Monthly Archives: November 2023

November 14th/23


I realize I have not posted pictures of my trip to Coatepec, Veracruz Mexico last August, and so I am just now getting around to it. I think it’s because I posted so many of the pictures to friends. At any rate, partially this is to assure people that I really do have a social life here, so many friends in eastern cities/large cities imagine that I live in a tiny hermit house far out in the wilderness and never see people or go anywhere and am totally without human contact or something. Really.

The Ortiz house/villa, and entrance, where I am privileged to stay — it came down through the family from Julio’s wife, Luz ‘La Guera’ Ortiz and has a fascinating history with several very funny stories attached when it was the only hotel in Coatepec and many outrageously wild parties went on there but that’s for another time.

Here’s Julio, one of my favorite people, brother of my friend Elvia, he’s an architect. He told me what project he was working on but I forget…

Elvia at the Coatepec market — she goes there every day and everybody knows her, knows what it is she needs for the day. I love the market.

And another of her brothers (she was the only girl) Jaime, who is an enormous amount of fun — he has a PhD in electrical engineering from an English university, I forget which one, and he told me a great story about being a consultant with the mayor of Jalapa, when we were all at lunch at a very elegant restaurant in that town, from which I did not get any pictures. Or maybe I did, I’ll look. Anyway he worked on El Farallon, (an island) Mexico’s only nuclear power plant, decades ago, and Jim and I got to go and stay with him at El Farallon —so interesting!

Best of all was a trip with Jaime and Elvia to the coastal town of Tlacotalpan, on a very muddy, mosquito-laden shore of the Papaloapan River where it feeds into the Gulf of Mexico —a mile broad — which was a colonial town from the 1700s where all the houses are preserved and painted the most fabulous colors. Preservation by means of the Mexican government department of antiquities, a very worthy use of the money. At any rate, the aristocrats of the 1700s and 1800s lived in these lovely places and of course the poor in jacales. It was a shipping port — I think produce from the interior. At any rate, it was frozen in time.

Y como siempre, desde los tiempos de Ulyses, la colgada secando en los techos, las banderas de los pobres.

Veteran’s Day Nov. 11 2023

When Jim and I lived in King William and I used to keep my horse at the Fort Sam Houston stables, a group of us used to ride on the grounds where permitted. Down into Salado Creek and around the edge of the national cemetery, where Jim is now buried.

One time when we were near the edge of the National Cemetery we saw a pile of gravestones, just heaped up, some scattered around, all broken. A retired Marine sergeant who used to ride with us. Don Diaz, rode over to them and looked them over and said, “They’re being replaced. They got broken or worn or stained and they’re being replaced, these are discards.” And he leaned down to read the names, as if he might know them.

Don and I used to ride together from time to time, just the two of us, and he told me a lot of stories about Vietnam. He didn’t mind telling me the stories because he knew my husband was a combat veteran. He said he knew a lot of young soldiers that got killed because of poor training. He said they’d been trained as if they were going off to fight a regular army as in WW2. He also told me good stories about growing up poor and Hispanic in San Antonio. I hope he is still among the living. He was a great guy.

AP photo

November 7/2023

People who do stuff

I’ve been reading Rob Henderson on Substack, I like his writing very much. Like Paul Fussell (Class) and David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) he writes about “class” or better “status” but from a relevant perspective. I would add that the non-upper/middle/class world — ‘working class’ and village and rural and small town life, the culture tends to form around what people DO.

The urban world in general coalesces around how people can appear and the culture urges an eternal struggle for social status.

Wallace wrote that we seem to be becoming a world of ‘appearers’ rather than ‘do-ers’.

So when journalists or retirees or anthropologists step out of an urban upper/middle/’class’ world into that of the village, rural, or ordinary working people world, they tend to assume that the social scene they have entered is also formed around how people can appear. They assume that the people around them are also in an eternal fight for social status.

They are very much mistaken and often come to grief because they can’t question their own cultural biases.

The culture of non-urban people is around doing stuff and doing it well. Sometimes fearlessly. The culture of the non-urban does not impose that terror of losing social status, of slipping down a notch, of social shame, of being ejected from society because of a non-approved-of signal.

When one does something and does it well, sometimes fearlessly, what one gains is respect, not status.