Charles Longstreet, Mexican at heart

Charles Longstreet, Mexican at heart
L to R: Russell Rosander, Mark Butkus and Charles Longstreet.

Charles Longstreet, a Vietnam Veteran, found peace living in a small fishing village along the Costalegre or Happy Coast of Jalisco, Mexico.

It was his home until illness forced him to travel to Portland, Oregon, where he passed away at a veteran's hospital Monday morning.

His children were with him at the hospital.

But Chuck, as his friends call him, also had a big family of friends in the town he called home, Barra de Navidad, Mexico.

I was lucky to get to know him well last year when my husband, Mark, and I spent six months living in Mexico.

Chuck was a storyteller at heart.

He was in Vietnam before America was in Vietnam. He was in Laos.

He used to walk through the jungle searching for land mines.

He told stories of how when he was in the military in the U.S. he forged weekend passes so he could leave the base.

He talked about surviving on the mean streets of Philadelphia, where he grew up.

He admired his best friend, artist and poet, Russell Rosander, who wrote a tribute to him. They lived in the forests of Sand Point, Idaho, and  they each found their way to Mexico. Their friendship lasted more than 40 years.

He talked about how after living through war he found peace in life. He told me he gave any anger he once had to the ocean.

He loved living in Mexico and was upset with government plans to raise fees to visa holders, retirees like him living on a pension in Mexico.

Mexico was his home.

I often made him breakfast, lunch and dinner when we lived above Hector's bar. We shared poetry on Sunday afternoons at Chynna's bar.

His blue eyes lit up when he smiled. He said that he was a descendant of the Vikings.

I remember him dancing with the ladies at Tracy's bar. He loved to dance and sing too.

He was part of an acapella group in Philly when he was young.

We co-published a book of poetry with Chuck and other expat writers living in Mexico.

One of his poems is called "Night Vision."

in the darkness
we call night
in the absence
we call light

thoughts arise
unannounced it seems
of things lodged deep
obtuse, strange themes

strange thoughts of things
which never seen
confuse our minds
we call them

I know Chuck now that you are dreaming of the ocean and watching the sun set over your querido Mexico. Know that your friends, longtime and new, like myself, are raising a glass to you today.

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