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  • waiting for justice

    Mexpatriate Steve: I am not very fond of novels. At least, not novels published these days.

    They tend to be something to read when you just cannot bring yourself to clean the aquarium or wash the car.

    There is only one contemporary novelist that falls outside that proscription for me -- Scott Turow. I was hooked with his first novel, Presumed Innocent, in 1987. In the following thirty-three years he has written a total of twelve novels. The twelfth, The Last Trial, was published last month.

    It would be easy to say that I like his writing because he is a lawyer who writes knowingly about his profession. And there is some truth in that. I do like reading stories about my former profession.

    But that is not the sole reason. ...

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  • cashew -- ¡salud!

    Mexpatriate Steve: Not everything on my trip to Manzanillo yesterday was a disturbing tale.

    Because all of the parking spaces at Telmex yesterday were chock-a-block, I had to park around the corner from the office. And I am glad I did.

    Several businesses, including Telmex and the Nissan dealership, are tucked into a tiny corner of Manzanillo's industrial area. Getting there is a game of playing dodgeball with lines of semis.

    A few steps into my walk to join the telephone line, I noticed something on the sidewalk. At first, I thought it was a chili. Bright red with a thick stem. ...

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  • not going gentle into that good night

    Mexpatriate Steve: Sometimes you hear a story and you wish you had been there -- if only because it could not have possibly been as bad as the teller made it sound.

    And sometimes, you wish you were not a witness to the same story. Or, in this case, two stories.

    I have needed to make a trip to Manzanillo for almost a month for a reason that would silent the most adamant stay-at-home-mom. I had dropped off some cl-zz mmm drzzz, and needed to pick them up. (These Zoom connections are not very reliable.) Let's just say, I needed to go.

    Two places I had not originally intended to stop were Telmex and Telcel. ...

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  • russian in the dark

    Mexpatriate Steve: My Russian has improved.

    In an attempt to buff up my very rusty Russian language skills, I installed four compartments in my bedroom. Each compartment provides intensive instruction before moving me on to the next compartment.

    For some reason, probably enunciated by Henry James in one of his more arcane tomes, the compartments are installed at ceiling level in my bedroom.

    I have no idea how the system worked -- whether or not I finally learned the difference between the first and second conjugation of Russian verbs. I don't know because, as you have already guessed, it was a dream.

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  • ants in my pants

    Mexpatriate Steve: Let me introduce you to señora Pseudomyrmex gracilis -- more commonly known as the elongated twig ant.

    I see them quite often around the pool and the planters. Relatively large for an ant. Dark color. Always solitary. Hunting for prey. And very fast. Until today, I have never been able to photograph one.

    This afternoon, I was sprawled on my bed reading The Economist. One of the virtues of self-isolation is that declaring a no-pants zone is less likely than normal to be a clause substantiating a restraining order. ...

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  • on the beach

    Mexpatriate Steve: I am not a beach person.

    Well, I am -- and I am not.

    I get no pleasure walking on the sand or stretching out on a towel in the sun or venturing forth into the surf. I think the last time my foot touched sand was on a walk with Barco Rubio -- and he died three years ago.

    If those were the sole criteria for being a beach person, I would be just as happy living in Morelia. But I enjoy living here by the Pacific. ...

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  • stormy weather

    Mexpatriate Steve: This is the time of year that people who live here start searching the skies (or the internet) in the hopes that we can trade our brown hills for a tropical storm -- or, at least, a substantial summer shower.

    Each year I have lived here, the late April weather has been a topic of dinner conversation. Well, not this year. The conversation was on the internet, instead of at the dinner table in this year 1 ANV (anno nostri virus).

    Late April usually brings us a respite in the relentless increase in temperature and humidity that usually climaxes in September. Mother Nature teases us into believing that our summer nights will be in the mid-60s with moderate humidity.

    And then, just like that, those cozy nights will be replaced ...

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  • deadly comparisons

    Mexpatriate Steve: Every parent has faced the problem.

    Your daughter comes home sobbing about how she is a failure because her friend Lizzy is an expert fencer. Or your son wanders in the dark regions because all of his friends are better cooks than he is.

    Parents, wise with experience, then counsel their children with well-exercised bromides:
    • "You know, honey, your friend is not as perfect as you may think. I hear she has a drinking problem." What I call the schadenfreude defense.
    • "Don't let that stand in your way. Use it to build an alliance with her. Better an ally than a rival." The desperate act of a contestant on "The Survivor."
    • Or my absolute favorite for a child looking intoi the dark abyss, usually voiced by a Dad: "Life isn't fair."
    ...

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  • stop the presses

    Mexpatriate Steve: Last night, the world stopped.

    Or it seemed that way.

    I have become so reliant upon the internet as part of the warp and woof of my life, that its absence makes me feel as if I had been abandoned to a deserted island with my man Friday. When the internet is gone, it seems as if the entire world outside the walls of my hopuse disappears like Brigadoon.

    When I was working on my Master's Degree in England, I wrote a side paper about the possibility of a coup d'état in the United Kingdom. The idea seems fanciful now, but, it was the 1970s and there were individuals who believed it was the sole method to save the country from the government's economic and social policies. ...

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  • the virus has struck

    Mexpatriate Steve: That is not just click-bait.

    The virus has hit the house with no name. But I am not the target -- and it is not the coronavirus.

    Earlier this month, we discussed the colonies of mealybugs that had attacked the vine in front of Darrel and Christy's bedroom (something is bugging me). I duly followed several of your mutual suggestions. Alcohol did not work. Soapy water has, and it has had the added benefit of killing a new aphid invasion, as well.

    But that planter, with its attraction of Exodus-sized plagues, seems to have turned into pharaoh's palace. First the mealybugs. Then the aphids. And now a virus. Can locusts be far behind?

    Or, at least, I think it is a virus. ...

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  • bilbo goes to sweden

    Mexpatriate Steve: The world appears to be returning to normal.

    At least, it is true for me. According to some comments left here on on the Facebook edition of Mexpatriate, not everyone feels comfortable with life shifting back into a more familiar pattern.

    "Returning to normal" will be read differently according to the regimen you have adopted for survival during these viral times.

    I have a friend in Morelia who has essentially gone to ground. To her, isolation means isolation. She told her staff to stay home, and she is now having what she needs to survive delivered to her front door. Let's call that the Hobbit method.

    I have taken a different path. ...

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  • hope springs eternal

    Mexpatriate Steve: This morning a reader posted a question on Facebook.

    She was curious if the coronavirus had made her too sensitive because she was irritated at with bird chirp rings on telephones.

    In the afternoon, a friend in Canada messaged me that he had just failed Husband Diplomacy 101. His wife had asked him if he thought the coronavirus had made her judgmental. He responded: "What does the virus have to do with it?"

    When Omar came home from his construction job for lunch today, I made him a corned beef sandwich. While I was slathering mustard on the bread, he kept staring at my lip. Finally, he asked what had happened. My lip was red. ...

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  • one step back, two steps forward

    Update May 20 8:28 am. Added the link! Sorry.

    Mexpatriate Steve: It is not every day that you see a political parable enacted in front of you.

    But, before the parable, we need a little background.

    The coronavirus has given all of us an opportunity to learn a lot about Mexico's federal system. On Friday, the president of Mexico announced his desire to reopen Mexico's economy immediately. He was reluctant earlier in the year to suggest business closures because he knew, as did every world leader, the effect it would have on people's daily lives.

    But his announcement was merely precatory. As president, he can control federal employees and agencies, but in matters relating to health security, the power (if not the money) is primarily vested in each of Mexico's 32 states. A model most (but not all) Americans understand. ...

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  • slytherin patio

    Mexpatriate Steve: When I was in grade school, I had two passions -- snakes and circuses.

    The snake fascination had a long pedigree. My mother tells me that I used to smuggle snakes into the house inside my cowboy boots -- a transportation method not suited to provide comfort to either party, I would think. Especially, for the snakes.

    The circus was a new attraction. The year was 1959 or so. Barnum & Bailey was still a going concern. My grandfather and mother took Darrel, a couple of neighbors, and me to a three-ring extravaganza in the Portland Memorial Coliseum.

    It was the epitome of entertainment. Lights. Smells. Music. Animals. Acrobats. Clowns. Magicians. Everything to distract a young lad -- so much so, I decided then and there that I would one day own a circus. ...

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  • masking up for the future

    Mexpatriate Steve: The governor of Jalisco issued a "stay at home order" several weeks ago.

    I would like to be more precise on the time, but the restriction has caused its own temporal warp. With one day merging into the other in beige uniformity, it is difficult to tell the difference between a day and a month. Probably because a day can feel like a month -- but never the other way round.

    When Mexico issued its stage three alert, it told all old people (people 60 and older) to stay in their houses and not to leave except for essential business. I was a little confused about the age-specific reference because everybody was to stay at home except for essential business.

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  • you're in the army now

    Mexpatriate Steve: Well, not really. But I was in the Air Force.

    Earlier in the week I made a passing reference to my Air Force flight training in Laredo. A couple of readers were surprised I was in the military. At least two others were more surprised that I would have eaten Air Force chow.

    But, it is true. I served with the American Air Force a total of twenty-eight years: from 1971 to 1999. Five years on active duty, and twenty-three years as a reserve judge advocate.

    In the five years I was on active duty, I was stationed at seven different bases

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  • rambo frog

    Mexpatriate Steve: My friend Elke has recently been writing on Facebook that she is serenaded each night by peepers near her house in Melaque.

    Even though there is a frog called the Spring Peeper, we do not have them here. But there are other chorus frogs here who fill in that gap with their evening concerts.

    There is little standing water near my house, so, I am deprived of the peeper chorus. We do get the occasional odd chicken-cluck of cane toads. But they are more amusing than soothing.

    That is not to say that the house with no name is frogless. While trimming the vines in the patio, I will regularly run across a frog camouflaged in the leaves. And in the night, the frog will happily share the warm water of my swimming pool with me. ...

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  • the omega hours

    Mexpatriate Steve: The year was 1971. The place -- flight school at Laredo Air Force Base.

    One of my evening pleasures was to walk over to the base theater dodging rattlesnakes, tortoises, and cockroaches on the way. That night's fare was The Omega Man -- one of those movies where some disaster has turned everyone on earth into a zombie except for one man. In this case, that one man was Charlton Heston.

    For some reason, I can remember only a couple of scenes in the entire movie. But the one I remember best involves Heston holed up in his fortress penthouse exchanging indifferent verbal abuse with the zombies trying to storm his refuge. Out of the blue, he says: "What day is it, anyway? Monday? Huh? . . . It's Sunday. Sunday I always dress for dinner."

    And he does. Even though he is the omega man, he stops thinking about his immediate peril and relies on tradition and routine to get through his day. Discipline has practical virtues.

    I thought of the gussied-up Heston this afternoon because it appears I have gone in the opposite during these viral days. My schedule has shifted on its axis. ...

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  • are you going to eat that?

    Mexpatriate Steve: I suppose every message board has one -- or two -- or a hundred.

    You know the type I mean. The guy (or gal) who has personal peeves that must be shared with others. And even when the observation is correct (which is often), the tone of the comment is not designed to elicit conversation so much as to score a point.

    Our local Facebook page is honored to have its own gaggle of the species -- and I fear I may be counted amongst their number now and then.

    For some reason, food photographs seem to a catalyst of critique for a number of people. To a degree I understand the basis for the comments. Photographing food is really tricky. Especially if a sauce is present or if the food has been run through a processor. ...

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  • more small pleasures

    Mexpatriate Steve: Simple things improve a day.

    This morning I was sitting on the patio catching up on matters viral in The Economist when I noticed movement out of the corner of my left eye. A dragonfly had alit on the chair next to me -- maintaining an appropriate social distancing.

    I put down my telephone and watched it watching me. Or whatever it is that dragonflies do when they are not scooping up water on my pool's surface like a miniature Douglas DC-7.

    What struck me most was his coloring. Most of the dragonflies around here are of the blue and green variety. This guy was bright red with streaks of black. As if he was a ninja warrior on his time off. Maybe a sidekick in one of those dreadful Liam Neeson action movies. ...

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  • celebrating life

    Mexpatriate Steve: This is one of those holidays where we squeeze our sentiments into the confine of 24 hours -- and feel just a bit smug about ourselves that we have met our social duties.

    Do not get me wrong. Mother's Day is one of the few holidays that I truly enjoy. But, I often wonder why we cannot stretch out those Hallmark and rose-studded feelings throughout the year. I suspect every Mom has asked that question. I know mine has.

    The photograph at the top of this essay is a good example. When I realized it was Mother's Day, I started digging through some of the photographs I had brought south from Oregon last December. The photographs are a good sampling of the detritus of our lives -- taken by a number of shooters. ...

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  • the beauty of mistakes

    Mexpatriate Steve: Joanne Audette, a reader of the Facebook edition of Mexpatriate, issued me a challenge about a month ago.

    She found my cooking posts to be interesting, but she wanted to hear about my disasters in the kitchen.

    We all have them. And I know I have had my portion of spending three or four hours in the kitchen only to share dishes gone bad with the neighborhood dogs. When the dogs refuse to eat offered food, and it does happen, that is a certain sign that something went Really Wrong. ...

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  • opening up shop

    Mexpatriate Steve:If Facebook was your only source of news for the events in these little fishing villages, you would believe we were all cowering under our beds and were reduced to eating fallen mangoes and discarded fish.

    There is a tendency, probably throughout the world, to filter everything through a coronavirus prism. And there is no doubt that much of the world is operating under rules that have restricted people from living their lives.

    That has been less so here. Especially, this week. ...

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  • feliz cinco de mayo -- redux

    Mexpatriate Steve: "Have you put up your Cinco de Mayo tree and sent our your greeting cards?"

    It was Roger -- an acquaintance of mine. That was his salutation as I joined two other expatriates for dinner in Barra de Navidad last evening.

    Roger has a reputation for being a prankster. Before he died, my friend Jack Brock filled that social niche here. Apparently, Roger has taken up the mantle.

    It turned out that Roger had spent the day telling every northerner he ran into that the evening of 4 May was going to be filled with all sorts of celebrations on the eve of the Fifth of May. Cinco de Mayo. ...

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  • a storm with a blessing

    Mexpatriate Steve: The little church I grew up in sang a hymn that occasionally comes to mind -- "showers of blessings."

    And we have plenty of days where that could be the theme music. But some days are perfect storms. Today just may be both. I hope.

    The best acts of charity are anonymous -- where the giver and the recipient are unaware of the provenance of the giving. At least, that is true for me. I always feel a bit tawdry about talking about my giving. But I cannot tell this tale without a bit of bad manners.

    For the past month, several groups have been providing food bags, hot meals, and food vouchers to people who have lost their income due to the early departure of northern tourists and the closure of the beaches over semana santa. All of that food appears to be given to good ends. ...

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  • a swedish spring

    Mexpatriate Steve: Felipe over at The Unseen Moon takes pleasure in pointing out that I am simultaneously predictable and contrary.

    I suspect he is correct on both counts. Especially when it comes to themes for my essays.

    It is Spring -- and here is a photograpgh of a primavera tree. I took a quick look at some of my earlier posts involving one of Mexico's most showy trees. Every year, I write about the contrast of these trees with their bright yellow blooms against our blue skies.

    I almost missed this year's show. Actually, I did miss half of it entirely. The primavera blooms twice -- once in late February and again in April. As its Latin name tells us, it announces the arrival of Spring. ...

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  • small pleasures cannot be denied

    Mexpatriate Steve: You have ten seconds. This is the opening line of a famous novel. What is the title? And who wrote it?

    Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small — to wit, a workhouse and in this workhouse was born, on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events, the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

    That is one of my favorite games -- guessing the first lines of popular books. Of course, the game works best with titles that a person reasonably well-read would know. I call it, oddly enough, "First Line." ...

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  • jackson pollock -- call your studio

    Steve of mexpatriate wrote: When I first moved to Mexico, I rented a house on the beach in Villa Obregon.

    There was no living space on the ground level, just a patio that was covered by the rest of the house. It was a pleasant place to while away my days in a hammock while listening to the beat, beat, beat of the surf tom-tom. It may have been my favorite place in the house.

    It was also the favorite place of the local cave swallows. They would build their nests in the corners of each pillar in the patio to rear their young. There must have been at least twenty potential nursery spots -- and most of them were filled.

    I am fond of birds. I like their colors. I like hearing their sing. And as a former pilot, I like watching them soar so effortlessly through the day's sky.

    But there is a cost that comes with living in close proximity to birds. ...

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  • sharing my space

    Steve of mexpatriate wrote: Everyone needs a friend in these days of isolation.

    And I have a new one.

    Admittedly, the relationship is rather one-sided. I did not even know the relationship existed until yesterday.

    I was in the process of leaving the house to head over to the local grocery when I noticed something unusual on the screen door of the library. There was no mistaking what it was by its shape. It was a garrobo -- mistakenly called a black iguana by a lot of people, even though it is not biologically an iguana (switching parties). So, we will call him by his local name. Garrobo. ...

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  • blowing in the wind

    Steve of mexpatriate wrote: One of the most powerful scenes in Schindler's List takes place on the streets of Krakow.

    Middle-class Poles are going about their daily return when what looks like snow starts falling. Only upon closer inspection do they see it is not snow. It is ashes. Human ashes.

    Such images stick with us, even when we know they are merely cinematic. Because they are based on fact.

    This morning when I sat down to read the newspaper, ashes started falling into the patio. Even though I knew they were not Holocaust ashes, I instinctively made the connection with The Great Horror. ...

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