Friday, August 01, 2014

on the road to guadalajara

If Footloose was not such an odd name, I would claim it for myself.

Less than two weeks after my return from Oregon, I am on the road again.  Briefly, but my head is resting somewhere other than Melaque. 

Yesterday it was Guadalajara.  Add Friday and Saturday to the list.

Why Guadalajara?  For the past six years, I have driven through it on my way to the Mexican highlands and I have flown out of its airport several times.  But I have never visited the central part of the city.

That changed yesterday when two additional factors conjoined.  I needed to visit the American consulate to get some additional pages added to my passport.  I am flying to Shanghai in April.  To be admitted into the country, I need a visa.  To get the visa, I need two blank facing pages in my passport to provide a comfy little home for my entry ticket to Red China.

Even though my passport is less than five years old, each of its pages had been stamped.  But that is easily resolved.  With $82, a completed application form, and a four-hour drive to Guadalajara, I had my new pages by 3 in the afternoon.

The second factor was rather unexpected.  My fellow blogger Kim is visiting Mexico again (as you undoubtedly know from his blog), and because he was in Guadalajara, I decided it was time for me to see the city.

He was staying at a nifty little boutique hotel (Del Carmen) in the centro area -- near most of the historical sights.  So, I reserved a room for two nights.

Each of the nine rooms is decorated in the style of the suite's particular artist.  Cuevas.  Varo.  Tamayo.  Vlady.  Coronel.  Soriano.  Carrington.  Gerszo.  Friedberg.  You get the picture.  Mexican artists and their concepts in a comfortable living space.

I have the Varo suite.  We examined some of her art together last May in a tale of two cities.  Spool-top chairs.  Enfolding tile floors.  Enchanted forest wallpaper.  Whoever designed the place caught Varo's spirit.

But Guadalajara is more than just a place to sleep.  Being Mexico's second largest city, it is steeped in the nation's history -- often taking part as the conservative bastion of the country's events.

The city is filled with churches and their architectural splendors.  I do not include the cathedral as one of the splendors.  Its odd penitent cone hats masquerading as steeples give the building a rather chintzy aura.  Not unlike another church located in San Miguel de Allende.

But one of the sights I have been longing to see is José Clemente Orozco's
"The People and Its Leaders" mural in the Government Palace.  It is not his best work, but it is powerful.

Like most of the muralists, Orozco was a man of the left.  But he was not a government
apparatchik like Diego Rivera.  He saw the flaws in the Mexican Revolution, and he did not allow his politics to get in his way of satirizing its brutality.

This mural is a perfect example.  Several rather shallow guide books describe it as Miguel Hidalgo brandishing a firebrand against the forces of oppression and slavery.

I suppose that may be true at one level.  But a closer examination of the mural shows the forces of evil communism and fascism thriving -- despite of, or perhaps because of, the flame that Hidalgo lit.

Orozco was far too powerful of a muralist to be reduced to the Tomas Kinkade of the 1930s.

I have nothing on the agenda for today.  But I am certain Kim and I will find plenty to shoot and share with you.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

dengue and redheads

Almost every region in Mexico has a message board where expatriates can share information and lie about themselves a little.  Or a whole lot.

Because the sites allow anonymous postings, people do not seem to care that by repeating the silliest of rumors their reputations could be a bit tarnished.  When you aren't anyone, you have nothing to lose.  (For the record, I use my own name.)

One of the silliest things I have ever read (outside of the pages of The Onion) showed up on our Tom Zap message board this Sunday.  In what could pass for breathless melodrama, "unoboca" (the poster's rather-revealing name) told us all that a new strain of dengue -- no, let me give the floor to unoboca.  I could not possibly paraphrase this. 

JUST heard that a couple just moved to Melaque and built their retirement home. The husband got very ill and flew back to Canada.

He died today from a never seen before strain of DENGUE attacked him and dissolved his spleen then going from there it went through all his organs......

Are there anyone else sick from Dengue?

You should be worried...and take note......

He first thought he didn't feel good but it got worse....
Well, yes.  It got worse.  A lot worse.  It turned into a story that lacks all vestiges of veracity.

We later learn that the source of this ebola-like plague story comes from neither the Canadian Health service nor the Control for Disease Control.  The viral Paul Revere was "a customer of a landscaper friend of mine." 

What?  Was Joan Rivers too busy that day?

Of course, the story itself is so contradictory that only the "Elvis as Alien" crowd would even give it a second thought.

But unoboca is not alone in passing along tales too tall to be believed.  Several newspapers have run stories that redheads are becoming extinct because of -- yup, you guessed it -- climate change.

Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, said: "We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and in the North of England is adaption to the climate.  I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can.  If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene.  If it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, then yes, there would be fewer people carrying the gene."
The story, of course, flushed out all the usual suspects decrying the loss of a chorus line of Lucies.  A careful reading of all those "think"s is proof enough that the tale was built of tinkertoys.

But it turns out to be flimsier than that.  Much flimsier.

  • The red-head gene is a myth.  There is no single gene that results in fair skin and red hair.
  • People with red hair are no better at absorbing Vitamin D than their other-haired brethren.
  • Even if all of his premises were true, Alistair Moffat's grasp of how genes evolve is, well, on the same level of how some people believe dengue kills humans.
  • Just because the phrase "climate change" shows up in a news story is not a reason to automatically believe it.  Sloppy logic does not become less sloppy because someone calls himself a "scientist."
Having said all that, I must confess that I love finding these little tidbits here and there.  It reminds me that the world has not yet become enslaved by the rational.

After all, there is poetry in madness.  If not poetry; at least, humor.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

babes on the beach

Take a quick look.

This paparazzi-style shot may be the only photograph you will see of our latest batch of crocodile hatchlings.

I was heading out the door on my way to Manzanillo Monday morning when two friends excitedly called me to come out to the anadaor.  They could see baby crocodiles.

The day before I had found the open nest and the mother crocodile standing sentry.  But I saw no babies.

But there they were.  At least five -- if not more.  Crowded around the shore edge.  While they sunned, Mama played the role of life guard.  Literally, in this case.

Being a young creature is always difficult.  And it is no exception for these scaly reptiles.  They are perfect meals for a variety of predators.

When I returned on Monday afternoon, the babies had moved.  But I suspected they were nearby.  A tree stands a few feet from the hatchlings' beach.  And in the tree were three herons.

Remember what I said about baby crocodiles offering a perfect-sized meal?  Well, the herons were there to prove I am no liar.

When I went out to the laguna yesterday afternoon, a different type of predator had discovered Mama -- some of the rock-throwing children that plagued last year's hatch.  They were throwing stones at her from about ten feet away.  And she bore them almost as beatifically as Saint Stephen.

As I write this, there is a young mother with two small children standing on the bank and throwing parts of palm fronds at the crocodile.  She just handed several stones for throwing to her children.

This is the point where I remind myself of Steve's Hard-Learned Lessons of the Laguna:

  1. Crocodiles have lived in the laguna long before I arrived.
  2. Crocodiles will survive in the laguna long after I am gone.
  3. The laguna does not belong to me.
  4. The crocodiles do not belong to me.
  5. There is nothing I can do to alter the first four rules.
Other than the one sighting on Monday, I have seen neither claw nor scale of the little dragons.  But I will keep looking.  As you know from last year, they can show up in some of the oddest places.

And, if I do spot them, you will be the first to hear about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ah bin cut!

Well, burned.  And it is rather the same thing, isn't it?

For the past seven years, I have been growing a dark spot on the bridge of my nose.  I looked like a Brahmin suffering caste slippage.

It has never bothered me.  My appearance ranks on my list of concerns somewhere between having an extra buggy whip on hand and being eaten by piranha in my bathtub.  Anyone who has seen the way I dress will testify to that.

But the spot recently started to darken -- taking on the color of an over-roasted white truffle.  That may be why I started receiving remarks every other week or so about its appearance.

I needed to schedule an appointment with my dentist to have my teeth cleaned.  Her husband is a dermatologist with an office just two doors down from hers.  So, Monday morning I saw each of them.

I detest having my teeth cleaned.  There is something about that metal hook scraping across enamel that makes me long for fingernails on a chalkboard. 

But it is all for a good cause -- keeping my teeth in my head instead of in a glass on the nightstand.  And for $450 (Mx) [about $35 (US)], I certainly cannot complain.  It is torture well served.

With shining teeth, I walked a few feet to the dermatologist's office.  He looked at my "third eye," and sighed in the way doctors do when they either have something terrible to tell you -- or have nothing much at all to say.  In this case, it was the latter.

"Let's burn it off," he said in the same tone I would use to describe my car as green.  I thought that meant another appointment.

Nope.  I expected to hear, "How about next Tuesday at 2?"  Instead, it was: "Jump up on the table and lie down." 

More chatter to distract me as he hovered over me with his hypodermic filled with numb-juice.  A bit of burning.  A bit of waiting.

"Close your eyes.  Keep them closed."

At first I thought he wanted to protect my eyes.  But when the distinct smell of grilled meat filled the air, I knew the reason for the caution.  He didn't want me to flinch watching his burning tool headed toward my nose.

I now have a very good idea of how I would smell if I were ever a martyr for the faith condemned to the flames of the inquisition.  Something like an Argentine loin strip.

The whole thing took about ten minutes.  And I walked away with a somewhat-redder bridge and $1000 (MX) [$77 (US)] lighter.

With a bit of cream in the morning and the evening, I should heal up quite nicely.

I will now need a better method to show my caste.  Shorts, sandals, and a polo shirt sound just about right.


Monday, July 28, 2014

manning up

The heat and the humidity may not be good for Steve Cotton.  But the plants love it.

A month ago, the giant bougainvillea in my courtyard was laid low by a rainstorm.  But the gardener stripped it down to an arboreal version of Twiggy.  Nothing but limby -- well, limbs.  (man down)

In these parts, a month is like a lifetime (or lifeline) to a plant.  If you compare this photograph with the one I shot last month, you will see it is the same bougainvillea.  But a greatly-resurrected version.

Not only are there new shoots, it has already started to flower.  That is tenacity,

And if I paid more attention to how the plants enjoy these days, I might learn something.

Being a bit jungly here, there is always something new to discover.  People who enjoy their wildlife on the hoof will find this is just the place for them.  Or, as Lincoln put it, people who like this sort of thing are going to find it is the sort of thing they like.

For the last couple months I have noticed some odd crocodile activity in our end of the laguna.  And yesterday I discovered why.  A mother crocodile has recently uncovered her eggs and helped to free her young from their shells. 

I say "recent" because you can see she is still guarding the nest.  There are most likely a few unhatched eggs in the hole.

Somewhere nearby she has hidden her young.  A photographic expedition will be in order this coming week.

Get ready for baby photographs.  (Photographs of babies, that is.)

This is getting to be a far more interesting month.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

to bean or not to bean

We are on the cusp of what I call the Age of Aquarius here in Melaque -- when the combined heat and humidity makes me feel a bit piscine.

Actually, the hellish part of our summer started early this year.  We barely had the semblance of a winter.

But the weather is kicking into high gear.  Separating the mammals from the fish.  When we do not receive rain, we can be found in our showers trying to eke out some cool from the sun-heated water coming from our taps.

This is the season when I realize the wisdom of my Mexican neighbors.  They move their kitchens outside for the summer and cook over wood fires.  It adds another patina of truth that living here is a lot like camping.

Even though I have been back for a week, I had not cooked a meal at home.  When I was not eating in restaurants, I made sandwiches.

While walking through the market yesterday, I picked up a couple of sacks of fresh vegetables.  I could feel a pot of soup coming on.  Bean soup.

The downside of home-cooked bean soup is the amount of cooking time.  Especially for the beans themselves.

So, here I sit in a very hot house with a bowl of the best soup in town.  Some costs are a pleasure to pay when the benefit is so great.

Mandy Patinkin and Madonna are serenading me with their version of "What Can You Lose."  I decided that I needed music with as much subtext as my dinner.

Overall, it is a hot night.  And I am happy to be where I am.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

getting my ape on

Friday was my day in Manzanillo.

I knew since I returned I would need to make the trip.  My Escape is past due for its periodic maintenance.  I have had a spot on the bridge of my nose for seven years that needs a bit of examination.  And my teeth are itching for a good cleaning.

Of course, there was the long list of replacement items I needed to buy as a result of our little lightning strike.  The Telmex repairman managed to take two things off the list, but I still needed a cordless telephone and a power strip. 

I was not going to get sucked into buying a much more expensive voltage regulator-surge protector-backup battery unit.  I still have a smoking hulk to remind that there are no prophylactics for the rage of Mother Nature.

The trip south was successful -- and quick. My dentist and dermatologist are married to one another, and are just two offices down from one another.  A five minute stop earned me Monday appointments with both.

And Office Depot offered all of the equipment I needed.  A bit expensive, as are all electronic goods in Mexico, but I will now have a land line in the house.  I have found it helpful for the occasional telephone call north.  Telmex includes a limited number of long distance calls in my internet package.

Out of curiosity, I stopped at the Cinepolis multiplex to see if there were any movies worth seeing.  There was.  In 10 minutes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would start.  So, I bought a ticket.

I was never a big fan of the original series of movies, and I have not seen the first of the new series: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But I had read some very good reviews. 

As is often true of early matinees in Manzanillo, the theater was almost empty -- with the exception of about six young Mexican women who spent the next two hours texting on their telephones, and chatting with one another.  I have just come to expect it as part of the theater-going experience here. 

I assume they got bored with reading the insipid dialog in the subtitles.  I know it bored me just listening to it.

Rotten Tomatoes sums up the movie with this: "
With intelligence and emotional resonance to match its stunning special effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expands on its predecessor with an exciting and ambitious burst of sci-fi achievement."

I am not certain they watched the same movie I did.  The "intelligence and emotional resonance" is about the same level as those after-school television programs that the easy-to-please describe as classics.  About 20 minutes into the movie and I was looking for the remote control to change channels.

Because this is a prequel, you would have to have the attention span of a corn tortilla to be surprised by any of the hackneyed plot twists.  That is, if you can find the plot.  It is a linear story with few distractions to spice its inevitable march to the bank with our ticket sales.

A lot of money went into making the apes look "real" -- or as real as can be expected for an audience who has never seen apes in the wild.  Instead of the deplorable shag rug costumes hiding human actors in the original series, the apes are computer generated using the movements of actors.

That sounds as if it should be awesome.  It isn't.  Close up, the apes are as cutely anthropomorphic as any Disney creature.  Where the image falls apart is in long shots.  Gravity appears to have minimal effect on the apes.  Leaving them looking like a cross between bulky birds and a Cirque du Soleil act.

I was about to say that I might approach the movie a bit differently had I seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  And maybe I should.

Naw!  I've wasted enough time on this drivel.  Instead, I will watch a DVD of Company -- and find true intelligence and emotional resonance.

I was so busy muttering about the movie on my way back to Melaque that I forgot to stop at the Ford dealership to set an appointment for my Escape.  But I have a new telephone that is just the right instrument to solve that problem.

It is good to be back in the saddle in Melaque.