Semana Santa

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I may have vanished off the face of the earth, especially after I realized my last post detailed occasional struggles with transitioning to life in Mexico.

I’m not paying a great deal to have this here site hosted, but it’s certainly not the best use of my money to have a website without updates for more than a month.

Still, that is not without its reasons and you’ll be happy to hear that things here are looking up.

We moved into our rented condo at the beginning of March and we’ve been settling in since then, gradually acquiring the few items it didn’t come pre-furnished with to make life more comfortable. This would include a combination air-fryer/toaster oven, a bunch of different cooking utensils, a crock pot, various storage containers and some organizing contraptions for the bathrooms.

I’m also still working every day for now, so the prospect of more time at the computer after a nine-hour day is wholly unappetizing usually.

Despite living in Mexico, life has fallen into the typical (and mostly uninteresting) rhythms and patterns familiar to everyone who works a full-time job. I get out of the house every morning for a walk of an hour or so, return and toil at work until the late afternoon, dinner is prepared and then we’ll settle down in front of the TV for a couple or three hours before bed, at which point the day repeats itself, Groundhog Day-style.

I have carved out time to read more than I did in Las Vegas, helped by no longer having a television in my home office and a comfortable patio overlooking Banderas Bay and the ocean.

We don’t get out to eat more than once a week or so because COVID is still a thing, regardless of what red-state governors might want to believe. Businesses and restaurants here are arguably taking COVID more seriously than what we saw in Nevada and Michigan before our move. Despite the likely safety of fairly unlimited options to dine in the open air, we’re still staying in more often than not, wishing not to tempt fate before we return to the US to get our first vaccination shots here at the end of April.

This week marks one of the few noteworthy changes or differences in the daily routine since we’ve moved here since it’s Semana Santa (“Holy Week”), still a huge deal in Mexico owing to the vast majority of the population here being Roman Catholic.

The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is when most schools in Mexico celebrate Spring Break, so hotels, guest houses and camping grounds in Puerto Vallarta fill up with vacationing Mexicans looking for a few days on the beach. Many businesses close from Good Friday (today) through Easter, so what remains open are filled to capacity with vacationers.

In a normal year, things are supposedly fairly overrun. This year, the town is reportedly filled to “only” about 60 percent capacity, but we’ve not seen this many people at once since leaving Las Vegas, so we’ve taken the advice of the more seasoned ex-pats and loaded up on supplies and planning on staying in until the weekend is over. We’ll be keeping an eye out on the government reported COVID numbers to make sure there isn’t a spike in Jalisco and Puerto Vallarta, but so far it seems everyone out and about is taking precautions. Even walking outside, mask-wearing is typical and most Mexicans don’t frequent many of the same businesses as most American and Canadian tourists and expats.

It’s as good an excuse as any to ride out the last wave of the pandemic in our new condo and hope we manage to remain COVID-free until we hopefully get our first jabs of the vaccine here in three weeks or so when we return to Las Vegas.

So I’ll try to be better about updating the site, but don’t be surprised if the next update doesn’t come for another couple or three weeks, maybe after finally returning back to the United States on April 23 for the first time in three-plus months. For now, we remain hopeful that by this summer the worst will be behind us personally and for everyone in the US and Mexico.

Pushing through the six-week blues

The moon setting into the Pacific at sunrise, Feb 27, 2021. Photo credit: Brian Seymour

I’ve been silent here for quite awhile for a variety of reasons, all of which I’ll eventually try to get into.

We’re still trying to settle in and running into bumps in the road here and there which are frustrating me and which I need to get over. The most recent involves trying to get the Internet service turned on for our new apartment, which we move into on Monday.

Part of the process of acclimating to Mexico involves two major transitions for me — not getting frustrated at occasionally not being able to communicate in every situation and accepting that this is a different culture not always able to handle things that should be relatively simple like signing up for Internet service.

I went in person to the Telmex office on Monday to sign up for service because they have English-speaking personnel there. So far, so good. My average Spanish and their above-average English got me registered and in the system and setup for a technician to come out in “five to seven days”. Since I didn’t really need the Internet up and running until this Wednesday (March 3rd), that’s perfect.

I even got an email later that day that included a form where I could signup for an installation appointment — even better! I selected Tuesday March 2 between noon and 4 p.m. because I knew between myself and Tanya one of us could be there to make sure the installers had access.

Cut to Thursday and I get a phone call from an installer who doesn’t speak English who wants to be able to have access to the apartment to install the Internet. I attempted to tell him I signed up for an appointment online to get it installed on March 2 — “yo tengo una cita I made en linea para dos de marzo”. Kind of Spanglish jibberish but I was hoping he would understand and I don’t think he did.

I received several emails throughout the day from Telmex telling me a technician was being dispatched to the apartment and finally even one saying that the installation was completed. Is it possible the apartment manager just happened to be there and took mercy on me and let the tech in? Sure. I guess I’ll find out on Monday, but I need to be able to let it go and not worry about it and realize that I can’t do anything about it for now and I’ll deal with it on Monday and go from there.

Still, I let things nag at me and it’s frustrating to not know if I’ll be able to get the Internet setup in time now to go back to work by Thursday and the reason is I can’t speak Spanish and it feels like a personal failing.

(As an aside, here’s a hearty “fuck you” to all of the people who complain on Facebook about companies in the United States with Spanish-speaking support reps — i.e. press 2 for Spanish — because the “language in America is English.” I know who you are. I’ve seen your posts and your xenophobia is bullshit.)

I’m also getting frustrated at how small this temporary condo that we’re renting is and am bouncing off the walls wanting to get out of here. The decisions that went into renting this place are what they are at this point, but I’m letting that nag at me as well.

Finally, I’ve had “big moves” before several times and it’s pretty natural to start getting discouraged around the six-week mark. It happened when I went away to college, it happened after graduating from college at my first real job, it happened when I first moved to Las Vegas in 1999 and it happened again after moving back to Vegas in 2007. There’s just something about that time frame where some level of “homesickness” (for lack of a better word in some of those cases though it’s relevant now) kicks in.

You get through that wall after a few weeks, but it’s common (for me, at least) and something I probably should have anticipated, yet somehow didn’t.

Still, I received some unexpected help in the last 24 hours getting over my malaise thanks to three things:

1) I started watching the documentary “Immigration Nation” on Netflix, a look at the mess the government has made of our immigration system over the last two decades thanks to xenophobes on the right and pandering wimps on the left. It reminded me exactly why I wanted to get out of the United States, a depraved government uninterested in the lives of its citizens being steered by fundamentalist, nationalist bigots. Watching the way the ICE agents and everyday Americans cheered the inhuman policy of family separation got my anger going and left me feeling about 100 percent less homesick.

2) I woke up early this morning and took my daily walk before the city wakes up and was treated to silent streets and the gift of walking south along the Malecon and being able to turn to the right and watch the full moon setting over the Pacific Ocean or turn to the left and watch the sun rising over the Sierra Madre mountains just east of Puerto Vallarta. Perspective that if you’re going to run away from it all, best to do it someplace with some beautiful scenery.

3) The McRib is back in Mexico for a limited time! Sure, it’s probably just whatever was left in American warehouses after the December national McRib promotion, but I’m not picky. I’ll take my little tastes of home where I can get them.

Checking in after one month in Mexico

Mmmmm, tacos….

With a month living in Mexico now under our belts thought I’d just share some of the unique things we’ve found living south of the border. 

Street dogs

It’s pretty rare in the US to see a dog just walking around without an owner near it, but you’re apt to see several here any time you go for a walk. Most don’t seem to be strays or feral, they’re just dogs that probably belong to a specific neighborhood or roam around the streets before returning to their house. 

They’re almost all friendly and don’t really bug you or chase you. It’s really weird honestly because sometimes I’ll be out for a walk and out of nowhere a dog will just show up along side me and start walking at the same speed as me. If he could talk you could almost imagine him saying “You going this way? Me too, I’ll walk with you for awhile.” Then he just turns up a different street after awhile, going to do whatever it is he does. 

Either way, there’s plenty of food for them to eat because of…

Garbage collection

At least in our neighborhood you just leave your garbage out on designated corners and the garbage trucks come around at seemingly random times. Sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes in the middle of the night. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. There’s actually some trash cans on our closest corner, which is rare — in other corners of the neighborhood the garbage just sits on the corner and inevitably some animal or another will tear into it looking for something to eat and so that corner ends up just kind of littered with trash for awhile. 

Food prices

In general, everything is much, much cheaper, though anything that needs to be imported from the US is probably gonna cost more here than it did in the States (which makes sense). I typically eat a lunchmeat sandwich for lunch and the quality of the ham here is largely no bueno, so I’ve taken to eating turkey instead, but it’s expensive — roughly as much as lunch meat costs in the US, itself not cheap. 

Fortunately, bread and vegetables are cheap and plentiful. Every supermercado has its own bakery which produces inexpensive quality breads, rolls and tortillas and there are several panaderias and tortillerias around the neighborhood as well. 

Most anything you can think of probably costs about 25 percent to 50 percent less than the US otherwise with the exception of most other meats — those are a little cheaper than the US, but not much. 

LGBTQ people

This one is unique to Puerto Vallarta, since PV is either the LGBTQ capital of Latin America or close to it. There are dozens of businesses in the Zona Romantica especially, but all over town that cater to that market, including some you’d stereotypically expect like drag bars, all-male strip clubs and music (showtunes, Streisand, Cher, etc.) revues, but there are also several entire resorts and restaurants that cater to just the LGBTQ community. 

Since we’ve only been here for a month, not sure if this is just a pandemic thing or the normal breakdown, but the number of Latino couples is almost as many as the Americans/Canadians. I’m guessing that might be true even post-pandemic since unfortunately it’s not as socially acceptable yet in a lot of parts of Latin America to show public affection, so it’s really nice to be walking along the Malecon and see a Latin couple holding hands, realizing that might not be something they can do as openly wherever they’re visiting from. 

Street food

Hey, we talked about street dogs, why not street food? The number of places producing street food around town frankly is overwhelming, but it all smells delicious and we mostly haven’t been able to indulge yet, partly because we’re trying to cut costs by eating more at home for the time being. There are a few carts in the neighborhood that I’m absolutely going to have to hit up before too long though because the smell when you walk past them is amazing. My knowledge (or lack thereof) of Spanish is a little intimidating but I think I have enough to be able to do a basic food transaction, so that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to. 

Most of the carts are geared towards what you would expect. Basic Mexican fare like arrachera and pollo tacos or tostadas, but thanks to the proximity to the ocean there are many mariscos carts where you can get shrimp, marlin or octopus tacos and burritos. I’ve already had a couple of shrimp burritos from small restaurants here in the neighborhood and they’re amazing. 

This is just a small list to start and really doesn’t include stuff I could complain about, but won’t — for the moment. Most of my complaints for the moment are small potatoes (figuratively, though you can’t really get large potatoes here) and/or stuff that nothing can be done about like mosquitos or the kid in the house next door that screams bloody murder 23 hours a day. But hoping that moving to our new place in three weeks brings better luck in both of those departments. 

Reading Reaganland and the slow-motion death of America

(Credit Image: © Lev Radin/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire) [ LEV RADIN | ZUMAPRESS.com ]

I’ve been reading Reaganland, the latest volume in Rick Perlstein’s incredible series of books (Nixonland, The Invisible Bridge) that serve as not only a history of conservatism in the 1970s, but also as a pre-history of the modern conservative political movement. 

If you’ve ever wondered how we got to a place where the Republican Party has effectively signed off on the destruction of democracy and apparently cast its lot with apartheid-style minority one-party rule, these three volumes will explain it for you in incredibly clear detail. 

Of course, especially after a group of seditious Congresspersons attempted to violently overthrow the government just three weeks ago, it’s a difficult read right now because the seeds that were planted with Nixon and the various shadowy right-wing groups that backed him and subsequently every right-wing president from Reagan to both Bushes to Trump blossomed in right-wing terrorists trying to overtake the literal symbol of our democracy under the protection of Congresspersons who took an oath to protect the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The books show clearly the advance of the moral rot in the Republican Party to the point where the GOP literally no longer has a platform, replacing it in 2020 with almost quite literally “whatever Dear Leader (Donald Trump) says”. 

It was different in 1976 of course. Republicans used to stand for some things. But even those have been perverted by the extremists in the party to the hysterical. 

To be a Republican in 1976 was to be for lower taxes and to advocate for larger military budgets to counter the threat of Soviet-era communism. In 2016, that means lowering taxes on the super-rich to the tune of $1.5 trillion, money effectively taken from the pockets of the poor and middle-class who today find themselves having to feed their families through charitable organizations in the middle of a pandemic. 

Despite having no global enemies and communism dying a slow, laborious death the only constant among the intellectually bankrupt rubes that populate key positions of power in the GOP is to blithely call every policy position proposed by the Democrats as “communism” or “socialism” without any regard to what those political philosophies actually represent. 

Those same politicians have no problem paying American farmers tens of billions of years to NOT farm their land or to compensate them for ill-conceived tariffs by their Dear Leader, acts which are quite literally socialism. 

The scariest part and the reason I’m writing this is that in reading Reaganland you can see the parallels between the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, Barack Obama in 2008 and Joe Biden in 2020, all “hired” by the American people to clean up messes made by their Republican predecessors and in each case met with nothing by intransigence in blocking any kind of legislation to improve the lives of ordinary Americans and a huge leap to the right by conservatives in response to each. 

The problem now is there is no further right to go. The Republican Party has no platform, no principles, only the bloodthirsty lust for power. Mitch McConnell is the perfect avatar for this, blocking hearing and a vote on a Supreme Court nominee after the death of a Justice in 2016 and then reversing himself when a Republican held the White House and a Justice died in 2020. 

No, the pursuit is power and democracy only gets in the way of that power, so even a seditious uprising to violently overthrow the American government isn’t enough to chasten the Republican Party. It is now solely a white supremacist terrorist organization whose sole goal is to remove Democrats from power at each and every level of government it can to re-make the United States into a one-party state where Blacks, LGBTQ and other minorities will live an apartheid reality and all laws will be geared towards the advancement of white people. 

You might think I’m being hysterical. So be it. But watch what the Republicans, especially in the Senate do over the next four years. You’re already seeing an example with only five GOP Senators wanting to go through a trial for Donald Trump for inciting a violent mob to kill Congressmen and overturn a free and fair election. To them, this is no longer a nation of laws, it’s a grab for power because they know it’s the last chance they’re going to get if laws strengthening our democracy like enhanced voter registration, laws to eliminate legalized voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of the people of Washington, DC and Puerto Rico continue. 

No, if they succeed in hampering Joe Biden’s presidency through any dirty trick in the book, from the Jim Crow filibuster to blocking the ability for Biden to choose his Cabinet to the laws already being proposed in states like Georgia and Arizona to further the restrict the ability of people of color to vote and someone who is more capable of treason or sedition like Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley is elected president in 2024, then that’s the ballgame. By its 250th birthday, the United States will no longer be a democracy and government by the people and for the people will have indeed perished. 

That blueprint is the blueprint already used in countries like Turkey, Poland, Hungary and others and it will spread throughout the world with other right-wing governments emboldened by the death of American democracy. Our allies in Europe are already facing an overwhelming tide of anti-democratic, right-wing nationalism in places like France, Germany and the UK. 

It’s not too far-fetched a scenario to think that a decade from now there could only be a handful of major democracies in the world, probably only in Scandinavia, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and a few others scattered here and there. 

That’s the reality of a future where the Republican Party refuses to disavow sedition and is allowed to spread lies and misinformation through media outlets like Fox News. 

This is happening. I don’t know how to fix it. I truly don’t. I wish I did. If you want to know why we’re living in Mexico, this is it right here. I didn’t foresee a violent mob trying to overthrow the government on 1/6, but I knew bad things were going to happen. 

It happened, just like the GOP is trying to sweep that under the rug after having five years of histrionics and 33 hearings about the deaths of four Americans caused by a violent mob in Libya, their attitude to a violent mob that killed five people in the United States Fucking Capitol building is “we need to move on”. 

This is not a political party, it’s a cult and a terrorist organization and it needs to be treated as such by the American people. Until it is, the future is bleak indeed, my friends. Stay safe. 

Talk about your all-time backfires

This blog needs more Happy Gilmore content.

In the 1996 cult classic Happy Gilmore our hockey-obsessed eponymous hero gets a date with the girl of his dreams, the PGA PR director Virginia Bennett portrayed by Julie Bowen and decides to take her on a romantic ice skating date.

This is a very, very young Julie Bowen (above), presumably before she was defiled by having carnal relations with budding white nationalist Tucker Carlson (it’s true — you can look it up, the wacky mom from Modern Family has fucked a Nazi IRL. Go figure.)

Anyway, I digress.

His plan is to suggest a wager that she try to make a goal from center ice, which if he wins will entitle him to a kiss. If she makes it, he’ll never bother her again. She, of course, easily makes the shot, leading Happy to ruefully remark, “Talk about your all-time backfires.”

(Don’t worry, he gets the girl in the end, saving her from future dalliances with red-faced Swanson frozen dinner heir/manboys who think Hitler had some good ideas, but just went a little too far. (Not an actual quote, but I’m sure he’s said it).

If you’ve gleaned I’m a little upset about Tucker Carlson and Julie Bowen’s relationship, well that’s where you right. But that’s not what really has me going this week.

I discovered yesterday morning that the company I work for — the same company that was cool with me working from Mexico for a couple of years before I retire has been sold to a much larger public company about which at this juncture the less I say the better for hopefully obvious reasons.

So like Happy, I’ve just seen what would have been a pretty sweet plan for me instantly go up in smoke with not much of a back-up plan.

Of course, it worked out for Happy in the end (Sorry about the spoilers, but if you haven’t seen a movie that came out 25 years ago by now you can’t complain) and the same could happen for me. Despite a business plan that appears involving sacking a decent chunk of the incoming workforce to save money and wringing every penny of value for the stock price, I could end up having my same job more or less for another couple of years. Hell, I could get a promotion!

I could also end up winning the Powerball, leaving Tanya and marrying Julie Bowen. If you’re putting your bets down let me promise you I would lean much more heavily to the former than the latter.

And not just because I love Tanya more than almost anything and Julie Bowen is damaged goods.

So good thoughts and if you know of anyone looking to hiring someone for some remote contracting work I might be on the market pretty soon.

¡Ay, it’s a pirate’s life for me!

Artist’s rendering

It’s probably never wise to admit publicly to committing a crime, but there’s only like 10 or 15 people or so reading these posts and like old Red riding the bus down to Zihuatanejo to meet back up with Andy, it’s hard to imagine the US or Mexican government sending in the federales to deal with a small-time crook like me, but we’ve filled in the holes in our TV viewing options by downloading an app that lets you “illegally” stream movies and TV shows through our Amazon Fire TV box.

Ironically I’m deadset against piracy and have the will and the means to pay for streaming any number of different channels, but you might be surprised to learn that most of the streaming channels/apps that you can choose from in the United States are not available el Sur.

For example, we were paying for a number of different streaming channels in the United States in addition to the extortionate prices our cable company was charging us, but down here the only ones that work are Netflix and Amazon Prime (sort of — only original content from Amazon is available, so even that is extremely limited).

I’m also paying for NHL.tv to get access to hockey because that works down here and $99 for the season is a very fair price to be able to access to Red Wings and Golden Knights games.

But the rest?
Hulu? Nope. ESPN? Nope. CBS All-Access? Nope. HBO Max? Nope.

You get the idea. (Supposedly at least a couple of those might be available in 2021 and if they are, I’ll get them. “Stealing” the content through this app is actually a tremendous pain the ass and I’d much rather pay the $10/mo. to get it legally.)

So for now, yeah I’m a pirate. But I’m more than ready to change my ways and become a legal, paying customer if some of these companies will sell their wares south of the border.

We’re heading back to the US

Well, sort of.

Just as we were putting the final touches on packing our belongings to head to Mexico I received word from my host at The D Casino that I had been selected as one of the finalists in the drawing for a 2020 Corvette Stingray ZR1.

The only catch being that the drawing is Saturday, January 17 and you have to be there in person to win.

If I ever get around to writing my book on gambling, one of the topics is going to be the importance of giveaways and promotions in determining where and when you play and one of the most important sub-topics of that is determining equity. In other words, you have to be able to accurately assess your chances of winning whatever it is being offered in the promotion.

In this case, the calculation (if not the decision to return) was easy. The car is worth about $100,000 and I am one of only 50 people with one chance each to win it. The odds are easy for even someone horrible in math to figure out — 50 to 1, but I had to decide if it was worth the cost of flying back to the Las Vegas for a weekend, risking exposure to COVID and the sheer hassle of dealing with travel, customs, etc.

But the equity of the value of the chance to win is easy to figure out in this case also — about $2,000 ($100K divided by 50). It’s costing us a few hundred bucks to fly back, but we have the opportunity to bring back more of our belongings and clothes to Mexico, so we determined it was worth it, hence we’re actually going to be in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday. I have to work most of the day Friday and Saturday will be tied up with the drawing, so I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but that’s what’s happening.

If you see a Stingray ZR1 tooling around the streets of Puerto Vallarta next week you’ll know who it is.

(Just to be clear, if I’m lucky enough to win it I’m NOT keeping the car. I’ll sell it in a hot minute as there’s literally nothing I could do with a car like that in Mexico even if I could afford to pay the taxes and import fees. Even if I still lived in Las Vegas I need a $100K car like I need a hole in my head — though I admit it would be awesome to be able to drive it at least once. My understanding is the car is so rare that several collectors come to the drawing hoping that someone who doesn’t want the car wins it and wants to sell. So hopefully that’s me!)

On being the villain of your own story

Photo by Anas Hinde on Pexels.com

Got high for the first time in a long time today. I’ve been abstaining for awhile for the most part for a variety of reasons, some practical though some simply because I’ve known for awhile I’m not going to be able to smoke weed here as much as I used to at home and it was best to cut back before I had to.

Since weed actually is pretty easy for almost everyone to quit and not the gateway to shooting heroin into your eyeballs, I hadn’t really missed it too much the last couple of months.

But today Tanya was at the pool and I was taking a break from unpacking and found the vape and decided to just sit on the couch and let nature take its course, which is now that I read it a pretty gross way of alluding to smoking some weed and watching stupid TV shows.

After coming back from the pool, Tanya and I decided we should walk up to the neighborhood grocery store and pick up some supplies for dinner and some more water. (This will be noted in a future “random thoughts” type thing about living in Mexico, but you’re never more aware of the preciousness of water until the water in your tap is no longer suitable for drinking.)

It occurred to me as we left the security of our condo building that I had never gone for a walk while high in another country before. Then I was immediately reminded that I’ve almost never been more aware of my “American-ness” than since we’ve moved to our new (temporary) neighborhood.

This is obviously not a bad thing. We didn’t move to Mexico to only hang out with a bunch of Americans and Canadians while playing “tourist” in bars, restaurants and stores staffed almost solely by Mexicans. You can do that in Puerto Vallarta (and sadly, many people do) as easily as you can rent a hotel in Times Square, only walk four blocks in any direction and claim you’ve been to New York City.

But acknowledging that we’re part of a building full of American BnBers in a neighborhood that, quite frankly, probably isn’t too excited about our presence is important to telling this story of our journey. I want and need any Mexicans who end up reading this to understand that we’re self-aware of the gentrifying influence that Can-Am sunbirds and budget retirees have on neighborhoods like 5 de Diciembre.

Because most Americans know more about New York City than we should I think this is probably a pretty accurate analogy. The most desirable neighborhood for foreign expats to live in here is the Zona Romantica. That neighborhood would be akin to something like Greenwich Village in New York City, Rough around the edges compared to anything around Central Park, but an insanely desirable place to live relative to almost any other comparison. (For my New York peeps — important to note that I do GET that many people would choose to live in SoHo or the Village or even Chinatown compared to the Upper East Side. Please don’t get bogged down in that part of the analogy.)

The Romantica (as we locals call it) is about a 3 kilometer walk from our place, plenty safe and mostly along the beach, so we’ll be spending plenty of time there but it’s not close enough that we’ll be frequenting its shops and restaurants like we those in our neighborhood.

To finish the analogy, our neighborhood is more akin to Williamsburg in the late 1990s. The writing is on the wall that money and development is going to reshape the neighborhood in the days ahead, but it’s still very rough around the edges. If I hadn’t made it clear, I like that. Like I said, we didn’t move here to live in a Mexican version of Disneyland.

Even if we end up renting a place in the Romantica here in a few weeks (which is unlikely — we’re even mostly priced out of most of the neighborhood and we’d probably have to sacrifice some space or amenities for us to be able to afford it) we would still regularly come back to this neighborhood for some amazing spots that we’ve already found in only four days. With more time, we’ll find more.

The rooftop restaurant around the corner (I’ll touch on this in a future post) is one of the more trendy places in town amongst locals and local Yanquis still really haven’t figured it out. Again, it’s not the kind of place a snobby American living in the Romantica would go out of the way to visit (yet), but the building I live in and this restaurant will sooner or later force out most of the mom and pop places and taco trucks in my hood. It’s just a matter of time (and money). You probably can’t throw a rock in Williamsburg without hitting someone who lives between E 14th and Houston streets these days.

But it’s difficult at times to know that I’m playing a part in making this neighborhood less interesting. Don’t get me wrong. Liberal guilt only goes so far. That’s the part conservatives somehow are never able to get. At the end of the day I’m not letting liberal guilt get in the way of me living the way I want to live, but I’m going to do it on my terms and while mentally acknowledging that I’m aware of it and I do what I can not to be an asshole about it.

So I try to speak Spanish where possible and say “hola” to all of the abuelitas sitting on their front porch when we walk by, even if I’m guessing they might not like us.

This is their neighborhood and I’m just a guest.

Postscript: I should mention that the analogy above only extends as far as much as it remains a comparison to New York City. There are neighborhoods on the ocean north of the airport with million dollar homes filled with Americans who exist in a universe that I will never know anything about. But that was never the point of the post. Still, it should be noted that those people laugh at the “losers” who deign to live in the Zona Romantica.

¡Bienvenidos a Mexico!

Well, that was an eventful day and a half.

Wait, I was talking about our move to Puerto Vallarta; what were you thinking of?

Unfortunately, the seditionist and insurrectionist acts of pro-Trump right-wing terrorists is not a laughing matter of course, but if you can’t laugh you gotta cry and I intend to do neither, writing this as I am from another country specifically to get away from pro-Trump morons and those who enable them.

Frankly, that’s about all I have to say about that matter. I won’t stifle myself in the future even if I’m not living in the United States. I’ve earned the right to criticize America and Americans (including the soon-to-be President, Joe Biden) when it’s called for, but part of the reason for this move was to no longer be a slave to these violent, slobbering morons like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and their dreams of a white ethnostate. Like the kids on TikTok say, I gotta live my best life.

Speaking of which, the trip here and the process of moving into our new (temporary) place went smoothly as can be expected, frankly smoother than expected and we’re happy despite getting used to the quirks of apartment/condo living again. The screaming baby upstairs that sounds less like its hungry and more like its being strangled is not something you have to deal with when you own your home^.

Las Vegas suburbs 1, Puerto Vallarta 0.

But we had a lovely dinner on the ocean last night, were able to walk to the grocery store and convenience store only a few blocks away for supplies and are settling into beachfront(-ish), emigre(-ish) living.

It still feels like vacation for now and probably will for quite awhile, maybe until the first time I have to open up my computer and login for work (so roughly about 7:30 a.m. Monday morning), but I’m going to count that as a win for now as well.

The only other observation I’ll mention for now is there is nowhere near as many American Covidiots taking advantage of slightly more lax COVID restrictions and the charming Mexican propensity to not be able to say “no” to any semi-reasonable request. Though we have not ventured very far from our new neighborhood, which is not among the most popular for American tourists.

The locals themselves are taking it very seriously as all hospital facilities in Puerto Vallarta are reportedly completely full and the Mexican government has failed as much if not more than the American one in testing and contact tracing. We are very much on our own, so in that sense if nothing else — it’s just like being in the United States.

Stay safe and here’s hoping for better days ahead — for all of us.

^ – unless you are the parent/caretaker of one I suppose.

A trip along I-94 and Memory Lane

We visited Battle Creek for the first time in 16 months on Sunday, spent some time with my lifelong friend Chad, and said goodbye to my mother for awhile. 

The drive back to metro Detroit was spent mostly in silence, accidentally giving me a chance to reflect on the drive between Detroit and Battle Creek — one I’ve made possibly a thousand times and filled with memories at almost every exit along the way. 

Exit 110 (Marshall) — Cruising downtown Marshall on Friday and Saturday nights during my teenage years, like almost everyone I went to high school with. Mostly PG-13 hijinks and getting into the kind of harmless trouble that teenagers everywhere have been since World War II or earlier. 

Exit 121 (Albion) — We never spent much time in Albion, but I remember it for two things. One of the most racist guys I went to high school with ended up becoming a cop there, probably terrorizing its innocent Black residents for as long as he was employed there. Amongst mostly lily-white western Michigan small towns, Albion is one of the few towns with a sizable Black population, a fact that might have appealed to him when looking for a job. 

The other memory is of our senior year and Chad was on the basketball team playing Albion, which had one of the best teams in the state. Two of the closest games Albion played that regular season were against our high school for some reason, though their record that year was undistinguished. Sadly, two members of our team have died in the last two months, Albion was incredible to watch that season and took a 26-0 record into the state championship game where it had the misfortune to run into Detroit Country Day, whose best player was a young man by the name of Chris Webber, one of the most high profile high school basketball players in history and soon to the cornerstone of the Fab Five. Chad and I and some other friends made the trek to Crisler Arena to watch the state title game and Albion gave Country Day as big of a test as they had all year before losing. 

Exit 138 (Jackson) — A rite of passage of Michigan teenagers is making the trip to Canada,  where the drinking age in Ontario across the Detroit River is only 19. Despite living two hours away, we would regularly pile five guys into a car and steer it to the border, one of us vowing to be the “designated driver” though that usually meant only drinking until a couple of hours until last call as opposed to all night. Determination of designated driver status was often settled by epic games of John Madden football, the loser saddled with that undesirable job. 

Throughout bars along Ouellette Avenue and all over downtown Windsor, “underage” Michiganders from southwest Michigan drunkenly mingled and do what idiot kids do when they’re drunk. One trip I met a girl named Lisa, who had the misfortune (for me) of living in Trenton – a two hour, 30 minute drive from Battle Creek on a good day. 

We tried to date long-distance, at one point agreeing to meet for a date in Jackson, roughly halfway between our two towns. I don’t remember much about it except it was the date where it probably became obvious for us both that it wasn’t going to work. We went to dinner, got ice cream from a semi-famous Jackson ice cream shop that I don’t remember the name of and made out in one of our cars for awhile — about as chaste a date as you can have when you’re 19. I liked Lisa a lot, but that was the first lesson in the role that geography plays in your love life, but I would soon get a lot more luck in that department. 

All along the drive, the many of the familiar landmarks and signs still stand, as do the truck stops and gas stations, almost all of which I’ve probably stopped at one time or another — the White Castle at Exit 145, Grass Lake, Chelsea and on to…

Exit 172 (Ann Arbor) — This was the final exit of my work commute while living at various points east (Madison Heights, Northville, Ypsilanti, Westland) for more than 10 years, our company’s office sitting just off of Jackson Road on the west side of Ann Arbor. I started that job at age 23 and on the first day of work at that job I met my future wife, whom I just now realized I’ve spent literally half of my life knowing. On that day we were both dating other people and wouldn’t end up dating each other for another two and a half years, but I definitely do remember her that first time I saw her and liking her instantly. In this instance, she was single when I moved back to the Detroit area after an ill-fated six months living in Las Vegas and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Exits 175, 177 (Ann Arbor) — As I’ve said, I worked in Ann Arbor for quite awhile and barely out of college myself spent a lot of time amongst the college age students of that era. Scorekeepers, Rick’s American Cafe, the Brown Jug — it was not unusual to see minor celebrities like Michigan’s football players partying. Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson — all were free to be “normal” college students in those days. Especially for Brady, maybe the last time in his life he was able to regularly go out in public without being the center of attention. 

Exit 185 (Michigan Avenue) — Almost back to Wayne County now, but first driving by the enormous Willow Run factory, one of the edifices that earned Detroit the honor of being called the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II. The Willow Run plant alone turning out one B-29 bomber every hour throughout most of the war.

A lifetime spent driving the same route and now I do it only once every 18 months or so, but a lifetime of memories all the same. I’m glad I’ve had this chance to spend so much time in Michigan and say goodbye as best as possible despite the pandemic.