Saturday, July 28, 2012

My First Quince Años

“She asked us to be godparents at her 15 años?  She doesn’t even like me"

“She does like you.  Maybe she was a little jealous that you were with me when she was a child, but she is a young woman now and she gets it.”

“I have to work Saturday and then go to a party for 15 year-olds?  I hate this.  Do you know how much I’ve been working and how little time to myself I’ve had since we got back from vacation?  Do we have to go to the mass too?  I thought we were just going to the party.”

“Yes, our names are on the invitation as the godparents so we have to go to the mass, at 4:00, and we have to sit next to her.”

So to me, sit next to her meant that we sit in the pew on either side of her and that was that.  And everything in Mexico starts late; so I thought.

I had told a client that I would be available in the office from 10:30 until 2:00.  He showed up at 1:45 and by 2:30 I started powering down my computer and explained that I needed to go to church and we’d have to continue our discussion on Monday.  In the meantime, I’d try to find some properties that meet his criteria.

Shortly after I got home, Rod ran off to pick up the Quinceañera (Karla, the teenager of honor) and, having eaten nothing but a granola bar all day, I slammed down some prepared hash browns and headed to the San Antonio church on my own.

I saw Rod’s car by the church when I arrived and half expected to see him and the family waiting outside.  It was only a couple minutes after 4:00.  Instead, the patio was empty and I could hear singing from inside the church.  The mass had begun.

I waked in and looked for Rod and Karla in the pews.  To my dismay, I saw Karla, decked out in a beautiful gown¸ seated in the place of honor directly in front of the alter.  Rod was seated to her left and an EMPTY CHAIR was on her right.  In a rush of horror, I realized that the empty chair was mine.

I brushed past Rod and with an annoyed glance he pointed to the empty chair.

During the entire Mass I kept a peripheral eye on Rod, so he could signal me; sit, stand, kneel, etc., all the time praying that the priest was not going to ask me something in Spanish to which I would have to respond.  He didn’t, so I didn’t.  All was good.  But I would have dressed better if I’d known that I was going to be (nearly) center stage.

The party after was at the family’s rustic ranch near our house, and I loved the juxtaposition of the fancy dress and the rustic setting.

And work changes

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Maya's Thoughts

From one of my fans.

Something tells me the wine glass had something to do with it . . .

The Truth (not written by me)

An American was thinking of visiting San Miguel de Allende but he was afraid. He contacted a native of SMA, saying he had some questions.

The American said, "I'm afraid to travel to central Mexico. Is there drug cartel violence in San Miguel?"

The SMA native replied, "No, most of the drug cartel violence is along the border with your country."

"What about earthquakes, then?" asked the American. "I hear there have been some bad ones in Mexico."

"Yes," said the SMA native, "but we don't have earthquakes in San Miguel—most of the earthquake activity is around Mexico City."

" Hmmm," said the American, "I've read about the devastating hurricanes you have there during the summer, though. I'm very concerned about that."

"No," said the SMA native, "We're located in the center of the country; the hurricanes occur along our coasts. The hurricanes bring us rain but we're are grateful for that—we need the rain!"

"Well," said the American, "then you must have TORNADOES!"

"No, no", said the SMA native, "We're located in the mountains and it's very dry and warm here in the Spring. We don't have the weather conditions for tornadoes here."

By this time, the American was becoming exasperated. In the States, news reports were filled with all the terrible things happening in Mexico. "Well, look," he said, "San Miguel de Allende must have SOMETHING."

"We do," The SMA native replied. "Fiestas."

Friday, February 25, 2011

For English, press "8" . . .

When I moved here, I jumped on the bandwagon of gringos living in Mexico and subscribed for (bootleg) Dish TV from the U.S. Tons of channels, nearly all in English. (Dish Network thought I lived in Texas.)

Rod got hooked too. We watched old seasons of Will and Grace, Friends, Scrubs; all those shows that I missed while I was going through my ex-pat transition phase.

Then, one day, it crapped out. We already had a six-foot satellite dish hanging on the side of our house. I was told that Dish Network had put up a new satellite with a smaller footprint and I’d need to upgrade to an eight-foot dish (for about $800 USD) or switch to Canadian television.

“Screw that,” I thought. Enough bootlegging American comforts. We live in Mexico and we’re going to have Mexican TV. So we switched to Mexican Sky TV for about $150 USD installation fee (with a two year contract and a tiny dish). We even went for the Hi-def service, only to find that so few channels are broadcast in Hi-def that it wasn’t worth the extra few pesos. But we are able to record programs (and fast-forward through the commercials) with the fancy box with the blue lights so I guess that’s sort of worth it.

I have to read the guide in Spanish. If the show is broadcast in any language other than Spanish, the guide says that it is English. (Try Japanese, French or Italian with Spanish subtitles; tough.) But it is enough for me. There are sufficient shows are in English and I’m not a big TV watcher. (But I think Rod misses his US television options.)

When I signed up with Sky, my Capital One credit card had expired. So I used my BofA credit card. Later I discovered that BofA charges and international transaction fee of about $5. That annoyed me. So I vowed to call Sky Mexico and change my credit card to Capital One.

I was daunted. Speaking Spanish is one thing; speaking it on the phone is another. For months I put it off. I’d move the task from one week on my calendar to another; each time rehearsing the speech in my head; “Necesito cambiar mi tarjeta de credito . . .” Ugh! It is only $5 a month, I’ll do it later.

I thought about asking Rod to make the call. But he usually tells me, “You can do it. Go ahead. You need the practice.” He’s tends to be right, as annoying as that is.

So, after months of procrastination, this week I decided to give it a try. I figured that, if all else fails I can hang up and no harm no foul. I rehearsed in my head. I dialed the number.

“Bienvenido a Sky. For English press “8.”

Well that was easy. I wish that worked with government offices and police officers. Maybe it does. I just haven’t noticed the button.

A Bigger Boat . . .or not . . .

(I didn't write this but I love it.)

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

And the moral of this story is: ……… Know where you’re going in life… you may already be there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blog on Hold

I’ve received a couple of complaints that I’ve not updated this blog in some time. Thank you both for complaining.

I’ve blamed it on Facebook in the past but now I have a couple of other excuses.

When I started the blog, it was a vehicle for me to express my wonder and amazement with a number of new aspects of my life; retirement, life as an ex-pat, the culture of Mexico, living in the country and falling in love. In reality, many things that used to make me wide-eyed are now routine. Few things surprise me anymore. The unusual seems usual now.

So that’s one part. The other is time. “You’re retired,” one might say. “You’ve got nothing but time.”

Funny thing, time. Aside from my housewife/husband duties, I’m also starting a new consulting business with a friend and ex-colleague in the U.S., I’m working on a book project, and then there is some volunteer work for charitable organizations that needs my attention now and then.

I’m not signing off forever. But I am taking a blog hiatus. I’d like to thank both of my fans for reading. I’ll be back eventually.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Lighter side of Owen

Owen and Nancy were the first people that I met in San Miguel.

I was just finishing up breakfast at Café de la Parroquia, on a crisp winter day. While I was waiting for my bill I could see them eyeing my table in the sun. So I asked if they’d like to sit down with me while I waited. Thus ensued a lively conversation where the two of them were gracious enough to give this newcomer the lay of the San Miguel land. One of their pearls of wisdom was the “. . . best internet café in town, Café Etc.”

At the time I was renting a crappy little casita in the bowels of Colonia San Antonio. The casita was conveniently wedged between a furniture factory and a day-care. Therefore, I spent as little time as possible at home and found myself frequently at Café Etc. Nearly every day I’d run into Owen and Nancy and if not Nancy, at least Owen, who would always offer to share his table for lunch.

As my friends will attest, I have very little trouble talking about myself. This didn’t seem to bother Owen. In fact, he’d pose question after question that encouraged me to prattle on.

One day two things became clear; 1. Owen hadn’t asked at least one pertinent question, and 2. He had no trouble speaking precisely what was on his mind, without beating around the bush.

He began to tell me a story about a woman he’d met, with whom he was very impressed. She apparently lived in the campo, growing her own garden, was very self-sufficient and musical as well. “I’m not saying that you should marry her,” he said. “But you might want to get together for sex or something.”

I’m sure I hesitated. I also didn’t volunteer the information that I had not provided those services for women in over 20 years. I think I said something like, “That would be nice, thank you for thinking of me, I look forward to meeting her.” (I also felt relatively safe because I figured from what he described, there was a good chance she was a lesbian anyway.)

Over time I guess he either figured things out or someone clued him in, because at lunch one day I ordered the club sandwich. Owen said, “I like that sandwich but it is too big. I can’t get my mouth around it.” When I took a full sized bite he said, “Oh, you wouldn’t have a problem, would you.” I was speechless. I think I pretended that I didn’t hear him.

And to a friend of mine who is from a wealthy family, I overheard Owen say, “Of course you don’t understand. Your problem is that you’re just too darn rich!”

I wish that my father could have lived long enough to meet Owen. They would have been fast friends. I can picture them sitting together in the Jardin, discussing philosophy, the merits of various religions, politics and relationships. Two wise men, gentle souls who saw things, lived things and came through it all as better people. Two men who could be moved to tears out of pride for someone else’s accomplishments. Two men who never tied of learning or listening.

Nancy, please know that Rodrigo and I are here for you. We will all miss him, but no one as much as you, the person with whom he shared his life and for whom he was so grateful and so proud.

And to Owen, my friend, I look forward to seeing you in the next life. I may need you to hook me up. Only this time, try to get the gender right.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When I moved to San Miguel it quickly became apparent that I had a choice as to which social community I was to become a member; the retired ex-pat community (older than me) or the more bohemian, artsy, crowd (younger than me). While I acquired a few older friends, by far I fell into the later group. Maybe it is my inherent immaturity but I think it was simply because they were more fun.

What this has meant over the last six years is that I’m repeating a former stage of my life. That period where people are getting engaged, married and having children, giving birth to a series of events such as weddings (where I was a stand-in Father of the Bride in one and a witness in another), baptisms (I am godfather to one and another on the way), first communions, etc.

The same crowd with whom I used to party until daylight, now come over and bounce children on their laps. The lawn that used to be covered with beer caps is now covered with toys. (Ok, the beer caps are still there.) I love it. I even get slightly disappointed when our friends show up to an event without their children. The words, “We got a baby sitter” make me a little sad.

Unique to this environment is that all these children are growing up bi-lingual, some even tri-lingual.

Santiago’s parents are British and German-Mexican. He is 11 years old and when speaking to someone, he must invoke his own form of racial profiling. He looks at the person and then decides whether he is going to address them in English, Spanish or German. We were at his home for dinner one evening and he was entertaining us in English. I turned to his mother and said, “He has the most delightful British accent.”

“You don’t think he sounds American?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Oh good,” she said. “No offense.”

While the babies are cute as ever, I love when they get to the talking stage. At age four, Liam’s mother asked him how was his first day at pre-school. His response was, “I didn’t hurt anybody.”

I was carrying this same Liam to his parents’ car one evening, balancing him on my hip, when he said to me, “Can you put me down? My penis is up and it hurts.” Of course I put him down immediately. (Later I thought, I should have taught him something more subtle. Like, “Hey dude. Put me down. You’re smashing my junk.”)

And I love the latest that his mother posted on facebook:

“I've been telling Liam that he can't say "boobie" at his Nuna's house. So tonight I put him to bed and said when you see everyone, Papa Jack, Aunt Jancie, Mimi and Papa and Nuna you can tell them that you love them. He said, "And I won't say "boobie". What a good boy.”

Rodrigo keeps suggesting that we adopt or find a surrogate mother. “We can’t afford it,” doesn’t entirely convince him. I’m not sure that, “I’m 50!” does either.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Soccer Meets the Happy Chicken

This is going to take a little explaining.

Pollo Feliz (Happy Chicken) is a rotisserie chicken restaurant chain. (Very popular, for reasons that escape me, in this part of Mexico.) Part of their advertising is to dress up a kid in a bright yellow chicken costume, outside the restaurant, to coax people in. One will frequently see this poor soul standing in the sweltering heat in the middle of the glorieta (roundabout) near the restaurant, waving his chicken-like wings. (A friend’s mother used to threaten her children when they misbehaved, that if they didn’t straighten up, she was going to enlist them as Pollo Feliz chickens.)

Yesterday, Mexico beat France 2 – 0 in the World Cup.

So, yesterday, as I’m driving down the hill to Mega (our big supermarket), I see a large group of green-soccer-shirt-wearing guys gathered in the middle of the glorieta. Intermittently, soaring above their heads, was the Happy Chicken kid. It was not clear whether the chicken kid was a willing participant or if they had just grabbed him and started throwing him in the air. Either way, it had to be a more exciting day than usual, for soccer fans, and the chicken kid. And this chicken finally got to fly.