Wednesday, July 20, 2011

in the garden of babs

It is a pleasantly hot day in San Miguel.

Well, “pleasant” and “hot” for me.  It is 75 degrees with 38% humidity -- a really nice day in my book.   

Right now in Melaque, it is 90 degrees and 66% humidity.  I think I chose a good time to escape to the mountains.

Something is afoot in the town this afternoon.  There has been the usual volley of rockets.  Now the church bells are apeal.  And I am not certain what is up because I have snuggled myself into this pleasant house for the full day.

For those of you who have wondered if my failure to post over the last 36 hours might have something to do with my scorpion sting -- it didn’t.  I was simply out enjoying myself.  And enjoying myself in.

Yesterday I joined a few other residents of San Miguel at the last episode of the Harry Potter film series.  In a modern, tidy cineplex at the shopping center I mentioned the other day.  And I saw it for 46 peso -- about $3.92 (US).

The Harry Potter books and films are obviously addressed to pre-teens and young teens  But the story is as old as all quest literature.  Odysseus would have fully understood what he had to do if he had been wizardly spelled into Harry Potter’s loafers.

I also bought a new book for my Kindle based on some dinner conversation at Billie’s welcoming party.  I have enjoyed the two books I have read by Erik Larson:
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America; and Thunderstruck.

I knew he had just published a new book, but I had not paid much attention to it.  The advice of my dinner mates and my experience with the two earlier books tipped me over the edge.  While I was waiting for the movie to start, I simply ordered up the book on my Kindle.  In a cinema theater.  In Mexico.  Great world, isn’t it?

The book is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.  Larson tells the story of the early, vulnerable years of Hitler’s rule when nations (often for understandable reasons) took no action to hem in Nazi power.  Rather than mere history narrative, he tells the tale through the eyes of the newly-appointed American ambassador to Germany and his family.

According to my Kindle, I am 60% of the way through the book.  I should finish it tonight.

It does not matter that the reader will know what happens to some of the major characters.  Larson has the pen of a novelist -- a novelist who can conjure up believable dialog that cannot possibly be historical, but has the feel of authenticity.

Will Rudolf Diels, the first head of the Gestapo, survive his political games?  Will Ernst Röhm seize control of the German Army?  Will President Paul von Hindenburg (a blimp of a man) dismiss Hitler at the request of the army?  Will the ambassador's daughter betray the United States to the Soviet Union?

I suspect most of you know the answers to those questions.  They are all part of our past -- part of who we are.

But it doesn't matter that we know the fate of each of the characters.  The book is a good read.  Larson is capable of pulling us out of our anachronistic view of history and putting us in the position of the people who had to live their lives in that milieu.

Speaking of milieu, the photographs that grace this post are of Babs’s lovely casita.  It bears her decorative touch in each room.  A decorative touch that makes me feel as if I know San Miguel without setting foot outside the door.

But I will tomorrow  Set foot outside the door, that is.

Babs has a treat for me – and I intend to share.


Kim G said...

That looks like quite a house. 

I have to say that I liked SMA quite a bit after having visited.  Sure there are a lot of our countrymen there, but it still feels quite Mexican, but with some nice gringo conveniences, like the European style bakery we patronized there.

Hope you continue to have a good time.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we're beginning to wonder if this snappy tagline thing isn't getting a tad old.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

DON'T stop the tagline.  I hurry through your post just to get to the tag line.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

I truly have enjoyed all of his books.  The other one about the 1900 storm in Galveston that killed over 5000 people will cause one to decide to NEVER live on an island........or even too close to the water!  Masterfully written.

Thanks Steve, your camera is great - it makes your surroundings look wonderful!

jennifer rose said...

At Erik Larson's website,, there is some additional material he couldn't work into the book. You need to read Isaac's Storm, which was better than Thunderstruck, but still not as good as Devil in the White City. 

And remember an em-dash is no substitute for a properly placed comma.

Steve Cotton said...

I am thoroughly enjoying my short stay here.  It is not at all what I expected.

And keep the post scripts coming.  I agree with Babs.  I always look forward to them in the same way I would wait for a Wildean quip at dinner.

Steve Cotton said...

My surroundings are beyond wonderful -- they are practically perfect in every way.

Steve Cotton said...

I will put Isaac's Storm on my list right now.  I do not like Larson's writing style as much as I like David McCullogh's.  But he is still a good writer.

I know if I get sucked into a punctuation discussion with you, we will only end up discussing my colons.  And I will not come out well in the end.

NWexican said...

Shhh, sounds truly glorious... And, the miracle of modern technology even in Mexico, sweet .

Steve Cotton said...

San Miguel is turning out to be quite an interesting place.  It may be worth another future visit.

Jonna said...

What a beautiful, comfortable and elegant place! I'm not surprised, that is how I see Babs from her blog.  It's nice to see pictures though, enjoy.

Tafreeburn said...

hi steve,

what a great deal on the movie!  when i was in l.a. last week we paid $12.50 for a matinee.  i expect it will be something comparable in japan.

leaving in 2 days.  i can hardly wait to get the flight over with.  it's total of about 12 1/2 hours of flying with a layover in narita. really looking forward to this move. please pray for safe travels for us.

glad you're having so much fun in sma.

take care,


Steve Cotton said...

Knowing Babs, I expected something nice.  But the casita is far more than I thought it would be.  It will be a bit sad to leave it behind at the end of the month.

Steve Cotton said...

Movie prices are a bargain in Mexico.

You will be in my prayers for your trip.  I was thinking the same thing about my forthcoming trip to China.  Far too long to be in an airplane.

Mcotton said...

What a lovely home and what a gracious Hostess to share it with a guest.

Steve Cotton said...

And this is the guest house.  You should see how nicely-decorated her house is.

Irene said...

If you are interested, Erik Larson was on NPR's Fresh Air on May 9, 2011.  You can listen to the podcast of his interview at the NPR/Fresh Air website.

And, here is a groan to your reply above to Jennifer Rose.

Steve Cotton said...

I am glad someone sees those little gems.

Rick said...

Very nice post Steve, seems the Pueblo Magico and non oppressive weather shows in your writing. 
San Miguel surprised me when I had planned a two day visit and stayed ten. There is a lot of depth to the place in every nook and cranny with the current blend of inhabitants committed to enjoying life to the fullest (as you are).

Steve Cotton said...

As you will see from today's post, I am learning a bit about the pricklier side of San Miguel.  But no place is paradise.  Overall, I like the place.

Don Cuevas said...

Km, ¿como se llama la panadería? Some people on Chowhound were looking for a good, European style pastry shop to make desserts for their next party.

Saludos, Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...

"I know if I get sucked into a punctuation discussion with you, we will only end up discussing my colons.  And I will not come out well in the end."


Saludos, Don Cuevas

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks. I rather liked it myself.

Kim G said...

Hola Don Cuevas,

Well, easier asked than answered, unfortunately.  I couldn't remember the name of the place, so I did some scouting around on Google Maps - Street View. I can't find it, but I believe the photos on Street View are from 2009, so a bit out of date. That said, I think the place we went to was on Correo near the corner of Recreo.  However, if that isn't it, I have found another place that's highly rated, though I don't think that's the place we went. But it looks good, so check it out. It's called "El Petit Four," and is on Mesones 99.

Hope that helps.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we'd love to have such a nice bakery nearby.