The hills are alive … with the sound of music?

This is a picture of my street in San Miguel de Allende.  An ordinary street in a Mexican neighborhood on an ordinary morning.

But, if I had the right acoustic equipment, you could hear what I hear.

The gas truck guys are usually the first to arrive.

They have two megaphone speakers attached to the front of the truck which play the same obnoxious ditty over and over, because how else would you know they’re in the neighborhood in case you forgot to order?  They will ride your neighborhood several times a day.

Three days a week a guy will hang off the back of the garbage truck and bang on a long piece of metal.

This will happen before you have your coffee.

Sporadically during the day a car will come through announcing a party, a special bargain, a social service, or something else I can’t understand. The megaphones will be set to max, in case you didn’t get it the first time.  He will come back several times.

On special days (at least 3 x a week) the man who wants to sharpen your knives will announce his presence with a shrill, relentless flute.

I use the word “flute” loosely.

Nothing however will quite beat the sound of various people – all of whom are uniformly polite and lovely human beings – banging on your door or metal gates to sell you something.

It’s not at all unusual for men with incredibly heavy furniture strapped to their back to bang on my metal gate on the weekend.  Mia goes into a paroxysm of barking.  I’m usually alarmed by the insistence of the banging.  It ends in a repetition of “No, gracias, muchas gracias pero, no gracias” because, from the point of view of the vendor, it’s a bargain he can’t believe I’m turning down.

Of course, if you live on my street you have an elementary school one block away.  The school has a band.  They practice every day at precisely 2:10.  And, before their current semester, they’ve never seen an instrument in their lives.

Do not plan your garden party for a week day mid-afternoon.

I’ve come to think of the hourly buses, the roof-dog poodle across the street who barks all day and into the night, the Mexican rap music that my neighbor in the house beside me plays on the weekends, the occasional neighborhood fiesta, the BIG events with rocket cannons, and the boombox that the handbag tienda across the street occasionally sets on roar as punctuation in a symphony of every-day sound. And, I have come to love the rare moments of silence on Calle Las Flores with an unreasonable passion.

When people tell you that Mexico is a ‘noisy culture’, you should believe them.  To my ears their surrounding soundscape is oddly curious, because in my experience, in person Mexicans don’t raise their voices in conversation. Nor in public are they boisterous in the way that Germans on vacation, for example, can be. In fact, for the most part I find Mexicans reserved.

Why they accept a cacophony on their streets remains a mystery to me.

Maybe it’s because, as opposed to the American self-reference to individuality, Mexicans really are self-reliant and they cocoon themselves inside their family homes while flat-out ignoring what others are doing outside their private space.

That’s my best guess, but the poodle across the street is barking and I’m not sure I’m thinking straight.

Happy Soundscape to You!












A fount of knowledge who wears incredible eye make up

It’s not all Brane theory or ‘The Letters of Seneca’ around here.  In fact, tonight I learned two things from pop icon Christina Aguilera:


While watching VH1’s “Behind the Music”, I found out that “Fighter” was not written only as a rebuke to a faithless lover.  The power of “Fighter” also comes as payback for an abusive father.

I loved “Fighter” the first time I heard it.  Tonight I realized in a completely new sense that some young women have the courage to articulate their struggle in ways I never had at their age.  [Of course it doesn’t hurt to have the pipes.]


The second thing I learned was that I’d like to burn Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” into the hearts of every friend I love. (All of humanity wouldn’t be a bad deal, either.)


For every one of you who ever felt you were broken, or just not good enough, here’s your link to “Beautiful”s amazing video:


Christina Aguilera has taken a lot of flak over the years – for getting fat, for sexual pandering, for being a Mouseketeer (for god’s sake) – but as far as I’m concerned she remains one of the most powerful female singers on the planet.

And an old soul.

* * * * * * *  *  * *  * * *

This would be your news from Pop Central in San Miguel de Allende tonight.

Viva Aguilera!  You the real deal, little momma!



Ruminations on the movie “Magic Mike”

For most people, watching Channing Tatum and his co-stars in the movie “Magic Mike” will be a casual glimpse into an unfamiliar world. It will be entertaining, and we’ll probably all agree that Channing Tatum is a hell of a strip tease dancer, while the eminently watchable Matthew McConaughy is just not that good at it.

However, this is director Steven Soderbergh we’re talking about, and there’s more to “Magic Mike” than the relatively new phenomena of men stripping for women.  Women who, in my experience  with attending these shows with girlfriends, have more of a raucous good time than the situation actually warrants. Then again, I never saw Channing Tatum do this, and have now changed my mind.

Tonight, what interested me (beyond Mr. Tatum’s extremely sexy pop ‘n lock) was Soderbergh’s meditation on what some of America’s working class young get sucked into in order to make a living wage.

Because it happened to me.

My particular working class adolescent dream [on an isolated farm in southern New Jersey] was to become a kind of female Damon Runyon. From the gladioli fields and my father’s forbidden ‘adult’ library stashed in the attic, I plotted to meet every segment of 1960’s American society: the high brow and the low.  Then I would write their stories as passion – of every stripe! – forced them to mingle across class lines. However, I would need money to travel across those lines in order to know them. Ah, duh.

Fired by this admittedly limited perspective of literature, but certain of my coming fame, in reality I came from a family for whom a college education was not even a remote conversation.  There was no question of a creative writing program at university. So, I graduated from high school not at all sure on how to embark on the literary life without starving. My first job was in the socially acceptable typing pool at an insurance agency.

But, like “Magic Mike”, I could dance.

And soon enough found jobs on stage, in night club cages, on various go-go tours, and with bands.

Of course I didn’t consider stripping.  That would have been too far for a ‘good girl’. But the pay for a go-go girl, as opposed to the typing pool, was fantastic! The travel up and down the East Coast from Nyack to New Orleans, with a side booking to the El Intercontinental Hotel in Panama, was illustrative. My traveling companions – musicians, promoters, dancers, pool sharks, nightclub owners, agents, professional gamblers, hangers-on, well-heeled customers and their drug dealers – were Runyon’s characters writ small and large.

Because I didn’t want to take my clothes off and topless dancing was becoming the rage, in New Orleans I applied for work at the Playboy Club. Bingo!  At 20 I made more than $500 a night.

And because I was living in a Damon Runyon novel, I spent it just as fast.

Back in my day women were either:

madonnas or whores

and I paid a price for the choice to forego the route to acceptable work, then – of course! – marriage.  It seemed daring at the time. What I’ve come to realize is that American working class women have always used their wits and physical beauty to escape a life of  (perceived) drudgery.

What is so extremely interesting about “Magic Mike” is that the economic situation in the United States has so deteriorated, and the relations between the sexes have so changed, that now working class men can make a very decent living as the subjects of women’s desire.

I’ll leave the morality of all of this to you.

P.S.  You can watch Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike” here if you really must:


Update from Lincoln Center

A woman and her dog

Fall weather has come to Austin.  Our boy Bobby/LINCOLN poses with besotted Mom, Bella.  Notice how his ears match the color of her boots?  There’s a reason why she calls him the most sophisticated metro-sexual pooch in Austin.

This is Bella’s mom visiting and holding Lincoln.  He has a grandma now!

I adored by all who holz me.

This is Bella’s boyfriend.  The kid has family.


Here’s a fab picture. Lincoln’s on vacation, off leash, and free to roam the landscape.  Whadda life!

My momz takin the picture. Most times I come right back when I’m called.

Back home, Hank and Lincoln share a moment.


One more time: Kudus to Adopciones de Animales and  Save a Mexican Mutt. Together we saved a beautiful dog, fostered and nurtured him, and found his forever home with Bella in Austin – a woman who says she feels as if they’ve been together forever, and can’t imagine life without him.

It’s your feel-good, happy-ending moment from jaxinmexico today.




P.S.  One more thing to be happy about: isn’t it great that Bella is young & fit?  She walks miles with Lincoln most every day.  He really has landed in the lap of dog-luxury, and no canine deserves it more.

Except … maybe, Mia.  She’s looking for her forever home too.  I only hope/dream/wish/pray that she’s as lucky as Lincoln …

I promise to love and obey, cherish and protect – and wag my tail like a helicopter blade.


Because, who else do we do it for?

I hosted my first little lunch at the new rental yesterday.  Four new, and newly dear, friends joined me on the patio for pasta primavera al fresco.  It was lovely.

I’ve worked super hard the past five weeks to bring the new place into the kind of shape where I’ll feel comfortable inviting friends.  Sitting with Roger & Clint and Bill and Jane, laughing, eating, and enjoying vino on a Sunday afternoon made me realize [with a tremendous rush of tenderness] why I put so much effort into my nest: to share my life with loved ones.

You know who you are in the U.S., and you’ve got a standing invitation.



Mia, Mia. Mama Mia!

I haz toyz!

My relationship with Mia has completely changed. A couple of weeks ago we had an incident of food aggression during the two days she was up-chucking from her sterilization surgery. I started to wonder if her ‘street dog’ history would become a problem.

So, I promptly put her on the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” program. She must ‘wait’ and look in my eyes before I put food down. I began to feed her by hand so she knows where the good stuff comes from.  Using only positive reinforcement, I began to ‘push’ her by playing with her teeth and pulling out her tounge, handling her paws, pushing her down on the bed or the floor – anything I could think of to show her who’s the alpha here. You know, the Good Alpha who’s going to feed you and love you – and LEAD you. [As I said to her when she went for my foot during the food aggression thing, “Mia, there’s only going to be one bitch in this house.”

O, otay. See kin b the alpa if see kis me.

Mia’s got some choppers.  While I was ‘pushing’ her to see where she’d go with it, they would flash in my direction.  ‘Euww’, I would think, ‘you could take my arm off.  I sincerely hope you’re socialized enough not to think about biting.’ In some skewed street dog survival mode that spirals out of control, because I am pushing your boundaries.

Silly, stupid me.  Fostering street dogs is a new thing. But Mia is so loving, so sweet, so grateful to have a person, that it slowly dawned on me that I was looking at dentals that were smiling during rough and tumble play.

Do you see the devil in those eyes?

Mia just wants to romp and play and flash her teeth and pretend to be a wild dog when I tell her “I’m going to get you!”  She skitters out of the house, does a quick lap around the garden, and comes back for more.’I haz toyz!’ ‘I haz a pershon!’ ‘I haz fon!’

Wanna play sum more? Huh? Huh? Wanna?

Ah, Mia.  You’re a dime a dozen in Mexico. No flashy good looks to suggest breeding. You’re not deliciously cute like ‘Benji’. And child, that black tongue infers <gasp!> Chow-Chow.  [We all know how they can be.] On top of that you’re skittish.  You overcompensate for your fear of guys by pretending you’re fierce. You think you’re a miniature poodle, so when you leap on me you knock the wind out.  You’ve got a head like an anvil.  When it rears back in play I’m sure you’re going to break my glasses, if not my nose.  You eat like a horse and now I’m starting to call you “Chunky Monkey.” I suspect you’re an escape artist so I have to watch the outside door.  And, leashes? Never hoid of ’em.

You, my dear, need training.

B,b,but … I kin be pensive…

Yes, you can. And you’re smart.  And, you’re tranquil.  When we’re not playing you lie by my side or snuggle into me on couch.  You take a treat from my lips with the soft mouth of a spaniel. You don’t bark unless there’s something to bark about. You have everything it takes to be a faithful companion – and a little bit more.  You, my dove, are truly easy to love.

I want Mia to have her forever home.

Maybe even more than I wanted that for Bobby/Lincoln.

What a wonderful dog someone will get to love.

Mia, Mia. Mama Mia!

Because despite her plebiness, Mia is actually someone special.


That’s the Spanish word for dust.

The desert is a dusty place, San Miguel de Allende is a dusty town, and my new rental is a dusty house.  Notice the floor in the bedroom:

And, Ms. Mia Honey Bear Jones sheds like a trooper:

Yes, I let her on the bed when she was recovering from surgery. It is now HER bed and I just sleep in it.

Also, look at the floor in the sala:

This is a concrete house.  None of the windows are tight.  The flooring is what you might find on a patio in the U.S.  This is frugal living in San Miguel de Allende in a house that reminds me of a summer cabin in Maine (not by the ocean.)  Yet, when I dust it (continuously), oil the furniture, and sweep the floors, I’m happy.  I’ve simply had to lower my cleaning standards<grin>.

Many people in San Miguel de Allende have carpeting – and a full-time maid.  Their rent for a one-bedroom climb into the low $1,000’s and the maid goes after the polvo. My rent is $400.00 US, so let’s take a look at that garden again:

Yup, rentals can be had here for less.  But it would be muy dificil to find my wee casa AND this much private space. So I dust and sweep and wash dishes in my teeny-weeny sink AND NEVER WANT TO MOVE AGAIN.


P.S.  $400.00 rent may not sound all that great for Mexico.  And, while San Miguel de Allende has a perfect climate [except for April and May when it’s hotter than Arizona and I’ll be employing the siesta technique], lovely heart-of-Mexico colonial architecture, and a thriving restaurant/art scene, IMHO it is way over-priced. But, American fascination with San Miguel continues unabated and there is the Grey Wave, of which I am a part.

Gone to pot

Mexican talevera. Wheehoo!

And on the other side of the steps,

Seven full-grown trees plus a dog run track.

Tea? White wine? Petit fours?

Mi casa, su casa.  You know where everything is.  Would you bring me a glass of wine too?

Living in shade outside the bedroom window.

A peek around the *huge* aloe vera towards the table.  The aloe is about to bloom.

All of this sun dappledness is going to come in extremely handy when the hot weather rolls around again.  Now, San Miguel de Allende and my humble backyard are …paradise.





Heaven is in the garden

I got a ride to a nursery today.  Thanks, Bill!

Boy, was I a happy camper.  A fresh, bright morning with an azure sky made every flower, leaf and palm leap. I wanted one of everything. [A greedy happy camper.  What’s new?]

My garden has seven full-grown trees so there’s a lot of shade. Bringing color to the eye is a primary goal. A couple of weeks ago I purchased three talavera macetes ( big planters) –


and, spending like the improvident woman I am, will place two of these babies in the sunny spots:

Red geraniums. Bang!

Of course I’m a dunce when it comes to knowing Spanish names for plants, but the fern I got for my windowsill looks like this:


It will sit in the shade next to a brilliant cyclamen:

Fuchsia. Is there any hotter color?

And, I have four Spanish lavender bushes that I’ll put in one big pot to get a taste of this:

I’ll post more pictures when I get everything into its personal pot.


Update on “One Billion Rising in San Miguel de Allende”:  I started a yahoo group yesterday.  We have six members today.  Let the games begin!


Update on Mia:


She is my very own foster street girl and I may have found her a date. There’s a woman with a one year old male German Shepherd (Rin Tin Tin!) a block away and this morning we talked about play dates.  For some reason my right hip has gone out this afternoon, but if I feel better in another hour I’m going to walk over and tell Cecelia she’s welcome to bring Rin [no, that’s not his name, but he looks like Rin] over to play. OMG, he is SUCH a beautiful dog.  I hope Mia likes him …..

Who, I ask, could forget him?


“One Billion Rising” in San Miguel de Allende

Committee members meet to organize the ’10th Annual San Miguel de Allende Walk Against Domestic Violence’ in January, 2012

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in with a group of women instrumental in fundraising for CASA.  Faithful readers have heard me speak glowingly about CASA’s internationally recognized programs which include an accredited Midwifery School and Maternal Hospital, peer counselors who return to their rural communities to teach family planning, maternal & infant health and anti-violence, a teen radio program that focuses on the same issues, a pre-school, a teen theater group performing skits on the issues here in the city and in the campo, and seeding rural libraries – to name a few.

There are several events leading up to the Walk in January.  One possibility, the month after the Walk, is a global movement titled “One Billion Rising”.  I am so in.

At yesterday’s meeting I was designated the point women to bring information on “One Billion Rising” back to the committee later this month.

I am a busy bee.  I’ve found out that two dance collectives plan February 14 events in Mexico City and Tijuana.  I’ve reached out to the organizers behind Mexico City’s “Las Marchas de Las Putas” [ the ‘Slut Walk’] in June, 2011. There is an action planned in nearby Queretaro for “One Billion Rising” and I’m waiting to hear back from them.

And I’ve posted a Call to Action on the various Yahoo groups here in San Miguel de Allende.

I’m jazzed!

There’s a three-minute film produced by Eve Ensler and South African filmmaker Tony Stroebel at   Please watch it.  And spread the word in your own community!


Maybe it’s just me, but while not every one can afford to strike on February 14, anyone can stand up and dance.  The possibility of one billion women and men around the world doing just that is rad!

Well, maybe it is just me, but over a lifetime of marching I’ve always picked the space right behind the percussion corp.

How much fun is that!?