No big adventure is planned for this year; a simple, relaxing trip to La Paz, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur, Mexico, is all that is in the offering. Yes, I realize that the US State Department has issued a warning about the increase in murders in the entire Baja, including Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and La Paz, but most murders are “bad guys killing bad guys.” Drug cartels fighting for control of the drug market in the area seem to have an innate dislike for rival cartels and reduce the competition by violent means. I thank the reader who shared with me the recent news about six bodies found hanging from bridges, four from a Cabo structure and two more from an overpass in La Paz. While no bullet wounds were found in the bodies, there have been a few non-combatants wounded and killed in the crossfire of the drug wars. I admit it would be disconcerting to view the bodies while passing in a bus and it would be tragically unfortunate to get wounded in a crossfire of bad guys, but tourists and expats living in southern Baja are still communicating that their daily lives have changed little.
I leave tomorrow afternoon on a puddle-jumper flight to Baltimore, where I will spend the night before an early morning (7:00 a.m.) departure on Southwest Airlines. I have a change of planes in Houston, but the 2.5 hour flight from there to the Los Cabos Airport is scheduled to touch down by 12:00 noon on Saturday with an 80 degree temperature forecast on arrival. Now, that I can handle, especially if there are no bullets to dodge! Seriously, with our permissive gun control laws, large numbers of people are being shot in our own country and I do not frequent most areas used by drug cartel members, so I am expecting few changes in my daily life. All should go smoothly as I hunt for a hotel in which to lay my head for a two or three night stay in San Jose del Cabo and then, after a three-hour bus ride, look for a hotel in La Paz as my headquarters during my search for an apartment. Here’s hoping all goes according to plan, though that has seldom been the case.
I expect that my wife will join me for a couple of weeks in March and that my friend, Schim, will track me down, even though I have tried to keep my destination a secret from him. His visit always stirs the pot and whether he’s drinking the salsa from the chip-dipping bowl on the table or surreptitiously pouring salt in my morning coffee, there will be something about which to enlighten you. I hope that you can escape the winter doldrums by following my daily struggles under the wonderful Mexican sunshine and that it helps you make it through the already ugly winter I have endured so far. Hasta luego!
01/8/18 - San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
The first leg of my journey went as smoothly as could be expected in an eight-seater Cessna with ground temperatures in the mid-teens and a buffeting wind that made the day frigid and the ride a little harrowing. Pilot, co-pilot, and one other passenger on the 45-minute hop and the two flight officers have not yet reached the shaving stage of their lives. But, fly they could in winds that made the ride a little bumpy. The view right at sunset, however, was spectacular with the lights from the Susquehanna River hydro-electric dams clearly marking the way south where the lights from Baltimore beckoned. How does one dress in frigid temperatures, knowing the next day will bring temperatures more than 70 degrees warmer? Carefully, very carefully, that’s how and my attire was perfect, though I froze my ears off (this is a G-rated blog) the next morning at 5:00 a.m. when the temperature had plummeted to 8 degrees and I stood outside for 10 minutes waiting to catch Uber for the ride to the airport when I missed the hotel’s shuttle by a minute or two. Tee shirt, short-sleeved shirt, thin, cotton sweater, and gore-tex windbreaker did the trick and I shed the layers as the temperature warmed.
The Southwest flight to Houston was completely booked and I was forced (yeah, right) to sit in the middle seat between two, very-gorgeous young ladies. Kaitlyn at the window, is an aspiring actress in college in LA, flying home to Houston after visiting a boyfriend in PA. Wendy, on the aisle, is a graduate-degree-holding meteorologist with the US Weather Bureau. The flight was smooth, but both ladies willingly consoled this anxious passenger. Actually, the flight was so smooth they didn’t even fall for the anxious-passenger bit. It was a great flight until Wendy embarrassed herself by spilling her coffee on my lap as she rose to visit the restroom. She sought help from the stewardess who came running with paper towels to wipe up the mess, which was no more than six or eight tablespoons of cold coffee, but targeted perfectly on the fly of my khakis so the stewardess refused to blot the spot for me, despite my urging. Laughs were had by all and I told Wendy that, if she had to spill coffee on someone on the flight, she couldn’t have picked a better person. It was no big deal to me and, though offered cocktails that we refused to soothe our inconvenience, there was no lasting damage and not even a stain. The 2.5 hour flight from Houston to Los Cabos was uneventful, though a little choppy over the mountains, and we arrived ahead of schedule to 82 degree temperatures - a 74 degree difference from departure in Baltimore. Now, this was more like it!
I tend to get a little wordy on my first couple of blogs, so go pour yourself a drink and relax, there’s more to tell. I took the shuttle to the center of San Jose del Cabo and was the first passenger to disembark, since everybody else in the full van was headed to all-inclusive resorts in and about Cabo San Lucas. They must have been more shocked than I when the driver stopped at the Yuca Inn where I usually stay in San Jose only to find nothing but a hole in the ground. The Yuca Inn is no more! My friend, Yuca, whose life’s work was destroyed, must have found a buyer for the perfectly located land adjacent to the town’s central plaza. It appears that a shopping center is planned. I hope Yuca made a fortune! I quickly told the driver to drop me at the Tropicana, a more luxurious, though still Mexican hotel where I have stayed when I have had guests who would have been repulsed with my digs at Yuca’s place. Unfortunately, there was only one suite left in the place and I refused to pay the price that I never even inquired about. I pulled the heavy suitcase and backpack toward the central plaza, looking for a hotel I had read about online and found quickly after only asking directions once. Two short blocks away and running out of gas after the 4:00 a.m. wake-up and a long day of flying, I found a clean, pleasant room in a thoroughly Mexican hotel almost diagonally opposite the ex-Yuca Inn across the plaza. With king-sized bed, renovated bathroom, and much hot water for $53/night, the place is a real find, squeaky clean with a comfortable bed; and just a few steps up to lug the baggage.
I slept a lot after entering my room, but managed to celebrate my arrival with a great dinner at La Panga Restaurante that I had yet to try. A tad expensive, Schim would never eat there, but the ceviche appetizer and the pizza-like entree were very tasty. The “pizza” was on a tortilla grande and covered in shrimp, basil, another green, avocado, and topped with a black mole sauce that included grasshoppers. The hoppers must have been puréed in the sauce, because, try as I might, I couldn’t find a body, though the small shrimp bodies were readily distinguishable.
I’m almost done; breathe deeply. Yesterday, I made my way by bus to the marina where I negotiated a half-day fishing trip on a panga, the small boats on which I have had such success in previous years, including the catching of a marlin without belt, seat, or heavy fishing gear. The fishing here is simply amazing! I went, now an experienced hand at the process, with a price in mind - down $50 from what I paid last time. The tourist count is down and I correctly figured that I could find somebody willing to accept my $100 (2,000 pesos) offer. They hesitated, but if willing to wait until Tuesday, they were willing to take my offer. In Mexico, one must learn to negotiate. I will fish tomorrow, delaying my trip to La Paz by one day, then board the bus to cross the desert to that city on the Sea of Cortez.
Waiting for the return bus in the hot sun at the closest stop to the marina, I noticed an awning over a pharmacy front stoop where two men were sitting. I wandered over and asked if I could have a seat on the empty, soft chair in the shade and they quickly agreed. Turns out, the elder of the two was there selling fishing trips and other water activities, but I was no longer a potential customer. After talking, however, he learned that I would be looking for an apartment in La Paz and he said, “maybe, I can help!” He picked up his phone, started calling people, including his father who lives in La Paz, and I now have a tip on a two-bedroom house in La Paz that the owner offered on the phone to me for $388/month. Jose, the hawker, also gave me his father’s phone number and said he is willing to meet me at the bus station to help in my search. Somewhere Jose and his father will get a cut of any rentals but, at least, I have a lead on living quarters for the winter. That’s it; I’m out of wind! I promise future updates will be a little less wordy. Hasta luego!
01/11/18 - La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Half of my final day in San Jose was spent on the Pacific Ocean, the rest in bed resting from the arduous fishing activities of the morning. I only caught seven fish, but every one of them fought like a gladiator. Three, beautiful, leaping dorado (mahi-mahi) and four, deep-diving, muscular bonito were all that I could handle - no fighting chair, no belt. My guide, 72-year-old Eduardo, with perhaps three or four teeth remaining in his head and speaking nary a word of English, knew a thing or two about fishing those waters. He slowly trolled the sardines that I had purchased on the way out to sea from men in another panga (boat) who made their living selling bait, though we had to wait a few minutes while they headed to shore to catch more after they sold out their initial catch. Occasionally throwing live sardines out as chum, he maneuvered the ones on our lines directly to where he saw the dorado taking the chum near the surface. I think we could have caught six or eight more dorado and as many bonito as we wanted, but I was tuckered. I told Eduardo that I had enough and that we could go in and I think the old fellow was tuckered out, too, because he readily complied. I couldn’t have spent $100 more enjoyably! What a rich and gorgeous place to fish!! I kept one filet off the smallest dorado, took it to the nearest restaurant just off the dock, and had them grill the mahi-mahi for me. Nothing like really fresh fish! They added a salad, rice, and some local, steamed vegetables (see photo) that provided a sumptuous lunch. The delicious, pina colada was a suitable accompaniment, I thought. Am I living the good life, or what? I will post a few pictures....
The following morning I packed, and headed to the bus, catching a ride with an English-speaking local that I met near the dock a couple days earlier. I paid him a much lower rate than the taxi drivers were demanding for short rides to the marina and the bus station. Unfortunately, the ride back from the marina was interrupted by the police who stopped Jose. The strong taxi union has the police enforcing a no-transporting-gringos rule, so the taxis can extort exorbitant fees from the tourists. I watched as Jose argued, then surreptitiously paid a bribe of $25 (500 pesos) to the officer. Mexico has changed little, although I was told that 600 local officers had recently been fired for corruption in an attempt to combat the drug cartels. They have apparently not fired all of the dirty police or seriously impacted the cartels.
As the bus pulled out of the station for the three-hour ride to La Paz, I ruminated about the condition in which I had found San Jose. September’s hurricane, which had delivered a direct hit on the city and poured 60 inches of rain in a couple days (remember, this is a desert), did significant damage to the quaint town I remembered. The main street looked barren with many trees down and the ones that survived only displaying small palm fronds at their crowns. Replacement trees were much shorter and offered little of the color I remembered in prior trips. Major renovations to the central plaza and the main street were under way and better-engineered sidewalks, accessible ramps, and curbs will offer a more modern look when completed, but the storm unfortunately washed away a considerable amount of the town’s charm, too.
Pulling into the bus station in La Paz, after stops in Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, right on time, I employed a 65-year-old with a hand truck to wheel my bags (suitcases packed for three months are heavy) four blocks down the newly-refinished malecon (concrete board walk) to a hotel in which I had rested in previous visits to this fair city. Negotiating their rate from their first offer of $82.75 down to a more reasonable $57, including a full breakfast, I booked a beautifully-renovated room and marveled at the improvements. New, king-sized bed, bath with a tiled and glass shower, the place is Americanized and not where I would want to stay long term. I immediately put out my feelers among the locals, Rainbow (see prior blogs), realtors, shopkeepers, et al, that I am in search of a two-bedroom apartment. I'm afraid that Schim will find me, so I need a second bed. The mind boggles at the thought of having to share one with him!
This town is as beautiful as I remembered and I feel right at home. Now, if only I can find a great apartment...... Hasta luego!
01/15/18 - La Paz, Mexico
No luck! The search continues for an apartment in La Paz, a much more arduous task than in prior years. Apparently, tourists have not listened to the State Department’s warning to avoid the Baja, because most of the apartments I have seen listed are booked for the winter. It is also an indication that the tourists have found La Paz; perhaps, my blog is read more widely than I figured. Maybe, Schim is right and I have to begin thinking about Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Viet Nam, and Thailand to find lower prices and available housing. That is, if I’m given good health for another year of wandering the world.
My weekend was spent rather quietly, occasionally looking for an apartment, but always finding restaurants in which to enjoy the Baja’s cuisine. Actually, I skipped dinner yesterday after a large lunch and skipped lunch today in a poorly-planned, weight-loss program I have thrown together daily. I have been walking greater distances each day in my search for housing and that, along with the skipped meals, should make me a somewhat lighter human being, though I haven’t had to buy new clothing just yet. I watched the Eagles playoff game on Sunday in my hotel room and enjoyed hearing the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator describe the game in Spanish. I even understood a word or two along the way. The commercials were great, too.
I walked to dinner on Saturday evening at Bandito’s, where they cook steaks and ribs on a charcoal grill designed to fit under the hood of a pickup truck, the way the owner first started his business on a street corner after moving here from San Diego. On the way, walking down a dark street, I failed to notice the sidewalk slope steeply down into a driveway and I almost took a head-first tumble. The slope slowed my feet, but my body mass continued to pitch forward. What little athleticism remains fortunately enabled me to jog a few steps to let my feet catch up to my mass. I said “mass.” It was a trifle embarrassing with a military guard pulling duty next to where the stumble took place, but I remained calm and cool while I wished him, “Buenos noches.” I must remember to look down as I walk; the sidewalks are literally an accident waiting to happen. There are apparently no building codes in Mexico.
The day seemed a little brighter this morning as I went for my morning stroll up the Malecon. The weather continues to be perfect, but my mind has not yet matched the temperature and the sunshine. It takes a few weeks to get mentally in tune with being alone in a foreign land. I reached that mental state this morning. I think a brief period of depression clouds the mind when you are focused on surviving alone in a strange environment. I sat outside a real estate office early this afternoon, where Carlos is trying to help me find an apartment, and I relaxed and read the Gringo Gazette, a newspaper for locals in English. I simply relaxed, read, and let the world pass by; this after a stroll out on the fishing pier into the blue waters of La Paz Bay. I think I’ll be all right when I fully adopt the mañana mentality. Hasta luego.
01/18/18 - La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
“Good things come to those who wait,” says the old adage and that may just be true in Mexico, too. I have rented a house, a full casa, no less! I almost rented another, but it was dark, required climbing three flights of stairs, and had a very limited view of an ugly part of the city. It was also at least 12 blocks from the seaside malecon where I spend much of my time. It was cheaper at $425/month, but I could picture a dreary existence and I don’t need that much exercise every day!
The place I settled on for $700/month has a few problems which I will describe in detail momentarily, but it is a one story, three-short blocks from La Paz Bay, and only four or five from the northern end of the malecon. I give you the prices in case you ever think about visiting the balmy Baja, especially since I had a friend tell me a few weeks before I departed that he paid $7,000/month for an apartment in Florida. Now, the problems with my new home: There are NO chairs on which to sit (one nice sofa). No tables - not one! Not even in the kitchen or beside either bed; there are two bedrooms with no dressers, simply a king-sized bed in one and twins in the other with a wooden, built-in closet in each. There are no reading lights or lamps, only ceiling lights with ceiling fans. There is temporarily no hot water. The bathroom is tiny, no, I MEAN tiny. There is no place in the bathroom to sit anything, no counter or shelf, just a very small corner sink, a tiled shower, and a small, low toilet. There is no place to hang a towel. But, the straw that broke the camel’s back: there was no toilet paper and no toilet paper holder. The tile floors are badly worn or dirty or both. Dust covers most everything; the place hasn’t been rented for eight months. The windows are plentiful, but filthy. The small kitchen counter, sink, and stove seem almost new, although I will probably only use them to store things, since there are no tables. The refrigerator is stainless steel and brand, spanking new. The beds are new and terrifically comfortable. My first night brought spectacular rest. I love the place!!
The owner, Mike, is a funky, former computer techie, born in Africa, who was raised and worked in Switzerland, and has made his home in La Paz for six years. There are four other buildings on the small property, a nice patio, and a beautiful, though dusty, desert garden with a variety of young fruit trees. Mike rented my house to two “older” American women as unfurnished and, since they moved out eight months ago, he has been slowly turning it into a furnished rental, although apparently, Mexican slowly. He seems willing to get whatever I need to make my life more comfortable and within the last few minutes brought in a small table and chair that he took from another of the houses. He rents two of the other buildings as furnished apartments and both of them look beautiful. The one he calls a casita (small house) is especially lovely, but is rented for $70/night. I showered in the other upstairs (one flight) apartment this morning and did a load of laundry in a new washer. There is a new, unvented dryer next to it, but I hung my wash on a line he stretched across the porch of that property. A maid will clean my house later this afternoon and I will try to contract her to wash the windows. The place is extremely bright, with large windows in every room that make up two walls in the master bedroom. They need to be clean! Bachelors oft-times don’t notice such things. A repairman has been here to check the on-demand, hot water system and is in the process of getting parts to repair that equipment. I think I’ll learn to call the place home, especially when I get hot water and a few more places to sit.
Why did I rent a place with so many shortcomings? First, there is a paucity of rental properties close to the malecon and those that are available are much more expensive. Secondly, I saw the dreary place first and this place looked much better, even after dark. Thirdly, there is the after-dark thing. I learned of the place while drinking two pina coladas with friends from my last visit. One of their friends sitting at the table, Mike, said, “What about my place?” So, we visited this house in the dark after imbibing a couple of large pina coladas and I think that caused a judgment problem. There is a travel tip there: never rent a place after dark and after drinking - the tidbits of knowledge that I pass on to my readers is almost endless.
Oh, the toilet paper? Mike gave me a couple rolls last night before I left for dinner. Problem solved. I must admit it feels a little like camping, but I think it will improve a little each day. I’ll try to keep you informed about the progress. “Good things come to those who wait!” Hasta mañana.
2018 Photos - uploaded 01/19/2018
01/21/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Still no hot water and I’m beginning to feel like a nag, since I remind Mike, whenever the opportunity presents itself, that I am without that hot liquid. I tell him that I am his conscience, but I know it is impossible to find workmen or businesses open on the weekend. I do sense a laissez-faire attitude about his property management, however, and I may have to continue the reminders to bring my casa up to the standards of the other rentals on his property. In the meantime, I spend my days in my casa and around town, but when it’s time for bed, I climb to the second floor of another building on the grounds where there is a beautifully-decorated, studio apartment with hot water, a large shower, and an almost-new, comfortable, memory-foam mattress. The mattress is Swiss-made and I sleep like a rock in it but, since it is on a platform only six inches off the floor, ingress and egress are somewhat awkward for an old man. Thank God, there are no videos of that process.
Since my last update, I have made a couple of routine excursions that will become a regular part of my existence. Two days ago, I took a taxi to a large grocery store and bought some supplies for my little hideaway in the desert. Taxis cost about $2.50 to go anywhere in town, so it is not an expensive proposition to taxi hither and yon. In twenty minutes or so, however, I can walk up the malecon to the hotel where I previously laid my head and to the hangouts of other, English-speaking residents. In 10 minutes, I can be in the marina, headquarters for many American sailboats, where there is an above-average, Mexican restaurant that serves three meals a day. The grocery store trip always provides an entertaining diversion. Searching for a specific item, however, can be a challenge. I recall searching for saltines on my last visit here and becoming stymied because I knew not what they called them in Spanish. I ran into them the other day and recognized their name, but I cannot remember it today. Such is the challenge of traveling in your senior years.
I found Starbuck’s Frappuccinos in the refrigerated section, bought four of them, so I can now have breakfast - a banana, a couple of plain, short-bread-like cookies, and a Frappuccino - which saves me a trip to a restaurant. I now eat that breakfast while sitting at my lone, little table in my lone little chair, and type my updates. I apologize in advance for any crumbs. I also purchased a box of local string cheese, several containers of yogurt, three bananas, a couple small bottles of coke, a small ginger ale, paper towels, a broom and dustpan, and three bottles of Clamato juice. Forgetting, of course, toilet paper and bottled water. The massive refrigerator still looks empty and after a couple of breakfasts, badly needs restocked. That’s a project for another day and I may combine that with a movie in the theater on the same floor as the grocery store. I love it when a plan starts to come together.
Yesterday, after a stroll for lunch to the above-average restaurant at the marina, called the Dock Cafe, I boarded the ferry for a 10-minute trip to Paraiso Del Mar, the golf course on the peninsula/island across the bay. Walking into the pro-shop, I was greeted by a loud, “Harry,” from the golf pro, Marco, with whom I played a few rounds in past visits to La Paz. Either his memory is much better than mine, I remembered his from re-reading a prior blog, or my practice of telling Latin American folks that my name is Harry, “Harry Potter,” makes me easy to remember. A taxi driver, a waiter, and now Marco, have all called me by name at first sight. After a brief re-acquaintance and an introduction to his 22-year-old daughter, now working weekends at the club for her dad, Marco loaned me a putter and I practice-putted for 15 minutes or so. Because the trip was a spur-of-the-moment event, I hadn’t worn a hat or brought suntan lotion along, so a long time in the sun was inadvisable. I bid Marco adieu and returned to the mainland for my afternoon siesta and to research my target restaurant for the evening. Exhausting work, this. Hasta pronto.
Saladitas, hot water, Uber, religious parades, Eagles triumph, sunsets, collectivos. So much to tell you and so little time! Let me start with Saladitas, because the world wants to know: On my second trip to Soriana, the modern, very-large, grocery store a mile or two down the road that borders the malecon, I ran into the saltine section again and, voila, there on a box in bold letters was the Mexican name for the product served most often here with ceviche or seafood salads - saladitas! I couldn’t remember the name on my last update and, now, I can’t get the name out of what’s left of my mind.
After a 10-hour installation project by the owner, the temporary tenant in the casita, yours truly, and a Mexican plumber yesterday, I finally have hot water! A licensed American plumber could have made the foot-long, four-copper-pipe, replacement installation in an hour - tops. Not so fast with the sigh of relief for me, though. This morning’s shower was more than adventurous. The on-demand water heater heats only six liters of water and the water it initially produced through the bullet-like, rain shower head was scalding hot. When I got that adjusted by adding cold water, I lathered my hair only to be instantly sprayed in very cold water. Apparently in that short time, I had exhausted the six liter capacity of the machine. This is going to take a major adjustment to my shower routine. Mike the landlord made the mistake of asking me how the shower worked this morning and I gave him an accurate report. He spent 30 minutes or so trying to get the shower adjusted and, finally, appeared to get a solid stream of perfectly warmed water. It took Mike, and it will take me mañana, a brain surgeon’s touch on the two faucets to get the right temperature on the water piercing my body. Mike also offered to get a new shower head. Hallelujah!
While the troops were working on the hot water, I took a collectivo (mini-bus) from the corner to the Soriana Hiper, saving a one-way taxi fare of $2.60. The collectivo, the transportation local folks use, cost less than fifty cents. With the $80 worth of groceries that I purchased stuffed into many, little, plastic bags - packed there by alternating male senior citizens whom it is customary to tip a few pesos - I needed to take a taxi home. But, two dollars saved on the round-trip is two dollars earned, or so Ben Franklin’s old adage goes. Well, it goes something like that.
Last night, I used Uber for the first time in Mexico. Who would believe that La Paz has Uber? Not I. Two minutes after making the phone call and watching his progress on the map on my phone, the driver, Jesus, pulled up in front of the casa. Yes, I said Jesus was my Uber driver! The short trip to the Mexican restaurant of the evening cost $2.00, instead of the taxi rate of $2.60, saving me sixty cents, not including the tip I customarily give to taxi drivers. At this rate, I might be able to extend my stay in the Baja! I walked home in the dark, a real challenge with few street lights, dangerously-constructed sidewalks, and rough, ankle-turning, street surfaces. Mike, my landlord, followed the Uber process, impressed with the service he had never seen before. They were still working on my hot water when I arrived home, but finished within the hour, a full 10 hours after the project began.
On a blustery, chilly afternoon and evening in La Paz, I watched the NFL championship game in two bars, the first an open-air nightclub-type too cold for my old bones, despite the blanket they provided to their few customers to ward off the chill. Ten minutes before half-time, an incessant police siren kept getting closer to the bar along the malecon, until right at the two minute mark of the first half, some sort of religious parade with at least two thousand participants marching gaily and waving white flags or holding white, helium-filled balloons began marching past. I know it was a religious parade because a religious figure with a crown on his head and ensconced in a small, clear, cubical, acrylic box was carried nearer the beginning of the parade on the shoulders of six participants. Immediately following the saint/religious figure was the first of eight, flat-bed trucks with bands, singing celebrants and more marchers. The music seemed more rock and roll than religious to me and the celebrants were dancing and singing with great fervor. The parade lasted through half-time and as it ended I left the bar and headed home along the malecon. Many tourists were gazing at the heavens and photographing (I had no phone or camera with me) the most spectacular sunset that I have ever seen. I have been in many locations in the world that claim the best sunsets and I have been completely unimpressed. This sunset impressed the daylights (no pun intended) out of me!! Stretching from the horizon to my zenith (directly overhead), were wide bands of orange or coral-colored, brightly-lit, cirrus clouds interspersed with bands of crystal-blue sky and 10 degrees below my zenith was the quarter moon. A spectacular sight, proving without a doubt that the Eagles victory was heaven sent.
I couldn’t update yesterday as planned when the hot water transplant took place right beside my writing table, still the only table in the house. You’ll have to admit that I made up for it today with blarney to spare. I’ll try to abbreviate future updates. Hasta pronto!
01/26/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
The shower saga has reached a fantastic conclusion! Yesterday morning’s shower, day two of the saga, brought a perfect shower experience. Apparently, the new on-demand water heater needed to be primed or needed to practice, because all of the problems of the first day’s shower disappeared in the second iteration. The faucets were turned the same way, I stood in the same place, the gas-fired heater fired up, and delivered a beautiful shower. I owe my apologies to Mike, the engineer/landlord and the Mexican plumber for criticizing their work. This morning’s shower was much the same. I think they have this problem completely solved.
Yesterday morning brought a chilly start, which required a walk to the marina, a seat at a table overlooking the clear water, and a cup of coffee with a touch of Bailey’s to ward off the chill. Come on, it was on the menu - cafe irelandia. The high temperature for the day still reached 75 degrees, but the start brought a light breeze which made it feel colder. I have alternated frappuccino and a local pastry at home one day while updating on the computer with a short, two block walk on the next to a tiny, local restaurant where I am a source of entertainment. On my first visit, the family that owns the place couldn’t change my 100 peso ($5.00) note for a $3.00 breakfast, so I joked with them that, maybe, I could pay tomorrow. To my surprise they quickly agreed and I left on my trip to the mega grocery store, where I got change. On the way home, I asked the cabbie to stop at the little place and paid them, much to THEIR surprise. I also included the remaining $2 as a propina (tip) which pleased them even more.
This morning on my second trip to the place, the daughter proudly told me that her mother, seated in the corner drinking a cup of coffee, had celebrated her 67th birthday on Wednesday. To which I responded, this is all in Spanish because I haven’t heard a word of English in the place, “in the Estados Unidos, when you have a birthday you get many kisses (besos).” Whereupon I grossly puckered up to indicate that it was my turn to give kisses. The family roared, so I proceeded over to the mother and gave her a big hug with a kiss on each cheek that brought down the house. I try to spread a little good will with each visit to a foreign land.
Speaking of which, another of my practices is to invite a hard-working lady to join me for dinner at a nice restaurant, one that she could ill afford. Yes, my wife knows about all of these practices in advance of each “date” and gets a review of the meal and the conversation by phone immediately thereafter. My first “date” this year involved a waitress at a diner-like, breakfast restaurant where I had been a regular two years ago. She had always been warm and friendly, so when I returned to Rancho Viejo while living at the hotel, I learned that she had recently undergone a divorce and she had her oldest child living with her, while her younger two lived with her husband and his new mujere. Sounded like a person who could use a little cheering up, so I invited her to dinner. We had a nice time, one I’m certain she will remember for a long time. Of course I returned to my casa and recounted the evening for my wife.
Last night, I invited my (Mike’s) cleaning lady to dinner, since she is living with the same familial conditions as Maria, my first dinner companion. I went to a great restaurant ($$$) where she would have a great meal, a nice conversation, and a story to tell. My secret motive in all this, no, not what all my golfing buddies are thinking, is that the conversations are all in Spanish, since I would only invite a non-English-speaking person, so I must focus intently on bringing my Spanish skills into play. It is always a long, tiring conversation, exercising that portion of the brain that processes language, instead of that portion of the brain that my golfing buddies are using right now. Anyway, Aida failed to show up last night. No phone call, nada. I waited an hour and a half, then enjoyed a fantastic meal of ensalada caprese with avocado, then one of the best prime ribs I have ever eaten. Expensive, yes, but I only had to pay for one. I was stood up, but it certainly didn’t impact my ego to be stood up for a platonic meal. Perhaps, she didn’t have clothing she felt appropriate, perhaps one of her children needed attention. Who knows, but I should find out when she works around one of Mike’s other rentals later today.
That’s it for today. Lunch will be a small piece of the huge piece of prime rib that I brought home in a doggy bag last night. Adios.
01/29/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Ahh, a leather recliner with a small, attached, swiveling, clear, acrylic table with drink holder, another drink holder in the arm of the chair - a great new addition to the furniture in my casa, you would naturally think. But, no, it was my movie seat in the theater on the second floor, right next to the mega-grocery store where I shop for groceries. After dinner on Friday night - a large, delicious, grilled octopus, now that you asked - I thought I needed some entertainment, so I boarded the collectivo for the short ride to the theater. I asked at the multi-plex counter what movie was playing next, picked an assigned seat from the computer which displayed those still available, and paid $4.71 for my ticket to watch Matt Damon star in a ridiculous film about humans being shrunk to five inches tall to address the huge threat of over-population in the world. Here called “Small, Big Life,” but may be titled “Downsizing” at home. Stupid movie, for which he was probably paid millions to star, but it served its purpose of helping me pass the time and I exited the theater a few minutes after 10:00 p.m.
The grocery store was still open so I bought a few breakfast items to eat while I update next time. Did I mention that the freshly-squeezed orange juice is fantastic here? Even the juice packaged in quart-sized, milk-container-like boxes and marked freshly squeezed explodes with flavor, much more than the popular, 100% not-from-concentrate juice at home.
Don’t worry about my housing. I may not have a lounge chair, but I have a large, very-comfortable sofa and ottoman. I also now have curtains on the four most important windows in my abode which sufficiently diminish the street lights and provide a modicum of privacy. Just this morning, Miguel (Mike, my landlord) brought down two end tables and placed them beside the beds in each room. We (?) are making steady progress on making this into a furnished apartment. On Saturday, Mike and I drove to the edge of town and shopped through the Segundas (second hand stores) looking for a dining table and chairs. We found a number of tables and chairs that would have looked great in a formal dining room at home, but which Mike and I agreed would not have the Mexican feel. Who wants to rent a house in La Paz when it has an American, formal dining room look to it? Not I, but I know there are people who travel overseas only to stay in Hiltons or rent apartments that look like home. My preference is when in Mexico, live Mexican. When in Spain, live Spanish, and when in Argentina, live Argentinean. I think you get the picture. Anyway, Mike is coming through a little at a time and I love the place more with each improvement. Remember, “good things come to those who wait.”
This morning, I lugged a bag of dirty clothes down to the laundry, a short block and a half away and right on the way to my new breakfast spot. Will pick up the clean duds tomorrow at 11:00. Yes, there is a washer on the second floor of the building where another studio is located here on the property, but I would have to hang the laundered clothing on the porch of that building while there are residents in the casita. A very pleasant couple from British Columbia, halfway between Victoria and Vancouver, is renting the place for a few days and I wouldn’t want to diminish their enjoyment of the garden by having my undies flapping in front of them. Soon, Mike will have a clothes line stretched between my casa and the neighbor’s wall and I will then wash my own clothes again. We looked for a multiple clothes line hanger the other day at a hardware store on the way back from the Segundas, but found nothing. I’m confident Mike will find something soon.
Oh, food wise, I weakened yesterday and bought my first Mexican hamburger. Not bad and I’ll have a photo shortly. It is not a hardship to go without burgers since, for whatever reason, I only eat two or three burgers a year. I also took photos of my new friends from the breakfast place to share with you. Enjoy! Adios.
2018 Photos - uploaded 01/29/2018
01/31/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
“It takes a village to raise a child,” but sometimes a single family member can inspire a person into action. This time it was my brother, John, in the midst of a successful, VA-directed, weight-loss and exercise program who humbled me by describing to me on the phone his 3.5 mile walk in the bad weather of PA while I languish on my sofa in the perfect walking weather of the Baja. “I enjoy and look forward to my walk every day,” he said and I remembered that same feeling during my 20-year, morning, walking regimen laid low by plantar fasciitis (now completely gone) and abdominal surgery (now fully healed). What was I waiting for?
I had been increasing my walking here, usually to or from restaurants where I have been eating mostly mariscos (seafood), but I had hated every step along the way. I just endured, but yesterday, his words ringing in my mind, I tied on my walking sneakers, put on the hat I hadn’t yet worn, and headed out to the malecon, determined to enjoy my walk. Walk I did, and once the creaky knee pain subsided, I started enjoying the walk. To the end of the new malecon construction and all the way back, with only two stops in between to shoot the breeze about the latest local news, I covered somewhere between four and five miles. It was all a matter of mindset, my brother was right, I enjoyed the walk and the accomplishment. I know that I am losing weight because of a much lighter diet, though I savor every bite and try to share the experience with readers, but the walk revived a long-dormant feeling. If I can keep up the exercise, I’m certain to lose weight more quickly. Nobody will recognize me when I return home. Thanks, John!
About the local news: There was a small gun battle in town the day before yesterday, but it was some distance from my little casa - at least six or eight blocks. Not to be concerned! I never heard a thing and slept like a baby. They were talking about it in town, though, but it didn’t rattle anybody except the neighbors. Police and marines surrounded a house and a gun battle ensued for five hours (the locals say) with machine guns fired by the military, etc. Nobody even killed. Five or six people inside were captured, including two women (the locals tell me they were prostitutes) and the guy the police were after - an escaped prisoner from the Cabo San Lucas prison. They seized many weapons, too.
The taxi drivers and my local friends tell me there is nothing to worry about for tourists unless a stray shell hits you. Probably more dangerous in deer season in PA. It is certainly more dangerous in parts of Baltimore and Chicago. There is plenty of police and military presence and the government is sending even more help. They are very conscious of protecting tourists, so I’ll just let them do their work. I’ll keep you updated! Hasta pronto.
02/02/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Cuatro!! Cuatro!! That’s what I need to run through the neighborhood (barrio) screaming, in an effort to have the neighbors look out for an incoming projectile. Yes, that was FORE! FORE! - in Spanish, a poorly used golf metaphor. I was informed today that my traveling shadow, Schim, is on his way to the Baja and will arrive on February 11th. The neighbors need somehow to be warned to lock up their women-folk and also their refrigerators when the big fellow from Orlando arrives. Nothing I do will be good enough and everything will be too expensive when the man known embarrassingly to drink salsa from the nacho serving bowl while thanking the waiter for the free soup ambles into town. An entire week of retraining will be necessary for him to reach a level where I feel comfortable introducing him as a friend.
Actually, the schedule for visitors to my little corner of the world is shaping up pretty well. Schim will be here on the 11th and leave on the 20th, no doubt leaving fire and destruction in his wake, destroying five weeks of the warm, neighborly, diplomatic advances I have made in this Mexican city. On the 20th, golfing buddy and restaurateur, David, will arrive eager to soak up some sunshine and take a few hacks at a golf ball or two. The day before David departs, February 28th, my wife will fly into San Jose where I will deliver David for his flight home. Perhaps, things will get a little more colorful to report with visitors in town and my month-long loneliness will end. There is potential for that.
Yesterday was a dreary day, one that delighted the locals since an infrequent rain produced puddles on the streets and sidewalks. The very light drizzle ruined my planned excursion to the driving range across the bay, but I endured by reading and studying Spanish all day. It brightened enough by evening that I was able to sit outside at Il Rustico, a nice Italian restaurant, and enjoy my prosciutto and melon, then a decent pizza. I couldn’t finish the pizza, but brought a portion of it home to the fridge for dinner tonight.
This morning began dreary again, but I ventured outside for breakfast, planning to catch an early ferry to the golf course. The day brightened and the weather was perfect for hitting the little, white, ball. I had to buy a glove and arrange to return Monday for more practice and to pay for the glove, before deciding whether to become a member of the club for two months. The pro has always given me a fair rate to do that, but I’m not yet certain I want to play that much golf. I hit some lousy shots on the range, the first I have hit in three or four months, but overall, I was thrilled with most of my practice. Hit with borrowed rental clubs, the pro takes care of me, my first efforts were “look up,” line drives, but the more I hit, the better the shots got. I only hit part of a small bucket of balls, quitting before I could pull any muscles not used in such a long time and that was very successful. I did exhaust myself, however and, for the first time in my life, I fell asleep while writing an email. Maybe, it was Schim, the recipient, who made me doze, but the short siesta that proceeded this writing was desperately needed. I’ll need a day or two more of practice and muscle stretching before venturing out on the course, but I’m looking forward to that experience. My game should be a few days ahead of David’s by the time he arrives. Might be the time to place a wager on the round. Hmmm. Buen fin de semana!
02/05/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Eagles win!! Eagles win!! Though I am a much bigger fan of Penn State football and the Phillies, I celebrated my contribution to the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory last night. I watched the game in the same two bars where I watched their victory over the Vikings, not breaking the mojo that I created with that last, awesome, playoff win. It took great effort, but I downed two, large pina coladas and three tacos gobernador during the first half. The tacos were the best I have had here, with many shrimp, much cheese, and sautéed onions, served with small bowls of salsa (liquid fire I do not touch), pico de gallo, and guacamole to add to your taste. The latter two for me contributing to a scrumptious, moist taco that required intense focus in order to cheer on the Eagles. In the second brew pub, reached just as halftime ended, I drank a Clamato juice (two alcohol drinks are my limit) and a serving of the smallest wings I have ever seen. The waitress assured me with a big smile that they were not pigeon wings, though I’m still not sure, but they were tasty and the heat they generated was surely felt by the Eagles offense. Super Bowl champs - how about that!
This morning after my desayuno (breakfast) stop, where I shared photos of my family with my new friends at the restaurant, I decided to get a haircut. Not willing to risk the abuse and the suggestions Schim gives to the barber when I am on the chair, I decided to search for the shop where I got a haircut with my friend, Ron, the last time I was in La Paz. I’m afraid that my narratives have whet Schim’s appetite for some cheap meals and a little Mexican adventure, since he has moved up his arrival date to this Friday. THIS FRIDAY? I have warned the neighbors and the landlord of his arrival and many plan to send their families to visit relatives on the mainland.
I called a taxi that I use regularly and tried unsuccessfully to describe the location of the barber shop. We cruised for an hour, unable to locate it, though I passed it on foot the other day and have a clear mental picture of its location. Whether the driver intentionally prolonged the search I have no idea, but after taking the same streets for the second and third time, I became suspicious and a little short tempered. I finally told him to take me to one of the dozen or so other peluquerias (barber shops) that we had passed during our quest. Finally, and $10 later, he dropped me at a small, one-person, unisex shop where a woman was finishing the haircut of a young man whose hair looked pretty good. I jumped in the chair not knowing what to expect, but think she did an acceptable job. I won’t be mistaken for Brad Pitt, but people won’t run away in horror or burst out laughing, either, at least no more so than usual. I will include a selfie in my next group of photos.
Two new furnishings arrived over the weekend. No, no tables or chairs, simply a coffee pot which will be used by my visitors; I prefer one cup daily consumed in a cafe or restaurant. I still have only one small table and chair on which I am writing this blog, but Mike, the landlord, has ordered a new, large dining table and six chairs that could arrive before Schim blows into town. Mike also delivered and set-up a brand-new, smart, large-screen TV for the living room. With his Netflix subscription, I can now watch movies at home; who knows, Schim and I may want to cuddle while watching a flick? Adios!
02/07/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Living in the lap of luxury these days! The dining room table, six chairs, and a book shelf to support and elevate the big screen TV all arrived yesterday! Brand new, Mexican-made furniture that looks great in my little casa and almost makes it feel like home. A few more amenities here and there, a chair here, a table there, a few pictures on the walls, and the place will be fully decorated. The landlord is doing a great job addressing my needs, little by little, but yesterday was a windfall.
I left after breakfast at my desayuno stop, fully intending to shop until I dropped in both Walmart and Home Depot, located in adjacent shopping malls a $3 Uber ride away. I needed shelving for the bathroom, a small throw rug to keep street soil off the sometimes-wet, white-tiled, bathroom floor, a couple more towels, something to hang from the shower head to hold soap and shampoo, an air freshener for the stale air that hangs in the living room on still days, and a few grocery items. Not a huge Walmart fan, a place in which I never set foot at home, I started there and bought everything on my list before realizing that I was out of gas. Shopped out! I passed on some shelving that might fit over the toilet and provide the only storage space in the tiny bathroom, because I wasn’t certain it would fit. I will return today with measurements marked on my jean belt (who packs a tape measure?) to see if the shelving will squeeze into the small space available. Shopped out! I was exhausted, but it was mainly my feet that were killing me. I should have known better than to wear sandals for anything that requires lengthy walking or standing, but I didn’t. I took a waiting taxi home, unwilling to wait for Uber and delay removing my sandals. That’s when I discovered that Mike had moved in the new furniture. A great surprise!
Everything I bought fit or worked perfectly. I even ate some of the cereal this morning for breakfast. Kellogg’s muesli with honey, not the Swiss muesli I eat occasionally at home, but it sure tasted good this morning. I missed the frijoles, of course, but the cereal and the vanilla Frappuccino hit the spot. As soon as I finish writing, I will head back out shopping once more; this time with soft, orthotic-lined shoes and I will begin at Home Depot to spread the wealth. I still could use a stretchable wash line so that I can use the washer on this property instead of walking my laundry a block and a half down the street and paying somebody to wash and fold it. Pretty nice to pick up the laundry and put it in the closet, knowing that all my clothes are clean again without doing any work, though.
Carnaval begins on Thursday and Schim arrives on Friday. He will, no doubt, think the fiesta is in honor of his arrival, but we’ll have to power our way through the crowds at the bus station to find a taxi to get his trunks to the casa. He has been writing, reviewing his clothing selection and his color coordination with me and discussing how he will contact me when he arrives. Here’s hoping he packs only two trunks for this short visit. He will land in the Los Cabos airport and immediately board an express bus that will transport him to the La Paz terminal where I will meet him among the throngs of celebrants gathered for Carnaval.
David is also reviewing details of his travel here, now only two weeks away. It is his first venture into Mexico, so he will have a few adjustments to make. David is originally from England, so he should find the very “rustic” nature of Mexico a new experience. He will note that few people stop mid-day for tea. He could struggle a tad, eh wot? Things are about to get interesting! Hasta pronto.
“Perico,” the chef answered when I asked what kind of delicious fish she had served me. I previously told her to bring me what she thought best that night and that is what I got. It was scrumptious and the presentation beautiful, but later I got to thinking about another delicious “catch of the day” I had eaten in a fine-dining restaurant at home that had me up all night with severe diarrhea. Was this the same fish? Beware of Hawaiian butter fish, also called escolar!! While delicious, it contains oils that react negatively to most people’s intestinal tracts. So much so, that the fish has been banned from commercial use in Japan and the Philippines, I have been told. It certainly has been banned from my diet, that’s for sure. I had never heard of Perico, so as soon as I got home that evening, I googled it, which would have been a little late had it been escolar. Great news! In Spanish, Perico refers to dolphin fish - “mahi-mahi” in Hawaiian. I’ll include a photo of the dish and a few others in the next day or so.
Yesterday, I played my first round of golf of 2018 and it went amazingly well for a first outing with a mixed set of rental clubs, no golf shoes, little talent, and a very rusty swing. I met a professional golfer, Ty, and his father-in-law, Bob, on the ferry both heading over to play the course for the first time. They were delighted not having to endure any more of the Canadian winter, since they are from Alberta which is currently experiencing extremely nasty weather, even for Alberta. Ty is the head pro and manager at a course right outside Calgary where his in-laws reside during the summer months. They have purchased a condo here and, since his retirement a couple years ago, Bob and his wife spend six months a year in this beautiful desert city. Ty is a left-hander who hit long, low, screaming hooks all day. He had at least three birdies; I did not, nor did Bob. I shot 52-48 an even 100, which is way better than it sounds. This course has the largest, most diabolically-undulating greens that I have ever seen on a course. I four-putted three times and three-putted once on the front nine, needing a record (for me) of 23 putts. I needed only 16 on the back totaling 39 putts, for those counting. I have taken 42 putts on my worst day ever on much, much flatter greens, so it wasn’t a bad day. We played tees that made the course 6200 yards long.
By the time I walked home from the ferry, maybe six blocks, I was tuckered out. 100 swings in the desert heat had taken their toll! I didn’t even leave the house for dinner, making three vanilla cookies and a small glass of milk my meal for the evening. I should have gone to a fine restaurant, since today is the day that Shim arrives and I know we will be eating (cheap) street food for the duration of his stay. The cleaning lady is here, making the place spic and span for the big fella’s arrival. I need to pick up my laundry at 2:00 this afternoon, hang it in the closet, and head for the bus station. An afternoon siesta might also be appropriate. Schim should arrive between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. He has already emailed me from Houston, indicating his safe arrival there after a smooth flight in an upgraded seat. The guy knows all the angles! Hasta pronto!
02/12/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Schim arrived right on time, within a couple minutes of my arrival from the 20-minute walk up the malecon to the bus station. After a 4:30 a.m. departure from his house, he was exhausted from a long day of travel - two, 2.5 hour flights and a three-hour, mini-bus ride on rough desert roads. We quickly taxied to my little casa where he unpacked, unwound, and shared (ad nauseam) his travel experiences of the day. Then, the hunger struck him. “Where are we going to eat, tonight?” I gave him a choice of seafood at a local favorite within walking distance, or a trip by Uber to an inexpensive, local, Mexican grill for some standard Mexican fare. He chose the seafood place, so we walked about five blocks to El Toro Guero, a thatched-roof-covered, local hot-spot whose seafood is inexpensive, fresh, and delicious. Catching a glimpse of grilled octopus (my favorite) on a plate as we walked past a row of tables, Schim decided that was what he wanted for dinner. First, however, he decided that we should have a shrimp appetizer, so he asked me to order the “FIesta de Camarones.” He was also going to order the octopus, but I convinced him to wait until we finished the shrimp to order that dish. A good thing, too!! Check my photos to see the monstrous, probably-would-easily-have-served-four, dish of shrimp that appeared at our table. Butterflied shrimp, fried shrimp wrapped in bacon, coconut shrimp, shrimp with a spicy sauce over rice, and tempura shrimp served in a wannabe washtub over a bed of lettuce. We tried, but we couldn’t handle it all; the octopus would have to wait for another night. We easily brought home a dozen pieces of uneaten shrimp for the fridge, but two days later as I write this, Schim reports to me that the refrigerated shrimp has been devoured. He ate it all, a little at a time, also the rest of the box of cookies and the bag of Snickers that I put in the fridge because I know his proclivity for constant snacking. Today, we will have to restock at Soriana, the huge grocery store he has never visited. That trip will encompass several hours as he critiques their marketing techniques and product displays. Sears started to falter when the Schimster retired, no doubt.
The man who takes pictures of postcards to avoid entrance fees in sites like castles, museums, and antiquities has done it again. Last night, at the opening parade of this city’s colorful Carnaval, we watched about 45 minutes of the four-hour festivities with loud, contagious music, colorful floats, beautiful lasses in gorgeous costumes, and bands of supporters singing and dancing down the street, some with bouncing umbrellas streaming lacy, coordinated cloth and dancing Mummers’ style. The huge throng of excited people gathered on both sides of the parade, urged participants on and begged for the candy and favors tossed from the floats. It was an impressive spectacle, certainly not at the level of Rio’s Carnaval, but thrilling. THEN, the clock struck 7:30 p.m. and the Schimster was ready for bed! “When are we leaving?” And, “I’m ready when you are,” spilled desperately from his lips. I was afraid he might fall asleep on the way home, so we left the festivities, heading home in a taxi, and the big guy was in bed before 8:00 p.m. The taxi driver informed us that the festivities would last until 4:00 a.m. We only missed eight hours of the celebration. Oh, this is going to be an exciting couple of weeks!
This morning, he was up again at 4:00 a.m. and reading his novel, sipping coffee at the dining room table, and waiting for the day’s action. He maintains that it is not jet-lag; these are his normal waking and sleeping hours at home in Florida. Oh, his lucky significant other, MJ! I will try to endure and keep you informed. Hasta luego!
La Tortuga!! For three or more years, Schim has remembered a terrible, little, and very cheap restaurant in emails to me as the finest purveyor of Mexican cuisine on the planet. I remembered it as a horribly-dirty place, one step above a dirt-floor food stall, owned by a wonderful, old lady who performed all the tasks in the six-table dining room while cooking seafood dishes in her dark, adjacent kitchen out of sight around the corner. Before his arrival, I warned him that I would only dine in Tortuga (turtle) one time and no more. Sunday night was that night and Schim now agrees with my critique of the place, venturing so far as to say, “I’ll never go back,” and muttering almost under his breath that he didn’t think the sweet, old lady had changed her sweater since our last visit. My bowl of fish stew was fine, but Schim’s dish of a shrimp creole-look-a-like appeared a little skimpy. I felt it necessary to ask several times if the lemonade and the ice cubes that I was drinking had been prepared with aqua purificada and she assured me that it had. It was that kind of place.
Monday morning, we buzzed around the golf course in a cart and Schim exited the cart only one time when I insisted that he walk on a huge, undulating, double green to appreciate how difficult putting might be on that surface. He took one step onto the green, bent down, touched the grass, exclaimed, “That grass is soft,” and returned immediately to the cart. He whined the rest of the way on the 40 minute trip about how cold it was; it was an overcast, breezy day, but at 75 degrees the old boy was freezing? As we rode the ferry back to the mainland, he did reluctantly confess that he enjoyed the experience, “Now, what’s for lunch?” he asked. He views golf courses the way he does museums - with a hit and run approach.
Yesterday, we rented a car from Avis and went on a day-trip to El Triunfo, a desert mining town, now all but a ghost town, and enjoyed lunch in a beautifully renovated bake shop/restaurant. One of the Waltons of Walmart fame has a gorgeously- renovated home, one of only 20 or so in the town, that must serve as a remote getaway for a person of that wealth. The small, dusty, neighboring town of San Antonio was apparently a thriving gold and silver mining town in the distant past, but now only has a handful of residents, a church, and a tiny elementary school. A visit there certainly makes one, even Schim, appreciate the finer things in life that we normally take for granted at home. It was a long day, especially since the navigator only gave instructions once the driver, yours truly, was past the turn-off or intersection. A glance at a map might also have helped, but 20 mile detours through the desert heading the opposite direction to Tijuana seemed to make the day much more interesting and asking policia federales (state police) directions gave the police a chance to practice their English.
On our return, I swung by the Costa Baja Golf Course designed by Gary Player, and Schim finally gushed a little over the views. The course has been closed and reopened only a few weeks ago, displaying many brown spots on the fairways, but the elevation changes and the view of La Paz Bay were as spectacular as ever. The Schimster even snapped a photo or two. Maybe, there’s hope for him, yet. Nah, not a chance! Hasta pronto.
02/17/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Pictures, pastries, and patience! Much easier than having the film developed and mailing the negatives home, as I used to do, the transmission of pictures is still a royal pain. Yesterday, I sent 25 pictures and captions to my daughter, the webmaster, but it must have taken me 3 hours to complete the process. First, the pictures were too large and transmission took so long they froze in my outbox with the little thingy spinning incessantly. Next, pictures went and captions didn’t. Then, only six pictures got through until I was finally instructed, by the webmaster herself, to reduce the size of the photos, write the caption, and send them in bundles of five (I slipped in a couple of six-photo-bundles just to see what I could get away with). But, each time, I had to go back through the photo albums, select the picture, and re-write the caption. Finally, after spending much of the day frustrated by my ineptitude, I got the photos through. I hope you enjoy them.
A couple days ago in the heat of the day, Schim and I hopped a collectivo (poor folks’ bus) and headed to the central market where food stands sell many traditional Mexican dishes; think menudo and pozole (tripe soup and beef & hominy soup) - photos included. Afterward, we caught another collectivo to head home. I inquired of the driver before boarding, “will this bus go to Soriana?” the large grocery store we had visited a day or two earlier. The driver nodded yes, and we climbed aboard. Schim roughly tossing a young girl and her grandmother to the floor to capture a seat for us. Within three or four blocks I told Schim that the collectivo was headed in the wrong direction. Four or five blocks further in the wrong direction, we disembarked in the middle of a strange neighborhood. It turns out there is more than one Soriana in this large, capital city. Who knew?? I did know the general direction home, but it took me several blocks in the broiling sun to convince Schim that we could afford to split the $2.00 taxi fare to get there. We hailed a passing mini-van/taxi-cab with a crew of two: husband driving and wife hawking the home-made pastries she had baked and stuffed with dulce de leche. When we arrived home, I took my change in pastries, about eight in number. We bid the husband and wife team adieu (adios) and started to unlock the gate while the taxi pulled away. As we entered our property, the taxi hurriedly backed up, the husband jumped from the van, and waved another cellophane-wrapped pastry at us, explaining that they hadn’t given us enough pastries for our money. GET OUT! How great are these people and why, again, should we build a wall? These are warm, friendly, honest, hard-working people; I feel safe and privileged to be able to live among them for a short time.
Patience is a laudable virtue but one that is unevenly distributed in the world’s population. Fortunately, I seem to possess a lot; Schim possesses none! In Mexico, known by all to exhibit a wonderful mañana attitude and lifestyle, one sits at a restaurant table until a waiter or waitress approaches to take a drink order, almost like at home but the wait is a little longer. Schim yells, “Cerveza,” at the host or hostess even before taking his seat, then laments the lack of service in the place when the beer is slow to appear. Here, once a food order is placed, even in the cheapest of restaurants that Schim prefers, the food is made from scratch, beginning when the order is received by the kitchen. This takes time, mañana time, and during that time, Schim is energized, then frazzled at the time being wasted. All of this while folks at other tables engage in delightful, familial conversation while waiting. Schim is the reason “fast food” was created.
The other evening I called Uber, always my Uber (never his), and the lovely, young, 21-year-old lady, Luisa, who arrived in her second week of employment with the company, had a little difficulty finding the Greek restaurant we were seeking. OK, perhaps it was more than a little difficulty, perhaps 20 minutes or so, but she kept trying, circling blocks, checking her GPS, nervously searching for our destination. After the first three minutes, Schim began sniping from the back seat. I have a granddaughter Luisa’s age and I could picture her under the pressure of two strange men demanding instant service. Actually, I treated her a little like my oldest granddaughter to make up for the ever-louder sniping from the back seat. Fortunately, she spoke little English, but I’m certain she could read his tone of voice. Finally, I told her to let us out next to an Italian restaurant where I had eaten before. She was much relieved and I for her. He grumbled all the way into his seat, even sitting this time before yelling, “Cerveza!” The man has no patience and, if time permitted, I would discuss “tolerance,” another valued trait I have yet to see exhibited. He heads home Tuesday and I can’t seem to get him to move up his departure. Adios.
02/18/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
OK! OK! Maybe, I was a little harsh in my use of Schim as a foil in my writing. Really, he is the Costello to my Abbott, the Hardy to my Laurel. But, when both my wife and my daughter reacted negatively to my abuse of the Schimster, I realized that I needed to apologize: I’m sorry Schim, really I am! Please note, however, that Schim never asked me to apologize and he laughed heartily when I told him of the reaction of the webmaster and my wife. He knows how he treats me - by throwing objects through the elevated window from the kitchen into the bathroom when I am in the midst of my morning ablutions. He realizes his cross-body blocks of me into masonry walls while walking at night deserve a rebuke, so he felt no pain with my descriptions of him on the blog. But, I am truly sorry, Schim, for all those readers who felt a need to defend your honor. There, I feel so much better.
Wait, I guess I should make one other confession to cleanse my soul: he didn’t really throw the girl and her grandmother to the floor to capture a seat. He did hip-check me into the seat across the aisle to secure a shady-side seat for himself, however. Please do not think for a minute that this is a one-sided battle. He handles himself quite nicely until the chips are down with police presence or some other pressure-filled situation arises. Then, he buckles. Oops, there I go again. Sorry, Schim.
He is not a bad roommate, though. This morning, Sunday, he was up early again (4:00 a.m.) and decided that the floors that he had swept several times in the last few days needed mopping. He even paid for yesterday’s groceries which included a mop and a small table needed for make-up application when my wife arrives. After his very thorough mopping, which he completed while respecting my space where I was finishing my night’s sleep, he hand-washed two shirts and two pairs of underwear to help him stay clean until Tuesday, his departure date. His laundry now hangs on plastic hangers hung from a tree limb in the back yard. Most nights, he is in bed by 7:30 p.m. and up by 4:00 a.m. - what a schedule!
Today, as his laundry dried, we walked five blocks for a great breakfast at a place Schim and I found a few years back that has now become a go-to place for locals for Sunday, after-church breakfast. The live vocalist, accompanied by recorded music, who learned the lyrics to my favorite Mexican cancion the last time I was in town, recognized me and sang a beautiful rendition of Maria Elena for me. Schim was embarrassed and stood outside listening surreptitiously as I joined the vocalist for a refrain or two. Life is good and I feel so much better now that I have freed myself from the guilt I have been carrying. Hasta luego!
02/22/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Schim’s gone! Schim’s gone! Let the fiesta begin! I drove Schim to the airport two days ago in the 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport that I rented from a friend for the trip. The Jeep had 158,000 miles on it, slightly more than the Volvo S 80 that I sold a month before embarking on this adventure. Despite Schim’s complaints during the entire trip, the old, red Jeep performed admirably on the ride across the Baja. We stopped at Oxxo, the Mexican WaWa or 7-11, and picked up two gallons of purified water in case we broke down and needed to survive in the desert. The necessity of survival was not likely, though, the road is well-traveled and the Mexicans are notoriously generous in offering help to troubled travelers. I’m sure that they would have stopped to help almost immediately. The water also could be used if we had an overheating problem and we used some outside the Oxxo to wet the windshield prior to wiping with the paper towels we also purchased at the store. I’m a little OCD (obsessive compulsive) about driving with clean windows.
Schim, certain I had taken the wrong road to get to Los Cabos, finally admitted his mistake and enjoyed the scenic, desert drive. As we swung close to Todos Santos on the Pacific Ocean and as the road turned to face the ocean, we clearly saw a whale breach not far from shore. I had to keep my eyes on the road, but Schim saw two more breaches as we drove, but I only caught a glimpse. For once, he seemed impressed. We buzzed through Cabo San Lucas on the way because I felt that he should at least see the famous Baja beach town. Schim was disinterested, as usual, too focused on getting to the airport on time. Get there we did, almost an hour and a half before his flight was scheduled to take off. Both Schim’s take-off and David’s arrival from Baltimore, via Houston, were delayed, however.
I enjoyed a pina colada while waiting and had a long conversation with a retired, widowed, 83-year-old teacher from Colorado, while we sat at an outside bar at the arrivals door of the airport. She and three lady friends bought a time share in Cabo San Lucas many years ago and, though all of her friends have now passed, she still enjoys coming to the Baja; this time her younger sister and her sister’s friend were coming to join her and were on the same flight as David. Her husband, who died of a sudden heart attack 12 years ago, was a rancher who milked dairy cattle. Her son took over the ranch, negotiated a deal with an Australian yoghurt company, and now milks more than 1,000 head a day, then processes the food on the ranch in new buildings constructed for the process. It was an interesting conversation and the time waiting for David passed rapidly.
David, who is a very successful restaurateur in my home town, enjoys dining in fine restaurants and even picks up an occasional check. His visit will involve a real change in routine and very different restaurant choices. We have had two dinners together and both produced excellent cuisine, even impressing David who photographed a couple presentations. Speaking of photographing: David mentioned in an email that he was going to bring his camera and I pictured a small “point and shoot” Kodak or cheap Canon. NOT! David rolled out the airport door with two suitcases, a large camera bag and a tripod. Inside the bag was a Nikon camera with a three-foot long lens and all the accoutrements to take fantastic photos. This was going to be a change. Schim many times took photos on the fly, producing blurred photos (see his octopus shot) that he published anyway. David and I spent the night in the Hotel Colli, the same small Mexican hotel where I stayed originally this year when I found the Yuca Inn demolished. It cost us about $25/each to split the cost of the very clean, basic hotel that had a great shower and bathroom.
After breakfast along the marina in Cabo San Lucas, where David probably got some good pictures of the famous spring break oasis, we headed on the old, long, winding road through the mountains to Los Barriles, San Antonio, Il Triunfo, and eventually La Paz. It was a sunny day and we had a great ride through the desert, observing cattle, horses, and goats grazing on the free range of the desert. Fortunately, those animals don’t move as quickly as deer, so despite there being no fencing, there was no real danger of hitting anybody’s livestock. Big Red, our new name for the Jeep Cherokee, performed beautifully the entire trip. One small glitch developed when we assumed that the road through the center of Los Barriles would rejoin old route 1 so that we could continue our journey as intended. Unfortunately, we crossed a wide arroyo where the paved road was washed away and continued driving and climbing up a couple of very curvy mountain roads before realizing that we were not going to rejoin our intended route. David got great pictures, I’m sure, but I decided to turn around and retrace our steps back through Los Barriles to return to the right highway. We probably went 30 miles out of the way on those curvy roads with few guard rails despite precipitous drop-offs. I was forced to downshift to first gear (automatic transmission) several times to preserve braking power down the steep slopes. We survived, joking about our imminent demise, and visited the aforementioned towns before arriving in La Paz a half hour before sunset. It was a full, tiring day! I will update as I get time while attempting to give David a taste of Mexico and La Paz on his first visit to the country. Hasta luego.
Gel pen? Gel pen?? David apparently has a touch of the OCD like I enjoy with requiring a clean windshield when I drive. Aren’t we all a little obsessive compulsive about something? David’s gel pen leaked as he filled out the Mexican immigration forms on the plane on the way South. The stewardesses helped him clean up as best they could, but a little of the stain remains almost a week later. Had that happened to me, I would have found another ball point pen and continued about my daily affairs. Not David! He has a gel pen OCD condition, the first I have ever observed and diagnosed. We had to go on a gel-pen hunt that covered two days in two cities, Cabo (Walmart) and here in La Paz (Walmart, Soriana, pharmacies) until, finally, in an Office Max I never knew existed, we found the gel pen he so desperately needed.
Definitely an upgrade over the Schimster, like trading a Yugo for a Rolls Royce, David is equally clean and tidy, considerate, complimentary, caring, appreciative, and tolerant. What a change! Furthermore, he’s a golfer! A slow golfer, one I used to call deliberate; but no, he’s a slow golfer, but a golfer. Reading every word on the course guidebook describing each hole before teeing off and meticulously cleaning each of the rental clubs before and after hitting a shot, we played two slow rounds of golf since David’s arrival. One at the course across the bay where foursomes played through us as David studied his approach to each hole and, yesterday, where we were almost alone on the course and his deliberate (slow) play caused absolutely no delays for anyone. We stunk up both courses, but exercised muscles and swings that have laid dormant since October.
The man is a “Roadrunner” magnet! I drove Schim around the course, though hurriedly so he could get home to eat another Snickers bar, and we saw nary a single, flightless, desert bird made famous by his “beep, beep” chirping at the ever-present coyote. But, David has seen almost a dozen of the interesting creatures in two days on two, different golf courses. They seem almost attracted to him, walking on the fairway directly in front of the golf cart and posing until he can zip open his camera bag, clip on the appropriate lens, set up his tripod, focus the shutter, and select his shutter speed. Did I mention that he is a little deliberate about everything?
The dining has been fantastic. David is enjoying the food presentations at the finest restaurants in La Paz, although we have also eaten burritos from street vendors and will have dinner tonight at the corner taco stand. We usually share a bottle of wine with dinner each evening and have both been impressed by the quality of the Mexican wine produced around Ensenada on this peninsula. David is eager to ride a collectivo and I will give him that experience today as we head to the market for a bowl of menudo (tripe soup). I feel certain that he has experienced a real sampling of life in Mexico and on the Baja in this, his first venture South of the border. He departs on Thursday and we will pick up my wife Wednesday afternoon at the Los Cabos Airport. I will update when possible in the next few days. Hasta pronto!
Schim is gone; David is history and Joan, my wife, is here. End of story, but really I should make clear that David and Schim were great roommates. That, despite all their quirks and idiosyncrasies that my comments described in great detail. The three of us are all rather clean and orderly human beings, for men, and there was never a problem with clothes on the floor, dirt tracked in from the dusty garden, sloppy bathrooms, or general disagreement. Schim even swept and mopped the floor, including the porch, several times during his visit. Both men brewed and drank coffee every morning and always cleaned up after themselves. Both emptied the trash and helped this old-timer lug groceries and heavy bottles of water into our little casa. No doubt, I will miss them, but I wouldn’t want them to be aware of that. I believe that I have successfully polished their social skills sufficiently to return them to their significant others who will certainly notice a change in their behavior. Well, maybe not Schim.
After his arrival, David and I had dinner in an expensive restaurant in San Jose del Cabo where the service was excellent, the food presentations beautiful, but the food itself only good - seven on a one-to-ten scale. After a night in a small hotel in San Jose, David and I had a delicious breakfast in the marina in Cabo San Lucas where David could experience the shills hawking restaurant service and glass-bottom boat trips to see the famous arch and others selling silver jewelry to the throngs walking the beautiful docks. We left Los Cabos and headed back past the airport and took the winding, back road through Los Barriles, San Antonio, and Il Triunfo before reaching La Paz. It was a full day of desert driving and we both enjoyed the cactus, cows, goats, and flora of the desert. We (I) did make one bad decision exiting Los Barriles, crossing a wide arroyo where previous rains had deposited sand on long stretches of the road before heading up through the mountains that I assumed would intersect with the road to Il Triunfo. It did not and after 10 miles or so of extremely winding road with no guard rails protecting against severe drops into steep canyons, I decided to hang a U and return through the arroyo and Los Barriles the way we had entered. It slowed our trip to La Paz and David kept urging me to continue to see where the road would take us, but I opted to take the safer route and retreat. I now think that either road would have gotten us to familiar territory, but we ended up seeing the two, tiny desert villages before arriving safely in La Paz.
David’s week with me was a whirlwind of day trips to beaches, a small adventure when miscommunication caused the keys to be locked in the old Jeep Cherokee Sport with the engine running, and fantastic dining. We tried all of the fine restaurants of La Paz, those which Schim shunned, and enjoyed a delightful bottle of wine with almost every dinner. Oh, the locksmith, called by a worker at the beach, showed up in about twenty minutes, efficiently opened the door, and charged less than $20 for the work. The weather the last few days during David’s visit was cool and blustery which caused a cancellation of the boat trip to tour Espiritu Santo island with its sea-lion colony, its frigate-bird roost, interesting rock formations, and the many porpoises that follow the tour boat on its three-mile trip to the island which is a Mexican national park. To substitute for the cancellation David chose to visit San Carlos on the Pacific Coast, so we picked up some water and headed north on the road to Tijuana, unencumbered by maps or a knowledge of the distance to be covered. We drove three and a half hours north through bleak desert with only an occasional dirt road intersecting our paved, two-lane highway until we ran into rain near the small city of Constitution, a real desert oasis. The wipers on the old Jeep lasted for one full swipe across the windshield, then the driver’s side blade bent like a pretzel, rendering its wiping abilities hopeless. We struggled to view the road through the windshield until, in Constitution, we found a local, auto parts store where new blades were purchased. Turns out that it rains so infrequently in the Baja that wiper blades rarely last more than three months before becoming hard, cracked, and inoperable. The new blades worked perfectly and with a sound, joint decision to cancel the last three and a half hours of our journey, and return to La Paz. My friends who rented the car to me have promised to refund the $13.50 cost of the new wiper blades. Life in the Baja seems to offer one adventure after another.
On our way back to San Jose del Cabo, David and I returned to Todo Santos, another of our prior day trips, to exchange a tee-shirt he had purchased at the Hotel California. There, we booked two rooms in the same small hotel where we had stayed previously and headed to the airport to pick up Joan. Everything went well in the exchange of visitors; that night, we enjoyed a wonderful al fresco dinner together despite cool windy weather and thrilled at the outstanding guitarist and female vocalist who entertained us, the only visitors to the restaurant that night, since wiser heads remained indoors on the blustery evening. David flew safely to LA the next morning, then on to Baltimore. Here’s hoping he returns a little less stressed and his employees notice the difference. Hasta pronto.
“Yes, officer, that is alcohol that you smell,” I replied on Friday night to the policeman who stopped me for ostensibly crossing the intersection too rapidly to allow pedestrians to cross as we headed for a nightclub that produced a pleasant evening of progressive jazz. “My wife and I each had a glass of wine with dinner a few minutes ago,” I explained, failing to mention that we continued to refill the glass until the bottle of wine that we shared over a wonderful meal was empty. The street corner cop seemed like he was trying to figure out what to do with me as he persisted in holding my driver’s license in his hand while talking to me and then, talking to somebody on the phone whom he had called about me. I offered him 100 pesos ($5) so he could drink a cerveza after work, but he refused to take the bribe that is so commonly given to police officers here in Mexico. Score one for the corruption forces as they try to clean up the system! After five minutes or so, which seemed like an hour to my wife, a near-by business owner came out of his store and said something to the officer and motioned to me with fingers to his eyes to indicate that he was watching the situation. The cop finally returned the license with a mumbled word or two that I did not catch and the business man waved to me to pull away. Another Mexican adventure ends pleasantly.
Dinner before that colorful experience included a huge, delicious, special, sushi roll shared by the two of us, followed by a big Caesar salad for Joan with a delicious, seared, ahi tuna filet for me. The wine was a full bodied, Mexican Cabernet, the only red offered by the fine, new restaurant with an inexcusably-puny, wine list. We left the restaurant in good spirits, Joan commenting that she felt the effects of the wine, but I didn’t notice any such effects and was surprised when the cop later indicated that he could smell alcohol. There are signs, as there should be, around the country’s byways that warn, “do not drink and drive.” I almost paid the price for showing no common sense, although I was certain that I was driving cautiously. I still believe the police stop was a “bum rap.” Hasta luego!
2018 Photos - uploaded 03/05/2018
03/05/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
There really weren’t any unique experiences to report during Schim’s visit this year, such as his drinking the salsa dip or his yelling louder when Spanish-speaking locals don’t understand him. Actually, I think that I have polished his act through our years of travel together. The interplay between us is almost becoming routine and somewhat boring. I was genuinely pleased with his tidiness this year; his routine sweeping and mopping of the floors and emptying of the trash made him almost a pleasant person with whom to live. I’ll miss him next year when he travels to Viet Nam as he threatened almost daily to me.
I did miss reporting about a colorful, local experience that occurred while David was here and I need to report that for the record: Our one collectivo ride took us an entire loop of the route regularly taken by the small bus and still only cost us fifty cents each, although we (David) gave the driver another 20 pesos ($1) as we disembarked. Something quite natural, but not usually seen on public transportation in the USA, occurred when the beautiful, young mother sitting across from us in a forward facing seat (our seat faced sideways) suddenly pulled her blouse down, removed her breast, and started suckling the almost two-year-old child she carried on her lap. David and I observed this sudden action before we could avert our eyes from the feeding, but neither of us felt embarrassment or discomfort during the entire process and discussed how very natural the act was. I admit to saying a small prayer thanking the Almighty that Schim was not on the bus.
Joan and I spent the weekend making use of the rental car I hired for the week. On Saturday, we drove to Pichilingue, Balandra, and Tecolote beaches to admire the various shades of turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez that lapped the shoreline. We lunched at Tecolote where the on-shore breeze forced us to dine inside, still with a great view, through dirty windows, of the gorgeous sand and surf. Joan had what she said was a delicious plate of large, grilled shrimp served with steamed veggies and white rice. I had a shrimp aguachile, mostly because I had no idea what it was and had always wanted to find out. Raw, shelled and deveined, smallish, butterflied shrimp covered with onions on a plate lined with cucumber slices and drenched in lime juice infused with spicy chile powder. Like a ceviche, the citric acid of the lime juice “cooked” the shrimp somewhat and apparently killed any bacteria that might have risen up to plague me later. Not something that I would especially order again, but tasty and safe, though I was a little concerned at the time of consumption about Montezuma’s later visit.
On Sunday, we drove an hour back to Todos Santos where Joan read about a house tour of historic homes in the desert/seaside town that is being rapidly gentrified. I remembered the town, where I spent three days twenty years ago, as a dusty, desert town with dirt streets and few buildings of significance. The house tour exposed the gentrification of beautiful, old, clay brick and stuccoed houses and the gorgeous gardens that their facades had secreted away. Although many of the homes are still in a state of renovation, the few that were completed were awesomely beautiful in a Mexican desert kind of way. Only one of the homes was for sale and its list price of $649,000 probably means that Joan and I won’t be moving there anytime soon. Hasta luego!
03/08/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Feeling better today, but over the last couple of days I must have gotten a touch of what my wife battled for several weeks before arriving in the sunny climes and warm temps of the Baja. Just felt pretty washed out and tired, so we stayed in the casa, venturing out only for meals; we even skipped dinner last night because I didn’t feel quite up to it. Amazing what a few Tylenol and vitamin C can do, if indeed I am almost healed. Perky right now, as I await my wife’s final preparations so we can venture out for breakfast.
I haven’t mentioned hitchhikers this year, although I have picked up three folks looking for free transportation. The first, with David in the car for the natural protection Brits offer, turned out to be drunk and slurring his Spanish words. It is tough enough trying to learn a second language without having to eliminate the extraneous sounds that drunkenness contributes, but this fellow thought we should take him to the door of his house. After winding through streets in the outskirts of the city that have never seen a gringo and becoming good and lost, I informed our guest that this was as far as we go and he’d have to walk the rest of the way. No argument; he muttered something and disembarked. David and I proceeded through developments with no apparent exits, inquired about directions several times, and finally found enough familiar landmarks to find our way home.
Oscar was standing on the side of the road with a large grin on his face as Joan and I returned on the four-lane highway from Todos Santos. Maybe it was the white grin, but Joan insisted that I stop and give him a ride (right). A cook and married with three children, Oscar hitchhikes 25 miles every morning to his place of employment and back again to the outskirts of La Paz every afternoon. Talk about a dedicated employee! He works six days a week, including Sundays, and hitchhiking is part of his daily routine. In the short ride, Joan became quite friendly with Oscar, several times exercising her Spanish vocabulary to cross examine him.
Heading to Il Triunfo, the desert, mining, almost-ghost town with a population of 300 (just two gringos) for my third visit of the winter, a young fellow’s thumb caught my attention as we passed through the policias federales (state police with sub-machine guns) check point. The police have, to my knowledge, never stopped a gringo and have been receptive to hand waves and giving directions in past dealings. The young fellow on the side of the road just past the checkpoint obviously needed a ride. I asked him where he was headed and he said to Cabo San Lucas. When I told him that I was going to Il Triunfo, he told me that was good enough, even though that meant he would have to hitch the rest of the way on the winding, two-lane road instead of the much-more-heavily-traveled, four-lane highway to Cabo San Lucas. He wasn’t married, had three children, and worked on a ranch someplace, either near Ensenada or Cabo; I never could pinpoint the location. The conversation was not as extensive as the one with Oscar and Joan didn’t grill him as deeply. Time for breakfast (desayuno). Adios.
The weekend was spent as my wife desired: rest, chill, nap, rest, relax, repeat, then dinner at a nice restaurant. She needed some downtime to recharge her batteries and where better than a place with a beautiful climate, friendly people, and a safe abode. Temperatures rose into the mid 80s this past week which made the chilling and relaxing a necessity during the afternoon hours - let’s call it a siesta! What a great idea! Joan has taken to watching Netflix movies into the night, last night two feature films of some sort, while I head to bed to read for a short time before my eye lids lose interest. Actually, I never feel a thing and go from reading to out cold in seconds, my falling Kindle sometimes causing facial bruises that make it look as if I have been in a knock-down, drag-out fight. Up early this morning (6:15 - no daylight saving time here), I showered, dressed, and headed to the little restaurant where Lulu and Patti inquired about Joan, worried about her health. Much relieved when I informed them that she was still sleeping, they prepared my breakfast of eggs, scrambled with mushrooms, cheese, and chorizo, which they served with frijoles, and a small salad. With coffee: $3.75.
Since turning in the Avis rental car, we have been taking Uber to our destination restaurants and I always inquire as to how long the driver has been working for Uber, how long they work each day, their families, etc. Some of these drivers and, with unemployment rampant, there always seem to be plenty of drivers available, many young and driving in their first week of employment, work as many as 18 hours a day, chauffeuring people hither and yon. The fellow who drives for 18 hours daily was 27 years old and had three children whom he couldn’t see very often with that schedule. Last night’s driver, who spoke decent English, works a full shift at the airport, then drives another 10 hours for Uber. These folks are anything but lazy! Hard working and willing to do the most menial of tasks, I wonder what our farmers and businesses will do when the wall is complete and everyone has been returned to their country of origin. Almost all the Mexicans (illegal or not) have simply been trying to improve the lot of their family. They deserve a way to return to our country legally with a work permit or some other vehicle that permits them to help our economy and their families. Let’s hope Congress and this loony administration find a way to get that accomplished.
My wife returns home on Friday with an arduous itinerary through Mexico City and Atlanta. She selected that route so that she can fly into Harrisburg the same day in order to prepare for a visit by grandchildren on the weekend. I will drive her to San Jose del Cabo, spend the night there, then take her to the airport and return to La Paz. I will return home on April 11th, spend the night in Baltimore, then fly to Lancaster the next morning. No convoluted itinerary for me. Hasta pronto!
Thursday evening, the day before Joan’s flight, we made contact with an old friend who, we learned on the internet, was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas. We were staying in San Jose del Cabo only a half hour’s drive away and we met at a sister time-share to where they are staying. Marble and granite everywhere, huge, shaped swimming pools, large, gorgeous fountains, waiters everywhere, white-linen-table-clothed restaurant tables elevated just above the beach, a menu and wine list fit for a king, the place was a little more upscale than that to which we had become accustomed. Our small Mexican hotel ($53/night), though spotlessly clean and with a large, tiled, modern bathroom, paled in comparison to the humongous building straddling the beach in downtown Cabo where we dined. We had a fantastic evening getting updated on family and friends, since Larry, almost a nephew when our children were young, now lives in Spokane and we hadn’t seen him in several years. We were thrilled to meet his fiancée and I tried, as best I knew how, to be on my good behavior. Methinks, I failed miserably.
The following morning, I took Joan to the airport at 7:00 a.m. and began to unload her suitcases from the trunk of the white, Nissan Versa that I had rented for the day. As I unloaded the second bag, the only two men sitting outside the terminal at that time of day called to me, informing me that Joan had dropped something as she exited the car, her mind on the long, long day ahead of her. Seeing nothing, I looked at the men, one about 30, the other in his early sixties and wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. The younger fellow arose, walked over to the car, reached in front of the right rear tire, and pulled out Joan’s large iPhone, without which she would have been lost. Had I pulled out, even a foot or so, I would have crushed her phone. I thanked the men profusely and, after seeing that Joan’s bags were wheeled into the right Aero Mexico counter by the porter whom I had tipped a few pesos for the service, I returned outside to the car. I approached the two men, still thanking them for their help, and attempted to give them 100 pesos ($5.00) each in appreciation for their assistance. They smiled, but firmly refused the money, apparently not willing to take money for something that anyone should do without compensation. What wonderful people, the Mexicans! Mr. Trump, tear down the wall; start building bridges.
Schim, David, and Joan are gone. I am alone again, the first time since the beginning of February - more than a month. It is time to get reacquainted with myself. Being alone requires a completely different mindset than sharing your existence with another human being. No considerations need be given, whether to leave your toiletry kit in the tiny bathroom - no, the room is too small and it will inconvenience the other party with whom I am sharing space - or in what restaurant should we dine tonight - in whatever restaurant the taste buds indicate. Tonight, I’m thinking the corner burrito stand. What fantastic burritos! Best in the world, I’m sure. Hasta pronto!
A chunky, chicken salad sandwich, white bread, no toast, lettuce and tomato optional. Of all the traditional American foods why, oh, why, do I so crave a chicken salad sandwich? Almost concluding my third month in Mexico and accustomed from past experience to longing for the comfort food of home in this general time span, this chicken salad craving came as a surprise. In years past, I have craved chicken pot pie, (boiled, no crust), a standard American breakfast of eggs, sausage, and toast. Or, sausage gravy over fresh, warm biscuits, and a good cup of coffee. Yes, I have longed for those dishes before, but never a chunky, chicken salad sandwich. I have handled the cravings before and I will do it again, I guess, but never has a chicken salad sandwich so occupied my thoughts and my taste buds. Plenty of mayo, please.
Who goes to a traditional, Chinese, acupuncturist doctor for a bad muscle spasm in one’s back? Me! The local gringos, seeing my struggles with the back spasm, almost universally recommended Dr. Chung, just such a specialist. Having practiced in Mexico for 39 years and in La Paz for 29 of them, I felt comfortable as the clean, slim, mature, professionally-attired doctor extracted the long, thin, needles that he planned to stick in the meaty part of my hands and the inner thighs on both legs. A little twinge of pain from my right hand from one of the two needles there, but nothing I couldn’t handle, completed the studied insertion of the needles. His attractive, Mexican assistant, also very professionally attired, then entered the treatment room and attached electrical stimulation wires to four of the needles, one on each hand and leg. 25 minutes of mild stimulation, “comfortable, not hard,” was how he described the current that would have the muscles in my thigh twitching for the entire torture, ah treatment. I dozed off for a few seconds and then, surprise, as I sat up, the pain was gone. Pretty impressive! I go back today for a follow-up treatment that the good doctor believes will solve the problem completely.
I completed the second acupuncture treatment after writing the first part of today’s blog and feel really good about the results. Paid the doctor $26.75 each day for his knowledge and the use of his equipment and electricity. I know that I couldn’t get treatment for that price at home. So pleased was I with the treatment that I booked him to give me a few more treatments when he said he could significantly reduce the bane of all older men, an enlarged prostate. I won’t update you on the progress of his work in that area but, if you see me with a large smile on my face when I arrive home, you’ll know the procedure was a success. Hasta luego!
Without a doubt, it is one of the best feelings in the world and why so few partake of it I am at a loss to say. Two nights ago, I sat in the Romeo y Juliette gelato shop just off the malecon facing Rainbow Hawk across the tiny table. I was in the process of giving the old, van-living hippie my “to go” (para llevar) box of over-portioned spaghetti with house-smoked sea bass that was simply too much for me to eat earlier at the Prana Restaurant. I had them box almost half of the dish before I began eating and ticketed it in support of Rainbow and his life’s goal to use the internet to save the planet. He hasn’t worked in the more than forty years he has lived in La Paz and has absolutely no income save from the largesse of others, one of whom donated the old VW van which Rainbow has called home for the last decade. My support felt good, but that’s not the feeling that I’m talking about, though it paved the way.
In the beginning of our conversation and as Rainbow began to partake of the delicious, though spicy dish, an eight or nine-year old boy entered the ice cream shop with a wooden box of chiclets and candy strapped around his neck and offered for sale. He was followed by his mother who had a small, burlap-covered board with cheap jewelry displayed thereon and his obviously-blind-in-one-eyed father who was also selling a product that I cannot recall. I and everyone else in the crowded little shop declined purchase and the father led his family out the door. The boy, however, stopped in front of the ice cream display cabinet and looked longingly at the multitude of flavors of gelato brightly lit for all to see. He then moved to the door and a mere step before he got outside I could take it no more. I called, “amigo” and he turned to look at me as I rose from my seat. I pointed to the case and asked, “quieres algo?” Do you want some? He quickly nodded his head and I told the server to give him what he wanted, which turned out to be a cup (made of cone material) with two dips of flavored gelato. As I watched him start to eat, I realized that his mother and father were standing behind him with large smiles on their faces. Realizing that the boy would probably have to share his treat with his parents outside and that they were probably hungry, too, I asked them if they also wanted some. I ended up buying two-dip dishes for the entire family and they thanked me profusely as they left the shop. It cost but $5.00 American (100 pesos). I noticed during the transaction that everybody in the crowded shop had a smile on their face or were nodding their heads, pleased that I had recognized the family’s need. MAN, what a great feeling!! Why more people don’t act when they see people in need is beyond me. I’m trying to help where I can. Luego!
2018 Photos - uploaded 03/24/2018
03/25/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
There have been a few interesting occurrences in the last few days, but the weather has not been one of them. Here in the Baja we have suffered through the same, rather-boring conditions since we last visited. Warm, sunny days, it is 84 as I write, with temps sometimes reaching the low 90s, but always dropping into the low 70s or even the mid 60s in time for delightful, alfresco, evening dining in the beautiful, desert gardens manicured by better restaurants. The meals have been wonderful, too, though - go figure, I still long for a chunky, chicken salad sandwich on white, no toast, despite some wonderful Italian cuisine that has crossed my lips. Think house-made pappardelle noodles in a wonderful gorgonzola sauce or a rich, tagliatelle staple with butter and Parmesan cheese after an appetizer of imported prosciutto and melon. I even enjoyed a very good Japanese meal last evening at Minato where an excellent miso soup and a curried shrimp on steamed white-rice dish made for a wonderful repast. But, enough of the boring times through which I suffer.
Sitting in one of those beautiful gardens late last week, I was alarmed to hear my name called as a man approached my table when I began to pay my check. Thinking I owed him money, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was my neighbor from two years ago who, along with his wife, share my loathing of the winters that also make their home in beautiful, rural Colorado Springs unbearable. Walt had written me that they would be in La Paz again, but my frenetic schedule of visitors and blogging kept me from responding to his email. We had a nice conversation and a smooth Grand Marnier at their rented house only a few blocks from the Sorstis Restaurant where we had dined that evening. Yesterday, I responded to their text message to join them for Easter dinner next Sunday at a restaurant only a short walk from my humble abode. It will be pleasant to have company at a meal again.
Friday, after the third of my acupuncture treatments, I restocked my larder at the grocery store with enough yoghurt, cereal, milk, and drinks to last until my return to the tundra. One of the items I purchased, however, provided a lunch right out of the box the following day. I’m not certain how to translate its name into English, so I’ll just write the name as it appears on the box: Haagen Dazs. Exactly! I ate half-a-pint of vanilla as lunch on Saturday and floated the other half, after it thawed, in my bowl of cereal the next morning. I know, I’m ashamed of myself. The good news is that there is another pint in my freezer with my name clearly written upon it. Hasta pronto.
03/28/18 - La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Acupuncture treatments three and four for prostate reduction produced a couple novel experiences. I know that I promised not to inform you of my progress from these treatments and I’ll keep my promise, however, something unique occurred during these sessions that I simply have to share:
After the five needles along my spine and the twenty-five minutes of electrical stimulation that followed, I rolled onto my back for part two of the treatment. Three needles near my navel, one above each knee, three down the inside of each calf, and one on the inside of both ankles and I was ready for an additional twenty-five minutes of the juice. As Dr. Chung’s able assistant fastened the electrodes to the needles, the good doctor explained that this time he was going to also treat me with an herb. He explained that the herb, I learned later that the herb was called Moxa, grew wild in China and one could sometimes see fields of the stuff growing. When harvested, he continued, the plant is dried for three years, like tobacco, to remove its moisture and intensify its natural oils. He showed me the piece he would use to treat me: wrapped in paper, round, and it looked like it was about as tall as a pencil eraser, but twice as big in diameter. He measured solemnly, then put the herb on one of the needles in my stomach; I know this because he let me take a peek. He said that once he lit it, (LIT IT???) it would smell like marijuana, but it was not that exotic herb, or so he claimed. And, lit it he did! He again permitted me to partially sit up to see the burning herb on the needle situated a precisely-measured distance above my skin. Talk about a strange sight: lying on my back watching gray/white smoke waft up from my belly and giving off the pungent odor of, yes, marijuana. The doctor had explained that when both Moxa and marijuana are lit in the same room he can tell the difference. Having only experienced marijuana smoke from the clouds escaping from “drug stores” in Amsterdam and the school bathrooms where I tracked student users of the product, this sure smelled like marijuana to me. The doctor showed me a box of Moxa, slightly larger than a cigar box, and said, “this much cost me $5.00; marijuana would have cost much more!”
That needle felt warm and I could only hope that the warmth would do as the doctor said and speed the healing energy to its intended target - the malfunctioning gland. For the remainder of the day, my shirt smelled like marijuana to me and, as I shopped at the grocery store, I’m certain I imagined the glances and smiles that clerks and other customers shot my way. Treatment number four just ended and another shirt has accumulated the odor, but I have no plans to be seen in public until dinner tonight. Besides, I’m feeling hungry and can’t seem to remember why I started writing this... Adios!
Unsatisfied with my reports of progress from my acupuncture treatments, even after inhaling clouds of Moxa for the past two sessions, Dr. Chung informed me that he would try an additional energy path to accelerate the improvement of my health. After six needles in my spine at my lower back and the concomitant, 25-minute period of electrical stimulation, the doctor asked me to exit the treatment table and take a seat facing away from him on the small, plastic bench (no back) that he had placed in the center of the examining room floor. I figured things were going to get interesting when he began to measure the top of my skull with his hands. He wasn’t going to put needles in the top of my head to treat a gland that was almost light years lower in my body, was he? Oh, but yes, he was! These were the least comfortable needles so far, though not really painful, and he inserted three, then manipulated them under my scalp. I remember hoping that he didn’t put too much force on these needles, enter my cranium, and shower cerebrospinal fluid, fountain-like, on the floor before me. No, he stopped manipulating those three needles and placed three more under my scalp, then had me climb back up on the treatment table on my back. He continued the treatment with three needles in my stomach, three down the inside of each calf, and one on the inside of each ankle. Nothing different there.
Enter his electrocution assistant who placed electrodes on seemingly all of the needles he had inserted; I had more wires running out of my body than Hoover Dam. This stimulation seemed longer than 25 minutes, but probably wasn’t. When the Chinese, electronic music warned that my stimulating experience had ended, though, I admit that I was much relieved. No sign of the cranial fluid, either. Whew!
I shared the story of the kind Mexican men who wouldn’t take money when they saw my wife’s phone under my rental car and the doctor told me that he had a similar experience. He lost his phone while visiting his daughter in Cabo San Lucas (she is an acupuncturist there) and, later that evening, his daughter called his number. A Venezuelan man answered the phone and verified that he had found it earlier in the day. They made arrangements to reclaim the phone and Dr. Chung offered the man 1,000 pesos (just over $50) as a reward and the Venezuelan refused the money, too. There are plenty of good people left in the world and a great number of them are in Mexico.
Not that I want our President to hear, but there are apparently a few of the criminal element left in this great nation, too. My acquaintance, Rainbow Hawk, spends his days, once he awakens from his van parked on the street, surfing the internet. Saving the world from the evil American government, the all-too-powerful international corporations, and environmental polluters, he spends his day in the gelato shop that somehow tolerates his daily presence, reading and typing on the used iPad somebody recently gave him. When he takes Rosa, his mangy-looking dog, for a walk on the beach across the street, he puts his iPad in a beat-up back pack and puts it in a corner of the shop stuffed in a small, cubby-like space next to a cabinet close to the public rest room. Last week, Rainbow returned from Rosa’s constitutional to find the back pack gone. Some low-life had stolen the center of Rainbow’s world. He is now left with a small, old, smart phone that somebody else had given him to right the problems of the world, but he can only forward clips that he reads there; the keyboard is way to small for his large, oft-times-dirty hands. A couple of years ago, I bought Rainbow a used keyboard after his imploded, but this year I think I will allow others of his friends and supporters to step forward. Sometimes, even in Mexico, the world is not a very fair place. Hasta pronto!
Improved Spanish-language skills are one of my goals whenever I winter in a Latin country. I’ve observed other gringos who, unfortunately, don’t even make an effort and, quite indignantly, fully expect others to communicate in English. I’ve enjoyed many compliments this winter from waiters, waitresses, and taxi and Uber drivers about the quality of my Spanish. One Uber driver, I think it was Manuel, said it was so good that he could understand everything I said. Sadly, the reverse is not always true, but I can tell by how often my drivers engage me in rapid-fire conversation that they think I understand more than I do. I get by, understanding many times by the context of the conversation, their non-verbal tells, or by mentally pasting a word or two together, but I estimate that I fully understand less than 50% of the conversations in which I am engaged. Smiling often and at the proper times also convinces locals that I understand, when I am often clueless. When my son (#2, who is fluent in four languages) hears me speak Spanish, he always informs me that, “Dad, your Spanish is atrocious!” Blood kin, however, are always the toughest critics. I’m going with the local evaluations of my language skills.
After my final acupuncture treatment of the week, my ego took a significant hit, though. Finding my barber shop closed (Good Friday) and heading home, I passed the California Rotisserie Restaurant where I have eaten many times. Not wanting to waste the trip downtown, a 10-peso (50 cent) investment on the collectivo, I decided to take some rotisserie chicken home for lunch. “What the heck,” I thought, “why not get a whole chicken?” I have a great refrigerator, but no microwave, and thought that I could eat the leftovers cold for lunch the next day. I ordered the chicken in my best, easily-understood Spanish, but noticed how good and fresh the fried chicken looked, too, so I ordered one, extra, fried-chicken thigh (musclo) to go along with my order. I watched carefully, making sure that one of the cooks got a freshly-roasted rotisserie chicken out of the oven and failed to watch what the woman with whom I had placed my order was doing. I thought the price was high, but didn’t do the actual computation until I got home. They charged me $17.00 (315 pesos) for my chicken! I kept thinking that Schim would have gone ballistic, but it was too late; I was already home. It was only 11:00 a.m., so I had to keep the chicken warm for an hour or so. I covered the foam, take-out dishes with a couple of clean towels and put my pillow on top. That provided enough insulation so that an hour-and-a-half later the dishes were still really warm - one has to improvise. Time for lunch and to see what was in the covered, foam dishes.
I thought the two, plastic, grocery bags seemed heavy in the cab on the way home but, when I looked into them and saw three, large, covered, take-out dishes I was a little taken aback. I watched the man cut my chicken into four pieces with a huge pair of scissors and saw him forcefully squeeze them into one box. Whatever could be in the other two boxes and in the brown, paper bag that had now gotten quite greasy on the outside? One box contained the rotisserie chicken I had selected out of the oven. Surprise! The second box contained two side dishes: what must have been a pound of french fries and an equal amount of macaroni salad. Much, much more than I could eat - I rarely eat fries and only one or two when I do indulge. The third box contained identical contents: more french fries and macaroni salad than I eat in a decade! I was expecting chicken only; I didn’t want any side dishes! Oh, yes, the greasy bag contained pieces of what turned out to be another whole, fried chicken! There were also 12 small, plastic, sauce containers: six with catsup and six with melt-your-dental-work, hot sauce. Perhaps, just perhaps, my blood kin is a better evaluator of my language skills than my Uber driver.
Not to worry about the children starving in some far off country and food waste from my refrigerator. As I got over my shock from the take-out contents, I spied Mike, my landlord, watering his backyard garden. I called to him and offered him plenty of chicken. He took one container of fries and macaroni (he almost needed a hand truck to carry it home) and one small bag of fried chicken that he later told me was delicious. I ate a portion of my fried chicken, a spoonful or two of macaroni, and two fries. The rest went into the fridge for future lunches or dinner. To date, I have had four more meals from that purchase and there is still one serving of macaroni salad, two rotisserie chicken breasts, and three pieces of fried chicken (today’s lunch), left in the fridge. That, plus a full serving (minus two fries) of the french fries. Mike told me yesterday that he couldn’t eat all the fries, either, but that he had cut them up the next morning and ate them with his eggs. “Scrumptious,” he exclaimed! While, perhaps, this turned out to be an economical purchase (Schim would be so proud), right now, I don’t care if I see another chicken this year. Wait, that chicken salad on white is still etched in my mind. So, too, is that pint of Haagen Dazs with my name on it in the freezer. Adios!
My favorite breakfast stop was closed Monday and Tuesday, the days immediately following Easter, and I thought it was for an extended holiday. Turns out, they were closed for spring housecleaning. There was nobody there when I stopped on Monday, so I proceeded around the corner to a wooden, coffee shack where on many mornings I had seen folks drinking their morning wake-up. Two, young women were selling coffee, so I bought a cup, doctored it with a little leche (milk) and a touch of sugar, and saw some packaged cookies that looked like they might deserve a dunk. Not so. I dunked, then soaked, and the cookie still remained so dry I could barely swallow the surprisingly-good coffee. I returned the package to the ladies, told them they could give the rest to their favorite customers, and headed a half-block closer to my house where I stopped at a street-side taco stand usually crowded with many folks eating breakfast on the two, small, plastic, white tables set up on the sidewalk. The owner was very welcoming and spoke a little English, so I ordered a shrimp taco (one) for breakfast and drank my coffee. Amazingly inexpensive and scrumptious. But, a taco for breakfast?
Tuesday, I returned to find Patti and Lulu in their small restaurant, but with a sign on the door indicating they were closed again. Since I have almost become a part of their huge family, they opened the door to explain to me that they were closed to clean the place. And cleaning they were. Ceiling, walls, tables, table cloths, chairs, kitchen: all were scrubbed until they almost shone. They had no breakfast for me, however, so I headed to the coffee shack once more. As I sat preparing my coffee, a middle-aged lady arrived and ordered something to go (para llevar). I watched with great interest as one of the ladies put a flour tortilla on a flat-top grill that was right in front of my nose, but which I hadn’t noticed in my two, prior visits. She cooked and prepared a burrito while another, older woman sat on the stool beside me and ordered a sandwich. Again, I watched the entire process as the “chef” sliced what looked like an Italian roll, placed it on the grill to toast, and slapped two slices of ham and a piece of cheese on top of the grill that she had pre-greased with mayonnaise. Both sandwiches looked great and, because I had enjoyed their fabrication so much, I volunteered to pay for the ladies’ breakfasts. They asked why and I answered, “because I can and because I enjoyed watching so much.” They were thrilled and I was sorely tempted to order one myself, but the line had started forming at the taco stand and I promised that I would return there. I paid for the two sandwiches and was shocked to learn that the bill, with my small coffee included, was 41 pesos ($2.25). Sure didn’t cost much to spread a little good will!
I moved on to the now-crowded taco stand to see most folks ordering what this “chef” was stirring on his flat-top grill. It was deep red, almost maroon, and looked like pulled pork, but was decidedly not that. I inquired as to what he was cooking and he told me, “Marlin ahumado,” (smoked marlin). So, I ordered one, smoked-marlin taco, one, shrimp taco, sat on a stool along the wall at a bar-like table, and once again ate tacos for breakfast. Wow, they were both delicious and I can see why these folks consume that meal on most mornings. Actually, with the tortillas Mexicans are served with every meal, they make almost every dish into a taco. Not complaining, just reporting. The smoked marlin was far better than I thought. I keep thinking of the folks who go to resorts, eat in the resort-property restaurants, and never get to enjoy the food actually eaten by the locals. I prefer to do it my way.
One week left to enjoy the tacos and I return home. I have been eating “meals” at home, cleaning out the fridge (only one-and-a-half chicken breasts to go),drinking the wine, and all the beverages I have purchased and getting mentally ready to depart. Dinner last night was six or eight olives, with pits, totopos (corn chips), and wine. Lunch was the last of the fried chicken. Wait, the wine! I have a small, cheap portable, travel, corkscrew that Schim gave to me after an earlier trip. No matter how much I pulled and tugged on that corkscrew, the cork would not budge. I gave up in disgust and went to watch a Richard Gere, spy thriller on Netflix until it hit me. How about using a little science? I went back to the kitchen, looked at the wine bottle with the small corkscrew still imbedded in the cork, opened the freezer, and placed the bottle inside. I figured the cork would shrink from the cold before the bottle would and I may get enough slack to “pop the cork!” Fifteen minutes later, I retrieved the bottle, used the same maximum force, and… and… out popped the cork!!! It worked! It worked! Two small glasses of wine and one movie later, I was asleep in my bed. Hasta luego!
Let’s call this my final update for the 2018 winter adventure in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. For those who somehow felt obligated to follow along all the way, this day must have seemed like it would never arrive. I must say there were a few times that I thought the same thing myself. For those who enjoyed my ramblings and read voluntarily, thanks for coming along, at least vicariously. As promised, there will be no quiz, but you might mention to me when you see me that you perused my updates this year. Without a little feedback, these attempts at keeping you apprised of my whereabouts will seem like a waste of time. Time that I might otherwise have spent drinking Margaritas, Pina Coladas, and Clamato Juice, fishing, hitting golf balls, studying the nearby landscape and historical sites, or visiting local libraries and museums.
I return to my homeland next Thursday and will spend the time between now and then packing and discarding furniture and equipment I purchased to make life easier in this furnished, but really unfurnished, casa. With only three beds in two bedrooms, a sofa and ottoman in the living room, and a refrigerator in the kitchen when I arrived, one could hardly call this rental unit furnished. Now, after I have added a few creature comforts, like a table, lamps, bathroom shelving, throw rugs, wall hooks, mirrors, and cleaning equipment, the place has become very comfortable and I will miss it. I appreciate the dining table and chairs, coffee pot, the large screen TV and the TV shelf that my landlord added while I was here. I will especially miss the wonderful, warm, friendly, and welcoming people of Mexico, but I will also miss the gorgeous weather with which I have been blessed all winter. What snow??
Tuesday morning, I will hoist my pack onto my back and roll my suitcase to the curb to the awaiting Uber car for transport to the bus station. My ticket has been purchased for the three-hour ride back to San Jose del Cabo where I will get a good night’s sleep before taking another taxi to the airport on Wednesday morning for the Southwest Airlines flight through Houston and back to Baltimore. David, who visited me here in La Paz, has volunteered to pick me up at BWI in the middle of the night to drive me home. My flight arrives at 12:35 a.m., so I don’t imagine that I will be able to retrieve my suitcase and exit the airport until 1:00 a.m. It takes a great friend to volunteer for that kind of duty and I will be forever grateful. Thanks again, David!
I wish for all of you a fantastic remainder of 2018! Most certainly the weather will have to improve over what you have experienced so far this year. As a matter of fact, I will include some of this fantastic weather in my suitcase and bring it home for you. As the weather quickly warms after Thursday, remember from whence the fair weather and warm breezes come. Adios!!