28 February 2010

Eating Cactus

Nopale cactus.

After all my complaints about constant food conversations, I got involved in passing along recipes over at Mr. Anchovy's post entitled Hot hot hot.

Above is a picture of a nopale cactus. You have all seen them.

Wall Street's Bailout Hustle : Rolling Stone

Wall Street's Bailout Hustle : Rolling Stone

The latest of Matt Taibbi's great articles in Rolling Stone Magazine. An idiot's guide to the Wall Street hustle.

27 February 2010

Catching Up

I did stop to check on Frank yesterday.

Frank is actually building cabinets.

This is more in line with his calling than his earlier attempt at dress making, but the guy had become a little desperate.

The roof of Stephen's house has been converted into a carpentry shop. Frank is Stephen's son-in-law for those who do not recall.

Bubba and Louie do not care.

Some shots of the roof before it was turned into a carpentry shop. We attended a house party there are Christmas time.

Stephen has been off traveling and camping with Lorraine for more than a month now. I lost track of them in the Oaxaca area, although word has it that they will arrive back in town tomorrow.

We visited Stephen's house shortly after he moved in along with his daughter, Allyson, and Frank. I am not sure that Stephen has any idea about the transformation of his roof. I am sure there will be no problem. He is about as laid back as they come.

We visited Lorraine's house previously, too.

Allyson and I at Pátzcuaro. . .

. . . and across the lake at Isla de Janitzio.

Meanwhile, Allyson is off in Querétaro living with a woman and assisting her after her hip replacement—the woman's hip replacement, not Allyson's. In a former life Allyson was a licensed therapist who worked in a care center up north. Anyway, it is hard to keep track of these people.

Speaking of keeping track of people and for the benefit of some locals, Fabien and Maga are off in Guatemala somewhere.

Fabien and Maga.

The photos above were sent to me by Fabien from Guatemala with absolutely no explanation whatsoever, as usual.

Reminiscing just a bit, this is one of my favorite pictures of Fabien and Maga when we were atop the sacred mountain, Cerro del Quemado, near Real de Catorce late in August.

Chris, the Belgian backpacker, about whom I have written entirely too little, is in Tepoztlán when last I heard.

So there. We are caught up. . . Well, not quite yet.

Here is the latest photo of the interesting traffic situation at the intersection of Ancha San Antonio and Cardo.

I did pet the dog yesterday. . . in my very cool Che Guevara tee that I love by the way.

26 February 2010

Today's Checklist

I have a hectic day ahead of me today. I woke up this morning and read while under the quilt until it warmed up a bit. Not a novel. I meant it when I said that I am through with novels. I am finishing up Survivors in Mexico by Rebecca West. Rest easy. We are not going to waste time today talking about that book. I have too much to do.

I was sitting here with my coffee ready to make my checklist for today. Then I had an idea. Several times early in my acquaintance with Americans whom I have met here--Americans here for a short visit--they fix me with a serious look and ask, “Just exactly what do you do here?”

That is a difficult question to answer in twenty words or less. Therefore, I got the idea to share my thought processes in a blog entry as I put together my checklist for today. That way people can get a grasp of what a typical day for me in San Miguel involves. When somebody asks me that question in the future, I can simply refer them to this blog entry.

It also occurred to me that it would be great if I had a Winky Dink kit. Let me explain for the young people. When I was a youngster there was a television program for children called Winky Dink. Winky Dink was a little cartoon character who was always having adventures. One could send in and acquire a Winky Dink kit that would allow one to participate in Winky Dink's adventures with him.

A Winky Dink kit was comprised of a piece of plastic that would adhere to the television screen. The kit also included crayons with which one could draw on that plastic stuck to the television screen. Captain Bob, or whatever the hell his name was, would tell you what to draw while the program proceeded.

Let us say, for example, that Winky Dink was being pursued by evil creatures of some sort and as he was fleeing he encountered a river. Captain Bob would tell me to draw a bridge over that river on my television screen, which I would do. Then Winky Dink would cross the river on the bridge that I had drawn. After Winky Dink was safely across the river, Captain Bob would tell me to erase the bridge that I had drawn with the special cloth included in the kit. I would erase the bridge. Then the evil pursuers could not cross that river in pursuit of Winky Dink and would be foiled. Get it?

I was thinking that if I had a Winky Dink kit, I could stick the plastic on my laptop screen and actually check off the items listed in this blog entry with the special crayons instead of actually writing the checklist. I do not have a Winky Dink kit obviously. Moreover, I would have to carry the laptop around with me. Let us get on with it then.

When I am organizing my day, I like to take the most important thing that I must accomplish and build the rest of the day around that. Today I must walk over to Billy's automobile repair shop and ask him when he would have time to look at the brakes on my truck. Billy is an expatriate who has lived here and operated an automobile repair shop for years. I met him because he stores a couple of vintage automobiles at the tennis courts.

Billy is originally from Denver, I think. He capitalizes on the fact that some Americans here never learn any Spanish and others are uncomfortable experimenting with their Spanish when discussing needed repairs to their automobiles. More importantly, he is a good guy. A philosopher actually. We will have to chat about the meaning of life for twenty or thirty minutes before we get to the subject of the brakes on my truck.

Every morning this week I have awakened with the firm intention in mind to walk over and discuss the truck's brakes with Billy. Now it is Friday morning. I am resolved to get this done. I have decided to place this task in the 2:00 p.m. time slot. That will be the heat of the day—it is projected to be 75° F. (24° C.) and sunny. So then, now I am going to strategically place my other tasks in the checklist around this centerpiece, if you will.

Breakfast. I am multitasking right now, eating a banana as I write this checklist. As soon as I am finished with the checklist I will have some cereal, Corn Flakes I think. I will have some grapefruit juice, too. No restaurant breakfast for me this morning because restaurant breakfasts seem to take forever and slow me down.

For example, yesterday I had Mexican scrambled eggs, that is, scrambled eggs that have various unidentifiable Mexican things mixed in with them. That is why they call them Mexican scrambled eggs. Along with the Mexican scrambled eggs, I had refried beans, bread, a bowl of banana slices and melon chunks with honey on top, grapefruit juice, and coffee with honey in it, too. It took me between an hour and a half and two hours for that breakfast sitting outside in the morning sun at Los Bisquets. I cannot afford that kind of time for breakfast today.

I am going to get some thinking done while I eat these Corn Flakes. Hojuelos de Maíz, it says here. A couple of days ago La Mexicana informed me that the Mexicans here think that I am a hippie. She was not chiding me or anything. She was just passing along an interesting piece of information. I got the impression that the Mexicans were more amused than anything. Therein lies a lesson. Many times the picture that we have of ourselves does not at all correspond with the picture that others have of us.

I was surprised that the Mexicans regard me as a hippie. I am going to give some thought to whether I ought to adjust my manner of dress or my demeanor or something to bring the image that I project more closely in line with the image that I have of myself. I regard myself as a focused, purpose-driven kind of guy. Hippies do not make checklists, among other things.

After that I am going outside to sit in the sun and read some more Rebecca West while I wait for it to warm up some more. The sun is well up over the mountain now. Every once in a while, I can take a break, turn my head to the right, and watch some investment bankers play tennis. Maybe one will sprain an ankle this morning or injure himself in some other more interesting way. Like maybe pull a groin muscle.

I am not going to shower today. I showered on Tuesday. That need not go on this checklist. Nor do I think that I will put in my contact lenses. I will use my prescription sunglasses even though they look a little weird. I might change my mind on that. Let me put a question mark there. I will need to brush my teeth however, but I am going to do that after reading and watching the tennis players and before I depart. I am putting departure time at about two hours or two and a half hours down the road.

On the way to Billy's shop, I need to stop at Frank's house. He is building some cabinets for someone. I want to look a them. I suspect that he will have some pastry or something to offer me. Frank lives near the plaza in front of San Antonio Church up the street.

Workers there have been totally replacing the stone surface. Part of this process involves installing brick laid in a fairly intricate pattern around the fountain. Also, a circular pattern of brick work is being laid right out in the middle in front of the church. I need to watch this work for a few minutes. I can sit on the steps of the church. It is fascinating to see how they do that. So there are another couple of items that I need to get done.

Next, I need to get over to the intersection of Ancha San Antonio, the main drag through the neighborhood, and Cardo. This will be right on my way to Billy's. There is an island in the middle of that tee intersection. There is some work being done in the middle of Ancha San Antonio right where that island is.

Schematic diagram illustrating the current traffic situation at Ancha San Antonio and Cardo.

The traffic heading up town is being diverted onto Cardo and around the island. People driving on Cardo toward that island are faced with unanticipated oncoming traffic that is turning in front of them to get around that island. This makes for some entertaining confusion.

There is a little store right there where I can get a soda to drink while I watch this for awhile. Which reminds me. I need to remember to pee at Frank's place before leaving there because there are no public restrooms anywhere near that intersection. One would have to walk clear up to the Pemex station.

Which would not be a problem because by that time, I will probably be ready for a mid-day snack. Maybe a crêpe with chocolate on it and coffee at Café del Sol near the Pemex stattion. The coffee is killer there. This will cost something like $1.50 American, which is high, but still . . . By that time the sun will be on the outside tables. Café del Sol is on the other side of the street from Los Biquets. If I tie back my hair, I can brighten up the tan on my forehead a bit and multitask there, too. That all could take some serious time, however. I need to keep an eye on my watch.

I am going to put that on my checklist here. “Look at your watch while at Café del Sol.”


Then I will go back down the street to that intersection and turn on Cardo to walk toward Billy's place. There is an interesting construction project down a way that one can watch through the fence. Across from the pharmacy.

Somewhere amid all this, I would like to get over to La Mexicana's courtyard and sit there and pet the dog for awhile. That is not a must for today though. I am putting a question mark behind that.

The more I think about this the more apparent it becomes that my visit with Billy about the brakes on my truck could wait until Monday. I am not planning any big trips. But then, Fred and I were talking about driving to Pozos to look at the abandoned Spanish mines there on Monday. However, there is no way Billy could look at those brakes before Monday anyway. Therefore, it would work just as well if I spoke with Billy about those brakes next Tuesday.

Assuming that I do not drive the truck into an open mine shaft at Pozos when the brakes fail.

It now occurs to me--things are occurring to me right and left--that this has been a useful drill in an additional sense. Americans tend to over schedule themselves. As a result, they are always saying things like, “I have a lot on my plate right now.” Another popular food metaphor among Americans. I am American. Therefore, I need to be ever so careful not to put too many things on my plate. That is another reason that a checklist is so important. And it is another reason why my visit to Billy's shop can wait until Tuesday.

I am taking out the question mark after that entry about petting the dog.

After I upload this, I will save it to a disk, go out to the paper and copy shop near the front gate, and have it printed off. Since I have neither a Winky Dink kit nor a printer. My handwriting has deteriorated badly. That will cost a peso, but it will be money well spent.

24 February 2010

Hobo Redux

A delightful dinner at table for three last evening. Fred, La Mexicana, and me. I did not boot up the laptop yesterday because I had to recover from that hike with Fred on Monday.

22 February 2010

Canyon Number Two

It was another day with Fred in the bush. I know that these are just more pictures of some scrub trees, rocks, and cactus again. But Fred and I have a ball out there. It is very enjoyable. Fred is studying the identification of various local plants and animals in preparation for work as a guide at El Charco Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve. That adds a new dimension to these trudges.

Today's hike was rugged only in small part near this second canyon quite near town that Fred had seen a while back from a motorcycle. The remainder consisted of a long walk up and down over relatively open, over-grazed terrain. A total of four hours out and back. Not a forced march.

Damned if I can remember the name of this cactus that I love.

An acacia tree.

An acacia tree in bloom.

This is the view on our approach to the canyon, which was concealed from view until one got close.

The lichens on the cliff face to our right were striking.

I look a bit more devil-may-care than I felt with a sheer drop right behind me.

In dreams I walk with you. . . .

That blast from the past is by Roy Orbison. Speaking of blasts from the past. . .

I hate it when other people feel compelled to tell me about their dreams. Say to me, “I had the strangest dream last night. . . ,” and watch my eyes glaze over. Nevertheless, I did have the strangest dream last night. The beauty of this venue is that you do not have to read about my dream.

I hardly ever remember my dreams, but this morning I woke up tremendously relieved thinking about my dream. In my dream I had received one of those letters from the Department of Social Services informing me that the person who had been my third wife was pregnant and asking me to fill out an income and expense statement and a financial affidavit so that an appropriate child support figure could be calculated.

This made me sad because obviously, I was going to have to go back to work. Also, I was of course going to have this child for visits occasionally, and I did not look forward to some little bastard abusing me in my old age.

What was that all about? That particular wife did not have children of her own, and we did not have children. Ours was a smooth and amicable parting of the ways. One day in 1996 she decided that I needed to get rid of some of the junk that I had stored in our basement. She wanted to tidy up. Since I myself spent a good deal of time in the basement—that is where the television and stereo were located—she allowed as how I might as well go, too. I have not laid eyes on her since.

I did send her an email in 2004 wishing her a happy fiftieth birthday and received a gracious reply, but that's it. She was an attractive little brunette, cuter than a bug's ear, but I do not even have a photo of her. I understand that she has been happily married now for quite some time to some fat guy who owns stuff.

I did not regard the news from the Department of Social Services as some sort of fraud on me. In my dream I did recall that in an earlier dream sometime last week the two of us had enjoyed a little toss in the sack for old times' sake. I also recalled that this had gone well. I do not know if I did dream that last week and did not remember it or if I was just dreaming that I dreamed that last week. It is complicated.

Anyway, Mexicans are into this dream thing, a very mystical people. They are into voices speaking to them--usually a virgin--premonitions, telepathy, dreams, the whole deal. These are serious things to them. I am going to run this dream by a Mexican and find out what she makes of it.

21 February 2010

What a delight it was to hear of your Uncle Ned's untimely passing. . . .

I have now resolved to correct two deficiencies in my deportment. The first is my delinquency in responding to comments on postings here. Here is what has been going on. I am always terrified to read the comments underneath my postings. It is only after a week or so has passed that I gather the courage to look at the comments under that posting of more than a week ago.

For quite some time I did post a response to those comments. Then I considered what the point of that was. Nobody goes back to look at the comments under a posting of more than a week ago. So I became feckless at posting responses to comments. However, let me be clear. I have been reading the comments, but I have been reading them only after gathering my courage over several days.

This is silly. The comments have uniformly been more kind than was justified. Therefore, I am resolved to read all comments promptly henceforth. My new rule of thumb is that I shall read all comments within 24 hours and post some response if it is warranted.

My second resolution is very closely related to the one above. I have been utterly without conscience for years regarding sending people appropriate greetings on holidays and congratulations on various occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and the deaths of people we are both glad to be rid of.

To tell you the truth, I cannot remember the last time that I sent anyone a card of any sort. I wish to emphasize, however, that I always do know when it is somebody's birthday, for example. The occasion of the day seems always to cross my mind while I am brushing my teeth or urinating in the morning.

Furthermore, I am not going to resort to Hallmark® to express my sentiments for me. I am actually going to inscribe these cards with my own sentiments myself. That leaves only the choice of the medium, which had me nonplussed for awhile. La Mexicana has promised to help me choose some appropriate little cards of various kinds and envelopes with which to do this.

I can set my Windows® Calendar to nudge me when it is time to send out one of these little cards sufficiently in advance to allow for the three weeks required by the Mexican postal system for handling. The folks are going to want to see a beautiful Mexican stamp after all. If anyone does not receive a card, it will be because it was misplaced by that system not because I did not send one.

Who now dares to say that I will never change? Obviously, that has been said often in the past by some. I am going to make those people liars. The simple pleasure in that will in itself carry me forward in my resolutions.

Who knows? Perhaps I shall someday even consider cohabiting with an animal again--the four-legged variety, not the two-legged variety.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls. . . .

I wrote an entry about the way I believe in God, which is to say that I do not. Not, at least, in the God that most people mean when they say God. I grant you that if the universe was Caused, there might have been a Causer. But that entity, or force, must by definition be outside space and time; beyond all categories of thought, or non-thought; transcending existence, or non-existence. What is the utility of arguing our "beliefs" about it?
Roger Ebert

Yeah. What is the utility in that? What is the point?

I could have given Roger Ebert a big, wet kiss when I read this. On the forehead.

We are a belief-ridden species, and it seems that we cannot rise above this. People embrace “beliefs” instead of knowledge. Worse yet, people embrace “beliefs” and lose any interest whatsoever in attempting wisdom. One would think that The Enlightenment had never happened.

“I already have wisdom. Here is what I believe. . .”

There would be no problem if this death grip on beliefs were harmless. It is not, unfortunately.

People who have never read a book in their lives vote based upon their beliefs. If one looks at the great carnages of history where people murdered each other in vast numbers, one will find that they all started because somebody had a belief. People fly airplanes into buildings because of their beliefs.

Beliefs have a regrettable ability to mimic knowledge. Beliefs have the ability to assume the aspect of wisdom. The devil hath the power to assume pleasing shapes.

The first step to wisdom is the realization that we know nothing. That is axiomatic. (Whenever I cannot remember who said something that I like, I simply say, “That is axiomatic.”) People cannot therefore even get to the first step to wisdom. They are sure that they do know something. They know what they believe.

Put me in a room with someone who holds strong beliefs, and I will immediately look for the exit. Strong opinions are a different thing entirely.

But then again, what the hell do I know?

With that we will get back to frivolous things.

Live From Daryl's House - Episode 28 w/ Toots and The Maytals

Live From Daryl's House - Episode 28 w/ Toots and The Maytals

Posted using ShareThis

An explanation.

19 February 2010

When You Are Old by W.B. Yeats

Roger Ebert

I love being an old man. Admittedly, it sneaked up on me. I noticed it for the first time while looking in a mirror. I think that is how nearly everyone first notices it. If you were a member of an aboriginal tribe in the Amazon forest, or what's left of it, and there are no mirrors, would you ever notice that you have become old, assuming you get old? I guess maybe you would when you could not walk anymore. Anyway, I noticed it while looking in a mirror in December of 2007.

It took me about a year after that to get in the rhythm of this thing called being old. It was like getting a feel for how a particular woman's hips move when you first dance with her. It just takes a little longer. But I am dancing without having to think about it now.

I had read things like that written by old people when I myself was young. I did not believe them. I wrote it off as an effort to put a good face on something repulsive. If that is your reaction to this, all I can say is that I am telling God's truth here.

I feel sorry for young people, 35, 40 years old. Life is a roiled sea at that age. I vividly remember what it was like to be 35, 40 years of age. I would not want to do it again. I am free of other people demanding my time in return for money I need. I am free from the compulsion to own shit. Free of having to deal with several identities. Free from the need to try to screw everything that walks, or failing that, talks, or failing that, breathes. They do not all look better at closing time anymore. Far from it. They all look old, too. And on the list goes.

Every life, Epifanio said that night to Lalo Cura, no matter how happy it is, ends in pain and suffering. That depends, said Lalo Cura. Depends on what, champ? On a lot of things, said Lalo Cura. Say you're shot in the back of the head, for example, and you don't hear the motherfucker come up behind you, then you're off to the next world, no pain, no suffering. Goddamn kid, said Epifanio. Have you ever been shot in the back of the head?

2666 by Robert Bolaño; Picador Paperback Edition, page 511.

I know that it will not always be fun to be an old man. Every single one of us will be tortured at some point before the end, whether ever so briefly or for a seemingly endless time. Mexicans have a better feel for this than the folks up north with their constant blather about death with dignity. What the hell is “death with dignity” anyway? Mexicans speak of death with courage, which seems to me to be a more realistic goal.

Some will be tortured by old age. Some when they are young and for only a few seconds with the appreciation of the stark reality of the blown blood vessel or a truck in the wrong lane. Some by a lingering cancer. Some by three thugs in a basement room with a bare light bulb. There are then only two questions left for a Mexican. 1. How long will my torture last? 2. Will my courage fail me before it is over?

Bear in mind that I do not claim to know anything about Mexico. This is just something I picked up second hand.

The current plan is this. I need to avoid the big mistake, a big mistake like stepping out in front of a Mexican cab driver--a cab driven by a Mexican cab driver, I mean. I have no fear of Mexican cab drivers when they are walking down the street. I need to avoid getting sick, although there is only a little that I can do to avoid that big mistake. If I can avoid the big mistake, I think I have about ten years more before being an old man starts not to be fun anymore. Man, that would be beautiful if my current experience of the thing is any indication. I will then deal with the Distinguished Thing without any whining whatsoever. I promise.

I do love that phrase “the Distinguished Thing.” I had never encountered it until John sent me a link to an entry in Roger Ebert's blog, Go gentle into that good night. John is my college roommate with whom I broke a lot of bread in Germany as well as the United State. I had lost him, and I have thankfully found him again. (Actually, there were three of us in that dorm room, and I need to find the other one.)

Anyway, John is right. That Roger Ebert is a bright guy. I really did not know that. I had never read anything by him before because, as you know, I like to pretend that I do not like movies. Also, I was reluctant to be disloyal to the memory of Pauline Kael. In any event and on John's recommendation, I read this. I read this several times. Mr. Ebert's torture consists of cancer and multiple surgeries. His courage has not failed him yet. This blog entry is full of wisdom. I do not claim that old people have cornered the wisdom market. There are a lot of dumb-assed old people. I do claim that if anyone ever does it, it will be an old person.

Also, if you open your eyes, you will see a link to his classic 1970 interview of Lee Marvin written for Esquire or some such.

At the end of the article he posted youtube videos of poetry readings. Hell, I did not know there were poetry readings on youtube, but I should have guessed that. Poetry is meant to be heard not read. So this is good.

I enjoyed all of Mr. Ebert's selections. I would have chosen the one by Matthew Arnold, the third great Victorian poet, to post here for a particular reason. That blow-hard literary critic Harold Bloom describes Arnold's poetry as “derivative” and his poems as “embarrassingly close to Keats.” Well, Harold, people are still reading the things that Matthew Arnold wrote 150 years after he wrote them, which is more than anybody will be able to say about anything you have written 150 years from now.

My temptation was to post the Matthew Arnold poem in order to spite Harold. But Matthew Arnold's poem is more fitting for that time when being an old man is not fun anymore. Let us do a classic selection by W.B. Yeats instead.

I am off to break into La Mexicana's house on Calle Esperanza, watch vintage Mexican movies on television, and pet old Zumm. Not because I enjoy vintage movies, mind you. This is just my latest program to improve my Spanish. Pedro Armendáriz. Dolores del Rio. The De Película channel. La Mexicana is working full time during the day now. Poor Blanche said:
Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.

All I have to do is walk about five blocks to Hope Street.

16 February 2010

To El Charco from the Bottom Up

Today was a day for another hike with Fred. Pictures of rocks, cactus, and the odd tree here and there are getting repetitive, I know. I cannot show you anything different, say, for example, pictures of jungle or rice patties or something like that, and claim with a straight face that I just visited it.

You will recall our visit in late October to El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve here and here. This was the place with the large dam behind which there was a reservoir that fed water into a pipe strung along the canyon wall to drive generators further down stream. It is out on the edge of town.

13 February 2010

A Disappointing Saturday Evening

Some of you will be receiving the odd piece of mail from me in the near future. You may be puzzled by the postmark and the American stamps.

No, I have not been hanging around Texas inventing all this stuff about Mexico. Here is the deal. I have used the Mexican postal service a couple of times without incident. For me, it was just slow. However, generally it is somewhat of a gamble. Mailings disappear. Hence, the service offered by such enterprises as La Conexión, which I am now using.

One takes their U.S.A. bound mail to La Conexión's offices downtown here. There you put American postage on it and give La Conexión an additional five pesos per letter. La Conexión then hauls the letters up to Texas by truck and mails them in Laredo or some place like that.

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

A somewhat disappointing Saturday evening. I had seen a poster in the laundromat—yes, I have found a laundromat, but I will explain how that works on another day—I had seen a poster in the laundromat advertising a boxing match along with music at a larger venue on the edge of town called El Alamo. I had never been in El Alamo, and I was in the mood for a boxing match. Fifty pesos and women in free between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. this evening.

Upon entering the place at around 9:30, I was frisked by security. Of course I had forgotten that I had my knife with me. So that complicated my life. Then when I got in, I found that there was no boxing match. Canceled or something. Just a whole bunch of Mexican kids, really loud, thumping music, and lasers. I was at least thirty-five years older than every other person in there. There was not even any place to sit down. I turned around, picked up my knife where I had to check it, and left.

La Mexicana, who had ridden along with me, got a big laugh out of this.