Monday, March 30, 2009

this one's for you, Vicky

I talked to my sister tonight to see if she had heard from the surgeon. Has he decided what he's going to do, come Wednesday? The answer was no, he hasn't. The CT scan was not particularly encouraging; circulation is quite impaired. So I will call again tomorrow to learn if any decision has been made. Meanwhile, this beautiful piece with Cecilia Bartoli and Arlene Augér is for you, Vicky.

Tomorrow we drive in to Manzanillo to pick up our FM-3 documents. We had to have our pictures taken again (gag!) because the last ones were too small and there were no profiles included (gag! gag!). You know the old saying about one would rather have a root canal without drugs than do "X"? I feel that way about having my picture taken. But it's done, we hope the documents will be ready, and we'll be fiinished with all of that for another year. Then a big-time shopping at various large stores, a smart lunch, and home probably mid-afternoon. This, of course, is predicated on everything going as planned, gringo style.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the virgin's vigil

Solace and comfort can come from the most unexpected places, can't they? In this little village there are many kind and caring souls. One of them is a big, blustery chap from Wisconsin who has found, among other things, a politically conservative soul mate in the Patient. (Linda, if you're reading this you know whom I mean!) Today he gave me the traditional Virgin of Guadalupe vigil candle for my sister. He is the last person I would have expected to have done this. I just about wept right in his presence. (I waited until I got home.) He has proved to be what I always though he was: a big, soft Teddy Bear in hiding. I have lighted the candle. It will burn for 7 days.

My brother-in-law called from New Haven to let me know that Vicky is having an MRI today to see how good the circulation is in her lower leg and foot. That will determine the extent of the surgery.

Now on to happier things. I talked with granddaughter Emily ~ we missed one another on her 15th birthday ~ and was very pleased to learn that she has been accepted at Thacher School for next year. This is the place where her grandfather, father and brother went. She'll be holding up a long tradition. She is going for an introductory weekend next Friday, then she has to make up her mind and let them know by April 10. She will have to give up rowing if she goes, so it will be a trade-off. As she has sagely pointed out, "If I don't like it I can always come home and row. But if I stay and don't like rowing, I'm stuck." Smart woman!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

send out good mojo

Some of you faithful readers may remember the scare I had last year with the infected toe. I had to leave the beach in a hurry to get some good old USA medical attention. Everything turned out just fine; the infection cleared up quickly and I was back "on my toes" in no time. Unfortunately, my beloved sister has not been so lucky. She, too, is a diabetic. She, too, has turned up with an infected toe. However, it has turned gangrenous and she is scheduled to have one and possibly two toes amputated on Tuesday. If the docs find further damage and evidence of gangrene, she may lose her entire foot. She is currently in New Haven languishing at Yale University Hospital, a virtual home-away-from home for her. It seems like every time she goes east for a visit she ends up spending at least part of her stay at Yale. I think she should just book in there at the outset instead of even trying to stay with her daughter.

Anyway, I talked with her this evening and she is in remarkably good spirits. She is optimistic that they will stop at the toes and leave everything else as it is.

So, send good mojo for her safety under the knife and a health recovery with all 8 toes intact.

By the way, I did listed to the opera today, "Das Reingold." Not bad. But we have a break from the Ring Cycle next week with Elisir d'amour. A bit of levity in the midst of gloom and doom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

in my own front yard

The wisteria at home (US version) has burst into bloom and, once again, I am not there as a witness. But thanks to my neighbor, at least I can see it through the magic of photographs. We planted these vines in 1990 when we had the house remodeled and an overhang built outside our bedroom. There are actually two vines of differing colors; this is the violet shade; the other is more blue. When they're both in bloom and twined together it's quite dazzling.

Latest read: "The Looming Towers: Al Quada and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright. One might think ~ correctly ~ that this is not a fun beach read. But absolutely riveting. I am a big fan of Wright's, anyway. He is a writer for the New Yorker and I make sure to read everything by him. The background is fascinating, but it's like watching a movie when you've read the book. You already know what's going to happen and it isn't going to be any better this time.

Time to get ready for dinner at Dago's. Tomorrow's Met presentation is Das Reingold, the first of the four Ring Cycle operas. I may be busy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

great new party idea

Here's a new party theme: Clean Out the Refrigerator Party. Meg and Marnie and Nick and Roger are heading back to Canada/Kansas City respectively on Saturday. So tonight they had a get together at which everyone was to bring an hors d'oeuvre and a carry-away container to help them clean out their refrigerators/cupboards. Including the bar.

We rescued a bottle of Kahlua that was doomed to find a place in an unappreciative household. There were several bottles of various liquors that we do not drink but that we know will find good homes. We brought home ceviche, salsa, the guacamole we took that wasn't eaten, the rest of the Pita chips from TJ's that we brought down, and some chorizo filling for tacos. Tomorrow's lunch is taken care of. I think they are going to have more leftovers for their fridge than what they started with. Nonetheless, they had a great gathering and gave the rest of us a whole new idea about how to off-load all the end-of-season goodies.

M & M's house has a completely outdoor kitchen that faces on to the sea; what a great view, early in the morning and at sunset. Actually, any time.

They have a sensational view from the second floor ~ north to south, uninterrupted coastline.

We will all be together again tomorrow night for dinner at Dago's. Maybe they'll bring the leftover leftovers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

luly cooks chilaquiles

This morning, ten of us showed up at Linda and Helen's house for a cooking lesson of that favorite brunch dish. Luly is a native Mexican, a wonderful cook and a crackerjack domino player. We all gathered around the tiny outdoor kitchen and sipped strong coffee. Marnie, Helen and Roger chopped. Luly and Roger cooked. Marnie stirred. Roger beat eggs and shredded cheese. Linda took notes. I took photos. The rest ~ Carol, Marie, Patty and Nick ~ supervised.

Before beginning the assembly process there are several steps to be taken. Luly bought fresh tortillas, cut them into triangles, spread them out on paper towels and let them dry overnight.

By the time you are ready to fry them they are dry and will stay crisp. She browned some whole garlic cloves in olive oil, then added the cut-up tortillas and browned them slowly, turning constantly. They get nice and crunchy and will hold up in the eggs. COOK'S NOTE: You can also buy packaged chips prepared especially for chilaquiles if you are in to saving time and work!

Meanwhile, there was lots of chopping going on. Marnie was seeing to the tomatoes, Roger was doing the garlic, and Helen diced up the onions and two Serrano chiles (one with seeds, one without). It was time to start cooking the salsa. In a saucepan, lightly saute the chopped garlic, some of the chopped onions, and the chiles. Add a couple of tablespoons of crushed chicken broth cubes, water, and some ground pepper and simmer while the chips are cooking. This sauce is more liquid than a regular salsa, although still pretty chunky. COOK'S NOTE: The knives used in preparing all these veggies came from a town in Jalisco famous for its cutlery: Sayula, about 120 miles east of here. I think we'll stop there on our way home and buy a couple. They are gorgeous and not too pricey.

The sauce is done when the veggies are medium-soft. It will be nice and spicy. You can make this ahead, refrigerate or freeze for later for use in almost any other Mexican dish you can imagine. They all seem to use a salsa of some kind. In addition, as it sits it gets more picante.

Now it's time to prepare the eggs. Break into a bowl and beat gently with a fork. Add about a teaspoon of the crushed chicken broth cubes. A bit of pepper; no salt. The chicken broth cube takes care of that. If you like a bit more heat, a couple of shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce will do fine, but remember the salsa that is to come.

Into the frying pan with the perfectly sautéd chips pour the beaten eggs. Don't stir. Let the eggs set slightly, then gently push the chips around to get the rest of the eggs set. They should not be dry or overcooked.

Spoon a serving of the eggs onto a plate, top with a generous helping of salsa, a sprinkling of finely diced onion, chopped cilantro and crumbled queso seco, a dry white cheese that's ubiquitous here. A dry Romano might work at home. On the side, refried beans with raw onions stirred in.

¡Buen provecho! What a morning! What a wonderful meal. That and an ice cold cerveza and you're set for the day.

The full recipe will be available, complete with proportions, as soon as Linda cleans up her notes and passes them on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the president holds a press conference

Whether you agree with him or not, whether you voted for him or not, even if you want him to fail ~ I actually know someone who does ~ this is a president who speaks English in entire sentences ~ subject, predicate, punctuation, the whole deal ~ who thinks before he speaks, who has a breathtaking grasp of what's going on, and who is linguistically nimble. What a refreshing change.

Monday, March 23, 2009

adios, san miguel

Today's chores included a trip to the Mega, a big grocery store that has everything you could ever want in the way of food stuffs. We bought a case of wine, some dry salami, some hot cross buns (in Mexico??!) for breakfast tomorrow before we hit the road. Then it was to El Maple, a Canadian bakery for delicious whole wheat bread that you can't get any place else. We walked up to La Palapa, our favorite quickie lunch joint. Its specialty, as far as we are concerned, is fish tacos (not as good as Dago's, of course). This outdoor spot is nothing but a cyclone fence on a dirt lot with a big Sol tent overhead.

I should explain, perhaps, that Sol is a beer maker in Mexico; the other biggie is Modelo. My favorite beer, Indio, is a Sol product. If a restaurant carries one brand, it doesn't carry the other. This is a country of monopolies; think Telmex (phones) and Pemex (gasoline). So at La Palapa we can get Indio along with our fish tacos.

One of these little beauties, slathered in some mystery green sauce that's a bit piquante and covered with fresh salas, and you have the perfect San Miguel lunch.

After filling up on these we walked over to the Italo-Mexican deli, La Cava to buy some good parmesan cheese to take back to the beach.

I would have opted for some more of their delicious sausages but we passed them up this time. Then a stroll back home ~ it was hot by this time ~ to begin packing up for the trip home. I did manage to finish "Assassination Vacation" and made good progress in "Conflict and Culture in the Middle East." All in all, it was a very successful vacation; visit with friends, good food, good shopping, good walks.

This is a very beautiful city, even though it is loaded with Americans and Canadians who have left el Norte for a different life. Not necessarily better; just different. San Miguel is a place where you are free to be. I have seen people ~ mostly women ~ walking around, perfectly comfortable and unconscious, in the most outlandish get-ups imaginable. Nobody pay attention, except me, of course, an outlander. But I get the feeling that these women, back in Keokuck, Iowa, probably never took a flyer on anything. And here they are, thousands of miles away, having the best time imaginable, in a whole new world.

I need to remember this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I saw it on TV!

We don't have a television at the beach so if I want to see something important, such as the inauguration or the State of the Union speech, I must depend on the kindness of strangers (thank you, Charlotte!). But here in the big city, aka San Miguel, we have cable in the apartment. I get to watch CNN (boring) and FOX (egad!), and CBS. Tonight I watched 60 Minutes, first time in 4 month, and the president. I have been reading the Daily Kos, Real Clear Politics, Politico, the NYT, WashPost, etc., and thus all the negative stuff about the recklessness of the president'a plan, Tim Geithner, the budget and the various bail-out schemes. But watching the President tonight, listening to his even, measured, tempered explanations and responses to Steve Croft's questions and comments, I am again reassured and deeply thankful that we have him dealing with the crisis rather than the former President and his band of pranksters or the McCain-Palin crowd. If we think this is bad . . .

We had a low-key, quiet day today. We went out this morning to do banking and some wine searching. Needless to say, we can't get any really good (or interesting) wine where we are, but up here in Gringoville, there are more possibilities. Interestingly, however, most of the good stuff comes from Chile. Although there is fairly decent wine produced in the area of the northern Baja (thank you, UC Davis department of viticulature and enology), it's still not as good as the Chilean products. We bought a couple of things to try; tomorrow we'll go back and load up with two or three cases that should, if we're prudent, see us over the border and home. The inspectors are quiet lenient about how much wine you can bring across.

Tomorrow is the final "shop 'till you drop" day. I am contemplating a beautiful rug, although if I bought it I wouldn't know where to put it. But it's so beautiful and so inexpensive . . . That's the problem with coming here. There are really gorgeous things at such reasonable prices, especially when the dollar buys so many pesos. But I guess prucence should be the watchword. We'll go to the fish taco joint for lunch, then find someplace interesting for our last dinner treat. Then back to the beach early Tuesday morning. It's been a great get-away. As we drove around through the hills this morning we ooh'd and ahh'd at the beautiful houses ~ many for sale ~ but agreed that, although living here would be lovely and offer many more amenities, there's nothing like our little corner of paradise at the beach.

On a more serious note, my thoughts and prayers go to the families of the four Oakland police officers who were senselessly gunned down today in a stupid shootout in that oft-violent city. What a waste, all around.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

fun guests, lovely hostess gift,
great lunch, best baby pix

Carolyn and Beto arrived yesterday noon for an overnight visit. I haven't seen them since they moved from the beach to Tepotzlán, a town north of Mexico City. They bought an old falling-down house, completely rebuilt it, and now have a gorgeous two-story casa with a nice casita for guests (ahem!). We went out to lunch, sent Beto and the Patient back to the apartment, and Carolyn and I strolled through San Miguel for four languid hours. We must have gone into every shop and tienda on our route. She found a gorgeous pair of doors for her house. The only drawback was how to get them from here to there. Since it's only 2 hours' driving time, she'll be back. The fellows had stopped at the local polloria for chicken, which we had as a late-nite supper, along with a salad and a nice bottle of Chilean white.

This morning the two muscle men wrangled the big olive pot out of our car and into theirs for the trip to Carolyn and Beto's house and garden. She had left it behind at the beach when she moved; couldn't get it into her then-car. But it fit ~ barely ~ into the newer, bigger car. So off they went after a really great visit. As a hostess gift, she brought me a little piece of intriguing artwork. This little picture (11 X 15 cm) by an artist in her town Alfredo Hernandez Morales, is made of tiny little wooden sticks, dyed and pasted into scenes of local life. This is a scene of Lago de Patzcuaro. Initially it looks like very fine needlework done in single strand silk. But when you look carefully at the materials used, it's even more astounding. You can even see the tiny boats on the lake. (I tried several different settings on the camera and could not get a really clear shot.)
Our guests pulled away about 10 AM this morning. I got myself settled to listed to the opera at 11 AM ~ the best bel canto opera ever, in my relatively untutored opinion. Full of bright, colorful, tuneful music for all the characters. At about 4 PM we headed out for comida and the aforementioned Ole! Ole! A 30 peso ride delivered us to the front door of this way out of the way place.

It is a shrine to bullfighting. The walls are covered with posters dating far back into the 70-'s and 80's. There is a huge stuffed bull at the front door and another bull head mounted on the wall.

The specialty of the house are fajitas ~ chicken, beef or shrimp, or a mix. I ordered the mix of beef and chicken, the Patient ordered a veggie brochette that came with beautifully roasted squash, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers.
We both did our best to do justice to these beautifully prepared and presented dishes but it was the old "eyes and stomach" thing, so we brought at least half of it back to the apartment for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. We had a lovely stroll (all downhill) back to the apartment. When you finally get to San Miguel, don't miss this delightful spot.

As for the above mentioned "Best Baby Pix" I received this from my dear friend Patty who lives in Maryland. Her son, Jason, and his wife Nerija, produced this beautiful little boy, Vacarus Titus, some three weeks ago. They have titled this "The Sleeping Thinker." I might go with "The Thinking Sleeper." Whichever you like, I think this is one of the best baby pictures I've ever seen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

vacations are for changing your mind

We didn't go to Ole! Ole! after all. First there was the indoor market. What a feast for the eye and the intended daily menu. There was beautiful aspárrago; I've never seen asparagus in Mexico, or at least some that I would be willing to pay pesos for. Then there was granadas, passion fruit. I am not a particular fan of this fruit, mainly because of the zillions of tiny, sand-like seeds nestled in the viscous pulp that afficionados claim is its essence. To me it tastes like juicyfruit gum. I'd rather have the gum.

After the market we walked up to the intended restaurant but found that it would not be open until 1 PM; it was, at that time, 11:30. We wandered back to the jardin, found a bank ~ we thought it was somewhere else but found where it had moved to ~ and instead decided to lunch at Méson San José, famous for its salads.

My eating-drinking-travel-life partner opted for Sopa de Azteca with nice chunks of chicken and stringy cheese in a rich broth. I opted for a beautiful Cobb Salad with the aforementioned chicken, bacon and other usual ingredients.

All this lovely food is served in a quiet garden setting, off the bustle of Avenida Mésone, in what looks like it might have been a real hacienda. There is a big courtyard surrounded by an arched terrazzo walkway off of which are small rooms, now little shops. In a real hacienda these cell-like rooms would have been occupied by the servants. The family lived in the front and upstairs.

We walked back to the apartment, stopping at a great deli, La Cava, for pork sausage and capollini pasta for dinner. This tiny place is stuffed with all things Italian; sausage, pasta, cheeses, ham, canned goods, olive oils. I asked whether it was Italian or Mexican. The dueño assured me it was Mexican with the heart of Italy. We went back today for some fresh Parmesan cheese.

On our way back to the apartment we passed this show of jacaranda. The photo in no way does them justice. But believe me, they are breathtaking.

This morning we went off to Delores Hidalgo, the home of talavera style pottery. I bought two big ceramic pots for the house; the clay pots simply disintegrate in the salt air. The only thing that lasts is real ceramic. They are stowed away in the car; photos on our return to the beach.

We are expecting friends tomorrow for an overnight treat. They are driving down from Mexico City, about four hours away. We'll do a bit of walking around, have a lovely dinner out, and generally enjoy their company and the treats San Miguel has to offer.

As for Saturday's opera, it's La Sonnambula with the glorious Natalie Dessay in the lead. It's one of those operas where all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

rain? rain!

Easy drive here yesterday. Very little traffic or slow-downs for construction (the biggest time-waster in most Mexican travel). The best thing about the drive was seeing the jacarandas, now in early bloom. I never cease to wonder at their indescribable color. As we came through Celaya, heading up into the mountains, there was a stretch of them on both sides of the road, maybe 200 total, all decked out in that shimmering blue color. Worth every minute of the 7 1/2 hour drive.

As we're settling in to our lovely apartment, the distant roll of thunder reaches our ears. Rain? Could that be a warning that it's going to rain? May and June are the months for that here. By 5 o'clock the sky was leaden, the clouds low, the light gone. We stood out on the tiny balcony off the bedroom, looking west, and watched it progress from a mere sprinkle to real a rain.

Looking east the sky was even darker and more threatening.

It didn't last long ~ maybe an hour ~ but it was enough to give everything a nice drink and to wash away the accumulated dust on the leaves. And to give us a beautiful rainbow in the eastern sky. Best of all, the ground was wet enough to exude that delicious after-the-first-rain smell. Wet, muddy, earthy, pungent. Even a little pine-y up here at 7,000 ft. This morning the birds are singing, the sun is bright and warm, the sky a brilliant blue.

On today's schedule is a bus ride up to the indoor market for a walk-through, always a treat, and then lunch at Olé! Olé!, a couple of blocks away. Famous for fajitas. Pictures to follow, of course.

Started a fascinating book on the way up (recorded), Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation" about the events that took the lives of three presidents, Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield. I got on to her because of a review of another of her books, "The Wordy Shipmates." I'll get that one when I get home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

we're off to San Miguel de Allende

Early tomorrow we'll head up into the mountains to one of our favorite spots. We managed to snag the same apartment we've stayed in twice before. The owner just happens to be taking a trip to Chiapas at this time so it works perfectly. We usually go in January when it's cold, day and night. At this time of year, weather report shows low 80ºs; just perfect. Some friends from Cuyutlán who now live just outside Mexico City will join us for an overnight. Along with good eating, great walking, and splendid shopping, it should be a fine week.

Happy 4th Birthday, Ruby. No photo yet.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Southern hemi south swell

A faithful reader asked me if we swim in the ocean. This is why we do not. March is the time of year when our beaches get a "gnarly shore pound" from huge waves. There is a phenomenon called the ola verde, the green wave. These are enormous, rolling waves, beloved by surfers, that start way off shore and roll in, gathering force as they come. They rise, curl, and slam onto the beach. And the really big ones are not here yet, but they will come in a few weeks. For now, we have 10' to 15' variety. When they hit, it feels like an mini earthquake and makes a loud roar, enough to wake you from a sound sleep. This will last for a week, then subside. In a month it will start again. It is spectacular to watch; great sprays of foam 25' high.

So no, we don't swim in the ocean. The ola verde, along with serious rip tides, make this a great beach for observing but not for swimming.

Wonderful dinner at the beach tonight. Thirty of us showed up to break bread (or tostadas) together. Tomorrow's opera is on at 11 AM our time, given that you nortes are on DST. I'll be all ears for the sublime Renée Flemming.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

11ºF is the high!

Remember the Bashers who left us on Wednesday morning? They were on their way home to Winnepeg, Ontario. Just out of curiosity I looked up the weather there to see what greeted them. 11º was the predicted high for today (it actually got up to 16º). The low? 2ºF tonight. Imagine living in such a place!

This picture, taken from the edge of Dago's puesto looking out to the sparkling sea,is for them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the march of birthdays

We are celebrating three birthdays in the family this month. The first is Ike, one year old on March 8th. His take for the event was a new bed. He spent the day playing in fresh snow with his neighbor pal, Gemma.

Today is granddaughter Emily's 15th. I have no idea what her take will be. But she will probably spend at least part of the day on the water; she is an accomplished rower and member of a local crew club.

And finally, next Monday is grandniece Ruby's 4th birthday. My sister has gone back to Connecticut to aid and abet the celebration. The take will be serious. Photo when I get one.

Happy Birthday to all of you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

adios, Shelagh and Ned

Twelve of us gathered at Dago's tonight for shrimp and whatever else you might want to bid a fond farewell to Shelagh and Ned Basher who are heading back to Winnepeg, Ontario, Canada, after two months in beautiful Cuyutlan. They are the proprietors of the Rossport Inn in Rossport, Ontario, located at the top of Lake Superior. In fact, we are even talking about heading up there during the summer to take over the place. As we ambled out of Dago's onto the malecon for the walk home, Neighbor Nelson played this on his iPod and cranked the sound way up. A fitting end to a lovely evening.

The Bashers are a most charming, congenial couple who have had a nice two month to thaw out in the tropics before heading back to the ice-bound north. We will miss them and look forward to their return next season. Bien viaje.

Monday, March 09, 2009

the beautiful kisskadee

I saw this bird on a telephone wire near Jack's casa. I was walking back from the beach, glanced up and saw this lovely flash of yellow. I had seen them in the past but had no idea what they were. And they don't spend much time in town. I consulted with my friend Patty, an accomplished birder, and she knew instantly what it was. Their name comes from the sound of their call: "Kiss-kiss-ka-dee!" They congregate here in the spring, and by April they're gone.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

the right to bare arms

The country is involved in two wars, the economy is in shambles, people are out of jobs, have lost their health care, are out on the street . . . and plenty more. And what's the latest socio/political flap that's sucking up printer's ink? Michelle Obama's arms. Yes! I am not kidding. Critics (mainly from the right and wingnut factions and mainly male) are all over the story of her sleeveless dresses, showing off beautiful arms. Maureen Dowd has a nice, salty comment on this subject in this morning's Times. Even David Brooks, my favorite sane conservative Republican has been sucked into practicing sociology without a license. He has some choice comments about Ms. Obama and her flaunting of a nice figure. What he says is more damming to the right's ideas about women than it is about Michelle.

I find this dust-up particularly pointed because today is International Women's Day on which we celebrate the struggles and successes of the generations of women who have spent their lives protesting, marching, legislating and teaching for economic, social and political equality for women. Much has been done, including Obama's signature of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last week. But as the Dowd op-ed piece shows, there's still a long way to go.

There are many things that people can find to criticize about this fledgling administration. After all, he's been president now for 9 weeks and we're still in a mess. I, for one, intend to keep faith with him for as long as it takes and as bad as it gets. But Michelle's arms are not, I believe, a subject that falls into the category of "our national interest." This woman is a product of those 98 years of struggle and the boys can't stand it!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

carsten's garden

While the Patient was in the library, I went across the street to take photo's of a garden belonging to one of the original owners of our house. He has built a new house a few blocks away. He is still living in cold, cold Canada but is worried about his garden. It's doing nicely, except for a couple of things that have been over-watered by the caretaker. This bloom is from the same type of vine we planted in our yard, but ours was dined out upon by the iguanas. Perhaps we'll try again.

The opera was wonderful, although I'm not a big fan of Patricia Racette, who sang Cio-Cio San. But the music is sublime. Next week's opera is "Rusalka" with Renée Flemming. This time the tenor is the loser.

All you nortes go on Daylight Savings Time tonight ~ OK, tomorrow morning at 2 AM, if you're up. Don't forget to spring ahead. We will not go on DST for another month.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Forma Migratoria 3

The trip to Manzanillo on Tuesday went (almost) without a hitch. It took more patience than the Patient usually has, and some logistical rethinking, but after a mere 3 hours, we got done as much as we could.

The Instructions: Turn right at ISTI. It's in a big green building at the end of the street.
The Truth: It's white.
The Instructions: Park as soon as you get onto that street. There's never anyplace to park.
The Truth: We parked in front.
The Instructions: You need three months' worth of bank statements - originals.
The Truth:: They accept copies.
The Instructions: Oh no, just a copy of the first page of your passport is necessary.
The Truth: We needed all the pages of the passport, blank and stamped.
The Instructions: Yeah, those pictures are fine.
The Truth: The photos must be 4X4 cm., four front, three right side profile, no jewelry, no hair across the forehead (aka "bangs") or along the side of the face. It all has to be swept behind the ears. I'm talking about mine, of course. Ours photos were 3X3 cm., not accepted BUT we can have them retaken and hand them in when we return to get the final FM3.
The Instructions: Get there early so you'll be first in line. It shouldn't take long.
The Truth: We were there early, when it opened. But we were 6th in line. It took, as I said, three hours. But that included having to walk quite a distance to pay the fees and to get the passport pages copied. We returned with receipts and pages, and then it was more waiting. By 11:30 we were back in line to sign the papers to cancel our visas and pick up our temporary documents.
The Instructions: You go back in 2 weeks to get your permanent document and you're finished for a year.
The Truth: According to Srta. Monserrat, "It will be ready in 4 weeks. Come back on March 31, with photos."

The wheels of the bureaucracy grind mighty fine here.

By noon we were in the car headed for lunch at La Posada, our favorite watering hole/restaurant down in Las Brisas. The food isn't the greatest, but you can't beat the view and comfort of the dining room. (I know this is not a new photo. I posted it a couple of years ago. But I didn't take a new one.) A bit of shopping, and finally home.

We drove into to Manzanillo on the 2-lane free road, through the jungle and groves of limes, papaya, mangoes (the trees are loaded with ripening fruit that should hit the market in about 2 weeks), bananas and coconuts. It's a beautiful drive, if slow because of truck traffic. But coming home we drove on the toll road along the shore. It, too, is a pretty drive if less interesting. But by that time, I was all about speed and was too uncomfortable to be interested in anything except the prospect of a nice siesta. I have been having a bit of the "jippy tummy" and was in no mood or condition to linger. Indeed, I did take a nice long nap, had a light supper, and was in bed early.

As for the rest of this week, it has gone by at its usual leisurely pace; walks on the beach, hammock time, reading, dominoes, breakfast with friends in Paraiso, swimming, marveling at and enjoying the delicious weather. I'm gearing up to plow into some heavy reading: Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine," passed to me by one of our group. But before I open it I will read the profile of her by Larissa MacFarquhar that was in The New Yorker on December 8, 2008. You can tell how I ration my New Yorker reading; I have nothing more current than January 26, 2009. I have to make them last another 2 months.

Puccini fills the opera air tomorrow with Madam Butterfly. It's another one of those operas that doesn't end well for the soprano. But tonight is steamed fish al Veracruzana at Dago's. I'll worry about Cio-Cio San tomorrow.

Monday, March 02, 2009

almost ellis island

Tomorrow we are off to Manzanillo to the Mexican Immigration Service to apply for our FM3 documents. This is like a long-term visa. It gives you permanent registration for the car which means you don't have to stop at the 30-mile aduana and show car papers, and it gives you a sort of "permanent resident" status since you have to be a property owner to get one. That means no more breath-holding as we approach the border, wondering if, this year, our vehicle and all its carefully packed goods will be torn apart and searched. We've avoided this but have seen others who have not been so lucky, and it's not a pretty sight. We have put off applying for an FM3 for a couple of years, just because it entails a ton of paperwork, standing in line, having photos taken, etc.

We'll take off early - 8 AM if I can get up and going - and head down to the interior port of the city, in what was, only a year ago, a bustling area. Last reports from people making the trip were that it's eerily quiet and almost deserted. Manzanillo is Mexico's largest and busiest deep-water port on the Pacific coast. Its yards are always crammed with stacks of containers either waiting to be shipped out or to be loaded on to trains for delivery throughout the country. With the economy in the dumps, things have slowed to a snail's pace.

Our FM3 is good for 5 years, with a yearly renewal fee and the presentation, once again, of all the required documentation. This year we finally got our act together, made copies of the last 3 months of bank statements, electric bills (how you show proof of property ownership - although if you owned property and didn't have a building on it and thus didn't have electricity I don't know what hoops you'd have to jump through), photographs, copies of passport and driver's license. If it all goes well tomorrow we can return in 2 weeks to get the actual document. Now when we come through the border we just flash the FM3 and that's it. Or so it is said. I can't believe it's going to be that easy.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

bulletin from the linguistic wars

Pica, over at The Magpie Nest put up this interesting post on Friday:

"Delighting in a New Vowel

Hanging around the hispanohablantes on Ravelry has introduced me to the gender-unspecific vowel that is apparently now being widely used in Spanish texting: @.

Spanish, like many Romance languages, has an obligatory masculine/feminine divide in nouns. Sometimes the endings are unintuitive (la mano [the hand], el drama [drama]) but mostly “a” is feminine, “o” is masculine. This being a culture where historically the masculine incorporated everyone, in the 60s if you said “hola a todos” it was assumed you meant hello world, or hello everyone, masculine feminine and neuter.

I’m delighted to see new Spanish-speaking knitters chime in on Ravelry with the “hola a tod@s,” the ‘o’ encompassing the ‘a’ as a perfect, ambi vowel. It’s particularly heartening because in fact not all Spanish-speaking knitters are female, nor are all of them straight, and I love the inclusiveness that’s implied…"

As a refugee from the non-gender-using lingo of el Norte, the "o" and "a" dilemma can be a source of amusement along with confusion. I don't know if there are many locals who do either texting or emailing, but I'm going to ask around to see if anyone recognizes this trend.

Regarding last nights Carnival, after my delicious massage (I fell asleep on the table), I ate an early supper and was in bed by 8 PM. Next year . . .