Thursday, June 4, 2020

It’s something that’s hard to get away from.  If you ask people to shelter in place for this long, tensions are bound to build up.  We see that on our streets today. People are not just bored but out of work with no paycheck, bills to pay and families to provide for. I have seen nothing like this in the last seventy years.  100,000 Americans dead, 30% of the workforce without a job and a general lack of respect for all that we have. America is truly blessed and we need to share those blessing with our neighbor, no matter the race, creed or color. We know what we should do.

Here in Mexico the problem is the same but they are different. The majority of the Mexican population has not been affected by the greed, materialism and abundance we have in the United States.  For my Mexican friends jobs in the city are blessings they have not always had.  If need be they are close enough to the land that they can live and subsist just fine without the city jobs.  They have done that before and can do it again. They are not at the whim of Wall Street or the fear of the next recession.

But things are getting harder, it appears we have flattened the curve but the number of cases keeps increasing.  We now have 27 active cases in Sam Miguel with estimates of a total number in the state of 130. Which indicates we have a long way to go.  

The good news of the lock down for me is I have completed my second book and the book is to be released on Amazon June 18.  The title is Booger County Blues and is available for $4.97 on Amazon.   The bad news is I may have time to write another book before this lock down is over.

Booger County Blues will take you back to Robertson County, Texas. To the time of the Rusty Duck Bar, its lovey bar maids, oil field workers and all the character's you enjoyed in the Calvert Chronicles.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

"they danced down the streets like dingledodies"

San Miguel de Allende, March 30, 2020

Sometimes you can feel these things.  Sometimes you can see them. Three days a week I have the opportunity to observe a congested intersection in the privacy of my car.  Sitting there drinking my morning coffee as I wait to pick up Juan and Berta. I study the people and their habits in their early morning commute to work.  Last Friday as I waited i could count on one hand the number of people not wearing facemasks.  This morning, being Monday, I can count the number wearing facemasks on one hand.  Why the change?  Did I miss something?

            The morning broke cool and overcast with a little of the feel of last nights showers in the air.  Is it the feel of quiet optimism in the air. Does that mean people are trying to return to normal or at least return to what will be the new normal. Whatever that may be. Lord, I'm so tired of the sheltering in place and social distancing. Maybe there is a universal yearning for inappropriate distancing. Whatever this new feeling is, today it can be felt here in Mexico.
            I think about what has happened to us. Happened to us in the last two months. It’s a virus, one that kills, one we were not prepared for. But there is no right or wrong in a virus.  The right or wrong was there before the arrival of the pandemic.  Sure, the virus has brought nations to their feet and brought the world to a halt. 

            The right or wrong is there in the people.  It is the people that are unconsciously addicted to Racism, White Supremacy, Hatred, Lies, and Corporate Greed. I wonder why in a country as great as ours, we have the highest death rate from this virus in the world.  This country is suppose to be a leader in world, in not only medical knowledge but all other advanced technologies. Then why do we have one of the shortest life spans, the highest income disparities, the highest suicides rates and the largest prison populations? The right or wrong was here before the virus.

            So, what are we going to do?  Our minds are racing back and forth trying to return to that normalcy.  But what will that new normal be?  Are we going to lose the opportunity to hit the reset button? This crisis has shown us that, the air can be clean, sky’s can be blue and rivers can run clear. Are we going to bring into our new normal all of our old prejudices with us, how about the hate, the avarice, and the dead ideas.?  How about the dead rivers and smoky skies, do they come to? We can walk into the new normal and leave all of this garbage behind.  I hope we do. At least here in Mexico. As and old friend of mine use to say, "If you want to clean up the town, start by sweeping your own porch."

Speaking of Mexico, in my last letter I promised to enlighten you about tequila and mezcal.  The lead-in is the picture of the young lady with a pina on her head.  So let's try it from there.
  Well, a night out on tequila goes something like this:  Rounds of shouts, sing karaoke, dance on the bar, shoot out the lights and… (No, No, No)  That’s not right, Gringo. Tequila and mezcal should be sipped and that sipping should take some time. And it does not require salt and lime.  The old tradition of putting the salt on the senorita’s neck, biting the line and licking the salt before a shot of tequila, while romantic, is definitely a no, no.  We’re not shooting shots; it’s about enjoying the flavors, the experience and the earthy textures of the drink.
Lets start out with the basics:  All tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila.  It’s like all scotch is whiskey but not all whiskey is scotch. And Mezcal is the national drink of Mexico, not tequila.  There now, you’re smarter than most of the bar hoppers.
The girl in the picture above has the heart of a blue agave, otherwise known as a pina, held on her head. The blue agave or agave tequilana is only from five states in Mexico.  To be tequila it must come from these five states. After that pina comes off the young ladies head it will be steamed and fermented.

Both tequila and mezcal are made from the harvested core of the agave plant, otherwise known as the “piña.” However, that’s where the similarities in production end. Tequila is typically produced by steaming the agave inside industrial ovens before being distilled two or three times in copper pots. Mezcal, on the other hand, is cooked inside earthen pits that are lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal before being distilled in clay pots. While some large-scale mezcal producers have adopted modern methods, artisanal mezcal makers continue to use this more traditional method, which is the source of the smokiness commonly associated with mezcal.

Once the distillation process is over, both tequila and mezcal are aged inside oak barrels. However, the different aging categories of the two spirits are defined slightly differently. For instance, tequila comes in three varieties: blanco (silver or plato/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (1-3 years). Mezcal is also grouped into three categories by age, including joven (blanco or abacado/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (at least one year). So Enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Solving My Life’s Dilemma’s

           Someday, I really can't guess when but normalcy in society will return, until then we just have to live with what life throws us.
            As with most people, I sit here inside my house in the middle of Mexico with not much on my plate. Yes, we have shelter-in-place rules down here.  I can look out my office window and see the beautiful purple jacaranda trees and the blooming bougainvillea hanging over the surrounding walls. In my last blog I was having problems in sorting out my short term and long term life’s goals or as I call it a reason to live. I have made some progress, sorting out my life, for now mostly short term.  Then short-term activity can leave to long-term commitments.
 I have started taking daily walks around my neighborhood, these walks help to clear the mind and stretch the legs that are used to doing nothing that walking to the bathroom and back.  That’s life when all you can do is sit and read.  The walks have allowed me to meet many of my neighbors and converse with then over the appropriate distance. In Mexico the appropriate distance is far enough back so you can't smell the tequila on your neighbors breath.  I’m finding I have a very normal group of neighbors.  Some of them run, some walk the dogs and then some sit in the park, like myself, and contemplate their life dilemmas
  My next step in this time of isolation was to hire an editor for the book I’ve been writing for years. As most of you know I can’t write so I need an editor.  How don’t get excited about reading the great American novel, my book is a short (maybe 60,000 words) comic novella about my life in Booger County Texas.  It is the second in the Robertson County series.  My goal is the get it on Amazon for price under five dollars.
            In my search for life’s meaning I have also taken on a major challenge.  I am going to sort out and organize all my computer passwords.  When I contemplate life's undertakings this one is gigantic. I found out recently that in trying to transfer passwords from one computer to a new laptop, all passwords could be lost.  At that point simple things like just logging in in the morning can turn in to a day’s activity.

It seems I have survived the shelter-in-place syndrome and in the next blog Ill be talking about tequila and mescal.  You will want to know what this pretty young girl has to do with tequila and mescal, I will let you know.  In the next few days I will be doing extensive research on the subject.

Friday, March 27, 2020

One custom that is present all over the latin world is that of a kiss and a hug upon meeting.  An embrace for the men and a kiss for the ladies.  It is a long tradition and as we talk about changes, this is a tradition  we do not want to lose.
            As we can feel at this moment, the world is changing. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. What we are being asked to do is calling to the surface feelings I have harbored for the past several months.  When you get to a certain time and you start to wind down and are faced with an uncertain future. Over the last few years Sandy and myself have worked hard on remodeling a home,  planting gardens and also making a close group of friends here in Mexico Now we are faced with the same challenges that we encounter when asked to stay inside your house for the next fifteen days.

            This time of social distancing presents the same challenges as I faced in retirement, not of an uncertain future but a lack of direction in my life.  Two weeks or two years does have an end zone.  We hope at the end of that time things will return to normal, or whatever normal we want to have.  In retirement there is also an end zone, but an end zone we are not excited to meet. In both cases you asked yourself in the morning is “What am I going to do today?”   Many people have tried to answer this question for me but somehow I do fit into golfing, pickle ball or model building.  When you spent your whole life working hard every day at something you love it’s hard when that is taken away from you. Be it something you’ve done all your life or something you are just in the habit of doing.  When that is taken away your life changes. Am I being asked to save the world by laying on my couch for two or three weeks or am I being left to lounge on the couch for a much longer time. It is the same with “stay at home” or “retirement.”

            So at the moment I am trying to figure out both. I am trying to “flatten the curve” and contemplate this world will look life after this pandemic.  This thing has already done terrible things to the world’s economy.  Nobody believes that after we begin to recover things will be the same.  Small businesses and large are going to be affected. It might take years for the damage to be repaired.  The question is “What will the new normal look like?

I hope the world always looks like this man.
Thank you, Vincente Fox

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The River of Life is timeless. It is not unchanging, but it is timeless, and it changes in its own time.

            Well, the coronavirus is moving faster than I can plan.  I promised you a report on my trip to Real de Catorce but my Doctor had better ideas. It seems heart disease and blood thinners constitute a weakened immune system. Not so by me but that’s a medical opinion. So I cancelled the trip, kissed the advance payment goodbye and dream of doing it at a better time.  Will be Sheldering in Place for the near future.
            Instead of giving you a trip to an historic ghost town I want to let you know what it’s like living in a foreign country. A country full of foreigners and Canadians. Please note that at this moment people are working about getting out of the country.  I will try to answer questions in the order they are always asked of me by my friends in Texas.  Please remember that I am living in a modern city that just happens to be 500 years old.  When this city was founded Texas was still part of Mexico.

            Is it safe? That’s a philosophical question., and by far, the number one question I am asked. When I first moved to San Miguel de Allende, one of the considerations was how safe it was. I had no fear of anything bad happening and would felt safe walking anywhere in town.  The relative high living standards attracted a lot of mafia bosses.  Also attracted were their children, wives and mistresses.  With this investment in the community, by the head knockers, life was relatively safe. Nobody would miss up their own bed. The Centro area was and still is teeming with visitors and tourist late into the evening.  Just like any large city you know the places you’re not supposed to hang out late at night.  Would you go to Fair Park or South Dallas at 1:00 in the morning?  You know the answer. The locals are always ready to help you out anyway they can.  Truly they are a kind and generous people and will look out  for  your safety.
            It was about two years ago things began to change:  maybe the change in government, the gas shortage or just the coming of a new generation.  The old bosses gave way to the new generation, that generation with no families or children, had nothing to lose.  Guanajuato has become one of the leading states in Mexico for crime. This criminal violence is not directed at the native population or even ex-pats and visitors.  It is almost completely a gang on gang problem. The young Turks need to fight for their territory.  It is not the drug deal anymore but extortion of business and pipeline theft in the area, each gang wants to control it’s territory.
I still have no problem in going out to restaurants and pubs late at night.  Just remember Fair Park and South Dallas. Safety right now is relative ifs the corona gets us all.

            What is there to do? Unlike Porte Vallarta or Cancun we are not on the beach.  It’s a 5-hour drive to get to one. It’s easier to fly to the beach than drive and, no there is not a Diamond’s International in site.  San Miguel de Allende is located in the middle if the country and 7300 feet high.  (That’s at my house)  We are in a valley surrounded by mountains.  Although it is a desert climate we are covered with blooming flowers and trees.  As I write this I can look out on rows of bougainvillea and purple blooming jacaranda trees.  Lets not talk about spring time allergies.
  But I’m getting off the subject, what is there to do?  San Miguel is considered the wedding capitol of Mexico.  Think,“Here comes the Bride”.  To support that their are some 400 plus restaurants, ranging from street tacos vendors to fine French restaurants.  There is plenty of live entertainment every night of the week.  There are several Playhouses and Live opera.  Try outs for New York’s Metropolitan Opera were held here in November.  That being said, as of today the party life is canceled by the city government.
            The town is also located in the historic equivalent of Concord, Mass in terms on Mexican history.  When Spain needed to be sent home or the revolution needed starting, it happened here.
            We do have a trip planned for Palm Sunday weekend.  We will visit Morelia and Uruapan in the Sate of Michoacán. Weaken immune system or not, I will make this trip.  For today I will say adios and see you next  time.
P.S. That trip is canceled also.  

Friday, March 13, 2020

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.

            At this point we don't know what is going to happen with the coronavirus.  I don't want to tackle this, my best guess is a lot of us will get sick.  So wash your hands and that's my best advice at present.  My main concern is what I'm doing with the rest of my life. I will be addressing that in the coming weeks.  Right now I need to come back to where I live and  why I intend to stay here.
            My first clue that something might be wrong came in 2011.That year we had many days when the temperature was above 110. Our life consisted of running from air conditioned cars to air conditioned houses and offices. Them came the fires to central Texas.  Large sections were burning.   That was went my wife, Sandy, said, It’s time to get me out of here. For somebody born and bred in Texas, that was a hard thing to admit.  The heat and fires had pushed her to the point of no return.  “Find me somewhere to live that is not as hot.”  We had attended seminar at Texas A &M that addressed climate change.  The prediction for our location was not encouraging.  
            Since I was approaching the time for retirement, I decided she was right. If the climate did get hotter and drier, we needed to be somewhere that living was more comfortable.  My first thought was we needed to be somewhere cool. A quick computer search produced the 10 best climates in the world.  Eight of the ten locations were scattered around the world, but two of them were in Mexico. Mexico, I thought, that’s drivable if I needed to come home but still it was going to be cooler.
            We did still own a home in Florida, right on the river, still very humid and hot.  The old home had been raised high above the ground because of flooding, which happens several times a year.  That along with pollution and the yearly threat of hurricanes pushed us to the conclusion that Florida was not for us.  It is when I realized that we could probably, because of our age, avoid the worst of climate change. Not a conscious decision but just a fact of life.
            Of the two locations, the one we decided on, after several visits was San Miguel de Allende.  San Miguel is located at 7300 feet on the central mesa of Mexico.  It’s a dry desert climate but high in the mountains.  It is a town of seventy thousand people of which a large number are Americans. There would be no lack of friends or lack on amenities. The town has many restraints, theaters and art galleries.  Gringos had been coming here since after World War Two. It would be our little piece of paradise.
            In this blog I will try to impart what it is like being an expat and living in Mexico.  Next week I will be visiting Vincente Fox’s ranch near Leon and later in March, we will be visiting the old mining town of Real de Catorce.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Absolutely Best View in San Miguel de Allende

In trying to recovery one of my old blogs I discovered this from 2017.  Old but still valid.  This place is beautiful.  By the time I send this out it is the winter of 2020. I still love Mexico and San Miguel but the growth in this area has been tremendous.  Along with that growth we have had an increase in crime.  Each area of the country has its own self style cartel.  It makes you more careful about where you go at night .  Some cities are off limits  even in the day time.  My Sweetheart will not go to the closest Costco or Home Depot but instead will drive the extra fifteen miles to go to Queretaro.  The road to and the town of Queretaro being a lot safer than going to Celaya.
But again I will say I love it here and have no plans of going back.  The people are wonderful, the weather is amazing and the town of San Miguel de Allende is beautiful.

The  Boy's Coffee and Camel Club
Our Wednesday morning coffee group was looking for a new place to meet.  Each member had a suggestion, one of those places suggested turned out to be a great undiscovered find. The View Hotel is easy to find if your willing to travel to places not usually seem by tourist or locals.  Of course if you are a local from the community of Las Cabras you are well aware and the in credible vistas offer by the small hotel and restaurant located quietly on the top of the Picachos mountains surrounding the Presa Allende.

The presa (lake) in the distance.

Presa Allende