Friday, April 30, 2010

adios, Dago

A busy day that included washing all the covers of the throw pillows that adorn the outside furniture, all of hem crusted with salt after spending 5 months outside; the duvet and pillow shams on the bed, likewise a bit stiff with salt. This is the biggest problem this close to the water but, to my mind, it's a small price to pay for the view and the breeze and the lovely sound of the surf. Mr. C took down the blades of the ceiling fans and covered the motors with plastic bags. Our new fans, installed last and this years are plastic so they don't rust out and fling rusty water all over the walls when we first start them up. We had instant Jackson Pollock a couple of years ago. These new fans are terrific. Probably won't ever have to replace them. I made a trip to the library to return the books we had borrowed over the season and to catalog donations but, alas, Gloria, the librarian, decided not to open the library today. I'll try again on Monday. She keeps rather erratic hours.

Tonight was our last dinner down at Dago's puesto. He is about to celebrate his 50th birthday so I took him a copy of this photo in a magnetized frame to slap on the side of the fridge. We ordered usual; camerones al mojo de ajo sin cáscaras for me, tacos de pescado for Mr. C. Delicious, as usual, with enough shrimp left over for a big salad for tomorrow's lunch. A good group showed up, including a fellow from Ajijic who wants to open a 2- or 3-night a week restaurant here. All investors cheerfully welcomed. It would be wonderful to have such an establishment in town. As it is, it's the puestos or nothing.

This is the high season for the gorgeous primavera trees. This is the most beautiful one in town and it's now in full bloom. It will all be over in two or three days. Enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

closing up the hacienda

Today I started in earnest to get the place ready to leave it behind for 7 months. Now that I'm in the departure mode it's full speed ahead . . . as long as I've started, I might as well see it through to the end. This morning I took down (and cleaned ~ a very nasty chore what with all the grime and salt that adheres to everything) all the outdoor lights strung along the balconies and upstairs around the palapa. Inside I gathered up all the several dozen candle holders. Washed, pried off melted wax, dried and stowed until the next romantic seaside evening. The Boze® system is packed and ready for the trip home.

My sweet muñecas have been dusted and packed away. I have collected these delightful paper maché dolls over the years; they live in a big round bread basket on a shelf in the living room. They range in size from 4" to 20", each one differently dressed and bejeweled. I am always on the lookout for new ones. Mine have gotten very faded in this strong beach light. They're actually called puta dolls but I pretend I don't know that. There are also some very rare boy dolls of the same genre; eyebrows are always raised when I ask for them, smiling sweetly. All my other chotchkies are now wrapped and boxed. Pictures are next. The next few days are going to be visually boring indeed.

The kitchen is for tomorrow. Meanwhile, Mr. C has been busy in the garden planting a couple of interesting shrubs gifted to us by our recent house guests. I've also cut slips from a common species of phylodendron and have stuck them in the sand in hopes they will grow and fill in a bald spot. We didn't do much in the garden this year but, as we say every May, "Next year we'll get to the garden." And when we finally do that, we're hiring a real gardener to look after it when we're gone. No more excuses.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

random words and pictures

With only one week to go we are now ratcheting up the frenzy mode. Consequently, I am looking for some serenity. The above photo was taken up in Patzcuaro at Lago de Zirahuan, a beautiful, pastoral little village up in the mountains. I had seen an article about this remote place and we drove up there during our stay in Patz in March. The lake is the most amazing crystal clear blue, like Tahoe was 30+ years ago.

Our delightful guests left this morning. They had been here for several days (one here a week; one only 5 days). They were heading off for another couple of days in Manzanillo. We had a trip to Colima to visit a couple of museums, dinner at Dago's, a lovely dinner in Manzanillo on Saturday evening at Toscana"s (sorry there is no photo but I left my camera home). This place is located right on the water. Splendid setting, excellent service, wonderful menu. I had sea bass in sauce dieppoise (a wine sauce with shrimp and mussels). Not home cooking. They went off to Colima again on Sunday to investigate the volcano. Sent this photo via iPhone showing the snowy side of one of the two volcanoes.

Monday it was tiangues where I made another wonderful purchase; a red/white striped T-Shirt for 10 pesos (80¢). The guests took off for the afternoon to explore some surrounding countryside while we began getting out boxes and packing materials to stow all our treasures until next year. And their departure this morning signaled "full speed ahead" on that endeavor. Laundry, more laundry, packing away bedding and towels, dismantling lights, taking down decorations, putting aside "take home" from "leave here." I've separated my beach clothes ~ shorts and T-shirts ~ that get stored, started packing my travel bag that gets tossed into the car. I've read all the travel warnings put out by the State Department and by the various US consulates along the route . . . if we make it home alive it will be nothing short of a miracle.

We have a couple of social occasions left before leaving; dominoes tomorrow evening for me, dinner with Chuy and Fernando and other friends on Thursday, Dago's on Friday, the opera (Armida with Renée Flemming) on Saturday. She sings the part of a witch, somewhat of a departure from her usual "heroine" roles. It will be gorgeous, I'm sure.

Tomorrow it's in to Tecoman to do some banking, to get enough pesos to get us out of the country now and then back in December, a hair-cut for 50 pesos so I don't have to pay 50 dollars when I get home, a final pass at the Bodega supermercado to feed us for this final week. Then more packing, stowing, folding, boxing-up. There must be an easier way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

friday sky

Tonight's sky went from this

to this

to this

all in the space of about 5 minutes. It was cloudy and overcast all day today. This was our reward.

Tomorrow's opera: Tosca. This was the first opera I ever heard back in the mid-50's. My mother took me to see it in Los Angeles. It features opera's primo bad guy, Scarpio. I wasn't a of opera then. I am now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet the boys!

These are my two new Granddogs, Huck (l) and Zeke (r). Cait and Mike welcomed the furry twins home yesterday. They are a mix of Golden Retriever and Australian Sheep dog and are 9 weeks old. Here's how she describes them.

Let me tell you about these fabulous new boys who have moved into our home:

Zeke: He's the one who is mostly grey and white, with some black freckles across his nose and black raccoon eyes. He looks significantly larger than his brother, but when you pick him up you realize it's all hair. Speaking of his hair--he has LOTS of it! It is very wavy, thick, and incredibly soft--like downy baby hair or cotton candy. He's a "talker" and likes to carry on a barking conversation if you are willing to bark back. He's also very cuddly, and loves nothing more than to come barreling toward anyone who is sitting on the ground and curl up into a "lap dog". He has HUGE paws and a sweet loping gait. He weighs a whopping 21 pounds (at 9 weeks) and the vet anticipates he will be a 80+ pound full grown dog, given the size of his paws and heft of his bones and joints (yikes!). He seems to have quite a bit of his Mama's retriever heritage, as he seems to be a very quick learner when it comes to retrieving. As I type this, I can see Mike tossing the tennis ball for Zeke, who seems quite pleased to go get it. We're still working on bringing it back...

Huck: He's the visually smaller of the two, though weighs about the same. He has much more black on him, and his fur is more of a "flat" coat and not so fluffy. He definitely got the "australian shepherd/blue heeler" part of the genetics because he will walk right beside you and nip at your ankles and knees to "keep you in line with the herd". He spends a lot of time and energy corralling every one and doesn't much like it when his "herd" is in different parts of the house. He, too, is very sweet and cuddly and loves to talk.

The both of them: They had never been in a car, been in a crate, or been on a leash when we picked them up. The didn't make a peep when we drove them home, drove them to the river, drove them to the airport to meet my Delta people, or drove them to the vet. This could be good! The first night we crated them up for bedtime was quite an experience--whining and crying about every two hours. The second night, Mike and I were prepared for the every-two-hour wake up, but they slept a SOLID 8 hours with out a fuss or an accident. Sweet!! Day One on a leash resulted in stubborn puppies who wanted to go one direction and when they could only go so far, they would sit down in protest and NOT BUDGE. Day Two brought the realization that this was the new way of life, and we were able to take them on a walk around our block without incident.

They seem very smart--have the "sit!" command down pat, and respond to their names. They have taken to Ike's old beds and toys with gusto, and seem very content chewing on the "dog" things and not the "people" things (though we are watching this CLOSELY!) They like to be outside, sleeping in the sunshine, and gravitate to whatever tiny morsel of snow remains in order to stomp on it and eat it. They sleep curled up like sweet dog angels, and then wake up and fight/play like vicious monsters. They play games with each other, chasing each other around the couch until the "chaser" hangs back and goes the other way to sneak up and attack the "chasee" as he rounds the corner. Better than TV!

All in all, a good beginning! Stay tuned.....

Get a load of the size of the paws on these two little fur balls!

This is the beautiful Mom of the twins. She had only two pups. Well, they had to take them both, didn't they?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I celebrate the tomato!

Anyone who entertains guests ~ either at dinner or for a week ~ is familiar with the frenzy that goes on before they arrive. So it is here in our casa en paraiso. We are anticipating the arrival of guests (one tomorrow, the other on Thursday) so there has been a frightful amount of activity in preparation. Mr. C is taking care of the garden, front patio, salty window screens and filthy windows. I am in charge of laundry and guest room "niceties". You know, the Martha Stewart sorts of things; TP, Kleenex®, light bulbs that work, comfy pillows for reading, fresh soaps, hangers, water pitcher and glasses and flowers. Maybe some old New Yorkers that are not too far beyond their sell-by date.

And cooking. Which I have been doing since early this morning. First there was the prep and roasting of cherry tomatoes and garlic to make a delicious spread for crackers, along with some soft goat's cheese. Next there was getting the foccacia on to rise. Then came the preparation of a big vat of gazpacho. It looks like the meals are going to be heavy on the tomatoes. At the fish market tomorrow I will buy a whole snapper to make huachanango Veracruzana for dinner. Main ingredient (besides fish): tomatoes.The reason we are going heavy on them now is they are at their very best. What we get here are Roma-style, usually hard, dry, flavorless. But right now they are juicy and slightly acidic. We can also get tomatoes from Sinaloa and they are truly wonderful. Like a real tomato. They even smell like a tomato, which the Romas do not.

And if all of this weren't enough we are having a dinner guest tonight. His spouse is out of town so he and the delightful canine guest, Sammy, will be here for tacitos and homemade coffee ice cream.

With all this entertaining you'd never know we're leaving in 2 weeks. We must be nuts. No comment on that, please.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

La Traviata in a dozen words . . .

They sang, she sighed,
She swooned, they cried,
She coughed, she died.

Friday, April 16, 2010

guests for lunch

The local goat herder brought his little flock over to the lot next door for some lunchtime browsing. There wasn't much on the menu since we had the area cleaned up before Easter. But a few tasty tidbits remained for their enjoyment. The herder also has a dog whose job it is to keep these goats in line, not letting them wander away into some other field. The dog got into a barking-bleating match with one of the bigger goats. The goat won. He nipped at the dog who backed right off and decided he was better off in the shade. The goat returned to his lunch.

For you opera lovers out there, tomorrow's treat is La Traviata. Among the cast is the superb Thomas Hampson who, in his younger days sang Alfredo. In tomorrow's production he is singing Alfredo's father. A sure sign of a long and illustrious career.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

essential reading

I have about finished this book ~ "What Every American Should Know About the Middle East" by Melissa Rossi~ and have found it a most fascinating, instructive, eye-opening read. She has a fine, easy writing style that is clear and concise. Lots of facts and figures but all in a context that makes sense. I hadn't realized how very ignorant I was and how important this vast and strategically important area of the world is to the US and to other nations as well. This has been my "heavy" reading for the season. It's almost like being in school again ~ Middle Eastern Studies 101. But worth every page and footnote and obscure reference.

As for this morning's weather, the fog bank was still out there but by 10 o"clock it was gone and we had a gorgeous, clear and sunny day. More of the same is forecast for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

san francisco in Mexico?

This huge fog bank rolled in to our part of the world this evening. Where did it come from? From our friends up north, hoping to spoil our perfect weather? We have never seen such a thing here. I'll be interested to see what we have in the morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

rooms with views

I have taken some photos so I can be reminded of what I'll be coming back to in (only) 7 more months. We don't actually leave here for 3 weeks, but it's never to soon to pack away the memories.

This is out of our bedroom sliding door. When we first moved in the palm fronds were just at the top of the rataining wall. In another couple of years we won't be able to see over the top of them.

Block by block the electric lines have been put underground. We are looking forward to the day we no longer see all those wires. But meanwhile, we can sit on the balcony and watch the tremendous surf we are having. This is the time of year for the ola verde, gigantic waves that draw surfers from all over. Actually, not necessarily to our beach but definitely further south in Michoacan.

Our lucky guests look out their slider onto the little downstairs patio that has turned into a nice little haven. And speaking of guests, we are expecting two next Monday for a week or so. We'll shoo them out when the serious packing begins. Right now we are at the "clean out the bookshelves" stage; stacks of books and old New Yorkers will be hauled down to the library in the next few days. Certain select volumes will return home with us. I'm not sure why we do this. It's not as though we don't have libraries and bookstores galore at home!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

the perfect birthday

First, there's the waking up to the sound of the surf.

Second, the divine smell of coffee perking.

Third, the great book I'm reading (What Every American Should Know About the Middle East ~ I know it sounds dry but it's fantastic) that's right on my night table so I can just prop myself up in bed and start to read because it's my birthday so why get up?

Fourth, there's the phone call from daughter #1 with birthday wishes and the family news catch-up. All is well.

Fifth, there's the email from grandson Andrew with felicitations of the day and a telephone date for 11:30 AM. Right on schedule he called and we had a great chat. It is so satisfying to have lived long enough to have a talk with a little boy who has grown into a smart, funny, charming, intellectually curious and gifted man.

Sixth, there are phone calls and visits from locals with all good wishes, bouquets of flowers and a wonderful gift of a book that I have, as of this writing, almost finished. Alan Bennett's ~ he of Beyond the Fringe ~ "An Uncommon Reader." If you haven't read it, rush right out . . .

Seventh, there's the arrival of Helen to listen to "The Magic Flute", or as it turned out, the first act of same. By leaving, here's what she missed! I sat on the sofa gazing out at the deep blue sea thinking to myself, "Does it get any better than this? Mozart, the sparking ocean, and the prospect of another year." I don't know what I did to deserve this but I'm not going to question it too closely.

Eighth, emails from niece Kaley, her darling hubby, and daughter #2 Caitlin. This is the first year I have not had a chat with my sister on my birthday. These dates are hard remembrances of her absence.

Ninth, a lovely dinner by candlelight and soothing sea breezes while being serenaded by André Bocelli. We decided to save the cava for tomorrow night. It will give a certain caché to the tongue tacitos!

And finally, ten, just being here in this lovely place with a group of wonderful cohorts and fellow escapees from the madness of el norte. I am truly blessed.

The perfect start to a new year.

The Trees
by Philip Larkin
final stanza

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh

Friday, April 9, 2010

fin de semana y ópera

It's Friday so it must be Dago's for shrimp. Yes indeed, and might tasty it was. We went up to Colima today to do some shopping; it was beastly hot and very smoggy. We couldn't see either one of the volcanoes, always a sign of how clear the atmosphere is. Here at the beach it was much cooler and breezier. I diced and chopped up a big vat of gazpacho for the weekend, using my handy Vidalia Chop Wizard, purchased with the encouragement of some TV huckster. But it really works!

Tomorrow is the opera, The Magic Flute, one of my all time favorites. (I used to have a kitchen floor that looked like that!) I am even passing up an invitation to go to Fernando's puesto to celebrate mi cumpleaños so I can stay home and listen to this divine, sublime music. Four of us will have a little celebratory dinner on Monday evening instead.

Tomorrow evening we will feast on a bottle of cava brought from the US, some succulent short ribs with polenta, and one of our precious bottles of 7 Deadly Zins, also imported from home. Let a new year begin!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

the wet

This is the time of year here when the air is particularly moist and heavy. Everything that's outdoors gets damp overnight and then is stiff with salt when it dries. It even takes longer for laundry to dry, especially towels. The screens on the doors and windows are running with salty dew every morning. It's a bit difficult to photograph, but above is a look through the louvers on the second floor bedroom window; below is out to the second floor front balcony. The little white spots are water. Frequently the dew is so heavy there are puddles of water on the floor that have to be wiped up quickly or it gets crusty. The salt on the old barra floor tiles is what helped to rot them. Since my Easter Hideaway is right on the beach the screens, floors, furniture and especially the cushions on the chairs and couch were actually wet. Little pools of water formed at the base of the outdoor curtains; the fabric got saturated and the water dripped off. Even the sheets on my bed were damp. We are a bit away from the beach ~ it would be considered one block ~ so we don't get quite that wet. But wet enough.

Today is the anniversary of my mother's birth. She would have been 95. Happy Birthday, Virginia, wherever you are.

Monday, April 5, 2010

the party's over

By yesterday at noon, our street was empty, the tenters were all gone, the trucks and cars on the next street over had packed up and left. Driving back into town from the overnight we saw streams of cars leaving town, heading back to wherever they came from, car roofs loaded with folding chairs, tenting equipment, cold chests, and various boxes and suitcases. Everyone looked exhausted and sunburned and happy. I'm glad they came and had a good time but I was also mighty glad to see them go. This was the only truck parked on the street and it was a most welcome sight. This is one of the delivery/pick-up trucks for the sound system for the disco. S & M sound indeed!

Just to be sure I didn't get trapped by the noise I went to the colonia last night again. We played a very fun card game called "Wizard" that's vaguely akin to bridge except that you don't play with a partner. Helen and Linda are great game players and always bring something new to amuse all of us. We went to be early ~ having stayed up until after 1 AM Sunday talking, laughing, throwing back the odd glass or two. Great time. But everyone had work to do today; tianges for one. Then Marie, Ms. Neighbor Nelson and I went to the Jacaranda pizza joint for our annual bean-taco-and-beer end-of-season celebration. The Nelson's leave next week, Marie and I in a month. Yikes! It seems like we just got here. But it's getting hot and when that happens Mr. C begins to talk himself into the departure mode. We are expecting one more spate of guests in 10 days or so. Then it will be the chore to pack things away until next year.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

the 2-mile difference

When I left Thursday night to drive down to Linda and Helen's, easily half of the cars that had been clogging our street had left. By the time I got back home Friday morning the campers across the street had folded their tents and disappeared. The street was clear on our block and it was pretty quiet. Now, two hours later, the street is jammed with parked cars, the announcement trucks are rolling through the neighborhoods vending everything from fruits and vegetables to fish to ice cream to pañals (diapers) to chairs and tables. It's a rolling Wal-Mart. Mr. C reported that the disco didn't crank up until almost 9:30 and quit by 3 AM. Even Chuy said it was much more quiet than usual and the disco had fewer speakers this year. She added that there was more live music on the malecón this year and that some people were even dancing! But then there was also the usual cadre of barrachos staggering around. The police presence is pervasive; their main station is just down the block from our house. The local cops along with state and federal police, the navy, army and marines are everywhere. I don't know if they do anything except act as an intimidation factor. But it seems to work.

We went down to Fernando's puesto for a late lunch; ceviche tostadas made with Chilean bass ~ delicious. Then a brief nap, a quick salad, and it was time to return to the quiet of the colonia.

As I was leaving at 7 PM I took this shot from the second floor looking east. Beautiful mountains. Lots of greenery. Not a car or a tent to be seen.

This is the sight from the front balcony.

Two miles away, this is the view from my Easter hideaway. Am I the lucky one or what?

Now it's time to clear the books and magazines from the couch, plump up the pillows, get another cup of coffee, put my feet up and listen to the opera. The various discos are quiet, probably sleeping it off. Mr. C said the big disco across the street finally shut down at 4 AM. There will be siestas this afternoon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

they're heeere!

I went out for a walk this morning at about 10:30. This is what the street looked like from the front balcony.

I got back around noon. This is what it looked like then.

I got home from dominoes (lugging my winnings: 30 pesos!) by 7 and we sat down to dinner just as the disco cranked up at 8 o'clock sharp, loud and clear and loud. I stayed up reading as long as I could; I wanted to be good and tired before I tried to sleep. It worked. When I woke around 12:30 it had shut down. Tonight, the serene quiet of the colonia at Helen and Linda's house. Mr. C is in charge of keeping the estate safe. He always does a good job! He sleeps through the whole mess.

Here's a heads-up on Saturday's opera: Aida. The Verdi version, not the Elton John one, although I did like it very much. Since DST isn't here yet (Saturday night we start) it comes on at 11 AM from NYC. The best cultural treat we get while we're here, not counting various museums, of course.