Tag Archives: internet

Life is change

SOME ASPECTS of life I like to change. In other aspects, I am rooted deep into the soil, loathing change. But, like a woman, I do enjoy rearranging the furniture at times.

Not actual furniture. In that I am deep into the soil. Leave the dang furniture where it is, so I won’t trip at night.

But the internet furniture is very susceptible to change at the Hacienda. Here are some changes I’ve made over the last couple of months, just for the sake of conversation.

I’m not much of a conversationalist in person, but I like to chat with my internet amigos, most of whom remain mute.

* * * *

First furniture:  I changed browsers. After years of using Google Chrome, I switched to Opera, a Norwegian company. Years back, I tried Opera for a few months, but was not entirely satisfied, so I embraced Google Chrome.

A couple of months ago, I decided to give Opera another look, and I’ve been using it since. I like it. In Belarus, it’s the No. 1 browser. In the rest of the world … not so much.

Anytime you can dump anything Google, you should. I also shun Google Search, and I rarely say I’m Googling something. I prefer to say online search. My search program is the oddly named DuckDuckGo. Its claim to fame is that, unlike Google, it does not track you. But I don’t give a flip if I get tracked.

Tracking is to fine-tune ads directed at you, but since I use an ad-blocker, I almost never see ads anyway.

* * * *

Second furniture:  I changed my email provider. The last time I did this was two years ago. I described the process in The Email Safari. I switched to Fastmail, a paid and good service that’s run by a bunch of Australians. Only $20 a year.

But the $20 plan offers just 1 GB of storage. I wanted more, so I was faced with two options. Buy a slightly pricier plan, or go elsewhere. I choose Option #2.

One of the services I tested two years ago was Zoho, a company that’s officially Californian but is mostly Indian. The gripes I had about Zoho two years ago have been resolved.

Zoho does all kind of stuff, 90 percent of which does not apply to me, but its email service is free up to 5 GB, five times what I’m getting from Fastmail for $20 a year.

I’ve used it for about month now. When I complete a year with no headaches I’ll let Fastmail go.

I still have my Gmail address, and I always will. Like my U.S. citizenship,  it’s something you don’t surrender. Both Fastmail and Zoho allow me to send virtually all email with my Gmail return address even I’m using Zoho or Fastmail.

* * * *

Third furniture:  I’m a big fan of password managers. Sure, the browser (at least Chrome and Opera do it) will save your passwords, but I just don’t trust the browsers  for that. It’s not their primary focus.

Over the years I’ve tried most of the major password managers, and I’ve found all of them buggy. The best so far is Dashlane, which is what I was using until I switched to the Opera browser and found Bitwarden by chance.

It was on Opera’s extension list.

I’d never heard of Bitwarden. It’s a relatively new company, and doesn’t try to do too much. It does not save your passport number, your driver’s license number, your bank acount numbers or the address of your crazy Aunt Mildred.

Bitwarden saves passwords, period, and it’s quick in coughing them up when you need them. It also generates safe passwords. I’m bewitched by Bitwarden.

Sometimes you have to shuffle the furniture around. The internet is fun, ¿no? I think so.

* * * *

(My internet life does not apply to a smartphone, tablet, laptop, none of that stuff. I’m strictly an H-P desktop man.)

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.

Southern Roots

beach
Florida, 1961. Father on left, me in middle, friend on right.*

MY FATHER was born in North Georgia on the edge of Atlanta during the First World War.

I was born in Atlanta during the Second World War. My father’s parents were born around 1890, which means I am just two family generations south of the Victorian Age.

My father’s parents’ parents were born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I’m not sure where, probably North Georgia. If they were not born there, they moved there.

My father was an arrowhead collector, a newspaperman, an excellent writer and poet, a boozer who shunned coffee and tobacco, and he wasn’t much of a father either.

For a while, he was a chicken farmer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army late in the Second World War and sent to Korea on a troop ship. He didn’t like that one little bit.

Yes, he was in Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War, which came later. He never fired a shot at anyone, and nobody ever shot at him. He was a typist.

pop
1987

The war ended, and Uncle Sam shipped him back to Georgia. He never traveled anywhere again if he had anything to say about it.

He was not an adventurer.

As I said, he wasn’t much of a father. He had no interest, and it showed. About the only things that interested him were my mother, booze, writing and arrowheads.

He died in Atlanta of a heart attack in 1991. Coincidentally, he was lying in a hospital bed due to some unrelated issue, and was on the verge of being discharged.

He died just moments after brusquely hanging up the phone. He was talking to me. I had called.

He had not called me, of course. He never wrote me a letter in his entire life. He never wrote my sister either.

Those were pre-email days.

Minutes later, my sister phoned to say he was dead.  Age 75, three years older than I am now.

It was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t much like him, but I am just like him. I look like him. I think like him. I sound like him. I think I was a better father, but my daughter might tell you otherwise.

I did make an effort. He never made an effort.

He and I both stopped drinking in our early 50s, but for both of us the damage had already been done, irreparably.

My father was a lifelong leftist. He had witnessed Pinkertons shooting at strikers during the 1930s. For most of my life, I was a leftist too, as was all our family.

Unlike him and the others, I wised up late in life.

Will our many similarities include dying at 75? I hope not because I’m having way too much fun.

* * * *

(Note:  The inimitable Jennifer Rose recently noted the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death. This got me to thinking about my father, which led to the above. I wrote about my mother after she died at 90 in 2009.)

* The lad on the right in the photo is John Zimmerman. We were good friends. He went on to become a pilot in the Vietnam War and later a captain for a major airline. He sent me this photo a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook.

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.

Epic cluelessness

HERE’S A priceless demonstration of the divide between bona fide black people and leftist, elitist nincompoops.

The video showcases the usual leftist complaint about voter-ID requirements, that they discriminate against blacks who are, of course, too helpless to obtain official identification.

And then it gives a sampling of black reaction in Harlem to this condescending, leftist attitude toward them.

It’s fun. However, you can’t help but be mystified by blacks’ habitual support of the leftist Democrat Party.

And don’t forget the official election schedule: Republicans vote tomorrow, Nov. 8, and Democrats vote Nov. 9.

Newspaper days: Houston

Houston

I WORKED AT The Houston Chronicle for 15 years, the tail of my newspaper “career,” but I arrived there in a circular manner.

From New Orleans, I headed to the San Antonio Express-News, but I only stayed about four months. Loved the city. Hated the job or, more accurately, hated my boss. From the Express-News, I traveled to the Houston Post, but I resigned that job six months later.

The Post was the No. 2 paper in a two-paper town, and No. 2 papers were folding around the nation. I wanted a place to stay put, so I applied across town at the Houston Chronicle. I had a friend there who put in a good word for me. The news editor — and later assistant managing editor — who hired me was a big, ole, good-natured Mexican-American from Laredo who was also gay.

Fernando. More on him later.

At the time, the Houston Chronicle was one of the top 10 newspapers in America, circulation-wise. It’s not anymore because times have changed, and people have quit reading newspapers, which has made them more ignorant. It’s said we get our news online now, but I think that we’ve simply quit reading news. We do social media instead, which is gossip and chitchat.

Bodes very ill for America. But it bodes well for Mohammedans.

I decided to settle down. I got married to the woman I’d lived with for seven years. Her name is Julie. We bought a ranch house in the inner suburbs of town. The house cost just $86,000 and now it’s worth three times that. It was in my name when we divorced nine years later, and I gave it to my ex-wife after the divorce was final, a parting gift. How about that? She still lives there.

The Houston Chronicle newsroom is the size of a football field. The horseshoe copydesk, of course, was long gone, and we sat, side by side, at desks with computer terminals, editing stories, writing headlines, doing page designs, often in a rush, often with feet on the desk, especially mine.

The industry — and an industry it is — was changing rapidly. From being the male-dominated, liquor-bottle-in-desk-drawers, expletive-laced, bleary-eyed, fun, crackpot game of old, it became feminized, career-fixated and politically correct up the kazoo.

Fernando, the news editor who hired me, became assistant managing editor, the boss over all copydesk operations. He was a prince of political correctness and, amazingly, the only person I’ve ever known who readily admitted being politically correct. Ninety-nine percent of PC fanatics will give you a blank stare and deny ever having heard the term.

It’s like a Nazi seeing the swastika on his armband and saying, “What’s that about?”

PCAnything that sniffed of “offense” toward any “oppressed, victimized” group would bring immediate consequences. Even women in bathing suits on beaches vanished from our pages. Sexism!  This was not all Fernando’s doing.

Feminist zealots had contaminated the newsroom.

* * * *

WATERGATE

The sort of people in the business was changing. They were young careerists. To look at them, you might have thought you were in an insurance company’s office. My coworkers became tidy, bright-eyed and very ambitious. And you couldn’t walk in off the street and get hired. Degrees in journalism were de rigueur. Even higher levels of formal schooling was viewed very positively.

Watergate initiated much of this. What before was a traveling tinker trade became an honored and competitive calling. Bringing down a president can be very heady stuff.

Everybody wanted in. Journalism schools mushroomed after Nixon.

Youngsters did not just want in. They wanted to investigate! They wanted Pulitzers! And thus began the micro-examination of the private lives of public and wannabe public officials, something the internet made far easier than it used to be. Anyone who runs for high office today is out of his mind, in my opinion. You’ll be dragged through the dirt.

Except if you’re a member of an “oppressed” minority, which put you-know-who into the Oval Office.

* * * *

END OF THE LINE

The Houston Chronicle’s policy allowed early retirement if you’d reached age 55 and had been employed 15 years. I hit those two markers almost simultaneously in 1999. I had been divorced five years, and I was debt-free. I waved goodbye.

My newspaper days began at the tail of one fascinating, gluepot, highball era and terminated at the beginning of a new boring, careerist, internet world which I was very happy to leave.

My timing was perfect. The Chronicle’s circulation, like most big newspapers across America, has declined. The newsroom suffered lots of layoffs after I left. Friends found themselves out on the street. The paper’s now working hard on its website while, no doubt, praying at the same time.

* * * *

This is the third and final segment in a series called Newspaper Days. The two other engaging segments are San Juan and New Orleans.

(While my newspaper life was spent primarily at the The New Orleans States-Item, The Times-Picayune, The San Juan Star and the Houston Chronicle, I also spent brief moments — just months each — at the San Antonio Express-News, The Houston Post and the Florida Times-Union.)

* * * *

 (Note: Fernando, basically a great guy in spite of his being on the wrong side of the culture war, retired about the same moment that I did. He went on to become a playwright and was once interviewed on Fox News’ Glenn Beck show after the debut of Fernando’s play about Tammy Faye Bakker, a gay icon. When my wife and I visited Houston about a decade ago, the three of us had a nice coffee shop visit, conversing in Spanish. I was happy to see him.

(Fernando and I were Facebook amigos until my incessant railing against illegal immigration became too much for his open-borders, PC sensibilities, and he zapped me from his FB friend list. I’ve heard nothing from him in the years since, which saddens me. I sort of admire his rare willingness to admit his political correctness beliefs. That requires pelotas.)

* * * *

BONUS MATERIAL

From my file cabinet, I found press passes from the olden days. From top to bottom, New Orleans (1969), San Juan (early ’70s) and Houston (1984).

no id

Star

chronicle

 

Mexico online

NOW AND THEN, a reader says that I don’t really grasp how bad things have become in the United States because I’ve been away for so long.

While this would certainly have been the case way back, it’s not the case now, and that’s because of the internet. In a way, I’m sitting up there among you, seeing clearly the silly things that you do.

When I moved south with two suitcases in January of 2000, Bill Clinton was still president and, remarkably, I was still a voter for the Democratic Party. The stock market fiesta of the 1990s was ending, and the final entry in the nonstop line of oligarchic presidents, Ernesto Zedillo, was about to introduce Mexico to democracy — to the consternation of his cohorts.

Lots of stuff was coming to a head.

One of my suitcases contained a laptop that I had purchased specifically for the big move. I left the only other computer I had ever owned, the original iMac, with my daughter.

onlineMy first eight months, in the state capital, initially in a sparsely furnished room over a garage, and then in an even more sparsely furnished, two-story house, were spent with no internet connection. The only access was at an internet café about five blocks distant.

I would go there once a day to email my worried mother and a romantic interest in Mexico City. I would also check financial matters, innocently typing in passwords to my bank and investment house in the United States. Only a imbecile would do that these days.

After those first eight months, I rented a car for a day to move the two suitcases plus other stuff I had accumulated up the mountain, 7,200 feet above sea level, to the small town where now you will find me forevermore. I rented another sparsely furnished, two-story house, and I got internet access from a local entrepreneur via a dial-up modem. It was slow.

But it was the only internet access available in town.

The fellow who ran that internet company sold me a makeshift computer, which I used for many years. After 2.5 years in the rental, I got married and we built the Hacienda. I moved the clunky unit to its new home. Not long after, the local company provided a wireless connection via an antenna on the roof, and that’s what I use today. Now and then, I ascend and knock the bird poop off.

A couple of years back, in spite of some “upgrades,” my mongrel computer had become so slow as to be almost useless, so I purchased a H-P All-in-One, which I am very fond of, from Office Max. I wrote about those thrilling days in The Blastoff and Buck Rogers Zapata.

I had stuck with the original about a decade, and was flabbergasted at how technology had progressed. I have now vowed to myself to buy a new desktop every five years. My previous website, The Zapata Tales, was written entirely on the clunker.

* * * *

ANDROID, YUCK!

androidI am a desktop man to the bone. I can type about 100 words a minute,* which ain’t possible on a smartphone or tablet. A couple of years ago, in a moment of stupidity, I bought a Samsung smartphone. A week later, I sold it at a considerable loss.

I loathed it.

I just want a phone to make calls and send text messages, 99 percent of which go to my wife. I don’t want to be online virtually every minute. I spend too much time online as it is. I have a cheap little cellphone that I buy minutes for as needed. It has no camera. I already have a camera.

After the smartphone debacle, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 to receive email while traveling. We rarely travel,** but it serves its purpose when we do. Mostly, I use it at our condo in Mexico City where the next-door neighbor lets me connect via his wi-fi. Ninety-nine percent of the tablet’s time here at home goes to my child bride who’s addicted to Facebook.

The tablet uses Android, which I find to be a colossal pain the the kazoo, vastly inferior to the Windows on my desktop, a system I am fairly fond of. On dumping my mongrel computer and buying the Hewlett-Packard, I leaped from a pirated Windows XP*** to a legal Windows 8.1.

In addition to the entrepreneur who’s provided me the internet all these years, we now have other options on the mountaintop. Carlos Slim, the gazillionaire who owns Mexico’s phone system, TelMex, offers high-speed internet, and so does the local TV cable company.

We are modern, and I’m as aware of what’s happening in the tumultuous, race-obsessed United States as your neighbor in Topeka. And I keep an eye on you. It’s tragic what I see.

* * * *

* I possessed the sole pair of testicles in my high school typing class.

** But next month we’re flying to Palenque for our 13th anniversary, a week in the jungle.

*** The pirated XP was installed by my local guy without his mentioning that little fact. Most Windows on Mexican computers, I have read, are pirated. We are first-class pirates.

(Tips: Antivirus, Bitdefender. Password manager, Dashlane.)

The final adventure

hourglasssIt was a dark and balmy night.

Fifteen years ago today, I began my final adventure.

I stepped off a Delta jet from ice-bound Atlanta that landed in warm Guadalajara around midnight. I went to baggage claim and picked up my two suitcases. From the taxi kiosk I took a cab to a downtown hotel, the name of which has faded from memory. I was 55 years old, alone, and spoke no Spanish.

deltaTwo days later, I took a bus on the posh ETN line to a state capital high in the middle of Mexico where I lived two months in a frigid, thinly furnished room above a garage and studied Spanish in a private school. After the two months, I rented an almost empty house nearby for another six months.

That capital city is a 40-minute drive from my current colorful, Colonial mountaintop town which I happened upon by pure good fortune. I moved here after those eight months in the capital.

* * * *

PHONES, ROADS AND STUFF

In the past 1.5 decades, Mexico has changed dramatically, mostly for the better. We were still a one-party oligarchy when I arrived. Now we are a democracy. The downtown of the nearby state capital, a beautiful Colonial city, was hidden behind thousands of street vendors who clogged sidewalks. They have been swept away.

Cell phones were primitive and service was sketchy. Service is now excellent. The internet was only available by telephone modem. Now we have wireless. Highways were usually bad, and directional signs were just not there. Highways now are often better than above the Rio Bravo, and signs are clear and informative.

sombreroAt that time, you could drive neither to Mexico City nor the border — which is 700 miles distant — nor the beach on nonstop autopistas. Now you can. Driving to San Miguel de Allende, about 140 miles away, was slow and cumbersome, averaging about 45 mph.

The autopista to the beach is now just a three-hour jaunt. And San Miguel takes fewer than three hours. Mexico City takes under five hours. And soon a new highway bypass will be completed that will allow us to circumvent the state capital completely.

That circumvention will reduce the time and hassle to most points north, east and west significantly.

The state capital back then was likened to Topeka, a dull backwater. There was one Walmart, a Costco, and a few movie screens. A couple of humdrum shopping malls were available. Now there are four Walmarts, Starbucks, shopping malls that rival Miami or Rio, massive cineplexes with cushy seating.

* * * *

NO OBAMACARE HERE, GRACIAS

There were a couple of relatively small but reportedly good hospitals in the state capital. Now there are huge health complexes that serve our every medical need with modern facilities and reasonable prices.

The manner in which we get our healthcare hasn’t changed much. It was excellent 15 years ago, and it’s excellent today. Two systems, two levels: Government-subsidized for the needy or anyone who wants to use it, free or very low-cost. Private system, also for anyone who wants to use it. Level Two costs a good bit more, but still just a fraction of what medical care costs above the Rio Bravo. And nothing is coercive.

stethSince most folks use the public system, that does this to the private system: Little or no waiting. Speedy appointments. Next day? No problem. And no sitting endlessly with hordes of other people in waiting rooms or little cubicles. Very personal service.

Since we are not a litigious society, doctors don’t need to pay astronomical malpractice premiums, so they can afford cushy waiting rooms, high-tech equipment in their offices and reasonable charges.

You don’t need medical insurance.

* * * *

MY BEST MOMENT

PatioThis patio is where I got married in 2003. There were a surprisingly large number of guests.

And the bride was beautiful in a blue dress. She later regretted not picking white.

* * * *

GETTING ABOUT, PAYING BILLS AND STUFF

Fifteen years ago, public transportation was plentiful and cheap. That has not changed. What has changed are the vehicles. Here on my mountaintop, apart from taxis, the public transportation, 15 years back, consisted of aging Volkswagen hippie vans and rattletrap, belching school buses recycled from above the Rio Bravo.

vanThe belching school buses are all gone, and so are most of the VW vans, replaced by late-model Nissan and Toyota vans. And all remains plentiful and cheap and fast.

Back then, we milled about in mobs in a government office to pay our annual car taxes and get license plates. Now we print the forms from a website and pay online or in a bank. Getting a driver’s license is relatively fast and painless. I hear horror stories of DMVs in the United States.

Mail a letter? Go to the post office. It’s cheap, courteous and usually no wait. Mail is slow, but it gets there. I’ve experienced U.S. post offices, the long lines, the surly service. Pay property taxes (generally very low), water bills, phone bills, electricity bills? Can be done online from your bank account. We now live in modernity.

For years, after we built the Hacienda in 2002-03, our water came from periodic visits from a tanker truck that filled an underground cistern. Now our water comes automatically from the town just like yours does.

We still don’t drink it, however.

* * * *

STUFF TO READ

kindleFifteen years ago, finding books to read in English was dicey. Our town’s library had a few shelves of novels that tourists had dropped off, available for borrowing. Sanborn’s in the capital city would have four or five popular novels in English at sky-high prices.

Most of my reading material, and I still only read books in English, came down in box-loads from Half Price Books during our then-yearly visits above the Rio Bravo, usually from San Antonio, Texas.

Kindle to the rescue. Amazon will send a Kindle to my front gate in three days. I have three now. One for me. One for my wife, and a spare. Problem solved. About any book I want comes via cyberspace.

* * * *

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

ponytailI never grew a ponytail.

Nor a stubble, and I never started dressing like a hippie.

And I don’t smell of patchouli.

* * * *

GRINGO DOINGS

All is not positive,  however. When I arrived in my small mountaintop, lakeside city, there were about 40 foreigners, mostly Gringo* crackpots, living here. Now there are maybe 400, significantly more normal people, and they are setting up art galleries and saving pooches and feeding old folks.

In short, turning the place into another San Miguel de Allende. This is a mixed blessing, mostly negative.

Soon, waiters will respond in broken English; burglars will move here from all over; rents and housing prices will soar; and everybody will dress like an artist. Then some wiseacre will start a blog to make fun of us.

* * * *

NOISE AND ACCLIMATING

One of Mexico’s most notable characteristics is the racket the natives love to make at all hours. In some respects living here is akin to living among millions of unsupervised children.

This long drove me nuts, but not anymore. Amazingly, I am now used to it. When the lunatics light explosives a block away on the plaza at 6 a.m., sometimes I don’t even wake up. If I do, I go right back to sleep.

This is a positive development. And it’s not the only way I’ve changed. Mexico is incredibly different from the United States and Canada. The language is different. The way of thinking is very different, all of which unsettled me a lot when I moved here, in spite of my previously having visited fairly often.

But after 15 years here and — perhaps as important — not having set foot in the United States in seven years, this Mexican world has become the norm. If I ever visit above the border again — which I very well may not — I will find that old Gringo world of mine strange and unsettling, I am sure.

* * * *

MY LOVELY COMPANION

Giggle

The absolutely best result of my moving south is pictured above. My child bride, caught in the middle of a giggle in our Mexico City apartment about four years ago.

Note to the guys:  You can do something similar if you are reasonably presentable and didn’t move south with a wife in tow. If you did, there’s nothing that can be done for you. Sorry. You’re out of luck.

* * * *

15 GREAT YEARS

These 15 years have been kind to me.  And I live in a cool, refreshing world of green, mountain beauty. It’s been my final adventure, one that has yet to end.

It started as quite a challenge. The first couple of years I would have returned to the United States in a nanosecond had I been able to afford it. Now, however, returning is unthinkable. Mexico has greatly improved while the United States has significantly worsened. This was the best move of my life.

* * * *

* Many people will tell you Gringo is disrespectful, an epithet. They are mistaken. It is simply what Mexicans call us, usually behind our backs because they don’t know how we’ll take it. It is a neutral word that can be disrespectful depending on the tone and intent. But, basically, it’s just the locals’ name for us, and has been for ages.

(For my first five years here, I was a pretend Mexican. In 2005, Mexico made me a bona fide citizen and gave me a passport. No more visas, and I can vote, which is great fun.)

(TOMORROW: Drinking, smoking, drugs.)