HELLO AMERICA!—Hungering for new sights and rhythms, I decided to explore life in Playas De Mexico, located not too far from the San Diego border of that country. It was necessary for me to get a new perspective, another vision of my journey in life. My only quest was pushing on moving ahead. A friend, Melba Thorne, had a house in Playas, and suggested I rent it until I found something more suitable for my needs. I eagerly accepted.
No doubt Playas was a very charming beach community. The people were friendly, warm and receptive to anyone from the States. On the surface it radiated a very peaceful atmosphere, but I soon discovered that, underneath it all, there was a wall of corruption that involved the community government. Further, the drug scene was very much alive and taking advantage of anybody, especially American who might have the money to buy what they were offering.
The police, who made very little money, were always finding an excuse to stop you and give you a ticket, which had to be paid to them on the spot. Not being used to this kind of treatment, it was difficult to relax and enjoy the cultural offerings of the community. Without question, if you were an American you automatically became a target.
I made an effort to visit the educational institutions in the area, informing them of my interest in teaching English should there be an opening. In a few days, I was contacted by one of the schools for a tutoring position. The school was located only a few blocks from where I was staying and I accepted. The teenaged students were eager to study the English language. Most of them already knew a lot of words and phrases, so it wasn’t a totally new language for them. I used songs, pictures, all the tools of communication, trying to make it fun for them. Within weeks, they were speaking English to each other, not perfectly, but enough to make them feel they were getting a grasp on another language. It became a game to them, and they eagerly fell in line to meet the challenge of learning the language.
My temporary housing situation was another story. On my first night, the community center, across the street from my house held a party that included mariachi singers and a band. The music lasted until the wee hours of the morning and I was about to lose it. To make it worse, the police station was connected to the center. They did nothing to stop the music and when I complained, their response was, “Hey, this is Mexico…this is the way we are!”
When it was discovered that I composed very serious music, the news seemed to spread throughout the whole community. Whenever I walked down a street or into a store or Calimax, I was greeted with “Hola, Maestro!” After a while, everyone referred to me as that. I must admit, I liked it. What I could not get used to was the bad plumbing, a feature of life everyone in Mexico seemed to accept. There were weeks where one could not flush the toilet or get running water.
I realized that it was necessary to purchase bottles of water, not simply for drinking, but for washing as well. It was also frustrating when dealing with the utility bills; if you were one day late in paying your phone, electricity or gas bill, everything was turned off. You were then charged for having the service turned on again. It was as though any excuse was dreamed up to force one to pay for something.
During one of my visits to Hollywood, I was offered a position at Universal Studios which I accepted. I wrapped up my brief life in Mexico and returned to the U.S.A. However, when crossing the border, within five miles of the city of Angels I was rear-ended by a Mexican driving a delivery truck. I only had my van for a few months; I couldn’t believe my bad luck. The driver of the truck was quite old and seemed very tired and admitted he dozed off causing the accident. I felt sorry for him. I was laid up for several weeks and needed physical therapy for several months afterwards. As a result, all the plans I had were held up.
Then, as usual, the gods smiled on me and Universal was very understanding; not only when meeting with an agent of the Israel Symphony Orchestra concerning a performance of my Grammy Award winning symphony Flight of Columbia 7 and Dances of Remembrance, a date was set, and I was off to a few European venues and Israel allowing them to experience the “Columbia.”