Lake Chapala

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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Gringo Gripes

My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Motz, had me pegged early. I was the kind of student teachers loved to hate.

“You’re a chronic complainer,” he complained, in frustration, as I posed a trying question.

That trait followed me throughout much of my life. It’s no wonder that one of my favorite non-fiction writers is Bill Bryson, some of whose witty observations I’ve interpreted as chronic complaining. So I feel that I’m eminently qualified to comment on those who “doth protest too much.”

However, since I’ve moved here, I’m learning to stop complaining – a recovering chronic complainer, so to speak. So it’s ironic that, in this blog post, I’m complaining about complainers.

I live in a beautiful place in Mexico with beautiful weather among beautiful people. Bright blue skies reflect off the largest lake in Mexico. Verdant hillsides and mountains rim its shores. Sunsets turn the skies into brilliant colors that make way for incredible star-filled nights. The cost of living here is a fraction of the cost in the U.S. and Canada. Many Gringos live a lifestyle they could only dream about up north.

So what’s the problem, folks?

It seems even this idyllic setting can’t deter the “nabobs of negativity,” to quote a former vice president. They are the chronic complainers for whom nothing will make them happy; the people for whom the glass is always half-empty.

I’ve discovered in my ripe old age that it’s fruitless to complain about things you can’t change, and that we need to sift through a lot of noise in our lives to understand what’s really important.

When people decide to move to Mexico, it might be prudent if they understand that Mexico is different than the U.S. and Canada, and Mexicans are culturally different from gringos. They should also understand that their expectations need to be adjusted. The concept of “mañana” is real in Mexico. And, not to be confused with the Castellano Spanish translation, in this part of Mexico, the word “ahorita” doesn’t mean “right now.” It means “whenever I get to it.”

Tradesman Troubles

Why Americans get upset when a Mexican tradesman shows up two hours late or maybe “manana” is beyond me. Have they forgotten about dealing with repairmen up north?

“Someone will be there between 8 am and noon,” is a common refrain one experiences from a customer service representative up north. Never mind that you need to be at work. Customer service is at the convenience of the provider, not the customer.

I have a friend who moved back up north, bought a house, needed to make some renovations, and had horrendous problems dealing with one of the largest home improvement chains:

  • workmen that didn’t show up;
  • substitution, without notifying the customer, for parts specified in the contract;
  • sloppy work that needed to be re-done;
  • estimates and work orders written without checking for required building code modifications.

These problems sound strikingly similar to the typical gringo complaints about repairs and construction down here.

And if the gringo is building a house, forget it! The complaints of delays are endless. The house was promised at the end of June, and the owners are still waiting to take possession…in December. Week after week the Jalisco concept of “ahorita’ becomes all too real as excuses from the contactor pile up and deposits made in good faith disappear.

Wait a minute!

After listening to my gringo friends complaining about their architects, contractors, and sub-contractors, I begin to realize why all those Mexicans head north to the U.S…

They’re learning how to become tradesmen and building contractors!

Enduring the Mexican Dining Experience

Then there are the restaurant complainers, unaccustomed to the leisurely Mexican dining experience…or unwilling to relax and get used to it. It’s not unusual to wait awhile before the waitress finishes texting her boyfriend, to not have water served without asking, to have everyone at the table served on a different day of the week, and when you’re served to not have silverware to eat it with, to wait hours to get your check, and hours to get the change.

For gringo grannies, the frustration can be overwhelming. Their 9 o’clock bedtime is rapidly approaching, and driving at night can be tricky.

Hey, I’m in Mexico, in a beautiful place with beautiful weather among beautiful people. Relax. Rest assured, at the end of the evening you’ll go home sated – better fed than some of the children a few doors down the street.

I have a good friend who brings a gringo attitude with him every time he goes out to eat. I get a distinct feeling that the servers see him coming and pray that he doesn’t sit at one of their tables. Is that the way we want our Mexican hosts to see us?

Yes, we can get frustrated, annoyed, pissed off, and even angry as we observe our hosts doing things in ways we wouldn’t (but often do) tolerate up north.

If you want a U.S. or Canadian dining experience, go back up north. Or just shut up, sit back and marvel that things work as well as they do. The children of the gardeners and maids who tend your houses for $US3.00 an hour would probably wait all day to get a meal similar to the one you’re complaining about.

I’ve always thought about what the Mexicans think about many of the gringo gripers who’ve invaded their community. The Mexican people here are amazingly patient, welcoming, and outwardly uncomplaining. I’m sure the servers, maids, gardeners, and tradesmen take home a million gripes about your interactions with them. And I’m sure that the stories told in the Mexican bars are priceless.

But you’ll never hear them.

So why not just…quitcherbitchin’.

Small Town – Small Minds: Being Single at Lakeside

Sometimes I feel like I’m back in high school.

I’m pretty much retired, and traded-in life in a large metropolitan area for life in an area of Mexico where thousands of retired expats have made their homes. It’s a small town. Rumors, the business of small towns, run rampant.

It’s a town where too many retired busy-bodies have too much time on their hands. They’ve exchanged the water cooler for long lunches where they can make small talk and conjure the latest “have-you-heard” stories.

Many of us here are single, and are often the subjects of nasty rumors and undeserved insinuations.

I like to go out in the evening and dance. I have lots of female friends, with whom I like to talk. Every once in a while, I even have a date where we go for dinner. So, people often see me with different women or at places where some of us single retirees hang-out.

It seems that being seen with different women is a cause for concern among the chatterers. Likewise, women who are seen with different men or go alone to places where single men hang out, are also the subject of rumor mongerers – male and female.

And when a couple is seen together more than two times, it’s often assumed that they’re – say it’s not so – sleeping together.

Maybe some of us scandalous singles are actually looking for a relationship whether it be companionship or sexual or both. Some of us might be considered serial daters.

Those of us who have been married before remember what it was like before we got married. We’re reminded how difficult it was to find the right person – how many dates we churned through before we settled down. So how, I might ask, are we to find a relationship if we don’t date?

In my short tenure in this small community, I’ve been the subject of rumors that I didn’t know were being passed around started by people I don’t know. Occasionally I meet someone who tells me, “I’ve heard about you. You date a lot of women,” to which I usually reply, “What do you know that I don’t?” And besides, what’s the big deal if I do?

I’ve heard rumors from female friends about other guys that aren’t true. Please tell me, for example, how a guy who hasn’t had a date for six months, and hasn’t slept with a woman for over a year can get a bad reputation?

As we all know, women also suffer from ugly rumors that small, idle, minds like to foster. In this town, the chatter usually takes the following forms:

  • She’s just looking for a guy with money
  • She’s sleeping with everyone in town
  • She likes young Mexican guys
  • She only hangs out with gay guys

Most people, including me, who become the subject of rumors just shrug them off. It does become annoying, however, when I meet someone new and interesting, and she immediately says “I’ve heard about you.” Or, after a first date, one of her friends, whom I’ve never met, has whispered in her ear about what a terrible person I am and she doesn’t want to go out again. Hmmm.

Now, I’ve talked with many single retirees here that have given up on dating and consequently sex. For them, there’s a store in town that caters to their sexual needs. Sex on-demand is available – no questions asked – as long as you have a supply of batteries or there’s no electrical outage. And many of the married among us have long ago retired to separate bedrooms. Maybe it’s just hormonal changes that come with getting older. Maybe it’s due to a lack of confidence because of erectile dysfunction or bodies that don’t look nice anymore when facing the mirror.

A psychologist friend who recently moved here remarked how sad it was that so many people looking for companionship and connection, at this time in their life, are afraid to act. We all want to be socially accepted. But the small-minded jerks, make it difficult for the insecure to be who they are and who they want to be.

Maybe the chatterers live their lives in bitter frustration. Maybe they’re just bored. And, maybe they’re just not nice people.

I guess if I want to meet a woman for coffee, have a glass of wine, or go out to dinner, the two of us will have to dodge the daggers. Maybe even ruin our reputations. And heaven forbid we should be seen together more than two times. They might accuse us of doing…what they did in the 1960s.

But there are some of us who are alive-and-kicking. And while we’re out having fun, the busy-bodies can go fuck themselves.

This isn’t high school anymore.

Visitors from the North

I haven’t posted in a long time. December 9 to be exact.

I’ve had the privilege of having guest for two weeks… a good friend and my two kids. My friend from Boston is considering spending several wintery months in the friendlier climes of Lake Chapala. It was fun showing her around.

My kids endured another week with their dad dragging them from one hang-out filled with old fogeys to the next. Thanks to a friend who allowed us to use her condo, they also got to dip their toes in the Pacific at Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Sunset2

Puerto Vallarta beach1

For dad, at any rate, it was a special time. There is something special about interacting with your kids as adults. Especially when you haven’t seen them in 5 months. It takes a long time (that passes very quickly) until everyone can spend time together without the drama associated with growing up…at least some of the drama.

Puerto Vallarta beach2

Puerto Vallarta Sunset1

Dad is still concerned. The kids still roll their eyes and moan “yeah, yeah, yeah.”

But this time, my daughter actually asked me advice about financial matters instead of me doling it out unsolicited.

Hah! We have progress.

While I know more about financial stuff now than before my divorce, I was taken a-back. She wants to save. Good for her!

“Do you have an emergency fund?” I asked her.

“What’s that?” she asked me.

“It’s having enough money so, if something happens to you or you lose your job, you can pay your bills until you find a new one. You should have at least 3 months and possibly more depending on your obligations.” I counseled her.

We talked about her assets and expenses and then I suggested, “When you’ve funded your emergency fund, let’s have another talk,” I continued. “And besides, with the volatility in the stock and bond markets, it may just be a good idea to stay liquid in cash.”

So, on a Sunday morning two weeks ago my kids journeyed back up north. We all left for the airport at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am so they could make their 6:15 flight. Apparently, they had a problem with a prick in DFW customs who almost made them miss their connecting flight.

After a week and a half of guests, being alone feels good…maybe a little empty, but good. I spent the day doing domestic things like laundry, making beds, and, yes, making another yummy meal from leftovers in the refrigerator. After a gin and tonic and a few glasses of cheap Chilean wine with dinner, and an absolutely incredible sunset on my mirador, I find myself at the computer writing to you good people.

Road Trip 10: Driving South of the (U.S.) Border

I always get anxiety when I cross borders. This day was no different. Maybe it was time I got shaken down at a god-forsaken desert border crossing entering Peru 40 years ago. Thankfully, I haven’t had any problems since.

It was still dark when I left the hotel in Cotulla, grabbed breakfast at McDonalds, and filled the car’s gas tank. The gas station, right off I-35 was a sea of white pick-up trucks with equipment filling their cargo beds. Their drivers were filling their coolers with ice, preparing for another day in the oil patch. I too, topped my tank with “cheap” American gas. Gas in Mexico runs about 13.5 pesos/liter or $3.20/gallon.

I decided to cross into Mexico at the new Columbia Bridge about 20 miles north of Laredo. I had heard that crossing there was easier than in town, especially with a car. Because I was traveling about 700 miles into Mexico, my car needed a visa too. The visa is a sticker that you’re supposed to put in the center of the windshield below the mirror. It is coterminous with your immigration visa.

Columbia Bridge border crossing. Mexico is at top of photo. Notice the traffic!

Columbia Bridge border crossing. Mexico is at top of photo. Notice the traffic!

Just like my friends said, the border crossing was easy. I arrived on the Mexican side around 8:45 and was out by 9:15. It was a ghost town. There was no line and only two gringos, including me, getting permits for their vehicles. I got my passport stamped and paid for my car permit. The custom agents, however, were like the Maytag repairmen with not much to do. So, they checked my car and asked me to take out some boxes from the trunk to check. After rummaging through a few boxes of household goods and my suitcase, they decided I was indeed moving my belongings to Lake Chapala.

“Are you driving all that way alone?” One officer disbelievingly asked. I replied in the affirmative, and he shook his head obviously thinking I was nuts.

Relieved, I drove through what seemed an endless road of truck terminals and warehouses, eventually meeting up with Federal Route 85 south of Nuevo Laredo. This highway would eventually take me to Monterrey, where I would head west almost to Saltillo, and then south again.

The toll road south of Nuevo Laredo. Just blue skies and me.

The toll road south of Nuevo Laredo. Just blue skies and me.

Approaching the mountains just north of Monterrey, Mexico

Approaching the mountains just north of Monterrey, Mexico

Driving on the highways in Mexico isn’t much different than in the States – with one exception. Passing. As with most rules of the road in Mexico, they’re suggestions. If you’re passing, oncoming vehicles will generally move to their right to give you more passing room, especially where there’s a shoulder. If you’re overtaking a car going in the same direction, they will generally move to the right too. On 2-lane roads double yellow lines fall into the “suggestion” category. You never know what might be around the next bend.

As you can see from the posted pictures, my first exposure to Mexican roads was the equivalent to an American interstate highway or improved 4-lane highway. I was able to cruise most of the time at 80 mph, and was passed by Mexicans and Gringos as if I were standing still. For most of the trip, passing wasn’t a problem. Of course, there are always exceptions like steep hills with a line of tractor trailers and tandems inching their ways to the top of the grade. Yes Virginia, it is possible to pass a truck going 10 mph safely where there’s a double yellow line.

Mexico is a beautiful country. Once I got about 50 miles south of Nuevo Larado, the Mexican countryside seemed to open up with broad expanses of desert landscape outline with sierra in the far distance. What I learned was that about every 100 miles the scenery changed from desert to canyons to steep valleys back to desert to farmland. For miles the mountains ringed the road, sometimes close and sometimes far into the distance.

I was told to stay on the toll-roads, called Cuotas, as much as possible. Not only were they safer, better maintained, and limited access, but your toll entiled you to free roadside assistance, should you need it from the “Green Angels.”

Roadside Mexican town south of Matehuala early in the morning

Roadside Mexican town south of Matehuala early in the morning

An occasional Mexican roadside village lined the non-toll roads (Libre). They all look the same whether in Qintana Roo, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, or Jalisco. They were generally dusty congregations of buildings lining the highway – mom and pop restaurants, garages, assorted retail establishments, and the ubiquitous Pemex station.

That first night in Mexico, I stopped at a hotel in a town called Matehuala with a restaurant. It had been recommended by friends, and was about halfway to Lake Chapala from the border. Arriving around 4:00 pm, I took advantage of the short day to enjoy a beer, and an early dinner.

On the road early the next day, the sun was just coming up over the mountains to the east. You could see fog hanging in the valleys providing a white contrast the changing colors of the mountains –purple, red, green. Matisse would have found inspiration.

Cliffs north of the 2-lane toll road west of San Luis Potosi

Cliffs north of the 2-lane toll road west of San Luis Potosi

I bypassed the city of San Luis Potosi, and once again the scenery changed. Huge cliffs rose to the right of the cuota that reminded me of pictures of Utah. It appeared to be great climbing country. Over a few more mountains and through good sized Mexican town, and I was on the outskirts of Guadalajara – just a hop, skip, and jump from home.

But this part of the trip would be the scariest. The southeast end of the circumferential road – the pereferico – merged into the road I needed to take to Lake Chapala. But, it was going the wrong way – toward Guadalajara. The exit had a bus stop and gas station on either side of it so it made it very messy trying to merge into the traffic. It was pretty hairy negotiating entry between busses leaving the bus stop, cars and trucks cruising along the highway, and cars merging into traffic from the gas station.

This sort of intersection happens a lot around Guad. You need to merge going the wrong direction and travel a-ways until you come to a Retorno where you either cross over or under the highway to go the other way. I was pretty close to the airport, and knew that a retorno would come up soon. A half mile later I traveled up and over the highway and found myself going in the right direction. With two major highways coming together, you’ve gotta wonder why they didn’t just build the retorno at the end of the pereferico so you could merge either direction.

It was late lunch time, and I had been saving my appetite for burritos. There’s a Guadalajara institution on the road to Chapala just before you go over the mountains that rim the lake. It’s open 24 hours. All the Mexicans know about it and a few gringos too. I was introduced to it on my trip to Ajijic, by the guy who picked me up at the airport. This would be the first time there since then.

The place is like a cafeteria with indoor and seating. You go through the line where a steam table holds a dozen or more burrito fillings – beef, chicken, pork, veggie, spicy and mild. The server takes a flour tortilla, smears it with refried beans, puts a mound of whatever filling suits your fancy, and rolls it up. You then pick-up a soda, beer, or water at the checkout. It’s all good, cheap, and filling.

Home! Just over the hill.

Home! Just over the hill.

Fortified from a couple of burritos and a beer, I began the last leg of my road trip over the mountains, arriving home around 3:00 pm.

Whew! I made it, a little bit tired, but safe and sound. Every once-in-awhile, you need to shake up your life a little. What an adventure!

Finally, I would get a chance to use the garage door opener.

My 6 Favorite Posts and More

I’ve been writing this blog for a year. In the past year, I’ve posted 50 times. This post, my 51st, is taking a short break from my road trip series to share my favorites. I’ll re-commence my road trip on Tuesday.

First, I want to thank all the people who found my postings worthy enough to gain your “followship,” as well as all those who have left comments. I’m not the most timely responder, and will need to do a better job in the coming year. And, I appreciate any and everyone who has taken the time to stop by and read what I have to say.

There’s are some great posts buried in the archives, and If you are newcomer and are enjoying “Retired ‘n’ Single Blog,” you might never discover some of my favorites from ‘way back when. Here are the six I had the most fun writing (in no particular order):

Of Spiders, Dogs, and other Pets
Everybody who reads this post has a good chuckle before they’re finished. It prompted my ex-wife to comment that she thought I was losing my mind. Epilogue: Fred was so overtaken by his fame and loss of anonymity that he just left town one day never to be seen again.

Cat Woman
The Cat Woman is still up to her old tricks. Since it gets dark earlier, you can’t see her. But you can hear the sprinkle of Kitty Kibble as it lands on the roof, and a bevy of feasting felines scrambles for their dinner.

Up or Down?: Ruminating on Toilet Seats
Either you love this one or you hate it. Regardless, and despite risking alienation of the fairer sex, I had a good time writing it.

How to Launder Money
All in good fun! You can’t help but thinking what some spy at the IRS thought when the agency’s Web crawlers found this tongue-in-cheek “how-to” post.

25 Reasons Not to Retire to Lake Chapala
There are so many reasons why Lake Chapala is a great place to live. This blog post looks at 25 of them from the viewpoint of the glass being half-full. Bah humbug!

How I Survived the “Blizzard of 2015”
I had a lot of fun poking fun at the “hardships” up north in Boston. And this January storm was just the beginning! Reality struck home when I returned north 6 weeks later and reported my findings in “Changes in Latitudes…”

The blog post with the most views is a recent one, “Road Trip 1: Am I Crazy.” It was the first post after a long hiatus. I didn’t realize there was such a pent-up demand. I might have to take more long breaks to get my readership up!

It seems like a lot of people like when I post about food. Mexico is a very interesting place to discover amazing foods. If you’re adventurous, there are all sorts of tempting discoveries hidden in the shops, markets, and little restaurants here. As someone who likes to “play” in the kitchen, I’ve also shared some of my experiments, including recipes. Here are some food posts you might like:

⇒  Dinner from the Dredges of the Refrigerator (recipe included)
⇒  When the World Gives you Mushrooms (recipe included)
⇒  Beer and Tomato Juice
⇒  Feet, Ears, Skin – Tostadas Revisited
⇒  Wednesday Lunch – Tacos at The Tianguis (still my favorite Wednesday lunch)
⇒  Tostadas: Taming the Mess

Please let me know which of my posts were your favorites?

Puppies: Chick Magnet or Social Crutch

There’s something about a puppy. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. There’s something about a puppy that women love. They can’t resist running up to them, bending down and petting them.

“Can I hold it,” they implore.

The enterprising guy can see opportunity in this phenomenon. It answers the question that stumps so many Lake Chapala males: “How do you meet women around this place?”

Hey guys, the fastest way to meet a woman is to get a puppy! Simply put it on a leash, and go for a walk. It’s sort of like going fishing. The leash is the line and the puppy is the bait.

It doesn’t matter where you go. Cruise the Malecon. Mornings are puppy feeding time as women take their own dogs for a walk there. What better way to get a conversation started than to sport a four-legged friend?

Or maybe you just want to take your puppy out for a cup of java on the plaza. An endless stream of women will stop by to coo over man’s best friend. Try walking down Revolucion on a Wednesday. There are too many people to be able to walk your little one. It’ll get stepped on. Instead, put your bundle of joy in your arms with the rest of your bundles, and it’s sure to catch the eye of some eligible (and ineligible) honeys walking in the opposite direction.

There’s only one drawback to this strategy. It works so well, it might become a social crutch. Think about it, if you don’t meet Ms. Right in first several months, you might need a second puppy, and then a third.

I guarantee you’ll meet a lot of women, but if success eludes you, you might want look somewhere else for the reasons why. Try brushing your teeth, putting on deodorant, retiring that beat-up tee-shirt, and learning a few social niceties. After all, you’re a caring, sensitive, socially conscious person trying to help the (canine) homeless population…albeit with some bennies on the side. What woman wouldn’t love you if you cleaned up your act?

Dulce2You know, there are scores of dogs awaiting adoption at Lakeside with fresh litters being born every day. This puppy preoccupation gave me an idea for the perfect fundraiser for all the Lakeside animal shelters. And the timing couldn’t be better. Hundreds of single guys and gals are about to descend on Lakeside to escape the northern winter…and possibly find companionship of the two and four legged varieties.

Why not Rent-a Puppy? For a tidy sum, you could almost guarantee a guy he’ll meet women. Why not include a handy guide: The 10 best places to attract women with your “chick magnet.”

Who knows? The guy might score a two-fer: A new girl friend, and…if he becomes attached to the bait, a new puppy. And the animal shelter will also score a two-fer: a rental fee, and an adoption fee.

Wow! What a way to make so many people happy.

So…go hug a puppy today…and if the person at the other end of the leash is half as cute as his four-legged companion, show him you appreciate what a big heart he has and how supportive he is of animal rescue, and give him a BIG hug too!

Playing with Fire at a Paper Balloon Festival

One thing I’ve learned since being here is that Mexicans love a party. And if fire and fireworks are involved, it’s all the more fun. So, what better way is there to spend a Saturday afternoon than to watch Mexicans (and Gringos too) send incendiary devices high into the sky.

I wrote about Mexican pyrotechnics in a previous post.

Last Saturday was a “just for fun” paper balloon festival known simply as “Globos.” Teams and individuals, from teenagers to retirees, construct balloons of all shapes and sizes made from tissue paper.

As with regular hot air balloons, the paper ones require a heat source to fill them and lift them off the ground. I saw groups using everything from blow torches to kerosene pots to fill them.

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The next trick is to get and keep them aloft. That’s where the real challenge, fun, and danger comes in. The balloons I saw had a wire harness defining the opening at the bottom of the balloon with a place for the fuel. Once the balloon was filled, a rag, soaked in kerosene, was put in the harness, and a person with a cigarette lighter ignited it. When enough heat had accumulated inside, the balloon “might” then lift off.

You have to imagine a soccer field of people partying, and teams of balloonists wherever they could find the space to assemble their handiworks and launch them. Sometimes the balloons didn’t make it, rising 15-20 feet before they became engulfed in flames, dropping burning paper and flaming kerosene soaked rags into the scattering throngs below. Sometimes the balloons would reach several hundred feet before a gust of wind would knock them over and they’d catch on fire. The burning mass would fall…who knows where.

Balloons_12I sat watching this spectacle, sipping a beer, while young kids chased each other with cans of flammable spray foam.

I imagined this happening in my home town back in the states. They banned those spray cans because some enterprising teenagers figured out another use for them…and don’t mean sniffing them. In my town, the field would be roped off. People watching would be at least a quarter mile away, and the fire department would be there in full regalia…just in case. Oh yes, you’d have to be 18 or older to participate – maybe even 21

Come to think of it, my old home town might like a paper balloon festival. I would fit in with its Independence Day celebration. Someone convinced the Fire Chief that it’s a good idea to store several tons of explosives, called fireworks, in front of the high school – and set them off – with thousands of people watching. Maybe he can be convinced to let the townspeople launch kerosene filled balloons over the town.

After the fireworks celebration, of course.

Up on the Roof

One of the things I like best about the house I’m living in is the mirador. A mirador is a rooftop deck that lets you see beyond the walls that surround most Mexican homes.

My mirador is spectacular. I have a 360 degree view of the mountains to the north and the lake to the south. Lake Chapala spreads out before me from east to west.

And sometimes, I even get to watch Cat Woman feed her feline friends.

Often, in the evening, I’ll go “up on the roof” and watch the sun go down with a brilliant flourish, and the stars rise in the ensuing darkness. Sometimes distant lightning will illuminate the sky across the lake. The evening sounds of San Antonio fill the air around me. And almost always, I’m reminded of the following lyrics…

“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there, the world below can’t bother me
Let me tell you now

When I come home feeling tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I get away from the hustling crowds
And all that rat race noise down in the street

On the roof’s the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof

At night, the stars put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me
I keep-a tellin’ you

Right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a paradise that’s trouble-proof
And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two up on the roof”

Thank you, Goffin Gerald and Carole King

Copyright: Screen Gems-emi Music Inc.