Jacaranda Assault!

I know I haven’t posted anything in a long time. That is because I’ve been so distraught that the world didn’t end when the ancient Mayans allegedly predicted it would. I am hopeful that the modern Mayans, who didn’t believe the world would end, but only that a new era would begin, will prepare a new calendar. This being the modern era, they won’t have to carve it in stone, a slow process even with power tools. Surely they will prepare and publish it on the internet. Any day now we should be able to download it and compute when the world really will end–or when another calendar is needed. Since that won’t happen for about 5,000 years, I can’t realistically expect to be here when it happens.

But, on to the topic of this post:

Jacaranda (ha kah RHAN da) trees have a profusion of deep purple blossoms in the spring, and they are rife in San Miguel. From the roof terrace of my former apartment, I could count 40 of these large, colorful, floral balls. Because they flower before leafing out, the color is very intense.

The jacaranda may be the most beautiful ornamental tree in the world, or at least is in a three-way tie with redbuds and dogwoods. (The banner above this post shows several of the trees in the early stages of bloom, before the full color develops.)

All is not well, however. I’m severely allergic to the pollen. The first couple of seasons, I mostly lay on the couch, munching antihistamines and cursing the damn trees. Last spring I underwent acupuncture treatments for a number of allergies. After 8 months of weekly treatments, the only positive result was clearing this one allergy (and enriching the acupuncturist), so I stopped. Without further treatmennts, the allergy will return.

So,I’m preparing a soft, comfy spot on the sofa in front of the TV, grateful that this is also tennis season so I have something worth watching. I’ve also brought in a 55-gallon drum of Sudafed.

Assuming that I survive jacaranda season, I’ll be back in touch.

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The World Really IS Going to End!!!!!

Around 3,100 BC the Myans in southern Mexico crafted a calendar that comes to its end on December 21, 2012.  Now, this isn’t just the ravings of a couple of bat-crap crazy American Christian ministers who have been wrong repeatedly in the past.  (I’m looking at you, Pat Robertson, and that other nut job who was wrong TWICE last year.)

No, this is the prediction of the brightest minds of five thousand years ago.  (And who had more knowledge of science than Pat Robertson does.)

So long, my friends.  Hasta no vista.   Adieu.  Vaya con Myan Dios.

Hmmmm.  Today’s Myans don’t believe this prediction.  When this multi-century cycle ends, another will begin on December 22, and nothing will change, they claim.

Kinda takes all the drama out of it, doesn’t it?

Actually, I hope the modern Myans are right.  After all, I’m planning a trip to Paris this summer, and I’d hate to miss that just because the world crumbled or blew up or whatever.

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Gringos: Can’t Live With ‘Em; Can’t Deport ‘Em

Gringos in San Miguel alternately fill me with amusement and consternation.  Some examples:

Things gringos can’t live without:  They have found a way to import…wait for it… Wolf’s Brand Chili!  (The retching sound you hear in the background is me…retching.  To any Southwesterner who has eaten real chilli, Wolf’s Brand is a nasty can of artificial color, artificial flavor, and fatty, gelatinous shredded meat-like substance interspersed with the occasional chunk of gristle.  It is to real chili as military music is to music.  Yet some gringos go to great lengths to get someone who goes to the border regularly to import this stuff for them.

For those benighted souls who think Wolf’s Brand Chili is actually food, I have an additional culinary delight–canned tamales.  Many years go when I lived in Dallas and there was no authentic San Antonio style Tex-Mex available, I bought a can of tamales.  Truly, they looked like large, colorless Vienna sausages.  Instead of being wrapped in traditional corn shucks (which probably begin to deteriorate after a few years on the shelf), these things were wrapped in paper.  One small, tentative bite convinced me they were inedible, an affront to taste buds.

But fans of Wolf’s Brand Chili probably would love them.

In summary, we live in Mexico, home of real Mexican food, and people pay a premium to eat a nasty, greasy mess of non-food.


Mexicans Celebrating Mexican Holidays: A newcomer to SMA complained on a chat site about the three days (and nights) of exploding fireworks.  Why, he wondered, did no one complain to the police.  A sympathizer agreed that the fireworks have gotten out of hand and that the police should intervene so he could get his sleep.

Let’s see…hmmm…Mexicans in Mexico are celebrating one of their most significant holidays in the traditional manner, but police (also Mexicans) should put a stop to it so gringos can get their beauty sleep.

My thought: go back to the gated community whence you came, where leaf blowers are not permitted before 10 am.

In fairness, I have to admit that many others explained the situation, noted how much they enjoy these aspects of living in Mexico, and urged him to get over himself.  When apprised of the facts, the complainer apologized in good humor and agreed to get into the culture that surrounds him.

However, every time fireworks explode hordes of gringos demand that this inexcusable intrusion on their silent life be stopped.

Unique House for Rent: A few months  ago I expected to have to move because the owner of the house I’m renting would want it back.  I hadn’t been looking for a new place, but when I read a notice for a unique home in my price range, I had to check it out.  The owner/builder is probably a creative genius (really!), but he lacks a basic understanding of what a renter will expect.  The house has an amazing free-form concrete staircase, a half-barrel ceiling of stone mosaics, a tiled dome in another room, wonderful stained-glass doors and sky-lights.  I was wowed, despite its unfinished areas, including rough concrete floors in most spaces, and sparse, tacky furnishings.

My initial problem was that one entire room is full of construction materials, and it will be locked for the duration of the lease term.  Ummm…

Half of the master half-bath is taken up with sacks of sand and cement.  Most of the roof terrace is also full of sacks of cement and sand, plus head-high stacks of wooden pallets.  The creative genius couldn’t comprehend that I didn’t want to live among building materials, and he was loath to remove them, except at my expense.

As I was negotiating the removal of the materials, I recognized a deal killer:  There is–by design–no roof over half of the house.  No, I’m not talking about a courtyard with trees, shrubs, and flowers.  I mean that part of the interior of the house does not have–and never will have–a roof.

Folks, it rains in San Miguel–sometimes up to 7 inches per month.  It sometimes snows.  Then there are the swarms of voracious mosquitoes.

To put this is the most elemental terms: If it is raining and I’m in the (dry) upstairs bedroom and feel the need for a cup of coffee–okay, realistically, a big ol’ glass of wine–I would have to slog through the rain along the length of the house, down the creative staircase, and half the length of the house to the (hopefully dry) kitchen for my libation, assuming that neither the coffee maker nor the refrigerator electrocute my soggy body.

Hmmmmmm.  Think I’ll keep looking.

The owner later ran another ad describing the house and noting that it would be perfect for an artist or writer.  Well, maybe for a truly starving artist writer who has been living in a packing crate beneath a bridge.  Half a roof is better than none.

Update: The owner likely won’t return until sometime in 2015, sparing me the task of finding another abode.

Hair Color Gone Wild

Here’s a photo of a woman wearing her real hair–not a fright wig borrowed from Bozo the Clown.  My first thought was, “Good God, your head is on fire!”

Since seeing her, I’ve discovered there are at least three women in SMA with this hair color.  Prior to those cornea-damaging sightings, I’d have bet there weren’t three women on the planet who would intentionally turn their hair that color.  Can you buy this dye, or must one concoct it from a mix of less disgusting hues?  On reflection, I think this color might look cool on a cute twenty-something.  Lumpy old women?  Noooooo.

Ladies, do us all a favor and put a bag over your head when you venture outdoors.

This even offends an atheist:

Someone posted on a chat site that she wanted to acquire an old baptismal font.  Okay…..

But, she wanted to turn it into a sink in her bathroom!  In which to wash her dirty–perhaps shitty–hands.

I’m a thoroughgoing atheist, don’t buy anyone’s concept of god or gods or practices relating thereto, but really!  The 2012 Award for Bad Taste and Insensitivity goes to….

It could have been worse.  She could have turned the font into a bidet.

Food Experts:

While dining at a new Thai restaurant with friends, we complimented the chef/owner on the wonderful meal.  She was grateful for our kind words, having just been told by a customer from Los Angeles that her offerings weren’t real Thai food.  Hmmm….the owner/chef is Thai, grew up in Thailand, learned to cook in Thailand, but of course a gringo from Los Angeles (which we all know is the capital of Thailand) knows real Thai food.

Go figure.  ((I’m betting the customer loves him some Wolf’s Brand Chili.)

Just another perfect day in paradise, despite the occasional weird gringo.

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We’re Number 33! We’re Number 33! Viva Mexico!

Viva Mexico!  We’re number 33!   On Saturday morning when Mexico played Brasil for soccer gold, the normally crowded streets of San Miguel were empty except for a few tourists.

Overall, Mexico ranked number 33, earning 7 medals–1 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze.

I’ve long thought that team standings in the Olympics should take into account the population and wealth of the competing countries.  Someone has taken my idea and assigned points accordingly.  I have no idea how he weighed these factors, and I probably wouldn’t comprehend if it were explained.  However, after the first week, under this plan, Jamaica was Number 1, and the US and China were somewhere in the mushy middle.

I always do my best to ignore the Olympics, as in “Oh, are they doing that again already?”

This time around, though, when I did watch, I was able to select from three Canadian networks and ignore NBC entirely.  I really enjoyed the Canadian commentators who supported their athletes–congratulating them if medals were won and honoring good efforts when they weren’t.  The Canadian goal was to finish twelfth, and they ended up number 13.  (Wimps!)

I have gotten really fed up with the jingoism of Americans.  “USA!  USA! We’re Number One!  We’re Number One! Except in health care, education, toleration, sportsmanship, and crap like that!” I think it’s time to come up with something else to scream mindlessly at any international sporting event.  Here’s my suggestion:

“You’re poor!  We’re rich!  And all we do is bitch, bitch, bitch!!”

When the network’s self-appointed experts anointed a cute, white teenager the future queen of gymnastics, and she failed to produce the expected golds, one of the experts promptly asked her the only significant question: how will this failure affect her “marketability.” I began cursing (something I rarely do, of course).  The kid is young; she’s worked most of her life to go to the Olympics and do well; and her “marketability” is in the toilet????

I’m also thinking about Gabby Douglas, the quickly-anointed successor to the original failure,  who let down her country by only winning 2 gold medals.  She was asked about her mother’s financial difficulties.  How about  just chanting, “We hate your hair!  We hate your looks!  Yo’ Mamma’s broke!  Loser, loser, loser!”

Or how about Serena Williams, who also only won two golds, but at the age of 30 and a multi-millionaire, still must be subjected to bigotry.  “We’re white!  You’re black!  Fuck you, N-word Bitch!”

“America, Love It Or Leave It!”  I got my ass out of there, never to return.

Viva Mexico!

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Necessity Is a Real Mother….

Say you want to deliver some rather large items, like quantities of fruits, through the narrow, clogged streets of San Miguel while saving money on gas and maintenance.

What to do?

Here’s one hand-crafted solution:

One of these machines worked so well, they invested in another one, part of which is also in the photo.

Weather Update:

The real reason for this post is to provide a forum for bragging about the weather.  It is glorious.  Mid-80s in the hottest part of the afternoon, lows in the 50s in the evenings and at night.  Afternoon/evening/night rains so refreshing that new growth is surging on the plants.  I can almost see them growing.

So sorry about the heat, drought, power outages and other discomforts to be suffered where you are.

And another Nick story.  When the rain started the other night, the girl cats scampered indoors, getting wet in the process.  I dried them off, and they settled in.  Nick later cowered his way inside, soaked.  Of course, he wouldn’t allow me to dry him off.  Nature took care of that over time.  Then…of course, he went back out into the rain, getting soaked again.  Fortunately, it is warm enough that he didn’t get sick from exposure.  But poor Nick really does not have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Meanwhile, I discovered a cute tuxedo roof cat who sometimes hangs out atop the hotel next door.  He was hungry looking, so I put food and water into a styrofoam bowl, climbed up on the step stool, stood on tip-toe, shoved the bowl onto the roof ,and watched the kitty devour his meal.  So now I feed him daily and intend to borrow a trap so I can catch him and have him neutered.

So, as always, just another perfect day in paradise.

Posted in Around Town, Gardening, Gatos | 2 Comments

Cinco de Mayo Explained

Today is Cinco de Mayo, widely celebrated in Mexican-American communities in the US, as well as in every bar, regardless of the ethnic persuasion of the customers.  But why?

Well, here’s what Cinco de Mayo really means:

Cinco = Five

De Mayo = tequila shots

(Thanks to Ellen DeGeneres for that useful information.)

Cinco de Mayo isn’t much celebrated in Mexico.  It commemorates the victory of the out-manned, out-gunned, and out-trained Mexican army over the invading French  in 1862.   (It’s hard to believe, but at that time France had the world’s best army.   Alas, the record of great French military victories since then can be condensed into a very short footnote.)  (Let’s pause here, and try to think of at least one big win.)  (The best I can come up with is the French navy’s heroic sinking of an unarmed Greenpeace boat a few years ago.)  (Oh, well, take your victories where you can.)*

So, why don’t Mexicans celebrated this victory?  Well, they won the battle, but lost the war.  The French prevailed and installed an Austrian duke, Maximilian, as Emperor of Mexico.  Since he wasn’t in line to inherit much of anything of importance, had no useful talents, and was a spendthrift, Max was expendable.  After a while, the French withdrew their troops, leaving Maxie to fend for himself.  He was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed.

So Mexico finally won.

For more on this period of Mexican history–and all the rest of it–read Richard Grabman’s “Gods, Gachupines, and Gringos,” a truly absorbing tale of Mexico’s complex history.  Available from Amazon. (I’ve recommended this book before, but did you read it?  I thought not.)  (Why do I even try to improve your mind!?)

Now, about those cinco tequila shots…Believe I’ll have mine with sangrita.  (See “Fun with Tequila,” Nov. 10, 2010.)


* When my son was stationed in Germany in the eighties, one of the periodic anti-American waves swept the country.  In that spirit, someone spray-painted on a wall, “U.S. OUT OF GERMANY!”  someone else added, “Yes, Let the French Defend You…”

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From 0 to 70 in Only Four Back-breaking Days

The house I’m happily renting has a large roof terrace that I’ve largely ignored, believing it was too hot up there.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered it is pleasantly cool in the mornings and downright chilly in the evenings, even when daytime temps are in the 80s.

So, I moved 30 of the overcrowded plants from the smaller, shadier patio onto the roof.  Then I paid some folks to move my heavy table, umbrella, lounger, and six chairs up to the roof.  (Acquisition of this furniture was the subject of an earlier post: “Patio Furniture: The Quest.”)  The movers also took the owner’s small tile-top table up to the patio, so now that area is less crowded and more inviting.

The roof terrace looked nicer, but still sort of bare, plant-wise.  Needed more cactus and succulents.  Not wanting to lay out a pile of cash, I posted a request on a chat site asking for freebies.  Four kind souls responded and I ended up with a bunch of plants.  Alas, the kind souls didn’t provide free pots and soil, so it was off to a nursery (vivero).

Three trips, three hauls of pots and soil, three bamboo plants for a little height in the mixture, about $150 us, and a lot of labor and viola there are now 70 pots of mostly smallish cactus and succulents for my viewing pleasure.

If I actually use the roof for relaxing, reading, and wine-sipping as much as I hope, I may invest in a couple of larger cacti as focal points.  The problem being that cacti grow very slowly*, so large ones are really expensive.  Then there’s the task of conning some nursery worker to hoist the specimens into his truck, unload them, haul them up two flights of stairs, and place them exactly where I want them.

*Digression:  My dad grew up in southern Arizona, and he kept in touch with a buddy from his school days.  The buddy became a botanist for the State of Arizona, studying the growth rate of the saguaro cactus.  When the buddy retired, Dad asked him about his conclusions based on his life’s work.  Said the buddy, “The saguaro cactus grows very slowly.”

Patio Agriculture Update:

A while ago I wrote about my (mis)adventures with gardening in pots on my patio.   The net result was a few limes and some tiny pomegranates.

An alert reader commented that to increase the yield of limes, I should nip off most of the baby limes to give the few remaining ones a chance to mature.  It worked–along with the tree being in a happy place so that it now blooms and produces fruit year around.

Next I discovered a tomato plant growing in the compost bin.  What a great place for tomato production!  Soon enough, the plant began producing cherry tomatoes, even though I’m pretty sure I never bought or much less discarded any cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes turned bright, ripe red.  Harvest time!  Anticipating that fresh, juicy flavor, I bit into one and discovered that it had no taste.  None, nunca, nada, zip.  Not even a bad taste.

So I left the fruit on the vine to dry out and wither, whereupon they became cat toys.  Now, I have provided all sorts of “official” (i.e. purchased) toys for the gatos, who ignored them.  But shriveled cherry tomatoes?  Dried up miniature pomegranates?  Play time!

The cleaning lady is mystified about the collection of sun-dried tomatoes and pomegranates scattered about the house.  But the cats are happy.

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