Trials of a columnist: ‘You write rubbish’

Being a writer in Puerto Vallarta can be dangerous business

I have always thought of myself as a normal type of person, not particularly good at much, but not a bad fellow, just middle of the road.


The trouble is when you start to write this and that, you become a bit of a target in this very small town.

To go back a ways, when my wife Michelle headed to Calgary for the birth of our grandchild her short visit turned into seven weeks, meaning I was dragooned into covering for her at the SPCA booth in the market every Saturday morning.

I cleaned my uniform (a T-shirt) and bravely set out for the center of the city — with some trepidation, I might add — to help erect the little tent that houses the SPCA volunteers who raise funds for the dogs and cats at the “no-kill” sanctuary.

Everyone was kind as I tripped my way through the initial few weeks, often getting my facts wrong, such as the number of dogs available for adoption and how many of them people could take on a plane.

By the fourth weekend I was enjoying myself enormously, with the good feeling of being part of a wonderful team doing something worthwhile.

However, nothing is perfect and one day a small woman appeared at our booth looking for me.


“I am looking for the guy who writes Under the Palapa, and I think he works here,” she said.

She looked harmless enough so I inflated my pigeon chest and stepped forward:

“May I help you, madam?”

She turned what had been a pleasant face into a snarl and said: “Are you nuts?”

I quickly checked for an exit, but there was the usual crowd in the booth, and they were all ears now, to say the least.

I fell back upon the tried and true. “Ha!” I said as if I thought she was joking, which was obviously not the case.

“You write rubbish and I disagree with everything in your column,” she continued. I bolted for an early lunch. She pointed at me and shouted, “Hey, I am not finished,” as I turned the corner in search of a friendly face and a coffee.

Thankfully, the Page in the Sun bookstore yawned before me. I shot in, burying my red face in An Introduction to Overlooked Humour in Feminist Studies while clutching an Americano coffee.

I am not sure why the woman decided to pick on me, but being a writer in Puerto Vallarta appears to be a dangerous business, at least for some.

This was not the first time I have been told that I stink. Marcia, a fellow journalist, seems to walk through the market like a queen with all sorts of people hugging and complimenting her on her lovely writing, while others avoid my eyes and scuttle by in embarrassed silence. Oh, well.

Someone I really look up to, or perhaps I am simply stunned by, is a guy (let us call him Jim) who not only has a wife but also a Mexican wife and a mistress. But here is the high inside fastball: they can all be seen happily sitting on the beach. Together!

Now I do not know about your wife, but I can assure you my current one would take a very dim view of such an arrangement.

When I queried him on his genius he modestly said everyone appeared content with the situation and it had been going on for some time. I immediately bought him a drink. Holy cow, I thought, what a man.

He claims it takes his full attention and I don’t doubt it, not when I heard just how many children were involved. Kids in elementary, middle school, high school and university make for exciting times, he says, as he is paying for everything and they are not all his in the first place. He generously looks after everything and everybody.

I suggested to my wife and some of her friends that “Jim” deserves a gong such as the Order of Canada or something like it. But they took a stern view and suggested that he be horse-whipped, which I found unworthy.

Please note I will only be doing intermittent columns during the summer. I must heal.

Christopher Dalton has produced multitudes of commercials as well as 14 movies in Canada and the U.S. He was expelled from every institute of higher learning, forcing him hide out in advertising and movies until popping up in Puerto Vallarta with his long-suffering wife Michelle. Visit his web site

© Christopher Dalton 2016

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  • TioDon

    Going out on a limb here but….maybe everyone (including myself) think your writing is trash….because IT IS trash.

    • James Smith

      that limb is in serious danger of breaking for all of the rest of us out there with you. prefer this blogger’s opinion column over the nonsense of glen olives however….anyday.

    • Sharon

      Here’s a solution for you – DON’T READ IT IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT I am yelling so you can hear me. If I see something on the news page that I am not interested in, then I don’t read it. Simple and effective, rather than complaining or criticizing someone, for having a sense of humor about life in Mexico.

  • Patricia Dolan

    Please don’t stop writing. I’m in Barra de Navidad just south of you and I really enjoy your posts. I look forward to them. Don’t let some jealous, whipped up pin head stop you. Enjoy your Palalpa and keep that pen in hand!!!!

  • James Smith

    the wife and the mistress could not care less about his sexual life as long as keeps putting money in their bank accounts. that is the criteria for personal relationships in this nation…or for that matter…probably all nations.

    • Quite so. You should have cold-cocked her.

      • James Smith

        i am white and thus have less courage. but “mis compadres” would have dropped her with a one two in the blink of an eye:-)

    • Dan Tucker

      Hey, who are you? Doesn´t sound or look like the real James Smith. Taken the gloves off, eh? Why a picture by your name? AND, the real giveaway – not capitalizing the first word of sentences. . . .

      • James Smith

        its me, dan. the real james. i assure you. i have always “taken the gloves off.” that is my raison détre. you should know that in reading my comments. as for not using upper case i have found it is easier, faster, and more consistent to go with lower case. the avatar is not mine. i think disqus put it on there. have never used an avatar. never will. (hey…don’t get caught up in the nonsense of that nutcase pintorenmexico. you know as well as i do he is nuttier than a fruitcake.)

        • Dan Tucker

          Ok, good. I was afraid an imposter stepped in. I actually thought you were a bit easy on Chris. My tongue in cheek was not obvious. . . .

          • James Smith

            sorry about that…the way i’m being hammered by the paid sycophants of the mexican government on this web site, i no longer can see sarcasm as easily:-)

      • Dan Tucker

        Oh well, now I see n other comments, ithat James does not use capital letters. My memory is not what it used to be . . .

  • Glen Olives

    Imagine if you were to write the most benign article in the world — let’s say, I don’t know, the best way to grow cherry tomatoes. Your grammar is fine, and you even write eloquently. Perhaps more than eloquently, maybe your writing is like “a river of gold” which is what some said of Plato’s original works. Some people will hate you, and will find fault with every thought, every sentence, every word, every syllable. A comment such as “you’re a stupid communist retarded wanna-be gardener who should have been aborted” should be expected, and shouldn’t be discouraging. Tio Don’s and James Smith’s comments below are good examples: criticism without specifics is no criticism at all — It’s just venting. Some people are just mad at the world. But that’s their problem, not yours. I write about controversial issues, and as one might expect, emotions sometimes run high. I’ve been accused of being a Marxist, a bigoted anti-American, a human failure and many other things that would be inappropriate to post. I’ve been told to kill myself and then my children (oddly, in that order). Does this bother me? Not in the least. It usually gives me a chuckle. Why? Because in between there are people who agree, or people who disagree in a thoughtful way, and productive conversations ensue.

  • Yasmin Rubia

    Whoever thinks your column is trash can stop paying to read it. 🙂 Good for you for writing for we, the public ! Thanks !

  • Sharon

    Don’t let the critics get you down – we enjoy your column and tongue in cheek humor. Nice to have a gringo perspective on things, we may or may not have to deal with. ie: the house repair quoted at 5100 pesos and 3 days, turns into 8200 pesos and takes over a week. Keep writing and let them ‘talk to the hand’.

    • Peter Hobday

      Yes, I find that house repair cost puzzling, Sharon.

      • Sharon

        Apparently the paint salesman, the contractor and the painter failed to correctly estimate the amount of paint required for the job. So while waiting for us to come up with more money for paint and a weekend in between and a 2nd coat required in one area – it took a week to get done. It did turn out okay or at least better than what it was before.

        We find that it is very common here for contractors to give a low estimate, to get the job, and then add on for extra materials, tools, etc, etc – every job ends up costing more than the original quote.

        • Peter Hobday

          Interesting. That has not happened here, Sharon. To give you an idea: Front room prepared, sealed and painted twice cost MXN $840 for work, MXN $1,100 for materials. That is for a room size 4 metres by 6 metres. As quoted in advance.

          • Sharon

            We felt that the painter should have realized that older concrete is more porous and would take more paint and the contractor should have been on top of that. Part of the problem was it was an expensive paint for outdoor use, custom colored and had to have a hardener added for durability. Learning experience for all of us. Indoor paint is less costly, and we have had some wonderful workers who charged what we feel was fair. Your quote sounds fair to me, paint is getting more expensive here about 479 pesos a gallon for color from Comex.

            This past week, we had 3 walls in the ramada(car port) patched and painted for 800 pesos for two workers – we gave them 100 pesos extra for doing such a nice job all in one afternoon. We had purchased the paint, plus we supplied the roller and brushes. They supplied the concrete and other material for patching, even did a place that we didn’t tell them about. They carefully taped around doors and windows and there was no paint spilled on the driveway. They cleaned up all the brushes and trays and we will definitely hire them again.

            Anyhow as much of a pleasure as it is to connect on this – we are taking away from the topic. I do enjoy these missives and nice to hear we are not the only ones working to adapt to daily life in Mexico.

  • Daniel Russ

    Keep Them coming. I enjoy every one. If you don’t have critics you’re doing something wrong.

  • Paul Kenning Stewart

    good bad or ugly… long as people continue to read your column, then you are doing it right. As others have commented, I enjoy your meanderings as do others, and if what you wrote was offensive, you wouldn’t be published…..those attempting to discourage you to continue are the ones that are offensive. Everyone has an opinion these days and their attempt to be ‘relevant’ is amusing. Here’s a suggestion…..on the next article, start off with a little ‘liquid’ courage……maybe that will give the whiners something to biatch about, LOL!

  • Pogo

    You’re a fine writer, Mr. Dalton. And apparently an honest one.

  • Peter Hobday

    As you will have seen below, Christopher, most people like your writing, including me (although puzzled at some of the difficulties you face here in Mexico). There are, however, within the Mexico News Daily, some readers who post aggressive and negative comments as a matter of routine in order, it seems, to generate an argument.
    I admire, in a kind of way, the woman who confronted you at your SPCA booth because she talked to you face to face. Only a coward would post something they were afraid to say face to face.

  • Mexicanbeachbum Robin

    Many many many love you Chris, haters gonna hate, people will continue to share their opinions, good and not so good. Hang in there, as always, I’ve enjoyed your writing.

  • I enjoy your writing, some things I don’t agree completely with, some others are spot on, just a different view and experience to read. I have a lot of things to do, but somehow there’s always time to read your columns and even take the time to comment… nuff said. (BTW moderating fora and administering similar sites with lots of comments, you learn to just skip over the whiners, I know you do too, but it’s unusual to meet these people face to face, you’re just becoming famous, time for the bodyguards).

  • Dan Tucker

    You do great work, Chris. Keep it up, hope you heal quickly. Cheers!

  • Douglas Ledbury

    Golly gee Chris, a lot of pixels got thrown around, good one. To rip off GBS, those that can’t write, read. She thinks all good articles start with a sleepy fishing village… just like back in Beaver’s Breath, Montana. And hey some of you Americans, not wise to pick on Canadians, we have long memories and all the fresh water, pal.

  • mikegre

    I guess now some people will complain that not only are your columns terrible but you also don’t write enough of them.