Monday, July 28, 2008

since we're neighbors ...

Stephen Sondheim is having his way with my blog today. I started writing about the importance of having good neighbors -- even while seeking adventure. I have seldom found a better lifeline in my 60 years.

I barely got that sentence on paper when I heard Sondheim's refrain from "Moments in the Woods." While searching in the woods, the baker's wife has an affair with Prince Charming. When he leaves, she sings longingly, but wisely, about life's moments.

Oh. if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one-!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one.

I have always found Sondheim's poetry to be knowingly bittersweet. It is true that those of us who long for adventure would find that even Paris is ruined by repetition. For that reason alone, I need good neighbors. And I have already found some.

I mentioned earlier that I met a retired French archaeologist when I stayed in La Manzanilla last November. Archaeology is a hobby of mine and he was more than helpful in mapping out lesser-known archaeological sites. It turns out that he lives withing blocks of the house I am considering renting.

When I was in Barra de Navidad in December, I met five people who attended a church (above) in Melaque with English services. I attended while I was there. To say that the congregation was small would be an understatement. There were 13 of us -- and 6 were visitors. But I had a very good time visiting with all of them. This will give me a place to worship and another base of people who share common interests.

I am very interested in settling somewhere near a university. Melaque does not even come close to meeting that requirement. However, my neighbors do. The house is next door to a couple who are professors at a large midwestern university. (I do not make this stuff up.) On a visit to their home, I noticed that they were working on a jigsaw puzzle with their two sons. Jigsaw puzzles are one of my favorite family pastimes. And then I saw what the puzzle was: Raphael's The School of Athens. We started discussing why Raphael had chosen certain contemporaries as his studies for the painting. I was literally in academic hog heaven. What an opportunity this will be.

Just before I left, the woman who owns the house told me to go meet two other Oregonians. I was surprised that any Oregonians were there in the heat. It turns out they decided to leave Oregon to lead a more sedate life. They are not yet to retirement age, but they are making a good go of it by living economically. I can certainly learn some lessons from them.

While compiling this list, I notice that I have not yet made any acquaintances with local Mexicans. I hope that I can. On this short one-week trip, I did not try as hard as I should have to meet new people. Instead, I picked some low-lying fruit.

What I do know is that I have a good base of neighbors to add a new layer to my adventure.

But I cannot close off without throwing in one more Sondheim lyric. This one is about the impermanence of Manhattan residents. But it seems to apply to the little beach town that will be my home for at least a few months.

Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane
and the bus
Maybe yesterday.

One day I hope to be looking as a resident -- not a tourist.

But that will only be true once I come to grips with the culture that is Mexico.


John W said...

The man in the Chivas shirt resembles some of my neighbors. I first bridged our cultural gap while watching last year's championship game on a TV in a mercado. When Guadalajara scored the winning goal, I found myself hugging guys like him.

Steve Cotton said...

Good suggestion, John. Sports are the universal bonding opportunity.

jennifer rose said...

Just remember that your relationship with your neighbors may be as fleeting as that image you saw this morning in the bathroom mirror. Not only do neighbors move on, their attitude toward you and your relationship with them will be altered by your migratory status in Mexico. Our approach to tourists is at one level, because we know they'll be soon long gone. We can be even as dubious about those who're testing the waters without laying down roots -- particularly when those folks start asking questions about real estate. We know that they've got no intentions of buying and are only looking for entertainment.

The neighbors who are stand-offish may just be taking a wait-and-see approach, their reserve turning to friendliness if the situation warrants. And those who look like they've got the desired credentials and are jumping up and down at the prospect of having you as their new neighbor may turn out to be weird.

Steve Cotton said...

Jennifer -- I probably fit in your last category. I have noticed that most of us who migrate south have a certain charming eccentricity that may drive the more staid to distraction.

glorv1 said...

What a wonderful read. I wanted to ask, How is Jiggs doing? I think it is great the adventures you are having. Enjoy life, it is too short. My best to Jiggs.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- Jiggs is continuing to decline, but he is hanging in there. I spent a lot of time with him this weekend because both of his back legs are now giving him trouble. He is also starting to lose weight. But his other senses are fine -- if deteriorating. The two of us were just having a nice evening snooze together in the back yard. Thanks for asking about him.