Saturday, February 05, 2011

any puerto in a storm

Well, there was no storm on Thursday.  But there may as well have been.

The cold front that had turned Chicago writers to thoughts of Jack London moved on gentler paws over Puerto Vallarta.

There was an obvious shift.  The Madres, that give Puerto Vallarta its distinctive beauty, were cloud-capped -- like Dutch maidens. 

No bright blue skies on this day.  Gray was the new blue. 

Hardly what one expects of Puerto Vallarta in February. 

At least there was no rain.  For a moment, I thought I felt a couple of drops.  But it was just an overly-exuberant house cleaner on the balcony above.

There will be plenty of time for rain this summer -- when the Mexican sky can turn on the water works faster than a wronged teenage girl.

I had only two items on my agenda before heading back to Melaque.  A quick trip to Costco, and lunch with friends.

I have never been a world-class shopper.  Going to the store is a utilitarian exercise for me.  With one exception.  Costco.

Now and then in Oregon (usually on a Saturday afternoon), an urge would hit me -- I needed to make a Costco run.  It may be the same urge that smokers get to have a cigarette.  There is no logic.  It just is.

That urge has visited me from time to time in Melaque.  But it passes fast.  The nearest Costco is a four-hour drive away.  And there is nothing at Costco worth a four-hour drive.

When I started looking at Mexico as a place for retirement (in the halcyon days when my brother's family and our mother were talking about making this a family project), Puerto Vallarta topped my list.  For me, it was a place of endless activity.  Ziplining.  Mountain biking.  Snorkeling.

It never occurred to me (at the start) that all of those activities happen outside of Puerto Vallarta.

Inside the city, it is all expense, traffic, and no substance.  Any town whose history places the romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton high on its historical list is plumbing the shallow end of the cultural pool.

One reason I wanted to get back to Puerto Vallarta was to see what Costco had to offer on this side of the border.  I had a list of "Things I Miss," and I hoped Costco could stop my material jonesing.

One nice thing about Mexico is its ability to teach me I do not need most of the things I want.  And if I do not listen to the lesson, Mexico will be certain I pay a premium for my lust.

In The States (with one notable wide-screen exception), I do not recall ever spending more than $200(US) during any single shopping trip to Costco.

I outdid myself in Puerto Vallarta.  $3,350.40(MX).  That is about $278(US).  Not a terrible amount.  But I surprised myself.  And that was after I put a few items back on the shelf.

Some things were cheaper than at a Mexican retail store.  Others were simply more convenient.

Two items made up the bulk of the purchase.  A replacement for my failing backup external drive ($130(US)).  More expensive than in The States, but less expensive than Office Depot. 

And a replacement snorkeling set to replace the set I lost when my truck was broken into.  $49 (US).  About what I would pay in The States for the same set.

Most of the other items were household supplies.  Most available in other stores, but cheaper at Costco in bulk.

But there were two extravagances I could not pass up.

The first was lemons.  We do not have lemons in the local stores.  And there is no good substitute for making salad dressings and soups.  A three kilogram bag for almost $12(US) -- but worth every drop.  I just need to figure out how I am going to ration them.

The second verges on the decadent.  I have several dishes that call for Parmesan.  Real Parmesan.  What is called Parmesan in Mexico is -- well, bad.  It makes the dandruff in the green Kraft cans seem good.

But there it was.  Wedges of Parmigiano Reggiano stamped with its official birth mark.  I didn't even bother looking at the price.  I had to have it.  David could not have looked on Bathsheba with more lust in his heart.

And this particular vice came with a respectable price tag.  For 700 grams -- $25(US).

I suspect this will be my only trip to Costco -- at least for a bit. 

But I would gladly make another trip to spend time with Thursday's lunch guests -- Tom and Debi of Merida.

I knew from her blog that they were going to be in town, and I was determined to see them again.  I had a great time meeting them at this year's bloggers' conference in November.

They had discovered one of the few non-touristy sea food restaurants in town -- with great food.  We decided to meet there.

There is something about the blog community.  I always have trouble getting my long-time friends to understand it.  That it is possible to develop a good acquaintanceship with fellow bloggers -- even without ever meeting in person.

That was true with the three of us.  We started our conversations as if we had just seen one another the previous week.

We do know a lot about our respective lives in Mexico from our posts.  I asked about their building projects and bat problems.  They asked me about my quest for summer cool.

We sat and talked for almost three hours.  Enjoying an amazing meal of shrimp-stuffed calamari.  (Take a look at Debi's blog for details.)

I have no theory on why these acquaintances develop.  But I suspect people who are willing to leave their home countries for a new life, and who are willing to publish that life on the internet, are the type of people who are willing to take the risk of relying on the openness of strangers.

What I need in life are more acquaintances like Tom and Debi.  And far less reliance on the myth that I can buy happiness on the shelves of Costco -- wholesale.


lauriematherne said...

I visited Puerto Vallarta once. I liked it. As far as cheese, we have surprisingly good cheese in Honduras. Hondurans LOVE cheese. And imports are easy to find. Can't find many things here, but cheese... we got it. In fact right now I have some excellent provolone in the fridge that I was going to eat on a sandwich but it makes great quesadillas.

Francisco said...

Puerto Vallarta/Bahia de Banderas may be vacuous, but no one can deny her beauty.

1st Mate said...

I like the Banderas Bay area in general, but when we visit there we usually stay in La Cruz, a town I think you'd like a lot better, Steve. Close enough to PV to satisfy an occasional Costco jones but a lot less commercialized. But they're getting their share of condos and the big new marina (great for us boaters) has already brought about a lot of development and change. Anyway, enjoy your parmesan. Glad you got to connect with another of us bloggers, that's always so satisfying! I'm having lunch with a fellow blogger today at the marina: Brenda!

Steve Cotton said...

Darrel, Jiggs, and I stopped at the marina in La Cruz -- based solely on your blog posts. I had considered it as a place to settle down. But it did not click the romance button. Maybe it would after spending time in Melaque. There are so many places to see.

Steve Cotton said...

You are correct. Puerto Vallarta is as beautiful as Salma Hayek, but as shallow as Paris Hilton. A date now and then is fine. Marriage? Not on the table.

Steve Cotton said...

And I like it for visits. But it does not take long to see and expoerience everything that is there.

Good cheese in Honduras? Maybe that is where I should be heading.

Steve Cotton said...

I make a soup with a chicken broth base and baby spinach -- along with a good dose of fresh lemon juice. The Parmesan will be a great topping. I just wish I could get my hands on a good loaf of crusty bread.

KimG said...

Perhaps if your lemons have seeds you can try to sprout some and grow your own. I imagine that in your climate they'd grow very very well.

And if you ever find yourself bored (and your Spanish has improved significantly), you can have a discussion with a Mexican about limes versus lemons. That one can go around in confusing circles for hours. Kind of like "Who's on first?"

According to my Spanish/English dictionary, in Spain, limón is what we'd call a lemon, and a lima is what we'd call a lime. Of course everyone reading this blog knows that in Mexico, limón means lime. And lemons? Well, seldom seen there.

F and I have had a few of those discussions. Very confusing, and no way to really draw a conclusion either. At some point, you simply have to agree to talk about something else.

We now try to avoid the topic.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we don't believe lemons and limes are perfectly substitutable.

Steve Cotton said...

I have been through this same discussion in Mexico. I finally surrendered to the fact that lemons are merely a myth south of the border. And that was reason enough to grab them when I was in Costco.

I recently had this same conversation with a friend who has lived here for years. she claimed she had been drinking lemonade in Mexico for almost two decades. I was surprised. We called the waiter over for clarification. When she asked what was in the lemonade, he replied: "Limón, of course."

Now, she speaks Spanish quite well. But she gave me a smug look. I asked to see the limón, and he brought two ball-round yellow fruits to the table. "See?," said she. "Lemons."

My attempt to explain that limes turned yellow when fully ripe met with brain lock. She made her point and was not going to change her mind. Of course, Mexican "lemonade" comes with enough sugar in it that it could be flavorerd with avocados for all the difference it makes.

It does not help my point if you look at the Costco receipt. My lemons are listed as "limón."

M. said...

We had actual lemons show up here in Guanajuato, at the MEGA grocery. They were perfect and I likely won't see them for another year. ~Wyn

Don Cuevas said...

"Limón real" is the local term for the tart, yellow fruit in question.
We saw them last Monday in Mexico City's Mercado San Juan, but very expensive. Our friend Ron bought three.

Occasionally we can get them in Superama or Wal-Mart in Morelia.

Don Cuevas

lauriematherne said...

Aside from the corruption, high rates of violence, pollution and general lack of amenities, yeah. come. The cheese is good.