Life under the volcano

I’ve been busy, busy, busy. First, starting to turn the blog into a book. I’ve been getting all the damn blog posts separated into five sections and removing the formatting, editing some. But not nearly enough. Man, I sure say a lot of nothing. The very first, broad editing pass has been done – but I mean broad. I bet I only cut 5% (will need to cut 50%) but I was following it and scanning it for flow as much as anything. Cutting really bolt stupid parts. I’m betting there will be a good four or five rewrites. Because as we know (if we’ve ever attended a McKee seminar): “All writing is rewriting.”

books-arent-writtenKind of disheartening but not by the time you get to the third or fourth rewrite, you start to feel much better when you can see the difference you’ve made to the story and writing. Yes, of course we need content and emotion. But we also need conflict, a beginning, middle and end, set ups and payoffs and logic and flow. That stuff doesn’t just come out of thin air. And it’s not as easy as it looks. But it’s fun. And it’s like underwater welding – nobody checks your work over your shoulder. This won’t be done til July or maybe even the beginning of August I don’t think – it’s going to be 80,000-ish words. I’m squeezing hours in where I can, and right now I don’t have many.  I will take a week off beginning July 7 as one of my favorite people in the world arrives for a visit (JR from PS).

I’m also still working on the memoir project with a former boss and friend. It’s really a great project because I know some of the stories (I worked with him for years) and I know his style, his principles, his thought process. It makes the project fun for both of us. And I think will result in a good read. He’s got an incredible memory for details spanning back decades. And he’s easy to work with. I’m grateful for this opportunity – it’s pretty much the perfect gig. And I do it in my PJs.

Life is falling into place and we’re starting to feel more settled. We’ve got our routine with the maid and gardener and pool guys (the later only coming for half an hour or so, two days a week). We’d really rather have one day only but they’ve all convinced us this place needs two days a week minimum due to the size (they come with the house). So we conceded and looked forward. Mondays and Thursdays we spend most of the day in the office with the dogs – we’ve got a yard back here for them that has a gate to the rest of the gardens/house so they are contained. Lucy takes care of everything from the garbage to paying the bills and hiring people to fix things (the older maid who is more a house manager and has been here 17 years, through two owners and now us renters). And we just work all day in the office – coming to the main house to get coffee every now and then, and lunch.

Other days, when there’s no one else here, I tend to work on the glass table in the outdoor dining room – I just move my laptop and current files and it’s easy to clean up if we have company in the evening. The office is okay, but the grounds are prettier by the main house. And of course, on days without help (5/7 thank God) the dogs have free run of both yards. We keep them a little territorial on purpose.  The perra challenges everyone and barks at them from behind the iron gate – the pool guys, the gardener and to a lesser extent, Lucy. And I can see that they are all vary wary of her. Which is good, anywhere in the world that you have people working around the house, even Canada. In Canada, the female usually handled any unannounced visitors quite promptly.

buddhadogsMy Buddha butter dish is back – we got our stuff from storage in San Miguel. I unpacked some of it already  – probably half. The goods stuff – the stuff that makes us feel home. The Heineken ice tub. The Jorge Marin bronze table pieces. The solar balls. The red talavera. The dog salt and pepper. But there are too many clothes. I need more closets (or less clothes). I won’t wear half of them down here. I can’t imagine putting a cashmere sweater on. Maybe at night in the deep winter – maybe. I’ll have to see. But I can move a lot of it into a large suitcase for winter use. I have about 20 pair of shoes (many sneakers) and three or four pair of boots and all I’ve had on since I got here was flip flops. I so love that dressing takes such little thought. A white linen shirt. A pair of jeans. Flip flops. Vamanos.

Jabuticaba tree

Jabuticaba tree

The weather has settled incredibly since the rains have come (rains most nights but after dark). Temps are 83-ish highs (28 C) and lows of 65 (18 C). It’s perfect weather. We know climate is changing around the world, so we are fully aware that this “city of eternal spring”may not be so eternal. But for now, it’s pretty damn fine. And if this is truly the rainy season upon us (it’s rained most nights of the past 10), then our hotter weather is done til next year. It’s late March and April that are the hottest here ( 95F or 34C ), and the heat will extend into May unless the rains come. Now, just before it rains here, maybe an hour before – it will get humid. But the overall humidity here is very low (generally well under 20%) and that’s what attracts us to the higher elevations. It really mitigates the temperature. Did I tell you we have a Jabuticaba tree? I know, I had no idea either. It started with heady smelling white blossoms all over the trunk and branches (and swarms of bees, which pleases me). It will end up with apparently highly-prized fruits (larger than but similar to grapes) all over the trunk (where the flowers were). It’s fruit that perishes quickly so is rarely seen outside the tropical climates (so says Wiki). The street  name is Brazilian Grape tree. It’s so unusual. I will let you know when the fruit is here.

Remember this mango

Mango rules

I’ve been to Costco three times. I’d better slow down. I haven’t been back to the central market (the farmers’ market) but really meant to. It’s been busy. We’ve had a succession of (great) weekends with guests from Mexico City –  kind of creative get-away/get-togethers. This past weekend, an old friend from New York flew down to discuss a creative project and it was incredibly productive. This is a very nice house to visit and it’s very conducive to those kinds of weekend-long creative meetings. It has good energy, this house and fantastic flow. I need a huge whiteboard.

Still not totally sold on outdoor TV

Killer series, you have to watch it.

And OMG. We found Grace & Frankie on Netflix (new original Netflix series) and have been marathon watching to catch up, it’s hilarious. Do watch it if you can (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston). We tried Netflix again and are finding a lot more things to watch. Makes me think about buying stock, I think it would be a good buy and hold. Speaking of stocks, I think I’m taking the summer off. Cash out and start again in August. We’ve made money and summer can get volatile, but mostly, we are both happy with the money we’ve made and it’s not good to get greedy. And we have enough other stuff going on this summer. I might keep the solar/renewable stocks, but that only represents about 25% of the holdings. But they haven’t gone down since I bought, or having rocketed up, just a slow, steady plod and I really believe in the companies. I’d like to take that percentage up (overall) in the fall. Technology and renewables seem to be my two industries. I dabbled in airlines/food – might go back at Loblaws but I also want to keep some back for any Uber or Air BnB IPOs. Especially Uber. Trust me.

So, the week unfolds before us and things aren’t as frantic as they were. I know the town much better than I did seven weeks ago and we’ve accomplished a great deal since arriving, both on business and personal fronts. The larder is pretty much stocked (you know, those things that you only buy every year or two), our storage stuff is here and we now have some color and art to add to this place, Charlie has a local breakfast club and I’ve been meeting some people who are becoming friends. Only one is a gringo – and the rule for new gringos – if they don’t speak Spanish, they aren’t a gringo we want in our tribe down here. Those of you we already know, who don’t speak Spanish, that’s different…this is the new acquaintances in Cuernavaca rule, which is a city that really speaks very little English. At a certain level of education, everyone speaks English also but the language of choice is Spanish and we love that. It helps us both improve. I’m not there yet but I’m about to go back to Michel Thomas’ lessons. It’s taken a long time. But I just have to do it. And then, once I have a bit more of a base, Cuernavaca does have the largest ratio of Spanish schools in the world, outside of Seville, Spain.

Photo by J.W.

Photo by J.W.

The last few days I’ve been coming back to how this was a great choice for a spot to land. Cueurnavaca is close enough to Mexico City for lots of socializing and business both ways (us going there, people coming here). It’s a good spot to spend the first year. Beyond that, I’m just happy to be back. Who knows where we’ll end up, we have a lot of exploring Mexico to do. Although I can say with some certainty (and only “some” because probability is just probability until outcome) that it won’t be the beach. Further north, in the beach & wine country of the Baja Peninsula, the weather is said to be cooler in the summer (it’s only a few hours drive from San Diego, CA). But the cartels are pretty active in that region so we haven’t really thought about it. We may visit one day with our wine aficionado friends from DF though.

I guess that’s it for today. We’re going nowhere until this cartel uprising settles down (except Mexico City or by plane is fine, I mean driving). And oh yeah, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that gluten is the root of the sporadic arthritis type hip ailment I have been having. When I stop gluten, no pain. When I eat a sandwich, the next morning is bad. I can do bits here and there, a slice of thin crust pizza, a couple of crackers with things on them, panko coated chicken. But as soon as I’m into whole slices of bread – or plates of pasta – I’m doomed. I find it very interesting. We’ll talk about dairy next week. Until then, remember: Canta, no llores.

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