30 June 2009

Public Library

There is more often a bird on the Ignacio Allende's hat than not. If you don't believe me, scroll about three-quarters of the way down on this page.

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There can perhaps be no more eloquent testimony regarding the terrain on which this city is situated than the fact that the police motorcycles are dirt bikes, really good dirt bikes but dirt bikes nonetheless.

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Public libraries in México are not a given in any particular city. They are not as common as in the United States. This is the entrance to the public library at calle Insurgentes No. 25 in San Miguel. It is an unprepossessing thing from the outside.

The distinguishing feature of nearly every Mexican building in this part of the country is the central courtyard. So it is with the public library. I was at one of the tables with an umbrella and took snapshots in various directions.

The public library in San Miguel is in existence because of the philanthropy of a lady originally from the United States. It is a bilingual library in the sense that the staff all speak both Spanish and English and the books shelved there are both Spanish and English ones.

Some of the stacks are just under the roof off the courtyard. I cannot immediately think of a better way to say this. I am referring to my surprise that books are shelved so close to the elements.

I found the library to be a charming place. It is open from 10:00 a..m. to 7:00 p.m. There is a wifi connection there for the laptop.

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On my walk home from the library yesterday, I encountered these guys on their way to deliver cargo to the central square.

28 June 2009

This is it for awhile! I promise!

I know. I know. This particular musical interlude has extended on beyond its time. It's just that it has been raining all weekend here, and I could not get out. Do I ever have a case of cabin fever! However, the sun is rising in a beautiful, cloudless sky over San Miguel de Allende this Sunday morning. The church bells have been ringing and the aerial bombs have been going off calling the folks to mass. I am outa here right after my shower.

I mentioned in an earlier entry how I had gotten hooked on George Strait during my stay up there in Luckenbach, Texas, before heading south. I have never before tried a Texas style country and western tune myself, just honky tonk. I decided to take a shot at my favorite George Strait tune. Here it is for what it's worth. Then we will get back to México.

So Good In Love from Uncle Steve on Vimeo.

27 June 2009

Beans & Rice

I continue to be amazed at the nutritional mileage one can get out of beans and rice. I have always been quite fond of those staples. Back when I used to visit New Orleans, my first food order there would more often than not be a beans and rice dish. Of course those beans and rice dishes were a little more elaborate than the ones I am preparing here in México. My point is, though, that beans and rice have never been an entrée that repulses me or simply leaves me cold at all. And thank goodness because I am convinced now that one could survive indefinitely for pennies on beans and rice.

Here is some product of my thought on this subject that could be of enormous value to you at some point in the future.

There will come a time in the United States when the fabric of civilization will be rent irreparably, and through that rent there will step the forces of barbarism. Institutions will melt down and disappear. The armed representatives of law enforcement will devolve into simple extortionists and terrorists in uniform and do battle over turf with their coequals, the Crips and the Bloods. Schools will close, and emaciated and rapacious nine-year-olds will roam the streets with the last few remaining cats. Buses will stop running.

The sky will be black with smoke.

Utilities will stop sending bills after long since having stopped providing service. There will only be large, gray cinder block shells where Walmart, Target, and Kmart used to be. Not only will there be no more Red Lobsters in the Midwest, there will be no more fish, living or dead, in the Midwest.

Insurance salesmen and real estate brokers from the southwest, their suits in tatters, will be doing battle with Mexican Minute Men in order to cross the border with their surviving loved ones to the relative peace and security of México.

Those families back home that have been able to survive the initial onslaught and gather their surviving members together will be hunkered down in brick ranch houses surrounded by barbed wire and improvised barricades constructed of abandoned recycling bins filled with sand. Family members will be armed as best as they have been able to arm themselves. The tanks of the useless vehicles in the garages will be drained and the gasoline parceled into empty Perrier bottles and some few S. Pellegrino bottles, which in turn will be lined up next to the windows in groups of six with tampons rubber banded to the tops.

I must say, though, that only those families with the foresight to have laid by bags of rice and dried beans will have any real chance of survival. Those utterly ruthless marauders outside the barricades around those brick ranch houses may find other ways to break down these families' defenses, but the bastards will never starve these good folks out as long as bags of rice and dried beans have been properly laid by.

They will need potable water, too, it goes without saying. And if they can lay hands on citrus juice of some sort, that would go a long way toward preventing their gums from bleeding and losing a grip on their teeth. However, the young people's gums will endure far longer than the old folks'. Those young people can be used to chew the rice for the old folks as long as the young people are beaten without fail when they succumb to temptation and swallow an old person's share of rice. The old folks can gum properly cooked beans for themselves.

It is difficult to overestimate the value of having beans and rice in one's arsenal against the impending Apocalypse. I suggest that you also keep handy a Presto stainless steel pressure cooker. Do not go with aluminum. And make that one with a minimum of four-quarts of capacity.

Okay, Ruthie.

California Ruthie, you are a sweetheart! (Actually, Cedar Rapids Ruthie is, too.)

You asked about the guitar in your comment on the previous entry. I cannot give a short answer to the simplest question anymore. The short answer would be that it is a Sierra Alpine SD35CE. Although I had never heard of Sierra guitars before, I was fond of this one from the first moment of our acquaintance in the store in Lindale, Texas, back in early May. I needed a relatively inexpensive guitar so that if a drunk put his foot through it during that Pickin' in the Pines music festival up there, I would not necessarily turn homicidal. I grow more and more fond of it as time goes by.

Your "little Martin" is most likely worth a little fortune now, Ruthie.

You asked for an encore. This is the closest that I can come to Mississippi John Hurt for you.

In the Evenin' from Uncle Steve on Vimeo.

Musical Interlude

We are long overdue for another musical interlude.

26 June 2009

United States 2, Spain 0

The game of last Wednesday evening between the United State and Spain was historic in sports. Mexicans are still talking about it. There is a game coming up down the road between the United States and Mexico, and it is going to get raucous around here.

This is an entertaining video of announcers calling United States' goals in various languages. Even if you have no interest at all in soccer, it is very entertaining.

But the impressive one for me was the announcer yelling "God is great!" in Arabic after the second goal by the United States. Obviously, fans from many different countries around the world were ready to see Spain finally lose.

Credit must go to my son for pointing out these videos to me.

25 June 2009


I gave out some bad information previously. I had no understanding of the Mexican governmental units at the time. I said that the population of San Miguel de Allende is 139,000. It is true that the population of the municipality of San Miguel de Allende is approximately 139,000. However, “municipalities” in México are like our counties or parishes. I am in the Mexican state of Guanajuato and in the “county” of San Miguel de Allende. The “county seat” of that county is the city of San Miguel de Allende. The city of San Miguel de Allende has a population of 80,000.

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You will recall that back on June 3 for reasons unknown to me to this day, I came across the border with no pesos. Also, I had had great good intentions to study my Spanish hard in Texas before crossing the border so that I at least had a smattering of Spanish when the time came. Of course as it turned out, I got so busy playing in Texas that I never once cracked my Spanish books before the big day. Therefore, I came across the border not only with no pesos but with no Spanish, all of which led to grave difficulties that we will not review here, except to say that the Mexican police happily accept American dollars.

The upshot of all that was that I learned how to ask in Spanish, “Where is the ATM?” before I learned how to ask in Spanish “Where is the men's room.” By the way, they are called las cajeras automáticos--ATM's, not the men's rooms.

Several of you have previously traveled about down here. For you all of what I am writing about today is old hat. This is for the folks who have never traveled here. I am going to reveal more of my abysmal ignorance when I crossed that border.

First of all, the symbol used for pesos in Mexico is the same symbol that we use for dollars in the U.S., that is, this: $. I did not know that. I cannot tell you what I thought the symbol for a peso was. I just never gave it any thought at all. I guess I assumed that when confronted with this new monetary symbol, whatever it was, I would say to myself, “Oh! That must be the symbol for a peso!”

So then, the first time that I hit the ATM here, I used a Visa card, which is what I had used with the French ATM's. It had worked quite well there, although the transaction fees were a little daunting. I was nervous that first time because I really needed some pesos to buy gasoline, and I had no idea whether I could get anything out of the ATM's here or not. At this point the Mexican police had all the dollars that I had brought across the border with me.

When confronted with the screen that seemed to be asking how much I wished to withdraw on my credit card, I chose “$100.00,” thinking that I would get 100 American dollars worth of something because of that dollar sign. The machine gave me 100 pesos.

Well shit, 100 pesos is like $7.50 American. Later when I saw the Visa statement on line, I came to appreciate that the fees for that transaction far, far exceeded the principal amount that I had actually received. At the time I did appreciate that I had received something less than I had expected, so I hit that ATM again, this time for $500.00. After I got those pesos and finally did a little math, I was getting the hang of what was going on. I knew that I still needed more pesos than what I had. And so I tried to hit that same ATM again a third time.

Now of course my Visa people have no idea whatsoever that I am in México. My third attempt to hit that ATM set off alarm bells somewhere, and the Visa computer in the sky shut down my card because of suspicious transactions being undertaken by someone in México.

Later, it took a marathon telephone conversation with a snotty Visa lady to get that fixed and get my card reinstated. It was a telephone call that I had to make with the Skype program on my laptop because I do not have a real telephone anymore. But you know something? Skype works pretty well. It is a little tricky navigating an automated menu with Skype for reasons I will not bore you with. But on the whole Skype works pretty well. As far as the snotty Visa lady was concerned, I had to abase myself utterly and admit to her what a dumb shit I was and assure her that I myself was indeed the author of those suspicious transactions undertaken by somebody in México.

Now I get along fine with the ATM's here and use my ATM card issued by my Cedar Rapids bank. That works well. In fact Banco del Bajio here in San Miguel de Allende tells me what the balance of my checking account in Cedar Rapids is on the ATM slip that I get from it, which is something that my Cedar Rapids bank has been unable to do on its ATM slips for a couple of years now. Moreover, Banco del Bajio tells me what my Cedar Rapids checking account balance is in pesos. It is still pretty cool for me to see, for example, that my checking account balance is $22,535.44.

El Restaurante

I neglected to report back on the restaurant where I dined last evening. This is the entrance to the one I chose. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant is. Do you see a name anywhere?

This guy greeted me inside the door. I refer to the guy with the big sombrero, not Jesus. This restaurant has no roof. It is situated in a kind of private alley.

This is an "al carbón" place, meaning that the meat is cooked over charcoal.

Here are the guys back at the grill behind the tables. They were very good sports about my Spanish.

Yes, I partook of meat for the first time in a long time. I had four beefsteak tacos, those being put together with corn flower soft shelled tortillas, along with a grapefruit Fresca. This is the last time I am going to say "soft shelled." There is no such thing down here as those hard taco shells we get out of a box wherein they are nested into each other like Pringles. That is something that is American Mexican, if you will. So even when I say "taco," put that image of a hard shell out of your mind. No such thing here, kids.

I am not sure why I took along a wad of pesos. I was stuffed on 34 pesos, or $2.56 American.

24 June 2009

**dum vivimus vivamus redux

I must return to subject of Dial soap for a time because Dial soap has become hugely significant and profoundly symbolic.

Remember how I went through all of that sturm und drang back on May 30 when faced with the choice of staying with the old folks at Oleander Acres in Mission, Texas, or heading on into México? The conclusion was that my endeavor to age on my own terms would be better served by heading on into México. That recent grumping about Dial soap, or more properly the lack of it, was an alarming sign that I was back sliding. I shall explain.

Some people chose to pitch their battle against aging in the physical arena. The option of plastic surgery is an extreme example of that. This is on my mind because so many of the Americans here have come here for cheap plastic surgery. The routine is that you come here and have that repulsive face lift surgery for just a couple of bucks. You loaf around San Miguel de Allende for two or three months while you heal up. Then you return home and foist your new self upon old friends and family most of whom lie to you about how marvelous it looks because really it looks like shit.

As a strategy in the war against aging, it simply does not work. What are these people hoping to accomplish? Are they afraid that they will not get laid anymore? I have to think that is part of it. As a result in great part of this fear that they will not get laid anymore, these folks are unable to accept the idea of aging at all. They are so incapable of accepting the concept of aging, in fact, that they are willing to undergo horrendous physical torture.

But who among us wants to have sex with Joan Rivers?

I am conceding the field of battle with aging in the physical arena to the forces of aging. There is no army of plastic surgeons in the world who are capable of making me look like Adonis again. I am eating well and exercising, and I no longer inundate my body with poisons. However, that is as far as it goes. I do not even buy any of those creams or unguents anymore.

I really do not give a damn whether I ever get laid again or not. Getting laid cost me thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars and brought me truckloads of pain and heartache. The only good things I got from getting laid were three beautiful daughters and a son who is beautiful in his own way, too.

So we can set all that aside. What I am attempting, as I inarticulately tried to explain on May 30, is to alter how I am aging mentally. I want to age mentally on my own terms.

One of the hallmarks of the typically aging man, based upon my observations, is the gradual loss of mental flexibility. The gradual loss of an ability to stomach change. The gradual loss of any urge whatsoever to try something new. The gradual loss of any ability to let go of the familiar and embrace the unfamiliar. Sometimes this loss is not so gradual. (Do you realize, for example, that for most of us our musical tastes are set in stone by the time we attain age 30, and then it never changes for the rest of our lives?)

This is precisely why bullshit chain restaurants like the Olive Garden thrive in the United States. Mentally old people can visit a new city, go eat in the Olive Garden there, and look at a menu that lists exactly the same crap that they so much enjoy eating at the Olive Garden back in their home city. God forbid that they might try an unfamiliar locally owned restaurant in that new city. Christ!

But this whole thing can manifest itself in seemingly trivial ways, too.

“Good ole Harv. Every morning he went out for his walk at 9:00 precisely. You could set your watch by him. He just didn't feel right if he didn't get that walk in, God rest his soul.”

Would it have been too much to have asked of Harv to try taking a walk at 4:00 in the afternoon once in a while, just to see what it was like? Also, that personality of Harv's is the one that bitches and complains about anything that smacks of newness or unfamiliarity. No need to belabor this anymore because y'all know what I am talking about.

The startling thing is that while we picture Harv in those days as a seventy-five-year-old man, the phenomenon I am talking about gets its grips on men much younger. I know men years younger than I who are in such deep ruts in their lives that they cannot see out over the top edge anymore. They could no more make any significant change in their lives than they could sprout wings, jump off the I.E. Tower in Cedar Rapids, and fly to Iowa City. They might as well be seventy-five years old chronologically because they are already seventy-five years old mentally. They have absolutely no ability to change or adapt anymore. And they do not care. More power to them.

But then . . . but then. . .all of the sudden there I am bitching because I cannot get Dial soap here in México! Just like a crotchety seventy-five-year-old dumb ass. I was upset because something familiar in my daily life was no longer there. That was a disconcerting case of backsliding once I got focused and thought about it. Fuck, I might as well have been bitching because everybody seems to speak Spanish in México.

So here is how we handle that. . . . . .

Dial soap,” you say? What is that? My brand is Escudo soap. It is “antibacterial.” It has “Vitamina E” in it. It has a little caped crusader on the wrapper. Escudo means “shield,” which is cool. It is quite heavily perfumed, but the Mexicans and I like heavily perfumed soap. That's just the way we are down here. We like lots of perfume in all of our personal grooming products here in México, the Mexicans and I do.

There. I feel ten years younger.

I do have this right eyelid that is starting to droop though. It is an hereditary thing as my eye guy, Dr. Mark, explained to me. He is right. Many of my male ancestors staring out of the daguerreotypes with their Civil War uniforms on, have a drooping eyelid. It is worse when I am fatigued. I will probably have to have this one cinched up a little by a plastic surgeon, perhaps down here. But that is all I am going to have done. And that is for legitimate health reasons. It has nothing to do with getting laid. My peripheral vision will eventually be affected, Dr. Mark says.

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By the way all that whimpering and whining about Mexican eating establishments that I was doing recently is also intimately related to what I have written about above. Fuck that. I have pulled some serious pesos from the ATM, and I am going down the street to dine at a legitimate Mexican restaurant this evening--not one of those prissy, faux Mexican restaurants up on the plaza. I will probably stop at a street stand on the way for some appetizers. So if you don't hear from me again. . . .

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**”While we live, let us live.” (So that you don't have to check with your priest again.)


It was really cold last evening, and I ran out of propane, the thing that I have been dreading. I am on line here desperately doing a Mexican propane research.

My quest for propane is already turning into a great adventure.

I will report back, but in the meantime for those rare souls who might be interested, here is a peak at what I am up against.

I shall return with or without propane or butane or a mixture of propane and butane.

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[Dateline: Two and a half hours later.] What a let down! That was too easy, thanks to the internet. The expatriated Americans here have set up a couple of web sites recommending local establishment for these or those services and goods. Apparently, Jesús at Noel Gas wormed his way into some Americans' good graces, because that was touted as the place to go. And it was. There were even directions. It was way out in the country though, on the way to Dolores Hidalgo up the road.

It was an exchange of tanks just like we do it with the gas grill tanks back home, except here you get a beat up Mexican tank in exchange for your pristine one. As far as vocabulary, the only new word I had to learn in advance was el propana, and then I had to refresh myself on el tanque from my gasoline station vocabulary.

It is just that you never know what you are going to run into when you go out on an errand like this.

The adventure—actually, “ordeal” would be a better term—was right back here at the campsite. I damned near had to completely dismantle the camper in order dismount the old propane tank and mount the new propane tank. With the forward bed chamber extended out over the tongue, there was not sufficient clearance underneath to allow me to lift out the old tank and then drop in the new one. I had to take all that shit out of there and push in the front bed chamber all the way in order to pull the old tank and drop in the new one.

It's done though. I had my coffee at the lunch hour instead of in the early morning.

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What do you think of this, Candy? Is that what you had in mind?

It is odd. I saw that abandoned pallet some time ago down at the end of the campground, and I remember mentally noting how handy pallets can be sometimes. Previously, I had consider the welcome mat, but I could not figure out how the mat would profit me when I would simply be throwing in down in the mud outside my door. I did not put those two concepts, the pallet and the welcome mat, together in my own mind.

I am kind of ashamed that you had to explain the whole package for me. But what the hell? This trek is turning out to be a group project anyway.

It is not a patio, but it is a huge improvement over that with which I was dealing before.

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I have a totally unrelated confession to make. I got hooked on George Strait's music during that month up there in the San Antonio area, his home. I am a late comer, but like the recent convert to Catholicism, I am becoming a more devout fan of George than are his life-long believers.

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My feet are tan. I cannot remember the last time my feet were tan. In fact these feet are quite seriously tanned right now. I had forgotten how neat looking that is. I will spare you from photos of them though. . .unless you really, really want to see photos of them, that is.

22 June 2009

An Early Summer Night's Dream

All of us must take pause occasionally and assess our wants and needs. These lists are works in progress, and I am amending them as matters develop down here in old México.

Things that I have been able to find after some difficulty:

1. Skippy peanut butter, creamy style, in the very large jar (48 oz.; 1.36 kg.);
2. Dawn dish washing liquid;
3. A large container of roasted and salted peanuts, albeit very expensive (1.27 kg.);
4. Clothespins;
5. A No. 1142, 12 volt automotive tail light bulb for the ceiling light in my camper.

Things that I have been unable to find in spite of great difficulty:

1. Skippy peanut butter, chunky style, in any size jar whatsoever;
2. Dial soap;
3. Tide laundry detergent;
4. Pledge Multi-Surface Clean and Dust;
5. A laundromat—laundries and dry cleaning establishments are in abundant supply, but I need a laundromat;
6. Last, but certainly not least, Little Debbie's Oatmeal Creme Pies.

I am not one of those Americans who has to have his American shit in foreign countries. I am just saying that all things being equal, I would like some goddamned Dial soap, simply because I am used to it. And it kills bacteria.

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I had a dream last night, which is in fact what motivated me to write this entry.

I was walking home from the opera in very dark and deserted streets. Suddenly, a Mexican in a long black coat loomed up in front me, a very large Mexican with his hands in his pockets in a menacing sort of way. A white scar line ran from his forehead through his left eye on down to his jawline below his left ear. I stopped abruptly, thinking that I had very nearly run down a mariachi Captain Ahab.

Mi amigo, I have what you need,” he said cryptically. His voice was raspy.

“How do you know what I need, compadre?” I asked, playing along with his false air of camaraderie.

“We have ways of learning information here in old México, I assure you.”

“Okay, I'll play your game. What is it that I need?” I said.

“Do exactly as I say. Keep your eyes on my right hand.”

“How can I keep my eyes on your right hand when your right hand is in your pocket?” I asked.

“Do not pick bones with me, chingacho, or we will go for a ride together into the desert.”

“I'm keeping my eyes on your right hand.”

With that he pulled his left hand out of the pocket of his coat and pointed above to the dim, useless street light a few yards away. Obviously, he did this to distract the attention of anyone who might be watching because at the same time him pulled his right fist out of his other coat pocket, lowered it below his waist, and opened it. In his palm lay an Oatmeal Creme Pie by Little Debbie, one of those larger ones with the individual wrapping still affixed.

“Where did you get that?” I gasped and started fumbling in my pocket for pesos. “They don't even have those at the Mega store.”

“Don't give me money here in the street, idiota! Do you want to get us both killed?”

“Well, no, but I need that Oatmeal Creme Pie. I admit it. And I'm willing to pay top peso. I can't believe you have one of the big ones!”

“We can do business, but let us step into this alley,” he said.

We stepped into the nearby alley, both of us looking back over our shoulders as we did so. The darkness was near total.

“Quickly, give me all the pesos that you have in your pocket,” he hissed.

“But. . . . .”

“Do as I say! Be quick about it,”

I pulled a fist full of Mexican bills from my pocket. You could discern some 100's, a couple of 500's, and some other smaller bills in what light there was. There must have been. . .oh. . .two or three American dollars worth of money in that wad!

He grabbed it and laughed at me--laughed at my obviously abject craving as he slapped that Oatmeal Creme Pie in my palm.

“You solipsists are all alike. Totally self-focused and helpless slaves to your own needs.”

His laughter echoed loudly in that alley now.

“And by the way, fuck Little Debbie!”

Then in a heartbeat the alley was silent, and he had disappeared.

I desperately called out, “Wait! Do you have any chunky style Skippy peanut butter? Any size jar will do!”

When the echo of my own words had ebbed away, there was only silence.

I stepped back out of the alley and continued my walk home at a faster pace now and preternaturally aware of my surroundings and all that was going on around me, which was pretty much nothing.

Finally, I reached the camper, the Oatmeal Creme Pie safely in my hip pocket. After fumbling with the key for what seemed like an eternity, I managed to get the door open. You know how it sometimes feels as if you are moving through syrup in a dream? I stepped in and immediately locked the door behind me after tossing the Oatmeal Creme Pie on the counter, wishing so much that I also had a security chain.

I pulled the drapes, turned on the light, and hastily tore the cushion off one of the dinette set seats. I dug frantically through the secret compartment in the base of that seat and found the two-and-a-half foot length of surgical tubing. I sat down on the other dinette seat without even replacing the cushion on the opposite one. I made one wrap around my left arm with the surgical tubing just above the elbow, and with one end between my teeth, I jerked the tubing tight with my free hand. The veins in my arm soon stood out.

I unwrapped and downed that large Oatmeal Creme Pie forcing myself to do so in four bites instead of two, savoring each bite with a long chew. Soon the ceiling light in the camper with the little, hard-to-find No. 1142 automotive bulb from the Mega store began to dance, and then the light broke apart as if seen through a prism and my camper was flooded in brilliant colors. I drifted off. . . . . .

That Guy with the Bullhorn Again

A few entries back in the comments section, I had an exchange with Spike about the man down the street from my campsite with the bullhorn who cranks it up at about 7:00 pm and starts chanting and chanting and chanting. At least that is how I described it. Spike was going to get an expert consultation on what might be going on.

Then I misled Spike, misled myself, and probably misled the consultants. One morning I had walked past the carnival, which was in more than ordinary dishabille as if it might be preparing to leave town. When the cantor had at it again the following evening, I eliminated the carnival as a possible source of these goings on, because I assumed it had left town.

I then theorized that this was a street preacher, a pentecostal preacher perhaps. The obvious fervor of the cantor seemed consistent with that.

This evening the old bullhorn cranked up again. I determined simply to quit bitching and get up off my ass and go investigate. There was no way to concentrate on reading, or music, or anything else, I assure you. You cannot conceive of how loud and relentless this performance is. It drives me nuts!

I followed the sound to its source at the carnival. It was a pitchman selling stuff, actually a cross between a pitchman and an auctioneer. As far as spectator activities are concerned here, moving from the opera to this is truly moving from the high brow to the low brow in Mexican society

The guy stands on a podium in the middle of a huge tent that has one side open. The citizenry gather there in larger or smaller numbers depending on the whims of the gods of consumer capitalism and the time of the evening.

It is not a bullhorn, just a head mike jacked into a sound system heavy on the volume and light on the quality. He is surrounded by stacks and stacks of cheap consumer goods. Nothing complicated, mind you--simple, cheap stuff like plastic buckets, plastic bowls, plastic wash pans, blankets, flatware, and on and on. He also has helpers moving about passing him the goods and watching the crowd for bids.

And he sells this stuff. And sells this stuff. And sells this stuff. And sells this stuff into the evening and with unbelievable endurance. I only notice a shift change about every two hours.

That mystery is now solved, but the solution has done nothing to give me some peace. The open side of that tent faces directly toward my camper about a block and a half away. It is like a Hollywood Bowl performance of auctioneers directed right at me.

It is the Sabbath! Don't they know it is the Sabbath? We should not be doing this in the evening of the Sabbath.

21 June 2009

Teatro Ángela Peralta Revisited

Mural from the lobby of Teatro Ángela Peralta.

Barb asked some questions about the opera last night, and so I will add a bit. Those who are mortally bored will have to. . . .be mortally bored, I guess.

This was definitely the culmination of a national competition. The director of the national opera in Mexico City was in attendance and spoke. Some other Mexican opera pooh-bah was also in attendance. I am not tying to overly dramatize it, but it was obviously a big deal in terms of young talent.

It was a sell-out. I had purchased my ticket some days ago, thank goodness. But nonetheless, it is usually possible to find the single, odd ticket to events like this. I hasten to add, though, that this is a small theater. I am awful at guessing capacities, so let's just say it was cozy.

The crowd in this little theater was about half and half insofar as I could judge it. The master of ceremonies did everything totally bilingually. She announced in Spanish and then repeated everything in English.

There are a lot of wealthy Americans living here, and some Americans are here for their cheap plastic surgery. Attending the opera makes these folks' hearts beat ever so much faster. Know what I mean? In fact I have the strong feeling that the San Miguel Opera is the pet project of some of the wealthy Americans. So anyway, there was an American layer in the crowd that was dressed pretty impressively.

Then there were the 60-year-old American hippies whom I probably most resembled. This is what I was able to put together with the bits of clothing that I have with me. It worked okay, I thought.

The Mexicans were dressed in everything from blue jeans to really cool, very tasteful clothing.

Actually, the dress was similar to what I have experienced at regional opera houses in the U.S.A. It ran the gamut. It was not like Lincoln Center or The Met. No.

Teatro Ángela Peralta

This is only a guess. But I am guessing that I am the only person who was in attendance at Teatro Ángela Peralta this evening who had hand-washed his underwear the previous Saturday afternoon in preparation for the occasion. I know I was the only male who had hand-washed his underwear, and frankly, I did not see any women who looked like they had hand-washed their's, but women's appearances can be tricky that way.

This theater was built in 1914, and it is cuter than a bug's ear. I really enjoyed finally seeing the interior.

The eleven contestants singing tonight were finalists chosen from some 130 Mexican singers. I do not know how the 130 were chosen. Perhaps they just sent in a slip of paper and entered the contest. I simply do not know. However, these eleven were extraordinary.

Not everyone is interested in this. I shall make it brief. The contestants each sang one aria from this or that opera, and then we had an intermission. The contestants then each sang another aria from a different opera of their choosing. This is coed competition. There is no men's division and women's division.

A soprano named Linda Gutiérrez won the competition. Her first aria was from an opera by Dvorák, Rusalka. This was very interesting to me. I had never heard of the work. But then for her second offering she went to the “Vissi d'arte,Vissi d'amore” aria from Tosca and just tore it up. It brought tears to my eyes.

I had to take in a little mariachi afterward on the plaza just to loosen back up a little before heading home.

20 June 2009

A Forthcoming Night at the Opera

I was a working stiff today.

I did laundry.

Here the floor of the camper is drying after I washed it.

I walked about and bought supplies.

And tonight I am rewarding myself with a night at the opera at Teatro Ángela Peralta here in San Miguel.

I had given up on enjoying any live opera for the foreseeable future when I set out on this trip a couple of months ago. Much to my surprise and joy, I found that a major annual Mexican concurso or competition is is being here tonight. I shall be in attendance without my tux, but that's all right here.

The artists who compete at these concursos are not somebody's kids. They are the real thing, and this competition is kind of a big deal here in Mexico. Some of you may enjoy listening to brief highlights of last year's competition. . . . . won by a mezzo! The sound quality of this clip is fairly decent.

The guy who does the Tosca aria slightly more than halfway through the clip kicks ass as do the rest, each in their own way.

In any event I am fired up and will report back.

19 June 2009

"There'll be a change in the weather . . . ."

It is indeed the rainy season. There was lots of rain again today. The pattern is that a squall line moves though dumping some rain. Then the sun comes out. Then another squall line moves through, not uncommonly with some lightning and thunder.

The rain at 4:00 p.m. today was a dandy. An utter downpour, but there was no wind, lightning, or thunder. It just came straight down in buckets. I pulled my swim suit on, went out with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water, and washed the truck. It was a good system. I never had to stop to rinse. That rain rinsed the soapy water off the truck right behind me as I progressed around it. The truck really was due for a wash, and this was the cheapest one it had ever had in its entire existence.

When all was said and done, I was pretty squeaky clean myself. I used to wash the family car in this way when I was a kid and when the opportunity presented itself. It is just as much fun now.

I think we need another original video for the blog here, and one of these downpours shot from inside and around the little camper might be an entertaining subject. I will try to be prepared for the next big rain.

On the down side do I ever miss my concrete patio outside my front door at Oleander Acres now that the rains are here! Of the places I have set up so far, Canyon Lake, Armadillo Farm, Pickin' in the Pines, Oleander Acres, and here, the only place where I had a concrete patio was Oleander Acres. Those of you who have done this before know what an important amenity that is. The rest of you can imagine if you just think about it for a moment.

Tomorrow I will be on my hands and knees washing my floor once again.

18 June 2009


After a beautiful sunny day of 79°F. and 50% humidity, it is raining heavily again tonight with lightening and thunder.

Something only indirectly related to México. . . . . . . . . .

The slowing of the pace of life has so many unexpected consequences, small but delightful consequences. One of those consequences for me is the true enjoyment for the first time of two quite old, popular music albums. After thinking about it for a time, what I initially thought a small consequence is not so small after all.

My mornings currently are leisurely affairs. The first task upon awaking is to make a pot of coffee and drink a cup. Then I have a little fruit. I wash the dirty dishes and pots from the previous evening's meal. I have another cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and contemplate my wardrobe. I might write a little bit for the blog at some point in there while having another cup of coffee or some juice. I then shower up, brush my teeth, and ponder the wardrobe even more seriously. After getting some clean clothes on, I usually sit in the sun while my hair dries and listen to music on the iPod. That is precisely what has brought about this phenomenon I am writing about now.

Blonde on Blonde was a big, big album for Bob Dylan back in the mid-sixties. I am writing this without a connection to the internet. My recollection is that I was either a senior in high school or a freshman in college when this album came out. In any event, I purchased it immediately upon its first appearance. Many, many times over the succeeding years, I had heard songs from that album. It was not until just a couple of days ago sitting out there in my folding chair in the Mexican sun that I first really listened to that album in its entirety. It was a fascinating experience.

After listening to the first three or four tunes on Blonde on Blonde--you will recall that the first one is Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, an anthem that I have almost by heart—I was electrified. I use that word realizing that I am at risk of sounding overly dramatic. There are great, great tunes on this album that I had literally never really heard before, even though the damned album has been a part of my life for over forty years.

I listened to the whole album straight through, which is a lot of music given that this is a double album. I got a bit burned, as a matter of fact. It became apparent to me that I had not heard these other songs from this album before because either I had not had enough time truly to listen or I could not listen attentively because I was distracted by other things—you know—life in the fast lane. Drinking took up a lot of time, too.

I did always appreciate that Blonde on Blonde is a classic pop record album. I have now had a chance to listen to this classic pop record album.

There is a second old pop record album in a different category in my own experience. It is Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. This is an album nearly as old as Blonde on Blonde. I believe that it came out about four years later. I had never owned this album, however, until earlier this year. During one marriage or another I have owned every other early Van Morrison album.

When I look at the cover of Astral Weeks I am transported back to my undergraduate days. Back then it seemed as if everyone I knew had this album in their stack. I have this picture of it sitting around in various friends' apartments in Iowa City. But the thing is, nobody ever listened to it back then. It was an indispensable part of many folks' record collections, but it was certainly not an indispensable album to listen to apparently.

I myself had never heard the thing until I purchased it this year, I swear. Now, and as with Blonde on Blonde, I have had a chance to listen to this album without being rushed and without being distracted. It is a masterpiece. I had been missing a wonderful musical experience that was sitting there under my nose but that I had been ignoring for decades.

I would still be missing the true experience of these two bodies of music were it not for my mornings in Mexico now. Perhaps my newfound delight with these two pop record albums does not alone totally justify my leisurely mornings in Mexico, but from my point of view it comes very close.

17 June 2009

Rainy Season?

I don't know whether you can see clearly enough behind me in this photo this evening, but the rainy season may have arrived. It is pouring out there on the pool.

Just look at this. . . . . . .

This is the kind of crap that I have to put up with on a day-to-day basis.

Día de los Locos

This is a video done in a previous year, but it certainly is a fair representation of what went on here this past weekend during the latest "Festival of Crazy People." About one minute of this, and you will have the idea.

The Tuesday Market

Arlene Krasner in her article at Sally's Place was not blowing smoke about Tianguis del Martes, the Tuesday market. It is huge. Make no mistake about it. This is the big one.

And it comports more closely with my mental image of a Mexican open market. It truly is open.

Unfortunately, I could not noodle out directions to this market from any source on my own, and Arlene turned out to be right. It is not within walking distance like the other two markets. So today I pissed away some money by hiring a cab out and another cab back in order to find the place. Not much money though. This was the first time I have paid for a cab in México. I will not need to again in order to get to this market. The route was simple, and there is plenty of free parking there for my truck.

The conversations in Spanish in the cabs today went well.

Some of my male friends are undoubtedly muttering that Steve has gone completely insane if he is getting fond of these markets. However, those same male friends, like me, can go into a hardware store and easily browse for more than an hour without buying anything.

Check this out gentlemen:

Used hand tools.

Used power tools.

Used tool tools.

This is just a small sampling. I browsed through thousands and thousands of used tools today, and I am confident that my use of the term “thousands” is not a stretch.

Here is one of the extra tight jeans stalls--just one of many.

I honestly am not sure what you could not buy at Tianguis del Martes.

As for me, today I purchased a kilo of pinto beans, six bananas, three apples, a pirated copy of the movie Che on DVD in Spanish for practice, and a couple of handfuls of peanuts, which I ate on the spot. The pirated DVD cost $1.50 American.

I admittedly have not gotten up the nerve to eat at a place such as this counter at the market. Sooner or later though, I am going to buckle. I was hungry out there today and very nearly sat down to sample a gordita. Perhaps next time.

The conversations in Spanish there at the market went well today, also, by the way.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And what do you know, Matt?

Right next to the Tianguis del Martes market is the municipal soccer stadium, Estadio Municipal José Maria “Capi” Correa Tellez.

Here is the grim view out onto the pitch of this little stadium. We have given up on the grass right now, but the rainy season is coming.

The west stands.

I have not yet researched the name of the gentleman after whom the stadium is named, but I bet he played soccer.

The east stands. In an effort to raise a little more revenue for stadium upkeep, obviously, the city lets some guys run an auto repair business under these east stands. I will get a picture of that operation the next time I am out there.

It's a different game down here. It's fast. It's wide open. It's wild, buddy.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My campground remains completely empty with the one exception of me.