Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Long for the Days of Ma'am

Most women, when they hit their mid-forties or thereabouts, complain that they become invisible. Men no longer check them out when they walk into a room unless they're super beautiful or outrageously over the top in some way. For us normal women that invisibility goes hand in hand with being called ma'am. "Please, don't call me ma'am" I used to say to the waiter or barista. It made me feel so old.

Last fall I spent a couple months up in Portland. My friends all looked terrific. To me, they were locked in some sort of time capsule, looking exactly the same as when we'd met. Fit, lovely skin, great clothes. Not a botox needle or plastic surgeon's knife in sight. They were taking dance classes or music appreciation classes, traveling to Turkey or Italy, involved in book clubs where people actually read the books.

I felt so inadequate. My trailer trash life was taking its toll in the cultural department - no book clubs, movies, arts and lecture series. My finances put the kabash on fine clothes. In Portland, staying in real houses with real mirrors, I was shocked by my appearance. I looked terrible. I looked so old. Where had those puffy little red pouches under my eyes come from? Could my jowls sag any lower? My arms! Good grief. And then the coup de grace, baristas called me "sweetie."

Sweetie. A term reserved for little old ladies. I'd fallen into the sweetie camp. Partly due to my age and looks but also due to my height. At 4'11" I am the prototype for the little old lady.

Many years ago I sent my boyfriend a poem by a Chinese poet. It went something like this: When you are shocked by the image of the old man in the mirror, break the mirror.

I am happy to be in my little trailer with just the one bathroom mirror and the low lighting. My image is not screaming out for attention from hallway mirrors, bedroom mirrors, even kitchen mirrors. I can ignore the signs of aging. It's okay if you call me ma'am.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hermosillo Guidelines

Here are some tips should you encounter our favorite crooked cops in Hermosillo (the same works for cops in Rocky Point, San Carlos, etc.).

Before coming to Mexico make a copy of your driver's license so that it looks like a real driver's license. If you can. Some licenses may have holograms which make it obvious that it's a copy so I don't know how that will affect the copy and if the Mexican police will even notice. Anyway, make a copy, get it laminated, make it look as close to the real McCoy as you can. That way, when you get pulled over and the policia ask for your driver's license and threaten not to return it until you fork over 500, 800, whatever pesos, you can say fine, keep it, adios, and drive off.

Do not speak Spanish. At all. Not one little word. (Skip the adios as mentioned above.) It helps if you get belligerent and say What, you don't speak English? as Charlotte did. It scared the hell out of them and they sent us on our way.

The cops lie in wait for gringos on the Hermosillo to Kino bypass. Pay attention to the speed limit. If you don't have km markings on your speedometer, write the mph to kmph conversion down somewhere so you'll know.

On Blvd Progresso which is a newly paved six lane road on the bypass you'll need to make a left turn on Dr. Antonio Quiroga. Do not get in the left lane too soon. Stay in the right lane. Some friends just got taken for 800 pesos because big rigs are not supposed to be in the primera lane, the fast lane.

Carry a camera. Take the cops' pictures. Write down the badge numbers. Photograph their license plates.

Don't carry a wad of pesos. Reach into your wallet, flip it open, pull out the measly little 100 peso bill you have there and shrug and say I'm sorry, that's all I got.

If worse comes to worse and you're not speeding or driving in the wrong lane, say Fine, take me to the station. They don't want to do that. It cuts into their shakedown time.

I think people need to let the Sonora Tourism offices know every time they get pulled over.

As for me, I've managed to sneak through without getting pulled over. Here's what I do: I pray to the angels to put up a shield so that I'm invisible to the police (but not to other drivers; this is a tricky request but they're up to it). I have two NO SB1070 stickers on the van side windows, a Mexican flag hanging from the viser, a Virgin of Guadalupe decal on the back window. And it doesn't hurt that I drive a rusted blue van that looks like a Mexican shuttle bus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winter Camp for Seniors

I've often wondered why it is that snowbirds head south to the same location year after year. It's not that these people don't have a sense of adventure; after all, it takes courage to drive a 45-foot motor coach or tow a 39-foot trailer thousands of miles, especially if Mexico is your destination. Yesterday, as I welcomed two returning snowbird couples back to the park, it dawned on me that this experience is like being a kid and going to summer camp, a place where you caught up with friends from other parts of the city, state or country; a place where you romped in the sun, camped out, did arts and crafts. That is the snowbird experience.

Even though the snowbirds are camping in campers that have all the luxuries of home (and in some instances are their homes), they're still camping. They're enjoying the sun and the outdoors unlike their friends in Minnesota or Oregon. They're doing arts and crafts; the women bead, sew, work in the glass house on stained glass projects. The men read, play poker, fish, and when they're especially bored yearn for a system malfunction on someone's rig. (I'm waiting for the right moment to spring my leaking toilet on a couple of them.) Instead of nightly campfires, the snowbirds sit in a circle for nightly happy hours. They have beanbag tossing championships.

The difference is that unlike summer camp kids, these winter camp seniors don't have a lot of new stories to tell or experiences to relate. No stories of school or groundings or boyfriends. Here's how it works at senior camp: the new people arrive, join happy hour, and update the group on the surgeries they had over the preceeding six months. Once that's out of the way, we're back to the same old same old stories, usually from the men holding court. The women politely feign interest. Wives laugh at jokes they've heard a hundred times. Some roll their eyes. Finally last year the women began breaking off into their own groups which I thought was a great idea. I think we have much more interesting stories to tell.

Things will be different this year. The Canadians have chosen not to return for one reason or another - dirt, dogs, Mexico travel advisories. "Our" Canadians are heading to an RV park in Yuma where they will still have that summer camp experience only without the water and that pesky language barrier. This year some people have moved on - and I mean MOVED ON. This year some women from Bisbee will be coming down on the occasional weekend so we'll have an infusion of progressive blood.

So the migration south has started. Let camp begin.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I'm waiting for work to come in, knowing that as soon as I walk away from the computer a file will be uploaded and someone else will grab it (it's an audio transcription job). That happened this morning when I went searching for wood with Charlotte and Chapo. The wood is for Charlotte's propane tank enclosure. Chapo is the guy who is building it. Chapo means "shorty" in Mexican. I'm Chapita. I think he's my soulmate.

Chapo isn't much taller than I am so when we hug it's a full-body press. And what a body! He is strong, muscular, not an ounce of fat. He has short gray hair, dimples, dazzling eyes. My favorite activity is to sit and watch Chapo work so when Charlotte said he was coming by, I headed over for a cup of Folger's.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bichi on the Beach

Skinny dipping at this age is like a scene from the movie Cocoon. It probably ain't pretty but the regenerative powers are nearly the same.

After admonishing a friend about the dangers of skinny-dipping in Mexico (cops, fishermen, beheadings and plain old cultural differences, i.e. only putas would go naked on the beach), I didn't hesitate to shimmy out of my clothes when we decided to skinnydip in the night. We walked away from a family's beach bonfire, risking exposure by one of the security lights at Islandia. The surf glimmered white. As did our round white butts. What a vision! Was it Lawrence Welk who encouraged his TV audience to follow the bouncing balls over song lyrics so we could sing along? That's what I imagined our butts looked like. Slightly deflated bouncing balls as we ran into the sea.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Bad Review

I prefer writing reviews of books I like. That said, I find this book so insufferable that I have to vent. How'd something like this get published? How'd she snag an agent? Her query letter must've been fantabulous.

I picked this book up because it has a storyline that appeals to me. It involves ranching, illegal immigrants, love. I really liked the cover. (I'm a sucker for good packaging which is why my last shampoo was from L'Oreal. Lumenescent purple tube with salmon-colored cap. Pretty. It looked expensive.) I checked this book's reviews on Amazon dot com and most were good but only a few readers commented. I'm thinking now they were written by friends of the author, her agent, maybe someone at the publishing house.

It's a book where I have to read a sentence more than once in order to figure out what the author is saying. I can't follow. Always a fan of run-on sentences (I think mine are unfairly targeted by the writers in my writing group), hers are making me rethink my fondness. For instance this: "Also, she produced a very nice foal every three years or so for her owner Mary Friel, who loved her devotedly, as did Alice, to whom she was a regular source of income, a great trail mount, and an occasional schoolmistress in dressage." Huh? We're talking about a horse here but I did wonder if the owner wasn't the source of income. Maybe it's me. I prefer my writing sharp, to the point, like Willie Vlautin's or James Ellroy's.

And speaking of Ellroy, that man's a dialogue wizard. This author's dialogue SUCKS! I know bad dialogue; the dialogue in my book sucks, too, which is why I keep it to a minimum. Not only do conversations in this book feel forced and unreal but the characters are always calling each other terms of endearment such as sweet-hot, toots, kid, slick, my love.... You get the drift. I actually roll my eyes and murmur not another one! I'm writing them down. Sweet-hot!!

Sixty-five pages in and I may give up. I don't want to. I have very few books to read. I could go to the trailer park office where the gringo snowbirds leave their paperbacks but they're mostly Tom Clancys or Nora Roberts. I'm not that desperate for reading material. Yet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I sit on the sofa in front of the laptop staring at the screen, hands in my lap. Every once in a while I pick at a cuticle. I want to continue working on the memoir's pitch, the agent query letter, but I've hit a snag. I see some changes I want to make in the book but I should stick with the query, not get sidetracked. The mice are still here in the trailer. I should clean more cabinets, maybe bring in the live trap. My cup of coffee is nearly empty; I should brush my teeth. I'm distracted by my sister's photos on facebook. Maybe if I walked on the beach, something would sort itself out. But is it already too hot? At least the humidity is less because of a storm that moved in last night. I worried about two friends who went nighttime squid fishing. I assumed they would seek shelter on Turner Island but you never know. Sometimes these things sneak up on you. I dreamt about them. I  still wander in that dreamspace even though it's nearing noon. The guys showed up about 8 this morning, safe. I've had no income for nearly two months. What will I do about that? Even with the internet it's difficult to find work from Mexico. There are forms that need to be signed, mailed back...

I feel stuck.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back in Kino

I didn't look forward to returning to Kino.

I didn't look forward to the two checkpoints on Hwy 15. Supposedly we can now only bring $75 worth of personal items duty-free into Mexico. My body lotions and shampoo came to that alone not to mention my two liters of gin and 1.75 liter bottle of Jack Daniels for a friend. The groceries. The toilet paper, paper towels and ziplock baggies. But I got green lights at both places. The federales in Cibuta merely waved.