Friday, May 10, 2013

A Blast from the Past

On July 6, 2009 I posted the following open letter to an organization in Michigan that had sent me a solicitation. The link to that letter is broken so I am unable to fully retell the story from that day. Nevertheless, I want to present an early recitation of why I retired to México and continue to encourage others to retire to México.......

Greetings from Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico:
As you have already determined, the email account that I had used was canceled. I moved from Port Huron to Mexico over 2 years ago. At the present time, my companion and I are attempting to live on my Michigan teachers' pension with some amount of dignity and comfort. We discovered that we could not afford to live in Michigan with the pension monies I earned in service to my community and the State of Michigan. Even after 2 years, that fact troubles me greatly.
Your email suggested that your current work with Medicare Advantage Health is very important. I agree. However, rather than working on Medicare improvement, wouldn't securing a public option health insurance plan for everyone be of greater importance in the long run?
My companion has no insurance and as long as I am living in Mexico neither do I. Fortunately, most of the life saving medications that I need are sold over-the-counter at mere fractions of their costs in the United States. By the time that I would meet the huge deductibles and scrape together money for the co-pays and doctor office calls (more deductibles and co-pays) needed for medication prescription renewals I would have paid many times the costs I experience here. The American health care system is broken. What are you doing to change it?
We could not afford housing, transportation, food, and medical care in Michigan. Here we can. Here we can live without the constant worry of surviving on my "great reward for service". Here, we live surrounded by breathtaking beauty and some of the most kind and gracious people on the North American continent.
As for renewing my membership in the MARSP, I cannot afford to support your causes. I am grateful that in my youth I was able to become a life member in the MEA-R. I trust you folks will work together to improve the lives and future retirements of Michigan's education employees.
J. Lee Harris
PS You have my permission to share my letter. If anyone is interested in a better life after retirement, they may want to consider moving to the Lake Chapala region. We have a rather large community of American, Canadian, and European retirees. Come for the Mariachi bands and tequila --- stay for the good life in Paradise.

An American in Paradise

An American in Paradise writing about his experiences and promoting the free exchange of American retirees for the intelligent and hard-working replacement workers from my host nation. Too political? Stayed tuned. I am still reinventing this blog. Meanwhile......

The heart of my community is its main church named for the patron saint of Chapala, Saint Francis of Assisi. This photograph was taken today using my iPad. This is where we must begin...........

Thursday, May 2, 2013


It is time to decide. Time to move on or off my ass with this long project. Successfully fighting off even a hint of hypomania for the last year has been relatively easy. What more? Time to decide.

But, while we consider it..... we have work to do.......

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Boy with the Green Hair

From five years old to age thirteen I attended Garfield School. At that time it enrolled students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade. Being a rather large and sprawling school it had a main entrance for the public and several designated entrances for the students depending on their grade level. Seventh grader got to use the entrance nearest the school’s parking lot on the school’s southeastern corner. It was a convenient walk from the street I walked up to get to school and from the gas station on the corner of Stone and Garfield with its extensive collection of candy and my favorite and frequently purchased cough drops. The only other students that regularly used that particular entrance were the 5th Grade boys serving in the AAA Insurance Company sponsored safety patrol.

One morning, after completing my safety patrol assignment crossing the younger children, I made my way back to the school. The school bell had rung and there were few people entering that door at the moment I spotted the boy with the dyed hair. It was Jack (not his real name). Of course, I considered this rather odd but I had no animosity toward him for doing such a, as my mom would put it, “goofy” thing. I liked Jack and considered him a friend. I don’t recall saying anything to him about the fact his hair was no longer his natural color. We walked through the school doors together and made our way to our classes.

I never saw Jack, again.

Jack didn’t return to school. No one provided any one of the curious an explanation. I even tried going to his home to find out what had happened to him. No one would tell me. The home was deserted not long afterwards. The family moved away.

I liked Jack. I really liked Jack. Even at that young age, I sensed that there was something different about Jack. I suspected that like me, he was keeping a special secret about himself. And, I never got the opportunity to find out if my suspicions were correct. For years, I was bothered by what had happened that day. It was a true mystery that only informed speculation might come close to solving. Through the years, I have looked back and realized two (or more) lessons from the day that Jack dyed his hair. If you have a secret, keep it to yourself. And, if you choose to act out or share that secret you must be prepared for dire consequences.

I don’t know if Jack was gay or just messing about for some needed attention. I imagine he got somebody’s attention, hence a move to a new school, mental institution or somewhere else. And, as I now think back to what happened, I realize it must have contributed to my own fear of being discovered. I feared being beaten, disowned, and sent to “Lapeer”. Just for being queer.

Sometime around the time this all was happening in my young life an old 1948 movie was shown on a daytime or Saturday morning movie show on television. “The Boy withthe Green Hair” was a story about an American orphan whose hair turned green one day. He was shunned. He was persecuted. He was bullied. The movie had an anti-war theme and the Boy with the Green Hair was its messenger. And, we know what sometimes happens to the messenger.

Of course, as a young sensitive queer boy with curly blonde hair, the story moved me, not as much as the movie adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, but it touched my heart nonetheless. Now, if you please, my heart strings are easy to pluck and my Christian education with its many New Testament stories of service and sacrifice and giving have shaped me as a human being. I was taught true Christian values and was, if I may use the term specifically, inspired to seek a career that helped people. I choose to become a teacher partly out of a sense of Christian duty but also because I discovered that I was good at it. It was always satisfying to see those light bulbs going off and the “aha” moments as I taught.

Now, it seems that in another part of Michigan in another school nearly during the same time period, a boy came to school one day with blonde streaks in his hair that fell down over one eye. His Cranbrook peers would have none of it. A young Mitt Romney led the group of rich and privileged brutes in chasing, then holding the boy down on the ground while Mitt cut away the offending locks. Romney was, as are most bullies, never punished for this assault and battery.

That story about Romney is now in the news and will no doubt have a short life and will be soon forgotten. And, honestly, I don’t care if Mitt was young and dumb at that time in his life and that all sorts of folks have dismissed this as trivial. I don’t. Bullies, bigots, and fabricators don’t change as they grow older.

The High Priest of pandering, the gold medalist in flip-flopping, and the Cranbrook hector is not worthy of the Presidency of the United States. Mitt Romney’s most recent lies about supporting the bailout of the auto industry should give everyone a reason to laugh him off the stage.

But, in Republican land – he’s ………………………….. okay, because he is not Barack Obama. And, he’s white. The magic underwear is all but ignored, as well………..

Winter is coming. And, it may last 8 long years and more if Mitt is elected.

The boy that Mitt bullied passed away a few years back. Perhaps, if I am lucky and persistent, I may someday find out what happened to my boy with the green hair. He was a great kid and I hope he has lived long enough to become an accomplished and happy adult.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


It is crystal clear that Santorum wants his God's Laws as part of our civil and criminal law.

Really listen to what he has to say about the poor and downtrodden..............

I have no words to describe my disgust for this pompous self-aggrandizing putz.

Is this the brand of Christianity that will rule?

Jesus save the poor from your followers!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy the Blogs

An anthem worthy of our consideration.

We Are The Many

Ye come here, gather 'round the stage 
The time has come for us to voice our rage 
Against the ones who've trapped us in a cage 
To steal from us the value of our wage

From underneath the vestiture of law 
The lobbyists at Washington do gnaw 
At liberty, the bureaucrats guffaw 
And until they are purged, we won't withdraw

We'll occupy the streets 
We'll occupy the courts 
We'll occupy the offices of you 
Till you do 
The bidding of the many, not the few

Our nation was built upon the right 
Of every person to improve their plight 
But laws of this Republic they rewrite 
And now a few own everything in sight

They own it free of liability 
They own, but they are not like you and me 
Their influence dictates legality 
And until they are stopped we are not free

We'll occupy the streets 
We'll occupy the courts 
We'll occupy the offices of you 
Till you do 
The bidding of the many, not the few

You enforce your monopolies with guns 
While sacrificing our daughters and sons 
But certain things belong to everyone 
Your thievery has left the people none

So take heed of our notice to redress 
We have little to lose, we must confess 
Your empty words do leave us unimpressed 
A growing number join us in protest

We occupy the streets 
We occupy the courts 
We occupy the offices of you 
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few

You can't divide us into sides 
And from our gaze, you cannot hide 
Denial serves to amplify 
And our allegiance you can't buy

Our government is not for sale 
The banks do not deserve a bail 
We will not reward those who fail 
We will not move till we prevail

We'll occupy the streets 
We'll occupy the courts 
We'll occupy the offices of you 
Till you do 
The bidding of the many, not the few

We'll occupy the streets 
We'll occupy the courts 
We'll occupy the offices of you 
Till you do 
The bidding of the many, not the few

We are the many
You are the few

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's Not Too Late

From Current TV..............David nails the problem in Michigan and mocks the idiotic proposed bullying law.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy 100th Podcast

Congratulations, Blue Gal and Driftglass!

100 podcasts!

And HERE it is at The Professional Left.

Intelligent, passionate, and right on target...... take the time to listen.


Act Now

The horrible so-called anti-bullying legislation passed by the Michigan State Senate may still be stopped. The State House has the opportunity to restore sanity in that bill. And, of course, Governor Snyder should veto the bill should it arrive on his desk. The people of Michigan must stop this travesty. They must call their elected representatives and complain.

The so-called anti-bullying law creates a special protected class of people. If the bill becomes law, it will be legal for alleged Christians to bully - torture - anyone that seems to not live up to their Biblical views of modesty, propriety, and morality. These Christianists will have special rights. Special civil rights that allow them -- teachers, parents, students, principals, and other school personnel -- to make public comments and remarks about EVERYTHING and ANYONE that does not square with their particular religious beliefs.

So, go ahead and tell Johnny his mother is a whore because she wasn't married to his father. Tell sweet Sue that she will burn in hell because she is not a virgin. Tell Ralph that God never intended for his African-American father and white mother to be married, let alone have children. And, of course, any child that seems to be or may actually be gay will come to school with a target on his or her back. It will be open season on LGBT youth, their parents, and family.

I am ashamed of the Legislature in Michigan. It has been taken over by religious zealots that don't support public education. They certainly don't care about Michigan's children.

Unbelievable. Horrible. Tragic.

Judge William Adams: Monster

Please watch this "worst person" of the day...........

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Worse Than Doing Nothing

This link is a must read and watch the video they offer. The Michigan Legislature has once again shown its disregard for the lives of all children --- not just the LGBT.

They have legalized bullying gay kids or Sally, the rumored slut, if they claim the Bible told them to do it.

That gives new meaning to the old B-I-B-L-E song.

I am horrified by this legislation.

The GOP are immoral cynical monsters in Michigan.

Jesus, save us from your followers!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Servants of God

Okay. I will comment about the news of the day. All I have to say is this ---------- many so-called Christians are the biggest hypocrites in the world..........

Michelle, Rick, Frothy Mix, Newt, Cain, and the others must stop pandering to the Republican base with promises of government intervention in the lives of women and anyone that loves someone of the same gender. And, shut the f#%k up! about your alleged faith.

They know Him not............. see Matthew 25.

AND. I offer this photograph of a billboard without comment.

To Serve Man

I need a project. Not a job. Just something more to keep myself active and alive is all I ask. Following Bill's death I kept busy with near daily glimpses of the wonders that are México. It helped keep me sane. But as goes my bipolar mood swings goes the things I like. Sometimes they are lost and sometimes nothing replaces them.

In the few months since moving to a new town I have not been writing and I have not been giving in to my inner photo-bug. Hence, the quest for a quest. I am nearly burnt out when it comes to activism. If I ever have something more to add to the conversations of the day I'll blog.

So, today, lacking anything else creative or interesting, I offer these photographs.

This is my Chapala Omelet from the Salon, a restaurant located in the Cultural Center in Ajijic. I enjoyed toast and jam, beans, and fruit with the flavorful omelet. My friends and I have breakfast at the Salon at least once a week, if not more often. The food is fantastic and the prices are good.

This is called Enfrijoladas. These tortillas are filled with chicken and covered with a bean sauce and garnished with a dry crumbly cheese. One's enfrijoladas may also have cheese filled tortillas. This is one of my favorite breakfast dishes from the restaurant, Chapala Fonda, located on the plaza in Chapala.

The Cucumber Restaurant is on the plaza in Chapala. They offer gringo breakfasts as well as this Mexican dish -- Huevos y Carne Asada --- steak and eggs with a side of bean. It is served with tortillas that one uses to make tacos from the foods on the plate -- together or separately. I may have a fork in one hand eating eggs while holding a bean or steak taco in the other. Or, I may put the entire meal in multiple fresh hot tortillas. No toast or jam. Hot sauce is optional.

It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For me and my "breakfast club" it may be the only "big" meal. In the past year, as my friends kept me sane with our near daily breakfast dates, I found myself eating only fruit, cheese, and toast during the remainder of the day. My favorite "meal" is a large bowl of bananas and fresh locally grown raspberries. A huge plastic quart container of raspberries may cost 20 or 30 pesos. Today, that is roughly a buck and a half to $2.50 U.S.

This is one of my typical daily meals. I love the flavored mini-toasts that I may buy, but ordinary pan tostado (toasted bread) is just as tasty. Bimbo Foods sells toasted bread that has fewer additives and far less salt.

Needless to say, with my simple diet, I am healthier. The weight loss has been great, as well.

So, I am looking for a new project. And, this little show and tell session was just for fun. In time, I'll find lots of things to keep me busy. And, sane. How could I not? Living in México is still a thrill and the great adventure continues.........

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Amsterdam

We walked together in the rain along the canals
We shivered and giggled while seeing so much newly found
The cold, the wet, and the exhilaration
The North Sea churning
And, the rain came down

He packed the umbrella that threatened to collapse or maybe blow away
I could have cared less for now we had an excuse to be so close and share
The wind, the rain, and the bone chilling cold
The North Sea churning
And, we were a happy pair

We sat together on the wet marble slabs so near the Palace
Through the drizzle and between the forceful gusts of wind that blew all that was around
The people, the buskers, and The Dam
The North Sea churning
And, the rain came down

We dodged the rain inside the places remaining on that list
Entering museums, markets, and more
The portraits, the history, and the famous cafés
The North Sea churning
And, we were ducking into another door

We said goodbyes, again, with tears not noticed through the constant rain
I departed Amsterdam leaving our hearts and memories in a sacred mound
The canals, the houses, and the endless narrow streets
The North Sea churning
And, the rain came down

Lee Harris, September 2011 (REVISED)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Day After

Greeting all of those Crousers, Wheelers, Hoopers, other family, and church folk would seem exhausting.

It wasn’t.

There was no fatigue.

The next day, Billy found himself drawn to another group.

To another face or two.


“Hey, Billy,” said the brother in monotone.

“Hey,” the response.

“Is this my other flakey son?” asked the woman.

He knew her face.

Their eyes. Their cheekbones.

Billy just nodded.

And there ahead of all the cousins, aunts and uncles

He stood with a smirk firmly attached,

With those father’s eyes twinkling,

And, ever so gruffly,

He asked,

“You lost?”

----------- Lee Harris August, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

11 Months

The move to Chapala is complete. There are only a few "housekeeping" items that I need to do -- such as changes of address. My house is just three blocks to the boardwalk along the lake and three blocks, more or less, to the central plaza. Perhaps, the only negative about this location is the proximity to "rocket central". I don't mind them. The cats have another opinion. And, when they come out of hiding you may ask them about those rockets.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

10 Months

Ten months ago I began submitting photographs and occasionally sharing my blog postings on Facebook.  FarmVille was responsible for most, if not nearly all of my Facebook activity.  It was great therapy or distraction for someone mourning.  This evening, I am going to reproduce (with one spelling correction) a posting made on Facebook.

Here is what was on my mind:

I returned to my FarmVille estate today and found that nothing had changed. It was the result of having the miracle of an unwithering potion and a number of facebook FarmVille friends. Thanks.
The truth is -- I found another means of losing myself and avoiding the ever flowing tears and pain. The end of May was my 9th month of escaping to the farm. It was good. But, it seems that after 9 months of anything (read school) I have to change gears, distract myself in other ways, and rest.
And, I did. I almost immediately was seduced and hooked on Civilization V. My friends will tell you that I missed many of our breakfast dates due to all night conquests and battles. June was lost to the game, chronic insomnia, and, on occasion, too much sleep.
June was my tenth month and the hardest. We would have shared our 22nd anniversary.
My world has gotta change. It begins with a fresh start in the village of Chapala. The cost of living there is less -- greatly so because there are fewer gringos, canucks, and Europeans. Much Much fewer. My Spanish must improve now more than ever. I accept the challenge with delight.
I'm making plans. There are things I want to do. And, a promise to fulfill for Billy.
Healing comes with time. And, it is astoundingly augmented with the presence of good, caring, and peerlessly patient friends.

Fat Chance

From an editorial by the Times Herald in Port Huron:

"....ending the health care perk for the majority of Michigan's legislators is a needed reform Lansing should enact. The trouble is there is no guarantee the legislation will become law. 
This isn't the first time House members have passed a bill to eliminate the benefit. Two similar bills were previously passed, but they never received enough support from the Senate.
The legislation's passage this time ought to be a foregone conclusion. After all, the Legislature has pursued a fairly aggressive agenda of spending cuts.
Shared sacrifice has become a mantra legislators used to defend efforts to require public employees to pay 20% of their health insurance costs. To allow their lavish perk to remain would be the height of hypocrisy.
Michigan can't afford the lawmakers' health care benefit. The Legislature has no choice but to do away with it."

It is never going to happen.  Republicans in Michigan have proven to be mean spirited hypocrites.  Shared sacrifice is a joke.