Friday, October 31, 2008

goblins on parade

This is Professor Jiggs's favorite night of the year. All variety of goblin-garbed neighborhood children come out just to see him.

He has no concept of candy or sweets handed over at demand. He simply knows that little arms wrap around his neck and young lips kiss his head. He gets more squeals and giggles than Hanna Montana. And he imagines himself to once again be the puppy I have almost forgot existed.

I suspect he has his priorities straight. Giving and getting affection will trump mere chocolate any day.

I hope you all have (had) a very happy Hallow e'en.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

when is a sunset a sunrise?

This is one of my favorite photographs of Melaque. The combination of the spectacular sunset with its gaudy colors -- for which this section of Mexico is famous -- and the shadowy surfers -- watching for the last wave of the day -- helps to remind me why I want to head south.

I may not know how to fully communicate. I may not even know how to successfully flush the toilet. But I know that every day will be another adventure.

I have been working on some interesting alternatives for my move. As soon as I have something to report, I will let you know. But I may not need to retire, after all, to experience the adventure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

birds of a feather

When I was in La Manzanilla in December, I took this photograph of a heron. Since then, I have searched for a specific name, but I have found nothing. I suspect the problem is that it is a juvenile, and I am simply missing some obvious markings.

But it is a very attractive bird. And brave.

The photograph below is of the same bird cautiously skirting one of the larger local crocodiles. I wonder if birds ever end up on the crocodile diet?

In case you are curious, the palapa is a restaurant -- and usually filled with people.

If this conjures up primordial fears of the jungle drinking hole, imagine zebra and wildebeest sitting around the bar tossing back a few while the crocodile decides who is on the menu for the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the prodigal dog returns home

One of the Bible's most joyous stories is the parable of the prodigal son. A son, who was considered lost, returns home to his father's open arms.

I am happy to report that there is the same joy in Guaymas tonight. Sitka has returned to Cynthia and Mike. You can read the details on their
blog. I will not take away their pleasure of sharing the story.

But I cannot let this moment pass without once again pointing out that my faith in humanity is restored every day when I read the blogs listed in the right-hand column.

We have shared stories of our pets; our loss and acquisition of jobs; our children and grandchildren; our social foibles; our accomplishments; our health issues -- and, in one instance this year, a death. But we are always there as friends and supporters.

Welcome home, Sitka. You are a great symbol of the joy we share with each other.

Monday, October 27, 2008

through a mirror, clearly

This last year, I have started appreciating the art of photography -- once again.

I say "once again" because photography had been a hobby of mine since I was in grade school. I even rigged up a little dark room in our attic -- to little effect.

Then I stopped. Who knows, why? I just stopped. Other interests arose. Politics. Girls. Skiing. All of which would have been good source material. But I stopped.

When I started this blog, Andee Carlsson convinced me that I need
ed to add photographs. So, I bought a digital camera and took up my lost love of pictures.

The photograph at the top of this post illustrates why I have come to appreciate what cameras can do.

When I framed the picture, my eye was concentrating on the foliage and fall colors. When I saw it on my monitor, I was disappointed because the bright sunlight had washed out what my eye had seen.

And then I noticed the true center of the photograph. The water. The water reflected the essence of what I had seen -- but in a different medium. Almost as if a painting of a sculpture had captured the art better than the sculpture itself.

It was a pure accident. But it will be one of my favorite reminders of this amazing fall in Oregon.

Even the dog recognized that the days need to be treasured. On Sunday, Professor Jiggs insisted on taking a longer than usual trek through some streets where we had not walked together for at least eight years. When we returned home, I realized we had been gone for three hours and had walked about two miles. Jiggs and I set no records with our walks. But he had a great time.

The price he paid? We needed to go to the veterinarian today for another steroid shot. But I have seldom seen him so content.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

lost dog in guaymas

I have looked at this picture numerous times today. It is Sitka, Cynthia and Mike's dog in Guaymas.

She chased a cat last night and has been missing since.

I was going to post a piece about what a great day it was in Salem today. But it did not feel right to do that while blogging friends are searching for their missing dog.

When Cynthia and Mike went to Mexico City and their plans there did not match up to their expectations, their blogger friends starting sending out a network of help.

I wish I could join them in the hunt. I can only imagine the fears they are experiencing. But if any of you have friends in Guaymas or the surrounding area, please direct them to cintia y miguel. We need to reunite Sitka with Cynthia and Mike.

reddy kilowatt is in charge

On my last day in La Manzanilla last December, I was walking around the village to get a better idea if I wanted to move there. (If you look at my December posts, you can see I came very close to buying a house there.)

Something caught my eye, and I looked up to see this geometric masterpiece. I was originally entranced with the radiating shapes. [Click on the photograph for better detail.] But a mere moment passed before I saw the metaphor.

No Canadian or American engineer would ever design an electrical system like this. A quick glance shows how disorganized the lines are and how difficult it would be to get the system running again in the event the pole failed structurally. Having no electrical expertise, I will offer no opinion on how the connections are made within the grid.

Instead, we NOBers would have poles and lines marching in military precision down the dusty lanes of La Manzanilla.

But here is the problem with that analogy. This is Mexico. The arrangement on the pole works. And it is art to be appreciated for its own sake. If the pole fails, it will be erected just as the current pole was.

I talked with an electrical utility worker in Melaque this summer and showed him the photograph. His response was spot on: "You Gringos worry about the strangest things. What if ... ? What if ...? Try having fun."

Could the electrical system in Mexico be better? Of course. Is my writing and worrying about it going to make it better? Of course not.

Instead, I will enjoy it for what I first saw it as: a great geometrical form. And the opportunity for another tale.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

acapulco wet

October 2006. The last time I was in Acapulco.

Any tale that starts with those word should involve a setting of blue skies, hot days, and hotter relationships. One glance at the photograph above will let you know that Acapulco can be as wet and cool as Seattle.

The square is usually alive with tourists and vendors -- as well as a few entertainers. Instead, my camera could find only a mother and her son scurrying to avoid God's little joke on cruise ship passengers who paid a month's salary to experience what they could find at home.

Actually, it was a pleasant day merely to walk in the rain and see a completely different side of Acapulco.

Even the shoeshine men had abandoned their Danish-efficiency green chairs. Perhaps not wishing to see their tidy ships sink below the clear-tiled water.

Friday, October 24, 2008

the riddle of the sphinx

When I first visited Melaque, I noticed these odd metal devices at regular intervals along residential streets.

My first guess was that they were some form of charcoal burners to grill meat. But they did not look like barbecues. Where was the ash? The char marks? And in front of the house?

Some type of device to hold festival materials?

Flower pots?

Public sculpture?

Of course, those of you who have been around the ways of the world more often than this shy boy from rural Powers will recognize one of the most sophisticated of Mexican inventions.

They are garbage pails. Put the garbage in daily. It is collected daily.

Great idea. Nicely executed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

more lens

I think we may all need a little art breather after our financial discussion. So, two more photographs on my walk through the park with Professor Jiggs. By the way, we are still having a marvelous clear-sky Fall.

Sometimes, the color and light combine with either new shapes --

Or that old cliché, repetition, enters the act.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

taking it all into account

I am in a retrospective mood today. I started looking at some of the lessons I have learned from my fellow bloggers.

When I started thinking about moving to Mexico, Nancy and Paul were still in Seattle. Cynthia and Mike were just beginning the steps toward a Mexico move. And American Mommy had not yet started her blog.

Back then, I went to a blog that I still visit regularly: Michael Dickson's
La Vida Bougainvillea. If I remember correctly, he originally drafted the material in the blog as a newspaper article for people where were interested moving south of the border.

That blog (and all of his blogs, for that matter) are filled with all sorts of information. But the information I would like to put before the house are his observations on bank accounts. Here is what my mentor has to say:

Also open a checking account at Citibank (Banamex USA) located in Los Angeles. Toll-free number is 1-800-222-1234. You´ll get a recording. Say the word "representative," and a human will come on the line.

They have a special deal for retirees that includes checks and a debit card. This is the sole branch in the United States of Banamex, one of Mexico´s largest banks, now owned by Citicorp.

Tell your mutual fund company about your account at Citibank or whatever bank you end up with. Money can be transferred electronically via the mutual fund website to the bank´s dollar account.

Also, have pension and Social Security payments routed electronically to the same Citibank account. From Citibank, money can be transferred quickly and without charge by website or phone call to an account you will open later at Banamex after you arrive in Mexico. The money will arrive instantly in your Banamex account in pesos.

The only bank in Melaque is a Banamex branch. Michael's advice seemed to fit my situation perfectly. And I think it still does.

I have mentioned several times that I am a member of a Mexico message board that I have christened The Barroom Brawl Board. No further explanation is required.

On Saturday, one of the members was attempting to be helpful about Mexican banking matters. Another member fired back:

Other than for having utility bills paid by a bank or financial institute, Lloyds does this for you in Ajijic, why would you want a Mexican bank account? I have my money in a US bank and can set the daily ATM withdrawal limit with the bank. I don't think I've seen the inside of my US bank in years but I do all my banking through them.

Would someone please tell me what I'm missing by not having a Mexican bank account!

Message boards are a blunt tool. I could not tell if this was a request for information or a challenge -- even though the stray exclamation point gives me a rather helpful hint.

Either way, the question is interesting. Is there any need for an expatriate to have a Mexican bank account?

I can think of three reasons. The first is psychological. If I am moving from the United States to Mexico, why would I want all of my contacts, including financial, to remain in the country I have left? Several of you have pointed out that many Canadians and Americans are merely long-term tourists in Mexico. For them, it would make sense to keep everything in the old country's institutions. But, if you want to be Mexican, you will probably want to use a Mexican bank.

The second reason is far more practical. Twice while visiting Mexico, my credit union has temporarily terminated transactions with Mexican banks. Both times my access to ATM machines was shut down. If I had access to a Mexican account, I would, at least, have some money available.

The third is communal. When I opened my law practice, the first place I went was the local bank. I wanted to meet the president and the officers to get a loan. But, more importantly, I wanted to meet the tellers. Each visit, I would take along something: a piece of candy, a flower from my garden. They were small tokens that I appreciated the hard work that tellers perform. And, whenever I had a problem, I knew I had them on my side. Red tape could simply disappear at the touch of their deft fingers. If I am going to be a part of the Melaque community, I want to have a similar relationship with the people who live there. And tellers are a marvelous place to start.

But, I am interested what may be some other good reasons for opening a Mexican bank account? Am I missing something obvious?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

through my lens

I wanted to share two photographs with you today. I took both of them this weekend in the park where I walk the dog. It is landscaped very simply, but it is always filled with small surprises.

The first photograph simply reflects autumn's effect on nature. The second is nature's reflection.

Monday, October 20, 2008

snow white was a whinger

I suspect that every part of the world that experiences a spectacular fall can point to a very narrow time frame when the days are clear and the trees are ablaze.

We are there, right now, in my little town on the edge of the Pacific.

Saturday and Sunday were fall-perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, and plant colors so bold that Joseph would look in vain for a coat match.

The dog and I spent the afternoons wandering around. I took my camera in the hope of memorializing this last fall in Oregon. But Professor Jiggs is not the best artistic partner. We cannot wander far or tarry long. The aged dog will have his way. But I did get a few photographs I may share later this week.

Instead of coming home and taking a nap (as I slip into my siesta understudy role), I sat down with a book on Mexico and indulged in one of my guilty pleasures of October.

This is honeycrisp season. My favorite apple. Sweet. Tart. Firm. Everything a good apple should be.

And, even though, they are a full dessert eaten raw, I always need to tart them up. I add a slice of pepperoni and a slice of a good-quality blue cheese (Stilton being my favorite).

Blue cheese got me to thinking. I cannot recall seeing any indigenous blue cheese while I was in Mexico. Of course, markets carry the same type of imported blues you can buy throughout the world. But is there a Mexican national blue cheese?

I could probably google and get an answer. But there are blog writers in the column to the right who will know this answer before I can type Cheetos Torciditos.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

a cup of good faith

I had a well-timed surprise on Saturday morning. I had just finished eating my breakfast and browsing through my favorite blogs when I heard a knock on the door.

There stood my friend John. I had meant to call him all week to see if he and his wife were free for dinner. And there he was inviting me to brunch. Because I was egg-filled, I suggested getting a cup of coffee.

I have not been in a modern coffee house -- ever. Our little town is filled with them. But I do not like any food that begins with the letter "c" -- and coffee is high on the list. But I wanted to hear what was on John's mind, so coffee it was.

I once worked with John. He is one of those brilliant fellows with a doctorate in philosophy who always has some interesting take on the world.

John introduced me to Tamara de Lempicka -- or, rather to her art. Tamara had long been in the grave before either of us was born. For that reason alone, I shared my post:
seducing tadeusz. Even though I write for myself, I still get a kick out of people enjoying my work. John was more than appreciative. Stopping me. Rolling phrases over the tongue.

And, of course, we had to discuss the reason for the post -- trying to keep voters' expectations within a semblance of reality.

John often despairs for the nation's future. And I am a good foil. I believe we are resilient enough to withstand almost any catastrophe.

Time slipped by amazingly fast. After almost two hours of argument (not the pejorative use), we needed to return to our respective lives.

But, more than anything, I realized that we had been talking about matters of religion, politics, social relations, and the economy, agreeing on almost nothing. But we did not shout. Did not attack the other person's motives. Did not insult each other (beyond the point Niles may have insulted Fraser). And I think I know why.

Earlier this month, in
feasting without grace, I noted that any topic can be discussed as long as we assume that the other person is arguing in good faith. It does not mean that we must compromise our principles, only that I accept that the other person actually believes his position as much as I believe mine. Then we find common ground.

It was a delightful two hours with a friend whose integrity I value. Even if it did involve coffee.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

seducing tadeusz

Theirs was the very essence of a glamorous roaring 20s marriage.

And roar it did. At 16, Maria Gurwik-Gorski fell in love with Tadeusz Łempicki, a dashing gadabout. They married in Russia. Escaped a revolution. Set up shop in Paris.

And reinvented themselves as glamor personified. She, as Tamara de Lempicka, noted painter. He, with a slight vowel movement to Tadeusz de Lempicka, noted rake.

To be fair, Tamara was also a rakess. And though they dazzled the social elite, Tadeusz left Tamara. The marriage was finished, but his portrait never was -- in more ways than we can probably imagine.

But they were not alone. America's glamor couple, the Fitzgeralds, were to fly high and crash hard. F. Scott and Zelda were separated by a sea of whisky. He died in the waves; she in flames.

You might ask, why we are reviewing the failed lives of the artistic. We aren't. I am more interested in another phenomenon that currently is sweeping the United States.

It does not seem possible, but as late as this spring, Republicans were in thrall with John McCain, and Democrats with Barak Obama. The Economist proclaimed that the system worked: that two new dynamic faces were vying with one another. Reform and change incensed the air.

Even Tony Blair got in on the act this summer. While visiting America, he declared: "I think you have two very good people standing to be your president, and I think you actually can take a lot of comfort from that."

I thought he might be making one of those understated British insults by subtly dissing Bob Barr and Ralph Nader.

And where are we now? My Republican friends are muttering about John McCain for turning into a socialist, and my Democrat friends are bemused why Barack Obama has turned corporate. They just want the election to be over.

Of course, this is nothing new. Americans love hating their politicians. But this year has a certain bite to it. We usually, at least, get a bit of a honeymoon with our leaders before we start asking for a divorce. Where is the part where F. Scott and Zelda swim nude in Central Park? Where is Tamara's zippy roadster?

I know there are still some idealists amongst us who really want to believe this election will make a difference. That it is possible to immanentize the eschaton, as Eric Voeglin would say.

I happen to be among the people who are not all that unhappy that Americans look on all their leaders with a skeptical eye. Fortunately, we are still free enough that whoever is president, or senator, or congressman has very little effect on my family's daily life. We can work, live, worship, and play without much regard to who pretends to be in charge of the levers.

Do I care who is elected? Of course, I do. But I care far more that my neighbors' needs are being met.

So, here is my point. For the next 17 days, we should pay attention to the election campaign. We should vote. We will have a new president, and a new congress.

But we should not then be surprised, that within a short period of time, we start channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald -- wondering how Zelda ever got into the White House.

Friday, October 17, 2008

pardon my permit

I love the internet. But my love is often unrequited.

There is no better source to answer a question that to google and sort. But, we all know the danger. For one moment of true love, there are 99 lies and a cornucopia of infidelities. It is like seeking truth from a politician.

My issue today is cars in Mexico. I know that it is possible to bring a car into Mexico in conjunction with a tourist card (FMT) -- as long as the proper formalities are followed. I also know when I leave Mexico, my automobile must leave with me, and the permit for the automobile expires when the FMT expires. (For the moment, we will leave the possibility of converting to an FM3 visa out of the hypothetical because the answer is too easy. Coming and going with an FM3 is easy -- or, as easy as coming and going can be in Mexico.)

So, here is the question. If I drive my truck to Mexico in early May and enter with a 180-day FMT, can I fly out of Mexico (say, for an emergency in Oregon) and leave my truck there -- as long as I return while my FMT is still valid?

It would seem to be a very simple question. But I have received varying answers from what should be reliable sources. And I know there is a possibility that all of the answers are correct. That a random official may disallow my departure without proof that the truck is out of the country. That my return on a new FMT when I return to Melaque will set off paperwork problems when I try to cross the border in late October.

Can any of you direct me to a definitive site?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

it makes me feel better to give

Yesterday was Blog Action Day -- a day for bloggers to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion on the subject of poverty.

Two blogs that I read daily were active participants. And neither one surprised me. (There may have been others that I missed.)

Laurie of
Laurie´s Blog Spot is working in Honduras to alleviate poverty. She is surrounded by people who have so little, any small gesture is appreciated.

Wayne of Isla Mujeres: Gringo in Paradise, as we know, has been arranging knitted gifts for the children of Xico, and urged his readers to donate through the PayPal link on Viva Veracruz .

I have written on this topic several times over the past week. But I will stick my oar in again.

There is poverty in every community. In some rich communities, it is camouflaged by wealth. In poor countries, such as Honduras, the poverty is overwhelming in its ubiquity. Mexico is somewhere in between.

Most of us get overwhelmed by the travails of the poor. Even if I were to give away everything I own, I could improve the lives of very few. What I can do is help when I see opportunities arise.

And that includes big gestures like reaching into my pocket and giving a homeless person as much as I can spare (or more), or helping the elderly woman get her groceries into her rolling cart. The trick is to look for people who have problems, rather than looking through them.

Last night in the park, I ran into James and Candace, a couple who has been camping in the park for a week. (I think I have been able to get hem readmitted to a shelter. It is a long story.) They were having their dinner. When Candace saw Jiggs, she jumped up, ran over to him, and gave him what was left of her sandwich. I tried to stop her, but Jiggs is a very gracious (and eager) receiver of all food gifts.

I felt awful. They had so little, and they gave part of their food to my pampered dog. Her response almost made me tear up. She said: "I could have eaten it. But it makes me feel better to give."

"It makes me feel better to give." Candace understands how the root of poverty can be solved by healing relationships one person at a time.

It does feel good to give. We may not eliminate poverty, but we can help those put in our path.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

color and light


This may be my favorite time of the year. The skies are usually clear and the temperature may as well be a Honeycrisp apple.

Jackets. Burning leaves. Football. Mary Poppins herself could adopt the day.

I took this picture on my walk with Jiggs last evening. It is too busy. But I like the jumble of textures, light, and color.

I am trying to catch as many of these moments as I can. After all, this may be my last October in Oregon.

I want to savor each day for its own uniqueness.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

afloat in my mind

Two very nice young people help an elderly gentleman across the room

Memory amazes me.

How can you be puttering away in your workaday world, and all of a sudden a memory comes rushing unbidden into the dining room of your mind? It happens to everyone. Pulling weeds, you suddenly think of your grandfather's gray fedora. Driving to work, you re-imagine that unbelievable meal you had in a little cafe in Santorini. Or the red wagon you owned when you were three.

I had one of those moments last night, but I know exactly why. One of my favorite cruises was on the Queen Mary 2 four years ago when it was a brand new ship. Our small travelling band bought the tickets almost a full year earlier -- before the ship was completely built. So, we were pumped when we boarded her.

Everything about that trip was almost perfect. You know from my earlier posts that I try to do something special for the entertainers. It turned out that I had been one stage with one of the singers on an earlier cruise. Our group invited her to join us between her shows on the last evening of the cruise. She showed up quite resplendent -- still in her stage makeup for the second show.

Our group had also befriended one of the cadets assigned to the QM2: a young Irishman named Jonathan Ward. We had invited him to join us, as well, on that evening.

I cannot tell you everything we discussed, but we had a great time. (The details will probably pop into my head during a training session.) What I do know is that we felt we knew both of them quite well. While I was in Cork two years ago, I was going to see if he was still at the maritime college. I didn't.

The other evening, though, I was looking at some ship videos. One was a shameless advertisement for the QM2. But I watched it merely to see the ship in action. And, who should I see: Jonny Ward, now third mate on the ship.

I almost felt as if my own nephew had made good.

If you are interested in some background on the ship, take a look at
Queen Mary 2.

Monday, October 13, 2008

one hand to help the other

I posted an entry on Friday (a stitch in time) where I specifically noted what one of our fellow bloggers does to make the world a better place. Here is what I wrote:

I would also be remiss in not pointing out that there are angels amongst us already. Hollito, a regular commenter on many of our blogs, donates small business loans to people in developing countries. He also donated a laptop computer to a child in Xico.

I did not have the micro-loan web site available when I wrote that paragraph. Hollito was good enough to forward it to me. It is:

Wayne has recently posted instructions that those of us living outside of Mexico should not try mailing items to Xico. He has an alternative plan of using PayPal for direct donations to John Calypso. Or, an alternative would be to donate through the micro loan link Hollito provided.

Either way will help people who really need the help.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

pots of gold; piles of trash

This has been a busy weekend. I had a friend over to look at several projects -- including, adding a new zone on the irrigation system while I cleaned up the yard.

I moved the fix-up projects outside because we have been having some remarkably nice weather. I managed to clear out some ferns and overgrowth in the rose garden and the rock garden. It looks better, but there is always plenty to do.

While doing the yard work, I started rethinking one aspect of this move. My idea was to leave everything behind when I move south in May. I did not want to have a house and possessions that would act as a lifeline if I found the going tough in Mexico. (I fully expect that I will hit topes. After all, I am moving for the adventure, not the comfort.) That was the reason for all of this immediate activity: to get the house in shape to sell.

But something did not strike me as being right. The goal was to get the house in marketable shape, and I would not do some of the things the same way if I had decided to stay. I almost felt as if I was insulting the house.

Tie that to the fact that the general economy is worse now than it was when I started this project a month ago.

So, here is what I intend to do. (And it goes against half of what Kim of Boston has been advising me.) I will do some of the repairs on my house -- those that I would do if I were staying. I want to add French doors from the library out to the back yard. And I need to replace the windows on the south side of the house. My brother can help me complete those projects.

I am going to have dinner with a former work colleague in the next few days. In the 90s he occasionally house sat for me. He has been looking for a small house, but they are rare in this market. He has tentatively agreed to house sit for me while I head south. It would work out well for both of us -- economically. And, because I do not intend to buy a house in Mexico in the near future, I can bide my time and put the house on the market when the cycle is back up.

Of course, as many of you have warned me in your own moves, everything is open to change. Who knows? Maybe the housing market will have a sharp swing up in a few months. Or maybe blue fairies will simply give us all pots of gold.

But that is this week's plan. In any event, there is plenty of work to do before I am on my way to Melaque.

Friday, October 10, 2008

a stitch in time

I continue to be amazed at the moral strength of this blogging community.

On Wednesday, I posted a piece (
faithful in little things) about some small things I have been doing in my community for the homeless. A number of you have written to ask what you could do in your community.

My friend Wayne of
Isla Mujeres: Gringo in Paradise has a great idea to assist some of the children in Xico, in Veracruz. John Calypso of Viva Veracruz writes often of the daily issues faced by his neighbors in Xico. Life is hard there. Necessities are barely met; having nice things are merely a dream. When you can barely feed your family, there is little possibility of thinking about adequate clothing, and toys are simply a mirage on the horizon.

Wayne's challenge to his fellow knitters is this:

Get our your needles, grab some yarn from your stash (which I know you all have!) and start clacking those needles as fast as you can for the people of Ursulo Galvan. I would like us to absolutely swamp that community with much needed hats, scarves, mittens, sweaters, whatever warm piece of clothing you feel capable of making. The more the better.

Nancy of Countdown to Mexico has taken up the challenge and adds: "I plan on buying a few dolls and toy trucks to tuck in the box when I send it over."

Jennifer Rose gave me a good piece of advice. Instead of giving away my clothes when I move to Mexico, I should use them as packing material, and donate them when I get to Mexico. I am going to do that. I have no sewing or knitting skills. But I can afford to donate some of my own clothes and to buy new clothing and toys for the children.

I would also be remiss in not pointing out that there are angels amongst us already.
Hollito, a regular commenter on many of our blogs, donates small business loans to people in developing countries. He also donated a laptop computer to a child in Xico.

The need is great. And we can only touch a small number of people. But that is how the world is changed. One person at a time.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

1 down -- how many thousand to go?

As the temperature starts falling as fast as the rain, this week is a good time to focus on where I will be in about 6 more months.

I have not mentioned anything about Melaque during the past few weeks for a number of reasons. The chief reason is simple: I have been extremely busy with my work. As a result, my negotiations on finding a place to live have been put on hold.

But things have developed enough today that I think I am confident that I have found a place to live in Melaque, and that I wil be there for at least 6 months before I start sampling other areas of Mexico. (And, yes, I know the photograph is of the beach at La Manzanilla -- and not Melaque -- but I like the photograph.)

Now that I have a place to live, I can start planning on whether to get an FM3, or whether I should simply rely on an FMT for my first foray south. I am leaning in favor an FM3, and trying to get it from the consulate in Portland before I leave next April.

But that is not the news I hinted at earlier. I will probably post that news tomorrow or so.

For now, I am just happy that I have arranged a place to alight.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

faithful in little things

I just returned from walking The Professor in the park near my house. (For those of you who have asked, he is doing fine. Tonight he actually ran a short distance.)

The last two nights I have stopped to talk to a couple who took up residence in the park this week. Now and then I have seen people spending a night in the park, but they usually move on. Recently, though, something has happened. I am seeing the same people regularly sleeping in the park.

There is the woman with the shopping cart, who mutters constantly and seems to be incapable of forming a response to greetings. There is the Indian who reads by the light of a street lamp and then sleeps on a sheltered bench. And then there is the couple I met two days ago. They sleep in the park in sleeping bags because they were evicted from a shelter.

And the shelters are filled. Every bed. When the temperature starts to drop in the evening (soon to slip into the 30s), the park will not be a place to sleep.

Several years ago, I started my own program of meeting what needs I could -- and it is a small gesture. Because I live alone, I almost always have several servings of left overs from each meal. I decided to put them to good use. And it is time I start the program again.

I will warm up the left overs, put them in individual servings containers, and take them to the park. My offer is often rejected -- usually by people who are struggling with medication issues. But, when someone accepts, I sit and eat with them. I have learned many things in these short connections with my neighbors.

The city has warned me not to feed people on the theory that if the people in the park find a place with food, they will not move on -- as if they were a flock of geese. The whole notion seems to be based on the assumption that the people in the park are simply enjoying a little outing. No one could believe such a thing unless they had never experienced the sheer panic of being without money, food, shelter -- or friends.

So, why am I writing this? I am not boasting, but I am concerned. The people in the park are refugees from prosperity. I can only imagine the Ellis Island reenactments as the economy continues to spiral down.

One of the attorneys who works with me told me that a man, woman, and child showed up at her door this weekend and asked for canned foods. She was ready to give them something, but her husband told her "no."

I wish she had given the food. And I hope that each of us when presented with a need will be willing to share.

When I start thinking that our acts of kindness are so little, I am encouraged by one of Mother Teresa's rephrasing of a parable: "Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

film at 11 -- or later

Someone asked the other day how my sorting and preparing are going. I was ready to post some news, but there is a possible new development.

Sometime this week, I will post whether or not there may be a slight alteration in my plans. The move is on. But the parameters may be changing.

As my good friend Juan Calypso would (and does) say: STAY TUNED!

Monday, October 06, 2008

buckle up your overcoat

I had not intended to post today. I am not feeling well. And I admit to pandering. I wanted to elicit sympathy before I told you that I have -- a head cold.

There is something odd about our empathy gene. If I were to tell my friends that I am feeling ill due to a spleen malfunction, they would all want to know more -- asking very solicitously what they could do to ease my burdens on this mortal coil.

But tell someone you have a head cold and what you will get is either indifference or The Typhoid Mary wave to stay away. The cold is the Rodney Dangerfield of maladies. Probably because it is common -- we all have to deal with one now and then.

My solution is to drink as much Nyquil as I can, and still be able to operate at work. Thus, my reluctance to post. (I was going to work post-nasal drip in there, but I am just too tired.)

And then I received an email that has caused me to seek my own empathy gene. This morning on NPR I heard a tale that we Oregonians hear quite often this time of year. Two young men had been swept off the rocks at the beach by waves near Newport. One was recovered; the other was not found. The rescuers recovered only his white hoodie. I remember being touched by that fact. The only tangible connection with a soul lost to tragedy.

Tonight when I opened my email, I was greeted with this piece of news:

I solicit your prayers on behalf of former [Salvation Army] officers and current soldiers of the Portland Moore St. Corps, Toni and Dwayne Halstad. Last night they received the horrible news that their 23-year old son Dwayne Jr. was drowned in waters off the Oregon coast at Newport Bay. The Coast Guard has been unable to recover the body.

The pain of Dwayne and Toni hit me immediately -- as if I had personally lost a friend or relative. But why?

I have no children. I have not even met the Halstads as far as I know. Is it because we attend the same church?

I really do not know. And I am not certain that it matters. What I do know is that the same empathy I felt with the recovery of the hoodie is the same emotion I felt when I knew the loss was closer to home.

I have been thinking of empathy a lot lately. The sense that we are all in this together, and someone else's loss diminishes my humanity a little bit, just as an act of kindness somewhere increases it.

As I lay my Nyquil-besotted head on my pillow tonight. I hope to share a prayer -- a thought -- for two grieving parents who represent each of our losses during this day.

I wish you each a day of peace and better deeds tomorrow.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

avoid what is strong; strike at what is weak

Welcome news on the drug front.

President Calderón has decided to ask the Mexican Congress to legalize the possession of small amounts of of drugs. The proposal is very similar to the one that the American government persuaded President Fox to withdraw in 2006.

If passed, possession of up to 2 grams of marijuana or opium, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin or 40 milligrams of methamphetamine would be legal. And the person possessing would be directed toward drug rehabilitation. The proposal would also allow drug dealers to be tried in state, rather than federal, courts. (That last sentence may not be as good as it first sounds.)

It is not much, but it is a start. Undoubtedly, the grenade attack in Morelia has convinced some Mexican leaders to take a different approach in undercutting the drug lords.

There are actually two prongs to the drug lord issue. The drugs that travel through Mexico, and the drugs that end up in Mexico in the noses, lungs, and arms of Mexican citizens.

It is the latter category that President Calderón is trying to address. Now that Mexican citizens have become wealthier, they no longer need to be envious of American youth. They can have their own indigenous drug problem. The government hopes that by legalizing small amounts, the drug lords may be undercut in their prices.

It probably will not work. But it is worth a try. And President Calderón should be talking to Senator Obama (I am assuming he will win the presidency) about doing the same thing in America -- persuading the states (or some of the states) to try legalization as a method to undercut the drug lord's hold on drug distribution.

Now, I know that last step is not going to happen. In fact, I am willing to bet that a Democrat Congress will put enormous pressure on President Calderón to withdraw his proposal. The Democrats cannot afford to look like anything less than the Daddy party on the drug issue. Not now.

But I wish the brave Mexican president my best in accomplishing at least this first step. He has been reading his Sun Tzu.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

feasting without grace

Last week, David Leffler of Staring at Strangers posted a portion of a Peggy Noonan article from the Wall Street Journal. The article was entitled: "A Hope for America." I did a drive-by "flip and glib" on his comment page, and went my merry way.

When I arrived at work on Monday, a copy of the Noonan article was sitting on my office chair -- a gift from a fellow attorney. We will call her C. C and I have shared many a tale together -- some humorous, some emotional, some so jarring that you wonder if you will get through the next day.

We have very little in common when it comes to politics and religion. But the two of us will discuss any topic without impugning the honor of the other. That is why she wanted me to see the article.

Noonan sets the tone with this observation:

All this is part of the mood of the moment. It is marked in part by a sense that our great institutions are faltering, that they've forgotten the mission; that the old America in which we were raised is receding, and something new and quite unknown is taking its place; that our leaders have gone astray. There is even a feeling, a faint sense sometimes that we have been relegated to the role of walk-on in someone else's drama, that as citizens we are crucial and yet somehow...extraneous.

But we are Americans, and mean to make it better. We long to put the past few years behind us, move on, and write something good on the page we sense turning.

And that was before the financial institutions started wobbling. She goes on to the observation that C had highlighted:

And so I came to think this: What we need most right now, at this moment, is a kind of patriotic grace -- a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we're in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative. That admits affection and respect. That encourages them. That acknowledges that the small things that divide us are not worthy of the moment; that agrees that the things that can be done to ease the stresses we feel as a nation should be encouraged, while those that encourage our cohesion as a nation should be supported.

We can fight honorably and in good faith, while -- and this is the hard one -- both summoning and assuming good faith on the other side.

About the same time David posted his take on the Noonan column, I posted another red-blue-yellow electoral map -- without the yellow, which led to a lively series of comments about civility in American politics.

My initial response to the comments was to put today's acrimonious American politics in its historical context. American politics have always been nasty and personal -- sometimes breaking out in civil war. But that does not excuse the behavior. Why can C and I have a civil conversation about politics, but I will not even bring up the subject with others?

Here is an extreme example. I am a member of a Mexicio message board. In the eight months I have belonged to the board, any slight political comment will occasion the most irrational and personal outbursts making the poster sound as if he has missed at least three days of medication. And these are people who are otherwise quite calm and rational.

I have noticed that even in the more genteel world of Mexican bloggers that political references are almost always ensconced in protective fluff to avoid giving offence. I know that I do it. But I wonder why?

We feel free to talk about our various faiths -- and everyone is respectful. We talk about places to live, sights to see, eateries to enjoy -- and we all have a lively discussion without managing to break the crockery.

Over ten years ago, Peggy Noonan wrote in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

Young black men will save our country. I'm not sure completely what I mean by this but--they're tough and smart and know how to survive...

I remember reading that paragraph at the time -- knowing that it was true, and, yet, not knowing why it was true. I still believe it.

And I think she is just as correct about the need for political grace. Senators McCain and Obama have tried to make this campaign a more noble campaign than some have been in the past. Unfortunately, to little effect.

But I know that political grace can exist. C and I have it. And I would invite each of us to put that same philosophy in effect. Maybe we need to ease into it.

I leave the last word to Peggy Noonan:

To me it is not quite a matter of "rising above partisanship," though that can be a very good thing. It's more a matter of remembering our responsibilities and reaffirming what it is to be an American.

Even an American in Mexico.

Friday, October 03, 2008

happy days are here again

I am Barbra Streisand.

Wayne, that is not a confession that I will be showing up in next year's drag queen competition.

And not the Barbra who keeps threatening to leave her southern California paradise if the voters do not follow her political wishes.

I am the Barbra who seems to revel in farewell tours. That is the reputation I am developing amongst my peers.

No more than two weeks ago, I grandly announced in
the old ball game that I was hanging up my legal presentation tap shoes. My days as Anne Miller were at an end. (A kind-hearted editor would suggest to me at this point that I might choose sharing these life style analogies with a therapist, rather than a now-piqued blog audience. But who can afford an editor at these wages?)

Apparently, those who schedule my life were not ready to let me shuffle off to The Old Actors' Home. Tomorrow, a group of investigators will be regaled with the intricate details of workers' compensation evidence and discovery.

Next week, I will soft shoe my way through three hours of confidentiality and public records management. (I am willing to bet you are all pulling out your Visa cards to get a piece of that action.)

November and February, I will be presenting 1-hour classes on new cases in workers' compensation law.

And the pièce de résistance will be five classes on new developments in the law for insurance agents -- in late April. I feel rather confident that I will be calling in that performance. If all goes well, I will be on my way to Mexico.

I mentioned my concerns about this very thing two days ago. One reason I was reluctant to announce my retirement too early was that my attempts to transition away from some of these tasks would simply engender more speaking engagements. At some point, I will start feeling like Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in Fantasia.

But not yet.

All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

gently into the good night

I officially announce today that I am a senior citizen. More accurately, my mind is a senior citizen.

I knew it was going to come to this sooner or later. You may recall that in early September, I announced in
book 'em, danno my receipt of several books. I had been holding off on purchasing and reading one of them (Thomas Cahill's Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World) because of some very mediocre reviews.

And I was torn by that decision. I have enjoyed reading the other books in his Hinges of History series: How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. More than enjoyed -- I have learned much -- even when I disagreed with his conclusions and his historiography.

So, late in August, I relented and ordered the latest Cahill from Amazon. When it arrived, I was a bit disappointed. I had not noticed that I ordered a paperback, rather than my usual hardbound, version. I set it aside on my reading table, and there it set until Saturday morning.

Saturday was to be devoted solely to yard work to get the house in shape for the market. But I needed breakfast. And, eating required the hot tub. The hot tub required reading material. Out came the Cahill.

The introduction caught my attention. Even the digression to Alexandria did not distract me. But an odd thing happened around page 32. I found myself finishing sentences. By the next page, I knew what the next paragraph was going to tell me. Something odd was afoot.

Three options came to mind: 1) I had suddenly become clairvoyant; 2) My IQ had increased by 100 points, and I now knew things I had never read; or 3) I had read the book before, and had simply forgotten.

Hoping that option 1 or 2 could be true, I looked in my library -- and there it was. The latest Cahill book -- hardbound. But you have probably already figured that out from the photograph.

My opening line was not really accurate. I have been doing things like this since college. In fact, my memory may be getting better. I remember reading a Blackford Oakes novel three times while I was in the Air Force, never realizing I had read it before. (The only way I knew was because I was keeping a journal at the time. I still have a volume from 1974-1975. That might be an interesting revelation for a blog post one of these days.)

Cahill goes back on the shelf -- along with the realization that this is simply another reason why I do not want to abandon my library.

But I can get you a good deal on a slightly used copy of Mysteries of the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

burn the boats

I have been outed. My colleagues now know -- I am retiring.

Even though I told my boss last week that I would retire during the coming year, I did not tell him that I was tentatively looking at 1 April as my retirement date.

However, I did tell a colleague at dinner one night. As of Thursday, most of my fellow workers now know that my time at work is limited -- literally.

I am not certain why I was guarding the date as a closely-held secret. But, I have some theories.

The first is that it was my date to choose, and I liked controlling the information. That is just another way of saying I have a personality disorder.

The second is more personal. Saying the date aloud is a final act. It is drawing a line. Those of you who have been reading this blog know that I make decisions only after thorough -- agonizingly thorough -- consideration. Even selling the house has given me second thoughts as the economy continues to soften.

But the third reason was the driving force behind my secrecy. My experience has been that whenever people announce their retirements more than a month before they intend to leave, they join the world of the Haitian zombies -- the walking dead. Challenging projects disappear. Telephone calls stop. People stop thinking of you as being helpful, and look straight through you in the same manner they do the homeless fellow standing on the corner with his cardboard sign and Vietnam campaign ribbon.

But that last step is going to happen sooner or later. People at work are not fools. My constant chatter about leases, houses, and beaches would not qualify me for an undercover role in Tehran.

So, outed I am. Like Cortés, with his boats ablaze in Vera Cruz harbor, my only choice is to march on to Mexico.