The Pressures On


The other day Kim, a Blogger friend, and I had a lively commentary going regarding Whole Foods chain – sometimes called “Whole Paycheck’ according to Kim.

And this in the news:

“Whole Foods said that it’s cutting 1,500 jobs.”

The grocery store chain said this represents 1.6% of its workforce

The company said it was conducting the cuts to “invest in technology upgrades while improving its cost structure.” The cost structure (as in sky high pricing) was part of our discussion; and obviously the thoughts of others and me have not gone unnoticed by Whole Foods Corporate.

“This summer the stock had plunged 40% over the last six months as the company missed analyst forecasts for sales and profit. That’s partly because the company, which is jokingly called Whole Paycheck, has slashed prices to shed its image of being too expensive.”

From these reports one might assume Whole Foods will recover with a more competitive spirit. On the other hand cutting the labor force and apparently demoting employees to accommodate the changes rather than lowering the CEO’s take home pay is harsh.  Labor invariably loses ;-(

In this light I received a handy technology upgrade and labor saving device for my birthday, two actually.

For years we have hired out folks to help clean the green from our lives. Do not get me wrong – the Calypso Couple is TOTALLY GREEN save the humidity spawned algae, moss and  green mold that is pervasive in our areas here in Mexico.  Suffice it to say we are in the tropical zone and not the arid parts of Mexico.

The key to minimizing the problem is air flow.

Our decking at the Rancho for example is about 700 square feet of Mexican tile which goes green and black quickly. The walls surrounding our Casita are stained black as well as the cement walk ways, our stationary Lance camper is covered in mold etc.

Mold loves leather by the way – so shoes, jackets, hats and bags also gather the moss – ugh! You get the idea.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say the other day when complaining about all this to our friend and chef extraordinaire Guadalupe at Restaurant Acamalin, she reported using a small pressure washer to get rid of deck mold – a light went off in my head. “Of course – a pressure washer!”

Now I have a humongous Honda power washer in our garage. However the garage is in New Mexico – oops.

We tracked one down via Google and a thick Truper Tool catalog supplied by one of our Ferretería amigos (hardware store friend). In Spanish it is a “hidrolavadora de alta presión” by the way.

We still consigned some labor from a friend in the Hood to do most of the operating of our snazzy orange washer (the remover of the new black in this case).

About the Size of R2D2

The results of this device were substantially grand. What took two people an entire day to remove just the growth on our Lance camper was reduced to two laboring with machine for two hours – wow!

The small pressure washer works!

Now we have set out to remove green/black staining on our perimeter walls – gunk that has been accumulating for more than 10 years.

BEFORE on left AFTER on right

I should suggest that the pressure washers are slightly less dough in the U.S. – buy there and bring one down if you have room (in your car – it will not accommodate carry-on luggage at a bulky 40 plus pounds. We bought locally (more on this next time) in Coatepec for about twenty-five  dollars U.S. more than what it was up there – hardly worth the hassle of driving one down when it takes the space of at least one guitar ;-)

This device definitely goes on our “Things That Work” list. Moving this way – get one!

Next time – birthday item two. Stay Tuned!

60 Years Ago Today

It was just a couple of days before my ninth birthday – but I remember it like it was yesterday. When I got up on Saturday morning October 1st, 1955 I saw on the dining room table the daily newspaper. The headlines blared “James Dean Dead!” There was a wreckage photograph of what looked like it had been a car. (Here in Mexico the body would still have been in the wreckage photo – they are that way).

I was stunned.

James Byron Dean 1931-1955

Still a year away from being in double figures, for some reason that news shocked and caused me to think about what a loss it was – would be forever. I knew nothing about death at that point in my life. I already admired Dean recalling to this day his three only major films (“East of Eden”; “Rebel Without a Cause”; and “Giant”). They are some of the finest movies ever made. Clearly Dean’s stardom was embedded in that first film. And his talent was prominent in the other two.”Giant” was not released until after his death.

Taken at a gas station just hours before his death.

Dean had just traded his white 356 Porsche Speedster in on a new, faster Porsche 550 spider racing machine – he died in the wreckage on a two lane highway in Central California on his way to a weekend sports car rally at Salinas, California

Some years later I would own a similar white 356 Porsche Speedster – It reminded me of him often when I slipped behind the wheel – perhaps even caused me to drive just a little more safely.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today” James Dean

James Dean is the poster boy of the dying young set. Many have followed that path including recently Paul Walker, also succumbing in a Porsche accident.

Remember all those 27 year old’s that died – Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. All died at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971. At the time, the coincidence gave rise to some comment, but it was not until the death of Kurt Cobain, about two and a half decades later, that the idea of a “27 Club” began to catch on in public perception. More recently was the death of 27 year old Amy Winehouse. Personally I do not abide by it being anything more than coincidental.

While we do have those three fantastic films, we were robbed of his talents way too soon. As a fledgling thespian I was inspired by his performances and amazing talent. My first career obsession was to be an actor. I followed that dream until I was out of high school. Working creatively in the music industry was a close second and where I would eventually land.

This time each year thoughts of James Dean come to mind. Having a son already a year older than Dean at his death. I marvel at the man’s maturity and wisdom. But perhaps it was the belief of the young they are invincible that took him from us in a careless  moment – too soon.

“I know that violent people are weak people. Only the gentle are really strong.” James Dean

Forever young, James Dean will always be remembered.  Stay Tuned!

The Love Affair Continues

…With cheese. Sabado (Saturday) we made another cheese run. Discovered yet another terrific cheese at Fredrica’s table.

It should be noted that Fredrica and us go way back. We had been buying her cheese for a few years, then in August of 2009 Anita and I interviewed and photographed her and her kitchen facility for Global Post News. Cook’s tour photos below are interspersed from that interview with current photos gleaned from her Facebook location.

Fredrica is from Italy. She usually has a broad smile on her face and always is gracious and full of energy on the subject of cheese. Fredrica explained the procedure to make ricotta to Anita armed with pen and paper. We came away ready to make some. We did. We are here to tell you it is not an easy process – we continue to buy the finished product from Fredrica.

Fredrica In her kitchen during our 2009 interview.

Aging wonderfully!

Anita takes notes on the art of making ricotta.


Muscle required.

Big pots, timing and knowledge – ingredients for successful ricotta.

Ricotta pure!


Then there are the harder cheeses – yum!

Fredrica’s business continues to grow. Terra Terra

Now a name, lectures, demonstrations and product appearing all around our tri-cities Lucky us!

The picture says it all – well the taste REALLY says it all.


It is aging.

Labels and packaging.

We are a lucky lot to have this growing business right under our noses here in Xalapa-Coatepec-Xico. Do not leave our area without treating yourself.

Stay Tuned!



To Brie or Not to Brie

I am a cheese fan – mi esposa is not. She is most gracious at serving and accommodating my cheese passion. I would like to think I am as considerate – but we will let that go for now.

We recently bought some pretty fine Mexican manufactured brie cheese from Superama (a high end Walmart). Brie can be hard to find or we would reduce the reasons to contribute to Walmart – do not get me started on the Walton’s.

Yesterday the cupboard was bare of fromage – so off to the Coatepec Saturday market for a late breakfast and C H E E S E.

Six years ago we reported on the Coatepec Bio Regional Organic Market. You can see some photos and read that story HERE. I recommend reading.

Not sure if it goes by the same title, but the same vendors more or less and products appear just around the corner to the left of the southwest end of the park. It is a one way street – so you cannot turn left – park on the main drag of the park and walk or go around some long blocks to get back.

If it is Saturday – make it to the Coatepec park and ask anybody – you will find it. We have friends and acquaintances that go back nearly ten years. Folks are still selling their wares on Saturday – some of the items and food stuff can not be found anywhere else in our area.

The market has grown considerably over the years since my last report.  I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

Anita pauses at the entry to visit with our friend Margarita

A small section of a very large room

Plants abound. In the distance CHEESE

Tortilla cozys cozy on up to a CHEESE vendor

C H E E S E!

We order 200 grams of the ricotta with chives – yum!

200 grams packed in a banana leaf

Food is prepared on the spot

REAL chocolate

35 pesos for a loaf of designer baked bread

We spotted our silversmith amigo across the room (in foreground)


Silversmith’s esposa man’s the display table

Anita orders a silver music staff earring for me – sweet!

Vendors are pretty laid-back ;-)

You will not go home empty handed – so much stuff

Worth a Saturday visit. Later we had brunch across from the park.

As one ages like fine wine and some cheeses, the body begins to dictate what one will eat rather than controlled by the desires of one’s taste buds. So enjoy your favorite foods now because one day they may not be welcome.

George Orwell said, “A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion….Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market gardeners.”

If you are in Coatepec or nearby on any Saturday visit the Market.  Stay Tuned!

Low Bridge

My buddy Felipe just down the Internet highway a piece says it all about retirement this morning – read it and heed.

It would seem that the following is low hanging fruit. But, no, this is sage advice I am giving here.

We are enjoying some nice fall weather here in Xico, Veracruz. We have been doing a lot of running around dealing with small issues. And here is where today’s wise advice is spawned.

At my peak I was a 6 foot 1 inch plus hombre – not sure where I stand now – surely an inch or more shorter I estimate.

The average male American men’s height is 177 cm, which is 69.7 inches, which is approximately 5 foot – 10 inches tall. (this for white males).

The people of the Dinaric Alps (South Slavs) are on record as being the tallest in the world, with a male average height of 185.6 cm (6 ft 1.1 in) and female average height of 170.9 cm (5 ft 7.3 in).

So I am equal to the tallest average height in the world. My son is 6 foot 3 inches plus. Tall is in the genes. That brings me to today’s lesson. Even though I have been here in Mexico for the last past 10 years and more I am still banging my noggin on low hanging things.

The Mexican male seems to clear these protrusions by a good 12 inches or so. And if you haven’t been advised on this before – believe that the Mexican people utilize space both on the vertical plane as well as the horizontal. So there is a lot of stuff hanging low: awnings and their framework; doorways; hanging racks; hanging pots and pans. You get the idea.

There is a lot of head banging at these heights when you are the average of the tallest peoples of the world.

I am currently suffering three lumps having just recently recovered from a couple of bang-up wounds. I decided it is time to remind myself and you my readers that you must watch for low non-flying objects when in Mexico – you must!

And for you ladies that might be feeling left out there is another part to this: The ground is seldom smooth, flat and predictable here in Mexico as well. Many a visitor and surely most transplants have experienced a twisted ankle or worse from this condition. Mexico ain’t flat baby!

So I guess I am advising you need to look-up and down ahead of you at all times when in Mexico.

As I write this I am sitting at my desk on the second floor of our Hood Casita. I am wearing the newly acquired Akai Professional headphones whose band is reminding me that I have lumps on my think pot – ouch!


 We bought two pair – PC Magazine Review PROS

Accurate, clean audio performance across entire frequency range. Ideal for mix engineers, studio musicians, and DJs. Exceptionally comfortable, secure fit over long listening sessions. Ships with two detachable cables.


One cable includes inline microphone but no controls for answering calls or navigating music. Not for lovers of booming bass. (Which I am not – these babies are very clear and accurate).


The Akai MPC Headphones are an excellent, accurate listening tool for pro audio applications. (The Calypso Couple concur.)

 We also have acquired cabling and connectors to feed two pair of these phones from our laptop which doubles (at least) as a poor man’s entertainment center.  We can each be more than 10 feet from the source. We watch a lot of movies. Often under our tin roof which can get darn noisy when it is raining – have I mentioned it rains a lot here?

Also they are great for late night listening at high sound levels without disturbing the neighbors (a secondary or beyond issue here in Mexico where sound-off as you will is the rule – PERIOD! The greater advantage is listening in the morning before my bride awakens; we keep different hours.

We are geared up with two pair of phones since leaving the U.S. this last trip. A good item to have down here in any case.

What am I listening to? I thought you would never ask:

Songs of Tibet with various artists. A lovely compilation from some of today’s best artists.

The heads up from here is to keep your head low; and do not forget as there are painful reminders lurking everywhere here in Mexico.  Keep your head low and your ammo dry as I always say ;-) Stay Tuned!

Machete Review
Not the Film

The other night we were watching an old television series on Anthony Bourdain’s Cook’s Tour series video (circa 2001-2002). “A Cook’s Tour – S01E16 – Puebla Where Good Cooks Come From.” We had not seen it. You can watch it on the Internet (HERE). The episode before it was also fun to watch, S01E15 “Tamales and Iguana, Oaxacan Style”.

In the Puebla episode Bourdain is relegated to killing a turkey for a Mexican fiesta. He appears on camera with a good size machete to perform the deed. After the traditional shot of mescal poured down the bird’s gullet. Bourdain explains, “Eddie’s wife has to step in and show me the proper technique. Proving, once again, women are really in charge here.” Cut away to Eddie and Tony plucking the bird. Perhaps this was a first, seeing a television chef wielding a machete in the course of preparing a meal?

Chef Anthony Bourdain with the BIG blade.

NOB, dare I suggest most chefs around the world, even tool guys do not necessarily understand the finer points of the machete. It took years for me to gather valid and confirmed information on the subject.  A couple of misleading points are that length and heft make it better – not so. It is more a matter of choosing the right tool for the job.

The long blades will wear an arm down when using a machete in the coffee finca for example. Gardeners tend to use shorter blades and must continually keep a sharp edge going. The blade is typically 32.5 to 45 centimeters (12.8 to 17.7 in) long and usually under 3 millimeters (0 .12 in) thick.

I found the most valuable information from talking with campesinos (peasant farmers/field workers). These hombres are using the machete daily and are often seen sporting them on their hip well after the work day has been completed. They are worn like a badge of distinction. The campesinos are a proud lot, usually common laborers to semi-skilled.

Many people in the rural regions own machetes to clear the constant overgrowth of jungle bush. In the recent drug cartel wars of the Mexico region, many homicides and decapitations are suspected of being committed with machetes or similar tools.

I have witnessed the taking down of some very large trees with nothing more than a hand-wielded machete. I have also seen them used to cut cement block pieces to right length.

The machete is occasionally provided with a simple cord loop as a sort of lanyard, and a canvas scabbard—although in the regions we live machetes are valuable tools, the users may make or buy a decorative leather scabbard to protect them and make them readily available. Often machetes are passed down from father to son. At the same time these are not expensive blades, most often under ten U.S. dollars. Often the scabbards are more expensive than the blades.

Back in February of 2014 we wrote a profile on very expensive (relatively) machetes and fancy scabbards made in a little town north of Puerto Escondido (Nopala, Oaxaca).

We brought this one home.

Not long ago a friend who is a local campesino and occasional helper to the Calypso Couple showed me his coveted blade given to him by his father. This was no decorative fancy schmancy cutter. This was the real deal. I asked if I could see (hold) the tool. It had a solid feel yet not heavy to the hand and arm. It bore the scares of many years of use and yet the blades edge was shiny as the day, no – better than, it was new.

I went to my bucket container that holds my several blades.

My small collection of machetes.

My friend picked each up and “knocked” on them at various points along the blade. Some had a ring to them others not. When he came to a dull sounding blade he smiled, sized it up checking both sides, “This is a good one.”

Then he knocked his knuckles against his own blade. It too had a dull sound as compared to some of the others.

I suggested if he had time we scoot into Coatepec where he knew the place to buy a proper machete and perhaps a new scabbard.

We Came Home with This Beauty

The maker of my new blade is in Colombia. Gavilan machetes are manufactured by Incolma whose tradition began in 1787.  ”Gavalin machetes are recognized worldwide as top quality machetes with the best steels”.

Here is a video opinion – Warning this guy is scary -

Here is a lesson from a Gringo -

Gavalin machetes have a solid feel and hold their edge well.  The GI SPEC 18” machetes is one of the best we’ve seen.

When you hold a machete manufactured by Incolma, you feel that you the legacy, and tradition of many generations.


So after all these years we have cut through the stories and legends to find the real deal for you – now you know.  Stay Tuned!


Retire Abroad

This just in from Charles Schwab: As far as I can tell there is only ONE CHOICE if you want to drive. Pretty sure I do not want to live that close to China (Malaysia – apparently quite the bargain?).

DO NOT LIKE many of Ecuador’s rules – a long way from the U.S. and not cheap to get there or get STUFF there. It is much more third world than most parts of Mexico.

Panama – a BUNCH of CRIME. Guatemala the same. Costa Rica very expensive land – not sure where they get that cost of living figure – maybe for renters?

Columbia has a very shaky government and is a long way away.

Well not as far as Spain which is pretty wonderful and of course the most expensive of the considerations on the chart.

Weighing the cost to return from Mexico to the U.S. once a year (or two) knocks off several thousand dollars of its higher cost than other locations. And have you looked lately at the exchange rate of pesos to the U.S. dollar?

From here Mexico is looking pretty good. Thoughts?

Stay Tuned!

Life in Perspective

About Perspective….


Saturday last we had lunch with John and Jane. We count ourselves lucky to have developed a friendship with them. John approached us here on the Blog a few years ago having stumbled on it while Googling info on the Xalapa area. He also found a common thread – we both worked for Capitol Records. He as an artist and me, well I wore several hats – none of which were entertaining.

You might imagine that people making music for a LIVING are at least a bit eccentric – John and I surely not exceptions. But what an interesting fellow. And lest we mistakenly narrow the stage lights John’s wife Jane is no shrinking violet – an attorney who still dabbles (I think once an attorney they always have at least a hand in the flame? It should be noted Jane manages all this with more than a hint of purple hair – she is cool. Truly an amazing couple.

Somehow John and Jane manage to be super busy involved in many things that we simply could not keep up with. Thus the opportunities to get together with them are far and few between.

When our lives align with the stars in a manner that connects the four of us up – well – the chatter cannot be stifled. One must wait their turn. And so it goes story after story catching up. And none of the reports are mundane I assure you. Even a hanging and a death by gunfire were in the reports – yikes!

But there was one poignant story I should share. It has a happy ending unlike the aforementioned bulletins; and for this we are ever grateful.

A few months back John and Jane were returning to their home outside of Coatepec here in Mexico from a walk with the dog. John describes his state shortly before arriving back at home as suddenly feeling unusual, weak and perhaps a little disoriented from what seemed like a physical alert or change.

They stopped a couple of times, but apparently he was not gaining on the changes – they advanced – an ache in his arm and across his chest – probably a tightening (I am guessing).  When they got home John chose to lie down and see where things were headed from there – still no comfort. They decided to call a doctor. They drove into town. Their report was no faith in the ambulance service here – which we found disturbing since we are always donating to those people – but I digress.

I am sure you have guessed by now as was confirmed by the doctor, John was having a heart attack. Here is an otherwise flaco hombre that gets reasonable doses of exercise. Does not drink or smoke etc. Not what you would call a candidate for a heart attack at all – but there you are.

From the doctor’s office to a large hospital facility in Xalapa with a note in Spanish from his doctor explaining his condition. He was immediately attended to and within an hour he had instant relief by way of a stent inserted in an artery in his thigh and scooted to a vessel blockage near the heart.

John was not gassed under. He reported that he understood in Spanish when the two docs shared that “it was open” in Spanish. His condition immediately remarkably improved. All the pieces had fallen together in such a way to address the problem quickly. The report is other than a small scared tissue area there is no heart damage. Whew!

John and Jane agreed that if this had happened in the U.S. he probably would not have had as good of outcome. The staff and doctors were very professional. They described the hospital as setup with all the latest equipment for such a situation.

The bill was $5,500 usd and they do accept credit cards ;-) We are so happy our friend is still with us. He continues to monitor and adhere to dietary and whatever modifications (again I think he did not have any bad habits prior to all this).

So we were caught up on all the big stuff – but as Jane suggested we have to get together for chapter two soon. People you care about can put it all in perspective. Life is Good and Stay Tuned!

What is Plugged into Your Computer

Lift your hands away from the keyboard! Now take a look and tell me how many cables or other devices are plugged into your computer. Confessions of a Wire Junky.

I have ten cables protruding from my laptop. From bottom to top in the photo:

Two audio cables (earphones and outboard sound system)

One high quality microphone (improved Skype connections as well as guitar tuner program.)

Two outboard hard drives (total storage = 7.5 Terabytes)

An Ethernet cable (Internet connection) Yellow cable

HDMI outboard monitor connection


Power cable

Another outboard hard drive ;also used to connect my Fender Mustang III guitar amplifier to my computer (this is very slick and will have to be further described another time).

And last but not least USB Fob for wireless keyboard and mouse

Other than an older type VGA monitor connector ALL available connection points are filled. Trace all this stuff to under my desk and there are three power strips (pretty much full) and a battery backup unit.

There are wires going to a sound system across the room; wires running to the modem/router supplied by my Internet server; of course a number of power cables going to black ‘cubes’. There is a cable that runs through the wall that supplies telephone, television and Internet to here.

An Ethernet cable runs from the Internet modem/router across the room to Anita’s computer. She also has an outboard monitor and keyboard and mouse cables protruding from her little 10.1 inch Netbook computer.

An organized person would go NUTS with all these wires and devices running around the desktop and floor. Occasionally I attempt to sweep the floor area and sort out the rats nest of cables – but this not a winning activity; truly it is as if these cables have a life of their own. They end up wrapped around things, often in a manner that boggles the mind. “How could that cable possibly be so entangled?”

When everything is working we have quite an array of ‘possibilities’ provided by all this interconnected stuff – truly.

I should mention that I have a lot of outboard hard drives that await available connection. I won’t even get into the many power cubes waiting – Literally have many, many of these little power supplies. Some probably no longer operate anything here – but I am not going to throw any out. I know I will need them soon?

We have bags and back packs to haul most of this stuff – which we do when moving from one house to the other (we have four). Sometimes in this 4 x 4 meter room we add three or more guitars. We walk carefully around all the tonewood standing tall in stands in no particular organization pattern. I have no excuse for any of this – how could I?

The most amazing part is the incredible amount of toleration possessed by my partner Anita. She came to me many, many years ago incredibly neat and organized. I know I have broken that spirit – there is no other explanation. I am a lucky man.

Stay Tuned!

Francisco was Here

There has been a lot of comments and chatter about Steve Cotton leaving his daily Blog job; retiring to something more balanced in terms of output and effort. Of course we all support him in his change.

This morning Anita and I were discussing our visit to the restaurant Acamalin. We scooted into Xico proper and had dinner there yesterday. I recalled that I had done a Blog entry on a visit to Acamalin nearly six years ago.

I entered ‘acamalin’ into the SEARCH box here. There it was, a nearly six year old entry  with a few comments including one from Francisco who still comments here after all these years – Marvelous! Tancho and Croft also had comments and are also still here. The review notes we had been going there for five years – that was 6 years ago – so there is some history here to look back upon.

Select this LINK to Read the Blog Entry HERE

I have never met any of those commenters, but they are indeed friends in time if nothing else.

We sat there for quite a while talking with Señora Guadalupe. She is always generous with her time towards us when we dine at her busy restaurant. Señor Gomez, her husband, usually is running around in the front, but is also gracious with his time and greetings towards the Calypso Couple.

The dining report is the food is as good as ever.  The menu is mostly the same. We did note that they were serving French fries which was different. I asked if they got a new machine. Indeed they had. And the fries were not greasy and very tasty. A fine addition. But their Xico mole is the real treat as well as a green sauce that is to die for.

It is fun to be able to once again tout the benefits of a visit to The Acamalin Restaurant. Señora Guadulupe reminds us it is the season of the very Mexican historic Chiles En Nogada dish (STUFFED POBLANO CHILES WITH WALNUT SAUCE).  This is not a vegetarian dish, but it is lovely to look at the colors of the plated specialty and theirs is quite authentic.

We noted this from the six year old review “It gained a ½ star for its very reasonable prices (Menu Here) and very gracious owners. Anita had a glass of mora (blackberry wine) and I had a Negra Modelo beer as well as the entrees for 200 pesos ($16 US) plus propina (gratuity). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” Our bill yesterday coincidentally was the same 200 pesos – However it is now less than $12.00 U.S. with the current exchange rate.

They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. But if you are in the area don’t miss the opportunity to visit. They make their own cheese by the way with their own milk cows which they milk twice daily on their rancho just north of town. Say hello for us and “Buen Provecho!”  Stay Tuned!