Monday, January 31, 2011

what the morrow brought

First, I was not feeling so hot when we left for the tiangues this morning. I wasn't sure what the problem was, but the longer I was there the worse I felt. So we called it quits early, before I had a chance to buy berries, cherry tomatoes, avocados, or squash. I came home, dropped off my fellow shoppers, and decided I best test my blood sugar. Wowza! Way too high! And I was feeling much worse. So I spent most of the day trying to balance my blood sugar with insulin. I finally decided there was something wrong with the pump set up, made some changes, and things began to look up. It's now been almost 10 hours and I am finally feeling better. It's all a delicate balance to which one must pay strict attention. Boring.

Second, while convalescing in my bed, I heard some strange bubbling noises coming from the bathroom. The toilet was sending up big bubbles, although the water level wasn't involved. So I flushed the toilet to see what was happening. It flushed, then started to overflow. I yelled for Mr. C to come look. He went out to the upstairs half-bath located off the terrazzo and found that it was leaking badly. Pretty soon the bedroom bath settled down and seemed OK. Meanwhile he went downstairs to check that half-bath. It seemed to be fine. Then came the guest bathroom. While he was there, it began to bubble up, too, and then simply gushed to overflowing with, ahem, brown water! What a horrible turn of events. There I was, upstairs, battling a dangerously high blood sugar while he was downstairs battling all the earmarks of cholera. But he valiantly mopped and cleaned up as best he could. Then we decided on another experiment; flushing toilets again. Same eruption although not quite so toxic. Every square inch has to be completely disinfected; scrubbed, Cloroxed, laundered.

So it appears we have no toilets in our house; all four of them are plugged or something. We have no idea what has happened. We just had Elias here a couple of weeks ago fixing stuff. Does this mean he fixed one thing but befouled something else? Who knows. Fernando has gone off to Talpa on an annual pilgrimage, Elias in working on a big job in Comala (about 50 miles away). Both will be back either Wednesday or Thursday.

Meanwhile, we will move across the street to one of the apartments in the casa for the night (or nights) until things get fixed. Thank God for Marby and Casey and their delightful place.

Es la vida Mexicana loca.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

home . . .

and glad to be here. Cuyutlán has none of the glitz, glamour, crowds, or rude gringos that Sayulita has. It was fun to visit but I wouldn't want to live there, even for 5 weeks. I am much happier in this down-at-heel, quiet, undiscovered (mostly) spot. Plus it's warmer here.

Mr. C and I celebrated our 47th at a little restaurant down the hill from our casita. I ordered ~ and was looking forward to ~ camerones al mojo de ajo but what arrived was a filete with garlic. But that was OK; very tasty. And the owner comped us 2 beers for her mistake.

More, with photos, tomorrow. We had an easy drive home, very little traffic (it's Sunday). Made it in 7 hours with a quickie stop at the CostCo in Guadalajara for our favorite salami and bread. There are some things one just doesn't want to do without.

Tianguis tomorrow. Let's see what's new in the stalls.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday in Sayulita

Off to Bucerias this morning for some research on future stays on this northern coast. What a place. Same as Sayulita ~ tons of gringos ~ but this is a slightly older group. No one over 50! We drove in and drove out. No stopping, no strolling, nada. Mr. C is not much for exploring the nooks and crannies of a place. So we pressed on toward Puerto Vallerta, mainly looking for the CostCo and other shopping venues. He's big on those. We stopped and started and turned and U-turned but couldn't find the CostCo. So we headed back north, stopped at the Mega, a sort of Safeway kind of place. Did a bit of shopping, then headed back to Sayulita. We had lunch out on the terrace where it was warm and lovely. I had a problem with my insulin pump ~ the battery went out and none of the batteries I had with me worked ~ so we went back into the village, bought new batteries, then parked and walked over the river to the "other" side of the town. We located the little Moroccan hotel we originally wanted to stay in but couldn't because they only way we could pay for it was via PayPal and I REFUSE to deal with them after a $790 rip-off. Nice place but probably noisy since all of the rooms are on the street. We strolled the streets and checked out various restaurants and shops. I am perfectly happy doing this, poking in and out of places, checking out what's around. Mr. C, on the other hand, is more destination-focused and is completely uninterested in random discovery. And to think we've been doing this for 47 years, as of tomorrow.

We returned home, did some reading, and then it was time for the puesta del sol. And this is what we saw from our terrace.

While here I am reading an hysterically funny book by Peter Lovesey, "The Reaper." He does the English clergy and its foibles better than anyone I have read in a long time. Brought a copy of The Nation along, but that's too depressing to read in such a lovely spot.

Tomorrow we will find someplace yummy for an anniversary celebration. There is only one problem; it has to be a spot that is ultra casual. Here's why. I am suffering from a wardrobe malfunction. I left my "out to celebrate" clothes neatly folded on a hanger in the closet in Cuyutlán. I have NO change of clothes other than a pair of shorts. I have the duds I rode in on, shorts, a T-shirt, jammies and my Tevas. How could I have done that? Fortunately I never see the same people twice so no one is the wiser. Mr. C never notices anyway.

Tomorrow from the Met Opera: Tosca. I'll be sitting out on the terrace listening to this operatic tour de force. I hope you will be listening, too, wherever you are. You don't want to miss the delicious dispatch of that most heinous of bad guys, Scarpia!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 39 Steps

This is (only the final part of) the stairway up to our little casita in Sayulita. The first time we climbed up from the parking area to the front door we took a different route; 45 stairs. Gasp! But we found a "short cut" so now it's only 39 stairs. Believe me, every one you can knock off your climb is a blessing. But once up at the top, what a marvelous place.

The terrace looks out over the jungle to the west. Beautiful shades of green from the palms, the banana trees, other vines and shrubs that have taken over everything. This is the view from the living room looking out to the terrace. You can't actually see the ocean but you can hear it. What a nice scene to wake up to!

In the bathroom the shower is an inside/outside affair! There's a little garden in the shower with ferns and the ubiquitous Mother-in-Law Tongues. They grow wild in Mexico. We have a whole side yard of them that we can't get rid of, and neither Mr. C nor I have a mother-in-law any longer.

The casita also seems to come with a gato de la casa although the handyman who was here today said he doesn't know who she is or why she hangs around. She sleeps on either on top of the round table or one of the chairs. Very friendly, very beautiful, but not allowed.

It was a beautiful drive here yesterday. We left Cuyutlan at 8:30, drove the usual route as though we were heading home ~ Cuidad Guzman, Guadalajara, Tequilla, Magdelena, almost to Tepic, then turned off the toll road and headed for Compostela. We stopped there for gas, then headed west to the Puerto Vallarta-Tepic highway, made a left and head due south to Sayulita. It is really a gorgeous drive, with the jungle coming right up to the road, big trees making a canopy over the road with dappled sunlight coming through like a spinning mirrored ball. If you have brain lesions, don't take this route; it could be trouble. Tall palms with glossy fronds, banana groves with trees laden with ripening fruit, mango trees covered with blossoms that will, in about 6 weeks, bear those luscious fruits. We arrived at the casita at 2:30 local time, which is Mountain Time, not Central which is the time zone we had left, so we gained an hour, although we are farther north and it gets dark earlier here. The last 80 miles took 2 hours on a 2-lane road. However, we arrived safe and sound and that counts for a lot! The owners had given us very good instructions and with only a couple of fits and starts we found the place. We made ourselves right at home.

This little town is divided in half by a river. We are on the east side, I think. We went to the "other" side this morning to see what's there. Unfortunately there is only one way to get across the river since there is construction going on to either repair or build a new bridge. The west side reminds me of Balboa Island in the summer in the '50's and '60's; sidewalks are jammed with tourists poking in all the little shops, traffic is horrendous, restaurants are bursting, beaches are covered with almost-naked bodies working on their skin cancer. But we did have a couple of things we needed to get done, got them done and got out. The other side is so much more civilized and quite! I don't think there's anyone here much older than 40 ~ in Cuyutland there's not anyone much under 60! We've decided it's not really "our kind of place." But I'm glad we came to see what it's all about. There is a beach down at the end of our street and I think we'll check it out tomorrow. It's way away from the hustle and bustle of the west beaches.

Tomorrow we are going to drive down the coast to Buserias, another beach town that is not quite as trendy or crowded as Sayulita, to check it out for next year's visit. I'll let you know what it's like.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

trying a different beach

We are taking a few days off from our own little beach to have a holiday in Sayulita, another little beach town about 15 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. We're driving up this morning and will be there until Sunday. We've rented a little casita that I found on-line, as usual. I have packed the LapMac, the camera, a bathing suit, some warm pj's (it's in the 50's at night), some bug spray, and lots of stuff to read. I'll tell you all about the place, with photos. Saturday is our 47th wedding anniversary; perhaps an out-to-dinner at some smart beach shack to celebrate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

it's official!

Who would have believed it? My daughter, an academic administrator! You would think she had learned about the treachery of such employment after listening to her mother for 20 years. Ah, the triumph of hope over experience!

Message from Alex this morning that she has signed a contract with California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) accepting the position as Director of Development for the campus (thus the cushy executive chair). It has been a long process over three months or more; four interviews, much paperwork, stops and starts, but finally an offer she couldn't refuse. Congratulations, Alex! Well done and well deserved

Although she starts the new job on February 7th, she will still be coming down here for 10 days of R & R on February 19th. Part of her job acceptance negotiation was that she be able to take her planned vacation. She'll get to relax before taking up the rigors of her new duties. And we'll celebrate her birthday, too.

Enough already with chairs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

more on chairs

This morning's photo shoot at the tiangues included this legless chair balanced on a huge stump of wood. It only goes to show the ingenuity of someone who really wants to sit in the shade and watch the passing shoppers. The chair is parked outside the carniceria, the best one around. Pretty precarious perch, I think. Unlike this chair from No More Commas Period or the ones shown in yesterday's post.

My old friend Liz arrived yesterday from frigid Baltimore to thaw out for an extended stay. She's all moved in to one of the apartments in the casa. It will be lots of fun having her here to share all the pleasures of Cuyutlán.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

more equipale

We took yet another chair and a table up to Colima yesterday to have refinished at Equipale Arguello, the little shop we patronize on Calle Nicholas Bravo. It's one of several along this particular stretch. Great looking stuff piled out on the curb and in the street.

We have now had three of our four chairs redone. Here's the last one in its "before" stage.

And here's one in its "after" condition.

These are new chairs, some dyed, some in the original pale, almost-pink skins. And you can see a new style of chair, one with low arms and a higher back. I like the old ones best.

Gotta go. "Rigoletto" is about to start.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

what's new at the beach?

Last Friday as I was strolling home along our cobbled street I spotted a truck in front of our house. At first I thought it was Juan and Jose bringing bags of dirt for the garden. But when I got closer I saw that it was Gustavo and his son unloading my new escritorio. I had designed a desk to fit right into the nook between the living room and the kitchen, gave Gustavo the drawing, and three weeks later got the finished product. Three nice roomy drawers, a place for the printer that's out of the way, plus a shelf in the back. Ever so much better than the rickety plastic table with the grooved top, don't you think?

Gustavo is a retired engineer who likes to build things ~ he's also a whiz at plumbing and wiring and will be here this week to put in some new electrical outlets ~ who moved down here about three years ago. He's a very popular gentleman and his work shows up in lots of houses here.

Monday and it's tiangues so off I went at 9 AM with Marie and Carol to see what's for dinner this coming week. Nothing unusual in my usual first stop for veggies. A nice piece of broccoli, a few redondos, but no chard and no good beets. Too wilted. Then down to the chicken man for a few legs and thighs. Across the road to the grape tomato lady for two little bags to slow roast for a kind of tomato marmalade to serve with a dab of goat cheese on a cracker. But look what I found at the fruit vendor's stall!

These watermelons are about the size of a bocce ball and have bright pink flesh and tiny seeds. The little greet fruits next to the melons are the first mangoes of the season. Hard as rocks. Probably sour as all get out. Too early to buy. But a harbinger of good things to come.

I know I have nothing to complain about down here in the tropics, but we've had quite a spell of cold nights. Three blankets worth of cold. Unseasonably cold. In fact, Jack remarked that "this is the coldest it has ever been in all my years here." But he says that about a lot of things.

Friday, January 14, 2011

a party and a present

Mac and Juan have one of the prettiest houses in the village. It was a falling-down, rat and termite-infested mess when they bought it three years ago. It had been abandoned before it was finished. As a result, hosts of critters moved in through empty window openings and over time it looked like it was about to crumble. With a lot of hard work and much imagination, they have turned it into a colorful, light-filled house with great things to look at on the walls, a beautiful garden and pool area ~ a perfect party house. It has a fine view of the sea out across the deck and the empty lot in front, which they wisely bought so their view will never be lost.

They are fun, gracious hosts who love to entertain and do it very, very well. And last night was no exception. There were more than 30 guests treated to a wonderful dinner of carnitas, pollo en salsa verde, crispy flautas al pollo, beans, guacamole (Juan's specialty), plus some really spicy stuffed jalapeños. Then there was the birthday cake for Roger, the celebrant.

A memorable evening with good food, good conversation.

And a fabulous surprise for me. One of the guests presented me with a gift, and it wasn't even MY birthday. She and her partner had come across this little wall hanging in their travels and it reminded them of me. (This saying is part of my email sig line.) Best present I've had since my last grandchild was born!

I'll get a little piece of dowel, thread it through the top and hang it over my desk here and, of course, take it home to hang up there. What a great present. Thank you, again and again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

it's all in knowing how

Yesterday morning Fernando and Elias wrestled with plumbing problems ~ the shower wouldn't drain. Is it the fault of the shower? the toilet? The basin is not involved. Elias to the rescue! He is a man who operates on a complete adrenalin overload. He doesn't walk anywhere; he trots. He speaks so fast I can barely understand him. He has piercing black eyes, wiry black hair cut about 3" long that stands out around his head like a fright wig, he looks 18 but is probably 40, has no sense of humor that I can detect, and knows his plumbing like no one else in town. Elias is the guy you want to show up and fix it.

First he decided to haul the garden hose up into the bathroom to try to force water through the pipes to clean out whatever must be the obstruction.

Nothing happened except that the drain filled with water and bubbled up into the shower. They are yelling back and forth to each other as they try to force water down the drain. This resulted in the plumbing in the half-bath adjacent to overflow. Water all over the place.

Next, perhaps it is the toilet. Let's force water into the toilet and see what happens.

That didn't seem to make any difference. So he took the toilet off the floor, and peered down the drain to see if that needed to be cleaned out.

He decided it wasn't any of those causing the problem. It was the registro, the holding tank on the street that receives all of the waste water from the house. The registro is connected to the city sewer lines that carry the sewage away to some gigantic holding tank and treatment center on the outskirts of town. So Fernando dug up the opening to the tank out in front of the house.

No, no problem there. No obstructions, no rocks, cement, tree roots, dead animals, etc. Next idea was that there was an obstruction at one of the elbow joints that carry waste from the house through the various pipes. But the question was, where are they? Mr. C found the plumbing plan for the house and discovered that there are four junctions; two in the front outside the wall and two in the back under the concrete apron, not under the tiles where Fernando was sure they were. If not, we're going to have to tear up the floor downstairs where the upstairs bathroom sewer line meets the other house sewer lines and it all connects to the city line.

So first they dug up a part of the grass, thinking that perhaps the pipes has been run out under the apron for ease of access. Note the roots; more on this later.

That didn't pan out. Next they pounded a hole in the concrete on the corner nearest the terrazzo.

That wasn't what they were looking for so they opened a hole on the opposite corner and Bingo! There were all the various pipes to the north wing of the house; our bathroom (shower, toilet, basin), the downstairs guest room facilities, and the two half baths. Then it became clear what the problem was. When the house converted from a septic system to the city sewer, whoever did the plumbing connected everything except the two showers and the upstairs half bath toilet. Everything else was working fine. The pipes carrying shower water to the septic were completely blocked by roots (see above) from the grass and other garden plants. The solution was to lay new pipes. Which he did, with help from Fernando and a mozo. When it was all over we had a completely new drainage system for one side of the house. Nice new PVC pipes all glued and fitted together.

Elias was rightly proud of his accomplishment. He took me through the house, turning on faucets, then we stepped out into the street to watch the water pour into the registro just as it should. Then they covered everything up with sand and topped it with a cement cap.

At least now we'll know where the pipes are if we ever have to do this again, God forbid!

These guys were here from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM, with an hour for comida. The bill was $1,840.00 pesos, less than $150 US, parts and labor included. He's a good man to know!

Meanwhile, on a more prosaic note, friend Marni, who lives down in the colonia, sent this recording she made of Skates leaping in the surf outside her house. A beautiful site. Makes me happy to be here every time I look at it.

This is the year we are paying close attention to the condition of the garden. It is always a huge chore to whip it into shape when we get here as it's had 7 months of almost total neglect. But we have hired a gardening service and are making a bit of headway. Here's a new addition to the pot garden. It's a Corona de Christo, very beautiful but very dangerous.

It's a type of cactus and, as such is armed with really nasty thorns.

We've also planted a new bougainvillea, two hibiscus, transplanted another bougainvillea from the front into the back, bought two blue plumbago, enriched the soil, fertilized . . what more can we do? The rest is up to M. Nature.

Tonight a little birthday party for one of the motley crew. Cooking by a local couple; "real" Mexican food. Report and photos later.

Opera on Saturday: La Traviata. Another sighing, crying, dying heroine. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mexican + Mail + System = Oxymoron

This is our little post office over in Armeria. It operates Monday - Friday, 9AM - 5 PM. Usually. Mostly. Frequently. Often.  Occasionally.  Rarely.

The Mexican population/economy does NOT rely on the mail for its survival. It can't. How could it? It would come to a halt while it awaited delivery. One year I got a Christmas card mailed from the US on December 17th delivered to my box on April 9th. I have no idea where it had been languishing for 4 months. But if you could see the inside of the post office it would probably be fairly clear. Bags and bags of mail are piled up in every corner waiting to be sorted out. Home delivery is almost out of the question. When there's "enough" mail to make it worth someone's time he will come buzzing through on his motorcycle and expect to be paid a few pesos for every envelope he gives you. If you're not home, back it goes to Armeria to await the next delivery which could be the next day or the next month. As I say, people do not rely on mail.

I have learned this over several years of living here, but had a completely new revelation when I went to the post office a few days ago. We have a post office box. It is #8. It is located on the far left side of the bank of boxes in the first column, 8 down from the top. I have a key. It opens the box that is 8 down from the top on the left side. So imagine my surprise when I went to check the box and found that all the numbers had been changed and they were in no particular order. The top box on the left side was indeed marked "01" but that was the ONLY one in numerical order. My box now reads "04" and "08" is over in the fifth column, 4th from the top. Imagine my surprise when confronted by this new method of mail delivery. I asked the postmistress how I was supposed to get my mail? She didn't know. I asked if a letter came addressed to us at Aptdo. Postal #8, where would it go? 04 or 08? "Ocho," she replied. Well, since I don't have the key to the new 08, how am I supposed to get that letter? She didn't know. Could she unlock it for me? No, only the chefe could do that and he wasn't there most of the time. Well, how about changing the numbers so they are in the proper sequence? This did not seem to register as a logical solution to the problem, or to be a problem in the first place. But then, maybe I'm the only one with the problem. Come to think of it I rarely see anyone opening a box and taking out mail.

Soon a young chap came ambling out from the back to see what the fuss was all about. It wasn't really a "fuss" just an inquiry. He informed me that the old boxes had been moved from one side of the post office to the other and the boxes had gotten all mixed up. I must have looked v-e-r-y skeptical because he sort of grinned and shrugged his shoulders. That can't possibly be the explanation if anyone in that office can count. So I still don't know why this has happened or when/if it will ever be changed around.

I think I'll send myself a letter from Colima or San Miguel just to see if it ever gets there, and if it does, where they decide to put it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

a new puesto in town

Last year Fernando bought a puesto down on the beach. He has always wanted to have a restaurant ~ a nice, sit-down seafood place ~ and decided to go into the puesto business. Then the place next door that belonged to Dago's sister became available ~ she decided restauranting was not for her ~ so Fernando bought her undeveloped space. He now has quite a nice spread and has set it up in a very inviting and attractive way. Tonight we went down for a lovely fish dinner ~ filete al mojo de ajo, arroz, salades de fruitas mixtas y papas con verduras, a bottle of wine we took, and some good conversation with Fernando and Chuy. He has some big plans for his space and I truly hope he can make it happen. Chuy is a fabulous cook and he has all the personality of a fine impresario. A year ago a very old and dilapidated restaurant on the malecon was for sale as part of a larger property piece. He looked at it covetously. Now he says with a smile that he's got something much better, much more attractive. He's right. There's really no problem in deciding between his place and Dago's. Dago is for Friday night shrimp, no question. Fernando's is for any other time. Dago does better shrimp, Fernando does better filets. Problem solved. You should have such problems!

Monday, January 3, 2011

back in the land of the living

But barely. How bad was it? I didn't listen to the opera on Saturday and I didn't go to tianguis this morning. I did manage to get into the shower and wash my hair, finally, and have lunch at the table instead of on a tray in bed. I think by tomorrow or surely by Wednesday I can call this little episode "over."

I did manage to finish one book and get well into another, but even reading was exhausting. Napping is what I did best.

So what do you suppose Mr. C was doing today as I was swanning around the house in the early stages of a dramatic recovery? Squirrel hunting.

These pesky creatures are all over the place, including in the palapa upstairs where they have taken up permanent residence and raise their equally pesky progeny. Fernando left his pellet gun here because when he comes over he thins the herd at every opportunity. I have an absolutely morbid fear of guns so it's all I can do to even look at it. I mean, it's just a pellet gun, for God's sake. Fernando showed Mr. C how to load it, etc., and today he stalked a particularly big and noisy one.  Aim at it, pulled the trigger and the gun went off but actually jammed. But the squirrel dropped to the ground, then took off up another tree. Not to be deterred, the GWH (Great White Hunter) is still on the prowl. If it becomes a war of wits the squirrel is done for.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

sick, sick, sick, sick

This is the worst cold I've had in years and year. Much nose-blowing, coughing, sneezing. It was so bad I didn't even get out of bed to hear the opera. That will tell you how nasty I feel. Friends have shown up with various remedies such as pills, cough suppressants, a nasal spray (we left our good one home). Mr. C tore out this morning to mime a request for one at the local farmacia. Last night there was much noise and hilarity, rockets, firecrackers, very loud music ~ or what passes as music when its not mariachi bands. Mexico is stuck in the Electronic Disco Age. Terrible stuff, really bad. But by around 4 AM things quieted down.

I spent the entire day in bed reading and dozing (and coughing and snorting). Just about finished with "740 Park," a social, economic, political and cultural history of New York City from the mid-19th to early 21st centuries. Very gossip-y but lots of fun to read. But l-o-n-g. Next tome will be Elliot Perlman's "Seven Types of Ambiguity." Highly recommended by daughter Caitlin. I read a few pages and am already hooked and looking forward to getting into it. But again, long.

Meanwhile, more coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing, sniffing and feeling generally lousy as the New Year opens. But tomorrow is another day and I'll think about it then. . . who said that or something like that?