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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkTales of Retirement in Paradise 

Chapter 13: Mastering The Mouse
email this pageprint this pageemail usPolly G. Vicars

Marco Cardenas, my first computer guru, way back in 1990

Annie Duval de Cardenas, his beautiful wife and daughter Cossett in 2006

Marco with Cossett

Cossett and her new brother Jacob in 2008

My favorite photo of Joan Blake, wonderful person and extraordinary typist!

Barb & Ruben Topete, Lynn Nokes, Barb's son Rob and me - celebrating the IFC Cookbook's first printing.
When you move two zillion miles from your old friends and family, receiving mail takes on a new importance. One of Husband's rules, "If you don't write 'em, you don't get 'em," surfaced soon after the move, prompting me to get out my trusty portable and send it into overload.

(Hard to believe this reference to mail and portable typewriters. How quickly things change. Now with computers, email and voice-over-Internet phones, snail mail is something we seldom think about. Good thing, as mail is the one place where Mexico really falls down!)

Added to the letters I was writing, my duties as membership chairman for the International Friendship Club, a Vallarta service club with a membership of about three hundred, required lots of record keeping. Most of the members of the IFC live in the States or Canada during the summer and in Vallarta during the winter. Mailing the monthly newsletter to the correct address required ingenuity and hard labor.

When I took over as chairman, they handed me a little green file box with the names and addresses of all the members and notations of when they were where. When the newsletter was ready for mailing, the committee and I sat down with the file box hand-addressing the newsletters, hopefully to the correct location. By the time we finished, it was practically time to send out a new edition.

Although I had religiously avoided personal knowledge of that new-fangled machine, the computer, Husband the Engineer, had been using them since their inception. I fleetingly thought about buying one, though I was totally ignorant of their use, then decided to remain in that state. However, Husband had different ideas. He convinced me I should and could learn to operate a computer (after all, I could program the VCR.) So on a trip to Texas, I waded right in and bought what I figured was state-of-the-art.

Once I make up my mind to do something, I want to do it! (Meryl Streep once said, "Instant gratification is not soon enough," and I'm inclined to agree with her.) When we got back to Vallarta I was so excited that I was begging Husband to set up the computer before he even put down the suitcases. But I had forgotten to take in account those durn laws he is always spouting. Sure enough, Murphy's Law took over and we could not even get a C prompt.

After many calls to Texas, several visits by local "experts," we finally found a young man who had just started in business, who really was an expert. Though his English was about as minimal as our Spanish, it seems the language of computers is universal, and we could understand when he made the diagnosis. (He is now a good friend who continues to answer my calls for help at odd hours of or night.)

(He was Marco Antonio Cárdenas, and even though he has moved on to be in charge of all the computer systems at Nissan Motors, he is still our good friend. Now, he has beautiful wife Annie and two adorable children, Cossett and Jacob.) After he replaced the faulty component, the computer was ready - but was I?

Hours... days... tears... frustration... trial... error... more tears... more trial... more error... until finally, with the manual constantly at my side, I conquered directory, file, click, double click, insert, sort, merge, label, delete. Thus armed, I produced a data base from which I could print out labels for all of the IFC members at the proper address in the proper month. Later, I provided the club with membership lists and valuable vital statistics.

I felt good about my computer skills; I could converse with my friends' kids who were born with a laptop in hand. In fact, I became so computer literate that I knew I didn't have state-of-the-art equipment; it was too slow; it didn't have enough memory; the hard drive was too small. So on a subsequent trip north, we really bought a state-of-the-art 486 with CD Rom and the works. Even though I thought we should immediately sell the old one. Husband decided we shouldn't rush. He said, "You never know when it might come in handy," Why is he always right?

Meanwhile, the IFC, looking for a money-making project, decided to write and publish a cookbook. I offered to help, thinking I could do some writing about the club and its activities and even contribute a little word processing here and there.

How could I have known that the member in charge of typing the hundreds of recipes would be called to the states on a medical emergency? Or that each of the Co-Chairs would, for her own defensible reason, have to leave for extended periods during the critical stages of production? Or that everyone else involved would, with good reason, disappear and leave me and my two computers to bring home the bacon? There must be a law, but even Husband couldn't come up with it!

Thankfully our good friend, Assistant to John Huston, was still in town. (The lovely Joan Blake who lived in Puerto Vallarta for more than 30 years came to my rescue. She has recently moved to California to be close to her son, Greg, and though she misses PV, she is happy near her son and grandchildren.) And, thankfully, she has a heart of gold, nimble fingers, is a quick study, and could be persuaded (coerced?) into joining me in "the office" (our guest bedroom) every day to sit and type from closely handwritten recipes submitted in both English and Spanish. At this point I would like to confess that there were days when we were pawing through "Drinks, Alcoholic," desperately looking for something, anything to numb the pain.

I sent my painfully (and at times, pitifully) translated recipes to Bilingual Friend Restaurateur (This was the late Elena Mungia who, along with her late husband Carlos, owned and ran the famous Hacienda Restaurant for years) to change errors like "fried Thursdays" (hueves fritos) to "fried eggs" (huevos fritos). As we typed, we dealt out hard copies for proofing to Husband, Friend Retired Pediatrician (Dr. Lanny Dykes who died in a tragic accident several years ago), Friend American Consular Agent (author Jenny McGill, who thankfully is healthy and happy writing her second book in her home in Talpa), Friend Retired Hollywood Graphic Artist (Brian Higbee, who sadly also died a few years ago,) and other recruits we unearthed wherever we could.

When Husband's proofed sheets came back they usually had terse comments scribbled in red. On a chicken recipe instruction, "pour boiling water over breasts" he wrote, "Wouldn't that really hurt?" His trained engineer's mind proved its worth time and again as he penciled in left-out ingredients - like chicken in the Chicken A La Orange recipe. (He still has that wicked sense of humor, thank goodness!)

After everything was typed, the art work photographed by Husband who makes no claim to anything more than amateur status, and re-photographed after slides were lost in transit, the book was ready for indexing. More hours with the manual, more trial and error and finally a complete index. Lacking only the layout for the printer, we turned the whole thing over to Friend Newspaper Editor (My mentor, Lynne Bairstow, who is alive and well working and living in Punta de Mita) who, expertly and laboriously readied it for printing. She dealt with a few of those durn laws, but that is her story!

With great shouts of joy, we mailed it to the publishers, mixed up the Margaritas, sold the old computer without which the book would have been long delayed, and retired again. Happily I can report that all 2,000 copies of the cookbook, "Vistas, Vittles and Vignettes de Vallarta" sold out in record time! Since all the work was donated and a philanthropist paid for the printing, almost $40,000 went into the coffers of the IFC.

Don't fret about not getting your copy; copies of the second printing are ready and waiting for you!

(I don't know how many subsequent printings have been made, but several I know for sure. It was a hit and a great money maker for the Friendship Club. Of course, you know I really didn't get to retire again, as that fueled the idea to write my own book - this one and then the second one, "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World" which is currently on sale on, the Book Store in Plaza Caracol, other venues throughout Vallarta, as well as directly from me.

If you are enjoying this first book, why not take a chance and buy the second one? All of the money goes directly to Becas Vallarta to fund scholarships for local girls and boys. See our website at and our new Becas Vallarta video right HERE on BanderasNews.)

Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.

Click HERE for more articles by Polly Vicars.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2008 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus