NOW AND THEN, a reader says that I don’t really grasp how bad things have become in the United States because I’ve been away for so long.
While this would certainly have been the case way back, it’s not the case now, and that’s because of the internet. In a way, I’m sitting up there among you, seeing clearly the silly things that you do.
When I moved south with two suitcases in January of 2000, Bill Clinton was still president and, remarkably, I was still a voter for the Democratic Party. The stock market fiesta of the 1990s was ending, and the final entry in the nonstop line of oligarchic presidents, Ernesto Zedillo, was about to introduce Mexico to democracy — to the consternation of his cohorts.
Lots of stuff was coming to a head.
One of my suitcases contained a laptop that I had purchased specifically for the big move. I left the only other computer I had ever owned, the original iMac, with my daughter.
My first eight months, in the state capital, initially in a sparsely furnished room over a garage, and then in an even more sparsely furnished, two-story house, were spent with no internet connection. The only access was at an internet café about five blocks distant.
I would go there once a day to email my worried mother and a romantic interest in Mexico City. I would also check financial matters, innocently typing in passwords to my bank and investment house in the United States. Only a imbecile would do that these days.
After those first eight months, I rented a car for a day to move the two suitcases plus other stuff I had accumulated up the mountain, 7,200 feet above sea level, to the small town where now you will find me forevermore. I rented another sparsely furnished, two-story house, and I got internet access from a local entrepreneur via a dial-up modem. It was slow.
But it was the only internet access available in town.
The fellow who ran that internet company sold me a makeshift computer, which I used for many years. After 2.5 years in the rental, I got married and we built the Hacienda. I moved the clunky unit to its new home. Not long after, the local company provided a wireless connection via an antenna on the roof, and that’s what I use today. Now and then, I ascend and knock the bird poop off.
A couple of years back, in spite of some “upgrades,” my mongrel computer had become so slow as to be almost useless, so I purchased a H-P All-in-One, which I am very fond of, from Office Max. I wrote about those thrilling days in The Blastoff and Buck Rogers Zapata.
I had stuck with the original about a decade, and was flabbergasted at how technology had progressed. I have now vowed to myself to buy a new desktop every five years. My previous website, The Zapata Tales, was written entirely on the clunker.
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I am a desktop man to the bone. I can type about 100 words a minute,* which ain’t possible on a smartphone or tablet. A couple of years ago, in a moment of stupidity, I bought a Samsung smartphone. A week later, I sold it at a considerable loss.
I loathed it.
I just want a phone to make calls and send text messages, 99 percent of which go to my wife. I don’t want to be online virtually every minute. I spend too much time online as it is. I have a cheap little cellphone that I buy minutes for as needed. It has no camera. I already have a camera.
After the smartphone debacle, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 to receive email while traveling. We rarely travel,** but it serves its purpose when we do. Mostly, I use it at our condo in Mexico City where the next-door neighbor lets me connect via his wi-fi. Ninety-nine percent of the tablet’s time here at home goes to my child bride who’s addicted to Facebook.
The tablet uses Android, which I find to be a colossal pain the the kazoo, vastly inferior to the Windows on my desktop, a system I am fairly fond of. On dumping my mongrel computer and buying the Hewlett-Packard, I leaped from a pirated Windows XP*** to a legal Windows 8.1.
In addition to the entrepreneur who’s provided me the internet all these years, we now have other options on the mountaintop. Carlos Slim, the gazillionaire who owns Mexico’s phone system, TelMex, offers high-speed internet, and so does the local TV cable company.
We are modern, and I’m as aware of what’s happening in the tumultuous, race-obsessed United States as your neighbor in Topeka. And I keep an eye on you. It’s tragic what I see.
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* I possessed the sole pair of testicles in my high school typing class.
** But next month we’re flying to Palenque for our 13th anniversary, a week in the jungle.
*** The pirated XP was installed by my local guy without his mentioning that little fact. Most Windows on Mexican computers, I have read, are pirated. We are first-class pirates.