Wednesday, July 30, 2014

babes on the beach

Take a quick look.

This paparazzi-style shot may be the only photograph you will see of our latest batch of crocodile hatchlings.

I was heading out the door on my way to Manzanillo Monday morning when two friends excitedly called me to come out to the anadaor.  They could see baby crocodiles.

The day before I had found the open nest and the mother crocodile standing sentry.  But I saw no babies.

But there they were.  At least five -- if not more.  Crowded around the shore edge.  While they sunned, Mama played the role of life guard.  Literally, in this case.

Being a young creature is always difficult.  And it is no exception for these scaly reptiles.  They are perfect meals for a variety of predators.

When I returned on Monday afternoon, the babies had moved.  But I suspected they were nearby.  A tree stands a few feet from the hatchlings' beach.  And in the tree were three herons.

Remember what I said about baby crocodiles offering a perfect-sized meal?  Well, the herons were there to prove I am no liar.

When I went out to the laguna yesterday afternoon, a different type of predator had discovered Mama -- some of the rock-throwing children that plagued last year's hatch.  They were throwing stones at her from about ten feet away.  And she bore them almost as beatifically as Saint Stephen.

As I write this, there is a young mother with two small children standing on the bank and throwing parts of palm fronds at the crocodile.  She just handed several stones for throwing to her children.

This is the point where I remind myself of Steve's Hard-Learned Lessons of the Laguna:

  1. Crocodiles have lived in the laguna long before I arrived.
  2. Crocodiles will survive in the laguna long after I am gone.
  3. The laguna does not belong to me.
  4. The crocodiles do not belong to me.
  5. There is nothing I can do to alter the first four rules.
Other than the one sighting on Monday, I have seen neither claw nor scale of the little dragons.  But I will keep looking.  As you know from last year, they can show up in some of the oddest places.

And, if I do spot them, you will be the first to hear about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ah bin cut!

Well, burned.  And it is rather the same thing, isn't it?

For the past seven years, I have been growing a dark spot on the bridge of my nose.  I looked like a Brahmin suffering caste slippage.

It has never bothered me.  My appearance ranks on my list of concerns somewhere between having an extra buggy whip on hand and being eaten by piranha in my bathtub.  Anyone who has seen the way I dress will testify to that.

But the spot recently started to darken -- taking on the color of an over-roasted white truffle.  That may be why I started receiving remarks every other week or so about its appearance.

I needed to schedule an appointment with my dentist to have my teeth cleaned.  Her husband is a dermatologist with an office just two doors down from hers.  So, Monday morning I saw each of them.

I detest having my teeth cleaned.  There is something about that metal hook scraping across enamel that makes me long for fingernails on a chalkboard. 

But it is all for a good cause -- keeping my teeth in my head instead of in a glass on the nightstand.  And for $450 (Mx) [about $35 (US)], I certainly cannot complain.  It is torture well served.

With shining teeth, I walked a few feet to the dermatologist's office.  He looked at my "third eye," and sighed in the way doctors do when they either have something terrible to tell you -- or have nothing much at all to say.  In this case, it was the latter.

"Let's burn it off," he said in the same tone I would use to describe my car as green.  I thought that meant another appointment.

Nope.  I expected to hear, "How about next Tuesday at 2?"  Instead, it was: "Jump up on the table and lie down." 

More chatter to distract me as he hovered over me with his hypodermic filled with numb-juice.  A bit of burning.  A bit of waiting.

"Close your eyes.  Keep them closed."

At first I thought he wanted to protect my eyes.  But when the distinct smell of grilled meat filled the air, I knew the reason for the caution.  He didn't want me to flinch watching his burning tool headed toward my nose.

I now have a very good idea of how I would smell if I were ever a martyr for the faith condemned to the flames of the inquisition.  Something like an Argentine loin strip.

The whole thing took about ten minutes.  And I walked away with a somewhat-redder bridge and $1000 (MX) [$77 (US)] lighter.

With a bit of cream in the morning and the evening, I should heal up quite nicely.

I will now need a better method to show my caste.  Shorts, sandals, and a polo shirt sound just about right.


Monday, July 28, 2014

manning up

The heat and the humidity may not be good for Steve Cotton.  But the plants love it.

A month ago, the giant bougainvillea in my courtyard was laid low by a rainstorm.  But the gardener stripped it down to an arboreal version of Twiggy.  Nothing but limby -- well, limbs.  (man down)

In these parts, a month is like a lifetime (or lifeline) to a plant.  If you compare this photograph with the one I shot last month, you will see it is the same bougainvillea.  But a greatly-resurrected version.

Not only are there new shoots, it has already started to flower.  That is tenacity,

And if I paid more attention to how the plants enjoy these days, I might learn something.

Being a bit jungly here, there is always something new to discover.  People who enjoy their wildlife on the hoof will find this is just the place for them.  Or, as Lincoln put it, people who like this sort of thing are going to find it is the sort of thing they like.

For the last couple months I have noticed some odd crocodile activity in our end of the laguna.  And yesterday I discovered why.  A mother crocodile has recently uncovered her eggs and helped to free her young from their shells. 

I say "recent" because you can see she is still guarding the nest.  There are most likely a few unhatched eggs in the hole.

Somewhere nearby she has hidden her young.  A photographic expedition will be in order this coming week.

Get ready for baby photographs.  (Photographs of babies, that is.)

This is getting to be a far more interesting month.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

to bean or not to bean

We are on the cusp of what I call the Age of Aquarius here in Melaque -- when the combined heat and humidity makes me feel a bit piscine.

Actually, the hellish part of our summer started early this year.  We barely had the semblance of a winter.

But the weather is kicking into high gear.  Separating the mammals from the fish.  When we do not receive rain, we can be found in our showers trying to eke out some cool from the sun-heated water coming from our taps.

This is the season when I realize the wisdom of my Mexican neighbors.  They move their kitchens outside for the summer and cook over wood fires.  It adds another patina of truth that living here is a lot like camping.

Even though I have been back for a week, I had not cooked a meal at home.  When I was not eating in restaurants, I made sandwiches.

While walking through the market yesterday, I picked up a couple of sacks of fresh vegetables.  I could feel a pot of soup coming on.  Bean soup.

The downside of home-cooked bean soup is the amount of cooking time.  Especially for the beans themselves.

So, here I sit in a very hot house with a bowl of the best soup in town.  Some costs are a pleasure to pay when the benefit is so great.

Mandy Patinkin and Madonna are serenading me with their version of "What Can You Lose."  I decided that I needed music with as much subtext as my dinner.

Overall, it is a hot night.  And I am happy to be where I am.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

getting my ape on

Friday was my day in Manzanillo.

I knew since I returned I would need to make the trip.  My Escape is past due for its periodic maintenance.  I have had a spot on the bridge of my nose for seven years that needs a bit of examination.  And my teeth are itching for a good cleaning.

Of course, there was the long list of replacement items I needed to buy as a result of our little lightning strike.  The Telmex repairman managed to take two things off the list, but I still needed a cordless telephone and a power strip. 

I was not going to get sucked into buying a much more expensive voltage regulator-surge protector-backup battery unit.  I still have a smoking hulk to remind that there are no prophylactics for the rage of Mother Nature.

The trip south was successful -- and quick. My dentist and dermatologist are married to one another, and are just two offices down from one another.  A five minute stop earned me Monday appointments with both.

And Office Depot offered all of the equipment I needed.  A bit expensive, as are all electronic goods in Mexico, but I will now have a land line in the house.  I have found it helpful for the occasional telephone call north.  Telmex includes a limited number of long distance calls in my internet package.

Out of curiosity, I stopped at the Cinepolis multiplex to see if there were any movies worth seeing.  There was.  In 10 minutes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would start.  So, I bought a ticket.

I was never a big fan of the original series of movies, and I have not seen the first of the new series: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But I had read some very good reviews. 

As is often true of early matinees in Manzanillo, the theater was almost empty -- with the exception of about six young Mexican women who spent the next two hours texting on their telephones, and chatting with one another.  I have just come to expect it as part of the theater-going experience here. 

I assume they got bored with reading the insipid dialog in the subtitles.  I know it bored me just listening to it.

Rotten Tomatoes sums up the movie with this: "
With intelligence and emotional resonance to match its stunning special effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expands on its predecessor with an exciting and ambitious burst of sci-fi achievement."

I am not certain they watched the same movie I did.  The "intelligence and emotional resonance" is about the same level as those after-school television programs that the easy-to-please describe as classics.  About 20 minutes into the movie and I was looking for the remote control to change channels.

Because this is a prequel, you would have to have the attention span of a corn tortilla to be surprised by any of the hackneyed plot twists.  That is, if you can find the plot.  It is a linear story with few distractions to spice its inevitable march to the bank with our ticket sales.

A lot of money went into making the apes look "real" -- or as real as can be expected for an audience who has never seen apes in the wild.  Instead of the deplorable shag rug costumes hiding human actors in the original series, the apes are computer generated using the movements of actors.

That sounds as if it should be awesome.  It isn't.  Close up, the apes are as cutely anthropomorphic as any Disney creature.  Where the image falls apart is in long shots.  Gravity appears to have minimal effect on the apes.  Leaving them looking like a cross between bulky birds and a Cirque du Soleil act.

I was about to say that I might approach the movie a bit differently had I seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  And maybe I should.

Naw!  I've wasted enough time on this drivel.  Instead, I will watch a DVD of Company -- and find true intelligence and emotional resonance.

I was so busy muttering about the movie on my way back to Melaque that I forgot to stop at the Ford dealership to set an appointment for my Escape.  But I have a new telephone that is just the right instrument to solve that problem.

It is good to be back in the saddle in Melaque.

Friday, July 25, 2014

stritch redux

Earlier this month, I shared some of my reminiscences of Elaine Stritch in she's still here.

When I wrote the post, I searched for a video of her memorable performance of "I'm Still Here" at Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday concert.  That version was  blocked in The States.  And the other versions simply did not show her at her best.

While researching another topic, I discovered that an aficionado filled the gap following her death.  I watched it several times last evening.

I could have just let it go.  After all, I already had my say about her.  But she is worth an encore.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Elaine Stritch.  One more time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

look for small pleasures

There are other pleasures in life than traveling to London or having dinner at Enotecha Pinchiorri.  As pleasant as Trafalgar Square and Florence are.

Sometimes, those memorable moments are right where we are.  More accurately, they are always right where we are.  We just need to see them.  Or “perceive with seeing” as Old Sherlock would say.

I am currently indulging in one of Mexico’s traditions,  Waiting.  In this case, waiting for the Telmex repair man, who, I hope, will use his wizardly skills to restore telephone service to the house.  I can then drive to Manzanillo on Friday to pick up a new modem.  As my brother would say: everything has a sequence.

So, here I sit with no communication to the outside world.  No house telephone.  No internet.  Even my mobile telephone is not helping.  I apparently used up all of my purchased minutes by messaging them away yesterday.  (Yes.  I did solve my SIM card issue.  And, once I get over the embarrassment, I will tell you about it.  Probably, subtly.) 

Other than not knowing when I am going to get this piece posted, it feels rather good to be circumstantially incarcerated.  Instead of rushing off to eat at my favorite breakfast restaurant this morning, I slept in and started my day with some left over pasta.  Claiming time as one’s own is a great luxury of retirement -- something I should do more often.

Last night, a pocket rainstorm swept over the mountains -- dropping just enough rain to cool the night to let me I sleep well for the first time since I left Bend.  A good night’s sleep always improves my outlook on the day.

And that is why I am sharing this photograph.  The subject is nothing special.  Just a mop left hanging on the clothes line by Dora.  But its simplicity, tied with the rather baroque shadows of the courtyard plants, struck me as just the type of experience I so easily ignore.

Today, I didn’t.  I hope it adds a little something to your day.

In its own way, it is more memorable than the Palace of Westminster.

Note:  The Telmex guy just left.  And, wonder of wonders, he also replaced my modem.  I am now running one day ahead of schedule.