Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bringing in the New Year

There are still a few hours remaining to the year 2017, but I just hung my 2018 calendar, a custom calendar that I ordered with photos which I took in Mexico City.

No New Year's Eve revelry is planned here.  At midnight I will open the front door, ring the dinner bell which belonged to my great-grandmother, and then go to bed.

The first week of the new year will be busy however.  Tomorrow I am invited to spend the day with one of my former teaching colleagues and her family.  I have been spending New Year's Day with them for the past several years, and we always have a very nice time.  Then there are more mundane activities planned.  On Tuesday the plumber is coming to repair a leaky pipe in the kitchen, on Wednesday I have a dentist appointment, and on Thursday I am taking my car in for service.  Then on Friday there is something enjoyable on my schedule.  My cousin and I are going to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see a special exhibit called "The Jazz Age".  

The following weekend I must get ready for my departure for Mexico on January 9th.
And then I can say "Adiós" to the snow and cold of an Ohio winter.


Happy New Year to all my readers!
Feliz Año Nuevo

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Wintry Blast

I guess that Mother Nature wanted me to have a taste of winter before I leave for the milder climes of Mexico.  She sent a blast of Arctic air that has kept us well below freezing and given us nighttime lows in the single digits (Fahrenheit).  On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day our lows are forecast to be below zero.

Although the ground is covered with a blanket of white, we have not had the extreme snowfall that some places have had.  I live in the western suburbs of Cleveland, and here we do not get as much snow as in the "snow belt" on the east side of Cleveland.

(Image from the web)

As you can see from the map above, just to the east of downtown Cleveland, the shore of Lake Erie slopes northward.  That means that the westerly, moisture-bearing winds coming across Lake Erie dump the most snow on the east side of the city.  This "lake effect" snow is even worse along Pennsylvania's coast.  Thus, while I only have a few inches of snow, the city of Erie, Pennsylvania was buried under five feet of snow!

Of course the "pendejo" in the White House has used this winter weather to mock the reality of global warming.  His feeble, anti-scientific brain does not understand the difference between weather (the atmospheric conditions at a certain time in a given place) and climate (the long term trend).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Where Is Home?



Those of you who regularly read my blog know that 2017 was almost evenly split between my home outside of Cleveland and Mexico.  I am now renting an apartment in Mexico City, and I am spending almost every other month down there.  Some people have asked me if it wouldn't be easier to simply spend six months in one place and six months in the other instead of constantly flying back and forth.  However there is always something that requires my presence in Ohio... filing income taxes, yard and garden work, family celebrations, etc., etc.  In less than two weeks I will return to Mexico.  This time I will spend six weeks down there, and I will miss a large chunk of the winter.

I was born and raised in Ohio, and I have lived in the same house since I was three years old.  My roots are most definitely here, and the thought of pulling up stakes and simply moving permanently to Mexico seems a daunting and terrifying task.  But yet, as I think about returning to the apartment in Mexico City, I catch myself thinking as if I will be returning home.  I am looking forward to the familiar places and the routines that I have established down there.  Perhaps the blast of winter weather here in Ohio simply has me longing for the sunshine and spring-like temperatures of Mexico City.  But I have to ask myself, just where is home for me???

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Not-So-Great Showman

Going to see a movie is usually a standard part of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I had a wonderful time with family in Columbus at Christmas, but the film that we saw this year was not the highlight of the holiday.

We decided upon "The Greatest Showman", a musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum.  I was fine with that choice.  I like historical movies, I like the lead actor Hugh Jackman, and I generally like musicals.  The others in our group enjoyed the film, but I thought it was a dud.

(image from the web)

The movie was not popular with many of the critics.  For one thing they lambasted the movie for having only a tenuous relationship with historical fact.  Barnum is treated here as a benevolent empresario when in fact he was a conman, a huckster.  The main theme of the movie is that he treated the members of his "freak show"  with the dignity and respect that they deserved as human beings.  The film never mentions Barnum's first success in "show business".  During the pre-Civil War era, he purchased an elderly, blind, paralyzed slave woman. Barnum put her display ten to twelve hours each day, and claimed that she was the 161 year old nursemaid of George Washington.  He even exploited her in death when he sold tickets to a public autopsy of her body.  Nice guy! 

One of the most famous members of Barnum's show, "General Tom Thumb", the world's smallest man, is portrayed in the movie as a young adult who willingly joins the circus.  In fact "Tom Thumb" was a five year old child and was put on stage drinking wine and smoking cigars for the amusement of the audience.

Barnum sought to gain respectability by bringing the acclaimed Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind, to the United States.  The descendants of Miss Lind should sue the producers of this film for the way she is depicted.  She is shown as a temptress who quits the tour when she is unable to seduce the happily married Barnum.  In fact, she was a devout and shy woman who donated most of her earnings to the establishment of free, public schools in Sweden.  She quit the tour because she was uncomfortable with Barnum's marketing techniques. 

Besides the mess that the move makes of history, there is the music.  I didn't realize that the music was written by the pair that wrote last year's "Blah Blah Land"... I mean, "La La Land"... a ho-hum show filled with thoroughly forgettable songs.  "The Greatest Showman" has a number of big, razzmatazz song and dance numbers... but the music is still completely forgettable.  

One thing which the critics did not mention but which I found quite jarring is the fact that the songs for this story, which takes place in the 19th century, are all written in a contemporary pop music style.  The music that the songwriters put in the mouth of the operatic Jenny Lind is quite laughable.

I just hope that next year when the Oscars are awarded this lame movie doesn't steal the best song and best score awards from the far superior "Coco".  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Somber Thoughts

I apologize to my readers for writing such a melancholy post at this festive time of year.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my dear friend and teaching colleague, Jane, who passed away two years ago this month. 

Jane and I taught Spanish together for many years, and we shared many travel experiences.  Our trips together in Yucatán and Oaxaca are recorded on this blog.  In September of 2015 she was diagnosed with cancer, and before Christmas she was gone.

Yesterday I received the news that the younger sister of a good high school friend of mine is gravely ill.  I did not even know that she was sick, but she is now receiving hospice care.  I am going to pay her a short visit this afternoon.  I do not know her really well... we would see each other from time to time, usually when her brother was in town... but the news hit me hard.  It is another gut-wrenching reminder of our mortality and the fragility of life.

So, I would say to you, my readers, always value each day and treasure your family and friends.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One More Time

I do not intend to imitate Alejandro's little nephew Ezra and go to the movie theater to see "Coco" over and over again.  (Alejandro finally saw the movie in Mexico last weekend, and his nephew accompanied him.  Ezra has now seen the movie seven times!)  However, yesterday I did go with a friend to see "Coco" a second time.

(Image taken from the web)

I enjoyed the movie just as much the second time around, and, yes, I once again cried at the ending.  (Alejandro admitted that he cried too.)  

While we were in the mall, I stopped in a music store and bought the soundtrack of "Coco". I love the music, although I prefer the Spanish version of the song "Remember Me" ("Recuérdame").  Here is a link to a YouTube video of it sung by well-known Mexican singer Carlos Rivera...


The movie is nearing the end of its eight week run in Mexico where it quickly became the all-time box office hit of the Mexican cinema.  Too bad.  If it had still been in the theaters when I return to Mexico in January, I would have gone a third time, just to see the Spanish version!  However, I suppose that the DVD will be out by that time, and I intend to buy it while I am down there.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I would assume that you have an interest in Mexico.  So I strongly recommend  that go out and see this beautiful movie, which has been described by some as "a love letter to Mexico".   And don't forget to bring some tissues.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Fudge Kitchen

It's that time of year when my kitchen is redolent with the smell of chocolate.  Every year at Christmas time I make fudge for friends, family and neighbors.  I have already made seven pans of my cherry fudge, and I have four more batches to make.

I do not have to take any fudge with me on my next trip to Mexico since I took a big box for Alejandro's family on my trip in October.  They carefully ration it out as if it were some precious treat, and they still have a good supply. There is no word in Spanish for fudge, so I simply refer to it as "chocolate".  Alejandro's little nephew Ezra is especially fond of my fudge, but it wasn't always that way.  A few years ago when I first brought them a box, Ezra tasted a piece and declared that it tasted like "rotten salmon".  I have no idea how he would know what rotten salmon tastes like, but I suspect that he was expecting the "chocolate" to be sweeter than it is.  In any event, it didn't take long for him to develop a taste for my fudge.

In the coming days I will be delivering many boxes of "rotten salmon" !

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Card 2017

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that each year I create my own Christmas cards.  It is something that I have been doing since I retired in 2004.  Each autumn I paint a small picture, usually based on a photo which I have taken during my travels.  I then scan the painting to my computer, and in October I print off my cards.  Since 2011, I have been traveling to Mexico each November.  I take the cards and a box of envelopes with me, and by the time I return home before Thanksgiving, the cards are all ready to send.  My friends all expect my card to be the first that they receive each season.

By this time everyone has received my card... even my cousins in Europe.  So I shall now unveil the 2017 card here on my blog.

The painting is entitled "Twilight in Tlalpujahua".  Tlalpujahua is a small town in the state of Michoacán which Alejandro and I visited earlier this year.  I took the original photo from a rooftop restaurant where we were having supper.  Not only is Tlalpujahua a beautiful, colonial town, but it is Mexico's number one producer of blown glass Christmas ornaments.  So, it seemed an obvious choice for this year's card.

Best wishes to all of my readers for a very joyous holiday season!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Weekend in Chicago

Each year in early December I take a short trip to Chicago to visit friends and to attend their annual Christmas party.

I left on Friday morning and, surprisingly, the flight was not very crowded.  I had the entire group of three seats to myself.  So I scooted over to the window seat before we began our descent, and I got some pictures of downtown Chicago.

The weather was chilly but sunny.  On Friday evening I treated my friends to dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant located just a few blocks from their condo.  "Las Mañanitas is a cut above most "Mexican" restaurants in the U.S. (usually more "Tex-Mex" than authentically Mexican).  I had a very good dinner of potato enchiladas.

When we left the restaurant it had begun to snow.  By the next morning there was a light blanket of white on the ground.

In Cleveland there had been a light snowfall in November, but I was still in Mexico at that time.  So this was my first snow of the season.

The party on Saturday night was very nice.  It ended earlier than in previous years... perhaps an indication that we are all getting older!

I returned home on Monday evening.  By that time, the white stuff had melted.  However, shortly before boarding the plane back to Cleveland, it began to snow once again.  We sat in the plane for at least an hour while awaiting our turn for the plane to be de-iced. 

I finally arrived in Cleveland, later than scheduled.  There was no snow, but this morning I awoke to a wintry scene.  There isn't enough snow to bother with the snow blower... at least not yet.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Next Trip

I already have reservations for my next trip.  After the holidays are over I will return to Mexico, and I will stay down there for a good chunk of our winter... returning to Ohio in late February.  This trip is going to be a bit different however.  Instead of flying on Interjet Airlines to Mexico City, I am going to take United Airlines all the way to the city of Morelia.

(image taken from the web)

Morelia is the capital of the state of Michoacán and is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the country's colonial cities.  (In fact, I recently read an article on the internet... I can't remember where or provide a link... which included Morelia on a list of little-known cities with stunning architecture.)  I have never been there, although it has always been on my list of places to see.  So I will begin my next trip with three nights in that lovely city.  From Morelia I will take a bus to another place I have never seen, the town of Pátzcuaro.  Pátzcuaro is a smaller colonial town located about an hour from Morelia and near the shores of the lake of the same name.

(image taken from the web)

In addition to the picturesque town itself and the nearby lake, there are numerous villages famous for their handicrafts.  I will spend five nights in Pátzcuaro, and then take a bus from there to Mexico City. I will spend the remainder of my time in the condo that I have been renting there. 

There will be, however, a long weekend (Constitution Day on February 5th) during my time in Mexico City, and Alejandro and I are discussing where we are going to go for that weekend.  Perhaps we will go to one of the Monarch Butterfly Reserves in the mountains of Michoacán.  That is another place that has long been on my bucket list.  It is not an easy excursion.  It would include a long hike... or horseback ride... at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level.  We shall see. 

(image taken from the web)

The next trip is shaping up to include some interesting new sights!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Missing Virtues

During my recent trip to Mexico City, I showed you a picture of damage done to the Cathedral in the September earthquake.  Above the bell tower there were statues of the three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity.  These were designed by Manuel Tolsá, the famous architect and sculptor who transformed the face of Mexico City during the late colonial period.  One of the three statues, that of Hope, had crashed to the ground during the earthquake.

I did not, however, show you, another photo which I took later in the trip.  To ensure that the remaining two statues will not face a similar fate, Faith and Charity had been carefully removed from the tower.

Those sculptures, I assume, will be placed in one of the city's many museums... perhaps the National Museum of Art.