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.

A Quarantined State of Mind

I guess it must be different for people who like people. Frankly, I worry about them. We’ve all seen the memes about introverts needing to check on the extroverts in our lives because they’re not okay. I’m an only child so isolation is just kind of normal for me.

My neighbors still aren’t taking the pandemic seriously. They’re acting like it’s Sunday after church every day. On Tuesday, there was a party a couple houses down that went on for more than 12 hours with people up on the roof deck drinking and listening to the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. The music was a welcome trip back to 1995 but the Airbnbs in town are supposed to be closed, people (extremely John Candy voice). Apparently, all levels of law enforcement went around town yesterday and closed businesses that hadn’t complied with the governor’s order. But then there was a group of random people wanting to meet in the town square to discuss setting up roadblocks to keep the virus out. You just can’t make this shit up.

There are still people in the local Facebook group blaming Americans for bringing the virus to Baja. It’s interesting to experience a group of locals wanting to deport gringos who have overstayed their visas. I find it amusing when I read my American friends’ posts about deporting immigrants. I guess it really is the same all over. Like, I wonder if they realize Mexicans want the Americans out. It’s extremely funny to me for some reason. Textbook definition of irony or the Alanis Morissette bastardization? It doesn’t matter.

I left the house one day last week to take my dog to the vet; I think it was Friday. That was plenty. There’s a lot going on at home: Trees to trim, dogs to bathe, coffee to grind, flowers to water, geckos to rescue, laundry, dishes, a sock drawer to organize….

Back to the psychology of isolation, though. I hadn’t been to the beach in a few weeks but admit feeling a sudden urge to go as soon as I heard they were closing. The feeling passed but I wonder if that’s only because I can still see the ocean every time I look outside. I can only imagine how it must feel to be stuck inside a studio apartment. Our house is on a fully fenced and gated half-acre so the dogs can run around like maniacs all day if they choose. I don’t have to worry about how to make sure their needs are met without getting arrested. I can also climb the stairs to the roof deck for cardio. You may think I’m crazy for living on a washed-out dirt road in Mexico but it’s an A+ location in a pandemic.

None of us will get out of this unscathed, though. What’s happening in New York right now will happen elsewhere soon…possibly where I am. If we survive it, we will all know someone who didn’t. We thought 9/11 was the defining moment of our lives but we were wrong. This is it and there is more to come.

Sorry Folks…Baja is Closed

I mean, it’s kind of closed anyway. There’s a lot to unpack and my Spanish is still pretty terrible so I’m relying heavily on Google Translate when I read the news. There’s definitely no shortage of rumors and uninformed opinions. The main local Facebook group is a five-alarm dumpster fire.

The debate about whether or not the beaches were closed raged on for several days. Let’s not worry about whether or not we’ll have food and running water over the next month or so. Noooo…by all means argue about the fucking beaches, which are closed.

The Mexican government has a tiered plan based on certain infection thresholds and they’ve been increasing restrictions accordingly. The US media has a lot to say about how AMLO has handled the pandemic and I really don’t have an opinion either way. Just like in the US, it’s much more important how the governors handle their business.

Speaking of which, the governor of BCS tweeted a plea the other day for tourists to stop coming to Cabo. That seems weird, right? Like, can’t the governor close the airport? He ordered all nonessential businesses to close (including hotels) effective Monday, April 6 but can’t he close the airport to incoming passenger flights? As of right now, I’m still finding several daily flights from LA to Cabo after April 6.

So yeah, April 6 is the date everything shuts down for real here. Rumor has it alcohol sales will be cut off that day as well. I understand the rationale but I also know alcohol withdrawals can be deadly so that seems somewhat counterproductive. The emergency order is supposed to last until April 30 and I can’t imagine everyone stocked up to make it until May. I’m hearing that people are supposed to exercise at home for the duration, which ought to go splendidly as well.

Citizens set up a roadblock outside San Javier yesterday and people were cheering their efforts online. I completely understand the sentiment but am also keenly aware how quickly vigilante justice can go off the rails. Some people are saying they can get from here to La Paz and others say it can’t be done. My concern would be that I could get out of town but then couldn’t get back home so it isn’t worth the risk. Cabo apparently gets very dangerous during hurricane emergencies so I imagine this next month will be no exception.

I’ve been awake since 6:45 am waiting for the garbage truck. There was an issue earlier this week in La Paz with the sanitation workers’ union that finally got resolved but it isn’t clear when we should expect to see them. I’ve been stalking my neighbors to see if/when they put out their trash and listening intently for the sound of the truck. I have the gate key in my pocket and I’m ready to run out there any time. It’s an imperfect system but it’s the only one I’ve got.

I worry about the people who are still not taking COVID-19 seriously. It doesn’t matter how you view politics or the economy. We can sort out violations of civil liberties but to do so requires us to be alive. That should be each individual’s priority. Stay healthy and look after those who cannot look after themselves.

Riding out the Storm in Mexico

It’s very strange to feel so disconnected from my home country. After less than six months, I feel like I’ve been in Mexico forever. Many American and Canadian expats have returned home but we decided to stay here indefinitely. I feel extremely fortunate to be riding this out here rather than in the US and it’s a weird thing to try to explain so I’ll skip it for now.

Baja has been somewhat late in joining the pandemic but the beaches are now closed and people are being strongly encouraged to stay home. So far, we’re seeing a major reduction in traffic and people on the streets but people don’t seem to be panicking at all. The grocery stores are fully stocked. In addition to the roosters and ranchero music, I can still hear power tools being used on job sites. People who need to feed their families will continue working as long as they are physically able and no amount of social media infographics will deter them. The Mexican government is promising stimulus pesos but that doesn’t help people whose employers have already closed and need food now.

There seems to be a belief here that COVID-19 only affects the upper class. I assume that’s because the virus was initially spread from China by travelers. Mexican elites brought it to the mainland after visiting Vail and interacting with Italians who were there for a ski competition. The first two cases in Cabo were brought by tourists. I’ve seen some anti-American comments on the local Facebook groups by those who believe we brought the virus to the community but so far, no torches and pitchforks.

Some people on social media are calling for roadblocks to keep people from Cabo and La Paz (where there are confirmed cases) out of town but the genie is already out of the bottle. Military checkpoints will definitely be set up on the highway in the event of social unrest but there is no stopping the virus; it just lives on surfaces too long to be contained.

Right now, everything feels fine here. Flowers need to be watered and the dogs want to play. It’s beautiful outside and I may do my yoga on the porch so I can look at the ocean. It may be the calm before the storm but right now nothing is preventing me from enjoying my day.

Waiting for Ramón

I have a very special relationship with a man named Ramón and I don’t even know his last name. We’ve been corresponding on a monthly basis since last November. Our conversations are 99% one-sided but the outcome is what matters.

It turns out only about 6% of homes in México have natural gas and most of them are in the southeast region of the country. As of 2017, Baja California Sur had no demand. The electrical grid is the polar opposite of reliable so that means if you don’t have solar or a generator, you’re using propane to cook and heat water.

It is my understanding that some homes do have those huge permanent propane tanks like you see in rural areas of the US that are filled by the big tanker trucks. This is not the case at our house. We have this setup, which I am told by the bf is on par with the situation in Iraq:

I have learned a 30-kg tank lasts almost exactly 30 days without being extra careful about usage and that costs 605 pesos, which is about $25 US using today’s exchange rate. That’s outrageously expensive compared to my monthly natural gas bill in Arizona…and this is ONLY for the kitchen stove and water heater.

I am not trying to pay $25 a month for cooking and showering so you know my cheap ass bought a $15 hot plate. Electricity is crazy cheap here so we try to cook with the hot plate as much as possible and use it to heat the house when it’s chilly outside.

So anyway, I learned about Ramón from a local Facebook group and people just contact him on WhatsApp to get their tank deliveries. He has only replied to my request via the app once. Normally, he just shows up and honks at the gate. This means once I make the request, I have to stay home and wait…sometimes for 30 minutes…sometimes for days.

Imagine washing your hair out of a plastic bucket that has been sitting on the patio warming in the sun. It didn’t take long to realize we needed a second tank to use as a backup while we wait for Ramón.

Don’t think for a minute I’m bashing him because he’s super professional and obviously very busy. In fact, Ramón brought me a propane tank in his personal truck on New Year’s Day with his wife looking displeased in the passenger seat. I was absolutely gobsmacked and extremely grateful.

The last time I saw him, he seemed to be in a good mood so I tried to practice my Spanish a bit. Too much…got it. We’re not on that level. I’m not sure I’ve ever cared so much about what a stranger thinks of me. I don’t want to piss him off because I need that gas!

Businesses are still operating in BCS but people are definitely trying to limit contact with one another. I imagine the propane delivery guys are overwhelmed by the demand as everyone prepares to be home for the near future. I sent my first request early on Tuesday and then a follow-up first thing this morning. Sherman needs to go to the vet for a Rabies booster before the vet has to close. He should be here any moment. Until then, I’ll be waiting for Ramón.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I’m not even going to joke about COVID-19. Everyone knows someone whose immune system is compromised for whatever reason and any virus can be lethal to them.

So far, Baja California Sur hasn’t really seen much activity. There was at least one cruise ship with infected passengers that stopped in Cabo but the last time I checked, there haven’t been any confirmed cases. I’ve seen some rumors online about a positive test in La Paz but nothing confirmed.

My immune system is ridiculously strong so I don’t worry about how sick I will become if I am exposed. However, I am incredibly sensitive to those who aren’t so fortunate. Staying home is my standard operating mode so the concept of social isolation doesn’t phase me. I worry about those who actually enjoy the company of other people. Two weeks in isolation is enough to drive a normal person mad.

I guess if you’re one of those people and have never worked from home, here are a few things that may help:

Stick to a routine. Unless you’re too ill, maintain your normal sleep schedule. Plan your days the same as you would at work. You still need to do laundry and dishes. Pets still need to be fed. Even completing tiny tasks like painting your toenails will make you feel like you accomplished something. Try not to binge watch television all day. Get some exercise…and it doesn’t have to be anything major. Even if you’re stuck in an apartment and can’t go outside, you can do a couple easy yoga poses or light stretching. If watching or reading the news is making you anxious, leave it alone for a few hours. If the sun is shining, open the damned curtains already.

Tomorrow I’ll be cleaning floors, changing bedding, and bathing dogs. That’s enough to occupy my time on a dirt road in Mexico. I’ll worry about the global economy shit show another day.

I Feel Like a Dog Trying to Ride a Donkey

I can write whatever you want. I just really need you to tell me what that is. Except for dialogue…I hate writing dialogue.

My brain feels like it’s too full of information and completely devoid of coherent thoughts at the same time. We currently have two to three show concepts (depending on how you look at them) trying to find a buyer. The fourth (or third?) will likely need to be tidied up and released online without a buyer. It’s compelling enough that it needs to be seen but it has been difficult to get producers to watch enough video to understand why that is.

My point is that I’m totally fried right now. The show concept that appears to have the best chance of making money is the one with the most complex subject matter. My job is to translate information that people with advanced degrees have difficulty understanding into something interesting and entertaining to the average person whose attention span is shrinking by the day.

Remember when The Big Bang Theory jokes went over your head? In the first season, there were several instances when I experienced a serious lag between Sheldon’s joke and my comprehension and gigglesnort. Apparently, there were quite a few viewers who never got the jokes so the writers dumbed it down. That kind of ruined it for me. So now I (a former overachiever turned college dropout) am tasked with metaphorically splitting atoms, convincing a producer people will care about splitting atoms, and figuring out how the hell to make the masses care about splitting atoms. Or something like that.

It’s obvious that I need to take a break but my brain doesn’t like allowing it when there’s so much work to be done. The subject matter is spinning on a constant loop too quickly for me to get a grip on any one piece of information. Just when I think I’ve got one, the slightest distraction completely ruins my train of thought. Incredibly, the barrio music being broadcast at maximum volume by my neighbors actually helps with this. It all has a sort of consistent happy melody that acts like a white noise machine heavy on the accordion. I just need the dogs to settle in for their post-breakfast nap so I can stare at the ocean and let the words come to me.

Gather ‘Round the Hot Plate

I may have previously mentioned our house in Mexico has no heat. You might think due to our town being situated on the Tropic of Cancer that this is no big deal. You would be what I like to call wrong.

Seven years of desert dwelling in southern Arizona has made me severely cold intolerant. Anything under 70 degrees is uncomfortable. After growing up in Kansas and being assaulted by constant hurricane-force winds, prolonged exposure to anything more than a  gentle breeze makes me a little stabby. Right now, I’m dealing with both…in a house without heat.

Gas is expensive in Mexico; propane, gasoline, whatever…it’s outrageous. Electricity, however, is dirt cheap. So you would think an easy solution would be to buy a space heater and stop bellyaching. In a house with US wiring, you would be correct. Unfortunately, I live in a house with wiring so piss-poor a hair dryer precipitated a visit from an electrician. There is no way this house could support a space heater. We could turn on the stove but again, propane is outrageous.

My solution was to order an electric hot plate from Amazon Mexico. Delivery took a few weeks since DHL temporarily misplaced the box somewhere near La Paz but I guess once the workers decided it wasn’t worth stealing, it finally made its way to us. This little burner puts out some serious heat but obviously cannot be left unattended. Our morning routine is to turn on the hot plate and stand around it until the sun is positioned to warm the kitchen. The house is basically a concrete bunker so there is no warming the whole house until the weather changes.

This morning, we have virtually no water pressure from the municipal line so I’m carrying buckets of water from the kitchen (via the reserve tank) to do laundry on the porch. Between the carrying of the water and the trips up and down the stairs from the roof deck clothes lines, I’m both working out and warming up with a spectacular ocean view. Cup half full, people. CUP. HALF. FULL.

Small Fish…Even Smaller Pond

This is what was on my mind at 2:00 this morning.

I didn’t go to Journalism school. I’ve never worked in television. I did work at a newspaper once, though…in Accounting.

I’ve been helping with research and writing for a TV show concept and I’m 100% completely and hopelessly out of my depth.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from a pretty serious case of imposter syndrome. I know I’m not a complete moron but I also know that I swim in a relatively small pond. This project is out of my league in a major way and every word I write proves I don’t belong anywhere near it. I actually wonder what it takes for people to feel like they deserve their success. Surely there are people who aren’t complete narcissists who have a healthy sense of their accomplishments, right?

The concept has a shit ton of potential. I would watch it on purpose even if I didn’t know anyone involved with it. The last thing in the world I want is for the pitch to come off as an amateurish effort because one of the people drafting it is…well…a fucking amateur.

So I’m writing this in the middle of the night rather than getting the sleep I so desperately need or working on editing the show document.

So here’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s even a pitch or a treatment or birdcage liner because this isn’t my industry. I’m so old I still fight the double space at the end of each sentence. Like, I actually remember true carbon copies. It seems like an odd time to shake the Etch A Sketch but here we are. Today is another day and as soon as this is published, I’ll get back to it…whatever IT is.

Spend your Attention Currency Wisely

Despite lacking some first-world conveniences, Mexico has provided me with an absolutely priceless lack of fucks to give. I still read about as much news as I did while living in Arizona but I care so very much less. With the next election dumpster fire taking place later this year, I feel my timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Apparently, there is another Democratic debate tonight. This is Number Seven. Is anyone still paying attention? Does anyone still care? I say this as a news and politics junkie. Party no longer matters. It’s just a different flavor of the same bullshit. Everyone is rooting for their team but both teams suck and all of the players are horrible people. It’s kind of like when the NFL welcomed Michael Vick back into the league and we just memory holed that nasty dog torture episode.

Has anyone noticed what’s going on with the global economy? How much physical gold is China really holding? Why is the US Fed considering lowering rates again when the Dow is at record highs and everything is going so well? Why is the New York Fed pumping billions upon billions of dollars into the overnight repo market? Has anyone made the connection between certain countries in the Middle East deciding they no longer want to trade oil for dollars? Seems like this could all be kind of important. Politics is just a drama-filled distraction.

My dog is having eye surgery this week for a luxated lens. We could either remove it or have a prosthetic lens implanted in the eye, which will resolve the glaucoma issue, so that’s what we’re doing. He won’t be able to see but the eye will look relatively normal and it’s less invasive than removing the eye altogether. The cost is just under US $800. Ask me again why I moved to Mexico. I really don’t know if I will ever live in the US again.

After I finish the breakfast my boyfriend is cooking for me, I’ll do a little Yoga on our porch overlooking the ocean. Then I’ll help him refine the pitch for a TV show he’s working on. Maybe I’ll go for a run if the sun ever makes an appearance. What I can say with absolute certainty is that I will not spend one minute watching that debate or following it on Twitter. I prefer to focus on what matters.

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