Should I start with the good news? No. Probably not.The bad news comes in two parts so we’ll start with that first.

To begin – at the national and regional level – the violence here has gone positively absolutely off the scale bat shit crazy. Lots of murders. Lots of shootings and ambushing. I heard today that the bad guys shot down a army helicopter on Friday in the neighboring state of Jalisco. And shooting down an army helicopter takes serious chutzpah my friend.

Up until a couple of weeks ago Jalisco had remained pretty much immune to the violence that has plagued other regions in the country. The reason being is that the bad guys in Jalisco preferred to bring their violence here to the neighboring state of Michoacan. But that all changed when the government decided to arrest the head of the Jalisco cartel.

The Jalisco cartel responded by committing state wide mayhem creating dozens and dozens of roadblocks that they implemented by setting fire to the largest vehicles at their disposal – preferring hijacked buses and tractor trailers – and leaving them to burn in the middle of the road.

And of course gun battles ensued.

This mayhem has since spilled over into Michoacan where similar tactics have been used all to similar results. Major cities in both states have been seriously rocked by this latest most explosive wave of violence.

On my runs in the last couple of weeks I have seen an uptick in traffic on the backroads which suggests that certain individuals are preferring to stay off the main roads. Needless to say, this new roadblock tactic is having a tremendous negative impact on local businesses.

On the personal level – some good news. I had a date last night with a delightfully beautiful funny woman. I had seen this woman before. Maybe a couple of times a month jetting around town on her motor scooter. Always exchanging waves and smiles. I was always a bit intimidated. Too pretty and too young for me. But she always gave me her hundred watt smile.

Then two weeks ago I saw her down the street talking to the women at the laundromat. Her mom was with her and I stopped like I do most days to say hello to my friend, Jose and tease the proprietor’s fourteen year old daughter.

Side note: On my street – in the 3 block walk to the plaza – there are two barbershops, this laundromat I mentioned, and a shoe repair place. All are havens for people to gather in and socialize. So I am finding now as my Spanish skills are gradually creeping into the sub-conversational zone that I am spending upwards of 30 minutes every day hanging out with these folks. Like I got pulled into one of the barbershops today to get queried on which American black blues musician was playing on the radio. (B.B. King?)

So I walked up to this beautiful woman who was perched on her scooter and told her that she was ‘eres agradable’; meaning, very agreeable. This is a compliment that you must deliver with a warm smile and a devil may care attitude. And it’s not cheese-ola like telling a woman she’s beautiful. And who other than James Bond can pull that one off without looking like a complete fool?

Surprisingly, she responded affirmatively. And her mom standing close by said in so many words, ‘I like this guy.’ So we’ve texted a few times and last night I got to spend two and a half hours with this gorgeous woman sitting under the stars on the edge of the plaza as Mexico paraded by (not that I really noticed anyone but her). Hopefully I’ll have more to report on this lovely subject in the future. (Not that you need to know, but this is my journal/blog after all).

To end on a sad note, my 94 year old neighbor passed away last week. This woman astounded me. She in my opinion was the living standard of peace, joy, and happiness. I would see her most mornings sitting out in front of her house alternating dozing in the sun and smiling and chatting with her neighbors as they passed by. I would positively marvel every time I saw her and at each encounter how she radiated a gentle forgiving kind of love.

Upon meeting her for the first time, she beamed up at me, her ancient face opening into a wide smile, before taking my hand in both of hers, and pulling me down so that she could kiss me on the cheek. How can one be that old and presumably in so much pain and yet glow with such joy? Meeting this woman was probably as close to meeting a true saint as I will ever get.

To finish this story I was in the Mercado today after my run. I stopped to buy 2 coconut cookies after lunch (for the laundromat ladies) and a tall handsome Mexican man walked over to me to ask me where I was from. I had to be some sort of misplaced tourist, right? Anyway, we exchanged pleasantries and the first thing I learned was that the cookie lady was his sister-in-law. He then went on to tell me that his mother had just passed away and that he was down from California for the funeral.

I knew this was more than a coincidence so I asked him where his mother lived and he said on Melgar Street. I took his hand and shook it and told him that I was truly sorry for his loss. That I knew his mother who lived around the corner from me and told him that I found her to have been an extraordinarily wonderful woman and that I for one would always cherish my memory of her. To say he was surprised was an understatement. He thanked me for my condolences and told me that many, many people came to the services to pay their final respects.

Mexico: sadness and sorrow but always wrapped in a warm blanket of love.