Monday, December 31, 2007

the last lunch of 2007

After tinagues, where the price of avocado has soared to 23 pesos a kilo (about $1 a pound), then a quick trip to La Bodega, a supermarket that's an offshoot of Wal-Mart, it was time for lunch. A gringo visitor from Milwaukee, Al, invited us to join him and Marie at Dago's on the beach for fish tacos. Three fish tacos and two beers later we came home just in time for siesta. Lovely.

There is much activity in the village for tonight. But, as usual, the Patient and I will have a quiet dinner, raise a toast at about 10 PM, and call it a night. Are you surprised, knowing what a party animal the Patient is?

My wish for all for 2008, "May all your fish tacos be as good as those at Dago's today." If they are, you will have a very splendid year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

memories of a beach childhood

My parents had a summer house in Newport Beach where the family went for 5 or 6 weeks every summer. They had met on Balboa Island in about 1933 where their parents had summer houses, so there was a romantic tie to the place. My father built our house in 1947, a wonderful light-filled, high-ceilinged place with big windows fronting on what was called the "back bay." We would pack up and head for "the beach" in late July to spend the next few weeks living in shorts and sandals, eating our meals in the patio, socializing with a whole different crowd than our "winter friends." My sister and I slept in bunk beds, went swimming and sailing, got sunburned and had a splendid time.

What has brought this to mind is an afternoon ritual practiced here, too. After a morning of work and chores, a relaxed lunch that usually includes a bottle of Indio, then a bit of reading, it is time for swimming. We went to Jack's for a couple of hours of chit chat and a few laps in the pool. Then it's home for a clean-up, a change of clothes in preparation for the evening's puesta del sol and, since it's Sunday, tacitos from the wagon in the jardin. I come to the evening refreshed, clothed in a clean T-shirt with freshly washed hair, ready to enjoy a tangy margarita and a nice dinner. This brings back those wonderful memories of doing the same thing as a child. After a morning taken up with chores, projects, trips to the hardware store (with my father) and the market (with my mother). Then a late morning swim followed by lunch, then a nap, and then the afternoon at the beach. We would be summoned by our mother about 5 o'clock that it was time to come in off the beach and get ready for dinner. We appeared around the dining table scrubbed, shampooed, tanned and newly outfitted in "decent" clothes. After dinner my father would take his usual walk with his colleague and friend Tommy. Mother would put her feet up and read. My sister and I would retire to the bunk beds to read and fall asleep in a gloriously sweet fatigue, looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.

Some things never change.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

a busy day deserves a tasty dinner

Up early and off to Tecoman for yet more tile shopping. We got several chores done in only 3 hours. Amazing. First to the super to see if they had any decent wine. No. Then to the huge tile and fixture store. Did they have the bathroom tiles I want? No. Then to the Peluqueria Paris so the Patient could get his hair cut. Place was empty so he got right in, got a nice trim and got right out. Next stop was to the electronics repair shop to try (again) to get the CD player fixed. After the last attempt we brought it home and it was fine for a day or two, then quit playing. I fear it's terminal. To Venegas hardware/tile shop and we had great luck. Yes, they have the wall tiles I want and the shower floor tiles. Purchased enough for 15 sq. M of walls, 5 sq. M of floors. Loaded into the car and home we came. The Patient is just an OK shopper; he gets really bored really fast. So when I said, "What would you like for dinner?", this was his reply. Looks good, doesn't it?

Onion, garlic, red pepper, tomato sauce, Spanish chorizo, chopped fresh basil, Mexican cheddar cheese, home made crust. Buen provecho.

Friday, December 28, 2007

a day for the tiles

We went off to Manzanillo this morning to buy the tiles for the floors. We took the free (non-toll) road, a lovely if long route. We passed through the little villages of Santa Rita, La Tropicana, Buenaventura, Los Reyes, Venustiano Caranza (the Patient's favorite place name), Costa Rica, past fields of mango, lime, papaya, banana and coconut trees. Forty-five minutes later we pulled into the parking area of Azulejos Garza, the tile emporium. It only took about an hour to make our purchases, arrange for delivery on February 1, lay down large stacks of pesos, shake hands all around and leave. Here's what we chose for the floors.

The tile on the left is for the 3rd floor terrazzo, the one on the right is for the rest of the floors. We also bought ceramic tiles for the kitchen countertops, creme, yellow, terra cotta and green, but they will be delivered with the rest of the goods.

After that exhausting experience we headed down Las Brisas to our new favorite place to eat, Hotel La Posada.

The reasons it is our choice are basically two: the dining room has a spectacular view of Manzanillo Bay and the blue Pacific beyond and there are things on the menu the Patient can actually eat. This hotel is called "The Pink Palace." Here's why.

We relaxed in this beautiful dining room, enjoyed lunch, headed home on the toll road (my treat) satisfied by our day's efforts.

Not a bad spot for a burger, a cheese sandwich and a couple of beers.

Benazir Bhutto
1953 – 2007

I sat in stunned disbelief yesterday afternoon as I read with physical pain of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Everybody loses, nobody wins. A hope for Pakistan dashed. Would she have been elected next week? Probably. Would she have made a difference for the Pakistanis? Probably. John Burns of the NY Times said in an interview that she had returned from her self-imposed exile sadder but wiser, knowing the enormity of what her task would be, but with a steely determination to haul Pakistan into the 21st century. Now we will never know. The voice of moderate politics in Pakistan has been stilled. She is lost to the Pakistanis and to the world. I have followed her career with a mixture of admiration and dismay. But this outcome is unthinkable. I am keeping a candle lit to guide her into Paradise. I hope it is a better place.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Getting caught-up

The party at Luly and Ed’s was a wonderful way to start the Christmas Crazies. Guests all behaved; no drunks, no tearing off of party clothes to jump in the pool, nice table manners, no food fights, etc. Ages of guests ranged from late teens to early 90’s. Dinner was delicious and abundant. An all around good time was had by all.

Christmas morning dawned grey and overcast, as it has been for the past few days. No sun peeked out all day. But at 5:30 a small group gathered on the terrazzo at Marie’s to celebrate the day and to wish Feliz Cumpleaños to adorable Chuy. She turned 38! Egad!

I have a hazy memory that milestone. Again, a collection of remarkably well behaved guests, given the group!

Yesterday we spent counting square and linear meters in preparation for the big cash layout for our tiles. We planned to go to Manzanillo today with a suitcase of pesos but decided we had better recount and be absolutely sure of what we need. The kitchen is going to be spectacular when done, with lots of tile patterns and colors to liven up the place. Likewise the bathroom. But this tedious counting and measuring is, well, tedious. The Patient, when just a lad, thought he’d like to major in engineering in college. When he received a D- in Engineering Drawing he thought perhaps the law might be more suited to his various and several talents. But he is doing a fine job of figuring out exactly, to the centimeter, how many tiles we need. I think his drawing teacher missed a good candidate! When we are at the tile store tomorrow I will take a photo of the floor tiles we have finally decided on. They are a luscious, rich Mexican terra cotta red. After Fernando paints the inside of our patio and garden walls that same color we’ll be ready for the photographers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

T’was the day before Christmas

Last night I tried to take some pictures of the house with its lights and candles, in a festive holiday mode. They didn’t come out very well but I’ll post them nonetheless.

Lights on the front balcony are from a string of candles plus the overhead. Lights on the upper left are from the circumference of the 3rd floor palapa. the lower left is the front door lightand the little smeared light above are candles on the 2nd floor wall. I think the problem is that when taking photos at night you have to stand absolutely still or it gets smeared. Here’s a better try.

The globe light hangs over the dining table out on the terrazzo. Above are the lights upstairs. In truth it looks quite festive and nowhere near as blurry!

This morning it was off to the tiangues for the week’s provisions. For 20.80 pesos (about $2.50) I brought home this bounty: 3 Sinaloa tomatoes, like beefsteaks and luscious. Sinaloa is up north and is the Imperial Valley of the west of Mexico. Most of our fruits and vegetables are grown there. It is a beautiful state to drive through; lush and green with irrigated fields. Then I added 3 avocadoes, 8 juice oranges, 5 carrots, 10 round zucchini, just as sweet as candy, one cantaloupe, one jicama, 6 Roma tomatoes, great for sauce but absolutely tasteless and dry, and, not seen, 3 heads purple garlic and 5 onions.

I even had money left over to rummage through the piles of used clothing to find a couple of pair of shorts for the Patient, size 30. He gifted me with a set of beautiful Bose headphones so seminuevo shorts seem like a fair exchange, no?

Merry Christmas to you from us and from Ruby and Santa, too.

PS: I am way behind in my posts. Internet cafe closed for a couple of days, but now it's open and I'm in business again. I'll get caught up tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Albondigas and polenta

Yesterday I visited the surgeon again to have the stitches taken out of my wound. It looks pretty good although it has begun to itch like crazy and I must constantly remind myself not to scratch. In 10 days I begin using some ointment to help shrink the scar, which really isn’t so bad. The doc was really quite pleased with his handiwork.

In my search for foods the Patient can eat I am always on the lookout for dishes that are easy to swallow, not too spicy, have virtually nothing fibrous in them such as pork or chicken, and that might even taste good. Last night I decided to try some albondigas, delectable little Mexican meatballs. The Patient is particularly fond of creamy polenta with a bit of cheese. It was a perfect match! Even I, the Caregiver, as I was titled by the medical establishment during his treatment, thought it was a brilliant marriage of flavors and textures. That, along with a delicious Chilean white and some sweet, cold melon made our oh-so international cena. Tonight it’s back to local fare; tacitos de lengue from the wagon up at the jardin.

Tomorrow evening, Christmas Eve, we will gussy up and go off to a lovely dinner party held every year by our friends Luly and Ed. I am making focaccia for the occasion. I’m in an Italian cooking mood. I’ve been reading a delicious little book, “A Thousand Days in Venice” by Marlena de Blasi. At times a bit treacley (if there is such a word) but the food! Oh, the food! Anyone who is planning a trip to Venice should read this just for the restaurant recommendations.

The cybercafe may not be open again until Wednesday so I will wish everyone a very happy holiday. Be ever thankful for your many blessings. Joyous greetings and lots of love.

Friday, December 21, 2007

back in Florence

You may recall, dear reader, that when in Florence I found something I thought was so cute that I decided to get one when I get home. If you have forgotten this, see here, next to last paragraph. I was particularly fond of the pink one, (as was MAS), but have decided after seeing a whole rainbow of these little beauties, to search out a red one. This is what I was talking about. I saw fuchsia, yellow, navy, baby blue, black, silver, lime green, red, forest green, and several combinations. If you’ve ever paid attention to car colors in the US you know I will be able to find beige, black, silver. Period. What is it about American car manufacturers that they have no sense of “fun on the road"?

This is a Smart car. They are all over Europe, especially France and Italy. They are supposedly available in the US through Chrysler – if it’s still in business! I saw them everywhere and as $7.30 a gallon for gas, they are a Smart purchase. When I return in May, the Smart Car hunt will be on! I saw one in San Francisco shortly before I left, a bright yellow one carrying a web site for inquiries as to what in the world it was. A perfect city car although I saw them on the highways, too. These, and all sorts of small, sassy Fiat models that we can’t get in the US, most probably because of emission controls. I mean, how much can this tiny car emit??

Two blocks from the Santo Spirit apartment is the Pitti Palace, a treasure trove of art and sculpture and the home of the Boboli Gardens. At that time of the year the gardens themselves are not in bloom but the trees are beginning to turn golden and the vistas were beautiful. This pond, with it's Neptune rising above the Isolotto centered in its pool at the bottom of the terraced upper gardens.

On the way out of the garden we walked through this beautiful arbor, unfortunately not in bloom now, but you can imagine it laden with orange blossoms, the air saturated with scent. That shadow in the left foreground is a stone Bacchus waving us on to see the sunken rose garden and pond off to the left. Heaven only knows what went on there, given that particular god as the doorman. The Patient found it particularly inviting and lovely. It reminded us of a lush arbor in the Alhambra in Granada, but that one was planted in oleander that had been trained up and over the walkway.

These grand gardens were the private domaine of the Medicis. They were the brainchild of Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de' Medici and took many, many years to complete. There is no natural water source so they pumped irrigation water into the gardens from the Arno River, about two blocks away. When the Medici's got bored roaming through their hundreds of rooms crammed with gorgeous art and furnishings, they would wander out into the gardens to get a taste of nature. From the top of the terrace you have a sweeping view of Florence, its many domes and spires, and acres of terra cotta tile roofs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

no appointment necessary

To Tecoman yesterday morning for a variety of errands: buy gas; check out Construama (the Home Depot of Mexico) for toilets, tiles for bathroom walls, ceramic tiles for counter tops; look for place to buy new ink cartridge for printer (found one that would refill old one, miracle of miracles); get hair cut (walk in, sit down, out whips the straight razor, pay my $40 pesos ($3.60) and I’m good to go for another 6 weeks; stop off at the store for productos agricultura to buy some sort of poison the Patient uses to keep backyard varmints under control ( including very pesky land crabs); drop off the old Sony CD player that ceased to function last night to see if it can be repaired or if we need to buy a new one; and last, a trip to the surgeon to check on the stitches. He removed three butterfly bandages but not the stitches. Go back on Saturday. A very productive morning. We were back by 2 PM. Record time in Mexico for accomplishing all that.

When we got home this little fellow was on the downstairs terrazzo to greet us.

We had seen him out in the back garden for a couple of days, but never this close. He is a bit over 3 feet long, nose to tip of tail. He doesn’t seem to like living under the tejas tiles on the back roof like all the other iguanas around the place. He prefers either the bougainvillea or up in the palm tree. His colors are particularly vivid, although you can’t really tell. He has bright lime-green rings on his tail although in this picture they look yellow. I think that’s his mating outfit.

Off to Manzanillo to look at even more tiles. It is getting to the point where I will take almost anything simply so I don't have to look anymore.

Monday, December 17, 2007

i went to italy . . .

Four weeks ago today we were winging our way back to JFK on the Delta Big Bird after 27 days of travel in Italy. It’s about time to share some of the photos I took and to tell more about our adventures. Things are a bit slow here in Slowland, so here’s a look.

Here is our apartment in the Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence. The beautiful Santo Spirito church was just down to street to the north of us. Unfortunately it was locked except for a couple of hours on Sunday. Vandalism. Most disappointing. That’s your devoted correspondent in the window, 4th floor, right.

You’ve heard of a Murphy Bed, the kind that pulls down from the wall at night and then disappears behind cabinet doors during the day? This apartment had what I call a Murphy Kitchen. It was a tiny space at the end of the living room.

Time to eat? Just swing open the doors and Presto!

That strange looking gizmo on the top shelf to the right was a very elaborate toaster with all sorts of levers and pincers. Not your basic Sunbeam. Two little burners, a tiny ‘fridge in the lower right “cabinet” and one deep drawer on the left where all the pots and pans were stored. Right hand top cupboard for food stuffs. Left hand cabinet for something I’ll show you later. But now, on to the bathroom

I called this the “Beam me up, Scotty” shower. A glass tube that did serve perfectly well but leaked all over the floor. The sealing mechanism that holds the curved doors shut is either by a magnetic strip or vacuum. Never could figure it out.

Behind the shower was a faux fresco painting of a lovely landscape, framed in brickwork and covered in glass to look like a window. Clever.

This is the sight that greeted us every day as we stepped out of the front door. Right across the street was this vegetable stand. This gentleman was there early, rain or shine, except Sunday.

He had, among other things, the most beautiful radicchio imaginable. And delicious. There are three varieties available: one looks like Romaine lettuce, with long purple leaves, best for cooking; one looks almost like celery with thick white stalks and frizzy purple curls at the end; and then there is this kind, most familiar to us.

On Saturdays the flower lady drives up with her van full of gorgeous blooms. At that time of year, chrysanthemums, pansies, and especially cyclamen fill the flower markets. I have no idea where those sunflowers came from. Window boxes and balconies are all abloom, some even with geraniums that are taken inside for the winter.

That’s how it was in our neighborhood. How about yours? We’ll venture into the heart of Florence next time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In praise of virgins

This is not a slogan for a just-say-no chastity campaign. It is a true expression of admiration, respect and amazement for the many families and households who erect lovely little shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe in celebration of her saint’s days, December 1 – 12. People take this very seriously and most go to some trouble to have a nice shrine, complete with flowers, candles and lights. I took my camera on a walk around town a few days ago and these are only a sampling of what I found, along with an explanation of where they were. That sometimes is the whole story.

This is the Virgin of the Pila. She is on the wall above Marie’s laundry tub or pila. You can see the faucets below. There is usually a candle burning for something or someone who needs a miracle.

Across the street from Marie lives a very large family who has been here for many, many years. Their living quarters are all outside under a clay tile roof; no doors, no windows. The kitchen is half-open, the bedrooms and baths are, however, indoors. This lovely altar is in the living room facing the street. The flowers are changed every day.

I took this because I like the Guadalupe-printed fabric hanging against the wall. It was a bit breezy.

She looks better at night but it was too hard to get a good, clear picture. Great colors!

I love the color of this house. The altar was constructed on a ledge in front of the living room window, now covered with a cloth with two little curtains. When they turn off the lights, they draw the little curtains over the picture. Please note Pope Benedict kneeling in the lower left. Note also the electric meter that has been tapped into directly to supply power for the lights!

In the evening these candles are lit, along with the strings of lights.

This is the Pink Virgin. You can see why. In the early morning there is a curtain over her shrine so I was unsure if there was anything there. I went back later and this is what I found.

This shrine was under a huge almendra tree on the far side of town. As I was taking this picture a little lady came out of the house and bustled off to the side. As I was leaving she stopped me and told me that she had another Virgin she wanted me to see. She disappeared behind her house and soon came out carrying a big framed poster. She didn’t have anywhere to put it, she said. I think.

Here she is with her prized possession. She was delighted to have her photo taken.

Here’s a picture of a shrine at night. As far as the lights are concerned this one is quite modest.

Here’s the Pope again with Juan Diego, the peasant farmer who started all this Virgin of Guadalupe business in the first place.

This is my all-time favorite which I think I posted last year sometime. She was not in evidence this year. I call her “Busted Virgin.” She may have been paroled.

And finally, this is Pina, the town butcheress. She had just repainted her shop this lime green color and was mighty pleased with the look. It used to be bright yellow-gold, but she thinks this color is more favorecedor (flattering). Can’t imagine.

So there you have it. Virgin of Guadalupe shrines, 2007. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

the dueling scar

It looks like I came out on the wrong end of a friendly duel. I now sport a very thin diagonal scar about 1½” long on my left cheekbone. The whole thing took about 30 minutes and produced a cyst about the size of a marble. Non-cancerous. The surgeon seemed quite pleased with his work. He may well be a go-to guy for nips and tucks. He even has his own web site. Talk about advertising!

Instead of playing dominoes and watching the Castillo to signify the end of the Virgin of Guadalupe festivities, I stayed home. I saw some of the fireworks from the 3rd floor, but I don’t like what’s called “the running of the bulls.” Locals put on big paper maché bull’s heads and run through the crowds setting off firecrackers and rockets and “shooting stars”. Too dangerous for my taste. In fact, the Patient went up with Jack, whose shirt was burned when he was hit by a firecracker! ¡Es la vida loca!

We have had no real fire in the sky since we’ve been here. Sunsets have been obscured by clouds and evening fog. But last night we had a beauty.

The afterglow lingered in the sky for almost half an hour.

The Geminid Meteor Shower happens this time every year with the peak night tonight. Anytime after full darkness should begin sightings, with 2 a.m. being the height of the frequencies. Stay awake!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The best little buns in town

These are my favorite Mexican buns, taleras, not always easy to find. I went up to Aberrotes Baby yesterday and put in an order for this morning. There they were, still warm, in a little bag just waiting for me. I brought them home, fired up the toaster, sat down with my coffee and realized I am really here.

This afternoon I will go under the knife of a surgeon from Colima. I have what is called a “sebaceous cyst” which will be removed by a plastic surgeon, Dr. Nestor Baldizon. He comes highly recommended by the (extremely charming) dermatologist I saw yesterday afternoon, Dr. Carlos Seville. I thought while Baldizon is rooting around I might ask for a little nip here, a little tuck there. But probably not.

Tonight is the final night of the Virgin of Guadalupe festival. Big fireworks, lots of bells and whistles (literally), then all the shrines come down. But more about that tomorrow, plus a full report on the new me, unscarred and smooth as a baby's bottom. I wish.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A quite nice place to live

The Patient remarked last evening, as the sunset was turning pink and the living room was flooded with golden, rosy light, “I really am very fond of this house.” This is very high praise indeed, coming from him. At dinner I looked across the sala from the dinner table and decided that I, too, am very fond of this house. It is comfortable, colorful, warm and inviting. It will be even more so when we get the floor tiles replaced.

First step toward emptying out the bank account was today when we went to pay a deposit to window man for replacing all the windows and glass sliders in the house ~ 29 louvered windows, three sliders, one glass front door. About the same amount as I paid for ONE window in our US house. No wonder we live here.

So here’s to being here (our traditional toast). Actually, here’s to being almost anywhere.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

dinner at the beach

Last night we gathered at Dago’s puesto on the beach for a farewell dinner for one of our gringo friends who is returning to States to undergo medical treatment. Fernando and Chuy cooked a beautiful fish dinner that included a glorious guacamole, sliced cucumbers and jicama, fish tacos, tostada chips, and this fabulous grilled fish.

We sat down to dinner about 6 PM, just as the sun was sinking into the blue, blue Pacific. The furled umbrellas belong to Dago; during the day they are opened, with canvas sling chairs and little tables for your luscious fruity drinks. In the evening their silhouettes are like sentinels, keeping watch over our quiet little beach.

It was a lovely send-off for our friend. We all hope he and his wife – who is currently surviving in who-knows-what degree of cold in the mid-west – will rejoin us after the first of the year.

Friday, December 07, 2007

latitudinal lassitude

We have now been here a week and what do I have to show for it? Not very much, if the truth be told. I am afflicted with that tropical malaise that overwhelms after a couple of days. It’s all I can do to get up in the morning for coffee, shamble around until I can make a decent excuse that it is time to relax and read (aka nap). A late lunch, perhaps the laundry or a snip or two in the garden. More reading (napping) until it’s time for a swim. Margaritas at sundown, dinner, bed. This state of suspended animation usually last three or four days ~ or weeks or months. It afflicts almost all the gringos who come here; we all drag around for a few days and then pep up and get started on our Mexican lives. It’s not that it is so hot, it’s so lulling. The soft sounds of the waves on the beach, the lovely breeze, the musical calling of strange birds, it’s all perfect. And if it’s so perfect, why would you want to do anything else?

Speaking of reading, I have had to give up on “The Prime Minister”, Vol. 5 of Trollope’s The Pallisers. The tapes were in such terrible shape that I finally just put them all back in the box and returned them with a terse note. I still have Vol. 6, “The Duke’s Children.” I’ll read about the prime minister when I get home. By that time I will better appreciate something other than “beach reading.”

We did accomplish one thing this week, however. We made a decision about the floor tiles. When here last April we investigated several options, none of which was exactly right. We revisited two of the tile stores on Wednesday and finally hit on a favorite; it is a true, rich Mexican terra cotta, not the paler version I had originally favored. If you’re going to have a Mexican house, make it muy Mexicana. We’ll go back up to Colima next week and put in an order. Jaime cannot start on the work until the first week in February so we have plenty of time, both to buy and to change our minds!

Yesterday was the 19th birthday of the man I am privileged to call my grandson. We spoke on the phone. He was awaiting the arrival of his main squeeze, Anna, down from Berkeley for the weekend. Happy Birthday Andrew!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

another life altogether

From one country ~Italy~ to another ~USA~ to yet another ~Mexico. What a life I lead. And mighty grateful for it, I might add.

Five rosy dawns and 2500 miles later we arrived at the beach. The trip was completely uneventful, just the way we like it. We stopped at this lovely spot in Arizona for lunch, then stayed the night in Tucson.

On to El Paso. Good driving weather, although it had snowed in El Paso/Juarez on Thanksgiving Day so a dusting of white covered the mountains and the ground. We made it across the border, no questions asked, in an hour, record time for us. First night to Cuidad Jiminez and El Hotel Las Pampas where we always stay when we take this route. This place used to be something but it is gradually falling apart. But the location is perfect, the beds are comfortable, the hot water is plentiful, the dining room serves pretty good food, and the price is right. Next stop is Zacatecas. This old colonial city is in the mountains at 8,100 ft. Here we stay at Hotel Hacienda del Bosque, again a well-located spot at the junction of two main roads, one of which leads off to Guadalajara, our destination for the next day. Again, this is our traditional stop, but this place has been tarted up so we hardly recognized it. It is now a conference center with a fancy new wing with meeting rooms and a small auditorium, new entrance from the road, and big neon sign advertising itself. But the water is hot, beds comfy, restaurant good, price right.

Thursday morning we took off for Cuyutlan on the drive from hell. The road from Zacatecas to Guadalajara is two lanes all the way, through three mountain passes. This is the main route down the center of the country for cars and trucks and it can get pretty hairy when there is a line of semis rumbling along. That morning, however, traffic was light and we didn’t get stalled behind a long line of double remoulques. Still, the average speed for most of the trip was about 37 MPH which makes an 8-hour drive seem to take days. We stopped in Jalpa for a delicious breakfast at about 9:30, then drove on through Guadalajara toward Colima and arrived at our front door at about 3:00 PM, having made a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up a few essentials.

The house looks pretty good for one that has been deserted for 6 months. The rains were particularly heavy during the summer/fall so everything smelled very musty and wet. There is some mold growing on the weather-side of the living room wall, but a quick swipe with Clorox® will take care of that. Kitchen drawers and cabinets had to be emptied and scrubbed; mold. But the bed was made, the ‘fridge was on and humming away, cushions out on the sofa ~ Fernando and Chuy had been busy getting things ready for us. Having just those things done makes arrival a lot easier.

The weather is very warm, almost humid, but the breezes blow through the terrazzos, keeping us cool. The garden survived the summer and all the rain contributed to the jungle-like growth. Everything looks good except the bougainvillea in the back; it has not yet bloomed for some reason. I will investigate further.

For some reason I cannot get onto the internet set-up that I share with neighbors. Until that gets straightened out I will be using the town’s cybercafe with my own computer. But that is a minor inconvenience for now. I have had my first mango, first papaya, first glass of orange juice, first Indio beer, and first tortilla chip. We have the first two parties on our calendar, I’ve seen my first cucaracha and, this morning in the shower, a tiny alacrón. That's "scorpion" to you.

Let the season begin!

Monday, December 03, 2007

notes on giving thanks

There were just seven of us at this year’s Thanksgiving Day celebration. The star, of course, was Ruby. Here she is in her new t-shirt, straight from Florence. I tried to teach her to say Ciao Bella. She was a bit resistant but undoubtedly by now it has become part of her (very extensive) vocabulary. She is loaded with personality and has very definite 2 ½ yr. old ideas about how things should be.

Our groaning board was beautifully set with our parents’ gorgeous silver (the place you see was set for a lefty so everything is reversed), festive linens of the season, candles, etc.

Dinner was delicious and the fellowship around the table was wonderful to be part of. I, in particular, have much for which I give thanks. Most importand is the Patient’s steady return to health. Although he did his best to eat his way through Italy, he did not gain an ounce. But his spirits are good, his strength and stamina are returning, and life is getting back to normal for him. Our children are well, grandchildren, too. and friends far and near. What more could we possibly be thankful for

Oh yes, one more thing. I also give deep thanks that the current administration has only another year and then that particular nightmare will be over.

(I know Thanksgiving was almost two weeks ago but I have been away from any blogging spot for that long, except for a moment in Zacatecas. I will spend the next couple of days catching you up with life in the slow lane.)