Category Archives: stories about Mexico

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 22

Santa Clara del Cobra Hand-Raised Pots

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 22

As much fun as we’d had in San Miguel, it felt good to be off on another adventure and to have the means of our own locomotion again.  Bearcat, surprisingly, did not scoot back to his former position under the air mattress, but perched atop it and even occasionally hopped gracefully into my lap in the passenger seat, gazing out in wonder at the scenery whizzing by more quickly when viewed through the side window and more comprehendingly out of the front.

In true Bob fashion, we dallied little in our 3-hour trip from San Miguel to Patzcuaro. We Whizzed by Morelia. Whichever town we decided to settle in, it would be close enough so we could always easily return to see it at a later time.  We were hoping to accomplish this trip in  four days at most, and if we found an area we were more interested in than San Miguel, we could return to pick up the books and tools and remaining clothes we’d left in San Miguel and return to look for a possible rental. 

We found a lovely old hotel in the heart of Patzcuaro to serve as our base during our  initial exploration.  The town was authentic with few modern buildings or businesses to dispel the illusion that we had gone back in time. The art and the people were wonderful and the lake was a definite plus point in Bob’s mind, but it quickly occurred to us that in terms of terrain, this was not so different from the mountainous redwood forest that we’d lived in in Boulder Creek. We spent the day investigating the wonders of the town, had our first taste of atole—a delicious drink made from finely ground cooked masa (corn flour) and agreed that although it wasn’t ideal as our next place to live, that this was a place we definitely would came back to for a visit.  We had been told that the area that the monarch butterflies migrated to each year was very close by and it, too, was on our list of future explorations. 

We had heard of some of the artisan villages clustered around Patzcuaro.  Santa Clara del Cobre was a definite hit with Bob, as it was with me. It was a town consisting almost entirely of coppersmiths and the sound of hand-hammering filled the town.  A small-scale silversmith and coppersmith myself, I was amazed at the lack of modern tools—a bellows and coal fire being used in place of acetylene torches to anneal the metal, and three men with heavy metal mallets pounding the huge pot into shape in sequence after another man had moved it with huge tongs from the fire to the anvil. 

With my birthday coming up in a few weeks, Bob succumbed to his usual tactic of finding something he himself loved and when I, too, admired it, diverted me to another room while he bought it for me and secreted it in the nearby van.  In this case it was an amazing very large copper jar which lay horizontally with its opening  on the side.  Then, to be totally fair about the matter, when I found a pot I liked equally well, he encouraged me to buy it. In spite of the fact that he hadn’t been as sneaky as he thought he’d been and I knew perfectly well that he’d bought the other big pot, I played dumb and thus we became the owners of two of Santa Clara’s totally hand-forged pots created before modern intervention arrived with acetylene and propane torches. One can never have enough Santa del Cobre copper, as I have further demonstrated over the past 22 years.

We visited Capula, the town famous for its Catrinas, and managed to depart Catrinaless and also resisted the huge stone sculptures  that line the road leading into  Tzintzuntzan, although I did buy a few straw decorations for my Christmas tree, which I decorated each year with ornaments from every place I’d traveled throughout my life, as well as beloved saved ornaments from the Christmas trees of my youth.

We returned to enjoy music in the plaza across from our hotel which flowed in through the open windows of the restaurant we had chosen, then made an early night of it, packed up the next day and headed for Ajijic. We did not even stop in Uruapan, renowned for Its remarkable large park filled with water features, vowing to visit it during future adventures.

Ajijc is located next to Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, which is ringed by formerly volcanic mountains.  As we drove toward the city of Chapala, a small sign pointed to a cutoff to Ajijc and we swerved onto it, driving by a veritable mountain of garbage that was the town dump (happily now vanished, after the lease to use the land was withdrawn by the local ejido—the governing body of land held communally by the indigenous population.)

As we came around a bend and down the slope of the mountains that surround Lake Chapala, we suddenly saw the whole of it spread out before us.  Just one volcano, 80 miles away, is still active, and we could see the tip of it peeking over the shoulder of Mount Garcia, the largest and closest mountain in view across the lake. One of the most active volcanoes in North America, it gave off a slight puff of smoke just as we caught our first sight of the lake. “Oh Yeah, Jude!” Bob exclaimed. “I don’t want to move to San Miguel. I want to live here.” Thus it was was that we settled down to supposedly look for a rental in one of the little towns that stretched along the north shore of the lake.

But what Bob actually said as we sat in chairs in the first rental agency we came across was, “We may be looking for a rental, but do you have any houses for sale?”  The rental agent’s eyes lit up as she agreed that yes, she’d be happy to show us both rentals and houses for sale. Although I was still sure I didn’t actually want to buy a house in Mexico, Bob was expressing such joy at the prospect that I went along with him.  It would be fun to view some of the beautiful houses that we had already viewed from the outside in our drives around town.  What was our price limit? Bob gave the price of the first house he’d  found in San Miguel—$80,000.  But somehow, nothing in that price range quite caught our fancy, although we had seen a few rentals that we had liked.  We thanked the rental agent and said we’d be thinking about it, and consoled ourselves with a lovely meal and margaritas in the Ajiic Plaza Jardin Restaurant.  

Then fate intervened as we sat discussing the houses we’d seen and debated the issue of where we’d settle. We had already found a house we liked enough to rent for eighteen months in San Miguel. The fact that we hadn’t found one in our price range in Ajijic, coupled with the fact that I was still adamant that we weren’t buying a second house anywhere, let alone in Mexico, seemed to be directing us toward choosing San Miguel, but Bob convinced me we should spend one more day in Ajjic and environs just driving around looking at houses.  So it was that the next day, early afternoon, we wound up in a fraccionamiento (housing district) in the mountains above the village of San Juan Cosala, a few kilometers west of Ajijic.  The sign said, “Raquet Club,” which sounded to me like the least likely place I’d ever want to live, but as our van climbed the incline toward the top of the lowest mountain, we wove sideways from east to west along streets filled will lovely houses, all different with lush bougainvillea, palm trees, hibiscus and flowering trees of numerous varieties.  It was high above the lake with gorgeous views of the entire lake and Mount Garcia rising above it. 

We drove back and forth for a good 45 minutes before the van came to a screeching halt before the most beautiful house I had ever seen.  It was a pale mottled yellow and white in an L shape with two colossal rust-colored domes covering most of the two wings of the L.  The corners were all rounded without a sharp angle in the entire house.  It stood at the top of a steeply angled lot and the walls around it undulated down the mountainside like a series of falls smoothed out by flowing water.  The entire house looked like it had been sculpted by an artist’s hands.  If Bob were to ever design a house, I thought, it would look like this.

“Let’s see if it’s for sale!” he said.

“There’s no For Sale sign, Bob,” I said.

“I think it’s for sale, he insisted, climbing out of the van. He was now peering through the bars of the doors of an open-sided garage that stood a level above the house spread out below.”Doesn’t that look like a paper with specs on it by the door down there? Call out. See if anyone comes out!”

Embarrassed, I held my tongue, but just then, a man came out of the door. I don’t think he had yet seen us, but Bob seized the initiative and called down to him, asking if the house was for sale. 

“Si,” said the man, coming up to the garage and pressing a button which opened the garage gates.  With the same motion, he reached into a cabinet to withdraw a string of triangular flags similar to those at a used car lot and fastened them to nails at either side of the garage.  “Come in.”

We entered the garage, walked down four steps and into a courtyard of paving stones, then in through sliding glass doors into a large terra-cotta room, the other side of which was all glass sliding doors. Spread out below was a view of the entire lake.

“Oh yeah, Jude! Let’s buy it!!!” were the first words out of Bob’s mouth, and his enthusiasm remained uncurbed as we walked through a kitchen which featured  Yucatan-marble counters and a ceiling covered in tiles. There were two downstairs bedrooms and two bathrooms completely tiled in white marble with the same rose-colored marble tile on the countertops  as that in the kitchen. The brick domes were fabulous—one over the master bedroom and the other over the entire living room/dining room. In the middle of the living room dome was a three-foot wide domed skylight that filled the entire room with light.

Outside the living room was a bamboo-covered terrace with a pool and hot tub filled with naturally heated hot mineral water from the volcano!!!  Small palm trees dotted the yard, along with canna lilies and bougainvillea. Virginia Creepers covered the bamboo roof of the terrace and the large pillars that supported it.

The second floor casita consisted of a large bedroom with its own bathroom, two terraces and the best views of the entire house.

On the sheet of paper Bob had noticed with his keen eye was the price of the house–$180,000 U.S.  It had just been reduced from a price of $220,000. Bob’s face fell. Well over his $80,000 budget.  The gardener, who had been paid to live in this lovely house (albeit without furniture or appliances ) for three years, looked relieved when he saw the likelihood that we were not potential purchasers. Clearly, he had exhausted little effort in trying to sell it, as was evidenced by the absence of signs or flags when we first arrived.

We later discovered that the people who had built our dream house had lived in Guadalajara but she had parents in the Raquet Club and although the younger couple had built the house thinking they’d live there, it was so much more comfortable just visiting her parents on weekends, that they had never moved in. The pool line had a leak they’d been unable to discover, even though they’d dug up half the patio trying to find it and as a result, the pool emptied within hours of being filled. Designed by a very famous architect, Miguel Valverde, who was a personal friend, nonetheless the work of furnishing it and solving its pool problem plus the fact that it was rumored that the lake was fast drying up and would be empty within 5 years had caused them to put the house up for sale and when it did not sell, to reduce the price.

We both loved this house, but we had a house in the states and no immediate prospects for selling it. And so we turned our backs on it, drove back down the mountain and back to our little motel room. Once again, we consoled ourselves with a delicious meal—this time in the garden of the Nueva Posada—the only real hotel in town, although there seemed to be numerous b&b’s and cottage-type accommodations. I settled into my margarita and Bob into his Coke as we surveyed the menu. Once we’d made our choices, we began reviewing our past few days­­—the houses and apartments we’d seen, how much we loved the  lake and, ultimately, “the” house in the Raquet Club. Bob’s dream house, and I had to admit I was very taken with it as well.

We were back-and-forthing it over San Miguel vs. Lake Chapala when an attractive red-haired lady at the next table pulled her chair around a bit to better face us and said, “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but overhear you. Are you looking for a house here?”

We explained our situation, sharing a bit of personal information about what we were doing here.  What had we done in the states? We were artists and writers. What were we looking for? What was our present house in the States like? Were we presently working with a real estate agent? No, we had been looking but had told her we were suspending our efforts for the time being. We didn’t know what we were going to do.  We needed to be back in the States in two weeks for my mother’s memorial and needed to go back to San Miguel to either pick up our stuff or to sign the lease for an 18-month rental.

Could we spare a few extra days, she asked? We exchanged glances. What did she have in mind? If we could take the time, she would be glad to show us a number of houses she knew we’d love—in every price range from $80,000 up, but first she wanted to do two things.  First, she wanted us to move from our little motel-type accommodation to the Nueva Posada, and secondly, she wanted to introduce us to some people who lived here—artists and writers and musicians that she thought we would have lots in common with. Her name was Lucy and yes, she was a real estate agent. We liked her. We shook hands on it and went with her to the desk to book a room.

For the next three days, Lucy showed us house after house, priced from $80,000 to $500,000 and we loved every one.  She introduced us to her friends—all of whom we felt an affinity with. They told us about the local little theater—founded 36 years ago by the man who played Jimmy Stewart’s younger brother in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  And about the local writer’s group with a similar long history. She introduced us to the fascinating history of Neil James  and the cultural center that had grown up around a home that she eventually left to become the Lake Chapala Society—a wonderful addition to the community. And it happened.  We felt at home.

And that is why, after a three-night stay in Ajijic, we headed back to San Miguel to pick up the art supplies and books and other belongings we had left there, broke Steve’s heart by telling him that we had decided not to rent his house,  and came back to Ajijic to stow  what worldly goods we had brought to Mexico in the local storage facility as we once again joined Lucy in our quest for our next home.

Author’s note: Phew, I made it!!! I had to entirely write this chapter today and wouldn’t you know it–wifi was out for most of the day. So frustrating. It finally came back on about an hour before midnight so I rushed to finish and post and edit.  If you found lots of mistakes, you probably read before I finished editing as I was determined to get it up before midnight.  Now I need to get tomorrow’s chapter up before midnight tomorrow. What is this penance for, do you suppose??? Keep reading, please. Some big surprises in store. For me, too, as I haven’t written them yet.  

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 19

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 19

            Fireworks. In Mexico, they are the rule, not the exception. If you have two nights in a row without  continuous explosions, you are lucky.  Often given to exaggeration, here I need not bother.  On the Sunday night which marked the beginning of our third week in San Miguel, the fireworks were especially long and loud.  It might have been in honor of the movie crew who had begun filming on that day and who probably appreciated the all-night diversion as much as we did, or it may have been the conclusion of the horse show that had occurred that weekend.  Or it may have just been a showy overzealous family display. 

            1:30 a.m.  Fifteen retorts in rapid progression.  Not the crisp splat of childhood firecrackers, but the solid ear-shattering report of gunfire––a giant’s shooting gallery.  It was too hot to close the heavy bedroom door to the patio, too hot for covers.  Bob lay awake itching  mosquito bites, and when I went to the bathroom for ointment, there were four already buzzing against the mirror, in spite of the fact that all of the doors and windows were screened.  I sprayed on bug spray, then rolled the tube of ointment for insect bites over my madly itching and swollen upper arms and feet.  When I went back to bed, I covered us both with the sheet, protection against bloodsuckers.  It was hard to imagine where mosquitos could breed in this dry windy expanse, but it had been raining a bit each afternoon and water was no doubt collecting somewhere.

            I slept.  I dreamed that I was back in the States, setting up an art show entitled “This Bud’s for You.”  It was my friend Linda’s idea, and I had never thought it would work,  so why was I the one setting up this show so dumb that there were only seven entries?

            As I moved to the woods to meditate over this conundrum, I discovered a whole bank of pelicans drifting along the curving bank at the side of the road––row after row of pelicans.  Then I remembered that pelicans could talk and were, indeed, good counselors. I should avail myself of their counsel while I was here in the States where I had health insurance, I thought, so I went from pelican to pelican asking which one wanted to talk to me until, still in the middle of my questioning of pelicans, two wise guy humans made fun of my efforts.

            “Oh them,” said Bob.  “Jerks. The one can’t stop talking about himself long enough to get lucky.  Picked up a girl in a singles bar, stood on her doorstep so long talking,  she gave up and went to bed.  He didn’t even notice until she’d locked the door, turned out the porch light and was almost off to sleep.”

            At 5 a.m.,  I was torn from my dream.  Explosions ripped the air like someone beating on a tin roof with a sledge hammer—fifteen loud bangs in the first progression.  I closed the window and stumbled to the bathroom to search for my earplugs, brought as protection against snores, not fireworks. 

            Born on the third of July, I had always considered fireworks to take the place of my personal totem, and I was so addicted to them that I would never have believed that there could be anything which could sour me on them;  but there I was, cursing them after just two weeks in town.  Sure, they were pretty spread against the night sky, but what fool set off cherry bombs  (I later discovered them to be cohetes or bottle rockets) by the hundreds at 5 in the morning?  With earplugs on, I could still hear them.

            They sounded like someone buckling thin gauge metal siding or like giants farting down an echo chamber.  Last night, there were marching bands,  someone on a loudspeaker, strings of cars back and forth across the empty lot and fireworks drawing streaks of color over the  black sky.  We watched from our roof.  They reminded me of what a friend with a brain tumor had once said—that it was like this every time she moved her hand—sparks in the air, flowing after it.  Beautiful.  But at 5 a.m., even through earplugs they sounded like fifteen metal doors slamming shut down the corridor in sequence.  The cat slept on.  Bob slept on.  I moved down the balcony corridor.  One way lead to the office, the other to the spiral staircase to the roof.
        The sky turned cherry red over my left shoulder.  Through the earplugs, I heard the sounds:  someone banging cooking pans or caving in  car doors with a baseball bat.  My San Miguel alarm clock:  firecrackers, then roosters, then church bells.

         They were the beginnings of a normal day for the man who stood in the spare lot across the street watching the real spectacle: a fleshy woman from el Norte in a t-shirt and skull shorts climbing a spiral staircase to watch the sunrise from her roof.

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 15

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 15

            Mexico was a libertarian’s dream.  Although major roads were maintained when the potholes got big enough to cause accidents,  government maintenance of lesser roads were rarely dealt with promptly, if at all.  Here, if a neighborhood wanted a paved road, they got together to buy the cobblestones and hired someone to lay them, or pitched in to build it together.  Rules were few.  Although there were stop signs, few stopped at them.  Not even the police.  Here whole families rode in the backs of pickups, perched on the sides or on the floor with grandma on a folding chair.  Here people lit up in restaurants. (Although smoking laws twenty years later have been changed.)  Fireworks went off every night at all hours––the sign of a fiesta, the death of a child, or any public or private celebration.  Downtown, church bells rang loudly throughout the night.  There was a rule that no one could construct a window that overlooked their neighbor’s property, so all windows were on the fronts of the houses, but there were no rules for noise.  Our neighbors pounded anvils, operated buzz saws and set bricks with a mallet far into the night. 

            Last night, there had seemed to be a fiesta complete with music and firecrackers going on into the early hours right by our front gate.  When we returned from the video premiere,  the number of people who were sitting on the curb in front of our house had surprised us, but we had no clue that  the purpose for their being there went beyond a Friday night stroll and gossip session.  Perhaps they were conducting ceremonies to expel the new foreigners.  We had no way of knowing.  When we told Steve about it, he said, “Oh yes, two fiestas a week.”  His meaning was cryptic.  We would, no doubt, find out what he meant. 

            In the mid-afternoon, Bob motioned for me to look out of the second story window.  From our neighbor’s rooftop, strings of flags and fringed streamers descended across the street to light poles opposite.  Perhaps there would be yet another fiesta tonight.  This time, I would go to see what was happening.  

            It began in the afternoon, when I could hear a band some distance away.  It sounded like a group of first year band students who had assembled to practice both their marching and their music with many false starts and stops.  As it got nearer I went out to the street, but saw nothing.  Then I saw them––a strung out bunch in white shirts wending their way through the field that crossed to the Gigante.  A few men sat on the curb to my left as I left our compound, a few women to my right.  A woman passed and I said, “Buenos tardes.”  She answered me, but I could see her glance at my bare legs.  My Sausalito Art Festival T-shirt was extra-large and extra-long, and covered my shorts.  Just as well, as they were covered with smiling skulls, more appropriate for Day of the Dead, no doubt, than whatever festival was going on.  To her, it probably appeared that I had on nothing under the T-shirt.  More streamers with banners had    gone up in the street.  They were strung from the houses on either side of us out to a wire that someone had strung from light pole to light pole.  It was a few feet lower than the electrical wires and seemed to have been strung for just this purpose.  Now several houses up and down the street sported streamers.  As the day progressed, I could hear the band practicing from some direction far to our right––along the main road that led from town, perhaps. 

            In the very late afternoon, the true activities began.  At first, we heard the music––this time louder and more in unison.  We drew chairs out to the sidewalk in front of our compound.  Along the street, a number of our neighbors were assembled.  In the distance, to our right, we heard wild drums, cries and shouts.  The beat was primitive––more Native American or African than Mexican.  Then around the bend in the road they came––young men and old men in pre-Columbian Aztec dress.  Bare chests, leather loin flaps.  The drummer had so much white face paint on that I thought he was Anglo.  Their heels held high, they executed three leaps to the left, then three leaps to the right, then twirled and twisted and yelped.  In the front were the best dancers.  We tapped our feet and moved our shoulders to their rhythms.  Impossible not to.  At the back of the troupe came the young dancers––one so young that his mother marched along at the side to keep watch over him.  She called out to him as one man veered too close to him.  Behind these modern day reminders of the old religions came the new:  six pre-adolescent girls in white dresses carrying a flower-heaped platform.  Rising up from its middle was a cross.  As they passed us, one girl handed over her rear position on the carrying pole to another girl and rubbed her shoulder.  An older woman supervised the hand-over and kept the girls carrying the cross and their relief squadron, who marched behind them, in line and in sync.  When one girl lowered the pole, the woman reached out to raise the platform to even it out. 

            Behind the girls came the band I had been hearing all day.  They were still not perfect in harmony or rhythm, but they were much louder, which did a lot to improve their sound.  The procession moved by our house and down the street.  As we carried our chairs into our compound, Bearcat dashed out into the cobblestoned street––a daring move for a cat who a week ago wouldn’t come out from under the bed. I called him back in and he minded. 

             I spent the day making retablos.  I had purchased the tin and glass boxes in the artisans’ market a few days before, intending to give them as gifts when I returned home.  But after they lay on the living room cot for a few days, I couldn’t resist opening them to see what I’d bought.  The afternoon was hot and I set up my “studio” on the small table of the patio which held the clothes washer.  My tool boxes and cases full of art supplies sat on the patio around me.  By late afternoon, I was surrounded by strips from cut up photographs, cloth, beads, snips of waxed linen.  Each glass fronted box was some degree of its way toward being a retablo.  One was dedicated to Bearcat, another to the Virgin of Guadalupe,  the third a tribute to life in general––seeds, greenery, birth.  With my limited supplies, it became necessary to search the household for things we’d brought that could contribute to the shrines.  A container of popcorn contributed fertility and life bursting forth to the Madonna shrine.  An old peso brought to me by neighbors who visited Mexico in the 50’s, now worthless, was beautiful when the raised parts were buffed with fine sandpaper.  Feathers, beads, charms, seeds, bits of cloth, cut up bits of the photos I’d taken so far in Mexico.  Bob awoke from his siesta in the late afternoon and set up his easel––a tall ladder––in the courtyard.  He assembled his paints, prepared his palette––and the rain started.  Moving his materials quickly to the patio where I sat surrounded by my midden of art supplies, he propped his canvas against the table.  Restful large blobs of color covered the canvas.  They reminded me of the bougainvillea.  His usual bright primary colors had been abandoned for the more subtle colors of the garden and house that surrounded us. 

            By 9:30, we sat on the deck eating our dinner when the band started in again––coming from a direction about half a block away to the rear of our house.  Kids’ voices called out excitedly.  I imagined a pinata being broken.  Then the fireworks started.  They were the spectacular chrysanthemums and huge falling fountain fireworks of  a fourth of July celebration.  At first we went out to the compound to see them.  Then Bob said we should go up on the roof, but by the time we had climbed up the circular staircase with our plates, the fireworks had stopped.  We stood at the edge of our roof, our plates balanced on the adobe pillars on the sides of the patio.  Up here it was cool, and the food lost its heat quickly.  Although it was too dark to see our food, in the moonlight, we could see puffs of smoke ––the ghosts of the earlier fireworks.  We could hear a loud “thwack, thwack, thwack” and children screamed and laughed.  The band started up, died down, started up––like long spaced hiccups. 

            An hour or so later, when we were about to go to bed, the activity again moved to the street in front of our house.  The band, much improved, came marching firmly down the street from our left.  They seemed to have been replaced by another band, for now their music was sure and robust.  They seem to have swelled in numbers, as well.  They came more quickly than before down the street and stopped two doors away from us.  Some of them carried bottles, which they took fast swigs out of before raising their instruments.  They played a rousing song before one of the men pulled a man from the house and brought him out to dance with him.  He encircled his body with his arms and they danced like lovers to the music.  Then the music stopped and the entire band––maybe 15 or 20 strong––streamed into the house.  Earlier, as I stood on the roof, I had seen women in that compound making tortillas in the back yard.  I had wondered why they would choose early evening to do so, then figured it was to escape the heat of the day.  Now I wondered if they were for the musicians, who did, indeed, stay in the compound for the rest of the night, playing music which echoed up the brick walls of their compound directly in through our windows.  It was then that the really loud fireworks started and continued for an hour or so.  We drifted off to sleep.  Was it midnight or 1 a.m.?  It made no difference.  The fiesta was over and we slept.

            Boom!  An explosion like a land mine ripped through our open window.  Then another and another.  Some streamed up into the air, some exploded on the ground.  These explosions were cherry bomb sized, then hand grenade sized, then, to our very early morning ears, \ground-to-air missile-sized.  Amazing that the cat only stirred slightly in the bed.  Just a week ago he would start and run at the rustle of the cat food bag.  Explosion after explosion went off. 

            “What time is it?” I asked Bob, but he couldn’t see his watch.  By this time, at least a couple dozen explosions had gone off.  Since it was still dark, perhaps the purpose was to bring out the sun.  By now the roosters were crowing, so the  fireworks had done their job.  But they didn’t stop.  After one ear-splitting retort, our car alarm went off, adding to the festivites.  Bob rolled out of bed and fumbled in his shorts pocket for the keys.  I moved to the bathroom and by the time I got back, the car alarm had gone off again. 

            “Just turn it off.  I think this is going to go on all day.”  I flipped on the light.  6:15 a.m.  Church bells began to toll. 

            By eight o’clock, all was quiet.  The sounds I could hear seemed muffled––either in comparison with the fireworks or due to them.  Roosters crowing, the acetylene torch sound of the water heater coming on, trucks and buses on the road, the beautiful cries of grackles.  Ceiling fans whirred.  Bob slept on in the huge bed on the balcony across from where I sat in the office.  This bed was the largest either of us had every seen.  It had to be bigger than king-sized.  I could stretch out my arm fully from where I slept and still not find him.  The cat could sleep sideways between us and not touch either of us. 

            “We need another person for this bed,” Bob had said as we slipped into bed the night before. I suggested that we could both just roll over to the middle, so we did.

Chapters 1-14 are availble in daily blogs for the past two weeks. 

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 7 Posada de las Monjas


Find Chapter 1 HERE  Chapter 2 HERE   Chapter 3 HERE  Chapter 4 HERE  Chapter 5  HERE  Chapter 6 HERE

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 7: Posada de las Monjas

It was Sunday, May 13, at 1:30 a.m. It was our first night in our new room, and someone was setting off fireworks.  They soared up into the air and exploded with ear-splitting booms.  Dogs barked from half the rooftops of San Miguel.  There were too many lights in town, even at this late hour, for the stars to be visible.  It was a shame as our room was so high that we had a panoramic view of the city and the sky.  Below us, tin roofs broke the spell, but we had occasional glimpses into courtyards full of plants and trees.  A cat yowled below and Bearcat stood and stretched but did not scoot under the bed as he had that afternoon when he heard the same caterwauling.  He was getting braver every day, but a car backfiring a block away or a door slamming across the courtyard could still send him into hiding.  We had no yard now for our midnight walks.  All of the courtyards  and terraces in this hotel were of cobblestone or cement.  He was an illegal alien here.  When we sneaked him out on his leash at night for a walk through the deserted outside corridors, he was calmer, walking as close to the curtained windows of each room as though eavesdropping for any possible news of his new environs. Although the management didn’t know we had a cat, some of the staff knew but they never told. This first night, we settled to bed, finally, by 2 a.m.  and  I penned this poem  a mere four and a half hours later:

San Miguel Morning

The sounds of rooting cats
like infanticide
tuba music
in 4/4 time.

Donkey brays.
6:29 in the morning.

All’s right with the world.

Today was Mother’s Day.  It was the first in my life where I had no mother to send flowers to.  The same was true of Bob.  On our way through Tucson, we had stopped to see my mother’s crypt for the first time.  I had meant to bring flowers, but I could see that they didn’t allow fresh flowers, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave plastic ones.  Some of the crypts had metal flowers attached, and I decided to try to have something special made in Mexico.  Those would be the flowers I sent this year.

On this day, we took the van out of the courtyard of the hotel to go look at an apartment.  It was a bother to do so, because it meant getting a man to open the portal––not only the one that could be reached from ground level, but also the high one 8 or more feet off the ground.  Today, the guard used a tall metal pipe to pry the hatches open, Yesterday he had attempted to climb up on the lower lock to reach the top one, but it was a tricky maneuver and he had fallen off..  Then we scraped the bumper of a new yellow pickup trying to back out.

The apartment we saw was a depressing empty house in an extremely poor neighborhood.  On the floor of the bare living room was a pair of men’s slacks, rumpled as though he had climbed out of them and left them as they were.  Half-full bags of grout  lay abandoned.  In the shed, there was the overpowering smell of oil paints.  What had been described as a garden was hard baked earth with a few abandoned flower pots.  Even the weeds were dried and skeletal.  The house described as furnished in the newspaper ad was dark, in poor repair and completely empty.  The woman told us she had no money to buy furnishings, but maybe they could get one bed and a refrigerator.

That afternoon, we had been looking  at  pictures  of rentals in a rental office near our hotel.  The apartments and houses were all picture perfect––decorated, furnished with art and gardens complete with gardeners.  The contrast was so depressing that it made me again question whether I wanted to stay here.

The disparity between the gringo sections of town and the local sections was so great.  And yet in the restaurants and galleries, I saw the majority of people were Mexican––well-groomed and prosperous looking––eating the same food and drinking the same drinks we were drinking.  Our hotel, too, was filled with Mexican travelers, so the difference was not so much one of nationality as of level of prosperity.  The same economic differences existed in the United States, but there, as here, we were shielded by the distances between our living areas.

Even in the U.S, there were places we never went.  Why would we?  In those places there were no restaurants, theaters, gyms.  In those places, there were none of our friends to visit.  Our kids didn’t go to school in those neighborhoods, so for us, they didn’t exist.  Every American we talked to said not to have a car here––to depend on public transport or walking,  but public transport did not take them through these neighborhoods, so for most, I am sure they did not exist.

By the time we got home again, we were exhausted from trying to negotiate the maze of unmarked streets. To compound our frustration, we found that  the lot that had been  nearly empty when we left was now completely packed––with all cars double parked.  The guard fit us diagonally into one corner of the large courtyard in a place where we blocked four cars instead of two.  He refused to take our car keys, so we imagined an early knock on our door to get us to come move it. We had already made the decision to keep the van in the compound for the rest of our stay, but this cinched it! On Monday, we would take a taxi to immigration and the real estate office.  Already, our new van had rattles in every part of its chassis from two days of bumping over cobblestones.  The side was scraped and the running board dented in.  If we had to count the number of streets backed down or tight spaces we had turned around in, it would reconfirm our decision.  A car in this town was crazy.  A full-sized van was lunatic.  People drove vans the size of ours as buses here.

It was a moral struggle to sit in the Plaza Principal.  Every time I sat down, an old woman came to sit next to me to tell me she was hungry.  When I told her I didn’t understand, she sighed.  She sat for fifteen minutes, sighing every few minutes or so.  Finally, she asked me the time.  At first, I didn’t understand.  I thought she was pointing out the dark freckles on my arms.  Then I understood the word “Hora.”

Seis?”  she asked.

Siete,” I answered.  I knew some Spanish.  Now she would suspect I really understood her.  Well, I guess I did, even without words.  On our first day, Bob and I gave money out to most who asked.  When the same people approached us later on their next round, we realized that it was endless.  To encourage the woman and children selling cloth dolls meant no time ever in the jardin when we would be free to read a book or watch the strollers or the church facade changing colors as the sun moved across its face.  It meant constant interruptions to the peace and tranquility we had come here to find.

It was a major conflict that all of us face in this world.  Were we here to enjoy the world or to confront and deal with its miseries?  Was it fair to choose the ways in which we tried to make the world a better place?  Was it making the world a better place to encourage begging?  Was there any alternative to begging for those who did so?  I remembered the old woman who fell down in a faint in front of the church in Oaxaca.  Kind tourists  helped her into a sitting position,  fanned her, pressed coins upon her.  Then one of the locals laughed and told us that she was one of the richest women in town––so good at her daily act that she made more than most wage earners.

I remember the children in Bombay whose parents had cut off their arms or legs to make them more successful at their begging.  Where were the easy answers?  There were none.  If we taught at the free art school, would it make a difference?  It would make a difference for us, ease our guilt.  But would it do enough to ease the suffering in the world?  The answer was clear.  We would do what we could do:  try to be kinder, try to notice instead of reacting the same to every person who asked for our help.  We would live here not quite adequately, as we had lived in every place.  We were not Mother Teresa, nor were we Hitler.  We were fugitive Americans trying to find a better way.  We were trying.  Looking.  Tomorrow we would see what happened.

Again, the old woman sat by me in the Plaza Principal.  I was no longer sure that she remembered me as the same person every time she sat down.  This time she asked me if I lived here and when I said no, she asked me where I lived.

“El Norte,” I told her.  Bob and I were sitting on extreme ends of the same bench because each end had a tree which sheltered us from the brief afternoon rain.  She crowded with me under my arboreal umbrella.

“You have beautiful hair,” she told me, which I did not understand until she pulled at her own hair and said, “Amarillo.  Bella.”

When I pulled out a bottle of water.  “Ah, Agua” she sighed, and pulled out a plastic bottle of Pepsi from her string bag to take a drink.

Ese es su esposo?” she asked, pointing at Bob.


For the next ten minutes or so, she sighed, now and then, asking me for money for food under her breath, but I could feel that her enthusiasm had waned.  Occasionally, she commented on those who passed us.

Buenos tardes, senora,” I said, when we got up to leave, but she was already moving to another bench.

Innocents in Mexico: Chapter 6: A Rude Awakening and a Savior


The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Find Chapter 1 HERE  Chapter 2 HERE   Chapter 3 HERE  Chapter 4 HERE  Chapter 5  HERE.

Chapter 6: A Rude Awakening and a Savior

            The next morning, we were awakened by the tooting of a horn outside our window.  I opened the door and looked out.  Resolutely and with a fine sense of rhythm, a woman was honking her horn for someone in the room next to us.  Undaunted by my stares, she continued to honk.  Bob slept on as I fastened Bearcat’s leash and attempted to take him for a walk.  I had forgotten that walks are a nighttime thing for cats––the later the better.  He resisted and I gave in.  By eleven, we were off to find a bank, a real estate agent and a really good map of San Miguel.  Unfortunately, all of these items proved to be easier to find than was a parking spot.  As we traversed still another circuitous route trying to find a parking space, Bob questioned whether we wanted to rent an apartment here, even for a week or a month.  He cursed the tiny cobblestone streets, the lack of signs.  The jardin area seemed to be all there was to San Miguel, he complained, and there wasn’t much to it.  “Did you like Oaxaca for the first few days we were there?” I asked. “Or Bali?” He admitted that he hadn’t, yet he had ended up wanting to live both places after a week or so of getting to know them.

Bob finally left me off at the tourist office, promising to join me there.  After 15 minutes, when he still hadn’t appeared, I moved off to a bench in the park, where I could sit in the shade while keeping an eye peeled on the door of the tourist agency.  On the bench sat an American woman who shared her experiences of living in both San Miguel and Guanajuato.  Fresh from a three-month course in Spanish, she chatted with the senor who sat down on my right.  Did he live in San Miguel?  Did he prefer it over Guanajuato?  Why?  Because it was warmer in San Miguel.  Because there was more to do.  I was thrilled that I understood most of what they were saying.

Bob joined us, still not too excited to be sitting on a park bench in such a difficult town.  We went to the bank.  Our time to pay for our tourist visas had nearly run out.  The custom at the El Paso crossing seemed to be to go to any bank in Mexico to pay for the visa which was issued by immigration in Juarez.  Since we had never managed to get to any banks while they were open for the three days it took us to drive to San Miguel, it was a pressing need for us to pay the fee and thereby amend our status as illegal aliens.  Unfortunately, when Bob had presented his visa to apply for the car permit at the customshouse south of Juarez, the woman had detached the carbon copy of his visa application and now, without it, the bank could not accept payment.  But the carbon copy was at the customs office south of Juarez, I argued, to no avail.  A Xerox copy would not do.  I paid for my visa, whose papers were intact, and went back to the waiting area where customers waited for the numbers on their pop-out tags to be called, like customers at a bakery or ice cream store.  Bob was deep in conversation with Lisa, a tanned woman who gave him advice on rental houses, classes and the arts community.  As her number was called, we moved to the front of the bank and I told him the bad news.  In front of the bank was another tanned American lady in straw brimmed hat and a stylish tan linen dress.“No,” she said firmly to the small girl who proffered a brightly dressed cloth doll for sale.

Bob and I were trying to figure out the route to Gigante––a huge market situated somewhere off our limited tourist map.  The bank manager had insisted that we must go to immigration and that this was where it was––in an office over Gigante.  A pelting monsoon rain had descended while we were in the bank and we stood under a broad overhang, waiting for it to calm down.  “Do you live in San Miguel?” I asked the stylish lady.  Yes, she did, and yes, she knew the way to Gigante.  To illustrate, she pulled out a vastly superior map to ours, then told us where the biblioteca was where we could purchase both this map and the definitive guide to San Miguel.  Her name was Kim, she was from Alameda, just an hour and a half from our California home, and she now lived in San Miguel.  “Well, here, have my map,” she said, after a few minutes of talking.  When I protested, she insisted.  When I offered to pay, she refused.  It was her gift.  She handed us a card, then moved off into the now abating rain.

At the Biblioteca, we bought books and guides and maps and cards and chatted to the man running the gift shop––another expatriate American who gave advice on apartments, cars (don’t keep them) concerts (go to them) and all of the glories of San Miguel.  Although the library itself was closed, its restaurant had been recommended to us by Kim, and we ate a nice lunch while eavesdropping on the other expatriate Americans who sat at the tables around us.  Small children skipped into the restaurant from the library singing “Happy Birthday to you” in Spanish-inflected English.  Someone shushed them, to no avail, and they ran out giggling loudly.        Outside the door of the restaurant, in the hall to the library, was a pay phone, where I stood trying to figure out the intricacies of a phone with a card slot and four buttons with indecipherable pictographs.  I finally called the number given on the first rental ad on my list.  The woman spoke English but didn’t know if she wanted an artist renting her house, which was immaculate, she said.  Maybe he could paint in the garage.  Would he spill paint on the floor?  A meticulous house sounded as uninviting as the $1,000 rent, so I explained we were perhaps not the right renters for her.  As I hung up the phone and prepared to make my next call, I saw a man sitting very near by with a phone card in his hand.  Was he waiting to make a call?  Yes.  Would he like to go in front of me?  He protested that he could wait, but when I said I was going to make a number of calls, he agreed that he’d like to make just one fast one.

He in fact made one very long call.  I stood shamelessly near, trying to encourage him to hurry, but he chatted on.  He was talking to a man that his friend Richard had told him he must meet.  Yes, he would meet him in the library on Monday.  He had a picture of him, so he would recognize him.  This phone call came to have all the ear markings of a blind date.  After five or ten minutes, he ambled his call to a close and handed over the phone, then stood talking to Bob, as unabashedly listening to my call as I had his.  “Are you looking for a house to rent?” he asked Bob.  He knew of a house, which he seemed to be describing to Bob as I tried out my laughable Spanish on yet another homeowner.

“Are they speaking Spanish?” He asked, as he heard my garbled string of Spanish tape phrases.

“Yes,” I admitted. “Do you speak Spanish?”

He did, and offered to interpret.  I happily handed over the phone.

Toward the end of the phone call, my telephone card ran out and he was cut off.  When I tried to call back with another card, he discouraged me.  “You don’t want to live there,” he said.  “It’s at the end of a very dusty road.  It’s too far from the center.  What you need to do is find a room near the center so you can park your car and answer all the ads in the newspapers for a week to find the right house.“

He told us his name, which was Ernesto.  He told us about the art school where he taught art to poor kids.  He told us about art happenings and poetry happenings and music.  He told us of a different hotel where we should stay and of a house nearby that was coming up to rent.  In the end, he took us himself to the Posada de los Monjes, an historic  hotel that was a converted convent, and translated with the front desk, insisting on the room with the best view.  As we moved through the front of the building through wooden doors hundreds of years old, the full glory of four floors of terraced stone opening onto a cobbled courtyard where we could park our van was revealed.  Broad terraces with crenelated walls jutted out from some of the rooms and wide outside corridors joined them.

We climbed higher and higher until we came to the room chosen for us––a bit small but with a beautiful tiled bathroom with stone shower.  Coming out of the room, we moved out to the private patio bigger than the room.  Below us stretched the entire panorama of San Miguel.  Breathtaking.  The church, the tile roofs, the jagged skyline and yellow hills.  The rooftop gardens and trees jutting up from courtyards.  We were so high that little rose higher above us than our own roof.  We had a 300-degree view and all of it was beautiful.  Never mind the steps.  We could have all of this for barely more than our motel room which was nice and roomy but viewless and near traffic noise.

Do you want to see the room with two beds, asked Ernesto?  It’s bigger, but also $10 more a night.  We’d see it, we said, but the cheaper room would probably do.  I must admit, I dreaded the confinement of the smaller room, but knew we’d probably not spend much time there anyway, and could just spend that time on the most glorious patio on earth.  But, we went to see the room, which was bigger, with its own living room, better views from the room itself, but no patio.  Or at least we thought so until we ascended the stairs outside the room to the patio on top of the room that had even a better view than the room before it––this one a full 360-degrees!

The view was well worth the extra ten dollars a night.  In ten years, we would not miss the money, but we’d never forget the view.  We took the room. We would move in the next day! Ernesto took us to the art institute––not his, but the one near the center.  In the end, he offered Bob a job at his art school.  No salary, but a job just the same.  He could use the facilities free in return for any amount of time he wanted to teach.  Then, meeting a friend he knew on the street, he faded back into the life of San Miguel.  He had made a date with Bob to meet Monday to see about showing us the house that his friend had just built.

The importance of meeting Ernesto?  Bob had gone from wanting to move on to wanting to rent a house in just hours.

“How do you like that?” he said.  “In San Miguel less than 24 hours and I’ve already been offered a job teaching art.”

Right then and there, we went to Mailboxes Etc. and rented a mailbox for three months.  The proprietor of this establishment introduced herself as Annie and she told us the intricacies of sending mail and packages into and out of Mexico.  What to do.  What not to do.  How to send tax papers, magazines, bills, packages.  Another stranger popping up to solve our severest problems.  Like magic.

That night, we peeked into courtyard after courtyard looking for the right restaurant.  Bob, who had formerly hated Mexican food, picked a Mexican restaurant, pronounced his meal delicious  and paid the musician to serenade us with a rendition of “Rancho Grande” that rivaled any Oaxacan version we’d ever heard.

“The thing about San Miguel,” he explained, “is that a good deal of it is hidden.  You don’t see it by casual observation.  You have to look farther,”  That night he stayed up hours later than usual, poring over guide books and maps.  Bearcat curled on my bed as I sat at my laptop.

“Tomorrow you get to go to your new home,” Bob told him.  “You get to go from being an under-bed cat to a roof cat.”

See Chapter 7 HERE.

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 1, Leaving the Familiar

Bob, 2001

At the moment, every surface in my office/living room/dining room is covered with stacks of papers.  I’ve been plowing through files and old folders looking for additional stories to include in a book about my first few years of living in Mexico, but in doing so, I unearthed an earlier book, also unpublished, about our initial trip down to San Miguel to investigate it as a possible place to live for a year. So, I spent most of the morning and afternoon reading the entire book with the result that I’ve decided that maybe it makes sense to publish that book first, since it will better introduce readers to Bob and to the background of my move to Mexico.  With that in mind, I’d like your help in reading two or three of the beginning chapters to see if they hold your interest. They are a bit longer than earlier “possibles” that I’ve shared with you over the past week or so, but I guess that will be a test of whether this book is going to hold your interest.  Remember, as this story begins, the year is 2001 and so the information about our Mexican experience is 22 years old.  Please let me know whether you feel it is still relevant and interesting. That said, here is the possible first chapter of:

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 1,  Leaving the Familiar

(Jan1-May 3, 2001)

How we came to decide to move to Mexico is unclear.  Bob claims I tricked him into it by first suggesting a two-week trip.  By the time he had agreed, the trip had grown to two months.  Then, the next thing he knew, I was telling people that we were renting out our house and moving to Mexico for a year, where we would live off the rent we were collecting from our house. But it was Bob, in fact, who suggested that if we left for a year we’d be coming home during the worst weather of the year––which led to our decision to move to Mexico for a year and a half.

The transition from the redwoods of central California to the central mountains of Mexico was not as simple as the decision to move there.  We had intended to return from Christmas with my 91-year -old mother in Wyoming, to spend a month packing our personal stuff out of the house and getting it rented out, then to leave by February 1. But a week or so prior to leaving for Wyoming, I found that I needed major surgery.  Since the recovery period was six weeks, that would delay our leaving by a month if we scheduled the surgery as soon as we got home in January, so we put off our leaving day to March 1.  If I packed just one thing at a time and left Bob to lift the boxes once they were filled, I should be able to do the packing even with stitches in.

The day I got home from surgery, my mother went into the hospital in Wyoming.  I’d been told not to ride in cars, climb stairs or lift for a week, then to take it easy for another month at the least.  My mother and sister insisted I not come, my mother even saying that it was too hard to visit over the phone when I called, due to the oxygen.  She liked to be left alone when she was sick, even had them put a “no visiting” sign on her door.  She would be going home soon, they all said.  But within a week, my mother had passed away.  Since she had known no one in the Wyoming town where she had moved a few years before to be near my sister, we decided to hold her memorial service in July in South Dakota, where an all-town reunion would be going on in the town where we all grew up.  My brother-in-law accompanied my mother’s body to Tucson, where she would be buried with my dad.  Both of my folks were not big on funerals.  My mom would have approved.  I put all of my efforts into planning her memorial long-distance.  Bob and I would drive up from San Miguel the last weekend in June for the memorial.

Now, along with healing, I mourned the loss of my Mother. For days, I worked on art projects which reflected her life story, and after my second day home from the hospital, I worked for two hours at a time packing books, then rested two hours, watching every video movie my friends could dig up to encourage me to get the rest I needed.  I began to get a bit agoraphobic, which was helped along by the fact that I wasn’t supposed to ride in cars.  On the night that my Mom died, Bob and I went for our first walk since my surgery.  It was nine o’clock at night as we walked up the road near our house to the top of the mountain.  The stars were vivid in this sky away from city lights as we discussed the afterlife.  There was something about the irrevocable ending of a life which pushed us in our resolve to put off no longer the next stage of changes in our lives.

Even though we planned to rent the house fully furnished, the packing proved to be a much larger job than we’d expected.  My mother had left us her car and any furniture or art we wanted.  My sister insisted that to send it would incur no loss to her or my other sister, since it would come out of the part of the estate the majority of which would go for taxes, anyway, so we decided to store our own furniture and rent our house with my mother’s.  This meant also changing all the art and decorations in the house, since her color scheme was different.  For a month, I’d packed books, which Bob would then carry to one studio or another to store.  Then I tackled the kitchen, leaving what I considered to be bare bones.  We were beginning to feel like we’d make our new departure date of April 1, but the date should have been a tip-off.  When they heard we’d be leaving, we suddenly had friends and relatives popping in with great regularity.  With each group of friends, we took the time to talk and play, to go to the beach and out to dinner.

One of the reasons we were moving to Mexico was to get our life back and to reprioritize after 14 years of running our lives around the demands of a business. We had felt rushed, pressured, buried under the minutiae of the details of bookkeeping, scheduling, mailing, travelling to art shows, setting up our booth, tearing it down, keeping track of the thousands of details involved in not only making art but selling it through craft shows. Every vacation we’d taken to visit family had been scheduled to coincide with our show schedule.  Most of our friends were artists, which was great, but we spent more time discussing the business of art than art itself.  We wanted off the bandwagon.  We wanted the time to talk and experience life without pressure. But now the business of moving was taking over our lives.  How to get all the loose ends taken care of.  How would we pay our bills?  Collect outstanding debts?  We had lamps to mail off to customers and galleries, files to sort out.  What to take, what to store, what to throw away?  I had twenty-five years of writing files:  poetry, stories, unfinished novels, movie scripts.  Bob had the same.  We had business files, tax files, personal correspondence files.  All of this needed to be sorted and dealt with.  One studio rapidly filled up to the ceiling with boxes of books, extra kitchen supplies, clothes and art. Then another one filled up with furniture, extra studio supplies from my jewelry studio, which we’d reconverted into a bedroom, writing files, tools and more tchotchkes.

When a woman who came to see if she wanted to be our property manager saw what we considered to be our stripped-down house, she said, “I’d clear out all this clutter.  Get it down to the minimum.”  That was what we thought we’d done!

Into this chaos drove my friend Patty, who’d volunteered to drive my mom’s car from Wyoming to California for us.  She stayed a few days and we took time off from packing to see the sights and talk.  Then came other friends.  We did the same.  When people heard we were leaving, they called to schedule dinners.  We went.  We were now worried about the April 1 leaving date.  With our departure date just two weeks off, Bob received a call from his sister.  His mom had gone into the hospital and wasn’t expected to live.  He flew to Michigan. After ten days, less than two months after we’d lost my mom, his mom passed away.

The day he flew off to Michigan, the first of our ads to sell vehicles appeared. We were selling a Blazer, a Mazda MX3, an ancient motor home, a trailer and a fork lift.  For the entire time Bob was gone, every bit of my time was spent jump-starting them, cleaning them, having them smog-checked, answering phone calls, showing vehicles and placing new ads.  Finally, when Bob got home, we parked the cars one at a time on the street.  The first time we did this, we got a ticket for parking a for sale vehicle on a county road.  Then we found a wide place that was evidently private land, but visible from the highway.  Within the month, we’d sold all of the vehicles but the travel trailer we had converted into a trailer to move our our big lamps, jewelry, ikebana vases, tents, cases and other display items to shows in. This we kept to store our unsold display items in.

With May fast approaching, Bob finally said he was beginning to feel we’d never leave.  In addition, he was starting to have reservations about whether he wanted to leave all his tools and studios.  What if we got to Mexico and didn’t like it?  We’d have rented our house out and would have no place to go.  In the end, we sealed up the house, paid a friend to deal with our bills and mail, packed up our cat that we had been unable to find a new temporary home for, packed up a few clothes, a lot of books and art supplies, and headed out for Mexico on May 3, 2001—only 4 months later than we had initially planned on starting out, but we were finally on the road. On the way, we would visit Bob’s son, daughter and grandkids in Flagstaff Arizona, his friend Carey in Tucson and my friend Judy in Alamogordo.  Then we would be free, unscheduled, with no timeline.  On our way to Mexico.

Go HERE to read Chapter 2