Wednesday, April 30, 2008

back in the US of A

I've been waiting to hear from the Patient before making a new post. He left Cuyutlán on Sunday for the long haul home. He just called from Arizona, having crossed the border at 9:00 PDT this morning, safe and sound and eager to get home. He said it was an easy trip ~ long but uneventful. Just what I was hoping to hear. He will be in Gila Bend tonight, San Diego tomorrow night, Long Beach on Friday and home on Saturday.
All my worries, at least as far as Mexican police and language difficulties, are over. Now it's just a matter of insane traffic and crowded freeways. At least those are not something a driver has to deal with in Mexico.

Meanwhile, as he has been navigating his way back home I have been navigating my way through getting this place up and running again. I have managed to get through 9 of 24 issues of the New Yorker, keep the leaves and wisteria debris swept up, restock the fridge and larder, dust and vacuum (NOT my favorite chores). The garden loooks pretty good, considering its neglect. I even made a delicious creamy zucchini soup that I will share with two friends tonight. Had a massage, a manicure, got my legs waxed, get my haircut on Monday. It's all part of the tidying up effort!

It's time to get back into the social whirl.

Monday, April 28, 2008

a beautiiful day in the neighborhood

It was one of those clear, bright, warm days in the valley, just the perfect day to show off gardens. I drove around (can't walk because of the foot problem) looking at all the blooming beauty around here. Roses, day lily blossoms, azalias, various shrubs and trees . . . spring is definitely here. Lots of poppies, flowering almond trees, the last of the lilac; a feast for the eye. As for my own garden, it needs work. I will make a trip to the local nursery tomorrow to see what's available so I can have something started by the time the Patient arrives home next weekend. He left the beach today and should be in Tepic tonight. I won't hear from him until he reaches Gila Bend; our cell service does not extend into Mexico. But I am keeping a candle lit for his safe journey. The only thing that concerns me is the language barrier. He does not ~ and will not ~ speak Spanish. He relies on me as his interpreter. Well, he'll just have to wing it. He's a clever guy; he'll figure it out.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

back on the internet

I am using a very old version of almost everything while using this vintage Mac. Nothing works as it does on the Ferrari model. But I will try to navigate my way through this antiquated program and put up an intelligible post.

I finally figured out how to get back on the internet. I was completely stymied but had a brain storm this afternoon while driving out to the new local CostCo. When I got home I unplugged and replugged and BINGO! It worked. I can't do anything very fancy but I can put up straight text.

I replaced 6 of the 9 recessed lights, got the car running after replacing the battery, got the computer working after having the battery charged at Core Care in Sact'o, bought a new battery for the phone. So things in the house are getting back to normal. I went to the gas station and nearly had heart failure when I paid $30 for less than 8 gallons of gas! What's going on here? How did this happen? Or, more to the point, how was this allowed to happen? Folks are going to use their "stimulus" checks to buy milk and eggs, not take a quick trip to Hawaii. Then I went to the farmers' market this morning. I decided to allow myself the same budget that I have for the tiangues to buy fruits and veggies for a week. Well, I was able to buy two things ~ asparagus and berries ~ before I ran out of pesos.

The Patient is leaving the beach tomorrow. I expect him home in about a week. I'm trying to get the garden cleaned up before his arrival. Rafa was here today to trim the oleanders, the Cape Honeysuckle, the trumpet vine. Place has clearly had a hair cut, but it looks very tidy. Tomorrow I will do more weeding, watering, trimming.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

welcome to dead battery land

I am home after an easy flight and a warm welcome from neighbors who picked me up. The fridge was full of good things to eat, the bed was made, and I hardly remembered that I had been gone for 7 months. But then reality began to set in. Phone battery in office was dead. Car battery was dead. Computer battery ditto. Three of the four ceiling lights in the bedroom were burned out. Three of the five in the kitchen were burned out. The light in the dryer was burned out. The TV didn't work. What's going on here?? The last couple of days have been spent replacing, repairing, recharging. AAA will come today to juice up the car so I can at least go buy more goodies for the fridge.

I have missed all the gorgeous blooms in my garden. What's left are piles of wisteria blossoms, the dead heads of daffs and iris, exhausted ranuncs. What's still there, however, are a beautiful show of rock rose, zillions of bright orange poppies, and the delicious lavender covered in purpl-y-blue flowers. Picture will be put up when I get my Ferrari Mac back after the Patient's arrival. The one mentioned above is an old Chevy that just keeps running but doesn't do tricks.

I saw my doc yesterday afternoon and everything is just fine. He did not go so far as to say I came home for no reason, but he was in agreement that things were vastly improved. He did a bit of snipping and trimming, but nothing that probably couldn't have waited. However, it's now done and I don't have to think about it any more.

The Patient will leave on Sunday and get home in about a week. In the meantime, I will have plenty of time to clean up in the garden, get some planting done, get caught up on a mountain of mail, including 7 months of New Yorkers ~ I don't even know where to start. I am taking the computer to the hospital tomorrow for what I hope will just be a battery replacement. If that['s all it is, I'll be back on the blog in no time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adios, Cuyutlán

I have been without internet for two days (missed the opera, missed NPR Sunday Morning and Will Shortz); don’t know what the problem is. Something is amiss at Neighbor Nelson’s where the modem and router live. The Patient and Fernando went over to check that everything was plugged in, that nothing had chewed through the cables, that the phone was working. Everything looks fine. Who knows about these things.

Now to the foot. I went to see the wound specialist on Friday and was in for quite an experience. This worthy chap barely looked at my toe, didn’t touch it. He put one of those little oxygen meters on one of my toes, nodded with satisfaction, then had me sit at the desk where he proceeded to show me slides of the most grotesque and gruesome toe/foot problems imaginable, ending with a shot of some poor sod who had all the toes removed from one foot. The upshot of this was that if I didn’t let him operate on Saturday this was my fate. I was so utterly offended by these scare tactics that I finally told him I’d seen enough. I decided early on ~ when he never looked at the toe ~ that I wouldn’t let this guy take my temperature much less cut open my toe. He did not inspire my confidence, either, when he told me the drugs I had been taking were no good and that I should take the one's HE prescribed, including aspirin. Now I know that if someone is going to cut you, the first thing they tell you is to STOP taking aspirin. I told him I simply had to be in consultation with my own foot doctor ~ notoriously impossible to contact, but he doesn’t know that ~ and that I would call his office on Monday to let him know what I had decided. By the time we got back to the car the Patient and I had decided that this was absurd and that I would, instead, pack up and go home. I called a friend in to let her know and asked if she could fetch me at the airport. She also agreed to get on the line and try to set up an emergency appointment on Wednesday. I have a reservation to return to the US on Tuesday. The Patient will drive home starting sometime in a week or so. I am not happy that he will drive alone, his Spanish being what it is (none). I hate to do it, but it’s a precaution. The foot looks 100% better but I don’t want to take any chances. I even sprang for a 1st class seat so I can have plenty of legroom.

I can’t believe this season is ending like this. We had several social plans for the next couple of weeks, including a stop at our favorite B&B in Tlaquepaque on the way home. But it will be there next year, I trust. We have not had really great weather most of the time. I haven’t been swimming since December; too cold. Even now it can be foggy and cool in the morning with only a brief bit of sunshine in the early to mid-afternoon. Then the wind comes up, sweaters go on, and the evenings are quite chilly. We have eaten lunch or dinner outdoors perhaps twice all season. This not the usual drill.

I have packed up my tasty selection of papier maché fruits . . .

And dismantled my two little IKEA Japanese paper-shaded lanterns that sit on the kitchen counters.

I’ve packed up all my beach clothes, the towels and linens, extraneous chochkies (?) that decorate various surfaces, put away all the tea light dishes that we use every night. There’s not much left for the Patient in the way of “ambiance” but, in truth, he probably won’t miss it! Tomorrow I’ll do whatever else I can to get things ready for his departure. Fernando and Chuy will come over on Tuesday morning to help, and Fernando will come again to help move any furniture we store indoors. It’s a huge chore to close this place up. One of these days we’ll reach the point where we just lock the door and leave. But for now, we’re pretty careful about storing thing out of sight and as protected as possible from encroaching salt, dust or bugs. Even though the windows are all shut, moisture creeps in and with it comes mildew and subsequent rust, the bane of this place. It’s why we can’t have anything wrought-iron.

So for this year, Cuyutlán is over. Next post will be from 95617 in two or three days. Meanwhile, all is well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

another health day

No gruesome pictures today. Things are a bit better. Ruby red toe is now purple, the blister is bigger than ever, but still no fever, chills, streaks, or high blood sugars. I am going to the doc tomorrow to have him check the toe carefully and, since infection seems to be resolving, perhaps he will drain it. Since it is the weekend I don't want to be stuck with a problem and nobody around to deal with it. I spent the day in bed again, foot propped up, lots of reading around. More pills, another shot. This is not any fun, believe me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

1 picture = 1,000 words

This is going to be short and sweet. I have been in bed all day trying to cope with a very nasty foot. I got up in the night to take a pill and my entire toe had turned red. The color has turned a bit more bruised purple, the blister on the left side is bigger than ever. But no fever, good blood sugar levels, and no red streaks shooting up my leg. Also no dominoes tonight. No nothing except pills, shots and rest. V. boring. Reading good book, though. Some good has to come out of this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

street corner sociology

It was my fortune today to sit in the car for an hour in Tecoman waiting for a doctor's appointment. My right toe, a problem for some weeks, has flared up badly; swollen to the size of a small red balloon. I went up to the Clinica de Salud in town this morning but la doctora was not there. I was advised to go to the clinic in Armeria. When I came home I told Chuy that's where we were going. She was shocked, aghast! Oh no! Not there! Go to the Clinica Sagrado Corazon. Much better. Since she knows more about these things than I do we obeyed. I didn't have an appointment but could be seen at 12:30 by Doctor Burgos, an internal medicine guy and diabetes specialist. That gave us 1 1/2 hours to kill. We found a shady spot at a busy intersection and while the Patient dozed, I watched the city pass by. Here are some observations made during the wait.

1. Mexican women have beautiful hair, most of it worn long. As long as they don't dye it ~ like the brains-on-fire color of my hair cutter ~ or bleach it ~ there's a popular style these days of bleaching it in stripes; these women look like exotic zebras ~ it is almost always thick, lustrous and deep black. Very few women have short hair; I didn't see anyone under 50 with such a style.

2. Mexican drivers do not know the meaning of a stop sign. It's first come, first go. I watched perhaps 200 cars zip through the stop signs at these two one-way streets. Not a mishap among them, but a lot of lost opportunities for lucrative citations by the police. Of course, nobody pays tickets so why waste the ink and paper? Sometimes a car will slow down in the intersection to see what's coming, but that's rare.

3. Mexican men (and women) LOVE their pick-ups. The are almost universally shiny clean. They decorate them ~ I'm especially fond of the flames shooting front to back or the ball fringe jiggling in the back window. Many have gigantic sound systems cranked up to the top; a rolling disco. I don't know how they can think with all that noise.

4. Mexican men LOVE their children. They seem to have more patience than do the mothers. A man would rather carry his baby than push it in a stroller or make it walk beside him. In the supermarket, when the kiddies are screaming and wailing and the mom tells them to quiet down, the dad reaches in the cart, takes the unhappy infant in his arms and coos and soothes. And they are visibly proud of having these beautiful (and they are beautiful) tots. I have also noticed that there are far fewer children now than say 25 years ago. Families are getting smaller as the standard of living goes up.

5. Mexican women don 't wear shorts. Except at the beach, and then they are so tiny I'm not sure exactly what they are wearing. Women of a certain age ~ let's say over 40 ~ almost always wear dresses or skirts. Younger women do wear pants, mainly jeans. Older women rarely.

Mexican men rarely wear ties; I think our lawyer does, but the usual professional outfit is a short sleeved dress shirt with slacks. Men also wear the beautiful embroidered guayabera shirts, starched and pressed and gleaming against dark skin. I love those shirts. (I didn't actually see this hunk on the streets of Tecoman today, despite looking.)

6. Mexicans water the streets, not the lawns. Kitty-corner from where I was parked was a restaurant. A young women trooped in and out of the place carrying buckets of water which she threw in the street all along both sides of the place. This is to keep the dust down, I know, but would you rather have dust or mud on your floor? On second thought, it is also to keep the dust from settling on the tables, chairs, chips, salsa, customers, food or anything else exposed.

Then it was time to see the doc. He examined everything except my fillings, agreed that I have a problem with the toe, prescribed pills (amoxicillan) and injections, self-administered. I went to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. Of course they only had two days' worth of injection medicine; come back tomorrow for more. So I took what they had, along with two syringes. When I got home I examined the needles; they would scare a horse! I went to my neighbor who is a nurse because I was not going to be able to jab that HUGE needle into my fanny. She opened a sterile packet of needles, selected a much more acceptable one, and gave me the shot without further ado. I will let her do all seven of them. I remember when I first started insulin injections; we were spending the weekend in Bolinas and I HAD to do it. It must have taken me 45 minutes to work up the courage to stick myself. After that it was easy. But you should have seen THIS needle!

This has gone on long enough. More tomorrow, if I can think of anything. For now, I'm going to take my sick foot, put it in a nice clean sock, and tuck it in bed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

not Frito®-Lay

I went to the chip store today while at tiangues to get a supply of these little beautis. They are the "corn-iest" chips ever! This is very much a Rube Golberg operation that takes place in a brick shed in an unpaved yard with chickens and other livestock nosing around in the dirt for stray crumbs. For 15 pesos (about $1.35) you take home a bag of 50 crisp, crunchy, flavorful chips. They also make raspadas, the larger, paper-thin shells used for tostadad.

These chips have already been through the "fat bath" once and are draining on this grating. After all the excess oil has dripped onto the floor, this woman scoops up a big tray-full and dumps them back into the fat for just about 5 seconds.

Then she scoops them out and slides them into the big galvanized tin bathtub lined with newspapers on her left where they sit for a few minutes before being picked out and put into bags. If you get there at the right time they are still warm and nice and greasy! Actually, they aren't all the greasy and only very lightly salted. I have no idea when (or if) they ever change the cooking fat, but who cares. They are absolutely addictive! And you can't get them anywhere else.

Friday, April 11, 2008

drinks, snacks, dessert

Tonight we went down to have drinks and goodies with friends Helen and Linda at their lovely casa by the sea. The house is all open to the elements, except the bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen, dining area and sala are a big room with out walls, windows or doors. We sat watching the evening creep up on us. The light dimmed, the sky got cloudy, then pink. It was a beautiful view out to the ocean. This is one corner of their garden suggesting how they, like the rest of us, spend much of their time.

We nibbled on various tasty things, including some killer artichoke dish for which they have become justly famous. The Patient brought a bowl of Key Lime sorbet he had whipped up. We segued from cocktails and hors d'oeuvres directly into dessert, bypassing dinner altogether.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

feliz cumpleaños y buen provecho

To celebrate the day the Patient took me out to desayuno at my new favorite spot, Restaurant Caminero. This cool, shaded, leafy spot is just the place to have a lovely breakfast and spend a couple of hours chatting. We sat in one of the little alcove areas in the back where we were visited by this lovely creature, looking for a hand-out.

There are four or five of them who wander around the restaurant, cleaning up under the tables. Then there are the chickens and baby chicks . . . We had a lovely meal ~ the Patient ordered chiliquiles ( he ate every bite), I ordered a mushroom omelet. We lingered for awhile and it was a very enjoyable morning. This looks into the dining room from the front parking. Doesn't it look inviting?

Chuy and Fernando arrived early this morning bearing a huge floral bouquet in honor of the day. Then two more friends arrived this afternoon with floral tributes. The house looks very festive! I am usually down here for my birthday but since I don't count birthdays spent out of the US as part of the age tally, I have managed to keep the numbers under control. Isn't that a great idea?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the last of the mosquiteros

Last evening I was standing at the kitchen sink preparing our daily dose of guacamole when I glanced out the window and saw the ventana man coming down the road in a cloud of dust. I said to the Patient, "Guess who's on his way here!" He made a couple of wrong guesses and when I told him who it was expressed disbelief. Raul pulled up in front of the house and I leaned over the balcony and said, ¡Que milagro! I don't think he was amused. I have been on his case for a month to get the last screens installed in the two new kitchen windows. Every time I go to his shop the senorita who works for him smiles politely and says she will tell her patrón but he is very busy, etc., etc., etc. I went again last Friday and stamped my pretty little foot and shook my curls and said I had to have those screens. I guess such histrionics work because there he was, screens in hand. Now I can open those windows without inviting in every flying and crawling creature. And the through-breeze keeps the kitchen nice and cool. Finally the window business of the house is finished.

Yesterday we took Neighbor Nelson and Mrs. Neighbor Nelson up to Colima for their overnight before they fly to the US today. We had a delightful lunch at a little place called Las Naranjas (no photo; no battery). Their departure signals the beginning of the great gringo migration north. The next departures will be in two weeks. By mid-May all us snowbirds will be back across whatever borders we crossed to get here.

Before we left yesterday I got out this beautiful little watermelon for a snack. Not only was it sweet, juicy and seedless, it was the most rich, deep watermelon-y color I've ever seen.

I got it all set up for a photo and discovered a dead battery. Here it is, a day late but a real beauty nonetheless. An mighty tasty too!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

an hour gone

We began daylight savings this morning. Consequently we have lost one whole hour of precious time here (or anywhere, for that matter). After coffee on the front balcony watching the inexorable rise and fall of the waves, I went downstairs to check the front garden. This is what I saw.

Not such a bad thing on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

the opera, the massage, the weather, the paint job

La Boheme is one of my favorite operas and it was presented by the Met today. Everything comes to a standstill while this glorious music fills the house. Unfortunately it is competing with a very loud disco someone has set up in El Faro across the street on the beach. Not easy to ignore. But Puccini can win out if I crank the volume all the way up.

Pati is coming this afternoon to work on all the aches and pains of my bad back. She did wonders last week; I was pretty pain free for almost three days. I'm hoping she can do even more this time.

As for the weather, it's suddenly turned hot. We are getting winds from the south that are hot and dry. Even in the night is has stayed very warm. We have been hesitant to turn on the fan in the living room; the blades and mechanism collect moisture, rust out and, when you start them up, they spray rusty water all over the walls.

I won't allow this on my newly painted wall.

Yes, Fernando finished one wall yesterday afternoon. I didn't want him to do any more until I lived with this color for awhile. I have decided that it looks just like I wanted. it's a warm, light apricot color that changes density as the sun moves across the sky. At night, in candlelight it gives off a gorgeous glow. Now if we can just get the potenciometro (dimmer switch) for the overhead lights it will be perfect.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Tear down that wall!"

As I write this ~ while standing up in the kitchen because we've taken all the furniture out of the living room where my "office" is ~ Fernando is up on a ladder scraping the peeling stucco off the "weather" wall. This is the wall that faces southeast that gets the heaviest beating from the rains. It is almost impossible to keep out moisture, and flaking and bubbling of the stucco is endemic to all our houses here. Not only does wet seep in through the walls it also blows in through the open doors and windows. It's called The Beach. He has found a weak spot where the accumulation of wet and salt has rotten out some of the original bricks, cdement and stucco used in the construction so he is going to tear out part of the wall and re-cement it. You can see the rebar that holds the whole thing up. If it gets corroded through, the living room is toast. The rebar is treated with an anti-salt product as soon as it is put up but the disintegration is almost inevitable. Treatment with cellador ~ sealant ~ helps retard total destruction.

And we are having guests up for drinks tonight and a dinner party tomorrow night! Aye carrumba!, what was I thinking?

Elias has arrived. He's the electrisista. Not the 14-year old who worked with Jaime. This guy's at least 25! He rewired our house a couple of years ago after the Patient kept getting shocked whenever he turned on the garden faucet. Even I know that shouldn't happen. So for 100 pesos he reset the wiring pattern, redistributed the electrical loads (we have two meters), and fixed the hot spot. He's here today to hang new light fixtures in the living room. We have been living with a hanging bare bulb.

We rarely turn it on, preferring instead the much more flattering indirect side lighting. But we were in a restaurant in Patzcuaro that featured hanging canastas (baskets) with lights. We decided it would be a good way to camouflage the bare bulbs and would be quite a nice addition to the living room. Tomorrow Elias will return and put in a dimmer switch so we can make the light a bit softer.

He will also re-hang the light in the kitchen over the new work corner, set a new fixture into the wall upstairs ~ the "kid" put it on the outside of the wall; it needs to recessed to avoid the rain ~ and replace a salted-out socket on the terrazzo. Fernando doesn't do electricity! Little by little things are getting finished just in time for our departure.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

play ball, read poetry

Today is the opening game of the 2008 baseball season. To mark this event, David Brooks had a very interesting column in this morning's NYTimes. I'm not altogether sure he was writing only about baseball. Read it and see what you think.

But more importantly, today is the first day of National Poetry Month. I send, for your consideeration, this poem sent to me by my friend Liz. Enjoy!

A Phone Call to the Future

Who says science fiction
is only set in the future?
After a while, the story that looks least
believable is the past.
The console television with three channels.
Black-and-white picture. Manual controls:
the dial clicks when you turn it, like the oven.
You have to get up and walk somewhere to change things.
You have to leave the house to mail a letter.

Waiting for letters. The phone rings: you're not there.
You'll never know. The phone rings, and you are,
there's only one, you have to stand or sit
plugged into it, a cord
confines you to the room where everyone
is also having dinner.
Hang up the phone. The family's having dinner.

Waiting for dinner. You bake things in the oven.
Or Mother does. That's how it always is.
She sets the temperature: it takes an hour.

The patience of the past.
The typewriter forgives its own mistakes.
You type on top sheet, carbon, onion skin.
The third is yours, a record of typeovers,
clotted and homemade-looking, like the seams
on dresses cut out on the dining table.
The sewing machine. The wanting to look nice.
Girls who made their dresses for the dance.

This was the Fifties: as far back as I go.
Some of it lasted decades.
That's why I remember it so clearly.

Also because, as I lie in a motel room
sometime in 2004, scrolling
through seventy-seven channels on my back
(there ought to be more—this is a cheap motel room),
I can revisit evidence, hear it ringing.
My life is movies, and tells itself in phones.

The rotary phone, so dangerously languid
and loud when the invalid must dial the police.
The killer coming up the stairs can hear it.
The detective ducks into a handy phone booth
to call his sidekick. Now at least there's touch tone.
But wait, the killer's waiting in the booth
to try to strangle him with the handy cord.
The cordless phone, first noted in the crook
of the neck of the secretary
as she pulls life-saving files.
Files come in drawers, not in the computer.
Then funny computers, big and slow as ovens.
Now the reporter's running with a cell phone
larger than his head,
if you count the antenna.

They're Martians, all of these people,
perhaps the strangest being the most recent.
I bought that phone. I thought it was so modern.
Phones shrinking year by year, as stealthily
as children growing.

It's the end of the world.
Or people are managing, after the conflagration.
After the epidemic. The global thaw.
Everyone's stunned. Nobody combs his hair.
Or it's a century later, and although
New York is gone, and love, and everyone
is a robot or a clone, or some combination,

you have to admire the technology of the future.
When you want to call somebody, you just think it.
Your dreams are filmed. Without a camera.
You can scroll through the actual things that happened,
and nobody disagrees. No memory.
No point of view. None of it necessary.

Past the time when the standard thing to say
is that, no matter what, the human endures.
That whatever humans make of themselves
is therefore human.
Past the transitional time
when humanity as we know it was there to say that.
Past the time we meant well but were wrong.
It's less than that, not anymore a concept.
Past the time when mourning was a concept.

Of course, such a projection,
however much I believe it, is sentimental—
belief being sentimental.
The thought of a woman born
in the fictional Fifties.

That's what I mean. We were Martians. Nothing's stranger
than our patience, our humanity, inhumanity.
Our worrying about robots. Earplug cell phones
that make us seem to be walking about like loonies
talking to ourselves. Perhaps we are.

All of it was so quaint. And I was there.
Poetry was there; we tried to write it.

It's going to be a great month, both for baseball and for us poetry lovers.

GO REDS! (GO PADRES ~ the default team!)