950 USD out the door. Now we are six years down the road and about 5000 miles later. Not counting maintenance (regular or otherwise) that works out to about $14.00 a month – pretty cheap transportation.

Of course we only ride it 6 months out of the year – but even $28 a month is not bad for reliable transportation.

Did I just write ‘reliable?’ OK well there is some debate on that. With less than 5,000 total miles we have replaced and repaired: new front fork bearing; new battery; new brakes (twice –don’t ask); new brake cable; new starter motor; frame to motor bolt; new rear tire; some wiring problems and as of today a new clutch assembly.

This after doing a recommended 20 + point improvement and care set-up upon purchase. This included changing all hoses and tubes; change spark plug, solder some wiring connections, changing fuel filter assembly, modifying the exhaust system and the air intake box etc. Tear down to tighten and inspect bolts and belt etc.

It should be noted parts are more expensive in Mexico – labor much less as compared to the U.S. In Mexico we have never registered (not required) our 149 cc scooter – so a saving there as well as no insurance cost.

Cruise Azul Circa October 2008

We know a local (here in Xico) mechanic we like.  He is competent and slightly expensive (Mexican expensive). More on this later.

Cruise Azul in the shop yesterday

A little history: Cruise Azul has never left us stranded (mostly). We have had two INCIDENTS: twice we laid the scooter down stopped or nearly so, mostly due to sand.  On one of those spills I had bruised ribs and a scuffed ankle. Anita hobbled on crutches for two weeks (in fairness she has weak ankles). We are fully recovered (except for Senora Calypso’s ankle).

We drove 120 miles one day on Cruise Azul – a lot for a little scooter – sore butts later – not recommended. A scooter here is very handy when parking is difficult to find as well as economical fuel and maintenance as compared to driving a car. It also is a bit dangerous as compared to a car – all factors to consider.

Cruise Azul in particular has a large ‘landing’ space for groceries as well as a nice large box under the seat and ours came with an additional rear stuffing box large enough to hold a helmet or a bag or so of groceries (it has since been replaced with a new one). We could transport 3 bags of groceries or haul a 20 liter bottle of water and more. The design of our scooter is such that it really carries a lot – even more we think than the large 650 cc Suzuki Burgman – the key being a flat floor between the seat and front fork assembly.

We have money from the Burgman sale burning a hole in our pockets! What to buy now? We are again weighing the advantages and not of Chinese versus Japanese (or even German). We are also considering a 4-wheeler to get to-and-from our Rancho up in the mountains.  We would lose some parking advantages as well as needing increased storage area and perhaps more safety issues driving one of those on our Mexican highways. Also have thoughts about a rack on the back of the Jetta that would allow us to transport a scooter to and from Puerto and Xico – that would give us full time usage instead of 6 months per year.

In the meantime the scooter is in the shop: Oil and change; new clutch assembly, installed; throw in 4 Jetta sparkplugs we brought from the U.S.  Oh yeah – we asked the mechanic if he knew where we could get our plugs changed – right here was the answer – cool! His total bill for parts and labor – $1400 pesos or about $110.00 U.S.D.  Not bad ;-)

No fancy motorcycle stand in this garage!

I explained with Anita’s help that I was having a clutch problem – he went right to it.

The automatic clutch assembly is the round protrusion on the side of the rear wheel – attached by belt to a pulley of sorts that is on the crankshaft

We are good to go for another ??? miles. What to buy or do next? Lots to think about regarding two-wheel transportation (or even four). Stay Tuned!

Gone but Not Forgotten

Some of you may recall the trials of my brother-in-law’s move to Mexico, almost two years ago now (They arrived in Puerto early November 2012). We waited with anticipation his arrival to the new world here in Mexico – it took about the same time as a covered wagon might make the trip.

A More Stream Lined Rig Heading to the U.S.

But he and his girlfriend made it here to Xico and then in another painfully long 500 mile trip they made it to Puerto Escondido where the plan was to start a new life in Mexico. (Read more about their trip HERE)

Sans the Original Trailer a Faster Return was Achieved

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon

After a very short week they rented a more or less furnished apartment across town from us. Later they moved to a house not far from their first place. The house was not furnished. They started acquiring the stuff required to live – bed, refrigerator, washing machine, curtains, tables and chairs etc.

Wood working was taken up as a new hobby as well as guitar lessons (he gave me that bug). Life was good – or so it seemed.

Moving out of the United States is certainly not for everyone. We have painted it as “…not for the faint of heart”. It most certainly is a feint move.

The move did not take for my brother-in-law. A few days ago on Facebook he declared, “WE ARE NOW IN THE GOOD OLD USA! !!!!!!!” This was followed by an entry praising the fact the first place they went to upon arrival was McDonald’s restaurant. Even though they had some transmission trouble their trip back was far shorter than their trip here.  Fortunately his truck broke down while still in Mexico where typically car repairs are a tenth of the cost in Amerika.

I believe they made at least 5 trips back to the U.S. individually or collectively during the year and a half they lived in Puerto including a 2 month visit a couple of months ago.

So let’s examine what went wrong: The weather in Puerto May to September is pretty unbearable. It should be noted he is moving to Surprise, Arizona where the dynamic of heat and cold is far more dramatic. In our opinion no real gain there. However we had warned that we had never been in Puerto Escondido during these months; and still have not. It is well documented that we follow the sun avoiding the need for HVAC (heating or cooling).

In fairness his daughter avowed to never have children is expecting in October as is his son’s wife later in the year.  So two new grandchildren pulling on the heart strings is a kneejerk response to where one needs to be.

The couple initially announced to us they were looking to move more northerly in Mexico, Lake Chapala or Ensenada where more favorable weather might be obtained and a trip to the States is simpler and more affordable. Chapala was still not close enough. Ensenada which is really just Southern California without the frills was in the plan for a visit to scope out for living. This did not materialize after a stay in Surprise with his girlfriend’s son and his family of four.

Surprise, Arizona is now their new claimed residence, although we think they have not arrived there yet as they are camping about in Texas and New Mexico.

Their experience certainly reinforces the fact that moving to a new country without visiting it is never a good idea. Adapting to a new country is not always a success.  Of course we wish them the best with their new adventures in living and will miss them as Puerto neighbors and family across town. Stay Tuned!

 

Occasionally we depart from the main topic here Living in Mexico. Often it is to bring up some musical footnote either from my past life as a record producer and engineer or just to make a suggestion to listen up.

Those of you that know me, know I worked at Capitol Records for ten years in the middle 60’s to the middle and more 70’s (a very developing industry at that time – the music business – mostly before the marriage of video with audio.

I enjoyed my 15 plus years in the music business; was always amazed at having that much fun and getting paid well for it at that ;-) Even though 15 years represents perhaps half –no more- of my working life, it certainly had a better than half a career impact and the memories linger on with the help of the very nostalgic industry.

During my career in music I worked with such now greats as Barbra StreisandMiles Davis, George Benson, Ringo Starr, Al Jarreau,  George Harrison, Dave Mason,  John Lennon, Michael Franks and Sir Paul McCartney, to name a few.

Paul McCartney is four plus years older than me. His voice has gone from sweet tenor to gravely tenor (well call it course sand) – not baritone yet. The voice has come to a place where some of the old classic jazz standards are a good fit. And apparently a not often heard of, but a powerhouse in the industry, Tommy Lipuma put that together and came up with the idea of getting some great jazz and rock legends to help Paul make a terrific album.

So back in the begining of 2012 it all came together at Capitol’s Studio A – a live recording (and filmed video) “Kisses on the Bottom - the fifteenth studio album consisting primarily of covers of traditional pop music and jazz by Paul McCartney.”

Not only is it great music, but for me the video segments that included Studio A really tugged on my personal history as The Tower and the three studios A-B-C were where I spent a good deal of my life. If you can get a hold of Kisses on the Bottom Deluxe Edition or better still the video, “Paul McCartney: Live Kisses”

So yeah Live Kisses is produced by Grammy winning producer Tommy LiPuma, conducted by Alan Broadbent, with the talents of Al Schmitt in the control room, Diana Krall at the piano, John Clayton, Karriem Riggins, John Pizzarelli on guitar, Anthony Wilson and Mike Mainieri. Paul strictly sings on this DVD and the harmony he creates with his drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. on three of the songs including I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, is simply pure magic. The talented Joe Walsh (James Gang, Eagles) stands out with his beautiful guitar work on McCartney’s penned My Valentine,  and also on Get Yourself Another Fool. Included, besides these beautiful heavenly songs, are interviews with Paul, Diana Krall, Tommy LiPuma, Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. There are more extras as well.

We must admit that time has passed us by musically speaking. The stuff my son and his peers listen to is beyond my comprehension. Yeah – the Calypso Couple is no longer with it. This is mostly an elected condition – at least so we think. McCartney was with it and so were we in our time, but this is classic timeless stuff. Get a good bottle of wine, some candles and your best friend(s) and give it a listen (watch).  Tell me what you think.  Stay Tuned!

The Mexican Double Standard

 

Chisme (CHEESE MA) is the Spanish word for gossip. El chismoso is a gossipy guy – what your escritor (Spanish for writer) is at the moment.  Here is the scoop (no names or identities revealed to protect the innocent and guilty):

An oft occurring situation here in Mexico is the hombre that has sneaked into the United States gets himself a new family in Amerika. This without regard for the fact he left a wife and children in Mexico with the understanding he would work a few years in the States and then return home with jeans full of dollars.

Often the undocumented hombre enjoys life NOB and he elects to not return to his homeland.  He more than likely has set up a very comfortable situation which includes a new woman and eventually children – a new life north of the border. His second wife and new kids are U.S. citizens helping to sanctify his being in the Country illegally- but of course not really.

Many in this situation continue to send money home to their original family. Some occasionally sneak back and forth across the border; and a few get caught and are deported leaving the new family to be supported by the system.

We know of several abandoned women and children here in Mexico. One such circumstance we have observed for more than 8 years. The State-side husband has been here about 3 weeks – one time. We have watched the two children grow and the abandoned wife live her life as a single parent raising a couple of kids.

On her in-laws property she managed to have a nice house built with funds sent home from the hombre with a new U.S. life happening. It took several years to build as the money trickled in from the States. But in the end a lovely casa was provided to the first family of now three – waiting.

After these many years the still young woman started seeing other men – quite secretively of course being under the watchful eyes of her in-laws. Hiding by sneaking in the house in the early morning could remain successful for just so long. If we were able to observe some of the clandestine activity surely the in-laws would catch on – and they did.

The wife with the tarnished character was given notice to vacate their son’s property by the in-laws. The fellow’s mother delivered the news, “Get out!”

In Mexico where life is simpler than north of the border – tangled lives still persist and the old double standard is alive and well.

Stay Tuned!

Breaking Ground in Xico

DATELINE XICO, VERACRUZ: It starts at dawn (which is currently about 6:15 AM Mexico Time (compares to Central Time in the U.S. save day light savings time changes). Breaking sidewalk is the order of the day here in our little barrio of Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, Mexico.

The roar of a generator rapping high RPMs followed by the chink-chink-chink of a pounding chisel striking cement over and over and over again. It is a rather unnerving disturbance where the norm is the occasional barking dog or braying donkey, roosters crowing, scooters with little bulb horns squawking up and down the streets selling masa (some selling chicken), and propane cylinder vendors playing a BLARING ditty just in case there is anyone still sleeping at this hour. We are pretty used to the usual described noise, but the hammering as well as sledge hammers wielded towards the sidewalks pounding the ground really is off-putting.

The lack of head, ear and eye protection as well as hands and feet is astonishing from a first world perspective. All still mothers walk their children on the road path rather than the fox holes that were sidewalks just yesterday.

Apparently we are getting new improved water pipes? The Calypso Casita is hidden off the roadway by about 100 feet (note our burgundy Jetta parked in front of the wall surrounding the north side of our property.

We will have to wait and see if this work comes up our dirt road.  There are houses beyond ours for about two city blocks.

Our water supply has been adequate – no problems. But there are those with large families and small reserve tanks who will find life better with the new improved piping system (water on demand?) – Or so it is advertised.  We shall see. Stay Tuned!

Family and Friends

 

There is something of a personal note we wanted to add about our recent trip to Capitan, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; and back to our home in Xico, Veracruz. It was great to see our son. He is a most thoughtful and considerate young man helping his parents out each time we visit his stomping grounds.  He even bought one of my seven guitars for me as well as opening his Las Vegas penthouse to us (I took advantage of the roof top hot tub with views of all of Vegas). We have been very lucky to have such a fine son.

We have mentioned many times here the great support we get from Anita’s sister. She and our brother-in-law open their house in Las Vegas to us, giving us the run of the place without reservation. Being in someone else’s home for an extended period of time can be dicey – but it is all good there. They are most kind.

We split our time in Capitan on both legs of the coming and going. This time we returned to Capitan about ten days before heading back to Xico – thus breaking up the trip. Las Vegas to Capitan is 720 miles subtracted from the approximate total 2125 miles or 3420 kilometers – one way.

We already miss our friends George and Pearl. They have always been very kind to us, having been our neighbors in Capitan since the late 90’s. Two nicer and more interesting people could not be found. Even though we spend precious little time each year in Capitan, when the four of us get together it is as if there has been no time away between us. We always have a lot to talk about together and the warmth of their friendship is outstanding.

The final leg of our long trip is a mere 425 miles driven always on Sunday from Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas to our Casita in Xico, Veracruz. You have to understand that drive is equivalent to a 1000 U.S. miles traveled. The roads are dangerous, treacherous with insane drivers, possible road bandits and worse and holes and topes (speed bumps) around every corner. It is an arduous drive after the 1050 traveled the prior day. We are seriously considering breaking up one or both of those legs in future trips.

This time as usual we stopped in Coasta Esmeralda, Veracruz for dinner, usually arriving between 7 and 9 PM. After which we make the final 3.5 hours or so to home. It is a dark and ominous section of the trip, especially considering the previous two tiring legs of the trip. We have mentioned the dangers and difficulties of driving at night in Mexico (if possible avoid it).

Exhausted we climb down the steep driveway to our Casita after midnight. Because our packed car is parked on the public road we empty much of the stuff upon arrival.

In our kitchen on a bench we found a picnic basket-sized insulated container with a note welcoming us home – wow! Cold beers and food to tide us over for the first 24 hours is all neatly found inside. Our friends John and Jane who now live about 15 miles away (instead of being close neighbors right across the hollow) had taken the time to set this greeting up for us.

We have complained some about a few neighbors relating to our four locations of residences. This is the other side of that coin. The Calypso Couple is truly blessed to have such great family and friends. Thank you all for being there for us.  Stay Tuned!