Saturday, April 28, 2012

putting the dollies to bed

It's hard to believe that our season here ~ our 11th ~ is almost over. Last night was our final dinner at Dago's, today will be my last opera ~ Die Walkure ~, tomorrow our last comida at Fernando's, etc. I don't like these countdowns.

First to go in the living room were my puta dollies who reside on top of the bookcase and oversee all our follies. Next were the two large watercolors that belonged to my parents. They bought them during a trip to Puerto Vallerta in 1960.  They hung in the guest room in their home in Newport Beach until 2000 when my mother sold the house and moved into an apartment. I took immediate custody and had them in the US house until they emigrated here.  In case of disaster those will be the first things I grab! Between them hangs a watercolor done by my friend Marie as a gift for my birthday in 2010. The ubiquitous Virgin of Guadalupe's. No home should be without her.

Now it's all packed away to spend the hot, humid, buggy summer in our cool, dark closet.

 Today I'll finish cleaning out my closet, hanging my "beach only" clothes in the downstairs closet, shrouded in big black plastic bags. Our guests departed on Wednesday and we got busy getting the larger guest room packed up. The smaller room we use for storing chairs and other furniture. It's getting pretty full.

Postscript to the last two postings: Something very strange has happened to this blog. I can no longer insert spaces between the heading and the start of the text and have to encode the underline. The whole look of Blogspot has changed, new coding has been inserted and I am NOT happy with the way it looks.

Post-postscript: I figured it out; all that automatic coding now must be put in by hand. But it still will not insert space at the bottom no matter what I do. I am not amused.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

complete with disco

The reason we don't encourage visitors to come to visit during the Easter Crazies has mainly to do with the open air disco across the street.  Who wants to experience loud, ugly, electronic "music" blaring into one's sleeping quarters until 4 AM?  But that's what happened last night.  Apparently the parents of a girl celebrating her quinceanera rented the disco space and let it rip!  It's now 11 AM on Sunday and I haven't seen or heard from our downstairs guests yet!  I was grateful for my Bose headphones but still got only about 4 hours of sleep.  The music was so loud it made the house shakel.  Now they know what we moan and complain about.  Actually, I'm the one who moans and complains; Mr. C sleeps through the whole thing).  The festivities last night were just a bonus for them!

Friday, April 20, 2012

the restaurant is closed

I stepped out on the balcony this morning to enjoy the early morning sunlight and what should I see but our little palm shack restaurant going up in flames. A man showed up with a wheelbarrow, some diesel fuel and a match. He tore off all the fronds, piled them up and torched them. Then he carefully dismantled the frame, put the wood pieces in his wheelbarrow and walked away, taking the remnants with him. No taxi this time.

 Another day that has started with sunshine. List for today: do laundry, change sheets, arrange flowers (guest, you know), finish freezing Key Lime sorbet for tomorrow's dessert, finish book (PREP by Curtis Sittenfeld), compose self for guests' arrival. We'll all go to Dago's tonight, our penultimate visit for the season.  Mr. C has gone to Tecoman for errands; to the cheese shop for Mexican cheddar (quite mild, more like Jack than real cheddar), bacon cut to your specifications, bolillos of a type he likes and that you can find only in the street market there.  A stop at La Bodega for other staples like wine and tequila.  It's going to be a fun few days.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

first sunny morning

This morning is the first we've had since Easter Sunday where the sun was actually out and bright before 11 AM. When I woke up I thought I had seriously overslept ~ what does that actually mean, "overslept"? "Over" what? Too long? Later than usual? I'll miss the board meeting? ~ and that it must be mid-morning. No, it was 7:30, there was no fog, I could see both the ocean and the mountains, there was no wind and it looked promising for a bright, warm day. Such being the case, I sprang to work doing a load of wash that had all prospects of getting dry. We were going to drive over to Tecoman to do some shopping and errands, but thought better of it. I'll run over to Armeria a bit later to buy some nice fish for dinner. Otherwise, this is a day to . . . uh oh, right now as I look out the windows I see the fog starting to roll in off the ocean. Well, it started out nice, at least. This will pass, I'm sure. If not, I can spend the day packing up my possessions while listening to my book instead of lounging in the front garden while listening to my book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

mornings at the beach

This is what it looks like here in the mornings. We've had dense AM fog for a couple of weeks, like being in Laguna Beach or San Francisco in high summer. It doesn't burn off until mid-morning, then stays cool and breezy all day, even though the sun comes out. Everything in the house is damp; clothes, pillows, sheets and towels, drapes. The window and door screens drip with salty water, forming corrosive puddles on the floors. We always have a "wet" period this time of year but the fog is unusually heavy.

We survived the frenzy of Easter in good shape. The disco ran five nights instead of four this year. Per usual I fled the house for quiet sleep with friends. Not many campers across the street, partly because two enterprising families staked out space early and set up little snack bars. I watched one of the shacks being built. During the night on Monday before Easter I heard a truck drive up and lumber being dumped on the ground. The next morning a taxi pulled up, flung open the back doors and lifted the trunk lid. A couple of folks started tossing small pieces of wood onto the lot, emptied everything out, got back in the taxi and drove away. Then the cab came back, two men and a woman got out and started building something.

Before long I could tell it was a little shack. I thought it might be just a shelter for a family over the Semana Santa week. Sometime during the next night another truck pulled up and dumped out a load of palm fronds. In the morning the groupff continued working on putting the fronds around the sides and the top.

Then a little awning went up adjacent to the shack and a long table with two big circles cut out of the top, about the right size for braziers. Pretty soon the gas truck arrived and unloaded a tank of gas to fire the braziers. By golly, it was going to be a restaurant.

The little shack had some sort of lighting, whether electricity or oil lamps I couldn't tell but I could see lights on at night. But no plumbing. I have no idea where they got their water. By Thursday, when the crowds were rolling in, the place was in business.

They stayed there for two weeks. Everything was kept neat and trash-free, a move that was very much appreciated in this house. Mr. C had to go out every morning and clean up garbage and trash from around the house, dropped or tossed in passing by revelers. We could smell their cooking, delicious odors of chicken and beef, but we didn't eat anything from there. Even after all these years of living here we are still cautious about where/what we sample.

The party is now over, all the holiday-makers have returned home. The second week of the Easter break is always calmer; no disco, few campers, although lots of day-trippers. The weather this year, however, didn't add anything. The sea was so cold there were very few swimmers or surfers and, fortunately, no drownings. On Sunday the little cafe across the street was abandoned until next year, although my guess is it will not weather the summer storms.

I had a lovely lunch today at El Puesto del Sol down on the beach, a gift from my friend Luly to celebrate my birthday. She's been very active in Mexican politics for many years and is always interesting to talk to. Delicious shrimp (of course). We expect guests on Friday so there's some dusting and cleaning going on. Not so much as to cut in to my siesta time, however, which is right now.

Friday, April 13, 2012

a love-a-ly bunch of coconuts

Each year at this time Fernando arranges to have the coconuts cut out of our big palm tree in the back. He uses them in his puesto for some coconut milk concoctions; the ones in the side lot have been too chewed up by the resident squirrels to be of any use. This year he harvested 40 out of one tree.

The chap who does this sort of death-defying work is a professional; this is how he makes his living. He shows up with his rope and his machete and gets right to work. (The one who cleans the trees on the lot brings a dog who goes nuts waiting for a squirrel to be evicted and scamper down the trunk into his waiting jaws. It never happens.) The fellow ties the rope around his waist with the machete tied on the other end, kicks off his flip-flops and scampers up the tree, bare foot, hand over hand, until he's lost among the fronds at the top. Then he pulls his machete up after him. You can see it dangling in the air on its way up.

Pretty soon the coconuts start falling around the tree.

Some of the clusters are so big that he ties them together and lowers them with his rope. They must weigh close to 100 lbs. It took him less than half an hour to clean out the entire tree. He dropped the rope, scuttled down the tree, and they both lugged their takings out to Fernando's truck.

All in a day's work.

I made reservations in Tepic for our first night on the road as we head back next month. Hard to believe the season is over. We have two more guests coming next week, then begins the great shut-down, pack-up and put-away for another 7 months. We plan to leave May 4 and arrive home May 10, with a 2-night stop-over in Long Beach with Alex. I'm no where near ready to leave this lovely place, but perhaps in 3 weeks I'll feel different. Maybe.

Dago's tonight; only two more shrimp in garlic by the seashore before we go. Opera tomorrow is Verdi's La Traviata with Natalie Dessay as the doomed Violetta. Current reading: A Tale of Two Cities, revisited after initial reading in 10th grade. You figure out the time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

a whole lot 'o shakin'

Yesterday evening, about 6 PM, we had yet another earthquake, originally reported at 7.0 but now downgraded to 6.5. I was in the kitchen checking on the rattling top of a saucepan, thinking it was the steam making the noise. Mr. C assured me that it was the house shaking instead! It only lasted about 10 seconds (but watch your second-had and see how long that actually is!). There were a couple of jolts, then the house swayed, then it was over. No noise this time. A couple of weeks ago there were two sharp shake at 11 o'clock at night; woke me up. That time there was a loud rumble.

The west of Mexico has had 5 earthquakes in the past month; Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero (we felt that one), Michoacan (yesterday), and one on the Baja this morning at 2:15 AM, rated at greater than 6.9. It was directly across the Sea of Cortez from Hermasillo. These events got us talking (again) about what sort of preparations we should have, what we would do depending on where we are in the house (downstairs, 2nd floor, 3rd floor), where we would go if we had to get out of town in the event of a tidal surge. All scary stuff. There are only a few treasures I'd grab if we had to evacuate; the rest is just icing on the cake. We had a 7.2 quake here in January 2003, centered about 25 miles off the coast of our village. Damage was moderate here, heavier in Armeria and Tecoman, and serious and deadly up in Colima. We were in Guadalajara at the time, but those who were here are still spooked every time there's the slightest tremor.

If it's going to come, I hope we're safely tucked up in the Sacramento Valley when it does.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

moonlight serenade

Yesterday was the anniversary of my arrival on this planet. In honor of such an auspicious occasion, Mr. C took me to lunch up in Suchitlán. We went to our favorite place ~ favorite not only up there but almost anywhere around here ~ Los Portales de Suchitlán. The restaurant is in an old coffee plantation and the tables are set under a canopy of tall trees that affords a lovely dappled sunlight. It's a very popular place; several families with kids were there yesterday, all enjoying the warm weather and splendid food.

The place is famous for its hand-made tortillas and two dishes in particular, neither of which was on the menu yesterday; both appear only on Sunday. One is birria de chivo (goat stew); the other is conejo (rabbit). Since yesterday was Tuesday, we made other choices. But first, some thin, crisp tostadas and two salsas, one green (hot), the other red (HOT).

Mr. C ordered chiles rellenos picadillo (good, but not as good as Chuy's), and I had birria de res y cerdo (beef and pork stew). You eat it by piling shreds of meat on a soft tortilla, sprinkle the top with finely diced onions, spoon on some of the hot (or HOT) sauce, squeeze a bit of lime juice over everything, roll up and eat.

Then I spooned up the remaining rich, flavorful juice and enjoyed that, too. We both had left-overs which we brought home and added to soup and enjoyed it all again.

Around 9:30 last night someone rang our bell. I went out to the balcony and looked down into the street by the front door. There were four musicians standing there, holding their guitars, and as soon as he saw me, Fernando called up. Then the musicians struck up the Mexican Happy Birthday and played on for about 15 minutes. One of the guitarists also played the Pan pipes and one of the songs had that echo-y, haunting Andean flavor. It was an absolutely perfect end to the day. I heard from my two daughters, my two grandchildren ~ Andrew via a Skype that kept cutting out, but never mind ~ and an assortment of friends. Makes me glad my parents met.

Friday, April 6, 2012

in case you're wondering . . .

. . . what has happened to me (us), we're fine, busy, and currently living through yet another year of Easter craziness. Zillions of people, noise, trash, campers on any square inch that's free. I have taken some photos and will put them up tomorrow. The disco is in full swing so I am sleeping at friends' house out in the quiet colonia. When I get back home tomorrow I will turn my attention to this sadly neglected blog.

Tomorrow's opera is Massenet's Manon with Anna Netrebko. I will be front and center with my (left-over) shrimp salad. We went by Dago's tonight just to check out the crowds. Packed! Good for him, not so good for us. So we chose Fernando's instead and the dinner was superb. In fact, perhaps even better than our usual choice. Since we like both of these chaps, making a choice is not easy. After finishing dinner we walked along the malecón to check out the action. It's packed with revelers, mostly young people. We decided the average age of the crowd to be about 30, counting all the kids. There's quite a security presence; local, municipal, state and federal police, plus the army, navy, marines and air force (helicopters patrolling all day long). So far, all has been tranquil.