city at night

city at night

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Mexican Luncheon

Other than some outdoor get-togethers with friends, I have not done much entertaining at home in the last couple of years.  But last Saturday I got out the good dinnerware and had a couple of invited guests to the house for lunch.

You may remember my former student Meredith and her husband Chuck.  Back in the winter of 2019 they accompanied me to Mérida, Yucatán, and I gave them the tour of one of my favorite cities in Mexico.  Since then, we have gotten together a couple times when they have traveled to Ohio to visit her family for Thanksgiving.  While I was in Mexico on this latest trip, I received an email from Meredith.  They were going to be in Ohio again, and she wondered if we might have a chance to meet.  We decided that the Saturday after Thanksgiving would be a good day.  At first we were talking about meeting at a park for a picnic... if weather permitted. (Ha!)  We actually did that last year during the height of the pandemic.  The day was rainy but not too cold.  We took some chairs and sat at a safe distance from each other on the pedestrian covered bridge in my home town of Olmsted Falls.  We had a lunch of tamales that I had bought at the local Mexican supermarket.  

We also talked about going at to a restaurant if we could find one that wasn't too crowded.  We are still rather hesitant about being indoors with large crowds.  Finally I suggested, "Why don't you come over to my house for lunch."

Since I had just returned on Friday from Thanksgiving in Columbus, I didn't have a lot of time to fix a fancy lunch.  So I returned to the Mexican supermarket and bought a couple packages of tamales again.  They aren't as good as what you can find in Mexico, but they aren't bad, and Meredith and Chuck had enjoyed them.  I also bought some avocados, the ingredients for salsa, and a bag of "totopos" (unsalted tortilla chips).  I prepared home-made guacamole and roasted tomato salsa.  Meredith brought some fruit and a green salad.  So we had plenty of good food and, most of all, the pleasure of very good company.  It was great to see Meredith and Chuck again!

 (And, yes, it was snowing outside.  Definitely not good weather for a picnic!)

Monday, November 29, 2021

At the Movie Theater

 As I have mentioned before, I went down to Columbus, Ohio, to spend Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law Phyllis and her husband Jim.  After dinner, they decided to go to the movie theater.  Frankly, I was a bit hesitant.  I had not been to a movie since before the pandemic.  I figured that the theater would be crowded with people... it has been in Thanksgivings past.  However, when we arrived the parking lot was nearly empty, and we were the only customers in the lobby.  We went to our assigned theater and no one else was there.  The three of us had a private showing.

The movie that we saw was "Belfast".  It was excellent, and it should be nominated for many Academy Awards next year.

The movie was written and directed by Kenneth Branagh and is semi-autobiographical.  It takes place in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, in the late 1960s during the religious violence that plagued the city at that time.  It deals with a Protestant family living in a Catholic part of town.  They get along well and are liked by their neighbors, but the turmoil puts them in a difficult position... not because of their Catholic neighbors, but because of members of the Protestant paramilitary who expect them to choose sides.  

Although the movie does portray some of the violence and ugliness of the conflict, it is primarily a moving family drama.  At the center is Buddy, the family's young son.  Other than Judi Dench, who plays the grandmother, the actors are not well known to American audiences.  However, their performances are all superb.  Jude Hill, who makes his acting debut as little Buddy, gives a heart-warming performance, and I would be surprised if he is not nominated for a best-actor Oscar.    

I highly recommend "Belfast"... even more so if you can luck out with a private screening!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Wintry November

The final days of November here in Ohio have greeted my return from Mexico with a reminder that winter is on its way.  

The day before Thanksgiving, when I drove down to Columbus to spend the holiday with family, the weather was dry and the drive was uneventful.  However, the morning after Thanksgiving I had an unpleasant surprise when I went to my car to drive back to Cleveland.  I had to scrape the icy coating of snow off of my windows.  (Fortunately, I had the scraper in the car.)  There was only a dusting of snow on the ground, but apparently there were icy patches on the highways.  I had no problems, but there was a multi-car accident as I headed out of the city, and north of Columbus there was a semi-trailer that had jackknifed off of the highway.  Back in Cleveland, that afternoon I had to drive to my appointment for my booster shot.  Again, I had no problems, but the traffic report on the radio was talking about numerous accidents on the roads.

Yesterday in the afternoon, it began to snow again, and by evening it was sticking to the ground.  This is the gray, dreary scene looking out the window this morning when I woke up.

The snow will not last long.  The temperature is already above freezing and it is supposed to rain today.  The mercury will rise during the week, and by Thursday the high is predicted to be over 50 F.  Typical, changeable Ohio weather.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Getting a Boost

(image taken from the web)

Yesterday afternoon I got my booster shot of Moderna.  I had made my appointment on-line while I was in Mexico.  I thought that it would be easy to schedule a time.  I imagined that I could go to a local pharmacy the morning after my return, get my shoot, and drive down to Columbus for Thanksgiving that afternoon.  But no, it was a bit more complicated than that.  CVS Pharmacy's website detected that I was not in the United States and would not even allow me to search for an appointment.  The Giant Eagle website let me search for available times and locations, but I had to look every day.  There were often no appointments available, or they were far from where I live.  Finally, I was able to find an appointment for the day after Thanksgiving, not at the Giant Eagle just a mile away from me, but at one a half hour's drive from where I live.  That was better than the available time slots that were 20 or 30 miles away.

I arrived a bit early to my appointment yesterday.  I did not have to wait at all.  I gave the pharmacist my vaccination card, filled out a very short form, received my shot, and he gave me back my card with my third shot frecorded.  I asked if I needed to stay there for a while to make sure that there were no reactions to the shot, and the pharmacist said "no."  I was in and out of there even before my appointed time.  I had no reaction to my first two shots, and this morning I have no reaction to my booster. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Back Home for a While

Yesterday, I flew back home from Mexico City to Ohio.  I do not have any photos of the journey.  If you remember the beginning of my trip, you may recall that I stupidly left my camera at home.  Fortunately, Alejandro saved the day, and lent me his camera for the duration of my stay.  But, of course, I returned that to him before I left.  So, in spite of the clear skies on most of the way home, this will be a pictureless blog entry.

The flights went smoothly.  The only minor contretemps of the day occurred as I checked in at Mexico City Airport.  I had only carry-on luggage with me.  The lady at the desk read off the items that were not allowed in carry-ons, and among them was "polvos"... powders.  I said that I had a bag of coffee that I had purchased as a gift.  "Beans or ground coffee?" she asked.  "Ground coffee," I replied.  Apparently no more than eight ounces of ground coffee or any other "polvo" is allowed.  So, I rummaged through my bag, removed the coffee, and gave it to Alejandro.

Other than that, everything went well.  The thought occurred to me that Chicago's O'Hare Airport would probably be a madhouse since it was just two days before Thanksgiving.  There was no line at all passing through immigration and customs.  I guess that there were no other international flights arriving at that time.  The line going through security again to catch my flight to Cleveland was a bit long, but nothing extraordinary.  My two-hour layover was more than enough time to make my connection.

By 4:30 P.M. I was on ground at Cleveland International Airport.  My friend Frank, who house sits for me, was there to pick me up.  

This morning I must go to the post office to send my Christmas cards.  (I have to maintain my reputation as being the first to send them out!)  Then I have to pack a small bag, and hit the road.  I am driving south to Columbus, Ohio, to spend Thanksgiving with family.

I will be in Ohio for about six weeks, and then in January I will fly back to Mexico for a nice, long, seven-week, winter escape!  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Good to Go

Tomorrow I fly home to Ohio.  Of course, in order to board my plane at Mexico City International Airport I need to supply proof of a negative COVID test.  I am spending the last couple of nights at Alejandro's house.  This morning Alejandro took me to a laboratory not far from his place that does COVID tests.  It's the same place I went to on my two previous trips.

I got the quick antigen test which is accepted for return to the U.S.  The cost was 600 pesos, about $30 U.S.  After filling out the paper work and paying, I only had to wait about five minutes to be called in for the test.  The swab up the nose did not hurt at all. 

We went back to Alejandro's house, and about forty minutes later I received an email with the results... negative!

Alejandro could have printed the results out on his printer, but, since we had to go out and run some errands, we stopped at the lab and picked up the hard copy there.  I have the test results, forms required by the Mexican government and the U.S. government filled out and signed, and my CDC vaccination card.  Early tomorrow morning Alejandro takes me to the airport for my flight back to the U.S.  

The Greatness of Mexico

The recently discovered pre-Hispanic statue which was the topic of my last post is one of the objects on display in a special exhibit at the National Museum of Anthropology called "La Grandeza de Mexico" (The Greatness of Mexico).  

The exhibit contains an eclectic collection of more than 1,500 objects ranging from ancient pre-Hispanic pieces to twentieth century paintings.  What I did not realize is that the exhibit is split between two locations...  the Anthropology Museum as well as the Secretariat of Education in the Historic Center.  My time in Mexico is drawing to a close, but fortunately the exhibit will run until next March, so I will be able to see the other half on my next trip.

The exhibit is not arranged chronologically but by theme, so at times it seemed a bit disjointed.  However, it is full of interesting objects.

Here are a few of the items in the show...

Vase from the Teotihuacán culture (A.D. 400-700)

Statue of a goddess with a skirt of stars
from the Popoloca culture of the region of Tehuacán, Puebla
(14th century)

"The Valley of Mexico from the Peak of Tenango"
by José María Velasco, 1900

"The Mountains"
by Geraldo Murillo (better known by his pseudonym of "Dr. Atl"), 1933

Aztec brazier representing the god Tezcatlipoca (14th or 15th century)

This banner with the Virgin of Guadlupe, may be the actual banner carried by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810 as he led his troops in the War for Independence.

Ceramic representation of the bat god
of the Zapotec culture of Oaxaca  (A.D. 200 - 900)

A 20th century ceramic piece known as a "Tree of Life"
from the town of Metepec in the State of Mexico
The "Trees of Life" today represent a wide variety of themes, but this one is follows the original theme... depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

"Brief Relation of the Destruction of the Indies" (1522)
This book, written by Friar Bartolomé de las Casa (often referred to as "The Protector of the Indians") exposed the atrocities committed by the Spanish upon the native population.

"St. Luke and the Virgin"
This anonymous 18th century picture is made out of birds' feathers, a technique which goes back to pre-Hispanic times.

"Juan Diego"
This anonymous 18th century painting shows the Indian Juan Diego.  Supposedly the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to him and told him to take roses to the Archbishop of Mexico.  He gathered the flowers in his cloak, and when he presented them to the Archbishop, the image of the Virgen was miraculously imprinted upon his cloak.

Tlazoltéoltl, the goddess of fertility
Veracruz state (A.D. 200-900)

"The Interior of a Hut"
a 19th century painting by Eduardo Pingret

"Portrait of the Antuñano Family"
by Pelegrín Clavé (1850)

"Father Hidalgo"
(the priest who began Mexico's War of Independence from Spain in 1810)
by Jesús Helguera (1969)
Notice the banner with the Virgin of Guadalupe which appears earlier in this post.

"José María Morelos"
19th century portrait by an anonymous artist
Morelos was another hero of Mexico's War of Independence from Spain.

"The Allegory of Construction"
by Saturnino Herrán (1910)

Olmec figure of a dancer
(2500 - 100 B.C.)

Quetzal dancer costume from the state of Puebla

"Emperor Cuauhtémoc"
by David Siqueiros (1946)
Cuauhtémoc was the last of the Aztec emperors.
Siqueiros was one of Mexico's leading 20th century mural painters.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Woman from Amajac

In a post early in this trip (gee, it seems like a long time ago!) I wrote that the statue of Christopher Columbus along the Paseo de la Reforma was going to be replaced with a replica of a pre-Hispanic sculpture that was recently discovered.

I made a trip to the Anthropology Museum, and one of the things I wanted to see was that statue, known as the Woman from Amajac.

The statue was discovered earlier this year in the town of Hidalgo de Amajac (hence its name) in the state of Veracruz.  On January 1st, a farmer summoned several relatives to help him  remove a piece of limestone from the middle of his orange and lemon grove.  When they succeeded in removing it, and they saw what it was, they notified the municipal authorities.  The municipality in turn called in archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History.  Scholars were amazed by the pristine condition of the statue which stands 6 1/2 feet tall. 

The sculpture dates from the late 15th or early 16th century and is the work of the Huastec culture.  It is thought that the Huastecs were an offshoot of the Mayan people who migrated northward into what is now the state of Veracruz around 2000 B.C,  In the 1400s they were conquered by the Aztecs.

The statue represents a Huastec noblewomen, some say perhaps a female ruler.  It shows some influence of the Aztec culture.  The eyes are sunken as if stones such as obsidian had been inlaid in the hollows... a feature typical of Aztec sculpture.

The statue will soon become one of the most recognized pieces of pre-Hispanic art when a replica is placed along Mexico City's most famous boulevard.

In future posts I will write more about my visit to the Anthropology Museum.  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

"Navidad" Is Coming

I noticed yesterday that the shopping mall down the street from my apartment is now decorated for Christmas.

The "nacimiento" (Nativity scene) is an integral part of the holiday decorations in Mexico.  Long before Christmas trees and Santa Claus became popular, families here have been setting up a "nacimiento" in their homes.  Sometimes they are enormous displays that take up much of a room or the patio with an elaborate landscape of hills and rivers and villages... with a cast of thousands (well, maybe hundreds) of figures in addition to the basic Holy Family, shepherds and wise men.  So this is a very simple "nacimiento".

In case you are wondering, the D95 refers to the name of the mall... Dakota 95, its street address.


Friday, November 19, 2021

In the Barrio

After visiting the Franz Mayer Museum, I did a bit of exploring in the neighborhood right behind it.  The Colonia Guerrero is considered a rather dangerous neighborhood, but I had read that the wedge of Guerrero behind the museum and bordered by the Paseo de la Reforma has been undergoing a lot of renovation.  So I decided to take a look.

Well, the neighborhood market building looked as if it had been spruced up on the outside, although I took a peek inside, and it did not look inviting.

There were a couple of playgrounds that appeared to be new, and plantings along some of the streets.  This pedestrian street was about as picturesque as it got.

There was trash in some the streets, and numerous abandoned buildings were in a state of decay (perhaps damaged in the 2017 earthquake... or the 1985 earthquake?)  Some of the older buildings had doorways which opened into tenement courtyards.

There is a colonial church, Santa María la Redonda, which dates back to 1677 when it was the parish church for Cuepopan, a segregated "barrio" reserved for indigenous people.  The church was rebuilt in the baroque style in1734.  The interior is supposed to interesting but the doors were closed when I was there.

Behind the church is a fairly well-maintained little park facing the Paseo de la Reforma (perhaps part of what they are talking about when they say the neighborhood has been renovated).  In the park is a monument to the heroes of the War for Independence.  I suspect that the large figure to the left is Vicente Guerrero (after whom the "colonia" is named).  Notice that somebody broke off the sword.

The one thing that the neighborhood has to recommend it is a fair amount of street art on the buildings.

I did not really feel unsafe here, although I would definitely not venture here after dark.  However, I did not feel comfortable, and I did not linger too long.

The Evolution of the Landscape

The Franz Mayer Museum had another special exhibit when I was there earlier this week.  It was a small collection of paintings that showed how landscape painting developed over time.  Originally landscapes were simply the backdrop for the main subject although they were sometimes extremely detailed.  It was not until later that landscape painting became a genre of its own.  As someone who dabbles in landscape painting, I found this little exhibit quite interesting.

Notice the detailed landscapes in the backgrounds of these paintings...

A Flemish painting from around 1500
"Donor Accompanied by St. Elizabeth of Hungary"

A Flemish painting from around 1510
"St. Christopher and the Infant Jesus"

A "biombo" (folding screen) from late 18th century Mexico
"Country Scenes"

Spanish painter Francisco Zurbarán, around 1630
"The Departure of St. Peter Nolasco from Barcelona"

In these next two paintings you can see that the subject matter (a Bible story and a hunting scene) are dwarfed by the landscape...

16th century Flemish
"Laban Searching for the Household Idols in the Camp of Jacob"

Dutch painter Philips Wouwerman, around 1660
"The Boar Hunt"

Finally, the landscape itself emerged as the subject...

American painter Conrad Wise Chapman, around 1880
"View of the Valley of Mexico"
Chapman was a soldier in the Civil War, and after the war he devoted himself to travel and painting.

The German naturalist and geographer Alexander Humboldt, 
lithograph of the "Volcano Cofre de Perote"

Finally, my favorite Mexican landscape artist, José María Velasco...

"View of the Valley of Mexico from the Peak of Tepayac"
around 1900