Sunday, March 09, 2008

Escape Fantasies For Lawyers and Other Snowed-In Canadians

Meet retired Toronto lawyer, Alvin Starkman, now operating a lovely B & B in Oaxaca, Mexico.

He was profiled last week in a story by L.A.'s Jewish Journal:

If you're heading down Mexico way, all the way down to Oaxaca, you should know about a bed and breakfast there called Casa Machaya. The name is a sly Jewish reference, a wink at potential clients for the B&B: That's right, it's not meant to be the Spanish "ch," as in "change," but a guttural "ch," as in mechaya, Yiddish for "joy."

...Besides running the B&B, Starkman also guides tourists to villages and archeological sites, an abiding interest of his. Fit and energetic-looking in his late 50s, Starkman leans over the balcony of his house, looking down at the B&B unit on a lower floor. He waves to the middle-aged Canadian couple staying there, then takes in the mountains all around and the city rising up dreamlike in the distance. Even though it's the dry season and the hills are covered with brown grass and shrubs, the landscape still seems magical.

Oaxaca seemed magical to Alvin and Arlene Starkman when they started vacationing here in the early 1990s. They loved it so much that in subsequent years they didn't vacation anywhere else. At the time they lived in Toronto, Canada, where Starkman practiced law. Little by little, with each subsequent visit, the idea of leaving his law practice and retiring to Oaxaca took root.

...Is Starkman happy with his decision to live out the rest of his life in Oaxaca?"I don't harbor any serious doubts," Starkman said. "Maybe, sometimes, for a fleeting moment.... And then you think, 'Look what I have here, retired and healthy in my 50s, doing what I want.... How can you compare slugging away doing family law to touring clients in the mountain regions of southern Mexico, taking in the sun, sampling mescal [local cactus liquor], and being welcomed into villagers' homes?'"

Did I mention we've had quite a lot of snow in Toronto, lately?

Many thanks to my old law school friend and accomplice, GTA criminal lawyer Sheldon Wisener, for pointing me to this happy story (and apologies to him alone for recent Montreal jokes on this Blog).

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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