Sunday, July 30, 2006

Everything's up to date in Kansas City

I'm home, but out of a job (my mother moved in to take over my work and care for our house while we explore new horizons) My only contribution is to prepare a flyer to hand deliver to various businesses to promote our own. The idea is that we take a little goodie bag that will include my chocolate chip cherry cookies (which Bruce and Susan at Dolphin Dive say are the best cookies they've ever eaten) and remind people to shop with us. Simple, but effective, I say. I learned from tagging along once with my dear friend, Cynthia, on her sales calls to doctors, that food works best.

The Public Art Commission is on hiatus for the summer so I don't have my work there. I'm kind of on perpetual vacation ( Oh boo hoo, I know.) On top of that it is so blasted hot and humid in Missouri right now that it might as well be called "Misery." Apparently, it's hot everywhere in America. Twenty-five thousand cattle dropped dead in California from the heat. At least we have air conditioning. I stayed inside most of today with Allison staying occupied with crafts and games. We made a city out of dominoes, chess and backgammon pieces, and other assorted items.

Family is coming for dinner tomorrow so I need to step things up. Baked ham and corn pudding and Susan brings the home-grown tomatoes and Sara brings the cobbler. Maybe Luke will sing the chorus from Oklahoma! He was mighty fine in last night's performance.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The old life

I thought we'd found the perfect situation for Allison: Spanish immersion Montessori school. We dropped her there one day this week to try it out, but it was not a good fit. There are only two children her age there. The rest are babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. It is only this summer that the school added older kids to the mix, with 1st through 3rd grade this fall. The idea was for her to have some fun with kids her age and practice Spanish, but we'll find something else.

Beau is very focused on preparing the facility for his business. His biggest obstacle seems to how to deal with our drunken sign painter who lives upstairs in the warehouse. Robert "adopted" him years ago when he was a drifter in need and now he's a permanent fixture. My sons can't remember a time without him. He is extremely amusing--he has a unique way of communicating that is reminiscent of Dennis Hopper, always twisting and pivoting and lots of "Yeah, man." Beau worked with a carpenter to build an alternate stairway to keep him out of sight of the customers.

The warehouse will get the giant black, red, and white raceflag exterior to tie in with the theme of our business. It sits visible to the highway so to be a perfect eye-catcher. Beau's hired and fired one painter and decided he could rent the sprayer and do it himself. He came home last night so coated with white paint particles that he looked ghostly. We are sitting together at the dining table (a thing I really like) and sharing our day's events with one another. I'm making things like pot roast and spaghetti again, and having to buy a gallon of milk a day just like the old days. Allison and her dad went on a nature walk where she instructed him on leaf varieties (something she learned at the day camp her aunt Sara took her to before we returned home.) Earlier she and and I emptied the coin jars and piggy banks, sorted coins and packed them into paper rolls. Before that I had to cut up a cardboard box so she could make a house for the salt and pepper mice shakers and ceramic horse. Like me, her projects are never simple--I had to walk away before she'd have me laying wall-to-wall carpet in the thing. Point is, she is happy to be home doing familiar things.

Ryan seems relieved we are home. As footloose as he is, he still needs our guidance. We have had some nice talks and he played some new tunes he's created on his guitar. Family is coming for dinner Sunday. Tonight we see our nephew perform in Oklahoma at an outdoor park. It's nice to fall back into the old life--for awhile.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home at last

We are home. Don't have any interesting stories to tell. We're busy getting reaquainted with people and things. We have a lot of neglected matters to get in order, especially things related to our business. It's carrying on fairly well without us, but it needs some attention. We want to lend moral support to Beau as he prepares to open his wheel and tire business. He's organizing and painting and remodeling the warehouse on our property to house his inventory and office. He has focus I've never seen in him before. He has something he really cares about doing. Saturday morning we woke to find him missing. Did he stay out somewhere overnight? No, he went in to work on the warehouse. He's built racks for the wheels and is entering data into the computer.

I'm going to help him tomorrow with my ideas for designing his office space. We usually enlist our old friend, Tracy, to draw up any designs we need--usually over lunch on a paper napkin--but he is out of town. I think I can manage this one on my own. While I'm at it I may design living quarters since the warehouse is certainly big enough. Beau could live there and save money to buy a house. "Think of it", we say, "a cool penthouse apartment over the salvage yard. You'd be closer to the Plaza and Westport and all the action. Then your brother can live with you there in the summer breaks from college and we could sell our house and be free to be wandering nomads."

Not quite free: Allison is balking at returning to her life in a Mexican school. I can't blame her since she hardly understood what was being said all day long. She obediently sat in class doing her best, but drawing close relationships with other little girls was too difficult without command of the Spanish language. I think that stress was great on her and of course she's not looking forward to re-experiencing it. Everything else about being in Mexico she liked. While we are home I want to work on the language. Tomorrow we check out a local Spanish immersion Montessori school for a summer program. Meanwhile, she's having fun at home playing with her cousins and brothers and singing with her grandmother--a grandmother like no other--an airplane flying, no cookie baking, karaoke-singing grandma.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Under the rainbow

A Gondola ride up Ajax Mountain in Aspen followed by a little shopping and we were off for some sightseeing. We basically crossed the Continental Divide three times today: once on Independence Pass heading toward Salida, then back over through Monarch Pass towards Gunnison, up Cumberland Pass to the Taylor Park Reservoir and back over again via Cottonwood Pass.

The drive up from Cumberland on was exceptionally beautiful; up the pass a rainbow stretched from one mountain to another across the great expanse of forest, and down the pass we witnessed the spectacular vista over the reservoir. The unpaved road meandered through pine and aspen groves along a river full of beaver dams and through a ghost town named, Tin Cup. We wanted to get out on foot and explore, but we realized we'd underestimated our fuel and felt compelled to keep moving while we still had daylight. When we stopped once, the Tahoe stuttered and stalled. It started up again and we thought it best to keep it rolling. We had gravity to our advantage as we were just beginning the descent down Cumberland Pass toward Taylor Park and, hopefully, gas. We carefully coasted all the way down the mountain switchbacks braking for the hairpin turns.

In spite of our anxiety over the possibility of running out of gas, we were in awe of the incredible views across the valley below. If we ran dry and had to walk down the pass it would be have been worth it just for the visual feast, I said to Robert. Of course, I was pretty confident we were close to the next patch of civilization. Plus I'd taken inventory of our assets: Two gallons of water, fruit, stale crackers, a tin of dark chocolate, three bottles of wine, a swiss army knife, and, Robert's George Brett baseball bat which we could use to fend off bears.

In Taylor Park Robert filled the tank to the tune of $70 dollars, that's how low we'd dropped. Of course we were all smiles now, having beat out bad fortune this time. I guess I could say we beat it twice: in the few miles before reaching our evening destination of Dillon, we hit a deer on the road. She leapt too late. We braked hard, but swiped her with the right corner of the Tahoe breaking the headlight. She scrambled away we think--it happened so fast and there was no opportunity to stop.

So, we are safe at rest in the Comfort Inn. Tomorrow, we'll stay off the roads and walk around the river at Keystone. Maybe Robert will golf. Then it's the long dull ride home across Kansas where the biggest danger is the fear of falling asleep.

Fine eats

After a quick visit to two wineries and a stop for fresh cherries at a fruit stand, we left Grand Junction for Aspen. We plan to stay overnight and then continue on towards home. Aspen is pretty, but I prefer the openness of Summit County. I like Keystone best the way it lies low in the valley along the Snake River. We have years of family memories there, so it is special to me.

Being deprived of American junk food after months in Baja, Robert and I are without much restraint. At every fuel stop I sampled some goodie or another. I started with a Dove Bar. Next stop it was a Big Hunk and then an Almond Joy (which I have the odd habit of biting off the almonds and tossing the rest). I even bought a Twinkie. I thought, "Oh, why not?" I took two bites and remembered why I didn't like them. Robert threw its twin out the window into the Nevada desert where he claims it will petrify.

In the culinary heaven of Aspen we say yes to everything: appetizers, salads, elegant entrees, wine, coffee, dessert. How lucky we feel. We should feel rich, but that's hard when rooms start in the hundreds and homes in the millions. The buzz here is over a recent cash purchase of a single home (on a lot of property, granted) that went for a record-breaking $47 million. On that subject Robert goes on and on about the amount of property taxes this new owner will be subject to. If they can afford the $47 mil, the taxes are probably not a huge consideration, I tease him. Besides, that's just more money in the public coffers to pay for things like the nice cobblestone streets and public art (like this bear made of nails I'm cuddling up to) and other toney amenities that we visitors to Aspen enjoy.

Oh, and it rained hard here this afternoon for about 30 minutes. The rain poured down in the constant sunshine (the best kind of rainstorm!) and created a double rainbow. Overall, Colorado is a nice change from what we left in Loreto.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On the road

We left Loreto Bay at 7:15 a.m. and Robert drove us all the way past San Diego to Temecula where we spent the night. Next morning, we headed north to Las Vegas. I hadn't seen Las Vegas since I was twelve and my parents took us to Circus Circus (why, I don't remember.) Much has changed. I can't say Vegas appeals to me--it just made for a convenient stop. I was expecting more glamour, but saw instead lots of "ugly Americans"--obese, tattooed, badly-dressed tourists waddling along the strip. I would have liked to see the ABBA-inspired, "Mamma Mia" production, but it doesn't play on Fridays. Every other show was sold out. The highlight: watching the magnificent fountain show from the balcony of a lounge at the Bellagio Resort. Hundreds of illuminated and pressurized jet water cannons erupting in time to "Singing in the Rain" made for great theater. It reminded me of synchronized swimming. Every cannon shot off in perfect precision to the music. The pressure behind each cannon had to be enormous to send the water hundreds of feet into the air. If I ever returned to Vegas it would be to see that spectacle again, otherwise, Vegas isn't for me. I didn't even gamble. I know I'd lose and I hate more than anything to lose in games of chance. I take it too personally, as if the fates are against me. I'd rather not know if they are. Vegas got enough of our money. It finds a way to charge for every little thing. We said no thanks to the ten dollar per person fee just to look at Ferraris for sale displayed in the Wynn hotel. Robert said the clerk told him admission is free if you show proof of already owning a Farrari. Oh, of course.

I complained too much and turned my nose (or held my nose) too much in Las Vegas. On the road I became a much kinder person as the landscape transformed from the dry desert to mountain plateaus of Utah and then the green meadows of Colorado. We stopped in Grand Junction for the evening and discovered its historic downtown with its abundance of public artwork (an ongoing sculpture invitational like I would have loved to see in my town back home) and ate at a place called, The Winery. Tomorrow, we may explore a bit, visiting what's called, the Monuments, and then some local wineries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So far

Every big and little thing is finally in its place in our casa chica. After the furniture unloading and then the unpacking and arranging we fell exhausted into bed hardly believing we were actually, finally, sleeping in our finished home. A beautiful little pueblo-style home now exists where marked wooden stakes and white string once defined our claim. Furnished, the house looks bigger, surprisingly. I'm anxious for Allison to see her room with its handpainted headboard depicting a treasure chest on a beach, brimming with jewels while a wooden ship sails in the ocean--thanks to some unknown Guadalajaran artist. Does he or she know the delight they create for others with these heirloom pieces? We have no window coverings yet, so we tackily hung assorted beach wraps to the windows with packaging tape. Everything seemed to fit together perfectly to make for a cozy little abode. I like to sit and admire the scene; I can study it endlessly, admiring the furniture details or the glow of low wattage lamps against the yellow ocher walls and gleaming saltillo tile floor. I get up to move a ceramic bowl to another better spot, or stack the books in more attractive order, occasionally scolding Robert for polluting my serenity by leaving junk on the dining table. After one day indulging me in my new-house intoxication, he announced that he'd invited a few people over for cocktails (Tecate and Tecate Light beer) and our little house with the extra big terrace was properly christened. At first everyone crowded into the air-conditioned cool of the house. Then the sun went down and everyone filtered out to the upper deck and the viewing tower.

Three nights in our house. That is all we get. Tomorrow we leave for home. Five full days on the road back to our real home, the one I've known for nearly my entire adult life. Last November we arrived in Loreto Bay for an extended vacation; a break from our routine life to watch our house and the village go up, and an opportunity for Robert to take it easy after his heart attack. Four months turned to nine and a new intention of continuing on another year with this experiment in life-style change. I came with an open mind; I didn't look at Loreto Bay as a resort-in-the-making, but as a community we wanted to be part of building. In truth, it's a long way from being resort, and it's not possible to forget you are in Mexico experiencing small-town living. There have been days I've spent enamoured with Loreto's simple pleasures along with the grand beauty of the ocean and the Sierra mountains; and there have been days I've been disgusted with what I saw as cultural shortcomings and unreasoned behaviors.

Mostly what I say about living here is that something interesting happens every day; something odd or unusual like seeing goats graze on the golf course or an ice cream vendor on a bicycle. Back home my life was continuously busy, but nothing much interesting happened. Here, in this long respite of leisure I find I have little to do but I see so much. In so many ways it's been the most interesting part of my life--so far.

We'll be back by September. For the next few days I will be out of touch and sure to suffer internet connectivity withdrawl. That is another subject entirely: The question of could I live in Loreto if there were no high-speed internet. It's said that air conditioning ranks in the top ten advancements to modern technology since it opened the door to greater development in hot climates. This may be true, but it's the internet that kept me going in Baja California.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Move-in day!

Well, we waited and waited to hear from the transport company on the arrival of our furniture. After Saturday passed we figured the crew was still in La Paz maybe partying a bit after the long ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez from the mainland. So we were very surprised when we got a call around noon today that the truck was in Nopolo looking for us. Of course, we were unprepared, with no help lined up. The transport company did not provide laborers, only drivers. Robert and I settled on the fact that we would be carrying in our own household. How lucky for us that we happened on a few friends on the way to our casa who were happy to help. Thank you Mike, Becky, and Rene.

Even though moving a household of furniture in 100 degree heat was laborious and nearly unbearable, it felt like the best Christmas ever to me. A truckload of furnishings and goodies just for me! I had designed and purchased these items on my trip to Tlaquepaque back in March and waited patiently for my house to be ready to take them. I was like a kid tearing into my presents. It was hard to be polite when we broke for lunch and the men popped open their third beer--I wanted to get back to my loot. There was a day's worth of unwrapping and moving to do and each item was so excuciatingly bound, so much snipping and pulling away of cardboard and tape. Oh, but the results! Beautiful. The handpainted pieces from Hecht Muebles are especially wonderful. I was pleased with all of it. Our little casa chica is on its way to being a home.

I'll post photos of the finished results later. Today was just moving and organizing. I'll let the pictures of my sweet Robert-in-action tell the story:

Friday, July 07, 2006

Still waiting

Nothing much happened today as we waited for our furniture to arrive. It didn't. Maybe manana...

Oh well, here's some nice photo of Puerto Escondido.
Double click to enlarge

A new residence

Sara, Lucy, and my daughter just left for the states. I dropped them off at the airport and came home to watch from the terrace as their jet took off. Loreto is small enough to see the airport control tower from the house and watch the planes come and go. The flight yesterday was cancelled due to some mechanical issue, so another plane was sent in today. Lately, it seems the air service out of Loreto has gotten less reliable. Planes are always late to arrive, late to depart.

Allison is travelling home ahead of us by plane so that we can make the long drive home without her. There is a lot of work to do in the next few days as we move into our new house. We started taking things over last night. The furniture is scheduled to arrive today by truck from Guadalajara. The truck is driven to the mainland coast, put on a ferry boat to La Paz and then driven to Loreto. As soon as we get everything moved in we will pack up and head home. Too bad we can't stay to enjoy our new little house, but the timing didn't work out. We'll go home for a few weeks and return in late August. It will still be hot, but Allison's school begins then.

I hate to leave, but then again, it is getting very hot and humid and the construction in the village is going full steam so there's too much noise and dust to contend with. When we return, hopefully it will be to a neighborhood clean and landscaped. I count nine months that we've lived here. Our long vacation turned into a life-style change with the new intention of a semi-permanent residence. Eighteen months ago we'd never even heard of Loreto, Baja California Sur. Now we are making another life here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

If it ends with cake....

I practically forgot it was Independence Day. This makes the first time I've been out of my country for the 4th. No fireworks, no sparklers. We laid low today escaping the heat. The girls swam a bit. Sara and I ran to town for a frappucino at Coffee Star, but it was closed for siesta time. We tried to kill a little time driving around town and down the Malecon and in search for Arturo's Mini-Market which everyone claims has the best produce, but I've never been able to locate. We looked and we looked and I finally began asking strangers in the street where to find it and no matter how carefully we listened and followed directions we could never find the place.

Seems townfolks forget to mention one small detail: Arturo's market is named Davis Rubio Mercado Yeah, it's painted in big black letters over the store, how could I miss it? Aggghhhh. I guess the locals are so familiar with each other there's no need to change signage when businesses change hands. It was frighteningly disappointing so we left with very little. As I was picking through the unripe tomatoes another customer said something to me about tomorrow being the day for better produce. Then the clerk repeated the advice so I inquired further to learn (I think) that every other day is the better day for produce. I guess I just need to learn the rhythm and jump in on the "YES" days. I did see, however, the biggest jar of maraschino cherries priced at over $18 US dollars. You take notice of the unusual; you never know when someday soon, you or someone you know will ask, "where can I find..."

So to the Pescador supermarket we went. Afterwards, siesta time over, we trolled by Coffee Star again. Closed. Cerrado. Poor Sara, her frappucino dreams dashed. She was as annoyed as we are when El Rey Del Taco is closed. We made up for it by having dinner at Mita's where the fish is excellent. The last time we were there I ordered my fish prepared with cilantro. Juan Carlos at first hesitated, maybe they had no cilantro, but he put a finger up to signal wait a moment, and pulled out his cell phone. We watched in suspense as murmured into his phone before suddenly announcing, no problem, the cilantro is on the way. Moments later, his son pulled up and raced to the back door to the kitchen with a small package.

Today, we learned, was Juan Carlos' birthday. When the mariachi's showed up, as they always do at most restaurants every evening, we had them sing to Juan Carlos. He deserves our praise not just for the cilantro thing, but for accommodating the one girl who wants spaghetti noodles with butter only, the other girl who wants them absolutely plain and could you bring a little Parmesan on the side and more bread please and could we split this salad between the three of us and could you serve this bottle of wine I brought in?

As we were finishing our meal a customer presented him with a large homemade cake and we were all offered a piece. So, no frappucino in the afternoon ends with free cake-all-around in the evening. Abundance follows lack. I like the fairness in that. The photo is from another day, of another cake, the one Cath helped Allison make for Father's Day.

School's out!

On the way to San Javier we stopped at this little chapel. The girls kneeled to say a prayer, or at least I'm sure that's what Allison was doing. No telling what she prays for, maybe: "Thank you, Our Lady of Guadalupe, that school is over." Lucy might be praying for a safe return back down the mountains. In fact the placement of this little chapel on the summit leads me to suspect its purpose was just that--a place to plead for safe journey.

The following day we went to the school's end ceremony to pick up Allison's report card. She was called up for a special achievement award for receiving high marks along with classmates Luis, and Fernando, that boy who pulled up her dress long ago. It was a tough year for her; us throwing her into a spanish-speaking school with zero preparation. Thank goodness she had her buddy, James, to help her navigate. He deserves an award for enduring Allie's constant little fingertaps to his back for help. Somehow, she made it through and is promoted to second grade. But for now it's adios school uniform and regulation hair ribbons.

I spy an Iguana

A Sonoran spiny-tailed iguana that lounged on a rock at the Mission.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mission detail

The weathervane atop of the belltower on the San Javier Mission

Sunday, July 02, 2006

See San Javier or....

We took Sara and Lucy to San Javier today. When you have guests it seems important that they see the Mission, even though the drive to get there is a killer--35 kilometers over narrow, sometimes treacherous washboard mountain passes. But, it's worth it, you say to each other, after setting eyes on the splendid baroque mission set in the oasis in the mountains. Though the architecture and its details are interesting, what you really hear yourself ask is, "What were those people thinking?"

The Jesuits believed in the power of impressive structures. But to believe something and really see it through to reality--wow. Somebody had to envision the plans, get the green light from superiors thousands of miles away; then coordinate the workers, clear the land, transport quarried rock from miles away, import interior decorations and artwork.

Besides being a more pleasurable trip than our first, (we were better prepared and in a better vehicle) there was the added bonus of recent rain to give the air a wonderful wet earth smell. We actually encountered puddles in the road after reaching Las Parras.

For all the driving, we only spent a small amount of time in San Javier. After you see the Mission that's it. Nothing much else. On the way back the girls kept us entertained with a game of "What would you rather?" It's a theoretical dare game with questions like, "Would you rather shave your head...or eat 3 pounds of liver and onions?" You learn a lot about a person. Now everyone knows I'd hang by my hair off a cliff before giving up glazed donuts.

Cat head

The sphinx-like cat head of the Sea of Cortez formed by Mother Nature. Bird poop adds the highlights.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Seeing what's out there

My sister-in-law, Sara, and my niece, Lucy, are here for a visit. We are trying to spend as much time as possible on the water. Thursday, we took a panga boat out to Coronado island. Allison's friend, James, and his mother came along, as well as Rafa, who manages the boat rentals and his daughter, Pearla. For James and Allie the trip was in celebration of the end of first grade. School ended early following a morning of "Social Labor" which involved each child helping to clean the premises with buckets and sponges. I think for the first graders it amounted to wiping their desks clean and washing down the classroom.

We spent today at the Inn at Loreto Bay alternately swimming in the pool and the ocean. The girls built sand castles decorated with things I found along the water: broken shells, two tiny dead crabs, seaweed for landscaping, and a dried fish carcass which they perched on top of a sand tower. Sara gingerly put her feet in the water and I knew why. She was concerned about stepping on a stingray. We'd warned her about the stingray shuffle--drag your feet a little to give warning to any burrowed rays. We didn't see any all day. No jellyfish either, thank goodness. Sara had heard the stingray stories from various people and was understandably cautious. Cath, my friend who came along on our panga ride, explained the first-aid procedure for stingray "bites" and we insisted she, being the experienced one, bring along the thermos of hot water to soak the venom out of the bite. I'd bring the tequila, the other suggested antidote.

I corraled and caught a puffer fish with a tiny sand bucket and we gathered to watch it expand with water till its little spines stood erect. When we let it go it listed a bit until it fully deflated and zipped away. A fellow that Robert knows strolled by with his chocolate lab, Franny, and her tennis ball. He stopped and let the girls throw the ball into to sea for Franny to fetch it up. As tenacious as Labradors are when it comes to fetching objects in the water, Franny showed some difficulty enduring each salty mouthful that came along with every fetch. Her owner said she was a bit fatigued; apparently, she is pregnant. Unfortunately, the father is a Jack Russell Terrier, he said. The offspring could be springy, chocolate-spotted puppies who love to swim and perform silly tricks like pulling off your socks; or they could have short-legged, shaggy-coated terrier bodies with giant Labrador heads. Come to think of it, they'd be in line with the typical Loreto dog of mismatched parts.

A panga boat pulled up to shore unloading young American fishermen with their haul of dorado. One man threw the catch one by one to his buddy who lined them up on the beach for photographing. The fish gleamed metallic green and blue in the sunlight. One that was still alive, opened its mouth for one last gasp before expiring. Then the fishing buddies posed for pictures, hoisting the fish by the tails into positions that demonstrated the great length of the dorado. Several were nearly four feet long. The buddies were very pleased with themselves and too preoccupied to pay much attention to our curiosity. Immediately, the fish were reloaded to the boat and the fishermen hurried off the the hotel.

We made an attempt to take the hotel kayaks out, but one by one the participants, (including two little friends who came along) dropped out. Allison realized her face was too sunburned and stung, another child grew too fearful as soon as we pushed off the shore, another, tired of the repeated delays and false starts, finally asked in Spanish to return to his mother. Only Lucy hung in there. She and her uncle Robert made it around the big rock to the estuary.

At the end of the day we were tired and waterlogged, but in great spirits. I couldn't think of another thing to possibly add interest to the day, but Sara and I managed to find one last impression to add to her experiences here. While driving back from Loreto for our frappacino run to Coffee Star, the Starbucks of Loreto, we saw a Mexican taking a whiz alongside the highway. Right there in the open. No car to hide behind, no attempt to find a bush, just him standing before God and afternoon traffic, peeing into the dry baja dust.