Occasionally we depart from the main topic here Living in Mexico. Often it is to bring up some musical footnote either from my past life as a record producer and engineer or just to make a suggestion to listen up.

Those of you that know me, know I worked at Capitol Records for ten years in the middle 60’s to the middle and more 70’s (a very developing industry at that time – the music business – mostly before the marriage of video with audio.

I enjoyed my 15 plus years in the music business; was always amazed at having that much fun and getting paid well for it at that ;-) Even though 15 years represents perhaps half –no more- of my working life, it certainly had a better than half a career impact and the memories linger on with the help of the very nostalgic industry.

During my career in music I worked with such now greats as Barbra StreisandMiles Davis, George Benson, Ringo Starr, Al Jarreau,  George Harrison, Dave Mason,  John Lennon, Michael Franks and Sir Paul McCartney, to name a few.

Paul McCartney is four plus years older than me. His voice has gone from sweet tenor to gravely tenor (well call it course sand) – not baritone yet. The voice has come to a place where some of the old classic jazz standards are a good fit. And apparently a not often heard of, but a powerhouse in the industry, Tommy Lipuma put that together and came up with the idea of getting some great jazz and rock legends to help Paul make a terrific album.

So back in the begining of 2012 it all came together at Capitol’s Studio A – a live recording (and filmed video) “Kisses on the Bottom - the fifteenth studio album consisting primarily of covers of traditional pop music and jazz by Paul McCartney.”

Not only is it great music, but for me the video segments that included Studio A really tugged on my personal history as The Tower and the three studios A-B-C were where I spent a good deal of my life. If you can get a hold of Kisses on the Bottom Deluxe Edition or better still the video, “Paul McCartney: Live Kisses”

So yeah Live Kisses is produced by Grammy winning producer Tommy LiPuma, conducted by Alan Broadbent, with the talents of Al Schmitt in the control room, Diana Krall at the piano, John Clayton, Karriem Riggins, John Pizzarelli on guitar, Anthony Wilson and Mike Mainieri. Paul strictly sings on this DVD and the harmony he creates with his drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. on three of the songs including I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, is simply pure magic. The talented Joe Walsh (James Gang, Eagles) stands out with his beautiful guitar work on McCartney’s penned My Valentine,  and also on Get Yourself Another Fool. Included, besides these beautiful heavenly songs, are interviews with Paul, Diana Krall, Tommy LiPuma, Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. There are more extras as well.

We must admit that time has passed us by musically speaking. The stuff my son and his peers listen to is beyond my comprehension. Yeah – the Calypso Couple is no longer with it. This is mostly an elected condition – at least so we think. McCartney was with it and so were we in our time, but this is classic timeless stuff. Get a good bottle of wine, some candles and your best friend(s) and give it a listen (watch).  Tell me what you think.  Stay Tuned!

The Mexican Double Standard

 

Chisme (CHEESE MA) is the Spanish word for gossip. El chismoso is a gossipy guy – what your escritor (Spanish for writer) is at the moment.  Here is the scoop (no names or identities revealed to protect the innocent and guilty):

An oft occurring situation here in Mexico is the hombre that has sneaked into the United States gets himself a new family in Amerika. This without regard for the fact he left a wife and children in Mexico with the understanding he would work a few years in the States and then return home with jeans full of dollars.

Often the undocumented hombre enjoys life NOB and he elects to not return to his homeland.  He more than likely has set up a very comfortable situation which includes a new woman and eventually children – a new life north of the border. His second wife and new kids are U.S. citizens helping to sanctify his being in the Country illegally- but of course not really.

Many in this situation continue to send money home to their original family. Some occasionally sneak back and forth across the border; and a few get caught and are deported leaving the new family to be supported by the system.

We know of several abandoned women and children here in Mexico. One such circumstance we have observed for more than 8 years. The State-side husband has been here about 3 weeks – one time. We have watched the two children grow and the abandoned wife live her life as a single parent raising a couple of kids.

On her in-laws property she managed to have a nice house built with funds sent home from the hombre with a new U.S. life happening. It took several years to build as the money trickled in from the States. But in the end a lovely casa was provided to the first family of now three – waiting.

After these many years the still young woman started seeing other men – quite secretively of course being under the watchful eyes of her in-laws. Hiding by sneaking in the house in the early morning could remain successful for just so long. If we were able to observe some of the clandestine activity surely the in-laws would catch on – and they did.

The wife with the tarnished character was given notice to vacate their son’s property by the in-laws. The fellow’s mother delivered the news, “Get out!”

In Mexico where life is simpler than north of the border – tangled lives still persist and the old double standard is alive and well.

Stay Tuned!

Breaking Ground in Xico

DATELINE XICO, VERACRUZ: It starts at dawn (which is currently about 6:15 AM Mexico Time (compares to Central Time in the U.S. save day light savings time changes). Breaking sidewalk is the order of the day here in our little barrio of Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, Mexico.

The roar of a generator rapping high RPMs followed by the chink-chink-chink of a pounding chisel striking cement over and over and over again. It is a rather unnerving disturbance where the norm is the occasional barking dog or braying donkey, roosters crowing, scooters with little bulb horns squawking up and down the streets selling masa (some selling chicken), and propane cylinder vendors playing a BLARING ditty just in case there is anyone still sleeping at this hour. We are pretty used to the usual described noise, but the hammering as well as sledge hammers wielded towards the sidewalks pounding the ground really is off-putting.

The lack of head, ear and eye protection as well as hands and feet is astonishing from a first world perspective. All still mothers walk their children on the road path rather than the fox holes that were sidewalks just yesterday.

Apparently we are getting new improved water pipes? The Calypso Casita is hidden off the roadway by about 100 feet (note our burgundy Jetta parked in front of the wall surrounding the north side of our property.

We will have to wait and see if this work comes up our dirt road.  There are houses beyond ours for about two city blocks.

Our water supply has been adequate – no problems. But there are those with large families and small reserve tanks who will find life better with the new improved piping system (water on demand?) – Or so it is advertised.  We shall see. Stay Tuned!

Family and Friends

 

There is something of a personal note we wanted to add about our recent trip to Capitan, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; and back to our home in Xico, Veracruz. It was great to see our son. He is a most thoughtful and considerate young man helping his parents out each time we visit his stomping grounds.  He even bought one of my seven guitars for me as well as opening his Las Vegas penthouse to us (I took advantage of the roof top hot tub with views of all of Vegas). We have been very lucky to have such a fine son.

We have mentioned many times here the great support we get from Anita’s sister. She and our brother-in-law open their house in Las Vegas to us, giving us the run of the place without reservation. Being in someone else’s home for an extended period of time can be dicey – but it is all good there. They are most kind.

We split our time in Capitan on both legs of the coming and going. This time we returned to Capitan about ten days before heading back to Xico – thus breaking up the trip. Las Vegas to Capitan is 720 miles subtracted from the approximate total 2125 miles or 3420 kilometers – one way.

We already miss our friends George and Pearl. They have always been very kind to us, having been our neighbors in Capitan since the late 90’s. Two nicer and more interesting people could not be found. Even though we spend precious little time each year in Capitan, when the four of us get together it is as if there has been no time away between us. We always have a lot to talk about together and the warmth of their friendship is outstanding.

The final leg of our long trip is a mere 425 miles driven always on Sunday from Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas to our Casita in Xico, Veracruz. You have to understand that drive is equivalent to a 1000 U.S. miles traveled. The roads are dangerous, treacherous with insane drivers, possible road bandits and worse and holes and topes (speed bumps) around every corner. It is an arduous drive after the 1050 traveled the prior day. We are seriously considering breaking up one or both of those legs in future trips.

This time as usual we stopped in Coasta Esmeralda, Veracruz for dinner, usually arriving between 7 and 9 PM. After which we make the final 3.5 hours or so to home. It is a dark and ominous section of the trip, especially considering the previous two tiring legs of the trip. We have mentioned the dangers and difficulties of driving at night in Mexico (if possible avoid it).

Exhausted we climb down the steep driveway to our Casita after midnight. Because our packed car is parked on the public road we empty much of the stuff upon arrival.

In our kitchen on a bench we found a picnic basket-sized insulated container with a note welcoming us home – wow! Cold beers and food to tide us over for the first 24 hours is all neatly found inside. Our friends John and Jane who now live about 15 miles away (instead of being close neighbors right across the hollow) had taken the time to set this greeting up for us.

We have complained some about a few neighbors relating to our four locations of residences. This is the other side of that coin. The Calypso Couple is truly blessed to have such great family and friends. Thank you all for being there for us.  Stay Tuned!

Xstatic to be in Xico

Continuing from yesterday: The rest of the trip went like this: we got a very slow start Sunday morning leaving El Rey Hotel after 11 AM. We needed the rest from the 1050 miles we had driven the previous 24 hours – a long haul for anyone long in the tooth.

Before we leave Soto La Marina we should mention our discovery of a terrific restaurant there. The desk clerk at El Rey Hotel turned us on to Restaurant Tampico. Now usually just the word Tampico sends shivers down the spine – Mordida Central, not to mention the threat of road bandits and kidnappers lurking behind every bush.

Putting the name behind us, we enjoyed a terrific dinner that was extremely reasonable; having just spent 2 months being astounded at the cost of dining in Las Vegas and even Capitan. Just a few blocks further south of the El Rey, Restaurant Tampico is a gem of an eatery.  If you take our path or find yourself in Soto La Marina for any reason – do have a meal there – highly recommended.

We placed no pressure on ourselves as arriving in Xico in the wee hours of the morning is pretty much a norm coming from the border or traveling north from Puerto to Xico.

Of course we faced the dreaded travel path through downtown Tampico – noted as one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico.

We were sticking to our theory that Sunday is the safest day to venture through Cartel Country. We are assuming the criminals are home with the family on Sunday – perhaps even in church repenting their bad behavior the other days of the week?

The GPS has been a great help meandering through the maze of downtown Tampico, and Tuxpan after. All went smoothly save the terrible roads nearing and then following Tampico, nearly all the way to Tuxpan – very bad roads; lots of holes and hundreds of topes to slow you down (as if the holes and broken highway aren’t enough!).

We encountered some delays. Several accidents.  The highways were jammed packed with travelers for some reason – maybe just a bunch of folks out for a Sunday drive? We always seem to manage to get to Coasta Esmeralda about the same time. It should be noted that there are many insane drivers on these Mexican highways. Way more nuts per capita than in the U.S. I mean there are many that appear to have a death wish. Drivers that drive as they will. Accident avoidance is strictly up to you – they do not waver or back down from idiot moves.

Costa Esmeralda is a seaside resort about 3.5 hours before home. We usually like to time our arrival to this beach town at dinner time. Truthfully in the last 10 years Coasta Esmeralda has become a little ragged. It has been beaten-up by several tropical storms and hurricanes. Generally maintenance is not adopted by many of the hotel/motel and fooderies. Build it and let it run down seems to be typical.

All still there are some good dining opportunities there. We stopped at our favorite roadside family restaurant. The owner always recognizes us and goes out of her way to make us happy – her food alone would fill the bill! We ate until comfortable and headed out about 9PM for the last 3.5 hours to home.

It has been written in so many places that driving at night in Mexico is highly risky – we do not disagree. And yet we continue to do it. It is very dicey to say the least. But once again we made it to our door just after midnight – completely intact. However let us second what has been said so many times – DO NOT drive in Mexico at night – quite simply it increases your chances of a problem by a lot.

Wired at midnight Anita vacuumed spider webs while I unloaded the seven guitars, two amplifiers and what seems to be a vast amount of other stuff.  Note the cool fuchsia (or is it mauve?) fan, George, our neighbor in Capitan, turned us on to. The fan has most all plastic parts –  better for the metal eating beach environment.

6 of 7 guitars and MORE – Anita says we need a bigger house!

We are unpacking and trying to shake-off the trip today.  Stay Tuned as next time there will be news of future directions.

Trip Report

The Calypso Couple just completed part of their annual 4,400 miles/7100 kilometers round trip. That is: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca; to Xico, Veracruz; to Capitan, New Mexico; to Las Vegas, Nevada and back.

We made another successful border crossing yesterday.  We left Capitan, New Mexico at 5:30 PM “A strange departure time”, you might say. Well yes but this facilitates a schedule that sets up a proper arrival time in Costa La Marina (it completes a long day after mowing the lawn in Capitan, saying our goodbyes and packing up the car which is filled to capacity, then driving 1000 plus miles to here.

We always have more to bring than fits. So we just fill to capacity. This means we cannot use the rearview mirror as too much stuff is stacked to the headliner. Also the Thule car carrier is pulled shut with great effort, enclosing lots of clothes and shoes mostly. We even managed to ‘mule’ a few items for John and Jane.

This time we added a step ladder to the roof rails which will go to Puerto in the fall. You might imagine by now our setup is starting to look like the Beverly Hillbillies (for those of you too young to remember this was an American sitcom running nine seasons from September 1962 to March 1971, a while back). Photo resembling the Calypso departure below:

What, Only One Guitar. We are Hauling Seven!

The drive goes like this:

Our Travel Time Chart

Probably the most interesting (if there is any) information is the border crossing. Each time in the last twenty times or so it has been different. This time would have to go down as the easiest – we are talking smooth sailing!

At the border crossing from Brownsville, Texas, U.S.A to Matamoras, Tamaulipas, Mexico we drove through the recently added layer of border crossing red tape on the U.S. side, a stop for questioning – this was very friendly and less than 5 minutes.

Proceeding forward we paid $3.25 (do not pay the more costly option 52 pesos). Now we came to the red light/ green light entry. There is a lane to declare new items being brought in to Mexico. This here-to-fore open lane was closed??? All were closed save one. We drove through and on out into the streets of Matamoras – as if all the Mexican border patrollers had been raptured. Siesta time? I mean the place was clear of any authority. Great! We proceeded on through the streets of Matamoras. We drove slowly fully expecting to be chased down by a border patrol truck – but no, clear sailing.

Fifty kilometers or so beyond the border is yet another check point (Aduana Inspection) where one might expect a more thorough inspection. We got a green light and drove in the maze of poles and lanes looking directly into the eyes of a couple inspectors that were busy ransacking a couple of vans full of Mexicans (all their stuff laid out on tables).

The eye contact was for naught – we slowly drove through and proceeded back on the highway leading to Soto La Marina and beyond. WOW! No stopping just clear sailing. We could have had a vehicle full of AK47’s or the car full of Mexican’s returning home. Even a nuclear weapon.  No problem Amigo!

Anita and I high-fived it as we headed down the road.

Now we just have to get through Tampico.  Recall our Sunday theory that the ladrones (robbers and kidnappers) take Sundays off to be home with their Catholic families; or perhaps with their other family. Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.

Coming to Amerika

We have not always had the best of attitudes toward the United States. Many of us expats dis the U.S. pretty hard. Usually there is a defensive tagline that goes something like this, “If I didn’t have a kid(s) and family in the U.S. I would never go back”.  There is a lot to be irritated about the U.S. starting with its current President; but were not going there this morning.

We have been in the United States for about 5 weeks. The end is not in sight, however we are getting ready to head from Las Vegas to Capitan, New Mexico where we have a house with a couple of garages.

Mexico has been our primary country for about eight years. We have turned the corner on calling ‘home’ the U.S. to ‘Mexico is home’ for some time now. Let us be honest here Amerika is not all bad. Of course we enjoy seeing family – but there is more….

We become sports fans each time we visit enjoying the hundreds of channels of television – mostly its sports offerings. We saw all the important futbol games from the World Cup. We watched a lot of tennis matches from the U.S. Open. Today is the last day of the British Open. We have been getting up as early as 1 AM local time to enjoy the action ‘Live’.

Of course we could bring in television from the U.S. to Mexico – but we do not. So there it is.

Then there is the shopping which starts even before we arrive stockpiling wants at my sister-in-law’s house in Las Vegas. I should mention here she is an angel who represents us in the U.S. and she and her husband open their home to us, often for more than a month, like this time. By the time we are ready to leave their guest room is piled high with the many acquisitions we have garnered – things nearly unobtainable or certainly more expensive purchased in Mexico.

We will avoid providing an embarrassing laundry list of all the things we have bought. They include things we really need for sure; and a lot of things we could live without – but why? I have seven new and used guitars. As Anita reminds me when I get a notion to do something I get all the stuff! So guitars, amplifiers, strings, capos, string winders, truss rod tool and assorted others, foot pedals, cases, cables, books and media lessons etc.

So the U.S. is a treasure trove of things – we must give them that. The diverse restaurants and food items are astounding – but we will say the food is healthier and better in Mexico, just less choices.

The roads we drive on in the U.S. are remarkable compared to a high percentage of terrible roads in Mexico – there is that and the fact that the greater demand for safely operating vehicles and drivers is a benefit here.  One would never consider using a cell phone on the roads in Mexico – too many hazards to be on constant watch for. The roads are so good in the U.S. the cars almost drive themselves (and they are working on that).

We certainly do not feel safer here in the U.S.  The principal question when encountering others here remains, “Is it safe to be in Mexico? Don’t I risk having my head cut off?” Bottom line is the world is a dangerous place to live these days. We are in a fortress of safety here at my Sister and Brother in-law’s. People here spend more monthly on security than the average Mexican family spend on groceries. It is more likely a cop will come to your aid here – but not to be counted on. Security systems are a growth industry here – have yet to even see one in our parts of Mexico.

To sum it up the occasional visit to Amerika makes life south of the border more livable. My brother-in-law and his mate that moved sight unseen to Puerto Escondido a year and a half ago is just days away from returning to the U.S. Mexico did not take for them. The warning about not just packing up and moving to Mexico remains – truly it is not for everybody.

The Calypso Couple continue as Mexican residents. It is highly unlikely that will change. We suggest if you are considering living in Mexico to realize a visit back to the first world now and again remains a good thing.  Stay Tuned!

A Happy Ending

Everybody loves a happy ending.  Here is one for you.

Recall back 7 months ago how we had a startling visit at Puerto Escondido from our friend’s son and his wife and one year old. They arrived unannounced to work with us on the beach house for a couple of months. They had taken a 17 hour bus ride from Xico to Puerto ostensibly to help work on the beach casa. We had not authorized such a trip. Because we were scheduled to leave town we had to put the little family on a bus going back home (here in Ursulo Galvan, Xico) nearly immediately.

The reporting of said mix-up (READ HERE) caused a flap with one of our next-door neighbors here in Xico. She apparently misunderstood the situation to the point of her being labeled a total wacko.  It was actually quite ugly. Even now reading through the comments from that entry – wow!

So anyway life has moved on these seven months. When we returned here about a month ago, the main characters involved in that situation resolved the mix-up (save the next-door neighbor who there is no rational talking to). The youthful worker assured us he would pay us for the costs of him and his family’s miss-adventure. We gave that no thought realizing a couple hundred dollars plus was pretty much unobtainable for him.

We had written it off as a learning experience well likened to a quip provided by one of our then commenters, ” ‘Música pagada no toca buen son’. (Music paid in advance will not sound good) — If you are going to have a wedding celebration and you hire the musicians, DO NOT pay for their service until the end of the celebration. You can pay half the price, or make and advance payment, but do not make a full payment in advance. You may regret it later.”

On a couple of occasions the worker and his family have visited us to reassure us of their commitment to reimburse us. The good news in his mind (and ours actually) was the fact that the quick return from the unauthorized excursion had enabled him to answer a call for a really good job. A job in which he would have missed the opportunity had he not returned when he did.

We were all happy to gather a positive from the ashes of the mess. Anita and I thought how terrific it was for him to find good in an otherwise not so positive situation.

Yesterday the young man came to me with the full amount of pesos owed. We were taken back not having expected to ever see those pesos again. A very pleasant surprise. Not so much about the money, but the fact that this young hombre by way of his good new job was able and willing to make all things right. Gives one hope and faith in young people. There are still some good ones out there.

Stay Tuned!

Happiness is a Warm Guitar

 

It is an oft used comedic scenario – for example: A couch potato decides he is going to take up jogging; get in shape. Before he takes one stride to that end he drives to Big Five or the local athletic supply place and buys a jogging outfit, an expensive pair of running shoes, a head band or three, one of those distance-covered watches, a couple water bottles, cooling-off jacket, rain gear, maybe some new sun-glasses…you get the idea.

Then the runner goes to the local high school track; after stretching and getting the headband just right he runs the equivalent of a 440 (that’s a quarter of a mile folks); gets winded; goes back to the car and returns home to the couch and the television. All that stuff will find its way to the bottom of his closet – thank you very much. It is humorous.

I mentioned a few Blog entries back that it was my intention to take up learning and subsequently playing the guitar. I wrote that I had a smattering of experience with this in my youth – now ready to enter the effort (read hobby) with fresh eyes and energy sort of speak.

So here is the update to that thus far. I have acquired the following: Two Seagull acoustic guitars; two Epiphone electric guitars; two Paul Reed Smith guitars and a Martin Back Packer guitar (for those moments when I an out of touch with my six aforementioned guitars). A small practice amplifier; a larger one that includes reverb, delay and 500 modeling settings; two hi-end guitar cables; three digital tuners (don’t ask); a slew of various guitar strings; a speed winder; more than 100 picks; and some upgrade electronics (pots, capacitors and resistors). And I am buying lesson programs at the speed of a Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar solo – Whew!

What Curves!

My current dreams are filled with fret boards, neck nuts, truss rods, bridges and head pieces.

Keep in mind I have yet to see ANY of this stuff as it is waiting for me at various locations in Capitan, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada. My son, my sister and brother-in law, my other brother-in-law and my next-door neighbor have all been enlisted to help get that stuff. I am sure right now they shudder at the appearance of an email from me?

I do not even want to check my credit card bill for a total of all this STUFF. Anita is in the background in wonder and not so great amazement kibitzing about how I better really get behind using all this stuff, albeit lovingly tolerant of an old man’s folly I think. Yikes!

Beautiful Bottom!

Today I plan to organize my closet here in Xico – relocate the tennis rackets, bowling balls, bags of golf clubs, baseball bats, gloves and balls – oh and the horseshoe sets in order to have space for my new hobby. More later….Stay Tuned!

Tortillas and Filthy Lucre

 

What expat hasn’t written about the Mexican tortilla – particularly the handmade jobs?

But, there is another kind – more like the grocery store variety north of the border, these are machine produced – the operation often looks like a franchise situation where one pays to have a machine and associated gear to have tortillas spewed out onto a conveyor belt and wrapped within a piece of paper in half – whole or even two kilos stacks.

They are deft at wrapping. I can never get them re-wrap so well.

My father-in-law (RIP) and I use to go to a Mexican Mall in Las Vegas, There we would buy hot tortillas and Mexican cheese. Then out in his car we would sit and eat the cheese enclosed by the hot tortillas.  It was kind of a ritual he and I had.

Making handmade tortillas is not a small task – one Anita does not relish to perform. In Puerto, just around the corner there is a woman that makes the handmade variety – a peso a piece (considerably more expensive). Homemade tortillas are usually larger than the machine variety – so just a count would not be fair. I am guessing you will get about 10 handmade tortillas in a half kilo – that for about 80 US cents. The machine flat bread is one-half kilo for 4.5 pesos or about 35 cents – either a bargain compared to the U.S. packaged tortillas.

16 count here this morning. Sometimes we get 20.

It seems universally at these tortilla sales operation they collect money with a plastic throw away glove on. They will stop and put on a glove before accepting any payment – period – no touching the filthy pesos.  It is their demonstration of proper hygiene. Funny that – in that there is usually a boy or two (shouldn’t they be in school right now) working on the machines – totally unsanitary . The machines would never pass OSHA muster I assure you.

But hey this is Mexico and tortillas are to Mexico what apple pie is to Amerika.

Homemade or off the conveyor they both taste better than the stuff NOB. Viva Mexican tortillas.  Stay Tuned!