Buena Vista Mexico

11 Jul

This week we ventured out of Covid quarantine to attend a small village art fair. The thirty minute drive landed us in Buena Vista (Good View) situated north on Laguna Bacalar. The town has mostly dirt roads and the first language is Mayan. Masks in place we wandered, sampled and shopped. Purchases included tamales, virgin piña coladas and a hammock for our dock! There is nothing like Mayan women selling their wares out of a beat up pots covered with a dish towel. There were kids playing, upbeat conjunto music and the opportunity to support local artists. The day couldn’t have gone better.

The largest sunflower I’ve ever seen.
The hammock is huge. Do come join me.
Hand made rugs and tortilla warmers.

DOS TORTAS

Your Life Has Meaning

4 Jul

I read those words this week by Father Richard Rohr, as part of his daily inspirational message. “Your life has meaning”. Some days it’s very hard for me to feel as if my life has had meaning, then I remember

Early 1990s. Weren’t we gorgeous?

I used to work for the City of Austin in the sexually transmitted disease clinic. I gave people the news that they had HIV or some other infection they picked up along the way. I interviewed them as to their sexual partners and who else needed to be tested to stem the spread. I jokingly called myself a sex detective. The official title was Disease Intervention Specialist.

Assured of anonymity, people still reluctantly gave over information. I frequently looked for contacts with very little to go on. No name, sketchy address, and sometimes not even that much. FYI, your neighbors will tell anyone your business, where you work, when you’ll be home, at least they did in the 90’s.

1996 Master’s of Education, University of Texas

I think the most amazing experience I had was finding a young girl. A guy came into the clinic with symptoms of gonorrhea or chlamydia, I don’t remember which. The problem is, men are way more likely to have symptoms (discharge, burning) and women can have a silent infection that is only uncovered in a routine physical.

He had gone to a party the previous Saturday with people he didn’t really know, in a part of town he wasn’t familiar with and had sex with a girl who’s name he couldn’t remember, Sara or Susan or something. Sigh. Finding her was a true needle in a haystack.

I asked him all the usual interview questions and was getting nowhere. He then remembered that she might have been a high school student in Georgetown, a community outside of Austin.

1993

His information didn’t really narrow the field much. What to do? My memory is a bit sketchy on the details, but I got the idea to call the school nurse at Georgetown High School. Those were the days when schools had their own nurses. I told her who I was and the oh so familiar story of the Saturday night party. And much to my amazement, a student who fit the description had been in her office that morning complaining of burning in her nether region. Bingo, mission accomplished.

My creation on Procreate.

I rarely saw clients more than once. I tried to convince them to be safe, selective and sober. Looking for contacts, I thought nothing of walking into a crack house, homeless camp or neighborhood that most folk didn’t know existed. I tried to treat everyone with respect. I really loved my job and felt like I was doing work that made a difference.

Today, living in the jungle in Mexico, I have my memories. Soon we will be heading north to see children and grandchildren. Just maybe I have made a difference there as well.

DOS TORTAS

Not A Netflix Review Blog

27 Jun

If you pay any attention to pop culture, you’ve certainly heard of Billy Porter. I had seen his gender bending dramatic Met Gala entrances but not much else. Then I stumbled upon James Corden’s (Late Late Night) 2019 clip of Broadway Karaoke featuring none other than Billy Porter https://youtu.be/JCbJwsl-vts My new obsession began.

His Internet Movie Database (IMDB) page https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0692039/ lists many talents, performances and awards! Clearly I have been living under a rock!

A year ago Ms. Porter won an Emmy for lead actor in a television drama series. He was up against some heavy hitters who I was much more familiar with. So what was this series Pose?

Forgive me for raving about Netflix again which has been a life saver in a plague. Pose is a step back in time to New York’s 1980’s ballroom scene. Queer folk have always created our own safe places ie Michigan Women’s Music Festival, but gays and trannies seem to do it with more flair (and sparkles).

So be prepared for a new binge watch, although I prefer to draaaag it out 😆. Pose is a glimpse into a rich history, people and culture that few of us are familiar with. The best part is that it shows an uplifting side of a very challenging time for gays and lesbians, the 80’s.

Enjoy.

DOS TORTAS

Out And About

20 Jun

While our state of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico is at code orange for Covid risk, with red being the worst, we are all vaccinated and willing to venture out to try a new restaurant.

Mojito

New hotels and restaurants are popping up daily on every corner. We don’t eat out much, but I felt like the adventures of Dos Tortas needed a kick in the tuchus. So when a friend recommended Barbanegra Bacalar (Black Beard), a downtown eatery with vegan options, I said, why not. We can certainly use an excuse to take a shower and put on clean clothes.

My mother-in-law Alice is always happy to get out of the house.

I am bad about remembering to take pictures of our food. In this case, the service was so slow, we were lucky to be the only people eating. I had a cauliflower ceviche which was creative and I will make at home. Lisa and Alice were pleased with their selections. Mission accomplished.

Cauliflower Ceviche

Eating out supports the economy and gets us out of the house. Sometimes it’s the diversion that we all need.

DOS TORTAS

I Want To See You Be Brave

12 Jun

As we plan our upcoming July trip to the US to attend to some long overdue medical issues, I find myself awash in fear and sadness. The reports of surging Covid leave me wanting to chuck it all and pull the covers over my head.

I found this timely reminder on Facebook this morning…

In times of trouble, carry on small steps.
Do what you have to do, but a little at a time.
Don’t think about the future, not even about what could happen tomorrow. Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see that?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will get bigger and bigger.
Time will come when you can think about the future without crying. ❤️

(Elena Mikhalkova, ′′ The Room of Ancient Keys ′′)

We have arranged house sitters and bought airplane tickets. I am working on transportation and housing. One step, one day, one action at a time.

We learned this week of another dear friend whom we saw and hung out with in Austin pre-Covid, is in hospice. She has a neurological illness that the doctors can’t figure out. She was next on my list of friends to ask for space in her spare bedroom. Some days there just are no words.

On Wednesdays I make myself go to my drawing group. It is a brief foray out of the house, that provides social interaction and a break from the sadness. Plus I get to draw naked people! I can see the improvement in my drawing. It’s the little things, the small steps.

Lisa got her second shot. We are now both fully vaccinated. Another step.

Brave by Sara Bareilles is my new theme song. Today’s blog is me being brave, refusing to push down my tears and sadness. One thing Covid has done is bring to light people’s mental health struggles. How could we NOT be sad. I would love to hear from you. We will sit and hold hands together. Small steps.

DOS TORTAS

Life’s Little Delights

6 Jun

On Thursday this week, I was driving along the main highway toward Belize, on my way to have brunch with a friend. She lives alone and is quite isolated. With both of us vaccinated, we had made plans to meet up for some huevos divorciados. I left home later than I intended for our appointment at ten. While mindlessly zipping along, I noticed that the sky was studded with lovely big pillowy clouds against a blue blue sky.

Up ahead, I saw a motorcycle on the shoulder. It’s headlight was on and facing towards me. I thought it odd and swung the car wide to give him plenty of room.

What I saw next caused me to laugh out loud. The motorcycle was a bit wobbly, as the man tried to set off with an ungainly load. There was a child on the front, the driver and two young women behind him. One of the women was carrying a goat!

Not quite the same but you get the idea. Stock photo.

I have no picture on my phone but a delightful memory. It reminded me of Lisa and my 2005 trip to Thailand. It was our first introduction to scooter culture. It is a fine art, but absolutely anything can be carried on a scooter.

The colors of my art.

So that was my excitement for the week. It’s not much, but I’ll take it.

DOS TORTAS

Death Knocks

30 May

It was a sucker punch to the stomach this week, when I received the news on Facebook that a dear friend has cancer. And not just cancer but stage four, liver, lung and bone cancer. Suze and I have been friends for almost thirty years. We met on a shuttle from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in the 90’s. My life has been so much richer knowing this crazy woman who makes me laugh. We’ve been to each other’s weddings, and a boatload of parties. We’ve had sleep-overs for New Year’s Eve and watched the Texas low-budget, cult classic Sordid Lives in our pajamas. When she retired from social work, this dynamo took up real estate and sold our home in 2013 so Lisa and I could scurry off to be Dos Tortas in southern Mexico.

In 1999 Lisa and I had a commitment ceremony before marriage was legal. Suze was there.

There was a year of tests that came back negative until they didn’t. No treatment, 3-6 months, get your affairs in order, say your goodbyes.

Suze is the queen of having your affairs in order. In her long career as a social worker, she was the head of Texas Partner for End Of Life Care (TxPEC) which helped develop directives for physicians and clergy to better assistant the dying. It’s because of her fearless advocacy that many have had the hard conversations and their wills are in order.

I am glad that Lisa and I will be back in Texas this summer. We will sit together, hold hands and create final memories. I love you Suze and you will always be in my heart and at least you’ll never have to go on another diet!

DOS TORTAS

Life is A Blooming Delight

23 May

We had a bit of long overdue rain last night. There are many flowers blooming, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the orchids popping up here and there. I once tried to raise an orchid in Austin, Texas. Epic fail. It can be done, just not by me.

This little orchid is currently blooming by our dock. It is very fragrant,
Aren’t they gorgeous?

There are more than 25,000 species of orchids worldwide. In the Mexican tropics, where we live, orchids pretty much raise themselves. They thrive in the humidity and shade, clinging to a tree trunk. They are epiphytes, non-parasites, living on another plant, wild and free. They’re a delightful surprise to find while walking around the property, a pop of color and in some cases a whiff of sublime fragrance.

So delicate.
This beauty ( Phaelaenopsis or moth orchid) bloomed for three months in the earlier part of this year.

So kick back. Enjoy whatever is blooming in your life, yard or neighborhood. Life is good and I’m grateful.

DOS TORTAS

Dance Of The Forty-One

16 May

I remember when the movie Silence Of The Lambs came out in 1991. It starred Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, who both won Academy Awards and overall best picture. I was probably the only person who found the movie horrifying, I could not watch, averted my eyes and walked out of the theater. I argued with friends who declared it a “great movie”. How could a movie about kidnapping, torture and wearing the skin of a woman be great? Subject matter vs cinematography.

This week I watched a Netflix movie that popped up on my feed, Dance of the Forty-One. In its own way, it was equally hard to watch, but not for the same reason. Dance of the Forty-One is a based-on-reality, Mexican movie by award winning director David Pablos about the repression of gay men in 1901 under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. To my surprise, it was dubbed well in English not subtitled.

https://www.netflix.com/title/80235267?s=i&trkid=255824129

The movie is beautiful and moving. The love scenes are steamy and visceral. It is filmed in Mexico City and Guadalajara and transports the viewer to what Mexico was like in all its elegance and grandeur at the turn of the century. However if you know even a smattering of Mexican history and the cruelty of Porfirio Diez, you know it’s not going to end well.

Lisa and I have lived in Mexico almost eight years. One of our concerns before moving was of course, how we would be treated as a lesbian couple, aka Dos Tortas. While there has been the occasional “are you sisters?” for the most part, we are treated respectfully. One time a waiter was flirting hard with Lisa who of course was clueless. He leaned over and whispered in my ear asking me about her. I declared that she was my esposa. He turned red, sputtered, delivered the check, and disappeared. The more common term in Spanish is partner or pareja, but I was feeling particularly evil that day.

2019 in the Texas bluebonnets.

I don’t kid myself that life for Mexican lesbians is the same as for foreigners. We have friends who are a mixed couple, US’er and Mexican. They have been together many years, attending family functions and living in Bacalar down the street from Sola’s conservative family. Their relationship has never been acknowledged. It is a non-topic, period, end of story. In this case, silence is not golden.

Mexico continues to grow in acceptance and discrimination has been outlawed. Same-sex marriage is legal in all thirty-one states. Gracias to David Pablos for shining a light on a dark time in history. As hard as it is to watch, let’s not avert our eyes this time.

DOS TORTAS

Great Nan Is Dead

8 May

My grandmother died a few months before her 95 birthday. I remember coming home from somewhere to my husband and youngest in arms waiting at the door. Before my foot crossed the threshold, my baby blurted out, “great Nan died”.

So many old photos with no dates.

Nan had been sitting on the bed with my mother helping to dress for the day, when her heart just gave out. I would say that it wasn’t a bad way to go, except Nan was mostly deaf and totally ornery. As her 24/7 caregiver, I’m sure that my mother had mixed feelings though she’d never admit it. She adored her mother and repeated frequently how she could never make rice pudding nor potato salad as good as Nan’s.

My mother in the front with her siblings and mother.

I was named for my grandmother which didn’t keep our personalities from clashing on more than one occasion. She once prevented my six year old daughter from joining her grandparents for weekday mass because, “you can’t go to church dressed like that.” I had been looking forward to a quiet hour sans daughter. I got mad and told my grandmother to mind her own business. Not my finest hour.

My mother to the left of center. Nan also lost a child to whooping cough and another died at birth.

This Mother’s Day I am thinking of her. She was a single mother during the Depression, working as an operator for Bell Telephone and just about any job she could find, to provide for her family. She loved to drive and frequently flirted with truck drivers by honking and waving. She always had a lifesaver or some other sweet in her purse to delight a grandchild. Nan thought nothing of inspecting me and my four siblings for dirty ears and sending us off to the bathroom if we didn’t meet her standards.

Left bottom was her 81 birthday. She wore a wig because of her thinning pate.

Today her twelve grandchildren (actually there’s two more, but that’s another story)have managed to produce twenty-six grandchildren, and forty-seven greats, as far as we know. Her Irish Catholic blood is passed down from a line of strong women. Her own mother Anna outlived three husbands and was married mother and widowed in one year.

Happy Mother’s Day out there, today and every day, however you mother, whoever you mother, and whatever you mother.

DOS TORTAS

Four generations of moms.
Emilie Vardaman

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