Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Road Trip Highlights -- few and far between

We almost had to swim out of Guadalajara. They were still running footage of Sunday's rain on the TV news here tonight at the Camino Real in Saltillo. They even showed the exact street in Tlaquepaque where Larry and I feared being swept away -- and Hummercita has a 24-inch ground clearance! Very impressive. Tonight we got the e-mail telling us that our two new submersible sump pumps in the basement runoff tank worked perfectly during the five-inch downpour they had in Guayabitos. Hooray. We can sleep easy the rest of the trip.

The rain followed us all the way to San Miguel de Allende where we checked into Quinta Loreto -- the only place I could find that would welcome Kody. It looked charming, but maybe it was the rain which made it seem so depressing. We ate that night in their restaurant (too wet to wander far), and then spent a lot of time up and about through the night. Uncomfortable situation compounded by a leak in the skylight directly over the toilet. We said adios the next morning, rather than stay another night. SMA looked interesting -- even enchanting, with lots of little shops, very narrow streets, colorful nooks, crannies and secret gardens. But next time I go there it will be without rain, without a dog, without a Hummer -- and maybe without a husband. Definitely looks like a chick trip.

After an unmemorable Monday night in a 70's era hotel and a disheartening buffet at the Sirloin Stockade in San Luis Potosi, we are spending tonight in the lap of luxury complete with wi-fi and high thread count sheets. Larry is already sleeping off a meal that more than made up for the previous two night's road kill. Tomorrow will bring us into the States. San Antonio. I think he's dreaming of Bob's Barbeque.

Rebozos from Santa Maria del Rio

Way back when I was in college I spent a summer in San Luis Potosí, the major city just to the north of Santa María del Río on Hwy 57. That's when I first heard of the famous rebozos of silk which were so fine that they could pass through a wedding ring.

Santa María del Río bills itself as the "cradle of the rebozo." That's sort of a switch, because rebozos are what Mexican women have traditionally cradled their young in, held close to the breast and away from prying eyes. From the literature given to me at the shop, the word rebozo comes from the word arrebozarse, which means to cover one's face. It was the Moors (surprise, surprise) who brought this custom to Spain and applied it -- of course -- to women. Women, in turn, have made rebozos into works of art.

More recently I read Sandra Cisnero's book Caramelo which I absolutely loved. The main character is fascinated by the caramelo design of her grandmother's rebozo, a family heirloom from Santa Maria del Rio. I wanted to see what one looked like, so Larry and I got off the highway and explored. I saw the sign on the display in the first little shop we stopped at. (It's a tiny little sign on orange paper in the photo.) Shopkeeper Ana Maria kindly explained that a caramelo design must have seven different colors, and each is distinct for its intricacy and the difficulty of the work. The silk one she is wearing is priced at $6,500 pesos. (Remember, divide by ten for rough estimate in U.S. dollars) Can you even imagine what it would be at Nordstrom's or Neiman’s??!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On the road....at last!

It got REALLY REALLY hot right before we left. So glad the weather was reasonably temperate while those boys were here. We left yesterday morning, just barely. Meaning it was still barely morning by the time we got out of town. When we had finished getting gas, and money and ice and drinks, and last instructions to Chano and Hilda, and saying goodbye to Lucy (who will be holding down our guestroom intermittently) it was almost 11:00. We got out on Highway 200 headed north, and STOPPED. Backed up traffic jam to match anything we ever experienced on I-5 -- except OUR highway is now two lanes.

Last night and now early this morning we're enjoying wonderful California like climate of Guadalajara in a great B&B where they love doggies. Check it out at http://www.quintadonjose.com/

It's hard to be here in shopper's heaven with a bursting at the seams Hummercita. I bought two postcards. They'll fit someplace. But come next fall: I'll be back!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What we're doing and where we'll be

I started writing this as an e-mail to a friend, and then decided to post it here and just refer everyone to it:

I'm up early, but ready to go back and catnap a little. Have a dentist's appointment at 8 this morning to finally get a crown on this root canal that's gone on for so long. Then I take the boys to Puerto Vallarta. They want to see the town before I put them on the plane this afternoon. They were going to go yesterday afternoon after surfing at Sayulita all morning, but sort of flaked out. Then it rained like crazy, which was a pretty good excuse to just stay put. So we went up to Vista Guayabitos for dinner, the restaurant on top of the hill with a great view of the bay, the island and the town. Always a good place to start a visit here.....or end one.

Mostly we've been eating here. The guys caught a lot of fish the other day, and one of them, Rafi, took a culinary course for his senior "fun" class. So they've been grilling while I do salads and veggies.

Aside from a few day outings and nightly forays into town, I think they spent most of their time here either in the swimming pool or swinging in hammocks on the verandah listening to my Harry Potter tapes. All of them have the final book waiting for them when they get home, and were reviewing in order to get ready for it. (My copy is waiting in Lubbock). They all seemed really happy just to have the down time together. They've been friends since they were little kids and they're all headed off to different schools here in a few weeks. Last night I dropped them in town and came back to the house to be with Larry. They were saying something about getting tattoos.....

Again, Larry couldn't join us last night. Aside from the fact that it's very difficult to get six people in Hummercita, there were still guys in the basement installing a new swimming pool pump and two submersible sump pumps in that huge tank that holds rainwater runoff. We're getting things ready to be gone for a while. There were also tile setters here in the morning, fixing things which had broken in the kitchen and down by the pool. No, Moms, the guys did not do it. Pre-existing conditions.

Chano and Hilda will be here today, putting things in order, and Thursday and Friday we'll be packing and giving away foodstuff, what there is left. It's been very handy having four 18 year old boys here cleaning out the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Here's our itinerary as it stands now. I had to work hard finding hotels where Kody is welcome:

  • 7/28, Saturday -- To Guadalajara (Tlaquepaque, La Quinta don Jose)
  • 7/29, 30 -- San Miguel de Allende, Quinta Loreto
  • 7/31 -- Saltillo, El Camino Real
  • 8/1 - 8/5 -- San Antonio. We're seeing Larry's brother and his family, but staying with Susie and Mark Posson, those brand new friends of ours from a few entries back.
  • 8/5 - at least September 10 we'll be in Lubbock, Texas. The phone number there is 806-799-6995, though the best way to always get us is through our U.S. Vonage number: 949-488-0635. Mom and Dad's 60th anniversary is September 7, so I'm organizing a party for the afternoon of September 9 there at their house.
  • 9/10 - 9/19 -- Larry and I each have some side trips we'd like to take. We're both still working on that. His involves motorcycles. Mine involves quiet contemplation in the company of good girlfriends.
  • 9/21 (or 22?) We'll head west to CA with stops on the way to visit friends in Santa Fe, NM, and St. George, Utah.
  • 9/27 - 10/7 -- Back in Orange County visiting friends and fulfilling some commitments.
  • 10/8 - 10/11 -- On the road back to Guayabitos.

So, that's the news for now. I'll keep blogging from time to time. It's a good way for everyone to keep up with us. Right now it's back to beddie bye.....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This is for four Alaskan mothers

Your boys are safe. They're good. And they're up! Yes at this hour of the morning they are stirring, ready to get out and explore. Graham, Nathan, Matt and Raffi were real tired puppies when I picked them up yesterday in PV. Loooooong flight with layovers from Anchorage. Not much sleep the night before. In and out of consciousness on the long ride home for some of them. First time in Mexico -- mainland, non-Tijuana Mexico -- for all of them. They were surprised that it was "so green." For some reason they were expecting desert! (Geography major in me mumbles, "What are they teaching kids these days?")

They brought cooler temperatures. It's wonderful outside. What a relief! So while I was gone, Larry got the upstairs all cleaned up. It still hasn't been painted and there are splotches of concrete all over the place and the roof over the deck isn't on, but what the hey. They're delighted to be up and away from us, with free access to the pool and room to spread all their grubby stuff around. (I know. It's not grubby now. Trust me. It will be.) So with access through the basement, they can come and go without traipsing through the house at late hours.

So after a swim, we fed the pizza. They had another swim. And they were OUT. Today is the market and getting their dollars changed. Moms, we'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"See the jungle when it's wet with rain..."

And at last it is. Wet. With rain. Soft, gentle, constant. Almost the whole day. I couldn't keep my eyes off the palm trees at the back of our property -- a whole spectrum of green geometrics: arcs, grids, spirals and fans ranging from deep gray asparagus to chartreuse yellow. Couldn't get a decent photo through the downpour. You'll have to trust me on this.

And when it wasn't raining, it was overcast with a breeze. Hilda told me that this is what is normal for July. Aha! If that's the case, I now understand why B&B owner Rosalie Hope assured me "Oh, July is delightful!" Up until now, July has been anything but. Locals have been assuring us that they've never experienced such heat. Fernando fainted the other day in the hardware store, and Javier, our painter, said he's had to watch his guys -- make them drink lots of water instead of sodas -- to keep them from dropping like flies. His main work right now is sealing roofs with impermeablizante. Impermeable treatment to keep the rains from coming into houses. Like laying asphalt on roads, it's work best done in bright hot sunshine. He's had a lot of it!

From what we see on the Yahoo homepage and hear over NPR on the internet, most of North America is sweltering, so we don't really have room to complain. But the heat has admittedly driven us a little crazy lately. Or maybe we've just been driving each other crazy! Who knows. It's nice to have a little respite. Tomorrow we greet four strapping guys from Anchorage. Here's hoping they're bringing some arctic atmosphere along with them!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Our own little planets

I have to get this conversation down while it's fresh in my head....

"Do you want any juice?" I ask.

Larry turns to me with a puzzled look. "Huh?" He's at the computer and I'm at the kitchen table. It's about fifteen minutes ago. Morning.

"Juice?" I repeat, and wave the glass in my hand, and nod towards the blender.

"Did I what?" he asks.

"Do you want any juice?" I enunciate slowly. Am I missing something or have I started speaking Chinese? You'd think so from the look on his face. "JUICE." I say once more. "DO YOU WANT ANY?"

Light dawns. "Oh!" he says. "I thought you said, 'Did you run any juice?' No. No, thanks." He turns back to Yahoo.

"Yeah," I say. "Like that's what I always ask you at this time of the morning!"

"Give me a break," he says, nodding upwards to workmen-on-the-roof noise above us. "I was thinking about electricity."

We have GOT to get this project finished.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Progress on the House

Here are some shots of our various house projects. The first one is taken from the cul-de-sac with my back to the ocean where the estero enters it. We're building a shade structure on the roof behind the upstairs guest room. It will be a great place to catch breezes and see the ocean, the mountains, the estero -- and our neighbors! It's made of concrete pillars which will be shaped to look like palm trunks. The roof will be 4x4 wooden beams placed close together. I'm looking forward to decorating it with lots of potted plants (we've got a spigot right there) and some hamacas. I doubt if the roof is up before my nephew Graham and his buddies arrive on the 18th. The wood has to have time to dry in the sun after they cut and shape it. But we'll keep our fingers crossed. At least the mess will be cleaned up.

The picture with Kody is of our new wrought iron gate which covers the front door. The orange color is primer. We're thinking about what color the final coat should be. Actually, the orange doesn't look too bad with the pots beside it. (Jeanette, I can hear you hyperventilating. She's not a big fan of orange.) Anyway, besides giving a little more security when we're gone, it's nice to leave it open at night and have a breeze (if there is one) blow through the house.

We met the new owner of the lot next door. Really nice guy. His name is Herb and he's a stunt pilot. Click here to see his smoke ring aerobatics. He and his wife Judy plan on building two houses next door, a small one right next to us, which will minimize damage to our view, and a larger one on the end which will maximize his views. They're going to sell the small one. Anybody want to be our next door neighbors?

To be honest, I'm looking forward to having a little barrier between my office and these summer sunrises. Whew! This AC unit has been getting a workout -- and today Fernando finished the ceiling fan job and got the final one installed over my desk. Now I HAVE to keep it clean, or else everything blows away!

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Sunday it's not a tourist town

People go to church around here. Catholic? Lots of them. The morning service was overflowing onto the steps and into the street at the cathedral in Puerto Vallarta yesterday morning. The better shops were closed -- which was fine with us, anyway. It was too hot to wander around and spend money. Much easier to spend it sitting at The River Cafe, lingering over drinks and food that you can't find in Guayabitos and La Penita. Even the iguanas stayed hidden out of the sun.

But back to the church thing. Catholicism isn't the monolith down here that Americans often think it is. There is a big brick LDS facility on the road out of PV going to San Sebastian -- basketball courts and everything. There's also a Baptist church, and a lively group of PV Episcopalians that my friend Char belongs to. LOTS of evangelical churches, in all shapes and sizes. Storefront, humble houses, open air in vacant lots. We've seen the scrolly spires of "El Luz del Mundo" all over, including one here in Guayabitos. Jehovah's Witnesses, Testigos de Jehova are one of the fastest growing denominations down here. You see their neat little temples in almost any pueblito -- always freshly painted.

Our whole work crew putting up the shade structure upstairs are Seventh Day Adventists. They have to be finished at 1:00 Saturday afternoon, to get ready to go to church later that day. A state-wide Adventist congress late last year in Tepic drew well over 4,000 people. Gil the gardener down the street gave me a full account. Think about it. Nayarit is a pretty small state!

Another interesting trend is more and more Muslim names in the up and coming generation. I keep running into boys named Said. Our housekeeper's daughter is Yagaira, named for the Muslim doctor who delivered her 16 years ago in Fresno, CA. The cultural differences between Latin America and the Mid East are not that far apart in many ways. After all the Muslims occupied Spain for over 900 years. Try googling "Muslims in Mexico." Interesting.

Maria, the former nun, Jeanette-across-the-street's housekeeper, gave me a thirty minute diatribe the other day about PAN (the political party of President Calderon) and the Catholic Church being hand in hand. (She's obviously an Obrero supporter, referring to Calderon as ese fulano quien en realidad no fue elegido, or "that so-and-so who wasn't even really elected." Where have I heard that before?) It's her contention that people are leaving the Catholic church because it's become so political.

Ahem. Become??? And ahem and ahem again. It's a little late these days to warn against "mixing" religion and politics. That is the name of the game in every part of the world.
Actually, it's always been that way, though you wouldn't know it from studying history in the U.S. where public schools are thoroughly sanitized of any mention of religion in any context.

No I'm not advocating reinstating prayer in public schools. Prayer is just too private, too One-to-one and one-to-One to even consider it falling under the purview of legislation. Frankly, I'm glad the days of public prayer in public schools are over. I was always having to mentally edit those Morning Watch devotionals that opened school days over the loudspeaker when I was growing up in Texas. There was just a lot in the Southern Baptist litany that didn't jive with what I believed -- and that went for my friend Janie Ginsburg, as well. If the devotionals served any purpose for people like us, it was to remind us emphatically that we were definitely "different." Great way to start the day. Not.

What I'm talking about is that to consider ourselves "well-educated," we should be exposed to some basic religious literacy: Biblical, Talmudic, Koranic -- just for starters. The sooner the better, time-wise and age-wise. No matter our political stripe, whether we plan on making peace or making war, we need to know what "those" people -- whoever we're talking about --are thinking, because (and here I go quoting Mary Baker Eddy again) "our ideas of divinity form our models of humanity." Whatever the divine "ideal" is, it's eventually going to be played out on the human scene. Sometimes for better. Often for worse. Mix religion and politics? I don't think, when all's said and done, you can separate them. Two sides of the same coin. These days, that coin is up in the air.

This is Lucy

I don't know if she gets it when we call at the gate for her in pseudo Cuban accents She's very British. Here she is learning that the "biscuits" Larry loves are not cookies, but something "actually quite nice!"
She's just graduated from Oxford with a degree in English literature -- emphasis on Virginia Wolf, thank you very much. This fall she will start a post-graduate program at Exeter in American literature, emphasis on the South. So she's "mad" to visit New Orleans. Learning about fried chicken and biscuits is a pretty good introduction to this project, right?
We are at Church's Fried Chicken, and as you can see in the background the real church crowd is starting to arrive. This little girl was soon climbing through the plastic tubes of the inside playground. Sunday in Mexico for many usually means a family day at a restaurante campestre, a day in the country where the kids run in the grass, swim, play games -- and the adults sit around huge tables under palapa roofs and eat and drink all day. But during this hot and humid time Mexicans and gringos alike flock to where it's coolest. Fast food served in the comforts of AC. Hmmmm. Global warming: Maybe it's a corporate conspiracy after all?

AND bananas! And who knows what else!!??

Lots of them. There are five other kinds on the flip side of this display. I didn't even get a chance to take a shot of the chilis for sale....at least 15 different kinds....before I was approached and kindly asked to put my camera away. Suspected of being a fresh produce spy in the Gutierrez Centro Comercial in old town Puerto Vallarta! Perhaps I had the whiff of Walmart about me.
What Walmart and Sam's Club provide in midwest American bulk, this market, tucked in at the end of a suspension bridge across one side of the Rio Cuale, deep in PV's romantic zone, makes up in variety. Never have I seen so many products tailored to meet the tastes and homesick longings of expatriates of every stripe and nation. Londonite Lucy, who went with Larry and me yesterday, found Bovril and Heinz baked beans. I seized on a jar of Del Monte Pickle Relish. There was everything Japanese, Chinese, Thai, German, French.
And yes, there on the shelf was Pace Picante Sauce and on the opposite side, Taco Bell ready-formed taco shells. Not that I would judge. No "Coals to Newcastle" sort of muttering under the breath from this direction. I for one have never contended that Taco Bell was even imitation Mexican food. It is....well, it's Taco Bell. I love it just for what it is. Earlier in the day, as we three had breakfast at (ahem) Church's Fried Chicken, I had joked that all PV lacked in the way of fast food was a Taco Bell, and proceeded to extoll the culinary virtues of the TB Mexican Pizza to Lucy. So crispy! So delicious!
Are you listening, Corporate? I know you're there in that big building on Interstate-5 I used to pass on the way to the airport. Come on down!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We've got lichee!

That's not exactly what the signs on the highway fruitstands read. Usually it's something like "Hay lichee!" They're talking about litchee "nuts" -- which I always had associated with Chinese food. At least that's where I've had them before. But several weeks ago I had one off the tree at Lin and Jim's house down in Los Ayala. Yum! This morning I bought a half-kilo bag of them for 15 pesos at the market in La Penita and had a feast at noon: Tacos de birria from Mrs. Gomez's taqueria, followed by lichees and -- yes, Jeanette -- leftover tres leches cake brought up from the freezer. Your birthday dinner for Larry last March just keeps on giving! Susie and Mark loved it all.

This is the "Susie" who has been leaving comments on this blog. She and her husband Mark from San Antonio have been with us these last couple of days. We all hit it off great. So much in common, so nice to talk. The last two nights none of us got to bed until long after midnight. Those of you who know Cobbo know how rare that is!

And now I reveal a secret: I met so many people while I was on the road for all those years -- and there were several Susans and Susies I remembered from Texas. But darned if I could "picture" this one. I had some ideas, but when they drove up, I couldn't remember ever having met these people! What a gift though. New friends come in such special and surprising ways!

Susie and I went to the market in La Penita this morning. Not a lot of gringos and very few arts and handiwork people. But Susie got some of that wonderful cheap brown pottery cookware, and I bought a very rustica rocker, which I'm going to paint. I know I said I was going to paint the kitchen walls, but it's too darn hot in the kitchen. I need a project where I can hide in a room with AC and listen to books on tape -- or in digits or whatever.

So here's a picture of our new friends and lichee nuts. And I'm now going to head for bed before ten o'clock!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Not a big holiday here

This is Larry and Leo looking at the iron gate we've had made for our front door. This way we can leave the wooden door open at night and get a nice breeze through the house. I took this shot at Leo's workshop several days ago, and as I write this I hear the noise of installation going on.
It's one of several projects we've got going. The other major one is building a shade structure on the second floor -- the part that looks over the estero out back. From there we can see the mountains, the beach, and on up the coast -- and there's usually a nice breeze. We're trying to get it finished before Graham and his buddies show up July 18.
In the meantime we've got Mark and Susie Posson from San Antonio staying a few nights and celebrating the Fourth with us this evening. Next week the guy who has bought the lot next door to us is in town, as are the sellers, Tim and Penelope. T and P are going to be staying at least one night with us, before we take them to Tepic for the closing. Through this all we hope to find out what kind of plans the buyer has, and what we can look forward to in the way of close by construction activity.
So, after all the workers show up this morning, we're off on a little jaunt through the countryside with Susie and Mark. Maybe we'll find some fireworks for tonight. Happy Fourth of July everybody!

Monday, July 2, 2007

We love this little town

Larry and I took a day trip yesterday. I knew he'd love San Sebastian as much as I did. La Bufa, the 8,400 ft peak above the town that Lucy, Sam and I drove up to, was shrouded in clouds, so Larry and I drove up the other side of the valley and got this dreamy shot of the little pueblo. We even took Kody along. Hotels in Mexico are not generally very welcoming to mascotas, but we introduced him to the folks at El Pabellon, let him do his tricks and cozy up to the ladies. He's welcome any time they told us. So, we may be making some more trips up to the cool altitudes. There's a lot to see and do up in the Sierra just east of Puerto Vallarta! The Hotel Sierra Lago looks pretty interesting to me!

Well, that didn't work....

This is what happens when you run out of Cascade and buy what you think might be the Mexican equivalent. It wasn't. I know, I know. Rich people's problems. This shot was taken after the crisis passed. The suds look pretty tame now. Larry is still in the kitchen valiantly mopping up. We are going to have such a clean floor. Emily, when you send my just-graduated-from-high-school nephew Graham and his three buddies down in a week or so, please have them bring dishwasher powder...any kind.