Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another great sign: "Admitted only decently dressed persons! We beg for silent behaving!"

Another sign in our sporadic series of signs across the world, this time from Croatia. Photograph courtesy of Senor Daveed Hokit and Maureen Roberts. You have to love the graphic too: No halter tops! No Shorts!

click to enlarge

Fear of Flying a/k/a Aviophoba, Part 17::::::Heroes Senior First Officer John Coward & Capt. Peter Burkill

These notes were never actually posted, after being buried in the posts from Mexico:

Click to enlarge Senior First Officer John Coward, and Capt. Peter Burkill

These guys, Senior First Officer John Coward, and Capt. Peter Burkill, are heroes, or the answer to my prayers. On the other hand, I long ago developed a healthy distrust of computers, but it wasn't computers per se, it was the software. No matter what brought the 'plane to this perilous but miraculous dream song ending? Coming down that 'chute will have to be everyone's greatest memory of their lives.

You have to think about all those people on board...what did they do when they got home? Go back to work, leave their husbands behind? Decide to move to the country? Quit their job to pursue a life as a poet? If that was me, I don't know. I'd kiss the pilots and then I'd kiss the earth and I'd call Keelin. It would be one of the best days of my life.

Archive British Airways Boeing 777 crash-lands in London, 19 hurt

From The Associated Press: "Both jet engines failed to respond to demands for more power moments before the first-ever crash of a Boeing 777, investigators at London's Heathrow Airport said Friday. The airplane struck ground 1,000 feet short, then plowed on its belly across open grassland and halted when it reached the runway. The 136 passengers and 16 crew members exited through emergency slides. 'It was a very quiet, normal flight. I didn't have the feeling we had crashed until we left the plane,' said Jerome Ensinck."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A last night with the Lopez family and more Bucerias kids...

Tonight we spent another night (our last in Bucerias) with our friends Ishmael and Trini Lopez, and their surviving children Ishmael Jr. and Erica. It's another story, but since we last saw them in 2003, their oldest son has died of leukemia. They didn't tell us at Trini's 50th birthday party, but waited until they came to our casa for dinner. Finally someone asked "where is Alfredo?" And we heard the sad story of Alfredo's death.

We walked up to their house on the hill above Bucerias--where few gringos set foot, because it is the residential area for local Mexicans. When you go there, people are not hostile. You're not really intruding. They're curious just what brings you there.

What brought us there was our old friends The Lopez Family. Tonight they were holding the traditional February 2nd feast early--for us. We had excellent chicken and pork tamales and had the traditional drink atola, made with milk, coconut, and spices. And we talked about how their life has changed over the last few years, and how the growth in Bucerias has affected them.

Mostly, they're doing OK. Their daughter Erica had a baby four years ago, not long after we last saw them and he is the apple of everyone's eye. Ishmael is now a contractor, and they are planning to build a couple of apartments to rent out on their property. Mostly what Trini wanted to know is when we are coming back. We watched a video of a party they had, and talked about Alfredo. And after three hours, we left, promising we would try to come back in two years. We stopped in at Karen's Place--a bar owned by an expatriate Aussie, and had a nightcap and trudged home along Lazaro Cardenas.

As we were walking to Trini and Ishmael's, we encountered some children, and Maureen, as she always does, wanted to take their picture:

After Mo took the picture, one of the girls walked up to her and said she wanted her picture taken by herself "Solamente me."

And in the middle of all this, some of the kids started jostling Keelin's purse. Keelin is the last person who would ever cast aspersions, but she said they were absolutely trying to get to her money. At that very moment, Trini walked up and shooshed them all away. Nothing like this has ever happened to us in Bucerias; it was a little bit of an anomaly. It did nothing to harden our hearts or change our minds about this paradise we keep returning to visit.

I hope we do return in two years. If I could figure out a way to survive here, or make my savings stretch, I'd return in a month, after wrapping up my affairs in the states.

Adio, Bucerias!

My state of mind

This section of dialog from Office Space comes close to nailing my state of mind. I'm not sure I'll be going into work Thursday...

So, where do you work, uh, Peter?


And, uh, what do you do there, Peter?

I sit in a cubicle and I update bank software for the 2000 switch.


You see, they wrote all this bank software and to save space, they put 98 instead of 1998. So I go through these thousands of lines of code and uh, it doesn't really matter. I, uh, I don't like my job. I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.

You're just not gonna go?


Won't you get fired?

I don't know. But I really don't like it so I'm not gonna go.


No, no, not really. I'm just gonna stop going.

When did you decide all that?

About an hour ago.


Oh, yeah.

Ok. So, so you're gonna get another job?

I don't think I 'd like another job.


Y'know, I never really liked paying bills? I don't think I'll do that either.



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cinema on the Riviera! by Senor Daveed Hokit

Guest Editorial From Casa Andrea
by Senor Daveed Hokit

Even the most sought after guests on the see-and-be-seen party circuit here on the Riviera Nayarit occasionally take a break from the demanding night scene. For us, those nights have been satisfyingly filled with private screenings in our casa of some exciting films, two in particular that warrant review.

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho -
click to enlarge

Credit must go to Juack (as he is known south of the border) for introducing Keelin, Maureen and I to these DVDs, which are a must in the carry-on of every savvy traveler. Run, don’t walk, to pick up Idiocracy, the new offering of director Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head; Office Space). Starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph in leading roles, this deep political satire shines due to the supporting performance of Dax Shepard as the astute lawyer in dumb downed America as it exists 500 years in the future; and the convincing performance from Terry Crews as caring President of the United States Camacho.

My favorite however, is the Happy Madison production of Grandma’s Boy, directed by Nicholaus Goossen. This techno-hip fart and bong comedy [jack note: this rich drama is focused on the world of making videogames] is brilliantly cast, with performances deserving of praise and recognition that are too numerous to list here. Especially gripping are the richly delivered scenes by Peter Dante as Dante, the charismatic stoner and dealer; his security advisor, Dr. Shakalu, played by Abdoulaye NGom; and the steamy Shirley Jones, who reappears on the big screen sexier than you imagined David Cassidy’s mom could ever be.

A still from Grandma's Boy - click to enlarge

These two worthy films are so moving that Keelin and Maureen were unable to finish either of them. And, our enthusiasm for them was hardly dampened by the near deafening hum of our p-o-s DVD player, which completely drowned out the dialogue at times. This only put the movies on par with about 95% of our attempts at daytime conversation, where Juack, Maureen and I might as well not be able to hear the locals when they speak to us, because we can’t respond when they do. Thanks to Keelin, we can almost calculate bus fare and buy groceries, if you consider buying sour cream for our coffee getting it right.

Thanks to Juack for gently nudging us to give these two instant classics a chance, instead of the safer choices also in his backpack (e.g. The Godfather (I, II and III).

Presidential Politics from abroad

In Bucerias at least, no one cares who becomes President of the United States of America. And the longer I am here, the less I think about it. Most notable since I have been here is the continuing collapse of the one-time front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Rudy was expected--he's a one trick pony, and I never thought just running as the Mayor of 9/11 was a winning strategy. John Edwards looked viable very early on, but quickly settled into third. To me, the most shocking collapse has been Hillary's. Just when she finally seemed to have gained momentum and buried the racial back and forth with the Obama campaign, Bill Clinton's remarks have resulted in a political firestorm.

The blowback from the racially charged statements may even be fatal. Teddy Kennedy, basically the head liberal, a few weeks ago brokered the truce between the two camps on using racial politics. Then Mount Bill erupted. And the ashes are still coming down. The Kennedy's were so outraged, they publicly endorsed Obama (with the exception of Kathleen), and Ted Kennedy is going to hit the campaign trail hard for his fellow Senator. Wow. Maybe things will swing back, but this blow looks serious. It's like the whole campaign on both sides is no longer something to actually care about; instead, we now watch it with various degrees of amusement and disgust.

How shocked can we be? After all, this is the same guy who sent this postcard to his mother when he was in college!


A visit to San Pancho, Nayarit

click all images to enlarge

Not parking or traspassing! (Limpio=clean)

Greetings from San Pancho!

The travellers inspect murals depicting the history of San Francisco/San Pancho

San Pancho is a very small town, with a stunningly clean and tiny town center (a/k/a El Centro). There are several art galleries, mercados, the usual restaurants, wonderfully architected plazas, and good vibrations all around. There were few people and almost no tourists around. The town is full of interesting plantings, buildings, and sculpture. La playa is gorgeous and virtually empty. There is a ferocious surf. Today the lifeguard stand (a first for me--there are usually no lifeguards anywhere) flew a red flag, meaning "stay very close to shore." The lifeguards didn't even wear bathing suits...just jeans and t-shirts. They eschewed the tower and sat on their All-terrain vehicles. Unlike Bucerias, located on the Bay of Banderas (as is Puerto Vallarta), San Pancho is directly on the Pacific. The beaches, whole gorgeous, are not nearly so swimmer-friendly as the beaches a few miles south, where you curve into the bay.

a section of the San Pancho beach

Up the coast, in between patches of beach and jungle, are some smaller towns and villages. Some have been developed with "resorts" and "gated communities." Most, however, are smaller and more sleepy than Bucerias. Today we traveled by bus to San Pancho (its real name is San Francisco, although I've never heard it actually called seems mainly to have that nomenclature solamente on maps). I've only been as far up as Sayulita (a town known for its surfing) before now.

Senor Daveed sneaks into the resort pool (note the film crew
in the background).

We walked along the nearly deserted beach about a mile to a resort butted up against a small mountain. There was a beachwear commercial being shot and we amused ourselves watching the cute men and women run through numerous takes. It looked like a major motion picture film crew.

Jack tries on a tourist hat

A few hours later, we strolled back up the beach, walked to the highway and caught the bus for the harrowing ride back to Bucerias, passing three cars and semis at a time, and generally staying away from the sheer cliff falling away to our right.

Mexican gentlemen playing dominoes in El Centro. You have to click on this photograph to enlarge, and see these faces that capture the heart and soul of this wonderful country.

Map of the Nayarit coastline

We went shopping at the fruit store and Mini Super, and came home to Casa Andrea. We drank Ron con tonic y limon and caught up on the news (where it looks like Bill Clinton has single-handedly removed the wheels from Hillary's campaign) as I stewed pork shoulder with oregano, comino, garlic, onions, salt, pepper, poblano, and sweet red chilis. Later I tossed in a pound of hominy and some fresh jugo de naranja, and we finished the day with posole, served with cabbage, radishes, limon (limes), radishes, more oregano and onions. Posole is more or less the Mexican version of Pho Bac.

Senor Daveed and Mo strike a winsome pose, in hopes
of being drafted for the swinsuit commercial

We sat at our table by the pool (where we've eaten dinner every night), and drank Pacificos and red wine, and finished off the camarone y chorizo y pollo paella I made last night. And then we settled in to watch The Godfather (or as we we extreme fans call it, One). Fifty minutes in, Keelin, Senor Daveed, and Mo all fell out. I shut it off (after all, I have seen it maybe 30 times) and wrote this. We'll resume it tomorrow night just after the assassination attempt on Don Corleone, as Michael makes his bones and escapes to Italy after murdering Virgil Solozzo and Captain McLuskey.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Photos from around town in Bucerias

These are photos from around the town of Bucerias. All these photos are taken by Maureen Roberts and one by Dave Hokit. Copyright (c) 2008 by Maureen Roberts. Click all images to enlarge!

The Catholic Church in El Centro. The Catholic Church is at
physical and spiritual center of all towns and villages in Mexico.

Keelin and Maureen walking down Lazaro Cardenas

A green ceramic cow on the balcony of a shop in Bucerias.

A verdant walkway near downtown

Jack rests his feet in El Centro

Tiger sculpture on the balcony

A 50th Birthday Party In Bucerias (Felice cumpleanos!)

Keelin, Maureen, Trini (the birthday girl), Juan, and Senor Daveed - click to enlarge

By an amazing and fortuitous coincidence, yesterday we got in touch with a family we have spent some time and had dinners with (we go to their casa for posole or carne asada tacos and they come to ours for my paella and gazpacho soup). As it turns out, our friend Trini Lopez is turning 50 today, and they had a massive fiesta Saturday night at her casa with live music. There was an bottomless cooler of Pacifico and Corona cerveza, and they actually served plated dinners (pork tacos, tortillas, refried beans, salsa) and cake to the crowd, which had to number at least 150-200

The Lopez's also hired Banda Vallejo, an 14 piece Mexican brass band. The Banda Vallejo had four trumpet players, three trumpets, a sax/clarinet player, electric bass, electric guitar, piano, drummer, percussionist, and vocalist. They played extremely loud, without even approaching the limits of their amplification system. They had two towers, each with ten big Cerwin Vega speakers--it looked like the Grateful Dead's wall of sound from the 70's.

How did the neighbors react to 150 people partying in the streets with a brass band playing as loud as The Ramones? They loved it. They were all there. We left around midnight, and the party was in full swing (and would be until after 2:00 AM), and the band had one more set to go. Did I mention that many people (including us) were dancing?

Like many things in Mexico, it was a do-it-yourself affair. No liquor licenses, food permits, or block party permits. No. They just pulled a few cars crosswise at either end of the block. The music was loud, the beer was cold, the food was good, and we were the four gringos out of 150 people.

When we arrived Trini and Ishmael sat us right up front, close to them. Jose, Trini's brother, whom we had met once before (at a party they held for us in 2003) was in charge of the bar, and made it a personal mission that anytime one of us had less than two inches of Pacifico left, a fresh one was immediately ferried over.

It was a little strange of course, because few of their friends had ever spent much time around gringos; we were a curiousity to everyone except the Lopez Family. But people warmed up to us, and we had a few conversations in our broken Spanish (with the exception of Keelin, who can actually hold a conversation). I am an OK reader of Spanish, and have a fair vocabularly, but my conversational Spanish is pathetic, and I am usually reduced to a Harpo Marx pantomine routine when speaking with people who know no English. Or, as we often, do we enlist Keelin as our conversational go-between.

It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience--you just don't usually get to party with the locals on their own turf when you travel. What a wonderful group of people, and what an amazing group of kids. To see pictures of some of the babies and kids, jump here to my post yesterday.

comida for Hundreds

Keeiin amd Maureen at the fiesta

Banda Vallejo (click on their video on this page to see them perform.

I had never seen a Mexican Hat Dance before. Ishmael
tossed down his hat between his daughter Erica and Trini
and they performed the legendary hjat dance (you know
the tune---da duh dah duh da duh---duh da da da duh da duh

One glimpse of the party

Trini and her husband dancing

Senor Daveed chats with Trini's brother

Trini dances with her 21 year old Ishmael Jr.


Cucina de Jorges in Bucerias

Click to enlargeTable setting at Jorge's. Note the ashtray.

As I mentioned previously, a highlight of our Bucerias trips to is breakfast at Jorge's. This is the fourth trip and every time, we usually stop at Jorges for breakfast. When the six children have been with us, they always ordered french toast, "chocomilk," jugo de naranja and hamburgers. We old geezers order one of Jorge's breakfasts: huevos con jamon with beans, salsa, and fresh tortillas, along with a glass of jugo de naranja. Jorge has a dozen variations on fried or scrambled eggs: divorciados (two eggs, one in a pool of red salsa, the other in a salsa verde); huevos con jamon; hueves verde (scrambled eggs with chopped green chili); sincronizadas (eggs, jamon and manchego cheese in a layer, sitting in a pool of his delicious salsa rojo, with the usual refritos, tortillas, and a slice of fresh avocado). The jugo de naranja is fantastic--a tall mug of cold, fresh orange juice.

Jorge's plays host to locals, and a few gringos, and best of all, various police. There are about four different brands of cops here and most of them seem to eat breakfast at Jorge's. Yesterday, we saw three cops eat breakfast and as they were eating, the cooks were frantically (not really never see anything I'd call frantic in Mexico). . .let's say they were steadily filling dozens of Styrofoam containers with eggs, beans, and tortillas. I almost asked, but we had to assume they were picking up breakfast for the prisoners.

A State of Nayarit police truck--click to enlarge

A couple of different times, we have seen a pickup pull up out front, with five cops in the pickup bed with machine guns raised and everyone got out, stretched, and ambled in to Jorge's. This reminds me of one of my favorite William Burroughs passages. "A truck pulls up and the cops of the world charge out."

Thinking about the police truck, I am reminded that there are not a lot of seat belts in Mexico, and that fact always hit home when you grab a cab to or from the airport--as you race down the chaotic freeway you become well aware of the fact that no one in the car is buckled in.

Keelin waiting for breakfast

Senor Daveed awaits his sincronizados

Jorge's sign, created by a local mosaic artist


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Babies and kids in Bucerias

As you probably know, kids are a focal point in Mexico. Far from being seen but not heard, the children are palpably a delight to everyone. And yet they are not spoiled, or rude, or indifferent to strangers. They will talk to you and pose for pictures, and the children from families you know will give you a hug. Here are some of the babies from the 50th birthday party last night. I'll write in detail about the party--and our fun, and strange, evening last night--when I get some time (after I get back from La Playa). In the meantime, I thought the kids and babies would make an interesting sidebar...

Click all photos to enlarge


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday in Bucerias & more photos

First we went to Jorge's for breakfast, and then walked to town to visit the markets. We are having our friends from here Trinidad and Ishmael over for dinner tomorrow night, so we went to town to buy a chicken, chorizo, saffron, valencia rice, etc. for paella. We already have the peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Tomorrow, we'll go in and but camarones and lobster if they have any, and then it will be an afternoon of cooking. I will have to buy a knife, since all the ones in our casa are pathetic; I don't know if I'll be able to find a paellaeria or not--I may just have to use frying pans. We went to the "health food store" where I was able to score a packet of saffron. I also picked up half a kilo of dried hominy, and later a chunk of pork shoulder. So we now have all the fixings for a nice pot of posole tonight. It's amazing how much time we spend marketing for dinners--but we have some incredible meals here (says the chef modestly)...

By sheer coincidence, our friend Trini is turning 50 today, and they are having a gigantic fiesta at her place with live music (I am jonesing to hear a traditional Mexican band with accordion, guitar, and horns, and am crossing my fingers, but I suspect it will be the more usual brass band), food, and cerveza y vino (of course!). The last time we were here, they had a party for us with all their friends and relatives, and they spent all day making fresh tortillas and grilled beef and salsa fresca.

Finally, a couple more photos:

Click to enlarge - Dave tries on a sombrero at a serape and
sombrero stand. I have never seen a Mexican wear either
a serape or a sombrero. . .but I suspect they may wear them
further out, in the boondocks. Mainly I only see sombreros
on 12 year olds on the plane at Puerto Vallarta....

Sunset on la playa - click to enlarge

Juack buying patatas at the fruiteria - click to enlarge

More photographs from Bucerias

click to enlarge - buying fruit and vegetables for dinner

You don't need to apply for a handicapped permit--just cook
on up with your paint set! - click to enlarge

Casa Linda from La Playa side -- this is the house we stayed in two times
before on earlier visits. Click to enlarge.

A Bucerias baby - click to enlarge