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No Direction Home

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It’s a very simple question, or it should be, and the answer was always automatic. Perhaps you pause before you state your age or invert the last four digits of your home and mobile phone numbers, but your home address you don’t forget. We’ve lived in Mexico for a year and a half and I still stall when I have to give an address for something in the States. When I call to make a reservation or place an order I use our Vonage service with a Connecticut number. There is no real reason to explain that I am calling from the state of Yucatan. With email correspondence I could be anywhere.

When asked for my home address Friday on the phone with Floyd at the front desk of the Mark Spencer Hotel, I was stumped. Do I bother explaining that I live at No 122 in Chelem? Do I spell “Calle” (which is difficult enough to pronounce correctly) and make up a postal code for the system’s required field? It wasn’t for billing, for which we use a postal box in Miami; I guess it also wouldn’t matter if I replied with that. But I don’t live in Box #9000, dammit. So, inevitably I fall back on our last address in New Haven. But we don’t live there anymore.

Neither do I call home Edwards Street in East Rock, Clinton Street in Cobble Hill, Withers Street in Williamsburg, or Glenville Ave in Allston. I am not currently residing on Prospect or Commonwealth, in Washington Heights or Sunset Park. All of those places have been temporary housing, and if you went to school in Boston or New Haven and moved to New York sometime thereafter many of these names are familiar and were once where you had your mail forwarded.

In all that those itinerant years and walk up apartments maybe home was still your childhood address, the place you had your Sallie Mae statements and Columbia house bills sent, but my family doesn’t live there anymore. My CT driver’s license, which I renewed when I was “home for the holidays”, still uses this address, again, because I couldn’t think of what else to say. My grandmother lives around the corner from Partridge Lane and since we were officially and legally married in Clinton, I think our marriage license lists her street and house number. We told the ladies at Town Hall that we have a house in Mexico, but I don’t believe they understood it was our permanent and only home.

It is unusual to be our age and make this life an everyday reality. We are not on vacation and we don’t have a summer residence north of the border. We do have storage space in Hamden and another near Tallahassee, though we have no connection with either of these towns any more and hardly ever did. Made in China items must be sent to friends and smuggled in when they visit. I will receive mail at the hotel in Portland like I’m Arturo Bandini or Eloise at the Plaza. It doesn’t much matter where I say I am. There’s no way to track me with a paper trail.

There is no postal service in Chelem, nor do we have a box at the post office in Progreso. We have an address of course, but the number isn’t emblazoned on our front door nor is there a street sign indicating that we live in Calle 15, which is actually the beach side and not the road at all. Bills are delivered by guys on motor scooters and tucked in the fence; the comprobante is a utility bill endlessly invoked in all business transactions. [Hint: Keep one in your pocket at all times.] Those documents show our street and number but it is still is the name of the former owners. I am obviously not Guillermo de la Guerra, though I might be in another life.

My FM3 uses our right direccion but my passport shows another, namely the Bradley Street address, where we lived when we planned, packed and prepared for this move. To complicate matters further, my maiden name is on all of these important papers and I do mean to change my surname now – but how? and when? After this trip to Oregon I’ll have just a few months before we return there for a wedding. Will there be enough time to make the necessary changes to my identification and travel visas?

This is a post about home, not names. Those musings happen later. For now, I should – I don’t know – get over it. What is the damn difference after all, right? Can I accept the minor complications of logistics and explanations for a life I have chosen and a house I am making my own real home? As Lady Gregarious E. Dick (succinctly) wrote: Where Thou art– that — is Home.

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. When my son moved back NOB, and was applying for a job,he had problems with the 999 area code, plus the 928 for Merida made it look like an invented phone number add in our codigo postal (zip code) of 97000 for Centro, it just looks he not only made it all up, but wasn’t particularly bright about it. Add in the necessary cross streets and the name of your colonia and you have a pretty add looking address to gringo eyes, even before you get to the codigo postal first and then the city name, and the state.
    We have a box NOB but it looks like a street address 100 Main Street #101 for example. Some places don’t like PO boxes as addresses,so that was a factor for us.
    I think you can change all your passport stuff in Merida at the Consulate, and it is easier and faster than doing it while you are NOB.

  2. You don’t have no stinkin’ maiden name! If your passport has your “old name” and you are now in Mexico, that’s your name. Hey, no big deal, Mexican women keep their name too.

    The upside of the address thing is that bureaucrats and bill collectors can’t find you either. I always thought Pancho Villa could have sent General Pershing his name and address and he still wouldn’t have been found. Think of the confusing Mexican street system as a low-tech form of national security. Any invasores will be hopelessly lost.

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