View From Here
By Katherine Veno
After nearly three weeks in Mazatlan, I almost have the pesos to dollars
conversion. Well I have it on a very good day if I use my chart tucked into
The best thing I know is that I do not need a car because buses go
everywhere for 9.50 pesos or 75 cents for air conditioning, or 6 pesos about
48 cents for open windows on the bus. I just adore public transportation.
And with a population nearing half a million residents, they need it, and it
works. In the nearly three weeks, I have not seen one traffic accident.
Feeling brave during my last few days here, I opted to just get on a bus and
see where it went. My adventure began about 9:30 a.m. in front of Pueblo
Bonito. I caught an open window bus and rode it in the morning breeze for
about five miles and got off near a strand of open air shops.
I was looking for a caftan for my friend who is babysitting my cat Tuff
while I am away. There is an array of colorful fabrics hanging outside the
vendors shops, and it is just a choice of the eye to make and a few
negotiations of price. One shop sort of flows into another in the early
morning air, and I decide to give my still healing ankle a rest in a
sidewalk café, called Mr. Cocos.
I am greeted by two Amazon parrots of differing genetic backgrounds, and one
screech of “Ola” or hello as I make my way to a big wooden table near the
antique bird cages. Only two other tables are occupied at this between meal
hour, and they do offer me a choice of huevos rancheros or another breakfast
item I no longer recall.
After ordering something tall and cold to pour in a glass in my broken
Spanish, I put my feet up on the rails of the tall, ladder backed chair and
just watch people walk by for a while. That is the feel of Mazatlan. There
is nothing threatening, as the news might lead one to believe, and the
people are very gracious and friendly. It is perfectly okay for a woman to
dine alone, and in my days here I have seen vacationing diners of both sexes
dining in the open air cafes on the ocean side as well as the interior of
There is much seafood available here, and the shrimp is something special. I
did not care for the open air meat markets with entire carcasses and heads
peering at me, so I avoided it after the first two times I wandered through
without realizing where these displays were located. Now I can navigate
towards the fruit in the market and not see anything unusual.
My plan after finding out that my old metal dental work might be
contributing to some fatigue and other energy related health issues, was to
get it taken away and replaced. There was no way I could afford it in the
states I soon learned. So I researched and found a young lady dentist I
liked the credentials of in Mazatlan and made an appointment. Now I have all
the work complete, and the smile I wanted all along. I also found a
dermatologist, and plan to see her again in October. The young population of
well-educated professionals abound in all medical fields.
I love meeting other senior women who live here or who vacation here at
least twice a year. Most of them fly here alone, but meet up with other
ladies for a few weeks or even longer. It is the most civil of locations for
a little old lady who still loves the sun under a huge white umbrella by a
sparkling pool, on the seashore. We chat in the lobby where we use the
Internet, or out in the common areas. It is easy to spot each other in our
flowery beach attire and wide-brimmed hats and big sunglasses, perched on
unsure legs or getting help from a walking stick. But the great celebration
is that we are still moving.
My Spanish has gotten better with the help of my favorite maid, Isabel. She
teaches me at least a couple of words or phrases each morning, and I teach
her a few words of English. She told me how to catch the bus and how much it
would cost to go to the grocery store. The two years of Spanish I endured at
Tyler Junior College in the 60s has come in very handy.
Speaking of stores….it is not that Mexico has come to the United States. The
fact is that the United States is here! I have seen Wal Mart, Sam’s Club,
Home Depot, Office Depot, Auto Zone, and more. You do not need a
prescription for anything except antibiotics. All the drug companies I am
used to are well represented. Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, all line the
I came here thinking I would only see old Mazatlan, but the very first day I
saw a very different and modern picture. I saw my Dodge 1500 Ram pick up for
sale – the identical model in a Dodge dealership parking lot. The Ford 150
Lariat is a Ford 150 Lobo. There is a Nissan dealership, and other foreign
dealerships, plus Chevrolet, just like the good ol’ USA. The first few days
just blew me away with similarities.
I have enjoyed clean clothes due to the fact that Lucy’s Lavandaria is right
across the street. My things go into her place dirty, and they come back
washed, clean, and folded neatly in a sealed plastic bag. She charges me 20
pesos per kilogram. I was having a hard enough time with pesos! So I don’t
know exactly what is going on there, but I really don’t care. I just know it
is much easier than me going to a washateria. Fortunately I am not driving
because gasoline is sold per liter. Gosh I am glad I am riding the bus.
Nobody has tried to sell me any drugs, or illegal contraband. There are some
vendors on the beach with jewelry, sunglasses, and other trinkets, but they
are not pushy. They are just trying to find a way to make a living. Talking
to the people of the city whether driving my taxi, or cleaning a table in a
restaurant, I have learned everybody just wants to be happy, and we all
struggle with the same demons.
Even in paradise people try to learn to cope with depression, anxiety,
illness associated with aging, abandonment, infidelity, money, loss of
someone they love, and problems with their children. It is no different than
home in Texas.
After the first week here people at the doctor, or at the hotel called me
“Katarina “ Sometimes it is Senora de la Veno, but they make a point of
saying Buenos Diaz, Buenos Tardes, and Gracias. Politeness comes naturally
to the people, and they take great pride in whatever job they have.
Marveling at the pool sweeping going on each morning, I notice they lift
each beach lounge chair and sweep under it, then another comes along and
lifts the same chair and mops under it. They never skip a day arranging the
patio furniture exactly to the pattern that is set by management and never
vary by even an inch as far as I can tell.
The humidity contributes to my long hair getting bigger and bigger each day.
No flat iron will fix it, and one of my new American friends who has lived
here for 10 years, told me I needed fruit extract shampoo and conditioner
and Morracan Argan oil to try to calm my “Mexi-Doo.” I put away the hair
dryer, the straightener, and the electric curlers after the first few days.
Now I am just like the native women, and dress for comfort. I put some
sparkle to my ears and a flower in my hair, and a straw hat to guard my face
from the sun, and I am ready for anything.
I did not think I could fall in love with another place this late in life,
but I did. It is a place of healing, and I am rejuvenated by it. I came here
still using a wheelchair, with a semi-healed broken ankle, and now I can
walk in Sketchers and a small brace. I bought a beautiful carved and painted
walking stick just in case I needed it, and I did, for the first week. Now I
manage to walk by myself with just a limp. When I return to Mazatlan in the
fall, just maybe I will feel as if I discovered the fountain of youth where
the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.
My plan for tomorrow is to look at a house for rent in subdued colors of
salmon gold and light buttercreme, with cool tile floors.
Viva La Mazatlan.
By Emily Gail Lundy
Others may have seen the same information I did last week; this
material immediately put my attention on target. It was something I long
suspected or heard of, but not concerned myself about.
A scientific study abroad using young people as judges because of better
olfactory sense organs have shown that older people do or can have a
distinct odor. The odor is distinctive in different cultures or nations and
it may be unique for the person acquiring it.
I was upset. I have heard of men, not elderly, having a smell about them
that is picked up on the pillow he’s been sleeping on. This scent can be on
his shirts, too. I have smelled something unusual about an elderly relative
I once knew. When I did detect it, the aroma did not nauseate; neither was
it complimentary, just there.
Houses of older people have a similar redolence sometimes. I’ve heard it
comes from older carpet and furniture, but in some communities there is
frequent sewage line problems demanding instant attention. Getting
everything back to normal may take more than a day. This odor will make any
other kind of aroma pale into insignificance.
But I have walked into my home before and had my nose detect the stink I
didn’t believe our home yet had. That day I must have used five cans of
spray products for killing odor and germs.
But back to the human fragrance (or stench), experts seem to think it can be
conquered by using a flat bar of soap with water, no additives (maybe
Grandma’s lye soap), lemon water rinses, vinegar products. Americans are
already said to bathe more often than people of other nations. Nightly
showers are a habit for multiple numbers. My skin cannot get much drier with
my aging, fair skin, medical-induced bruising.
Therefore, running around with an older crowd is the answer. If we all have
a similar fume, then who will notice among us. Family members or no really
smart child or grandchild is going to mention stench to us without reaction.
Today’s kids are quite different from my time, though.
That evening, I continued to whine to my husband about this personal odor we
can not be aware of. “All right,” he said, “You don’t stink. You just don’t