Never a sailor man

shipI’VE NEVER BEEN on a sailboat.

Oh, I’ve stood on one tied to a dock in the same way I’ve been on a cruise ship tied to a dock in San Juan. But out on the open waters, sails deployed and speeding along?

I’ve never done that.

Strange, since I’ve been on planes — myself at the stick — motorcycles, hot-air balloons, gliders, cars, trucks, trains, buses, you name it, but never on a sailboat in spite of being raised in Florida.

SterlingThough I’ve never been on a sailboat, I have a favorite sailor: Sterling Hayden.

Hayden was a reluctant movie star, often broke, and a full-blown eccentric. He made movies entirely to finance his sailing. He became a movie star because he was a very good actor, a born ham, and because he was so freaking handsome.

HaydenNot only was Hayden an actor, he was a very good writer. He wrote an autobiography named Wanderer and a novel named Voyage. Both are excellent.

But more than anything, he was a sailor who wandered the world. I admire that.

And I’ve never even been out on a sailboat. What’s wrong with me?

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(Hayden’s eccentricity increased with age. Here’s an interesting video. Notice the car he arrives in. He died in 1986 at age 70.)

Riding in style

On moving over the Rio Bravo in January 2000, I intended to use the famously efficient Mexican public transportation to get around. That notion lasted eight months.

I am addicted to my own wheels, I discovered.

So I went to the Chevrolet dealership in the capital city and forked over less than $8,000 (Gringo dollars) for this little baby. It has no AC or sound system. It’s called a Chevy Pop. It’s not sold in the United States, and it’s based on an old Geo Metro design.


It is an absolutely wonderful car. It gets a million miles to the gallon. It’s easy to maintain. The leg and headroom are huge. The backseat folds down, giving you carrying space like a pickup through the hatchback. And it never breaks down.

It cost only $500 more than a new VW Beetle at that time.

Ours has just 75,000 miles after 13 years. It was our only car till 2004 when we bought a Chevrolet Meriva, another great car that’s unavailable in the United States. It was made in Brazil and sold elsewhere as both an Opel and a Vauxhall.

At that point, the Chevy Pop became the spare vehicle. My child bride drove it downtown to the gym thrice a week, and that was about it. It was enjoying semi-retirement.*

But she was using it more of late, going here, there, everywhere hereabouts, and the fact that it has no safety equipment save seatbelts put the worry into me. Plus, she is lovely and deserves a lovely car to carry her about.


So last week we bought a 2014 Nissan March. The little baby has airbags, power steering, automatic transmission (which was new for her), a sound system plus Bluetooth, and other bells and whistles.

And she’ll never lock herself out again, forcing me to come rescue her, standing on the pavement, looking woebegone, staring through the window at the key.

* * * *

If you don’t count the beautiful Harley-Davidson purchased in 1977, I never bought a new vehicle until I was 50 years old. It was a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup.

I sold it five years later in Atlanta.

Since moving to Mexico in 2000, however, this Nissan is the fourth new car. The Chevy, the Meriva, our current Honda CR-V and now the March.

For years, I have looked down my nose at the Gringos who move here in their U.S.-plated vehicles, jam-packed trailers in tow like Okies fleeing dust. My opinion is that if you are moving to Mexico permanently, do it correctly. Leave your junk at home.

Buy new junk here, stuff that suits the surroundings. Mexican junk.

And buy a car like the locals do. But Mexico has allowed foreigners to bring their cars and drive around unmolested for years with expired plates.

And eternal tourist insurance.

But the rules have recently changed here, both with visas and with foreign-plated cars. This has caused lots of headache, consternation and expense where Gringos gather. Now they must have Mexican plates. This provides me pleasure.

I did it right from the get-go.

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* We sold it to a nephew last week.

(Note: Lots of links can sauce up a story, I think.)