Living in Mexico – a month in the life south of the border
I don’t have much of a life in Los Angeles if one defines life as something other than
work. This is not a complaint, just a fact. LA is primarily for LACI and anything else needs to be fitted into the creases. Mexico is the reverse for me, it’s about living, not making a living, and I spend most of each December and part of January in Puerto Vallarta with The Boss of Corona and her best friend, Squirt. This post is what its like to go back home to Mexico and hang for a month.
It’s surprising how quickly comfortable being home in PV is, even after 11 months of being away. Well, its not quite immediate as it usually takes KR a couple of days to get use to me being around and for me to put away my CEO ways. After this initial roughness though, it starts being as smooth as a cold Corona (the beer, not the house) on a hot day.
First thing is the house. I would never have believed that 6200 feet of house would be comfy, but it is. Corona just flows right. We spend most of the time in the master with forays to the pool and top deck. The kitchen and dining room are usually for breakfast and entertaining. Most other meals are taken in bed or eaten out.
Our bedroom is really Operations Central. It’s on the third floor, with a balcony that I often wonder onto to check out the neighborhood or look at the skies or take in all the various water craft zooming along the beach. Size matters when it comes to TV’s and we have a large “smart” TV in the room. (let’s not go into how useful a Smart TV is with a dumb owner). KR usually has the TV on 24/7.
I’ve also slid a small desk into the corner next to the window overlooking the Bay of Banderas and do all my work here. There are very few better views around, especially for an “office.” I spend 80% of my day there, hitting the keyboards, gazing on the street below, taking a Skype call, or swiveling the chair around to catch Wolf Blitzer giving yet another perspective on the 14th Republican debate. Squirt provides the other source of constant entertainment.
KR does most of her B&B administrative work in bed as well, so
having the three of us in the bedroom as headquarters works well. Very well. Beyond our bedroom door looms two irresistible lures. At least twice a day I walk out the door, take five steps, and jump into the pool. Swim around, take in the view, listen to the cacophony of neighborhood sounds, and then hit the rays. KR can’t resist the 3rd floor garden that surrounds the Pool Deck. She’s always been a gardener and having three gardens (1st, 3rd, and 4th floors) and more planters than I can count means multiple chances to get covered in mud. This is a good thing.
Here’s a question for you: When was the last time you walked down your street, talked to your neighbors, watched kids play, and then stopped in the local grocery store to buy some food for lunch? In LA, my answer is never, and I’m not just speaking about the Factory Lofts in downtown LA. My answer would be the same for the Hollywood house.
In Puerto Vallarta, it happens every day, usually more than once. This isn’t by accident as we purposely moved into a “mixed” (read Gringos and Canadians along side Mexicans) neighborhood in the hills of PV. Our neighborhood consists of the small street in front of our house (Corona) and the two cross streets (Miramar and Metamoris) which happen to be the only ways up/down the El Centro Hills. This accounts for lots of street activity most days and most times of each day. And since most Mexicans around us live in something less than 6000 sq ft., they spend their free time sitting outside their houses on the porches or curbs.
Last night was typical. We went out the front door and started walking downhill toward the Malecon (boardwalk) to get something to eat. Karen dropped off some discarded clothes to the very extended family next door. Eduardo, the father and someone who I’ve taken tequila shots with at 2 in the morning, commented that I was looking a little gordo (fat) and I should keep eating so they could get more of my non-fitting clothes. We all laughed out loud.
We found a new place to eat on the Malecon, the Jazz Foundation, which had so-so food, great music, cold beer and really nice waiters who helped us map out our next trip. Walking up the hill on the way home, we bumped into a neighbor we’d met a year or so ago and invited him back for a cocktail.
These encounters happen every day here.
Noise is a controversial subject in our house and among our neighbors. Up the street there are a group of kids, mostly in their late teens or early twenties, that think there’s nothing better to crank up the boom box at all times of day or night. A couple of neighbors have called the police to complain, which generated a visit from the local police only to find out the primary source of the noise was…. an off duty policeman! The music keeps on playing giving us a dose of Mexican justice on a local level.
The young children next door play soccer in the street below us. Most Mexican cars make the Iron Duke look like a limo and announce their passing through their non existent mufflers. Roosters crow too early even for farmers, of which there are none that I’ve seen. Three blocks away the church bells ring at intervals that I can’t figure.
Noise, of course, is a two edged sword. It’s annoying and interuptive and … well…life affirming as well. This is a vibrant neighborhood in which life is visible and audible to all.
No week would be complete without visits to Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, the bank, Office Max and the assorted stores needed to keep a Gringo’s Mexican households running and in order. I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ve become a Kirkland Man, wearing Costco underwear and “dinner” shorts & shirts, drinking Kirkland wine and vodka, BBQing Kirkland ribs, and eating Kirkland ice cream (the Vanilla is the best ice cream yet created on this earth:)
Of course, not all is fun and games when you’re a B&W innkeeper. We have a staff to supervise, which KR keeps me away from, that includes a property manager, a maid, a pool guy, a carpenter, a handyman, an electrician and plumber. And this is just for Corona, as there’s a whole ‘nother crew for Little Big Sur. There are walls to paint, solar systems to repair, pool pumps to maintain, windows to fix, and…. on and on and on. Is there no rest for the weary? Don’t answer that:) Yet, I had it easy compared to this young man who went out to LBS to rebuild our solar system. It’s worth it to read his report:)
Finally, let’s talk money. Living in Mexico, even a tourist town like PV, is relatively inexpensive and getting more so every month. When KR and I started coming to PV, the dollar was worth 10 pesos. Last year around this time it was worth about 13 pesos. Today, the dollar is worth 17+ pesos, which is a very good thing if you’re a Gringo, less so if you’re a Mexican. Certain things remain expensive: gasoline is $3.20/gallon, electricity ranges from $200/2 months to $900/2 months depending on the use of A/C, and anything imported will have a duty of between 14-140% tacked on. Labor, food, rent, property taxes and such remain incredibly low, which is why this place continues to grow as a gringo/Canadian hang out during good and bad times. Please don’t tell anyone how good this is, we have enough folks here already:)
Well, that’s my report on life as a pseudo Mexican.
Mas Margaritas por favor!
This news just in! Karen has become so successful as an innkeeper that we don’t have a place to stay during the next six days. True to form, KR threw some things in the Iron Duke, made sure Squirt was comfy, and said, “Let’s head south!” Uh, what about a reservation or some place to head to? Over rated, I guess.
Here’s what everything looks like in pictures.
As always love your inimitable style of writing. Malaque looks wonderful. Enjoy your adventure and look forward to seeing you back in PV soon this sweet 2016. xoGwen
Another stellar publication Fred!!!!!!!
LBS looks great.
Hi guys, LOVED your writing about living in Mexico. Fred, I agree with Bill, you missed your calling, should have been a writer. Wishing you a happy New Year and all the best to you in all your various adventures! Cheers!
Now, I read that you repaired the refrigerator, however, in the picture below the lower drawer is crooked. It seems to me that you need a full time, bilingual handyman. I would be willing to accept the position for a nominal fee…But really, it looks fun, and I enjoyed your writeup, as always. Let me know when you have time for a drink. We can discuss my future employ…