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.

* * * *

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.

Señal Noventa

I’ve been struggling with this post for far too long. It’s times like this that make me wonder why I decided to start writing a blog. It happened like almost everything else that’s happened in my life. By accident. And to quote any number of porn stars, It sounded like fun at the time.

I’m not sure if I have writer’s block or if I’m just so lazy that I don’t feel like doing anything. It might be a combination of the two. I will freely admit that I’m probably the laziest person I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a writer. I usually love writing. I’m just being a grumpy old man right now. It’s one of the perks of getting old. Some people abuse that privilege. Like the lady in front of me at the gringo ATM the other day. She complained about the machine for five minutes before she tried using it. I almost cut in front of her because, you know, she wasn’t using it, and there was a line of people that were waiting our turns.

Instead, I decided to talk to mi amigo, Hector. He’s the security guard at the gringo ATM. He carries a shotgun to protect the gringos and their money. I always tip him when I use the ATM. He provides a valuable service, and he probably makes next to nothing doing it. And you never know, he might snap someday and decide he’s heard enough complaints from the pinche gringos, and he’ll shoot a few of them to shut them the fuck up already twice.

But he won’t shoot me because I was always nice to him.

* * * *

Two people that I know died last week. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been struggling with this post. You reach a point in life where every death hits you harder than it should. Because, you know, it could have been you, and Death has clearly been hanging out way too close to your neighborhood.

One of them was Belva Sublett. She was the realtor that showed us the house we’re currently residing in. Belva was also one of the property managers here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. She was a southern gal from Texas, I think. She was very sweet, and very, very helpful to us once we took up residence here. She was in the process of trying to get us a new refrigerator when she passed away.

Her death came as a big surprise to everyone that knew her. She seemed to be relatively healthy. For her age. I suppose I could add that qualifier. She was only 71. She wasn’t battling any illnesses or diseases as far as I know. It’s safe to say that her passing was unexpected, possibly even to her.

Vaya con Dios, Belva. You’ll be missed.

* * * *

The other person that recently got dead is Florentino. He was an ancient local guy that sold golf balls at the golf course I belong to.

I bought some balls from him a few times, but not because I needed them. I already have way more golf balls than I’ll reasonably be able to use before I die. I bought balls from Florentino because he was a sweet old man. He always greeted me with a warm smile, and he always wished me well. And, there was the offhand chance that he was an angel in disquise, and I was trying to win the golf gods over to my side.

Yeah, I know that sounds crazy. And no, my strategy didn’t work.

Florentino evidently knew a lots about golf because he always had advice for me whenever I bought balls from him. In my mind, he was kind of the Mexican version of Bagger Vance, though now that I think about it, even someone that doesn’t know anything about golf would probably know I suck at golf if they saw me play.

 Unfortunately, all of his insights were en español. I was never really sure what he was telling me to do. I would nod in agreement, and Florentino would smile and pat me on the shoulder. And that means, Hang in there. You can do it. In every language.

Vaya con Dios, Florentino. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out what you were trying to say to me.

* * * *

Our refrigerator. If someone had told me that I was going to be writing this much about a goddamn refrigerator, I probably would’ve laughed. Now, mostly I just want to cry.

We’ve had our LG refrigerator repaired at least four times in nine months. I’m starting to lose count. Refrigerators are usually bulletproof. You plug them in and they last longer than you do. The last time the service technicians were here to fix the fridge, they were here for three hours. Their repairs lasted one week.

So, I called Belva. She called Jaime, our other property manager. The plan was to get rid of the LG lemon that was taking up space in the kitchen, and replace it with a new refrigerator that worked. And then Belva died. Our fucking refrigerator probably killed her.

So, Jaime called the LG Service Department. Again. They told him a technician had to make the decision to replace our refrigerator. Last Tuesday, the technician arrived. Jaime came over to talk to him. Their conversation was in Spanish, so I only understood about every tenth word. The technician said he didn’t have the authority to replace our refrigerator, only the office could do that.

Clearly, someone was lying. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Jaime get angry. Jaime is a large man. I thought he was going to shove our refrigerator up the technician’s ass. Sideways.

The technician said he was here to fix the refrigerator, and he added that LG was never going to replace our refrigerator. They would rather keep sending technicians, so could he just get to work?

Jaime and I had a deep philosophical discussion while the technician fixed the fridge for the fifth time. Neither of us thought this guy was going to be any more successful than any of the other technicians that had allegedly fixed our fridge before. So, when it died the next time, Jaime wasn’t going to call LG. He would bite the bullet and replace it himself.

That was the plan. There’s only one thing that could screw it up. And that thing is maybe this technician was able to do something no one else has been able to do up to this point. He might have actually fixed our fridge! 

I’m good with that. I don’t want a new refrigerator. I only want a refrigerator that works. All the time. I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept the fact that it might actually be fixed for real. I’ve thought that several times before, and I was wrong every time. I still haven’t moved any of the food from our other fridge in the casita yet. I’m not sure how long I’m going to wait. I only know it’s not going to happen today.

I’ll keep you posted.

* * * *

Perhaps the greatest invention in automotive history is the radio. There are few things that match the feeling of driving down the highway when your favorite song comes on.

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See? I told you.

There are a lots of quirky things you have to adjust to when you move to Mexico, but one of the weirdest things are the radio stations. Most of them play Mexican music of some sort. And all of the DJ’s speak Spanish, which only stands to reason. I listen to them occasionally. It’s a nice change of pace, and I like almost every type of music.

My favorite Mexican FM radio station is 90.7 out of Guadalajara. Or as they call it, Señal Noventa. It plays gringo rock and roll. The music I grew up on.

I’ve spent way more time than I should trying to figure out what the hell is going on at this station. For starters, there’s only one disc jockey. It’s the same guy, every day, no matter what time of day. I’ve never heard him say his name. I call him:

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He speaks Spanish, of course, and he speaks it rapidly. Most of the things he says are Greek to me. Sometimes there’s a woman who makes some comments, which makes me think she’s his wife. She’s possibly saying things like, Hey, quit playing with your records and fix the kitchen sink like you promised. Or do I have to get your brother to come over. I should have married him when I had the chance!

Seeing how it’s only ever just the two of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that their radio station is home-based. 

The only time I ever listen to the radio is when I’m in the car, so I don’t spend that much time of the day hanging out with José. And his wife. But it makes me wish I understood spoken Spanish more better gooder.

I want to know what José’s wife is really saying to him.

American radio essentially plays current Top Forty hits, or classic Top Forty hits, so you tend to hear the same songs from the same bands all the time. José plays some classic American rock and roll Top Forty hits, too. But he loves to play the B-side songs you never hear on the radio. And he has the most awesome-est collection of music I’ve ever heard.

I have to admit, I still have some serious envy when it comes to his music collection.

José has the most eclectic taste in music of anyone I’ve ever listened to. And that includes me. He’ll queue up ten songs no one has heard in forty years, then he’ll play the same song three times in a row. Or he’ll play the English version of a song, then the Spanish, French and Japanese versions. A couple of weeks ago, every song he played before noon was by The Beatles or Paul McCartney and Wings. 

Monday through Friday, José plays whatever he wants as many times as he wants. American rock. Sarah Brightman. The theme song from Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Showtunes. You never know what you’ll hear. It’s actually very refreshing.

But on Saturday mornings, José plays classic American Country/Western from the 50’s and 60’s. Hank Williams. Marty Robbins. Tammy Wynette. Sunday mornings, it’s Heavy Metal Sunday because everyone knows God loves Iron Maiden. And Dokken. And Motörhead.

Sometimes José will start a song, then seemingly forget what he was doing and start talking about God knows what over the song. Perhaps, fixing the kitchen sink before his pain-in-the-ass-know-it-all brother shows up and takes off his shirt and his wife will start drooling like a drunken sailor. Again.

He often starts a song, then switches to different song before the first song ends without any explanation. Maybe he has ADD? José clearly has a favorite playlist because he’ll throw that on occasionally while he’s busy doing other things, like trying to fix the fucking sink.

It’s the only time he ever plays the same songs in the same order.

* * * *

Retirement has become much more of a learning experience than I imagined it would be, thanks to Mexico. It’s been a good thing. I still mostly suck at golf, but I did shoot my best ever Rainy Season round yesterday. There’s a glimmer of hope.

I’ll never be fluent in Spanish, but I’m not totally mystified by the language anymore. And if you speak to me like you would to a three year old, I’ll probably understand most of what you’re saying.

If you ever come to visit, we’ll listen to José Jimenez on Señal Noventa. You’ll probably hear something that will give you flashbacks to when you were young. You’ll smile to yourself, and think,

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I could do this…