Monday, March 31, 2008

brakes and battery

Some lessons, we need to learn over and over. Even though I enjoy cars, I have never been as enamored with them as some of my friends. They fall into the same category of "nice to have" -- like wash and wear pants.

I live close to work and I do not drive far from Salem these days as Professor Jiggs ages. I have had my current truck for seven years now and it has 50,000 miles on it.

Here is how much I take my truck for granted. I have received two recall notices and I have avoided taking the truck to the dealer -- until today. The recall notices are two years old -- a fact I noticed only when turning the truck over to the shop. And after two years, what convinced me to take it to the shop? When two red warning lights on the dashboard simply could no longer be ignored. Two bad Bs: battery and brakes.

So, I walked the two miles from the shop to work. It was a great morning. Crisp. A few clouds. But it was a true spring day. Oregon knows how to do spring. There were flowers everywhere. Yellow. Pink. White. Purple. Blue. Crows croaked on fleshly-mown lawns. Pairs of squirrels ran serpentine tracks up oak trunks. Everything was crying out: I live. (There is a poem hidden in there that I wll need to parse out one of these days.)

And I missed every bit of that as I drove to the shop. I came back the exact same route where I witnessed spring incarnate.

We all know that cars isolate us from the rest of life. Yet, we need to be reminded now and then that life is still there.

That is why I enjoy my walks with Jiggs. As a dog, he only knows what he senses in the moment.

Note to self: get out of the car -- and get to Mexico.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

turkey and trapezes

Saturday afternoon, we (a couple from law school and their daughter, and a friend from work -- Beth of Minto Dog) attended the Cirque Du Soleil's Corteo. It was everything I expected it to be. I continue to be amazed at how the artists who create, produce, and perform this marvelous material can continue to top themselves with each production. The combination of clowns, acrobats, and music is something to behold. I could write on and on. But what is the point? It is what it is.

The Cirque Du Soleil is something I will miss in Mexico.

And I will miss Huber's. Huber's is the restaurant where we celebrated my mother's 80th birthday. I like Huber's more for its ambiance than its food -- good, old-fashioned meals (the turkey dinner being my favorite). The food is very good. But Huber's is simply a fun place to spend an evening of conversation with friends.

And good friends it was on Saturday night
. We ate. We laughed. We talked. It was exactly the type of night one spends with old friends -- and the memory lingers on.

This, too, I shall miss in Mexico. Huber's, certainly. Old friends, definitely. But now I can look forward to sharing new adventures with them when they come to visit.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

putting our light under a bushel

For the last couple days, my email box has filled up with dire warnings that we need to "to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced.” At first, I thought it was another email about Britney Spears or Michael Jackson -- or a chain letter on how angels will bless me by sending it on to 327 of my closest friends.

I was wrong, though. "The greatest threat our planet has ever faced" is apparently global warning. Greater than Adolph Hitler, greater than AIDS, greater than that asteroid that is headed this way determined to open a new galactic highway where earth once was.

So, what are we to do to counter "the greatest threat our planet has ever faced?" Are we to march on every capital and overthrow the tyranny that walks amongst us? Are we all going to throw away our PDAs, SUVs, iPods, GPSs, HDTVs, and other high-falutin' electronic gear? Do we advocate returning to a life style of the golden days of the Great Depression?

No. We are to "use the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming."

This has all of the hallmarks of a Dick Cheney practical joke. Whoever came up with the idea must be the same fellow who created the name when the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party combined: Canadian Reform Alliance Party. Great name until someone spelled out the acronym. Turning off lights as a symbol of enlightenment? Great joke.

Don't get me wrong. I am as worried about global warning as anyone. We are supposed to be wise stewards of God's creation. But you don't do that with hollow Pharisaic gestures just to make yourself feel better. Have we really become so mentally unempowered that we have stopped taking responsibility for our own choices? We make choices every day about our environment and how we treat one another. Rather than telling other people that they need to make correct choices, we need to start making those choices for our own lives.

Maybe I am getting on my high horse because I do not have any lights to turn off tonight. I do not use lights very often in my house. (There is enough ambient light in my community for me to navigate through my house at night.) I do not have television. I seldom use my computer between 8 and 9. It is a bit like asking a pauper to contribute $1,000 to the church building fund.

But I have a solution. I promise not to open my refrigerator door for an hour tonight. There, I feel better already.

desayúnese en el jacuzzi

OK. Todd and Brenda have been kind enough to take us to very nice restaurants for breakfast in their home towns in Mexico. I thought you might like to see how we denizens of the Casa Algodón start our day. (Well, at least, how I started this day. Professor Jiggs starts his day -- and ends his day -- with the same bowl of dry food and a tasty selection of geriatric medications.) Here goes.

6:30 AM. Saturday. I should be sleeping in. Saturdays are the only day I can sleep in without running afoul of some obligation. I stumble down the stairs to my favorite breakfast spot: El Jacuzzi en la Casa de Algodón. For an eatery, it is a bit eccentric. The waiter always asks you to order before being seated. I open the menu.

The selection varies, but I always have a sense of déjà vu as I pore over it. I find what I want, and give my order to the waiter.

He then shows me to my table. One of the things I like about El Jacuzzi is its lack of pretension. It has an almost natural feel -- simple, quiet, airy. Almost like one of those backstreet cafés in Prague. Just a lot wetter.

I barely settle into my seat when the waiter brings the house bread. (Michael Dickson claims "house" is a synonym for "it ain´t nothing special.") Its only saving grace is its odd resemblance to a catcher's mitt. (And note the authentic touch: el pelo del perro.)

My appetite is now teased for the specialty of the house: the inappropriately named huevos y jamón verdes.

No eggs. No ham. And the only green thing I can find is the spinach fettuccine. But this is good. The sauce is a pepperoni-pork sausage tomato sauce infused with onion, garlic, and chili powder. My British friends would call this child's spaghetti. But what do they know?

Put together, this was a fine breakfast for a morning that promised just a hint of snow flakes in the air.

Sated, I totter back to the world of reality. And just as I did after breakfast with Brenda and Roy, I am heading upstairs for a nap.

Thank you for joining me for breakfast. We must do this more often.

Friday, March 28, 2008

getting ready for the circus

The smell of oranges on Christmas morning. The feel of your first good second baseman mitt. The sight of the first daffodil after a cold winter. Sheer juvenile excitement.

And it is in the air this weekend. THE CIRCUS IS COMING TO TOWN! Not just any circus. It's the Cirque Du Soleil.

Almost every year, they bring a new show to Portland. This year, it is Corteo on Saturday afternoon.

For those of you who have not seen any of the Cirque Du Soleil productions (and that would be hard to believe -- they are everywhere -- it would be easier to avoid a Clinton campaign volunteer in Hershey), let me explain a bit of frustration. First-time goers will respond to the question: "What is it?" with terms like "amazing," "magical," "whimsical" -- as if they had just returned from a religious experience, rather than a circus.

I have been there. I remember my first exposure to the group in Las Vegas. I sat staring into the air as acrobats dressed as Dali would see birds plunged near the earth on bungee trapezes and then flew spinning into the air as if Newton meant only we untermensch to be tied to the earth with gravity''s invisible bungee cords. It was -- "amazing," "magical," "whimsical."

The company has its detractors. A blogger called the shows: "Moulin Rouge without breasts -- or dinner." Last year Judith Mackrell of The Guardian sputtered:

So how is it that Cirque du Soleil continues to enjoy such special kudos? The hubristic scale of its shows doesn't deliver real circus; neither does the expensive elaborateness of their packaging. It doesn't even amount to theatre. However bendy the contortionists, however bouncy the acrobats, however many risks the aerialists take, they always appear too buffed, coiffed and airbrushed to seem real. On top of that, the accompanying muzak is always so dire.

But she was simply being British. Judith, just flow with the acrobats. That is what we intend to do.

There will be no elephants to ride. But there will be the acid smell of oranges to remind us that Christmas can come on any morning.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

in hot water with Clarence Darrow

I had to abandon the hot tub for the dreamier climes of my bed.

I have almost finished reading Edward J. Larson's The Scopes Trial. Tonight I completed reading the section on the trial itself. As I read along, who should show up in the tub but John Scopes himself -- the veritable cipher in the whole episode. He settled down into a quiet corner.

But he was almost immediately joined by Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. Two loud Democrat attorneys -- both with causes -- filled the tub faster than I was willing to share. I decided to abandon the hot tub and the evening to the three of them. After all, they will still be there whenever I am willing to pick up the story again. And they have been good enough to abandon their histories to me.

Off to bed. This cold is managing to hang on for too long. It must be two weeks now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

mixed algodón

The family Cotton finally managed to assemble to discuss The Great Mexico Adventure. The cast: my mother, my brother, his daughter, and me.

We were on our way to a military memorial service for my uncle. Getting together is such a rare event for us that we thought we would squeeze out some mourning time in favor of family time.

For 50 years we have been eating at a local diner called Lew's Dari-Freeze. Over a traditional cony island hot dog (with onions), fries, and Diet Coke, we discussed two topics: 1) Where would Mom like to settle down, and 2) Who is going to join me in heading south to Mexico.

It turned out that my brother and mother had already discussed her future. And she was ready with her answer. She has two listings that she needs to resolve with her real estate business. And both will resolve soon. She then intends to move into her house in Bend. My brother and I will help her in whatever way we can. That was easy.

Then came the Mexico move question. My niece is in her sophomore year of high school. Her parents do not want to move until she graduates. My sister-in-law could telecommute from Mexico, but my brother needs to find some work to do south of the border. That is their homework assignment. But they may very well be heading south after the summer of 2010.

As for me, April 2009 looks like a good move date, and I have some good information on a rental house in Melaque. If I take that route, I would probably stay in Melaque on an FMT from about May through about October. I would then decide whether I wanted to convert to an FM3 and rent in the central highlands or choose another site on the coast -- such as, La Manzanilla. At some point, I want to get to Pátzcuaro for an extended visit.

Mom also said that if we all decide to move, she would like to come along. I should note that this was the plan over a year ago when I floated the notion of the entire family retiring to Mexico. And here we are, back where we started.

Several of you have wisely counseled: stop analyzing, start doing. You were correct. The plan is quickly falling into place. Come next April, I will grab two suitcases and either drive or fly south. Let the adventure begin.

I must comment on my uncle's memorial service this afternoon. My memory of him is that he was a man of action. Very typical of the other men in the timber country where I grew up. He was a boxer, a naval aviator in the second world war, and a logger. I never knew him to say much about any topic, but I do recall that he had a laugh that caused joy to well up in his listeners. In his later years, he became an accomplished keyboardist. But like the other Londons and Hemingways of this world, he was a flawed character -- just like the rest of us. By his flaws, I knew he was was human; by his virtues, I knew he was a hero. He was all that -- and more. He was my uncle. He will always be Roy Brewster.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the tax man cometh

[Note: I need to add a disclaimer to this posting. It contains information about legal matters in Mexico. I am no expert in that area, and I do not purport to be giving any legal advice. I cannot even attest that all of the facts I have picked up in writing this post are accurate. Having said that, it is an area I find fascinating.]

Foreigners move to Mexico for various reasons -- some for the weather, some for the culture, some for the cultural values, some for just being somewhere else. The inimitable Michael Dickson says there are only five reasons to move to Mexico from the States: (1) cheaper real estate and rentals, (2) cheaper utilities, (3) lower property taxes, (4) superior health care, and (5) for single men, Mexican wives, "who are a dream come true."

But, for most expatriates, the conversation often turns to a perceived lower cost of living. And housing is always high on that list.

I have recently run across an issue, though, that has raised the hackles of some homeowners when they sell their property: the dreaded capital gains tax. Taxing profits on homes is a hot political issue in every society where home ownership is encouraged. The United States has tried several tax mechanisms. On one hand, it is not fair for profits not to be taxed; pn the other hand, residences are a unique class of property.

Mexico is no different. The language of the Mexican capital gains tax statute is simple and has exactly the same type of social interests at stake as does the law in the States. If the home is the primary residence of the seller, the seller may be entitled to an exemption from the capital gains derived from the sale.

And that is where the simple part ends. The application of the law is starting to cause greater problems for foreigners who sell their Mexican homes.

The first problem is proving that the home is the "primary residence" of the seller. Many foreigners try to maintain a primary residence both in Mexico and in their home country. Primary means just what it says. You can only have one. The people who are affected most often by this are the proverbial snow birds.

In an attempt to give a more consistent application to this portion of the law, some notarios will not allow the ca[iyal gains tax exemption if the foreigner has an FM3 visa; the notario will allow exemptions only with an FM2 visa. That makes sense because the FM2 restricts the number of days the visa holder can be absent from Mexico. During the past year, several areas of Mexico have disallowed the exemption for all FM3 holders.

The second problem in proving residence centers around the foreigner's source of income. Some notarios require proof that over 50% of the foreigner's income is derived from Mexican sources. For retirees (and I am soon to be in that category), if that factor is applied strictly, pensions from foreign sources will not qualify. And that will be a large number of current owners of Mexican homes.

So, what happens if you fail the primary residency test? It simply means that a portion of the money you earned on your Mexican property must be paid to the Mexican government (and, of course, potentially to the foreigner's home country, as well). That strikes me as fair. Homeowners are reaping some very nice profits on their sale of homes. Why shouldn't the Mexican government share in that increase in wealth?

What concerns me, though, is that the definitions appear to be applied arbitrarily throughout the country depending on the notario involved. (Not that the same problem does not arise in the States.) A little more consistency would allow sellers to plan on paying the tax -- and ordering their lives accordingly.

Property taxes are very low (insanely low in some places) in Mexico. I suspect that before long, local Mexican governments will discover that property taxes are a great boon to improve local services. Property taxes are low because the extremely wealthy have been able to prevent them from being imposed. As the middle class grows in Mexico, property taxes will be seen as a good source of revenue -- rather than onerous income tax rates.

Monday, March 24, 2008

bigger and better

I have a question for you veteran bloggers. I have noticed that when I post photographs, some of them will enlarge when clicked; others will not. I upload each of them the same way. I wonder if I am deleting some information when I try to rearrange the pictures. Inevitably, I end up with huge spaces between paragraphs and phortographs. Deleting those spaces is always a problem because the spaces are not all equal.

Any suggestions would be greatly apperciated. I would like all of them to enlarge. They have enough detail that they often look much better in full screen.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

marketing school dropout

A friend from New York City sent this to me last December. It is one of the funniest marketing errors I have seen. He said there were several different signs -- all on hams. They disappeared the next day. (The signs -- not the hams.)

I realize everyone does not celebrate Easter. But in that same spirit of ecumenicalism, I want to wish all of you a very happy Easter. The Sunday school kids dragooned me into participating in their pageant this morning -- something about needing someone pompous and stuffy. In any event, I hope you have a great day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

the stream of life

On days like today, I wonder why I want to live anywhere other than in the bosom of my little village. It is the Saturday before Easter -- and the day itself was celebratory.

I knew that the cherry blossoms at the state capitol building were starting to come out. When I rolled out of bed at 7:30, I paused only for breakfast. Jiggs and I were off in a hope to beat the crowd. I wanted to get some shots without the usual corps of photographers in the way -- because it was a beautifully clear and sunny day.

Jiggs has been limping on his right front leg and his left rear leg, so, we try to take our walks a bit slower and shorter. Because this was going to be at least a triple walk for him, I took it slow. By the time we got to the capitol, there were plenty of other photographers, but the cherry blossoms were just beginning their show.

Even at these early stages, the trees are impressive. This is one reason our local buses are called Cherriots. (The neighbor girl thinks they are Cheerios.)

Whoever planted the trees had a good eye for proportion. I love the tunnel effect they make over this path.

But the daffodils were not going to let the cherries have all the attention.

I have been trying to learn from John in San Miguel, Juan Calypso, Babs, and Wayne how to take candid shots of people. I getting a little self-conscious about invading people's privacy. But this older couple was obviously having a grand day.

Jiggs quickly got bored with my attention being on my camera, rather than him. Back to home we started. Just as we were walking by his favorite stream, I received a telephone call concerning the house in Mexico that has interested me this last week. While chatting on the telephone, Jiggs managed to limp down the slope to the edge of the stream -- and got in. To the consternation of the ducks. He was wading around until the current caught him, and off he went downstream over a cascade of rocks. He managed to hang on with one paw. (I kid you not. I often suspected he had prehensile capabilities with his paws.) I knew that if he tired out, he would be swept downstream, and with his aged legs, he would not be able to swim. So, into the water I go, thigh-deep to rescue a dog with a couple of centuries of breeding as a water dog.

I carried him out, and put him on shore. I was afraid he might suffer some form of shock because he was really wobbly on his feet. But he tottered right over to a clump of grass and began eating -- as if nothing had happened. If I could only live in the moment like Jiggs.

Being the blogger I am, I realized that story was done. I raised my camera and took the following picture. It was just another reminder that no matter how bad a moment may be, it is a blessing to enjoy the sun and the company of my dog.

sailing into the past

I was looking through my photographs of our sailing trip in the San Juans and Gulf Islands last year. For no particular reason, I decided I would share a few with you.

It may be that Bliss is currently out of touch sailing back up the Pacific coast from Barra de Navidad. When she arrives home, this will be a little gift for her and the Captain.

Under sail in the channel between Sucia and Waldron Islands.

And, of course, some star fish -- just for Wayne -- in the harbor at Ganges, Salt Springs Island.

I just thought this was an interesting photograph -- Sucia Island.

No trip in the San Juans would be complete without spotting a pod of orcas -- just outside of Anacortes. They are magnificent creatures.

These pictures are a good reminder to me that life offers a lot of opportunities in my current circumstances. But I am ready for a lot more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

before there was a before

I accidentally ran across a great resource on the house I am currently considering in Barra de Navidad. The realtor showed me two houses that had been designed by a local architect: Alejandro Lazareno. I googled his name to see if he had designed other houses. He had.

But the most interesting find on that search list was this blog. It shows a week by week progress of the house being built two years ago. Where but on the internet could you find such a resource?

It is a huge blog -- with lots of interesting commentary and even more interesting photographs. It gives me a good idea where lines are buried under the concrete, but it also assures me that the house is very well built.

Comparing the photographs, it is hard to believe that it is the same house. For example, remember those colorful stairs? Here they are in their unfinished glory.

The picture at the top is of the lot before any work began. Compare it with the first picture in yesterday's posting. They are taken from about the same point.

Alee' asked for some additional pictures. So, for her, here is the dining area.

And the entry walk -- just inside the gate. Note the curved overhang. That is an Alejandro trademark.

And, once again, the beloved pool -- this time from the upstairs terrace.

As you can tell, my ardor has not yet cooled.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

cinderella returns home barefoot

When I was in Barra de Navidad and La Manzanilla last November and December, I wanted to see several houses. As luck would have it, one of the houses in Barra sold the weekend before I arrived. So, I looked at several other houses -- and found two that interested me.

Those of you, who have been following this blog, know the rest of the story. I started my tortuous analysis on when I should move, and concluded that I would probably move to Mexico in April of 2008. I would rent for 6 months each in Barra de Navidad, La Manzanilla, and Pátzcuaro -- and then buy wherever I had decided to settle.

Well, the winds of change are blowing again. The realtor I was dealing with in Barra sent me an email on Tuesday letting me know that the sale failed and the house was back on the market. I must admit that it was like hearing that your favorite ex-girlfriend has popped back into your life.

And there is the first warning sign. Comparing a house to an ex-girlfriend should raise all kinds of flags. But let me share some photographs of my sweetheart.

The house is not right on the beach, but it is an easy walk to downtown Barra and the beach. Because it is at the beach, the houses are very close together -- and the lots are very small. Two bedrooms. Two and a half baths. A terrace patio off of the master bedroom on the second floor. With a very nice kitchen.

But it is the little touches that make a difference. These stairs lead from the back yard to the upstairs terrace. Each riser is painted a color from the interior of the house. How cool is that?

And, Nancy, I have found my traveller's palm -- and birds of paradise.

But, I saved the best for last: a pool. Anyone who has spent any time on the Pacific coast in the summer knows where I will be spending most of my time. Good-bye, hot tub. Hello, pool. Meals and reading are about to have a new -- but similar -- venue.

Now a little cold water to be poured on that dream. I still have the same time frame issues. Retirement sometime between January and April 2009. Selling my house in Salem. Those facts have not changed.

And a new issue has arisen. In talking with non-Mexicans who sell property in Mexico, there appear to be a lot of different answers on whether Mexican residency can be claimed to take advantage of the Mexican capital gains tax exemption. Like most "residency" requirements, the application is fluid because it is based on weighing a series of factors. I know that none of you are tax experts, but do you have any idea if residency is assisted if the only residence a buyer has is the one being purchased in Mexico, and if having an FM3 at the time of purchase is a favorable factor? It would make sense that if a person has sold all other residences prior to purchasing a Mexican home, residency should weigh toward Mexico. It will be interesting to see what each of you have to add. I suppose the only trustworthy advice is that you know you can use the exemption when you try to use it and Hacienda approves it.

Now I need to either get back on track with my renting plan -- or I should start the negotiation process to tie the knot with my new princess.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

cruise or lose

Two more weeks until I leave for Brazil! Well, two weeks and four days. But who's counting?

I planned this cruise almost a year ago. And I almost cancelled it in December because I thought I could use the money and time to continue my scouting trips to Mexico. I kept it on the calendar, though. After all, if I retire early next year, I most likely will not have the financial resources to head off on a two-week cruise to Brazil.

Originally, the cruise was heading to Brazil, Morocco, and Portugal. The Morocco stops were dropped for discrete reasons of security, We are now visiting four cities in Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife), Tenerife, Madeira, Spain (Cadiz), and Portugal (Lisbon).

The only ports I have never visited are the Brazilian cities. I am really looking forward to grabbing a taxi in each port and just heading off to see what there is to explore.

We will also have several days of sea days. Those are my favorites. No responsibilities. No house to clean. No meals to cook. I will just read and enjoy the sea from my balcony.

I consider these cruises to be rehearsal for my next who-knows-how-many years of retirement.

Monday, March 17, 2008

post script

For those of you who do not read the comments left by readers (and you really should; they are often the best part of almost all blogs), I want to give you "the rest of the story" concerning my neighbor. For those of you who do read comments, you will recognize this as part of my response to "Juan Calypso."

I talked to my neighbor tonight. She had two reactions. The first was a tearful acceptance of my offer to let her use my trash can. That did not surprise me. After all, what was she going to say?

It was her second reaction that caught me off guard. She was noticeably perplexed by my offer. That was a good reminder to me that no matter how good we think our relations are, they are probably not as good as we suppose.

For me the moral is that I need to show the same kindness each day -- even if it does shock my neighbors -- and frighten the horses in the street.

mending wall

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

Mending Wall
Robert Frost

My back yard looks as if children rehearsing for Mardi Gras have paraded across my lawn. There are shreds of paper of various size. Not the uniform deadly massacre of a lawn mower when it meets its mortal enemy. No. This paper has been meticulously -- purposely shredded, as if for some secondary school art project.

But the hands that created this artistic detritus do not belong to children -- unless they are the children of Chip and Dale. The budding sculptors are gray squirrels. The chewers of BMW wire insulation.

The squirrels are busy constructing their little Levittowns. But they are not very good at their tasks. Plenty of nest-building material snows from the Spruce tree in my back yard. Now and then a clump of twigs the size of a basketball hurtles from the tree. I keep wondering if the Squirrel News headlines will feature the loss of home and possessions. But apparently no loss of life. The nascent nests are as devoid of squirrelettes as they are of ever being a happy home.

The newspaper scraps have a source, though. The lady who lives next to me stacks her leftover newspaper on her back porch. To the squirrels, it is a Home Depot. And I could probably put an end to the confetti in my yard by asking her to do something with the paper.

But the paper is not the problem. Lack of money is. She does not recycle the newspaper because she needs it to burn in her fireplace for heat. Besides, she cannot afford to have her garbage picked up because she has no money for that. Some nights, while I am in the hot tub, I can smell that she is burning plastic in her fireplace -- putting her life at risk to avoid the cold.

My choices are limited. I can confront her and she would ashamedly move the newspaper and stop burning some of the plastic. But I was reminded tonight of a lesson I learned from another of my neighbors -- Bill. And I got thinking what he would do as a good neighbor, and the answer came to me. It was simplicity itself. I have plenty of extra space in my trash can. If she will simply bag up her plastics and other garbage, I can put it in my can. It costs me nothing more and she will not be tempted to burn her plastics. I also have a pile of older wood that I am not going to use. I can give that to her. As for the newspaper, I have several old brass boxes that I am not taking to Mexico. She could store her newspapers there.

I need to talk with her this evening. I am not trying to toot my own horn. In fact, I am a bit ashamed that I did not think of such an obvious solution to being a better neighbor.
But, it is another good example of how good deeds get paid forward. If Bill had not shown his kindness to me, I might still be shaking my fist at the squirrels across the wall.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

evolving to mexico

This evening I started reading Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. Based on the first 50 pages, I think it will be very informative.

Professor Larson spends the first portion of the book discussing the background of the trial. I would have thought the background was unnecessary. After all, we all know the background. Good grief! We all saw Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. We know the hero and the villain without a lot of academic chat.

Well, I was wrong. The introduction dispels a lot of the myths surrounding an issue that has taken on cartoon predictability. The issue is far more complex than popular culture would claim. I will give a more thorough review when I have finished my read. (I suspect that will be after I return from my Brazil trip -- more on that later in the week.)

But the book and two comments today from Kim G of Boston started me thinking about my planned move to Mexico. Several posts ago, Michael Dickson raised the issue of whether I had a very realistic idea of how my move to Mexico would impact my life. As part of that question, he raised the title of the blog: same life -- new location. His point was that if I thought I was going to have the same life in Mexico as I have in downtown Salem, I was deluding myself. I see his point, but I think he is wrong in certain respects, and correct in others. And where he may be wrong is a direct result of me not being very precise in how I use the term life.

I know that Michael is correct that until I have experienced some of the frustrations of getting simple things accomplished in a foreign country, I cannot possibly know what it means to experience life there. To a certain degree, I experienced that in Greece, and to a lesser degree in England (even though I think the language gulf was equally wide in both countries). However, those are circumstances, and circumstances are not my life.

My life is the sum parts of who I am. Going to Mexico will not make that life any better (or any worse). I have read enough blogs of people who were moving to Mexico because they believe the Mexican people have no worries, everyone is friendly, no one competes at the expense of neighbors -- and the sun shines all day and it only rains at night. But talk like that is malarkey -- and the writers are soon to suffer great disappointment when they discover the very thing they thought they had left behind lives right next to them in their Mexican Eden.

Those are challenges. And that is part of the reason for the move -- to wake up every morning and know that I do not have the skills to get through the day, but I will need to learn them to cope and thrive.

Same life, Utopian? I don't think so. Just a realistic appraisal that I am not running away from anything. I am simply trying to find a way to keep some interest going in my life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Camellias. Every time I hear the word, every time I see the bloom, memories of Bob Edwards reminiscing with Red Barber come flooding back to me.

Strange that a flower would do that, but Bob often inquired of Red whether his camelias were in bloom "down there in Florida." Then the mellifluous flow of analysis and nostaligia would begin.

Baseball has long been a love of mine. But the game always had more meaning -- more texture -- more class when Red was relaying stories about Mr. Rickey fighting segregation and Pete Rose finding redemption.

It has now been fourteen years since Red died. But I cannot see one of these hardy blooms )and they are everywhere this week) without remembering what Red added to every Friday of my life -- and still does.

the times they are a-changin'

Cue Bob Dylan. If the times are not changing, at least the weather is.

I have spent the last few days writing about the hubris of a certain New York politician -- who just as easily could be an Idaho politician -- or a star athlete. And I think I am getting my own payback -- even if it is in small change.

I have been bragging about our early spring this year. The font is barely off the tips of my fingers, and we are holding an open casting for a remake of Genesis 7. I started to draft a posting earlier today, but out on the lawn there arose such a clatter that I suspected Saint Nick and 200 reindeer were falling out of the sky. But it was just hail. Not your South Dakota I-will-never-recognize-my-pickup type of hail. Just good old pelt-the-daffodils-to-the-ground hail. And then a surge of rain water. Winter - 100; spring - 2.

The picture I posted at the top was meant to give a little impression of how wet we were this evening. But it looks more like an advertisement for the wet brick look.

But there it is again: that symbolic fork in the road. I spent part of the evening looking at long-term rentals for next year. It seems a long way off, but my trip south is going to be here in a mere 11 or 12 months.

As I look out my window watching the now-soft drizzle falling on the hot tub, I can imagine that this may be where I will be living in less than a year:

Or this: