Friday, May 31, 2019

Siberian and German

For many years I have had Siberian iris in my garden.  They are very easy to grow, their late spring blossoms are very attractive, and they multiply almost to the point of being invasive.  They are currently blooming in many areas of my garden.

My mother used to grow the traditional German bearded iris that are so showy and beautiful.  She use to call them "flags".  Quite a few years ago I tried planting a bearded iris, but the next year it did not come up.  I found out later what I had done wrong.  The bulb-like roots called rhizomes must not be buried; they must be exposed to the air.  If the rhizomes are covered they will rot.

Last year a friend gave me a bearded iris. I planted it and left the rhizomes exposed.  This spring when I returned from Mexico I found that, in spite of our sub-zero "polar vortex" last winter, the iris had sprouted and was full of buds.  It has now started to bloom.

Now that I know that I can successfully grow them, I have purchased a couple more German bearded iris to plant in the garden.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

One Bed Down

My gardening has been going slowly, and it was only yesterday that I completed the first of my flower beds, the island in the front yard.

I had seven rose bushes in this bed, but only three of them survived the winter.  I guess the "polar vortex" last January was too much for them.  So I had to dig out the dead bushes being careful with the thorns as I pulled them out.  At the garden center I bought a few new things, and I divided some perennials from the back gardens to fill in the empty spaces.

The lilac bush that I have in the bed was not looking good last year, and it did not bloom last spring.  This year it has some new growth and has more blossoms.  

Hopefully it will do better now that it has more sun.  Last autumn a pin oak in the front yard was taken down in a wind storm.  That has opened up the entire bed to more hours of sunshine.

Speaking of that pin oak...  I decided not to plant another tree.  Instead in that spot I planted three shrubs. 

One of them is a Japanese willow.  It has attractive variegated leaves.  It grows quickly and attains a height of eight feet.  So I will have something fairly tall without shading the entire front yard.   In front of it I planted two potentillas.  They grow to be about two feet tall and will have orange flowers.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Travel Planning

(Image taken from the web)

This travel-crazy retired teacher is actually spending three months at home.  My next trip will not be until August when I fly to... not Mexico, but Europe.  Yesterday, my cousin Gail and her husband Wes invited me to their home for dinner.  We did some trip planning together since they will be with me for a portion of my European trip.  I have written previously that they are taking a guided tour of Switzerland.  Their tour ends in Zurich, and they are staying for a few extra days.  I am going to meet them there, introduce them to some of the Swiss cousins, and take them to the town where Gail's great grandfather and my great grandmother were born.

I decided to splurge and do something that I have always wanted to do.  I am flying to Switzerland in business class!  I will be on Swiss International Airlines.  Their business class features seats that convert into a flat bed.  Supper consists of several courses, each course with a wine pairing.  I have never been able to sleep on an airplane, but perhaps, between the flat bed and the wine, I will get some sleep on this flight.

My cousin Brigitta and her husband Peter will meet me at the airport, and I will stay at their home.  Gail and Wes have reserved a hotel nearby.  Brigitta originally planned to have a big party... a get-together of the cousins... while we were there.  However there has been a change of plans.  That weekend Brigitta and Peter will be away attending Peter's family reunion.  But Brigitta's brother Werner, who lives in Madrid, is coming up to Switzerland, and he will take us under his wing... driving us to our ancestral village, and most likely taking us to visit some of the other cousins. 

After Gail and Wes fly home to Ohio, I am going to continue by train to Vienna, Austria, and then Munich, Germany.  I bought Rick Steve's guidebooks for both of those cities, and I have been studying them and planning which sights I want to see.  After a long hiatus, I have also returned to studying German on Duolingo.  Ich spreche Deutsch ein Wenig! 

Yesterday Gail and I were also discussing another trip coming up this autumn.  I will return to Mexico City for my usual visit in October / November.  Gail, along with one of her college friends, will come down in November for a week's stay.   They have already made their plane and hotel reservations.  They will stay at they same hotel where my friends Cliff and Jeramie stayed last month... just a one minute walk from the condo that I rent.  So, once again, I will get to play "tour guide" in Mexico City.  

Sunday, May 26, 2019


In my last post I wrote that I was going to fill in the open area in front of my house with azaleas.  At that point I had planted one bush, a pink "rosebud" azalea.  Since then I have planted three more... one with red blossoms, one purple, and finally another "rosebud".  

All four of the azaleas were rather difficult to plant since the soil was thick with the roots of the overgrown shrubs that had been removed from the area.  Planting the final "rosebud" was especially difficult.  The area was on top of the site where a very large bush, as tall as the house, had stood.  I could not cut the roots with the shovel, and I had to attack them with a pickaxe.  It probably took me an hour to prepare a hole large enough for planting the azalea. 

Geez, I'm getting too old for this! 

Thursday, May 23, 2019


When I returned home from Mexico, the azaleas in front of my house were in bloom.

Last year I had several overgrown bushes in front of my house removed, so I now have a large empty area to fill in.  Since the azaleas seem to do well there, I decided to plant more.  My gardening season began this week with the planting of this azalea which is aptly called a "Rosebud Azalea".  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Van Gogh in Mexico

Along pedestrianized Madero Street in the historic heart of Mexico City there are lots of street performers.  Last Sunday while Alejandro and I were walking down the street, I noticed one that I had not seen before.   A fellow was made up as a painted portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.  He stood within a frame, and the backdrop was based on the artist's famous painting "The Starry Night".

I put a coin in the basket to take a picture of him.  I should have known that there would be more to his act than simply posing.

He proceeded to take out a sheet of paper and do a stick figure caricature of me.

(photo taken by Alejandro)

(photo taken by Alejandro)

So now I can say that I have an original "Van Gogh"!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A City that Dances (Part Two)

Yesterday I wrote about the dance festival that Alejandro and I saw in downtown Mexico City last Sunday.  After seeing a wide variety of dances at the Alameda Park, we wandered around the "Centro Histórico" for a while and then had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, El Cardenal.  By the time we were done with dinner, it was around 6:00 P.M., and we were going to head back to my condo where Alejandro had parked his car.  We were trying to decide whether to take the subway or to walk on past the Monument to the Revolution to Insurgentes Avenue where we could take the Metrobus directly to my neighborhood.  Fortuitously we decide to walk, because as we approached the monument, we could tell that something was going on.  A stage had been set up on the large esplanade in front of the monument, and even from a distance I could tell that a group was performing dances from the state of Yucatán.

The closing event of the dance festival was a performance of Mexican dances by a very talented folklore group.  We arrived at the stage in time to see the conclusion of the Yucatán segment… the well known dance in which the dancers have trays with glasses of water on their heads.

Fortunately that was not the end of the show.  It continued with dances from another region of Mexico.  Neither Alejandro nor I were certain as to which part of the country they were from, although Alejandro thought that the dances might be from the state of Michoacán.

Next were a series of lively dances from the country´s north… Mexico´s cowboy country.  You might say that these were the Mexican equivalent of a country-western hoe-down.

The final series of dances... Alejandro thinks that they were from the state of Jalisco... obviously represented a wedding celebration.  No sedate wedding waltzes here; this was wild fiesta.

It was sorry to see the show come to an end.  It was a great ending to my last weekend in Mexico City

Friday, May 17, 2019

A City that Dances (Part One)

Last Sunday Alejandro and I went downtown, unaware that, due to the wildfires in the forested fringes of the city, the government had issued an air quality advisory.  We were also unaware the conclusion of a dance festival was being celebrated that day.  The air quality was certainly not stopping the performers from dancing with gusto.

Mexico - City that Dances

In the Alameda Park there were several groups performing Mexican folk dances.

It was a hot day, and the men must have been sweltering in their heavy costumes.

A short distance away another group was performing... of all things... Polynesian dances.

At one end of the Alameda, next to the Palace of Fine Arts, a tent and stage had been set up.  A group was performing on African drums.

 Next on the stage was another group performing Mexican folk dances.

Next a couple performed Spanish flamenco.  I am not an expert on flamenco, but we both thought that they were very good; better than some that I have seen.  The man's footwork was especially impressive.

After the flamenco there was a modern dance group that gave a truly bizarre performance that I christened the "dance of the zombie prostitutes".   At that point we left and wandered around the "Centro Histórico".  Before the day was over, however, we encountered more dancing.  But that will wait for the next post.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Concert in the Park

Last Saturday... my last weekend in Mexico City... Alejandro and I took the Metrobus and the subway to a city park that I had not seen before, "Parque de los Venados" (Park of the Deer).

The place gets its name from a couple of statues that grace the park.

There is also a large monument to Revolution hero Pancho Villa.

It is a very pleasant park, and on a Saturday afternoon there were a lot of families there.  

There were a lot of vendors...

… and a lot of activities for the children.

Toy cars to rent

Art activities

A very nice playground

There was even a section of kiddie rides.

As pleasant as the park is, there was another reason why we came here.  That afternoon there was a charity concert organized by various organizations of exiled Venezuelans.  They were raising money to feed malnourished children in that beleaguered nation.

There were volunteers collecting money.

Alejandro and I both made donations and received stickers to wear on our chest and ribbons for our wrist.

The concert was held on the stage of a pavilion in the park. 

The musical groups were mostly comprised of Venezuelans living in Mexico.

Probably about half of the audience was made up of Venezuelan exiles.  I was probably the only "gringo" in the crowd.  The concert lasted from 2:00 until 9:00 in the evening.  Obviously we did not stay for the entire event.  We listened to a couple acts, then strolled again through the park, and then returned to the apartment.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Rest of the Way Home

I arrived home in Cleveland yesterday at 6:00 P.M., about a half hour ahead of schedule.  My flight from Houston was on an Embraer jet, one of those little planes that I refer to as "puddle-jumpers".  The one thing that I don't like about those small planes is that my larger carry-on bag does not fit in the overhead bins, and I have to check it as I board the plane.  However, as I got on the jet, there was no one checking luggage.  Lo and behold, the overhead bins were big enough for my suitcase.  Before we took off, the flight attendant announced that we were on the newest model of Embraer jets, and one of the improvements is larger bins.

I had a window seat, and I took some photos as we began our descent for Cleveland.

   Flying over the farmlands of Ohio

We reach the western suburbs of Cleveland.
The highway crossing the lower portion of the photo is the Ohio Turnpike.
At the top, you see the shoreline of Lake Erie.

We passed right by Cleveland International Airport...

...continued eastward toward downtown Cleveland...

...before turning back toward the airport.

I'm home.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Half Way Home

I am writing this at Houston airport while I wait for my flight to Cleveland.

Yesterday the heat in Mexico City continued as well as the forest fires and brush fires.  The air had a strange quality to it... different from the city's usual air pollution.  The city outlawed any firecrackers or fireworks due to the danger of more fires, and yet last night there were plenty of firecrackers going off in observance of some religious feast day.  "What idiots!" Alejandro complained.

This morning when my 7:00 A.M. flight departed from Mexico City the air was extremely hazy.  I don't think that it was morning mist, but smoke from the fires.

My flight went smoothly.  We arrived a half hour early to Houston.  From the time that I got off the plane, to the time I went through customs could not have been more than fifteen minutes.  There was no line at all at immigration, I didn't have any checked luggage to pick up, and I walked through customs with no questions asked.

Later today I will be home where the high today will be a refreshing 62 degrees.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Time to Say Good Bye

Another month (or actually five weeks) in Mexico City has flown by once again.  Tomorrow I fly home to Ohio.  I have been spending the day doing last minute chores... going to the bank to pay the water bill for the apartment, wrapping my breakable purchases in bubble wrap, packing up what I need to take home.  I will not be returning until October, and the owners of the condo may be coming down here in August, so I also wanted to get some of my stuff out of the way.

This evening Alejandro will pick me up on his way home from work.  I will spend my last night at his house since it is closer to the airport.

Spring is always the warmest season here, but this year has been especially hot.  Almost every day since I arrived here it has been in the 80s.  That may not seem exceptional, but for a city at an altitude of over 7000 feet above sea level it has been an unusual spring.  I think this might be the first time that I have never needed to wear a light jacket when I go out in the evening.  It has been short sleeve shirt weather all the way, any time of day.  There have been some nights when it has been uncomfortable warm in the apartment, and I have had to turn on the fan.  (Most homes in Mexico City do not have air conditioning.)

Although there has been some rain, the rainy season does not begin until mid-June.  Many plants are looking very stressed from the heat and lack of water.  Throughout the country there have been forest and brush fires.  Even within the boundaries of Mexico City there are fires on some of the mountains.  The air is very hazy... more than the usual air pollution.

So, soon I will be back up north where I am told there has been plenty of rain.  

I still have more to write about this trip, so be sure to come back and read more.

More Construction

About a week ago I wrote about some of the construction projects along the Paseo de la Reforma.   I passed  by a couple more sites where major skyscrapers are going to go up.

An ambitious project is underway near the Monument to Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón).

Across the boulevard is large, empty parcel of land which will be the site of the Torre Colón.

The tower is supposed to be completed by 2021, although I find that optimistic given the fact that construction has barely begun.  When finished it will have 65 stories and will be the tallest building in Spanish America.  Plans call for it to eventually be surrounded by four other towers.

(artist's conception of the project; image taken from the web)

A short walk down the Reforma leads to another monument, the Monument to Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor.

Nearby is one of the elegant old mansions that once lined the entire boulevard.  It now houses the University Club, a private club.

Right behind the University Club construction has begun on another high-rise, University Tower.

The 57 floor tower will contain and a hotel and luxury condominiums.  It is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

(artist's conception of the project; image taken from the web)

I have to say that I worry that the building boom in Mexico City is a bubble that is going to burst.  Some economists say that Mexico is already entering a period of recession.  The President, López Obrador, dismisses such worries, but the statistics for the first quarter of 2019 were not good, and the Mexican stock market has been on a downward track in recent weeks.  If the recession is in the near future, I wonder how many of these projects are going to be completed.