There’s More To Life Than Pickleball And We’re Glad!

We’re happy to report that Beach Fest weekend went well for all concerned – those who were in Rosarito Beach and those of us who were not.

By the time we were back on Monday, most of the remnants of the Fest had been trucked away and by Tuesday morning the beach was calm, clean and ready for the local crowd.

Molly’s personal accomplishment for the weekend was successfully navigating the Cuota, the freeway from Rosarito Beach to the border in Tijuana, her first time, and home from San Diego again.  She also was able to have a friendly conversation with the U.S. Customs officer who wondered about her loaded car carrying items for the storage locker. If there’s any question, a driver can be sent to Secondary which is not quite like Coventry, but certainly intimidating.

Her paintings caught the officer’s eye, and then her little N gauge railroad was a source for conversation. (Every guy loves trains!) Then he smiled, handed  back our passports, and everyone was happy.

Going either direction across the border these days can be fraught.  The whole immigration situation has everyone on edge – sometimes a small edge and sometimes more.  Most of the Customs folks are businesslike but friendly, while others  become officious and unnecessarily stern, ordering even the most ordinary travelers around to show who’s boss. We’ve run into both kinds.  Residents who’ve chosen to live inland away from the border have other problems from time to time, but interacting with Customs as often as folks in Rosarito is not one of them.

We’ve just learned this week that the Mexican government is responding in kind with new activity at the many checkpoints along the highways.  They’re mostly on the lookout for illegal migrants coming from the south, but they’re also clamping down on ex-pats who’ve never legally entered Mexico.   There are apparently thousands and there’s a kind of pride among them.  The advice now is to have your papers with you at all times in case of a random stop at an equally random checkpoint.

Late August has turned out to be a pleasant time for us as the beach has been given back mostly to the locals and their families.  There are still the occasional fireworks at night, and the local bands – with tubas and rat-a-tat drums – play on weekends. There are still tourists wandering the markets and sipping margaritas, but the air is lighter and the crush of commerce has passed for the season. We still have Labor Day weekend ahead with plenty of Americanos headed south, but we can handle that.

Cooler weather has come in the mornings even in sunny Rosarito Beach (which has not been all that sunny all the time).  I’m already putting away my shorts and summer tops and zapatos and actually broke out one of my turtlenecks one chilly morning.  Summer is not entirely over, of course, and by noon, I was back in my skimpier clothes.

The markets like the one pictured above are open rain or shine, warm or chilly.  This one is part of a maze of vendor stalls behind the street stalls on Benito Juarez and is more like a colorful catacomb although not literally underground.  Treasures can be found around every twist and turn, including lots of Talavera pottery.  I particularly love these beautiful vases for their shape, color, and designs.

Color, of course, is everywhere here.  This hacienda is a block from our place, and we walk past it almost every day.  The elderly Mexican woman who lives here has taken to putting up signs for one thing or another – parking, camping, or like this one to greet cochinitos (affectionate slang for piglets) visiting the beach and ask that they not leave their trash thrown around.

The day I snapped this, I was not as interested in the sign or even the lovely red bougainvillea as I was the apparently dead branches of the tree over the roof.  The landscapers who cleared her property earlier this year left those branches and I’ve wondered more than once about them. But on this day, I knew why they were there.  They were not dead, they were leafing out as if to say, “Don’t give up on me yet.”

Lessons are everywhere. The woman who lives here can barely walk the block from her house to Benito.  But she has a bright smile and fashionably short hair.  Perhaps when she sees those newly leafed branches she agrees with writer Don Marquis’ wonderful creation Mehitabel the Cat who once announced to the world:  “There’s a dance in the old dame yet.”

Not all of us are ready for pickleball and book groups. Let the music begin!

From Rosarito Beach adios, amigos,

Michael and Molly

 

 

 

 

The Ides of August and Rappers on the Beach

Thursday afternoon, August 15

Rosarito Beach is holding its breath today.  The anticipation is tangible and by tomorrow night, this little resort town will be a different place.

In 2018 the population here was reported as 70,000 including locals and ex-pats.  By this weekend, that population is expected to rise to 100,000 adding an anticipated 30,000 concert goers for the second annual Baja Beach Fest.

Overnight.

The promoters of the concert are hoping for more, “maybe 60,000 for the two day concert.”  We’ll know soon.

To show they’re serious, the promoters have constructed a many-story concert stage with all the trimmings on the beach.  Heavy equipment, heavy materials and a busy crew have put in hours on this project and last night they tested the sound equipment.

The view from our balcony

I’ve done enough theatre and other performance to know a sound check when I hear it, but this one blew the doors off.  Did I mention this is a Latin rap concert?  With major performers? Loud.

Today, the entertainment troops are mostly wandering the beach site, making last minute checks on the fencing, the gates, the Tecate beer stands, the portable toilets, the stage and backstage areas.  Tomorrow, the streets of Rosarito will be jammed, the ones that are open because several will be closed.

And today, Rosarito Beach is holding its breath.

The economy here has suffered the last few years because of a little brother identity with Tijuana and fears of similar violence.  Rosarito Beach is a relatively safe place.  We’ve lived here many months and experienced no crimes personally although a few have happened and we see the police pickup trucks daily with their loads of people under arrest for one crime or another – mostly, small time crimes we suspect.

So for Rosarito’s sake, the Baja Beach Fest will give a boost to the suffering economy – a boost of sorts, largely for the food and drink and hospitality industry.  Hotels and BNBs are already full.  Taxis are at the ready as are buses and shuttles.  Cars are discouraged as there’s a minimum of parking although every enterprising property owner within a five-mile radius is turning every spare inch of yard space into a parking lot.

For the sake of the sanity of many of us who live within earshot and eyesight (the lights all night in our windows are blinding), we’re getting out of Dodge and heading one direction or another.  Us? We’re headed north to San Diego to take care of other business and see a couple of our docs and get some sleep.

I haven’t seen the rest of Mexico, so I can’t report on anything except our Baja California area.  And it’s a confusing place for me.  On one hand, Mexico wants to be seen as a first-world country and heaven knows there’s a lot of evidence that this should be the case – the arts, the universities, business and more.

Events like the Baja Beach Fest are trying to accomplish it in one arena – entertainment.

On the other hand, we read daily of serious corruption, we walk trash-filled streets, experience power and water outages and note the many bathrooms with signs reminding us not to flush the paper as it will clog up the system. This doesn’t feel like a 21st century first-world country.

We like the simpler, more relaxed take on life.  It’s one of the reasons we wanted to move to Mexico.  Perhaps we simply made a bad choice for where to land with that move.  We visited Rosarito Beach in the fall when things were quiet and the beach was lightly populated with no spring breakers or music festivals – just the kind of beach we like.  But we’re not everybody and we don’t get to choose for everybody either.

One bikini-clad young woman summed up the experience both for those who come to party here and for those of us who live here:  “We came for a good time, not a long time.”  And there you have it.  We’ve lived with the noise and the crowds since March.  A long time.

We can only choose for ourselves.  And our choice at the moment is to not spend another “noise” season in Rosarito Beach.  What that means, exactly, is still being worked out.

 

 

 

 

Molly Becomes a Mexican, Michael Makes the Margaritas, and Other Tales from Rosarito

Time flies on pelican wings when you’re having fun.  Can’t believe the last post was in January, but the intervening weeks have been filled with both fun and not so much fun – aka, colds/flu.

Still, as anyone more or less retired will tell you, you find a lot of things to occupy the days and before you know it, another month rolls around and then another.  And on the plus side I walked the bureaucratic process with my terrific immigration specialist and got my one-year resident card. I’m now a Mexican, and Michael has mastered the true Mexican Margarita!  We’re set…Viva Mexico, baby!

Lest you think, however, that we’ve been lolling on a quiet white sand beach in a warm winter sun, let me throw some shade on that image.  For one thing, we had all the bad winter storms that hit the rest of the Pacific coast and other places.  No snow and a good thing, too, since I got rid of all my L.L. Bean gear before leaving the northwest.  But everything else – high winds, lots of rain and just generally stay-indoors-weather with intermittent sunshine.  My shorts are still on the shelf waiting for more days in the 70s.

Besides the weather, our idea of “quiet” beach went right out the window when March arrived and we realized our condo is within amplifying distance of the hottest spot in Rosarito Beach – Papas & Beer, party headquarters extraordinaire!  For those who don’t speak the language, “papas” are not old fathers, but potatoes.  Beer and French fries, along with nonstop Margaritas, noise, wet t-shirts and everything else that goes with beach parties.

Spring Break hit us hard the entire month of March with waves of students from the U.S. and Mexico along with hip-hop, DJs, and more cranking up by about 11:00 every morning and running nonstop until about 3:00 a.m. the next morning.  On weekend nights the party included strobe lights shooting over the ocean and into the wide wide skies.  So much for looking at the stars.

The beach regularly fills almost completely on weekends, too, with celebrants and families under colorful umbrellas, sometimes packing their own amplifiers for a different kind of music.  Then there are the local mariachi or brass and drum bands that add to the fun.  They really are fun.  I love their sound. Tubas are popular and are something like the carpet in The Big Lebowski – they just kind of pull the scene together.

We love where we are and the condo itself, but we’ve been keeping our eyes open for a possible shift a little farther from Party Central next year.  I can’t say we weren’t warned because we were.  We just weren’t quite prepared for life in a nonstop carnival setting for the better part of the year.

In other news, we had a chance to meet with the owner of our favorite place, El Nido, which I’ve written a little about here.  Guadalupe Perez is a legend around these parts and a wonderful source of history – his own and the history of Rosarito Beach.  He offered us a tour of his beautiful ranch just outside the city and we spent part of a day there enjoying the vineyard, the peacocks, the sheep, the flowers, the herb garden, the stone chapels, and much more.  The tour ended back at El Nido with fresh margaritas all around.


“This farm is alive!”                                      Michael and Lupe order the drinks

I had intended to simply interview Lupe and write more about the restaurant which is a wonderland, but it turns out that he is not just a man with a story, but with several stories. I’m interested now in the “several” of his life, so I’m saving the writing here for now as I figure out how I want to approach this.  I wasn’t planning to be a full-fledged writer again, but some projects are too alluring to resist.

I’m thinking now about the in-depth approach Tracy Kidder takes with his subjects.  Lupe, as he’s known among friends, is a unique guy and a subject worthy of that attention.

Before I go, let me tell you about our new home entertainment – rompecabezas!  Here’s a sample:

Yes. the fine old way to pass time – jigsaw puzzles.  We found the first one at a local swap meet, brand new, never been opened, and spent 20 pesos ($1.00) for our find.  It was so much fun, we scouted for more and now have a collection, some of which we’ve saved after they’re finished.  I’ve long been a jigsaw puzzle fan, but Michael was kind of new to it.  For a problem solver like he is, it was a natural fit.  And it’s a lovely, quiet, companionable way to while away a few hours.

We send greetings to new and old friends after celebrating both our birthdays, our one-year anniversary, and the joie de vivre of this new life. Moving to another country full time is never perfect but it’s beyond interesting, filled with the small challenges of learning many new ways.  When it feels a little overwhelming, a visit to our neighborhood Tamale Inn makes us forget about the latest mystery (why didn’t we get the light bill, for example, and why does our farmacia have carrot cake but not Aleve?).

David and Nina at Tamale Inn are always happy to see us and they make the best tamales, enchiladas and – oh man – tacos! we’ve found. (We sometimes have them for breakfast!) Who needs Cheers where everybody knows your name, when we have places in Rosarito where we’re welcomed so warmly – “Hey, Miguel and Molly!”

For now, amigos y amigas, we say adios and wish you a happy and blessed spring season and Easter.  Stay open for the next surprise in your own life.  It could be the best one ever!!

Michael and Molly

 

 

A Week in the Life: Art, Exercise, Food and Sunsets

Hallelujah! The great storm is over (spread your wings and fly!)  Back in a different lifetime, I lived in Massachusetts and Maine where this old song is a favorite.  I’ve been singing it here because we did in fact have a great storm with high winds, high tides and joking wishes for a cozy fireplace.

The storm and the wishes have passed and life is back to normal with “fair winds and calm seas,” margaritas, sunshine, quiet walks, and the sunsets.  With a clear view to the far horizon, we do see some beauties.  This recent “golden sunset” gave us more than the usual pause.

Michael is the best walker around and has been out discovering new parts of this growing city several times a week.   The mix of urban and rural is without many boundaries as he discovered recently when he hiked through a densely settled section of the city and a short distance beyond to one of the hillsides we see from the condo.

Pix below show one of his artistic shots through a fence to the cuota, the whiz bang toll highway that runs down Baja and in a different shot, the proverbial chicken about to cross the road.   Urban and rural.

                     

Last time I promised a little view of the art center/library very near our place.  For an artist who believes that color is an animal that wags its own tail, Mexico is a paradise of beautiful “animals.”  Colors are in the DNA of the region and for me this speaks volumes.

IMAC is our version of Lincoln Center – the Municipal Culture Institute a block from the beach and home to all kinds of activities, festivals, arts and crafts, dances – the world of cultural and artistic expression.  A recent showing of the Loving Vincent film is balanced by young dancers (and old), art shows, the local library, and the small park where you see the kids, the parents, the abuelas y abuelos sitting on the benches enjoying the sun and a conversation.

This abuela’s favorite bench is the butterfly creation!

The building walls are decorated with lots of art including the lovely undersea series, part of it here.

The picture of the boys is a demonstration of our open air gym equipment.  It’s simple, accessible, free and it works.  Counterbalancing with your own weight is as good as a workout at Gold’s Gym.

Friends often ask me about the food here.  We’re on a hunt for the best and have a few favorites. We’ve also had a few disappointments, but the search goes on.  Of course, there’s some excellent Mexican food, but even better are the dishes Michael cooks, including his late mom’s pork chili specialty.

When we hanker for burgers and fries, we head up to Guerrero St. and Hamburguesa Joy.   For a special evening out, El Gaucho is the place with melt-in-your-mouth Argentinian steaks and sangria.  For breakfast – Mexican or American – it’s El Nido, which happens to be our margarita place as well (but not for breakfast).

El Nido (the nest) deserves a post of its own, so I’ll save more about this restaurant/museum/garden spot until another time.

Until then, adios amigos y amigas!  Vaya con dios…