Tag Archives: Retirement

All shrugged out

I MET AYN Rand, briefly, at a talk she gave in 1963. It was in a smallish meeting room in a second-floor walk-up in San Francisco. I was 19 years old.

I do not recall the circumstances of being there. I had not read Rand and only knew she was famous, and the talk was free. She was there with her sidekick Nathaniel Brandon.

Flash forward more than half a century. About a month ago, I decided to read Atlas Shrugged, her magnum opus. I skipped the warm-up novel, The Fountainhead, which is somewhat less wordy, and went directly to the 1,188-page Shrug.

One of my few conscious objectives on retiring 17 years ago was to read more books. I have always been a reader, but I decided to do even more. Before retiring, I had generally avoided extremely long books for no better reason than shiftlessness.

Plus, it interfered with my drinking.

Since moving over the Rio Bravo, however, and sobering up, I turned to some really lengthy works. War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, etc.

All great books and, brother, are they long.

Tolstoy, I like. Dostoyevsky, not so much. I bogged down in Crime and Punishment. I made even less progress with One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I tried to read long before moving to Mexico. Maybe I should try again, but doubt I will.

Back to Ayn Rand. She’s famous, so I thought I should read her main work. I bought it on Kindle for under $5.

And I dove right in.

A wag described Rand’s works as twice as long as phone books and half as interesting. Shrug was interesting enough to hold my attention but just barely. A couple of times I decided to abandon the effort, but I soldiered on … and on … and on …

Until this week. I made it 67 percent of the way through. Kindle tells you that. I can go no further, pooped out.

Rand’s take on things is not complicated. She calls it Objectivism. You owe nobody anything, and nobody owes you anything. There is nothing metaphysical, no afterlife, no way to know anything except by reason. Your main interest should be yourself.

* * * *

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

* * * *

It was surprising to see her curse notions (in 1957) that today are known as political correctness. For instance, the requirement to embrace the “correct” opinions and even, to a degree, the proper personal pronouns.

Rand and I do, however, share quite a few values of the libertarian stripe —  an aversion to taxes, a love of capitalism, minimal government and a dislike of obligatory altruism, something that should be a personal choice.

But I also believe in an afterlife. Rand did not.

Rand and I are polar opposites of Pocahontas Warren, Red Bernie, Crooked Hillary, Screaming Dean, Weepy Barry and all the other heroes of today’s Democrat Party, the party of income redistribution and pink “pussy hats.”

But if you’re ever tempted to read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, I suggest you go instead to CliffsNotes.

Vanishing future

Route of young men.

I’LL TURN 73 toward the end of summer. This aging thing is quite interesting. I don’t recommend it, but it’s interesting.

Forget that malarkey about age being just a number. That’s arrant nonsense. The difference between a child of 10, a middle-ager of 45 and a coot of 73 is just a number?

Dream on, brother.

When you’re in your 60s, you realize you’re no kid or anywhere near it. But turning 70 is quite an eye-opener.

More and more I notice this phenomenon: “Future” vanishes. That long, straight macadam that disappears into the distance as if you’re motoring toward a faraway mountain chain, the Highway of Future. Well, you’re not driving it anymore, Bub.

Instead, you’re on Present Lane.

When you’re younger, “future” is simply something that’s out there, and it’s way out there, so far out there that you don’t really dwell on it. It’s just there, and you know it.

In your bones.

This mostly subconscious notion of an endless future affects lots of things — attitudes, lifestyle, decisions, plans.

Passing 70 years delivers an immediacy to life that you’d never known before. It’s very interesting. I do not recommend it, but there ain’t nothing you can do about it.

Not one blessed thing.

Route of old men.

A waning day

YOU MAY have noticed that there is a new banner photo at the top of The Moon. Here’s the entire shot.

Again.

For a few years there was part of a typewriter up there. I thought it appropriate, but I wearied of it.

Typewriters were my weapon during 30 years in the newspaper business. I started in 1969 with a black-iron Remington, or maybe it was a Royal. Then there were IBM Selectrics and, later, computer keyboards came along.

The new photo is mine. I shot it a few months ago in the late afternoon as sun was setting downtown.

I was standing on the main plaza. Our mountaintop town is a nice place to live, and it’s a far spell from Houston.

But Houston likely has more Mexicans.

Mood piece

JUST CAME in from the morning walk around the plaza, and I’m in a good mood, which is the norm.

It’s common to see people in bad moods. You can see it on their faces. Some are young with their lives ahead of them while I am old and my life is mostly behind me.

No matter. I’m almost always in a good mood. Maybe because it’s too late to worry. That time has passed.

Coming in from my plaza walk, I poured a glass of green juice and sat on a rocker here on the veranda and looked around me. It was so nice I decided to share.

The camera was just inside the door, sitting on a table.

We haven’t had one hard freeze so far, which is rare. It could still happen. The peach tree would be shocked because it’s full of pink blooms, thinking it’s springtime.

You’d think that plants and weather would be better coordinated, that they’d have meetings or something.

I shot the video for you, my internet amigos. It’s both a mood piece and a brag piece. It illustrates what’s possible with a little planning, a modicum of money and courage.

As I type this, a couple of hours later, my child bride is downstairs frying chiles, the punch of which is wafting upstairs and almost bowling me over. That happens.

You sauté raw chiles, and you’ve got a fight on your hands.

She’ll dump them in the pot of beans that will accompany the roasted chicken on the menu for lunch.

Roasted chicken, beans and rice are good for the mood.

Living with tourists

scene
I shot this photo on a sunny day recently.

MUCH OF MY life has been spent surrounded by tourists. There was the 18 years in New Orleans, and now the 17 years in my Mexican mountain town.

It adds up to about half my life. The rest of my adult life was spent almost entirely in Houston, Texas, which is also a swell place to live, or it was when I left.

Not too touristy though.

I also lived almost almost two years in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is so touristy that cruise ships harbor there.

People come to tourist towns, look around, and say, boy, it must be great to live here. Guess what? It is.

I landed in New Orleans by pure happenstance. But I came to my mountain town deliberately. I will die here.

Surrounded by tourists.

My credit report

new-imageMY LATEST credit report arrived in the Yule email.

Mexico has a credit bureau, and it’s totally disconnected from credit bureaus in the United States. When you move over the Rio Bravo, you leave your credit history behind.

Depending on your deadbeat quotient, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. For me, it was bad.

Unlike above the border where credit bureaus are a dime a dozen, there seems to be just one credit bureau in Mexico, which makes more sense to me.

That’s my latest credit score above from the Buró de Crédito. I am more reliable than 85 percent of other Mexicans. That score should have me tying with 100 percent because I have never missed a payment here or paid late.

I would have a higher score were I addicted to debt, if I made car payments, had a mortgage, etc. All I have is a couple of Visa cards. Both are paid in full, monthly.

For my first 14 years in Mexico, I had two U.S. credit cards that were paid automatically in full every month via a connection with my U.S. bank, Banamex USA, the American outpost of the Mexican financial behemoth Banamex.

In 2014, a U.S. law known as FATCA caused Banamex USA to unceremoniously cancel my checking account, leaving me with no way whatsoever to pay my U.S. credit cards.

I opened accounts at HSBC-Mexico and BBVA Bancomer. I now have credit cards from both. Getting one from Bancomer was easy. Getting one from HSBC was like pulling teeth.

I use credit cards 99.9 percent for online purchases, and my credit score is inching up slowly. For easy access to your credit bureau score, the Buró de Crédito requires an account with them, which costs about 200 pesos a year.

After a few weeks of sleepless nights after Banamex USA zapped my only U.S. bank, I was back in business with the Mexican banks and credit cards.*

FATCA also threw a wrench into my PayPal account.

PayPal is not the same everywhere. Previously, I had the U.S. version. I canceled it and opened a Mexican PayPal which, like Mexican credit cards, works anywhere.

Again, everything is back in order, working smoothly, and I now have almost no financial ties with the United States, which puts a smug smile on my Mexican mug.

* * * *

* We have three credit cards. One with my name from HSBC. Another with my name from Bancomer, plus a third, piggybacked on my account, with my wife’s name and a different card number. She’s never used it. She’s as averse to debt as I am and has never used a credit card in her life.

(NOTE: The United States is the only nation in the world that wants to  suck tax earnings from what its citizens earn in other countries while living in those other countries. In other words, if you move to Ghana, open a store, earn a few Ghana bucks, Uncle Sam wants a cut! Freaking incredible.)

The 23 percenter

I HAVE NOW spent 23 percent of my life in Mexico.

new-imageWere I a young buck, this would not be so many years, but I am an old moose with mossy horns. The years are plenty.

I stumbled thorough most of life with no intention of leaving the land of my birth. Georgia rednecks don’t move to Mexico. It was only within a year of moving that I started to think about it.

And then, within a one-month span, I dumped almost everything, got on a plane and came on down. For the first nine years, while my decrepit mother was still alive, I averaged one trip back a year, usually about a week.

I returned only once following her death in 2009, a few months after, and I’ve never been above the border since. I don’t miss it, and as time passes, I miss it even less.

From what I read on Gringo internet forums and websites, most everyone who “moves” to Mexico, be it for retirement or, much less often, to work, the draw of the Old Country is powerful. People can’t let go, and return often.

It appears compulsive, but it’s likely grandchildren.

Don’t tell my wife, please, but I have no intention of ever crossing the Rio Bravo again. I say don’t tell my wife because she really likes it up there, and dreams of another visit.

I have no tight family ties there — wish I did — so here I am, alone with a pack of Mexican relatives, including a number who’ve been illegal aliens above the border.

I speak Spanish almost exclusively. I live in a big Hacienda on what’s just above the U.S. poverty-income level, an interesting phenomenon since I’ve never felt richer in my life.

new-imageCan’t help but wonder what percentage of my life will have passed as a Mexican when it comes to a halt. No matter.

Pass the tacos, por favor.

Afternoon man

afternoon
Thursday afternoon. Not a Gringo in sight.

WHEN I MOVED from the state capitol to this pueblo on the mountaintop over 16 years ago you could count the number of Gringos here on the hands of four people.

There were oddballs and misfits among them, a lunatic or two, probably even some crooks on the lam. My arrival brought normality and intelligence into the mix.

Flash forward to today, and the Gringo population — I’m including Canucks —  has increased 10-fold.

And they’re becoming more humdrum people. I haven’t heard of anybody being extradited in years.

Alas, they seem mostly to be a left-wing lot, which appears to be the norm for northerners who move over the Rio Bravo. Conservatives stay above the border, mostly.

There are two Yahoo forums that service our area. One is called Michoacán Net and the other is Morelia Connect. The latter is the older, but the former is the more populated.

Michoacán Net is full of left-wingers, and Morelia Connect is more convivial for conservatives. Michoacán Net says “no politics,” but if you phrase a left-wing issue just right, it’s fine and dandy. Not so for conservative issues.

About 10 days before the U.S. presidential election, someone announced on Michoacán Net an election night celebration. There was no mention of the candidates, but you knew who they thought they would be celebrating.

Whoops-a-daisy!

Election night came and went, and there’s been no more mention of that fiesta. Maybe they threw a wake.

One odd thing about the Gringos here is that they circulate downtown almost entirely in the mornings. My schedule is just the opposite. I’m rarely downtown in the mornings, but I’m there most every afternoon.

tequilaSo I rarely see them. I think in the afternoons they are back at their adobe homes, soused on tequila and ready for their nappies.

I, on the other hand, am sitting at a sidewalk table with a café Americano negro, reading my Kindle and watching beautiful Latinas walk by.

I am an afternoon man.