Why I Had to Quit FaceBook and Learned to Love Instagram…in just a week.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I just snapped. That’s how I have made many important decisions in my life…I snap and zap. This time it was FaceBook that finally pushed me in a new direction. I had progressively (no pun intended) gotten so extremely tired of all the USA politics on FaceBook. All my “friends” that I actually see are either liberals, or they are keeping it zipped. Anyone that I know and like and suspect that they are a Republican, I unfollowed until after the election. That’s because I really want to continue to like them. If they are someone I didn’t actually know, I just unfriended them. So, I wasn’t seeing pro-trump stuff, I was seeing anti-trump stuff….but, I was seeing it and seeing it and seeing it. I was tired of a steady diet of all this. Since I think you are what you eat, I also think it goes further than that. You are what you consume, no matter through your mouth or your mind. It was just trump…it was like the Bad News Gazette. I lost two actual friends who were Bernie supporters because I refused to allow anyone to post anything negative about Hillary Clinton in response to one of my own comments. Enough said about that.

And much of the reason I quit FaceBook was because of what I felt it was bringing out in me; my worst possible side. Every time I looked at my newsfeed I would end up pissed off, and twice I put up such scathing comments or posts that I immediately took them down. I was starting to see FaceBook as a big billboard that I owned and I often had the urge to just post “Fu(k You.” It really was fueling my anger in general. That is not healthy for anyone, although some people seem to thrive on it. To each her/his own.

I also must say, FaceBook was capable of bringing out my best side, too. I found myself compelled to get involved with people in order to make them feel better. I found myself really caring, and sometimes feeling a bit drained emotionally. I was sending unsolicited private messages, cheering people on. It got to be too much.

I have continued to check my own wall, and certainly to use FaceBook Messenger, a very good communication tool. I will still put up links to my blog on FaceBook because some of my friends who check that they like my blog posts seem to be too lazy to actually Follow it. Which, of course, makes me wonder if they read it, or just like the pictures. I truly think that social media has taught some people to be incapable of reading more than one or two sentences. I think this will profoundly affect the next generation’s ability to concentrate and read, and that is too bad. Hopefully, maybe, I’m wrong….

But, speaking of liking the pictures, most of the pictures I posted on FaceBook had been through a great deal of PhotoShop and nothing was spontaneous. I am a perfectionist and capable of spending hours on PhotoShop….removing things that shouldn’t be in the pictures, and making myself and others look more fabulous than we really look…especially pictures of me.

I had started an Instagram account sometime in 2012, but hadn’t done much with it. I would do a random post every now and then but it was always something I had taken with my Fuji camera and mailed to myself, since you can’t post from your computer. I didn’t really understand or connect with Instagram. Until I did. After my adios to FaceBook, I started to explore Instagram. I love its spontaneity. I have a whole different set of standards for my Instagram posts, and perfection isn’t on the list. I am capturing moments, and the words are no longer the point. I love photos and I love words. I will continue to use my blog for literary expression, and when appropriate, I will post photos from my camera with my blog. But, this time, instead of mailing a perfect photo from my computer to my phone, I am emailing a wacky selfie from my phone to my computer to use on this post. This is what my Instagram posts are like. The caption here is “Girl on the Run.” “Chica a la Fuga,” in Spanish.

This brings up another issue between FaceBook and Instagram. While there are many friends from Nashville I enjoyed keeping up with on FaceBook, I find that Instagram opens up more ways to connect with people and images from around the world. (And I’m not talking about the weirdos that show up in friend requests on FaceBook. I’m talking about people who take amazing photos.)  I am connecting already with many people in Mexico, so I will post my photo comments in both English and Spanish. I am not being pretentious, I am trying to be bi-lingual, one of my reasons for moving to Mexico. While I lived for many years in Nashville, I am now a resident of Mexico. While I used to love walking from our house to Burger Up, I am not all excited about “The New Nashville.” In fact that was one reason I needed to leave. I needed changes in imagery and changes in energy.

I thought when I had my Brokeback Mountain moment with FaceBook that I would free up a lot of time. I did. I must confess, however, that I am spending a lot of it learning how to use my phone camera and how to use Instagram. Learning is learning and it keeps the mind alive. Plus, I never do anything half-way.

I have made a couple of guest appearances on FaceBook during this hiatus. Fred sometimes finds FaceBook posts that he can’t resist telling me about. Kind of like offering an alcoholic a martini. One of them was so fabulous, I had to comment. I have cruised my newsfeed a couple of times in a moment of lax discipline. I sometimes, on purpose, look at Jerry Rife’s wall because he is such a wonderful photographer and his work inspires me. I always check my messages, and here you go with a blog post. There may be more blog posts, because…well, after all…you know (if you’re my FaceBook friend) that I have many opinions and I do love to run off my big mouth.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram, it’s just margaretellis. For now, I won’t be sharing these photos to FaceBook.

 

 

Parade of the Locos…and a nice party

The photo here is Fred waiting for the parade to start. The quiet before the storm.

Fred and I really enjoyed viewing the parade today from a roof top. It was fun to see, but I would have been overwhelmed to be in the midst of it. There were thousands of people from all over Mexico who showed up in costume and filled the streets. Thanks to Plata for a lovely rooftop party. I ended up liking the pictures of the people at the party more than the pictures I took of the parade.

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Hometown Girl

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Morganna Love was born in San Miguel de Allende. I wish I knew more about her story, as what I do know fascinates me. At some point Morganna, who was born male, fully transitioned to female, and became the beautiful woman in these pictures. As a young man, the person who became Morganna also was training in classical opera. There is a documentary film, which I haven’t seen, about her transition, “Made in Bangkok.”

Last night this hometown girl came back to San Miguel, and a reception was held for her at Plata, a new club on Zacateros. This club is the brainchild of a couple of very interesting women, Lady Zen and her partner Lilia Garcelon. I met Lady Zen and Lilia recently at brunch at Aguamiel. I had been curious about their new venture and when I was invited to this reception I decided it would be a good night to check out the scene there. It was a lovely evening. Morganna talked and answered questions. She also sang. It was hard to believe the size of the voice that came out of such a petite woman. I was completely taken by her talent, beauty, and poise. She will be singing at the Angela Peralta Theatre, in concert with Xavier Gibler and the Choir of the Opera, here in San Miguel on June 9. I have been told that the town loves her, and that was pretty evident by last night’s attendance. It was a large crowd in a fairly small room and she held everyone spellbound.

Having been visiting San Miguel for a few years before we decided to live here, I had often wondered why there wasn’t a place here that catered to the LGBT audience. I think that Plata has filled that need. And, it is pretty obvious that there is a need for just such a place. But, Plata felt like much more than a bar. It seemed like a community. The crowd was mixed, in all the ways I could name. I would say that most of the people there were young, and Mexican, but I also felt that any like-minded person would be welcomed there. I certainly felt welcomed. The mood was very sophisticated. This club isn’t just about entertainment, it is also about education. They present many different art forms, and give the performers an opportunity to interact with the audience. I think some evenings just involve a DJ, and dancing.

The room is on the ground floor of a Lebanese restaurant, and you enter by walking down some stairs. It truly does have a bit of an “underground mystique.” They have done a very good job of putting the space together in an artful way. There were beautiful flowers in the room, lots of little treats being passed around for the reception, and Lady Zen and Lilia were the perfect hostesses. It was a event befitting a diva, and the diva held up her end of the deal. She was charming throughout the questions and answers, and her singing was compelling. I hope to go to her concert tomorrow night. I am sure it will be an evening to remember.

Plata. I am glad to find such a place in San Miguel, and I will definitely visit again.  It isn’t just another new bar in a town that is quickly exploding with new bars and restaurants that have a big city feeling. It is place that is filling a genuine need, and seems to be off to a very good start.

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Lilia Garcelon, one of the masterminds behind Plata. She is a performance artist, dancer, and describes herself as a “nightlife personality.” Not to mention she is extremely photogenic.

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Lady Zen. The other half of the energy behind Plata. She is a wonderfully outgoing personality, and quite a singer herself. I saw her perform last fall and I haven’t forgotten how impressed I was.

 

Women of a Certain Age. Part 4.

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This woman has appeared in my blog before. The story behind these photos is fascinating to me. And, I hope I have my facts straight. I don’t know the women’s names in these photos, but I do know a little about the older one. I put this info together from talking to a few people, doing a little internet research, and actually meeting her son.

The story goes that this woman started in business by selling scarves that she had woven. She took her very young son with her when she went to sell them. She was not only a weaver, she is also a businesswoman. When she saw that she couldn’t get a fair price for her labor and materials, she decided to cut some corners. Many craftspeople in Mexico have done that. The major work, the real quality pieces, can take days or weeks to complete. I don’t fault them for earning a living, and I have some pieces that I really love that I’m sure were done by machine.

Her son, Remigio Maestas Revilla, took a different route. He has devoted his life to changing the economics of weaving. He now has many weavers he works with throughout the small villages of Oaxaca and he presents and sells their work at a price that is fair to them. In his own way, he is keeping alive a vibrant craft tradition. He has a few stores around Mexico, among them, two in San Miguel de Allende. (One is on Correo, just off the square…Los Baules de Remigio. The other is on Recreo…Juana Cata.) The work he carries is extremely high quality, and exquisite. It is all done completely by hand, and uses natural dyes. His main store is in Oaxaca City is Los Baules de Juana Cata.

And his mother, the older woman in these pictures, also has a large store in Oaxaca City, a few blocks from her son’s store. After inspiring her son to preserve the old, tradition methods, she is still motivated to give the customer a bang for her buck. She carries room after room of Mexcan clothing that may not be made in the traditional ways, but is still very appealing. The stitching is done by machine, and the price is not enough to worry about. You can put together a completely wonderful look for not many pesos. Personally, I love these clothes. I think this woman has a real eye for fashion, and knows how to put the inexpensive pieces together for a real statement look. She is a real success story, whose  legacy will be carried on by her son and his children. I visited her store several times while we were in Oaxaca. She is quite a salesperson as well. She greets you at the door and starts to show you things in rapid order. You find yourself trying things on right in the store. If you buy several pieces you will probably get a little discount, and the colors are so bright and the prices so low…..you will leave with a full bolsa.

Then you might find yourself in one of Remigio’s stores. All the merchandise is in impeccable order. Each piece is a unique work of traditional craftsmanship. The colors are from natural dyes. They are beautiful, but much more subtle. No one rushes to show you things. You browse around and think about which piece you would buy if you wanted a splurge. One night Fred and I were there and he bought a scarf for me. The shopping experience was very delightful. The scarf came with a little tag about where it was made and who made it. Remigio, his wife and two children, were in the store. I was somehow able to communicate how I appreciate the work he does. And, that I am familiar with his mother, a true example of a Mexican woman entrepreneur.

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This is a link to a post about this same subject.

Women of a Certain Age, Part 3.

This lady is one I see frequently on the street in San Miguel de Allende, usually helping out a flower seller who works near a sidewalk cafe. There is something compelling about her. I was pleased and rather surprised when she agreed to let me take her photo. She doesn’t have the strong, outgoing personality of the woman in the first of these posts, and she doesn’t seem to have the confidence of the woman in the second post of this series. In fact, in this woman I  always sense a feeling of vulnerability and shyness. I always say hello to her. Sometimes she holds out her hand to me, sometimes she doesn’t. When she does, I always find some pesos for her.

As a woman growing up in the USA I have certainly dealt with issues of strength and vulnerability. I have always thought that a woman could be one or the other…strong or vulnerable…but not both at the same time. My life in Mexico has taught me that only when we realize our vulnerability can we really find our strength. As a child growing up in a fairly dysfunctional situation I always felt vulnerable. The same vulnerability carried over into my first marriage. I was always expecting someone to come in the door in a really hostile mood, and even if it had nothing to do with me, I always felt it was my job to fix it. At around age 35 I managed to see that I could also be strong, and I saw being strong as the key to my survival. I saw strong as good, and vulnerable as not so good.  My experiences in Mexico have helped me to see that I can actually be strong even when I am most vulnerable. In fact, the only way to be truly strong is to be able to accept my vulnerabilities, love that scared child within me, and then to find my strength. I now see that we cannot really know our strengths until we also see our vulnerabilities. It is the ability to see both these sides of ourselves that matters most. So many women, especially women like me (old enough to have been strongly affected by the Feminist Movement..and to know what life was like before it), are not willing to see how vulnerable they really are. It’s always got to be Wonder Woman, all the time.

I don’t know the difficulties that some of the women I see here experience every day. I don’t know their joys. But, what I see is their magnificent survival. It is a simpler life here, and people aren’t all worked up about impressing each other. There is a kindness of spirit that I see in the faces I meet on the street. There is a shyness, just waiting for me to make the first move and say hello. I suspect they wonder about me sometimes, too. While I know that our lives have been very different, I also see more each day how similar we are.

One of the most important things I have learned about living in Mexico is that I simply cannot judge the lives of others. Many people come to a country like this and think that somehow the people’s lives are inferior because of the standard of living that they see. But, wait. Stop and look. This is not inferior, it’s just different. If you can put aside your own standards and expectations you can find a world very different from what you have ever experienced, but a beautiful world, nonetheless. And, you can look inside yourself and find strengths you didn’t know you had. And, when you need to feel vulnerable, you can just do that, too…without judging yourself at all.

Women of a Certain Age. Part One.

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I am so moved and amazed by the older women I see in Mexico. There is a strength of character in their faces. Some of them have lived hard lives, but they are a true inspiration to me. The lady in these pictures is Publita, I see her occasionally on the streets of San Miguel. I always stop and give her money. She gives me a smile. She has so much personality. She seems like a force of nature. I know very little about her, but I always look for her when I am out and about. What a wonderful face she has. I am going to show you five women in this series. They are just the ones I have been lucky enough to capture. There are many more that got away. All of these faces have made me change some of my ideas about aging. I no longer see it as something to dread. I see it as something to aspire to.

Falling in Love with a Country

This photo is not what you usually see to show off San Miguel de Allende. Not glamorous, just life in Mexico. I took this picture right up the street from our house. It is the corner of Insurgentes and our street, Quebrada. Both of these streets form a diving line that sets the Historic Centro apart from the rest of this little city. Most of the street scenes in Centro are much more picturesque. This corner is right on the edge. Sort of the dividing line between San Miguel as it is seen by tourists, and the rest of the town. While I find great beauty in the wonderful architecture closer to the Jardin, and I love to look at the Paroquia, and the rest of the big churches here, and all the glorious colonial buildings, I also like the simple, funky side of Mexico, and I hope it doesn’t change.

I love that our neighbors are mostly still Mexicans, and that there are Mexican businesses right across the street…a little barbershop, a tienda that sells all sorts of interesting things, a hardware store, and a bus stop. I even love clothes lines and roof dogs. I love walking down my neighborhood street and seeing people who look very different from me. I love saying, “Buenas tardes” when I walk Pinky down the alleyways. I love living in Mexico, where the colors are so much brighter, and I see things every day that I haven’t ever seen before.

San Miguel de Allende is high in the mountains, about 1,000 feet higher than Denver. As a result, we get wonderful weather, and amazing skies and sunshine. At times, honestly, the light here makes me feel that someone has slipped a psychedelic drug into my guacamole. Some days we just stay home, and enjoy the indoor/outdoor living. Tonight we will probably walk across the street, and through the parking lot, to have dinner at a neighborhood hotel. It is mostly frequented by the Mexican tourists who come here. There is a large courtyard there, so we can take Pinky along for dinner.

I think that the Mexican people, on the whole, are very thankful for all the good in their lives. I don’t sense that they compare themselves to others, and come out wanting for more. They are happy to work. They appreciate their jobs, and they are very hard working people. Older people are respected here, and families do things together. The elders are included and taken care of. It might be just an early evening of sitting in the Jardin, or it might be a large family of tourists, maybe from Mexico City, who are enjoying a weekend in the fabled city of San Miguel. Mexicans see this city as a jewel. There is no place quite like it, and there is no country like Mexico. I am so happy to be in this country. I have truly fallen in love with it. Every day it seems to change me into more of the person I have always wanted to be. I feel so blessed and happy to call it my home.

 

Life after Life

In the course of the past week, two very wonderful women who lived in San Miguel de Allende have passed this life. It seemed so random, and so horrifying, that these two events, totally unrelated, could happen in such a short stretch of time. Both left by natural causes, and neither was expected.

I had met Lulu Torbet once, at a little get together when we first got to town last fall. I had always hoped to get to know her, but our paths just never crossed again. But, there are so many mutual friends, and I feel like I did know Lulu because of the love that has poured out to her by her friends on FaceBook.

Last night we went out to dinner at a local restaurant, Agua Miel, and learned that Caren Cross was in very serious condition. This morning I learned that she, too, had left this plane.  I met her only once, at a small dinner party. But, I felt I knew her from a wonderful documentary film she had done about people who come to live in San Miguel, “Lost and Found in Mexico.”I really liked her, and again, I was hoping we would become friends. That was about a month ago.

Both these women were about my age. They were both vital, and youthful, and wonderfully alive. There are certain things, that when they happen, make the concept of mortality very real. I have never wanted to be “old.” Some of you have heard me rant about “if I ever say I’m ‘growing old gracefully,’ take me out and shoot me.” I think being in Mexico has changed me in a lot of ways, one being that I have a very different attitude about getting older. I don’t care if I grow old gracefully, or disgracefully. I just want to stick around for it. And I want to get as much joy as I possibly can out of all the days of my life. When you stick around long enough, you finally get it that life is all about joy. Some people say they “have no regrets.” Any regrets that I might have involve anytime I let someone or some situation steal my joy. I also regret that I have often overlooked the joy in very simple things. I intend to change that. In fact, I’ve already been working on it.

The beautiful thing about both of these women who departed was the joy that you could see in them. The movie that Caren did was all about joy. And when I look at all the photos of Lulu on FaceBook, I can see the joy she brought her friends. I personally believe that there is life after life. While I don’t pretend to know exactly how that works, I believe it does. And, I believe these two beautiful spirits are living that life after life now and always.

Media Luna and Gil

There is a wonderful band of young men pictured here who play in San Miguel de Allende. They call themselves “Media Luna.” (Sorry about the photo. I only had my iPhone).They play as a complete band, but they frequently join with my wonderful friend, Gil Gutierrez, a master guitarist who is from Oaxaca and lives with his wife, Rebecca, in San Miguel. The most wonderful thing about Gil…aside from his amazing ability to play a guitar, is the way he nurtures other musicians, especially young ones. He seems to get such joy out of other people’s talents. It is a joy for me to watch as he plays with these guys, and for some reason it always makes me cry a little bit.

I always enjoy going out to Zandunga, Gil and Rebecca’s venue out in the country, to hear whatever music Gil has assembled there. But, my favorite is a mixture of Gil and Media Luna. The music is mostly Flamenco/Jazz guitar. Usually quite dramatic. When I sit and listen, I know without a doubt that I am in Mexico.

This past Sunday we took a trip to Zandunga once again. It was wonderful, as usual. I always tell Rebecca that she sure knows how to throw a party, because that’s what it feels like at Zandunga. This Sunday was no exception. One at a time, Media Luna walked out into the crowd and started playing their guitars. Then Gil walked out and joined in. The crowd was totally into it. What a gift to San Miguel to have such a place as Zandunga, and an artist such as Gil. And what great blessing for a young musician to have the opportunity to play with him and learn from him. And the beauty is, he seems to be learning from them as well.

Walking around in Mexico

Yesterday afternoon, which was a Saturday, Fred and Pinky and I went out to run a few errands. Going out on the weekend in San Miguel de Allende is like going to a carnival. The town is packed with tourists, mostly Mexican, and the general feeling is one of holiday. The weekend brings a lot of young people into town, and I always enjoy seeing them. I like to see how they are “styling.”

So, as we walked across the Jardin, we were just enjoying the people watching. Then, an unfortunate thing crossed my awareness. There is a little sidewalk cafe, quite popular with the tourists, right on the square. It was filled with Mexican families on a weekend get away, young Mexican couples, and a few locals. At one end there were a couple of tables pushed together with about 6 American 30-somethings. They were being loud, really loud. And the things they were saying (in jest) were quite inappropriate to be shouting, anywhere. It seemed as though they thought they were on the beach in Cancun. San Miguel is not a beach town. It is one of the most sophisticated and genteel cities in Mexico. Even if the people at the table around them didn’t speak English, their very behavior brought the phrase, “Ugly American” to my mind. It is beyond me that people come to Mexico and have no regard for the culture.

Well, that was just a passing moment yesterday, and I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought one way or the other at the time. Later on in the day I went out for an errand about two blocks from our house.  Even though we live in Historic Centro, which is where the tourists tend to be, we are right on the northwestern edge of it. Our immediate neighborhood still has that kind of wonderful funkiness that I love about Mexico. If you walk up to the corner and take a left you are heading to San Juan de Dios Market. You are now totally away from Gringolandia, and in the Mexico of your dreams. Every day you will see something on the street that will amaze you.

As I said, yesterday I went on an errand. As I walked down the sidewalk, I saw a middle-aged Mexican man approaching me on a bicycle. He pulled up to the curb (I’m still about a half a block away) and pulled a hard-boiled egg out of his shirt pocket. He cracked the egg on the handlebars of his bike, and started to peel it. There was no one around but this man and me. It was sort of an intimate moment in a strange sort of way. He looked up and seemed a little unsettled that I was about to walk by and he was eating the egg. I looked at him and said, “Huevo.” He laughed and said, “Huevo.”

A bit later on my walk I saw that a Mexican woman was approaching me on the sidewalk. Some of the sidewalks here are extremely narrow and someone has to give. The appropriate thing is for the person who is walking facing traffic to step off the sidewalk. I have noticed that some Gringos are not hip to this custom. I stepped down from the sidewalk and said, “Buenas Tardes.” She gave me the biggest smile.

Theses are just some things that happened yesterday while I was walking around in San Miguel. Very sorry I didn’t get a picture of the guy with the egg.