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.

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.

We’re All Human and Humans Have Needs

I once drove from Lamar, Colorado to Dodge City, Kansas on nothing but dirt roads without a map just to prove it could be done. Look, I come from a crazy family and I come by it honestly. Keeping in mind that where I come from a country mile is a legit honest-to-God mile, it really was a very small feat. If the road I was on ended in a pasture, I’d just turn in the correct direction and catch the next one. Easy peasy.

Baja isn’t like that. My navigational senses are laid out in a carefully surveyed grid pattern and no such concept exists in Mexico. The Pacific Ocean is to blame for a lot of it. The hills and mountains aren’t exactly innocent. And then there’s the poverty, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to proper road engineering and all of the accoutrements one might expect in the first world.

I promise I have a point and it is this: One must always know the back way to get anywhere. You never know when you’ll need to be inconspicuous on the way home from a bar or to avoid being arrested for exercising during a global pandemic.

The beaches in Baja California Sur have been closed for what seems like a decade and I’m just about over it. I have been social distancing since March (of 1978) and really have been trying to follow the orders laid out by the Mexican government to flatten the curve. I’ve been doing this while my neighbors continue partying and carrying on like it’s January of 2020..the halcyon days.

My main act of civil disobedience is regular exercise. This is not on the list of essential activities permitting one to leave one’s domicile and it seems like a gross oversight until you actually stop to think about it. People who are going hungry aren’t exactly thinking about going for a hike or mountain bike ride, ya know? I totally get why they left it off the list. I also know I’m not endangering anyone by walking around the hills of my neighborhood so alone I can’t see, let alone hear another single, solitary soul. I meet lots of dogs but that’s another story for another day.

I can see the ocean just fine from my house so staying away from the beach has been easy enough, I suppose. It just really got to me on Saturday, though. I walked the back way through the hills and crossed the main road at a spot that is quick and a bit remote. Like, I didn’t want to attract attention but I was wearing a hot pink outfit. In hindsight, this seems like poor planning. I walked to (not on) the beach and took a few photos to remind myself it’s still there. I did see a family on the beach with an umbrella and a pickup parked near them but otherwise it was deserted.

I’m still learning all of the hills and where roads connect so I miscalculated a bit on my way home and had to get on the main road for about a quarter-mile. I was walking along in my hot pink outfit and wouldn’t you know, here come TWO humvees full of desert BDUs and rifles making full eye contact. It was apparently not a priority for them to hassle a gringa walking alone in the sunshine so they went on their merry way…probably to remove that family from the beach. Nevertheless, I was relieved to disappear into the mismash of washed out roads and short-cut walking trails through washes and impromptu garbage dumps.

While by no means a career criminal, I have done some sneaking around doing things in my time. Unauthorized riding of horses. Unauthorized driving of cars. Unauthorized entry of structures. And now…unauthorized…exercise. This is a very strange time to be alive.

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.

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.

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