Monday, July 28, 2014

manning up

The heat and the humidity may not be good for Steve Cotton.  But the plants love it.

A month ago, the giant bougainvillea in my courtyard was laid low by a rainstorm.  But the gardener stripped it down to an arboreal version of Twiggy.  Nothing but limby -- well, limbs.  (man down)

In these parts, a month is like a lifetime (or lifeline) to a plant.  If you compare this photograph with the one I shot last month, you will see it is the same bougainvillea.  But a greatly-resurrected version.

Not only are there new shoots, it has already started to flower.  That is tenacity,

And if I paid more attention to how the plants enjoy these days, I might learn something.

Being a bit jungly here, there is always something new to discover.  People who enjoy their wildlife on the hoof will find this is just the place for them.  Or, as Lincoln put it, people who like this sort of thing are going to find it is the sort of thing they like.

For the last couple months I have noticed some odd crocodile activity in our end of the laguna.  And yesterday I discovered why.  A mother crocodile has recently uncovered her eggs and helped to free her young from their shells. 

I say "recent" because you can see she is still guarding the nest.  There are most likely a few unhatched eggs in the hole.

Somewhere nearby she has hidden her young.  A photographic expedition will be in order this coming week.

Get ready for baby photographs.  (Photographs of babies, that is.)

This is getting to be a far more interesting month.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

to bean or not to bean

We are on the cusp of what I call the Age of Aquarius here in Melaque -- when the combined heat and humidity makes me feel a bit piscine.

Actually, the hellish part of our summer started early this year.  We barely had the semblance of a winter.

But the weather is kicking into high gear.  Separating the mammals from the fish.  When we do not receive rain, we can be found in our showers trying to eke out some cool from the sun-heated water coming from our taps.

This is the season when I realize the wisdom of my Mexican neighbors.  They move their kitchens outside for the summer and cook over wood fires.  It adds another patina of truth that living here is a lot like camping.

Even though I have been back for a week, I had not cooked a meal at home.  When I was not eating in restaurants, I made sandwiches.

While walking through the market yesterday, I picked up a couple of sacks of fresh vegetables.  I could feel a pot of soup coming on.  Bean soup.

The downside of home-cooked bean soup is the amount of cooking time.  Especially for the beans themselves.

So, here I sit in a very hot house with a bowl of the best soup in town.  Some costs are a pleasure to pay when the benefit is so great.

Mandy Patinkin and Madonna are serenading me with their version of "What Can You Lose."  I decided that I needed music with as much subtext as my dinner.

Overall, it is a hot night.  And I am happy to be where I am.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

getting my ape on

Friday was my day in Manzanillo.

I knew since I returned I would need to make the trip.  My Escape is past due for its periodic maintenance.  I have had a spot on the bridge of my nose for seven years that needs a bit of examination.  And my teeth are itching for a good cleaning.

Of course, there was the long list of replacement items I needed to buy as a result of our little lightning strike.  The Telmex repairman managed to take two things off the list, but I still needed a cordless telephone and a power strip. 

I was not going to get sucked into buying a much more expensive voltage regulator-surge protector-backup battery unit.  I still have a smoking hulk to remind that there are no prophylactics for the rage of Mother Nature.

The trip south was successful -- and quick. My dentist and dermatologist are married to one another, and are just two offices down from one another.  A five minute stop earned me Monday appointments with both.

And Office Depot offered all of the equipment I needed.  A bit expensive, as are all electronic goods in Mexico, but I will now have a land line in the house.  I have found it helpful for the occasional telephone call north.  Telmex includes a limited number of long distance calls in my internet package.

Out of curiosity, I stopped at the Cinepolis multiplex to see if there were any movies worth seeing.  There was.  In 10 minutes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would start.  So, I bought a ticket.

I was never a big fan of the original series of movies, and I have not seen the first of the new series: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But I had read some very good reviews. 

As is often true of early matinees in Manzanillo, the theater was almost empty -- with the exception of about six young Mexican women who spent the next two hours texting on their telephones, and chatting with one another.  I have just come to expect it as part of the theater-going experience here. 

I assume they got bored with reading the insipid dialog in the subtitles.  I know it bored me just listening to it.

Rotten Tomatoes sums up the movie with this: "
With intelligence and emotional resonance to match its stunning special effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expands on its predecessor with an exciting and ambitious burst of sci-fi achievement."

I am not certain they watched the same movie I did.  The "intelligence and emotional resonance" is about the same level as those after-school television programs that the easy-to-please describe as classics.  About 20 minutes into the movie and I was looking for the remote control to change channels.

Because this is a prequel, you would have to have the attention span of a corn tortilla to be surprised by any of the hackneyed plot twists.  That is, if you can find the plot.  It is a linear story with few distractions to spice its inevitable march to the bank with our ticket sales.

A lot of money went into making the apes look "real" -- or as real as can be expected for an audience who has never seen apes in the wild.  Instead of the deplorable shag rug costumes hiding human actors in the original series, the apes are computer generated using the movements of actors.

That sounds as if it should be awesome.  It isn't.  Close up, the apes are as cutely anthropomorphic as any Disney creature.  Where the image falls apart is in long shots.  Gravity appears to have minimal effect on the apes.  Leaving them looking like a cross between bulky birds and a Cirque du Soleil act.

I was about to say that I might approach the movie a bit differently had I seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  And maybe I should.

Naw!  I've wasted enough time on this drivel.  Instead, I will watch a DVD of Company -- and find true intelligence and emotional resonance.

I was so busy muttering about the movie on my way back to Melaque that I forgot to stop at the Ford dealership to set an appointment for my Escape.  But I have a new telephone that is just the right instrument to solve that problem.

It is good to be back in the saddle in Melaque.

Friday, July 25, 2014

stritch redux

Earlier this month, I shared some of my reminiscences of Elaine Stritch in she's still here.

When I wrote the post, I searched for a video of her memorable performance of "I'm Still Here" at Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday concert.  That version was  blocked in The States.  And the other versions simply did not show her at her best.

While researching another topic, I discovered that an aficionado filled the gap following her death.  I watched it several times last evening.

I could have just let it go.  After all, I already had my say about her.  But she is worth an encore.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Elaine Stritch.  One more time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

look for small pleasures

There are other pleasures in life than traveling to London or having dinner at Enotecha Pinchiorri.  As pleasant as Trafalgar Square and Florence are.

Sometimes, those memorable moments are right where we are.  More accurately, they are always right where we are.  We just need to see them.  Or “perceive with seeing” as Old Sherlock would say.

I am currently indulging in one of Mexico’s traditions,  Waiting.  In this case, waiting for the Telmex repair man, who, I hope, will use his wizardly skills to restore telephone service to the house.  I can then drive to Manzanillo on Friday to pick up a new modem.  As my brother would say: everything has a sequence.

So, here I sit with no communication to the outside world.  No house telephone.  No internet.  Even my mobile telephone is not helping.  I apparently used up all of my purchased minutes by messaging them away yesterday.  (Yes.  I did solve my SIM card issue.  And, once I get over the embarrassment, I will tell you about it.  Probably, subtly.) 

Other than not knowing when I am going to get this piece posted, it feels rather good to be circumstantially incarcerated.  Instead of rushing off to eat at my favorite breakfast restaurant this morning, I slept in and started my day with some left over pasta.  Claiming time as one’s own is a great luxury of retirement -- something I should do more often.

Last night, a pocket rainstorm swept over the mountains -- dropping just enough rain to cool the night to let me I sleep well for the first time since I left Bend.  A good night’s sleep always improves my outlook on the day.

And that is why I am sharing this photograph.  The subject is nothing special.  Just a mop left hanging on the clothes line by Dora.  But its simplicity, tied with the rather baroque shadows of the courtyard plants, struck me as just the type of experience I so easily ignore.

Today, I didn’t.  I hope it adds a little something to your day.

In its own way, it is more memorable than the Palace of Westminster.

Note:  The Telmex guy just left.  And, wonder of wonders, he also replaced my modem.  I am now running one day ahead of schedule.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

another one drops

Today I was going to introduce you to my new cellular telephone -- the HTC One M8.  Recommended by my well-informed and talented niece, Kaitlyn.

Instead, you get another shot of my kitchen counter.  The one that is starting to look like a morgue slab.  For the electronic deceased.

Let me start at the beginning.  As you know, I left my Samsung telephone in the back seat of a taxi in Barcelona.  (That would make a good opening sentence for a novel.  But not right now.)  After spending a month in Europe without a telephone, the first thing I did when I returned to Mexico was to contact Kaitlyn.  She always knows what constitutes cutting edge in technology.

Easy, she said.  There is only one choice.  The recently-released HTC One M8.  (Yeah.  Yeah.  I know I already gave you its full moniker.  But I like typing it out.  It sounds like the name of a spiffy handgun.)

There was only one problem.  It is not yet available in Mexico.  But that is why Amazon exists.  I ordered it, and was going to have a friend mule it down, until I decided to head north on my own.

And there it was at my brother’s house when I arrived -- all charged up and ready to go.  A quick trip to T-Mobile for a nano chip to replace the old SIM card I use in The States, and I was ready to go.  For my three weeks in Washington and Oregon, it proved to be a boon companion.  A veritable laptop in my pocket.

Of course, the moment I landed in Mexico, I had no telephone service.  Well, I did, but it was on roam, and my mama didn’t raise no economic fool.  I turned it off until I could get a Telcel nano chip.

That was supposed to be yesterday.  I walked into the local Telcel shop.  The clerk pulled out a nano chip, and I opened my telephone and ejected the tray containing -- nothing.

There should have been a T-mobile chip in the tray.  We looked around to see if I had dropped it.  The slot is so small we couldn’t see if anything was in it.  But, when I turned on the telephone, it still registered “roam.”  That means the chip is stuck inside.  And no matter of tapping would set it free.

Rather than start probing the slot, I decided I would drive to Manzanillo today to a mobile telephone repair shop – or the large Telcel store.  Certainly, I cannot be the only guy who has had a card stick in his slot.  (It reminds of my first grade experience of getting a glass bead stuck in my nose.  Don’t ask.)

I was going to combine the trip with a stop at the Telmex office to pick up a modem and file a service request for my dead telephone line.  But The Best Landlady in the World is already tackling that for me.

The list of Steve’s electronic goods that work as advertised is getting shorter.  But there are still a few candidates that could bite the Melaque dust.  For the moment, Mexico has provided me with enough challenges.

But here is some pleasant news from Mexico.  The moment the airplane touched down at the Manzanillo airport, my blood pressure dropped to levels I have not seen since – well, ever.  As far as I know.    It was 103/65 last night.  Even with all of these little bumps in the road, I am as calm as my mother.

Mexico is a good teacher.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

death walks the line

Death comes quickly on the beach.  Especially for electronics.

Early yesterday morning, we experienced one of our denture-rattling thunderstorms.  Around 5 AM.  I know the time because I had just slipped onto my bed and drifted off when I woke to bright flashes and almost–immediate booms.

When the lightning and the thunder are that close together, so is the risk of damage to my electronic buddies. 

Because I had not yet set up my usual computer table array, my laptop, Kindle, and new telephone were plugged directly into the electrical outlets in my bedroom – without their usual prophylactic surge protectors.  They were easy to yank out of the wall.

I headed into the living room.  My modem and telephone were connected through a high-quality voltage regulator and surge protector.  I spent the extra money on that piece because I knew that I could not always be present when thunderstorms struck.  They could wait.

Instead, I went into the kitchen and unplugged the microwave.  While I looked out the back door at the sound and light show, I considered unplugging the telephone-modem connection.  Just then, a bolt of lightning struck somewhere nearby.  It felt as if the house had been hit.  My friend, Ed the Artist, said the same thing about what I suspect was he same strike.

The clicking in the corner of the living room was loud enough that I knew something had happened.  Apparently, three somethings.  The modem was dead.  The surge protector was dead.  And, with a little investigation, it appeared the telephone line to my house was dead – even though some nearby neighbors still have telephone service.

Like everything in life, there is a sequence.  I need to call Telmex and report a dead modem before I can pick up a new one in Manzanillo.  That is problematic.  In the past, the company has required me to call from the telephone line associated with the internet connection.  The line that is dead as a toe-nail.

I will also need to buy a new surge protector.  Probably once again from Office Depot in Manzanillo.  That is fine because I need to drive down there to purchase a nano SIM card (or, Slim card, as we say in Mexico) for my new HTC.  It has had no connection since I flew out of Los Angeles on Saturday.

Of course, none of this matters until I can figure out how to get telephone service restored to the house.  I suspect the problem may be in the house’s wiring.  And that is a topic I will need to discuss with my ever-efficient landlady.

When people ask me why I moved to Mexico, I tell them the primary reason was because I had become too comfortable living in Salem.  I wanted to wake up somewhere each morning and not know how I was going to get through the day.

Sunday morning Mexico delivered in spades.  Just another adventure in what is turning out to be a very good life.