Saturday, January 31, 2009

dine and learn

This is going to be a busy, but productive, weekend.

Last night, I had dinner with
Cynthia and Mike, formerly of Guaymas, now of Salem. For three hours, we sat and laughed over their adventures in Mexico.

If you have read their blog, they had quite a few adventures as English instructors in Mexico City and Guaymas. They enjoyed telling, and I was fascinated by, tales I had read, but complemented with additional details -- including, more about the wily Sitka.

I could not believe that we had talked that long, and only skimmed the surface of their lives during the past year. I learned a lot from them -- much of which will have no application to my move south, but all of which will be part of the layers of friendship that is developing between us.
1st Mate and Brenda and Roy know exactly what I mean. These are two very nice people.

You can see a photograph of our soirée on Cynthia and Mike's blog -- posted this morning. [I violated the first rule of blogdom by not taking my camera with me to an event.]

Earlier in the week, I was afraid that I would not be able to get together with Cynthia and Mike this week. And that was my own doing.

In January, I volunteered to deliver this Sunday's sermons. Our pastors are out of town for two weeks. I was extremely pleased that they asked, but my dance card is getting a bit full to slip in another tango.

But, I said yes. And here it is -- Saturday -- and I still have not completed the outline.

That would not be bad if I had not also volunteered to help a former client with another project -- a project that will eat up most of the day. There may be a reason I told friends and relatives to not show up for Sunday's service. I may be inclined to hog the spotlight, but I know when to invite the press to an opening night.

Before anyone says it. Yes. Yes. I know. I am not accomplishing anything for my move to Mexico. But I learned more about Mexico at dinner and I am transitioning away from my Salvation Army duties. So, in a manner of speaking, I am moving steps further to my move.

Besides -- I still have about 10 weeks before I pull up anchor. Plenty of time.

Friday, January 30, 2009

taxing my resources

I am either suffering from the vagaries of old age or I am an extremely consistent in my thoughts. (If I were a betting man, I know where I would put my money.)

I just spent the past hour crafting a post about my income tax return. It went something like this.

We live in a marvelous age of electronics. I talk not of those annoying "error messages" provided by my not-so-beloved Internet Explorer or the joys of having your identity stolen through the negligence of some governmental computer system.

What is marvelous is the ease of filing income tax returns. On 15 January (as I noted in
money from my uncle), I filed my income tax return. On 28 January, the feds coughed up my money into my checking account. All of it electronically.

I am old enough that I can recall when W-2s would (illegally) show up late in the middle of February, and a flurry of 1099s would follow. I was lucky to be able to sit down with stacks of forms and receipts in early April. And it would take several evenings to finish the forms -- and then rush to the post office before midnight on 15 April with a packet that looked like a manuscript submission.

Not now. With Quicken, I have every bit of financial information at my finger tips. I simply import everything into TurboTax, and file electronically. The government then puts my money directly into my checking account. It is almost fun -- in a rather pocket-protector geeky way.

So, I finish writing this, and thought: What did I write last year?

There it was in
tax and spend -- essentially the same gush over electrons.

And, as last year, the money arrives at a very fortuitous time. I need to get the Escape to the Ford dealer to give the old truck a thorough checkup. I have no desire to lose my fuel pump in Nogales.

I can get some cash swirling through the economy's veins. All without the help of a single ear-marking Congressman.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

the stages of professional death

"We can probably complete the review on those contracts by next Thursday."

Palm trees.

"Bill will have the rest of the information in the telephone conference."


"How much will we save? Fifty thousand? Sixty?"


"Steve? Are you listening?"

It has happened several times this month. I have been deep into a very interesting project, and -- all of a sudden -- I am no longer there.

I am standing on the balcony of a house on the Mexican Pacific coast just as the sun is beginning to set. And I get pulled back to my project.

I know that during the next two months, I am going to experience more and more of these moments. And it bothers me.

My employer is paying me a very good wage to be there all of the time. Maybe this is what it is like to go through the various stages of death. If so, I am still at the bargaining stage.

I will let you know when I get to acceptance. I suspect that stage will occur on the drive to Melaque -- in less than three months.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

back in the usa

For those of you who have not yet noticed on their site, Cynthia and Mike are now in Salem -- my little home town on the edge of the Pacific.

I talked with Cynthia on the telephone on Tuesday. The two of them are getting settled in.

I hope to have dinner with them this week -- or soon -- to learn more about their Mexican adventure. And I want to meet that infamous wanderer, Sitka.

Cynthia made a comment that is so evident to me that I seldom comment on it. The people who read this blog are not only full of information, but full of the grace to share it. And glad I am for it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

chicken little meets wolf boy

I hate posting half-baked posts -- especially those on big topics. And this post presents a true dilemma because I am not certain what is really happening in Mexico's drug war.

Whatever it is, something big is either on the horizon -- or it is already here. The problem is trying to find a sense of perspective and proportion.

We have all watched the various parts of the puzzle begin their concentric orbits:

  • The first piece arrived cloaked in the iconic incense of a "Pentagon report." The United States Joint Forces Command issued its 2008 Joint Operating Environment -- a fifty-one page report that contained one small paragraphs (three sentences on page 36) identifying Mexico, in a worst-case scenario, as a state weakened by "criminal gangs and drug cartels."

  • Then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff piped up in The New York Times with news that he had ordered additional border security plans to respond to any kidnappings or killings that spilled over the US-Mexico border.

  • And then came the ever-pessimistic American drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, warning that Mexico was on the verge of becoming a "narco-state" in the coming decade.

The political reaction from bloggers was predictable. The less-than-stable left immediately started cranking out conspiracies that the Pentagon was preparing a full-scale invasion of Mexico that would finish off the half-effort of President Polk.

Not to be outdone, the we-should-have-kept-the-canal right answered with hare-brained dares that if we were going to invade Mexico, we might as well take Canada, too. Uncover these stones, and you will guarantee plenty of skittering fauna.

Putting aside the loonies, what do those stories mean?

Probably not much. The infamous Pentagon report recommends no action. To the contrary, it is at best a think tank piece. Chertoff's comments included action only on the American side of the border. For all of his bluff, McCaffrey was proposing an increase in monetary security aid to Mexico -- not a reenactment of
Los Niños Heroes de Chapultepec.

The newspapers have really messed up this issue. Instead of offering level-headed analysis, the headlines have screamed disaster -- almost as if Chicken Little, Henny Penny, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf had taken over the editorial boards.

Having said that, most of us who live and wish to live in Mexico have minimized the dangers of the drug wars to our worried families and friends. It is time to at least reassess what all of this means.

After all, the acorn that bopped Chicken Little or Henny Penny (take your choice) on the noggin was real. It wasn't the sky, but it was a danger.

And, of course, the wolf that devoured the tricky little boy was a full-blown threat. I suspect the danger in Mexico is somewhere between the two for most Mexican residents.

President Calderón has challenged the livelihood -- and lives -- of some very powerful and nasty sectors of Mexican society. He has taken steps to root out corruption even in the political layers surrounding him. Such men do not go easily. The President is a heroic figure.

But the American government needs to be far more understanding of its Mexican neighbor. Even hints of American military intervention will be enough to undermine President Calderón's efforts. Money? Yes. Equipment? Yes. Training? Yes. Military forces in any form? Never. The thought of General Scott in Mexico City is not just a vague memory. History hangs like a Capulet carbuncle in the Mexican mind.

And that leaves me in the position of supporting a drug war that I believe will simply be a failure. At best, it will be a tool for the central government to actually take control of areas that have long been warlord fiefdoms. And when I say "long," I mean very long. There are areas in Mexico the center has never controlled.

We also need to remember that President Calderón is a reformer. While he fights the drug lords, he is proposing limited legalization of drugs. It is a policy far more sage than the American-Canadian approach of promoting some drugs (alcohol pops to mind) while criminalizing other drugs. Until that changes, we will continue to undermine President Calderón.

And this is the point where the soft center starts seeping through the post. None of this news changes my mind about moving to Mexico. It merely means, like every other resident of Mexico, I will need to be observant. And, as long as Article 33 is part of the Mexican Constitution, I will hold my peace.

Monday, January 26, 2009

the gravy refrain

Tonight I am Batman.

Well, not really. But I am listening to the score from the most recent Batman movie: The Dark Knight.

I am not a Hans Zimmer fan, but he has put together an extremely good score for this film. For those of us who thought he was a Gladiator one-note (or one phrase) composer, I will offer my apologies. The score is more than program music; it can stand on its own.

I was actually running an experiment. In
#11 and #12 -- plates of grace, I lamented the fact that, when I move to Mexico, I will be forced to leave behind my sound system for DVDs and CDs. I feel no better after the experiment.

After listening to the score on my sound system, I played the same music on a lap top. I then tried a sample on a friend's iPod with external speakers. I received several suggestions that any MP3 player with external speakers would sound exactly like a big sound system.

Several years ago, I participated in Weight Watchers -- around Thanksgiving time. The group moderator pointed out that we could avoid falling off of the wagon with several tips. Her first tip was gravy. Her suggestion: make home-made for the family and buy a tin of canned fat-free gravy. Because it tastes exactly like the real thing. I did not hear any of her other tips. And it was my last meeting.

Somewhere along the line, we have lost our ability to discriminate between the good and the adequate. When I listen to scores, I want to hear bow strokes on strings and vibration on brass mouthpieces. The progression from vinyl to CDs to MP3 has resulted in a sound that is, at best, adequate.

I think I know why. My ear was trained to listen to live music --with all of its brilliance and aural warts. But live music is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Even where it should exist. Look in the orchestra pit of any theatrical production. And do not be surprised if there is an electronic keyboard where the strings should be. Some young adults have never heard live music.

But I have. That is what I want to hear when I listen to music. (Yes. Yes. Babs, I know. Sometimes, just listening is good enough.)

Maybe I will just need to accept the fact that if I want to be mobile, I cannot have a sound system that belongs in a theater. Just like Stilton and Cheddar cheese, it will be a fond memory.

But, I tell you, I am not eating any of that blasted canned fat-free gravy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

one last piñata

My never-ending birthday may be drawing to a close. But it has been a fun two weeks.

Saturday afternoon the lawyer, who will be house sitting for me until I can get the house on the market, stopped by with his dog to take a look around -- and to wish me a happy birthday. We spent the afternoon talking about dogs and politics -- especially the embarrassment of our current Portland mayor. Dogs turned out to be a far more interesting topic.

I was then off for my traditional birthday dinner with my boss and Beth of
Minto Dog at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Beth has long been an avid conversationalist in the celebration, but a reluctant participant in the cuisine -- until this year. She took a trip to China late last year to visit a good friend. She returned with a far more accepting palette. Travel does change us.

The conversation centered around my move to Mexico and Beth's trip to China. My boss's daughter usually bakes us cinnamon cookies for me, but she was busy with other pursuits during the holidays. But the cookies showed up for a surprise presentation on my birthday.

[The cookies make a star appearance in the photograph at the top of this blog. Fewer now exist. Thanks, Molly.]

The fans accompanying the cookies were a Mexico birthday gift from my mother -- one for my computer, one for me as I work on my computer. As a Scot, she understands the value of practicality. Of course, they were escorted by a packet of appropriate batteries.

And then I received a call from my cousin who lives outside of Seattle. We were born in the same year -- so, he is facing a series of the same grand festivities showered on me by family and friends. He has been retired for the past two years. I have relied on his experience for my job-left-behind move to Mexico.

All in all, a very good day. Good friends. Good food. Good conversation.

Could a day be any better?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

cleaning up odds and ends

I actually accomplished a few things this week on my great move to Mexico.

Today I am walking the house sitter through the house. He is coming over with his 12-year old dog to learn how things operate here in Casa Algodón.

And it is a good opportunity to repair a maintenance hole that has existed since Christmas. While preparing for my family to arrive, my vacuum cleaner gave up its mechanical life in an acrid puff of rubberized smoke.

Since then, dust and Jiggs pelt has built up in the house. I broke down last night and bought a new vacuum cleaner at Costco: a Dyson DC14 Animal. I feel as if Jane Jetson is going to stop by to supervise my cleaning.

Earlier in the week, I went in to see my doctor in the hope of getting a physical examination before I leave. He set it up for late February. But, because I walked into the office, the nurse needed my weight.

YIKES. I have gained 27 pounds since my last visit. Of course, every time I buckled my pants, I knew that manifest destiny had been having its way with me. Those birthday pies -- and the accompanying Häagen-Dazs -- this month may have had something to do with it.

The obvious response to that news is what I am going to do about it. I suspect what I am going to do is just keep on eating. On the other hand, I will lay odds that when I leave work, a good deal of stress eating will stop.

But, as is true of every doctor visit I have ever made, I left out a major question: should I get any immunizations. I will take care of that during the physical examination -- I hope.

Each step is small. But I am getting closer and closer to my move.

Friday, January 23, 2009

white like me

The current issue of The Economist has a very disturbing article of another horror that some men commit on their fellows.

It is not a story about Mexico. But it carries one of those messages that should haunt all of us.

Tanzania's albinos are being slaughtered. Not albino rhinoceroses. Not albino crocodiles. Albino people.

The Tanzanian government recently distributed free telephones to albinos in the country to call for help -- because gangsters are tracking them to harvest body parts. Their body parts.

The article recounts the separate tales of an 8-year old boy and a 6 year-old girl who were brutally killed and dismembered. The details are not necessary. Suffice it to say, no child -- no person -- should die like that.

But for what purpose?

Political differences?

Religious strife?

The answer is perhaps the most chilling part of the story. The body parts can fetch up to $1,000 when sold to witch doctors. They are ground into powder as a potion for material riches.

I have taken out the lurid details, but that last line simply sickened me. Children hacked to death to provide desperate people the promise of wealth that they will never see.

Terrible things happen every day in this world. None of us can change that. But we can certainly take the opportunity whenever a person in need crosses our path that we do what we can to alleviate their need.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

time out

"Take the time to breathe deeply of the things you love about your area. "

Nancy passed along that note of encouragement this week. And a well-timed reminder it is.

I start each day walking the dog. "Walking" is too big of a word for what we do. I merely accompany the dog while he goes about his business of being a dog. His nose is in high gear while his legs are stuck in first. It takes us about a half-hour to wend our way around one city block.

The pace gives me an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the cycle of life around me.

Since late December, two factors have altered our walk. The first is the simple joy of having just a bit more light every morning. With light comes life. I now see geese commuting from their refuge to their day job of guano-ing public places. And flocks of crows off to do whatever it is that crows do. There is a song sparrow that perches in the neighbor's maple tree, and sings a repeated trill that evokes the rapture of the laughter of women.

But there has been a second joy for the past week or so. Oregon is noted for its wet winters. Not so, as
Beth has noted in her blog. We have had unusually clear weather. Each morning I have witnessed a sunrise that only Fitzgerald or Turner could capture with their muse-freed tools.

The trade-off for winter sun, moon, and stars, of course, is unseasonably cold mornings. The type of cold where the mind is focused on the clear border between life and the "undiscovered country."

Nancy is correct. I need to enjoy as much of this now as I can. With two more full moons, I will be retired. With the third, I will be in Mexico.

There is a certain irony that
Cynthia, Mike, and Sitka are headed to Salem, just as I am preparing to head south to Mexico. But that, too, is another cycle to be savored -- one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

selling out

Something is rotten in the state of Jalisco.

And I think it is real estate.

When I decided I was going to retire in Mexico, I subscribed to an internet service that would show me all of the new listings in Barra de Navidad, Villa Obregon, Melaque, and La Manzanilla. I even worked closely with one realtor in Barra de Navidad before she decided Mexico was not for her.

The first year, I received notices almost every day of new listings and new construction. Some were very tempting -- even though almost all of the prices struck me as being far more expensive than I had been led to believe would be the price for small homes in Mexico.

About four months ago, the new listings started to fall off. I would see one or two notices each week. And then they just stopped.

Sunday morning I received a notice that pretty much sums up what has happened to the real estate market on the Mexico Pacific coast. Instead of a new listing, it was a notice that a listing had sold.

I have lived with realtors and builders for most of my life -- including, my mother and brother. But this is the first time I have ever seen realtors use an "it's sold" notice to help prop up what is obviously a dead market.

I am still going to look around when I get to Melaque in May. But the listings appear to have the smell of death about them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

inauguration musings

Every four years I start feeling like a child who has had too many sweets, too much excitement. There is nothing for it, but to send me off to bed.

As a political junkie (or, I should say, a recovering political junkie), I have learned to digest my political news in little pieces. But around every inauguration time, I start feeling a decided sugar overload.

Or maybe it is my intrinsic distrust of ceremony. Those Quaker roots go deep. Parades and flummeries just seem to be better-suited to dying monarchies.

But we Americans love our royalty-lite, believing that "ceremony will not be such a burden as the want of ceremony has been."

And even though I am literally exhausted by this political season, I wish President Obama well, and I wish America well -- for this will be a most difficult four years that we face together. And I will pray for his success and the success of the country. But, I simply cannot face the event with the enthusiasm of the chipper, young voices that have recently populated my radio -- and it would not matter to me who had been elected in November.

And I think I know why. I took the photograph at the top of this blog at an inauguration thirty-six years ago on my way to an assignment in Europe. (You can tell it is back in The Day because the ceremony is on the eastern side of the Capitol -- and some men are wearing proper hats.)

The nation was at war. The economy was spiraling into serious recession. But the nation hoped for better times. The man elected president had carried 61% of the popular vote and had won in every state except one. And the nation had the promise of a future in space. The moon rover and its astronauts received a rousing cheer in the inaugural parade.

Not all tales of hope end in glory. The president, of course, was Richard Nixon, who would be gone in just over a year. The nation would be left divided and deep in an economic trough that would not be relieved for almost another decade.

I am not here to rain on any one's joy. There will be genuine celebration. Perhaps, Peggy Noonan's prediction in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness will actually come to fruition:

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...
But there is an anecdote to be recalled during all times of exuberant glory:
For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph -- a tumultuous parade.

In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments.

The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes, his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses.

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown -- and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

mlk day update

I try to avoid double daily posting -- just in case writing material becomes scarce. But I wanted to give you a quick update on our Martin Luther King Day volunteer project.

The Salvation Army in Salem distributes toys to needy families each December. This year, almost 1900 families visited the distribution center. Thousands of children, many who would not have received any presents, received a special gift because members of the local community reached out to them.

Because there are so many activities during the Christmas season, the distribution center often sits as a big mess until we can find enough time to clean it up. The cleaning is truly the grunt work. There are no smiling faces. No thankful hand shakes. No immediate gratification.

Today, three of my work colleagues showed up to give some of their time back to the community. One showed up with her 7-year old son. One with his two teen-age sons. And one with her church group of three adults and 13 teenagers.

You can see the task we faced at the top of this post. In less than two hours, they had cleared all of the left over toys into boxes for storage next year, loaded the boxes into a Salvation Army truck, broke down mountains off cardboard boxes for recycling, and stored all of the tables and chairs. And they all did it with joy. This is the result of their work.

After they cleaned the center, we drove over to the shelter and family services to let them see how the local Salvation Army touches one soul at a time -- and to have lunch with the shelter residents.

Wayne commented in the last post that all of our charitable activities are merely a drop in the bucket. He is correct. But every drop makes a difference.

I hope that the people who volunteered today will realize that the need is daily. Developing that sense of community is what the project was all about. And I believe it was a lesson well-learned.

one hand at a time

Today is Martin Luther King Day. For the first time, in the 19 years I have worked for my current employer, we are celebrating the day.

The company made its early decision not to take the day as a holiday solely out of business considerations. Most of our customers did not observe the day, and we needed to be available to serve them.

This year is different. And, some of the employees have decided to honor Dr. King by giving something back to the community, rather than merely using it as another day to sleep in.

Our volunteers have offered our services to organizations as diverse as the Salvation Army, the local humane society, and a public dog park. Our numbers will be few. Out of over 800 employees, fewer than 20 have volunteered.

But Dr. King would have understood. People helping others starts with small numbers. And that spirit of community grows from that small core.

I want to personally thank my colleagues who have set out on this mission, but, also to thank others who have taken similar journeys. Amongst we bloggers, the work that
Wayne and John have done in John's neighborhood is one of the best memorials we could offer to the memory of Martin Luther King.

Thanks to all of you.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

time out

Edith Piaf had it correct: "Non, je ne regrette rien."

I do not always live my life regretting nothing. And days like Saturday seem to make me less like the Little Sparrow and more like the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah.

Two incidents on Saturday sent me into this reverie on Lamentations.

The first was a memorial service. One of the congregants in my church died last week. I had known Dick, and his wife Bertie, since I started attended that church. They would both sit right behind me every week.

Dick's son Michael delivered a very thorough eulogy at the memorial service. I did not realize how little I knew of the man who had shared physical space with me for a full decade.

He had been very active in setting up Oregon's park system. But, when Hawaii became a state, he was the first state park director, and essentially established the parks that many of us have enjoyed on vacation. He went on to live on almost every continent for extended periods of time. It was almost as if Bilbo Baggins attended my church.

To me, Dick and Bertie were simply an elderly God-fearing couple in their 80s, who never had a bad word to say about anyone -- ever. That may be evidence enough of a life well-lived, but I had no idea of the tales and experiences Dick could have shared with me -- because I never asked. And now I will never be able to share those moments with him in this life.

The second incident occurred right before the memorial service. My 81-year old mother drove down from Portland to treat me to a birthday lunch. Because she loves Mexican food, I picked out my favorite Jalisco-style restaurant.

A little background may help. My mother maintains her real estate business -- even at 82. And she has been eating and making Mexican food for several decades.

After we sat down, she immediately looked at the combination page. She paused, and asked me: "What is this word?" It was: ENCHILADA. I told her, and was shocked at her response: "What is that?"

She may as well have asked me: "Who are you?" I told her what it was. A minute or two later she laughed and said: "Why did I ask that? I know what an enchilada is. It must have confused me because it was all in capital letters."

I do not know what to make of that exchange. It is always easy to blow these little incidents out of proportion. But I need to start listening more carefully to these little warning signs. I have seen the same thing happening with her sister: the familiar becoming strange, confidence ebbing like a thawing icicle.

The lesson I draw from both events is rather mundane. Life is too fleeting to experience later. As an example, on Sunday, I usually rush out of church as quickly as I can. This morning I paused and talked with people, indulging in the type of chat I usually avoid. And I enjoyed it.

The application for my Mexico journey is simple. I need to be as open to new experiences as I need to be when surrounded by circumstances I think I already know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

paging john edwards

Spray paint. Hair. Shoes. Buttocks.

Morey Amsterdam, the comedian, claimed he could produce a joke from any word shouted at him from his audiences. With those four words, Morey probably could have created a year's worth of situation comedy episodes.

But a news story? Really?

Here it is, if you have not already seen it. Dateline: Monterrey.

Four teenagers say police in a northern Mexican town spray-painted their hair, shoes and buttocks to teach them not to paint graffiti on public property.

Emilio Alfaro of Nuevo Leon state’s Human Rights Commission said Thursday the youths have filed a complaint alleging that police in Guadalupe slapped, kicked and painted them with spray cans after detaining them for vandalism.

The youths are aged between 14 and 16. They presented paint-stained shoes and photos of their painted heads as evidence.

Guadelupe’s police department says several officers have been suspended while the matter is being investigated.

The youths were fined more than $200 before being released on Tuesday.

Guadalupe is outside the city of Monterrey.

Anyone who has visited certain areas of Mexico can testify that graffiti can be as thick as -- well, graffiti on a New York subway train. Some call it popular murals. Others, who have not been afflicted with the postmodern abolition of beauty, call it a shame.

So, the local Mexican constabulary catch a group of the young hoodlums doing their bad Diego Rivera impression on "public property," and decide that a personal lesson might be more effective than The System. Paint their empty little heads. Their beloved shoes. And, with a stroke of genius, their as-yet-unwhipped butts.

What duty could not create, shame may drive out.

Now, let me stop here and try to add an adult touch before I head off into where everyone knows I am going. Law cannot be meted out through the whims of authority figures. The police are supposed to apprehend, not prosecute, not try, not punish. The rule of law gives the other functions to prosecutors, judges, and penal officials.

When a policeman accepts a "fine" on the street, we condemn it for what it is: corruption. And so is this.

But now that Adult Voice has had his say, I will point out that Adult Voice is merely indulging in adolescent absolutism. Corruption is bad. But we are very willing to daily allow the police to teach lessons on behalf of society. And I personally think this was a jolly good one.

I can hear the usual suspects. Violence begets violence. They will learn to disrespect authority. No good comes from engendering a lack of self-respect.

My suggestion is to put those statements on your bumper. I have witnessed how self-respect can be created through shame. Anyone who has been through military basic training knows what a bit of shame can do to build character. And that is what these lads lacked.

And now the complaint is at the human rights level. Losing your home because of your race, watching your family exterminated because of their creed -- these are human rights violations. Getting your butt painted is just desserts.

One encouraging point in the story, though, is the fact that the youths "presented paint-stained shoes and photos of their painted heads as evidence." Can you imagine what the Mexico City tabloids would have done with photographs of the painted buttocks?

If that champion of the poor -- trial attorney John Edwards -- is seeking political redemption, we may have just the case for him.

Friday, January 16, 2009

money from my uncle

I am no Citibank, but I am standing in line for my chunk of the federal pie.

I came home last night to discover my W-2 in the mail. Now, I have plenty to do. Little things. Like learning Spanish or sorting items for the drive south.

Instead, I sat down at the computer, updated TurboTax, and started transferring data. My intention was to enter my W-2, and get on with the rest of the evening.

But I simply kept going. Twenty minutes later, my federal and state taxes were filed. Now I need only wait for the great refund machine to kick into gear, and I should have the equivalent of a GM loan (or at least a splinter) in my hand before the month ends.

I find it difficult to remember when I had to wait until the end of the month to receive my W-2 forms. Then I would dig up my receipts, and spend several nights on a Bataan death march through the tax forms.

The combination of keeping my financial records in Quicken and using online fling has greatly simplified the process -- and I am positive that the result is far more accurate. The exercise was very reassuring because I now know I can do the whole process from Mexico next year. (OK. Now, I sound like the back of a software box. But I say give credit where credit is due.)

Last year at the end of January, I was celebrating the deposit of my federal refund in
tax and spend. One year on, and I intend to be celebrating at about the same time.

I wonder if I can stretch my birthweek celebration into a birthmonth fête?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

#11 and #12 -- plates of grace

The English have a phrase for the disparate: chalk and cheese. And the combination of the material and the spiritual is just about as cheesy and chalky as I can get -- as I finish up this list of things to do.

I am often astounded at what will cause debates to break out amongst bloggers. But one of my most contentious posts was
going to pot, where I posed what I thought was a very innocent question: Should I bring my best pots and pans to Mexico? I may as well have asked would you rather have Bill Clinton or George W. Bush live next door to you?

The opinions ranged from: "bring nothing more than what fits in a suitcase" to "if you don't bring good pots, you will end up cooking in the equivalent to tin cans." I put aside the answers because I had the luxury of waiting to make that decision.

I no longer can stall. But waiting has helped to answer the question. The house where I will be staying has a wide range of pots and pans. However, I have been encouraged to bring good pieces along with me -- and I will. (Once again, this assumes that I will drive, rather than fly, down. If I fly, the cookery stays in Salem.)

Because I do a lot of stir fry (some with a Mexican touch), I will bring my cheap wok. I have looked in several stores in Mexico while visiting, and have never seen a wok. (That does not surprise me. After all I am moving to Melaque, not Macao.) I use my wok for cooking breakfast, dinner, and supper. I will also take along a few of my other good cooking pieces.

At this point, I hear
Jennifer Rose reminding me that I need to bring high quality sheets and towels. I remember chuckling to myself when she said that. I am the guy who sleeps on my couch wrapped in a rough wool blanket. Sheets are probably near the bottom of my life concerns.

But, she has properly pointed out that I will have guests, and most of them will not be inclined to live as Trappists. But, the house is well-stocked with sheets and towels. If I need them for future residences, I can always bring them back on future trips north. But not now.

And then there is the issue of DVDs and CDs. For about a year, I had lost almost all interest in film and music. My old passion has returned. Now, I need to figure out what to take with me. Nancy solved the problem by switching to an iPod and digitizing her collection.

I may do that in the future. With the few items I am taking to Mexico in April, I should be able to sort through my DVDs and CDs, and pick out what I think I will need for the first six or seven months in Mexico.

One thing I will miss is my powerful sound system. Music and films will not be the same without the big sound the system provides. Listening on the lap top is like hearing the world through the speaker from a 1953 Buick. But, it will suffice.

Those are the material decisions I must make. Now -- the spiritual.

The list is short, but complicated. I am currently the chair of our local Salvation Army Advisory Board, and an adult Sunday school teacher at the Salvation Army church. I need to transition a new chair into place, and I need to find a replacement teacher.

My two-year term as chair of the advisory board began in April 2007. I promised the board I would not leave until my term ended or until our local Kroc Center was completed. If not for that promise, I would have been in Mexico as of today.

In 2003, Joan Kroc, the widow of the founder of McDonald's died. In her will, she bequeathed $1.6 billion to the Salvation Army to build a series of centers throughout the United States, to provide underprivileged children the type of opportunity, education, recreation, and inspiration they would not otherwise receive. One of those 30 centers is being built in my home town: Salem.

I did not want to leave before the center is complete. Joan Kroc's dream was to provide children, who had no hope of developing their natural talents, to have the opportunity to live their dream as far as they could take it. I wanted to be part of all that before I left.

Unfortunately, the original completion date has now slipped to September. I cannot stay that long, but I will stay until my term ends in April.

This will be an easy transition. My successor has already served as chair and has worked with me on each of our pending projects. As far as I am concerned, this portion of the transition is almost complete.

Finding an adult Sunday school teacher will be a little more difficult. That position has given me more joy than any other over the past decade I have worked with the Salvation Army. But the position demands a level of commitment that most people are not willing to make. I usually spend 5 to 8 hours in preparation for a 45-minute class presentation.

But I am certain I will find the right person. If not, I will suggest merging my class with one of the other three adult classes. In the end, it will all work out just fine.

Here ends the lesson -- and the list. Looking back over the 12 items, and realizing what I have managed to complete this week, I feel quite good about being ready to leave in a few short weeks.

And, if something does not get done, such as my vaccinations, that will be fine, as well. But the check marks on the list are a real encouragement to me.

On to Mexico.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

t plus 60 -- and counting

It's my party,
And I'll cry if I want to --
Lie if I want to --
Die if I want to --

You would cry, too,
If it happened to you.

OK. Maybe that angst-ridden parody applies to my partisan American friends and their political parties. But it certainly does not apply to me.

I am 60 this week.

Friends and work colleagues are turning the full week into the equivalent of Chanukah. I am not just having a birthDAY celebration. I am having eight days of revelry. Lunches. Dinners. Gifts. General whoopee.

I keep trying to convince all of you that I am the king of postmodernism. I do not care for celebrations -- for symbols -- for tradition. But I am a sucker for all of the attention I have been getting. This day is starting to take on a special meaning. And for some good reason.

As of this month, I start receiving my federal service retirement. That bit of income will allow me to retire at least two years before I had originally planned. In effect, those 28 years of active and reserve duty have now been translated into my road to independence in Mexico.

And for each of you who pay American income taxes, I thank you. You will have to stop by the house in Mexico to lap up your portion in the form of your favorite libation. Anyone asking me to crack open the Dom Perignon better bring his 1040 along for bracket verification.

That is as profound as it is going to get today.

As Bilbo Baggins said at the end of his birthday party: "It's time for me to go."

So -- go I will.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

andee carlsson remembered

For some of us, this is a tough day. One year ago, one of our fellow bloggers died -- quite unexpectedly.

I met Andee Carlsson through her blog,
My Life in Chacala. It was the first Mexico blog I had encountered, and, after a tentative start, Andee and I became infrequent correspondents. When I told her that I was interested in moving to Mexico, she encouraged me to start a blog. Thus was born "same life -- new location."

I had been working on the blog for less than a month when my dog, Professor Jiggs, started suffering leg problems. At the time, it appeared he was literally on his last legs.

I suspect it was the dog's problems that set the tone for my post on 3 January,
death be not proud, where I talked about the various ways that cultures approach death. It turned out to be a rather prescient post.

About a week later, I received an email from Andee. The tone was quite a bit different than her usual mix of encouragement and scolding. I could best describe the tone as flat.

I am really glad you wrote. I keep thinking I will write because I like your posts a lot, but have I had a horrible headache the last 3 plus days and mostly lie in bed.

She then included a note about some personal difficulties she was having.

As I look back, I wish I had done more at that point -- even though I know there was nothing more I could have done. It is rather like reading King Lear, and wishing you could speed the messenger on his appointed rounds.

The next day, I posted
color and light, where I commended Andee for her positive effect on me as I looked for a house in Mexico.

I should note that one blogger (My Life in Chacala) has taught me to truly appreciate the effect that color and structure can have on a home. I always appreciate it when she posts new pictures because I know I will discover something new in life.

The day that post migrated to the internet, I received the last email I would receive from Andee. She thanked me for my advice on a personal matter and then described in terrible detail the physical pain she had been experiencing the prior three days.

Later that day, she would die.

I could not let this day pass without remembering what she meant to me in such a short time. I know that not everyone liked her; she did not like everyone -- especially people who abused power. But she fully embraced Chacala and its villagers.

As for me, I loved her spirit of adventure. I loved the fact that she was a flawed soul, just like the rest of us. I loved the fact that even with her flaws, she was willing to share with others and speak with the honest voice of a prophet.

I loved her.

And I still do.

She will be a constant reminder that we bloggers truly are a community. When one of us hurts, we are there to help each other.

Andee, we still miss you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

#10 -- comprende

"If you cannot speak Spanish, you will never live in Mexico. You may reside in Mexico, but you will never live there."

That is how I started a post (
key to culture) last July following my visit to Melaque. On the list of most-commented posts for 2008, it came in fifth.

But this is undoubtedly the most important thing I need to do before I head south (and to continue after I am there) -- I must learn to speak Spanish for two very good reasons.

First, I need to learn Spanish to survive in Melaque. Melaque is not Puerto Vallarta or Cancun. Even though it is a beach resort town; it is a Mexican resort -- for Mexicans. This is one of the beaches people from Guadalajara come when they need to soak their toes in the briny Pacific. Shopkeepers do not need to know English to survive. Customers need to know Spanish to eat.

Is it possible to get by without learning Spanish? Of course. There are bilingual folks willing to be blessed with our dollars as a tax on our own ignorance. But that approach strikes me as the height of intellectual sloth. Why pay for something that not only can be learned, but can also be fun to learn?

Second, every society communicates with language. Until a visitor can speak that language, he will miss out on everything that people say. Until the visitor can think in that language, he will miss what people really mean.

I doubt that a person raised in one culture can ever truly understand another culture. However, there is no possibility of learning basic Mexican culture without the ability to think in Spanish.

I am not yet there. I have bought some of the best language programs. I have listened to movies in Spanish. I have tried conversing in Spanish with my Mexican friends at church.

The result? I swear I know less now than I did six months ago. But I am going to persevere by sticking to my schedule of reviewing my Spanish lessons. And, of course, I will continue to read
Mexico Bob.

It is impossible to pick up a language merely by being around it. I laugh when I hear people say "I'll just pick it up" -- as if Spanish were a quart of milk or the flu, rather than a language.

Three months is not enough time, but I can also continue to study in Melaque.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

#8 and #9 -- paper money and money paper

The little German, who lives in the back of my head, is constantly asking if my papers are in order. For the first time in my life, I am going to be able to answer yes.

Several of you have commented that I am making this move to Mexico a bigger deal than it needs to be -- that it sounds as if I am worrying myself to death. There may be some truth to the charge, but I certainly do not feel that way on this end. If anything, I suspect I may simply be twiddling my thumbs until I can jump in my truck and head south.

What I do know is that, for the first time in my life, I am actually giving some structured thought to both my finances and getting my travelling papers in order.

Retirement has a way of focusing the mind on finances. I have never seriously considering retiring. My family's notion of work is that it is simply what you do until you die. When we Cottons are born, laborare est orare is tattooed on our very souls.

I currently work at a job that has an extremely generous retirement plan. A plan so generous that people regularly retire at 58. In a nation where people choose to work into their 70s, it is a nice plan. And a tempting one -- a temptation to which I have surrendered.

Somewhere last year, I decided to request an estimated benefits calculation. When it arrived, I was surprised at how much I would receive if I retired right now. When I added that amount with my federal service pension that begins this month, I realized I could comfortably retire at any time.

And then the deaths began. Tim Russert. A friend in the Department of Justice. Another friend's father. All of them in their 50s. For about a year, I have found myself turning to the obituary column in our state bar association magazine. At least half of the listed attorneys are younger than I am. I knew it was time to go. Rather, it was time for me to leave work before it was time "to go."

As you know from one small step, I submitted my retirement application at the beginning of last week, with an effective retirement date of 1 April. I then start my life in Mexico on 1 May.

I wanted to be certain that both pension checks were making their way into my account before I left. Because it takes up to 90 days for my current job's retirement check to jump its bureaucratic hurdles, I will be in Mexico before I know what is happening with that payment.

I am not worried about that process. After all, that is why we have computer connections.

I have one concern about my bank, though. I rely on a credit union that does not regularly allow its credit or debit cards to be used in Mexico. I have never been able to get my debit card to work properly there. The credit union is willing to let me use that card on a regular basis by overriding the ban. But its security system may override that override. When Kim of Boston and I discussed this, he convinced me that I need to deal with a bank.

And this is where Michael Dickson rode in on his white horse. One of the first sites I ran across with financial tips in Mexico was his
La Vida Bougainvillea. He provides excellent advice on how to move to Mexico. The piece that caught my eye was opening an account with Citibank and Banamex for ease of access to funds with a debit card. As soon as my federal pension begins in a week, I will start that process rolling, and let all of you know how well it goes.

I then have to decide what to do with my deferred compensation. Michael has advice in this area -- and I intend to follow it. I will follow it because it was what I had intended to do for several years. Nothing like having one's own inclinations confirmed by someone else.

Once I get those papers in order, I need to tend to my travel documents. When I started this list, I was convinced that I would apply for my FM3 at the consulate in Portland before I left. However, I have received some very kind offers from people in the Melaque area to assist me in getting an FM3 after I enter Mexico on an FMT. The odds are very good that I will take that option.

But in the process of gathering documents I thought I would need for my FM3, I happened to open up my passport and discovered that I have less than a year remaining on it. That is something I can resolve before I leave, but I need to hop on it right now. Have any of you used the new passport card? It appears to have a rather limited utility. But I might get one, as well.

I am as excited about this adventure as I was during my last few months in England -- knowing that I was returning the States to enter law school. I almost feel as as I were 27 again. Looking forward to a great new adventure.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

#6 and #7 -- a dog, a truck -- no gun

I am living a country-western song. If El Profesor lives until May, both he and my truck will head down Mexico way. Should he predecease my departure, I will rely on the services of Alaska Airlines to fly to Melaque. (The "predecease" is a special gift to all of you lawyers out there.)

Because the ignition is broken on my time machine, I am going to have to guess what is going to happen in three months. Two days ago, he was declining fast enough I thought I cuild buy my airplabe tickets this week. Today, I should be planning a full year of romps on the beach.

So, granting that fate can be cruel, let's take the optimistic option. Jiggs is coming to Mexico.

Jonna has already given me some very helpful hints on bringing the dog south. She has three dogs and a cat. That counts as being an expert in my book.

When Jiggs's hips starts bothering him, he needs a special Cortisone cocktail injection. I was under the impression that it would be diffivcult to find the Cortisone in Mexico. Jonna tells me otherwise: buy Cortisone in a pharmacy and do my own canine injections. Big dogs are easy to inject. Jiggs is no exception. And I can buy thyroid medicine for him right off the shelf.

Several bloggers have talked about the difficulty of buying reliable dog food. THeir solution is to cook up dinner for their companions. Like most golden retrievers, Jiggs has a tendncy to get skin rashes -- especially in the heat. But a lot of the rashes are diet-induced. I may tote a couple bags of his food to Melaque and start transitioining hiom to my cooking. I already know that he loves peppers.

I will get a rabies certificate for him before I leave. Most people say that they are never asked. But I am the guy who the British customs agents repeatedly confuse with an IRA sympasthizer. If something bad can happen at the botrder, it will most likely happen to me. I even have trouble at the Canadian border.

Then there is the truck. It will be eight years old this year. I own it outright -- a small SUV. There are a few mechanical issues that I need to address. But I will take it south only if I need to use it as a dog carrier.

American-licensed vehicles seem to be a magnet for problems in Mexico. Tie that fact to the expsense of having to maintain insurance in Oregon to keep my registration legal, and the convenience of having a vehicle available comes at a very high expense.

If I take the truck south, I need to take care of the following issues:

  • Schedule full checkup
  • Change oil
  • Repair brakes
  • Purchase new tires
  • Purchase extra supplies/parts
  • Purchase Mexican automobile insurance policy

If I do not take the truck south, I can always rely on public transportation or rent a car for my longer out-of-the-way trips. As soon as I can (after getting my FM3), I will look into purchasing a vehicle in Mexico.

All I need now is a big belt buckle and a range hat. The dog and truck -- I already have.

Friday, January 09, 2009

beacons on the red sea

Jump over to CancunCanuk's blog and read Red Tape Fiesta in Mexico.

I do not often give accolades to politicians. However, President Felipe Calderón continues to impress me.

Mexico is infamous for its bureaucratic mazes. Horror stories abound from residents and expatriates alike.

President Calderón decided that if reform would not drive out unnecessary layers of administration, perhaps shame would. Toward that end, he sponsored a contest to find the worst example -- and the winner has now been announced. Read CancunCanuk's very good summary.

I wish President Calderón well. The goal is noble, and his heart is in the right place. The Mexican people deserve better from their civil servants than what they are currently getting.

#4 and #5 -- dr. postman

Two more unlike things: mail and medicine.

In mid-March, I need to shut down my local post office box. When I moved to Salem, I had all of my magazines sent to a postal box because the house was still being remodeled. I never got around to closing down the the box. That was 17 years ago.

My magazines (National Review, The Economist, National Geographic, The American Spectator) give me as much pleasure as reading books. I would miss having them available in Mexico. I thought I could weekly pick up copies at the Manzanillo airport. But the news kiosk carries nothing but glossy spreads on teenager singers and their middle-aged boyfriends. Not exactly what I had in mind for my retirement years.

I understand that some Melaque residents use a mail service in Manzanillo for magazine deliveries. But the majority of residents have assured me that the Mexican postal service is reliable for home mail delivery.

I have the address of the house where I will be staying. About a month before I leave, I intend to change my mailing address to the Melaque house. If that does not work, I can always read the magazines online. If the Kindle had a better magazine subscription service, I would solve the mailing issue with that new toy.

I am not moving to Mexico for the medical services. But, if I need them, I certainly will appreciate the good quality, low prices that Mexican medicine provides, as discussed in going to health.

Before I leave, though, I need to do several things.

First, I need to sign up for Tricare services under my federal service retirement. The basic program will reimburse me for 75% of my out-of-pocket expenses in Mexico.

Second, I need to buy a new pair of eyeglasses under my current insurance. Mine broke into three pieces this morning.

Third, before I lose my current insurance, I need to schedule and have a physical examination. I cannot recall the last one I had. Maybe about 12 years or so ago. I tend to avoid doctors -- even though mine is a good friend from high school. For all I know, my warranty has run out.

Fourth, I need to consider vaccinations. I say "consider," because the same list comes up every time I travel to tropical areas: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and tetanus-diptheria. And on every trip I decide not to seek out the vaccinations. My doctor usually does not recommend vaccinations. But I will talk with him again. This may turn out to be a quick check-off item.

Fifth, I will be heading south with no health insurance other than Tricare that I mentioned above. At some point, I intend to look into catastrophic health insurance. But that is extremely low on my priority list. I consider most health insurance to be an incredible waste of money. (And, yes, I know. The Greek gods have a way of dealing with hubris this bold.)

If I can finish those two items, I will have some hing to read while I wait for the doctor in Mexico.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

#2 and #3 -- a mouse is not a home

Topic mixing time. Where topics may be mixed thicker than metaphors and water.

Old house. New computer.

Last August, I decided it was time to sell my house. The housing market was crippled and appeared to be headed for worse days. In
new lamps for old, I talked about all the things I needed to do to get the house in shape for sale. I was in full navel-gazing mode, but I had decided the house needed to be sold. By October, I decided that what I had gazed at was lint. My house simply was not going to sell in this market: pots of gold; piles of trash.

So, I had a dilemma. Do I put the house on the market with very little prospect of selling it, do I wait to move to Mexico until the market improves (say, around November of 2025), or do I find someone to stay in the house until I can sell it?

I was lucky enough to find a friend who would house sit long term. Even with that arrangement, though, I need to replace several windows and a door, complete the replanting of my rock garden, and repair a section of my fence (that has been down for over a year). I also need to walk the house sitter through the house to describe its eccentricities.

Leaving the house with a sitter forestalls the decision on what to do with my possessions. I can worry about that when the house is ready for the market -- or when my heirs divvy up my goods following my untimely death.

The only possessions I am going to get rid of are my clothes. I have two closets of clothes that I will never wear again. Most will go to the Salvation Army. However, I will bring some to Mexico as packing material.
Jennifer Rose wisely points out that good used clothing will be greatly appreciated by my Mexican neighbors. Good idea.

Very little that I own will head south with me, but I will need a new laptop computer. I prefer using desktop PCs, but I have received sufficient warning to know that there is a great danger that I will be charged duty on a desktop computer. Besides the duty issue, there is the question of portability. I want to use the laptop for more than merely writing pieces for work.

Specials on laptops have been as thick as beer cups at a NASCAR race. I have been looking at several of Dell's models.

My computer weakness is buying much more computer than I need. That weakness is exacerbated by the fact that any electronics I take to Melaque will have a very short life. Electrical circuits and humid tropical air are not your natural marriage material. I would like to buy the computer by the end of this month -- if, for no other reason, to get used to using it.

In addition to the computer, I need a portable printer and scanner. That adjective will add a few more C notes to the purchase price. But I would like the flexibility of having both available for road trips.

And supplies. If I have learned anything from blogs and message boards, I should take ink cartridges with me. I have even heard people say that good quality paper is not always available. I have seen plenty of paper sources in Melaque. No need to carry along the corpses of American trees when I can find them in Mexico.

One last computer-related item. MagicJack. I was going to try it out on my last trip to Mexico, but I did not take my laptop with me.

My brother swears by it. He took his setup to Mexico this spring, and had great telephone reception. He called me while I was walking in Portland. It sounded as if he were in town -- as opposed to Japan.

All of these items are simple. I just need to start the ball rolling on each of them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

#1 -- work

Last November, in there's no business like -- , I sprang the news that I might not retire. The news was a shameless red herring every bit as devoid of true news as an Onion headline.

The truth was that I was going to retire -- under any circumstances. But, I was prepared to take a project to Mexico with me that would allow me to write -- and to get paid in the process.

I have spent the last two months mulling over the pros and cons. The money is budgeted, and no one else has been assigned the task. It would be a nice piece of income as I transition into my life in Mexico. And my employer will get a good product.

But it is not about the money. I will have enough of that. It really is about doing something I like to do. (Every time I write that I think of the old joke from MASH where Margaret Hoolihan says: "Money is far down on my list, Major. It comes second or third. . . . . . Second.")

The downside is obvious. Even though the writing would only be a part-time gig, I will have a full-time job -- learning how to survive in Mexico.That is a bit too dramatic. My existence will be somewhat cossetted. After all, the utilities will already be in place. I need only hand over the costs to the property manager. The house even comes with a list of recommended restaurants, butchers, and grocery stores. I am just one step from being carried from place to place by liveried footmen.

The vice-presidents have asked me to put together a business proposal for this project -- due by the end of next week.

I suspect I will have a good answer on this one before I finish the proposed plan.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

etude by lists

Transition checklist. First draft complete. Done and done.

I would like to get as many suggestions from you seasoned expatriates as I can. So, here is my plan. I was going to put everything in one post. But I would easily bust the Calypso Rule of 1000-words-per-post.

I am going to list the 12 categories of action items in this post -- along with a description of what each category should include. Then, over the next week or so, I am going to flesh out the items.

The relevant dates --
Retirement: 31 March 2009
Mexican residency: 1 May 2009

Let's start with the categories:
  1. Work -- items to keep me focused on my day-to-day job through 31 May, and a potential transition period

  2. House -- turn my home over to a house sitter after finishing up some of the projects I have begun

  3. Computer -- purchase new equipment and take all supplies

  4. Mail -- stop my mail here and arrange for mail to Mexico

  5. Medical -- get all of my necessary care out of the way and get what I need for Mexico

  6. Jiggs -- if the dog is still alive, get everything I will need to keep him alive in Mexico

  7. Truck -- if I take the dog and the truck to Mexico, get it ready for the trip and buy spare parts and supplies

  8. Financial -- anything that will assist me in making my pension funds available in Mexico

  9. Travel documents -- get an FM3 visa and update my passport

  10. Spanish -- study, study, study

  11. Household items -- what I really need to take south

  12. Church/Salvation Army -- find replacements for each of my current positions

That's the list. The devil (and many angels) are in the details. And they (details, devil, and angels) will be coming soon.

Here is where I need some assistance. Do any of you have suggestions for additional categories?

Monday, January 05, 2009

one small step

I had hoped to finish and my three-month countdown list to Mexico this evening. But hope is where it ended.

The list is about one-third complete. And it is developing nicely. I will soon be seeking help from those of you who have been through the process of moving south. It will become apparent quite soon that I have shamelessly Bidenized your experiences already.

But I have completed the biggest step of the process. Today I applied for my retirement benefits and gave official notice to my employer that I will be retiring on 31 March.

I hate filling out forms. (I know. I know. I had better be ready for lots of them -- and in Spanish -- during my remaining years in Mexico.) The retirement forms were no different than any other form.

But I must give credit to whoever set up the retirement forms on line -- because completing them was a breeze. And, rather than mail them to an impersonal bureaucrat, the system sets an appointment with a competent, friendly person to review the forms with the applicant. No waiting lines. No crowds peering over your shoulder -- wondering when you are going to stop ruining their lives.

Best of all, when I handed in the forms, I had full confidence that my retirement benefits would be calculated correctly and paid timely. Time will tell if image is everything.

It is only one step. But tonight -- I feel like Neil Armstrong.