Beef and tortas

Yesterday, I addressed the issue of caldo de res, one of my favorite meals. I mentioned that I rarely ordered it in a restaurant because the beef is usually gristly. I attributed this not to Mexicans’ liking it gristly, but to the fact that gristly beef is cheaper to buy.

Later, my child bride told me it’s because Mexicans like gristly beef. I prefer to think it’s that she likes it, for some godforsaken reason, not that Mexicans in general like gristly beef. But when she makes it at home, she does not use gristly beef because she knows I don’t want it, and she is an accommodating woman.

Above you see the caldo de res she made for our lunch today.

Caldo de res tastes better if it sits a good spell. Same goes for pozole. So, instead of lunching on the caldo de res yesterday, we hopped in the Honda and drove down the highway to a torta restaurant where we enjoyed Cubanos, the torta, not the cigar, although Cuban cigars are available here downtown.

We are amigos to the commies.

Driving home after the tortas, I took these photos along the highway to provide another taste, so to speak, of our area, which is moist and green in September due to months of daily rain.

I call this shot “Yellow House and Tree.”
Let’s call this one “Foggy Mountain and Overpass.”

Actually, “Yellow House and Tree” was photographed from outside the torta restaurant. It was directly across the highway.

The old man and Sammy

HE LIVED IN the original part of town, which is to say the neighborhood the conquistadors created after landing their boats on the beach. But that happened a long time ago.

french-bulldogHis home was on the second floor, which is actually the third floor the way the Spanish say it, and it was nothing to write home about as if he could write home, which was right there where he lived with a French bulldog named Sebastian or Sammy for short.

Once happily married, she had died 10 years back, and he’d sold that big home where they had lived and bought this apartment on Calle Mango downtown. There was a balcony overlooking the street. He’d paid extra for that, something he regretted due to the noise. It faced the second story of the building that housed the restaurant across the street, a ground-floor spot whose specialty was chicken and rice.

The restaurant was called El Pollo Gordo, and he ate there once a week, sometimes more, and he always ordered chicken and rice because he liked it, and he was a man of hard habits. If there were leftovers, he returned home across the street with a greasy paper bag which made Sammy smile. The dog liked chicken but not rice.

The old man’s days did not vary. He awoke at 7 without a clock, drank black coffee with honey and nibbled toast on the balcony because it was still quiet at that hour. Sammy ate dog food from a can. It never took long to make the bed and tidy the place — he was a neat man — and noon arrived soon enough and the need for lunch, which sometimes was chicken and rice, as mentioned, but often pork tortas he purchased on the street.

After the death of his wife, he’d taken to smoking again, cigarettes, cigars, a stained Meerschaum pipe he’d bought from a Swedish seaman who was short on cash four years back. The old man would sit in a coffee shop on Calle Calypso most afternoons, re-reading novels, biographies and histories he’d brought from the big house after his wife had died 10 years ago, as previously mentioned.

Sammy liked the coffee shop, so he sat at the old man’s feet. Sometimes he slept and snored. Other times, he watched the people, which is also what the old man did in those moments he looked up from a book to order another coffee or to rest his eyes.

About 8 or so, the two would walk the three blocks back to the apartment and climb the wooden steps and into the sitting room where they would listen to radio music from the Dominican Republic. The old man would think of “the old days,” and Sammy would think or not. Who knows what French bulldogs have in their heads?

This routine never varied. One warm morning, the old man did not get up for black coffee with honey and dry toast. He did not sit on the balcony, which no one noticed, and he did not open a can of dog food for Sammy. The old man had died in the night.

And Sammy was on his own.