Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Auction Painting

I wrote a while ago that I had begun a painting to donate to the spring charity auction for "Los Amigos".  I finished it yesterday, and, although this photo does not do it justice, here it is...

The painting is based on a picture which appeared on the blog "An Alaskan in Yucatan".  Author Marc Olson purchased this abandoned "rancho" in the countryside outside of Mérida a couple years ago, and is in the process of making it habitable again.

Marc, if you read this, I would appreciate your comment.  It is not an exact duplicate, stone by stone, tree by tree, of your photograph ("artistic license", you know), but I hope it captures something of the atmosphere of your place.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Shall We Dance?

(image from the web)

Last night some friends and I went to the Palace Theater in downtown Cleveland's Playhouse Square to see a performance of the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammersteins's "The King and I".   For those who are not familiar with this classic musical, it is based on the true story of a British woman, Anna Leonowens, who in the 1860s was employed by the King of Siam as a teacher for the royal children and wives.  It is filled with familiar songs such as "I Whistle a Happy Tune", "Hello, Young Lovers", "Getting to Know You", and the showstopper "Shall We Dance?".

The original Broadway show premiered in 1951 and starred the English actress Gertrude Lawrence as Anna and newcomer Yul Brynner as the King.  The role catapulted Brynner to stardom, garnered him a Tony Award, and was arguably the greatest of his career.

(image from the web)
Brynner reprised the role in the 1956 Hollywood film version with Deborah Kerr as Anna, and he won the Academy Award as best actor.  In 1985, months before his death, he won another Tony for his performance in a Broadway revival.

Last night's show was performed by the national touring company of the Broadway revival which in 2015 won four Tony Awards.  It was a beautiful production.  Laura Michelle Kelly, who plays Anna, reminded me very much of Deborah Kerr in the motion picture.  However, unlike Kerr, who was not a singer and whose songs were dubbed, Kelly has a wonderful singing voice.  Manna Nichols, who played the slave girl Tuptim, stood out with her operatic voice.  The King was played by Filipino-American actor Jose Llana.  He was excellent, although any actor who plays that role stands in the shadow of Yul Brynner.  Let's face it, Brynner will always be the King.      

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Blossoms in February

This has been an exceptionally mild winter in Ohio.  This past week temperatures have been in the 50s and 60s.  I noticed a few days ago that a few of my crocus are already blooming.  Crocus are, of course, the first flowers to appear, but never have I known them to begin blooming in February!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Adding to the Collection

I have written before that I have a video program on my computer, and that for the past five years I have been creating DVDs of my travels.  I organize my best pictures and videos and make a slide show complete with background music.  I now have a collection of 38 discs.

However, in the last year I have been rather remiss in keeping up with my travel pictures.  This month I have been remedying that.   

First I made a disc of the trip to Mérida that I took with my cousin and her husband in this past January.  I made an extra copy to give to them, and last week we got together for the premiere screening of "Our Yucatan Adventure".  They loved the DVD, and hope to return to Mexico sometime with me.

Going farther back, I still had not organized the pictures from the trips that I took to Mexico City last April and again in October / November.  I did not have a lot of photos from April, so I combined the two trips onto one disc.  This past weekend I went down to Columbus to visit family, and I showed that DVD to my sister-in-law, Phyllis.  We have traveled together to Yucatan and to Spain and France.  She wants to come visit me in the new apartment that I will be renting in Mexico City.  After seeing all the pictures of the Day of the Dead decorations there, she is giving serious thought to taking a trip in late October.

I still have to organize my photos from my time in Mexico City in January.  That will be my next project! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

It's Not Funny Any More

Several days ago, Alejandro sent me this picture that he had found...

He simply thought that it was a funny picture.  I had to explain to him that it was a parody of the popular TV program from the 1960s, "The Beverly Hillbillies".

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was an insult to the characters of that old show.  As much as we laughed at the "Beverly Hillbillies", they were likeable and honorable people.  There is nothing likeable nor honorable about the Pendejo-in-Chief and his crew.

This week there have been revelations that seem to confirm the suspicions that many of us have held that the Pendejo is in cahoots with Russia.  And his first solo press conference yesterday was a rambling, incoherent mess of misinformation, deflections, non-sequiturs, egotism, rudeness, racism, and, of course, more attacks on the media.  This is the leader of the free world?  A frightening thought.  How can anyone in their right mind support this lunatic?  Even FOX News is turning against him.

Although I hope the late night shows continue with their biting satire, It is becoming harder to find humor in it all.  It is becoming terrifying!  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Will They Think?

Regular readers of my blog know that I have frequently played "tour guide" to friends and relatives in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. 

I have always thought of the charming, laid-back city as the perfect introduction for first time visitors to Mexico.  My traveling companions have heard me talk about Mexico and have seen pictures of my trips, so they knew enough to not believe the media image that Mexico is a dreadful place where danger lurks at every corner.  Still some have admitted that prior to the trip they were a bit apprehensive.  However, without exception they came home thoroughly delighted with Mérida.

Now that I am going to spend an even greater amount of time in Mexico City, a number of  people who went with me to Mérida have expressed an interest in seeing the Mexican capital. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I think that Mexico City is one of the great cities of the world, a place filled with incredible art, architecture and museums.  But I can't help but wonder, "How will they react to this monster of more than 20 million people?"  It's not that they have never traveled to big cities before, but Mexico City is more than big.  Will they be overwhelmed, intimidated or exhausted?

In my mind I am already planning an itinerary for prospective visitors.  Of course we would have to spend a day walking around the historic center of the city, visiting places such as the National Palace with its Diego Rivera murals and the Metropolitan Cathedral.  The National Museum of Anthropology, one of the great museums of the world, is a must.  On my last visit to the museum I actually did a quick run-through, trying to pick out the highlights that I would show them.  (Trying to see the entire museum is just too much.)  I would want to get tickets for a performance of the wonderful Ballet Folklórico.  Hopefully their stay would include a weekend, so that my friend Alejandro could drive us out to the impressive ruins of Teotihuacan, with its pyramids that rival those of Egypt.  Out of the myriad of restaurants, which ones would I choose to give them a taste of the city's culinary wealth?

The one aspect of Mexico City which I hate is the horrendous traffic.  Will my guests be traumatized?  Even when I am in the car with Alejandro I often let out a silent gasp... not because of his driving, but because of the crazy people on the road.  Other times I want to jump out of my skin because of the snarled traffic traveling at a snail's pace. Public transportation, the Metrobus and the subway, are very efficient and inexpensive, but can be very crowded. 

Maybe I should just stop worrying, and remember the phone conversation I overheard as I was waiting for my luggage at Houston airport at the end of my last trip.  There was a businessman talking on his cell phone.  He obviously had been very frightened about the prospect of traveling to Mexico City.  He said, " I just wanted to let you know that I was totally wrong about Mexico City.  It was great!"


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Timely Quote

I am currently reading Ken Follett's historical novel "Edge of Eternity", the final book of his trilogy which chronicles the events of the 20th century.

One of the fictional characters in the novel is Jasper, a successful TV newsman who is fired for his criticism of the popular but scandal-plagued Reagan administration.  He gives a farewell speech to his colleagues which is eerily timely given the Pendejo-in-Chief's hostility to a press which is calling him out on his innumerable lies.

"Leaning against the bar, Jasper made a speech.  Wounded, sad, and defiant, he said: 'I love this country.  I loved it the first time I came here, back in 1963.  I love it because it's free.  My mother escaped from Nazi Germany; the rest of her family never made it.  The first thing Hitler did was take over the press and make it subservient to the government.  Lenin did the same.'  Jasper had drunk a few glasses of wine, and as a result was a shade more candid. 'America is free because it has disrespectful newspapers and television shows to expose and shame presidents who f*** the Constitution up the a**.'  He raised his glass.  'Here's to the free press.  Here's to disrespect.  And God bless America.' "

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Time to Paint Again

My hobby of landscape painting for quite a while has taken a backseat to my busy travel schedule.  However, regular readers of my blog know that every year there are two occasions when I get out the paints...  one is for my annual Christmas card, the other is to do a painting to donate to the spring auction of the Ohio chapter of "Los Amigos de las Américas."  "Los Amigos" is a non-denominational organization which each year sends high school and college students to various Latin American countries to do volunteer work.  It is my favorite charitable organization, not only because of the good work it does in our neighbors to the south, but because of the life-changing experiences it provides the young volunteers.  For a number of years I have donated handicrafts which I have picked up during my trips to Mexico, as well as a painting.

This year I was actually thinking about being a lazy bum, and simply donating a painting which I had done some years ago.  But then I was reading the blog "An Alaskan in Yucatan" written by Marc Olson.   (You will find a link to his blog in my "Blog List" to the side.)  Marc is an ex-pat who has been living for some time in Mérida, and I had a chance to meet him on one of my trips to Yucatan.  A couple years ago he bought an abandoned "rancho" in the Yucatecan countryside, and he is in the process of making the place livable again.  In his latest entry, he posted a picture of the little ranch house.

(photo by Marc Olson)

There was something about the light and the simple composition of the photo which appealed to me, and I thought that it would be a great subject for a painting.  I asked Marc's permission to do a painting of it.  I knew that he would approve because when he was in high school he spent two summers as a volunteer with "Los Amigos", giving vaccinations to children in rural villages in Colombia and Nicaragua.

I have made a good start on the painting, and hope to be finished with it by March.  Unfortunately I won't be able to attend this year's auction because I am leaving for Mexico City just a few days before the event.  But my painting and the bunch of Mexican handicrafts that I have for them will hopefully raise a nice sum of money for the group.

If you are interested in this fine organization, here is a link to their website...

Los Amigos

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Bit of Irreverant Humor

In order to discourage proselytizers from other faiths, some Mexican families will post a sign at their door saying "Este hogar es católico" (This home is Catholic).  It goes on to say that they do not accept propaganda from Protestants or other sects.

(image from the web)

The slightly sacrilegious picture below is a parody of that sign and was sent to me by Alejandro. 

(image from the web)

It says "This home is tacoholic.  We do not accept propaganda from McDonald's, etc."  Instead of the heart of Jesus, which you sometimes see on this kind of sign, it shows a rotisserie ("trompo") with the chunk of meat that is used to make "tacos al pastor". 

I then found another parody which says, " In this home Huitzilopochtli (the main god of the Aztecs) is worshipped."  It goes on to say that if you do not want your heart to be offered as a sacrifice, refrain from knocking on this door.

(image from the web)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What I'll Miss About Condesa

As I have written previously, starting in April, I am going to start living in Mexico City every other month.  I made contact with a couple who lives in the United States, but who have a furnished, unoccupied apartment there.  They expressed an interest in renting it to me.  I visited the apartment during my recent trip to Mexico City, and it is a lovely, well-located place.  It seemed too good to be true.  Even though it appeared to be a "done deal", the "worry-wart" in me fretted that the arrangement might fall through at the last minute.  Well, yesterday I received an email from the owner.  Next month they are going to go to Mexico City to make sure that the apartment is ready for my arrival, and she is going to send me a set of keys via UPS.  I have a new "home away from home" in Mexico!

For the past several years on my trips to Mexico City, I have been staying at vacation rentals in the neighborhood of Condesa.  The new apartment is located in the equally nice Nápoles district, but I do have to admit that there are some things that I will miss about Condesa.

I will miss the tree lined streets and the many parks of Condesa.

Condesa is one of the greenest neighborhoods in the city.  Within walking distance of the places where I stayed were Parque México and Parque España.

My new place will be convenient to public transportation, but I will miss the fact that I could walk to the many attractions and museums of Chapultepec Park.  (Yeah, it was a bit of a hike, but it was a good way to burn some calories after indulging in Mexican food.)

I will miss the little laundry... "El Tendedero Condesa" (The Condesa Clothesline)... where I took my clothes every week.  The lady there was a real sweetheart, and we always had such nice conversations.

(In my new place, however, the maid will wash and iron my clothes!)

Most of all I will miss the fact that in Condesa and in the adjacent neighborhood of Roma Norte there are literally hundreds of restaurants.

All within walking distance was everything from fine restaurants specializing in the regional cuisines of Mexico, to little "taquerías", to American-style diners.  Even on my latest trip I was finding new places to add to my list of places to eat.

Yes, I will miss Condesa, but I am excited about exploring my new neighborhood of Nápoles in April!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What is Happening to Our Country?

I could write a lengthy diatribe on the "Pendejo-in-Chief's" first few weeks in office.  But since this blog deals largely with Mexico, I will confine my remarks to relations between the U.S. and Mexico.

First there is the wall that "El Pendejo" insists that he will construct.  Such a wall would be an engineering nightmare as the 2000 mile border crosses desolate deserts, rugged mountains, canyons and rivers.  Plus there are the legal hassles of building the wall on privately owned property, Indian reservations and national parks.  "El Pendejo" says the wall would cost 8 to 12 billion dollars; others say that it would cost tens of billions and take 16 years to build.  (If we look at the fences.. not walls... that were built along the border between San Diego and Tijuana, the cost ran to about 4 million dollars per mile.  4 million x 2000 = 8 trillion dollars!)  Add to that the cost of increased border patrol and maintenance to make such a project even remotely effective. 

"El Pendejo" says that Mexico will pay for this wall, and Mexico justifiably says "No way, José."  If they won't pay, he says, we will get the money through taxes and tariffs.  A trade war with Mexico would certainly hurt Mexico's economy, but it would also hurt U.S. businesses.  The U.S. exports around 235 billion dollars of goods annually to Mexico.  Some Mexicans are already calling for a boycott of U.S. companies.

Then there was the telephone call between "El Pendejo" and the President of Mexico.  "El Pendejo" said that he should send U.S. troops south of the border to fight the bad "hombres" (drug cartels).  He later said that the remark was "light hearted".  Hey, anyone with an ounce of diplomatic skill would know that you don't joke about sending in troops when talking to the sovereign leader of an ally!

Finally, while I was in Mexico I heard a lot on the radio about incidents that have not received any publicity here.  I do not know how widespread this is, but there have been cases of Mexican citizens with valid visas being turned away by U.S. immigration officials.  The latest case, reported to me by my friend Alejandro, is of a Mexican woman traveling to the U.S.  When she went through immigration, the official inspected her cell phone.  When he found anti-Trump jokes on her phone, he denied her admittance.  Again, I do not know how widespread this is, but it is enough of a problem that Mexican radio is broadcasting warnings to Mexican tourists to the U.S. and providing a telephone number to call in case of human rights abuses.

Is it any wonder that Alejandro is afraid to travel to the U.S., and will probably not make his annual visit to Ohio?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Return Home

On Thursday I returned home after a month in Mexico.

For some unexplained reason I had been upgraded to first class on my flight from Mexico City to Houston, so that was very pleasant.  Upon my arrival in Houston, immigration and customs went very quickly and smoothly.  I passed through immigration, picked up my checked suitcase, went through customs, and rechecked my bag to Cleveland in around fifteen minutes.  The line going back through security was not especially long, however the only annoyance of the whole procedure occurred there.  I had put my wristwatch in the pocket of my jacket which I put in one of the bins.  After passing through security I could not find my watch.  The TSA fellow looked through the bins and checked the X-ray belt but could not find it either.  I don't know what happened.  It was my favorite watch, but fortunately it was not an extremely expensive watch.  My flight to Cleveland went smoothly and I arrived home early.

I already have made my reservations for my next trip to Mexico.  I will be leaving on April 4th.  I am going to try something different on my next flight.  I written here about how much I like the Mexican airline Interjet.  I have flown with them on a number of flights within Mexico. There is plenty of legroom and there is no charge for checked luggage.  Rather than fly the entire way to Mexico on United, I am going to take United to Chicago, but then take Interjet's afternoon flight from Chicago to Mexico City.  The fare was a bit more expensive, but cheaper than if I were to pay for United's Economy Plus which has comparable legroom.  The only downside is that I will not be able to check my luggage all the way to Mexico City.  In Chicago I will have to pick up my suitcase, recheck it at the Interjet desk, and go back through security.  However the schedule works out so that I will have ample time in Chicago to do that.  We'll see if I prefer that itinerary. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sadly, It's Time to Go Home

Unfortunately, tomorrow I must return to Trumpland.  Today I have to pack my bags.  I bought quite a bit of stuff on this trip, so I hope that my big suitcase will be under the 50 pound limit.  I am also wondering what it will be like going through immigration and customs.  Houston has been generally been quite quick and efficient, but will there be hassle and chaos now with the Pendejo-in-Chief in charge?  We shall see.

At least I can look forward to returning to Mexico in two months when I begin my experiment in being a "semi-ex-pat".  I will be renting the apartment that I saw earlier on this trip.  It will be exciting having a new "home-away-from-home" and getting acquainted with a new neighborhood.  However, I do have to say that I will miss the neighborhood of Condesa where I have been staying for the last several years.  I have felt very comfortable here, and there are so many great restaurants within walking distance.  Of course there will be plenty of restaurants near my new place, but I have a feeling that more of them will be rather run-of-the-mill chain restaurants.   In any event, since the new apartment has a larger, better equipped kitchen, I will be doing less eating out.  Dining at a restaurant every night has not been good for the waistline.

   ¡Hasta pronto, México!

Another Taco Joint

In Mexico City there are countless "taquerías", not to mention the taco stands on the street.  Happily they still far outnumber the McDonald's and the Starbucks here!

The other day I tried out another "taquería" that is just a few blocks from my apartment.  It is called "Punto Taco", and it's located in the "Roma Norte" neighborhood on Alvaro Obregón Avenue. 

I guess I was first attracted by the funny phrases painted over the doorways, such as "You are the tortilla of my taco."

The place does not serve "tacos al pastor"... the tacos filled with pork sliced from a vertical rotisserie.  However they do have 15 different varieties of fillings plus some daily specials.  I ordered one of the packages... three tacos plus a beverage for 70 pesos (less than $3.50 US)
There is a bar with a variety of salsas, and extra toppings and sides.  I selected "cochinita pibil" (Yucatan-style pork), "tinga de pollo" (Puebla-style chicken in sauce) and "rajas con crema y papas" (strips of Poblano chiles in sour cream with potatoes).

All three were very tasty, and what I really liked about the place is that they are very generous with the fillings.  Three tacos here make a very filling lunch.