Thursday, March 30, 2006

The March of the Penguins great escape

I know I write a lot about animals, but I do have a six-year-old so they are a common subject for us. She watches a lot of Animal Planet, which I prefer over the other alternatives: Even with its sex and violence, it's just animals so it's acceptable viewing. However, I'm having second thoughts as my quotient for animal factoids is quite full and I'm having trouble feigning interest. If she's not insisting we pretend we're animals then she's chasing me down, breathlessly quoting newsflashes: "Mom, did you know that cheetahs...blah, blah, blah."


Allison: "Let's pretend we're penguins. You be the mama."

Me: (in a burst of inspiration, grab an apple off the counter and place it on my the platform I make with my feet and flapping my flippers say,) " Quick come get this egg, I have a lunch date in the Antartica."

Allison: (waddling to make the exchange) "I can't get it."

Me: "Yes, you can. Hurry. Don't drop our egg!"

Allison: (finally getting the "egg" on board) "I got it!"

Me: (waddling off and waving) "Good, Don't move, You stay here. I'll see you in three months."

Allison: "Auggghhh!"

Me: (run upstairs to blog)

Just an idea....

Remembering my conversation with my New York friend and how we discussed the controversy surrounding what should be rebuilt on the former Twin Towers site:
How about this?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Who's been eating my porridge?

Robert is back in the states for two weeks so once again Allie and I are fending for ourselves. I was glad to have Betsy back if only to have one more warm body in the house and the faint illusion of canine protection. Problem is, every little thing scares her and sets her barking: animals on television, a wadded-up paper towel, a bronze bunny statue.

We were watching television last night when I heard the familar sound of kibbles being pushed around her steel bowl. But when I glanced over to the sofa at Allison I saw Betsy asleep by her side. What was that in the kitchen!!! Betsy heard it too and leaped off the sofa skidding to a stop in the kitchen; me, more timidly, behind her. She chased something into the garage. WHAT? A mouse? I've never seen one here nor seen any evidence of mouse droppings. A cat? Do bats eat dog food?, I wondered. Whatever it was had to be little enough to hide in the garage since there is no escape to outside, but, (and this was the disconcerting part) big enough to make sounds like a hungry dog at the dinner bowl.

So we went to bed not knowing. In the dark, with Robert gone and the phantom critter, I had a difficult time falling asleep. This morning my friend, Marta, informed me that our mystery critter might have been an iguana. An iguana?, I said, imagining a Komodo dragon. Well, it had to be big enough to sidle up to Betsy's bowl and make the racket it did. She assures me they are small and harmless. Think Gecko.
Okay, but I think I'd feel better if it just shows its face so we know for sure.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Illegal Immigration

Ironic, that I am in Mexico diligently putting together the necessary items and money needed to attain my FM3 status while back home in America hundreds of thousands of people, mostly hispanic, are protesting immigration policy reform by marching through Los Angeles waving the Mexican flag, indignant that the U.S. wants to curtail illegal immigration.Those images of angry hispanics waving the flag of Mexico grated on me. Why? Because it felt like I was watching an invasion, not a protest.

Nobody wants to be accused of being racist so maybe we don't speak up enough. It's not that I don't want Mexicans to migrate to America, but there are irreversible consequences for unchecked immigration. Especially when it is another country's poor that we are allowing in in mass. We are importing poverty and California and Arizona, in particular, are suffering. Mexico's exportation of poverty and the fact that much money is sent back to Mexico by illegals can only further the sinking social and economic plight of Mexico.

I don't think we need immigration reform, just enforcement of the laws that already exist. Strengthen our borders, penalize U.S. businesses who hire illegals. I don't hire illegals to mow my grass or nanny my children, or (like Bill Clinton), chauffer my car. I'm not for exploiting their labor. If a head of lettuce will cost me more, so be it. Just put a lid on this runaway illegal immigration.

By ignoring the problem we are creating an even worse one--weakening our identity as a unified culture while creating a divided bi-cultural one. If immigrants don't come with the attitude of assimilating, if they refuse to to learn English or follow our laws, and then demand and intimidate citizens into changing our laws, then we are detroying what made America strong and prosperous and an oh, so desirable a place to live.

Read John O'Sullivan's editorial in the "Chicago Sun-Times" (March 28)
He states the argument for immigration enforcement very well.

Here, another good ed: Tony Blankley, "Washington Times," (March 29)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Clean it up

A surge of guilt washed over me this week when I realized I knew nothing of current world events living here in isolated bliss. I did read a passed-down People magazine brought by a visitor from New York I met while lounging at the pool at the newly renamed, "The Inn at Loreto Bay." She and I had an interesting conversation which brought me current with how people who live near Central Park view events in the middle east. The horror of September 11th still haunts them and they keep their eyes open to potential threats. I did know one piece of news from home that I relayed to her: the FBI is investigating a trucking school in a small cow- town in the midwest in which the majority of its test-takers (over 60%) have Moslem-sounding names. Since when did West Plains, Missouri become a magnet for Islamist wanna-be truck drivers? My new friend was not surprised by this, she said there are terrorist cells at work all through New York.

Our poolside chat reminded me that I'd forgotten my anxiety about the world. What is happening back home? The following evening I sat devouring what news I could find on television and the internet and by the morning I was in a state of high anxiety. I learned that civil war in Iraq is imminent; that Russia passed information to Bagdad during the 2003 invasion and nobody's taking this seriously enough; that Al-Quida terrorist, Zacariah Moussaoui claims he was supposed to high-jack an jet airplane and fly it into the White House, that thousands of marchers are protesting current illegal immigration policy before a Senate committee, that a minister's wife shot him dead in the back this week leading to speculation on what horrible thing he'd done, and that some kindergarteners in New Jersey were performing God-know-what sexual acts on each other in the back of the bus on the way to school.

Meanwhile my most pressing concern is that Allison's school insists she needs her FM3 resident status to remain in their good graces and receive actual grades. No problemo. I joke, but I am worried for America like never before. My country, right-or-wrong. I didn't realize how American I was till I came to Mexico. I grew up thinking America was the coolest. I get teary-eyed at our national anthem. I watched Americans land on the moon when I was little. I thought we were the greatest. I believed in the Superpower myth, I think I still do. Now, it seems like everything is geared toward picking us apart.

I guess I'm counting on everyone back home to keep things in line, to protect, defend, and mind the shop. I want the place cleaned up and the laundry put away before I get home.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

the language barrier

Since I'm struggling with a language challenge being in Mexico this struck me as extra funny:

Friday, March 24, 2006

Betsy's back!

Betsy's back and it only cost us 320 pesos. A Mexican family who lives near the arroyo phoned us with the news that they had her. Don Alfredo, our handyman who was at the house at the time of the call went with Robert to show him the way. Apparently, the man is a laborer on the Loreto Bay project and picked Betsy up in the road somewhere in our neighborhood. Of course, Allison was thrilled at the news. I was relieved, especially of the burden of searching for our dog which Robert and I did all morning. We scoured the desert brush around our house to the beach and I watched the skies for vultures.

As Robert left I reached for whatever cash we had, suggesting we give a reward, maybe 200 pesos (20 bucks), I reckoned. When he returned with Betsy he told me the rescuers brazenly asked for more, settling on the 320 pesos he had on hand! He was glad he didn't have more cash with him, he said. Oh well, at least Allie's got her dog back and I don't have to wonder what horrible end Betsy had met. And we had our theories. Robert's was the darkest: desert dogs had picked her apart. I snapped that "dogs don't eat dogs," to which he zinged back, "why do you think they call it a dog-eat-dog world? HaHa. I guess I'd never thought about it that literally.

Tomorrow, I'll take all those posters down.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The book gods

Warning: the following may either bore you or cause you to think I'm wacky--unless you feel the same way.

We all get our answers from different sources. Some find them in nature, some in solitude, some in interaction with other people, some in prayer. Mine have always come through books. Whenever I have been most stressed, or most searching, I have turned to books for comfort. Sometimes it's the content, but often it's just the process of reading that I find consoling. I've been mesmerized by the magic of the written word for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life I have experienced a reoccuring phenomenon related to reading. It happens very frequently that I will be trying to reason out something, trying to formulate a statement spelling out the essence of what it is I'm pondering, and then, not much later, I will be reading and amazingly my thought will appear on the page. It's as though I'm being answered. I know this sort of thing happens to people who go to the Bible for immediate answers. For me, random best-selling authors are conspiring to feed me wisdom. Woooh. But I have an example. My proof:

Yesterday I was thinking about why I blog, or journal about our lives here in Mexico. To write about your own life borders on conceit. I always wince a little when I post. I like to think I write about us because it's important to me to record our history. What fun to read it later in life, to reflect on these unusual experiences. I like what Anais Nin said, " We write to taste life twice." Ultimately, I choose my topics. I put the words together. I present the package. I can make a scenario sunny and inviting and take you there.

You run a lot of risks with people's feelings, not to mention privacy when you write. I've tried to be careful, especially with the identities of children. And I've censored myself a lot when I'd rather not. I'd like to say, "I hate the Mexicans' high threshold for filth," for example. Oops. I'm a very undisciplined reader. I jump from one subject to the other with no focus other than something catches my eye. I'll get half-way though one book and pick up another. Currently I have several books going. I recently finished a borrowed book, Ghost Soldiers, a painful account of a WWII rescue mission in the Philippines. All the while I'm re-reading a favorite, Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, an elegant work of fiction set in the Civil War. And also, Old School, by one of my favorite authors, Tobias Wolff. It's a fiction about competition in a New England Prep school. But I also just scarfed down a recent issue of "People" So, yesterday I was thinking about why I write our history and then I went outside to read my Wolff book and immediately came across this passage about writers:

"Writers formed a society of their own outside of the common hierarchy. This gave them a power not conferred by privilege--the power to create images of the system they stood apart from, and thereby to judge it." (pg.24)

Aha. That made me think. Could my lifelong desire to write be based on a need for--power? Certainly, it is a form of control. With words you can create your own reality. And as an added bonus, you can bring others along. (And I thought I just wanted to tell a good story.) But I have learned to harken to the messages of the book gods that have been after me since I first picked up a paperback--always there with a unexpected passage that cuts to the core, keeping me humbled and mystified.


Our dog, Betsy, has been missing since yesterday. In some ways Robert and I say, "good riddance", she's been such a bad dog lately, running away when we call her to come, getting up on the dining table and scarfing down our sandwiches, barking in the middle of the night at the faint sound of cow bells in the field outside (the cows roam at night) Still, she is Allison'dog and she will be heartbroken if she's lost, so today Robert and made lost-dog flyers and posted them up and down the San Ignacio boulevard.

We drove the neighborhood looking for clues to her disappearance. If she were dead on the road we'd have found her since here no one seems willing to remove dead animals. For nearly a week I passed a bloated calf on the side of the Transpeninsular Highway before it finally disappeared. If she's dead in the fields or desert there's the vultures to give me a clue. Already I'm scanning the skies. More likely she has been picked up by a passing motorist. In that case it remains to be seen if the person is a good samaritan or a doggie abductor.

When I opened the refrigerator a few moments ago I instinctly reached for the water pitcher to fill Betsy's empty bowl nearby. The sight of her half-eaten kibbles made my heart sink. I want my dog back.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dogs of Loreto

Here's an indication that we have too much spare time on our hands: Yesterday I asked Robert to drive me around town so I could photograph dogs. As I've said before, Loreto has an abundance of dogs that wander through town. Some are strays, others looked cared for, but all are allowed free reign. I'm told that once or twice a year authorities round up the strays and destroy them in effort to keep the population down.(There is a continous campaign for spaying and neutering that seems to go unnoticed by the residents who I suspect have an affinity with natural reproduction.) Some kind souls will put a collar on a stray dog just to save him that sorry fate, hoping that will help the strays blend in with the more fortunate canines. Although, today I noticed some dogs sporting florescent orange tags which I think may be the new "authentic" proof of ownership.

We must have been a sight, me hanging out the car window with my Nikon camera looking like an idiot on safari. It's harder than you think trying to capture dogs on film (digital, actually.) They move too much and if you get too close, they trot up to greet you ruining the shot. Many of my photos are out of focus. I think I need to approach this with a reconnaissance mindset: hide out in a building with a tripod and telephoto lens and wait for the action.

There's one dog in particular I really want to catch. He is a stout white pit bull who wears a cut-off blue tee shirt and lives in my neighborhood. His owner is an architect called, "Nacho" who is building the oddest looking house, his dream design, I suppose. Many times while walking in the late afternoon I will see Nacho's car coming down the San Ignacio, a long, wide stretch of boulevard. Nacho will be chugging along at a pretty good clip while not far behind his dog sprints down the grass median after him. I understand now this spectacle is evidence of Nacho's great love for his dog. It's his way of exercising him, keeping him fit and happy. Much like a person will repeatedly throw a stick in a lake for thier retriever to fetch, Nacho and his beloved pit bull in the blue tee shirt have their own habit of recreation--racing down the boulevard.

I'm determined to capture this someday, someway.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where's John now?

Across from our house is an 11 court tennis center build years ago when Fonatur had big hopes for this area's growth. So ambitious was the project that John McEnroe lent his name to it. I can't imagine what he'd think of it now in its state of neglect and decay. He's probably just glad he got his endorsement money. The grounds must have been beautiful long ago. Palms and eucalyptus trees surround the compound which sits against the backdrop of the Sierras. Now it looks like an archeological ruin with its decaying cobblestones walks and cracked tennis courts. Throughout, there are giant Mayan-styled statues which lend an even further air of the ancient. No one seems to be running the place although it continues to be minimally groomed, hopeful for a rebirth.

Some of the courts are playable though dusty. Our green Wilson tennis balls turn gray and when you miss a shot they hit against the crumbling rock wall knocking chips of rock and cement grout onto the court. We've been trying to help Allison learn to play. She has this great opportunity to learn, but then who to play with? I toss balls at her coaching her to swing correctly, follow-through, but mostly, don't get impatient. Then we chase them down, searching for them like easter eggs hidden in the fallen leaves along the fence-line while she complains that I didn't throw them to her nice enough. She's favoring her left hand, so it confuses me how to instruct her. Never the matter, it's just fun to be out there in the warm air goofing off, the whole place to ourselves--training at the John McEnroe Tennis Stadium. Woo hoo!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Admiration, the aphrodisiac

The last two evenings we've had dinner at Marta and Pepe's home, compound rather, as it is more than one building and serves as a headquarters of sorts to the family and various members of the Olona construction team. Everyone gathers outside to eat alfresco beside a giant barbeque manned by hired cooks from Hermosillo who dish out the best carne asada and tonight, giant fish wrapped in foil, stuffed with onions and chilies. We arrived a bit late (not that it matters; there's no set dinner hour) and after the usual kisses and hugs we were made to sit down at one of the long picnic-style tables. Immediately everyone set to work to serve us. The fish was cold, insisted Pepe, who handed the platter to Marta to heat up. No, we insisted, it's okay. Still, off she went to return moments later with platters of hot fish, warm tortillas and frijoles thick with cheese. It's almost embarrassing to me how they wait on us. But, it's not just us; they are extremely gracious to all their guests.

Marta set out a delicious pastry treat called coyota, something she brought with her from her recent trip back to their hometown, Hermosillo. It's a thin round-pastry crimped along the edges and filled with (in this case) a sticky, rich paste which I'm guessing has dates in it? I praised it so much she insisted I take home a stack of them. Gladly.

After dinner, Marta and I talked about her hopes to furnish a model home for Loreto Bay. She has some connections in her hometown with furniture-makers and wants to offer LB homeowners another option for furniture purchase. She seemed very interested in my opinions, which are only that, my only experience of furniture is that of a consumer. She also asked me if in reality America's "morality" is like that portrayed on television shows like, "O.C." and, "Will and Grace, and MTV's, "The Real World." My heart sunk at her question asked so earnestly. I'm a jaded citizen, quick to complain about the downward direction of culture in my home country, so my answer to her could easily be, "pretty close." But interestingly, as she awaited my answer, I felt the tug of loyality to my America. I ended up giving her an answer that sounded a lot like a parent gently criticizing a rebellious teen-ager. Yeah, she's misbehaving pretty badly lately, but it's just a phase. Marta said she worries about the corrupting force of American culture. Her youngest daughter worked for a few months as a nanny to a young family in Baltimore, hoping to perfect her English and be within short distance to visit America's capitol and learn our history. The woman she worked had no job but spent a great deal of time away from her young children, a behavior Marta couldn't understand. And, the woman once expressed amazement, maybe scoffed at Marta's daughter's archiac notion of retaining her virginity until marriage. Marta met this news with equal measure of amazement and disdain for such a woman who would attempt to persuade her daughter to drop that notion.

Meanwhile, nearby, I could hear Robert and the menfolk discussing something. They're laughing a lot so maybe their topic is benign. They've been drinking a bit and I discover their conversation is stupid guy talk. How nice. I'm strained from holding up America so I find Robert's eye and we agree it's time to go home.

I get the impression this group holds Robert and I in a revered light that I suspect can only dim as they begin to realize what regular "folks" we are. They see us as slightly glamorous--these attractive, daring Americans coming to their country to build a vacation home. They think we have answers. The men are practically courting Robert. Their admiration amuses us both. But we imagine it stems not just from a natural attraction to us (oh, how charming and fun we are), but from a basic need to find trusted allies from the gringo culture. They are builders here to tackle a huge project with the formidible American/Canadian Loreto Bay Development Team. Pepe, who can barely speak English, must feel vulnerable on levels concerning relations with the LBC. I know he sees Robert as not just a extremely likeable guy who is great fun to kid around with, but more importantly as an American who has a successful business back home and surely knows the ropes.

They flatter us with their admiration making it impossible not to love these gentle people. They are trusting and kind and fun-loving. If we have something to give in return we will give it gladly. And funny, but the admiration they throw on Robert is working magic on me. He's looking smarter and more handsome to me than ever.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My guy, Luis!

I'm back "home" to Loreto from my shopping trip in Guadalajara. The furniture for our little casa has now been designed and ordered and partially paid for, and I feel quite proud of my performance as a psuedo-designer and buyer. Of course without the help of Luis, the driver who toted me to the best deals in town, I would have succumbed to panic and returned empty-handed. The first day there, before Luis was scheduled, I wandered around Tlaquepaque with my friend, Cathy,(she stayed two days) through the hundreds of retail shops while a growing sense of "what have I gotten myself into?" threatened to choke my enthusiasm. After two days under Luis' care I was feeling pretty confident and running the risk of self-congratulatory delusion. "Piece of cake," I told myself after finishing my two-hour design session with Domingo Hecht, the furniture factory owner, before it occured to me that now I had to arrange to get all this stuff home. "Luis!??"

Luis escorted me to a local shipping company where I sat across the desk of the manager who spoke only Spanish. Somehow, I managed with Luis, to strike a pretty good deal. More success! Although some people praise me for tackling the adventure alone, I know it would have flopped without someone like Luis. He watched over me, followed me through shops and factories with the alertness of a trusty shepherd-dog. Occasionally, he'd whisper to me, "that's too much, I know where we can do better." He was worth every peso. I grew pretty fond of him to where my handshake greetings evolved into a kiss on the cheek which I think embarrassed him. I was just always so grateful and thrilled to see him because it meant somebody was there to take care of me.

So the mission went well and my week impersonating a rich American is now over. Back to Loreto and the absense of consumer goods. I may have withdrawl symptoms. Where is my chauffer? My morning coffee with Stan's mouthwatering flaky pastries? (Stan, who owns Casa de las Flores was once a chef who worked with the famous Alice Waters in San Francisco) I spent the first couple of days back sleeping off and on all afternoon. I guess I was wiped out. I'd worked hard and walked much in Guadalajara. Sleeping too much is a sign of depression, Robert teased. Well, Guadalajara to Loreto is quite a contrast, but for me, I was just glad to be "home" sleeping in my own comfy bed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The best little B&B in Guadalajara

I am in Guadalajara. And every time I say Guadalajara that old Steely Dan song starts playing in my head! I am here to shop for furniture for our house in Loreto Bay which should be finished in early May. I came over by myself, but a friend from home met me here for a couple of days. Helpful, since she speaks good Spanish and as my attorney looks out for me!

It is overwhelming trying to furnish a house, even a small one, in a few days. Yeah, boo-hoo, who wants to hear about it. But it's not a comfortable feeling spending bunches of money on stuff you sit on. As much as I love furnishings and decorating, this trip is a working trip. It's not like those leisurely purchases you make--"oh, yes, this is pretty." It's like: I have three days to find 50 plus pieces of furniture in a sprawling Mexican city I've never been to before and figure out how to get it all paid for and shipped to another Mexican city.

Truthfully, it's gone surprisingly well. I hired a driver who knows the best factories for the best prices. I settled on one for the majority of my purchases. The owner and I met today for nearly two hours designing each piece. Truly designing. I'd say, "I want a dresser that has really high legs so that I can shove a basket under it." And he and I would draw it. I felt like I was impersonating an interior designer. Pretty cool, really. And the prices were so low. However, shipping may change that.

I don't have time to see much else of Guadalajara which is a shame. It's an old colonial city with a lot of history, culture, and architecture. Maybe, another time.
The area I am in is called Tlaquepaque and is known as the center for arts and crafts shopping. Traditional goods, made by local artisans like weavers, ceramicists, painters, furniture-makers are found here. It's a treasure trove of household stuff, the good stuff. Buyers come from all over the world to shop here.

One of the best parts of my stay has been the Bed and Breakfast, Casa de las Flores. The owner is a former chef and painter with a Fine Arts degree. His place is so eclectic, so packed with arts and crafts, you can't get through the front lobby for the distraction. It's beyond description (which is shorthand for I'm too lazy to try right now.) He has the B&B thing down to perfection. He wanders around chatting like a cocktail party host; always with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand. Always in the right hand with the arm bent up at the elbow, the universal gay pose. To me, he is an example of a person having found their perfect niche in life.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Palapa dreams

While Allie was at school Robert and I drove to Puerto Escondido to look around. He has boats on the brain--he wants one so bad. On the way we stopped in a little palapa village (for lack of a better descriptive.) It's a community right on the water that arose from a campsite. Over time people rented space or lots and parked their RV's permanently. They built palapas (woven palm leaf roofs) over them, installed solar panels and generators, portable potties and barbeques, and called it home. There is a man there who helped Robert pull his borrowed dysfunctional boat out of the sea a few weeks back. Robert wanted to thank him again with a visit. He wasn't there but his wife was and she invited us in for my first look at the inside of one of these habitats.

Pretty cool, really. It's like camping with lots of great amenities. Her abode grew out of the RV camper she drove all the way down from Oregon. Over it went a giant palapa, rooms divided by woven straw screens, a functional kitchen with a stove/oven, sink and refrigerator, a good size living room with rattan sofas and chairs, a working tiled shower and bathroom, and best of all a little bedroom with a bed completely enveloped in mosquito netting. She had a little fenced yard (mostly gravel and potted trees) and a elevated wooden deck which provided fabulous views of the Sierras and the Sea of Cortez.

She was happy to share the history of her little homestead project. She'd come from the wet and gloomy Pacific northwest all by herself to settle on her found piece of paradise. Here she found contentment along with a permanent suntan (she was as dark as the darkest Mexicans) Later, she met and married her husband who shares her love of the ocean. They are active in the Harbor Club (don't think yachts, white linen pants, and cocktails; think fishing boats, tee-shirts, and beer) and organize annual events like Loreto Fest where boaters come to party. Within minutes she was encouraging us to join the group, come to tonight's meeting, come to the monthly potluck.

So, Robert is presently at the meeting. I passed. It's for him to explore. He has always wanted to sail. Since I met him his dream has always been sail the globe, to be a good will ambassador to the world. All I wanted was a Ralph Lauren-styled cabin in the Rockies with a view of horses grazing out my kitchen window. But since his close brush with death via the heart attack, we're humoring him. Ha ha. Still, I'm concerned he may trade our house for a boat. It better be a nice one is all I can say.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The goat rescue

The unusual sighting for today was a pack of dogs attacking a goat on the side of the Transpeninsular Highway. Robert noticed it first. I was doubtful. No, I'll show you, he said as he pulled a U-turn. Another motorist had pulled over and was hurling rocks at the dogs who already had the goat in a jugular death grip. The man managed to scare the pack off which consisted of five assorted domestic-appearing dogs. They scampered off through the desert brush while the goat, only wounded, ran into the drainage ditch under the highway. We all climbed out of the car for a closer look and to try to coax the goat out. What we would do with him we did not know. Finally we decided there was nothing we could do and turned to leave. Just then, he trotted to the other end of the tunnel and off into the desert.

On the way home we laughed at the incident, imagining the dogs at one side of the highway ticked off at the intervention that lost them their dinner. And on the other the goat returning to the herd with a whopper of a story, "they almost had me, I tell you, but baaaahhh, I fought em off! Yeah, that's what I did. Five against one and I let em have it." We did goat impressions all the way home and laughed so hard it hurt. "Ttthhhanks, humaaaahhns.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I "heart" vultures

So, when vultures gather is it called a flock, a gang, a coven? Whatever; there are lots of them down here. There is a cell tower across the street from our house that serves as buzzard headquarters. A dozen or more extremely large turkey vultures perch on various rungs of the tower and rooftop of the building below.

Yesterday I was on the upper terrace taking in the view when I saw one flying overhead with a snake in its talons. Where was my camera then?!! You see things here on the casual--things you'd normally see only on Wild Kingdom or National Geographic. I notice the birds most because so many here are of the predatory and opportunistic nature. No songbirds or robins here, but clever, menacing birds like crows and hawks, buzzards, owls, and woodpeckers. Even the roadrunners look scary to me for their great size and surprisingly speedy stride. Their legs seem to operate independently of their bodies. They have the air of the unnatural. Birds in a hurry are supposed to fly, but these strange birds scurry. To me, roadrunners are like feathered rodents.

But the vultures for obvious reasons are the creepiest. They are large, dark, ugly. They are too watchful for my comfort. Always perched up high surveying the earth's surface, waiting, waiting. Yeah, I know for what--something to die. Ick. This afternoon I was trying to round up Betsy after she slipped through the gate and watched her run below the perch of a extra super large vulture and begin barking at it. The scene was cartoonish: The dark, beastly creature with its beak pushed to its breast peering down at my naive little pedigree spaniel. For a tense moment I half-expected the bird to rush down and sweep my little dog away.

Although I'm certain I am misinformed--vultures are probably gentle and misunderstood creatures providing a necessary service as the clean-up crew. I am playing to the unfortunate stereotype about the creepiness of the poor vulture. A little crash course in the largest of carrion birds would help dispel my intuitive fears and put me on the correct track. Excuse me while I take a moment to Google turkey vulture.

I'm back. Yes, just as I expected-- vultures are good and many people are worried about them as witnessed by the existence of organizations like: Vulture Rescue and Turkey Vulture Society! Did you know that the white-back and slender-billed vulture of Nepal is endangered? As well as the long-billed vultures of India? And yes, vultures do the important work of cleaning up the garbage, i.e., dead critters and road kill. Actually the turkey vulture population in the U.S. is on the rise acccording the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Seems like there's an abundance of road-kill. Vultures can thank speeding motorists for the good eats.

Still..none of that changes the fact that these corpse-eaters with a 6-foot wingspan are undeniably creepy. Here's a fact: vultures urinate on their legs to cleanse away bacteria. Here's another: vultures have bald heads so they can thrust them into the mess of a dead carcass without mussing any feathers. Ick.

There is one gentle bird I neglected to mention. The hummingbird. I know they're on the Baja Peninsula cuz I saw some around a hibiscus shrub at the hotel. Tomorrow I will purchase a feeder and do my part to promote the... wait while I Google... oh, yes, the Xantus hummingbird. Red bill, green throat, cinnamon tail, white stripe above eye. A kinder, gentler bird minus the creepiness factor.