Postcard from San Miguel: A victimless crime

What could a purse mean to a gringa

who can stay in a house on a hill?*

A house with more bedrooms than people,

if maid and gardener count little.

Three-hundred and twenty-five pesos?

Food for the family to the native;

so little to the graying gringa.

The journal with illegible garble?

Trash to the native;

irreplaceable to the writing gringa.

An iPad demanding a code to enter,

rendered impotent in a house with no wi-fi?

Trash to the native;

legions of lost words to the writing gringa.

That plastic card bearing a name

obviously not of an hombre Mexicano?

Trash to the native;

precious lost time to the aging gringa.

Cancelling the card and requisite changes,

all those shopping links and autopayments.

Unimaginable repercussions to the native;

in his eyes, a victimless crime.

And maybe so,

compared to such a hardscrabble life.

Loss of trust means nothing

to someone with no reason to trust life.

And what’s 325 pesos to a gringa

who can stay in a house on a hill?

The hopeful arm stretching out the driver’s side window

failed to snatch the satchel clutched tightly to her chest.

No food for the table of the native;

unrecoupable words saved for the writing gringa.

*Apologies for this format, so awkwardly written by one unaccustomed to verse. Blame it on poet Ellen Bass. Emerging under the spell of her reading during the Writers’ Conference in San Miguel de Allende, prose seemed prosaic. But the awkward prose to which followers are accustomed will resume after sleeping off her influence.

Prodigious Poster in Pursuit of Parsimony

Reflecting on her four years of blogging, author C.M. Mayo writes:    

Blogging is whatever you want it to be.  And that morphs.  I don’t worry about this so much as I once did.  I just blog.   

C.M. Mayo’s blog led my daughter and me to the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference, which we now hope to make an annual pilgrimage.  But the conference also led me to wallow in the bog of blogging.      

A simple posting of very few words about a proposed product for preventing postmen from getting lost via Google map destination envelopes is highly appealing.


  I have been blogging eight weeks since San Miguel, and find myself inappropriately writing feature-length stories – a rant about John Edge’s claim that Austin had the best breakfast tacos in the U.S. turned into a more than a thousand-word restaurant review – obviously unsuitable for the attention span of anyone surfing the web.   I remain verbose, even though my favorite post of mine let the photo tell all and I am drawn to quick-read postings, such as Swiss Miss’ goggle map envelopes I discovered through a Mayo post.     

My blog also has a tendency to let politics slip in – Texas produces such rich fodder for ridicule – and I have even fired volleys at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  Unwise for a freelance writer trying to make a living in Texas.  Biting one’s tongue while blogging is as difficult as doing so at well-lubricated cocktail parties.  Author Margaret Atwood describes this problem on the New York Review of Books Blog:       

Oops! I shouldn’t have said that. Which is typical of “social media”: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said.  But it’s like the days of Hammurabi, and those of the patriarch Isaac in the book of Genesis, come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or, now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.    

I fear blogging is a distraction diverting me from more serious writing projects.  Mayo dismisses this as not problematic (but she, of course, has several successful books under her belt):      

I’m finding it increasingly less interesting to even think about querying newspapers and magazines.  I’ve written for the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Mexico, Inside Mexico, and the like, and until I started my blog, I assumed I would continue to do so.  But I prefer to put my effort into writing books (long form) and blogging (short form).  Maybe I’ll rethink this.  Sometime.     

As Atwood began to build her website in 2009, her publishers were nervous:     

“That sounds wonderful, Margaret,” they said, with the queasy encouragement shown by those on the shore waving goodbye to someone who’s about to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel.   

Yet Atwood has embraced fully the technological advances affecting how writers communicate.   (I only wish while in San Antonio as part of Gemini Ink Autograph Series, she had convinced her friend, Colleen Grissom, to start a blog.  Reading things Colleen “shouldn’t have said” would be so entertaining.)   At the Texas Book Festival in the fall of 2009, Atwood spoke extensively of her progress from blogging to tweeting.  She regards her followers as though they are “33,000 precocious grandchildren.”     

On the subject of followers, Mayo shared one of her poetic tweets – “a tweet can be a form of poetry (twiku) or fiction (twiction)” – in “Twitter Is:”   

@c_m_mayo:  Following no one, having no followers, she was like the woman in the back closet, grumbling at the blankets, existing on mothballed air     

There’s no period at the end of that sentence because I’d used up my allotment of characters. Fster than a wlnut cn roll dwn t roof of a hen house, were gng 2 see t nd of cvlizatn   

 One of Mayo’s tweeters defined tweeting as:    

@lisaborders:    Twitter is a message in a bottle that sometimes gets answered  

If novelists such as Atwood and Mayo can confine their thoughts to 140 characters, surely there is hope for me to learn to curb my blogging output before my few followers dwindle to none.  Then again, here I am with a 700-word entry about the critical need for brevity in blogging.  

As one “grandchild” of Margaret Atwood tweeted:  “I love it when old ladies blog.” 

Note Added on April 28The Daily Beast‘s “Can the Author Survive the Internet?” 

James Wood….  said he finds looking through readers’ comments on blogs to be akin to a descent into Hades.  He added that his friend Andrew Sullivan is buckling under the strain of writing three hundred blog posts per week, which has interfered with his ability to concentrate on anything longer than a few paragraphs. 

I like readers’ comments (of course, mine are rather limited). 

Note added on May 3Margaret Atwood’s speech upon her acceptance of the American PEN Award. 

Note added on July 13:  C.M. Mayo now has a second blog for those seriously researching the “French Intervention” in Mexico and also provides podcasts online of some of her presentations on both her writing and writing in general. 

Note Added on September 5:  Here I am a few months later managing facebook fan pages, responding to yelpers and, yes, even tweeting for a restaurant client.