A decade gone by

2014-01-10-The-TENIT WAS 10 YEARS ago about now when I was last in the United States. I don’t recall if it was just before or just after Obama’s first inauguration. I prefer to think it was before, so I can say I never set foot in Weepy Barry’s America.

There was no Black Lives Matter or Antifa, and SJW had not been invented yet. There was social strife and victimhood because multiculturalism had been boneheadedly promoted long before I departed, but nowhere near the absurd level that now exists. But I had never voted Republican.

My Democrats were not rioting in the streets. Nor were they prone to hysterics. They were more sensible people.

Visiting outside your native land is a strange sensation. Living in a world so different than that which sprouted you is odder still. Though I’m a Mexican citizen and almost never speak English, I don’t fit in below the border.

I just have to live with that. A price to pay, well worth it.

Quite a few Americans live in Mexico. The Mexican government puts the number at around 750,000, though you see much higher numbers on the internet, stated by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

From what I read on internet forums, etc., most Americans (expats, a term I never apply to myself) in Mexico visit their homeland on a regular basis, as do Canadians. It’s like a siren call, but I’m deaf to it.

There are reasons. One is it’s very expensive up there. Two is that America has become a disappointment to me. (Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently described contemporary American culture as vulgar and slipping into moral relativism.) Three is that it’s dangerous up there. Four is there’s nothing above the border that I need.

The last time I left Mexico was in 2012 when we flew to Cuba, which is a miserable place, but it was interesting. We’ll never do that again.

The last time I was in my old hometown of Houston was either 2007 or 2008. It had changed a lot since I left in January 2000. I imagine I would be flabbergasted to see it now.

Like San Miguel de Allende, where no more Mexicans live, Houston might be the flip side, where no more Americans live, just Mexicans.

And the last visit to another old hometown, New Orleans, was 2006, about a year after Hurricane Katrina. The city was a mess.

There are some things I miss about America. Fall foliage in Atlanta. Floating in the crystal clear Sabinal River in the Hill Country of Texas not far from the town of Utopia. Hot bowls of Vietnamese pho in Houston.

But America lacks some things I enjoy here. Cows on highway overpasses. The bray of burros in the distance or just down the street. Dogs on house roofs. Real cobblestone streets. Inexpensive living. Gonging of the church bell from the plaza. Hummingbirds sitting on my aloe vera.

Lovely brown-skinned babes. One of whom I married.

I cannot imagine I’ll ever visit the United States again. When I left America I was a youngster of 55, wet behind the ears. Later this year, I’ll turn 75, mold behind the ears. It’s been quite a ride.

Refugee, not an expatriate

EXPATRIATE, OFTEN misspelled, has something of an exotic ring to it.

It can conjure up images of Hemingway in Paris, Lenin in Switzerland or Felipe in Mexico, sitting at sidewalk cafés with steaming cafecitos, plotting revolutions, penning pamphlets or simply chilling out.

I excel at that last one.

While it’s common to hear Gringos who’ve moved to Mexico referring to themselves and one another as expatriates, I have never considered myself one, never used the word in reference to myself even though I am one.

I feel more like a refugee.

I didn’t feel like a refugee when I moved to Mexico over 18 years ago, but I feel like a refugee now while I watch my former homeland come unglued.

It’s nice to have found refuge South of the Border.

Any ole thing

john

BEACH DENIZEN and blogger buddy Steve Cotton recently wrote about the tendency of some Mexico expatriate bloggers to run out of material, letting their blogs lie dormant.

When this happens I think it reflects a lamentable lack of imagination and/or lack of a camera.

Just this morning, while resting on the throne in the upstairs bathroom, I noticed this scene, one I spot daily about that hour. But today it hit me that it’s a bathroom scene rarely seen above the Rio Bravo, so I photographed it.

The upstairs bathroom is colonial tile, floor to ceiling. We have two other spaces that are colonial tile, floor to ceiling.

That would be the downstairs bathroom, which is far larger than this one, and the spacious kitchen.

Making this photo black and white instead of color caused nothing to be lost because the colonial tile is black and white, which was my idea. It was a favorite accent I used when I painted art furniture in a previous life.

The mirror over the sink reflects what’s behind me as I shoot the photo. The light in the mirror is on the ceiling.

So if one runs out of good material to write about, just grab the camera and shoot any ole thing. It’s fun, and then you can blab about it down below … or wherever.

* * * *

To  Mexico City!

Switching gears now, tomorrow my child bride heads off to Mexico City for three nights with a nephew, age 13.

I had planned to go too, but at the last moment I changed my mind, plus they will have more fun without the old codger in tow. It will be the boy’s first visit to the capital.

They will ride the Turibus. They will visit Chapultepec Castle. And they will spend nights at the Casa González just off the spectacular Paseo de la Reforma.

I’ve been in Mexico City a million times. It’s a hassle to get there, and it’s a hassle getting around while you’re there.

It will be the first time in almost 15 years that my wife and I have been separated more than one night.

I’ll be like a bachelor again.

Donating to Barry

I SENT MY kilo of carne to Barry yesterday. Yes, I filed my tax return.

Actually, I did not pay Barry yesterday. I paid him last year in the form of withholding when I took some cash out of an IRA. I pegged it very well, close to perfect, because I was due a refund of just $31.

turbineI imagine Barry will use my $4,969 to fund bald-eagle-killing wind turbines in Texas. My payment was nothing compared to the $13,000-plus federal heist that Steve Cotton suffered.

My tax return is a simple affair. We live on Social Security payments and a small pension from the Hearst Corp., my final employer. I toiled there 15 years. And occasionally we take money from the IRA. It’s when we take cash from the IRA that tax sometimes is due. The SS and pension alone is official U.S. poverty.

Thank the Goddess for the internet, which makes this yearly curse easy, labor-wise. Every year since moving over the Rio Bravo 15 years back I have used TurboTax, which is the most popular tax-filing website, it appears. However, a few times TurboTax has given me headaches, so I looked at alternatives this year.

One of the most popular options is TaxAct, and that’s what I used. It is far better than TurboTax. The only glitch, a temporary one, was when I neared the end of the process. What to do with the $31 refund? TaxAct showed only two options: electronic deposit to a U.S. bank or a check in the mail.

Neither of those work for me. Due to Barry (and this is true), I no longer have a U.S. bank. It was pulled out from beneath my feet last year due to fresh legislation known as FACTA, a poorly thought-out, Democrat-sponsored and Barry-signed piece of baloney that intended to catch fat cats with offshore accounts.

What it did mostly was torment retirees and other honest U.S. citizens living outside the United States.

A check in the mail is useless too because — also due to new U.S. legislation from the Democratic Party — Mexican banks no longer cash nor accept dollar checks for deposit. Unintended consequences.

When the U.S. bank closed my account — to avoid Barry’s onerous paperwork — I also lost my two U.S. credit cards that were paid in full each month from that bank account. I still have those cards, but I cannot use them because I cannot pay them. I paid for the TaxAct service with my wife’s HSBC credit card. HSBC will not give me a credit card because I am “too old.” I guess I could drop dead at any moment, and leave an unpaid balance.

Well, back to that $31 refund. I emailed TaxAct support because I was reasonably sure the refund could be applied to next year’s tax obligation. They answered the next day, pointing me to a rather obscure corner of the process where I could do that — and I did. Then I easily e-filed. I’ll be sticking with TaxAct.

Best of all was learning with certainty that I am exempt from Barry’s chaotic socialized medicine scheme due to living outside the United States. The advantages of living in Mexico keep piling up.

* * * *

I am not a fan of the president of the United States. I was borderline horrified today to read that a recent Gallup Poll showed his popularity had risen to near 50 percent again. Freaking incredible. Why?

BarryMany of the more rabid conservatives like to say Barry is a Mohammedan or that he was not born in the United States. I do not believe those things, but I do believe Barry is absolutely inept, a true child of the 1960s. Those of you who voted for him should do penance.

Re-education camps should be established for those who voted for him twice.

One of the best, most sober descriptions of the Barry situation that I have ever read is right here.