Hasta la vista, Andres

On August 29, a friend died. His name was Andy. He often left comments here on The Moon using the name Andres until four or five years ago, when he stopped. I never understood why. We continued to communicate fairly frequently, but via email.

I thought of him as a friend although we only saw each other in person one time when he rode a bus to my mountaintop town, and we sat on the central plaza with cafecitos. I later joined him for lunch before driving him to the bus station to return to Uruapan, the city where he lived for 15 years about 35 miles southwest of here.

That was some years ago too.

Andy and I had lots in common. We were born in the same year. We graduated from high school in the same year. We were in the Air Force at the same time though in distant bases. We both moved to Mexico alone. I came in a plane. He came in his car, which was stolen about a week later. He never bought another one.

Andy didn’t have much money.

We both grew up in Florida. He became a social worker. I almost became a social worker too, surprisingly.

He had serious respiratory issues (COPD) due to chain-smoking for decades. He quashed the habit two years ago, but that was not soon enough because the Kung Flu shoved him over the edge.

A week before he died, he emailed me that he had awakened that morning feeling much better after days of a high fever and that he’d also had trouble breathing. He thought he was on the mend.

I asked if he’d had a covid test, and he said no, but he suspected that was the problem. He said that if he had not quit smoking two years ago, he would probably have died.

In the following week, I emailed him a couple of times on other matters and asking how he was doing. I received no reply. The week after that, I emailed again, and I received a reply from his email but from a Mexican friend who told me Andy had died. He was 76 years old.


Initially, I planned to end this post with a list of Gringos and Canucks I’ve known here, both in person and online, who have died since I moved to Mexico. I started to list them on a sheet of paper, and I was surprised. Were I to include them here with a few words about each, you would be reading nonstop until tomorrow.

Most, of course, were retirees like me. But I stopped working early at age 55, and most did not, so their time in Margaritaville was briefer than mine has been.

One day I’ll be on that list, but someone else will write it.

I hope Andy is doing okay.

The long, dark road

In many respects, the day you’re born you start your journey down a long, dark road to death. It doesn’t seem that way for much of your life because the sun is usually shining, and you’re getting on with things. But that doesn’t last.

I’ll be 77 later this year, not ancient, but certainly not young, not even middle-aged. At this stage, stuff starts to happen, to change. In just the past year, two notable things have befallen me, one is worse than the other.

The lighter one, so to speak, is that I’m not skinny anymore. Since I trimmed down from 225 pounds to about 170 in the early 1980s, I’ve been what I preferred to call svelte. In the past year, I’ve put on some poundage, mostly in the middle, and now my jeans are too tight. I’m planning to purchase new ones at Walmart next week.

No one would look at me now and call me fat, but no one would call me svelte either. I’m more of a normal fellow, aesthetically speaking, and that’s okay by me.

The second thing is worse. Some months ago I noticed that my night vision was failing. I see fine during the day, but at night things get sorta blurry. This is not good for night driving, something that was put to the test this week when we had to return from the nearby state capital in the dark due to a medical appointment that started at 6 p.m.

Before going there, I told myself: It’s mostly a straight shot. What can go wrong?

After leaving the doc’s office about 7, and stopping at a drugstore for some medicine, we headed up the highway. Not too bad, but not too good either. It was worse than I had anticipated. At one point, just for a couple of seconds, I actually lost track of the asphalt. My child bride noticed, asked about it, and I responded, er, nothing.

Fortunately, we made it home intact, but we had a chat the next morning, and I came clean with her. No more driving to or from the state capital, which is about 30 miles away, after dark, something I’ve done off and on for 20 years. If, for some reason, we must be there late, we’ll spend the night in a hotel.

Why not let her drive? Because she has no experience driving on highways at night. None, zip, zero. What driving she’s done in her life has been town travel, plus she’s prone to nervousness, not a good combination for a Mexican highway in the gloom.

And she does not want to.

Life consists of stages. We’ve just debuted on a new one. Drat!

Neighbors then and now

Back in Texas, I lived in a middle-class Houston neighborhood. My house did not stand out. In Mexico, I live in a working-class neighborhood, and my house stands out a lot.

Here are my current neighbors:

Directly to the left, as one faces the street is, of course, the sex motel. Directly to the right is a family of surly people. They have animals that come and go, plus a tractor and a horse. Across the street, a nice, late-middle-aged couple who live two blocks away are building two storefronts. We’re looking forward to that.

My neighbors in Houston couldn’t have been more different.

Directly to the left was a woman from Finland. For the nine years I lived there, I never saw the inside of her home, and she never saw the inside of mine. She was standoffishly friendly. To the right was a retired Baptist preacher and his wife who were about 60 when we arrived. They were very nice people. Once he invited my then-wife and me to a church where he was delivering a guest sermon. We accepted the invitation.

I am not a Christian, but I support and favor them.

Directly across the street lived an elderly woman and her troubled, unemployed son who was about 40 years old. The woman was very nice. She was a chain smoker, and her home smelled like an ashtray. I was over there now and then, mostly to do her favors. Her son was worse than useless.

One day there was an ambulance parked outside. I looked through my window as a covered body was wheeled out and slipped into the ambulance. I figured it was the old lady, but it wasn’t. It was the son. I never knew why he died.

Cater-cornered to the left was a couple in their 30s with two children, one of whom was born about midway through my time on that street. It was the second marriage for the woman, and she also had a son from her first marriage. That son was mentally dysfunctional in some way. He was about 10 when I moved there in 1986.

They were a very nice couple whom I liked a lot. The second baby was born about 1990, and they named him Travis, a traditional Texas name. Travis was a good boy. Around 1993, we heard that the older boy had been caught molesting a girl child down the block, but he was not arrested. I do not remember why.

Later, during the years after my 1996 divorce and before I moved to Mexico in 2000, my ex-wife told me the older boy had died. He would have been in his early 20s. I don’t know the details, or perhaps I just don’t remember. Been a long, long time.

My second ex-wife still lives in that house. The Finnish woman moved to New York to live with a sister. The Baptist preacher and his wife likely are deceased as is the old woman across the street. I think Travis’s parents are still there. I would enjoy seeing them, but I doubt I ever will. Travis would be about 30.

I paid $65,000 for that ranch house in 1986, and now it’s worth over $200,000. I got the house in the divorce, and shortly afterwards, in a moment of madness, I gave it to my ex-wife, not the most financially astute move of my life.

We paid about $100,000 for the Hacienda land and construction in 2002-03, and I have no idea what it’s worth now, but I’m not going anywhere, which is, of course, what I thought when I lived in the Houston house. Life springs surprises. Sometimes they hurt.

And neighbors can be very different.

Sunday at the cemetery

Lots of folks have seen cemetery photos from Mexico’s famous Day of the Dead, but far less seen are those same places photographed a month later when the pizazz has worn off, and the mourners have moved on. We took a Sunday drive and passed the graveyard in the picturesquely named village of Cucuchucho.

We parked the Honda by the cemetery’s front gate and found it unlocked.