Category Archives: cities and towns

The retirement life in Ajijic, Mexico

The view from behind my parents' house.
The view from behind my parents’ house.

After bonding with my parents over an episode of “My 600 Pound Life,” I changed the channel to watch the Cubs and Dodgers battle it out in Game Five of the National League playoffs. During a commercial break I got an update on the Curling World Championships, and was reminded the National Hockey League season just started, and I could watch every game courtesy of the new app from Rogers.

This is just an average night in the retirement community of Ajijic, Mexico—my parents’ home since 2008. I’ve visited every year since, and figured it’s about time to tell you all what it’s like.

They witness some pretty incredible sunsets
They witness some pretty incredible sunsets

While looking for an inexpensive place to retire, a realtor tipped my Mom off to the expat communities of Lake Chapala, home of Mexico’s largest lake. Money talks, and in Mexico, it practically screams. My parents did some research, visited Ajijic a couple of times, and bought a house in short order. It took a while to settle their affairs stateside since the real estate implosion was in its infancy, but they sold their house in the spring of 2008. Six weeks later, they drove cross-country to set up their new home in Mexico.

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Stockholm shopping at the scene of the crime

– For Patty Hearst

A happy trashcan in Stockholm
A happy trashcan in Stockholm

It was September and lovely, the windows still open in the café where I shook off my jetlag over lunch. As I paid $18 for a simple ham sandwich and small bottle of water, a woman’s cell phone rang out in ABBA (Take a Chance on Me).

Beautifully understated, incredibly expensive, and just a little bit nutty—this was my welcome to Stockholm. I loved it.

All of my past business trips weren’t to nondescript suburbs. When I heard I was headed to Stockholm for a work trip, I instantly added time to my stay so I’d have three days for work, and the weekend for me.

Stockholm street art
Man about town in Stockholm

I was dying to see what the city was like. My mother’s family is Norwegian, and my hometown of Worcester, MA has a healthy Swedish population. Goodies from the Crown Bakery were a staple growing up, and a detour to the Gift Chalet during Saturday errands made the day extra special. We had those tinkly, candle-powered Swedish angel chimes that blew my mind each Christmas, especially the year my mom placed them on a snowy field of cotton—the holiday’s decorative focal point—lit the candles, and screamed as her masterpiece turned into a tiny, Yuletide inferno.

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Hotel hostage: Far-out art in Montgomery, Alabama

It is rude to stare.

I know this, but I couldn’t help it.

The three of them were like nothing I had ever seen. Where were they from, and who made their clothes? How long had they been hanging around? Did they even like each other? I’ll never know, but I do know they’d been in the lobby long enough to give off a tense, weird energy that made it impossible for me to concentrate on the simple questions I was asked as I checked into the Marriott Hotel in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.

Business travel is rarely glamorous. You’re never quite in a city proper, and once you’ve gotten your rental car and driven the 20-30 minutes to the suburb where all your business action is, you’re so drained from getting from A to B that, rather than being fun, ordering room service becomes another ordeal you have to navigate so your expense report won’t get rejected by finance.

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Bumming around Guadalajara

A bus ride to the big city so we could hit the used English bookstore. This was the extent of the itinerary my Dad put together for our day trip to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Little did we know what awaited us in the English bookstore in Guadalajara...
Little did we know what awaited us in the English bookstore in Guadalajara…

I’m not sure I’d visit Mexico if my parents hadn’t retired to Lake Chapala, a retirement community about 45 minutes from Guadalajara. But now I go at least once a year for mellow, sunny visits to hang out and catch up with my parents, who are two of my favorite people. This time around there was enough time to weave in a day trip. My Mom stayed behind to hit the gym and her singing lesson, leaving it to me and my Dad to bum around Guadalajara. The city was in capable hands.

Thursday morning we walked down the street and killed some time at the coffee shop near the bus stop. At 9:30 the bus came, and a little less than $5 and an hour later we were in Guadalajara with no Yelp, no Wi-Fi, no GPS—ready for adventure.

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Home these days in Worcester, MA

Everyone’s got a hometown, and mine is Worcester, MA.

Sad to see Tweeds is gone.
Sad to see Tweeds is gone.

These days I love it, especially since I don’t live there anymore and come back to visit. I just got back from one of those visits, and this trip, like the others, had a theme.

I gotta see what’s closed.

This time, the big shock was Tweed’s on Grove Street. Tweed’s was a steady-Eddie pub place, and I was sad to see it gone. I shouldn’t have been surprised since earlier this I was shocked to the bone to see that its neighbor, Gervais Car Wash, was no more.

I will always miss Gervais.
I will always miss Gervais.

Across the street from a cemetery, Gervais always looked closed even when it was open. It had a gritty exterior that would have been a perfect location shot for Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, or any Scorsese movie. Gervais is one of my childhood landmarks—my Dad used to take my brother and me there on Saturdays to gussy up his white Buick (the one with no floorboards in the back that he covered with plywood). To make the experience a little less terrifying, Dad gave each segment of the car wash a name, and in no time my brother and I would ask when we’d go see the Whipper Snapper guys suds up the car to get it nice and clean.

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