San Diego

Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me that my career is dead and I’m living in Belize

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On the best days, you can walk along the coast of Ambergris Caye and marvel at the composition of sand, palm trees, blue sky and the shimmering blue-green sea and think, "How blessed I am."
On the best days, you can walk along the coast of Ambergris Caye and marvel at the composition of sand, palm trees, blue sky and the shimmering blue-green sea and think, “How blessed I am.”

This morning I was reminded that four years ago today, I walked away from the best job I’d ever had, after nearly 30 years with the same newspaper.  Thank you, Facebook “On This Day” feature.

And recently, Facebook reminded me that we moved to Belize exactly two years ago.

Like a cat coughing up fur balls, Facebook now churns up fuzzy memories.

Daily.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Central American yogurt oracle has some bad news, Charger fans

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It is a sign from above . . .
It is a sign from above . . . above the cheese and butter section at Super Buy market in San Pedro, Belize.

I have to walk into my local supermarket in San Pedro, Belize, to find the answer to a question that is tearing up my friends back in San Diego: Will the Chargers be moving to Los Angeles?

And there it was, the answer. Right in the dairy section.

Yogurt containers were screaming it out to me:”L.A.! L.A.!” — or, more like “LALA” — but you can see where this is headed.

Yogurt never lies.

The dairy section also confirmed the long-standing rumor that the Oakland Raiders will also moving back to Los Angeles and that the Raiders and Chargers will indeed be sharing a shelf . . . erm . . . a stadium.

Further, the expiration date on these containers is Feb. 16, 2016. I can only say, watch for a significant announcement on that day from the NFL.

Why is there a San Francisco 49ers yogurt container lurking on the edge of this oracle? I can only surmise that it is San Francisco’s compulsive need to be at the center of every discussion in California, whether its presence is relevant or not.

You can almost see the 49ers yogurt container with its flashy gold label screaming “Me! Me! This is a story about me!”

It isn’t 49ers Yogurt, so shut up.

Just the same. I bought the 49ers container.

Why?

Because I love my wife and she is a native San Franciscan and she loves the 49ers. (I’m not a complete fool.)

You may notice that the 49ers container is sweetened yogurt, which we never buy. But there is no way in hell that anything with a Raiders emblem on it is coming into my house — even if it is a  container full of sugar-free yogurt.

I know what your are thinking right now: Why is the Chargers container full of PEACH yogurt?

I can only say this: Did you watch them play this year?

Have fun in LALA, Chargers.

And Raiders.

Shut up, 49ers. No one is talking to you.

‘Best little zoo in the world’? Belize it.

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Toucan at the Belize Zoo.
Toucan at the Belize Zoo.

Look, I’m a zoo snob, OK?

I can’t help it. I’m from San Diego, home of one of the greatest zoos in the world — The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The zoo is so big it has outdoor escalators, overhead trams and regular bus service. On its webcams I have my choice of killing time at work watching pandas, elephants, orangutans, condors or polar bears.

I used to volunteer for one of the zoo’s biggest animal research fundraisers of the year.  Couldn’t get enough of the place — starting with frequent visits when my kids were very young. Read the rest of this entry »

Courtyard dining, from Macondo to Coconut Cafe

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OK, something like this. One man's Macondo is another's -- what? -- Starbucks? Mine felt a bit like this place looks -- but not exactly!
OK, something like this. One man’s Macondo is another’s — what? — Starbucks? Mine felt a bit like this place looks — but not exactly!

A very long time ago, let’s call it 1982, I impulsively walked into the tropical courtyard of a Mexican restaurant in Old Town, San Diego, and felt like I’d landed in Macondo.

Palms and twisted old trees created a canopy over the rough wood tables and chairs. Ancient pink-bloomed bougainvillea scaled the walls and cascaded over the top.  A misty evening dew was seeping through the canopy. Firefly lights and torches gave just the right mix of light and shadow in which both ghosts and diners could flourish comfortably.

Whether I’d arrived there by accident or destiny, I’ll never know for sure. Read the rest of this entry »

About a boy and his bike

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OK, not about a boy.

A manchild and his love for bikes, maybe?

Bicycles are vehicles. More often than not, a means to an end. Here in San Pedro Town, Belize, they are a significant means to get you from here to there, from home to work or school. And sometimes bicycles are the home office. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh. My. God. I’m not broke!

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Imagine my surprise when I found out that I still have a pension, and a six-figure one at that.  And a 401K/IRA, albeit a much punier bastard sibling.

I hadn’t looked closely at the books since Wall Street took our economy down. I just didn’t have the stomach. And besides I was still working full-time as a reporter, still loving the work I was doing and still thinking that I had a real future in my profession.

I won’t get into the indignities of being made a “part-time” employee after 27 years and consequently stripped of all benefits, including medical. I had a great run, after all, and will forever be grateful for the opportunities that came my way, whether I made good use of them or not.

The fact is, my world changed. But good – no, wonderful – things came with the bad. I’d gotten married to the most incredible woman, Rose Alcantara, and we were in the midst of a dance about how we were to merge her Northern California life and mine in San Diego.

Sometimes fate intercedes, when there is no clear path.

I quit the San Diego Union-Tribune and took a temporary, full-time communications job with a terrific public agency, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).  And when that assignment was up I jettisoned most of my possessions (as I have done before in my life) and moved to Northern California to be with Rose.

Why didn’t Rose move to San Diego? Many good reasons: She had an infirm mother in her 90’s to care for; she had a lovely teen daughter, Caira (to whom I’d promised very early on that she would graduate high school with her friends); she had a hard-earned and thriving business in her own Pilates studio. Rose also had a large and beautiful home with an underwater mortgage that was an anchor tied to her dreams.

I pretty quickly realized that after nearly 40 years as a full-time newspaper and newsweb writer and editor whose every job was a gift of providence, I was ill-equipped to reinvent myself. (Can you imagine? I have a box of business cards on which I define myself as a “Content Evangelist.”)

I tried. I sent out scores of resumes into an eerie void of silence; I attended various classes on job searching and resume building; I was even a member of networking groups in two towns, both called Job Club – Napa on Mondays and Fairfield on Thursdays. There were some really smart and talented people in those groups and some who you could just tell would never seriously work again. There were broken spirits and also highly motivated souls determined to create their own next breaks.

I slowly came to the conclusion that as much as I love to write, I don’t think I could do it for anyone else any more. What’s the alternative when writing is all you have done for 40 years?

Well, there is retirement.

That’s when I blew the cobwebs off the links to my pension and 401K and opened the lids. (Cue that creepy screeching noise of rusty hinges.)

Oh. My. God. I’m not broke. Well, not completely.

The bad news is our “nest egg” is pretty modest. We could never move back to San Diego, for example, unless we wanted to live in some dry-toast rural East County trailer park. Our other dream, of moving into San Francisco, is tragi-comically inaccessible.  We could continue living in Fairfield but Rose was now filling her every waking hour with clients to meet her mortgage and other bills. My pension would help, but what then?

Some things began to happen. Caira graduated from high school and started college in Arizona. Last November, I got quite sick and required surgery (which wasn’t possible until April when I got enrolled in an early version of God-Bless-You-Obamacare). Both of my parents died and Rose’s mom passed away. And most recently, it appears that Rose’s house has risen above water, giving us the option of a debt-free life. Somewhere.

For reasons I have discussed before, we have opted to move to a foreign country. That would be Belize. For now, it appears that we can live comfortably, with financial room to spare, on my pension and Social Security alone. If Rose or I decide to supplement retirement with work – and we both suspect that we will – we have that option, too. We also have the option of traveling on our “surplus” income, developing a business of our own, house swapping, surfing, kayaking, reading, living…

It sort of comes down to this: Whereas before we faced an endless series of compromises and struggles living in the United States, we now face endless potential in a foreign country.

Will the reality prove us right or are we just a couple of dreamers who drank the promotional ex-pat Kool-Aid?

Well, finding out is just part of the adventure. Isn’t it?