ON MOVING OVER the Rio Bravo at the turn of the century, I had a to-do list of three items.
First, learn Spanish. I had no intention of living here without learning the native tongue. Alas, so many of my former countrymen do just that. Tsk, tsk.
Second, get married. I had no intention of living here solo for the rest of my life. I don’t like being single.
Third, with my new bride’s help, buy land and construct a home. See, my to-do list had an order of sorts. No. 1 was a lengthy process, and it’s ongoing.
At age 55, learning a new language is not something that comes easily. And No. 3 required No. 2 first.
And No. 2 required No. 1 because my child bride cannot converse in English. Being able to talk to your wife is advisable.
No. 2 was fairly easy because, truth be told, I had women coming out of the proverbial woodwork. Most did not interest me. I finally found one that interested me, and I married her about two years after moving to Mexico.
Her help with the home construction was immeasurable. She not only speaks Spanish, she’s a civil engineer.
Aside from learning a new language, which is a process without end, I had mostly accomplished my three goals in a bit more than three years. I’m so proud of myself.
I just missed an anniversary, but only by three days. My arrival here on the mountaintop on September 10, 2000. I was not entirely new to Mexico, but I was quite green.
I’d lived seven months at a lower altitude, 40 minutes away in the state capital. Four of those seven months had been dedicated to attending a language school because when I got off the plane in Guadalajara I didn’t speak Spanish.
I was a language ignoramus.
My decision to move from the state capital up here was made while sitting at a coffee shop and looking in the direction shown in the photo. I looked at that view and told myself, I’m gonna move here. And I did. Lickety-split.
My first challenge was to find a furnished place to rent. While my town now is chockablock with real-estate agencies and lots of furnished rentals, there was not even one real-estate agency in 2000. I knew no one here, and I had no idea where to start. I was alone, and my Spanish was dicey.
Someone online pointed me to an old Gringo named Gray who’d moved here after the Second World War. He had married an indigenous woman, and they had multiplied.
Gray had some furnished rentals that catered mostly to the sparse Gringo crowd. I moved into a two-story house on a main drag with furniture that aspired to the junk heap.
The first thing I did was buy a new mattress and sheets. The second thing was to buy an equipal love seat and matching chair. The store here neglected to inform me that the set would be made in and shipped from Guadalajara.
I got it about four months later.
I lived in that rental for two-and-a-half years. My child bride was there the final year while we constructed the Hacienda.
It wasn’t a bad place if one didn’t cringe at the hordes of mice during the rainy season or the two times I found dead rats in the toilet. They had come up from below, and I flushed them back to where they came from.
And there was the matter of the house abutting a open sewer/creek that provided a notable fragrance during the dry months. And the lights went out a lot.
It was an interesting home along the lines of the Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times.
We were elated when we moved into the Hacienda in May of 2003. It’s been a great 17 years here at altitude. The changes are considerable. Plenty of rentals available now. With rats or without. Ten times the number of Gringos. Some people regard that positively. I’m not one of those people.
But I’m glad I sat at that coffee house that long-ago afternoon, gazing up the street. It was a decisive moment.
The photo’s from yesterday. It hasn’t changed much.
WHEN I LEFT America in January 2000, I thought I was merely moving to another country to start a new adventure.
While that was true, what I did not realize at the time was that I, just like Steve McQueen in the photo above, was making my own Great Escape. But I wasn’t escaping from the Nazis. I was escaping from the United States.
When I hightailed it, things were fairly normal above the Rio Bravo. Bill Clinton was president. The economy was running well, and people were getting along pretty good.
There was no Black Lives Matter. There were no Antifa thugs running riot in the streets. There were no geriatric socialist presidential candidates. Conservative speakers were not tarred and feathered on university campuses.
There were no Safe Spaces, and public restrooms were either “Gentlemen” or “Ladies” or sometimes “Setters” and “Pointers.” Humor had not been banned.
Still standing were the World Trade Center in New York, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. And nobody outside Illinois had heard of Barack Hussein Obama.
Farther afield, there were no Mohammedan mobs being invited into European nations, nor to the United States either. Gays were not suing Mom & Pop bakeries over wedding cakes.
You got your porno on DVDs through the mail. It took some cash and effort. Nowadays it requires neither.
There was no Twitter, Facebook or iPhones.
Television dramas and sit-coms were not expected to kowtow to thought police. I read recently that the wildly popular sit-com Friends could not be made today, and it’s true.
The cast was all white. They poked fun at ethnic groups. The show’s crimes against PC were relentless, but nobody cared back then. We just laughed and laughed.
Seinfeld too would be verboten.
But the laughter has faded away. You must avoid saying certain true things, or you run a real risk of losing your job and/or friends and your social standing.
Everything went to the devil after I moved south. I’ve witnessed it exclusively via the internet, not in person.
Man, oh, man, I got out of there in the nick of time.
FOLLOWING MY afternoon café yesterday, I stepped across the street to sit a spell on a stone bench. I whipped out the Canon from my man bag and shot a brief video.
It was about 6 p.m., and nothing much was going on. Kids were playing. You can hear them. You can also hear music, which is coming from ground speakers installed around our plaza, part of a renovation about five years ago.
City Hall says it’s the largest main plaza in the country after the Zócalo in Mexico City. Maybe it is.
The rainy season is easing in. We got a good blow just last night, rain and wind colliding with the windows that face in that direction. The bedroom windows.
The Hacienda lawn got cut last Saturday, first of the year. Within three days it needed cutting again, but once a week is the limit. The rest of the time we’ll just wade through grass.
Things are getting cooler, which is the main advantage of the five-month rainy season. Cool summers! Who would have imagined it? I had no idea before I moved down here because I had done little research about anything at all.
I’m writing this at 8 a.m. It’s time to go downstairs for croissants and orange marmalade. Then I’ll sweep the veranda of the crap that storm last night blew into there.
It won’t take long.
(Post-croissant update: We played Pancho & Lefty on the music machine. A hummingbird flew into the veranda and looked directly at us through the dining room window screen.)