Sunday, May 31, 2009

el médico está comiendo el pan

The second word I learned in my The Learnables course was médico.

I thought that was a strange start to learning a new language. After all, whatever happened to "Good morning. How are you?"

It turns out to have been a linguistic omen.

I mentioned on Friday in
filling the hole in whole that I had stopped to see a local doctor to establish a base line for my blood pressure and blood sugar. She was concerned that my blood pressure was high -- even with my medication.

Being a good doctor -- in any language -- she sent me off to the local lab to make a urine and blood deposit. For $200, I received a report of my basic health metrics.

I was pleased. My fasting glucose and cholesterol levels were all within normal. And my triglycerides had been cut by 50% -- even though they are still too high. All good news.

Losing those 30 pounds has helped my overall health.

My doctor asked to see me again this Saturday. I walked to her office in the morning. Not there. I walked to her office in the afternoon. Not there.

So, I will try next week. I guess I just need to get used to the fact that professionals are not tied to schedules as they are across the northern border.

But, I know the Spanish word for doctor -- even if I have trouble seeing one.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

pots of monet

Billie Mercer. John Woods. Gary Denness.

Whenever you visit their blogs, you know you are going to get first class photographs of Mexico.

I thought of that the other night as I looked across the bay to Barra de Navidad. From my terrace, Barra looks like a fairy wonderland.

Not because of anything in Barra itself. It is simply a little Mexican beach town.

What sets off the bay is the five-star resort, the Grand Bay Hotel.

Now, we all know that the stars granted to these resorts can be as suspect as a five-star general from a third-rate country, but it certainly looks enticing from my side of the bay.

If I were Edmund Pevensie, it would imagine it to be where the White Witch spent her vacations.

Billie has immortalized San Miguel de Allende at night. And what does SMA have that la belle Barra lacks? Sure, we have no churches with gaudy domes. But we have a resort that smacks of a cross between San Simeon and Cinderella's castle.

And why couldn't I capture this grand scene?

Well, for one I have a small digital camera with a powerful zoom, but no vibration reduction, and 60-year old hands that seem to be powered by caffeine.

The photograph at the top of this post is the result. Or, I should say it is the best of about 30 exposures.

I could say that I have captured the very essence of the fairy fantasy on the bay. But I cannot think of any other explanation. So, I will say that.

There you have it. Until Billie or John or Gary come here to give you a better shot of my lovely view on the bay.

Maybe, next time I will give you a daylight shot -- bereft of all expressionist pretension.

Friday, May 29, 2009

filling the hole in whole

It is not Al Gore's ozone hole. But there has been a hole at Casa Algodón while the good Professor Jiggs was recuperating in Manzanillo.

And from his bill, I assume he was putting room service to liberal use.

I will cut to the chase. Everyone wants to know if Jiggs's hard tumor is cancer or not. It looks as if it is not.

But that does not take Jiggs out of the woods and put him in a pool cabana. The fatty tumors are pushing one hip out of alignment.

The veterinarian wants Jiggs to drop a few pounds to see if the tumors can be reduced in size. (Jiggs will now join me in dieting.) We go back to Manzanillo in two weeks (15 days for those of you who live north of the border).

Right now, everything is fine. Jiggs is supposed to take walks. Tonight, he just did not want to go. I can see what is about to happen. He walks for the veterinarian. For me, he is simply going to be spoiled.

That is the good news for the day.

Before I left for Manzanillo, I decided to see my doctor to establish a baseline for my blood pressure and blood sugar. I was positive that my blood pressure would be well within normal limits. After all, it was almost normal when I left Salem -- before I lost those pesky 30 pounds.

My doctor was surprised at the first reading. She took a second. The readings were elevated -- to the extent that it looked as if I had not been taking my medication. I had.

She scheduled lab tests for Friday and a follow-up appointment on Saturday.

Good grief! For a month I have been worried about Jiggs -- while my health seems to be declining.

Of course, the two are related. Now that I can stop worrying (for awhile) about the dog, maybe my conditions will slip under the radar again.

My goal of getting off all medication may have been just a bit premature.

But I am not going to let that get in the way of this glorious weekend -- finding a hole in my life duly filled.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

spread the fat

Taking a cue from Islagringo, I have decided to do what I can to help the local economy.

Melaque has never reaped the financial cream from the tourist trade. It could never pass for Cancun -- or even, Puerto Vallarta.

It is just one of those towns on the beach where inlanders drop in every now and then. In Britain, it would be Blackpool. In New Jersey, it would be pre-Trump Atlantic City. In Oregon, probably Seaside.

The tourist trade folks could make a peso here, but they would never gather enough Juarezes to pull an Alamo on Carlos Slim.

Like everywhere in turista Mexico, Melaque is ailing. The beaches and streets often look like something out of the Twilight Zone.

No tourists means that local merchants are hurting.

I do not have a lot of pesos to spread around, but I have decided I will eat at least one meal a day on the local economy. It is not much, but it is money I would not otherwise be spending.

I had a great hoisin chicken marinating in the refrigerator on Wednesday evening. Rather than cook it up, I had dinner at a new Japanese-Chinese restaurant in town.

And the place was just as advertised. I had a huge portion of shrimp-beef-chicken stir fry -- heavy on the vegetables, just as I like it. I have learned that the zucchini here is delicious, just as a number of you have said.

On the way back to the house, I noticed I had wandered into the neighborhood I saw on my first visit to Melaque a year ago. Back then, I knew the commercial center was supposed to be nearby. But everywhere I looked, I saw residences.

That got me to thinking about such cities as London and Paris. With the exception of the tropical ambience, Melaque must look very similar to both of those urban giants as they were growing up. Little residences crammed together on dusty, cobbled streets.

Why do some villages grow into giants while others remain urban dwarfs their entire lives?

I suspect I started down this philosophical path because today is the day I pick up Jiggs from the veterinarian in Manzanillo. Or, just as importantly, it is the day I discover the truth about Jiggs's tumor on his abdomen, and what we are going to do about it.

I am probably no better qualified to answer that question than I am to discuss why Melaque will always be a small village by the sea constantly concerned about where its next meal is going to come from.

So, I will do what I have done all my life. I will pray, and then I will make a decision and live with it -- knowing that a lot of you out there are pulling for both Jiggs and me.

Just as I am pulling for this little village I am learning to love.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

two slices of meatloaf

It is a bad fighter who telegraphs his punches.

It is a worse writer who telegraphs his punch lines.

But Tuesday was truly a Meatloaf type of day. You know: "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."

Theresa of
¿What do I do all day? set a benchmark for expatriates in Mexico. In "Tempting Fate by attempting too much in one day...," she set out to accomplish three major projects in one day.

We, dear friends who we are, counseled caution. Try too many, and you will fail at all.

But, she showed us all up. In one day, she did all three.

I knew, on Tuesday, I could not best her, not even tie her. After all, I only had two tasks. But I set out with the same optimism.

I arrived at the Immigration office in Manzanillo right at 9. When I walked inside, I took #3; they were serving #1.

I have learned enough when taking on one of these tasks to bring reading material and refreshments. Just as I was ready to crack my book -- and the top of my water bottle -- two windows opened. It was 9:05, and a live person was talking with me.

I handed over my temporary FM3, and the woman behind the window disappeared. I could see her occasionally helping the two other clerks with copies.

I stood there patiently expecting to hear that I would need to bring a note from my First Grade teacher before my FM3 could be registered.

Instead, around 9:17, she handed me an official-looking document, and asked me to sign it. I did. She then gave me my FM3 booklet and reminded me to return in just under a year to renew my visa.

In less than 20 minutes, I was done. I was stunned.

If I had it to do over, I think I would still go through the initial process in the States. There was something comforting when I crossed the border knowing that I was entering on something other than a tourist card.

It is true that I had to do almost everything twice -- once in Portland, and then in Manzanillo, with the exception that Manzanillo did not ask for a police clearance letter nor did Manzanillo need to re-verify my income.

The income verification issues will arise next year when I will undoubtedly not have whatever records I will need to show that I am not on the verge of becoming a ward of the state. But, I will most likely be living in a different part of Mexico then.

Pushing my luck, I decided to slip in an additional task. I have not been getting my magazines at the Melaque address -- even though I changed my subscriptions address over a month ago.

Because they are about an $800 investment, I decided to get a mailbox at Mailboxes, Etc. I had visited the office twice. So, I knew what I needed: money and a piece of identification. Being satisfied with what I gave him, the fellow at the store set me up with a mailbox. My magazines should now be heading this way -- very soon.

Two tasks successfully completed -- even though one was an improvisation.

The next step was to talk with the veterinarian about Jiggs's tumor, and to take Jiggs home.

I picked up the sainted
New Beginnings in Manzanillo. She had already seen Jiggs, and was impressed with his haircut (it made him look younger, she said) and his ability to get around.

My first impression was not as sanguine. To me, he looked what he is: a tired, old dog -- a dog that I thoroughly love. But I will leave the conclusions to you.

His Mexico buzz cut is very short, and shows all of his physical flaws. But it is certainly much cooler than his full Oregon coat.

The veterinarian carefully went through each of the steps he took to bring Jiggs's fever down. He is now taking Jiggs off cortisone and his thyroid medicine.

He asked if he could keep Jiggs for two more nights -- in an attempt to reduce the fat around the hard tumor on Jiggs's abdomen. He will then take three x-rays on Thursday morning. I will consult with the veterinarian on Thursday afternoon.

No matter what course of treatment we decide on, I will bring Jiggs home on Thursday. He is obviously enjoying his stay with the veterinarian and his family. He even fell asleep with a cockatiel between his paws -- the dog who has historically disliked birds in his yard.

When I left, he made no effort to come with me. That did not hurt my feelings because it proved he feels comfortable staying at the clinic.

So, there it is. Two out of three. And it ain't bad.

Because the third task will soon be complete.

And I ain't no Meatloaf.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a-tisket, a-tasket

Today, I am off to Manzanillo -- to do two major things.

There is a general rule for expatriates in Mexico: You can do one major thing in a day; but try two, and you will accomplish neither.

I know I am tempting fate. But I bet it I can do it.

Major Task #1. Pick up my duly-registed FM3.

When we last left this portion of our continuing saga (
visaless in melaque) two weeks ago, I had driven to Manzanillo with my FM3 acquired at the Mexican Consulate in Portland. My goal was to register my presence at my new home address.

After filling out two forms, handing over my officially-approved photographs, and providing copies of my Constancia de Domicilio and passport, the very nice young woman kept my FM3 booklet and told me to return in two weeks.

That is today. And I am returning.

Even though I was told that I do not need to bring any other documents with me today, I am taking my full file -- and plenty of copies.

The office opens at 9. I intend to be there by 8:30.

I expect to have my FM3 before high noon.

But more importantly, I hope to be reunited with Professor Jiggs tomorrow. He is still with the veterinarian in Manzanillo. This is Major Task #2.

And on this topic, we have a guest columnnist.
New Beginnings in Manzanillo has been keeping personal tabs on the Good Professor. Here is her report from Monday.

I went and saw Jiggs today. He has a new haircut - very short and now looks like a cute golden lab. When I arrived at the vet, he was laying on the floor behind the main desk. He is always with the vet and his wife - in the vet office or in their house in the evenings. His temperature is back to normal and he is no longer panting like he was. The vet says he is doing better - his respiration is much better. The X-rays are going to be later this afternoon. I told him that we would be coming tomorrow to
pick him up.

The vet and I took him for a short walk....about half a block. He has been taking him for short walks 4 times a day. In the morning, he said Jiggs likes to walk longer because it is much cooler. He said they walked almost 2km this

So, there we have it. Jiggs has once again risen from the ashes. From now on, I should call him Professor Phoenix.

Of course, that would only confuse both of us.

There is the ssue of what the x-rays will show. But Jiggs and I can deal with that when it arises.

Two tasks --of this nature -- are not going to be too difficult to accomplish.

Monday, May 25, 2009

a snake in the fans

The heat was tropical.

Penetratesing dampness that left no body part untouched.

Not a day to take a stroll. The locals were wisely huddled on white Coca-Cola chairs fanning themselves with anything light enough to lift in the heat.

But I had some free time. A chance to get out.

With Jiggs at the house, I need to be around for the mundane (but essential) tasks of opening gates and helping him stand. Now that he is recuperating, I am free to stop worrying.

I decided to amuse myself with a walk around our laguna --a home for all kinds of lizards, insects, birds, and crocodiles. My trusty Canon accompanied me --just in case I had one of those blogger moments.

The local municipality has constructed a very nice walkway along the edge of the laguna. What was once residential back yards is now a brick path that winds through the bamboo, palms, and water hyacinths.

It is a great place to see nature up close. In the past, it would be exactly the place I would take Jiggs for a walk. (Despite this somewhat Rousseauean whimsical sign. I assure you: there is no Photoshop going on here.)

I had spotted a black and yellow bird that I could not identify cavorting on the fronds of a coconut palm. Just as I was focusing on it, I heard one of those primordial sounds that causes every corpuscle to stand still.

A rattle. With its very distinctive warning.

I have lived in the western United States and have been involved in politics long enough to recognize the sound of snakes. And this was a sound I had heard before.

A rattlesnake.

In my neck of the woods, when I have heard that sound, I was always wearing boots and long pants.

Not so on Sunday. Remember my comment about the heat? I was wearing sandals and shorts -- looking like an extra in a Spring Break movie. Perhaps, the evil dean, who is spying on the fun-loving students.

Standing still did not seem to be the best option. But where was the snake?

Nature has given humans very sensitive stereophonic listening abilities. We can pinpoint the source of a sound far better than our dogs.

I refused to believe my ears. The sound was coming from just above my head.

But "just above my head" was nothing but palm fronds.

I am no Marlin Perkins, but I know that rattlesnakes are not arboreal. If a snake comes hurtling out of jungles trees in a Tarzan movie, it is a python or a boa constrictor -- not some puny rattlesnake.

This is how my mind works at times like this. Inside my head a Sunday morning political discussion was taking place. Perhaps, a session of Meet the Pest.

Logic won out over fear. I started peering around the fronds to see what was making the warning rattle.

It was the coconut palm. Or, rather, it was the breeze blowing through one of the fronds. It was setting up a harmonic tremor that sounded just like a rattlesnake's rattle. Nature mimicking -- nature, I guess.

A good walk?

Of course, it was. Just like a combat mission, any walk that ends "And then I was home" is a good walk.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

hospital hospitality

I have no clever opening. This is simply an update on the condition of my soul mate: Professor Jiggs.

Saturday was supposed to be the day I would finally get rid of Jiggs's Oregon haircut (as Felipe so colorfully calls it) and get him a nice sleek Mexico coast cut. That meant going to Manzanillo for the reasons I have discussed in this blog. There was just no getting the job done in Melaque.

New Beginnings in Manzanillo was good enough to find a veterinarian and a groomer for this short-notice cut. And her assistance was timely.

About two days ago, Jiggs seemed to be getting more and more distant from me. Last night, I discovered a bad infection on the inside of his upper lip. Something was obviously going very wrong.

The veterinarian initially told us that he would prefer if I left Jiggs for a couple of days to ensure that his coat was dry before he went out into the humidity. He said he would look at Jiggs's other issues.

But one thing he made clear was that the cortisone injections should stop because they were playing havoc with his system.

That gave me pause. Jiggs's veterinarians in Salem knew the risks of cortisone, but his lab tests showed that his system was easily dealing with the effects.

I was going to do a bit of shopping in Manzanillo before heading north to Melaque. Just as I was ready to stop at the first store, I received a call from the veterinarian's office that they wanted to talk with me.

New Beginnings in Manzanillo happily volunteered to join me -- and I am glad she did.

The veterinarian was very concerned about the lip infection. But he was even more concerned about a hard lump he found on Jiggs's abdomen. Jiggs has had fatty tumors for years. A hard tumor was a big change.

The veterinarian asked for permission to x-ray the area -- after the groomer was done.

It reminded me that I have worked out this scenario in my mind before. Jiggs is old. Most operations are painful and will only allow a few months of life.

That bargain seemed to be designed to please me by keeping Jiggs alive while paying him with pain. Justice is not that deal's name.

Even so, I approved the x-ray.

He also informed me that Jiggs had a dangerously high fever. His plan was to groom Jiggs, reduce the fever, and then have the x-ray taken.

That means Jiggs will be staying in Manzanillo until, at least, Monday. I need to return on Tuesday morning to pick up my FM3. I will then meet with the veterinarian -- unless I talk with him then.

All of that makes me sound as if I am taking this like a Spartan.

I am not. Even knowing that Jiggs had a very short time to live down here did not prepare me for the reality.

I have been carrying on like an Italian widow. To the point that I am a road hazard. I went through one red light and nearly went through a second in Manzanillo – simply because I was distracted.

A few days before Darrel left and when Jiggs was starting to decline, I started having what I would call a “heavy chest.” I had not had that type of anxiety for a long time. After Darrel left, it increased. At the same time, Jiggs took his nose dive, and the feelings almost turned into physical pain.

Today, it hurt so much, I thought I was suffering heart attack symptoms: difficulty in breathing, pain in my left arm, pain in my neck. But it passed.

I had not eaten anything for the past 24 hours. Nor was I really interested in eating.

But all this is not about me. It is about Jiggs.

I need to do what is best for him.

For the rest of the weekend, I will try to put the issue out of my mind. He is in professional hands, who will give him good care.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

garbage in, garbage out

Trash. Garbage. Refuse.

The refrain is not new. I have written on garbage before:
talkin' trash in February of 2008.

My tirade was about trash in the park where Jiggs and I took our evening walk in Salem. That post engendered quite a few comments.

Well, it is time for a reprise in my new home: Melaque.

During the month I have been here, I have been amazed at the amount of trash that accumulates on the street and on the beach in front of the house. Bottles. Wrappers. Plastic bags. Things that I cannot begin to identify. Not to mention, the odd shoe or pair of underpants.

I realize the Melaque area is a tourist town. And tourists have a way of treating the places they visit in the same manner the Romans treated the Sabine women. Drunks urinating on the stoops of New Orleans mansions comes to mind.

What strikes me as odd, though, is that the village has set up numerous garbage cans to help alleviate the trashing of neighborhoods -- to little avail. The mess pictured above is mere steps from a receptacle.

As I wrote over a year ago, I have a choice. I can either keep griping or I can do something. My solution in Salem was to take an extra garbage bag with me on my dog walks. If I found trash, I would pick it up.

So, I started the same technique here while Jiggs was still able to cruise the neighborhood. I saw Mexicans (locals and tourists) shaking their heads at me. Not because I was picking up garbage -- but because I was picking up after Jiggs. That seemed to be a unanimous source of joking.

At a minimum I pick up along the beach fence line and in front of the house each day. When I get back to my regular morning and evening walks, I will pick up as much as I can.

Will it make a difference? Probably, not.

But, at least I will be doing something other than complaining about the trash -- until the next post.

Friday, May 22, 2009

cooking a piston engine

One of my favorite Monty Python blackouts is the "Been shopping?" bit.

Two women sit on a bench. One asks: Been shopping?

The other responds: No, ... I've been shopping.

First woman: What'd you buy?

Second woman: A piston engine.

For some reason, it is one of the funniest lines on television. And I have just been waiting to pull it put during a conversation.

But, as likely as the topic is, today is not that day.

I have been shopping, though.

Like many of you, the most frequent question I am asked is how expensive is it to live in Mexico?

Of course, the real question is: I have heard that an American can live in a beach house with a pool, a maid, and a cook for $800 a month. Does it cost that much?

I usually ask the questioner: How much does it cost to live in the Unites States? And the response is always: "It depends."

The same problem exists with the Mexico question. It depends on how you want to live and where you want to live.

Any more, I simply cut to the chase. I tell my friends that I managed to reduce my monthly living budget in Salem to $2000 a month. In Mexico, I have been able to save about 10% to 20% off of the prices I would pay in Salem.

Most of them get stuck on the first figure.

Let me give an example. I went to the fruit and vegetable stand on Wednesday. I purchased:

  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce
  • 3 bananas
  • 6 limes
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 3 cucumbers
  • 1 head of garlic

And I paid only 40 pesos for the lot. Currently, one US dollar purchases about 13 pesos. My total was just over $3 US.

When I left Salem, one yellow pepper cost $2.50. I have no idea what the rest would cost.

So, you are probably asking: why am I not saving more than 10% or 20%?

If I became a vegetarian, I could probably save a bundle -- or a bundlette. (My food bill is only about 10% of my budget.)

What is missing from the list is meat. Chicken and beef are generally more expensive than in an American super market. The chicken is better in quality; the beef is terrible -- tough and tasteless.

Pork, on the other hand is a succulent bargain. And that was before the Great Swine Flu Husteria of 2009.

But, before we leave the food basket, I have an opinion to pass on.

Before I came down here, I was told that the fruits and vegetables were better-looking and tastier than anything in my local super market.

That is true for the fruit. The bananas, mangos, and pineapple are almost indecently good -- because they ripen on or near the source of production.

Not so much the vegetables. With the exception of the carrots and onions, vegetables have been a major disappointment. Most of them look like the vegetables you would see in the cart of a hip organic shopper mere moments before the produce would be chucked out the back door.

Looks are not everything. After all, think of how tasteless some good-looking vegetables are.

Well, I am here to tell you that the ugly vegetables here just do not have much taste to them at all. Like the homely girl whose personality is extolled -- these have no personality.

That was a bit disappointing. But I have managed to develop some recipes where liberal amounts of pepper flakes can disguise the blandest potato.

Perhaps, I simply need to learn how to cook a piston engine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

advantages of floating by the middle of the sea

We have all heard it.

The Question.

"What are you going to do in Mexico?"

In my case, it was tied to the question: "How are you going to survive retirement?" Of course, the subtext of both questions is: "Why are you throwing away your life?"

The worst were my friends at work. I worked for an excellent company that was the embodiment of a problem-solving machine. My work was challenging. I had every tool I could have wished.

In that type of environment, if Work is not Life, it is certainly Purpose. To abandon all of it while still at the top of one's form seemed reckless to some. Simply wasteful to others.

My answer was always the same. I will do what I do on every weekend, every evening, every vacation day. I will read. I will write. I will correspond. I will listen to music.

This week has tested my plan. I have minimized trips away from the house to attend to Jiggs's needs.

As a result, I have been able to do several things I have been unable to do during the last month.

I tore through one of Harry Turtledove's alternate history novels: Blood and Iron. Because it is simply one in a series of ten novels, there was little interesting in it. By now, I can always predict how each conflict will be resolved, how each new character will play out. But I enjoyed just sitting and reading without interruption -- other than Jiggs's occasional bark for attention.

I caught up on several of the Mexico blogs I have followed for the past year -- leaving scattered comments along the way. I also made some notes on places I will soon get out to see.

And I wrote several draft future posts. Most will need to wait for additional research. But this is the first time I have had the luxury to get ahead on what I will post.

I also used MagicJack to call several people back in the States. My brother directed me to MagicJack during his recent visit to Japan. He convinced me that I wanted some form of telephone connection from Mexico. I doubted it. I hate the telephone. But it has been a great device to stay in contact -- when I need a conversation fix.

I know. I know. I cannot keep up this routine of simply staying around the house. I would go stir crazy -- in a few months or so. But I am surprised at how satisfying the routine is.

So, what do I do?

Anything I want to do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

full frontal adventure

You do not have to dig very deep in this blog to discover that my primary reason for coming to Mexico was to have an adventure.

I am not here for the weather, the culture, or the perople. Of course, they all matter.

I am here, in the odd syntax I chose in an earlier post: "To wake up every morning and not know how I am going to get through the day."

If that is the criterion for adventure, today was an "A." If figuring out how to overcome issues is the criterion, today was an "F."

You all know the big issue of the week: Jiggs is quickly failing. He made it through Monday night, but he was still unwiling to eat and he did not want to go out for a businewss walk.

I eventually persuaded him that if he went out the gate, the walk would be short. Within a few steps, I discovered what I needed to know: his kidneys and bowels were still operating.

When we came back, I discovered that output may be working, but input was a problem. No matter what I did with his food, he would not eat it.

Monday, he refused to eat bread -- his favorite treat. I tried a bit; he ate it. He ate some cheese. But he reused to eat his dry dog food.

Thinking it was the consistency of the dry food, I dipped a few morsels in his water. He ate them. So, I put a little water on the food, thinking it was too rough.

He would not eat it. I tried a few bits in my hand. He gobbled the food. We went on like that until he had eaten the full dish of food.

Why this odd behavior? No idea. But I do know that two concerns were resolved.

The bigger concern was having him seen by a veterinarian. He needs another cortisone shot.

There is a veterinarian with a small office in town, whose main office is a half-hour drive away. He advertises on his local door: "English spoken."

I have never found the verterinarian to be in -- even though his assistant keeps promising he will be there at certain times. I should point out the assistant speaks only Spanish. That is to be expected; this is, after all, Mexico.

Thge veterinarian has a cell phone number on the office door. But if you call, you get a recording -- once again, in Spanish only.

From what I understand, the veterinarian speaks Engluish -- and he markets that skill. The problem is that unless you can speak Spanish, you cannot get to the veterinarian.

I will admit to feeling a bit frustrated. I was already a bit raw emotionally from what Jiggs is going through -- and the attendant lack of sleep.

The woman who owms the house where I am staying suggested that I go back to the office and ask the assistant to get the veterinarian on the telephone.

I should have thought of that. It's the old "put-your-superior-on line" approach we have all used with recalcitrant customer service school dropouts.

There may be very little that a veterinarian can do for Jiggs. I just need to hear that.

But I also need to have some plan for what I will do when the inevitable occurs.

And that will be my task on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

dog watch for the watchdog

I fear that Jiggs is taking a turn for the worse.

It is not just the heat; though, that is a factor.

Age is simply having its way with him.

On Monday afternoon, it was almost as if an internal switch turned off. He had no interest in any of his food. He would not leave the house for his usual walk. He would bark frantically if I left the room.

I thought a cortisone shot would help. But I ended up in the same predicament that I experienced last month: I could not find a veterinarian. I still have not seen the English-speaking veterinarian that so many people recommend. And, even if my Spanish was perfect, I could not find a Spanish-speaking veterinarian, either.

Jiggs did calm down when I got him in the truck to go look for a veterinarian. I don't know if it was the air conditioning or his belief that FINALLY we were going back to his house in Salem.

When I got home with him and took him out of the truck, he seemed to have dropped another step on the life ladder.

I am writing this because some of you care a lot about Jiggs. And, if this is the inevitable, I may be away from the keyboard for a bit.

Tonight, I will sleep on the floor with him. And tomorrow -- we shall see.

The only moment I have is the one before me, and I will live it before tomorrow comes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

history at bay

Mexico Bob threw down the historical gauntlet to me in his comments section the other day.

I commended him on the unsual bits if history he has picked up here and there for his blog. He responded:

A now live in a very interesting area. It is one end of an old Spanish land bridge from the Philippine trade to Veracruz at the other end. I am waiting to see what interesting stuff you come up with :)

That is a bit of a coincidence because I am about to start a little historical quest I discussed in standing pat in March.

The middle village of our three villages is San Patricio, named for Saint Patrick, the honored saint of the village parish. It is not that unusual for a place to be named after a saint usually associated with another country. If that were true, the capital of Chile could simply be called Jim.

But there is another Saint Patrick association with Mexico: the honored and reviled (depending on which side of the border you are on) Saint Patrick Brigade of the Mexican-American War.

I am soon going to start researching whether there is any connection between the brigade and this particuar village.

And I know I will hit some false leads.

An expatriate told me with a straight face (because I think she thought it was true) that the entire area was settled by the Irish. Melaque is a mispronunciation of "Melarkey," and Villa Obregon (the village whrere I live) is a bastardization of "O'Brien."

When I pointed out that the village is named for Álvaro Obregón Salido, president of Mexico in the early 1920s, she looked at me with that same pitying look that one child gives another when the Tooth Fairy is outed.

But, so far, I have found nothing authoritative to show a connection with the village and the Sant Patrick Brigade.

Bob make a good point, though. This area has strong colonial roots. We have no great Mayan or Toltec pyramids to act as extras in another Star Wars epoisode. But we played a big role in the trade between Mexico and the Philippines.

I covered all of that in
manila extract last December. So, I will simply let the moving finger move on. And you may do with your mouse as you choose.

The horizom on our bay has been hazy the last few days as we start our shift to the monsoon season. As I sat watching the haze and thinking about the great galleons that once sailed from this bay to the East, I thought I spied, for one brief moment, a ghost of the past.

I am ready for more sleuthing, Bob.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

model behavior

I see some of the darndest things on the beach in front of the house.

Melaque is a Mexican tourist town. Whatever tourists want can be found somewhere on the beach.

But Saturday was a first.

I looked out the window to see surfer dudes with boards. Not unusual. This is a great skim board beach.

But there were fit young women in revealing swimwear. Not a usual sight. The few girls on our beach usually wear a lot of clothing.

And then I saw why. Behind a bank of light reflectors stood two photographers.

It was a model shoot. Young men and women -- and sports equipment.

I never found out what the shoot was all about. But Jiggs tried.

The entire group is staying across the street from the house.

Jiggs, who had been sleeping all day on the shade, heard young voices and was more than willing to abandon old me for young them. He should become a corporate human resources officer.

As we walked by their house, he darted in the gate and started working the table where they were partying. He, of course, became the center of everyone's attention.

Now, there is no living with him. He now claims that he is dating a model.

But he is a 13-year old boy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

the sun also sets

Melaque had a sunset tonight.

Well, of course, the sun sets every night in Melaque. But tonight we had one of the first magnificent sunsets of the spring-summer season.

During the past month, the sunsets were fine. But they were a bit like a German Expressionist play. All script. No stage set.

For a tropical sunset to be stunning, the sky needs to be generally clear. But scattered clouds are as necessary as a telephone in a production of Sleuth.

That reflected light, as the sun slips below the horizon, needs something to -- reflect off of.

We have started seeing more of those clouds. Enough that it is apparent our season is quickly changing to summer.

And summer means rain. Lots of rain. Or, at least four months of it.

Without the rain, this part of the world would be referred to as a desert in the tropics, and not as a "jungle" -- though I find that term to be just as misleading.

The rains have already started in the central highlands. And they will soon follow here.

Unfortunately, for sunset watchers, steady rains are worse than the bland Brechtian sunsets without clouds.

But there will be some stunners, and I will pass them along as they occur.

For now, I will sit here like the good audience member I am -- and take what is offered to me on this little stage of Melaque.

Friday, May 15, 2009

my brother's keeper

Fifty-eight years ago, I greeted my younger brother's first entry into our family home by throwing a toy truck at him -- breaking my mother's glasses in the process.

Or so the family legend goes.

I was two -- and not subject to moral culpability.

But it was not an auspicious beginning. As I think back on our lives growing up separately in the same family, there are only a few times where we spent much time together.

We did not have family vacations.

We had different school interests.

We had different tribal friends.

Our lives intersected only rarely.

Our relationship started changing when our father died in 1996. We spent more time together learning more about the other's life.

And, as you all know, our relationship took another major shift when I decided to drive to Mexico.

I had every intention of making the drive alone. My brother, who has experience as a professional driver, knew that I had no idea what I was planning on doing.

To save me from myself, he volunteered to take off a month from his business to accompany me to Mexico.

I have looked back on the past month of posts and realize that the success of this trip (to this point) was greatly due to my brother's sacrifice and support.

Not everything turned out as anticipated, and we did not agree on everything. (The smallest decision easily turned into a major competition.) But we had the best time we have ever had together.

In one post, I referred to Darrel as my best friend. He really is.

That is why Thursday was another big step in my Mexico move. After taking a closer look at Barra de Navidad and Melaque, we drove to the Manzanillo Airport where he boarded an Alaska flight to Portland.

I am going to miss having him here. Not only for his company, but for the sheer joy of having him share this experience.

That ancient tossed toy truck was, in the words of White House spin masters, "a youthful indiscretion."

Because he is my brother, my friend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

riding with roseanne roseannadanna

In the words of the all-too-mortal Gilda Radner: "It just goes to show you, it's always something."

Every community has its tourist attractions. The Black Hills have Mount Rushmore. San Antonio has The Alamo. Minneapolis has world-famous toilet stalls.

If you read the local literature, Melaque outscores them all with -- its tianguis.

Every Wednesday, a group of entrepreneurs sets up shop in a major street to sell their wares. When I visited in July last year, the owner of the house told me that it was a must-see. Not to be missed. It should be high up on my Bucket List.

So, I went. And I went again today to ensure that my first impression was not somehow tainted by comparing this travelling flea market to the other joys of the Pacific coast.

This time I took my brother.

Now, all of you have probably come to the conclusion that my bother and I us are very similar. And we are.

So, I was not surprised when he commented that tianguis must be Spanish for giant yard sale. And he was correct. Most of the merchandise had a certain better-days-will-not be-seen-here ambience.

Being part of a Niles and Fraser show can be unpredictable. One moment, you can be talking about the nuances of wild versus cultivated oyster mushrooms; the next moment, one of you is looking at hardware to fix a leaky hose.

In mid-witty sentence, my younger brother was sucked into the maw of Charybdis. He purchased several pieces of hose hardware, using his minimal Spanish -- saving at least 75% of the cost for the same items at Commercial Mexicana.

He had such fun with that experience, we stopped at a hardware store on the way home to buy a flow valve and hose clamps.

For those of you who have not been to a Mexican hardware store, it is more akin to a wholesale parts counter than to Home Depot. Like Scylla on a bad day.

Rather than wandering through rows of nuts and screws, you describe your need to the man or woman at the counter. He or she then brings a proposed solution to you. Rather like a pharmacist.

I was once again amazed that my kid brother had the temerity to ask, to be understood, and to walk away with his problems (at least, those related to garden hoses) resolved.

Having had a full day of Authentic Mexican Experiences, we decided to try Mexican pizza. So off we drove. I pulled up to the far-too-high curb and got far-too-close.

Years ago, a Mexican laborer in a quarry broke up a pile of rocks. Some became gravel. Some smaller rocks. But one piece retained a very sharp edge.

That rock was part of a shipment to San Patricio to build sidewalks around an older building. The concrete worker sifted the rocks, as carefully as he sifted his sand, but that self-same rock slipped through into the mixture.

As the years went by, the concrete began to erode as concrete does. Large pieces of rock fell out of the tall sidewalk. But that sharp rock simply became more exposed. Children broke off other pieces of rock. But the sharp rock simply stuck out of the curb -- doing nothing in particular.

If the quarryman had smashed the rock, if the concrete worker had tossed it aside, if nature had eroded it away, if the children had broken it off, when Steve drove his truck up to the curb -- nothing would have happened.

But something did happen. The new front right tire that Steve purchased just before leaving Salem struck the rock while pulling up to the curb -- and the rock won, tearing a large hunk of rubber from the side wall.

There was no flat tire. No blow out. Simply the certainty that the tire's life was over. And would need to be replaced before Younger Brother could make it to the Manzanillo Airport on Thursday.

"I want to wake up every morning and not know how I am going to get through the day," said the ever-confident Mr. Cotton when departing from Salem.

Let me introduce you to Roseanne Roseannadanna, Mr. Cotton.

Because: "It's always something."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

visaless in melaque

Well, not really.

But I am without my beloved and hard-earned FM3 booklet.

Those of you who have followed my move south know that one of the early choices I had to make was whether (1) to come across the border on a tourist card (FMT) and then obtain a non-immigrant visa (FM3) after I got settled in Melaque, or (2) obtain my FM3 in Portland before I crossed the border.

The second option seemed the easiest because the process for obtaining an FM3 in Portland is extremely efficient.

The downside, as many of my fellow bloggers told me, was that I would still need to jump through all of the bureaucratic hoops once I arrived and tried to register my FM3.

Tuesday was reckoning day -- when I would discover whether I had simply wasted time by getting my FM3 in Oregon.

My new neighbor (and fellow blogger)
Sparks Mexico, agreed to accompany my brother and me to the Immigration office in Manzanillo.

And I am glad he did. I am positive that if we had not had him along with us, I would never have found the office. It is well within the commercial bowels of the Port of Manzanillo complex.

But, with his expertise, we arrived to take our efficiently-dispensed number: 39, with number 35 currently being served.

I fully expected to witness people shoving ahead in line when the next numbers were called. But everyone was as orderly as if we were in a Norwegian DMV.

When my number was called, I explained why I was there to a young woman who spoke very precise English.

I gave her my FM3, my passport, copy of my passport, and 6 photographs (front view and side view) that could be used to re-issue Franco coins. (No. I did not digitize copies for sharing.)

And, of course, I provided a copy of my newly-purchased Constancia de Domicilio. It worked just as advertised.

She then asked me to fill out two very detailed forms -- one in English, the other completely in Spanish.

I was extremely smug that I figured out most of the questions, and answered a good portion accurately. The fact that my birth date is not 17 March 2009 was more a matter of amusement than embarrassment.

She thanked me, kept my FM3, and told me I could pick up my registered visa in two weeks. When I asked her what needed to be done, she informed me it was the normal time period.

The answer was non-responsive, but I was not in a trial. I was at the mercy of a bureaucracy that needed to grind fine my request to live in mexico.

Instead of a fancy green booklet, I left with a copy of my oddly-completed application form as a temporary visa. Fortunately, we did not run across any military checkpoints on the drive north to Melaque. A folded, scribbly form just does not have the caché of that seal-ensconced visa.

What I did not need to register my FM3 was a police check and proof of income. The checks conducted at the consulate were adequate for those purposes.

The lesson I bring away is preparation will not ensure a perfect result, but it will elimate the number of variables.

Thanks to my fellow bloggers, I knew a number of those variables. Thanks to Sparks, even more were elinated.

All in all, a very good trip to Manzanillo.

We will see how "happily ever after" turns out when I return to pick up the visa at the end of the month.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

50 k

I have 50,000 friends!

I think that is how the FaceBook crowd counts.

More accurately, I have had over 50,000 individual hits on this blog since I started tracking in April of last year. The odometer tripped over sometime during the afternoon last Thursday.

Those of us who keep a hit counter have posted on this topic numerous times.

The more hopeful amongst us see it as an opportunity to reach out and touch new friends -- and wonder why our new friends do not leave Cole Porterish witty comments for all of us to share. In the same exercise we once conducted sitting by the telephone waiting for that girl who smiled at us in second period English to call. Only to discover she suffers from a nervous tic and not infatuation.

And then there are the cynical bloggers who know that 93.7% of those "hits" are the result of Google searches ferreting out that post you named "naked youth" in the hopes of improving your statistics. And unless you have an interest in talking to male British tourists posting from Thailand, you are probably happy that the comment box is as pure as their hands are not.

I tend to fall into the practical category. (Of course, I do. This is my blog, and I can compliment myself whenever I choose.)

I am happy to see that more people are spending more time reading what I have written. And the comments have increased.

I love the comments. But I am also happy to merely share my words with whoever stumbles into this verbal emporium. Chat, if you like. If not, feel free to take one of those posts off of the hanger, and try it on for size.

And, even if I do not have 50,000 friends, I enjoy this small group sharing ideas and building the future.

And that is good enough for me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

a slice of pisa

Pisa has nothing on Melaque.

Pisa has a leaning tower.

Melaque has a leaning conch shell.

You may recall that I was crowing about Mexican ingenuity in
solutions on the half-shell. When we last left our intrepid heroes, Juan and Mauricio, they had devised a method to install two conch shells as finials on each gate post leading to the beach.

Their inspiration was to imbed a piece of rebar in the post. Drill a hole in each shell. And then mount the shell on the rebar, caulking it into position.

The solution sounded clever to me at the time. But I share the impatience of young men.

If I had been thinking like an engineer, I would have recognized that one of the environmental parameters was probably being neglected: the temperature.

It gets hot here. And it gets even hotter on the sands of the beach -- a fact Dudley Moore discovered in 10.

Well, Huitzilopochtli had his way with the shell -- rather, with the caulk holding the shell in place. And when the caulk gave way, so did the shell. It now sits at a coquettish angle that would be the envy of a Catrina doll.

Pisa could teach Melaque a thing or two. No need to rush into a quick fix. Let it lean and charge tourists to view the unique wonder of it all.

There are no mistakes. Merely opportunities to separate tourists from their pesos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

midday at the oasis

Tolstoy was probably wrong.

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I wouldn't know about the second part of that principle.

But I certainly know about the first part. It simply is not true.

Those of you who have been reading my blog before I moved south (a month ago), know that I had one great pleasure in my life: my hot tub.

I read in it. I ate in it. I (now and then) slept in it.

For 16 years, I spent almost every evening and quite a few afternoons in its womb serenity.

Leaving it behind was more difficult than saying adieu to my library. It was the faithful spouse I otherwise never found.

But I may have found a new romance. We are just getting to know one another, so, I do not want to jinx he relationship. But I may have a substitute love.

The owner of the house where I am staying purchased an above-ground pool. When I heard the news, I was not overly-impressed.

Our family had an above-ground pool when I was growing up. As the designated pool boy, I now have mixed Jungian feelings about pools. I spent many a sybaritic moment in that pool. But it was a lot of work to keep it in shape as a dream-maker.

I gave the new pool a spin on Saturday afternoon. And, as Goldilocks would say: "This one is just right."

There will be no meals eaten in this pool. But it is a great place to cool off -- and to read.

So, Mr. Tolstoy. I was a happy family with my hot tub. But I am now a new happy family with the pool.

And we are each happy in our own way.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

shock jock theatre

The sun is setting to the brassy strains of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Hosanna from his Requiem.

For Steve to be pleased while listening to anything by Lloyd Webber (rather, Lord Lloyd-Webber) is a wonder in itself. But that is a tale for another day.

I have pulled out the Bose headphones in a very un-Mexican gesture.

My neighbor to the east is having his roof re-done. He is currently grading papers in Iowa. So, he is not serendaed all day long by Mexican radio DJs, all of whom seem to have graduated from the Telenovela School of Overacting. But we are.

Now that the sun has set, only the swallows nesting in the rafters of the patio will hear Placido extol the hope of the resurrection.

And the young Mexican couple to the east, renting from the absent BC couple who own that house. (You have already met the front bumper of the BC couple's car.)

It is the Mexican couple that causes me to don headphones on this semi-sticky evening. Even in the unlikely event they love Lloyd Webber more than any other music, they have a right to a peaceful evening in their home.

Earlier in the day, I witnessed another Mexican custom that I have seen several times before -- as has anyone who lives in or visits Mexico. The Unusually Dangerous Activity Conducted With Absolute Aplomb.

When I opened the front gate this morning I was greeted with the sight of a metal ladder leaning up against the concrete utility pole in front of the house. The cable guy was installing service for the Mexican couple neighbors.

When I looked closer, I realized he had his head stuck not only amongst the cable and telephone lines, but also the electrical lines.

Now, I am not a safety engineer, but I seem to recall that we learned in high school physics about the necessary elements to close an electrical circuit. I was positive I was about to see a Mr. Science experiment on my front walk.

I then did what any good blogger would do: I ducked into the house to get my camera.

When I returned, he was gone. I briefly considered the possibiliy that the cable guy was dead on our upper floor deck.

I was wrong. He was talking to the neighbors.

Safety does not appear to be a prime objective in completing a job in Mexico. The completion is more important than the details.

Looking at that ladder reminded me of a similar post on
Without a Net. The first post I read on Erika's web last July was "Stairway to Heaven" -- her musings on occupational safety. Looking at that post, I realize I cannot answer why these obvious safety hazards occur any more than she could.

I do know one thing though. Placido Domingo should be singing about the resurrection to the young fellows who, in their pursuit of a paycheck, daily do their best to attain a hairdo like Albert Einstein -- with few of the accompanying brains.

[If you are interested in hearing a very lo-fi version of Placidio Domingo's performance of the Hosanna, you can hear it here at about 3:04.]

Friday, May 08, 2009

sampling the apple in manzanillo

According to Quicken, I last set foot in a large store like Costco only three weeks ago.

If you had watched me yesterday morning, you would have thought that I had just got off of the boat from Kyrgyzstan.

For the past week or so, I have been corresponding with the author of
New Beginnings in Manzanillo. She was arranging a backup veterinarian for me if I could not get a cortisone shot for Jiggs.

With that project out of the way, we decided to meet in Manzanillo. Neither Darrel nor I had seen the town. I needed some office supplies, and I knew they would be available there. I also wanted to see where the grocery stores were located.

The drive down was uneventful. But when we pulled into town, we knew we were not in our little fishing village any more.

We both felt like the small-town boys that we are. Manzanillo has a population of only about 110,000 -- smaller than Salem. But after the three weeks of living in Melaque with its 10,000, we felt as if we were driving down Fifth Avenue in the Big Manza.

We joined up with New Beginnings, who was kind enough to guide us through this Veritable Oz. I will not bore you with the stores we walked through. But I now know where I can get some specialty items -- when I need them.

Of course, it means planning for those needs. Manzanillo is close by -- but it is still a two-hour round trip to buy hoisin sauce.

But the best part of this trip was getting to know New Beginnings. I have followed her blog before she made the move from Canada.

We had lunch on the beach, and talked about most of the topics any blogger would discuss, including her love for her two dogs.

But we talked most about learning Spanish. She took the home immersion course in La Manzanilla that has interested me.

Listening to her speak Spanish was incentive enough for me to look into that course.

But no "Steve drives in a new place" post would be complete without a near disaster -- in this case, two near disasters.

The first occurred after we stopped at a food specialty store. When I pulled onto the main boulevard, I failed to turn into the correct portion of the divided highway.

The next thing we all knew, we were faced with a wall of traffic heading our way. Any decent cartoon would have included three sets of distended eyeballs accompanied by an oogah horn. A quick exit over the median saved us from being another "tourists in
Mexico" statistic.

We were all just recovering from that incident when New Beginnings pointed out a building I had asked about. I should have seen it coming. But I nearly went through a red light while gawking.

All in all, a great day. If any of us need a good role model for fitting into Mexico, New Beginnings will fit the bill.

It may be some time before I see a Costco again. But I can be patient if it means avoiding another accident on the road to adventure.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

new dog in the casa

Churchill's Black Dog has been paying an unwelcome visit for about two days.

Not a full-blown, fang-baring attack, mind you. Just an awareness that things were not as they should be. Heavy chest. Vague sense of forboding.

And that old familiar panting and growling that depression is merely part of the human condition.

An idiot could have predicted that something like this would occur. I left a very comfortable life and exchanged it for exactly what I wanted -- waking every morning not knowing how I am going to get through the day.

Then add the fact that Darrel and I have been holed up in the house for almost a full week just trying to get ourselves oriented.

But, just as Annie promised: the sun did come out on Wednesday.

I drove over to Barra de Navidad to meet with the local Rotary club. As a former Rotarian, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people with a common sense of community.

The meeting was fine. But that is not where I felt the change.

On the way over, I turned on the CD. The music does not matter. The result does. I literally felt my spirit lifting with each chorded lyric.

When I returned home, I found Marta diligently at work cleaning up the weekly ravages of living so close to the sea.

She is an employee who strives to please. But, our inability to communicate has been a mutual pain for both of us.

She stopped for a moment to talk. And, amazingly, I understood the big points. I now know where she was born and raised. In turn, having just returned with my constancia in hand, I explained my FM3 process to her -- badly.

But we were actually exchanging ideas. I felt my spirit lift one more level.

Ann Lamott once wrote of a healing moment between two very different people:

I can't imagine anything but music that could have brought about this alchemy. Maybe it's because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way.

I agree with Ann that music is a great healer. But successfully starting to break through a language barrier shares the same essential alchemy.

Have I now learned Spanish? Of course not. What I have learned is that it is not something to fear, but something that offers a great prize at the end.

I have often admired Winston Churchill's choice of the term "black dog" to describe his dark depressions. It is really a term of hope.

Dogs, after all, even though they have minds and wills of their own, are creatures that can be trained and controlled. Or simply be locked up.

In my case, the dog was as good natured as the benificent Professor Jiggs. And the dark dog is now gone. But I am not putting away his leash.

Not just yet.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

the road twice taken

A long time ago, in a life far, far away, I had a friend who worked in a photo-finishing shop.

It sounds somewhat quaint to recall that everyday folk would take rolls of films, documenting their lives, to complete strangers for developing and printing. That was the world in the 80s.

He once told me that the job was one of the most boring he had ever had. When he looked at other people's photographs, he realized just how trivial and meaningless life was. I should point out he had a degree in philosophy. Need I add that he styled himself a student of Sartre?

I thought of Jerry today as Darrel and I walked along the Melaque beach. We have both been losing weight on this trip. So, we decided to kick up the process by taking a constitutional.

Several other bloggers have used the conceit of taking a walk to showcase snapshots of their neighborhoods. I am going to join the band wagon.

For those of you who are accustomed to the quality photographs on the sites Bille Mercer, John Woods, and Gary Deness offer, I suggest lowering your expectations to the level of my friend Jerry.

Darrel and I had a choice. We could walk through the back yard to the beach or head out the front gate. We opted to take the street exit because we thought we could fool Jiggs into thinking we were not leaving him behind.

We turned west on the street in front of the house: Calle Zafiro. The colorful wall is the front of the house.

Just beyond the two vehicles on the street is a beach access road. Like too much of Mexico, access to public beaches has been cut off by houses and hotels. Melaque, fortunately, has retained some access -- an access that we exercised.

We then turned west again to walk up the beach. If you feel a bit disoriented by the reference to walking west on the beach, the beach of Navidad Bay runs on an east-west, rather than a north-south, axis. Our sunsets, thus, most often set over land, rather than into the sea.

The beach around the bay is horse-shoe shaped. Starting at Barra de Navidad, it passes through the three villages that make up this area: Villa Obregon, San Particio, and Melaque.

The Pacific Ocean along this stretch of Mexico is not the Caribbean. No white sand, calm water seas here. The ocean is as untamed as Elzabeth Taylor. I will write more on that later -- about the ocean, that is -- not Elizabeth Taylor. But water that creates sand erosion like this is not a wader's paradise.

I should also point out that our beach is not a stroller's sand beach. The grains are coarse enough that terms such as "slogging" come to mind when walking along the beach -- dry or wet sand.

About half-way down the beach, we decided to return to the house on an inland route. So, we turned north onto the main street I featured yesterday.

We turned east at the first right and took the main beach road back to Villa Obregon.

On the way, we passed the home of a proud PAN supporter:

And then on to the main beach road in my village of Villa Obregon.

And a monument to the hubris of development. This great hole was the start of a condominium project in Villa Obregon. There are reasons why condos are rare in the area. The Hole reminds us of those reasons. But, there is no doubt that the lot has a lovely view.

And we are nearly home. My brother, feeling the need to be home before I could get to the gate, turns south on the beach access road where we began.

We are now back on the street where I live. No trouble picking out the house with the attractive, new paint job.

Maybe Jerry was correct. Snapshots do reflect the mundane. But the mundane is simply the ordinary way we lead our lives.

And part of that routine is that I could share it with you. We should do it again. Soon.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

the dogs do bark

The hermits have emerged.

Darrel and I have spent the last week sequestered almost as tightly as monks in a smaill cloister.

It was our own doing. Even though the Mexican government requested people to avoid large gatherings out of a misplaced fear of the Flu that Dare Not Speak its Name, our avoidance of crowds had far more to do with getting tasks completed around the house -- and looking after the ailing Professor Jiggs.

We decided that today was the day to break out of our Alamo.

I need to register my FM3 in Manzanillo within 30 days of crossing the border. The clock is ticking.

Unfortunately, the feverish porcine crisis has created bureaucratic problems. Like all governmental offices, immigration is closed until later in the week.

But I had two other tasks. The first was to obtain a Constancio de Domilio from the local council. It is an official document verifying that I live where I live. A utitility bill will usuially satisfy the immigration authorities, but I just like the sound of it: Constancio de Domilio.

I should have known that the office would be closed today. But we tried. I will return on Wednesday or Thursday -- whenever the powers of local government are once again dynamoing away.

But I did complete the seconmd task -- getting the requisite number of black and white photographs that make me look like the morgue pictures of an executed World War II dictator. Either that or a standin for Nick Nolte's latest DUII arrest.

Darrel had not yet had an opprtunity to see the commercial section of my new home town. I showed him around the shops. We bought from the mundane (a laundry basket) to the sublime (a refill of my blood pressure medicine that cost $56 in the States, and $3.69 here).

The photograph at the top includes several of the businesses I frequent regularly. (I promise more on that in the future.)

But no visit to the commercial section would be complete without a plate of locally-made tacos. Darrel is quite a Mexican food aficianado. But even he was impressd with the simple goodness of our small plate of refreshments.

I suppose it is apparent that I would be thrilled if my brother and his family, and my mother, decided to join me on this little adventure I have plotted. So far, he still talks about returnuing to the States on the 14th.

Time may be running short for all of us.