Turning 50 was traumatic enough but 60 (last November), WOW, that is old in anybody’s book. I now get the senior citizen rate on San Diego buses. At least they ask for my id to prove I am 60.
I don’t feel 60. I can still run a “kick ass” 10K through the Ensenada hills and paddle my kayak, four and one half hours, to Todos Santos Island. But, according to life expectancy tables, I have less time to live than I have lived.
Age 60 has caused me to take time more seriously. Am I doing what I should be doing and living where I should be living? My kids, unbelievably in their 30’s, are now more important to me than ever before. I laugh with them in a way I laugh with no one else. God, how much precious time I lost when they were children. Time that was invested in striving to be “successful”.
My kids are not going to move to Mexico. Their lives are centered around the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area where they grew up. I still love my O’Town, Oakland – Home of the West Coast Blues, and like my friend Troyce Keyes (Eli’s Mile High Club) would say, “I sho do love da blues”. Unfortunately, I had to leave Oakland when they changed the city’s name to Cokeland. Chocolate City got too tough for this ole homey.
Why do I stay in Mexico ? A nation so corrupt that even the mighty Vicente Fox may not be able to successfully control the problem. A country whose bureaucratic systems are unfriendly to small Mexican owned businesses, let alone my clients who don’t understand the laws, language or culture. They often “stress out” over the country’s cumbersome investment climate. It makes my job, as their guide, stressful. Caught between two cultures, unable to fully explain one to the other.
I have been accused, by U.S. retirees in Mexico, to be anti American. I am not anti American anymore than I am anti Mexicano. I simply reflect what I see, the defects and strengths of both countries. I only ask that my paisanos be more understanding of a young country with a newly emerging democratic politic. A poor nation that is in the early stages of global competitiveness.
I ask my fellow norteamericanos to respect and learn from our south of the border brothers and sisters. They have taught me a whole lot about family, humility, and healthy living values. I am eager to defend my adopted homeland from unfair criticism that begs the question: why can’t they be more like us? In other words, why can’t those damn Mexicans advance to gingohood?
Why not move back to my beloved Oakland? Close to my children, lots of blues, jazz, soul food, beautiful black women, a damn decent Chinatown, and don’t forget the beautiful black women. The Oakland hills have great trails for running and mountain biking. Stinson beach is where I leaned to surf and the San Francisco bay and coastline are ideal for kayaking.
One word keeps me south of the border: Congestion. Too many folks in too many cars who must keep moving to keep ahead of the high cost of living. This same magna quantity of people requires a plethora of rules, regulations and restrictions to keep all those people from hurting each other and themselves.
You can’t take your dogs or alcohol to the beach, must wear a helmet in a variety of circumstances and 25% of the world’s lawyers on 5% of the planet’s landmass are lurking and waiting to sue your ass. Most incredulous to me, is the creation of a society that deprives you of enjoying a good cigar after a fine meal in a restaurant.
The list of don’ts seems to get bigger and more onerous each year.
Here in Mexico, especially Baja, rules are minimal. Take your dogs to the beach without a leash? Hell, you can drive on the beach. I enjoy premium hand rolled, Mexican cigars at a dollar apiece and can smoke them anywhere. My canines and felines can accompany me wherever: hotels, on walks through the streets or parks, all sans leash. I also enjoy affordable, high quality, local wines and the seafood is fresh and also affordable.
Affordable: A family of four can go to the movies for $15.00 in Ensenada . However, $15.00 is close to a day’s pay for lots of folks. The daily experience of knowing neighbors and friends who can’t afford the fiftteen bucks; that consciousness keeps one connected to the real world.
“Keep it real” is the hip-hop motto. Oh yeah, yo all be keepin it real a’wright! Where multi millionaire music mogul, Punk Puffy Combs can play gangsta and get away with it. Throwin Saturday Night Specials outta limoisine windows? Thanks, no thanks. I take the bus to Tijuana , that’s when “yo keepin it real” ya all.
The thing I most enjoy about Baja is the open space. Like the old cowboy song, “Don’t Fence Me In”. I don’t feel “fenced in” physically, emotionally or spiritually in Mexico. In my beautiful Bay Area I feel trapped, all the elbow room has been sold at “silly cone” valley prices. My auntie’s California bungalow, on a huge lot, in a once working class, San Jose neighborhood, would now sell for upwards of a million dollars.
Many bay area working class cannot afford what my blue collar family could in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The U.S. has become a nation of spectators. They sit at home, in front of the TV, watching athletes and the rich and famous, enjoy what was once affordable to the average wage earner: A night on the town, a ball game or a concert.
Catchin Lou Rawls and The Whispers at The Sportsman’s Lounge in Oakland in the early 60’s cover charge, seventy five cents. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles at a small bistro in San Francisco for a $3.00 cover charge. Smokey (without the Miracles) appeared at Humphrey’s in San Diego last year. The cheapest ticket was $68.00 and you needed binoculars to see the stage. A movie in San Diego is now $8.00. I can see the same film in a surround sound cinema in Ensenada for $3.00.
Thank God for cheap air travel along the Pacific Coast . I can still fly home to see my kids for under $200.00 round trip. That’s the best I can do to remain healthy and sane in a place where everybody knows my name.