San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Where you been, bro? It has been a year, yeah?

Sure sign that tourism is back — hot-air balloons dot the early morning sky in Colonia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

So here we are now at 6,200 feet enjoying incredibly mild weather yearlong, a severe drought and growing water shortage, unrestrained development, and a once-exuberant city that has almost withered away under the relentless grind of Covid restrictions. 

Signs of life are returning to San Miguel de Allende.

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photography, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Social media-loving D.C. rioters are finding there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

Interesting question raised by a former newspaper colleague and a Poynter institute column: “Should journalists play a role in identifying rioters?”

That’s the headline and based on it alone, the answer is, of course. Media goes after the facts and a big chunk of the facts from last week’s Washington riot answers the question: Who the hell were these people?

The more-specific and thornier question is: “Should the media turn over unpublished documentation, especially photographs, to law enforcement upon request?”

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

These are a few of my favorite things, Part I: Salvaging love and beauty from 2020

Well, thank god that’s over. The year, I mean. 2020.

I’ve had just about enough of it and I suspect you have too. Not that 2021 will start off so terribly different. Well, there is the regime change, an inauguration, and the eradication of four years of shitty people running the country.

It will take time, lots of vaccinations, still more wine than we should be consuming, and a Democratic majority in Congress — up to you, Georgia.

Was 2020 really all that bad? Yes. Yes, it was.

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San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Starry and bright: All is quiet on Christmas Eve in San Miguel de Allende

Merry Christmas from beautiful San Miguel de Allende, a city that is no more beautiful than on Christmas Eve.

The city has been decorated for weeks but we waited until this evening to walk through historic Centro. A perfect night for it — the temperature dropped suddenly, the wind picked up slightly, and there were ever so few people out and about.

This is just a brisk tour through the center of this magical city. I took some photos while Rose handed out tangerines and caps that she’d knitted to a few people. Moppit just sniffed the curbs and wondered why we kept stopping to take in the beauty of it all.

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Defund cops? Some are saying, “Defund the media crime beats”

Nieman Lab’s “Predictions for Journalism 2021,” asks a pretty provocative question: Is it time to defund the crime beat?

Read the essay here.

The authors reach some conclusions that are bound to hurt dedicated, hard-working crime-beat reporters and their editors:

“This should be the year where we finally abolish the crime beat. Study after study shows how the media’s overemphasis on crime makes people feel less safe than they really are and negatively shapes public policy around the criminal–legal system. And study after study shows that it’s racist and inhumane.”

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Rants and raves, Writings

Tongs for the memories

It is clear to me that the single greatest invention of our civilization has been the wooden toast tongs.

Since the time of Medieval toasters, this device has safely extracted piping hot slabs of bread. Perhaps even earlier, if certain Egyptian hieroglyphics are to be interpreted correctly.

Suspected fact: Leonardo da Vinci may have invented the wooden toast tongs before there were electric toasters, once again anticipating the needs and aspirations of future generations.

Toast tongs made it possible for countless writers and poets through time to sit at their humble desks and create, undistracted by the burning sensation on their fingertips that a tong-less household brings.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Fiction: Hell hath no fury like a seminarian scorned — this is war

Recently I was asked to read a selection of my writing at the Prose Cafe in San Miguel de Allende.

In better times, Prose Cafe is a gathering of writers and others (mostly other writers, I think) in the beautiful Belles Artes. Three or four writers would each read something and take questions. I always found the cafe sessions inspirational. I imagined myself — some day, not right away — being just like them, having something of worth to share with other writers.

These days, Prose Cafe and its sister gathering, Poetry Cafe, are ZOOM affairs. They are both the offspring of the San Miguel Literary Sala whose wonderful Writers Conference is currently underway — on ZOOM, of course.

I shared the ZOOM space on Thursday, Dec. 3 with two accomplished authors, Molly Giles and Fredrika Sprengle. Both have published works — award-winning books, short stories. I have nearly four decades of newspaper clippings. A good mix, as it turned out. We all leaven our prose (and pain?) with humor.

What follows is the story that I read. As I told the ZOOM audience, this is a work of fiction, except for the parts that are true. (You figure it out).

It is one of a number of short stories in the file marked “Seminary Life” that may yet grow into a full-sized novel.

Declaring war on … well, everybody

It was the beginning of the end — the end of my days as a Catholic seminarian. It came the moment I picked up that heavy metal bucket full of dirty water and heaved it out the third floor window. Sending a loud and long string of curses cascading after it.

Two things occurred to me in the moment.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Soon to be on Netflix, ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ brings back some violent memories

Chadwick Boseman is Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” It was his last performance as an actor before passing away in August.

Netflix begins streaming  “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on December 18. The August Wilson play has enjoyed an excellent life on Broadway and beyond. And for good reason. It is a powerful creation. 

I think that in the Denzel Washington-produced movie we will see what a treasure and tragic loss was the death of Chadwick Boseman in August. This was his last performance.

This most recent news from Netflix sends me back nearly to the creation of the play, in 1982.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

The cabbie’s life: One night in Toronto

Back in the day — before Uber & Lyft, before Google street maps, before the Internet — there was a thing known as The Thomas Guide. It was a spiral-bound book of maps and street indexes for many of the major West Coast cities in the U.S.

It was a godsend for journalists and taxicab drivers alike.

Toronto had a similar book, as I discovered one night when I arrived to cover the Toronto Film Festival for my California newspaper.

“Where to, eh?

“Sutton Place,please.”

“Good, good. Is that cab in front of us going there, too?”

“No, they’re going to another hotel.”

“Good, good. OK. Sutton Place. That’s not far. Do you know where it is?”

“No. Don’t you?”

“Yeah. Well, no. Well, sort of. I usually work the West End. Don’t get up here that much.”

“Um … Bay Street. I think it is on Bay Street.”

“Bay Street? Good. Good. Bay Street. Bay Street. Right you are.”

“I think it is a main thoroughfare here. North and south.Turn here on University. You’re bound to cross it.”

“OK. Yeah. Right you are. Here, look in this book, page four. Got to be on page four or near it. Look on four.”

“There’s no map on four.”

“What do you mean? No! Index. Look at the index. You read; I’ll drive.”

“I can’t find a map. Look here, there’s Bay Street! If you turn here, we ought to find Sutton Place.”

“I can’t turn. See the sign? It says ‘No left turn.’ You really ought to learn how to read that book. You can get anywhere with in this city with that book, you can. Ah, I’ll turn anyway.”

“Why do I need to read this book? I’ll be leaving Toronto in two days. You live here. You learn it.”

“Sure, but what if you come back? You really ought to learn.”

You ought to learn. You live here, you drive the cab!”

“Right you are!”

“Look, there’s the Sutton. Just drop me off behind that car.”

“Right! The old Sutton! There you are! I got you here, didn’t I? You really ought to get one of these books. Invaluable! Fare’s $4.25. Told you I’d get you here. Well, have a good evening then.”

“Right. Keep the change.”

True story.

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

When peering into the infinite universe, always watch your step

The musician David Byrne was asked in the New York Times which subjects would he like to see more authors write about.

I liked his answer.

“I’ll turn it around — most writers should avoid writing about writers as their main characters. I know, I know, ‘write what you know.’”

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