This is a list of my personal favorites for 2019:
- Once upon a Time in Hollywood
- The Irishman
- Uncut Gems
- Ford v Ferrari
- The Lighthouse
- Queen and Slim
Jan. 4, 2020. Last full day in Ajijic. My plan was to tackle the mountain and climb up to the shrine. But first breakfast at Scallions with Buddha and the boys.
As I made my way up Calle J. Encarnacion Rosas on the way to the trail head I stopped at a little shop to pick up a liter of water. It was chilly that morning so I wore a jacket and a sweat shirt. But soon as the day wore on it got warmer and I had to peel some of those layers off. Of course I wore a hat to protect myself from the glare of the sun.
I found the trail head and headed up the mountain to the Shrine of La Crucita. On the way there are many smaller shrines bearing crosses which represent the 14 stations of the cross symbolizing Christ’s journey on the way to his crucifixion.
I had to sit and rest several times on the way up. Coming down was much faster but not any easier. I had to pick my way in order not to fall and there was a lot of stress on my knees and hips. And hips don’t lie!
I took a lot of pictures on the way up to the the shrine and once there there was quite a good view of the town and the lake from my vantage point.
Once I got back down off the mountain I stopped at Min Wah’s for lunch. I had the Moo Goo Gai Pan, hot and sour soup, and a Kirin beer. Very refreshing.
Once I got back to my place, I was one tired unit, but better off for the experience.
All photos by me.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018) is a very trippy film by Gan Bi. Very dreamy and trippy. I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching here for a while as I was mesmerized by the mise-en-scene and the technical virtuosity of the camera work. Time is definitely out of joint here in the noirish nightmare taking place in the small Chinese town of Kaili. Highly recommend this unusual film.
I only read 17 books in 2019. Short of my goal, but most of what I read was challenging and on the longish side. I vow to read more this year. My goal is 36. I’ve already read four, so I am on track.
Here are my top 10 books for 2019:
Some of these books I have been wanting to read all my life but never got around to, like Look Homeward Angel, which inspired a trip to Aheville NC,and Ulysses which was I must say the most challenging of all. Love in Time of Cholera was a pure pleasure to read. Beloved was Toni Morrison’s masterpiece. So sad we lost her last year. Cities of the Plain completed the Border Trilogy. I try to read at least one Cormac McCarthy book each year. Terrific writer! Quichotte by Salman Rushdie was was a pleasant surprise. First one of his I’ve read in a while. I remember reading Satanic Verses when it first came out and created such a stir. The Big Sleep was pure pleasure. If you have never read anything Heinrich Boll, I highly recommend him to you. One of my favorites for a long time. The Clown is a good one! Dream of Fair to Middling Women was Samuel Beckett’s first novel and was not published during his lifetime. It is very instructive to read it and see some of the characters and themes introduced early on that we see later in more mature works. Highly entertaining. And, finally, Will in the World. I learned so much about William Shakespeare and Elizabethan England reading this book.
Radio Voice: “Heavy seas from Point Conception south to the Mexican Border, fog continuing till tomorrow noon, extreme caution should be observed on all highways along this section of the coastline.”
The play, Small Craft Warnings, written by Tennessee Williams, was presented off Broadway at the Truck and Warehouse Theater in the spring of 1972. It takes place in a bar called Monk’s Place, somewhere along the southern coast of California. This bar provides a place of refuge for vulnerable human vessels, people living on the edge of humanity.
When Mr. Williams was asked in an interview if he thought it is right to put his persona into his work he replied, “What else can I do?”
This is not one of Tennessee Williams’ greater works, but rather a smaller crafted one. One that I have always been drawn to for one reason or another. What has recently put it in mind was a trip I took to Mexico. I posted a picture of Lake Chapala one day when the wind was blowing and the water was choppy. I called the picture Small Craft Warnings after the play. It just popped into my head. Then I got to thinking about the play and pulled it down from the shelf and decided to give it a reread.
I had a couple of friends over one afternoon and out of a fit of boredom we decided to act out some of the roles there in my living room. And finally, I was browsing through some YouTube videos one night and I ran across a video of Tennessee Williams being interviewed by Dick Cavett. The interview was billed as Tennessee Williams talks about Marlon Brando. Well, that looked interesting, so I decided to give it a look. He wasn’t talking about Marlon Brando at all. He was talking about Small Craft Warnings, his new play which just opened at The Truck and Warehouse Theater in New York. Boom! Another dot to be connected and another ball falls into a slot. I felt a need to write about it.
So, I gave the play another read and I just wanted to share a condensed version of it. There are nine characters. Each of the principle characters gets a moment alone in their own special light for their own special soliloquy.
When the curtain rises, we hear the sound of ocean wind. The stage is lighted very dim. Monk, the owner, is behind the bar serving Doc. Doc has lost his license to practice medicine for heavy drinking, but he continues to practice somewhat on the sly. Both are middle aged.
Downstage, sitting at a table, is Violet with a battered old suitcase sitting by her side. She has the look of a derelict. She lives in a small room with no bath over the arcade down at the end of the pier directly over the pool tables, pin ball machines and the bowling alley.
Doc says: “The solace of companionship is not the least expensive item on the shelves of the fucking super market a man of my age has to spend what’s left of his life in.”
Bill enters the bar. He is a loser putting up a bold front. By definition he is a “stud.” He has always traded on his physical endowment. He even has a name for his thing, he calls it “Junior.” He brags about not having ever done a lick of work in his life. He is currently shacking with Leona in her trailer in a trailer park nearby. He ambles over to the table where Violet is sitting with a couple of beers in his hands and a killer smile on his lips.
Violet says: “A man like you.”
Bill says: “A man like me?”
Violet: “A bull of a man like you. You got arms on you big as the sides of a ham.”
Bill: “That aint all I got big.”
Violet: “You mean what I think?”
Bill: “If you can’t see you can feel.”
Violet reaches under the table and it is obvious that she is feeling him.
The door bursts open. Leona enters like a small bull. She is a large ungainly woman wearing white clam diggers, a pink sweater, and a sailor’s cap. She is a beautician and lives in a trailer park nearby with Bill. When she realizes what Violet is doing under the table, she raises a rhubarb.
Later Steve enters the bar. He is wearing a floral-patterned shirt under a tan jacket and the greasy white pants of a short order cook. He is looking for Violet who at this moment is screaming her head off in the Ladies.
A little while later a young man and a boy enter the bar. They walk to a table in the front. The boy, Bobby, wears jeans and a sweat shirt with the words Iowa to Mexico on it. The young man, Quentin, is dressed in a jacket, maroon slacks, and a silk scarf. Their story is Quentin picked up Bobby on the road who was riding his bicycle. He talked him into putting his bike in his car and coming along with him. Quentin had taken Bobby to his home earlier and they had a little tiff, one might say a “lover’s quarrel.” They stopped at the bar for a drink.
Doc gets a phone call. He has to go. Someone will be born tonight on Treasure Island.
Quentin and Bobby leave the bar.
Leona says: “I had an Italian boyfriend once who used to say, ‘Meglior solo que mal accompanota,’ which means that you’re better off alone than in the company of a bad companion.”
Later Doc returns. Leona starts in on him. “Back already? It didn’t take you much time to deliver the baby. Or did you bury the baby? Or did you bury the mother. Or did you bury them both, mother and baby?”
Doc: “Can’t you shut this woman up?”
Leona: “No one can shut this woman up. Quack, quack, quack, Doctor Duck, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!”
Later, Violet is sitting a table with Monk. She drops a match box and reaches for it. And suddenly her hand is no longer on the table. She says, “It’s a pitiful thing to have to reach under a table to find some reason to live.”
There’s a commotion outside. Bill and Steve rush out the door.
Doc takes off.
Leona takes off.
Only Violet and Monk are left on stage. Monk is closing up.
Violet goes upstairs. Monk says, “I’ll bring you some beer. Don’t forget to shower.”
Monk crosses to open the door. We hear the boom of the ocean outside. “I always leave the door open for a few minutes to clear the smoke and liquor smell out of the place and the human odors and to hear the ocean.”
He hears the water running upstairs. “That ain’t rain,” he says. He starts up the steps and pauses a moment. He glances up with a smile of anticipation.
Another bitter irony involving this piece concerns scene where Doc delivers the baby: The baby dies, the mother dies. This actually happened in real life to my Great Grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery in 1944. Was a medical doctor and was called to a woman’s home to deliver her baby. While there he had a heart attack and died. The woman was rushed to a hospital where she died and the baby died. I wrote about this story in another blog post called the Curious Case of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery.
And that is the story of Small Craft Warnings. We are all in the same boat, so we have to look out after each other a little bit.
Jan 2, 2020 Thursday 10:05 am. Cold and rainy. Rained all night and into the morning. Sound of the rain like gravel on an old tin roof. Had breakfast with Buddha at Gosha’s. Scrambled eggs, black beans, toast, fruit, and coffee. Walked home in the rain. Went out later with Buddha to a bar near the Malecon called the Traditional. Had a Corona and listened to some music. Later we walked up to the square and sat on a bench and watched the people walk by. It was a little cold so we walked back home. I finished reading my Raymond Chandler book and watched a movie on my tablet. Went to bed at 11:00 pm and up at 6:00 am, dreams of Anna filling my head.
January 3, 2020. Meeting Linda Schaefer in Chapala. Linda is a person who I have been Facebook friends with for over 10 years, but whom I’ve never met in person. By sheer coincidence I learned she was traveling to Mexico and staying with friends in Guadalajara. We decided to meet up in Chapala.
There have been many coincidences surrounding my friendship with Linda. She is friends of friends on Facebook: Firoze Shakir of India, Anthony and Crystal Posey of New Orleans, who are originally from Kentucky. Linda lives in Ada, Oklahoma where I used to live at one time. Oh, the irony abounds.
Linda is a renowned photographer, a published author, and a subject matter expert on Mother Teresa, who she knew personally. I was excited to meet her for the first time in person for sure.
I took the bus to Chapala and we met at a restaurant on the Malecon.
I had a wonderful afternoon with Linda and her friends. It was a beautiful day, lots of sunshine and warmth. I took a lot of pictures. I stayed until after nightfall, but hurried back to Ajijic because I wanted to say goodbye to Anna at La Tia and I knew she got off work at 8:00. This was the last chance I had to see her before I left town. I made it just in time.
Wednesday. First day of the new year. Had the breakfast buffet at Scallions with Buddha. All you can eat for 130 pesos. Great deal and the food was delicious! Buddha was feeling kind of rough this morning so he left early. On the other hand, I felt pretty good! My room was cleaned while I was away. Doing a little reading and catching up on my writing.
Last night we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Perry’s Pizza. He had a party that was tickets only. All you can eat, music, drinks and dancing. My date, Anna, showed up right at 8:15 as promised. She is a gorgeous Mexican girl I met at La Tia Bar. Has a great personality and a killer smile. And boy can she dance! We were going to El Bar CO. after we left Perry’s. Anna needed to be with her family so we dropped her off at her grandfather’s place on the way. I was trying to decide whether to have another drink at Perry’s or wait until I got to El Bar Co. Anna said, “You are here now, have a drink here. What’s the problem?” I said, “You’re right! No problem! I like how you think!” So, I had another drink there before we left. It didn’t take much to convince me.
We Ubered down to El Bar Co. We had to pay a cover to get in plus buy a drink. It was a couple hundred pesos all together. I had a Jack and soda and Buddha had a glass of Port wine. I ain’t kidding ya. He loves that shit! We sat and listened to the band for a while. They were very good. A large sound with two horns.
Buddha didn’t want to stay. He was getting bored again, so he left. I stayed until midnight because on New Year’s Eve that is sort of the point, isn’t it? At the stroke of midnight everyone hugged and shook hands, It was nice! I walked home in the darkness. When I got to my street I noticed a fire burning in the street next door to my hacienda. That is how they celebrate New Year’s Eve in Ajijic. That and fire crackers which went on all night.
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
-Raymond Chandler, The Fine Art of Murder
Lunch at the Lake Chapala Lake Society. Had the empandas and a Corona. The Lake Chapala Society is one of the world’ largest expat societies, helping expats from all over the world to integrate into the Mexican Community Lakeside. It is located in the beautiful gardens in the midst if Ajijic. The Lake Chapala Society offers a variety of cultural, humanitarian and wellness programs. I returned this beautiful spot over and over again during my stay in Ajijic.
Dinner at El Torito. New place that just opened up. Had the Steak Tacos and a glass of red wine. Had a night cap next door at El Bar Co. Jim Beam and soda. Not every place had whiskey, but El Bar Co. did. The next day (Sunday) had breakfast with the Breakfast club a Dona’s. Open Mic tonight at Perry’s Pizza.
Buddha signed up to do a couple of songs. We were there til six. Got a ride home from the keyboard player. I was walking back to my place from the drop off point in the growing twilight. As I was walking I was approached by a cute little Mexican girl who looked to be about 19. She had just left a little neighborhood grocery and was carrying a small bag. She had multiple tattoos, and was wearing a crop top top, ragged cutoffs, and lots of chains and bracelets. She started speaking to me rapidly in Spanish but I didn’t understand her. “No habla Espanol.” I said.
We stopped in a darkened doorway and she got very close to me and said very slowly, as she pointed her finger first at me then back at herself, “You give me 20 pesos for the food.” I said, ” I don’t have 20 pesos.” She smiled and said OK and continued to walk down the street, her hips swaying as she navigated the cobblestones. I walked back to my place which was about a block away. I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities fate had just thrown my way. If she would take 20 pesos for the food, what would she do for 100 pesos? At another time in my life I might have decided to find out. Tonight, however, I let discretion be the better part of valor. But, it was a while before I stopped thinking about her and finally drifted off to sleep.
Friday. Breakfast at Emilia’s. Had the Linda Omelette. I just love the way they serve black beans instead of potatoes. I’m reading Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. I always bring Hemingway with me when I travel. He writes the kind of stories I like to read and the kind of stories I like to write. If you want to learn how to write read Hemingway.
Walked with Buddha to the Malecon. He played his guitar. A couple of Mexican boys kept coming up to us on their bicycles to listen to him play. Then they would ride off again making big circles and come back again and stare at Buddha with a hangdog look as if to say, “What are you doin’ here, man?”
Norma’s husband died today. She works for my host, Luis. It is very sad. Norma is a fine woman and a hard worker. Now her life will change dramatically. It is a sad reminder that tragedy can strike anywhere and anytime. Life can come to an abrupt end without warning.
Later in the day I went to a Happy Hour with Buddha at the Victoria Hotel. All they served was beer and Margaritas. I had had my fill of beer already and I didn’t want a margarita. The bartender, a young ginger in a red t-shirt, tried to fix me a martini. It was awful. It was undrinkable. So, I sent it back. I drank nothing right then, but socialized a bit with the crowd at our table. There were a couple of parties going on tonight but I passed on both. Instead I walked back to the Malecon and took some pictures of the sunset.
Later, I was walking back to my place and I stopped in a little bar called La Tia. It had a Mexican flag and an American flag draped either side of the entrance. Music was pouring out so I hustled there inside.
There was a gentleman sitting on a bar stool in the middle of the bar. There was a couple sitting at a table towards the back. I went in and sat a couple stools down from the guy at the bar.
A cute little Mexican bartender flashed me her pearly whites. “What would you like to drink?” She asked in perfect English.
“I’ll have a Corona.”
She got me my beer and set down in front of me and went back to her perch. She was talking to the other guy but he turned to me and included me in the conversation. Turns out he was from Oregon and was meeting his girlfriend later. He was drinking beer and had a shot of tequila sitting beside his bottle of beer.
We all got acquainted and had a nice conversation. The girl’s name was Anna and I was becoming quite taken with her. I snapped a few surreptitious pictures of her.
“Do you want to play a game, Benn?” she asked.
“Sure. What is it?”
“It’s called 21. You roll the dice. There are three winners. One who calls the shot. One who pays, and one who drinks the shot. Do you want to play”?
“Sure, let’s play.”
So we each took a turn in rolling six or seven dice out onto the bar from a leather cup. Each time Anna counted the tops of the dice. I won the first roll so I called the shot.
“What shot do you want?” she asked pointing to the bottles of tequila behind the bar.
“What are you drinking?”
She pointed to a bottle.
“OK. That’s the one I want.”
She poured out a shot and set it on the bar in front of us. We rolled some more. First the guy from Oregon, then Anna. At the end of the game the Oregon guy drank and paid for the shot I called. We all laughed and he left. So now I had Anna all to myself. We talked a little more and I told her about a New Year’s Eve Party I was going to at Perry’s Pizza. She said she had been there before and that the food was good. I asked if she had plans for New Year’s Eve. She said no. I asked If she would like to come with me to the party as my guest. She said she would. Hallelujah! Now we are talking! So we exchanged telephone numbers and became friends on Facebook so we could use messenger and sure enough she showed up at the party and we had a great time!
She’s a beautiful girl and I went back to bar several more times to see her.
Christmas Eve morning had breakfast in the Square with some of the boys. Bought a pocket knife for 60 pesos, which I’ll have to leave here. About three dollars USD.￼ Walked back to the place to rest up, read, write, work on pictures, Facebook etc.￼
Went to the party at Kevin’s. Later that night people were exploding fire crackers all night long. Didn’t stop until 4 am.
Christmas morning had breakfast with Buddha at Scallions. Dinner party at Bruce’s at 4:00. In between I walked the streets.
Casablanca Hotel and Bogart’s Bar
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
On the street in Ajijic
Our Lady of Guadalupe
My Christmas Tree
My living room
Buddha at the Christmas Party.
Is he thinking, “Shall I kill something or go to an open mic? Which of these two things should I do?”
There was a woodcutting operation on one side of me. All day long cutting wood with a power saw.
There were fires in the street and fireworks all night long to celebrate Christmas.