Gone, Baby, Gone

Another year gone, just gone, never to return. In any event, here we are in 2019. Almost 2020. And all I keep hearing in my head is: “In the year, 2525, if man is still alive…”. Okay, I won’t go there yet.

We had a pretty meh Christmas. We went to Malinalco (Pueblo Magico, cute but boring) and it was really cold so we came home, where it was still cold but not quite as bad – although down to 8 or 9 degrees Celsius at night. I know many of you up north might find that laughable. And yes, it’s warmer than it was in San Miguel, which went to 0 Celsius.

Malinalco house
Malinalco house – made of glass – of course it’s bloody cold – but it was pretty

Still, can someone tell me why we moved all these miles (3,000 of them, or 5,000 km) so I can wear Uggs, two shirts and a sweatshirt when I get up at 5am? It’s warm enough by 10 or 11am. But I spent half my working day freezing this December and into January (better now). We have gas fireplaces but because it had been so cold, there was a gas shortage right now. Propane gas. Not fuel gas. That’s in different states than ours – at least we can still drive. As long as we have a vehicle (more on this later).

Stop whining. Put another quarter in the jukebox. I have trouble reconciling my incredible fortune at just being alive and breathing with all my complaining sometimes. I guess what’s really happening (that I don’t like to admit) is that after four years of Cuernavaca, albeit with a short stint in south Mexico City, the sheen is starting to wear off.

We love our house – CW has started referring to it as “peak house”, which is interesting. Because as lovely as it is (and IT IS) – not sure it’s peak house for me. I concede “peak pool” – because the pool is perfect but then I bristle – that suggests we’ll never have another pool like this again. I do understand that I’m 64 and time is running out but I think I *could* squeeze in another pool if that was a priority after we leave here. And frankly, the weather isn’t warm enough here to swim year round (we thought it was).

The pool and pond – and view

The view is certainly glorious, but we’ve had a lot of nice views – although this one is up there at the top. The kitchen is certainly the kitchen of our dreams but it’s almost entirely a-la-carte and I can replicate this again anywhere we go. So leaving the kitchen isn’t an issue.

This is only our second pool, but it’s the best one. I learned from our Winchester St. pool, and from the first rental here in Cuernavaca, that a pool where you swim three or four strokes and then turn around isn’t what we want. We want to actually swim. We don’t want a splash pool. For that, give me a hot tub and we’ll cool it down in the summer.

The Winchester Street pool on Vancouver Island

When the weather is warm, I swim every day. And I just don’t float around with a margarita – I swim laps. I did go in the pool on Sunday at 4pm but I had help. I’d had margaritas prior and once I got in, it was nice – probably 29C or 84F, with air being around 22 by then. The days are still short and the warmest part of the day is about 2pm, compared to 4pm, or even 5pm later in the spring.

That’s the casita in the background, shot from the other end of the pool (the horizon end)

So, back to the sheen wearing off. This is the best grocery shopping town I’ve lived in since Vancouver (City Market, La Comer, Fresko and more). But the city is very poorly run. Lots of potholes and bad infrastructure (water and power) and massive municipal theft. But hey, Bienvenidos a Mexico.

One of two olive oil aisles at City Market – but we can’t get a pothole filled in by the town

It’s convenient for airport access, I guess we have to think of that. But this peak house is huge – when I’m in the office and a package comes (sometimes several times a day as I order everything online and live behind the walls, which is starting to get old) – to walk to the gate and back is 1/10th of a kilometer. Might not seem like a lot but have three packages arrive in a single hour when you’re trying to get an update off to someone.

The view here is pretty good, and the house has ceiling to floor glass walls on the canyon side

We’re not leaving yet, though. But I think it’s coming up in the distance. We live inside the walls of our house – and it’s kind of dull, despite the beauty. There actually are cocktail parties around almost every week – 4pm for drinks and appetizers at someone’s house but that’s difficult for us during the week and I don’t really like small talk and CW doesn’t drink. So WTF.

There *are* still a lot of retired gringos around (this is Mexico after all) and I guess we are semi-retired but I’m working for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, I’d be drinking a lot.

We need to wait for three years from purchase date (late 2019) to be able to claim capital gains on this house. And it’s kind of bizarre. None of the work we’ve done is deductible. Because we didn’t go for a +17% charge. It’s an IVA tax, which you do NOT have to pay here, unless you want to write something off. And then, bathroom and kitchen renovations are not considered to be improvements (F.M. – my new favorite anacronym). But a pool is. (?) In any event, we sure didn’t pay a 17% upcharge on the pool so we can’t automatically claim it against profit. You can get an assessment on the work – but if the capital gains covers any uptick in price, that’s simpler.

So, we wait for capital gains to kick in (and it’s plenty of allowance, I think it’s a top end limit of about $350K USD above what we paid because we are joint owners) and while waiting, we’ll finish the renovations. We knew we only had four years left anyway – and we may end up here until the end of that time frame, we’ll see. CW turns 66 this year, so in four years, he turns 70. F.M. After he turns 70, we estimate our private health insurance here to be costing $20,000 – $25,000 a year (ain’t happening). It will double when I turn 65, and double again when he turns 70. I’m not even sure the one double is worth it ($10,000) – that increase begins the renewal after I turn 65 – which will be June, 2020.

So that might be when we start thinking more seriously. And if we make any money when we sell, we’ll still have to pay capital gains tax in Canada. Foreign property is never recognized as a primary residence for Canadians, even if it actually is and you don’t own or claim a primary residence anywhere else in the world. But, on the other hand, on our Canadian tax returns, we can write off the bathrooms, the pool, the kitchen, everything. So we should be in good shape there. But it’s complicated.

The half bath – I carried that sink and faucet around for a dozen years before installing here

And in case you are wondering what the comic strip in the background says (we are cynical people):

We’ve finished two bathrooms – the casita and the half bath in the main social zone. Two more to go – the master and main guest baths. We’re redoing the closet in the master suite as we speak. Then, we still need six new interior doors and possibly a small roof deck. That’s where the absolute best view is, of course and it won’t cost much. And possibly a sitting area at the edge of the huge garage.

New bathroom in casita reno – in progress

So, there’s renovations and capital gains to consider. Plus, we are about to lose our van. It’s in Chris’ name, and his residency permit is about to roll over and after four years becomes a permanent residency instead of temporary. And no more foreign-plated car allowed in Mexico once he does that. Which he has to do. Or go back to the consulate in Vancouver and start again. No way to nationalize it, as it is too old (1999 Honda Odyssey). It’s got lots of miles left on it. But what to do? We sure don’t want to drive it back 3,000 miles. Can’t leave it in the US. Can’t drive it in Mexico. F.M. again. I think we have to give it to the federal government, that’s our cheapest escape route.

This is my life these days. We’re here for another couple of years in this house (at least) is my bet. We also have to watch the exchange rate as that has a lot to do with it because of course, we’re repatriating the money into Canadian dollars, not keeping it in pesos. But we bought and will sell in pesos. You’re actually playing a currency game when you buy in another currency of course. If the peso goes up 10% against the dollar, then it pays 10% more and on a house sale, that can be substantial. Or it can go down, god forbid.

And I took a break and now, before I know it, it’s February (11th too, not the beginning). CW has gone to the doctor about his back finally and found out some not good news – he has scoliosis and it’s well progressed. He will do physio and anti-inflammation meds for six months and then we’ll see. It’s not easily operable, is a complicated operation. And in the meantime, he really shouldn’t be carrying anything heavy. So here we are. He tried to lay down some baseboard trim in the cupboard this weekend and just about killed himself. He’s off to physio in Mexico City today.

What else? I’m off to YVR again in two weeks (well, the Sunshine Coast) to hopefully wrap up the taping on the ghost book (the logging one). We pretty much went on hiatus in mid-November but he’s back. So that should be good. And I’ll go to the Island and visit the airstream. She’s been all cleaned and sealed on the outside and they plan to have the inside taken back to the walls and cleaned and painted (new subfloor) by May. Then, we can start to put it together. And it’s stationary, so we can actually use real furniture, we don’t have to go with trailer stuff. That will be a fun project (and now that the book is back in swing we may actually have some money for it).

Mercury isn’t even retrograde or anything, yet I’ve been preoccupied with old friends. One, who I have only met once but have known many mutual friends and been in the same electronic groups for a decade – and who I got to know when I edited a book for them — is having a bit of a breakdown and moving to Africa to be with an online lover they’ve known less than a week. Not really my place to judge – diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder (3 personalities) and does have family physically close – but I can’t help but worry. And I’d like to help but WTF do I know? Have to think on this a bit and maybe do some googling but at the same time, she could be kidnapped by Boco Haram by the time I figure it out.

The other is an old friend who I haven’t seen in three years (a bit more) who used to visit us no matter where we were. We got to know him in Galveston and he moved to California and he’s been awol for a while. Not sure what he’s up to but I’ve been thinking a lot about Galveston and subsequently, that friend. I met him in 2001, online. Found his rentals (right on the seawall in the east end) and offered to trade him three weeks (I had a lot of overtime saved up at Vancouver Film School) accommodation for a new website and voila. We didn’t even meet until we pulled our car up to the cottage in Galveston (website long complete by then). Or talk on the phone – did it all by email. And then we wintered there for seven (eight?) years. Egads, it’s coming up on 20 years very soon.

Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico as seen from my desk at Manolia House, the big G.

When trump is gone, if the US ever gets back to its senses (regarding, guns, immigration, healthcare, abortion, and more), I would go back to Galveston. I could spend winters there again. Still a bit of a drive but pretty much straight highway. I’d like to visit at least. I hope the country can turn itself around. Maybe our friend would meet us there. One last hurrah – a little bar trash (it’s an appetizer, folks) at Landry’s, some prime rib at The Press Box, some gumbo at Bennos (or maybe a shrimp po‘ boy). But who knows what the future will bring?

Clearly, not us. I don’t even really know what this week will bring. After I get back from BC, which should be mid March but maybe more like the 11th, we go to La Paz at the end of the month to see what we think. I guess I haven’t mentioned La Paz yet. It’s on the Sea of Cortez/Gulf of California about midships on the Baja Penninsula. It’s the capital of Baja California Sur and a big dive destination. But also a Mexican city of 300,000. And a lot closer than here if we do change to six months north and six months in Mexico. So we’re going to check it out. It has nice sunsets but I’m worried it’s not really warm enough in the winter. And March isn’t much of a test but we’ve been kind of busy.

In The Move to Mexico Bible, this is from the La Paz section. It’s the quality of living that got me.

The La Paz Malecon reminds me of the seawall in Galveston.

It’s not, however, your typical tourist city and not really an international tourist destination yet, but does have one of the highest standards of living in all of México. It’s a commercial center and, at 300,000 residents, the largest city on the peninsula. The main industries are silver mining, agriculture, fishing and pearl diving (yes, that’s right) with ecotourism growing by leaps and bounds. John Steinbeck visited in 1940 and described La Paz in his 1947 novel The Pearl. It must have made an impression on him—he also refers to it often in his 1951 travelogue The Log from the Sea of Cortés. La Paz also has its own Carnaval (Mardi Gras) the week before Lent.

And, to be perfectly honest, it kind of reminds us of Galveston (but it will be sunsets above, not sunrises). And it’s a straight five-day drive from Vancouver. If we wanted to stop in Ensenada instead, it would be a three-day drive. Unfortunately, it’s much colder there in the winter and it’s the only place in Mexico where the rainy season is in the winter. So no. We can do cold and rain in Vancouver. It’s what we are running from…

Okay, so that’s it. Same old, same old, really. I’m very glad the book has a starting date again, I get in too much trouble when I have idle hands. I was going to leave you with the song, In the Year 2525… but I think we need something more cheerful. Although maybe it’s not so cheerful. But it is to me (this is my Galveston Bay song).

Until next time, keep your powder dry 🙂

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7 Comments

  1. sidney mehlschmidt Reply

    Hi, Enjoyed your latest. Re your car: we had a California licensed vehicle in Zihuatanejo. It got to be a real pain, after a while, and we sold it to a local, i.e. Mexican, guy. I realize it’s illegal, but I thought you might like to know that it’s possible.

  2. Heather Moore Reply

    My Father and my brother have scoliosis.The correct exercises really helped my father in his seventies and eighties and yoga has helped my brother in his fifties sixties and early seventies. As long as they did/do the the exercises they are not bothered. Your husband may not need any surgery.
    We used to spend a lot a lo of time in Baja but found the cold winds from January through April a problem. We now winter in Troncones and summer on Whidbey Island. With your wandering spirit you may find 6/6 is for you. The Pacific Northwest can’t be beat in the summer as you know. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. beverleywood@gmail.com Post author Reply

      Heather, thank you so much for the info about both scoliosis/exercise and your experiences. I think 6/6 is going to be the answer 🙂

  3. Steve /Julie Melbye Reply

    Hola Beverley!

    Enjoyed your post, was wondering what became of you it had been so long . We do enjoy your writing.

    Partially based on your observations we recently did 2 weeks in SMA. Really tried to check it out logically as a place to live . Of course I loved it for all the emotion- based reasons and why not?
    Stayed in Home Away booking, beautiful house with another couple,friendly locals, wonderful restaurants /bars with some great side trips. Beautiful town compared to most down there. Also went to Cervantes music festival in Guanajuato.

    So would I pack up and move there from MN? Maybe not but would love the entire winter spent there or something like SMA. You mentioned that SMA long term began to feel like a too small town and somewhat isolated. I can see that somewhat. I have been to La Paz and that too would be rather isolated I would think as nothing much else around there. Quality of life would likely be the big draw . The “Cabos ” seem very popular with all the Californian’s living there. Will be interested in purchasing the guide you are working on.

    We are near you/CW ages, my wife Julie is 61 and I’m 65. I was concerned what you mentioned about private medical costs as we get older. Something to consider further if going permanent.
    Taxes are another hassle but I admire that you dived in and built your dream. I’m about ready to chuck the full time job -problem is I married a young thing who will be resenting me if I am tripping off to Mexico every so often while she is still on the job.

    Your home/ pool is beautiful. Turned out fabulous although I know it sounded like a long term royal hassle. You have it so nice now – just enjoy- there might be one more house renovation in you but you have it good there! Just one question – do you really need the concertina wire on top of the wall ?

    Muchas gracias for your inspiration as we ourselves delve into next phase of life.

    Steve and Julie

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