thirty nine steps I counted them …

Featured

THIRTY NINE STEPS, I COUNTED THEM

That’s on top of the five hundred and eighty nine steps I counted them… or rather my neighbor, Richard Hannay, told me at the beginning of his story that he had counted them, vertical and up the outdoor centuries old cobblestone road to the Casas on Privada Diego Joseph Abbad at the top of the hill, after and on top of five hundred and fifty to six hundred and fifty vertical stone steps and a number of lateral steps on the stone paved road we must climb from Calle Lerin to the Casa, which is on a private street called Privada Diego Joseph Abbad. Add another hundred and fifty steps on the mild incline from Plaza Vasco de Quiroga at the bottom to Calle Lerin on the way. El Burro is only five hundred steps to where El Burro is garaged. The street construction on the way to where we live is undrivable. We go down to Quiroga and climb back nearly every day, once or twice, usually in my case with a bottle of wine. A day without wine is indeed a day without sunshine here this month as the winter and cloud cover has kept temperatures here around 55. Due to El nino the winter temperatures in Maine are considerably higher than here! Also we climb carrying the groceries we get daily at the local Mercado, which are fresh, inexpensive and very good eating and are certainly heavier than those dumb  bells females mainly are seen striding along swinging their arms with in the US. The walk with groceries is probably the best thing that ever happened to us, although we did not plan it that we would have this walk.

DSC00035 DSC00029 DSC00028 DSC00005 DSC00004 DSC00003
We meet or pass some ten to twenty people climbing or descending on the way usually, and some thirty or so workers laying stones, making cement and positioning and laying stones in the road way which will be the street to our home. It seems remarkable. Grandmothers and grandfathers, my age, blankets around their shoulders and of indigenous origins, and young mothers carrying babies, with their other children in tow, aren’t troubled at all by the long climbs. And of course we walk along through the road work of the young laborers, paid daily five to seven dollars if I guess right. often in baseball caps and T Shirts announcing New York. What is remarkable is everyone without exception is cheerful and salutes with a buenos tardes or buenos dias. This is indeed a very cheerful and accepting place.

It is good personally to be free of running a business or equivalents of wage slavery (a lot better as it is than having no work). Perhaps I feel less guilty as again if I got it right the retirement age when some government help kicks in is fifty five in Mexico.

But on vacation we are now still slaves to the digital age. Both la Esposa’s and my credit cards for some reason stopped being accepted at ATMS and, Travellers Checks or checks no longer being acceptable, we had to change the few US dollars we had held in reserve at no a very good rate for pesos to keep going. Then the phone got hijacked somehow by Mexcell, or else it just got stircrazy and refused to roam, and would only say Google has stopped working. Overall fixing the problems took at least three days on the phone and trouble shooting.

Why Google has anything to do with an ATT phone I still don’t get. Fortunately we had just bought a local Mexico Internet connection for the laptop (which unless you take a day to study up on how to get around the default, taps into the local search engines only, meaning Google speaks Spanish unless, despite translation possibilities, you take a day to figure a way out of this default), the Internet provider had required, (even though we had a US ATT cell phone with $30 a month Mexico coverage), as part of the Internet package, that we hook up a land line. Meaning we had to buy a land line phone. Earlier we had declined to buy a phone. Now I raced around town to find one and bought it! There was no accessible local help.The local digital folks and bankers did not speak English and to the extent they did denied any responsibility. We reached both ATT and the Bank of America International help services, however, and their help was just great. They were 24-7 available and excellent at fixing and trouble shooting, although neither seems yet to have figured the source of the problems which are partially fixed and on which we are still working.

HOW MY CAR BECAME PART OF A COLLECTIVO ETC

HOW MY JEEP BECAME COLLECTIVO AND WAS RESCUED

They are very good people, Mexicans, In a very sweet way they work together and it is hard to deny them. And they know the lesson of surviving by helping one another. El Burro needs an oil change and has been making increasingly loud noises from the rear in a high register which La Esposa hears but I deny exist due to my finely tuned hearing aids. It seems convenient for new friend, who is courageous enough to drive a coca cola truck through the mountains for his work, to fix or take to his friend who deals with frenos to check out. It is local and my experience with dealerships has been not so good before we left.

So the collective picks up El Burro and changes the oil for us, gas filter allegedly but I don’t think so, air filter but it seems to be a bit expensive and it seems to me and for reasons I can’t figure out in Spanish conversation we are being billed for twice. The real issue is the noise, ruida, which they say is the brake sensor but sensors as far as I recall don’t make noise. It is the back brakes we keep saying that need attention when our friend says it is the front brakes and looking at our book on the car points out something incomprehensible to the layman. He is about to take El Burro to his friend to take the wheels off manyana to see which brakes it is so we are going to leave the car with our new friend.

We really like our new friend and do not distrust him but feel probably we are putting pressure on him to please us. It is hard to know a lot of things. La esposa persuades me that night that we should go to the dealer because it is the back she is sure the noise came from, and I am also in agreement. So next cay we make an appointment with Pepe or Paco at the dealership and drive the car to Morelia some thirty miles away and leave it at the dealer on Calle Lazaro Cardinez. I call up the next day to speak with Paco at the Jeep dealership at Lomas Las Americas and Secursal Calle Lazaro Cardinez, in Morelia, the address given on the bill from last trip and where I called. When we arrive, they welcome us and we are to be in contact the next day. My notes say Paco is the guy to call, same guy we dealt with a couple of years ago, but his name was actually Julio, which I don’t remember. After the vehicle has been there at the dealership a day and night, I call for Pepe, quite sure that is the name. They suggest it is Paco. “Who?” “Paco. “We will find him.” Paco: “What? Yes, I am at Lazaro Cardinez dealership. I remember you but we have no vehicle. We have no Grand Cherokee.”

I double check. I am calling the right number. I know very well I brought the vehicle in! Maybe I talked with Pepe? And Paco is saying, “Yes, maybe it is Pepe.”

After several calls, and mixed up conversations in the nature of the Mexican phrase, Revuelto or Revuelta, meaning something between bent and or scrambled, I figure out Paco or Pepe remembers me from the call to set up an appointment, but not from being there before. I am calling the right number, but is the wrong place, at the wrong end of Lazaro Cardinez.

It is the other dealership I had been to before and left the car at this time as well, but not the same dealership I had set up the appointment with this time and which I had called to findout if the car was ready and been told there was no such car. “That is what I told you from the beginning,” says La Esposa. We ask the phone number for the other dealership, which Pepe or Paco or whoever he is does not know. Instead whatever his name is offers to be our interpreter with the other dealership.

We call on our own and reach finally Julio who is the person we dealt with two years ago and this year when we left the car off as it turns out, but not the one I made an appointment with, which explains, says La Esposa why they were surprised this year when we arrive with El Burro. Julio’s dealership is, like Paco’s either on or near Lazaro Cardinez, the same street, but the other end. I am relieved that, Yes they have the car and not so happy to hear, it is the rear brakes and they are all screwed up. We have El Burro back from the Collectivo, sweet guys as they in fact are, and a major bill to pay ahead and we feel more secure.

And yes we signed up for Spanish lessons today.

the Virgin of Guadelupe

THE VIRGIN OF GUADELUPE

We arrived in Patzcuaro in time for December 8, a festive day of the Virgin of Guadelupe, a particularly Mexican saint of which much is written among other places on the Internet, who stands high above the Altar in the dome of the Vasco de Quiroga Basilica, which along with side chapels has many golden niches in which Jesus, in various stages of his life, saints, monks, and some others are presented in full relief.

Our friends took us to the 4 AM to 8 AM Service, about 3:20 AM so we could get a seat after a bit of hot fruit Ponche outside, made by indigenous women. The noise from Town of drumming and a local variety of rock music downtown, which broke for an occasional thirty seconds now and then, pretty much assured we stay up all night, as far as I can figure, along with the whole town, the night before.

This mass is specially for protection of health during the coming year, healing and travel. An entire drum and bugle corps started the ceremony and then a full Mariachi band joined in, assisted by a lot of firecrackers outside.

Indigenous people from the surrounding Pueblos, among others, come to the service, apparently some walking three miles or more, and the Basilica was filled to full capacity, not even standing room, before long, the entrances of various groups sometimes heralded by balloons, drums or other festivity. I am told that the layering of Roman Catholicism of Mary, mother of God, onto the local earth or maize Goddess is a fact and the maize Goddess retains significance among the indigenous.

As I remember from years ago, the Mexican churches are very welcoming and open, children play, and many folk sit at or walk to and around the altar. A goodly number of women and some males prostrate themselves and walked the aisle on their knees to the chancel around the altar throughout the service. One stately very straight backed woman with ancient features as if out of Mongolia is clad with a floor length green cape hand embroidered with golden stars. The faith and music is touching and eventually brings tears to my eyes. I am unchurched but think the Virgin of Guadelupe is also called Stella Maris, the star who guides sailors and mother of God who intercedes even for non Roman Catholics over seas, but what I don’t know is immense. This perhaps reflect that I don’t undertand more than a few words in the service.

Only one local dog showed up for the service but seemed to have an excellent time strolling about. After the service, very impressive horses, ridden by local Vaqueros pranced and danced in front of the Basilica and Mummers some eight feet or twelve feet tall also danced outside and then into the Basilica. A second mass under the supervision of the junior priest was about to begin.

THE PASSAGE OF TIME

THE PASSAGE OF TIME – December 2015

The friends we made were not, of course, Pancho Villa and Emilio Zapata, the great pictured heroes of Mexican history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But forty five years ago, when I visited Mexico first, I recall drinking in the Cantinas with Mexicans dressed in the same customary white pants and shirt, instead of the brand named shirts and caps of today, and who wore sombreros not baseball caps.

Forty five years ago there was still the el paseo, where eligible young Mexican women, walked around El Zocalo and young men passing the other way could greet them and sit chaperoned on the side of the square and talk. The beauty and attraction of the deep eyed, dark skinned, long black haired and essentially modest young women of Mexico has not changed although with Western dress today it is even more apparent. (La Esposa says something along the same lines about Mexican males)

… Then there was no war on drugs as it exists today, and I could go with friends, made playing chess in the Zocalo, into the countryside where freshly picked psylocibe mushrooms, the root network of which can spread as many as five miles under ground, could be eaten This in a society that is probably considerably less drug oriented than the U.S. These substances are reported to have been around since the earliest times. Those varieties activated by psyilocybins are reported to have been used in every Mesoamerican civilization as a spiritual ally. The realizations in the realm of non ordinary reality they may induce today, as then, are extraordinary. Indeed, scientific studies are being published today corroborate the physical and mental benefits these substances can potentiate. Yet now in the US even more than forty five years ago, the conventional wisdom seems deaf and blind to the dimension of knowledge psilocybin experience reveals. Conversation here suggests that the proposition is more easily accepted in Mexico that that the stories associated the psylocibin experience viewed as science fiction today will be the science of tomorrow…

There is a difficulty today in keeping current with this blog, now that we have already arrived in the mountain town of Patzcuaro, Michoacan. We are above 7,000 feet over sea level here at Patzcuaro, We are again experiencing the Shangri la atmosphere of this magical place. What came before, the earlier weeks blend together. … Being here is enough. Why write?

Getting here was a worthy challenge. On the way, we were 8,000 feet above sea level, making drives which tested our intestinal fortitude.

During the day when we had threaded our way down the Mountain Route 175 from San Jose to the Pacific we had an incredible fish soup in Pachutla, the larger inland town of which Puerto Angel is a part, a large market town, active and bustling. One had to be careful to pick the small bones out.

I am told that Puerto Angel surely is not what it was twenty years ago, let alone forty five years ago, but it remains much as it was two years ago, and a place I would recommend and to which I will return.

The first night in Puerto Angel, we stayed for $400 pesos one night in Hotel Seroya in the center of town in a lovely suite overlooking the harbor of Puerto Angel, and had great meals at the two beach restaurants on Playa Pantheon which is on one side of the fishing harbor and a lovely beach. We were the only people there except one Italian student. The tourists do not arrive in mass until winter.

After a one night stay at Hotel Saroya, in Puerto Angel we confirmed our old landlord there whom we had contacted earlier of our arrival. He had led us to believe the house on the road to the lighthouse would be available. We found out it was not. So he rented us quarters for one week at Zipoleti Beach, the biggest beach and the one for which Puerto Angel is known. Our first day in our new quarters, after the night of a new moon, (when, as is their habit I gather) el scorpion looking for a mate, greeted us. We are informed that ordinarily they are scared to go outside when the moon light is strong.

Somehow during the week we remained in Puerto Angel El Scorpio’s possible reappearance interfered with our sleep, which was still scarce enough. Even at the beach for a week, the prior months and years of the protestant work ethic in which we lived left us with an unshakable subliminal apprehension that if we enjoyed an afternoon siesta, for example, the sleep police from Estados Unidos would not onlhy not save us but would arrest us because we were or might turn into something undesirable.

The tide continues to thunder in relentlessly at Zipolete, one of the many, many miles long Mexican Pacific beaches, and the sun continues to fade each evening into a horizon of blue grey clouds and a pale orange sky. Swimming at Zipoleto, especially when the surf was down, was much superior to but something like having a warm bath in a really giant outdoor jacuzzi. On the beach, a traveling vendor, having with a swift chop of the machete decapitated the head of a coconut and in my presence added rum to the juice that filled the inside of the coconut, had little difficulty getting me to purchase for far too steep a price a coco loco.

Again our beach of choice to swim at was not Zipolite but the much smaller cove of Esta Cahuite which is on a side road to the road into Puerto Angel and where, aside from some cavorting Mexican youth, a young Spanish artist on vacation and no others shared the beach with us. Today unlike during the past visit we made, the road from the highway down to Estacahuite has construction on both sides, potential new homes or hotels. I fear we have seen the best of this treasured secret.

Having unconsciously gritted my teeth and clenched my jaw during the mountain driving, consequences followed that made me bless readily available Excedrin, on which I lived thereafter for a full week.

Notable to us in Puerto Angel is the now newly completed Cell Tower near El Faro – the light house – at a house on the road to which two years ago we had stayed. Internet Service, Cell Phones and the Internet are now as common in much if not all Mexico as in the U.S. Times have changed and are changing at an exponential rate.

On the seventh day, we left Puerto Angel, and drove North along the Pacific Coast toward the busy port of Lazaro Cardinez in Michoacan province. We were planning to stay in Puerto Escondido and then Zijuatenao before making the last leg of the trip inland to Patzcuaro, but – after driving through both Pacific towns – stayed at neigherdid not. There were hotels and each was on the ocean. But one got the impression each was greatly over developed… Lots of traffic, lots of building, lots of houses… One wonders what the impact of over population, over fishing and the tourism of which we are a part may be for the fragile coast line. Inadvertantly we also drove through Acapulco, along the beach highways, lined by high rise resort hotels, at this time of year seemingly without clients. I imagine it is a lot like Miami.

After finding Zijuataneo not to our taste (which may be biased and uninformed), we thought to stay at the next coastal town, Ixtapa. We found again a long stretch of new road, remindful of Huatulco, the government national resort in Oaxaco where we spent a night two years ago, and again there were many high rise resort hotels stretching along roads to invisible beach.

We drove on. Interestingly, along the stretch in one small town, evidently devoted to oil production, there were a couple of road signs for “Neuroticos Anonymous.” We thought we would fit right in but did not have time to stop.

The coastal road from Acapulco to Puerto Angel frequently declares, in large signs featuring the Gobernor, it is being improved (meaning presently changes with no discernible rationale from two lane paved road to one lane dirt road) so probably before long, the road will be an easily driveable.

One of the two evenings we spent on the next leg of our journey, from Puerto Angel up the Coast from the Province of Oaxaco, through the Province of Guerrero, to Michoacan Province and to the Town of Patzcuaro – we stayed at one Hotel Munez in Magdelana. We had no idea where to stay but it was in town, along the route, and one that if we stayed at, we could avoid night driving. La Esposa asked the woman on the upstairs front escarpment of the hotel how much for a room. Two Hundred and Fifty Pesos the owner replied, so we drove in. Her son came out and showed me a room on the bottom floor, but with an unmade bed and obviously recently occurpied. I did not ask him the probable hourly rate but asked in halting Spanish, “Have you not even got a clean room?” The owner quickly came downstairs and showed us to the second floor, which had highly polished floors and was very clean, and a room with a king size bed, a TV, airconditioning, and good furnishings. We took the second floor room – same price.

The next evening, as we drove onward North along the Pacific, again we kept on too long and it got too dark comfortably to drive further. We did not want to drive at night and we did not want to have to stay in the big port town of Lazaro Cardinez. We opted to stop at the first town we could. Soon on the side of the highway, a sign on a large Archway announced that this was the entrance to the Town of Marqueza. Nearby was a police station, and a bus stop. Under and beyond the Arch an unpaved road stretched darkly into the night. A Truck driver who spoke some Inglese told us there were two hotels down that road where we could find the town, but who, thinking we guess that we were Acapulco types, allowed they were nothing we would want to stay in,. We said we did not care how big the hotel was. Eventually when we arrived in the town, no one seemed to know of a hotel. I think Posada is the word I needed. Eventually a gentleman walking down the street indicated in Espagnol that indeed there was a hotel some number of streets up the hill and some number or blocks to the right or was it left?

After driving up the hill and in a number of circles from one edge of town to the other, we found a tattered sign leading into the yard of the Hotel Texas, where a very friendly and enterprising young woman showed us a few rooms, one for $200 and one for $300 pesos a night, the latter of which had air conditioning. The owner’s smiling young son showed us our room, (which was cheerfully painted in colors of watermelons and of the ocean), turned on the hot water, and gave us a padlock for the door. I felt like discussing with him the Indian movie, the Very Best Marigold Hotel, but we shared not much language in common and I don’t think he quite fit the projection I was making onto him of the movie’s protagonist. We had a good night’s sleep.

Progressing from the Hotel Texas on the final leg of the trip to Patzcuaro, we reached a new Cuota, or modern toll highway just before Lazaro Cardinez, which leads inland from the Coast up to the Michoacan cities of Uruapan, Patzcuaro and Morelia. This highway is not yet clearly on the map This new autopista so called makes the trip from the coast inland to Patzcuaro, a drive through beautiful mountainous and lake country side, a trip easily done in less than a day. As we progressed, we noticed both a very large electro power plant nestled in the hills and also the beginning of pine forests out of which most of the houses in Patzcuaro are built.. After the earlier perilous mountain driving, I much appreciated the new road on this stretch, but also selfishly fear the ready availability of travel to Patzcuaro it brings.

While some of the journey to date seems to have been just hard work, long driving and tedium, it has also been amazing. For example, while to us, Zijuatenayo and Escondido, seem now to be but charming seaside places of yesterday, we also passed along the way and did not explore many new unknown hidden beaches we could have, by driving fifteen or twenty miles off on unmapped side roads to the Pacific, probably found small villages and as yet undiscovered beaches. And every day, hearing and attempting to get along in the unfamiliar Spanish tongue makes what may be hum drum interesting. As has been noted in the history of music, the nature and structure of the romance languages carries with it an emotional and romantic content very different from the Germanic and English languages to which as an American I am accustomed. …