Friday, June 29, 2018

I Wouldn't Exist

Amidst all the rancorous debate over immigration, I can't help but think that if the current regulations had been in force in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I, and an enormous portion of this nation's population would not exist.  My paternal grandfather from Poland would have never met my paternal grandmother from Slovakia.  My maternal grandmother, whose parents were from England, would have never met my maternal grandfather, whose mother immigrated from Switzerland when she was a child and whose father was the son of German-born farmer who never learned to speak English in all the years that he lived here.  All those blood lines that make up the person that I am would have never met up here in Ohio.  

Even if they had managed to enter the country, they would have not been able to afford a green card to live and work here legally.  (A green card currently costs between 300 and 500 dollars, and the subsequent processing fees run between 200 and 400 dollars.)  My English ancestors were listed in the British census as "agricultural laborers"... a nice way of saying "peasants".  My Swiss great grandparents loaded their five children on a cart and headed to France to take a boat to America.  Switzerland was not always the wealthy nation it is today.  There were frequent periods of economic depression and famine. 

Steven Miller, the chief architect of the current administration's immigration policies, would certainly not be here.  His great grandparents escaped the anti-Jewish pogroms of czarist Russia and arrived here with eight dollars in their pockets.

(image taken from the web)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Return of the Annuals

Last year I was in Mexico from early April until early May, and then I returned from early June until early July.  That meant that I had just one month at home in Ohio to try to do all my yard and gardening work.  No annuals at all were planted in my flower beds.  I simply cleaned out, weeded, and manicured the beds and let the perennials do their thing.

This year I will not return to Mexico until mid-July, which means that I have had two months to work in the garden.  I have had time to plant a few annuals.

Last year, the large flower box behind my bedroom was left empty.  This year I have filled it with flowers.

I planted New Guinea impatiens and a flower called Calibraochoa.  I always thought that the Calibrochoa were simply a variety of petunia, but with a bit of research I discovered that, although they are closely related to the petunia, they are a distinct genus.  They were named after Antonio de la Cal y Bracho, a 19th century Mexican botanist.

I used to plant more than a half dozen hanging baskets and a couple dozen pots with annuals.  I was not that ambitious, but I did plant a couple hanging baskets with a variety of petunia that I like called "superpetunias".

When I was at the nursery there were a few annuals that caught my eye, so I do have a couple pots with flowers on the patio.

And I couldn't resist buying a "poblano" pepper plant.  (The tag gives it the cutesy name of "Ancho Villa"... "ancho" being the name for a dried "poblano".)

With luck, when I return from Mexico in late August, I might be harvesting some "poblanos" for a taste of Mexico at home.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Mini-Reunion

I have known my friend Gayle since kindergarten, and she still lives about five minutes away from me.  I introduced you to her on this blog quite a while ago when, during one of Alejandro's visits to Ohio, she joined us for dinner.  

Back when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico I wrote about my high school friend Duffy who has lived for many years in San Juan where he was an immigration attorney.  He is recently retired, although he still goes to the office to help his colleagues with the transition to his departure from the firm.   His mom, Nadine, still lives in the area, so several times a year he comes back to Ohio.  Whenever he is up here we get together for a little reunion.

Earlier this week we went out to a new Italian restaurant that has opened practically around the corner from my house.

Duffy, his mom Nadine, and Gayle

The food is quite good, and we had a enjoyable time conversing and catching up on what is going on in our lives.

(Photo taken by our waitress)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Hang My Head in Shame

It's been a while since I have posted anything political on this blog, but that does not mean that I have not been seething over the orange "Pendejo" in the White House.  With his latest level of depravity, I have to vent, or my head will explode.

Along our southern border there are scenes which seem reminiscent of Nazi Germany.  Children are being forcibly separated from their parents and placed in cages.  Children cry out for their "mamá" and "papá", while some Neanderthal guards (my apologies to the Neanderthals) make jokes about it.  The attorney general has the gall to defend the policy by quoting scripture.  The "Pendejo" calls the undocumented immigrants an "infestation", and then in a jingoistic gesture hugs the flag.

(image taken from the web)

In the current political climate, the "deplorables" have been emboldened.  They have crawled out of their fetid holes and proudly proclaimed their bigotry.

Every nation has had its dark pages of history, and the United States is no exception.  Our nation's story has a recurring theme of racism and bigotry.  The horror of slavery was followed by the Klu Klux Klan, lynchings and Jim Crow Laws...  treaties with the Native Americans were constantly broken and their population was systematically decimated... Irish immigrants were viewed as sub-human... in fact any non-WASP immigrant was viewed with contempt... the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 closed the door to Chinese immigrants and scores of Chinese were murdered with impunity... during World War II, law-abiding Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps. One hopes that as a nation we learn from history and progress toward social justice.  However, currently it seems as if we are regressing.

At this moment in time

I am ashamed of my country.   

Monday, June 18, 2018

And the Earth Moved

You may have already read about the slight earth tremor that occurred in Mexico City on Sunday, but I thought it was a funny story worth repeating.

Yesterday Mexico played its first game of the World Cup against Germany, the defending champions.  The German team is a favorite to win the cup again, and Mexico was the underdog.  Mexico is a nation of soccer fanatics, and millions were glued to their televisions watching the match.

Thirty five minutes into the game Mexico scored a goal against Germany.  At that same moment, two different sensors of the Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigation in Mexico City picked up slight seismic movement.  Could millions of Mexican fans jumping up and down with glee have caused a tiny tremor?  Some scientists scoff at the idea, but seismologists in Chile also noted the activity from Mexico on their instruments.  They said that the tremor appeared to be of artificial origen.

The so-called "fanquake" may or may not be simply a coincidence.  However, that one goal gave Mexico an unexpected victory over Germany, and after the game the fans poured out onto the streets to celebrate.

(photo taken from the web)
   The post-game celebration fills Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Going Downtown... or... A Break from Gardening

Every day I have been working in the garden.  I was planning to take a trip into downtown Cleveland on the next rainy day because I wanted to buy some Cleveland souvenirs to take to Mexico for Alejandro's family.  

The forecast for Monday called for rain.  But when I checked the weather report on Monday morning, the rain was not expected until the evening.  So I worked in the garden.  On Tuesday it was supposed to rain, but when I got up and checked the forecast, the probability of showers had decreased.  So I worked in the garden.  This morning, Wednesday, the skies were overcast, but the weather report did not call for rain.  I decided, "I don't care!  I need a break!"   Before I had finished my breakfast it began to rain, and that clinched my decision.

I drove to the nearest station of the Rapid Transit System, parked my car, and took the train downtown.  It is a about a 25 minute ride.  Downtown Cleveland appeared on the bank of the Cuyahoga River.

The train drops you off at the underground station of the Tower City complex.  Back in the days when train travel was the principal means of transportation, this was the site of Cleveland's grand train terminal.  In the 1980s the old station was redesigned as a shopping mall.

Unfortunately the shopping mall has declined and many storefronts now sit vacant.  The shop that I wanted to visit, a store selling Cleveland souvenirs, is no longer there.

The complex is called Tower City because above is Cleveland's most iconic building, the Terminal Tower.

 Looking up through the skylight at the Terminal Tower.
Yes, as you can see, the sun came out, and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.

The Terminal Tower, a 52 story office tower, was built in 1928 to crown Cleveland's train station.  At the time of its completion it was the second tallest building in the world, and up until 1964 it was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City.

Since I couldn't do my intended shopping at Tower City, I headed outside to see if I could find someplace else that sold Cleveland souvenirs.

The vaulted ceilings of the entrance to Tower City are beautiful.

The Terminal Tower faces Public Square.  The square was recently renovated.  One new feature is a fountain built into the pavement.  It reminds me of a similar fountain in front of Mexico City's Monument to the Revolution.  And just as in Mexico City, on a warm day children like to play in the fountain.

In the background you can see the historic Old Stone Church, a Presbyterian house of worship build in 1853.

The Terminal Tower is no longer Cleveland's tallest building.  Also facing Public Square is the 57 story Key Tower.

On one quadrant of Public Square is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, built in 1894 to honor those who fought in the Civil War.

I headed down Cleveland's main street, Euclid Avenue.  I hoped that the Visitors' Center might sell souvenirs.  It didn't.  However next door was the Cleveland Clothing Company which sells tee shirts and other Cleveland related items.  I bought several things there. 

I continued down the avenue to two old shopping arcades.  The Colonial Arcade was built in 1898 and the nearby Euclid Arcade in 1911.  The two have now been connected and are called the 5th Street Arcades.  

I remember these arcades as being depressingly unoccupied years ago.  Today, although occupancy is not at 100%, there are now some unique and interesting shops here.  Some sell local merchandise, and I bought some more gifts to take to Mexico.

Continuing down Euclid Avenue, I came to the extravagant building which was the headquarters of the former Cleveland Trust Bank.  It was built in 1907, and was designed by the same architect that built the New York Stock Exchange building.

The bank was closed when Cleveland Trust merged with another bank, and for years this beautiful building sat empty.  A few years ago it was converted into an upscale supermarket.  I went inside, and it is the most elegant setting for a grocery store that I have ever seen!  In fact, one website ranks it as the second most beautiful supermarket in the entire country.

The store is centered around the rotunda of the old bank building.

Look up at the gorgeous stained glass dome of the rotunda.  It was not designed by Tiffany, but it is in the same style.

All around the rotunda are mural paintings entitled "The Development of Civilization in America".

Back at ground level, there is a brass plaque in the very center of the rotunda.

There are tables set up in the rotunda, and you can buy and eat lunch here.  There is a prepared foods counter, a soup bar, a salad bar and a bakery from which you can select your meal.  And that is just what I did!

It turned out to be great day and a welcome break from working in the garden.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Going Guatemalan

My cousin Gail is always reading about new restaurants here in the Cleveland area.  We have gone out to a number of places.  Some of them have been Hispanic restaurants beyond the typical Mexican eateries (which are often more Tex-Mex than truly Mexican).  There is an excellent Colombian restaurant in the suburb of Lakewood, and in Cleveland's Old Brooklyn neighborhood there is a little lunch spot owned by a Honduran family serving tasty Caribbean fare.  Last week, Gail, her husband Wes and I went to a Guatemalan restaurant called "Rinconcito Chapín".  It too is located in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.  There is nothing fancy about the place.  It's located in what used to be a hot dog joint.  But the food is good, the servings generous, and the prices reasonable.   

(photo taken by Wes)

As you can see, I had plenty of food.  At my left hand is a plate with two "pupusas", thick corn meal tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese.  Although "pupusas" are most associated with El Salvador and Honduras, they are popular throughout Central America.  They are served with cole slaw and a mild tomato sauce. 

I did not realize that the "pupusas" would be a meal unto themselves, so I also ordered "choripán", a sandwich of Argentinian origen that apparently has made its way to Guatemala.  Chorizo sausage with "chimichurri" fills the baguette style bread.  It is accompanied with yucca fries.

Everything was very good!

By the way, the shirt that I was wearing was purchased at Walmart on my last trip to Mexico City.  It was made in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, and is styled in the manner of the "guayabera" shirts of that region.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Concoction from My Kitchen

Yesterday for supper I threw together a bunch of stuff that I had in the fridge... and it turned out to be quite tasty.

I had three zucchini that I needed to use.  I cut them in half and arranged them in an oiled baking dish.  I lightly salted the zucchini, and then on top I put shredded sharp cheddar cheese and some chunks of Monterey Jack cheese.  I sprinkled some crushed tortilla chips over it.  Let's see, what else do I have in the refrigerator?  Ah, there was some guacamole that I had made the day before.  I spooned some of that on top.  

I covered the baking dish with foil and put it in a 375 degree oven.

Then, in a skillet, I sautéed in olive oil a red bell pepper and two large jalapeños, cut into chunks.  I then added a quarter of a large white onion sliced, and some minced garlic.  After that had begun to soften, I threw in a can of diced tomatoes.

I took the baking dish out of the oven and poured the sautéed veggies on top.  I covered the dish again and put it back in the oven for around twenty more minutes.

Here's supper!

I ate two of the zucchini last night, and I still have one left over for tonight.