Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Have you lost a loved one? Lost weight? Eaten too much? Thought about pain? Have trouble remembering the names of the seven dwarfs?
Well, you may be nuts. You had best start setting aside a portion of your income for the rest of your life.
Because there is a therapist out there in your future -- with bottles full of pills and a new copy of the just-issued fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Or DSM-5, as it is tagged by its wielders.
It was probably inevitable that we would all end up in a therapist's office pouring out our anguish about having to face what we once called life. But why therapists?
Not too long ago we would discuss these issues with our spouses, our family, our friends, our pastors. Even our buddies in the bowling league -- or down at the Elks lodge. But we have stopped talking to them. Either because we no longer belong to groups or we spend so much time staring at television and computer screens we do not have time for relationships.
So we hire a professional. Pay good money to make ourselves simply feel better. We once called that prostitution. We now call it therapy.
That is not to say that there are not real problems out there that can be reached through therapy. But DSM-5 is a clear imperial clarion call that the beaches of sanity must be taken in the name of weekly sessions.
At some level, "Sometimes you want to go/where everybody knows your name." Like the little restaurant/bar -- La Oficina -- that opened in my neighborhood recently.
The owner, Aaron, is one of the first people I met when I moved to Melaque. At the time, he was running a restaurant with a great view of Melaque's square. He is one of the few young Americans I have met who have decided to make their future in Mexico. It did not hurt that he was also an Oregonian.
He now has a new place. And he appears to have hit on an interesting formula for success. A bar that could be at home in a tropical boutique hotel. A short menu where each item is given extra care (my favorite being the rosemary pulled pork sandwich). And an efficient staff that speaks just enough English to make customers feel comfortable with their own creaky Spanish.
There are lots of eateries in town. But La Oficina seems to pull each of its business plan elements together until "you are glad you came."
What makes it all work is Aaron. He is the perfect bartender. Charming. A great listener. And a dispenser of folk wisdom. Wrapped in enough charisma to keep his mix of elderly expatriates and edgy young Mexicans coming back for more.
I stopped by this past weekend to enjoy the last live music act until fall. Live music always gives a place extra points on my card. Even if it inevitably attracts at least one drunk who starts acting -- loudly -- as if the staff is her personal entourage. But when a place is as good as La Oficina, The Drunk can be ignored.
I suspect far fewer people would be spending time watching a therapist thumb through the DSM-5 if they would simply spend more time with the Aarons of this world. With a nice Diet Coke sitting in front of them.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Nostalgia lives on a cul-de-sac. And it is easy to get stuck there.
I felt a bit like that after wandering down my Oxford memory lane yesterday. Because there is the danger of thinking of Melaque as a cultural sinkhole -- to Osterize my metaphors.
Well, it can be. But that does not mean I cannot get in my car and motor down the road to Manzanillo -- where there is a multi-screen movie house.
When I was in Manzanillo last week, I almost decided to stay for the new Star Trek movie. But it did not start until after 4 -- a three hour wait. I passed.
Monday afternoon, I decided to return. And I am glad I did.
It s a rather good movie. At least for character development. And that is usually the weak point of this genre. The last three Star Wars movies are great examples. They gave cardboard a bad name.
Of course, these prequel movies always seem to be far more prescient than they truly are. After all, they get to create a back story -- while we rubes sit there with jaws slack and mutter: "Gee. I always wondered were she came from." And now we know.
Actually,we get a lot of those threads here. Tantalizing canapes that have developed into full stories on the television series or in earlier movies. It lets the viewer indulge in the hubris of the rare success in psychotherapy.
I, for one, simply enjoy seeing the younger version of characters I have grown up with. It is a fun film.
What is not so much fun are the special effects. They manage to be both flat and tired. The flatness must come from the 3-D process. If so, it is ironic that new technology makes film look more primitive.
And tired? This movie does nothing original with special effects. Instead, it indulges in grave robbery. Having fighting adversaries jump from moving machinery is about as old hat as a movie can get. I almost expected Tom Mix to show up.
While I was laving, I ran into another geezer in the lobby. I suspect he started talking with me because we look as if we could belong to the same VFW post.
He was upset that all of the non-dubbed movies start after the matinee prices expire. He was convinced that it was discrimination against white people. After all, they are the only people who attend non-dubbed films.
I thought he was joking. I told him I was just in a subtitled movie and everyone other than me was Mexican.
He was not interested. He was convinced that he had been discriminated against solely because of his skin color. And the great discrimination? He would be charged $57 (Mx) rather than $44 (Mx). $4.60 (US) rather than $3.60 (US). And, for all I know, there may (and probably is) a very good reason for the difference.
The conversation reminded me of one I had recently in Melaque. An acquaintance told me she would not return to a local restaurant known for its great food because she went in twice alone and other parties were served before her. Her conclusion? The restaurant discriminates against single women.
One of the things I do not miss from The States is the rampant victimhood worn proudly by citizens. I am sorry to see it here. But our neuroses travel as easily as do we.
The drive home made me quickly forget about the Two Grouseketeers. And of plays in Oxford. I rolled down my window to enjoy an evening and setting I could never find in Oregon or England.
And that was culture enough for me.
Monday, May 20, 2013
I have been a bit slow lately.
A persistent cough. A slight fever. One day of swollen lymph glands under my right arm. And fatigue. A draining fatigue.
Fatigued enough that I put myself on the couch and decided to watch something mindless. Downton Abbey seemed to fit the bill.
I have never understood the allure of these PBS costume dramas. If you are one of the few people in the Western world unaware of the series, it is another upstairs-downstairs English Edwardian tale of manners and manors. What Barbara Cartland might write. Soap opera in period dress.
One thing I have found fascinating among my friends is that there seems to be an odd correlation. The further left one travels on the political scale seems to increase a love for British aristocratic life. Perhaps harboring some sort of hope that an earldom is just waiting out there to be inherited.
Even the presence of my beloved Maggie Smith could not keep me interested. So out came my only Gilbert and Sullivan CD -- a rather good performance of Ruddigore. My full vinyl collection went into exile at Goodwill when I sold the Salem house.
The tale -- like most of Gilbert's work -- is a bit of whimsy rapped around a serious core. In this case, that core is the corrosive power of evil. It is not quite Faust, but there are obvious musical joking references to Don Giovanni.
The last time I saw a production of Ruddigore was when the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company came to Oxford in the mid-70s. I had joined a group of fellow students at their dining club.
They suggested we head off to the playhouse for the night's performance in our white tie getup. And so we did. (Quite a bit different than my far more casual music-listening underwear on Sunday evening.)
At the interval, I was standing off to the side in the lobby when a matronly woman approached me, and asked, in that polite inquiring voice of the English: "Could you tell me where I could buy some chocolates" -- obviously confusing me with the ushers. I, just as politely, responded: "You might try a sweet shop."
The worst fear of the English -- at least, the English I knew in the 70s -- was to commit a social faux pas. Even though I did not intend to embarrass her, the woman was literally chagrined. I could tell by the look on her face that she wished the ground would open up and relieve her of her shame. Because she was positive her "I am so dreadfully sorry" was not going to repair the mistake she just made.
And, so there you go. I start by complaining about the leftist lust for costumed social drama, and I take pleasure in telling you a dress up tale of social manners.
Telling this tale makes me realize how much I thoroughly enjoyed those days of being an American at Oxford -- where my nationality gave me a passport to break through the barriers of what were then very clear class lines.
We didn't have Downton Abbey. However, we did have an amazing ride.
And I did get a title out of it.
But that certainly is a story for another time and place.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
If you read the comments from this morning's post, you have probably figured out that the photograph above is not of my dog.
It is Raji -- the love of my friends Ken and Patti. And their daughter, Kimmy.
Kimmy gave me the photograph on one of my visits to Olympia this year. I found the perspective interesting.
The moment I saw it, I mistook poor Raji for a wall-mounted trophy. But that is not his style. He is a bundle of energy. The antithesis of poor old Gomez.
Thank you for playing alng with this little game. We will be back to our regular programming tomorrow.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Recycling has come to Mexico.
Can you think of any sentence steeped more in gringo hubris than that one?
Mexico, like most other places in the world, has long been a land of recycling. If something breaks in an American suburb, it gets thrown out as trash. If the same item breaks in Mexico -- or on a family farm in eastern Washington -- it will find new life somewhere else.
I am not certain who came up with the idea originally around these parts, but there has been a big drive to recycle plastic bottles. From an aesthetic vantage, it is a great idea. Beach towns are magnets for people who see nothing wrong with tossing bottles and wrappers whenever and wherever they are empty.
To counter that trend, someone has installed large collection areas for plastic bottles. And people actually use them.
But, some of us also collect our plastics in smaller containers. In my case, I save plastic bottles and aluminum cans for the maid. She takes them away when the bag is full.
And this is eventually where all ofthe plastic ends up.
I have been told that most of these bottles are shipped to China where the plastic is remolded into various products -- and then sold around the world. I do not know if that is true, but it makes sense.
During the recession, when China's exports slowed down due to lack of demand, you could see a very physical example of the economic slowdown. The plastic bottles started forming Himalayas of waste. It was Lucy in the chocolate factory all over again.
Now that the world's economy is back on track, the mountains are mere hills.
The reason we recycle in Mexico? There is money in it. Without the Chinese market, I suspect our beaches would be forming plastic bottle islands before long. And then we could float them to China.
Just like latter-day Thor Heyerdahls.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Summer is here.
Now, I know the pedantic will point to the calendar. Proudly counting that I am five weeks too early.
But we all have our own ways of declaring the start of summer here in Melaque. For some it is the arrival of the land crab migration. For others, the start of the rainy season.
For me, summer has begun when the heat and humidity combine to make it too uncomfortable to sit on the patio without a floor fan. Thursday afternoon was summer for me.
I have no idea what the temperature was nor how high the humidity climbed, but I could not read about one more Plantagenet tragedy without schlepping the fan outside. Even Gomez the Foster Dog abandoned his shady corner to join me in the electronic breeze.
The start of summer means it is time for another tradition in my little casa. The water in my shower is gravity-fed from a storage tank on the roof. That water is pumped from a cistern on the property. The cistern water comes from the pipes in the street. Before that, I have no idea where it comes from.
But whatever the source, by the time it gets to my shower head, it starts gumming up the works. Once a year, I take the screen off of the shower head and clean it out. I will spare you the description of the large hunks of debris I find. What interests me most is the calcification.
In just one year, the holes in the screen are almost completely closed by mineral deposits. Almost as if I were showering in Carlsbad Caverns. It takes me about 15 minutes with a brush and solvents to strip the crust and clear the holes. I suspect the screen looked a good deal like my teeth as the dentist cleaned them earlier this week.
But that task is done. The cleaning does not increase the water pressure, but, at least, the water does not spray everywhere other than where it should.
And I can now get ready for the land crabs and the rain. They cannot be too far behind.
After all, it's summer.