Tag Archives: Ajijic

The Spot Writers – “The Grey Fedora,” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a story including the words bird, roof, egg, war, hay. This week’s contribution comes from Cathy MacKenzie.

Give Cathy’s new Facebook page, “Granny MacKenzie’s Children’s Books,” a “like” and a comment perhaps?

Like and comment here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Granny-MacKenzies-Childrens-Books/482398755246309


The Grey Fedora

A sudden noise caused Robin to peer down. At first he pondered the blur of grey until he realized Harry stood beneath him. The worn fedora, propped precariously on the elderly man’s head, looked as if a fly could knock it to the ground. Perched as it was, the hat reminded Robin of a weathered nest, similar to Robin’s home cuddled in the knuckles of tree branches.

Robin couldn’t help but notice white stippling the hat. For some reason, the sight struck him funny, and he would have giggled but birds couldn’t laugh, at least not the way humans do. The bird wasn’t sure what humans had to laugh about. Then again, what did he, Robin, have to laugh about? Compared to man, Robin was a mere speck hatched from an egg, a life that mainly existed roosting on tree limbs or flying over roof tops. No, Robin didn’t enjoy a life of laughter. Unlike birds, humans made war; perhaps that’s why Robin wondered what Harry laughed about. After much thought, Robin decided he preferred life as a bird, getting along with feathered folk, free to fly at whim.

Well hidden behind thick summer leaves and tough branches, Robin observed Harry puttering about. Harry ambled here and there, yanking weeds and tossing them into the wheelbarrow. Though the man occasionally scanned the tree, Robin felt safe; the man couldn’t attack him, not high in the sky.

The bird wondered why the thought that Harry might harm him entered his mind. No reason existed—none except for the glaring white stains upon the grey felt.

Soon, Harry disappeared and Robin heard the slam of the door.

Alone again, thought Robin, glancing around to see if his feathered friends were available. Piss on you, he chirped, when he saw no kin about. Maybe being a bird wasn’t so great, after all. The others had forgotten him, just as humans sometimes don’t care about their friends.

Robin eyed his nest, which needed padding. Though Robin felt lazy, he flitted to a low-lying branch. He’d have to fly to the country for perfect nesting hay, and he didn’t have the ambition to stray too far. He fluttered to the lawn and pecked at sturdy grass. He could gather enough grass for his nest if he kept at it long enough.

What was that? Robin cocked his head toward the sound of the screen door.

Harry was back.

Robin hid beneath a bushy bush. Harry strode into the garden and plopped to the concrete bench. The sun danced on the man’s shiny head. Had the lowly fly succeeded? Then Robin spied the hat clutched in Harry’s gnarled hands.

Harry’s face looked as sweaty as his hairless head. Robin regretted pooping on Harry’s hat. He hadn’t meant to, but he had had an accident. No doubt something he had eaten. He had likely left white stuff on the windowsills, as well, but that’s what birds did. They flew and pooped.

Several days previously, when Robin deposited the slimy treasure on Harry’s hat, the irate man had brandished a fist in the bird’s direction and spewed wild words Robin had never heard previously.

Despite Harry’s recent rude actions, Robin felt possessed to make amends. Harry seemed oblivious when Robin flew to a shrub by the bench. What did Robin have to do to get his attention? A song, Robin thought, and so the bird burst out in tune, cheeping as birds do. Harry remained motionless. Was he deaf?

Just before Robin was about to dart away in defeat, he noticed a worm crawling on the grass. A tasty morsel, Robin thought. When the bird swooped down for the prey, Harry, still clutching his old hat, jumped up as if the bench were about to collapse.

The situation unfolded as if time had stopped for Robin, as if his matchstick legs had formed roots that delved deep underground. Harry moved in slow motion. So did the worm. Robin, distracted by too many events, understood Harry’s purpose when the man raised his hat. The hat whacked Robin on his left wing. The bird squalled. Feathers flew as if pillows had been involved in a fight.

“Take that you dratted bird, pooping on my favourite hat. It stinks now, hear me. Stinks. I hate birds. Always have.”

Harry scooped up the shivering bird and glared into dazed eyes. Robin attempted to open his beak, to protest Harry’s handling of him—to try to save himself—but couldn’t.

Robin felt himself hurled into the air but, with a mangled wing, was unable to fly. As the air uplifted him for several seconds, he closed his eyes, awaiting the final descent. He landed, hearing the deafening crunch of his right wing.

A tornado of air swirled over Robin when Harry lifted his right foot. Robin closed his eyes.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitzhttp://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenziehttps://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Deborah Marie Dera:  www.deborahdera.com

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“I Suspect You’ve Used a Ruler”

I feel an unexpected loss. I equated Dimitar Krustev with Ajijic and winter, for when Hubby and I were there, I took art lessons from him. Granted, Hubby and I didn’t come here last winter, nor did I paint the previous winter (although I had stopped in to visit him),  but I still thought of him. And, despite me not continuing with art when I was back home in Nova Scotia, I toyed with the idea of resuming lessons this season.

A week ago, out of the blue, a friend said, “You did know Dimitar died?”

“What?” No, I hadn’t. I was stunned.

I shouldn’t have been totally surprised; he was 93, after all. I had been meaning to ask that particular individual, one of his prior students, if he had run into him, but I kept forgetting. Perhaps I knew, deep inside.

I’m still upset, still shocked. Still feel a loss.

I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I had taken more lessons from him; I wish I still could. He was an excellent teacher, and I learned a lot from him.

“I suspect you’ve used a ruler.” I’ll never forget those words and how embarrassed I had been. I couldn’t draw, still can’t, but I can paint okay. My rationale, once I realized I couldn’t draw (for doesn’t that take skill one is born with?), was that I was in Dimitar’s studio for painting lessons, not drawing lessons. Rather than waste precious time drawing during classes, I’d do my drawings at home. From a 4×6 photograph, I’d transfer that image to a large sheet of pastel paper with the use of a ruler. One inch on the photo could equal four inches on the paper. No, I didn’t graph it out, that would be cheating. A ruler was simply my crutch to get the outline to paper—to ensure my measurements were accurate—but I couldn’t let on to Dimitar, of course. He had said early on in lessons that no rulers were to be used.

I carried a ruler—or two—in my bag of art supplies when I went to his studio, ‘cause who knew when one might snap or be misplaced. He had seen them on occasion, for one couldn’t sneak anything by him, but never mentioned them. Sometimes I even used one in class, when I needed to, but always when his back was turned.

So, my drawings were always complete when I showed up for class. (You’d think he’d have clued in to that early on!) And, despite “cheating,” they weren’t always to scale, as he’d point out on occasion. One day, after he had chastised me about my drawing being out-of-whack, even though I had thought it to be perfect (I saw the flaws once he pointed them out), he blurted, “I suspect you’ve used a ruler,” and walked away in a huff.

Dimitar was old-school. You didn’t draw or paint with aids, but, despite him profusely praising my “talents,” he didn’t understand I had none. I couldn’t draw, yet I wanted desperately to paint my grandchildren’s portraits, and I could only draw their gorgeous faces by using a ruler. That was in 2008. Today I have several portraits of each of them, not to mention other various images. Thanks to a ruler. And Dimitar.

RIP Dimitar Krusev, 1920-2013



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More Used Books!

Hubby and I just returned from the used bookstore, one of my favourite places here in Ajijic, Mexico, IF I can wrap my head around the book lice (see an earlier posting of mine)—either pretend none exist, even if I don’t see any, or do preventative treatments just in case. I’m taking the latter road.

So, my “new” books are basking in the sun. I did wipe and shake them when I first got them home. I threw away one dust jacket—what an apropos name—since it was extremely dusty, torn, and dirty. I haven’t seen a bug yet. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

Want to know what treasures I found? My most precious find was “The Love of a Good Woman” by Alice Munro (a collection of short stories). Also in my bag were: “The Short Stories of John Cleever” (the book with the discarded dust cover), “The Best Loved Poems of American People,” and the “Kiss in the Hotel Joseph Conrad and Other Stories” by Howard Norman.

To be honest, I haven’t read all the previous ones I had purchased. Sometimes I think I’m simply a book collector, not a reader. But, I will read them, and some I will take home to Canada with me to add to my library there.

Why short stories you ask? I have a short attention span lately—more than “lately,” seems like for the past few years. Besides which, I write short stories; ergo, I like to read them.

Short story collections are hard to find, so I scoop them up whenever I can, especially at the prices here. We pay five pesos (less than fifty cents) for soft covers and ten pesos (less than one dollar) for hard-covered books. What a deal! Can’t pass those prices up!

The sun is shining brilliantly this afternoon. I’m heading outdoors to our luscious patio with a glass of wine. I’ll grab one of the sunbathing books, sit in the sun, and read it (and hope I don’t see a bug that I mistake for a period or a comma). Despite the clock showing 2:11, it’s cocktail time somewhere in the world. It might as well be here. Hey…it IS here. I have the glass of wine to prove it.

Happy reading, everyone, wherever you may be!

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Mexico, eh?

Mexico, eh? Wow! Must be nice! The hot weather. Lolling on the beach sipping piña coladas. Collecting those little umbrellas and fancy straws.

Yep, I’ve been in Mexico for two weeks now, and, I suppose compared to Canada, the weather here is nicer than subzero temps and snow shovelling.

But it’s not Mexico weather!

I’m lying in bed, at almost three in the morning, listening to the rain pelt on the clay-tiled roof and hit the luscious private patio next to our bedroom sliding door. The wind is rustling through the trees and hitting the bougainvilleas climbing up the wall across from me, but not loud enough to mask the intermittent thunder. An occasional lightning bolt flashes into our room. Hubby snores beside me.

This isn’t the Mexico I signed up for. Hubby and I haven’t seen the sun in three days, and we’re missing our early morning exercise runs. To those people back home, none of the above beach stuff is existing in my life. For one thing, we aren’t in one of the hot-spot tourist resorts, so we’ll never be lounging beachside sucking syrupy drinks. But that’s quite okay, since Hubby and I aren’t beach people.

Instead, we’re in our second “home” in Ajijic, which my daughter calls the seniors’ place. The weather should be nicer. This is more rain and chilliness in December than Ajijic has had for many years, and everyone is complaining about their cold homes. There’s no such thing here as central heating. Some lucky ones have electric heaters, with the downside of racking up already sky-high electric bills, but in this abominable temperature, no one will mind a few more pesos. Still other luckier ones are cozying up to their gas fireplaces. Hubby and I, well—we have a different tale. We allowed our long-term renters to remain in our house (complete with two gas fireplace and an electric heater), while we rented a house this season. Unfortunately, our rental has neither a fireplace nor an electric heater, and, because of the direction this house faces, the sun, even when it’s shining, doesn’t even begin to heat the place. We’ve been cold since the day we arrived, despite the 20+ temps outside. The only place we can find warmth is sitting in the car with the heater full blast or snuggling in bed. Restaurants with fireplaces are hard to come by, but we’ve been looking. I’ve been to Walmart numerous times to purchase sweaters and long-sleeved tops and fluffy socks.

We did break down yesterday and called our renters to see if we could confiscate our electric heater, if they weren’t using it, of course. “No problemo,” they said. We enjoyed two minutes of heat from it, until it blew up.

When I disentangle myself from Hubby to look at the clock, I bolt upright when I see the time.

“Do you know it’s ten o’clock,” I say.

“Yes,” Hubby replies. “But what’s the sense in getting up when it’s cold and rainy and there’s nothing to do?”  Poor Hubby, who’s usually at work by eight, has been bundled up reading more books in the last few days than he has in his entire life.

I googled Ajijic’s long-range temperature. Looks like we’re in for another week of this stuff, although the temps for each day are increasing in increments of a degree a day. Wow! We might get warm someday!

I hope Ajijic will soon be back to normal, so I can at least pretend to my buddies back home that I am sitting on a beach drinking piña coladas. Because, despite not boasting a Puerto Vallarta beach, Ajijic is “beach” to me when I bask in the sun  or stroll down the malecón or admire Lake Chapala as it spreads toward the mountains.


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The Star of Bethlehem

Hubby and I walked to the village of Ajijic last night, something we do usually every night and at least once a day, about a 25-minute walk from our home here in Mexico, where we’re spending a couple of months. The bo-bos were out in full force, as they usually are at around 6 p.m., just before dusk. Zillions of those pesky, teeny, almost colourless flies swarm around you, especially about your face. They’re only out for a short time, maybe for a 15-minute period (not sure where they disappear to the rest of the day and night). You learn to keep your mouth shut, wear sunglasses, and swat your hands at them like a crazy person. We cut across the carretera and sauntered down one of the side streets, where the bo-bos didn’t seem quite as bad.

Carefully, so as not to trip on the uneven pebbles and stones, especially me who has a habit of falling every season and tearing my slacks and skinning my knee, we sauntered down the cobblestone road toward the boardwalk. (Yep, my yearly fall came early this season; I fell one morning last week and tore a hole in my favourite slacks and gouged my knee.). The waterfront was alive, a change from the previous night when, for a Saturday, it was dead. Children frolicked in the recently-made concrete play area, including a large, angled dugout about twelve feet deep in the centre. Little kids ran up the slippery slopes trying to get out of the hole, while others on the flat surface grabbed hold of their hands to pull them out. More often than not, the ones pulling ended up sliding to the bottom, too. It was hilarious. Further on, dare-devil skateboarders zoomed up and over huge concrete humps. Bicyclers, even more daring, soared across the high, slanted walls. Up and down, over and up.

After watching for a bit, we walked to the square where more crowds congregated. Tall Boys, a local band, were putting on a free concert. We sauntered around examining wares for sale before stopping at the corner ice cream parlour, which hadn’t been in my plan due an excess 10 pounds I’ve suddenly found myself with. But, oh, the cappuccino cone, full of huge chunks of chocolate—more chocolate than ice cream—was worth it. Hubby selected a bar on a stick, which, unbeknownst to him, turned out to be a frozen banana coated with thick chocolate and nuts. He said it was delicious, if you like bananas. Both for 24 pesos, about $2.00.

The walk home was tranquil and balmy.  Night had fallen. Reddish brown ribbons interspersed with strands of white streaked over the mountains that seemed to rise from the lake’s edge. Flickering lights from the mountains appeared as thousands of stars, but only one lonely, large star twinkled from the massive black sky. “It’s the Star of Bethlehem leading us home,” I said.

I thought my comment quite apropos, since Christmas was two days hence. Hubby, however, said Bethlehem was too far away.

Merry Christmas from Mexico to all my friends!

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Promise Tendered; Promise Taken

While we were in Mexico this past winter, friends casually mentioned needing a cab to the airport, and I immediately volunteered. At the reference to a 6:30 a.m. pickup, I regretted my impulse offer, but it was too late; the words were out. And they were accepted – promise tendered; promise taken.

I’m not a morning person but figure I can manage. If we get up at 6:15 a.m., we can dress, brush our teeth, down our pills with an OJ splash, be at their place by 6:30 and back in Ajijic before 7:30. We’ll have time for our hour-long brisk walk before heading for Open Circle and brunch with our Sunday friends.

I forget we have dinner plans with another couple the night before, which entails cocktails at their home before going to Manix for more drinks. At the restaurant, I drink three glasses of wine on top of what I drank earlier. Luckily, the band quits at 9:00 p.m. and the place empties.

We’re in bed by 10:00 p.m. Hubbie sets the alarm clock before falling asleep. I watch television.

Later, tossing and turning, I wonder what I’ve done. I’m responsible for ensuring two people arrive at the airport on time. What if Hubbie and I sleep through the alarm? What if the car doesn’t start in the morning? This situation is even more stressful than when Hubbie and I return to Canada and we worry about catching our flight.

I doze for several minutes before waking to the buzzing alarm clock at midnight. Hubbie groans, turns on the light, and silences the alarm.

I try to sleep. My head throbs. Twenty minutes later, the radio blasts forth again. Hubbie repeats the process.

That’s when I worry whether he’s set the alarm correctly and whether it’ll work in the morning.

My headache, I finally realize, is an early hangover. I toss and turn; Hubbie is restless, too. At one point, I hear him traipsing downstairs. Three times he’s up for bathroom treks.

I sleep for occasional minutes, but mostly I’m awake. A band marching down our street wakes me at 2:00 a.m., and soon there’s a live concert outside our bedroom, where it remains for too long before the raucous is out of earshot.

Periods of eerie silence are marred by intrusions from barking dogs, catfights and incessant roosters. I compose four short stories in my head. A brainstorm possesses me to write one titled “Sleepless Night” to submit to one of Ajijic’s publications.

At least once an hour I bounce up in fright. With eyes caked shut, I can barely read the numbers glowing on the clock. I still my urges to copy hubby’s forays to the washroom. My head wants to explode.

Hubbie snores beside me. I wonder if I should visit my computer. There comes a point where it’s too late to sleep, but I worry that eventually we’ll drift off and never wake up. It’ll be dark at 6:15 a.m.; the sun won’t stir us.

A last glimpse of the clock reads 5:45 a.m.

The alarm blares. I jump out of a sound sleep. While brushing my teeth, Hubbie appears.

“You don’t have to hurry. It’s only 6:00.”

“6:00! You were supposed to set it for 6:15.”

“I know, but I wanted to make sure we got up in time.”

At 6:15, we’re ready. Our friends live a block away, and it takes two minutes to get there. There’s no sign of life. Did they oversleep? We can’t ring their bell; I don’t remember their condo number.

On the dot of 6:30, their gate swings open. We load their suitcases in the trunk. I hate driving in the dark, even as a passenger, and I hadn’t realized darkness would still prevail at that time.

A skunk skulks on the Libriemento. The highway is bumpier than usual and traffic is horrendous. The drive takes forever. We unload their luggage and hug goodbye.

“Keep writing,” Jim says.

Yeah, no problem: I write in my sleep.

Before reaching the highway, we pass Federale who mill about a car. I cringe, remembering our foreign plates and expired FM3.

The sun shows a trace of its face. The ride home is smoother, even when Hubbie careens around the carcass of a recently deceased horse. A few miles farther, a mangled dog rests by the road. My eyes open at the most inopportune moments.

The skunky smell still lingers on the Libriemento. The morning becomes brighter, but my eyes are heavy and my head hurts. I want to skip Open Circle and brunch and crawl into bed.

Instead, I don my wrist-weights and we go for our walk.  Exhausted, I shower and dress, grab a diet Coke for its caffeine properties, and off we saunter to Open Circle.

“Hey, there’s a taxi stand,” I mumble to Hubbie.

(This was printed in the Lake Chapala Review, May 15, 2012)

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La Ciclopista

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you to keep to the right?”

“No, never,” I reply. Did yours? I doubt it. What’s the big deal, anyhow?

Hubbie and I are “running” on the carretera, Ajijic’s main road. We travel on the ciclopista, the bicycle trail, which is used by bicycles and joggers and walkers. We are more walkers than joggers. Brisk walkers, I guess you’d call us – walking (instead of running) to save our knees, but briskly walking to try to firm up. We haven’t succeeded yet, and it’s been over a month. Oh well, hopefully we are strengthening our insides – our hearts and bones – if not our outwardly appearance.

Back to la ciclopista. There is only one, on the right hand side of the road if you are leaving Ajijic. Of course, if you are entering Ajijic, it is on the left hand side.

I’m the leader in our jaunts and begin walking on the far side of the lane, on my right-hand side, farthest from traffic. We have to be careful of bicycles sneaking up behind us, so we walk in single file. We go a certain length, up to Las Palmas, then turn around and retrace our steps till we arrive home. Going back, I’ll walk on the same side, but, now of course, the previous right is now my left.

That’s when Hubbie starts his tirade, not just once this season or once a month or weekly even, but every morning, and sometimes more than once.

I like that side ‘cause it is the farthest away from the traffic. Granted, there are large cement barriers dividing the highway from the ciclopista, but still, I like being away from the whizz and roar of the vehicles. I don’t figure it matters to the cyclists whether they are on the right side or the left side. I’m sure their mothers didn’t admonish them to stay to the right.

And what is right and left – and right and wrong – anyhow? Is it the right side of you or them? Is it the right or left of the highway? Or the right or left side of the world? And it depends, too, on which way you’re facing. Or is it always the same side as your right, no matter which way you face? Rights and lefts have always confused me – as well as rights and wrongs.

Who determines which is the right way to travel anyhow? Is it Hubbie? He thinks so!

While walking today, I thought I had it figured out – a reasonable explanation for the side I always kept to: I was being kind to the Mexicans. By staying on the same side, I allow the cyclists to remain on their right at all times and isn’t that a polite thing to do? But, then I realized that if I stayed to my left returning home (which side was on my right leaving home), then the cyclists coming towards me would be on their left side – that big revelation came to me after I thought I had my rights and lefts down pat.

However, after pondering some more, I realized that the cyclists riding behind me would always have the right side if I kept to the left, so perhaps I was doing something right after all.

And who am I trying to impress? The cyclists coming towards me or the ones approaching my back? Or should I just be concerned about keeping Hubbie happy?

So dear Hubbie, explain this one to me: No matter which side you and I are on, if someone approaches us from one direction or the other, someone is going to be on the right or left. Right or wrong?

And what about left-handed people? If there is such a rule as staying to your right, wouldn’t that rule pertain only to Righties? Wouldn’t Lefties want to stay to their left? Isn’t a right-hand rule a bit prejudicial? (And Heaven knows we don’t want to be prejudicial in this day and age.)

Jeepers! Too confusing for my pea brain. I’ll let Hubbie rant. I’ll let the Mexicans pass when and where they want. And I’ll run where I want to run…

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