city at night

city at night

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Crossing Paths

The reservations for my return to Mexico City next week were made quite a while ago.  Now I am sorry that I had not planned my departure for an earlier date.

Irma, who was born in the city of Jalapa in the Mexican state of Veracruz, is a very dear friend of mine.  I have known her since my college days when her late husband was one of my Spanish professors.  She still lives here in Ohio, just a few minutes' drive from my house.  She left a little over a week ago for Mexico City.  Unfortunately, by the time I get there, she will have already moved on to Jalapa where she still has family.  It would have been nice to go out for dinner with her down there.

Then, less than two weeks ago, I received an email from Amy, the daughter of one of my former teaching colleagues.  I have known Amy since she was a baby.  She now lives near Washington, D.C., and she takes frequent international business trips.  She wrote to ask if I were in Mexico City because she was going to attend a conference there and hoped that we might be able to get together.  I said that that I wouldn't be there until April, but I told her to let me know if she had any questions. 

She wrote back and said that one afternoon she had three hours free.  She wanted to know what she should see, and wondered it she should go to the Anthropology Museum.  She also wanted to know if I had any restaurant recommendations.  I answered that although the Anthropology Museum is a "must-see" sight, it merits more time, especially since she would be wasting part of those three hours just getting there and returning to her hotel.  Since she is staying downtown, I suggested that she explore the "Centro Histórico" of the city.  I planned out a walking tour for her to take.  I also recommended my favorite restaurant, "Angelopolitano", and told her that it had the best "mole" and "chiles en nogada" in the city.

Last Saturday, while she was on her way to the airport, Amy wrote again and thanked me for the advice.  "You're better than Rick Steves," she said.  "I'm looking forward to my walking tour and to eating 'mole'!"  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Counting Down the Days

One week from today I will once again leave for Mexico City.  During the time that I am at home in Ohio, it never seems as if I will be able to accomplish everything that I need to get done.  But usually everything is finished with time to spare.

The painting that I did for the charity auction was finished and delivered.

Income tax has been prepared and sent in.

I have been to my scheduled doctors' appointments, and all that is left is a dentist's appointment tomorrow 

The snow is gone (knock on wood), and on one pleasant day I cleaned up the yard, picking up the many twigs and branches that had fallen during winter storms and raking up leaves.  (My pin oak tree never drops all of its leaves in the autumn, but continues to shed its dead, brown leaves throughout the winter and into the spring.)

One carry-on bag is almost packed.  I have clothes at the condo that I rent in Mexico City, so the bag is mainly filled with gifts for Alejandro and his family. 

I even made a batch of fudge to take to Alejandro's family.  I just finished cutting that into pieces and putting it into a container.  (We will see if that once again arouses the suspicions of security at the airport!)

One thing that I must always do when I am at home is to see friends and relatives before I fly off to Mexico again.  My social calendar has been very full.  Even so, there are a few friends that will have to wait until my return in May to see me.

Last weekend I took an overnight trip to Columbus to see family down there.  Last night I got together with my cousin Gail and her husband Wes, and we went out for dinner at a nearby Ukrainian restaurant.  Ukrainian cuisine is quite similar to Polish cooking, and the borsht, pierogis and cabbage rolls that I ordered were as good as any that I have ever had!

(photo taken by Wes)
 (After all that good food, I really didn't need dessert, but neither Wes nor I could resist.)

Today, in just a couple hours, I will leave to meet a friend for lunch at a local German restaurant.  After all these social engagements, I think that I will need to fast for a few days before I head to Mexico with all its culinary delights!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Promise of Spring

According to the calendar spring has arrived, but I should know better than to think that the snow is over.  I have lived all my life in Ohio, and I know that it is not unusual for us to have snow in April.  Here the promise of spring is that winter isn't over yet.

This is what I awoke to this morning...

Still I can't help but hope that this is the last of it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Many Faces of Weaving

A while ago I posted an entry about the photographic exhibits which are hung along the fence of Chapultepec Park.  On my latest trip to Mexico City, there was a second display of photos.  This one dealt with different types of weaving found throughout Mexico.  We're not talking about the conventional weaving of fabric on a loom (although that is certainly an important Mexican handicraft), but different techniques and different materials that are in some cases quite unconventional.

Here are some of the photos from that exhibit...

The Seri tribe of the northern state of Sonora produces some of the country's most beautiful baskets.

In the state of Yucatán the fiber of the sisal or "henequén" plant is used not only to make rope and twine, but also a variety of handicrafts such as hammocks.

The town of Becal in the state of Campeche is famous for producing the finest "Panama" hats.  They are woven from the leaves of the "jipijapa" palm, a plant which is technically not a member of the palm family.  The hats are woven in caves where the humidity keeps the leaves pliable.

In the village of Tetelpa in the state of Morelos, the leaves of an agave called the "cucharilla" plant are woven to create flowers.  These "flowers" are used to decorate large archways which adorn the church on holidays.

In the village of Zautla, Puebla, a woman weaves "petates", the traditional sleeping mat.

In San Miguel Tolimán in the state of Querétaro food and flowers are woven together to create a 60 foot high tower known as a "chimal".  These towers honor the patron saint and give thanks for a successful harvest.

In Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, natural fibers are used to create the headdresses for the traditional dancers who perform at the town's annual festival.

An interesting display on the amazing creativity of the Mexican people!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Souvenirs for Charity

I wrote in my last post that each year I do a painting to donate to the spring auction for "Los Amigos de las Américas".  During my travels to Mexico I also pick up a number of small items for their silent auction table of Latin American handicrafts.  I love to shop in the handicraft stores and markets when I am in Mexico, but I really don't need more "stuff" in my house.  So this provides me with an excuse to go shopping.  Here are the items which I have collected during the course of the last year for the auction...

A child's "lucha libre" mask

A trivet made from Yucatecan sisal and a small woven bag

A woven rattle in the shape of a pig, a doll of a Mexican boy, and another doll made from corn husks

A hand painted Christmas ornament, a small wooden cross with designs typical of the state of Guerrero, and a child's wooden toy

A wooden bowl and spoon for salsa

A couple of metal bookmarks
I found these in a bookstore in the historic center of Mexico City.
They had a wide variety of different designs.

A couple of small paintings which I bought at the Sunday art market in the Mexico City neighborhood of San Angel

And finally a framed picture painted on a real feather.
This is from Mérida, Yucatán.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ready for Auction

Last week I wrote that I had started doing a painting which I will donate to a charity auction.  This evening I finished the painting.

As I previously wrote, I was going to do a street scene based on a photo which I had taken in the small Mexican town of Tlalpujahua.  But very quickly my painting diverged from the photo, and it is simply an imaginary scene in an imaginary Mexican village.  It is a fairly large canvas measuring 36" by 24".  I am not really satisfied with the way it turned out, but, hopefully, someone will like it and bid on it.

The auction will be held on April 14th in Fairlawn, Ohio (a suburb of Akron).  The proceeds benefit the Ohio chapter of "Los Amigos de las Américas", an organization which sends high school and college students to Latin American countries where they spend the summer doing volunteer work.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Closed Until ????

The only major tourist attraction in the Mexico City neighborhood of Nápoles where I have been staying is a structure adjoining the World Trade Center known as the "Polyforum Siqueiros".

This center for cultural, political and social events was built in the 1960s as a part of the complex which includes the present day World Trade Center.  (Originally, the tower which houses the World Trade Center was planned as an enormous hotel... "el Hotel de México"... which was slated to open in time for the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  The project ran over schedule, and the proposed hotel never opened.  Eventually, the tower was renovated as the office building and convention center that it is today.)  The "Polyforum" features murals by the famed painter David Siqueiros (1896-1974).  The exterior has twelve large panels representing themes such as "Music", "Dance" and "Mythology".  Inside there is a gigantic round hall known as the "Foro Universal" which contains Siqueiros's largest mural , "The March of Humanity".  The outside and inside paintings cover over 93,000 square feet, and taken together comprise, according to the "Polyforum", the largest mural in the world.

I visited the "Polyforum" a few years ago, and, although Siqueiros is not my favorite artist, the vast expanse of the murals is very impressive.  Since I started renting the condo in Nápoles I pass the "Polyforum" constantly, but on the last couple trips, I have noticed that it has been closed to the public.  In fact, the entire grounds are blocked off with construction barricades.  A major renovation project is underway.  

Over the years the exterior murals have deteriorated due to weather and air pollution.  Those paintings are going to be restored to their original vibrancy.  I did not realize that there are even murals on the roof of the building.

(image taken from the web)

Those paintings have suffered the most severe damage, and they, too, will be restored.

But there is much more to this project than just sprucing up the paintings.  The public area around the "Polyforum" is going to be reconfigured, and a sleek, high-rise building will go up between the cultural center and the World Trade Center.

(image taken from the web)

The building will include public areas and offices and storage space for the Siqueiros Foundation which owns the "Polyforum".  The upper stories will include a hotel, apartments and offices.  The rents will provide the Siqueiros Foundation with the funds to continue to maintain the "Polyforum".  

A portion of the building will be cantilevered with mirrored windows which will reflect the paintings on the roof of the "Polyforum".

(image taken from the web)

From the public terraces of the building, the northern panels of the exterior of the "Polyforum" will be more visible than previously.

(image taken from the web)

The other side of the building will be designed with a tribute to Siqueiros that will be seen far down Insurgentes Avenue.

The plans look quite spectacular, but I have not been able to find any completion date listed anywhere.  From what I have seen passing the site, construction has not even begun yet.  It could be years before the "Polyforum" is open to the public again.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Deservedly a Winner

This afternoon I went to see this year's Oscar winning motion picture, "The Shape of Water", and, in my opinion, it deserves the many awards that it has won.

(image from the web)

I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of science fiction or fantasy films.  However, director Guillermo del Toro's work first came to my attention with his 2006, Spanish language movie, "Pan's Labyrinth".  The picture deftly combines the brutal reality of post-Civil War Spain with mythological fantasy.  I then saw an earlier work of del Toro, also in Spanish, "The Devil's Backbone".  It is a ghost story set in an isolated orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.  I actually liked that film even more than "Pan's Labyrinth". 

I had no interest in the mainstream action / comic book films that del Toro made, such as "Hellboy" or "Pacific Rim".  However, it seemed that "The Shape of Water" would be a return to his previous intriguing work.  For those who have not seen the movie, I will not give away too much of the storyline.  But I think that everyone knows that it is the bizarre romance between a mute woman and a man-like, amphibious creature.  Elisa is a cleaning lady in a top secret government laboratory during the Cold War.  It is there that she meets the creature who was discovered in a South American river.  It is definitely an outrageously weird story that in less capable hands could have been a laughable mess. But del Toro expertly crafts a moving, mesmerizing movie.  The acting is superb.  Sally Hawkins, who plays the cleaning lady, says not a word, yet conveys, just with her eyes, so much emotion. Octavia Spencer, who plays Elisa's co-worker and friend, and Richard Jenkins, who plays her closeted neighbor, both stand out among the excellent cast.   I have not yet seen all the nominees for Best Picture.  Most of them look very interesting.  However, I doubt if any of them can quite equal "The Shape of Water".      

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mexico Shines at the Oscars

I often do not bother to watch the broadcast of the Academy Awards, but I definitely wanted to see last night's ceremony.  Although I had only seen one of the films that had been nominated for Best Picture ("Dunkirk"), almost all of the nominees were movies that I want to see for a change.  Even though science fiction is generally not my cup of tea, I was rooting for "The Shape of Water" to win.  I really liked the earlier Spanish-language films of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Devil's Backbone".  I had wanted to see "The Shape of Water" while I was in Mexico.  But most of the showings were dubbed in Spanish rather than in English with subtitles... and I hate dubbing. 

"The Shape of Water" won four awards last night, and Mexico's son, Guillermo del Toro, appeared on stage twice, winning Best Director and Best Picture of the year.  In his acceptance speech Del Toro said, "I am an immigrant... The greatest thing that our art and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand.  We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper."

I was eager to see "Coco" win the award for best animated film.  I am not a big fan of cartoons, either, but I was thoroughly enchanted with "Coco".  It was not a Mexican film, but it has been described as a "love poem to Mexico".  Its creators at Disney / Pixar sought, and succeeded, in creating a positive depiction of Mexican culture in a time when the Mexican people are often insulted.  The movie broke all box office records in Mexico, so I am sure the TV audience south of the border was pleased with Coco's win.

I also wanted "Remember Me" from "Coco" to win the award for Best Song. I was afraid that "This Is Me" from "The Greatest Showman" would snatch the prize.  Admittedly, the lyrics of the later make a deeper statement, but I find "Remember Me" to be a more beautiful and memorable melody.  And besides, I did not like the movie "The Greatest Showman".  The presentation of "Remember Me" began shakily with Mexican actor Gael Bernal Garcia singing (he doesn't have the greatest singing voice), but built to an extravaganza ending with costumed folk dancers and fireworks.  I was pleased to see the song come away with the award.

There were a lot of Latinos among the presenters last night.  Puerto Rican-born actress Rita Moreno was among them, and she wore the same gown that she wore in 1962 when she won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in "West Side Story".  And am I the only one who noticed that the musical interludes featured a number of classic Mexican songs... "Perfidia", "Solamente Una Vez" and "Bésame Mucho"?

All in all, it was a great night for Mexico at the Oscars.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Paint Time

My constant traveling schedule has pushed my hobby of landscape painting to the back burner.  I used to do a lot of painting.  I was even a member of the local fine arts club, participated in their shows, and sold a painting from time to time.

Now I am generally doing just two paintings per year.  One is a small canvas which I use for printing off my own Christmas cards, and the other is to donate to the annual charity auction of the Ohio chapter of "Los Amigos de las Américas".  The auction is held each April, so each year when I return from my winter trip to Mexico, I must get started painting.

The picture is already about one fourth completed, and, as usual, the theme is Mexican.  I picked a photo that I took last year as the inspiration.

I took this photo of a typical street scene in the small town of Tlalpujahua, a picturesque former mining town in the mountains of the state of Michoacán.  I say that it is the inspiration for my painting, and not a faithful rendering.  Already there are enough differences between the painting and the photo that it is more than just "artistic license".  

The canvas is fairly large... 36 inches by 24... so I have been working diligently on a nearly daily basis.  I must finish it by the end of the month, and deliver it to member of the auction committee.  Once again, I will not be able to attend the auction, since I will be in Mexico again when it is held in mid-April.

I will post a photo of the painting here when I have completed it.

Friday, March 2, 2018


A nor'easter is an Atlantic storm usually associated with New England.  But yesterday's storm was of such intensity that it was felt all the way here in the Cleveland area.

Yesterday it rained heavily all day long.  By afternoon there was a lake in back of the house.

Then in the evening, the rain turned to snow.  I woke up this morning to this wintry scene.

I have not yet read any news about the effects of the storm on the Atlantic coast, but the forecast was for damaging storm surges.  So I will not complain about our brief return to winter.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Is the World Coming to an End?

The unthinkable has happened.  Although it was not expressed in eloquent terms, the "Pendejo-in-Chief" expressed the desire for expanded gun control in a bipartisan meeting with senators.  He called for tougher background checks and raising the age for the purchase of guns.  He even suggested that he is willing to discuss the banning of assault weapons.  He chastised some of the senators for being afraid of the NRA.  Oh, my gosh!  Is the world coming to an end?  I actually agreed with him on something! 

Of course, he had to get a dig in at Obama by saying the former President did not push hard enough for gun control.  What could he do after the Republicans filibustered an attempted bill?  Some of the Republican senators interviewed afterward said they were unmoved and basically said that they will not go against their beloved NRA.  Only time will tell if once again some common sense legislation gets shot down in Congress.