September 27, 2007

Mexico countdown whizzing by, almost time to pack

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The fall days - and crossed-off dates on the calendar - are going by frightfully fast, as Mexico lies ahead and our plans are almost as unsettled as if we were still piloting a cruising sailboat, unsure where to anchor or dock.

We know, for sure, that we will be living in La Manzanilla, in a rented house called Casa Lupita, for at least a few months this spring, while Admiral Fox does some work for Santana Realty and we try to get our house project off the ground. The house is providing some challenges, such as, what kind of house should we build?

And me? I intend on boogie-boarding, fishing in the surf, practicing the ukulele, doing some writing (ok, maybe a lot), and making sure my name is on a barstool at Palapa Joe's, the joint right across the street from Santana Realty.

Uno mas Cuba libre, por favor? See, my Spanish is coming back already. And my ukulele teacher promises I'll be able to play Two Pina Coladas by the time I get settled in on that stool.

Yup, after resisting taking lessons, I have been studying and getting serious (as serious as you can get about a ukulele). I already have four different somewhat off-color versions of Popeye the Sailor Man memorized - and several more in the works. "He's strong to the finish, cause..."

Casa Lupita gate and entrance
Casa Lupita galley area

Complicating matters this fall has how much fun we had in New York this summer - and how much we took to the community. Complicating? Yes. Living in three places for the next few years is going to be tricky: Sacramento (where the money is), New York (where the lake house and the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat are) and Tenacatita, Mexico (where the best weather, best beaches, best tequila, best gratuitious bikini photos ... oh, never mind).

The Admiral and I would love to cut it down to two places, but which two? And when?

Bay in front of La Manzanilla
A view of La Manzanilla

And complicating things more is that we hope to lock up our second piece of property this spring, the small lot overlooking the pueblo of Arroyo Seco. That's the spot I would like to build a small house - a writer's retreat, sort of. Good complications all...

That hillside lot is only a short distance from the beach, a quick trip if I buy the small Honda motorbike I have my eye on, perfect for the packed sand road/trail that leads to one of the best surfing beaches along the entire Costa Alegre.


Michael with neighbor
Michael with an Arroyo Seco neighbor

September 12, 2007

Back in the classroom and back at the keyboard

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - The dominant feature of my in-home office right now is a Mexico countdown calendar, which already has an impressive number of Xs on it as September slips away and we look at the much cooler days of October. Today, it looks like the temperature will barely crest 80 degrees after a couple of weeks of close to 100,

Already, my vow to wear shorts and sandals until I leave for Mexico in mid-December is looking like it will be test of mind over temperature.

Marking off the days

There is a certain shock in being back in the classroom for four classes - two basic newswriting classes, a magazine writing class and a column writing class (a class I haven't taught since about 2000). But compared to the political battles of last year (leading to a vote of no confidence in the university president) the questions of undergraduates about news values and how to pursue their research for stories is a welcome relief.

The fun thing about being in the classroom, is finding out what's new with these students. A writing group last night told me that the hot new college-age trend for recreation is - are you ready? - board games.

Board games?

Yup, Scrabble topped the list, but there were some others. Parker Brothers rule!

Of course, the lunacy in other areas is hard to avoid. At a small lake, three hours north of town the Department of Fish & Game is poisoning the water to rid the lake of Northern Pike - a non-native fish that somehow showed up there 10 years ago and which has resisted an earlier attempt at poisoning. This one will cost $16 million and kill everything in the lake.

Yup, $16 million - and then the DFG will spent God-knows-how-much on restocking the lake with trout.

Unwanted fish, apparently

The return to Sacramento has also meant a return to some of the foulest air in the United States. (I believe Sacramento is ranked as having the 10th worst air in the nation, even fouler than Los Angeles.) The only good news in that is that in the fall, the cool air at night drops all the pollution down to the ground. The bad news is a freshly washed car is covered with silt, dust and half-burn hydrocarbon every morning.

That's ok though, I suppose, because I need the stretching exercise, washing the cars a lot.

How many weeks until we move to Mexico?

September 9, 2007

The summer closes out with a party and air flight

VALOIS, New York, USA - The long, not-so-hot summer at Seneca Lake closed out just before Labor Day weekend with a flurry of close-the-house projects, including putting the Spirit of Louise on her trailer and then taking the ship to Morgan Marine in Penn Yan for service and storage.

The Admiral took her first solo voyage on the boat, running her down the lake from the house to the Smith Park launch ramp where we slid the trailer in the water and voila (!) we were ready.

True to form, the Admiral used a steady, if heavy, hand on the throttle and beat me driving to the launch ramp in brother-in-law Dan's truck.

Spirit of Louise ready for storage
Spirit of Louise ready for the trip to storage.

That same night, we sojourned all the way up the hill from the main house for a cocktail party, open-house at the cabin, which our friend Brad has been fixing up all summer. The place looked great, the food and beverages were also very noteworthy and the strategically placed tiki torches filled with citronella kept all but the nastiest and largest of mosquitos from landing and biting.

For the record, I only got two mosquito bites that evening, waaaaay below average for me being outside at dusk.

Part of the evening's festivities included an hour's concert by Brad and cousin Brett Beardslee. The booming sound coming out of the amplifiers proved that the electricity service to the cabin can handle a pretty big load.

Brad & Brett jam II
Brett and Brad jam for the relatives

And so it was with heavy hearts a couple of days later that we flew out of Syracuse, winging our way back to Sacramento for, gasp, the beginning of the fall semester and teaching.

But before we cleared the runway at JFK airport in New York, we got to witness a minidrama for about a half-hour, as a airliner about to land was waved off at the last minute, its landing gear not locked properly.

The runways were all cleared and many of the planes (including our Jet Blue airbus) were pinned to the spot while the plane circled a few times before attempting another landing.

The plane came down fine, but it increased the number of drinks I had on the flight from JFK to Sacramento exponentially. That's my story, anyway. And I have the empty little bottles to prove it.

JKF landing problems
Landing problems

Just before landing, I noticed on the tv screen (all Jet Blue flights have televisions in the seats) that there was a company contest for the best photo taken from a Jet Blue flight.

I doubt it's a winner, but here's my entry, which would win me a roundtrip flight anywhere Jet Blue flies.

Reno at night
Reno at night

NEXT: Back in the classroom and back in the smog

September 8, 2007

A trip around Seneca Lake and then - home we go

VALOIS, New York, USA - In our final week in upstate New York, the projects were all put away and on arguably the nicest day of the entire summer, we toured the shoreline of Seneca Lake - the whole shoreline from Valois to Geneva and back.

We didn't take the Spirit of Louise - which would have made it, except we might still be touring. We went in cousin Roger Beardslee's newest boat, which can do more than 60 mph, though we only hit about 35 most of the time.

Part of the reason for that was to conserve gasoline, the other was that we had 11 people on the boat.

Heading up the lake
11 a.m. and the first beers are out of the cooler

Even with 11 people aboard, the 21-foot boat wasn't crowded, though late in the day shade under the bimini was definitely the prime place to be. I managed to get a world-class sunburn on my face that took nearly a week to finish peeling. (I am soooo glad I have never given my dermatologist this blog url....)

Along with us on the trip was a four-week old kitten, rescued by some friends of Roger and Nancy (Mrs. Roger). The kitten was so tiny it had to be fed by bottle, even roaring down the lake.

Feeding the kitty
Nancy feeds the kitty

In a six-and-half hour trip, there was plenty to see, but the highlight was probably probing the beginning of the New York State canal system, part of old Erie Canal which connects all the lakes and makes it possible to go all the way from Seneca Lake out to the Atlantic Ocean. (A pretty long trip, but already the Admiral is talking about buying a truck in New York so we can trailer the Spirit of Louise to distant ports. I better practice "On The Road Again" on the ukulele.)

Canal welcome sign
Welcome to the canal

Houses along canal
Houses along the canal near Geneva

We also went by a U.S. Navy installation barge anchored out in the middle of the lake, a mysterious research vessel about which there are plenty of rumors and precious little hard information. We were able to zoom up quite close, however, and unlike such installations in San Francisco Bay, no one with machine guns came out to warn us off, just one kind of bored looking civilian employee who barely was able to muster enough energy to wave.

research station
Research barges in center of Seneca Lake

Roger didn't give us an accounting of how much gasoline was burned, but we emptied two large garbage bags full of empty beer cans off the boat when we got back.

A great voyage.

TOMORROW: Closing up the house, one last party (of course) and terror on the runway at JFK