Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a week's worth of news

We are down to one week more here at the edge of the world. Our five months are up, the car insurance will lapse in 3 weeks, it's getting hot, the flies are ojut, and it's time to go home. We've been without a phone for most of this past week, the internet connection is sporadic but usable up on the 3rd floor, I've run out of ideas on how to make interesting salads, and it's time to go home. But the past week has not been without it's very good occasions.

While our guests were here we took a day-trip up into the hills of Colima, first to Nogueres and the lovely little museum and arboretum. This place was once a thriving hacienda and sugar cane plantation. It was purchased by the Rangel family, and the son, Alejandro turned it into a museum for his fantastic collection of pre-Columbian art and his own paintings. We did the museum and, while the gents explored the flora in the extensive arboretum, I sat on the cool, shady veranda

and looked out over the green, green gardens.

Over in a corner I found this lovely plant; reminds me of a giant lily pad.

We drove on to Suchitlan, a small town noted for its wood carved masks.

It was once a thriving coffee producing area. Now all that's left of that enterprise are some coffee trees located in the gardens of a wonderful restaurant, Los Arcos where we had lunch. The colorful, imaginative masks of some of the local carvers are on display and for sale in the restaurant.

After lunch we drove around looking for the little town of San Antonio. There is a very chi-chi hotel there, the Hacienda San Antonio, a quite grand $780 USD a night crash pad. I have seen it in the past but, try as we might, we couldn't locate it. So we gave up and drove home.

Friday night was dinner at Dago's (see previous post). Saturday was dinner at P & B's beautiful, high-ceiling'd house down in the colonia. P cooked up his delicious tacos for an appreciate group of invitees. Our guests were impressed by the beautiful sea views and by the warmth and generosity of the hospitality of two of our favorite ex-Ajijic-ers. Sunday night was dinner at Marie's to bid farewell to Helen and Linda who headed back to BC, Canada on Tuesday. More great hospitality. By Monday I was socialized out. It was all I could do to make the weekly visit to the tiagues, not really to shop but to stroll the vendors and get it all fixed in my mind to last me six months. It is always a huge shock the first time I wander into the Safeway or Nugget to shop. I am amazed at (a) the choices, (b) the packaging, and (c) the prices. Food is so expensive in the US as opposed to here. For every bite we take, several dozen bureaucrats get paid. I prefer it here, where the man or woman who grows the potatoes is the one who takes the pesos home. Food is abundant and very cheap. And if you have a lime tree in your back yard, or a mango tree, and it is overproducing, just set out a chair and table outside your garden, put up a hand written sign, and all your produce will be gone by the end of the day.

Tonight is dominoes. Tomorrow evening Fernando and Chuy are hosting a birria party, using Marie's big outdoor horno. It's going to be beef and pork; he could not find anyone to sell him a goat kid. We'll roast veggies and have a big watermelon for dessert. Friday will be the last gathering at Dago's for this season. Most of the gringos will be gong by mid-May. There are about a dozen full-timers who will be here for the summer and fall.

I am sitting up on the third floor as I write this, looking out toward the mountains, across a sea of waving palm fronts. There are a few houses peeking through the groves. To the left I can see just the very top of a Primavera tree, now in full, bright yellow bloom. They are very late this year. I can also see the brilliant fuchsia and white blossoms of the Surprisa bouganvillea in the garden at Neighbor Nelson's. It is a bit hazy this afternoon so the light against the hills is grey-blue, a nice contrast against the various greens and yellows of the palms. Behind me I can hear the sounds of the ocean. It's a strange sight-sound mix to hear the one and see the other. The palms don't seem to be making their usual rattle and click sounds but instead the swish of the sea. But I'm too drowsy to think about it anymore.

Friday, April 24, 2009

my daughter the shoemaker

When she was here this morning I asked Chuy if she was planning to join dinner at Dago's tonight. She said no, that she was going to be in the jardin doing something having to do with shoes. I didn't catch it all but thought that I could check later to see what was up. It turns out the local ladies are taking a shoemaking class. The shoes, mainly sandals will later be sold in town. I found this out on an afternoon walk with our houseguests.

We strolled the beach, commenting on (a) the big waves and (b) the high water line on the sand. Some chairs and tables had to be pulled up closer to the puestos to keep them from washing away. In certain places the beach is already beginning to erode about 1 foot. We have see it with drop-offs of 6' to 8' after heavy rain and surging tides.

Dinner at Dago's tonight. Think I'll have shrimp. To hell with the cholesterol. I've only got one more Friday here after tonight and I intend to celebrate at both of them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Anniversary Henry

Today is the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII as King of England and Ireland. It was dangerous to be a friend of Henry's, and not only a female friend. For those of you who may have an interest in how he changed the face of England, I recommend this article from today's Telegraph.

In other news, our guests arrived on Sunday and have been, by all reports, having a grand time. We went to the tiagues on Monday. Yesterday they went off to the turtle reserve and in the evening we had lovely grilled fish at Dago's. I have no idea where they went today. We may go up to Suchitlan and the arboretum at Nogueres tomorrow or Friday. They plan to begin a long, slow return to Guadalajara on Sunday. Then begins the big pack-up. Two weeks from today . . .

Today was a lovely luncheon-cum-dominoes down in the colonia It's very nice to have a "day game" every so often. Ten of us gathered at Bobbie's house, at noon for mimosas and a yummy chicken curry salad served in scooped out cantaloupe. I like it when the dishes are part of the meal.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

does this sound like your life?

I listened to Garrison Keillor tonight. Here is a wonderful song, performed by Tom Rush. It's perfect for those who have lived through more springs that we perhaps are willing to admit. Enjoy.

I have not felt in the pink for the past couple of days so today I just stayed in and, as a matter of fact, in bed most of the day. I am reading a terrific book, "The Untouchable" by John Banville, an Irish writer of prodigious talent, so it wasn't all hardship. This evening I am feeling a bit better; the tricky tummy seems to have subsided a bit. I have sipped only broth all day; a soothing alternative to real food. The bread man will be by any minute so I can buy more comfort food: taleras. I have to be up and doing tomorrow when our house guests arrive.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hartelijk gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag

Last night we went to a lovely birthday party for Chris DeRon, a Dutchman of more charm than is probably legal. A real treasure of a man. He and his wife live way down at the very end of the colonia, just this side of the tortugario sanctuary. They have a wonderful house that is made for parties. Great b-b-q, live music ~ provided by the masseuse Patti and her husband ~ well-stocked bar. Chris is renowned for his grilled ribs and they lived up to their reputation. Many contributions from the 35+ guests; salads, breads, hot dishes, etc. And on the grill, "personed" by two excellent chefettes, ribs and chicken. There was a full contingent of Cuyutlán's finest, gringo and Mexican. The first dancers on the floor were Chris and wife Robbie, swaying to "Spanish Eyes." As you can see from the photo above, Chris is a roly pink-cheeked blond. His wife is a tall willowy brunette with dark eyes, raised in Surinam. He told the story of their first meeting: he was working in a hospital (he's an anesthesiologist) and saw her coming down the stairs. As he said, "I saw her and dat vas it!" A fine time was had by all. Including Chris.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

my sleepy little Mexican beach village

We took Neighbor and Mrs. Neighbor Nelson up to the bus station in Colima for their trip back to California. Then we went to the Toyota agency to get the car looked at; the idiot light on the dash has come on and the notation in the owner's manual is "Go to Dealer." We have to take the car back this afternoon for a diagnostic check. We have to be sure Vincent is in good shape before we start the trek home.

A phone call to YNHH and my sister brought unhappy news. She had to have all the toes on her left foot amputated. Two were gangrenous, the other three were not getting any blood supply. On Friday she will have bypass surgery to etry to stimulate blood flow into her leg and foot. She was all doped up and really couldn't talk. I'll call again today.

I took a long walk up and down the malecon yesterday afternoon to soothe my sorrowing heart and to check on the health and welfare of my little town after the departure of the Easter revelers. It's in petty good shape, despite rough treatment. It's heart has slowed to its quiet, peaceful normal beat. All four discos shut down after a last gasp on Sunday. Stages have been dismantled, light standards removed, banners gone, speakers gone. It's as if they had never been here, although memory tells me they were! The beer tents that lined the southern end were empty although all the awnings have not been taken down. The Easter-only puestos had been packed up and taken away. Trash wasn't too bad; it will be picked up, piece by piece, by strollers such as I, and deposited in the at-hand badsura bins. The Indian ladies with their jewelry stalls were still there, but they are fairly ubiquitous now. The established puestos were doing a quiet but acceptable Tuesday afternoon business. I looked in at Dago's and saw a goodly number of folks sitting in sling chairs under the umbrellas on the shore. The very visible crowd control presence (local and federal police, army, marines, National Guard) is gone. I understand there were only a few fights, one shooting, and, unfortunately, four drownings. One of them was the nephew of the Governor of Colima. About average. The town hired more than 15 extra lifeguards for last week's crowd. This is always a fight among the hotel owners who are responsible for paying these daring and brave guys (and they're all guys. No Baywatch here.) They don't want their guests drowning but they don't want to fork out money to pay for their security. Ours is not a friendly-to-swimmers beach. And despite all the warning signs posted along the malecon and in the hotels, non-swimmers have too much beer and tequila, too much sun, wander into the surf and drown.

Last night I sat out on the front balcony - soon to be enclosed as a dining room - to listen to the lovely quiet. It was still and cool and very clear. I could hear, somewhere down the beach or in town, a wisp of faint music, Ranchero, I think. The dog next door had a few things to say but not much. The sea moaned and sighed on the shore. No traffic, no voices, no loud music, no disturbance of any kind. Bliss.

Three weeks from today we are leaving this wonderful place. I can only hope that Cuyutlán will pass a safe summer; no hurricanes to take out the beach and the puestos, no earthquakes to take down the houses.

Monday, April 13, 2009

se fueron

Yes, they've gone. After a mere 5 days of revelry the crowds have left town. The disco did crank up last night and I was here to enjoy every spin of the turntable. But it is now closed down, the beer tents have been packed up and taken away, the speakers loaded up and carted out of town. This little village is ours again. Or at least it no longer belongs to the disco. The disco pavilion did light up and I had a momentary attack of panic, but not a peep out of it. Tonight it is quiet and peaceful and the only thing I can hear is the lovely suss of the waves on the shore.

Tomorrow we take Neighbor Nelson and Mrs. Neighbor Nelson up to Colima so they can catch the bus to Guadalajara for their flight home. They'll spend the night in Guad and fly out on Wednesday. Their lovely holiday is over but, all things being equal, they'll be back next year. They "host" the internet from their house so if we get cut off for some reason, and we can't restart, you won't hear from us for awhile. We have had intermittent interruptions in service recently but I think we know how to remedy the problem.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

It seems like only yesterday that my mother would dress my sister and me in Easter finery and trot us off to church for the traditional Easter service (not the sunrise variety). My Godmother used to send us "sister look-alike" dresses, hats, sox and gloves. Not too many folks doll up in this style here.

Things are settling down after a pretty loud and busy weekend. Marie and I walked the malecon yesterday and commented that the crowds were much lighter than they had been last year. We could actually walk side-by-side without having to squeeze through wedges of hard-drinking, hard-partying folks. If this year's disco schedule follows that of last year, it should be quiet fafter tonight's blow-out. More vacationers will come during this next week, Pasqua but, as I have noted here before, that group is considered a more "genteel" crowd. Supposedly they do not camp on the beach but instead hang out at some of Cuyutlán's finest hotels. Which ones are in that category is still a mystery.

For us, it was a quiet Sunday with reading and resting. I dearly miss my traditional Easter dinner of roast leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, asparagus and lemon mousse. Instead, tongue tacos.

Friday, April 10, 2009

such a birthday!

This is a shot of the beach at Cuyutlan. It is covered with beautiful colored umbrellas and bright canvas sling chairs which have come to symbolize life here.

This is a shot of the back wall of my garage.

And this is my birthday present from my friend, Marie.

I cannot imagine a better gift! But as if that weren't enough, a group of us got together for lunch at Morelos for chiles rellenos, served only on Friday's during lent. Delicious. And tonight a little dinner party at Roger's.

I am birthday'd out.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

and it's only thursday . . .

The revelers have started arriving. Here's what it looked like this morning at 9 AM, off the front balcony.

This area was totally vacant last night. These folks arrived during the night or very early this morning.

Here's what it looked like at 3 PM this afternoon.

Some of these cars will leave this evening. But others will come tomorrow to take their places. There will be more campers tomorrow, too, on that bare patch of earth and huddled along the wall across the street. There will be no parking anywhere in town for the next 3 days. There is a serious police presence, too, including dogs. Many more uniforms than last year. I don't know what they expect to happen but whatever it is let's hope all this heavy armour and army personnel keeps it to a minimum. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and looked out the window. A line of police trucks, lights flashing, was patrolling the surrounding streets. I'm not sure whether to be relieved or afraid!

It is now 5:30 and the disco is getting warmed up for this evening's entertainment. A quick dinner and I'm off to the quiet of the colonia. It will all be here when I get back in the morning. And many, many more party-makers, I am sure.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

the scorched earth policy

This lot is on the south of side of house. It gets completely overgrown during the year, so by the time we get down in December it is covered with shrubs, cactus, debris, trash, and other items both natural and man-made. Now this might be ok IF the Easter visitors did not take advantage of the sheltered parts of the lot to use as an outdoor latrine. About a week after they all depart the perfume and the flies are enough to make you pack up and head for the border. A few years ago we decided we'd had enough of this back-to-nature stuff and got Fernando to burn off the lot. It did discourage it's use, so we did it again this year. It was pretty overgrown, so first he had to hack everything down and let it dry out. Then we had a big burn and it indeed looks like a war zone. This is the time of year when it gets very damp during the night so in the morning the air smells like there has been a forest fire. We can only hope that no cover and a bad smell will do the trick.

The disco fired up last night at 6 PM ~ a lovely accompaniment to the evening's Margarita hour ~ but quit aat 7. Then from the small hotel across the street came the funky music of a pick-up band. Brass, drums and a clarinet.

Loud but playing good old Mexican music, a mix of Mariachi band tunes and classic Ranchero-style. I walked over to get a better look. A great bunch of old guys, except for the two drummers who looked about 15, having a fine time together.

I went back home and they continued to fill the evening air with really great music, ever so much better then the black fog that pollutes the town from the disco. Around 9 PM they took a break and strolled down to the malecon to play there. I went back to the hotel to see if they would be returning. Yes, at about 10 o'clock. I wanted to give them a propina as thanks. Well, they never came back. Maybe they made a bundle at the beach and didn't bother. At 9:30 the disco started, blew out the town's electricity for (unfortunately) only 5 minutes, and then were back at it. I put on my trusty Bose noise-canceling ear phones and went to sleep. Things will crank up loud and long starting tonight so this is probably the last night I will sleep at home for a few days. I am hosting dominoes so really have to be here to clean up when it's over.

Telmex finally showed up to fix the phone lines. Now if I could just figure out what's amiss with our internet connection . We have to sit up on the 3rd floor (en plein aire as the Patient calls it) to get any reception. I think perhaps our aerial has become so salt- and dust-encrusted that it just doesn't work anymore. But we're now, suddenly short-timers so I'm not going to buy new equipment until next year. Four weeks from today we head home. Much too soon.

Monday, April 06, 2009

the candy man

Yesterday afternoon I walked along the malecon to see what fresh hell is afoot for Easter. New puestos, depositos (where you can buy beer and then return the bottles) and, of course, el disco are the first additions. There will be more as the week goes on. This year's disco incarnation is bigger than ever, spread over four lots. Between us and it lies one slender, one-house wide vacant lot, so we get the full enchilada. The "music" will probably start tomorrow night and go for 7 nights, usually until about 4 AM. But I am not going to sleep here; I'm going to spend the nights with friends who live down in the colonia, about 2 miles away. I'll still be able to hear the noise faintly but it won't shake the bed.

There were lots of day-trippers out yesterday, strolling up and down, eating in the puestos (Dago's was packed), surveying the wares of various purveyors of jewelry, ceramics, clothing. One of the prettiest sights was the candy man with his wheelbarrow full of these colorful goodies. He's the most popular vendor on the beach with the kiddies.

Right now it's quiet and peaceful, with only the occasional sound of hammers building yet another stall to sell drinks or food. I finally got through to Telmex to report that our phone has been out for 3 days; they'll come tomorrow. You know, mañana. Since I haven't been able to talk to the East Coast, I have nothing to report on my sister's condition. I'm sure I would have heard either via email or Skype if there was anything to report.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

another perfect day . .

here at the beach. High, clear blue skies, light breeze, beautiful, sparkling surf.

Meanwhile, in Bozeman . . .

Daughter Caitlin reported this morning that they had 40" of snow overnight.Even Ike found it a fun playground.

" I know I left it in here somewhere!"

"Found it!"

For all you readers in Mexico, tonight is the set-your-clocks-ahead time. We'll now be right back where we were, as far as time zones, except for Arizona that has no DST. They're "mavericks" in Arizona, but we already knew that.

No news from YNHH; our phone is not working today. We have to wait until Monday to find out why; Telmex is not answering its 24/7 Emergency Service number. You know, it's coming on to the Easter holidays and people have other things to do.

Es la vida loca . . . es la vida Mexicana.

Friday, April 03, 2009

the best little table in Mexico

Two or three times a season an enterprising man drives into town, chooses a spot on the sidewalk, and opens his store of hand-made tables and sling chairs. These are relatively crude pieces of furniture, but are the best additions to any beach house that you could find anywhere. And the prices are right; 50 pesos for a table, 120 pesos for the chair ~ frame and fabric sling. This year the gentleman set up shop outside Jack's house, just up the street. I sprang for three tables, all for this house. I have two in the US; they're just as handy around the pool there as they are around the hammock here. They are a kit-lover's dream table (are you paying attention, Allen?); 3 dowels, four legs, 5 slats, 20 nails, two bolts, 4 washers, 2 nuts. That's it. They also fold up flat for storage.

Of course, the minute the furniture truck comes down the hill from Colima and hits the salt air all the hardware starts to rust, and these little tables are only good for maybe 3 years until they will no longer open or fold up. But for $3.50 US, you can afford to be extravagant. They are made of palm wood which is, unfortunately, the termites' favorite snack food. The wood is so soft that it sucks up paint like a sponge. But after 4 or 5 coats of paint, these little gems look quite snappy.

A good turn-out at Dago's tonight for delicious fish and shrimp, great conversation, lots of laughs. What a delightful tradition this is turning into. There were 13 of us in a lovely fellowship. Dago has said that, despite the crowds of Semana Santa next week, he will reserve tables for us for Friday evening. We'll be there.

The news from YNHH is good. Vic is out of the ICU, onto the hospital floor, feeling much better, thanks. I talked to her today and she is pretty upbeat. The docs are going to continue to check all the systems to see why things continue to go awry. I think this is a very good idea. No word on surgeries in the future, although there will probably be some. But for now, things seem to be under control and it is a wait-and-see game.

Tomorrow is the opera, "Elisir d'amour." At least it's not Wagner.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

almost dual citizenship

Our trip to Manzanillo to pick up the FM3 documents went without a hitch. Well, almost. The Patient, while parking the car, ran into a tree and scraped the left side of the car pretty badly. Other than that, not a hitch. The documents were ready, except for the photos which were pasted in, then everything was stamped, signed, etc. It took just about one hour to get it all done. The main advantage to holding an FM3 is the tax break when selling property. We have no plans to do that immediately, but it's better if you hold the FM3 for more than about 15 minutes before selling. Then it was off to shop, to lunch, to bank, and to go home.

Tuesday morning I got a message from my niece that my sister had been whisked off to the ICU and put on a ventilator at 4 AM that morning. The cause was probably elevated potassium, the same condition that landed her in the hospital shortly after we arrived here. By last evening things had stabilized, she was off the ventilator and feeling ok. Today is another CT scan to see if the docs can find a healthy artery to transplant into her leg to improve circulation. No surgery until blood flow can be detected, otherwise the fear is she will not heal. Such an ordeal. She is a real trooper to put up with all this. I will call again tonight to see what the day's events brought. As for me, it's off to Jack's for a swim ~ perfect pool weather today, not too windy ~ and then the weekly domino fest. And even now, 10 days out, preparations are underway for the Easter crazies. Oh joy.

Here's a terrific April Fool's Day prank. Oh, if only . . .