Saturday, August 26, 2006


Called Olga to see if she wanted to go out, but she was getting on a plane to San Blas where the three fisherman recently rescued from the Pacific Ocean are expected to return today. The Mexican government has reversed* its earlier hasty decision to investigate the vast disparity between the men's version of events and what friends and family back home are saying. Fearless reporters will investigate, though. And meet Tropical Storm Ernesto, recently upgraded from a numbered depression.* It's fifty/fifty whether Ernesto will become a hurricane over this weekend. Current warm water conditions favor it, but there's a low pressure shear that could slow the necessary drop in central pressure. We'll know by Monday, although Gulf oil distilleries are nervous, and prices are rising.* Fridays tend to be slow days around here: Sunshine likes to bask in the onset of her weekend. My only story is about yesterday. Back when we hired the neighborhood crew to look after our yard, the guy we hired was Hector. He and his crew came around once every third week to make sure the place looked tidy, doing a community a day all around Valle Oriente. As time went on I started seeing Hector less and less. For the majority of this year, his right hand man (whose name I don't know) has been working, often alone, on our yard. I like this guy and often find myself trying desperately to talk to him in tortured Spanish: I owe you for two weeks, It looks like it's going to rain, No I really do water the grass. Awkward, but hey, it's an accomplishment when he understands me. Yesterday he said "sorry I'm so late, but I figured I'd better get this done before the storm hit" in perfectly good English. [Cavin]

Friday, August 25, 2006


I meant to mention something interesting that happened at La Casa de Maiz after our trip to the MARCO Sunday. We were recognized. The waiter walked up, addressed Sunshine by name, and asked me how this blog was going. Sunshine occasionally runs into people she has met through her job, often surprising her, but this was a first for me. Monterrey is not a small town, some estimates place it on par with Los Angeles;* on top of that, I do not know many people here. The gentleman who recognized us works part time at the restaurant, and otherwise runs a really cool local art store called Carapan, a favorite among people seeking the finest examples of traditional Mexican handicrafts. This man is great at his job: the day we were at Carapan, he walked around with us explaining, in minute detail, everything we wanted to know about the art for sale, the building, and the history of Mexican art and architecture in general. It was good to see him again, but wow, we must stand out like lily-white gringos. In the news: you'll be happy to know that VW plant employees are going back to work* after their brief strike, 5.5 percent richer than before. Protest leaders in Oaxaca are agreeing to talk* over their differences, a first attempt to end the long attrition suffered there, just so long as these talks lead to the resignation of the Governor. And keep your eyes on tropical depression five, poised to become tropical storm Ernesto* tomorrow and possibly Hurricane Ernesto threatening the Gulf next week. Oh, according to borderline sources,* Texas is planning to post hundreds of webcams along the border so armchair minutemen can guard the frontiers online, calling a number if they see anything that looks suspicious. Sheesh. [Cavin]

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Today was a low key day. Wednesdays are like that, because I slink around our home keeping away from the perfectly wonderful woman who keeps our house. There is no good reason for this, only I can’t talk to her and she can’t talk to me, which usually ends in confusing confrontations that serve us better avoided. If not, she talks and talks, slowly, gesturing, knowing I don’t understand nine tenths of what she’s telling me, while I smile and keep from saying the few things I know really well: Good Afternoon! I’m upstairs! Thank you so much! and Do you have the small oyster cocktail, tonight? Rosy did not throw away any of our food today, nor did she rearrange any dishes. I tricked her by not having gone to the grocery store for any new food since last week, and having put all the damn dishes away last night. I spent my day writing captions for Flickr photos and laying low, reading stuff online: the surviving fishermen rescued* last week across the Pacific (from their starting point in southwestern Mexico) arrived in the Marshall Islands yesterday only to get grilled by the press. No one is arguing that there were originally two extra guys in the boat, anymore. People seem to be concerned that they were out to deliver drugs in their little twenty-five foot fiberglass motorboat, not catch sharks. I can see the suspicion: they keep claiming they made fishing supplies out of the cables and springs in their motor, but why would shark fishermen not already carry deep sea fishing stuff? And how come family at home don’t tell the same story about how long they were missing? And how come nobody seems to know the identities of the men who died? [Cavin]

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The last few days we've been getting surprise light rains every evening. The warm days are mostly sunny--an occasional white puff--and then later a storm will roll in freakishly fast considering its eventual mild temperament. Is this because of Hurricane Ileana in the Pacific, currently expected to bypass Baja California, or the slow disintegration of tropical storm Chris over Hispaniola? Who knows. Today's storm hit--without our noticing--while we were at Don Pascuale's. I had what was probably the very best fettuccini alfredo I have ever had; Sunshine's chicken parmesan was almost as big as the plate. I like the place: they have taken to serving small pizzas as a free table snack like most Mexican restaurants serve tortillas. The news: something strange is happening in Chiapas* after their state elections Sunday. The hotly-contested governor's race is divided fifty-fifty (about a tenth of a percent separates the PRI and PRD candidates), in a predicament that mirrors--in so far as it resembles and also mostly reverses--the situation in México City. Both candidates are claiming victory, and protests are commencing accordingly. What's strange? Why is the state election in Chiapas almost two months after the general Mexican election? It seemed that most states voted in legislators and governors back in July. In Chiapas, where the governor's seat is disputed by thousands of teachers (and other union insurgents) occupying the city, things have begun to turn ugly:* a machete-wielding army of protestors swarmed the streets in reaction to a fatal shooting yesterday, possibly connected to the blasting of a radio station (by unidentified gunmen) commandeered August first to broadcast protest demands. In the aftermath, three thousand armed Oaxacans captured twelve radio stations, plus barricaded bus stations, newspapers, and blockaded highways around town. Oaxaca is beside Chiapas. [Cavin]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I cooked a strange medley of peas, corn, and black beans in a paprika garlic sauce tonight. I was planning to make spaghetti, but about halfway into the process of making my patented "ninety-minute sauce," I realized that Rosy had tossed out all my tomato stuff: veggies, puree, everything. All I had were some cans of V8, and I'm not making V8 sauce ever again. So I made do out of powders. A little curry, a little turmeric, a little poblano, a lot of paprika: the only real ingredient I used besides water was some nice, fresh, chopped-up rosemary. The food turned out all right, all things considered. It is just about monarch butterfly season* again, a subject near and dear to this blog. Over the weekend a moderate five point five earthquake* hit just off Mexico's southernmost point, near Puerto Escondido, and was felt 240 miles away in the capital (although, as with the last one, there have been no reported casualties or damages). ALMO has again named* a number of people in connection with a conspiracy theory to deny him the presidency, again offering up highly interpretive "evidence" as corroboration. At the same time, leftist protestors agreed to release the important Reforma Avenue* in Mexico City to alleviate concerns over getting kids through back to school traffic, though they immediately blocked the Cathedral instead. Workers walked out* of the Volkswagen plant in Puebla on Friday, and possibly this, too, will help with the capital's traffic situation*. On the other hand: apparently a long line of brand new, well, tanks* have appeared parked outside Mexico's federal congress building after police had to subdue the largest mob violence yet in connection with the political situation there today (several legislators knocked around, no real injuries). Now that's trafficking! [Cavin]

Monday, August 21, 2006


Nice day south of the Rio: temperatures in the mid-nineties, very little moisture after some rain last night, and a breeze. We decided to head into town and visit the MARCO* art museum between the Barrio and the Macroplaza. I'd been wanting to go back for a while, having heard good things about the current exhibits. Inside we found an interesting exhibit for some reason titled "Boundaries in Movement." This was an exploration of the way people react to, and interact with, art (though it seemed more like a bunch of documentaries on self-obsessed, clichéd artists: "I just don't see things like regular people..."). But around the corner was a very interesting array of maybe fifteen flatscreen monitors running simultaneous videos from the border: each showing footage of, among other things, tin immigration barricades, interviews with regular folks on either side, and helicopters spotlighting running people. On the first floor, the MARCO is exhibiting the whimsical film work of William Kentridge, a series of interrelated black and white loops, running mostly backwards, showing the artist doing things like reassembling and then erasing a torn up charcoal self-portrait, flying to the moon in a teapot (through an astrology of negative image, high-contrast scurrying ants), and catching the rising pages of a book he is assembling in his hands. Throughout, the artist walked back and forth through his frames--this was a man with something to say about movement. My favorite rooms exhibited the works of Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, responsible for turning concrete into squared-off, angular buildings of immense horizontal and vertical space--credits include the MARCO building itself. After, we ate empanadas, tlacoyos, and sopes at La Casa de Maiz in the Barrio. The huitlacoche was not ready yet, so I got potato, bean, and nopalito filling, instead. [Cavin]

Sunday, August 20, 2006


News* of the three Mexican nationals rescued in the Pacific Ocean this week gets stranger and stranger. In the days since the first reports came in from the Taiwanese trawler that rescued them, survivors have begun claiming there were initially five men on board the boat that set sail last November from San Blas, México. According to survivors, the two extra men starved to death and were tossed overboard some two months into their ordeal. Starving survivors emphatically deny that they might have eaten these men. Where does it get strange? Witnesses and family at home just as emphatically deny that there was ever more than three people in the boat in the first place. Mexican officials hope that they can get it all straightened out when the Taiwanese boat finally docks in the Marshall islands on Monday. On this side of the world, Javier Arellano Felix is apparently pleading not guilty to charges of narcotics trafficking* and México has begun a petition for his extradition* after the US charges him for whatever international crimes they can. Here's the thing: in México, Arellano Felix has a far better chance of running his cartel from his cell, like his brother before him. Probably unrelated to the extradition request: authorities are concerned about possible violence in Tijuana as subordinates seek to fill the power vacuum left by Javier's arrest. This fear is appropriate: the vacuum following the capture of cartel jefe Osiel Cardinas was the precursor for the current violent turf war over the city of Nuevo Laredo. And a mild correction of Thursday’s Update. Only two of the Arellano Felix brothers are now incarcerated: Benjamin and Javier. Ramon was shot down in a bloody daytime gunfight with police in 2002.* [Cavin]