That time of year

RETURNING WEDNESDAY from three nights on the road, it dawned on me that it’s that time of year. It hadn’t seemed so obvious when we departed Sunday morning.

That time is the season shift, which is pretty stark here on the mountaintop. The rains have gone — we may still get a surprise, but it doesn’t matter — and I need to water yard plants, a chore.

I have no warm spot in my heart for chores.

And the hour changes next weekend in a good direction. I can never keep it straight which is correct, and which is man-made.

The end of Rains from On High comes almost always with the arrival of the Day of the Dead. Perhaps there is some celestial connection.

Candy-Skull-01b-1As some passers-by know, my mountaintop is one of Mexico’s hot spots for the Day of the Dead.

After so many years here, I’ve grown a bit weary of it, jaded, mostly due to the tons of tourists.

After 18 years in New Orleans, long ago, I had also grown weary of Mardi Gras, another massive tourist draw. But it’s good for the economy, and I love capitalism so very much.

It gives one the opportunity to be a One-Percenter, something communism does not do and socialism discourages. Even though I am not a One-Percenter, I want that path open for me, for everyone.

It’s only fair.

So get in your car and drive up here. Bring cash for hotels, tacos, sugar skulls and souvenirs. The enormous tree-lined plaza will be full of art, some quite stunning, lovely and affordable.

On the Big Night, head out to one of the cemeteries to marvel at the candles, the marigolds, the old women in rebozos, the men with tequila, lime and salt, the babies crawling about. The spirit guests.

Some of the cemeteries have surrendered to tourism. Others haven’t yet. Your task is the find the latter, avoid the former.

* * * *

Yes, we just returned from three nights away. We had planned for months to spend this week at Palenque, down in the Maya area of Chiapas. But at the last moment, we just did not want to.

So we got into the Honda and drove four hours to Mazamitla in the State of Jalisco, just south of Lake Chapala. Mazamitla is a mountain town that puts on airs of being Alpine. Lots of wood and A-frames.

A Mexican Twin Peaks without the weirdos.

We spent two nights in the Hotel Huerta Real, and decided Tuesday morning to drive the short distance north of Lake Chapala to spend a night in Ajijic, a place absolutely crawling with Gringos, mostly of the geriatric variety. We slept at the Hotel Casa Blanca.

There are two famous places in Mexico where Gringos love to gather. San Miguel de Allende is one, and Ajijic is another. I’ve spent many nights in San Miguel, but this was only my second in Ajijic.

The best reason to go to one of these Gringo havens is the abundance of good restaurants. In Ajijic we discovered the Meson Don Quijote, which is run by an actual Spanish gentleman.

I am a fan of paella, which is a Spanish dish, not Mexican as some less-swift people sometimes think. My second ex-wife and I ate superlative paella often at a Spanish restaurant in Houston.

Since moving over the Rio Bravo almost 16 years ago, I’ve encountered paella occasionally on menus. I have ordered it three or four times, and it’s always been disappointing. Mexicans cannot cook paella.

But there we were, standing in the lovely patio of the Meson Don Quijote talking to the Spaniard owner, when I saw paella on the menu. I decided to risk it once again. Call me crazy.

It was very good paella. Not quite what the Spanish joint in Houston served, but it easily merited four stars out of five.

While conversing of food, let us back up a bit, to Mazamitla where I had a culinary religious experience at a place called La Troje. The religious experience manifested itself in salmon. Yes, fish.

We had lunch at La Troje both days. The first day, by pure luck, I ordered that salmon and, Good Lord Almighty, that was some fine salmon.

If you ever find yourself at La Troje, know there are two styles of salmon on the menu. One is called Mediterranean, which is what I ordered. The other is called something else. I do not remember.

* * * *

And we’re home again. The salmon is gone, and so is Twin Peaks. Gringo-crowded Ajijic, which sounds like a spice, likely won’t be visited for another decade. And I may never eat paella again.

* * * *

A tip of the sombrero to Bonnie and Bill Garrison who pointed me toward Mazamitla, the Hotel Huerta Real and La Troje restaurant.

Music and bread

torture

PACHELBEL’S CANON played as we ate bagels and Philly cheese lite this morning. The dining room window to the terraza was open to enjoy the 58-degree air in almost-August under blue skies at 8 a.m.

I took the photo with my new camera yesterday. It’s a 16th-century church on the outskirts of town, little visited and usually locked. I have read that Spaniards tortured an influential Indian chief in there. Racist Latinos!*

I’ve been inching through the manual of my new Canon SX520 and, as usual, sighing and rolling my eyeballs at how much technology can be crammed into a small space these days. Whereas I am in favor of high technology, my enthusiasm wanes when I have to deal with its innards personally.

The first day after the camera’s arrival discouraged me. I only wanted a far better zoom, and simpler cameras with great zooms are available. I began to wonder why I had not purchased one of those simpler options.

I woke up for a spell in the middle of Thursday night, thinking: I’m gonna sell that thing and buy something easier.  I have pulled similar stunts.

About three years ago, I bought a Samsung Smartphone. I sold it at a significant loss within the week. Didn’t care for it. My main objection was the ringtone, which was too pissant for my tastes. Didn’t ring long enough. Yeah, I know. You can add others. Learned that later.

I returned to my previous, ancient, Nokia phone. You would laugh at it. It does two things only. It makes calls. It sends messages. Period. It does have powerful ringtones that would startle the dead.

Back to the camera. So I woke up yesterday and continued reading the Canon manual (online) while fiddling with the camera. I began to like stuff more and more. It’s pretty incredible, things it does. I stood on the upstairs terraza and took a closeup of the chimney on a house down the street, crystal clear. No wobble at all. How’s that possible?

I also removed the neck strap, which was a colossal annoyance. I went back to Amazon, the U.S. version this time, and ordered a perfect wrist strap and a beefier memory card. They are en route, no import tax due, I’m told.

Looks like I’ll keep the camera. I took it downtown yesterday afternoon for my daily coffee siesta at a sidewalk table facing the beautiful plaza with towering trees. I snapped a few shots, but nothing notable. Then I got in the Honda and drove home, passing the small church above.

* * * *

We finished the bagels and Philly cheese lite. I watered the plants on the downstairs terraza. It’s a lovely day. I wonder what kind of day it was when the Spaniards tortured the Indian chief in the church.

Maybe there are still blood stains on the stone floor. Maybe that’s why the church is usually locked. Catholic shame.

* * * *

* Don’t they know that #indianlivesmatter?