We Are Loving Portland

It is cold, it is damp, it is gray.  There is that.

The flip side is that it is fun learning how to get around (I’m hopelessly confused as previously reported).  No wonder I did not excel at bridge, the card game.  One must know east and west, north and south.  And one musts know Trump.  And I think I can say with near certainty that I know Trump but north and south elude me.  Pregnant pause.  

Of course, I must wax on about knowing Trump to say that I love, love Nancy Pelosi.  The woman knows how to govern.  She is dynamite and is outsmarting our self-proclaimed genius president.  Lower case was on purpose.

But I digress.

Today we headed to downtown Portland by driving our car to a Max (tram-train line) station, hopping on board and gliding into the city.  Here’s a picture taken from the Morrison Bridge. 

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My friend and Beau’s sitter, Mary Kay, asked me to get her some spices at Penzey’s, an Oregon business.  I’ve been ordering Penzey’s spices and herbs for years so this was an exciting assignment.  Fresh product and no taxes or shipping.  Nirvana.  I’ll be happy to bring some back with me if any of you MB locals want some.  Just sayin. 

The funny thing is we outsmarted ourselves and went around our thumbs to get to our asses.  As we finally approached Penzey’s (after walking 20 minutes in circles), we saw Powell’s Book Store across the street which is why we were going to town in the first place.  OMG.  It’s a jewel if you are a reader.  While Rayman was perusing the History section (he bought a book on ancient Greece…everyday life, and The Third Horseman…Climate Change and the Great Famine, I was buying cards for people under the weather and a cookbook for cousin, Susie, entitled, Salt, Fat (can’t remember the whole title and I’m too involved doing this writing to get up and go look at the cover).  Amazon was out of the book.  Powell’s had it.

I sat down on a bench in the store because I got a migraine equivalent which messes with my vision and waited until it went away but while waiting, I opened the Salt, Fat book and fell in love so I went back and got another copy for myself.  It looks delicious.  

After spending a small fortune at Powell’s, we bursted forth from the store and headed to the tram-train known as the Met..from hence forth, the Met.  Oops.  I spotted a dress shop, called SaySay.  Now mind you, I’m not one for shopping but during the holidays, I met a woman at a party who was wearing this cute dress/top over pants that had dinosaurs.  I loved it.  And that’s how I found out about SaySay.  So, it was kismet.  In we went and out we went with a Dino dress, a llama sweatshirt (on sale) and another navy dress with squiggles on it.  Perfect.  Got to talking with the store clerk and discovered that her sister owns the shop, most of the fabrics are designed by the dressmakers, one piece was from a co-op in India and everything is hand sewn…in other words, a great store for a bleeding heart liberal such as I am.  She also imparted that she was 40, she and her hubby own one car, she rides public transportation every day of her life, and she worries about her friends that came out of college with mountains of student debt.  (she doesn’t have any ever though she is a college graduate).  Bright as a daisy and smart as a whip, she was.  A most enjoyable shopping experience.  I plan to be a regular customer.   While lamenting the economy for young adults, I shared with her a story of India…the train company in India is hiring 63,000 employees.  19 million applied.  Really.  OMG.  The whole world is such a mess.  But we left the shop on a high note anyway.  

We then went for a latte and a cookie (lunch) and contemplated the world.  That was interesting.  Does one prefer an elitist snob or a dirty old man for a husband?  All in jest and completely silly and, perhaps irrelevant.  

As we took our last slurp of latte, the train was espied so we grabbed our bags and headed for the door.  Good timing.  We needed to get home to feed doggie and it was starting to drizzle.  Funny thing about the weather here.  Rain comes and goes for us.  Not sure it is always that way, but we have noticed it doesn’t rain non-stop so you can get out and do things (no golf though).  Plus we needed to stop by this new grocery store that Susie requested stop by.  

Basics.  That’s the name of the grocery store.  Very unique.  It offers free cooking and nutrition classes in a very new white kitchen which is part of the store.  The grocery part of the store is laid out around recipes.  They have recipe  handouts by displays the include the ingredients required in the recipe.  So, for instance, chili?  They have chili spices, canned tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.  I hope you get the picture since I did not take a picture.  Unique and thoughtful.  Loved it.  And that’s why I am enjoying Portland so much.  Lots of new and different things here.  Not as many box stores.  Many more mom and pop places.  Love that about it.  The creativity, the friendliness, the energy.  It is exhilarating…despite the lack of golf!!

So, tonight it’s off to Susie’s for dinner.  We had them over the other night and I made black bean chili and banana cream pie.  Here are the recipes.  They were both sensational and I highly recommend that you try both.  I’m pretty sure that the banana cream pie was 2,000 calories a serving so we had a late lunch yesterday of leftover chicken and banana cream pie for dinner.  Seemed like a good idea for watching one’s weight.  And man was it good.

https://recipes.latimes.com/recipe-black-bean-chili/

I used canned diced jalapeños, 1/3 c.  It was spicy but no one seemed displeased.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11172-banana-cream-pi

Now, the crust didn’t work for me so I found a Martha Stewart recipe for the graham cracker crust.  If you have one you like, do us it.  The one in the above recipe was short of butter and baking time.

New Year Musings

We made it.  We have made it.  Will we make it?  And what should we make of it anyway?

News Flash:  Baby, it’s cold outside.  Mother Nature served up a serious case of frost this morning for our New Year’s day pleasure.  Beau’s walk was short.  

Our Portland trip has been an interesting one.  After stopping for a night at the Covert’s home in Sacramento and then the Zell’s home in Ashland, Oregon…we arrived at a not-even-1/3 furnished SHIP (skinning house in Portland).  The mother SHIP?  Our car was crammed with rugs, pictures, and various other essentials.  A nutcracker was transported for the Xmas season.  And Oaxacan artifacts to spruce the place up.  But even with all that, the place still echos and yearns for more “stuff”.  

The house four doors down that was under construction is now on the market for a cool $1million.  It is twice as big as the SHIP.  Lovely kitchen.  Way too much space for moi.  But lovely kitchen (to be read with longing).

We have squirrels that love to run along the top of our back fence thereby inciting poor doggie.  He barks to no avail.  Skiddish squirrels, they are not.  However, over the course of our visit, we think Beau may be dawning on the reality of the situation…and seems the last day or two not to mind as much.  This may also be the case since I cleverly bought at art.com a picture of a black dog looking an orange squirrel in a tree.  Seemed like the right motif, if you will.   Oops.  I am deluded.  Watch this video.

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Speaking of “if you will”…Dick Cheney was always saying that in his low growl.  Well, don’t wait to see the movie Vice.  We did that last night and it was very good.  Entertaining, educational, and extremely well acted.  Plus there are doses of humor to keep the audience from grabbing their pitchforks and rushing out of the theater to the streets to proclaim their anger at nasty government officials.  Just sayin.

And then there was the movie about Free Solo, the mountain climbing event of the entire history of the world.  Alex Honnold, climbed El Capitan without benefit of ropes, hooks, ladders, hot air balloons, or a Swiss army knife.  A human gecko.  It is a movie that should not be missed.  A stunning achievement that left all other mountain climbers the world over to muse, “Is that guy crazy, or what?”  And the thing is, he did it.  And it was filmed.  And the movie serves as reminder that my life is really boring.  Heck, I’m to afraid to ride a bike in traffic.  There is that.

Yesterday we met up with the guy that developed my blog site and saved my old blogs from the internets those many years ago.  We had never met in person…he found me and I found him on a user forum for iWeb or Sandbox…both are now in the dustbin of digital history.  Joseph is a great guy and we had a great time getting to finally meet.  I highly recommend his work.  He was worth his weight in gold to me.  He’s my guy!

So, back to the great Northwest.  Portland is a smallish city.  And it is beautiful, mostly.  The bridges that span the rivers Columbia and Willamette are a joy to look at and to drive over.  One doesn’t allow cars.  That one is for me!!  I could ride that one on a bike.  The downtown streets are bustling this time of year.  We rode the Max (train) into the center of the city to shop and go to a movie.  Each trip was delightful.  And cold.  So, one time we dropped into a coffee shop that must be about 2500 square feet…very big.  The only place avail to sit was three high chairs, one serving as a table.  In the course of sipping and eating (there were scones and other delights tucked away in the glassed cabinet were you order your coffee) I managed to knock Rayman’s cup and saucer to the floor and it managed to break into about a zillion pieces.  At that pivotal moment, literally everyone in the shop looked at us so I did what any person would do, I raised both arms to indicate a touchdown had been scored.  What was I thinking?  It was just like a natural reaction which in hindsight makes me wonder if I shouldn’t google, “Psychiatric services in Portland”.  Then, we both started to gather up shards of cup when a kind woman came over with the proper tools and cleaned up the debris.  

At this point, I’d like to backtrack and tell everyone about my cousin, Susie.  She lives here, about a 15 minute walk from the SHIP.  The day we arrived, she had stocked the refrigeration with beef stew and the freezer with ice cream bars and frozen batter for chocolate chip cookies.  There was also milk for cereal in the morning and a baggie of cereal.  How cool was that?  And she has since then invited us over for dinner.  But, she doesn’t like the way we eat.  We often skip lunch and this results in us being ravenous…a look she doesn’t appreciate.  So the day that I dropped in to watch the BBC production of Murder on the Orient Express with her, I scoured her cupboards foraging for food.  Cereal sounded good.  I noticed as I entered the backdoor, she had cookies in the cupboard.  She was outside taking down decorations.  When she arrived, I believe I was munching a cookie.  “How did you find those cookies?”, she implored.  I told her.  She was amazed.  I was grateful because they were really good…Tate’s is the brand for all you chocolate chip fans.  This occasion was referenced yesterday when she exclaimed to the Rayman that he eats like a bird and is half starving all the time.  My prediction is that we will hear more of this 2019.   Rayman does eat like a bird…if not’s careful, he will be renamed Birdman.  

So, my job has been shopper-in-chief.  A chair is arriving tomorrow and I’m bummed.  It went on sale yesterday so it is cheaper now that when I hit send.  A floor lamp is winding it’s way here from god knows where.  A wedge table is in transit.  I can’t remember which website I used to order it so unless they send me an email with a tracking number, I will remain in the dark as to it’s ETA.  We scored an old Moroccan screen which we repurposed as a headboard in the guest room…found it in an antique store.  Our latest buy is a mirror-map that we found in a kitchen store while shopping for a lamp.  This kitchen store is unique.  It has kitchen stuff and a second floor has furniture and various items of decor.  It seems we are feeling worldly.  I have purccused two globes and now the mirror-map…a theme might be emerging.  All this shopping is vexing and nerve racking.  Starting from scratch is difficult unless you are a real home decorator.  Me, I’m an accidental decorator.  Many of my belonging in Morro Bay were hand-me-downs.  It helped a lot to have them.  

 

Finally, the reason we came to the tundra of the north was for the holidays and it was so worth it.  Babies, little girls, cousins, cousin’s kids, Ryan, and he squeeze, Tamara.  It has been a blast.  Downsides include not one cookie baked (kitchen still needs stuff I plan to bring from home in April), the forgotten xmas tree that sits in a garbage bag in our garage in Morro Bay (oops), no golf.  The upsides far out-weigh those silly little things.  Holiday parties, movies, family time, family time, family time.  Ryan gave his dad a frame with 5 pictures of them inside.  Very cool…and he gave me a DNA kit so I can discover if I hale from the Isles, Germany or a pack of wolves.  The anticipation is killing me.

So…here we go into the new year.  The sun is now out but it’s only 36 degrees at 11:36 a.m.  We will be here until we’re not (may leave the 8th or 9th or longer)….those packages need to arrive.  More movies are slated, more restaurants will be sampled, a drive to McMinneville for Spanish food at La Rambla, perhaps an afternoon of wine tasting (pinot anyone?), and so on and so forth.

Happy New Year to you and yours from me and mine.

Love, The Traveling Princess

Travails with the Traveling Princess

Let me start this confession with a confession.  Boy, did I screw up.

And now let me say it was not my fault…exactly.  

And now this.

On Saturday morning, we left the hills of Camarillo with our Dog House and Zoomobile.   The two were not attached given the gravity of the winding road leading down from my cousin’s perch of a place in the hills above the city of Camarillo.  What a spread they have.  Complete with tennis court in their backyard.  Suffice it to say, they have so much acreage, we were able to park our RV in their long, windy driveway and so we did.

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Here’s a picture of them in their backyard which would be big enough to handle 5 skinny houses!!

And we decided that we should wait to hook up the car until we went up over the steep pass and down to Thousands Oaks.  As I’m wont to do, I decided to drive the hard part so Rayman could relax.  And off we went.  

Long about Rancho Cucamonga, I had tired of driving and asked Rayman to find a Starbucks where we could coffee up and change seats.   We exited the freeway, and drove to the Starbucks which was located in a shopping center that included a Ralph’s grocery store which I will now refer to as Ralph’s Center.  Rayman jumped out and ran into Starbucks.  I was driving and there was a sudden loud noice.  I didn’t know what it was and so I kept driving.  A noise got louider.  People were staring at me.  I stopped before making another turn and opened the door to the RV.  OMG.  Our Zoomobile was impaled on the brace which was part of our hitch gizmo (a technical term).  How did that happen?  OMG.  Where was Rayman?  Without taking a  moment to think, I jumped out  of the Dog House and ran across the shopping center to the Starbucks, opened the door, flailed my arms and he came to the door.  I said, “I have wrecked the car and the RV.  We need to run over to the site of the accident.  It isn’t pretty and I am blocking traffic.”  

Rayman reacted to this news quite calmly.  I was beyond surprise, seeing as how I was dripping with guilt and angst.  

Here is a picture of the two vehicles.  

 

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Out of nowhere, Wes entered the scene.  He’s our new friend.  While Rayman and he and a few others were talking, I was on the phone with AAA ordering up a tow truck.  It was Saturday.  AAA was busy but would try to get someone to come ASAP.  By the time I entered the conversation with Wes and Rayman, it had been determined that Wes was a mechanical engineer and he had theories on how to dismount a Ford C-Max from tow hitch arm.   So, out came the hammer.  Whack, whack, whack.  Something moved.  But not enough to free up the car.  

 

Here is Wes.

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Then a tow truck driver came and he wasn’t actually the one that was dispatched…just in the area and saw the cluster…k of a situation so was doing a drive-by.  Then the actual tow truck driver arrived, took a picture, sent it to dispatch and announced that he was certainly not going to touch the car or the RV for fear of liability issues…i.e. if he made matters worse.  Really?  Really he said.   After this blog, I will be composing my letter to AAA and raise the question if why their contracted tow truck company would not have liability insurance from AAA?  What the f…k?

So, while Wes and Rayman continued to try other ideas on the car/RV, I called AAA again and asked, “How is this a thing?”.  What were we to do?  Why were we paying for insurance?  It was then that the dispatcher said they would send out another tow truck driver to render a second opinion.  If the second opinion was the same as the first opinion, they would have us pay for the “dismount” and we would have to file claims for reimbursement (which I didn’t understand at all).  But those were the rules of engagement in this particular situation.  Then the dispatcher informed me it would be 90 minutes.  “90 minutes”, I exclaimed.   “We need someone here before 90 minutes.  The RV is up against the curb (almost) facing the entrance to Ralph’s.  Traffic was blocked.  The store couldn’t be happy and, lord knows, we weren’t happy.  And we have a party to attend at 4 p.m. and we need to get this done now.”  

I’m quite sure the party part of the objection was the reason that 12 minutes later, the first tow truck driver that was doing the drive-by showed up.  His name was Robert.  He was by his own admission a big Mexican that had eaten too many tacos and could not get into the car because the door wouldn’t open all the way because the door on the driver’s side was impinged by the bent-out-of-shape wheel cover fender. 

Here is Robert.

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But, let me backtrack here and tell you more about Wes.  He had  removed all the pins that connected the RV to the tow bar.  And then he had me drive the RV forward except that the hitch was so bound up by the tow bar arm which was attached to the the tow bar receiver, that the car would not release.  

Then he came up with the idea of jacking up the car.  Sounds simple unless you don’t know where the jack it.  So we researched the location of the jack for the Zoomobile.  And we still couldn’t find it.  So, Wes googled it and found a You Tube video that showed it where it was.   It was so well hidden that I’m going to use the jack location to hide all my jewelry as no one will ever think to find it where the jack resides.  Just saying.  

But I digress.

Once located the jack was employed.  Wes then had me try to move the RV forward again, but, again, nothing would release.   But what did happen is that the tire was no longer on the ground and Wes suggested we try to free the tow bar arm that had jammed between the tire and the axle preventing the wheel from moving.  And that was done and we could not budge the tow bar.  

Rayman then suggested the we use the lug wrench from Wes’s daughter’s car (Wes had traded cars with his daughter in the parking lot where had lunch and she had his vehicle that had all his tools, sadly) to loosen the lug nuts so we could take off the tire… reasoning that the tow bar rod might release.  So, Wes retrieved the lug wrench and the plan was launched.  And to everyone’s amazement once the wheel was off, the tow bar fell to the ground.  The wheel was re-attached.  Mission partially accomplished.   Excitement ensued as evidenced by moi jumping up and down and taking pictures.  

Extricated Zoomobile picture.

 

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To summarize, two guys essentially solved the problem of the RV/C-Max debacle with a hammer, a jack, and a lug wrench.  A job AAA wouldn’t touch.

Circling back to the story in progress, Robert, the tow truck driver showed up as the guys finished up the disengagement work.  He was astounded.   

Then the cop arrived.  

A nice sheriff, Omar, arrived and said they had received a call about our problem.  So while I was admitting to the crime of being in the driver’s seat, Ray and Wes and tow truck driver did what was necessary to get the car towed and that’s when we discovered that Robert couldn’t get into the car to drive it up the ramp of the tow truck (miraculously, the car ran).  So, Rayman forced the door open enough that Robert was able to squeeze in.  Don’t know what would have happened it the door didn’t open at all.  Presumably, the car would still be in the Ralph’s lot.  As it turns out, that might have been okay.  One of the employees from Ralph’s came out with a bottle of water for all involved.  The staff in the store had been watching and they felt sorry for us so they brought water.  Great gesture.

The sheriff in he meantime, ran my license, walked the route I had driven and got in his patrol car and drove off into the sunset.  He was very good looking, by the way.  

But the story of Wes doesn’t end there.  Wes’s daughter had just had some body work done by a shop near by but he couldn’t remember the name of the place, she wasn’t answering her phone, and couldn’t find it on the internets.  We said we would just use a AAA approved facility.  Robert, the tow trucker driver informed us that he would be taking the car to Foothill Auto Body but that they were closed.  Wes announced that Foothill Auto Body was the same place his daughter used.   So, we bid Wes a fond adieu and a hug from me for all his help.  Got his business card and jumped in the RV and followed Robert, the tow trucker driver to the body shop.  After I filled out a form printed on an envelop and sealed the keys inside and dropped the key through the slot, up walks Wes.  With a roll of Gorilla tape in his hand.  He was worried that RV might start flapping.  

What?  The RV start flapping?  Well, the dog house did sustain some damage.  The factory installed ladder on the back was bent out of shape and was torn from it’s mooring.  And a part of the body on the passenger side at the rear of the vehicle had been “altered” so the guys just sort of leaned on it to return it to it’s spot but the work on that looked a bit iffy.  Hence the tape.  Wes was worried about it coming apart and or the ladder banging.  

What a guy.  We were so lucky he was around to help us.  If he hadn’t come to the rescue, we’d still be there or at the very least we definitely would have missed the party.

One other event as if that was not enough.  Our pals Ruth and Tom were on the way down the same day for the same party which was a surprise 80th birthday party in Palm Desert.  When we had been turned down by the first tow truck driver, I sent out an SOS to them.  They were behind us on the freeway by an hour or so and had not reached Rancho Cucamonga yet.  So, they dropped by to see if they could help.  By the time they arrived it had been determined that we were going to be towed, so they left.  What great friends we have!!

We made the party, it was a surprise party that was actually a surprise.  And we had too much wine to drink.  In order to do all that, Tom had come to the RV park which was near Marriott Shadow Ridge Resort where everyone else was staying and picked up us so we could attend.  We were 10 minutes late which was a miracle.  Of course, by the time we arrived, it was too late to set the RV up and so that was left until we returned about 9:00 p.m.  Oh, joy.  But, again, Tom and Ruth were was so gracious to offer help on leveling the rig.  And to our delight, the slide on the passenger side opened.  And after they left us, our heads hit the pillow about 9:45.  

It is now Thursday, the car will be repaired, it will cost $6000 plus, will be done about Dec. 12, and we have a car rental so Ruth and Tom can have their lives back…i.e. they don’t have to ferry us around now.  

In conclusion, it could have been worse.  If the tow hitch had failed while on the freeway, it could have been a disaster.  As it stands now, the insurance company says it will not affect our rates.  And Rayman is unharmed.  Beau is in good shape.  I stand harmed in that my ego was bruised.  Really bruised.  But this too shall pass.

  

  

 

Running out of Time

We have been on the road now since the 23nd October and as our time is growing closer to a return to home, there are more observations to be made on Oaxaca and Mexico.

Facebook posts have included some of what I will probably write here.  Too lazy to check, really and that is because it is warm and sultry here today and we shopped for gifts for friends and family today.  Rayman is in repose on the bed and I’m sitting on the couch by the open window which is allowing smells to come wafting in…corn, chicken, familiar wonderful food smells.  Should I call them scents?  It sounds nicer.

But I digress.

Yesterday was day two of Dia de los Muertos.  As in Gaul, there are three partes…Gallia est divisido en tres partes…as I sort of remember my latin lesson from high school a million years ago.  But be not impressed by my memory.  I googled it.  Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.  Okay, I stand corrected.  This may explain why I have never excelled in foreign languages!!

Again I digress.

The first day of the dead is for people who died too young.  Day two is for people who died in accidents.   Today, day three, is for everyone else who has succumbed.  Well thought out, I think.  The first day was joyous and over the top with parades, bands playing songs that didn’t seem to be well rehearsed but perhaps that is their style…not sure.  Alters are devised and festivals are held.  The one festival we attended (everything is free) included a group of young people singing Mozart’s only dirge in Spanish.  It was both recognizable and beautiful.  3IKraxsATvaKjj6fxD1AYQMarigolds are the flower of the festival.  They are everywhere and they help the spirits find their way to their alter.  Incense is burned to help the journey…the spirits can smell their way home as it were.  When they get to the alter, they find food and drink and trinkets that represent what they loved when they were in this world.  The candles placed on the street help light the way.The alters are fascinating and all over the city.  As Teddy Roosevelt used to say, “Delighted!”. 

Some observations.  We have been touring by wandering around and have met many, many gringos.  From Washington, D.C., Houston, Chapel Hill, Arroyo Grande (yes, our friends Liz and Robin were here and we met up for mezcal margaritas last evening…small world).  Met two Docs from SF, two women from Portland one of which has a friend that lives blocks from our skinny house.  Also a man from Harlem who once lived in LA.  The list goes on and one.  Most Mexicans we met speak muy poquito English and since we have limited Spanish, I cannot give the same details.  Suffice it to say they were all lovely, helpful, warm, welcoming people with rich histories.  

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is a hat holder in the restaurant.  It sits on the floor and can be mored around.  Here’s a pic.  GSQMc+ViRb6Z+pZHhEf21QWhat a great idea.  Can also be used for purses.   A revelation. 

After touring some of Italy, this vacation is almost free.  The exchange rate is so favorable, it seems unfair.  Many Mexicans live on a dime but their clothes are clean, their children are beyond well behaved which doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Once we went into the interior of the Yucatan and the women all wore white dresses that were spotless…how did they do it?  Don’t know but they did.  Another thing we saw was the base of the old trundle Singer sewing machine with a glass on top instead of the machine.  We are going to try to replicate that for the skinny house.  It was really cool.  No picture because pictures were not allowed in the art gallery.

Our hosts are wonderful.  Donna comes from the east coast.  An architect by training, she moved her 20 years ago.  Carlos is a native and he is a super host.  They have el perro (a dog), Gabby who was abandoned at 4 months (a rescue dog).  She attends obedience training and is a fast learner.  Sweet, sweet bowwow.  Makes us miss Beaumeister more. 

This region of Mexico is known for the mezcal that they make.  It is a cousin to tequila…from a different agave plant.  There are two methods of making mezcal.  One is similar to tequila.  The other is smoked and you can taste it.  It is delicious in a drink such as margaritas.  We are enjoying it.

Today while wandering around looking for the store that sold a man on the street a blue linen hat that Rayman liked, we happened into Oaxaca’s market which takes up almost a city block (blocks are not big here).  Snapped some pictures.  Fun time at the market.

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We

purchased so many things, we must buy another suitcase to get it all home.  A rug and a Oaxacan piece of art (an opossum which has great significance in this culture).  Can’t reveal everything because they are mostly gifts and my dear readers won’t be surprised when they receive them (laboring under an assumption they read my blogs which is silly on my part). 

Rayman was not looking forward to this trip.  Now he doesn’t want to leave.  Quite an about face.  He is delighted with the scene, the food, the people, the tradition of the holiday.  Pretty cool.  And he is practicing his Spanish which sounds more French than Spanish.  The other thing he is practicing is leaving an establishment with his credit card.  Twice he has left it on this trip.  Just sayin.

The other tourists we have encountered have been from France, England, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Australia. It’s very metropolitan for such a small city.

Tomorrow we visit a World Heritage sight.  It is Mount Alban.  The oldest mesoamerican city discovered.  We are taking a bus (no rental cars for us on this leg of the trip).  It is situated up the mountain from here and promises wonderful views of the valley.  We are stoked.

More later.    

Dia de los Muertos

On a big, bright, sunny, north-of-the-equator-a-bit kind of morning, a pause must be taken to drink in all the delights of Mexico. I know many of my friends would not and will not come here for all sorts of reasons. For them and for my memory, I comment on this area of Mexico.

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Oaxaca City is a city nestled in the mountains of southern Mexico in the state of Oaxaca, about a six hour drive down to the Pacific Ocean…yes, that Pacific Ocean. Not far from the center of town is the ancient place known as Mount Alban. We plan to visit it. A ancient site inhabited by an estimated 40,000 people from about 1 A.D. until 400 A.D. I give you this info from memory. It might be all wrong!! What is known as that the city was abandoned. What is not known is why.

Modern day Oaxaca is a poor city by our standards but it’s culture is rich. Much of it as you drive in from the airport looks impoverished with tagging on walls, many buildings appear boarded up. When you get to the center where we are staying, things improve. It’s lovely in the center. The weather is lovely, a warm 83 high today so we will visit churches and museums of which there are many of the latter. I’m not sure what the Catholics do here. It seems the religion is infused with the local customs and it makes it a hybrid which has an interesting feel. And Dia de los Muertos, day of the dead, is a perfect example of what I mean. The pictures do the talking so I’ll not wax on about it.

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In the morning, the music starts. Did de los Muertos permeates everything. Beautiful songs in Spanish start up about 7:00 a.m. along with the jets coming in and taking off…the old and the new, the ying and the yang. As I gaze out our window down to the street, people walk by briskly now and then. Everyone seems to be working very hard in preparation for tonights activities which include visits to cemeteries to hold all night vigils. We are anxiously awaiting the evening…it should be spectacular.

The locals set off some type of fireworks that go BOOM. Really loud BOOMS. Part of the celebration one suspects. Not as pleasant as the singing and instrumentals that grace the day.

The city is choked with traffic. Cars and buses everywhere idling as they wait fo the lights to change. The drivers here are very courteous. Actually, the people here are lovely and gracious. The Mexicans are as wonderful here as they are at home. Perhaps more so because most don’t speak English and my Spanish is at the level of a two year old…but try we might to exchange ideas. It is really fun to try.

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Food here is extraordinary and the region is famous for it’s moles. Many of us don’t even know a mole from a gravy so I provide an article for your enjoyment since I cannot transmit the actual mole over the internets. Redolent in spices with a hint of chocolate in many moles, they tickle the tongue and delight the taste buds. In our two nights of eating here, I’m not sure what we are going to receive when I order. Last night I thought I ordered a ensalada (salad) Cesar, but no. A broccoli based ensalada arrived instead and we were thrilled. It was fabulous and really, I cannot describe it. We also ordered something that had corn fungus in it and it was a soup that was out of this world delicious. Then there was the trio of tacos, small fish tacos with melted cheese of some kind topping them off. My, oh, my. We were in food heaven. I washed it down with a local dark beer. Rayman went for a Mexican white wine. We started off with a smokey mexcal which came with the thinnest of chips and a great salsa.

As we were finishing up, a woman plopped down next to us and we engaged. Molly is from Kansas City, MO. Well, that was a segue to the fact that my grandmother (on my mom’s side) was born there. She asked for her maiden name. I had to explain that she did not know who here father was and that I had a friend, Dorothy Buck, that had researched the genealogy without much luck because the name rumored to be Noble or Nobles came up a bit blank so (My explanation to Molly was more concise than this rendition) that was that. Molly had a few fascinating stories of her own family history. We loved her. And we had a rousing conversation while also meet her friend, Jerry, a designer of museos (museums) and a winemaker in Kansas City. He has 42 varietals at his winey…perhaps a world record. What an interesting conversation was had with him. All this ended in my gathering Molly’s name and email and phone. She invited us to K.C. to visit her, she has a golden doodle, a civil rights attorney husband (who stayed in Mexico City while she came to Oaxaca…love it…the freedom they share), and a group of friends that were enjoying the heck out of Mexico too. This is when traveling becomes so rewarding and enriching. A excellent meal followed up by meeting interesting people.

But I digress.

An alter.

An alter.

Oaxaca really stands out in the color department. The art is beyond colorful. A feast for the eyes as it were. If there is anything a kin to reincarnation, I must have been a Mexican. I love the colors, the art, the architecture (though, I must admit, it was heavily influenced by the Spanish after the conquest), the food. EVERYTHING IS COLORFUL!!

Need to close for now…must go visit the old church that was once taken over by the government, the alter destroyed and just recently replaced with a new one as part of a restoration project. Need to learn more about that…reminds me to the museum in Turkey that began as a Christian cathedral, was taken over by the Muslims and is now a museum. Different parts of the world, but the same theme.

 

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We are back. Did not make inside the church because we were so enthralled with the museum. By the time we finished up with the Museo, it was time for some food. So we meandered up to the apartment. On the way I saw an internet shop. We went in and met some Aussies and he helped me get a copy of the LA Times Sunday crossword puzzle. He and his wife had been in Mexico for a month wandering around Mexico. They are currently on a travel visa to Canada where they are living in Vancouver. Lots to talk about.

Wall art in the restajrantl . A bicycle shop was behind the barl .

Wall art in the restaurant . A bicycle shop was behind the bar .

Today is a holiday and we could not get into a popular restaurant so we ducked into the restaurant next to our apartment. For $6.85 we got two chicken enchiladas mole, and a beer and we tipped generously. It’s almost free here.

The bands are playing now in preparation for the festivities. Our hosts have created an alter downstairs that includes pictures of their loved ones, chocolate kisses, two bottles of booze, flowers, and mementos. A bittersweet tradition as one of the pictures was of her friend that just died about 3 months ago. She was an artist and some of her pottery was on the alter.

Bought a painting for $15 and a small mask of a tiger for $20. More shopping to do. The crafts, textiles, pictures are wonderful.

So, it’s about time to head to the cemetery for tonight’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Woman making chocolate at a food stall.

Woman making chocolate at a food stall.

 

Vendor roasting corn. Lots of these stands.

Vendor roasting corn. Lots of these stands.

 

El toro anda great example of the art of Oaxaca.

El toro anda great example of the art of Oaxaca.

 

One of the festivals in the courtyard of a church.

One of the festivals in the courtyard of a church.

We are back and did not find the cemetery but we saw many festivities. Tomorrow night affords us another chance and we are going to try to get a tour so we don’t miss it. We have never been to Mardi Gras but it must be similar. Lots of music, parades, costumes, fireworks, food stalls and fun.

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

Uthj0ap0T%irKB6FNEcUtQAirplane time offers up an opportunity for blogging, reflecting…not necessarily in that order.

Traveling in Texas was altogether interesting.  And having the advantage of friends and family to be our tour guides was invaluable.  Yes, we still had to schlepp our bags which as thus far only resulted in one mishap as yo jumped on the escalator in Mexico City.  I lost control of my carry-on for my computer/iPad  and it tipped over head first so to speak and landed pointing down the escalator two steps below me.  Snatched it up at the last second with a jujitsu move that was quite impressive if I do say so myself. 

But I digress.

TAXES ARE LOW

Back in Austin, the refrain was always the same…no taxes.  We don’t pay state income tax.  They think we Californians are crazy.  This is reflected in their political TV commercials as well as in conversations with strangers in stores, in queue at the airport.  “You can have it”, the younger man said when we mentioned that we were from California.  This bares considering.  How can they have such wonderful roads and good looking modern schools and pay no income taxes?  We wonder.  We did notice a lack of safety features like handrails on steep grades in the public park.  But is that all?  This must be investigated as soon as I get a signal and log on to the internets.  I am jealous that it only take a $72 registration fee to drive your car.    Is there a breaking point, I wonder?  A place where the rubber meets the road (as good as they are)? 

We have arrived in Oaxaca and have a fabulous little apartment in zona centro.  It is a dream. So, we are tired.  Have been on quite a journey and I’m taking a little breather to do some Texas research.  GTS is a new acronym that means Google That Shit.  So, I looked at education which is near and dear to my heart.  Here’s what I found.  They  beat out California K-12.  Yikes.  Okay, what else?   California outperforms Texas in healthcare, ranking 1 in public healthcare in the nation.  So there is that.  Our economy outperforms theirs which puts the idea that taxes kill business in the dubious claims department.  We are neck in neck in opportunity but we are both at the bottom of the barrel in that category.  They rank higher in infrastructure and that does not surprise me.  It is great.  Public safety is lower for Texas despite a cop behind every tree.  We saw mucho grande police action in Texas.  The only thing they had more of was bars.  They ranked higher on fiscal stability which makes me question these numbers from the U.S. News and World Report.  So…it is was interesting to look at the study.  And I’m glad I live in California and glad to have visited Texas!!

WEATHER OR NOT

On to other observations.  Johnnie, Rayman’s bro, reports that Austin had 90 days over 100 last year.  Ouch.  And they just had a record breaking rain storm that has locals boiling their water before drinking.  So, Texas has some pretty awful weather in my estimation.  Born lucky, I’ve ended up on the Pacific Ocean which is mild year round.  Isn’t this priceless?  Probably unless you are in a service job and have two kids.  Dollars are stretched for those of that circumstance. 

DIVERSITY

It has a diverse population with lots of Mexicans and black citizens.  A smattering of Muslins based on observations of women’s outfits.  Some Asians.  It is very young.  We left feeling ancient. 

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THE LONE STAR STATE

Texans pride themselves in their “Texiness”.  Lots of boots and cowboy hats.  Lots of flags flying.  American flags.  Texas flags (the one with the lone star).  Theirs is an air of superiority over all others (from other states).  Egos, perhaps as big as that star of Texas.  Vast amounts of the state are covered with sagebrush and appear uninhabitable (think West Texas).  Around the hill country there are loads of oak trees and rolling hills make it a very pretty place.   Lack of water is a problem.  They have been in a drought.  Just like California.  Texans don’t qualify as cult status but they sure are enamored with themselves…(generalities here.  Our friends and family are not included!!).

TEX MEX FOOD

The food is good but I love authentic Mexican food.  We ate well.  And enjoyed it very much.  Did I mention how much I like authentic Mexican food? 

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TRUCKS

Trucks are everywhere.  My heaven’s.  Never seen so many trucks.  Gas guzzling trucks that get by on $2.39 per gallon.  After all, it is oil country.  So they stimulate the economy by driving around in big honking trucks.  Prius cars are an endangered species.  May have sighted one
Tesla.  Few hybrids.  In the countryside, it’s all trucks all the time. 

CHARMED I’M SURE

Texans are very friendly and so are we.  So we got along famously with everyone we met.  Yes, sir.  No, Mam.  Lots of that going on.  Sweet really.