Monkey Business

There are three excellent representative Bloggers of the Pátzcuaro area of Mexico; “On the Road to Patzcuaro,” “the unseen moon” and “My Mexican Kitchen”. If you are not reading their Blogs you are missing out.

In any case the point being they cover Patzcuaro very well and I do not portend to be able to do better. I am going to hog-in to their territory here for a few minutes.

It all started when our friends Ian and Lisa, a local couple with rare restaurant talents, were forced out of their beach-side rental home after a series of foibles that included closing their restaurant(s). We will not go into the ugly details here.

Suffice it to say there was a sell-off to reduce a large inventory of restaurant related items including appliances, tools of the trade and decorations etc. We are talking MAJOR sale(s) here. And if you have been reading along for any amount of time you know the Calypso Couple loves a sale!

With the advent of yet another home needing supply to boot – we bought like crazy: toaster oven, Presto pressure cooker, authentic Chinese gong, basket lamp shades with wiring, a marvelous copper serving tray, a propane tank and regulator, A Diane Kennedy cookbook and an elegant architectural book on “Outdoor Rooms”, and a HUGE 19 cubic feet refrigerator, glasses, more irresistible dishes, a vase, a hotel counter bell, plastic bowls and much, much more.

Lisa threw in a brand new bottle of CinZano vermouth. The elixr dates back to 1757 and the Turin herbal shop of two brothers, Giovanni Giacomo and Carlo Stefano Cinzano, who created a new “vermouth rosso” (red vermouth) using “aromatic plants from the Italian Alpsin a [still-secret] recipe combining 35 ingredients (including marjoram, thyme, and yarrow)”

But the pièce de ré·sis·tance was a sale featured life-sized Chuspata (Bullrush), wicker-like, monkey! Be still my collectors heart. This was not going to be easy to obtain what with its featured status and stern admonishment, the ad read:

“The very clever life size statue of a monkey which sat in the Tiki bar made out of reed twisted over steel armature then varnished. He is wonderfully posed sitting with his tail curved over his shoulder. Very Arch Digest decor. [price withheld to protect the guilty] not a peso less he is fabulous a stunning piece.”

This monkey (in Spanish chango) had been their “Tiki Restaurant” mascot, and a rather fine example of the work of a famous Pátzcuaro area artist Mario Lopez Torres. His is a fascinating story that can be read here in detail.

Mario Lopez Torres’ pieces are elegant and our new friendly primate is no exception.

Our new CHANGO mascot prominently sitting on our display case.

 

Our thrift store and garage sale jones usually only filled by a visit north of the Rio Bravo was greatly appeased this week. Stay Tuned!

The Egg and I

Were it not for eggs the Calypso Couple would be full on vegans. Instead we cheat with a bit of butter (the real stuff not Mexican butter), a smattering of cheese, shoe leather, and chief offender the egg. Eggs are at the top of the list of our infractions. It is not as if we are killing the chickens – we do not partake in that crime.

Our next-door neighbors at our newly acquired casa raise some very healthy looking free range chickens. (More on the new casa soon). These eggs are jumbos. Preventing the lid to be secured on a conventional egg carton – lovely things.

Neighbors Lovely Eggs. Are they not beauties?

And the best part is a dozen cost $1.67 usd Probably half of what they would cost at Whole Foods Stores (if you could get them and certainly not plucked from the chickens nest the day you buy them).

There are several local haunts where I get hot hand-made tortillas with scrambled eggs and a bit of cheese – yum!  Two Comedors or in English dining areas right next to each other on the main highway (200) at the entrance of our Hood. Anita’s and Lili’s Comedors both produce a nice scrambled egg and cheese torta.

Highway 200 Street Side Kitchen Cafe

And Right Next-Door – My favorite Anita’s

A recent discovery even though it has been here all along is the Comedor across the street from Lili’s and Anita’s Comedors, the pirate ship juice and sandwich bar. Yes they fly the pirate flag on their beached boat.

 

There is a pirate’s flag at the top of the mast – really.

Comedor Country juice bar

Reasonably Priced Menu

For 25 pesos they make a terrific large huevo sandwich – The homemade chipolte sauce (or habanero pepper for the daring) tops it off. And for a whopping $1.35 usd What a deal!

Did I mention we are buying Hass avocados for 50 cents U.S. a pound right now. Ah VIVA MEXICO!

Ready to use!

Gotta love it. Stay Tuned!

Suck It Up

One of the hazards of beach living is the scorpion. Last year we had more than 15 during our 6 months here. So far things are a bit slower this year – maybe the more rain days? Or just blind luck.

Our experience has led us to believe these ugly things have no interest in biting humans – they are not aggressive in that way. If you get bit it will probably be because you got your hand or foot too close. For example a person might be gathering clothes out of the hamper and engage one.

Regardless of aggressive qualities these are terrible looking creatures and having been bit once I can attest to a painfully unpleasant experience.

This year we have seen several high up on our walls. We suck them up with the vacuum and leave it out to roast in the sun. There will be those that suggest heartlessness – so be it. I have no mercy for them. I still remember well the mordida. (Photos taken today).

Stay Tuned!

Malibu or Puerto It is Beachy

Sunrise in Puerto

We live a few hundred yards from the same beach and ocean the folks in Malibu, California enjoy – the very same – just at the south end – next stop being Antarctica.

Looking at the real estate market in Malibu, we notice many stars have been trying to unload their multi-million-dollar digs there. Actually they buy and sell Malibu property amongst themselves a lot.

Yes, Malibu beach-and-hill-country getaway for celebs and rich folk up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles is pretty comparable to here in Puerto Escondido. We often comparison shop real-estate values to there.

Cher’s Malibu mansion had been for sale since 2008, when she listed it for $45 million. Then reducing the asking price to $41 million. A couple of years ago Beyonce bought it. I had no idea she made that kind of money even with Jay Z – yikes!

Many star estates are still on the market, and probably will be for some time to come. Especially Leonardo DiCaprio’s pad. He wants $23 million for his three-house beachfront Malibu “compound” (which sounds better than it looks — apart from the beach view). “I bought it from Leo DiCaprio” just doesn’t add enough caché to make it worth $23 million.

Why are the movie stars leaving Malibu?”

Apparently Leo was not happy about the proletariat being allowed on the beach near his casa. The state and local authorities have been aggressively enforcing the general public’s right to frolic on the beaches That does not appeal to many of the rich and famous in the colony. They did not pay tens of millions of dollars to share a beach with a truck driver and his family that drove over from the Valley. I should mention here Mexico has similar laws regarding the general public’s right to use the beach common.

We do live next-door to an exclusive guarded community where many government officials and their families enjoy some pretty secured privacy tight up to the sand. I have mentioned that ex prez Vicente Fox’s daughter is our neighbor – although we have not borrowed a cup of sugar from her as of yet.

Why are the movie stars leaving Malibu?” So we can move on from this.

“… because the state and local authorities have been aggressively enforcing the general public’s right to frolic on the beaches. ”

The beaches of Malibu can be crowded with well over a million people on a hot holiday afternoon. When you consider Malibu has an official full-time population (including the full-time celebrities who are part-time Malibuites) of only about 13,000, that’s a lot of strangers strolling on the strand.

A Malibu Crowd

But that battle over beachfront homeowners’ right to privacy versus the general public’s right to access public property has been ongoing for the better part of a century, so that certainly isn’t the only reason celebs are selling off their Malibu properties.

Here in Puerto the Calypso couple stay out of the fray during holidays. We become home bodies. The crowds dot the beach with assurance they will be gone soon enough. We think the greatness of beach living is worth this inconvenience.

In Malibu up in the hills on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway, there are frequent devastating wildfires in the dry season engulfing mudslides in the wet season. We do not have that in Puerto just the occasional street flooding here and there.

And all over Malibu there are sewage problems because the municipality operates solely on septic tank systems (to discourage large-scale development) instead of a sewage pipe and treatment system.

As well as endless, ongoing problems for individual homeowners, the septic mess has also led to an ocean contamination problem, especially in Malibu Lagoon where Malibu Creek empties out a stew of polluted water. The lagoon has recently been “rehabilitated”  but in the late ’90s, a number of surfers — at least five — died from water-borne diseases they contracted while surfing in the area. Yikes – no pollution deaths here. But we have minor problems in that area.

Speaking of pollution, there is endless sensory pollution along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), where every fast-food chain in the world has outlets crammed in between gas stations and “beach” bars. And, of course, the highway itself is a constant, ceaseless traffic jam.

Other than the occasional convenience store OXXO we do not have that.

But the real reason movie stars are leaving Malibu is because that’s what movie stars do.

They make lots of money entertaining us and then they buy ridiculously priced properties all over the world with that money (often as an “investment”). They visit their properties occasionally — more often in Malibu, because of its proximity to LA, than in Maui or Mauritius — and then they become bored or dissatisfied with the properties or their financial advisers advise them to unload the “investment” or an ex-spouse gets the property (or cash equivalent) in a divorce settlement or whatever.

Puerto Sunset

Puerto Escondido is not included in that. I think there is one famous old Mexican actor housed just down the road from our casa – but no stars about here. And that is OK with us.  After all this is Puerto Escondido (English: “Hidden Port”).  Stay Tuned!

Season for Cost of Living Comparisons

The beginning of each year the Bloggers often write about cost of living issues as many of the annual fees come due or are paid. Couple that and the fact an increasing number of people are packing their stuff and heading to other countries where the cost of living is cheaper. It is no surprise that the number of expats is at record highs. By next year, it is expected to reach almost 57 million.

The Calypso Couple is in their eleventh year of Mexico Living. It is not a perfect life, but we are confident in the fact our cost of living has been reduced with a Mexican lifestyle.

For starters we left $5,000 of annual fees to live in the great state of Colorado (property taxes, State income tax, automobile fees and utilities etc.). Five K is no small factor in a retirees retirment financial package, and it was even more ten years ago than now – those numbers have surely risen.

We currently pay more annual taxes on a city lot in Kingman, Arizona than we pay fees for three houses, two motorcycles and a car in Mexico!

The general concensus is it is 120 percent cost of living compared to Mexico at 100 percent. I am sure this is higher in the outlying areas of Mexico and suggest our difference is more like 33 percent less expensive in our situation – so one-third less to live the same quality of life (or better) here in Mexico. Look at utility bills, car expenses, food cost whatever if you must,THAT is the bottom line. A good one!

Stay Tuned!

In Case You Did Not Notice

Today the peso is exchanging 18 plus for 1 U.S. dollar – wow! Inflation is happening and in some mysterious ways

Up, Up and Up!

Food portions and demand tipping are being bandied about on the local forum. The Calypso Couple, not restaurant bon vivants by any stretch, have even noticed. Dan’s Deluxe use to serve quite a helping of potatoes with their morning eggs – no more. Down the boardwalk a ways Fish Taco has reduced nearly to half their fish tacos.

“Fish Taco adding service charges to their bills?”

And apparently these eatery entrepreneurs have learned from their suppliers (say Nabisco for example) a reduction in the quantity of ingredients, of course altering the size of a cookie or cracker, is a price increase that may not get noticed. Tuna canned at 170 grams of actual edible volume now declare in small print 140 grams.

‘”teeny-tined” their signature shrimp tacos, from a 4-inch tortilla down to what looks like about 2.5-inches, same price.

We had a total of 3 tacos and two beer. The food was pretty good as usual but the service was barely passable. The bill came to around $190 [pesos] and I left $220 altogether. Later on, I found out that the bill of $190 already included a 10% service charge. Now, in el Norte it is customary to add a service charge on bills for larger parties of say over eight people and I know some of the “higher end” restaurants in town such as Pascale and Espadin also include a service charge in their bills. For a taco joint to start including service charges would be a deterrent for me to go back especially when the service was so-so. I really should be looking at my bills more carefully. Also, since adding a service charge is more an exception than standard practice around here, it may be a good thing for these restaurants to inform the customers of the inclusion.

Considering how fat everyone seems to be getting on both sides of the border –  smaller portions could be a good thing – all still subversive and including a tip (not generous at 10%) within the check is divisive, and  it may even be on the back of the check almost hidden – you may tip twice unbeknownst.

The latest twist, “the suggested tip.” Our local magazine editor reminds, “It’s against Mexican law to add a service charge to the bill, thus it must be presented…as a “suggested tip” that you may choose not to pay.”

So instead of having an option to reward service quality or maybe escape with a low tip running short that time becomes a matter of having to subtract pesos from an already totaled bill – hmm.

The times they are a changing – “Separate checks please!”

Stay Tuned!

Looking Ahead
Going Straight in Mexico

When you are retired you may still experience a bad day now and again. But a bad week. Not supposed to happen! I had a bad week – really bad!

It should be noted stressed just how important a computer is to a well adjusted foreign environment. No matter where you are – there you are – with your computer. It boots you up into friendly skies, albeit virtual, whether you are in Singapore, Houston, New York or Baltimore – you’ve got a friend.

Consider being in a strange land and your trusty laptop or notebook or god forbid your iPhone Six dies. Blue screen. Black screen, Black and blue screen – OMG!

My practice has been to get a new computer every four years. I am passing a little more than two and a half years with my current laptop. It is way too young to be replaced in the scheme of all things Calypso. And it is chock full of my life by this time.

Banking, recipes, books, music, guitar lessons, movies, television shows, mucho personal mail, tax records, immigration filings etc.

OK I do have much of it backed up. But, truly I was not prepared for reassembling my computer life from a host of outboard hard drives – ugh! Not at all. And on what would I rebuild that life? I had visions of making a quick trip to the U.S. as an only option to put my virtual life back together. That is a young man’s sport – not mine.

Who is in control here? I am too old for this!

I wrote about my new digital camera that Ron and Roxanne were so very kind to provide by way of a Seattle address and then mule it and a small digital recorder here to me just after New Years.

In anticipation during the month of December a plan hatched. A plan with dire consequences.  

I began a search for software to edit video including a methodology to mix sound with pictures – I mean I was a star sound mixer in another life – this was going to be a blend of a flash from the past and moving forward into new technology. Oh how there was palpable excitement in the air, consuming much of my December; I was like a kid expecting his first two-wheeler for Christmas.

Confession is Good for the soul heart and other body and mind parts. To keep this short. I installed some virus laden bootleg software to feed the anticipation of the new gear and life project. 

Beach Communication Central had been invaded!

We are talking a vicious viral mired attack. Oh it was ugly dear reader – everything went to black. A six day war; 20 hour work days; staring into a uncooperative, adversarial 32 inch Samsung monitor, that was staring back – black and heartless. I came to the edge of the abyss and made an attempt to reinstall Windows 7. After a couple of those 20 hour days it was looking bad.

Eventually I ignored false screen warnings – shut it all down and finally we righted the ship. It was as if our mast righted itself from a near fatal barrel roll. A respite from the cyber technology that had been sizzling my brain and soul.

It was determined that this was probably retribution from a victimized software developer(s). I read several analysis reports indicating my machine possessed bootleg programs and files. Someone out there was getting all this.They devised a painful payback.

Guilt ridden and exhausted I relented and cleaned every program or file that had not been paid for in full – deleted – purged from my life. I would be determined from this day forward to not go through another nightmare like that. I was going straight!

How guilty are we of possessing stolen software, music, or cheap Mexican DVD’s etc.? You know when you do get hit by these reciprocity seekers that no one will feel sorry for you – you did after all steal their stuff. Right is right.

I could toss out there some massaged logic wrong thinking. Instead I will move on from all this – a better person? Maybe.

I do warn you all that the war is intensifying. The developers are learning more and more ways to invade your precious little devices. You do not own the programs – read the fine print that you always just click right through when you are installing this stuff.

“The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom.” —Montaigne

I will have to tell you about the terrific FREE digital video editor program I installed. Did some fun stuff already. Stay Tuned!

Because You Asked

A reader asks, “Is it feasible for a single English speaking N American with virtually no Spanish speaking ability to spend and enjoy extended time (couple months or longer) in Puerto? How easy or difficult would it be to function in a satisfactory manner? Certainly if I were to stay any longer I would desire to get some quality language training. But….. initially????

There are variables in that question that could be complicated when addressed in detail. That disclaimed: Because Puerto is a vacation destination foreigners are better served than in some areas of Mexico. The short answer is I would guess you could function with a level of confidence towards getting around – lodged, fed and entertained.

This is a two edged sword in that when a Mexican National (MN) sees a visitor, many automatically assume they will NOT comprehend what they say – thus Spanglish does not go as far as it might in areas less visited by foreigners.

Many MN will be patient and may even appreciate an awkward effort to communicate in their language – so do not hesitate to make best effort.

Many restaurants and even small markets may be ran by foreigners – again making the vacation destination an easier go of it. Most restaurants offer bi-lingual menus here about.

I have lived here in Mexico for ten plus years. In honesty my Spanish is not much more than first year high school capability. The more common words will collect in the head as time goes on – even for a blockhead with no foreign language skills.

Anita speaks pretty good Spanish with the added advantage of looking Latino (because she is). But most seem to know she is not a MN – even before she speaks. Perhaps green eyes and being taller than most MN hombres is a dead give-away?

There are any number of ways to learn Spanish including computer programs, educational institutions, tutor, intense language study etc. Electronic and printed translators can help. Over the years the translator in Google has continued to improve.  We often use it to find specialty words like “pipe wrench” or “water faucet” etc. It even has an audio reader which can help speak the word(s)

I had to remind Anita when we were discussing this question that we had a lot of trepidation 10 years ago, that time and experience has erased. It is still fresh enough in my mind to know where this reader is coming from. I spent two months by myself early on in Xico, Veracruz. There were frustrations and fears regarding communicating. Of course they all got resolved.

Apparently this reader is on his own – even more trepidation. My advice is GO FOR IT! Mexico is worth it.

An interesting side note is because Anita is Latino and moderately Spanish language capable, when we are together a MN will tend to ignore my speaking efforts and look to Anita for an interpretation. She often suggests they listen again to my statement or question; and they often do and get it.

I am amazed at how I can say something in Spanish that will not be understood. Anita repeats. To my ears sounding exactly as I had said it – yet I was not understood. I still have not figured that out. Anita thinks they tune me out when my broken Spanish hits the air – drives me a little nuts ;-0

I should also point out that as one would expect the more intelligent among them will understand more of your efforts to speak the language. Look to people in positions of authority rather than a bell cap, food server or filling station attendant.

Remember no male MN will admit they do not know direction to…. Be patient, do not panic and remember there are more things different than the language here about – adventure abounds do not miss it. Stay Tuned!

Come On Down

I do not normally do weather reports. The weather for the 6-7 months we are here in Puerto each year is so constant, predictable and wonderful.

Last night  (La Punta station reports 0.60 inches, seasonal total: 0.60 inches.) we had a pretty substantial rain – it too was wonderful, but a first for anytime in January for us over the last 6 or 7 years.

This is earthquake country and we have had one direct hit hurricane in recent times. I guess it is not as benign as I have been thinking.

I do not miss cold weather. We experienced a lot of that up until we started living in Mexico mostly full time – this last 10 years.

The Week Ahead

The sunrises are artist’s palette colorful and the sunsets stop traffic, work and play. This week predictions – mid 80’s for high and high 60’s for lows. What’s not to love!

Stay Tuned!