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First pages

The Start

Snowbirds

"Snowbird" (song), recorded by Canadian artist Anne Murray in 1970

Snowbird (people), people from Canada and the Northern United States who winter in the South

Snowbirds, Canadian air show flight demonstration team

"Snowbirds and Townies," a song from the album The Moon Is Down by Further Seems Forever

- entries from Wikipedia for “Snowbird”

 

The first time I punched in the word “snowbird” to Facebook, I was rewarded with a number of groups with names such as “I hate snowbirds” and “Snowbirds go home.” Obviously these groups are for people who band together in their repulsion of snowbirds. I myself remember making similar derisive comments about snowbirds a little over a decade earlier. To me, snowbirds were seniors who drove ginormous RVs (that they were incapable of maneuvering), and who insisted on having tacky bumper stickers and kitschy items dangling from their rearview mirrors. They did, however, have a noble objective: get out of the northern winter weather.

To be honest, John and I are not from the area with the bitterest winters in Canada, in fact we are from the mildest city on the “Wet Coast.” And, we were in our mid forties and not our sixties when we started our regular winter sojourns south. One of the things that bonds John and I as a couple is our hatred for inclement weather. One could say that we are wimps.

Or as John would say, “We can take it, we just don’t want to.” Up until this point in my romantic partnerships I had never met a man who hated being cold as much as I did. Women seem to be perpetually cold, stowing electric heaters under their desks at the office in winter, and bundling in sweaters at the hint of a breeze. In contrast, Canadian men seem always to be complaining about the heat, demonstrating their discomfort by profuse sweating and by donning khaki shorts whenever there is an absence of snow on the ground.

I remember one of our early dates, when John first reached across a café table to romantically take my hand. I could not help but exclaim to him.

“Your hands are as cold as a girl’s!”

Okay, maybe not an ego-building comment at the time, but it was the start of a beautiful, mutual hatred… of the cold. We now huddle together under a plethora of blankets, sheets, and comforters, bitterly, bemoaning the temperature, and clinging to each other to generate more heat during every Canadian fall, winter, spring, and occasionally in summer too. One might think that this activity is one of the ways we have managed to stay passionate about one another, but, the truth is, we are more than happy to be in bed with only a thin sheet over us in a warm Mexican casa enjoying what I blatantly call siesta sex. We did not discover the warmth of Mexico in any conventional manner. We did not even find it together.

 

I had only a brief experience of Mexico twenty years before I met John. At that time I had no intention of traveling to Mexico but was talked into getting an unbelievable bargain basement deal on a trip if I allowed my carpets to be shampooed by a fly-by-night outfit and referred someone else as well. As it turned out, the carpet cleaning company had a deal with an even shadier outfit to sell unwitting tourists time share units.

There I was in Puerto Vallarta with my sister, who also had freshly shampooed rugs, in the midst of a high pressure sales pitch. But we were released quickly and unceremoniously, like two small fish being unhooked and thrown back, when we candidly confessed how little disposable income we had between us.

Other than this experience, and the “don’t drink the water” phenomenon, I had absolutely loved Mexico. The eye-popping colors, the easy going, quick to smile people, the heat like childhood summers, the lively village celebrations, the passionate and persistent vendors, the carbohydrate-rich spicy food, and the cheap, cold and plentiful Corona, had all impressed themselves on me indelibly. I felt at home there.

I had wanted to go back, but it never seemed to materialize. There were always other things to do and places to go. Like Arizona and the Grand Canyon for my spiritual desert quest. Like my childhood friend’s 150-acre horse ranch snaked along the Slocan River valley. Like Europe where, six months after we met, John and I ate and drank our way across four countries. And Cuba, because we had to see it before it changed and Castro would either die or step down. But in all these other adventures, my warm and friendly memories of Mexico persisted and I tried to convince John that we must go.

 

After two years of suggesting, “What about Mexico?” and John adamantly insisting that Mexico was a crime-ridden, dangerous place, and he wouldn’t go there in a million years, I had given up trying to convince him.—As an aside, do you ever notice that people who have never been to a country are also the ones who are utterly convinced it is crime ridden and dangerous, but the ones who have been there never are? Hmm.—Anyway, it came as somewhat of a shock when one miserable January afternoon John calmly informed me that he was about to go to Mexico… for six weeks… without me. I’m not sure what most women would have said or done, I myself was speechless, and I am not prone to being speechless.

John works outside for half of his workday. He works outside in Canada. He works outside in Canada in winter. John is one of the wonderful self sacrificing men and women in uniform who serve our country day in and day out. John is a letter carrier. For the old school, he is a postman.

This particular January was one of the bleakest kinds, icy rain with the temperature dancing back and forth over the freezing line like a Celtic dancer over a sword. It kept the streets dangerous with black ice. One of John’s colleagues would die that year by slipping on the ice and cracking his head only six weeks before his planned retirement.

And still the bleak, wet cold kept coming. It crept into the bones and the sinuses and would lodge there, throbbing, until the spring thaw. The only slight relief John and I found was the commiseration of our miserable, meteorological circumstance.

Unbeknownst to me, this particular winter was driving John crazier than other winters before. Without consulting his loving partner, who could not get away that winter, he started to look for a means of escape. He found it in the pages of a sailing magazine and an ad looking for people to crew on a small sailing vessel. John answered the ad, was briefly interviewed on the phone by the skipper, and was enlisted for a six week crewing arrangement on the Mexican coast which cost him only flight and food. More important than the economics, or the adventure of sailing, the trip blissfully promised to get him out of the Canadian winter for a return when spring would be only a short hop away.

After my shock wore off and my speech returned I started the what ifs:

“But what if this is a scam?”

“What if this is someone luring you to a remote place to do you harm?”

“What if you fall overboard?”

“What if this is a drug dealer or a pirate trying to get unwitting crews?”

“How do you know anything about this guy?”

 

Our usual roles on the subject of Mexico had seemingly reversed. But once my worries had run their course and John had convinced me he was still going, I admitted that it sounded like an opportunity of a lifetime and I was completely envious. I would be stuck in the cold at my financial sector, administrative, soul-killing but well paying corporate job that stunted all my creative impulses as a largely unknown writer.

“I am meeting the skipper in a small fishing town he is docked in now. I think it’s only a three hour bus ride from the airport,” he told me.

“What’s it called?”

“Playa de la Libélula… he just called it Libé”

“Never heard of it.”

“Me either.”

I would hear a great deal more about that little town which, as it turned out, was much longer than a three hour bus trip from the large airport John was flying into. But for now, I kissed John goodbye and promptly made plans to redecorate the apartment in his absence, including his man cave, the same way your cat digs up your house plants when you go on vacation. It proved to satisfy my envy only a little.

 

When John returned with enchanting stories of tortoises, dolphins, manta rays, palm trees and stars that seemed to fall into the ocean at night, I was greener still. But I was thrilled that Mexico was the magic that I remembered and John thought so too. He told me he actually felt safer there than he had in our own city.

I was tempted to give him a few fast slaps across the chops to harden him up for the fact that he was back in the cold again, or maybe because I had promised myself I wouldn’t say, “I told you Mexico was great,” or maybe because the newly decorated apartment including the altered man cave, had pleased him to no end and had a reverse revenge effect. No, it was my own envy that tainted my feelings of happiness for him. I wanted to go!

It was when John casually mentioned that the real estate was cheap in Libé, a plot hatched in my head and took hold. Another trip was planned in the same calendar year, but in early winter, November, for both of us to return and to start our adventure together. And this is the beginning of when John and I become snowbirds.

Buying Mexican

Both our eyes pop open with the same thought when we wake up in our little Mexican bungalow that morning in November three days after we had arrived. The ceiling fan whirred above us in a tedious rhythm like a scene from a movie. Did we just buy a house in Mexico? This was not a case of too much tequila. Our heads were clear and we had no tattoos on our bodies. We did not get roped into a time-share pitch, or any kind of sales pitch. If we were back home, we may have been surer about what we had just done, but we were in Mexico. John rolls over and looks at me.

“I can’t believe you pulled the trigger.”

Yes, it was me who signed the papers. It was me who said, “Let’s go for it.” It was me who had fallen in love with a house in a little town in Mexico that I had just seen for the first time a few days before. Let me backtrack a bit and tell it as it happened, from the start.

***

Having booked the trip, John and I enter Mexico by landing at a smallish airport and as soon as they open the fore and aft doors we breathe in the fresh warm sea breeze flooding into the cabin. I can feel the heat entering my Canadian winter bones. We step out of the plane, down the stairs to the tarmac and walk into the tiny airport to face the tedium of customs and baggage claim that every airport in the world, small or large, makes you endure. We both push a big button that decides if we will be the random terrorist suspect of the day, and we both get green lights. So far, so good.

We load our luggage into a happy taxi driver’s small car and tell him “Playa de la Libélula.” He nods and smiles; clearly he knows where this is.

The taxi ride is a whirlwind through the Mexican countryside of coconut groves, banana groves and one rough-looking town that made me wonder what we were getting into. We finally turn back toward the sea, and into Playa de la Libélula, a.k.a. Libé.

 

Libé is a small, rustic, unabashed tourist town. No stop lights. In addition to a playa (beach), Libé is a system of islands, lagoons and canals that the boaters and fishermen love. It is a town that caters to what are known as the “cruisers.” Cruisers are a classier brand of Snowbird. They do not haul RVs, but instead own their own proud floating money pits: yachts.

John tells me that sailing or motor, Libé has been a favorite docking place for flotillas since the Spanish Armada in the 15th century. 20-footers to 200-footers are found cruising into Libé starting in mid November and floating away in April, known to the locals as “the season.” Pecking order is measured both in size and where you dock it. And, as John had discovered from his crewing earlier that year, just because the size of the yacht is larger, does not mean the occupants are having more fun.

I already know from John’s photos that there is an isolated 5-star marina attached to a 5-star resort across the bay. There is also canal streets where the wealthy have their designer homes with designer yachts in back. And then, he explains, there is the lagoon, where the boat he crewed on had been docked.

In the lagoon, boats toss out the anchor and take their zodiac into any number of waterfront restaurants. He tells me that it is because of the cruisers and sport fisherman that Libé has more restaurants and bars per capita than any other small town along the Costa Allegre.

I am a foodie. To me one of the greatest works of fiction that I revered growing up was The 21 Balloons in which author William Penne Dubois had created a utopia on a tropical island where the inhabitants all created restaurants and went to each others every night of the week. The thought of a great variety of restaurants at reasonable prices meant that Libé is already sounding like utopia to me.

John is not a foodie. His passion lies in food for his ears, which in turn inspire his toes. John is all about blues, R&B and soul and one of the most knowledgeable people I know about that music. He doesn’t play it. He doesn’t sing it, but man-o-man can he dance to it. That is how we met, in fact. I am not too shabby on the dance floor either, but after we hooked up John immediately enlisted me in swing dance lessons. He would tell me later his one strict criteria in a mate, “If she can’t dance, there is no chance for romance.” I guess I passed.

Mexico is a Latin dance zone. The freedom and fun of salsa, the intensity of the meringe, or traditional folk dances and music like danzón. Mexico is not known for blues or R&B music. What you hear daily is the loud, combination of oom pa pa, mariachi, Mexican banda brass pop music. By the way, there are only two countries in the world that think the tuba is a sexy musical instrument, Germany and Mexico, I am not sure what this means but there it is. I quickly find out that this music is blaring from the windows of every Mexican home and vehicle, whether from a rusty old pick-up or a brand new Mercedes SUV, whether a youngster or an oldster is behind the wheel. It is uniquely Mexican and I plead the foreigner’s lack of ability to discern subtleties when I say that all of it sounded the same to me

So how fluky is it that this little town has the one dedicated blues bar for practically the whole southwest coast of Mexico—Diego’s Cruisers Blues Bar. Now I understand why John is enamored with this town.

All we need to do is look at nice places one might occupy if one was going to make a habit of returning. No harm in looking at a few bits of real estate. True, we didn’t even own our own place in Canada, but who says there is a law against your first home being your vacation property?

 

John had pre-arranged a bungalow to stay in that is located in the center of town or centro. He had also pre-arranged for us to go out with a recommended real estate agent, Sam. Sam is a fully immigrated gringo real estate agent who had married a local woman with good connections in town. I was told that Sam had lived in Libé for decades and I was happy we could get someone so experienced and a native English speaker. We would be getting up and going out with him at 9:30 in the morning after our first evening in Libé.

 

The taxi had dropped us at the bungalow as it was getting near to sunset, so John just had time to show me briefly around the town, including the enormous 100 year old Menefee oak tree, the jardin (town square), the malecón (sea wall walk), and the beach all within easy walking distance. On our way back my eyelids are already drooping. We pick up some milk for a fast cereal breakfast the next morning and then return to the bungalow. We try to stay up as late as we can to reorder our internal clocks before succumbing to the jet lag.

Then we wake up. More correctly, we are woken up.

While it was true that John had been there before, crewing on the sailboat, he had slept every night aboard the ship way out in the peaceful lagoon. In small town Mexico there remains a charming disregard for the concept of noise pollution. Waking to the noises of centro Libé was a shock to both our systems. As a city girl, I did not know that roosters love to crack open a full throated cackle at 4 o’clock in the a.m… also 2 a.m…1 a.m. and pretty much any time they feel like it, day or night. So the cock and bull story about crowing at dawn is more bull than cock. So we wake up again and again and again. The other morning noise rituals start at the more reasonable hour of 7 a.m.

Apparently, small towns in Mexico have a penchant for mobile advertising. I am not talking mobile phones, I am talking blaring megaphones on cars, trucks and motorbikes. In the morning the first thing we both hear is a full throated recording of a Tarzan yell repeating itself as it is wandering through the neighborhood. Then, just as we are drifting off again there comes a blast of a musical jingle, doo, doo, doo, doo (pause) doo, doo, doo, doo (pause), followed by a deep bass voice speaking two words that say… what are they saying?

John and I are awake in bed, no opportunity to recover from our jet lag, trying to figure it out.

“He’s saying, ‘Wake up!’” John is sure.

“I don’t think so dear, and if he was saying that, I am pretty sure it would be in Spanish.”

It would take us awhile before we would understand that the Tarzan yell was to tell us that the bottled water guy was coming around, and you could flag him down if you needed water, much the way the kids used to run out for the ice cream truck in the suburbs. Likewise, the music jingle followed by the deep voice speaking two words was alerting you the gas guy was coming around if you needed more propane. He was saying, “Global Gaaas,” elongating the word gas. Ironically those two words are the same in English as Spanish but you can never quite make it out until you have heard it about four hundred times and seen the truck that says on the side, “Global Gas.”

It is in this semi-conscious state that Sam the real estate man picks us up in his air-conditioned SUV. Sam is a little older than I imagined he would be. Okay, he is a lot older. He is thin with white hair, glasses, and is dressed casually in baggy, tan shorts and a light golf shirt with one collar flipped up that I have to stop myself from fixing.

He seems a very genial gentleman, but with a slightly dishevelled absent-minded professor quality. We pile into Sam’s SUV and start through the neighbourhoods that Sam thinks we can afford, given our minuscule budget.

A couple of times Sam seems unable to find addresses which we think is odd in a small town. He apologizes profusely but to be fair, the town, like most towns in Mexico I am told, has few if any, street signs and with a numbering system that makes my postman shake his head. John and I mostly chalk up our lost detours to Sam getting a little long in the tooth. There is also some lost keys, people not being home to let us in, so our list of potential homes to view shrinks to only a few. At least we see the neighbourhoods if we did not always see the homes.

In any case, what we have been able to see hasn’t bowled either of us over. We thank Sam for the tour and tell him we will drop by his office in a couple of days when he says he will have more homes lined up (including some of the ones missed today).

 

After our all too hasty breakfast of milk and cereal brought from home at the bungalow, our first order of business is a proper lunch. John takes me into town telling me there is a casual but nice restaurante he thinks I might like. He is not wrong.

Raul’s is a local favorite, day or night restaurante. Easy to spot because it is across the street from one of the major hotels and always filled with gringos. Raul, a tall guy for a Mexican, is polite and quick with a smile. I notice that in contrast to his patrons in their summer tanks, chino shorts and Birkenstocks, he wears a nice dress shirts, half-sleeved, full length pants and dress shoes in dark colors.

Raul speaks English well and his staff only a little less so, but John and I know that anywhere in the world all people appreciate it when you make the effort to speak in their own language and you make more friends if you try. John tells me that regardless of time, Raul’s is always busy because he and his staff know how to treat the touristas, especially the ones who are down for the entire season. They remember what you like, and how you like it.

I wonder if Raul’s should adopt that famous line from the movie Casablanca “Everyone goes to Rick’s,” only make it “Everyone Goes to Raul’s.” “Everyone goes to Rick’s,” was, by the way, the original title of the play that the movie was based on. Only a writer and former playwright would know this.

John loves the fact that the Mexicans kept their beer ice, ice cold, and Raul is particularly diligent. He tells me that they always have the TV sets on for the big NFL games, or the real football (soccer), for the other fans, and this always draws the handful of European or South American tourists and the good spirits of a sporting match bonds the patrons quickly. But even in non-sporting mode Raul’s has a convivial spirit and great food.

John eats the opposite of me, almost as if food were a necessary evil, so he orders a side of guacamole and no entrée, which I thought was typically bird-like of him until I saw the guacamole. It is enormous, and could hardly be called a side. So naturally, I will have to help him eat it. It makes me wonder how many avocados Raul goes through in a day. Perusing the menu I notice something I rarely get on our side of the border, tortilla soup.

“Very good,” Raul said, “Not enough people order our soup.”

John adds, “Because who wants to order soup in a hot country!”

I ignore John’s put down of my order and stick with Raul’s recommendation, as well as add a fish entrée.

Tortilla soups traditionally are a sort of thin Mexican stew, packed with loads of ingredients: avocado, tomatoes, corn, onion, beans, peppers, cilantro, hints of cumin, lime all covered with and authentic tortilla strips for a taste and texture experience that I love. Raul’s soup has these ingredients and is topped with “queso seco” or dry, white, salty cheese. Of course lime wedges on the side always, which Jim tells me helps with the digestion and “sterilizes things.” Translation: the bugs and parasites don’t like it.

After the soup, which like the guacamole is a meal in itself, I had almost forgotten I’d ordered entrée. There is something about lack of sleep that has always made me extra hungry as if needing the extra fuel to keep the eyes open and the body moving. However, perhaps this time my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

I had ordered their house specialty, fish with garlic. And the smell arrives before the plate. The fish is a white fish, this time marlin Raul tells me but whatever is fresh. I taste. It is cooked to perfection with the garlic and oil, heavenly. I cannot eat all my rice but eat all the garlicky fish and green salad. I have eaten, in effect, three meals, and I am ready to roll away from the table. Except I can’t resist one more thing, and ask for something that is met with a snort from John.

“De-caf coffee, por favor.” I want to get some sleep tonight but am craving coffee.

“Sanka,” Raul answers. I looked confused but nod. I didn’t care about the brand of coffee.

“Con crema?” he asks, quickly translating for me, “With cream.”

“Si, gracias.” I congratulate myself on my profuse use of Spanish.

Raul places in front of me a jar of Sanka. Apparently I am going to get freeze-dried crystals, which quickly make me turn up my nose. No, no, no. But, I can’t bring myself to cancel the order. A large cup of “coffee” is put in front of me with the cream already added. Gingerly, I sip the creamy hot coffee liquid he has put before me, bracing my coffee-primed taste buds for disappointment. After first sip I am befuddled. Why am I not repulsed? I sip again. It is the cream, thick and sweet, that surprisingly make the freeze-dried crystals something I could actually crave.

Except for brewed decaf, Raul is well prepared for almost every loco gringo request. We see extra condiments on the table of every kind: honey, A-1 sauce, hot sauces, peanut butter, jams, chilli powder, ketchup, mustard, rock salt, and always you are given a plate of fresh cut limes. Lime juice on everything is the Mexican way, a custom we would soon adopt and use to make fresh discoveries of old favorite foods.

 

After lunch, we go for a blissful stroll and poke around the streets perusing the colourful vendors. We just happen to pass another real estate office that isn’t Sam’s and automatically start looking at the pictures. We had noticed previously that there is a suspiciously disproportionate number of real estate offices for a small town. But, this office is the only one we have seen with a name we recognize. It is an established international real estate company (with American origins). It doesn’t take long before an agent is inviting us in.

Nancy, a delightful blonde from California, shows us some more pictures of the houses we were both looking at and wanting to look at, as well as the handful we had just seen. It is with one of those that Nancy shows us a rather large error Sam has made.

More than just getting addresses confused, he is getting prices wrong. Okay, that isn’t reassuring. She also shows us where we can get some bridge financing from a U.S. bank that we would need if we want to buy some of the casas that are much nicer and previously thought were out of our budget. The financing is at a great interest rate (with a few stipulations). We know Sam does not set up financing because we had asked. Perfect. Right there, we decide we need to switch agents. Sam is out and Nancy is in.

Nancy is closer to our own age and when John tells her we will be going to Diego’s Blues Bar that evening, she says that it is very likely she will show up too.

Diego’s Blues Bar

Diego's Cruisers Blues Bar is not just any blues bar. John explains that Diego would lease a space for only the season so each year you have to ask people where his bar is and if it was open yet. Luckily for him, for a number of years Diego has been snagging a premier spot on the beach and also where the nearest access to the lagoon is, so it is the first live music bar that the cruisers will come across. Whether it is the wealthiest cruisers in giant motor yachts with hired skippers, or the dozens of sail boaters who drop anchor in the lagoon, they all climb the stairs up to Diego's sooner or later.
Being upstairs the bar has the perfect sunset view open to the ocean. Diego is a great believer in the myth of the green flash—the reputed emerald flash that some lucky people see just as the sun is sinking into the ocean horizon—he never fails to look for it at sunset and gets his patrons engaged as well. The bar is under an enormous royal palm palapa that had seen its share of weather and is decorated on the inside with flags of the countries Diego considers representative of his major patrons. There is the American stars and stripes, two Canadian flags, one with a maple leaf and one with a marijuana leaf, the Mexican flag, the Australian flag, the Irish flag, and a Harley Davidson flag. It isn't really a biker bar, although Diego clearly loves Harley hogs—there is part of one hanging over the bar—what he really loves is blues music.

"I am a Mexican who loves the blues," he tells John.

Diego is a small man with a gentle, happy, yet mischievous face. He has a thick Mexican accent when he speaks English that seems to come with its own mythology. People know that Diego had resided in the U.S. for a number of years. He had fathered at least one child there, as Mario, his son, the young man behind the bar, is a grown testament to that child born in the U.S.A. Given that, people wonder why is Diego’s English sometimes spotty, and other times excellent? And, what exactly had he been doing in the U.S.?

The myths have as many versions as people and you are not long in the bar before you hear the speculations, rather like a version of The Great Gatsby. Some say he had been a smuggler there, but not illegal drugs, cheap tequila, others said he owned an illegal bar in Texas, others say he was a gigolo, some say he went to a good school in Boston, but you would get none of this from Diego’s own lips.
The thing that isn't a mystery is that Diego is more party animal than business man. John tells me that on his previous stay, everyday, whenever he would meet Diego in town, he would remind Diego to stock up on John’s favorite wine. Inevitably, every night John would go to the bar where Diego would greet John as if he was a long lost brother, but he wouldn't have his wine.

John would then walk a few blocks to the store, buy a couple of bottles at full retail price, walk back to the bar, sell the bottles to Diego who would in turn sell it back to John by the glass. Although his grown kids helped Diego in the thriving bar, he is never able to hang on to the money he makes for long, and his women are like his bars, they could change annually and evaporate like the money.

 

Diego loves John for a few reasons. First, he had established himself as a regular, second, they could both talk about the blues for hours. As we walk into the bar for my first time, Diego gives John a big hug welcoming him back to Libé. I smile to see the short Mexican and the big gringo so different in appearance and yet like a novel pair of “Blues Brothers.” John introduces me and Diego immediately turns on the charm and kisses my hand.

“She is beautiful,” he tells John and to me, “My place is your place.”

“Who is playing tonight Diego?” John asks.

“Leo will be here soon.”

“Excelente.”

“You know him?” I ask John, not for the first time since we have been wandering around town. It seems my husband had left quite an impression on several people some eight months previously. We would be walking down the street and someone would say, “Hey John!” and start a conversation with him. I know my husband is a charming man but it is never so clear as it is for the past two days that he has been a “man about town” in Mexico.

“Leo is excellent, you’ll like him.” John assures me of tonight’s talent. Not long after a man comes in with his guitar case and starts to plug into the amplifiers, but not before saying, “Hey John! Welcome back, man.”

Leo is tall and snowy haired; an attractive “older” man, but it is when Leo sings that I melt. My musician crushes have a panty rating of my desire to throw my panties on the stage. In this case, they don’t have a stage just a corner of the floor but nevertheless, Leo is a three panty throw, figuratively speaking.

“He sounds like Eric Clapton,” I comment about Leo’s gravelly, made for blues voice that also has a sweet top note to it. And the music is old school rock and roll blues, enough that John and I could swing dance to it.

John has already insisted that I take my dance shoes with me whenever we go out and we change into them quickly and hit the floor, small as it is. We dance up a storm for several numbers and show off all our best moves. John is a great lead and a great lead always makes the woman, or follower, look fabulous. He turns me, twirls me and dips me through some snazzy moves. When we get off the floor Diego comes right up to me and makes a declaration.

“You are a professional dancer!”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

When I was eight I made up stories, cast the other kids in parts, raided my mother’s closet and started rehearsals immediately. After studying film & theatre I became a new award-winning playwright, developed a passion for non-fiction by writing for newspapers and magazines, and started teaching writing at night. I have now crossed numerous genres but am best known as a writing coach and author of Writing with Cold Feet. I continue to teach and hold annual winter writing retreats in Mexico.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Marian Keyes, Tom Robbins, Natalie Goldberg, Annie Proulx, Nora Ephron and Peter Mayle
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
I just finished a Marian Keyes novel. I think I pick up my style from the Chick Lit genre the most because of the humour. I like how Keyes takes hard, very real subjects like grieving and handles them with humour, facing life’s challenges with humour but not shying away from real pain and suffering.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Fictionalizing true stories and mixing them with fiction ones to tell the story of this couple.

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