Giving Away Ice in Winter

Hey, what’s so difficult?

Send an email to 20 people you know and tell them that you’ve got a free book for them. All they have to do is, when they get a notification email from Amazon, click on a link and claim the gift.

You see, I had just published my first book for Amazon Kindle. It was about online dating: 50+ Online Dating Profile Tips for People 50+:How to Write an Awesome Online Dating Profile that Attracts People You Want to Meet.

To get people to buy my book, I first needed to get them to know it’s available, or raise its visibility. Amazon uses an algorithm based on sales and reviews to rank and place a book. That makes sense. Amazon wants to make money, so if you want to be highlighted on the first search page, it helps if you’re making them money.

So, when someone accepts my gift, it counts as a sale. I’m paying for it, but it’s just a promotional expense. And, at $.99, it doesn’t break the bank. Before I gifted my book, I sort of explained this in an email to my 20 friends. Granted, writing an online dating profile is probably not what my 20 friends were thinking about when I approached them. However, even if they couldn’t use the book or didn’t want it, I implored them to please just accept it.

I forgot to also tell them it doesn’t matter if they don’t have a Kindle, you don’t need to have one to accept the gift.

OMG! When I decided to do this, I forgot the population I was dealing with – most over 60. You’d think they’d just crawled out from under a rock holding a flip phone, and thought a tablet was something you took once a day to control cholesterol.

For about half the group, you’d think I was asking them to commit suicide, kill their first born, or scam them out of their social security number.

I’m sure several ignored my email, thinking, “What does that jerk want now?”

Others probably opened the email, and filed it for later action which, at my age, often means, when hell freezes over. That’s not meant maliciously. But chances are that I’ll innocently forget about it…until hell freezes over or someone destroys my email account. As I write this, I have over 6800 unopened emails dating back to 2000.

Some let me know that they don’t own a Kindle. To them I counseled that they could view my book on a smartphone, tablet or coputer with an app from the Kindle or Apple store. What I actually wanted to do was yell at the top of my lungs through the Telmex DSL line that I didn’t care if their computer was a vintage 1982 Osborne 2 computer running the CP/M operating system: “Just click on the F**king link and accept my gift. I need the sale for my Amazon rankings. Can’t you help out an old friend?”

Then I got this response…”But, I don’t have an Amazon account.”

Hopeless!

Imagine walking up to someone you know and trying to hand them an envelope with 2 tickets to the next Bruce Springstein concert (I’m in no way comparing my book to The Boss).

“Gee thanks!” They say, as their eyes narrow and they look at you sideways, all the while slowly running their fingers over the envelope trying to ascertain its contents and that there are actually tickets inside. “What’s the catch? Why do you want to give me Bruce Springstein tickets…for free?”

“There’s no catch,” you explain. “I put the anthrax in the tickets I gave Joe.”

Unphased by your answer, your friend asks, “When is it, the concert that is.”

“Two weeks from Tuesday,” you answer.

“Where is it?” they continue.

“At the stadium,” you say.

“Oh I hate that stadium,” they complain, rolling their eyes. “I don’t know if I can make it.”

They reach out to hand the envelope back to you.

You hold up your hand and suggest. “Wait, just keep the tickets. Give them to your kids or another friend. Or, how about that bum on the street corner over there panhandling for a cup of coffee or whatever.”

They look at you with a furrowed brow. “Are you sure these are legit?”

Now to be sure, my book isn’t everybody’s shot glass of tequila. It’s about helping people over 50 improve their online dating profile and avoiding many of the mistakes that prevent them from finding the kinds of dates they want to meet.

Maybe my next book will be about how to gratefully accept a gift – even if it’s something you can’t use or don’t want – even an electronic one.

Hey, I’m not looking for a thank you. Just click on the stupid “accept” button!

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My New Book Helps Singles Over 50 Improve Online Dating Prospects

Today, I released my first book for Amazon Kindle, 50+ Online Dating Tips for People 50+: How to Write an Awesome Dating Profile that Attracts People You Want to Meet. I’m using a pen-name, J.C. Elliot.

I started writing the book about four-years ago, while I was actively involved with online dating. I recently picked up the draft, and decided to finish it.

The purpose of my book is to help people over 50 do a better job of writing a profile. It helps prepare older divorced or widowed people for the challenges they meet. Many are going through or have been through physical life changes that can test their vanity. They’re anticipating retirement and the financial concerns it brings. Many of them haven’t dated in years and are often hesitant to use unfamiliar new technologies to find dates. They’re not sure what to do or what to expect online.

50+ Dating Profile Tips for People 50+ steps readers through the process of writing a profile from evaluating what they are looking for to communicating it effectively. The book also provides advice about the importance of photos and how to take them, as well as how to write what I call the “About Me Essay,” and how to edit it.

You can download and print 3 Profile Worksheets and Editing Checklist

Finally, the Appendices include three worksheets and an editing checklist to simplify the preparation of the profile by helping people prepare the information readers will need to complete a profile before going online, or improve the one they already have. The worksheets will also be available for readers to download and print.

I’m a retired marketing consultant, and recently dated online for more than 2 years. I wrote this book because it quickly became evident to me that most people don’t understand an online dating profile is about marketing one’s self.

The book is only 50 pages, is written in a conversational style, and is a quick read. The last third of the book contains the worksheets and checklists.

For a limited time, my book will be available for $.99. You can order it from a link at the bottom of my book’s website or order directly from Amazon here.

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Holiday Cooking Challenges

One of the biggest cooking challenges when you live in a foreign country is finding the right ingredients to make the things you did before. Normally it’s not that important to me. Since I moved to Mexico, I do very little cooking. Most of the time, it’s cheaper to eat out – especially for dinner.

When I do cook, however, I often need to be creative in my selection of ingredients. In Mexico they don’t use many ingredients we use north of the border. Likewise, there are many ingredients here that are quite interesting that we never see up north. Very often, I need to find a reasonable substitute.

There’s a supermarket up the street called Super Lake that carries almost anything you are familiar with in the U.S. and Canada. If you insist on using the American brands, you’ll pay a premium.

When it comes to holidays, everyone has their favorite foods. For Thanksgiving and Christmas here, turkeys abound, and spiral hams are popular. There are sweet potatoes and cranberries, string beans, peas, corn, brussel sprouts, packaged stuffing for the turkey, and even pumpkin for pies.

Potatoes, however, are problematic. Most of the year, the only potatoes you can get here make poor mashed potatoes. The first time I made them they turned out like wallpaper paste, and were impossible to clean up afterwards if you let them dry (and even if you didn’t). During this season, we can be thankful that there are a few stores that carry russet potatoes which make a much better version of mashed potatoes.

This year I was invited to a pot-luck Christmas dinner. I decided to bring a modern family favorite. When growing up, mashed yellow turnips were a part of Thanksgiving dinner. My ex and I found a new way to use turnips in the 1993 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine. We discovered a recipe for a root vegetable casserole that combined mashed potatoes, turnips, and parsnip that was a hit – even with people who didn’t like turnips (see the featured picture at the top). It’s been part of Thanksgiving dinner ever since.

Mexican White Turnip called Nabo

Mexican White Turnip called Nabo

I had three challenges in finding the ingredients to make it here. First, I needed to find russet potatoes. Second, there are no yellow turnips here. But at least there is a mild white turnip, called Nabo. Third, there are no parsnips here.

For substitutes, I wanted to get the orange color of the yellow turnips and the spiciness of parsnips. So, I pureed cooked carrots and added ground allspice.

The original recipe ingredients are directly below, and my Mexican version follows. The cooking instructions are basically the same with differences noted.

Root Vegetable Casserole

Original Version

Mexican Version

7 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

3 lbs. russet potato (1.5” pieces)

1.5 lbs. rutabaga (1/2” pieces)

1.25 lbs. parsnip (1.5” pieces)

8 garlic cloves

1 bayleaf

1 tsp. thyme

3 large onion thinly sliced

¾ cup (1.5 sticks) butter at room temperature

Salt and pepper

7 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

1.5 Kilo russet potato (1.5” pieces)

.75 Kilo. Nabo (1/2” pieces)

2 large carrots (diced)

8 garlic cloves

1 bayleaf

1 tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. ground allspice

3 large onion thinly sliced

170 grams butter at room temperature

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Butter 13”x9”x2” glass baking dish

In Mexican version only, put 1.5 cups of chicken broth in a small pot with the carrots. Bring pot to boil, reduce to simmer until carrots are tender. Transfer carrots to a blender and puree. Add remaining broth to large pot below

In a large pot put first 7 ingredients

Bring pot to boil, reduce to simmer until veggies are tender (approx. 30 minutes)

Transfer veggies and pureed carrots to a bowl

Add 1 stick (approx. 100 grams) of butter to bowl

Beat until mashed but not chunky (a Kitchenaid mixer with large paddle works well)

Season mixture with salt and pepper

Melt remaining butter in a large skillet on medium heat.

Saute onions until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium low and continue for 15 minutes

Season onions with salt and pepper.

Spoon root vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth.

Distribute onions evenly over the vegetables

Reheat casserole for 20 minutes before serving

Buen provecho!

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Party in the Streets

Wow! Last night there was a party in Ajijic. It’s a party that happens once a year celebrating the town’s patron saint, San Andres. Raul, a waiter in a restaurant, asked me if I was going. I wasn’t planning on it, but on his suggestion, I wandered on up to the plaza to check it out.

plaza-1-2

ferris-wheel-2

The plaza was alive, teaming with people. Vendors, I had never seen before set up shop around the plaza. Almost every kind of Mexican snack food was available hot dogs hamburgers, tacos, tamales, peanuts, garbanzos, cut up fruits and cooked vegetable, cookies, cakes, ice cream, beer, soda, tequila.

The noise was deafening. Amusement rides blocked Calle Colon, and loud speakers boomed carnival music. Bands played on a big stage and on every corner, as well as in the restaurants –  mariachis, bandas, and even folk musicians. After I left, I know there would be firecrackers in the church courtyard. No Mexican fiesta would be complete without them!

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Moms and dads held their children’s hands, carried babies, and pushed strollers. Lovers also held hands and danced to the music. The restaurants and food stands were full, and hundred just sat and walked around socializing.

When I first arrived in Ajijic two years ago, I lived within walking distance of the plaza. I attended my first San Andres and wrote about it here. Although I couldn’t capture the sound, which is half the experience of being there, I took a few photos to share.

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The New Political Transparency

To think that you can cover up anything today is hubris.

This is the first election where alternative media, activists, whistle blowers, and troublemakers on the right and left, are using the technological tools at their disposal to put the privacy and pasts of the political class at risk – and anyone else they so choose. No longer can politicians or anyone with political ambition take for granted what they do, no matter how secret or nefarious. It’s never safe from watching eyes.

I don’t write about politics on this blog. But, you have to agree: this has been one very weird political season. As I write this, the election hasn’t been decided yet, but it compels me to comment…hopefully for the last time

This election will go down in history as the election in which technology in the hands of everyday people triumphed over the political classes’ attempts to hide their dirty secrets from us.

It doesn’t matter which side you support, your side’s dirty laundry is starting to stink. Before this year, it was easy to keep the lid on the laundry hamper, hide it in a closet until the votes were cast, and then let the laundress dispose of it.

No longer. As one Reverend Wright, from Chicago, is attributed to have said: “The chickens have come home to roost.”

I have a good friend and business mentor who counseled me to always be honest in your business dealings because you never know when your past will come back to haunt you. Of course, if you’ve got nothing bad in your past, you don’t have anything to worry about. But, who among us can make that claim.

It’s getting more and more difficult to hide any questionable aspects of our pasts.

Technology has made our lives and our pasts public. We are constantly being watched and tracked by cameras, bar codes, software in our cell phones, retailers, social media, etc. Many people just give their lives away on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and yes…those evil emails. Even this blog exposes my private, inner thoughts to the world (Ah ha..but only some of them!).

As we make ourselves increasingly vulnerable, many ignore how our actions today will affect our future. Today’s posts and electronic communications will be tomorrow’s past.

And this brings me around to why this election is different. The curtain is pulled back. The electronic trail of corruption is being revealed. It’s impossible to hide it anymore…even naively on private servers or with sophisticated encryption. Hackers with evil intentions can find all our nasty secrets if they’re so disposed:

  • It may be a college term paper you wrote 30 years ago
  • It may be something about which you commented in private.
  • It may be a surveillance photo putting you someplace you didn’t want your spouse to know.
  • It may be a private cell phone video that captures an awkward moment that’s beamed to the world on Youtube.
  • It may be a racial slur you sloppily made when you were drunk.
  • It may be a top secret memo.
  • It may be a sexist remark said in a locker room.
  • It may be the people you’re friending or the posts that you’re sharing on Facebook.

The distribution of information has also been democratized, neutralizing the power of the mainstream press. Unedited news travels at lightning speed, instantly dispersed and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms by you and me and those seeking political advantage.

When a presidential candidate can deliver a message directly to voters via Twitter or Facebook posts, do we even need 20th century media outlets anymore to distribute our information.

We’ve all heard the politicians promise transparency only to hide their questionable and often illegal actions from public view. So is this awakening political reality going to usher in a new era of transparency? Not in the usual sense. It is the new political transparency. But the politicians don’t control it anymore.

It will have to be a stupid scoundrel who thinks they can get away with anything in the future…even powerful politicians. One thing scoundrels fear – being exposed. They’d better be looking over their shoulder like never before.

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Counting Nickels, Dimes, and Library Fines

Rules.

Every organization has them. No bureaucrat ever lost their job for obeying the rules…no matter how absurd or stupid. Rules exist so bureaucrats and other petty functionaries never have to make a decision that could cost them their job.

Most bureaucrats don’t need to think. Everything they need to do their job is buried somewhere in a law or regulation.

So what happens to your average bureaucrat when you ask them to…GASP…think?

In most circumstances, it’s not very pretty.

Think about the U.S. and what a mess it’s in. The largest growing segment of the U.S. economy for the last 8+ years has been government. That means the U.S. has been hiring more bureaucrats than at any time in its history. In that same time, it’s promulgated 10s of thousands of new arcane regulations.

In addition, for the last 40+ years, the country has invested trillions of dollars in its education system to teach people “critical thinking” skills. More and more, these graduates with supposed “critical thinking” skills are winding up employed as bureaucrats where thinking is not required. Does anyone see a problem here?

But I digress too much.

Several absurd events happened in the past several weeks that have pointed out the silliness of some rules and not thinking through whether the consequences of them achieve the desired result. This absurdity didn’t happen at the hands of a government or corporate bureaucracy. Rather, by the rules and actions of a small local organization here at Lakeside that many hold near and dear to their hearts – The Lake Chapala Society (LCS).

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m a card-carrying member (which you must carry to participate in some of its programs). In fact, LCS membership is so guarded that, to get a membership directory, you need to be cross-referenced in two computer systems which don’t talk to each other (in 2016!), and sign over a portion of the inheritance you planned to give to your children.

That said, in jest of course, I gladly pay my dues and member discounted fees to participate in LCS activities.

So what brought me to the point of trashing a fine organization that makes a positive contribution to the community, and helps Mexicans and expats alike?

Bureaucracy!

Today I went to LCS to purchase a ticket for an event at the member-discounted price of 100 pesos (about $US5.00). That seemed like an easy enough thing to do.

After filling out the requisite and redundant paperwork, I handed the lovely woman, in her eighties, behind the desk, 100 pesos for my ticket, and my “never-leave-home-without-it” LCS membership card. She took my card, and accessed the computer screen in front of her to see if I was “legal.”

“You owe us money,” she said blankly, never taking her eyes off the screen.

“What’s it for, and how much is it?” I asked her.

Calling to a man at another computer on the other side of the room, and obviously on another computer system, she asked, “Can you find out how much this man owes?”

“He owes 4 pesos for overdue books,” came the retort.

Looking up at me she said, “You’ll have to pay that fine before I can give you a ticket.”

I smiled in incredulity and asked, “Can I pay you?”

“Oh no,” she said, “you need to pay at the library.”

I was still smiling and took in the absurdity of the situation. She was only a good little bureaucrat and doing her job. She wasn’t trained to tell me to make sure I pay my fine the next time I take out a book. Even the library in my old home town didn’t start enforcing fines until you owed $US5.00.

After visiting the library where they salivated over my 4 pesos, I returned to get my ticket, spirits intact and smiling all the way.

So, take this in: I want to give LCS 100 pesos and they won’t take it until I pay a 4 peso fine. Did it ever occur to the powers-that-be at LCS that I could have just as well said F-U and walked out with 104 pesos still in my pocket and not theirs.

I’m an LCS member, and I needed to jump through hoops to get a 50 peso discount. It took 10 minutes, and the people behind me were probably getting annoyed. I needed to fill out a paper form, have my name cross-referenced in two databases, walk to the adjoining building to pay a fine, and get back on line to be cross-referenced again.

It was almost as bad a going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles!

If I were a non member, I could have walked in, paid 150 pesos, gotten a ticket, and walked out – no questions asked. It’s a good thing I wasn’t renewing my membership at the same time. I could have spent the whole day there.

But Mexico has co-opted me to be patient with all kinds of bullshit. I just don’t expect this kind of BS from an organization that’s run, for the most part, by North Americans, and many of whom are well-aware of the changes in technology that have taken place in the last few decades.

Directories and library fines, however, aren’t the only things at LCS that keep me shaking my head. It seems that every week they devise some new silliness to confound members and stick it to non-members.

I recently went to a singles function at LCS. In their wisdom, they decided to charge non-members 20 pesos to attend. I suppose the idea was to demonstrate the benefits of having a membership: you get in free!

However, once you got in, drinks were 2-for-1. So, for 20 pesos, you could get a free drink that costed 30-50 pesos depending on your preference. Now 20 pesos (about $US1.25) isn’t going to break anyone. But it’s not going to give anyone an incentive to join the organization either.

I suggested that instead of charging an entrance fee, they only allow members to get the 2-for-1 special. I know a lot of non-members who might be enticed to join with the promise of a free drink at every LCS event.

Then there’s the silliness of the Open Games group that meets on Monday afternoon from 1-4. It’s closed to non-LCS members from 1-2. What secret things happen between 1 and 2? I know many people that participate in that group, and I’m sure that no one is checking IDs at the door. So why exclude anyone?

Then there are computer classes that require Internet access. I took one to learn how to use my new Android tablet (BTW only open to LCS members). LCS’s computer systems and Internet capabilities are so antiquated that everyone in the class couldn’t get Internet access, including the teacher, who happens to be on the Board of Directors, at one point.

This brings me to the point that the computer system there never seems to improve, causing frustration to staff and users, and inconvenience to members. LCS’s systems don’t talk with each other. I have a feeling one speaks English and the other speaks Spanish. So that simple transactions take multiple entries into multiple systems. I can’t imagine the errors that are occurring every day, especially with a volunteer workforce.

When you go to some restaurants or Walmart, you get a detailed receipt after you’ve paid… from a cash register. Not at LCS. There, in the second decade of the 21st century, most transactions are done on paper. There are separate cash boxes for everything: newspapers, membership, library fines, tickets, etc.

I’m sure the members of the board of directors have heard of cash registers. Just think how easy it would make everything to put all the cash in a $US50 cash register and, just like Walmart, itemize each transaction when entered. Then staff could run a report at the end of the day that tells them how much was sold in each category. Maybe they could spring for a slightly more expensive system that actually interfaces with their accounting system.

Ah, but, you can see the problem with that: the computer systems don’t talk with each other; how are they going to talk with a cash register? Especially when it’s probably built in Korea and speaks Korean!

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Getting Attention Mexican-Style

…Or how I spent my Sunday afternoon.

So we’re cruising along somewhere about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta at 65 mph. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The traffic was moving along nicely. We were returning from a wonderful three days respite living at the beach in PV, and the conversation in the car was lively.

All of a sudden I was jamming on the breaks. A long line of cars and buses is stopped ahead. We started asking ourselves the obvious questions. What could the problem be: was there an accident, a broken down car; how long was the back-up

Little did we know that five miles up the road, a small Mexican town was protesting the disappearance of one of its own a week earlier. More succinctly, they were protesting the lack of response from local officials and police. How does one get attention of the police? They blocked the main highway that carries traffic to and from Puerto Vallarta.

Apparently, this is how small towns and indigenous people get attention when the police and politicians ignore them. I have a friend who has spent a bit of time in Chiapas, which is a state in southern Mexico where the indigenous peoples were in open revolt against the Mexican government. She says things have recently gotten dicey there because promises made haven’t been filled. Randomly blocking major highways is a favorite attention-getting tactic.

These blockages are different from the publicized gang roadblocks and shakedowns in several Mexican states. Gang shakedowns are one of the reasons why the U.S. State Department warns against travel in several areas of Mexico, and travel at night, in general.

According to an article on a local website, the “manifestacion” we came across started at 9 am, and we stumbled upon it around 2 pm. Apparently the demonstrations attracted the Federales, state police, and the local constabulary.

We dutifully waited our car with the air conditioning running for a half hour. Cars started turning around. As each car turned around, we inched up a little more.

For us turning around was not really a good option. There really was no alternative route. We would have had to travel an hour back to the turn-off for the carraterra libre (free road). Once word spread (I don’t/can’t listen to local traffic reports), that road would be no piece of cake either. In another 70+/- kms, we would be cruising on 4-lane toll road. We’d take our chances.

My friend was getting a little antsy, so she decided to take a walk in search of an answer to the question going through everyone’s mind: “What’s going on?”

She disappeared down the hill, walking along the line of busses and cars that snaked around the curve ahead. Fifteen minutes later she arrived back with at least three rumors of why the back-up existed – one of which was the real reason. Who was kidnapped, however, wasn’t exactly clear. Some people reported it was the village’s mayor. Other rumors circulated that there were narcos in the village and the police were disarming the villagers, or having a shoot-out. We saw some firepower pass us in the other lane, but it was unclear whether they were good guys or bad guys.

Now this may sound a little scary, but truthfully it was a pain in the ass. It wasn’t how I expected to spend Sunday afternoon, watching men and children pee on the side of the road (I don’t know what the women did), families pick mangoes from roadside trees, and twenty-somethings break out 6-packs of beer and have a picnic. Thank God the bugs were taking a siesta.

Finally, about two hours after becoming entrapped, the line started to move – steadily. As the police waved us by the lane they cleared among the demonstrators, you can see what we saw in this article’s pictures.

As we drove by, my friend took a few photos. “Stop,” she pleaded. “I want to get some more pictures.”

“Are you kidding,” I answered. I could just imagine what the police would think of a car with U.S. plates stopping, and a gringa jumping out and snapping pictures.

The rest of trip was uneventful until we got onto the Guadalajara – Chapala highway. We were almost home, encountered a major downpour. Once again, traffic ground to halt. About one kilometer before the airport, a tree was knocked down on top of a hapless VW, blocking two lanes. 9 hours after leaving PV we arrive back in Ajijic, a trip that should have taken no more than 51/2-6 hours.

Postscript: It was a good that we didn’t turn around and take the free road from PV. When the toll road ends it merges with the free road just before Guadalajara. The free road was backed up as far as we could see.

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In Defense of Lima Beans

Oxymoron?

As far as I’m concerned, there is no defense of lima beans. And believe me, I’m not very concerned.

But I needed something to write about, and the idea for this subject popped into my head. I’m sure this post will leave a bad taste in the mouths of some of my readers who like lima beans. And some of you might be thinking that to choose a topic like this, there must not have been too much in my head to begin with.

You see, I don’t hate many things in this world. Hate’s a very strong word. But, in no uncertain terms, I hate lima beans. My ex even got me a “hates lima bean” tee shirt once by artist and cartoonist Hal Mayforth. I contacted Hal to get the image, but it he couldn’t get to it. So, I found the above image from a blog called Deep Friar.

When I told several friends about this blog’s topic, they tried to convince me that, with the right recipe, I could transform lima beans into a wonderful dish. Sorry folks. That’s like saying you can remove the taste of liver by bathing it in something like hot fudge sauce, or the sliminess of Okra by disguising it in a bowl of curry, or change the funky taste of Papaya by mixing it with strawberries.

Just think of the food you detest the most. Then think of the food you love the most. Would you risk ruining the latter by mixing it with the former? I remember when I was a kid and sick. The doctor told my mom to mix aspirin with apple sauce or Hershey’s chocolate syrup. For years, I could eat neither. I’ve never known why someone would want to ruin a perfectly good ear of corn by mixing its kernels with lima beans. I guess that’s why they call it “suck”-a-tash.

I have nothing against most types of beans. I’ll eat fava beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, green beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, cannellini and more. I’ll eat barbecued baked beans, refried beans, cassoulet, chili with beans, black beans with rice, chana, minced pork with fermented black beans, dim sum filled with sweet bean paste, and roasted garbanzos from a street vendor in Chapala.

Unfortunately, there is an odd combination of flavor and texture that makes lima beans thoroughly objectionable to my pallet.

I’m pretty sure lima beans were put on earth to teach little kids how to turn up their noses. Or maybe to show them that no matter how bad calves liver tastes, there’s something else on the planet that tastes worse.

They never tell little kids that there are laws against cruel and unusual punishment. Kids shouldn’t have to make a tortured decision about whether to eat their lima beans or go to bed without dessert. I can just see some disgruntled thirteen year old pulling out the cell phone that their parents bought them and reporting them to “children’s services” for the dinner table equivalent of water-boarding.

But, a lot of us were told that we should eat all of the food on our plates because there were starving children in China. I never understood how gagging on food at the table would help anyone. And I never thought, at the time, to try retorting, “Jeez mom, if you want me to eat everything on my plate, please don’t put lima beans on it…and how about calf’s liver too. Just send the stuff straightaway to China.”

By the way have you ever seen lima beans on a Chinese restaurant menu? I think the Chinese are  an advanced civilization and passed on lima beans to us folk in the western hemisphere centuries ago.

Those early humans who came across the ice bridge from Asia tens of thousands of years ago were probably given sacks of lima bean seeds with the instructions not to bring them back. They probably then burned the lima bean fields and planted Bok Choy instead. Anyway, how do you think places like Lima, Peru or Lima, Ohio got their names? You didn’t know they had Chinese roots, did you?

Finally, there’s probably some person at NSA, who likes lima beans and will discover this post and flag it for subversive thoughts. I can just see myself, the next time I go back to the states, meeting with some gnarly customs agent, who after scanning his computer screen, turns toward me with an inquisitive look and says, “Are you the guy who wrote the blog post about lima beans?

I’ll look back at him in incredulity and nervously whimper, “Yeah?”

Then he’ll activate his walkie-talkie and call for back-up. As two tough-looking agents arrive and put me in hand-cuffs, he’ll inform them with pride, “We got him…the lima bean guy.”

They’ll lead me off to some room in the bowels of the airport, open the door, sit me down at a table, and undo my handcuffs. Then with broad smiles, they’ll watch as another agent walks into the room and puts a bowl of lima beans in front of me, and says, “Now, eat your lima beans. You’re not going home ‘til they’re all gone.”

I’m sure that this blog post has tested your patience, especially if you’re a lima bean fan. And I’m sure my ex will leave a comment for the second time in two years that says something like “Now, I’m sure you’ve lost your mind.” You can find the first post here.

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Thank you to Deep Friar, whoever you are, for the very appropriate image.

The Changes Snowbirds Never See

It’s May in Ajijic. Most of the snowbirds have left for the summer, and many full-timers are escaping the warm weather by visiting friends and family in more temperate climes.

The snowbirds don’t all arrive and leave at the same time. The influx starts in November and builds to a crescendo after Christmas. I remember my first year here, walking into Ajijic’s plaza. It was teaming with northerners, many holding street maps and trying to figure out where to go. The Mexican presence seemed to diminish.

Likewise, the snowbirds start leaving in small numbers at the end of February, peaking around April first. Some stay around until May or longer. While they’re here, just like any “resort” area they inject a healthy amount of money into the economy, and contribute to countless charities that help the locals year-round. They spur the advent of numerous theater productions, concerts, and entertainment from up north which makes life more interesting.

However, snowbirds also contribute to traffic problems, long waiting times at restaurants and supermarket lines, and over-crowded dance floors.

Last year, I travelled to Boston, to take care of some business in early May. I missed the changes that are now taking place in this area. When several thousand people leave a small town, you can see and feel the changes. There’s a more relaxed atmosphere that makes most of the things you do easier, except maybe if you have to deal with the government bureaucracy. That never changes.

My feelings are mixed about the snowbird exodus from the Lakeside area. On the one hand, I enjoy having fewer people around. There’s more time for, and in some ways it’s easier, to build friendships. On the other hand, I miss many of the people I befriended over the winter. In a way, it’s sad when they leave – even though you know you’ll see many of them again next winter.

Summer in Ajijic reminds me of a time, many years ago, when I lived three blocks from Harvard Square in Massachusetts. Every mid-May, the Boston area experiences a mass migration, as tens of thousands of college students and graduates leave town. Harvard Square, for a few months was left to the locals and the tourists. Life was easier. Then, in mid-August, just like the swallows returning to Ajijic, the area bulges with young people, and frenetic activity.

So, for the snowbirds that have already headed home, and have never experienced life in Ajijic at this time of year, I’ve compiled a list of the things that change when you’re gone.

  1. Everyone left here breathes a collective sigh of relief and looks forward to calmer summer months
  2. Some of your favorite restaurants go on vacation and close for extended periods of time.
  3. Sadly some of your favorite restaurants and businesses close their doors forever
  4. New restaurants and businesses open and eagerly await your return
  5. You don’t need a reservation, most of the time, at most restaurants
  6. You can actually dance at Adelita’s
  7. The swallows return, have their babies, make a mess, and leave
  8. Rainbirds (Cicadas) hatch and spend a month driving us crazy with their insanely eerie wailing (See my blog post from last year)
  9. It gets really hot in the afternoons (try 90+F)
  10. Dust from the dry streets is everywhere until rainy season starts
  11. There are a lot fewer traffic jams
  12. You can actually move at the Ajijic Wednesday Tianguis
  13. Starting in June, it rains a lot (mostly late afternoon or evening)
  14. The trees on the mountainsides turn green
  15. Calle Colon often becomes a rushing river when it rains
  16. You find out where all the leaks are in your house
  17. There are fewer fundraisers
  18. The Mexicans return to the plaza (not just the Guadalajan’s on the weekend)
  19. Come about September, we look forward to your return, and the fun and craziness you bring.

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Small Town – Small Minds: Epilogue

OMG! Everybody’s talking about my article.

About a month ago, a local magazine called Ojo del Lago, published one of my blog posts, “Small Town – Small Minds –Being Single at Lakeside” in its April issue (page 18). Since then, the reaction I’ve received is worth sharing.

I first read the post at a meeting of the Ajijic Writers Group. As I read it, I could hear chuckles and an occasional laugh. When I finished, the group clapped and numerous people gave me a thumbs. One person commented that I had “nailed” it…It being the state of senior dating in our small community. That wasn’t the only time I was told that I had “nailed” it. A married member of the group told me that the rumor situation is no different for married couples.

The editor of the magazine and one of the founders of the Writers Group, Alex Grattan, asked me if he could publish it. I agreed, but had some reservations. The post was personal, and I knew it would hit a nerve with Ojo’s audience. It did. As I learned later, I had described a common feeling among many of the singles at Lakeside.

A few days before the print version was published the online version  of the magazine went live. On April 3, I posted the story to my blog. Simultaneously, and unbeknownst to me, someone linked to another of my blog posts, “25 Reasons Not to Retire to Lake Chapala,” on the Facebook page of a group called Focus on Mexico. That group promotes moving to the Lake Chapala area, and runs informative “discovery” group tours.

It seems as though, the Facebook post got shared quite a bit, giving more exposure to this blog and the “Small Towns” blog post.” In fact that Facebook post resulted in the most views this blog has received in one day – 486 viewers and 692 page views! Over a four-day period, this blog had more than 1200 page views. A big THANK YOU goes out to whoever posted the link on Facebook.

The article has caused a bit of a stir in this sleepy town. It was viewed almost 900 times on Ojo’s website. It’s been the subject of many conversations in the plaza. Someone came up to me and said, “You had to have big cajones to write that.” I replied that it didn’t take any cajones to write the post, but I knew I was taking a chance in letting it be published in Ojo. This is a small town, after all.

I’ve had strangers walk up to me on the street and ask, “Are you the guy who wrote that article on being single?” Not sure whether I should put up my guard, the reaction was invariably something like: “You nailed it!”

Here’s a few of the comments I’ve received:

“Thank you for writing the article.”

“Someone needed to say that.”

“I’ve felt that it was me you were describing.”

However, not everyone was a cheerleader. One online commenter completely missed the point of the article, and made assumptions about my emotional fragility and sex life, and thought I was paranoid and should see a therapist. The article was an observation of behavior of many people here at Lakeside. It was meant to expose and poke fun at the busy-bodies here. I decided to write it after multiple instances of discovering I had been the subject of baseless rumors. There’s no paranoia involved. I don’t look over my shoulder and stay up wondering about who’s talking about me, and I clearly state that I don’t care what they say.

For the single people here, the article struck close to home. A lot of people have been “victims” of the whispering busy-bodies, and have felt their nosy eyes upon them – trying to judge. While I still claim, the rumor mills make it difficult for some insecure people to date, the overwhelming majority of people told me that they don’t care; that they just ignore the watching eyes.

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