Existential Angst

Vaquita Susan and Susan
Vaquita Susan and Susan

Some days the ennui of modern life takes hold. The weeks of visiting and traveling are over. Here we are in Mexico for a couple of stationary months. No visitors planned. No big ideas looming. This morning I woke up just kind of down. A why am I here? kind of day. The kids all failed to show up to English class a few days ago. Possibly they stayed home because Thursday was the start of a holiday weekend. Or because Vikki suffered an injury and couldn’t rally the troops. Or maybe, word hadn’t made it around we were back in town. We’ll never know. I felt the funk creeping in that day.

There’s all kinds of problems in the world. Here we have the usual neglect and abuse of little ones. Right now we’ve got a neighborhood flasher harassing the kids. I have some ideas of what I’d like to do to the guy and his equipment but I’m leaving it to others. It wouldn’t be prudent to say more here. If I write a book the details will be in there. Ask me about it if you see me. Also, just down the hill from us is a camp of migrant workers. Rumors are the kids don’t even speak Spanish and that they are hunting grasshoppers for their meals. The neighbors are collecting clothes, food, and blankets to help ease the suffering.

Then there’s Vikki. She fell and severely hurt her knee. That means no work and no money while she recuperates. Of course we’re all helping out there. There’s also another friend with aggressive breast cancer. She’s just 40. The news is not optimistic. Sometimes it seems like death and loss are all we know. Suffering is all around.

And then there’s me. My suffering is caused by feeling powerless to help. We throw some money here and there. Give a blanket and some toys. Try to keep the kids busy so they don’t wander around town looking for attention. And I just find myself wondering is it doing any good? any good at all? I really don’t know. But these are the only ideas I have right now.

On the up side, here’s a little glimpse into the hard as hell life of Luz Maria. She is one tough broad. Luz Maria is the mother of our friend Elsi. Everyone calls her (and all women her age) Mama. I first met mama ten years ago. That was before her husband died. Luz Maria mostly keeps to the traditional ways. She dresses as she always has in a wool skirt, embroidered blouse, coral and gold jewelry. She also always sports the multi-purpose shawl. The shawl keeps her warm or shades her head or serves as a carry-all. Sometimes she wears a hoodie. Now, she has a pair of readers. Luz Maria is in her late sixties and probably hasn’t read a label in 20 years. She needed help threading needles. All fine work required a younger set of eyes. Now she can see a little better. We brought a pack of readers for the family. Both mamas, and Luis Fabian and Elsi now have reading glasses to help read bills, labels, and homework assignments.

While we were visiting in Peguche we took a walk to Luz Maria’s home. Luz Maria and I connected over our shared love of animals. She credits my good wishes to her laboring cow with the safe delivery of the heifer’s first calf last fall. I was honored when the calf was named Susan. My only namesake and she’s gonna spend her life making babies and milk until she’s slaughtered. That’s a thought to shake the doldrums.

Luz Maria toured us around her fields and her old home.  The cows were tied out and grazing in separate locations. Our journey took us through fields of corn and beans and across muddy roads and deep puddles. At an elevation of nearly 10,000′ I could hardly keep up with Luz Maria for the length of our hour long walk. One stretch of the journey found us balance beaming along a three foot high concrete wall. That woman can move in a pair of rubber boots. Our chore was done when we walked the cow and calf back to the security of the house yard for the night.

Luz Maria grew up in a dirt floored stick hut. She speaks kichwa. Her Spanish is about as good as my Spanish. She glows with light. I’m going to try and remember her and her smile and her cows.

Luz Maria's former home
Luz Maria’s former home
Luz Maria walks to get the mama cow.
Luz Maria walks to get the mama cow. Bean vines climbing the corn stalks.
River crossing with the cow, Julieta. Named for Jueves which means Thursday.
River crossing with the cow, Julieta. Named for Jueves which means Thursday.
Heading home for the night.
Heading home for the night.
Luz Maria and her new readers.
Luz Maria and her new readers. This is in the kitchen of her daughter’s home.
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Whirlwind Tour

Tennis Tournament
Tennis Tournament

Dad leaves tomorrow. I think if he stayed any longer Burt and I would die of exhaustion. It has been a non-stop trip full of sports, food, beach, music, and ROMANCE. Burt and I feel like we have been chaperoning a middle schooler on dates. Next time Til visits he needs his own car and a Mexican telephone. I can’t keep up with him. All his resistance about visiting Mexico is gone. The trip has exceeded his wildest expectations.

Where to begin? Til came in Tuesday night with an open mind and a degree of flexibility I have never seen. Kudos to him. We took him to music class that afternoon and he fell in love with all our smiling and energetic pupils. The kids stared at him like the Jolly Green Giant had come to life. After class we dined at one of our favorite restaurants. Next day was pickleball and an evening tennis tournament mixer. A little pinochle to pass the time during the day. Thursday  things started accelerating. More kids, more tennis, more food. A friend joined us for dinner at our favorite restaurant and the sparks were flying. Dad was smoooooooth. Who was this guy? Burt and I did our best to stay out of the way and keep the good times rolling. It’s a delicate balance. I’m not comfortable saying more beyond this: I am glad everyone is having a good time.

Friday the tennis tourney started. More food, more beach, more kids. Saturday was this epic amalgamation of over doing it: Tennis (all over the area), provide music for a party, eat too much, nap, kid’s performance at the Festival del Chile y la Fresa, dinner.  We got up early and drove all over. Played tennis, sang songs, rested and then starting at 5:30 shepherded 13 kids on an evening long odyssey to their first musical performance. Kids, teachers, fans waited 2 hours on a chilly night to be the closing act in an overly long show of local talent. Our kids were stoic. Not a single complaint was heard from the little ones. The adults were cold and hangry but the kids showed us how to be patient. They politely watched all the other acts (folk dancing) and mustered their enthusiasm when our time to shine finally arrived.  Dad and his date smilingly kept us company and provided warm clothes and drinks. At 8:00 we trotted on to the stage in our matching, misspelled t-shirts and gave the huge crowd a show. Break a Leg does not have an equivalent saying in Spanish but we did indeed break our collective legs. The Wheels on the Bus, Five Little Monkeys, Cancion Mixteca, and Love Potion Number 9 were delivered with energy and dynamic balloon accents. The balloons were a last minute addition. Burt and I were puzzled by the props but we figured all ideas were welcome.   Video footage on Facebook confirms that it was a brilliant idea. Seven and a half minutes later it was all done. The kids were each handed twenty pesos by my dad as they exited the stage. Dad wanted to bribe them in advance to sing well and I said it needed to be a post-gig surprise. It worked out well but a few kids were mystified by the money. They ran off to spend it on the rides and junk food before we could take it back. Team Mittelstadt/Zazzali grabbed a late dinner and retired at 10:00.

That night we lost an hour to daylight savings time and had 8:00 AM matches too. Ugh. I did not play well. It was a disaster. Too much driving, too much tennis, too little rest, too many people, too many days in a row. We took dad to the last tennis party and left him with his new friend. Burt and I collapsed in the trailer. That was two days ago. Yesterday was Bridge and more double dating. Right now I am finally alone with Burt. We played pickleball this AM and a round of pinochle after lunch. I might have lost all my tennis matches but I am undefeated in pinochle. Dad’s with his friend. Burt and I have the kids at 4:00. Then it’s one last evening for the new couple and at 4:00 AM we take dad to the airport.

I am so pleased my dad has had an enjoyable trip. Like I told him and his friend: Just have fun. You, too, dear readers.

Art Class arrivals
Art Class arrivals
Drawing pushes the brain
Drawing pushes the brain
Non-dominant hand exercise. Hurts the head.
Non-dominant hand exercise. Hurts the head.
Elvis at the beach
Elvis at the beach. He misses more than he catches now.
Dad, Burt, and Elvis.
Dad, Burt, and Elvis.
Teachers and fans
Teachers and fans

IMG_6716

Elvis and frisbee
Elvis and frisbee
Wheels on the bus plus balloons
Wheels on the bus plus balloons
Burt in the tennis tournament.
Burt in the tennis tournament.
Cabalgata or horse parade.
Cabalgata or horse parade.
Show time
Show time
You've heard of Brangalina? Meet Sarillo.
You’ve heard of Brangalina? Meet Sarillo.
Singing class
Singing class practicing for the show
Beach with the dogs
Beach with the dogs
La Paloma's ice cream
La Paloma’s ice cream
Day 1 Pickle Ball
Day 1 Pickle Ball
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Happy Birthday to MEEEEE

Lists from the last 4 months of birding and Spanish class.
Lists from the last 4 months of birding and Spanish class.

It’s my 51st birthday. Wahoo. A prime number is a good number. Well. it’s a combo of two primes, not not actually prime. I almost didn’t arrive. The last several days traveling up the Baja peninsula were uneventful but I almost died and we suffered a trailer breakdown. Life on the road.

So there we were. Driving north in our annual migration. We were traveling a little later than usual so the sights were different. Cirius cactus were up right instead of bent over because they’d increased internal pressure with the recent rains. There were leaves on some trees. Near Vizcaino the terotes or elephant trees were fuzzy with white blooms. The poofy white topped trees contrasted delightfully against the red-brown lava rock surface. I was inspired to photograph. Burt was inspired to stop but as so often is he case along MX-1 there were no pullouts. Finally on a long stretch of straightaway Burt simply stopped and put on the flashers. I hopped out and peeked down my side of the 48′ long trailer-truck complex to check for cars. Nothing. I RAN around the front end. The engine was roaring. My flip flops were waggling. I got to Burt’s side and nearly ran right into a red car blazing along at 80 MPH. It was a Wile W. Coyote moment. I wobbled on the center line as Burt issued a primal scream as the nearly-killed-me car blew by. I don’t know what stopped me at the edge of mortality. Was it the thought that I needed to check again? Did I suddenly realize the blind spot of our vehicle was massive? Was it the realization that I couldn’t hear anything over the massive diesel engine? Did I hear something over the engine? Did I hear Burt scream? Impossible to know for sure.

I think I felt Burt’s scream. The look on his face was devastating. He had nearly seen me run to my death. I did what the still alive but don’t know why always do. I laughed. Then I wobbled on my shaky legs and took this lame picture. I returned to the car and felt sick to my stomach for the next few hours. I have no recollection of a conscious thought telling me to stop. It was if an invisible wall just plopped down and I crashed into it. Burt’s wall of love.

So here I am. Birthday in LA. Happy to be alive. We’re going to visit the La Brea tar pits. We are going to replace the broken spring on the trailer. That’s the royal we. I’ll have nothing to do with the repairs. We broke the spring in a remote place in Baja. Mechanics repaired it as best they could with the wrong parts. It got us here. We are parked on friends’ street. These friends, Barry and Laura from Portal came to see us in Baja this winter. Barry is a former car mechanic and a retired rocket launcher. He has a lot of tools and knows how to fix things. How lucky are we? Yesterday Barry and Burt went off and ordered a replacement spring while I napped and Laura cooked. Actually, I called PIMW attendees and chased down money. I just said I was napping. The spring should be ready today. While Laura and I look for a new handbag, Barry and Burt are going to replace the spring. Wish them luck.

Breakdowns are a part of life on the road. They offer the chance to do things you might never have done. I’ll try to avoid another near death experience for a while.

The elephant tree in bloom. I nearly died for this mediocre picture.
The elephant tree in bloom. I nearly died for this mediocre picture.
Me, a little past my prime.
Me, a little past my prime.
Our bodega in Mexico
Our bodega in Mexico
Another self portrait. Not looking as good as  used to look.
Another self portrait. Not looking as good as I used to look.
We hobbled up here on a mashed up version of this broken spring.
We hobbled up here on a mashed up version of this broken spring.
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