Mexico and I started our love affair in 1971.
I was a second lieutenant assigned to Laredo as a student pilot. To me, Mexico was as alluring as the beautiful young women who hung around the Officers' Club in the hopes of becoming the wife of an Air Force pilot.
Two Texans had befriended me at the base. Tommy Sargent, my roommate from Officer Training School, was from San Antonio. Larry Gana, my neighbor in the BOQ, was from Houston.
They taught me the survival skills of border living. How to eat a whole jalapeño without passing out. How to determine if you are eating grilled goat or grilled dog. And plenty of other helpful hints -- most of which have absolutely no application to my current lifestyle.
And there was the advice about what to take along on a trip to Mexico. Cans of oil. Oil pump. Various car parts. Water. Snacks. I suspect that the mindset had not changed one iota since Pershing's invasion.
One question I often receive from people contemplating a move south is: "What do I need to bring with me?"
I am never quite certain how to respond. When I moved five years ago, I followed the Pershing model. My Escape was stuffed with enough goods to set up house on some deserted island in the middle of the Pacific.
It turned out that I needed almost none of it -- with the exception of good cookware. Several of the boxes have remained unopened since 2009. The reason is simple. Mexico offers just about anything that a middle class expatriate needs.
But that does not keep me from buying goods on my trips north to take home to Mexico. Some of that is just habit. And all of my purchases are admittedly eccentric.
So, what am I taking back to Mexico on Wednesday?
- An Eagle Creek suitcase. I needed to replace my old Eagle Creek for my cruises this summer. I have found nothing in Mexico to match the quality.
- Briefs and socks. I thought I would find a larger variety up north. But Hanes has stopped making my preferred British-style boxers. I could have bought the boxers pictured above at Costco in Puerto Vallarta. The same goes for the socks.
- Jelly bellies. I do not really need them. But I love them. Also available at Costco in Mexico. This jar is almost empty.
- Brach's spiced jelly bird eggs. Another weakness. And only available in The States at Easter. I have never seen them in Mexico.
- Ziplock freezer bags. The regular variety are everywhere in Mexico. But not the freezer variety.
- DVDs. Pirated copies, of course, are available in my local tiaguis, but I choose not to deal with the narcos.
- Books. A Paz paperback and a Central America tour book. There are no bookstores anywhere near my house.
- Listerine. Everywhere in Mexico. But not my preferred variety -- soft mint.
- Crest sensitive toothpaste. It shows up at Walmart now and then.
- Chocolate pudding mix. I have never seen it in a Mexican store.
- Red curry paste. I have never looked for it in Mexico. This is an experiment.
I no longer smuggle in Boar's Head pepperoni because I have found an adequate substitute. The same goes for Carr's water crackers.
Of course, the list very well may change if I buy that house that is tempting me. Sheets and towels will undoubtedly fill my suitcases when I become a homeowner.
Until then, I will end up carting goods through Mexican customs that I could just as easily purchase in Manzanillo or Guadalajara.
Old habits are hard to break.