Saturday, May 20, 2017

Making Progress

I have not written on the blog for several days because I have been very busy in the garden.  I have spent twelve days working between four and seven hours.  I have been painstakingly pulling out the weeds from between the perennials  There is still much to do, but I now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The shade garden beneath the walnut tree is finished.  The hostas and some of the other plants have been sprayed with deer repellent.  (No, deer, this is not going to be an all-you-can-eat salad bar!)

Today I completed the largest of the flower beds.

The Siberian iris have just begun to bloom.

And the earliest of the day lilies are now blooming.

The two tree azaleas in front of the house are especially beautiful this year.

I finally feel confident that I will finish all the flower beds before my departure for Mexico in June! 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Emerging from the Weeds

In my last post I wrote that I am frantically trying to get my gardening done before I leave for Mexico again in June.  Fortunately the weather has been more cooperative this past week, and seven out of the past eight days I have been spending between four and seven hours working in the garden.  Slowly, the flower beds are emerging from the weeds that engulfed them.  I have made a lot of progress, but there is still so much to do.  The question is, "Will I finished before my departure?" 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Gardening Race

The one down-side to spending every other month in Mexico, is that when I am home in Ohio, I am going to have to play a frantic game of "catch-up" with everything that needs to be done up here... especially gardening and yard work.

Those of you who have regularly read my blog, know that I have large flower gardens.  Usually, it takes me from late April until the end of June to get my flower beds the way I want them.  I returned from Mexico in early May, and I will go back in early June.  That means that I now have less than one month to try to accomplish everything. When I got home, the weather was not cooperating.  The first three days it was constantly raining.  The  rain was great for my plants, but also for the weeds.  On Sunday the sun finally came out.  I have spent the last two days weeding, cleaning out and edging, but I have still not finished the flower beds in front of the house.  I do not intend to plant any annuals this year; I will just let the perennials do their thing.  Even so it is going to be a race to finish my gardening in time.

Here are a couple pictures what is already in bloom.

The columbines are especially pretty this year.  They reseed themselves, so each year there are more and more.

  The azaleas are also now blooming.

Well, it is time to get back to work!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo

Today is the fifth of May... "Cinco de Mayo".  I have written about this before, but since so many people in the United States are misinformed about today's celebration, it bears repeating.  "Cinco de Mayo" is NOT Mexico's Independence Day.  (That is September 16th.)

"Cinco de Mayo" commemorates Mexico's victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862.  Although the French invaders went on to capture Mexico City and occupy the nation until 1867, the victory was a great morale-booster for the Mexican struggle against the foreign intervention. 

"Cinco de Mayo" is not a legal holiday in Mexico (except for the states of Puebla and Veracruz).  Schools, however, are closed today.  (It has been a very short school week for school children since May 1st... Labor Day... is a legal holiday.) 

In the United States, Mexican-Americans began observing the day as a time to celebrate their heritage.  Mexican restaurants and beer companies began promoting "Cinco de Mayo" up here as an occasion to boost sales.  For many "gringos", it is a day to go out and drink margaritas or Mexican beer, just as St. Patrick's Day is an excuse to drink green beer.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Journey Home

Yesterday I flew home from Mexico City.  Once again, flying on Interjet Airlines to Chicago proved to be a very pleasant experience... a flashback to the old days when flying was enjoyable.  The plane was not crowded (the seat next to me was empty), and I had plenty of legroom.  A light meal was served... a ham and cheese sandwich, a package of cookies and a beverage... nothing fancy, but more than I have had flying to and from Mexico on the U.S. carriers.  My friend Alejandro told me that it is Interjet's policy to never overbook a flight.  That is nice to know, given the recent events that have occurred with overbooking.  My flight was twenty minutes late arriving in Chicago, but that was not a problem since I had scheduled a long layover.

I sped through immigration and customs.  As in Houston, O'Hare has installed the automated screens for U.S. citizens going through immigration, and there was no waiting in line.  The only drawback to flying with Interjet, is that I am unable to check my luggage through to Cleveland.  However, after passing through customs, there is a United desk.  I was able to quickly check my suitcase to Cleveland there, rather than having to go the Terminal One ticket desk (and probably waiting in line).  Kudos to United on that service.   

I took the train going from International Terminal Five to United's Terminal One.  Going through security did not take too long.  After all of that, I still had nearly four hours to wait for my flight to Cleveland.  With my credit card I receive a couple passes each year to use the United Club lounge.  So I passed the time there, and took advantage of the free food.

I can't really badmouth the flight on United Airlines.  We left on time and arrived in Cleveland slightly ahead of schedule.  But what a difference from the Interjet flight.  It was cramped and fully booked.  Fortunately, another perk with my credit card is that I am in boarding group two, so there was still plenty of space in the overhead bin for my carry-on.  It is a quick flight of less than one hour.  I can put up with being in a "cattle car" for that short amount of time.

So, sorry United.  I am now going to fly on Interjet on my flights to Mexico City.  It cost a bit more, but less than if upgraded to the "Economy Plus" seats with more legroom.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Hasta la Vista

It is hard to believe that an entire month has passed, and that tomorrow I will return home to Ohio.  However I will only be gone for a month.  In June I will return here to the same apartment.  During my time in Ohio I will be very busy, attempting to accomplish two months of gardening and yard work in just one. 

Since I am allowed to keep my clothes here at the apartment, I do not have much packing to do.  Well, actually that is not true.  Knowing that I would have a nearly empty suitcase, I went wild buying gifts and souvenirs.  Yesterday Alejandro took me to Office Depot to buy some bubble wrap, and I just finished wrapping the more fragile items.  Fortunately nothing weighs that much, and I will not have to worry about going over the luggage weight limit.

Perhaps it is because of the yard work that is facing me, or perhaps I am truly becoming an ex-pat in my attitude, but, other than seeing my friends, I am not looking forward to returning home.

¡Hasta pronto, Ciudad de México!

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Art Garden

If you have been reading my blog over the last month, you know that I have been to a number of art exhibits here in Mexico City.  However my most enjoyable "art" experience was a visit yesterday to the "Jardín del Arte" (Art Garden).  Alejandro and I were trying to decide what to do on a Sunday afternoon.  Then I remembered reading many years ago about the outdoor art market held every Sunday in Parque Sullivan not far from the Paseo de la Reforma.  I asked Alejandro if they still have that market, he said yes, so that is where we went.

Since the 1950s artists have been gathering here displaying their work.  There are painters, sculptors, and photographers whose styles run the gamut from traditional folk themes to abstract.  (I am no great fan of modern art, but I have to admit that there were some abstract paintings here that even I liked!)

There was so much here that I would have loved to purchase were it not for the eternal question "Where will I put it?"  I have virtually no wall space left in my house!  I fell in love with a small canvas depicting a Mexican marketplace.  It was small enough to fit in my suitcase.  I went so far as to ask the price.  It was around $1500 U.S.  That quickly took care of that temptation!

I loved the landscape paintings of the Mexican volcanoes which are reminiscent of the works of  the 19th century artist José María Velasco.

As an amateur painter who has participated in outdoor shows, I like to support the artists.  I did buy a few small, inexpensive pieces that I will donate to the annual auction of my favorite charity.

From this lady I bought a cute, little floral miniature.

And from this gentleman I purchased a charming painting of Mexican dolls.

Toward the end of our visit, I got into a very interesting conversation with this fellow, an artist who goes by the name of Carlos del River.  He speaks excellent English, and while we chatted we bounced back and forth between English and Spanish.

Carlos has a distinctive style in which he combines water colors with ink.  The effect is somewhat like stained-glass windows.  I liked his work very much, and there were a couple of pieces that I would have liked to have purchased.  They were small enough to fit in my suitcase, and his prices are very reasonable.  But once again it was the question of "Where am I going to put it?", not to mention that by this time I did not have many pesos left in my wallet.

Carlos told me that he did not have any formal training.  Some time ago he had lost his job, and he used that unfortunate situation as an opportunity to pursue his artistic dreams.  He told me that the organization that runs the art market has very high standards in allowing artists to participate.  He was very happy to become a member of this selective artists' community.

Although I did not buy any of his works, I told him that I would give him a plug on my blog.  The link to his Facebook page is HERE.

For any visitor to Mexico City who enjoys art, I would highly recommend a trip to the Sunday Art Garden.  I intend to return in the future... and who knows, maybe the next time, if I see Carlos, I will buy one of his paintings!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No Desert, No Lions

In the mountain forests to the west of Mexico City there is a national park called "Desierto de los Leones."  Although it actually lies within the city limits, it is far removed from the crowded, bustling metropolis.  The park is named after the centerpiece of this woodland reserve, a colonial monastery which was once a retreat for Carmelite monks.  The word "desierto" does not mean "desert" in this case, but an unpopulated, remote area.  It was a perfect location for the Carmelites to lead a life of meditation, prayer and silence far from the distractions of the city.  "Leones" does not refer to "lions" but was the name of the family who helped the monks acquire the property.

On Saturday, Alejandro and I went to "Desierto de Leones".  We had been there once before, but a friend of Alejandro's was visiting the city, and he had never been there.

With the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, the monastery was abandoned, and today its remains, which are partially in ruins, are a museum.  There is not a great deal on display within the monastery, but the gardens surrounding the building and within its courtyards are well maintained.  The cool, clean air and the forests of pine and oak make it a welcome excursion from the city.

Flowers seem to thrive in the cooler, moister environment here.  The monks sought to create of small slice of heaven on earth with the gardens.

It is a holiday weekend (Monday is Mexico's celebration of Labor Day), and many other people had the same idea to escape the city.  But even with more visitors here, it was a beautiful and tranquil getaway.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Sad Trip to the Museum

Mexico City is one of the great cities in the world when it comes to art.  People think first of places like Paris or New York, but Mexico City certainly rivals them.  I have already been to two important art exhibits on this trip, and on Thursday I went to a third.  Currently the National Museum of Art is running a show entitled “Melancolía”.  Sounds like a depressing exhibit, but it was an excuse (as if I need any) to revisit one of my favorite museums in the city.

The National Museum of Art is housed in "over-the-top" former Palace of Communications. This lavish structure was built in the early 20th century during the waning days of the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz.

The special exhibit consisted of 130 works of Mexican art, ranging from the colonial era to the 20th century, which portray sadness, grief, suffering, and preoccupation with death. 

There were several canvasses by the Baroque, 17th century painter Cristóbal de Villalpando, whose works are currently also on display at the Palace of Iturbide.

Most of the painters were unknown to me.

"Woman Crying" by the famous 20th century muralist David Siqueiros

After all the melancholy, I was ready to spend some time with my favorite landscape painter,
José María Velasco.  The museum contains the world's largest collection of paintings by this 19th century artist.

The realism and luminosity of his canvasses are such that I feel as if I could step into his paintings. I never tire of seeing his works.

Friday, April 28, 2017

In Spanish, Please!

I always find it surprising that there are so many signs and advertisements here in Mexico City that are in English.  I am not talking about places like the airport or establishments in very touristy areas that are patronized mainly by foreigners.  Take a walk down the street, and you will wonder how many residents understand all the English that there is.  I suppose that the businesses think that they are projecting an image of trendiness or providing snob appeal. 

Here are examples that I found during a short walk from my apartment.

First of all there is landmark building just a couple blocks from my apartment... the World Trade Center.  They could have given it a Spanish name such as "Centro Internacional de Comercio", but instead chose to rip off the name of the famous buildings in New York City.

An exposition for the music and entertainment industry going on at the World Trade Center was called "Sound:Check".  (Don't understand the reason for the colon between the words.)

Nearby is this gymnasium.  There is "reason to believe" that their membership fees are outrageously expensive.

OK, Tony, I know that you are a U.S. chain.  But this is Mexico.  Couldn't you put the rest of your sign in Spanish?

Same goes for you, Texas Ribs.

This ad is completely in English!  Oh, wait.  In small print in the lower corner there is a bit of Spanish.

This advertising is for a condominium under construction.  Will the tenants be allowed to use the fitness club, roof garden or kid's club if they don't speak any English?

The owners of this barber shop goofed up on their English.  I assume that they wanted to name their business "Dandy Boy".

I have no idea if this is a U.S. company... but it isn't the type of product that you would associate with an image of trendy sophistication.

Sear's advertising campaigns are always in English, although sometimes rather bizarre English.  When the Disney movie "Frozen" first came out, the department stores' Christmas ads said "Happy Frozen Christmas".

Now I am not advocating a "language police" such as they have in Quebec where they fine businesses whose signs are not in French.   But it seems that the amount of English is getting a bit silly.  Perhaps with the Mexicans' distaste for the current administration in Washington, English advertising will begin to seem less "cool". 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Baby Pyramid

I recently wrote about the neighborhood of San Pedro de los Pinos which is adjacent to the "colonia" where I am staying.  Later I read on the internet that there is a small pyramid in San Pedro.  Fellow blogger, Scott, the author of Gringopotpourri, is familiar with the neighborhood and told me that the archaeological site was closed to the public when he was there.  Nevertheless, I decided to see for myself.  I looked at Google Maps, and I found the pyramid located on, logically, "Pirámide" Street.  I also noticed that there was a cultural center located next door.  Perhaps access to the pyramid is through the cultural center?

I walked over to San Pedro de los Pinos.  I once again enjoyed its peaceful side streets.  Other than the hectic thoroughfares of Avenida Patriotismo and Avenida Revolución, which I had to cross, the neighborhood is quite tranquil and pleasant. 

I reached the archaeological site which is fenced in.  The pyramid is called Mixcoac after the pre-Hispanic town which once occupied the area.  The term pyramid is a misnomer.  All Mexican pyramids were platforms upon which to build their temples.  The large ones have a somewhat pyramidal shape, but this little one simply looks like a platform.  It was probably built around 1200, and was later used by the Aztecs until the Spanish conquest.  The temple which once stood atop the platform may have been dedicated to the god of the hunt.  San Pedro de los Pinos (of the pine trees) was at one time a forested area and a good hunting ground.

I saw no one within the fenced in zone, but the manicured grounds, the pathways, and the informational signs gave the appearance of a place that welcomed tourists.  I walked over to the cultural center.  I went inside and asked a lady if there was access to the pyramid.  She told me to go down the street and around the corner to where there was a gatehouse.

I did that.  There was a gatehouse, and a gate which was locked shut.  I saw a guard busy talking on his cellphone.  I finally caught his attention, and he came over to me.  I asked him if the site was open to the public.  He said "No."  "Is it ever open?"  "No."

Scott had told me that behind the site there is a street which climbs up toward an elevated expressway.  From there he was able to get pictures of the "pyramid".  So I followed in his footsteps.  Here is my picture of this tiny archaeological zone.