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.

Feliz Navidad!

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

In the regular phone calls with my mother during this pandemic I remind her that the cliche “no news is good news” has never been more true.

With that in mind, this update is largely in the same vein. We’ve been staying at Tanya’s mother’s house since Dec. 13 and have literally not left the house for anything other than groceries and a run to the liquor store since, Michigan having more effectively locked down than many other states.

After spending 10 days in hotels all over Las Vegas, this has been a nice change for me. Fortunately, we get along well with my in-laws, though I’m sure they’re probably ready to get their home back and return to whatever counts for normalcy in these times.

I’ve had a chance to shovel snow for the first time in 12 years and I’m happy to report I still hate it. I’ve probably tempted fate too many times since living in Las Vegas by saying I’ll never shovel snow again, but the gods made me pay for that hubris. (Fortunately it was only a couple of inches and I was only pitching in with my father-in-law.)

For the next week, it’s more of the same before we return to Las Vegas for three days to raid the storage unit for the stuff we’re taking to Mexico and then on January 6, the same day Donald Trump is going to attempt a coup with the help of his quislings in Congress we’ll be flying to Mexico. Not sure it’s irony, but it’s something and it’s all gonna happen without me paying any attention to it because I’m ready to get out of here.

Hope you and your family are well, staying healthy and looking forward to what can hopefully only be a much better 2021.

Without a home during a pandemic

From USA Today

It’s been a tumultuous several weeks, but we closed the sale of our house Friday and have been spending the last several days bouncing from hotel to hotel here in Las Vegas before we fly back to Michigan to spend the holidays.

Were it not for COVID, this would much more fun of an adventure, but the pandemic has robbed it of any excitement, leaving instead only anxiousness about contracting the virus from having to eat in hotel restaurants and occasional bouts of rage-inducing apoplexy at your average idiot MAGA tourist who believe the world revolves around him and his needs (it’s almost always a “him”).

As you might expect, the kinds of folks who are traveling to Las Vegas during the worst phase of the worst pandemic in the last 100 years lean much more to the “I can do whatever the fuck I want and I dare you to tell me otherwise” side of the equation. They are regularly reminded there are rules to try and protect everyone’s health and they make a big show about how they put out they are by having to wear a piece of fabric over their drooling maw, only to have the whole kabuki theater repeat itself 10 minutes later when a different casino employee reminds them that there are rules in place to try and protect the public during a once in a century pandemic yadda yadda yadda, rinse wash and repeat.

It’s not fun for me to watch and I can’t imagine how it’s any fun for the MAGA turds in question, but it must be because it happens everywhere all the time.

Had I my choice in the matter, we would have just went to Michigan sooner, but the missus didn’t want to spend four weeks in her mother’s basement, a feeling I definitely share believe you me, but under the circumstances I’d feel a lot safer there than here. We spend most of the time in the hotel room and I still have to work during the days, so it’s not so bad, but it’s the reality of the situation when you’re without a home.

I’m being very careful not to use the word “homeless” because that has implications I’m trying to avoid, more so for the people who find themselves that way through no fault of their own or because of the harshness of our society. We have the resources and the connections to sleep very comfortably tonight and until we move to Mexico. That’s not true for millions in our country unfortunately.

I’m gonna try to get my MAGA venting mostly out of the way before we physically finish moving to Mexico, mostly for my own sanity and well-being, but also because it seems like somewhat poor form to bitch about a country you no longer live in. Like the person who grouses about his ex for years after a breakup. At some point man, just let it go. But for now I still live here and I’m stuck in this country with those idiots just like most of you. So I’ll soon have more thoughts on the crypto-fascist hellscape the Republican Party has evolved into in the days ahead. For now, I’m enjoying one final In-N-Out burger and flipping a virtual middle finger at the cruelty of late-stage capitalism mixed with the cruelty of the ignorant, uneducated masses. A toxic stew of white nationalism, cultural resentment and misdirected anger.

Good times. Stay safe and sane out there.

Our plans are finalized!

With the closing on the house now two weeks out and hopefully nothing standing in its way, we spent some time yesterday booking all of our travel arrangements and lodging in Puerto Vallarta for January and February.

“Finalized” in the headline is doing a lot of work in the age of COVID, where nothing is completely certain. Amongst our general fears the biggest is that Mexico could halt all travel from the United States, but with vaccines on the way and the Mexican economy dependent on the border remaining open that seems increasingly unlikely.

So that caveat aside, the next couple of months looks something like this. We have to be out of the house by Friday, December 4. We will be spending about a week bouncing around a couple hotels in Las Vegas finalizing some things including selling Tanya’s car, making sure everything is settled in storage and possibly even selling whatever else we can that we won’t need any longer.

We’ll be in Michigan over the holidays for about three weeks staying with family and hunkering down to avoid COVID and freezing cold temps (not necessarily in that order).

After the New Year, fly back from Detroit for a couple of days in Las Vegas to sell my car, say some last goodbyes and then January 6 we fly to Puerto Vallarta and take residence in our new city. We’ve rented a condo for a couple of months in the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, about five blocks from the ocean. That will give us a few weeks to try and get acclimated to our new town and find a longer-term lease on an apartment or condo.

We’re excited to get going after quite a few weeks of “hurry up and wait”. Going to try and enjoy our remaining time here, but January can’t get here fast enough.

Why societies fail

Came across this fascinating article in The Atlantic about a UConn professor who has a model that can predict the decline and ascendance of a society.

Seems like something that might be useful in the hellscape that has been and continues to be the year of our Lord, 2020.

You can read the article for yourself, but the news isn’t good if you’re an American or live in America. I swear I try not to project my decision-making onto the world around me, but it’s very hard when you’ve sold and are selling literally all your belongings and pushing off to another country.

Still, it’s hard not to feel a little validated that I’m not just crazy and seeing trends that aren’t really there. Yes, it’s bad out there and yes, it’s probably going to get worse. As always, I hope I’m wrong, but just in case I’m not…it’s still not too early to sell high and get while the getting is good.