Airing The Laundry
The short: The book is a roman a clef in which the names have been changed “to protect the innocent” (read: the writer). It’s about Jeff and his wife’s struggles to renovate a building here on Bahia Soliman and turn it into a small B&B or hotel and their ultimately deciding to bail out, to leave Mexico.
I am not in this book, thank goodness. But I recognize every person in the book, because they are or have been my neighbors. Yes, some might be somewhat eccentric. But ultimately, I believe they were not treated fairly. Their charm, their friendliness, their being free spirits, their tackling whatever stood in the way of their living here is ignored. And I wonder whether they would have told their stories to Jeff if they knew these anecdotes were eventually going to end up in print.
The book could have been a simple and in this case wistful memoir like Jeanine Lee Kitchel’s “Where the Sky is Born” (Enchanted Island Press, 2004), the tale of the founding of the Alma Libre Bookstore in Puerto Morelos and of the author’s leaving California for Quintana Roo. But another choice was made here: there is a score to be settled with Jeff’s general contractor and the deranged, annoying neighbor who drove Jeff and his wife away. Significantly, Jeff never fired the GC, who ultimately finished the project at a price below what he expected. And the deranged neighbor is probably in no condition to respond to his anger or complaints.
Also blamed for various unacceptable peculiarities are the Mexican Army, the police, gas station attendants, Federales, municipal and state governments, building inspectors, of course, the neighbors. Jeff thinks that Mexico is the Third World (read: it is not the US). And he thinks that Mexico and Mexicans are his problem, but the fact is that the people he has the most trouble with are all Gringos, like him, and he happily acquits the few powerful Mexicans. Those with less status, not so much. This is an irony, because the author pays obligatory lip service to the maxim that people bring their problems with them to Mexico, even when they think they are escaping them. Evidently, the truism doesn’t apply to him.
Jeff's building is still for sale. I can't understand how this book is going to help sell it. After all, if the neighbor is that big a problem, who wants to buy it?