Returning to the US: First the Why

I moved to Mexico for reasons that probably didn’t make sense to anyone who knows me. It was a rough year and three months which can be summed up in three words: Filth and sadness.

My experience was undoubtedly worsened by the COVID pandemic and the social circle I intended to cultivate never fully materialized. Some of that is totally on me. Unfortunately, I was dealing with other shit that just didn’t allow me the mental fortitude to venture out into the world.

We did not live in a gringo neighborhood. I initially tried to interact with people at mercados and along my walks but had difficulty getting people to even make eye contact with me. Locals tended to only acknowledge me if I was with the boyfriend and sometimes not even then. After a while, I just let that be. As 2020 wore on, I began resenting the locals and their dual price system. Their resentment for gringos was palpable. It was obvious they only tolerated us for our money and many merchants took full advantage whenever they saw an opportunity. There were a few exceptions but mostly it was constant financial fuckery.

FB groups were endless streams of locals complaining about Americans ruining Baja or “The Enlightened Ones” complaining about how Mexicans should keep their dogs on leashes, stop burning their trash, and wear helmets on bicycles. Some Mexicans saw dollar signs and charged outrageous rent but then other Mexicans complained they couldn’t afford to live in their own neighborhoods. Gentrification had finally arrived in Baja. It was just too much.

I developed a system, though. Mostly, I spent every day just trying to get through the day and a lot of that revolved around laundry and dishes. The dogs were on a schedule. The trash pickup was (mostly) on a schedule. I never knew what I was supposed to be doing so I basically just retreated to the things I knew how to do and when to do them. I certainly couldn’t take my dogs for walks because they would just be attacked by street dogs running amok. They say if you don’t like it, leave. I thought that sounded like a fine plan.

We spent much of 2020 watching Argentina to see if they would open their borders to foreigners. South America is a bit of a shitshow but Argentines are accustomed to financial meltdowns and they handle it pretty well. In the fourth quarter, it became clear that Argentina was not a viable option in the near term and a local murder in the middle of the day caused me to lose all patience with Mexico. Burglaries were a constant problem in the area but suddenly foreign women were being robbed at mercados and in front of banks on busy streets in the afternoon. That murder, though, was the thing that made me demand we get the fuck out of there. It wasn’t that there was a murder. It was the circumstances and the people who were threatened if they talked. Common sense says if you stay away from cartel shit, you won’t get involved in cartel shit. That’s difficult when it flows into a busy street and affects people just going about their day.

We then began daily debates (I’m being kind here) about when we were leaving Mexico and where we were going, which was fun. In the midst of that, we made dental appointments and got health certificates for the dogs. We sold our surfboards and his motorcycle (tagged in Baja California Sur). Both of our vehicles had fallen prey to the harsh conditions on the peninsula so we did what we could to prepare them for the 20-hour drive, which was only the first leg of our road trip. After a series of intense negotiations, we departed Todos Santos on January 15, 2021.

The next few posts will document our travels and the challenges we have faced along the way. As I’m posting this, we’re still on the road more than three weeks later. And still working on a destination.

Sarah Palin, Jamie Dimon, and General Zepeda walked into a bar

Fact checking is exhausting, thankless work. We all hate the person who replies, “Well, ackshually…” I regret to inform you I’m about to be that person.

I was recently put in the position of defending Sarah Palin. Goddamn it. Full disclosure: I had never heard of Palin before McCain chose her as his running mate. At first glance, I liked her. Depending on the issue, I’m either conservative or libertarian (small L) and she seemed sane. Then she kept talking and two major problems continuously beat us over the head: One was that she provided cannon fodder for SNL and we mostly lost track of what she said vs what Tina Fey said. The other was our media environment rewards outrageous statements and behavior so there’s pressure to continue outdoing oneself. And Sarah did.

During a casual conversation about geopolitics and economic warfare, I was told Sarah Palin claimed she could see Russia from her front yard. I knew that claim was incorrect but I couldn’t recall the exact details. I simply had a vague awareness that 99.9% of Americans misremember the circumstances. I was told I was wrong so I grabbed my phone for a fact check. It turns out Sarah Palin made a statement which was factually accurate and Tina Fey made the statement everyone remembers during an SNL skit.

I read an article about container traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the other day that claimed “All those cargoes are then loaded onto tractor-trailers…” I realize I’m picking nits but a large volume of containers received at LA/Long Beach leave via rail. I know this because I have worked in international logistics and it’s annoying when people who are supposed to do their research write such stupid, provably wrong things. Like, you’re the reporter; Why am I doing your fucking job?

So that’s the thing. People have jobs (if they’re lucky) and lives (again, if they’re lucky). As a reporter, YOUR ONE JOB is to report facts. So maybe just do that, okay? We have neither the time nor the mental energy to fact check your work. I was raised at a newspaper and then worked at one in my younger years. So yes, I understand deadlines. I also understand that reporters don’t necessarily write their own headlines and sometimes editors don’t even review articles/op-eds before they run. I also realize lots of people are lazy procrastinators…myself included.

Side note: When I was in eighth grade, I had the misfortune of breaking/chipping/dislocating a finger when my mother was literally putting the newspaper together. That was before automagical layouts and it was a weekly paper that came out on Fridays. This meant every Thursday was hell day. So do you know what she said when I called and told her I needed her to take me to the doctor? She said, “Do you know what day it is?” I told her I did. She then asked, “Are you sure it’s broken?” I looked down at the deformity resembling a pitchfork and told her I was sure. God, she was pissed when she picked me up at practice. After my doctor reduced the dislocation, she dropped my ass off at home and GOT BACK TO WORK.

So a deadline is no excuse for careless fact errors.

I realize I’m an asshole. I used to proofread the classifieds with a red pen on my lunch break. This was in the late 90s before all the proofreaders were eliminated from budgets. If I end up in Hell, the construct will be me in a room full of paper with misspelled words and apostrophe catastrophes without a pen or other means of correcting the errors. There will be a chyron running “Your in hell” on a continuous loop.

Can we not create a meme generator that fixes the you’re/your problem? We can pluck particles off an asteroid flying in outer fucking space but products of our school system can’t comprehend contractions. We deserve everything that’s about to happen to us.

I realize I’m burying my lede a bit here but journalists have ruined their credibility by doing what they’re told by their bosses. Everything is clickbait to drive revenue and people need to eat. The most important story of our time seems boring on the surface but it could ruin all of our lives. It’s the economy, stupid. All of it. Trillions upon trillions of dollars missing from federal budgets, criminalization of innocent people trying to protect their money outside the system, illegal manipulation of markets, theft on a scale that is impossible for the brain to even visualize. Laws that are created and/or changed to benefit the people doing the stealing.

I’ve been thinking about the IRS enforcement agent who tried to convince me my career path should lead toward working for the federal government to investigate financial crimes. I’m one of those weirdos who loves to dive into a database and extract information. You hyperbolize about COVID deaths based on what you saw on Facebook and I wade through excess death stats. You say unemployment is up/down and I review BLS data collection/reporting methods. You say inflation is up/down and I remind you The Fed stopped releasing M3 data in 2006 and BLS continually changes CPI series making it extremely difficult for the average person to compare apples to apples. You tell me the government seized cash, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and real estate without the person possessing those items being convicted of a crime and I wonder ON WHAT FUCKING GROUNDS. You tell me they wouldn’t have <blank> if they weren’t up to something and I wonder when the hell expecting the Bill of Rights to exist became so revolutionary. See what I did there?

Some politicians try for a bit to expose the grift. Then they stop. Same thing happens with reporters. Corporate and government whistleblowers. Are we supposed to believe there’s no “there” there? That’s an impossible thing to ask when we’re constantly seeing massive bank settlements and indictments of low-level employees. Does Corporate America really have so many rogue MENSA masterminds working for them just out there perpetuating organized crime without detection by management? I’ve written corporate internal controls and I’ve also tried to explain time off policies to employees. Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

If that’s not your pet voter issue, then how about criminal justice reform? Are you not outraged that people suffering from mental illness and/or addiction are sitting in prison on a minor possession charge when the former Mexican Defense Minister was arrested in the US for essentially being a drug cartel operator and then we just let Mexico have him back? It’s the same story. Rules for thee but not for me. The world revolves around two things: Money and power. But muh War on Drugs!

This political three-ring circus we’ve been obsessed with for the past couple decades is a giant diversion. Remember the old saying: If you can’t spot the con, you’re the mark.

When a Woman Expresses Rage and Other Inconvenient Feelings

Stream of consciousness writing is recommended by some therapists to help reduce anxiety. It does seem to help and I should do it more often but tend to forget. I’ve never posted anything written in this manner but the man of the house suggested I share this one I wrote last week after I showed it to him. I haven’t made any edits and haven’t even read through it to see if it still makes sense:

Sometimes I daydream about going to a boxing gym and beating a heavy bag with my hands and feet until I’m literally so exhausted and physically broken that I can’t lift myself off the floor.

Gyms are gross, you guys. You don’t want to end up on the floor.

Xanax can fix anxiety but it doesn’t do shit for rage. Rage doesn’t go neatly and quietly back into its little box. You have to wrestle it back in the box like a goddamned Lernaean Hydra while its heads keep multiplying.

There’s a point where I feel like my mind is breaking. If I take one more step or hear one more word, the me which currently exists will be lost forever.

It isn’t anger either. Anger is easy. Anger feels like a puff pastry that goes down smoothly with a nice chocolate stout. Anger is my oldest friend. We stay in touch and our dogs have regular play dates. We know the world is a fucked up place but we have things to do so we don’t dwell on it too much.

Rage is the unstable former college roommate who fucked your then-boyfriend in your bed and sent you the video on your birthday. It shows up at your house 10 years later unannounced and uninvited demanding money while blaming you for its gambling debts and heroin addiction.

Meanwhile, you’re left gobsmacked wondering where the fuck that all came from and how fast can you get it the hell out of your life permanently. It took you for one helluva ride. And when it finally leaves, you can’t believe how tired and relieved you are to be left alone with your low-grade anxiety disorder. This, you can survive.

Is Perception the New Reality?

People often say that perception is reality. This is true, in that people generally possess limited imagination. Binary choices seem to be the default settings. For example, government bureaucracy must be either full of hyper-intelligent evil masterminds OR incompetent oafs with room temperature IQs. The truth is far more complex and far more boring.

I’ve had a fair amount of first-person exposure to newsworthy situations which have been contorted into sensational conspiracies. Every single time, basic facts were disregarded because facts are boring. Now that we’re in the clickbait era of news monetization, it’s becoming harder and harder to discern even the simplest facts. Throw deepfakes into the mix and the disinformation opportunities become endless. Human brains just aren’t wired to process all of the data being thrown at them in the information age and no one has the resources to fact check every “news” source.

If you follow the news, you likely believe the border between the US and Mexico is closed. Even official government websites confirm this “fact.” I still see people arguing online about how it’s just the land crossings which have been stopped; air travel has been unaffected. The reality is tourists have been coming and going freely between the US and Mexico via land and air since the lockdowns supposedly began. Yes, flights to and from Cabo had been drastically reduced for a while but they never stopped…even when Baja California Sur was at Level 5 and hotels were supposedly closed. The BCS economy depends on tourism and that’s pretty much the end of the story.

The truth is that you have options but options can be overwhelming. Obstacles are overwhelming. There’s generally a solution to every problem but analysis paralysis is an easy excuse for sticking to your old patterns. You’ve already decided why that thing you would like to do won’t work. You don’t have to live in your current location. You don’t have to compete with your relatives or neighbors. You can expand your social circle to include people outside your political affiliation. You can have your own opinions. You can believe multiple things are true simultaneously. You can feel conflicted over complicated subjects. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

The most important thing to remember is we’re easier to control when we’re divided and confused.

What if you walked away from everything you ever knew?

It seems like an entire lifetime ago but I was once married to one of the nicest people to ever live. That’s a pretty strong statement and I stand by it one hundred percent. Even though I’ve now been divorced for 18 years, I distinctly recall the feeling of wanting to escape. For about the last two years of my marriage, all I wanted to do was load my two Rottweilers in my Jeep and drive far, far away. The destination was irrelevant. I just wanted to get lost.

This year, for the first time in my life, I spent Independence Day in a foreign country. The beaches are closed again due to COVID-19 but other than that it was a regular Saturday. The neighbors were drinking and singing along to their favorite songs. My dogs chased birds. I watched the ocean and social media from our front porch. Twitter was depressing as hell.

I’ve written before about feeling disconnected from the US but I feel like this is different. Right now, I feel like Mexico isn’t far enough away. At the same time, Mexico feels like home. None of this makes sense to me but we’re living a much simpler life here. We don’t own a television and there are no political ads on Netflix, ya know? Maybe it’s a cop-out but I’m done picking sides. All that matters to me right now is my own sanity.

I’m turning 45 later this month and have been reflecting on how people find their places and purposes in life. I’m one of those people who has never quite fit in, no matter the situation. I’ve tried and given up and tried again. It was kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I just don’t belong in a conventional role or a conventional family. Speaking of family, mine thinks I’m batshit crazy and I accept that. People are convinced I’m going to get caught in the crossfire of some cartel war when the reality is I’m walking around the backyard checking to see if the mangoes are ripe enough to eat.

I guess this makes me a selfish asshole but at this point, I have no intention of returning to the US. If I did, I don’t even know where the hell I would go. A cabin in the woods in Wyoming? Civilization is just not working out. How far can we go and still avoid freezing to death? Just north of Antarctica sounds good. Unfortunately, we can’t drive all the way there. You know, the Darien Gap and all that unpleasantness. It’s my understanding the ferries are no longer running through that area. Yes, I’ve actually looked into it. We could take a ferry from La Paz to the mainland and drive to Panama but that’s the end of the road. So then the question becomes how to transport the dogs? Can we all hop a freighter together? Where will they poop?

That’s right…while my home country is burning itself to the ground, I’m pondering the logistics of artificial turf on the deck of a container ship and how much trazodone it would take for my Plott Hound to avoid a psychotic break during the voyage. Sorry, not sorry.

Who Knew I Would Be a Fan of Paying Bribes?

Most Americans are unfamiliar with the intricacies of paying bribes. It definitely happens in some industries to obtain permits and political favors but there’s usually some sort of quid pro quo rather than cash directly changing hands. In the US, citizens are extorted via citations for violations of obscure and often contradictory codes which somehow try to convince us the state can be a victim. The system is much more straightforward in Mexico.

Getting mail and packages delivered in Baja can be an adventure. From my first day in-country, I was told to never, EVER use the Mexican Postal Service for any reason because things just disappear. We’ve had 100% success with DHL delivering to our house. They honk at the gate and we’re off to the races. I ordered a mango slicer from China via Amazon Mexico and the end carrier they used was a local company called Estafeta. I’m guessing they don’t deliver because they called and let me know my package was ready for pickup. We live in a small town so it was barely an inconvenience. There are also local companies who transport letters and packages from the US to Baja so if you have a seller who won’t ship internationally, it’s no big deal. You just use their US address and they charge a fee based on the invoice amount. Easy peasy.

So we ordered an item from Amazon US and the Chinese seller offered shipping to Mexico. Yayzies! I tracked the package from Shenzhen all the way to La Paz and that’s where it stopped. Wouldn’t you know, the end carrier was the Mexican Postal Service. I sent the seller a link to initiate an investigation to locate the package since it had been there since May 14 and I seriously doubt they took any action. The bf was discussing the situation with our mechanic who just happens to live next door to a mailman. Our mechanic passed along the tracking info to his neighbor, who immediately located the package and agreed to bring it to town for the low, low price of 450 pesos (approximately $19.52 US). I have no idea if that’s what the mailman had to pay to release the package or if that was his service fee. I also don’t care.

There is a similar process for resolving traffic citations, expired vehicle registrations, etc. Rather than going to the police station and dealing with a lengthy hassle, you can generally just settle up with the officer on the spot and then go on your merry way. I appreciate the opportunity to expedite the process. My time is valuable and the rules are generally very limited. For example, dirt bikes do not need to be registered and are street legal. Yesterday, I saw a family of three riding a four-wheeler past the Pemex station. They were not recreating; this is a legit form of transportation. I do enjoy living in a place with limited rules and restrictions. The plumbing is garbage but the freedom is fire.

It’s sort of fun learning there truly is a workaround for everything. You just have to ask a local how to make it happen and have some cash on hand.

Is the Pandemic Canceled or Nah?

Today is the day beaches and most non-essential businesses in Baja California Sur reopen with limited occupancy rules based on a color coded system. This strikes me as odd since the Ministry of Health has predicted COVID-19 cases will peak this week as well. I totally get the argument for opening up and restarting the economy. I don’t get why we were on lockdown for months, having to sneak around to get exercise, and now it’s totally safe to go about our business while taking precautions. Yes, I understand the “flatten the curve” mentality. It just rings hollow when I see different rules for different types of activities. Everyone wants to carve out their own little niche exemptions. It’s like the people taking private jets to raise awareness for climate change. What you need is a bit more self-awareness.

Anyway, a few months of quarantine have been enough to cause this natural born social distancer to seek the outside world, albeit in small doses. We went to a beach yesterday where there is a ton of fishing and it looked like a normal day. Kids were riding kneeboards in the ocean. People were sitting under umbrellas living their lives. There was no law enforcement presence of any kind at the beach or in town. There were also no Marines in the freshly painted barracks guard towers. A lot has changed in the past few weeks.

I keep reading that quarantine fatigue is a very serious problem and it contributed to the high Spanish Flu death toll. Honestly, I’m feeling it. I was hypervigilant until a couple weeks ago and I’m not exactly sure what changed. Maybe it has something to do with seeing all of the protests on the news. Even some epidemiologists are saying these demonstrations take priority over staying home. I think there are quite a few people who would argue saying goodbye to dying loved ones and attending funerals should have taken priority as well but here we are. It kind of feels like the pandemic has been canceled but we should remember the pandemic also gets a vote.

We were told new cases would dwindle over the summer but then we were told a lot of things. I lived in Arizona for seven years and I’m telling you June is the hottest, most unbearable month of the year. Arizona’s new case stats are going bananas right now. We don’t have to wait for winter for this thing to cycle through again. Look at what’s happening in Beijing; they’re contemplating another lockdown due to a sharp increase in confirmed cases. I honestly do not believe Americans will entertain another lockdown. We tend to frown upon the government picking winners and losers and that’s exactly what has been happening.

I think we’re all just very, very tired. Our brains are being overwhelmed with stimuli and it’s too much to process. I can’t remember another time in my life when we were so close to a presidential election and it barely registered. Like, I seriously keep forgetting it’s a thing. Maybe I’m in denial in the face of two terrible choices. I can’t keep track of all the violence which merits a reaction of outrage and maintain my social distancing vigilance and function like an adult. As if all of that weren’t enough, this morning I learned Mercury is about to go into retrograde. Now’s probably a good time to buckle up and assume the crash position. 2020 isn’t finished with us yet.

It’s Not Looking Good in Minnesota

Catching up on the latest news in the US makes me grateful my top concern today was catching the garbage truck. I have completed that task and can now bask in the foggy Baja morning. It’ll warm up someday.

Honestly, it’s times like these that I point to when people seem baffled by my sudden move to Mexico. The term “Going Galt” evokes a massive eye roll but there’s a point where you just want to get off the damn ride. Why stick around and lament something that is utterly unfixable?

I’m old enough to remember when Americans could agree on a set of facts. We generally agreed on intended outcomes and our differences manifested themselves in our beliefs about the best paths to achieve those outcomes. Now we’ve gone completely off the rails. Gaslighting, virtue signaling, concern trolling…it’s all just too much.

Americans have gotten lazy and overprivileged. We’ve stopped being thinkers. We’ve eaten every line of bullshit fed to us with a knife and a fork and asked for more. We’ve stopped paying attention to things like how money really works and abdicated our responsibilities for keeping our government in check. We’ve been so focused on viral cat videos that we forgot to question why a particular officer in Minnesota had EIGHTEEN complaints of excessive force and had never been prosecuted. I’m not saying a frivolous complaint has never been filed because that would be provably false. I’m saying maybe it’s worth a look, ya know?

We need to get our priorities in order. The US has become a giant Karen full of rules and regulations and taxes and more rules. The criminal justice system is a fucking farce. Breathing air has become criminal activity. It’s like everyone declared themselves HOA President and it’s fucking chaos. I’m done. 

I hate what has happened to us. A better person would probably stick around and try to work on a solution but I fear we are far beyond the point of repair. It’s much easier to see how dysfunctional the situation has become from a distance. If things don’t improve, this trial separation could ultimately lead to divorce.

Welcome to the New Normal

Because she lived exactly one block away, I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother as a child. Irene was born in 1921 so she experienced the Great Depression as a child. Having been born in Dodge City, Kansas, she also had the misfortune of experiencing the Dust Bowl as a child. Those two cataclysmic events changed her forever.

Irene’s parents started the Beeson Museum in their Dodge City home in 1932. After the museum closed in 1964, Irene sold the bulk of the collection to the Boot Hill Museum but she retained many items in her own home. I was fascinated by each and every one of them and couldn’t understand why she seemed so uninterested. She explained that she grew up around all of that stuff in her house and it was her job to clean the display cases and exhibits. She saw it all as a burden.

The good news was she was so unimpressed by it all that she allowed me to play with all of the pieces. I learned how to iron linen handkerchiefs using a real, live antique iron heated over the fireplace and obviously burned the hell out of my hand in the process. She allowed me to use the coffee grinder with the wooden drawer. I learned how to darn socks. In the midst of all of this, she relayed to me how life on the farm evolved through her childhood.

My great-grandfather, Merritt Beeson was an extremely capable man. He adapted to the changing times and provided well for his family throughout the Depression. Irene told me there was only one time she could recall them not having enough food to eat. I’ve always found that to be remarkable given the images we’ve all seen of the terrible suffering experienced by millions of Americans. Those were still quite lean times, however, and my grandmother’s mantra for the rest of her life was always “Waste not, want not.”

The kettle under the dripping faucet collected water for my Golden Retriever, Abigail. I couldn’t walk out of a room without immediately being reminded to turn off the light. She saved EVERYTHING. You just never know! We cleaned windows with newspapers and vinegar. I bet you she brushed her teeth with baking soda and salt until the day she died.

Those years with Irene had a profound effect on my own habits. My mom is famous for saying to me, “Okay, Irene.” That’s the family equivalent of “Okay, Boomer.” Now I’m the one going around turning off lights and keeping the house cold during the winter. Put on some damn clothes if you’re cold! I prefer grinding coffee manually because it’s too easy to burn the beans with an electric grinder. And I still like to clean with straight vinegar.

I wonder what habits we have picked up during this pandemic that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Will we require ample personal space? Eschew handshakes? Avoid eating in restaurants? Will air travel once again be reserved for the elites? Will the inevitable global economic crash put an end to fast fashion and excessive consumerism? I strongly suspect there is no going back to the way things were in 2019. Welcome to the new normal.

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