Stress Test Lesson in Mexico

At Ernesto’s Good Grub – Don on right, Heather left back corner

Today after church, we went to Bucerias with Don and Heather for breakfast to thank them for their kindness to us. They have been picking us up, organizing the weekly Ernesto’s dinners, inviting Dave to golf, taking us grocery shopping and including us in their circle of friends at church. They have been coming here since 2006 and are very kind.

We went to the fabulous ‎Delicias Mexicanas restaurant. Things started off badly. We arrived at 11:50 but got no service for 30 minutes as they were really busy. When Juan finally arrived at our table he told us breakfast service was now over and asked would we like lunch? We were a bit upset but went with the flow. Some delicious coffee arrived followed by a great taco salad lunch. Yum.

Afterwards, the owner of the restaurant, a man named Abraham comes by and asks how we are doing. We thank him for the wonderful food. He then tells us his story which is somewhat familiar here.

Abraham had moved from Mexico to California and for 14 years lived the life of a Californian‎ – 2 cars, nice house, conspicuous consumption, go, go, go. He came to realize that his stress level was too high trying to hold it all together. So he returned to Mexico … and started up this very successful restaurant here.

Now, he ‎says his stress level is much lower, he is relaxed, having fun and even makes more money. Listen to your body and follow your dream was his implied advice. When I remarked that he has a very biblical name, he said yes, but that he is only the father of one child, not billions. We all had a good laugh and he let me take his photo. Thanks Abraham for the life lesson and Don and Heather for all your kindness


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What are Mexicans Like?

We’ve all heard how Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. Well, after several months here in now our 3rd year, we can report by way of anecdotes and observations, what Mexicans are really like.

Yesterday we took a cab home with our groceries. The driver invited Dave to sit in the front passenger seat for the extra leg room. He soon asked our names, where we were from, how many grandkids we ‎had, etc. Dave asked him the same questions. It turns out it was his birthday so we sung happy birthday to him. He pointed to a copy of the Bible he had on his dash saying this is his God. We had a ball and he taught us some Spanish on the short ride home.

On a Friday pm, our electricity was suddenly cut off in the condo. Turns out the owner had not paid the electricity bill on time. Our property manager got involved‎. The bill was paid quickly but it was too late to get the service man back to turn on the power. So she drove us to another (5*+) condo where we spent the night free of charge. In the morning she arranged for the power to be restored and all was well again.

Playing golf the other day, we noticed that the foursome in front of us‎ had 2 cadies when only 1 is needed. Our Mexican caddy explained to us that the group were rich Mexicans who like everything handed to them and that futhermore, they usually don’t tip like you nice Canadians (and Americans) do.

Whenever we go to Vidanta, the huge Disney like timeshare resort nearby, the staff always salute you when passing by touching their heart and saying hola. Even on the street outside, Vidanta employees on their way to and from work and construction workers make this kind gesture. It is very likely a marketing ploy Vidanta trains its empoyees and contractors to do. Very nice. But we have also been told stories by timeshare owners of law suits because they did not get what was promised them. We have noticed Mexicans like to tell you what you want to hear, especially when it comes to sales.

Mexicans we have met here are scrupulously honest (e.g., a taxi driver brought my backpack back), dedicated, hard working, family oriented and fun loving. They appreciate our tourist presence. They are humble. There are exceptions of course. We feel extrememly safe and privileged to experience their beautiful country, their culture, and the best weather ever.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”. Heb. 11.1

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Bucerias (boosairreeus) is a town in the NE corner of Banderas Bay about 6 km along the beach from our place in Nuevo Nayarit. It is also known as “BCrias” as there are a lot of Canadians from BC here in winter. The other day we paid a visit.

Known for it’s cobblestone streets, fab restaurants, authentic Mexican culture and festivals, it is becoming more chic. We bused down to the new walking path at the end of our street and walked the 20 min trail. Along the way we chatted with someone who said Bucerias is all different now and will be gone by next year.

The first place we came to is the beautiful Royal Decameon all-inclusive resort. Such gorgeous colours, it is huge and very inviting. ‎We continued on downtown and the construction noise and dust soon began. There are several high rise condos under constuction. Even a nice boutique hotel we stepped into had major renovations going on with grinding and dust. The old wooden foot bridge to the market is being replaced with concrete and steel.

Yes, the Bucerias of the past is no more as it transforms itself to a trendy beach front resort town with upscale boutiques and fewer local vendors. We walked through the square and looked into Nossa Senora de la Pax church. Beautiful, peaceful and timeless. No change here. Each year there is a huge religious festival named after the church with brass bands, dancing horses, endless food stalls, toys and kids everywhere. Sadly it was cancelled again this year due Covid.

We went on to Fat Boys seafood restaurant on the beach for lunch‎. It was worth it. Fabulous fish and fajitas, great friendly service, right on the beach! It was really relaxing after all the noise and dust. We lingered before slowly walking back on the beach to the square. We hailed an Uber and headed for home, satisfied after a great outing. It is indeed a changing world and Mexico is caught up in it too.

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Two Very Different Books

I found this book to be hot and cold. The summary of philosophical thought from pre Greek to the 20th century was excellent. I kept falling in love with progressive philosophers from Plato to St Augustine, Immanuel Kant to Soren Kierkegaard to John Paul Sartre.

I learned that if St. Thomas Aquinas had chosen Plato’s philosophy to integrate into the Catholic faith rather than Aristotle’s, women would likely be treated as equals in the Church today. Plato saw men and women as equals while Aristotle thought women were incomplete men.

The fictional content of this book was confusing and boring. It was hard to understand what was going on between Alberto the philosophy teacher, Hilde his 15 year old student, her Dad and Sophie another 15 year old and her Dad. It seems Sophie (or was it Hilde?) existed as a dream in the mind of Hilde’s Dad (or was it Sophie’s dad?). It all seems superfluous to what is a great summary of western philosophical thought. I give the book a 3 star rating which otherwise would have been much higher.

A wonderful book on the importance of prayer in Christian life. It tells the story of a Russian peasant who wants to learn how to pray without ceasing. He wonders the country in search of a mentor who will instruct him and subsequently learns the Jesus prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The author quotes extensively from the Philokalia, the Bible of Orthodox Spirituality. There is plenty of practical instruction on how to develop contemplative interior prayer, its benefits and how to overcome obstacles. If anything, there is perhaps a little too much repetition making it hard to finish reading.

It certainly convinced me of the importance of regular prayer if one calls themselves a Christian. Regular prayer is perhaps the most important aspect of living one’s faith. I found the book refreshing and very well written. 4.5 stars. Well worth the read.


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Where did it all go Charlie Moore?

Charles Moore 1949 – 2021

When I was 4 or 5, I looked out the window of our house on Mountainview Ave in Ottawa’s west end and saw two boys my age doing somersaults in the front lawn across the street. I was recovering from a cold or flu and mom would not let me go out that day. I could hardly wait to join them. When I did, I met Bill Cross and Charles Moore for the first time. We became good friends.

A few years later, when we were bored one day, we asked my dad if he would light us a bonfire. He said no. So the 3 of us went off in the field with matches and some paper‎. Bill, the leader told us what to do. We lit a small fire in the dry grass. Charles and I were scared and started to put it out. Bill wanted us to wait a bit and when it grew larger said OK put it out now! But It was too late – we had set a grass fire which raised toward the back of some nearby homes. The fire was quickly extinguished when the men of the neighborhood got their garden hoses out and sprayed the approaching flames. Charles and I felt we were innocent and that Bill had been the instigator. Well my parents were having none of it and forced me to walk around the neighborhood and apologize. Not sure if Bill or Charles had to do this as well.

We lost touch with Bill a few years later as he was really smart and went off to the gifted school. Charles and I continued on as the best of buddies.

Charles dad operated a Texaco service station on Carling Ave near Richmond Road. We would go out there for visits on hot days and have a coke for 5 cents out of the old water cooler machine. Charles would then take me out back and show me the dodge power wagon truck his uncle would use to clear snow in winter. My dad worked for the city as a lawyer and liked to play golf so this was all new and exciting to me. Charles and I were always attracted to each other by what we learned from the other.

He would come to my house and we would play trucks and cars and blow off firecrackers in the garden. At his house, he had a record player and we would listen to Elvis Presley and Gordon Lighfoot. Charles was lighthearted, carefree and well spoken. I was more shy, serious and later on, bookish.

One day my mom asked me to bike up 3 blocks to the Stevenson farm and pick up some eggs. I was busy playing but good natured Charles said he would borrow my bike and raced off to do it on the rough road. When he came back, most of the eggs had broken in the wire basket and were now dripping down over the spokes. Charles scratched his head in disbelief. As we grew up we were in cubs together and scouts. On Christmas morning he would always call me with the question “What did you get?” Such is the relationship of good friends.

Many years later Charles drove out to visit me in Vancouver in a van. He brought out my grandmother’s coffee table for me. When he arrived one leg was broken as he had apparently sat on it in the van,. On that same visit we went to see James Brown at an East Hastings night club. Charles acting suavely said let me buy a round. The waiter returns with no beer saying your card was declined. I bought the beer that night. Such was my relationship with Charles.

In grade 6 or so Charles put up his hand and asked Mr Earl “What is x?” in math class. “Well Charles, x is a variable with an unknown value…” says Mr Earl. Charles replies “but sir, what IIISSSS x?”. ‎It was an existential question which caught us all offguard and marked the highwater mark of Charles’ career in math. In high school Charles went into the trades program and I into arts and science. We remained the best of buddies as opposites attract. But things started to change. Charles had cars and girlfriends. He was eager to help me find a girlfriend too. There are many tales I could go into regarding this aspect.

In 1972 (50 years ago!) Charles and his beautiful wife Heather drove me and their friend Leslie to Florida for a short vacation. The windshield wipers were not working and Charles had to stick his head out the window at times to see, but somehow we made it safely. It was a memorable trip being my first exposure to palm trees and big ocean waves. We enjoyed the Kapok Tree restaurant, visited Cape Canveral, Bush Gardens as well as the Daytona speedway. Wow!

I was the best man at his wedding to Heather. He offered me some edible hashish just before the dinner. I do not remember much after that including my congratulatory speech. Charles was my best man at my first marriage. He stole the spotlight with his good humour and tales of “peckin Morgan” which he called me at the time. “peckin Moore” I called him right back. The girls loved him.

After that we lost touch in our mid 20s. When I came back to Ottawa – in 1982, I saw him once or twice but we were both into 2nd marriages with kids. I saw him a couple of more times since then over the years. The last time was about 4 years ago when he told me he was battling prostate cancer but was upbeat about it.

I went to see him a month ago when I learned he was in hospice. He said he could no longer walk due to extensive radiation treatment but was in no pain. He said he was very proud of the many lifelong friendships he had. We said our goodbyes by reminicing a bit. I could not believe he was about to die. He was very focussed. I mumbled something like “hang in there buddy” as I left. Charles passed away on New Years eve. I am still totally devastated.

Where did it all go Charlie Moore?‎ I am forever grateful for our friendship.


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Yoga and the Tequila

We’ve been in Mexico a week now and things are beginning to settle in. There were big crowds for New Years which have since disappated – it’s easy to get a shaded seat at the beach or pool now.

Mexico has officialy entered its 4th wave of the pandemic with Omicron variant cases now rising quickly and hospitals gearing up. You can tell who are the Canadians down here – they’re wearing masks, even on the beach.

Actually Mexicans are very respectful of the rules about wearing masks and physical distancing. The difference here vs Canada is that we are always outside here so feel a lot safer.

There have a been a few minor mishaps. The first is that Marie’s yoga mat was no longer in our storage locker – so we had to go to Walmart to get a new one lol.

The second was a little more disappointing. We did a huge Costco shop the other day to stock up on food and drink. Dave purchased a premium bottle of tequila. The taxi we took home was small so we had groceries stuffed in the front seat as the trunk was full. The prized bottle of tequila was up front for safekeeping. After we got home and unpacked everything, somehow the tequila was missing. Dave forgot to check the front seat and the taxi must have driven off with it lol.
Not to worry. We found ample tequila supply at Walmart and are again enjoying the occasional margurita by the pool!

On a more somber note, Dave’s longest and dearest childhood friend Charles Moore passed away on New Year’s Eve after a long battle with cancer. He will be missed by his many friends for his infectious good humour and constant smile. Condolences to his family.

We are waiting for some of our friends to arrive in the next few days. Some have cancelled but the diehards like us are all coming as usual. That’s it for now, hasta la vista amigos! Stay well!


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And then there were two…Beatles

About halfway through Peter Jackson’s new documentary series of the Beatles making their live Let It Be album in 1969, Paul stares vacantly into space and utters the phrase “And then there were two.” His eyes water over and he almost cries. So did I. Ringo sitting nearby even looks dejected. George had left on Friday at noon with the terse comment “I will be leaving the band now.” i.e., quitting the Beatles. The fab four had had a meeting on the weekend to try to patch things up. The meeting did not go well. On Monday morning Ringo and then Paul come in for work. An aid tells them that says John is not answering his phone and won’t likely be coming in. This prompts Paul’s eerily prophetic comment.

This is the “low point” in a poignantly fascinating close up with the Beatles at work in the studio. New Zealander Peter Jackson who directed, wrote and produced the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy series, does an incredible job here with this 7 hour 3 episode TV series. It’s probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. John does come in a little later. Things do get patched up with George and he returns later in the week. They move to the new Apple studio and keyboardist Billy Preston is invited to join the group.

This is a documentary about making a documentary. After 3 years of no public concerts, the Beatles commit to work 21 days in the studio to prepare 14 songs for some kind of public event – a movie, a concert, a TV series, an album?? No one seems to know and the lads are divided. John is willing to do a live concert but the others are unsure. Paul quips that they have grown shy. Finally the idea of a roof top concert is pitched and they sign on. The movie ends with this live concert on the roof of the Apple Records building in Saville Row.

What I like about this movie apart from the great live music is that the personality of each individual Beatle is on display. As things continuously derail, the pressure mounts to complete the project. Paul starts pushing them a bit. George feels rushed which prompts his walkout; John is typically cynical and funny, Ringo is like a teddy bear that holds them all together. Despite their differences, they have each other’s back and love goofing around. It speaks volumes that Paul and Ringo supported the release of this “tell all” warts and all, now 50 years later. It corrects for example the false story that John and George came to physical blows – this never happened. Yoko Ono is silently present at all times with John. Paul brings in Linda Eastman several times. Paul recently said he is happy that the series is out because it corrects the record that he was somehow the root cause of the Beatles breakup, which he himself had bought into at the time. (John, the founder becomes the first one to leave in 1970.)

The concert on the roof is hilarious with 2 bobbies wondering if they should start arresting people due to the noise complaints and passersby on the street wondering what is happening. The Let it Be album is “live recorded” in situ and not dubbed as was the usual way albums are made. It turns out the material was judged to be “uneven in nature” so the Beatles delay releasing it until 1970 after some adjustments by engineer Phil Spector (at John’s request). This was after they had gone into the studio yet again to produce Abbey Road which has been acknowledged as the best album they ever made. So there is creative life in them yet when this movie ends. In 2003 the “Naked” version of the Let It Be album was issued by Paul to better reflect the actual sonic quality they were trying to achieve by recoding live. It is an amazing listening experience!!!

All in all, 5.5 stars out of 5. If your a Beatles fan, you have to see Let It Be!

(Note, it’s currently on the Disney Plus channel. You can sign up, cancel and then watch it all month.)

PS. John is my favorite! Who is yours?

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The Nooksack River

Nooksack River in 1976

The Nooksack River drains from near the top of Mt. Baker into the Pacific Ocean in northwest Washington State. This is the river that overflowed its banks a few weeks back and flooded the sumac prairie between Abbotsford and Chilliwack B.C.. It did it again yesterday.

Back in the 70s when I was living in Vancouver, we would occasionally ski at Mt. Baker. I remember the surprisingly flat plain driving south from Abbotsford, BC to Sumas, WA. I have fond memories of the beautiful, rugged and majestic terrain in this area. In the summer we would go camping in the same Cascades mountain range. I recall I was camping near the Nooksack when Mt. St. Helens blew up at precisely 8:32 AM on May 18, 1980. Although some 300 km to the SE. we heard the bang, if groggily.

Mt Baker is visible from Vancouver, accentuated here by telephoto lens.

As you drive south and east into Washington, the plain soon ends and the climb to Mt. Baker (elev. 10, 787 ft.) begins. We used to stop at a great pub in Glacier, WA just before the climb. It was an eclectic spot with milk cans, an old ringer washing machine, a pool table, crab traps and great Olympia, Kokanee and Fosters beer I recall. It is still there known as the Chair 9 now but less eclectic I imagine. Of course we would have to stop there on the way back down too.

Back to the Nooksack. As you drive up the Mt. Baker highway you notice this river on the left in a deep gulley. It is wild water for sure before it empties out onto the flat plain below Apparently the river used to flow north into Sumas Lake before the lake was drained almost exactly 100 years ago. It was diverted westward at the time according to this recent article. Nature has prevailed as the river is now flowing northward again during the heavy rains.

Some of my historical Nooksack area pics taken in the late 1970s.

Fond memories. Now praying that all of the BC flood affected farmers and residents will soon be able to return safely to their properties with minimal additional damage and that their animals can be saved too.

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Eagles Nest

Back behind Calabogie Ski Hill nearby is a series of hiking trails on Manitou Mountain. Recently we hiked to the popular Eagles Nest lookout on a sunny fall day. We took our lunch and hiking poles and headed up from the parking lot which was almost full when we arrived. We had chosen the day spontaneously but carefully, hoping to avoid the large crowd which tends to gather there. It was later in the season this year.

It’s a gentle 30 min hike up a rocky trail. Usually there are families, couples with dogs, groups of young men and women on the trail. We hear many different languages being spoken – the diversity of the people attracted here is truly amazing. Everyone loves the Canadian outdoors, especially when the fall colours are out. This time the trail is much quieter.

Reaching the lookout we begin to hear the familiar voices – kids chattering, teenagers laughing, a babble of different languages. Oh well we too are here and join in admiring the amazing view looking north over the forested hills.

This year we decide not to linger with the crowd but decide to continue farther along the trail. Not too far along we noticed a leafy side trail leading up a small hill. We follow it.

In a few minutes we spot a tranquil pond with an overlooking rock face perched right beside it. Ah, hah, our private lunch destination!

It was so peaceful and quiet there. Truly a magical place. We will be back next year…if we remember where it is and the Gitchie Manitou wills it!


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The 40 Thousand Mile Man – Odyssey of a Pilgrim

This is an unusual story about an unusual man. George Florian Walter celebrated his Catholic faith by walking the world from 1970 to 2013. He renounced all his possessions (see LK 14:33), left his father and mother (see MT 19:29), denied himself, and took up his cross (see LK 9:23). The book recounts what led him to do this, where he walked and how he did it. He is a one man religious order – the Order of the Pilgrim.

Growing up in the Pittsburg, PA area he had a Catholic education followed by 4 years of study in the seminary to become a priest. On completion, he decided he could not be ordained as a priest because his faith was not strong enough. He had extensive book knowledge but no personal knowledge of God. A few years later, he came upon his vocation as pilgrim after three steps:

  • he realized God created him and loved him unconditionally (while in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado)
  • he discovered Jesus was with him always and that he is never alone (while on the Camino de Santiago in Spain)
  • receiving the Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy (while at a Charismatic Renewal prayer seminar in Pennsylvania)

He also cites as inspirational The Way of the Pilgrim written by an anonymous 19th century Russian peasant who learns to pray the Jesus Prayer continously as he walks across Russia.

With this foundation in place he decided to focus on eschatological issues. i.e., those relating to death, judgement and final destiny of the soul and humankind. God owns me, Walter thought, so I must journey back to him. There is no point in collecting possessions, money, status, relationships along the way because all these are passing and will be lost at death, he concluded. So he gave away his possessions, said goodbye to family and friends and walked 40,000 miles over the next 43 years lifting up the cross of Jesus Christ and being a witness to the world.

He travelled with only a change of clothes, a plastic sheet, a staff, a bible and an icon of the Virgin Mary, no money, no food. He slept mostly outside and relied on donations of food and water and occasional shelter. He walked by the side of the road through 41 countries. He visited some places familiar to me such as the Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs in Midland, ON, Madonna House in Combermere, ON, Anchorage, AK, Rome, Paris and Jerusalem. In one of his longest hikes, he walked from Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico, to California, to Alaska, across Siberia, through Kazakstan and on to SW India over a 7 year period.

During winters he would ensconce himself in a poustinia, often a small storage room spending 4 days a week meditating, praying and reading. The other 3 days he worked in a parish or monastery to earn his keep. Watch the short interview below while he was in poustinia.

Pilgrim George experienced many challenges and persecution. His father could not accept his choice of vocation for the first 20 years. He was stoned by Muslim children in Turkey, beaten over the head with his staff in California and wrestled to the ground by robbers in Kazakstan. Getting visas to enter particular countries for extended periods of time was a real challenge for someone with no money or fixed address. Understanding the language or maps was a problem. However he had many passers by give him donations of food and water, offer him a lift, invite him into their house and the strong support of his mother and home Bishop. He said he never went hungry.

In the last chapter of the book, George recounts some lessons learned and observations on his pilgrim life. For example he came not to expect hospitality from religious people or groups. Churches, schools and rectories have insurance policies in place that trump hospitality. Nor could he expect hospitality from daily Mass goers whom he had just been united with who after Mass, would just walk out with not so much as a word of welcome, a who are you or would you like a drink of water? Most of his hospitality came from unchurched people and in poorer countries. Going to church does not automatically make someone a more loving person. Often it was young mothers with children in car seats who stopped to offer him a ride. This went against every natural instinct of concern for human safety and often their husband’s specific directions, notes George.

There is so much more fruit in this book. I will sign off here with a 5 star rating for content, meaning and interest. May God Bless you pilgrim George.

(Surprisingly I found this book at my local library. For further information search on YouTube to find several longer interviews of Pilgrim George.)

Pilgrim George working on his sandals that used truck tire treads he found along the side of the road

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