This Mexican Life

This American Life is an American weekly hour-long radio program produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media and hosted by Ira Glass. I used to listen to it on Sunday afternoons if I was driving around town.

I used to listen to public radio in my car all of the time back in the States. I like classical music, and the shows on the weekend were entertaining. Car Talk. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! The ubiquitous news and talk shows. I kind of miss it. At least I understood what they were saying, even if I didn’t always agree with their point of view.

My favorite show on public radio was Radiolab. It’s a program produced by WNYC, and hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. They’re a couple of spooky smart guys. The show focuses on topics of a scientific and philosophical nature in a light-hearted manner, with a distinctive audio production style.

It was amazing! Always informative and enlightening, and sometimes very funny. If you don’t have anything else to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon, check it out. You might be surprised how much you like quantum physics.

* * * *

There is a classical music radio station here. I listen to it when José Jimenez, the only disc jockey at Señal Noventa plays one of his repetitive playlists while he tries to fix the kitchen sink. Or whatever it is his wife wants him to do.

For all I know, there’s a radio program called, This Mexican Life. Even if there were, it’s doubtful I’d listen to it. It’s the whole language thing…

There are a lots of TV soap operas about Mexican life. They’re called telenovelas. The featured image for this post is from La Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers). It’s  described as comedy/drama about the dysfunctional upper class de la Mora family.

If I ever get to the point where I can understand spoken Spanish, I might watch it. It sounds interesting.

* * * *

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We completed our final home improvement project for Lord Mark, the guy that owns the house we’re living in.

We painted the interior rooms of the casita and set up a guest suite on the offhand chance that anyone ever wants to come visit us here. We hired Francisco Flores Bernini again to paint the casita. He’s very good and he’s also very reasonable with his pricing. He painted the entire interior of Casa Tara — roughly 5000 square feet — plus the casita, for about $1000 US.

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Yeah, it did turn out nice

Our casita consists of two rooms. A spacious bedroom with queen size Sleep Number® bed and an attached three piece bathroom, and a complete kitchen.

We’ve discovered that a lot of people say they’ll come visit, but they never do. They probably think they’re going to get killed to death if they come to Mexico. Good thing they don’t have to worry about that happening in the US…  We’ve been here for two and a half years. I feel safer here  than I do when I travel back to the States.

* * * *

I’m in the middle of the bowel prep for my colonoscopy tomorrow morning. It’s easily the worst part of the whole thing. You can’t eat anything, and you have to drink a couple of gallons of not-very-tasty electrolyte/laxative solution. The end result is something like unto cholera, except you probably won’t get dead.

Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours, even in previously healthy people.

Diarrhea is usually loose, watery, sometimes more frequent stools. A slang for diarrhea is the shits. Do you want to know the real difference between diarrhea and the shits?

If you make it to the toilet, it’s diarrhea.

* * * *

I’m writing this in-between trips to the bathroom. It’s going to take awhile…

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See? I told you it wasn’t pretty

I had my first colonoscopy in 2013. It’s one of the many things you can look forward to if you live long enough to become old. I met the anesthesiologist before the procedure and I told him if I remembered anything about it, I was going to sue him for everything his first wife didn’t take when she divorced him. 

“Count backwards from one hundred.” he said, as he injected the propofol into the IV tubing. “Good luck getting to ninety.” I think I made it to ninety two. He remembered me when I had my second colonoscopy in 2016. I don’t think I made it to ninety five. 

If I have to count backwards from hundred in Spanish this time, I won’t make it to ninety eight.

* * * *

Updates!

I completely rewired my home theater surround sound system while Lea was in the US last month. I now have ten sets of speakers and two subwoofers connected to my receiver, which is connected to every other entertainment gadget I have in the living room.

I thought it sounded good when I set it up when we moved in, but it’s been taken to a new level now. I think it needs at least one more set of speakers. Lea thinks I need my goddamn head examined.

She’s probably right. I doubt that I actually need more speakers. But there’s no doubt that I want more.

* * * *

Speaking of entertainment gadgets, when Lea returned from the States, she brought the Zoomtak box I had purchased to replace the XBMC box that died earlier this year.

If you’re even less tech-saavy than I am, these are devices for streaming TV shows and movies on a KODI® platform. At least that’s what they do here. They might work on other platforms, but I have no idea what they might be.

At any rate, I happened to be in the Telecable office last week, and I noticed they had been bought out by another company, and are now called Izzi.com. Unlike their predecessors, Izzi offers a range of services heretofore unavailable in the Lakeside Area, like, modems with speeds up to 10 mbs.

I talked to the beautiful and talented Carmen, with the really big eyes, and switched over to the new service. I thought it would give us faster download speeds for my streaming devices.

My lovely supermodel wife, who knows way more about this stuff than I do, said switching to 10 mbs would give us more data, but not faster download speed. Based on the few times that I’ve tried streaming anything since she’s been back, it seems to depend on the day. But she’s right. Zoomtak or Firestick, they don’t seem to load any faster. At least they’re not any slower…

I don’t stream a lots of TV or movies most of the time, but that could change, if I ever figure out how to pay attention to anything for more than five minutes. If I end up getting really frustrated by this situation, I’ll go talk to the ILOX people. They’re the fiber optic communications company down here. They might be my only hope.

* * * *

The magic lights in our hallway are working again! The motion sensor in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms died, but I couldn’t find a replacement sensor that worked because of the way the hallway is wired. Thank God for Francisco. Not only is he a great painter and golf caddy, he’s also my very good friend.

He went to a few different hardware stores in the Lakeside Area until he found one that would actually order the part for him.

Little Known Fact About Mexico: for whatever reason, the Mexican people generally hate to say No. So they’ll probably tell you anything until you get tired of asking them to do something they can’t.

The first couple of hardware stores said they could order a new sensor, but didn’t. The third one came through. Francisco came over and installed it in ten minutes. I absolutely love it. I gave him the replacement sensor I had purchased that didn’t work in the hallway. It works great in his bathroom because his house wasn’t wired by a moronhead.

* * * *

Somewhat surprisingly, our refrigerator is still working, and it seems to be working more better gooder than it ever has before! We even moved everything from the old refrigerator in the casita back into kitchen. And the refrigerator still works!! Maybe the fifth time is a charm…

* * * *

Damn. That was the shits.

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Tacho was here last week to install the water diversion devices he built for the eaves by the swimming pool. I wanted something done to diminish the amount of water that ended up on the patio floor when it rains. The polished ceramic tiles on the floor of the patio are more slippery than glare ice when they get wet.

I contacted Jaime Mendoza, our property manager, and he sent Tacho over to take care of everything. Tacho is a busy guy, plus his dad has been in the hospital. It turned out that Tacho would get here about a week too late.

In my mind, this was a potential safety issue. Last week, Lea fell on the patio, and then it became an official safety issue. She hit the floor hard. Thankfully, she didn’t break anything, she only feels like she broke almost everything.

Tacho’s devices work. The runoff at the inner corners of the roof shoots into the pool instead of pooling on the floor. There’s no way to keep all of the rainfall off the patio, so we have to be very cautious out there whenever it rains.

Yeah, I don’t know why anyone would install tiles like that outside either, but it is was it is. It’s the price we have to pay for living an almost perfect life in Paradise.

* * * *

And, finally, let’s talk about golf.

I haven’t been golfing as much lately, mostly because the Rainy Season turns my golf course into a waterlogged morass. I’ve been trying to find some waterproof golf boots, but I haven’t had any luck with that yet.

I’ve shot a couple of sub-one hundred rounds lately, so that’s been encouraging. Not great scores, but better than I usually do at the Country Club de Chapala after it turns into the Mexican version of the Okefenokee Swamp.

After I finished golfing last Sunday, I wandered into the Pro Shop to turn in our score card, and I noticed a whole lots of golf clubs lined up along one of the walls. Three clubs caught my eye.

Two hybrid fairway woods, and a chipper.

I asked if they were for sale. Yes, they all were, but I would have to talk to Ramiro about the prices, and Sunday is his day off. Ramiro is the golf pro at CCdC.

No problem. I went back to the course on Monday, met with Ramiro, and bought the three clubs for $1700 pesos. About $80 US.

New golf clubs don’t guarantee that you’ll suddenly play any better, but they probably aren’t going to hurt either. If eighty bucks solves the problems I’ve had getting to the green, and I can start chipping more better gooder, it’ll be worth it.

The chipper could make a huge difference. Several of the people I’ve golfed with use one, and they were deadly with their chip shots. I should probably go out on Saturday and practice with it so I have some vague idea of what I can do with it before Sunday, which is the next time I’m planning on playing.

I’ll keep you posted.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

¡Hola amigos! ¿Cómo están?

I know I haven’t written anything lately, so I’d like to thank my faithful readers for stepping up and demanding that I get back to work. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I don’t know how I’d respond if it ever did.

I’ve been busy. My lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend has been here for the last couple of weeks, so we’ve been kind of occupied with him. I say kind of because we haven’t seen him as much this time around. Todd has decided he’s going to move here, so he’s been busy sorting out the details of his eventual relocation.

We hooked him up with our beautiful and talented Immigration Attorney, Julia Vargas. They’ve had several meetings to discuss what his best plan of action should be. And they’ve gone out on several non-business dates. They’re spending the weekend together at the beach.

I hope it works out for them. They’re both good people.

* * * *

Several of my latest posts have been of a political nature, which implies that I’m a global thinker, or at the least, far more global in my thinking than I actually am.

I’m a guy. Guys, by nature, tend to be shallow, superficial, and think only about themselves. Clearly, I need to get back to basics. I’m going to try to keep this post generally within the confines of our yard. More specifically, it’s about the joys of home maintenance.

I’m fairly competent at doing minor repairs around the house. I can replace light fixtures and faucets. I can fix leaking pipes. I’m really good at building shelves. I also know when I can’t fix something, and when it comes to home maintenance, that’s probably the most important thing to know.

To be fair, we had home maintenance issues at our last house. We’ve been very fortunate that both of our landlords have been very responsive to our wants and needs, whenever I couldn’t manage them myself, and that’s not always the case here. Or anywhere else for that matter.

* * * *

I have a theory about life. If there’s nothing going wrong in your life, God will bless you with car trouble, just to keep you humble. I call it Mark’s General Theory of Life and Stuff.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About And Stuff: It’s an unofficial nursing term. Way back when I was in nursing school, some of my much younger female classmates used it to describe the symptomatology of their patients.

“My patient was vomiting fecal material, and stuff…”  Which begs the question, If your patient was essentially vomiting shit, what else can there be? You’d think anything that had been in front of it would be, you know, gone already. Well, that’s the first thought I had…

Believe it or not, that’s actually a true story.

* * * *

Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. That was before I retired and started playing golf.

I don’t need any help from God staying humble anymore. Golf has all of the bases covered as far as that is concerned. My fairway game has improved. I’m consistently getting on the green in three strokes.

My drives are mostly beautiful. A guy I golfed with the other day commented that I must have a low handicap after watching one of my gorgeous tee shots.

“Wait til we get closer to the green.” I replied.

To paraphrase my nursing school buddy, Don Nelson, I can’t sink fuckin’ putts.

If you’re on the green in three, and you three putt, that’s always a six. It’s my new favorite score. I’ve become so good at it that one of my golf buddies said this after we finished the seventh hole last Sunday.

“Give me a Mark.”

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Jesus H. Tiger Fuckin’ Mickelson!

According to people who are reasonably good golfers, there’s only one way to improve your golf score. And that is to keep playing. I’ll be on the course tomorrow. I’ll let you know if there’s any improvement.

* * * *

Okay. Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. Again. The proof of this is we haven’t had any car trouble since we moved to Mexico, other than having to buy new tires. Twice. I attribute that to the roads here in the Lakeside Area more than anything else.

However, we have been blessed of late with a few issues at our new home that have been keeping us on our toes. The two biggest problems are in the kitchen.

The first is the refrigerator, which has mostly been nothing but trouble ever since we moved into our new home. I’ve written about this previously, if you’re really bored and want to check out  any of my other posts…

Our landlord, Lord Mark, Duke of San Antonio Tlayacapan, upgraded all of the kitchen appliances before we moved in, and moved the old appliances out to the casita. They’re old, and a faded almond color; clearly outdated in terms of modern decor. We were thrilled to see them replaced.

The new refrigerator is a shiny, stainless steel LG. We had an LG refrigerator at our house in Surprise, and we loved it. The first thing our shiny, new Mexican LG failed to perform consistently at was the water dispenser on the door. Both Lea and I drink a lots of water, so we’ve developed a great affinity for this handy gadget.

The water line in our refrigerator kept freezing up. It was easily fixed. Remove the frozen filter, let it thaw. Grab one of Lea’s hair dryers, melt the ice in the water line. Put it all back together, and violá! It worked like a charm.

There was only one problem. It kept freezing up.

The refrigerator is under warranty. Jaime Mendoza, our property manager here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, eventually convinced the LG Service Department in Guadalajara to send a technician to the Lakeside Area to fix it. Lakeside is about forty miles south of Guad. That took about a month. And all was well, until the ice maker died.

* * * *

I don’t use the ice maker much, but Lea does. She loves drinking really cold water. We’ve discovered she isn’t the only one. Our kit-tens, Mika and Mollie, do too. And Mollie is absolutely fascinated by ice cubes.

Another thing we’ve discovered is our rapidly growing kit-tens are really good at knocking things over, like, lamps. And ceramic chickens. And terra cotta armadildoes. And glasses of ice water. I started using a plastic water bottle because they can be resealed. And if the kit-tens knock that over, no clean up is required.

I think the only breakable things they haven’t already broken are the things we put on top of the book cases in the living room. And the only reason they haven’t broken those things is they haven’t figured out how to get up there yet.

* * * *

Jaime had to enter into another series of negotiations with the LG Service Department on our behalf, but before he was able to convince them that they needed to repair the ice maker on their warrantied product, the refrigerator stopped refrigerating, and then the freezer stopped freezing.

We moved everything that had been in the shiny, new refrigerator/freezer out to the ugly old refrigerator/freezer in the casita. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the way that old piece of junk works.

There was one bright spot with the bright and shiny LG. The water dispenser still worked.

It took Jaime about a week to convince the LG Service Department to send another repair technician to come look at the almost totally malfunctioning major appliance in our kitchen, but first we had to do The Twelve Hour Test.

Lea’s response was, “We’ve already done a one hundred and twenty hour test! This is bullshit!!”

My response to her was, “Honey, do you want your refrigerator fixed or not?”

So, yes. We performed the requisite testing. It was simple to do. Turn the cold settings up to maximum warp, put one glass of water in the refrigerator, and another in the freezer. And, twelve hours later, nothing had happened. The water in the refrigerator didn’t get cold, and the water in the freezer was still water.

Once LG was informed of the test results, they agreed to send out another technician. That was on Thursday. The LG repairman is supposed to be here next Tuesday. If we’re very fortunate, our refrigerator problems might be sorted out by the end of the month.

* * * *

The other kitchen issue is the faucet. We had asked Jaime to upgrade both the sink and the faucet, and he was willing to do that. The kitchen sink is stainless steel, but over several decades of hard use, it’s no longer stainless. The faucet was a mishmash of parts that didn’t match, and it leaked.

Jaime manages more than one property for Lord Mark, so it sometimes takes a while for him to get back to this property. Lea and I eventually decided to go look at new sinks on our own. That’s when we discovered that modern kitchen sinks are much smaller than our vintage sink.

Installing a new sink would have entailed completely redoing the countertop, and we didn’t think that was something Lord Mark would be willing to do.

No problem, we’re flexible. We informed Jaime we were willing to work at rehabbing the vintage sink, but we still wanted a new faucet. He sent us pictures of faucets he liked. Lea found one that she loved, and we had that installed a couple of weeks ago.

It was a weird-looking contraption, like unto the Terminator of Faucets. And the spray nozzle could really project jets of water.

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I think it performed flawlessly for about a week before it fell apart. It was easy enough to put back together because even I could do it. Unfortunately, a few days later it came apart at a different junction, and a few days after that it fell apart at the first junction I had already repaired. That was enough for Lea.

“Tell Jaime I want a new faucet. Now.” she said. Jaime is generally very easy to work with, but just so I knew he’d understand the urgency of the matter, when I told him we needed another new faucet, I added, “You don’t want me to put my wife on the phone.”

He’s a smart guy. He said he’d get another faucet.

The new faucet also has a warranty. We’ll see how long it takes to get that issue settled. In the meantime, Jaime had his crew install a temporary faucet, which works perfectly. So, that problem is sort of settled for the time being.

Fortunately, there are a few hundred excellent restaurants here. Another fortunate thing is it probably doesn’t cost any more for us to eat out than it does to cook at home. I’ll continue to post restaurant pictures on my Facebook page.

* * * *

The only reason I named our new house the Chula Vista Resort and Spa is because it has a swimming pool. I’m not sure I’ll ever use it, but Lea probably will once the temperature starts to climb. Whether we use it or not, it looks cool. And it doesn’t cost us anything to maintain it. That was included as part of our rent.

Well, it looked cool. Until the water turned green.

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I know next to nothing about pool maintenance. The first time I touched any of our pool equipment at our house in Surprise, I broke something. It was also the last time that I touched any of it. After that, I hired a pool service to manage everything related to the pool.

Our gardener is also responsible for maintaining the pool, so all I had to do was talk to Miguel, and he took care of everything else. However, I was curious why the water turned green. Miguel said the water here sucks; it’s too acidic, and that’s why the pool turned green.

We’re really glad we decided to install a water filtration system for the house now.

It took Miguel three days to shock the pool and vacuum all the crap out of it. The pool looked pristine for several days before the greening process started up again. He’s been testing the pool water daily and adding a series of chemicals to balance the pH levels. It looks beautiful today. I’m not worried about the pool. Miguel knows what he’s doing. If I try to help him, I’ll probably have to buy a new pump and filter system. Again.

* * * *

There’s one more thing that we’ve had to contend with, and that’s the water heater for the South Wing of Casa Tara. We have two small propane water heaters. We’ve never had any problems with the heater for the North Wing. It’s an older model with a pilot light, and that sucker can seriously heat up some water.

The other heater is a newer model. It’s an on-demand heater. The only time it runs is when you turn on the hot water in either of the bathrooms in the main house. I’ve had the opportunity to learn that the ignitor is battery operated, and if you know anything about batteries, you know that they have to be replaced eventually.

I discovered this when my lovely supermodel wife tried taking a shower with cold water.

If there’s one thing I know about propane heaters it’s this: If you fuck up playing with gas, you’ll probably blow up half of the neighborhood. I know how to relight the pilot if it goes out, but this sonuvabitch didn’t have a pilot light, and I didn’t know about the battery powered ignitor. Yet.

So I called my buddy, Elvis. He used to be a security guard at the golf course, but now he works for the gas company. It was Elvis who showed me where the battery compartment was. We put new batteries in, and voilá! Mischief managed. Or so I thought.

It seems the battery compartment is somewhat of a temperamental bitch. I’ve had to go outside and fiddle with the damn thing several times since we replaced the batteries. I happened to be in the shower the last time the hot water died, so Lea went out and whispered something to the effect of, Do this one more time and I’ll replace more than your goddamn batteries!

We haven’t had a problem since.

Maybe she should try that with the refrigerator…