Monday, June 30, 2014

bending the rules

Today you get a break.

I am so tired from traveling, this is only going to be a brief note to let you know I made it to Bend yesterday morning.  It was almost a full 4 hours of traveling.

I left Manzanillo Saturday afternoon and ended up in Olympia spending the night with my friends Ken and Patti.  After about 5 hours of sleep, I was on my way to Bend the next morning.

This trip north is a dog's dinner of small things.  With Ken and Patti, we firmed up some ideas for our trip to Europe in late August.  I need to find a guide for the three of us to tour the Normandy Landing beaches.

But the list is longer than that.  I needed to recover a lens cap to replace the one I lost in Italy.  Done.

My niece, Kaitlyn, celebrated one of her early twenties birthdays with the full family.  The best part?  Playing Balderdash.  It has become one of our family traditions.  We are a group who loves to play with words.  The Humpty Dumpty gene runs thick through my relatives.  Done.

My telephone has now been replaced with an HTC One M8.  It is unavailable in Mexico, and will not be in stores there for some time. 

But I had one in my pocket the minute I rolled into town.  Amazon delivered it to my brother, and my brother charged it up for me.  All I needed to do was to drive over to T-Mobile to get a nano chip.  I even got to keep my old north of the border telephone number.  Done.

There is still a lot on my dance card.  I have a suitcase full of clothes that require dry cleaning.  If I did not have the cruise coming up in September, I would leave all of my fancy duds here.

Dry cleaning, of course, is done in Mexico.  But I was making the trip.  So, why not drop it at a dry cleaner I know?

First thing Monday morning I will stop by a post office to take care of some business necessitated only by the consequences of a little bill (FATCA) that was sponsored by the Obama administration to catch rich Americans who transfer their wealth overseas.

Of course, the wealthy do not care about such regulations.  They can afford to hire accountants and tax lawyers to legally avoid the mess.  Instead, it is the small fry who are seeing their overseas banking options closed down.  The banks may not be failing, but access is.

I will mail off a check for a fellow expatriate who has been caught in the jaws of insanity, and I will try to switch a direct deposit to another bank before all of my credit card payments balance.  And open an alternate savings account.  

On Tuesday, I will attend my former employer's 100th anniversary.  It will be an interesting experience to watch how an organization treats its employees who are in turmoil following the bizarre firing of the former CEO.  I have even been invited to a dueling event -- lunch with the fired executive.  I will be happy to share what details I can.

And, after that, I have nothing in particular planned.  But I will spend as much time as I can with friends and acquaintances.  That is always my favorite part of these trips.

Right now, I am heading to bed.  After I eat a pound or two of cherries.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

man down

Just before I flew to Phoenix last week, the giant bougainvillea in my courtyard suffered a fit of the vapors, and fainted away -- flat as an Georgia belle (showers of blessing -- sometimes).

When we left this sad tale, I had no idea if the gardener would be able to resuscitate the beauty.  He couldn't.  So, my landlady called in an expert. 

He concurred there was no possibility of getting the plant back to its original position.  Surgery was required.  Drastic surgery.

It is good that most plants take well to a severe pruning.  They usually go into a frenzy to start new growth.

As you can see from the photograph at the top, the plant will have plenty of room to improve (as we once said in our performance review days).  The trunk and the main stems are intact.  And restrained to the wall in a fashion similar to what English gentlemen pay good money for in Paris.

And I like the open space.  We can now prune back some of the other plants to match this minimalist look.

I said yesterday that the laguna will soon be back to normal.  The courtyard may take a bit longer.  But it will be fun to watch it grow,

That is, if I ever spend some time here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

the tides of our lives

The world changed overnight.

That is the way of things during the summer for the laguna.  Last night everything was normal.  The frogs were chirping.  The fish were splashing.  The crocodile was lurking.  And the laguna was as full as I have seen it. 

You know the drill, though.  Usually, the laguna is a holding pond.  It is a reservoir for all of the rain water that drains from the mountains in its water shed.  The only thing separating it from the ocean is a thin dam of sand.  But, before the water would get high enough to spill over that dune, it would flood most of the houses in my neighborhood.

To prevent that, the powers that be hire a cat to breach the sand dam.  And when the dam goes, so does the water -- along with floating plants and debris, and enough snakes, frogs, fish, snails, turtles, and crocodiles to populate a Victorian zoo.

Apparently, that happened this morning.  When I wandered out to the walkway, there was nothing but a stinking mud flat behind my house.  Well, a mud flat AND tons of water hyacinth and water cabbage.

You may recall that a local committee took on the yeoman work of cleaning up the arm of the laguna where my house is located.  The task was two-fold: primarily, to make the place look better and secondarily, to open up the arm to allow the water hyacinth and water cabbage to be flushed when the sand dam was breached.  (the laguna goes to the barber shop)

The first part worked well.  The arm looked almost as well-manicured as the lake in Central Park.  Nature, of course, takes back her own.   Most of the vegetation has grown back.

As for the flushing, it didn't quite work as well as we had hoped.  It was probably a false hope.  The arm is far shallower than the main portion of the water, and with an almost-flat grade.  When the water drained, the vegetation merely settled to the bottom -- just waiting for that supply-side tide to return and raise all plants.

For the aquatic animals, these ebbs and flows (mainly the ebbs) are life-altering.  I was reading the newspaper on the terrace this afternoon when I saw a bit of slow movement.  A Mexican mud turtle was seeking refugee status in my garden.

His stride was determined, but his speed was hardly hare-like.  He watched me warily as he ambled by, and buried himself in the sand of the garden.  I guess wet sand is as good as mud.

When I return in a few weeks, the water will undoubtedly have returned.  And, as it does several times each summer, the laguna will settle once more into its cycle, laughing that we even dare to alter its rhythm.

Friday, June 27, 2014

a driving rain

I have a friend who is quite the literalist.

"Literalist," as in interpreting words and phrase very specifically; not someone who enjoys a good read.

Take the title of this post.  "A driving rain."  He would say that does not make sense.  If a driving rain is rain that is coming down very hard, it should be called a "can't drive in it rain."

He has a point.  Even if it fails several logic tests.  And I should have taken his advice.

I have mentioned several times that one of the cardinal driving rules in Mexico is to not do it at night.  Drive, that is.  There are too many hazards lurking in the dark.

I now have a new corollary to the rule.  Don't drive in the rain.  At least, the type of tropical rains we have around here where the bumper of the car in front of you simply disappears -- as if David Copperfield had moved his shtick to Mexico.

Yeserday on the afternoon drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport, I encountered one of those rains when I was just leaving the hills south of the city.  About an hour into the drive.

My Escape was behind two cars driven by people far wiser than I.  When I encountered a break in the rain and in the traffic rushing at me, I passed the leaders in my lane.  I prefer to see what I am about to hit, rather than sitting in the mist of another vehicle.

And I did.  Hit something.  A pothole that must have been the import route for cheap souvenirs from China.

My dashboard lit up like a jackpot-paying slot machine.  But there was no big payout.  My GPS screen flashed.  The status panel flashed.  And then the electron lotto settled on the message: "Low tire pressure."

So, what should I do?  Up north, the answer would be easy.  Pull over.  But I was on a two-lane hilly road with no shoulder.

There were, of course, a number of reasons for the light.  I decided to believe the most optimistic -- that there was an error in the reading.  (Planes fall out of the sky when piloted by people like me.)  But I did pull over on the first patch of road-side mud I found.

All my tires looked normal.  So, I let all of the people I had passed since leaving Puerto Vallarta slowly roll past me, and I pulled in behind.

The next gas station was 20 miles down the road.  Everything looked normal to me on a walk-around.  To test my visual, I added a bit of air to each tire.  They were not noticeably low. 

Best of all, the warning light went out.  The thought of changing a tire in the "can't drive in it" rain was not a role I looked forward to playing.  I would do Willy Loman before taking that part.

During the four-hour drive, I thought of a conversation I had with my seat mate on the Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta flight.  Somehow, we started talking about economic theory and the doctrine of liberty.  It turns out he is an economist.  The type of guy who ends up on CNN as a talking head.

That makes sense.  He was born in Mexico, but is now an American citizen with a background in finance.

At one point, I felt as if I was being interviewed.  We covered immigration, the strengths and weaknesses of the gold standard, the roots of monetarism, and how the Republican party may be passing up a great opportunity to appeal to all Americans (including Hispanics) as a party of Opportunity.  (Jack Kemp's name kept popping up.)

I do not get to discuss these topics in depth with any regularity.  Too often, people are so stuck in their positions that they fail to see that their own interests may be suffering in the process.  Conversations tend to get to the first sentence and then peter out.

I had a similar episode on my flight to Mexico City from Paris earlier in the month.  My seat mate turned out to be someone I have referred to several times.  (When I told him I would be writing about our conversation in my blog, he asked that I not use his name.  I suspect a number of you have already guessed, though.)

Meeting people whose writing I like is always a crap shoot.  Good writers do not always have good personal skills.  In this case, I sat and listened to a monolog on Mexico's potential as an economic powerhouse, how history is often Mexico's worst enemy, and what to listen for in the best of Mexican music.

And right there are two reasons I enjoy traveling.  I certainly would not have run into either one of them sitting in my hot tub in Salem -- or sweating on the terrace in Melaque.

So, even if there are potholes on my journeys, being a traveler makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

pooling our lives

I am surrounded by the signs of life.

OK.  I know we all are.  After all, while we are alive, even the noises we produce are signs of life.

But I am talking about people so in tune with the joy of their lives that laughter is an inevitable peal.  Right now, the gang is hanging out either in Leo's pool or the surrounding deck.  It is a lovely night.

Theresa's mass was everything I would have expected.  Classy.  Stylish.  Contemporary  But, more importantly, heart-felt and based entirely on her strong Christian faith.

My involvement was that of friend -- and as eulogist.  Leo asked me to read the tribute I wrote about Theresa last week (laying down the flowers). 

I wish I could say I managed to get through it without touching my own emotions.  I didn't.  More than a few sentences ended with a choked sob, rather than drollery.

But, as I said earlier, it was a heart-felt service.

The most memorable moment was at the close of the service.  The pianist was singing "Goodbye For Now"-- a song he had written for the funeral of his own wife.  Theresa's casket was sitting at the front of the church.

Leo stood, walked to the casket, and stood there with his hands on the casket -- saying his final farewell to Theresa, as he committed her body to God just as he had committed her soul last week.

I started to reach for my camera, thinking Leo may want a photograph of the moment.  But it would have been the wrong thing to do.  It was a private time that all of us in the congregation were privileged to share.

When we were young, Leo and I once talked about the utility of funerals.  Like all young men, we didn't get it.

We do now.  Rituals are how we attempt to make sense of the unknown and the things that cannot be understood.

They also give us a way to continue with our lives.  They do not heal the hurt.  They -- along with our faith -- allow us to carry on.

And that is what is happening this Wednesday.  Theresa's family and friends are eating, reminiscing, singing, eating, laughing as part of this family's ability to grab life and make it their own.

It has been a memorable day.  A day where I remembered my friend Theresa and had the honor of sharing the joy of sharing life with new acquaintances and old friends.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the green scout

When I was a Cub Scout, earning badges was my passion.  Those gold arrow heads meant a lot to me.  If I had been a medieval warrior, I have no doubt I would have been multi-titled.

In my Cub days, I would pester my Dad to drive me around in our red and white Ford station wagon and teach me how to identify models of cars (when a Buick didn’t look like a Chevrolet that looked like a Chrysler) or animals or rock formations.  To this day, a lot of that lore is stuck in my memory filing drawers.  With an out-dated operating system for retrieval.

But we now live in a different world.  If I still wore the Cub blue and gold, I would have earned a far more contemporary badge yesterday for visiting multiple ecosystems in one day.  Mexpatriate, after all, is a green lot.

I have always been amazed at the number of contrasting environments between Melaque and Puerto Vallarta.  After all, it is only a four hour drive -- all of it along the Pacific coast.  But different it is.  So different that the rumored father of Princess Diana has preserved a section as a protected biosphere reserve.

On the drive, there are jungles, hills, alluvial plains, mountains, and even a desert in the rain shadow of coastal mountains.  What you will not see (except in brief strip tease glimpses) is the ocean or its beaches.

And this time of year, it is at its best when it gets its growth spurt following the onset of our summer rains.  It is hard to believe that there are that many shades of green.  Or that the area surrounding the road is filled with snakes, iguana, lizards, rabbits, foxes, cotimundi, opossum, and raccoon – at least, as evidenced by their road kill kin.

I have said it before; I will say it again.  Mexico is a country on its way up.  Nothing exemplifies that better than road construction.

The stretch of Highway 200 I ran on Tuesday is abuzz with paving equipment.  I cannot give you a percentage, but a large portion of the road is either being widened or re-paved.  More the former than the latter.

I have been told that the federal and state governments have designated a bargeful of pesos to turn this major commercial artery into a 4-lane highway.  It looks as if that is happening.  At least, in some places.

It is never a good idea to drive at night in Mexico.  There are just too many surprises in the dark.  Anyone who wants to ignore that advice with the current condition of Highway 200 could almost be guaranteed a bit of body work -- at least.  There are plenty of unmarked drop-offs and lightly regulated traffic flow to spice up a day drive.  Let alone at night.

So, that was my day.  Diverse environments.  Exciting obstructions.  And, lest I forget, a visit to one of the world’s great deserts north of the border.

After a day of driving and flying, I am in Arizona.

Not bad for a much-older Scout still looking to earn some new badges.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

another bout of standhal syndrome

Every performer has a weakness for encores. 

And, even though the best advice is to leave the audience wanting more, we stage freaks just never learn.  Even if only one or two audience members have offered up a standing ovation.

So, here goes.  As an encore, I offer up a few reasons why Florence is my favorite city in the world.  And why I would consider living there -- for at least a year.

Let's start with the obvious.  Florence was not built as a living museum.  But it has turned into one.

It was one of the cities that saw its glory blaze during the Renaissance.  And it has retained that feel: as if you might see Donatello meeting with a Medici brother at the Duomo.  Everywhere you turn there are reminders.

Churches.  Everywhere.  With their tarted up facades and more inlaid marble than a Greenwich Village bathhouse.  Santa Maria Novella, in this case.

In the center of it all is one of the grandest churches in the world -- the Duomo, with Brunelleshi's famous dome.

Of course, there are the tombs of its famous sons.  The Medici chapel designed by Michelangelo (which I could not photograph) is the grandest.  Built for the banker family who turned themselves into dukes.

A favorite of mine is Dante's tomb.  The poet who dared to write in the vulgar -- and brought poetry to the masses.

And, of course, there is always Machiavelli's tomb.  Its inclusion in any list seems to stoke up the flames of controversy.  Just ask one of my former girlfriends.

For the record, I consider him to be merely what he was.  An ambitious amoral schemer.  We know the type far too well in politics throughout the world.  Of course, the modern variety has none of the panache of Old Nic.

So, why don't I pack up my bags and head to Florence for a year?  This is one reason.  Or, perhaps, thousands of reasons.

The crowds were the worst I have seen.  It was a perfect day -- and a weekend, when I was there.  But it was impractical to wait for the long lines to get inside any of the sights.  And, once in, with few exceptions, visitors were shoulder-to-shoulder.

The line you see is filled with people waiting to enter the Uffizi -- Florence's major art museum.  At most, they will get a glimpse of some of the western world's greatest Renaissance art works.

The best time to visit is in the winter.  The city is terribly cold.  But the crowds recede.  A bit.

I must confess, though, the real reason I would like to live in Florence is for the food.  It is home to my favorite restaurant.

Having said that, I suspect I could afford to eat there only once every other month or so.  That alone would be reason enough to spend no more than a year there.

Right now, it is just another one of those dreams -- to be considered at another time.  Today, I am on a journey north to say farewell to my friend Theresa.

I will see you when I return.  We can then discuss if there are any photographs of other cities I visited that you might want to see.

Monday, June 23, 2014

showers of blessing -- sometimes

Even the blessed rain brings its own consequences here in Mexico.

The primary reason my house is surrounded by flowers most of the year is a result of our rainy season.  And there are always plenty of plant stars in my secret garden.

I suspect each year I have lived here I have posted photographs of the giant bougainvillea canopy in my front courtyard.  It is not merely one bougainvillea, but several.  With three different flowers.  Red.  Salmon.  Purple.  All grown together in one beautiful resistance-is-futile Borg complex.

You can see the effect in the photograph at the top of this post.  But, if you look closely, something is not quite right.  If the canopy was a chorus line of Rockettes, the entire right wing would be woefully out of step.

As a result of a rain storm on Saturday night, the weight of the water snapped the ropes supporting the canopy.  Or one of the major trunks may have given way.  I have not had time to investigate.

The gardener says he wants to try pulling it back into place.  I suspect he is being overly optimistic.  I foresee hedge clippers, large garbage bags, and a lot of band-aids.

But all of that will happen in my absence.  At Leo's invitation, I have decided to fly to Phoenix for Theresa's service to deliver a eulogy.  I really have no choice -- and it is something I very much want to do.

I am trying something new.  I always fly out of Manzanillo.  But that limits the flights I can take.  On Tuesday, I am driving to Puerto Vallarta for the flight north, and leaving my car at the airport for a Thursday return.  It may give me another option in the future -- for short trips.

When I return, I will either have another hole in the landscaping -- or all will be at it once was.

Note:  As I was writing this post I received news that another friend, Brad Harper, died on Sunday.  I will write more about Brad as the week progresses.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

barbra's album

Trying to distill a month's worth of photographs into bite size pieces is turning out to be more of a task than I had anticipated.

But, here is an idea.  I do not often take photographs of people -- even though I think those shots are some of my better results.

And I know why I am adverse to shooting other people -- I hate being photographed.  "Hate" may sound like a harsh word.  But it is the correct one.  "Despise" doesn't even come close.

Not surprisingly, there were very few people photographs.  So, here is a sampling of some people (who need people) shots from the rim of Europe.

Even though Barcelona is filled with people, my photographs of Barcelona are not.  However, I thought the shot (at the top of this post) of a butcher manually slicing thin pieces of ham summed up the city's spirit.  Proud and determined.

And then there is this street woman.  With her few prized possessions.  Sitting alone in a closed cafe as the day begins.  Didn't Angela Lansbury once play this role?

I did not find much of Van Gogh in St. Remy, but these street musicians form the foreground for a very busy background of cafe customers.  I particularly like the Asian girls on the far right.  Caught in some sort of dream world.

Or how about this interaction on Sardinia?  I call it "Western Charity Takes a Vacation."

While the tourist was ignoring the beggar, her shipmates were busy enjoying the sights of Sardinia by trying to find a hot spot for their mobile devices.  This flocking instinct of the under-dressed was a common sight at each of our ports.

In Palermo, we ran into one of several street protests.  This one (as were the rest) was protesting government budget cuts to meet EU fiscal standards.  Or, more accurately, cuts for the people who were protesting.

But this one was very Italian.  The marchers seemed to be far more interested in chatting up their fellow marchers.  Or just sulking.

The protest crowd is balanced out by his solitary figure in Florence.  An older woman sitting in a small spotlight of sunshine.  While her little dog seeks the comfort of the shade.  How could I not have a dog shot?

The Kiss in Times Square is an American icon.  So, I was a bit surprised to see this giant sculpted version in Civitavecchia.  But something appeared to be a bit off.  And it was not the people playing hide and seek between the figures' legs.

There is the beard on the sailor.  Making him look a bit more southern European.  And then there is that fist and the arm cocked at an angle in one of Italy's ruder gestures.  Anti-Americanism tends to creep into a lot of European public art.

Like this small monument in a bombed-out house.  The memorial is there in memory of bombings from World War Two.  American and British bombings.  The Guernica-inspired arrangement leaves no doubt what the sculptor felt about Italy's "liberation."

It is hard to escape politics in Europe.  Even when children are at play.  I just hope they do not pick up their grammar lesson from signs like the one below.

The children were playing just steps away from a band made up of early model hippies cajoling the crowd with rhythm instruments.  I could not resist the comparison between theses ancient rhythm sticks and its neighboring iPad.

My one big moment on Malta was a fire.  A grass fire, but it was clipping right along on the hillside below the fortress.  And I was the only person around.  Fortunately, two firemen showed up to put it out -- and pose for Mexpatriate.

While I was shooting, a strange idea popped into my head.  Arsonists are well known for starting fires and then sticking around for firemen to arrive.  Apparently, it is some type of rush -- like watching toilets flush.  For a brief moment, I wondered if that is why the firemen thought I was there. 

On our way to Mostar, we stopped at a Bosnian grocery store, where I bought some cheese and sliced meat.  Both were perfect.  But what struck me as odd were the flags over the door.  Brazil, I could understand.  The world cup was under way.

But South Korea, Japan, and, strangest of all, the Republic of China (but not Red China).  What was with the Asian fetish?

Then I looked below the flags.   

Mostar turned out to be one of the most interesting parts of the tour.  What was a bit disheartening, though, is what is taking place here on the restored old bridge.  It is the reason for all thosee young women crowding around.

The young Bosnian in the Speedo is getting ready to dive into the river below.  That is, he will dive if the crowd coughs up enough money to pay for his descent.

In this case, they did.  And why take the risk?  Unemployment is almost 50% in Bosnia.  Better to pretend you dive in Acapulco than starve.

While walking through one of Montenegro's Disney-restored towns, I encountered this juxtaposition.  Norma Desmond meets Miley Cyrus.

You will probably not be surprised when I tell you The Norma is from my ship.  The Kleenex Girl is from the low-budget ship docked next to ours.  Want to guess which group had a better time?

It was boat race day in Venice when we arrived.  The Grand Canal was filled with all sorts of people-propelled vessels.  Including two Elvises -- and two guys on bicycle-powered pontoons.

You have already seen an earlier version of this photograph.  But I just noticed there are two women dreamily listening to the band's music.  The one in front, who we have already met.  And a second to the far right.  Same mood.

After four days in Venice, I was feeling a bit dreamy myself.

But, of all my people shots on this trip, this photograph is my favorite.  Even though it is obviously set in Venice, the pastel colors, the still reflective water, the arched bridge, the two girls, the lonely flower stem, all speak of the Orient.

And with that image, I will close out my European tour.

I have much more I can share, but I think we have all had enough of Europe for a bit.  After all, I will be back there in just two more months. 


Saturday, June 21, 2014

laying down the flowers

I had been expecting the news all week. 

My friend, Leo Bauman, emailed me earlier in the week that his wife, Theresa, was in the final stages of life.  She had been fighting cancer for a long time.  And, as it will happen to all of us, her life ran out on Thursday.

I have known Leo since the late 1960s when we were both working our way through college by sorting and mailing checks for a bank in Portland.  It was one of those late night jobs perfectly suited for young men looking forward to their futures.

After graduating, I headed off to the Air Force, but I kept in contact with Leo.  When I came home on leave during the summer of 1972, he told me had a surprise for me.  He had met the perfect girl.

I had never seen anyone before or since who was so "in love."  And I doubted that anyone could possibly be as perfect as he claimed she was.

I was wrong.  Theresa was beautiful.  And she had the bearing of a princess.  Better still, she was as "in love" with Leo as he was with her.

The three of us spent my month-long leave together.  Playing tennis.  Swimming.  Going to the beach.  Attending the theater.  Cooking.  That last activity was to raise its head later in our relationship.

The next summer, Leo asked me if I would be the best man in their wedding.  Of course, I said "yes."  And it was quite a wedding.  Theresa insisted that the groom's men had to wear white gloves.  I felt like Al Jolson.  But I did it for her.

Timing was not our friend.  I was scheduled to drive to the east coast that afternoon on my way to my next assignment.  So I ducked out of the reception line -- never fulfilling my duty of starting the toasts.

We all eventually ended up living in the same suburb of Portland after I graduated from law school.  My wedding gift to the Baumans was the two-volume Gourmet Cookbook -- quite popular amongst foodies (though we had not yet invented that abomination) of the time.

Theresa put the gift to good use by forming a gourmet club -- made up of a banker and his wife, a doctor and his wife, a local business owner and his wife, a young bank executive.  And me. 

Food and friendship cemented our relationship.  For years, we would meet monthly to enjoy each others' company.

Theresa kept the group going until the Baumans decided to move to Arizona -- where construction prospects were far better in the early 1980s.  I was very sorry to see them go.

Even though technology kept us in contact, I only saw them in person now and then.  But friendship burns on no matter the circumstances.

When Leo informed me that Theresa had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was crushed for both of them.  But their Christian faith kept both of them enjoying every moment of each day -- because they knew that every second together was being spent.  And they chose to spend them wisely.

Leo's email evoked a response that surprised me.  I told him I would drop everything and head north to spend time with them.  Leo declined the offer.  He knew how brief the remaining time was, and he wanted to spend it with his best girl.

In that email, he included one sentence that truly sums up the relationship that the two of them have.  "She is my Bride of 41 years, and each day when I ask her if she will marry me, she gives me a little smile and a nod.  I am so good with that."

I never gave my toast at their wedding.  I don't even remember what I was going to say.  But it would pale compared with the love that Leo and Theresa have for one another.  And, in our faith we believe love that strong can never die.

Even so, I am going to miss you, Theresa.

Friday, June 20, 2014

back to barcelona

I promised some of you that I would post more of my cruise photographs.

That promise will be kept.  But in a rather condensed way.

Once I finish a trip, I have little interest in going through my photographs.  When the moment has passed -- it is past.  I am now looking forward to my next two trips.  To Oregon in about a week.  Then to England, France, and Spain in August and September.

I spent the last four hours trying to edit some of my Barcelona photographs for you.  I started there because that is where the cruise began.  But it is also one of my favorite cities.  This recent visit has got me thinking about spending a year there.

Why?  The first obvious answer is the architecture.  Everywhere you look there is an interesting church.  Often, with styling you can see nowhere else in the world.

Or an entryway.

Or a plaza -- unlike anything I can find in Melaque -- where life flows at a leisurely pace.

Can you imagine how nice it would be to live in one of these art nouveau apartments?

Or to have a building detail like this in your neighborhood?

And there is something cozy about these alleys where cars are not even an afterthought.  And colors seem to seek their own levels.

Where else could you find a bank tarted up to look like a Chinese restaurant?

Speaking of food, that is another reason to live here.  Barcelona offers up several large markets selling fresh produce and meats.

The caviar may be a little expensive -- especially, when it is from Iran.  On the other hand, is Russian caviar any more acceptable?

If you do not feel feel comfortable buying Iranian, try Iberian.  Han, that is.  It is without peer.  With cheese, of course.

I have tried all three of these.  I would eat two, again.

This had me stumped.  I had no idea how I would prepare a cow nose.  Now, I do.  Recipe.  Who says you can't learn new things at Mexpatriate?

And then there are those sights you will only see in a city.

Remember that plaza with all the people?  Well, this is it getting spruced up in the morning.  And, for those seeking hair of the dog, there he is.

No city would be complete without its silly moment.  Who turns a famous statue of Jesus' suffering into just another tourist snap of herself?  I guess we now know the answer.

Moving to Barcelona for a year may remain a personal dream.  But this visit certainly re-stoked the urge.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

the dripping apocalypse

When I lived in Oregon, it was a sad summer day when the rains started.

After all, Pacific Northwest winters are notoriously wet.  But the summers are the best I know in the world -- and we cherish the sunny days.  So, we feel a bit cheated up north when a sunny June day turns wet.

Not so, in Melaque.  Summer is our wet season.  We can either get the wet (in the form of humidity) with hellishly high temperatures.  Or we can get it with torrential rain storms.

I have been back at my Mexpatriate desk for a week now, and we have had nothing but day after day of weather so hot and damp I may as well be living in an elephant's armpit.

That all changed about 6 yesterday evening.  The clouds slowly rolled in, and then broke loose with a glorious tropical downpour. 

We love the summer rain here.  The moment it starts, you can feel the temperature drop with the rain.  And it did.

For six years I have been listening to these summer storms.  But one aspect always stands out to me.  The thunder.

Our Pacific Northwest thunderstorms are weedy little things.  Drizzly rain.  Pops of thunder.

On my cruise, I finished reading Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World and The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.  The first involves the peace conference ending the first world war; the second is how the war began.  I highly recommend the first.  Not so much the second.

One thing that struck me in reading her books is how technology had changed warfare by the time 1914 rolled around.  The beating that the civilian and military populations took from artillery barrages was a brutal innovation.

And that is what the thunder here in Melaque sounds like to me.  As I write this the thunder is clapping right over my house.  Not a single, clap, either.  It is a volley of explosions.  As if a line of 155-mm howitzers were firing seriatim.

There have even been a couple of claps that sounded as if the earth was opening up to swallow us before the Whore of Babylon could have her way with us.  Alas, it was just an insignificant sound and fury -- as Macbeth would have it.

But, like too many things in life, the dramatic moment has passed.  No shots left in the locker.  No shafts of light.  Just a bit of dribbly rain.

The summer thunderstorms are one reason I hang around here in the damp underwear season.  Like a good Broadway show, they do not open often.  But, during their run, they are something to see.

Even though we have yet to see the Whore and her multi-headed beast.

Maybe next storm.