Monday, April 30, 2007

spring shearing

I finally made it to the pelucaria when it was both open and doing hair cutting. I looked in for the woman whose head looks like it's on fire but she was not there. Actually, she was there but her flaming hair was not. She had changed the color of her hair from vivid orange to a more subdued mahogany. Ten minutes, busy work with a straight razor and 50 pesos (including tip) later, I am several pounds lighter and a whole lot tidier.

Speaking of hair, the Patient's hair, lost during radiation and chemo, is just about all grown back. It has come back quite dark and very curly. He has always had slightly wavy hair, but this is downright kinky. He has a charming little up-turned duck tail at the back of his head. For a person such as myself who is cursed with the world's straightest hair, it's all I can do to keep my hands to myself and not touch his head constantly. In profile, it's the cutest little haircut imaginable! The treatments have left me with a gravel-voiced, curly-haired matinee idol. Youza!

Tonight is our last night for this season in our bungalow by the beach. We will move across the street to La Casa de Jack for two nights. It makes closing up this place much easier if we're not here. We now have two full days to get everything put away for seven months. And what so hard is the weather, which had been downright chilly, has been Cuyutlán perfect for about ten days. Tonight we ate dinner out on the terrazzo; no wind, warm and lovely, the sea sparkling out in the distance. This beautiful weather makes it even harder to leave.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

a new tacito treat

The Patient brought home a new treat from the tacito wagon; lengua de res or beef tongue. I happen to adore beef tongue and was absolutely delight with this surprise. In fact, earlier in the evening, while I was bidding farewell to my Cuyutlán playmate Marie with a glass of vintage Carlo Rossi Red (this is Cuyutlán and we're lucky to get any wine), Fernando showed up and we were talking about the special dishes served at certain times of the year. He mentioned that lengua de res was cooked around Easter and frequently could be found at the tacito wagon. And there it was. Milagro!

As for last night's festivities, the boda concluded with a fireworks display over the ocean at about 3:00 AM; I was awakened by the rockets and stepped out onto our balcony to watch. Beautiful. The quinceñero wrapped up at 7:30 this morning. It's good to be young.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

the end of the vouganbillea

That is not a typo. Spanish pronounces the “b” as a “v” and the “v” as a “b”. Hence: vouganbillea. Seems to me they could just reverse the process?

The garden has been clipped, trimmed and sheared right down to the bare stalks, and then they were cut. First to go was the bougainvillea in the front garden; next will be the two big ones in the back. After taking all the cuttings to the next door pyre the Patient carefully snipped off a beautiful bunch of blossoms. One doesn't think of bouganvillea as "cut flowers'; it's too wild, has too much a mind of its own and grows and trails any way it wants. But I crammed the stems into this vase just to admire their beauty. We have to do this major pruning (one step short of swidden; we slash but don't burn the plant. That goes on in the lot next door!) every year before we leave so that the greenery doesn’t take over. By December – projected return date – it will all be grown up again. I took out a huge Elephant Ear philodendron when we got here, hacked off a piece of it and stuck it in the ground and, not surprisingly, it is putting out new leaves and will probably be 6’ tall when we next open the front door.

Tonight we decided to go out to dinner. Then we decided we could do several chores AND go to dinner, too. So we took off for Tecoman about 4:30 so I could try, once again, to get my hair cut. Then we were going to investigate a few more tile shops, and end up at La Hacienda for dinner. Hair cut? No, only pedicures today. Come back Monday. Tile shops? We forgot that shops close at noon on Saturday. Dinner at La Hacienda? Sorry, we're closed tonight. Three up, three down. So back to our old standby, La Jacaranda in Armeria, ordered a pizza to go and came home.

There are two celebrations in Cuyutlán tonight and we should get the musical brunt of both of them. One is a boda, wedding party, at the San Rafael Hotel on the beach. The daughter of the owner is the bride. Big party, big speakers, big dance floor, big noise. The other is a quinceñero, the "coming out" party that Mexican kids have when they turn fifteen. It is in a venue in the middle of town, so we will get that musical treatment from back side, too. But it's only one night, it's what they do here, so suck it up and don't complain. Right?

Friday, April 27, 2007

The privilege of living here

Tonite los gringos (the Patient and I plus Marie and Jack) were treated to dinner at Dago's puesto cooked by Fernando and Chouy. They do this every year as we are packing up to go back to our other lives. Not Jack, of course, who lives hear year around. We sat down on the shore and ate shrimp and filete de pargo, guacomale, shrimp marinated in hot sauce and lime, cucumber in lime juice and hot seasoned salt, drank beer and wine, and generally enjoyed la vida loca. I made lime sorbet for desert, using a recipe I got off the internet. We get a look into the lives of the people who live here, what they talk about, what they think about local, regional and national politics. It is a gift for which I am extremely grateful. There are (gringo) folk who live here who think one should not become friends with the locals and with the people who "work" for you. But how else are you going to understand what's going on? They have no idea what they are missing.

One of the most interesting discussions we had was that about language. Since English is (relatively speaking) gender-neutral, learning to classify nouns as either masculine or feminine poses a challenge to us second or third language acquisitionists. Both Fernando and Chouy recognize and understand our struggles and for this alone they deserve the Victoria Cross.

Another issue is the "tu" v. "usted" decision. As I explained, we don't have this class distinction in English; everyone belongs to the same class. (Actually, there are those who would argue about this, but that's not my point here.) Fernando addresses Jim and me in the "tu" form of the verb, but only after establishing the "usted" form by using our proper names. There is obviously a subtlety is this too delicate for my understanding. I have a good grasp of this concept in French; you use the "vous" form for EVERYONE with whom you speak except your immediate family or your nearest and dearest. It makes everything much easier.

I have come away from our evening on the beach with a warm glow that I hope will last until we return next December. These people have taught me so much about family, friendship, and the Mexican way of life. They have shown us such care and concern; Chouy made separate foods and dishes just so the Patient could eat them, with no peppers or hot seasoning. And I don't think it's because we are all gringos; I think it is because we have all become friends.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Next year we won't go there

Breakfast/brunch was disappointing this morning at one of the restaurants around the central jardin in Colima. We'll try another next year. But everything else was perfect. Marie did the shopping she wanted, I did the shopping I wanted (more oilcloth, although Guadalajara is the oilcloth capital of the world, and some fabric for equipal cushions). We headed home about 2 PM when all the shops close for comida.

I commend to your reading an article in the February 19/26, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, "The Castaways" by Mark Singer, about three remarkable Mexican fisherman from San Blas who survived adrift in a fishing boat for 8 months. They were finally rescued near the Marshall Islands more than 5,000 miles from where they started. Their ingenuity, fortitude, blind luck and faith are a lesson to us all.

This evening we had a beautiful show in the sky, another of those "pray for peace" sunsets.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

three out of four ain't bad

If you have a list of chores to do that involve paperwork, appointment times or "wrapping up" a problem, and you can complete three out of the four chores, you have won big! The only thing we didn't get done was get my hair cut. I arrived at 10:15 this morning, waited about 40 minutes for someone to open the shop, but finally gave up and moved on to the next thing on the list. We did get the trust paid, we did stop to look at ceramic tiles, and I did get money out of the wall. I'll try the haircut again on Friday.

I am trying to find ceramic tiles that will be the same colors as the Mexican clay (barro)tiles. I have been told by folks who have recently done (or re-done) kitchens that the ceramics are better for counter tops. They last longer, the finish won't "crackle", and if there is any small chip, they won't get waterlogged and disintegrate. I will talk to Jaime (the contractor) before I go home to set the record straight. I know I have to choose ceramic for the shower with the Mexican barros as a border and accent. But I was hoping to use barro tiles throughout the kitchen. Back to the drawing board.

Tonight was my last domino game for the season. There will be another one next Wednesday, but since we will be taking off early the next morning I will probably turn in early instead of stay up for a cut-throat game.

Tomorrow Marie and I are making our annual trek to Colima for a girls' day out. Breakfast on the square, shopping, smart late lunch somewhere. Always a great day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

and me without my camera . . .

At yesterday's tiangues there was a perfectly charming sight. An elderly Mexican gentleman riding a burro came clip-clopping through he market, baskets slung across his patient animal. He surveyed the goods, decided there were too many people to make it through the crowd, so turned around and left. The burro, not a very big specimen, stepped daintily across the median strip on its spindly legs and off they went. It was definitely a Kodak moment and I missed it. Maybe next week. I will go back just to see if he is there. It's a sight you shouldn't miss.

Today we began our serious packing up. The books are now boxed and stored. Likewise the tapes and CDs. And my fabulous new plates have all been put back in the box they came in to await grand festivities next season. Next will go all the pictures, candles, gee-gaws and gimcracks we have scattered about the house. Our revels have just about ended.

While Chouy gave the house the once over this morning I watched "An Inconvenient Truth." I had missed it when it was in Davis but got my hands on a DVD down here. Very thought provoking. He has taken a great deal of heat for his point of view and for this movie, including a series of rebuttals found here. If you should be interested. I'm glad I saw it; I think his arguments are compelling. What I didn't like were the rather maudlin references to both his son's accident (he could have explained his "life changing moment" without the tugs at the heartstrings) and his sister's death from lung cancer (likewise, the "Ah-ha!" realization of cigarettes and cancer could have been less of a pie-in-the-face moment.) But given all of that, it's still a must-see, even if you are not a true believer. I wonder where we would be now if only . . .

I was saddened to hear of David Halberstam's death yesterday. I used to read his dispatches from Viet Nam avidly, and his book "The Fifties" is wonderful. RIP Mr. Halberstam.

Tomorrow we make our last trip to Tecoman to (a) get money for the trip home; (b) pay the trust on the house property; we did the undeveloped lot and wasn't that a run-around but we think this one will be easier (?); (c) visit the tile emporium to look again at bathroom wall tiles; and (d) visit the peluqueria so I can get my hair cut before we head home. That will be $3, please.

Monday, April 23, 2007

night lights in Cuyutlán

The evening was so lovely and still that I was able to light all our candles outside. I have many of these semi-hurricane lamps around the perimeter of the 2nd floor balconies. They look very pretty from the street or even from down on the malecon. I bought these glass cylinders at a glass shop in Tonela, a fabulous shopping mecca outside Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. I filled the bottoms with sand and rocks and planted a candle. As long as the wind is low they work fine. Otherwise, forget it.

We also lit up the sun face in the front garden; he does look a bit sinister in this photo, but actually he's quite the charmer. The garden is quite small so the light gives a lovely glow to the whole area. I bought him in Tonela, too, and the Patient had the bright idea of stringing a light behind him to light up his smiling face.

Tomorrow is once again tiangues, probably the last one I will got to this season. Last chance for mangoes, avocadoes (that are affordable!), the juice oranges. I will also try to pick up my erstwhile check cashing card. We'll see.

The Patient had a good day today, none the worse for wear for his exciting dinner out!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

a night on the town

The Patient said yesterday that he wanted to go out to dinner tonight. This is a first. We have not been to a restaurant for dinner in 7 months. I agreed that this was an excellent idea. We went off to the Jacaranda in Armeria where the Patient wanted to get pizza. And he did. Meanwhile I tucked into a mulita, my favorite at this particular restaurant. It is akin to a cheeseburger, only it's not. It is two soft tortillas with grilled steak strips and cheese, regrilled on a comal so the cheese is melted. Along with this on your plate come refried beans, guacamole and a bit of shredded lettuce and tomatoes. You peel back the top tortilla, spread on some beans and guacamole, sprinkle on some salad, then press it all back together and there you have it, a little bit of Mexican heaven! The Patient, meanwhile, enjoyed his salami pizza and Negro Modelo beer.

It was a wonderful celebration of progress.

Friday, April 20, 2007

How was your Friday?

Much of mine was spent doing what you see in the photo, on the third floor, with a stack of New Yorkers to get through.

The Patient wants fish tacos for dinner, so I went off to Arneria late this morning to buy some suitable ingredients. A bit of onion, a bit of garlic, a bit of tomato, a bit of cilantro, a bit of fish, some tortillas from the neighborhood tortilleria and ¡eh! it's dinner.

Tomorrow's opera is Giulio Cesere by Handel. Don't miss it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

antes y despues

Fernando and Fernandillo (the son, no longer called the diminutive "Fernandito") painted the front door and the garage doors yesterday. They look gorgeous.

Here's the before. This is what happens to paint here; it fades virtually overnight. The doors were stained wood when we bought the house, but the weather ~ salt, damp, dust, grime ~ isn't kind to wood. We first painted these doors in 2003 and figured it was time.

Here's the after. Much better, no? The house paint looks better here, too, but these were taken only a day apart, and there wasn't much sunlight. I like this color, too, but really want something with more green in it, a true Mediterranean teal.

Mexico has a privilege for those over a certain (unmentionable) age that includes a 50% reducation in property taxes, a 50% reduction in annual water fees, and a 50% reduction in the cost of long distance bus travel. You present your passport or FM3 papers, your last electric bill (a strange form of ID but one that is used throughout Mexico to show ownership of property), two pictures and the card is yours. I told the Patient I was going to get one of these and he inquired of my reasons. "Well, I can get 50% off on long distance bus travel for one thing." Then he inquired of my travel plans. "Just in case we have to make a speedy get away and the car won't start," I reasoned. Certainly not for the taxes; we pay about $100 US per year. And not for the water; we pay $70 US per year. So I guess it's for the bus.

However, the check cashing card that Marie and I applied for will come in handy next year when we are having work done here. In Mexico, your workers are paid at 2 PM on Saturday, in cash. The usual work week is Mon. 2 PM - Sat. 2 PM. Why late on Monday? Because that's tinagues day and everyone (traditionally) does marketing on that morning. Nowadays I think it is to sleep off the excesses of Sunday night. We went into the casa de cambio last Monday armed with the usual papers/photos, and were told to come back to day to pick up the card. I had completely forgotten that anything to do with "paperwork" automatically adds at least 3 days to the completion date. When we showed up we got a completely blank stare from the woman behind the glass. We reminded her why we were there and after stumbling around with some lame excuses she told us to come back on Monday. "Es la vida!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Our big fat Greco-Mexicano-Franco-Italo-Gringo lunch

We went up to Colima for look at, what else, more tiles. After two very successful stops (see below) we went to one of our favorite Colima restaurants. It has a Greek name, Cronos, Mexican ambiance, Mexican beer, Spanish-speaking staff, French and Italian menu (crepes and pastas), and today's musical selections were Charles Aznovour (French), some Aznovour wannabe (Spanish), and Frank Sinatra. Did I forget any country or group? It is a lovely little spot, really an oasis (Arabic?) on a busy street but protected by thick shrubs and trees.
This fountain, unfortunately not working today ("No sierve") usually adds just the right touch to an al fresco lunch. We are also always checking out fountains for the possibilities of our garden. The Patient wants a nice big fountain smack in the middle of the back yard. This in lieu of a swimming pool!

Now for the great tile hunt. I think we have found the floor tiles we want. We will need about 2,000 of them to do two floors, plus an additional 250 for the third floor. Those are a different size and will probably be a different color/style than the others, but that's OK. So today we went to two different outlets. One carries mainly "rustic" tiles, the hand-painted small tiles (4"x4") that you see in photos of Mexican kitchens and bathrooms. There were at least 50 different designs to choose from. I am looking for both our kitchen and bathroom and, unfortunately, already have an idea of what I want. Still, I found a new design that I could live with if I can't find more of my original choice.

These are the tiles for the bathroom. We bought a gorgeous basin in Delores Hidalgo last year; don't have a photo but will take one to add here. The "border" tile (center) matches the basin. I found the "floral" today and thought it would "go" beautifully. The solid color goes with both; still looking for the right green.

These are my original choice for the kitchen. A border of a dark color, either the terra cotta or, seen below, a dark blue. Then the cream color, terra cotta, gold and the pattern. I bought ONE of the pattern tile in Delores last year but can I find more? No. So I may be out of luck and have to fall back on choice #2.

These are choice #2. I don't think the patterned tile is as pretty as the first one, but I could live with it. There is one more patterned tile I liked, but the gold color is more yellow, and I am not a yellow person. As you can see it also has dark blue in it, which I like, but I am trying to keep the kitchen as light as possible. (I am also contemplating busting two big holes in one of the kitchen walls and putting in windows light and air.)

The prospect of giving our lovely house a bit of a face lift is great fun. Mexico has such beautiful crafts. The sad thing is that what many families want now is something from El Norte, not what they have here. It's us Norte Americanos that keep this "Mexican" style alive.

Monday, April 16, 2007

a la playa

After a delicious dinner of lomo de puerco from Pina the Butcheress, the Patient and I took a walk on the beach. The tide is coming in but there is plenty of room between surf's edge and the dry sand. What a beautiful evening. Although the sky is clouded over and there is no real color for a sunset, the beach is deserted, the puestos are closed, and we had the whole stretch of beach ~ about half a mile ~ to ourselves. The breeze is mild, the light fading but still shimmering on the ocean. What a wonderful gift this has been for both of us.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

a new tacito wagon

Last Tuesday when Chouy was here I showed her the photos of Dago's puesto, of her and of Fernando, and of the wagon where we buy our Sunday tacitos. Her eyes popped out, she got very agitated, and said to me in rapid-fire Spanish something that I interpreted to mean:

"Oh my God! Not there! That place is terrible. They use dog meat. You're lucky to be alive!"

Now I must confess I am not certain that's what she said, but I bet it was not far off. So I calmly asked where she thought we should shop instead. As a person who is a true Mexicanophile, who loves this "local color", how am I to choose from the many wagons offering the same menu? She told me that if I really wanted to eat this sort of thing, the one to patronize was thus-and-such. Frankly I think the issue is one of class. No self-respecting wannabe middle-class Mexican family would buy dinner from one of these wagons. They are mainly for the "touristas," meaning folk from Colima and Guadalajara who want a touch of the "authentic" beach culture.

Operating on Chouy's caveat, the Patient and I strolled the whole phalanx of wagons, chose the one I though she had said is the best, and ordered dinner. Here's my critique. Yes, the meat is more tender, there are fewer pieces of gristle, but the beans aren't as good and they don't give you little individual plastic bags holding beans, lettuce, radishes and sauces. But the price is the same, the "sanitation" looks to be the same, and if I die it will be from something other than tough meat.

The Patient got up at 5 AM to bake yet another coffeecake to share with our Canadian friends who took off for home this morning. Then we got phone calls from both Caitlin in Bozeman, MT and from Andrew, about to graduate from Thacher in Ojai. Great to touch base with both.

No disco tonight. Not a peep. Nada. The town has emptied of the Semana Santa and Pasqua visitors and left it in the hands of the locals where, I think, it belongs. The disco shut down at 11:45 last night, due to monumental lack of interest.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

disaster averted

When we returned from lunch at Dago's yesterday (a huge plate of gigantic shrimp) we discovered that we had lost internet connection. This had happened before and the problem had been various lines and cables that were twisted or kinked. But this time all seemed fine. Things get shut off occasionally so we thought no more of if and prepared to go to a party down in the colonia, thinking that all would resolve itself soon. However, when we picked up Marie we noticed that the porch light at the Nelson's was out, and they keep in on 24/7 when they're not here. I should explain that our internet connection is facilitated by the Nelson's subscription to the Telmex service. The fact that the light was out gave us a clue that perhaps they had lost power. Still no connection this morning. A little inspection revealed that their electricity had been cut off for non-payment of the electric bill! I called Fernando to ask him to check with the person who is their cuidar (caretaker). Yep, it turned out that in all the hustle and bustle of the Easter holiday he had neglected to pay the bill. What to do? We decided to jump in the car and tear off to Armeria to pay the bill, but since we didn't have last month's receipt in hand it might be a problem. Leave it to Fernando to come up with the solution.

When an electric bill is not paid, they do NOT give you a second notice nor do they send you a subsequent bill for two months. They come to your house, open up the meter box, put a chip between some wires that keeps the connections apart, close it up and put a yellow tag on the outside. What did Fernando do? He snipped open the link holding on the yellow tag, opened the meter, pulled out the chip, closed it all up, and Voila! The Nelson's light came on and we had power. That Fernando is a Jack of/Master of all trades. We'd be lost without him. And by the way, the cuidar has promised to pay up on Monday morning.

And just in the nick of time, too, as the Met was broadcasting "Turandot" and it was the one opera I didn't want to miss. Sublime. Puccini's last opera and some think his best.

Last night we attended a birthday party for one of our favorite "winter" people. This couple has a great party house on the beach. There were about 30 celebrants who enjoyed a lovely dinner, good wine, a bit of music. When we got home the disco was going but finally quit about 12:30, mainly due to lack of interest. Tonight is the "wet T-Shirt" contest, but it's so cold nobody will probably dare to come out. It's now 9 PM and nothing is stirring. God willing, the whole operation will definitely close down tomorrow and leave us all in peace for these last weeks.

What, you might ask, am I reading? Catching up on old New Yorkers. Perfect for a hammock.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

they lied to me!

The disco is cranked up tonight despite assurances that it was all over. There is going to be a "painted skin" contest tonight. I can just imagine. It's not as loud as it has been but still . . .

The Patient rose early this morning and baked a luscious cinnamon sour cream coffee cake. He is obviously feeling better. Then he ordered pizza for dinner. Jack has a fool-proof pizza crust recipe that's so easy it doesn't seem like a daunting dish anymore. I whipped up the crust, piled it with non-peppery fixings, put it in the oven for 15 minutes. It was perfect! Brown and crunchy crust, deliciously gooey filling. An all around satisfying dinner. And since I cooked, the Patient cleaned up. Can't beat that.

Windy and cool again today but still beautiful and very clear. No swimming.

The domino Birthday Party

After dominoes tonight the hostess, Patty, trotted out a delicious tres leches birthday cake complete with candles and decorations saying Cumpleaños Susan. The assembled players sang "Happy Birthday," I made a wish and blew out the candles. It was a lovely surprise and, if the wish comes true, we will all be together again next year for another slice of cake and glass of wine! We also talked about getting our reading group going again next year; our first meeting will be on December 15 to discuss Octavio Paz. I have my assignment and will get right on it when I get home!

Tonight's lovely dessert and celebration follows breakfast this morning at Yuyo's again in El Paraiso. Marie and I took Helen and Linda for a seaside meal to thank them for putting us up for the few days that the disco was going full blast. The wind has come up and it was quite chilly but still beautiful sitting by the shore, watching the fishing boats come in. Helen and Linda return to Canada next Sunday until next season.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My April 10th

Today we drove into Manzanillo, about 35 miles to the north, for four reasons:
• we wanted to look for new tiles for the house to be installed next year;
• we wanted to go to one of the big supermarkets there to look for some special stuff;
• we wanted to go to one of our favorite restaurants; and
• it's my birthday so let's get out of town and do something different. I've decided I'm tired of being 48; I think I'll move up to about 55, the speed limit in the slow lane. I'll try that for a couple of years and see how I like it.

The first thing this morning Alex called from Long Beach with good reports all around. Em is on Easter break; Andrew got accepted at four of his five colleges ~ of course he really wants to go to the one he didn't get in to so is now thinking about options for next year; Alex and Pete are fine and will be happy to welcome us for an overnight on May 8th.

We took off for Manzanillo about 9 AM. There are two ways to get there; the old highway road, a two lane job, and the toll road. We took the old road, always a beautiful, if slow, drive. There are groves of mango, lime and coconut palms that line the road. It is quite a jungle. Then as you round a bend, on the left are the salt flats in the Cuyutlán lagoon. These salt flats produce copious amounts of salt that is then processed, bagged and sold. In fact, we have a Salt Museum in our town that is quiet popular with tourists. Driving on there are more mango groves, now hung with millions ( I am not exaggerating) of mangoes just waiting to either drop to the ground and rot or be harvested for sale in local markets. We passed several stands selling big bags of mangoes, probably 10 kilos, for 10 pesos (90¢). I planned to stop on the way home to buy a bag. What you do is peel the fruit, cut it away from the seed, plop it into the blender, add some lime juice and water, give it a good whir, then freeze it. Presto! Mango sorbet, and mighty tasty, too. Soon you drive on past those groves and into banana country. Acres (hectares) of banana trees with all the fruit in blue plastic bags to protect it from, I would guess, bugs. Along the way are also papaya groves, pecan tree groves, and tiny little towns like San Jose, Santa Rita (I thought that was a prison in Alameda County), San Buenavista (prettiest little central square and jardin, Costa Rica (did we take a wrong turn??), and Venustio Caranza, the Patient's favorite place name. I think he wants to move there so he can say that's where he's from.

We arrived at the first tile emporium, Azulejos Garza about 10:15, gave their entire stock a close examination, found at least one tile that we like for the entire house, all three stories. Then we went to Interceramica where we found something we liked even better it only comes in one size, which would be fine for the 1st and 2nd floors but too small for the 3rd. Perhaps that should be different anyhow. We now know what's out there and will keep all of those selections in mind when we return to Colima to look at a couple of other tile shops. Of course none of this needs to be purchased until next December when we return but it never hurts to do your research way ahead of time.

We moved on to the marketing chore, bought what we needed, then headed to lunch at El Caribe. This little restaurant is located right on the beach. In fact, much of it washed away in a hurricane a few years ago. The location is great, the food is good, the view is stunning, and the owner is a delightful chap who speaks both Spanish and English, although I try to use my Spanish at all times. The restaurant is wide open; no doors or windows to obstruct the view or keep the spray off diners. If you look north, across Manzanillo Bay you can see Las Hadas. Remember the movie "10"? That's where it was filmed. You can see it in the middle left of this picture, with its towers and minarets. It's really quite a fabulous place. It was built by a Bolivian tin baron as a playground for his R and F friends. I hope they had a swell time. Now it's a very upscale hotel mainly for honeymooners and rich Mexicans.

While at El Caribe I had a slight accident with my insulin pump; I pulled it loose so was unable to give myself a good dose to cover lunch. But not to worry; things were OK and we ate lunch but decided we really needed to get home without too much delay so I could remedy the problem. As I said earlier, there are two ways to get to Manzanillo. The Patient decided we should go home by the toll road.

"Thank you for taking this road," I said.
"Well, it's your birthday. Happy Birthday!" he replied.

This guy's all heart.

Monday, April 09, 2007

el disco? se fue!

When I got back from tiangues about noon, the workers had begun dismantling the disco. The Patient and I walked down to the malecon to double check that they weren't just changing the bulbs on the big spots. Nope. The whole thing was being dismantled and carted away. This is the best news I've had in a long time. I will be back in my own bed tonight, but very grateful to the friends who so generously open their home to me so I could get some sleep.

To celebrate the end of noise for the season, the Patient mixed up this luscious rum punch concoction and trimmed the glass with a beautiful piece of star fruit which tastes sort of like an apricot.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

in a blue bowl

Living this close to the sea's edge is like floating in a blue bowl. When I look out to sea my eye travels "up" to the horizon and follows the line of the water on a gentle curve both south and north. Consequently it feels and looks to me as though I am in a Venetian-style town, floating around in a beautiful blue bowl, untethered to anything. This is very hard to explain and even harder to capture on film but perhaps you can see what I mean in the photo above, taken from our front balcony.

The Patient and I walked on the malecon this morning after a lovely Easter breakfast of orange juice and fresh scones, made by his very own hands. Things have gotten quiet in a hurry. Most campers have packed up and gone home. Cars have been leaving all day. I went to the disco and asked if it was going to be open tonight. The response: Esta la ultima noche. Great news. Then I asked if it was going to be open next week. The response: Creo que no. Even better news! There has not been enough traffic to keep them going, and this year there is another disco on the other side of town. As they say, this town ain't big enough . . .

Tomorrow starts our 6th week here. The time has gone so quickly. We'll probably pack up in another three weeks and head back to California. The Patient has shown such wonderful improvement; another three weeks will only bring him closer to full recovery. We are both very grateful that we have had this time to concentrate on getting him back in fighting trim.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

For your Easter bonnet

I went into Armeria this morning to check on the flower situation. My favorite florist had just taken delivery of his weekend supplies. I came away with two 18-stem bunches of alstromeria, 1/2 dozen pink carnations, various fillers of the green or blooming kind, plus an "arrangement" to give to Chouy and Fernando. The tab? $120 pesos (about $11). Our friend Stan Singleton, owner of the Casa de las Flores B&B in Tlaquepaque says there are three things in Mexico that are sinfully cheap: juice oranges, taxis and flowers. I agree on all three.

Around one o'clock Marie and I walked down to Dago's for a mid-day beer and to check out the traffic on the malecon. Although there are lots of people milling around, and there are enough cars parked throughout the town to account for them, the mood is very mellow this year. There are usually lots of drunks wandering around, the usual number of "confrontations" with other holiday makers and drunks, the police, the puesto owners. However, this year there has been none of that. I have seen alot more families with little kids, always a pleasure to encounter. The streets begin to clear of day trippers around 6 PM. The disco went until about 3:30 this morning, but both the Patient and Jack said that during the final couple of hours (!) the volumn went down and the music was much more pleasant, as in not foul lyrics supported by thumping base and nothing else.

My friend Mary Ann has arrived safely in Florence on her long-anticipated Italian odyssey. She is also going to Rome and Venice. This is her maiden visit to Florence and, after 30 seconds, has fallen madly in love with all things Italian. It's only going to get worse as she explores all that wonderful stuff.

Today would have been my Mother's 92nd birthday. Happy Birthday, Virginia, wherever you are.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lunch at Dago's

Thursday we went down to the malecon for lunch at the eponymous Dago's. He is a man who was born and raised in Cuyutlán and is an age-mate and best friend to Fernando. He opened his puesto several years ago and it has become one of the nicest along the beach. There are two places you can eat at a puesto; either right off the malecon or down under umbrellas at seaside. If you sit on the beach you rent a table, chairs and umbrella and waiters bring your food and drink. We chose to sit up by the kitchen, out of the crowd.

As we sat looking through the umbrellas down to the sea we marveled at the industry going on around us. Much coming and going from the kitchen down to the folks at beachside tables, raking of the sand, sweeping the walkways, scrubbing the tables and chairs that get so salty and dusty. There are probably 20 puestos along the beach, some larger than others. In this country of intrepid entrepreneurs, if you have a grill, a cooler for beer, an umbrella and beach chair, you're in business as a puesto operator. They come and go with the season but every year someone else tries his luck on the beach. It's a wonderful country that lets this happen, without too much dither about "standards." Hey, if you patronize one puesto and get the tricky tummy afterwards, go to the one next door.

Chouy and Fernando are both working at Dago's over the two weeks of Easter holiday. She is doing most if not all of the cooking which promises that everything will be delicious. She prepared fish tacos, bean tacos, a special salsa for Jim without any jalapeño peppers, and a lovely sweet-ish salad of jicama, cucumber, beets and oranges, all diced up together. The beets turn everything a beautiful pink.

At the other end of the restaurant Fernando was presiding at the bar, whipping up margaritas, piña coladas, cocolocos, "Si tu queras" (whatever you want). Always the cheerful, congenial host, he has never met a stranger. Between the two of us the Patient and I ate seven tacos, drank four beers, and polished off one plato of salad. The Patient cleaned his plate and sat back most satisfied. My satisfaction came from his good appetite, good color, and vast improvement. I think he has put on a bit of weight, too. Even his hair is growing back more quickly. That's what Cuyutlán will do for you!

day of the iguana

This charming little fellow usually lives under the tejas roof in the back garden. But yesterday when we returned from lunch at Dago's he had made his way around to the front and was helping himself to a drink out of the fountain. He scurried away to the shelter of the palms, then tried to go up over the wall but couldn't quite make it. He is a young specimen ~ his coloration is still quite green. When fully grown he will be dark brown/black mottle. These critters are very shy; I have tried to take his picture while he is sunning on the tejas but the slightest motion in his presence and he's gone. He is a vegetarian which means our flowers and tender leaves are just what he loves to eat. Even oleanders are not safe from him.

Primero el oleada

My computer was down all day yesterday for unknown reasons. We surmise there was a kink in the wire somewhere up under the eaves. The Patient, an all-around handy guy to have on staff, fixed it last night. This morning all is well again.

The first wave of holiday-makers has arrived and the streets are clogged with cars, trucks, campers, vans. There will be many more day trippers trying to squeeze in as the days go on. Campers have set up housekeeping across the street and that little plot has turned into a mini-city with tents, cooking areas, and God knows what else. But everyone seems to be having a fine time.

On Wednesday night the Patient went out for a walk and reported to me yesterday morning that it wasn’t nearly as mobbed on the malecon or in town as he had thought. Again yesterday morning we strolled the beachfront to check out the stalls and people; streets are still passable, but barely. We found taleras at Baby’s, stopped by Dago’s puesto to let Fernando know we would be coming down for comeda at 1 PM and to get the fish cooking. Both he and Chouy are cooking so lunch will be muy sabroso! More on lunch later.

After dominoes Wednesdayh night I counted my winnings (!) and prepared to settle down for a quiet sleep. Indeed, aside from the sussing and pounding of the surf there was not a sound to be heard. Unlike at home where, as the Patient reported the disco roared on until 2:30 AM.

Thursday was another hot, clear day. The air was still, but there is always a cool breeze on our terrazzo thanks to some clever engineering by the builder and designer. No matter how hot it is our house is the coolest place to be.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

leaving home

Early post today as I'm leaving here and moving down the road about three miles in order to escape the noise from the disco across the street. I'm leaving early as it's domino night. Marie and I will both be staying with friends right on the beach. It will be lovely and quiet with only the sound of the surf. We'll go right after dinner each evening and return to survey the night's local damage early in the morning. The only thing we really have to worry about is someone spraying graffiti on our walls. It hasn't happened to us yet, but to many others. You just get out the next day and repaint. The disco went until 1:30 this morning and even though I slept downstairs and the sound was somewhat baffled by the walls, it's just too loud. Marie's house gets it even worse because of the angle of her house. Of course the Patient slept through it all. Another indication of someone hearing ONLY what he wants to hear, right?

Today was a perfect Cuyutlán day; hot in the sun, cool in the shade, sparkling surf, clear skies, light breeze. The best.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

before los populachos . . .

Here is a picture of our street (on the left) and house before the hordes arrive. It is a nice, quiet cobblestone road that doesn't get too much traffic. Not a soul around, as you can see. That's a corner of our house on the left, the living room balcony silhouetted. In the middle is the palapa of the Hotel Oasis on the next block. It will start jumping by Thursday. Tomorrow is a regular work day for most Mexicans so they won't start pouring into town until tomorrow night. When we get up on Thursday morning the vacant lot to the right in this picture, beyond the wall and trees, will be filled with campers . . .and their cars! In the old days, before NAFTA and the rise of a strong middle class who ALL have at least two cars, most people came to the beach in buses, camped on the beach or stayed in local hotels, got back on the bus after a couple of days and went home. Now everyone comes in a car and has to find a place to park it. Plus there are many more who come for the day.

As for the house, on the third floor is our very own palapa and a completely open terrace. The hammock, chaise and hanging chair are up there as inducements for a lovely siesta. We install twinkle lights around the perimeter of the palapa frame and turn them on every night. The view of the house from the malecon is enchanting. But this year we held off; we're here for such a short time that it didn't seem worth the waste of two long strands of lights. Waste, you say? Yes. The lights get so corroded with salt and grit that they really last only one season. The balcony you see on the right fronts on the living room. This is the perfect spot for morning coffee and to check out all the beach action across the street. The other balcony to the left, hidden by the trees, fronts our bedroom. We get lovely cross breezes all day and night, making it wonderfully comfortable sleeping weather.

We went down to the malecon this morning so the Patient could have a look at things. This is his first foray out along the beachside. There is lots of activity as everyone prepares to deal with the crowds. The puestos are laying in their stores of coconuts for making cocolocos, a lethal combination of coconut milk, tequilla and lime juice, served in the coconut and sipped through a straw shoved through a hole in the top of the husk. We strolled up to Aberrotes Baby to get our morning bread, yet another bag of sublime chips, and to put in an order for taleras for tomorrow. Baby's store is about as big as a good-sized walk in closet, jammed with goods of every description. She presides at the front. She is a woman of, um, ample size and as a consequence is unable to move too quickly. But her eyes are everywhere and she has a voice that would shatter glass. She never has problems in her tienda.

The disco quit at 1:30 this morning and now, at 7:00 PM it has fired up, louder than ever. This is going to be my last night in this house for about two weeks.

Monday, April 02, 2007


There are certain foods that are indelibly connected with the cities and countries in which we eat them. In San Francisco it's all about crabs and sourdough bread. In New Orleans, it's cajun. France means croissants, Italy for me it's porccini mushrooms and radicchio, Spain is cava, Portugal is oranges and olives, Tunisia is lamb and dates, England is scones, cheese and ale. Here in Mexico, it's these four goodies: Indio beer, Takis snacks, avocado and mango. There are other things like salsa, tequila, splendid little seedless limes and luscious fried tortilla chips. But the first four, the main food group (alcohol, salt, oil and sweet) are the most important. On the nutritional pyramid these four are at the very bottom, the bedrock of good nutrition!

And speaking of nutrition, the Patient has been packing away the food like a starving man. We went to friends' delightful beach side casa for sundowners last night where he helped himself to much of the very delicious nibblies they offered; rich and spicy guacamole, baked brie with onions and garlic, and a killer artichoke/garlic hot hors d'oeuvre that is their household specialty. That and a couple of beers and he was set.

But nothing would do, since it was Sunday, but to go up to the jardin and buy a couple of platos of tacitos. We came home and each of us ate only one little tacito and a few beans and fell back in a swoon of sated bliss. Will finish them off for dinner tonight. Not only the leftovers from last night, but the apple pie the Patient whipped up yesterday. The filling is delicious, but the crust was not his best. But he is eating it and seems to enjoy it and that's what's important. I even bought him some vanilla ice cream to top it off. For some reason vanilla ice cream here tastes like coconut.

After tiangues today Marie and I went to the Jacaranda, a funky restaurant in Armeria. We try to go at least once a year after market for a beer and bean tacos. Heaven.

The bad news is that the disco is beginning to set up across the street. The workers have set up the light standards and the platforms for the HUGE speakers, usually about 12 of them. I will probably go out to the colonia to stay with friends at night while the Patient stays home and sleeps through the whole thing!