Friday, November 3, 2017

Halloween vs. Dia De los Muertos

We participated in both Halloween on 10/31 and the first night of Dia de los Muertos on 11/01 her in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I am troubled by what I experienced.

Halloween here is very much like in the states. Kids say Trick or Treat when they ask for candy, except here there is no door to door "begging." Here the children come to the Jardin with their moms and dads, and the gringos, there could be Mexicans too, but I didn't observe any, hand out candy. Bev and I brought 20 to 30 pounds of candy each to the square in big bags. We were mobbed like pigeons after grain thrown on the ground. They were all polite and said Trick or Treat and gracias!

It is a treat to see all the little children dressed in costumes and painted faces.

Gringos seem to think they should dress in scary costumes. The children who don;t have bags or buckets to hold their candy hold outstretched hands in a begging posture. What have we taught the young children? Gringos provide lots of candy, they can be scary and begging Gringos works.

Dias de los Muertos is not about candy and being scared. It is a way to remember the dead children on night one and adults on night two. It is a time to visit a grave of a family member, sit down and drink and have a picnic and dwell on the life and relationships of the departed members of the family. There is a reverence in the culture for those who have gone on.

In the revolution when the streets were littered with the dead, it is believed that warriors came back as hummingbirds or butterflies, not ghosts.

We painted our faces and sat in the Jardin watching the people in all their costumes.
Earlier we stopped at Casa Chiquita for a wonderful pizza. A Mexican man came up to our table, and in a heartfelt way, expressed his pleasure in seeing the six of us observing Dia de los Muertos and respecting his culture.

I hope gringos will stress more the meaning of Dia de los Muertos and downplay the Halloween version.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Does this happen to you where you live? We live in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. Our town sits at 6,500 feet above sea level and is now the number one city in the world according to Travel & Leisure magazine.

We were introduced to a visiting couple by friends who are house sitting here until after Dias de los Muertos, Day of the Dead on November 1st. Many of the people who live here paint their faces for the day.  I asked the couple where they were from.

"Portland, Oregon." they said.

"My daughters live in Portland."

"Where do they live in Portland?"

"Raleigh Hills," I said.

"So do we! Whereabouts?"

"You know the Fred Meyer store on Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy? They live there."

"Across the street is 78th. What is the cross street?"

"Broadmore Terrace. My oldest daughter lives on Broadmore Terrace."

"So do we!" they both said. "Tell your daughters we own the Halloween house. They will know it."

As long as I live, I will never stop being amazed at the coincidences that crop up. Imagine, they travel 3,000 miles and they meet the father of a daughter who lives on the same street not 300 yards away.

Ain't life fun!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Best City Parks in the World

Condé Nast Traveler Chapultepec Park is an "urban forest" in the heart of Mexico City. While you're there, be sure to check out the zoo, the Castle of Chapultepec (which dually functions as the National History Museum), and Diego Rivera's Fuente de Tláloc, a famous fountain, and outdoor art installation. Getty Image

Monday, September 25, 2017

This is Not Usual in Mexico

The other day I took my propane tank and the Leland's tank to Don Pedro to exchange the tanks for filled tanks. I took a number and waited my turn. The Don Pedro employee said they didn't exchange tanks anymore. He said I would have to go someplace over by Liverpool, in the Luciernaga shopping center. Don Pedro is like a giant hardware store a mile or so south of the San Miguel glorietta. We had some trouble communicating in my meager Spanish.I hauled the tanks out to my car and I was about to take off when a well-dressed Mexican man knocked on my window. 

I couldn't understand him at first. I finally understood that if I would follow him, he would take me to the propane fill-up station.  He and an old man were in a white pickup. We turned right out of the lot onto the four-lane freeway, We drove about a half mile to a returno, turned around to the north and back to the glorietta. Turned right and up the hill to Liverpool. We passed the shopping center and came to another glorietta and turned right. We drove for another mile or so and took a left and drove north on a two-lane road.  

All the time I'm thinking am I nuts, following someone I don't know out into the country? After many topos, we turned left onto a dirt road that ended at Gas Exchange. I looked at my odometer and we had traveled about eight miles from Don Pedro. After a bit of waiting a man dressed in overalls came through the gate in a fence and my Mexican benefactor explained that I need the tanks filled. He waited with me. We managed to talk about his family and how long I've been in San Miguel. He has family here and a brother us the U.S. My new friend introduced himself as Aaron Martinez. 

Eventually, the Gas Exchange man came out with the two tanks. My tank was filled but the Leland's tank had a broken seal and needed a new valve.It couldn't be filled. Between the two men, I learned I needed a new Valve pronounced balba, Vs are Bs.  I would need to drive back to Don Pedro's buy a new balba, bring it back to the Gas Exchange man and he would put the new balba on and fill the tank. Aaron Martinez stayed with me the whole time and acted as my interpreter. We parted at the liverpool glorietta. I drove back to Don Pedros bought a new balba and returned to Gas Exchange. 

I thought Aaron's actions went above and beyond what anyone in Portland, Oregon would do. Is this unusual? You judge by this letter from Don McGilvrey: This text from a gringo friend of mine in San Miguel today . . .
“Today I am at a client's home and I am parked across the street from his house.   Been there an hour or so and it is raining cats and dogs.  I hear a car honking and look out the window and, wouldn’t you know it, there is police car parked next to my car.  I walked out and the cop was pointing out that my window was down a few inches.  The street was like a foot deep in water and I was fumbling for my keys.   He drove over up on the sidewalk and asked for my keys. I handed them to him. He drove across the street and parked up on the curb.  His partner got out and unlocked my door, put the key in the ignition and rolled up my window. Locked my door and he and his partner brought my keys back on the other side of the street.   He did this in the POURING ASS RAIN FOR ME!

Viva Mexico!”

I love these people

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Our First Trip to Mexico City

July 25th was our 25th wedding anniversary! And they said it wouldn't last. I re-upped for another 25 years. If Bev will have me. So far, so good.

We spent four nights in Mexico City at the Red Tree House (RTH) a BnB in the Condesa Colonia. The place was highly recommended by friends here in San Miguel and received the #1 rating for BnBs in Mexico City. There are 27 rooms in the buildings, and it is a delight to stay there. Included in the price is breakfast in the morning and cocktail hour in the evening from 6:00 to 8:00. There are tables and sofas in three or four rooms, a fireplace and we all gathered to discuss the days sight seeing, what restaurants to go to, and find out where everyone is from.

Bev and I were unusual because we weren't just tourists, but we actually lived in Mexico and thus were asked many questions. Of course, there were many of the guests considering moving to Mexico.

The first night we dined at Roberta Trattoria. The food was very good and just three blocks from the RTH. I had Aglio olio capellini, and Bev had fettuccini with shrimp. She liked mine better. Bev's dish was pretty rich and bland. So she added red pepper flakes to give it some zest. The waiters no hablas ingles so we had a hard time getting them to bring pepper. I thought I heard them say peppino for pepper. That information led to an interesting story.

Sunday we went to the museos. We toured the Museum of Modern Art, Chapultepec Castle and tried to find the Museum of Anthropology. We walked eight miles that day. The Museum of Modern Art is a real asset to the city. It is a beautiful building, and the art is outstanding. I would go back again and again. With our INAPAM cards, for residentes, we got in free. Chapultepec sits at 7685 feet above sea level, and the site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs. The buildings atop the hill have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the National Museum of History. I was impressed with vases in one room that are taller than a tall man, made from malachite. I didn’t know you could get pieces of malachite that big.

The months of July and August bring the rainy season and usually about 4:00 mas o menos, the thunder begins. Soon you need an umbrella. We scurried for the RTH, a nap and then we would head down to the lobby to meet new friends. Sunday night we dined at Café Gloria. Again, within walking distance.

We ordered Grilled Shrimp for Bev and Caprece for me. Man was it good. Then we ordered pesto pasta, and Bev added some her shrimp to her pasta. Both restaurants were great, but we practically dined alone.

Monday, we took Uber to see Carlos Slim’s art collection. We were told it was worth $15 million. An aluminum sided modern structure houses his collection and inside the walkway winds upwards like the Guggenheim in New York City. Across the street from the Slim, the museum was the museum showing the Campbell Soup artist, Andy Warhol. However, it was closed on Monday.

Monday, night we went to another place nearby: La Capital. The menu is on the wall above the kitchen. It is large and filled with young and old, Mexicans and tourists. I ordered a roasted white fish seated on a bed of puree de papa, mashed potatoes, and covered with a delicious chipotle sauce. Bev ordered shrimp tacos. She loved hers, and I found the fish good, but it was pretty dense and very chewy, not flaky. We both would go again.

Bev wanted salt and pepper. We called the waiter over, and I ordered Sal y Peppino. He looked at me strangely and called over the captain of the front of the house. I told her we would like sal y peppino. They shook their heads. Soon the waiter approached with a shaker of salt and three slices of cucumber in a little dish. Peppino is a cucumber. I needed to order chile or la pimiento.

We dedicated Tuesday to Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera. Near the Zocalo, downtown was a museum with a side by side comparison of their work. Picasso was five years older than Rivera, but their styles were similar until Rivera concentrated on Mexico and the indigenous people. Sometimes it was difficult to tell them apart when they both were in their cubist periods. We left there and went to the Diego museum at the end of Almeda Central, a park a little like Central Park. There we saw the painting that covers one whole wall. Local writer Beldon Butterfield received permission to use the painting on the cover of his book “Mexico Behind the Mask.”

We took a cab from the downtown to Colonia Roma. We scouted out the restaurants there for our anniversary dinner. After looking at many restaurants we decide on Maison de Famille. It was beautiful in a French way. We ordered Escargot to start then tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil. The waiter said the tomatoes were Mexican grown but from French stock. They tasted as they had just come off the vine. As great as any we had in Italy. Finally, the waiter brought us tenderloin in a black pepper sauce. Bev didn’t know if she would like the sauce, so the waiter brought her a small dish to taste test. Magnifique!

Wednesday, we had to go home but not before visiting the Frieda Kahlo house. Here the fee for entry was for us 31 pesos with our INAPAM card. Without the cards, it was 438 pesos. So bring your card. I was feeling like I was coming down with something. Maybe the food the night before was too rich. Bev went through the museum mostly by herself, while I sat in the shade under a tree. She came away with new appreciation for all the health problems suffered by Frida and her courage to live life regardless. For 25 years she was married to Diego Rivera. She died in a young woman in 1954.

I was impressed with Mexico City. You don’t see the raging poverty we know is there on the bus trip into the city. One of the largest in the world. It doesn’t seem that large. There is mucho traffico, and John Scherber calls the driving style “freestyle driving.” There seems to be free use of the horn. But the parts of the city we saw, remind me of the upper east side of New York. Tree-lined streets, lots of apartments, lots of pedestrians. The city works well with tour buses you can hop off and on; city buses, and subways. There is so much to see. Our next visit will take us to the pyramids and the floating gardens.

One last thing: the owners and employees of RTH are special. Extremely helpful who really care about their guests.  I would recommend the Red Tree House for your next trip to Mexico City.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This Is the Best City in the World to Travel to

Mexico's San Miguel de Allende has been named the top urban city of 2017 by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, for its seductive mix of open-air cafes, artisan culture, and colonial charm. In the 2017 edition of the publication's World's Best Awards which solicits reader input, San Miguel de Allende took top honors, marking a first for both the city and the awards, now in its 22th year. The city in central Mexico attracts visitors for its well-preserved historic center, colonial architecture, leafy plaza, and rows of independent boutiques which line old cobblestone streets. The fortified town, which was founded in the 16th century, was also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Way Back Poems of Addiction and Recovery

My first book ever is now available. If it hadn't been for San Miguel and the help I got from other writers, I probably wouldn't be out with this my first book of poems.

The Way Back

The Way Back details the power of poetry to illuminate the damage done by addiction and follows the process of recovery. As recovery in sobriety accumulates in days, months, then years, the senses open and feelings that have been anesthetized come to the surface. Those feelings are expressed in the poet's observations. The poetry is based on the true story of Michael Landfair's recovery and 29 years of sobriety. His sobriety wouldn't have been possible without the fellowship of Alcoholics. Anonymous.