Wednesday, July 27, 2016


This story is mostly true with some lies mixed in. That's called literary discretion.

The story was prompted, over the years, by people saying to me "You're moving where? Why? Aren't you afraid of the bandits? Are you going to learn to speak Spanish?"

(The less intelligent would ask if I was going to learn to speak Mexican.)

It goes way back, to 1972, when my wife and family and two cats headed out from Indianapolis to Arizona.

That was to be a first stop before leaving the land of Nixon.

(As it turned out he left long before we did.)

The year or two to get a writing career started so we could support ourselves as free-lancers actually lasted 14 years and we left to leave the land of Reagan.

To you Republicans reading this . . . sorry.

Judy (SWMBO) had begun making candles back in Indiana and we figured that would work just as well in Arizona.

We hadn't counted on triple digit heat that melted all the candles.

I finally found a job at a t.v. station that I held onto for 13 years until I couldn't take it any more.

After a pretty much failed career as video producers we realized we had enough money to live in Mexico.

We had a Volkswagen Quantum station wagon.

Judy had the bright idea to carefully measure the inside of it with the rear seats folded flat and make a pattern on the floor and wall of one room of the house we were renting.

Whatever would go into that space would go with us to Mexico.

Everything else would be given to the by-this-time scattered kids or sold.

When we scheduled our sale we found a thrift store company . . . let's call it Hard Wishes to avoid any lawsuits . . . to conduct it for us.

The agreement was that anything that didn't sell would be donated to their store.

And they would go through the house and price everything.

It was interesting to me to see how many items were sold at bargain basement prices to the people who came to run the sale for us.

And how much stuff went to the store after being unsold at their "fair" prices.

My advice if you're inclined to have such a sale?

As they might say in New York City, fuhgeddaboudit!

But the goods accumulated in 15 years of marriage was mostly all done away with and hauled away.

We had loaded the VW.

Twice, in fact, after we discovered that a friend who lived south of the border had a storage unit we could use for a few weeks.

But to get back to the subject of this post . . why we moved to Mexico.

Judy made a careful accounting of every peso, dollar and cent we spent in the month of March 1990, after we had been there for several years.

I'm only going to point out a few items to give you an idea of our living standard, with the Mexican price in pesos and the U.S. dollar equivalent.

Two beers: 1700  pesos, 63 cents
2 restaurant meals (with drinks): 31,000 pesos, $11.44
2 cartons cigarettes: 20,980 pesos, $7.74
Liquor: 168,400 pesos, $62.14
    (1 case of brandy, 3 liters vodka, 3-1/2 liters of tequila, 4 bottles of wine)
2 restaurant meals at each beach restaurant
   Charlies in La Manzanilla, 55,000 pesos, $20.30
   Charlies in La Manzanilla, 42,000 pesos, $15.50
   Corales in Barra de Navidad, 50,000 pesos, $18.45
Full tank of gasoline: 20,000 pesos, $7.38
Car wash: 5,000 pesos, $1.85
Doctor/stitches in leg/medicine: 235,550 pesos, $86.92
Groceries: 182,725 pesos, $66.83
2 months electricity: 266.713 pesos, $98.42
2 dinners at El Asador restaurant: 56,000 pesos, $20.66

As you can see by the above items, the dollar went a long way in Mexico back then.

In that one month in which we made trips to the beach from our home in Guadalajara, dined out in fine restaurants frequently and enjoyed our expatriate (pirate) life to the fullest, we spent a little over $1,500.

And if you examine the prices for beer and liquor and cigarettes you can see that Mexico was subsidizing our vices.

The doctor visit, which occurred on the busiest day of the year during the festival of San Patricio (St. Patrick), took place in the rear of a drugstore, where he had an operating table set up.

He spoke perfect English, my wife said he was very handsome and he took care of my wounds quickly and professionally.

I was carrying a 5 gallon glass water bottle when I lost grip, dropped it to a tile floor where it smashed and then fell into it, providing me eventually with a couple of nice scars on my leg.

If anyone asks about them I have two responses prepared: the first that I was gored during a bullfight; the second, that I got into a knife fight with a midget.

Our experiences with the medical profession in Mexico were unique to Americans used to quick in-and-out appointments.

When my wife broke her arm and spent a couple of days in the hospital, her handsome (older) doctor visited her in her hospital room, massaged her feet while talking to her about her injury and later invited us to his home for dinner.

The vast majority of our time in Mexico was wonderful.

We found that the places we chose to live had many Americans and Canadians that we socialized with along with a few Mexican professionals who spoke perfect English.

So we never learned more than a modicum of Spanish.

(Though I did master a few Mexican curse words and phrases!)

With the increase in narco-crime, I'm not sure I'd go back now though I know there is still a huge norteamericano presence in places like Ajijic and Guadalajara, where we lived and in other cities like San Miguel de Allende and Puerto Vallarta.

By the way, the candle business never took off and, with the exception of what I write in my Oddball Observations, never did my intended career as a writer.

But our years in Mexico in the 1980's and 1990's were one of the highlights of our life.

Incidentally, Lori from Seattle, who faithfully reads this blog and supplies me with many of the items I feature on Friday Funnies was one of the lifelong friends we first met when we lived in Mexico.

I feel that living, or even just visiting, in a different country for awhile gives one a different view of one's native land as well as those places we call "foreign".


Lori said...

OMG--------You didn't credit me with the cut on your leg?? Lori

Catalyst said...

Of course not, Lori. It was my stubbornness and manly pride that caused the accident.

Catalyst said...

BTW, I love that picture of you!

L Lewis said...

I LOVED this post! Laughed throughout! Always wondered what the story was. Good for you! I lived in Vancouver, BC at the Whistler Ski resort while sorting out my college career. Everyone should have some adventures! I still think I may live in another country at some point. Some of our neighbors headed to a Del Webb community in Mexico because it was cheaper and closer to fly to Germany!

Stephen Hayes said...

I've always been curious about your time in Mexico. Thanks for fleshing out the story.

joeh said...

I guess we need to build a wall to keep you in! And Mexico might pay for that.

Should Fish More said...

I'd keep my contacts there were I you; I'm looking at apartments in Barcelona and Lisbon next year, starting in Jan, four year leases......
Good pics, and I spent a month down there two years in a row xmas time, early in those years, in Mulege. It was silly cheap, and fun.

nereus said...

Ok, I'm one of the locals here in Prescott. We love Mexico. In the last two years: La Paz, Mexico City, Guadalajara, then Mexico City again, then Queretaro. I speak a decent amount of Spanish and in my conversations with Mexicans they uniformily cannot stand the narco-trafficante crime. La Paz, for instance, is a fabulous non-touristy town that we went all over in w/o any discomfort whatsoever but had (targeted) killings right outside the big box store we frequented. Which, for you gringos not accustomed to the idea, is exactly the same as Sam's Market or Costco or Walmart. But in Guadalajara or Mexico City or Queretaro, everything is completely safe and 1st world. The wonderful areas are large and beautiful and great to eat and stay in. Well in MC you have to not do something like go into some of the outlier areas, but this is true anywhere in the world.

Tom Cochrun said...

Nice explanation of your missing years.

Anonymous said...

Now I know the rest of the story.


Judy said...

That was a very informative post and sounds like a fun experience. I have only been to a few border towns in Mexico many, many years ago.

Catalyst said...

Nice to hear from another "old Mexico hand". When we were in Mexico we made it to San Miguel and Morelia and Patzcuaro and San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas up and down the Pacific Coast from Cuyutlan to Guaymas but, curiously, never got to Mexico City or Oaxaca. But we were only there for 4+ years. And, again curiously, with 15 years in Phoenix and a grand total over the years of nearly 40 years in Arizona, we've never been to Rocky Point or Baja below Ensenada.

The Bug said...


The Bug said...

That just sounds great! I agree that living in (or visiting for an extended period) a foreign country gives a person a great perspective. The U.S. is pretty cool, but it's not the only place in the world!

Lowandslow said...

Excellent story, Bruce. These are the types of human interest stories that I find most interesting. Love the scar story, too. I have a scar on my face from the bridge of my nose down about 3" due to some skin cancer being removed. My story was that it was the result of an epic sword fight. :)