Friday, September 30, 2022

Packed Up

In less than two weeks, I leave for Mexico again.  Except for last minute items (mostly my carry-on bags), my suitcases are packed.  Once again, I am taking things down to the condo that I am going to buy next year.  I have two suitcases that will be checked in.  Among the things that I packed are some family photos, an afghan that my mother crocheted for me back when I was in college, some more of my favorite Mexican handicrafts, more books, and, even though I have plenty of clothing at the apartment, more clothes that I want to keep.  This time I am not taking gifts for Alejandro and his family.  Gifts can wait until my January trip for the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany).  I am, however, taking some more Ohio maple syrup and jams for them.  Fortunately, I have a first-class ticket that I purchased at a reasonable price way back before fuel prices soared.  So, I am allowed checked luggage with no fee, and I am even allowed to check suitcases that weigh more than fifty pounds.

On my last trip, I noticed that my large blue suitcase was starting to come apart at the zipper.  So, I had to buy a new one.  I went to three places looking for a bag as big as my old blue one before I found a similar suitcase.  Unfortunately, this one is black, so it looks like countless other bags coming out on the luggage carousel.  I made a tassel of yarn so that it would be easier to identify.

I have always been a believer in traveling light, but that will not be the case as I start taking stuff down to my future home.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Chatting with England

About once a month my English cousin Kevin calls me on Skype for a chat.  We had a nice conversation this afternoon.


Kevin and his wife retired within the last year.  They sold their home in the outskirts of London and bought a nice place in a seaside town close to Bournemouth.  They are just a short walk from the beach along the English Channel.  They are currently doing renovations to the house.  They have nearly completed the kitchen and are converting the loft into another bedroom and bath.  He says that once they are done, they will have a room for me to stay on a visit.  Well, perhaps in a few years I will take another trip to England.  Mexico City does have non-stop flights to London on British Airways.  And I hope that in the future they come visit me in Mexico City.  The apartment has a guest bedroom and an extra bathroom.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Ready to Send

I know it's only September, and this may sound ridiculous, but I have finished making out my Christmas cards.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that each year I paint a picture which I use for my card.  This summer I took the painting to the printer, and before I left for Mexico in August, I already had my cards.  I send out the cards the day before Thanksgiving, and my friends have come to expect my card as the first that they receive each year.  I used to take the cards with me on my October trip to Mexico and make them out down there.  But the last few years I have completed them before my trip.  They are now ready to send when I return from Mexico a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

You also know that each year I create a calendar featuring my own photos.  I give those out as Christmas gifts.  That project was completed this summer, and several months ago I received the box shipped from Shutterfly.

Some of those calendars are shipped to my cousins in Europe.  I have to fill out a customs form for each of those.  A few weeks ago, when I was at the post office, I grabbed a stack of the forms.  

I filled them all out the other day, and today I am going to send them, avoiding the Christmas delivery rush.  The postage will cost as much as the calendars themselves.

The question is, will these traditions go by the wayside when I move to Mexico where the mail delivery is notoriously slow and unreliable?  I suppose I could get the Christmas cards for 2023 printed out, addressed and stamped before I make the move, and then have a friend send them out at the appropriate time.  But after that?   I create my calendars online, and I could have Shutterfly send them to the recipients in the U.S., but I doubt that they would ship them to Europe.  These are the sort of things that I will have to figure out when I am down there.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Looking at the Apartment through Different Eyes

As you know, since 2017 I have been renting a very nice condo in Mexico City.  It has been an ideal situation since I am the only tenant, and the owners only charge me for the months that I am there.  In the coming year, they are going to sell the apartment, and I am planning on buying it.

The owners are going to leave all the furnishings, which will make the move down there much easier for me.  Although the condo is very nicely furnished, I do, however, have a few pieces of furniture that I will want to have shipped down there, and I will want to make some changes in the decor to make the place my own.

So, on my recent trip, I was looking at the apartment through different eyes, thinking of what changes I will want to make.

In the living room there are two framed art prints which are very nice.  However, I want to replace them with my own artwork.

Over the sofa I want to replace the print from the Art Institute of Chicago with a large painting I did of Toledo, Spain.

On the other side of the living room there is a print of a painting by Kandinsky.  I will replace that with a painting I did of a waterfall in the Mexican state of Chiapas.  Also, the knick-knacks on the cabinet will be replaced with some of my things.

The metal rack for music CDs is going.  I will replace it with a large, black storage unit that I have for my CDs and DVDs.  The antique-style mirror and table are not really my style.  I am thinking about replacing them with a black-framed mirror that I have in my living room, and a more modern table that I use as a telephone stand.

The black lacquer dining table and chairs and the china cabinet are much more my style.

In the guest bedroom, you can see that I have already set on the bed a throw that a friend crocheted for me.  I have a couple of end tables that can go on either side of the bed.  There is plenty of wall space for more of my artwork.

There is a cabinet in the guest bedroom that is a perfectly good piece of furniture, except that the top is badly marred.  I have a Mexican table runner, already packed in my suitcase, that will cover that up nicely.

In the office there are two bookcases filled mostly with aviation books (the owner is an airline pilot).  I had previously asked his wife if it would be presumptuous of me to start making room for my things.  She said to go ahead.  So, you can see here that I cleared out several shelves (I stashed the books in a closet) and set out some of my Mexican handicrafts and other mementos.  I also put a few of my books on one of the shelves.  There is lots of wall space in this room also for hanging pictures.

In the master bedroom there is a print of a Van Gogh painting.  I will replace it with a piece of original artwork that I bought many years ago in Mérida, Yucatán.  

I also have two custom-made Amish end tables that can go on either side of the bed.  The television is opposite the bed.  Since I just bought a new TV a little more than a year ago, I will have that shipped down.  I have no idea how old the TV in the apartment is.

So, those are my plans for the apartment.  

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Clearing Out

I am continuing my preparations to eventually sell the house and move to Mexico.  

This past Thursday was the bulk garbage pick-up date for the month of September.  My friend Frank came over and we cleared out the storage shed in back of the house.  It was a two-day job.  There was even more junk than shown in this photo, but a lot of stuff was taken by passersby long before the garbage truck came.

I will be in Mexico during most of October and November, but, when they have bulk pick-up for the month of December, we are going to clear out the attic.

A different kind of clearing out has been an ongoing project this month.  Even though a killing frost is probably several weeks away, I always need to chop down the garden perennials before leaving for Mexico.  I have made good progress on that, and the project will probably be completed with just a couple more days of work.

I am hopeful that by this time next year, I will be living full-time in Mexico, and that this will be the last time I have to clear out the garden.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Another Quake

Mexico was hit by another earthquake in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  The 6.8 magnitude quake was an aftershock of the 7.6 earthquake which struck on Monday.  It too was centered on the Pacific coast in the state of Michoacán.  

It was strongly felt in Mexico City, but there were no reports of any major damage.  Two deaths were indirectly related to the quake.  One man suffered a heart attack, and a woman fell while hurrying down the stairs of her home.

(image taken from the internet)
Residents in Mexico City gather on the street in the middle of the night.

The earthquake app on Alejandro's cell phone went off, followed by the neighborhood alarm.  He got his father out of the house.  His sister Sandra woke up her son Ezra and brought him outside.  They waited on the street for around ten minutes after the quake.  Ezra was half-asleep, but visibly frightened.  He returned to school on Thursday.  Apparently, there were able to do an inspection of the building before the beginning of the school day.  There was no disruption of electricity or cell phone service.

Hopefully this will be the last of the aftershocks.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Taco Night

Yes, I have been home for two weeks, but I still have some photos from my trip to share with you.  

I spend the last couple of nights of my trips at the home of Alejandro and his family since it is closer to the airport.  The night before my departure the family decided to get tacos for my farewell supper.

I know that many people say that the tastiest and cheapest food in Mexico comes from the food stalls on the street, but I usually avoid them as a possible source of "Montezuma's revenge".  Perhaps I am being a silly, overly fastidious "gringo", although I am not alone in that opinion.  Alejandro and his family generally avoid street food.  However, they do make a couple of exceptions.  There is a vendor in front of the nearby parish church from whom they occasionally buy tamales on a Sunday morning.  There is also a taco stand a few blocks away that they frequent.  

The stand is called "Taquería El Paisa", and, according to the sign, it has been there since 1978.

I was with the family the first time they went there about five years ago.  Alejandro's mom had passed away, and for nine nights after the funeral, the rosary is said at the deceased's home.  On one of those nights, a friend of Alejandro wanted to take all of us out for tacos after the rosary.  I was a little dubious.  However, there were a lot of customers at the stand, and that is obviously a sign that the food is good.  It also means that the food has not been sitting around for a long time.  The tacos were delicious, and none of us got sick.


The "trompa" is the vertical rotisserie from which the pork for "tacos al pastor" is sliced.
Notice the pineapple on top.  Its juices flow down to flavor the meat.

I have eaten tacos from there with Alejandro's family several times since then, and the night before my departure we bought a bag of several dozen to take home.  They are greasy, but very tasty, and, knock on wood, Montezuma has never inflicted his "revenge" upon us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Passing of the Queen

There are those who would argue that the British monarchy is an irrelevant, anachronistic institution.  Yet for seventy years Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant, a symbol of continuity throughout the tumultuous years of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.  She is the only monarch of the UK that I have known in my lifetime.  She ascended to the throne in the year that I was born.  That fact struck home when, toward the end of the funeral service at Westminster Abbey, they played their national anthem.  For the first time in my life, I heard a live performance of "God Save the KING".

I woke up yesterday just a couple minutes before six in the morning.  I immediately turned to PBS on the television just as the Queen's coffin was being borne into Westminster Abbey.  I watched the funeral service, and while eating breakfast I watched the procession through the streets of London.  I had errands to run, and chores to do, but I kept the television on and continued to frequently take a moment to pause and watch the hearse as it made its way to Windsor Castle, and the second service at St. George's Chapel.

Here are a couple of photos that I managed to take during the broadcast of the service in Westminster Abbey...

 Rest in peace, Elizabeth.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Curse of September 19th

I just wrote this morning that today, September 19th, is the anniversary of the two worst earthquakes to hit Mexico City in modern times... in 1985 and then again in 2017.  

This afternoon Alejandro called me and said, "Have you heard the news?"   There was another earthquake today.

Shortly after noon the national earthquake drill was held in commemoration of the two deadly quakes that occurred on this date.  Alejandro said that when the seismic alarm went off for the drill not many of his neighbors bothered to leave their houses.  Less than an hour later, at 1:09 P.M., the earthquake app that Alejandro has on his cell phone went off.  He thought that there must be a mistake.  Then the city's seismic alarms went off.  Many people at first thought that it was just a snafu related to the earlier drill.  Then they started feeling the vibrations of an earthquake, and everyone was rushing out of their homes; some were in tears.  

The quake was centered along the Paciific coast near the border of the states of Michoacán and Colima. Its magnitude registered at 7.6 on the Richter scale.  That is stronger than 2017's 7.1 quake.  Fortunately for Mexico City this quake was centered farther away than the one in 2017.  There have been no reports of death, injury or damage in Mexico City.  There has been one reported death in the city of Manzanillo, Colima.

I suspect that people in Mexico City are going to view the date of September 19th with even greater trepidation, and perhaps they will not ignore future earthquake drills.

Tragic Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the catastrophic Mexico City earthquake of 1985.  The magnitude 8,0 quake struck at 7:17 in the morning.  Around five thousand bodies were recovered, but the death toll was surely much higher, anywhere between 10,000 and 45,000.  412 buildings collapsed and over 3,000 were seriously damaged.  

Thirty-two years later, in 2017, another earthquake struck on this same date.  The annual earthquake drill had been held at 11:00 A.M,, and two hours later a magnitude 7.1 quake hit Mexico City and the neighboring states of Puebla and Morelos. There were 220 deaths in Mexico City, and 44 buildings collapsed.  

The annual nationwide earthquake drill will occur again today shortly after noon.  The earthquake sirens will go off throughout the city, and people are expected to leave their homes, offices and schools.  

In this YouTube video you can hear what the earthquake alarm sounds like.

Also, this YouTube Video shows a flag raising ceremony held early this morning as a tribute to the victims of the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes.  It opens with a view of the Zócalo, and you can see the Independence Day decorations still illuminated.  Jump ahead to 2:50 to see the beginning of the ceremony. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Night in the City

When Alejandro and I went to downtown Mexico City on the last weekend of my recent trip, we lingered until after nightfall.  It was two weekends before Independence Day.  Although all of the holiday light were still not turned on, the Zócalo, the city's main plaza was brightly illuminated.

The National Palace

The Cathedral

The ornate facade of the "Sagrario", a church attached to the side of the Cathedral, was brightly lit.

The buildings of the other two sides of the Zócalo were lit in the national colors of green, white and red.

Madero Street, the pedestrian street that runs from the Zócalo to the Latin American Tower was jammed with people on a Saturday night.

Along Madero Street there was a light and sound show projected on the facade of the 18th century palace known as Iturbide's Palace.  It commemorated the fifty years that Banamex (the owners of the building) have held free cultural exhibitions in the palace.  (I have visited and written about many of those exhibits.)

Even though at that point the national holiday was still two weeks away, the atmosphere downtown was vibrant and festive.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

A Gift for Irma

You have met my friend Irma several times on this blog, most recently when Alejandro and I took a weekend trip to see her while she was visiting her hometown of Jalapa.  Irma returned to Ohio before I did, and last night I paid her a visit at her apartment just a five-minute drive from my house.

I have also mentioned in the past that she collects Nativity scenes, and that whenever I am in Mexico, I look for something different that she does not have in her collection.  On my latest trip I found this small item made of hand-painted pottery in one of the handicraft markets in Mexico City.  It comes from Yucatán.

One side is a rather rotund Mexican woman.  I wonder if the face with the unibrow and slight moustache is inspired by Frida Kahlo, although Frida was always very slender.

When you turn the piece around, the hollow of the pottery contains a miniature Nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a donkey and a cow.

It is another fine example of the miniature work for which Mexican artisans are famous.  Irma did not have anything similar in her collection, and she was very happy with her gift.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Big Day at the Zócalo

Today is Mexico´s Independence Day.  Although there will be a military parade today, the big celebration is always the night before when thousands of people gather on the Zócalo, Mexico City's central plaza.  At 11:00 P.M. every September 15th, the President appears on the balcony shouting "Viva México!" and ringing the historic bell which was rung in 1810 by Father Miguel Hidalgo to begin Mexico's long struggle for independence from Spain.

Throughout the day, yesterday, I checked the webcam of the Zócalo on the site Webcams de México to see what was going on.

Before dawn yesterday morning, they appeared to be testing out the lighting systems that were set up on the plaza for the evening's events.

Around 10:00 A.M. (local time) the Zócalo was still mainly empty.  You can see the National Palace stretching along the opposite side of the plaza.  It is on the balcony above the central doorway of the palace where the President appears, and the independence bell hangs above it.  A stage has been set up in front of the Cathedral for the concerts before and after the President's appearance.  One of the groups scheduled was the popular group "Angeles Azules".

By 5:30 P.M. the crowds have started to arrive on the plaza.  As you can see, the pavement is wet.  It had been raining that afternoon... not at all unusual this time of year.

By 8:30 most of the Zócalo is packed, although there appears to be breathing room at the fringes of the plaza away from the National Palace and the concert venue.

At 9:30 P.M., from the glare of lights on the stage in front of the Cathedral, it would appear that a concert was under way.

At that point I went to bed.  However, this morning I checked out the webcam again.  Before dawn there were tanks on the plaza, and troops appeared to be assembling for today's military parade.

I just checked on last time, and as the sun is about to poke above the National Palace, the troops are organized into formations.

To my Mexican readers, Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

A Double Jab

(image taken from the internet)

While I was in Mexico I read that new booster shots by Pfizer and Moderna targeting the Omicron variants were approved and available.  The day after my return I went to the pharmacy at a nearby supermarket and asked if they were taking appointments for the shot.  He said, "Yes" and asked me if wanted Pfizer or Moderna.  Since I have had a total of four Moderna shots without any reaction, I told him I preferred Moderna.  He put me down for an appointment on Wednesday.  He also asked if I wanted my flu shot at the same time.  I asked if they had the high potency flu shot for senior citizens.  He said they did not have any at that time, so I figured I would get that later or at a different pharmacy.

Yesterday I went back to the supermarket a few minutes before my appointed time.  There was a gentleman getting the shot ahead of me, and a couple who were checking in for a later appointment.  We were all senior citizens.  I was asked again if I wanted a flu shot, and I asked if they had received a shipment of the high potency vaccine.  They had, so I got the COVID shot in my left arm, and the flu shot in my right.  Knock on wood, but I have not had any reaction from the COVID shot.  Ironically it is the arm with the flu shot that feels a little sore.

I was reading an article on the internet a few days ago, and there is a name for people such as I who still have not become infected with the COVID virus.  We are called "super-dodgers".  It may just be a combination of luck and the fact that I am still quite cautious and wear an N-95 mask whenever I go to the store.  But scientists and doctors think that it might be that we have a strong immune system or even some sort of genetic protection.  Whatever the reason, I am happy that I have made it through three and a half years with getting sick... and I hope that it stays that way!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Random Photos Downtown

Here are some pictures I took while Alejandro and I wandered around the "Centro Histórico" on my last weekend in Mexico City...

New and Old
The 20th century Latin American Tower soars above the 18th century mansion known as the "House of Tiles".

More old and new...
A "7-Eleven" convenience store is housed on the ground floor of one of the many beautiful old buildings in the Historic Center.  This structure probably dates from the late 1800s.

Sculptural details on another lovely old building

This must be a new business.  I had not seen this cookie shop along Madero Street before.  Notice the slogan (in English!) on the boxes... "Welcome to the Anti Diet Club".
Alejandro and I managed to resist temptation.

A vendor selling grapes, blackberries, raspberries and cherries from the back of his truck

There is a four-story Adidas store on Madero Street.
We were drawn in by the window displays of the official Mexican team shirt for this year's World Cup.  The shirt is cool, but it costs 90 U.S. dollars.  No, I'll pass.

Alejandro needed to use the restroom, so we popped into the original, downtown branch of "Palacio de Hierro", Mexico City's ritziest department store chain.

This store was built in 1881 and sought to emulate the elegant department stores of Paris, New York and London.
Because it was the first building in Mexico City to be built of iron and steel, the nickname "Palacio de Hierro" (Palace of Iron) stuck and became the name of the store.
The original store features two French, stained glass ceilings.