Month: June 2012

Brief Kitty Update

We dared to go out tonight to friends’ house for dinner, so Group 2 was locked up in our bedroom for several hours. Now we’re back home and they’re roaming around, having been sprung, getting in each others’ way and hissing their heads off. But at one point a rather spectacular hissfest between Luigi and Rosie (Luigi having cornered her, not such a good idea) was so loud and scary that both Missoni and Tabitha jumped up on the buffet in the dining room either to escape or to watch the show. They were completely concerned with what was going on down on the floor between the other two and didn’t realize that they were only three feet apart from each other. Is this progress?

Missoni finally jumped down when she realized, with a start, how close she was to Tabitha. Tab has been chasing after Missoni, and started after her once again, but I scooped her up and stopped her. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Maybe in a few more weeks our life will return to normal, the four kitties being more adjusted to one another, and we can resume our worrying about being kidnapped and beheaded instead of breaking up catfights. You just never know in life. Who would have ever thought we would have four cats? And my mother is now so far past being able to even be grateful that we’ve turned our lives upside down to give them a home here, or even to be aware that the cats are gone from her house, that it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter, but I look at her two cats, who are actually settling in here quite well (it’s our original two who are crazed) and think “I just really couldn’t have put them up for adoption, we will all – animals and humans – make it work somehow.”

Today it’s one year since my father died — his yahrzeit – and I remember on the day he died noting that had been a particularly spectacular day here – big puffy clouds, blue skies, the perfect temperature outside, just a hint of a breeze, flowers and birds everywhere. It was like that today too, particularly gorgeous. Once the rains start every June, things do get better.

Day of the Sacred Heart

Dia Del Sagrado Corazón

After we got back from New York and Arnold’s pacemaker adventure, he dutifully reported to his cardiologist here, who had everything checked out. The marcapasos (pacemaker) is doing just fine, but mysteriously, Arnold’s heart is still not working as efficiently as it should. The doctor said “We need to find out what’s going on” as he suspects a blockage or blockages in his coronary plumbing somewhere. So off he went this week to the regional nuclear medicine center,  PET Guadalajara, to have a PET scan done. With those images, the doctor can tell us where we need to go from here.

Arnold is of course sick of the whole thing and is not happy at all about his new identity as a cardiac patient. Nor am I, but as we keep saying, we don’t really want to consider the alternative. Whatever they figure out, it may well involve more surgery and probably a trip back to the States, where Medicare thankfully will cover much of the expense. So for the moment, we are putting things on hold until we know what he will be facing. More uncertainty, alas.

Since all of the local websites have pretty much shut down any talk of crime (some of them being sponsored by local real estate agencies, of course), many people are happy that things appear to be calmer now after the horrible spate of random kidnappings and murders we had last month. People are slowly creeping out of their houses and resuming their habitual routines. The streets are no longer deserted; there are fiestas resuming on the weekends and expat community leaders are urging everyone to start patronizing local restaurants and businesses again. There is much musing about the best ways to help our Mexican neighbors recover from the recent crime wave by sending some pesos their way, from “Get out and eat at the restaurants” to “Donate to the funds we have set up for victims’ families”. Whether it really IS any safer out there now, who can tell?  Most of the expats around here don’t read Spanish well enough to check the Guadalajara metropolitan dailies; but sadly, even a superficial glance at those will tell you that there is more than enough crime to go around. But if it’s true – as they say – that after the elections things may calm down, perhaps it won’t be all that much worse than what you’d read about in Detroit, or Chicago, or insert-name-of-crime-ridden OTHER city of seven or eight million people. Who knows? But undeniably, the rival gangs are still kidnapping and extorting and robbing and murdering out there.

The unspoken question always hanging above our heads, like one of those cloud comic book balloons, is whether our little expat colony persists in living in a dreamworld convincing itself that they will continue to leave us alone. But in fact, thus far – unless someone got themselves mixed up in the drug scene somehow – they have. Or, as has happened to an unfortunate few, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But then I always come back to the crazies that slaughter people in beauty parlors or malls or wherever back in the States. In this day and age, how you meet your maker seems to be increasingly random – and now I am beginning to suspect that with the economies of much of the world collapsing or going through, at the very least, very tough times, it’s going to get shakier and more unpredictable everywhere. People are getting killed all over the place. I could change my tune tomorrow if there is a resurgence of random violence in our village, but right now I’m thinking that one might as well stay in a place where you have flowers and hummingbirds to distract you all year round, your house is your own, not some crooked bank’s, and the coldest it gets makes you put on socks and a sweater.

You don’t have to be reading the morning news to be a nervous wreck, however. Cartels and American psychopaths aside, Arnold is also balancing on the edge of a knife blade just because of what is going on inside his own body – no murderous thug need apply to give him sleepless nights. So we are putting our fretting about being massacred in a balacera (gun battle) aside long enough to try to figure out what we are going to do about Arnold’s heart situation and – to the extent that anyone can relax knowing that they may be facing heart surgery – to enjoy the arrival of the rainy season. Everything is turning lush and green, almost overnight, as it does every year. We were sitting on our terrace the other day, watching not only dozens of hummingbirds racing around, but the big yellow-and-white Great Kiskadees (they call them Kiris here) with the wonderful black racing stripes on their heads, some gorgeous orange, yellow and black orioles, and a couple of brilliant red Vermillion Flycatchers swooping around our fountain.

Then suddenly we heard the remnants of a procession passing by the house in the street outside our garden walls, accompanied by the strangest and most compelling sort of pre-hispanic or medieval melody you can imagine; I thought it sounded like a flute but I’m still not sure. I’d never heard anything quite like it. They’ve been setting off cohetes (rockets) all over town, too, scaring pets and rattling everyone’s nerves even more than they have been rattled by recent events. But cohetes are a big part of the culture here, so their return wasn’t entirely unwelcome; a tenacious tradition reasserting itself in spite of it being a dangerous time. The unearthly music floated around the neighborhood for quite awhile, and whoever was playing it was either in a trance or practicing very hard to get it right, because it was repeated over and over again, almost like a meditation.  The street had been decorated with red and white crepe paper, too. “It’s got to be some sort of religious holiday, doesn’t it?” Arnold said. “Yeah, but which one is it?” I wondered.

Then it dawned on both of us, when we remembered the June date, and that the red stood for blood, the white for purity, that it was Dia del Sagrado Corazón, Day of the Sacred Heart.  It is a actually a very serious holiday for these folks, marked by somber prayers and processions, acts of consecration, the recital of novenas and so forth. It is probably going to turn out, when we see the doctor, that it will have been a pretty serious holiday for us, too. Prayers for us, for those who pray, may well be in order, in fact.

One sees a variety of images of hearts – both sacred and profane – everywhere in Mexican art, from the pierced and bleeding hearts (symbolizing the travails of the Mexican people) of the great muralists to the most naïve and delightful folk art.  Even Arnold’s cardiologist, whose black-and-white office is as sleek and modern a place as you can possibly imagine, in an equally sleek and modern glass tower in Guadalajara, has a wonderful handmade metal tree on the credenza behind his desk – hung with dozens of enchanting, translucent red glass hearts. So while he is telling you that you need to have your chest cut open and your heart patched up, you can enjoy this wonderful piece of folk art. Mexico has come a long way since the day when, instead, they would have cut your heart out and offered it up to the gods as a sacrifice.

And so, still waiting for the results of Arnold’s twenty-first century PET scan, we have passed this year’s Día del Sagrado Corazón. We will see the cardiologist, and his delightful metal tree, in this office this afternoon.

Cuatro, Count ’em, Cuatro, Gatos

My poor mother continues her slow, inexorable decline. Thankfully, she appears not to be in pain, and her care is fantastic, so all we can do is keep her comfortable and hope that when the end does come, that she does not suffer. I figure, as the dutiful oldest daughter, that it is my job, in addition to helping to manage her care, to honor whatever promises I might have made to her along the way.

Aside from saying to friends and family that I would love to scatter her ashes at Saks Fifth Avenue (or at least a portion thereof), which is just the perfect ending for her, last year, after my father died,  in one of her more conscious moments we talked about the fate of their two beloved cats, Luigi and Tabitha. And in a moment of what was probably terminal weakness, I said quite clearly, “Don’t worry about the kitties, Mom. If anything happens to you, Arnold and I will take them and make sure they stay together with us.” It made sense then and it makes sense now, sentimentality aside, because our local shelters here are full of cats and kittens in desperate need of homes, and anyone who would be willing to adopt two older cats needs to be looking there first, I would submit.

Both my parents’ cats were adopted years ago from two different shelters in Santa Fe. To avoid territory battles, we arranged to bring them to my parents’ house at the exact same hour on the same day. I had read somewhere that doing it that way was a good idea, and at least in our case, it was. The two never fought, bonded immediately, and several years later came down to Mexico with my parents on the plane to Guadalajara when we finally pried them out of their too-big, too-unmanageable, Santa Fe house for what they thought was just the winter, but we knew it was probably for good. I wasn’t on that trip; I stayed behind to make sure their rented house here was ready for them upon their arrival.

But Arnold headed north and helped my sister Wendy to close up their house and bring them all down. He described to me the Peter-and-The Wolf parade through two airports and customs, with him managing the two terrified cats in their airline-approved carriers, plus all their cross border veterinary certificates for entry into Mexico (we called the documents their PussPorts). In addition dealing with my octogenarian parents in wheelchairs, (one with diabetes, incontinence, and emphysema, and the other with dementia) their caregiver also wrangled enough portable oxygen tanks for the plane ride and extra tanks, oxygen, and diabetic-friendly food for any unforeseen delays in the airport (for my mother) and their luggage. The two kitties then enjoyed six months of being with both my parents before my dad passed away, but now that my mother is past the point of being able to even pet them, the moment had come, a week ago, for me to say to José, “We’re in town for awhile, maybe this is the best time for us to bring them over to our house”. This we did, about a week ago. And, as we say in my ethnic group, oy gevalt.

Our own two cats – females who have been the queens of the roost for years – reacted as predicted to the interlopers’ arrival with regular bouts of growling, flattened ears, bared teeth, and bushed-out tails. They continue to escape with much snarling to wherever they can hide out to be out of the way of the two intruders whenever and wherever they happen to come upon them in the house. Since we brought them to our house a week ago, we have developed an elaborate system of feeding them all separately so things don’t get worse; and keeping them all straight proved complicated enough so that I began referring to them as Group 1 – our original two, Rosina and Missoni, and Group 2 – the parental cats, Luigi and Tabitha. We feed Group 1 where we always have, in the lavanderia (laundry area) along with Reina, the dog.  Group 2 gets fed upstairs in the bathroom where they also get locked up at night with their own cat box and water, so as not to invade Group 1’s nocturnal territory, namely our bed.

Someone told us that it takes ten weeks for cats to get used to each other. My recollection was that Rosie took a lot longer than that to get used to Missoni when she arrived, but the good news is that after however long it took, those two are now bosom buddies who sleep curled up together, lick each other and all that good stuff. Now their sisterhood has become a matter of Group 1 school spirit, I think. “We have to stick together, girlfriend, look at what these dreadful humans have visited upon us NOW”.

Meanwhile Luigi and Tabitha (Group 2) are having the time of their lives. I do believe cats are incredibly sensitive creatures, and they knew it when my dad died, and they sensed that my mother was gradually failing and no longer able to even interact with them. José and Sandra did their best to give them attention and affection but Wendy, Arnold and I noticed that they were spending most of their time hiding in a closet at my mother’s house as she lies sleeping more or less permanently in her rented hospital bed. Undoubtedly, both of them were suffering from major kitty depression. So getting them out of there had become a priority. Now, across town at our place, even though they have two other cats hissing at them all the time (and we keep telling them “this too shall pass”), if nothing else, it’s a little livelier for them. We are spending lots of time petting them and interacting with them and they are just loving the attention – purring, nuzzling us, wanting to sleep on our bed with us. This is not allowed yet because it would cause the Third World War but I told Wendy “the second I see all four of them on the bed together – which might be six months from now, god only knows, we can stop closing Group 2 up in the bathroom at night.” Reina is just doing the doggie equivalent of rolling her eyes and saying “good grief, more cats.” But she’s fine and Group 2, at first terrified of her, are already able to be near her without undue concern.

So the games have begun! I am sending my sister periodic status reports : “7 p.m. Report: Luigi stretched out under the table, Tabitha warily perched on one of the dining room chairs,  Missoni grooming herself on top of the bookcase but taking it all in, Rosina watching with flattened ears from a safe vantage point on top of the desk. Broke up major hissfest ten minutes ago but all calm now. Am standing here with squirt bottle at the ready but need to fix dinner & must put squirt bottle down, Pray for Peace”.  My sister is the worst of the multi-cat suckers, however. Ten years ago she agreed to foster a litter of kittens for her local shelter and when it came time to give them up for adoption she couldn’t bear to do it. So she has five huge tabby cats (I think it’s five, there were some other strays involved in her household and I sort of lost count).

Never in my life did I think I would end up with four, count ‘em, four, cats. Much as I love them. One of my friends commented that it’s verging on weird-hoarding-lady stuff to have four cats and a dog. Arnold just sighs and says, as he opens a can of cat food, “Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.”

And so back to spray bottle duty.  Adelante.

Music Education

Things must indeed be calming down a bit because our neighbors are having friends over again with their awful music playing (speakers aimed directly over our garden wall, of course), and the plumber never showed up, which tells me he has enough work now to keep him busy. Or else there’s a fiesta (Saturday night?) and that took priority. But the fact of a fiesta is a positive sign; for several weeks it has been dead as a doornail ‘round these parts.

Meanwhile it was a gorgeous day and the pool guy came so once again it was sparkling. These are the luxuries I try not to take for granted – but there they are. So I went outside and got in the water and enjoyed the brief respite from the blaring radios and racket that usually emanates from the evento place up on the highway most weekends. I had to myself the sound of the birds and the horses clopping by outside our garden walls on the street, Saturday afternoon being – since most people quit work at 2 p.m. – when the local horse folk take their steeds out for a walk or for charro training or whatever. That includes a lot of expats who have horses too, but most of them are retired and you can see them out pretty much any old time during the week.

Part of our now-weekly weekend ritual is that José, my mother’s full time and wonderful caregiver – along with his wife Sandra – stops by to give us a report on how she’s doing, and get whatever he needs from us for the week, the most important part of which is a new supply of opera DVDs to watch. José loves opera and since he quickly figured out that Arnold was not only possessed of tremendous expertise but an enormous collection, they now get together every week for their opera conversation. Since my mother is now – horribly – blind and bedridden, can no longer really talk, and sleeps most of the time, both José and Sandra have time on their hands between changing her diapers, giving her meds, turning her, and feeding her.

So José comes back with last week’s plastic bag full of opera DVDs and with a list of questions for Arnold – what is the significance of this or that in this or that opera, why are the sets and costumes so weird (this requires a long essay answer about current trends in opera production) or what was the composer trying to do here? We both enthusiastically try to answer his questions. Then the watched DVDs are returned and Arnold carefully selects this week’s crop – some old, some new, perhaps a French one, perhaps a Russian one, an early Verdi, one with something new and challenging for José, like a countertenor; maybe a vintage recording with a long-gone singer Arnold thinks was terrific. Inevitably José picks out the singer in question and when he comes back the following week for the Opera Exchange he says “Wow, that Madam So-and-So, she really had an incredible voice!” And Arnold beams as his protégé has nailed it. José has a great ear for voices, tremendous curiosity about the performing arts, and in another life, with a couple of degrees in music history or musicology, he might have been a helluva critic. He would have probably loved the experience I had, in my twenties, of working for a time for a major opera company and seeing firsthand how it all goes together magically on performance nights, with hundreds of people scurrying around that gigantic stage in the darkness, as they say, “up close and personal”.

But that of course is part of the tragedy of Mexico – so many wonderful people could have been so many different things. Our gardener, Carlos, whom we do tease about being the bearer, for good or ill, of whatever the news is in town, is actually really curious about the economy and how things work in the world. I have asked him innumerable times “Why, oh why, didn’t you stay in school? You would have been a great journalist or economist – you’re always commenting on this or that story that you’ve read in the news or heard on TV…”  To which he always replies with a sigh, “Señora, half my friends did finish their educations and none of them could find the jobs they had trained for. They also all ended up as gardeners or construction people or laborers. So I figured, I might as well get started early if I was destined to be a gardener anyway, so I could get more clients”.  (And sadly, one thing he is definitely NOT curious about is horticulture.)  When he says that, I’m never sure if that’s just his fatalistic Mexican nature and whether, if he had actually made an effort, things might have turned out differently for him. But my point of view is so terribly American, it is completely marinated in that Horatio Alger stuff that is part of my cultural legacy.  And I totally lucked out: I was also born into a family that valued education and expected me to become some sort of professional. As part of the deal, they willingly paid for my college education, as well as music, art and dance lessons throughout my childhood.

I’m aware, of course, that the America of today is also full of unemployed young lawyers and liberal arts majors staggering under six-figure student loan debt and waiting tables. But for Mexicans, who have been beaten down again and again by corruption, invading armies, ruthless dictators enslaving and robbing them in the name of “democracy” or “revolution”, it’s a whole different ballgame. So maybe all we can do is hope that the next generation makes some progress and that things are better for them as more and more are born into Mexico’s relatively new and aspiring middle class. We found out about a music education program for kids here in town, specializing in teaching them stringed instruments (easier to carry, no one has pianos anyway, and they tend to love violin because of the mariachi tradition). They have a little orchestra and we thought maybe we’d see if Baby Carlos (as opposed to Gardener Carlos) might like to try out violin lessons. I called them and they said, yes, of course, four is the perfect age to start on the violin – which I knew because that’s when my mother had started her violin studies back in the 1920’s.

So we are going to take Baby Carlos over to the auditorium on Monday and see if he likes the idea. His mother thinks he will, because he loves the little toy xylophone we got him a couple of years ago, and he has some kiddie drums he likes to play. Maybe he will grow up to be the Mexican Joshua Bell. Yeah, maybe it’ll be the NEXT generation. Meanwhile, José has a spate of new operas to listen to and we’ll just keep on lending him operas until he’s gone though Arnold’s entire collection. Each week he learns more and by the time he is ready to begin listening to them all again, starting from the beginning, he will be hearing them all with a much more finely tuned ear. If we can manage to find someone to cover for him one Saturday at my mother’s house, perhaps when the Met live telecasts start up again in the fall, we will be able to take him into the city to see one.

When confused, do nothing

Based on my last couple of posts, and e-mails I’ve sent to friends and family who have read about the violent goings-on both in Guadalajara and around Lake Chapala, several have expressed concern for our safety here. Suggestions range from “come back to the States IMMEDIATELY while you still can” to “Get yourself a gun and learn how to use it” to “get a couple of big nasty dogs” and so forth. Well, we already have a (useless but cute) dog AND we have just adopted my mother’s two cats (more on this later) so we now have FOUR, count ‘em, FOUR gatos, so no more animals for us; and naaah, we ain’t gettin’ no gun. First of all Mexico has stringent gun control laws not only for the general populace, but especially for foreigners. You can get an exception and get a permit but I am not about to attempt to turn myself into Annie Oakley (maybe Minnie from Fanciulla del West would be a better role for me, come to think of it) at this stage of my life. We have really high walls around our house, an alarm system we actually use, and we bolt the place down pretty securely every night.

I remember taking a women’s self-defense class waaay back in Oakland after a couple of bad guys followed me to my car one night when I’d been working late. The good news was, I was driving (as was my wont back in the States) a powerful and fast little sports car and I was able to leave them in my dust. The bad news was, even if I had had self-defense skills back then, I wasn’t able to use them. My only defense in that particular situation was to run like hell and then drive even faster.

But when the guy REALLY had a gun at my head, during the theft of my car back in 2007, believe me, I could have been the aforementioned Annie Oakley and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. He trapped me in a split second in a place you never in a million years would have expected such a thing to happen. He was trying to pull me out of the car by my arm and at that point he pulled the gun. In situations like that you do what you have to do to survive and my instincts told me to just be really nice to the guy and get out voluntarily; back slowly away from the car with my hands visible, leave the engine running, and let him have it. It was insured and I managed to stay alive.

It is true, however, that of late my undoubtedly hyperactive imagination has been tormenting me with every imaginable bad thing that could happen to us here. Undeniably, during the past couple of months the tension level here has soared for everyone. In spite of my tendency to overreact – probably justified because I still DO have some fallout left over from the carjacking  – it occurred to me the other day, that thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, Arnold is still alive.  And for god only knows what reason or sets of reasons, so am I. While I was twisting and turning in the wind, tormenting myself with thoughts of what we might do and how we could extricate ourselves from our lives here and return to the relatively safety of the States, things inexplicably may have begun to quiet down. It further occurred to me that in the “random violence” department we could, indeed, pack up and bail and head back to the Ancestral Homeland only to be mown down there by one of those nut jobs that goes berserk picking off people from a freeway overpass or something. There ain’t no free lunch, I guess.

In any event, I was startled out of my nosedive yesterday, an astonishingly clear and beautiful day, when even Carlos the gardener (whom we refer to as “the Daily Tagblatt” because he watches the TV news and obsessively reports every single crime to me each morning when he arrives) commented “You know, Señora, I haven’t heard anything really bad on the evening news for a couple of weeks now…what do you think of that?” I did think about it, and it did feel to me like the level of fear has subsided; I’ve noticed people out shopping and in restaurants again, and maybe indeed, at least for now, things are improving a bit. There is a whole new crop of white roses starting up to replace the ones I’d brought in and stuck in a vase, and Ricardo had just been by to clean the pool, which had nary a leaf, nary a dead bug, nada, and boy is it warm and nice now. Hmmm, I  thought, maybe I should forget all this cartel stuff for the moment, pour myself an Esquirt Light and throw some good tequila into it and get into the water.

Which is precisely what I did, remembering for some weird reason the motto I painted on a ceramic tray I made years ago: Fluctuat nec mergitur.

For those readers who have forgotten their high school Latin, it means “it is tossed by the waves but it does not sink”. It is the motto of the City of Paris, which surely has seen far worse ups and downs than our little village.


Minimum Security

Some amazing thunderheads are forming this afternoon over the lake – signaling the arrival soon of the rains, we hope! We may have our heads firmly stuck in the aforementioned clouds, but it’s possible that things may be calming down a tiny bit. The army and the federal police came in for a short while at least (until for some unfathomable reason, our state government told the Federal government that we didn’t need them here, so they may be going away….) A local Expat/Mexican citizens’ group formed that bought cell phones for the patrol cops out on the streets, and passed out the phone numbers to as many people in the community as they could, and are initiating some other community-based security measures. They have also started an anonymous denunciation telephone line that at least a few people are actually starting to use. So far two people have been arrested from tips received on that line, they tell us. We don’t dare to become too complacent but it seems as though people are starting just to rebel — anyone who knows the Spanish verb “hartar” will be hearing that word used a lot these days. In this context it means, basically, to be weary, fed up. People are just getting sick of all of this and trying to figure out how to take matters into their own hands.

I heard that a few days ago a van pulled up by a group of kids in the street right in the center of town and it was looking like they were going to kidnap a couple of them. The kids had the good sense to start screaming for help, and people came running out of their houses with bats, rocks, anything they could find, broke all the windows in their van, gave the vehicle a good bashing too, and were ready to kill the guys by stomping on them. The police arrested the alleged kidnappers but of course they insisted they were innocent, it was all a joke. Well, one will never know, but there was another similar incident in another Lakeside village where people rose up on their own and defended themselves against a real or perceived threat. This is what Mexicans are used to doing, after all (viva Zapata) historically and culturally, since the police and justice system are often so completely dysfunctional.

And it is very difficult for the people who work here – we went out for an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants – early enough to get back home before dark – and there was one other couple in this big place and that was IT. On a Friday night. Before, given the expat community and the weekending  folks from Guadalajara, it would have been pretty busy. We were chatting with the very charming young man who was our waiter – since there was no one else to wait on –  and he said there was a real danger that the restaurant might not survive, throwing yet more Mexicans out of work. Even we are talking about – especially given Arnold’s new status as an official cardiac patient – finding some sort of alternative base back in the States, not only for medical care (paid by Medicare!) but in case things really do get dicey for us.  But with my mother ensconced in a rented house here with her team of caregivers and ever-so-slowly declining, we are indeed sort of stuck for now.

Still, friends are writing to us and saying “Come back! You can’t live as prisoners behind your own gates!” Well, no, but it’s not like that. We aren’t exactly prisoners; one has to go to buy groceries, to the drycleaner, to the doctor, to the dentist, just like anywhere else. They’ve just moved our farmer’s market from across town to within a couple of blocks of us and I can’t wait to check it out as now it is much more convenient. We go out to see friends and to dinner, we just try to get home by dark. And as we get older we aren’t so thrilled about driving at night anyway, so that part is okay. The Princess does have her private sessions with her personal trainer. And we do have this house we’ve put a lot of energy into, and a garden bursting with color, so it’s not exactly like being cooped up in a tiny room somewhere. Picking up and leaving all this….we still love it here in spite of all its blemishes, and it is also, let’s face it, much harder when you’re older than when you are young and it’s all just a big adventure.

For the moment, we are spending time in the afternoons lying on our poolside chaises, Arnold reading his latest mystery novel and trying to regather his wits after the insertion of his pacemaker, learning to live with the reality of the new memento mori he has ticking away inside him. We watch the swallows swoop down and just barely touch the  pool surface to drink and catch waterlogged bugs; there are flowers in bloom and hummingbirds zooming around everywhere. Our version of the minimum-security prison for Wall Street types?  Everything feels tentative, and undoubtedly our future is uncertain. Do we just hunker down and wait it out? Bail? Hard for super-cautious me to live with the “I just don’t know how it’s going to turn out” part and try to live in the moment till things sort themselves out. The Zen of the Drug Wars? We are just crossing our fingers and hope that things will somehow improve – which they actually apparently HAVE in Michoacan and even in, god help us, Ciudad Juarez.