April 29, 2008

The phone booth inside the Grey Goose Express

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Although we have a phone installed in the Grey Goose Express, parked neatly at our lot in el centro de Arroyo Seco, the installer noted that the line had a lot of noise on it.

That will get fixed this week, he promised.

And because the Goose doesn't have a handy outside access for a phone jack, we had to run the phone line up through a closet where I will install a phone jack.

But for now, here's where the phone is located...

Phone booth
The phone booth inside the Grey Goose

Electricity, water, telephone - and within a week or so - a septic tank and a ramada over the Goose so we have some shade.


April 26, 2008

We can now 'phone it in' from our Arroyo Seco lot

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Utilities are a really big deal in Mexico. I think having your name on the electric bill is almost as important as having your name on the property title.

So today, when the Tel-Mex truck pulled up and we knew we were going to get our telephone line installed, it was kind of like winning the lottery: Not only had we ordered a phone line, we actually were getting it installed.

Un milagro! (A miracle for anyone who hasn't run across that word in this blog before.)

Tel-Mex phone guy installs line
Tel-Mex amigo clips phone line in place

When the installer pulled up, he looked around suspiciously and asked, "Donde esta su casa?"

We pointed at the Grey Goose Express and explained that the trailer is our house, at least temporada, prompting a very worried look on his face. He must deal with a lot of fairly loony gringos. I think he was thinking, "Who lives in a trailer in the middle of a dusty construction lot?"

But after about a hour of climbing around on telephone poles and stringing wires and chatting, we had made a new friend. He refused all offers of cerveza but gladly accepted a cold bottle of water when he came inside and found we had airconditioning.

He was good enough to explain to us that if we got a DSL line in the fall, to sign up for the slowest modem speed (and cheapest) because no matter what Tel-Mex said, the line into Arroyo Seco (for now) is ok but not sufficient to deliver the speeds Tel-Mex advertises.

He said if we could get more Americans and Canadians moving in - and asking for DSL - he was sure Tel-Mex would upgrade the system.

Oh and while it was fairly easy for me to understand everything the installer said in Spanish, he could shift easily into English to explain things, too. He learned English working in Pomona, California about 20 years ago, but decided to move back to Mexico where he has lived, happily, ever since.

Even on hot days installing phone lines for gringos living in trailers.

April 24, 2008

Flaming hula-hoops on the beach at La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Just when I thought the season was slowing down in La Manzanilla, the La Manzanilla Message Board popped up with this notice:

Tonight at Coco Loco, Molly will be performing a firedance
with her hoola-hoops just outside the restaurant.

Any of you who've seen her practising on the beach in these days,
will know that she really can move those hoops -
in a way most of us haven't seen before.

So with that bit of intriguing introduction, the Admiral and I went down to Coco Loco's for a peek.

My first thought on walking in?

Scott Noble went home a week early.

Hula hooper dancer one
First performance of the evening

The dancer - who hails from Bend, Oregon when she's not in Mexico - put on two shows, lighting up the beach for two 10-minute exhibitions that had the small audience in awe.

Hula hooper dancer three
Lighting the equipment

After the dancing, Molly talked with a number of women in the audience about using hula hoops - the none-flaming variety - as part of an exercise class next season. While most of the women said there was no way they thought they could get the hoops moving like Molly, it seemed like a reasonable (and fun) way to get some exercise.

Molly even gave instructions on how to manufacture your own hoop out of plastic pipe.

Post performance interview
Post performance conversations

Next year, the rumor is that there are plans for Molly to be married in La Manzanilla, perhaps on the very beach where she spun her hoop last night.

If it's at night, watch for flames on the beach.

April 23, 2008

Moving ahead with some big projects in Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The maestro has been making great cement-and-brick music all this week with the east and west walls nearly done and the back wall about to be started.

After spending a lot of time on site in the last two weeks, we decided today to go ahead and take the full plunge with a bunch of projects, some minor, and one whopper.

The whopper is that we are going to build our 8-meter by 13-meter palapa (25 feet by 40 feet) right away, as in the next few weeks, as in before we head back to the USSA.

The builder - a subcontractor - was casting about for a job and gave us an excellent price. Excellent being a relative term, of course.

It's a whopper because the wood and tile structure will be right in the front of the property and will cost, well, a few pesos. But it will be a great addition to the main street of town, whatever we decide to use it for eventually. There's talk of a bar, a restaurant, a classroom (to teach English), a music studio - maybe it will be part of our house.

Whatever, they all need a roof, si?

Almost finished wall
Almost completed east wall

Closing on the corner
Closing in on the west wall

Fence in front
Palapa will be behind the fence

We had pondered waiting until December on the palapa - something to do when we return next fall - but the maestro promised that he and his workers could handle the foundation for the palapa, if we did it now.

That means the maestro and his crew will finish the wall, build a 10 by 20 foot bodega (garage for storage) install a septic tank, build a ramada (for shade) over the Grey Goose Express and now do a concrete floor and foundation for the palapa.

Now wonder this all costs a few pesos.

In the meantime, I caught the ever-shy maestro laying up bricks today.

The maestro at work

April 21, 2008

A walkabout in La Manzanilla or an episode of Animal Planet?

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Our morning walks are always interesting in town and around the hills, though now that many of the gringos have fled for more northern climes (why we are not too sure, the weather is the best it has been since December), I have noticed a decided increase in the number of animals out and about.

Some are pretty tame, some not.

But this morning we stopped by a house on our regular route to watch a pair of tame cotamundis go about their business.

The fellow who owns them - as much as anyone owns a wild animal - keeps them around his house, sans any leashes or fences. When he walks with them on the beach, he keeps them on a leash - probably to protect the beach dogs.

Our first night in La Manzanilla this season, a cousin of these fellows was living in the bushes here at Casa Lupita, but vacated right away. No doubt our reputations for making noise preceded us and the cotamundi needed his rest.

Coatamundi 1
Coatmundi in La Manzanilla

Coatamundi 2
Coatamundi digging deep for something

Out in Arroyo Seco, you are as likely to see a horse coming down off one of the hills as a car or motorcycle or person on foot.

And late ast week I had to brake sharply when the fellow in the photo below decided there was something in the middle of the road worthy of a sniff. Trooper-pig collisions are not recommended.

Pigging out
Bacon on the hoof

April 20, 2008

A day near the ocean in Tenacatita and La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The day after your company leaves is always kind of sad. Who do you go play with? Where do you go? What do you do? What excuse do you have to drink beer with lunch and tequila at sundown?

And so somewhat adrift this morning, the Admiral and I decided that we would go out to our Tenacatita lot and I would cast my lot, quite literally, to try to catch some fish.

Surf fishing at Tenacatita
Hoping for a dorado - or anything

After the great Arroyo Seco fishing expedition of a few days ago with Scott Noble, Chon and Francisco, I had some hopes that I might at least get a few bites out around the rocks right in front of our property. I had learned (by watching my three amigos) how to get a good cast out far enough to entice a fish.

But the ocean at Tenacatita can be intense. And this morning it behaved like a teenager short on sleep: totally unpredictable.

One minute, total calm, the next, a 6-foot breaking wave would send me scrambling up the sand so I wouldn't get swept out by the undertow.

The whole enterprise only lasted about 40 minutes of casting and scrambling before my line parted, taking my next-to-the-last good ocean lure and ensuring a trip to the Zaragosa Marine store in Puerto Vallarta in a couple of weeks.

Casting into the surf
Almost the final cast

After fishing, we zipped back to La Manzanilla for brunch at Valentina's Restaurant on the beach where we shared a table with local bon vivants Jane Gorby, Debbie Wulze, and Willy (owner of Palapa Joe's). The beach was full of people enjoying one of the nicer Sundays we've had all season, though the water didn't look very appetizing, even from a distance.

Some 'red tide' was washing in at noon and by 5 p.m. when the Admiral and I took our constitutional along the beach, we saw one patch that was truly ugly and had the distinct aroma of decay. And whether it was the red tide or not, the beach for about a mile was littered with dead jellyfish for the first time since we arrived in December.

Red tide in La Manzanilla
Red Tide in La Manzanilla
Jellyfish don't like red tide
Jellyfish on the beach

The jellyfish and red tide didn't deter anyone from enjoying the afternoon, though. As the red tide moved from one 50-foot stretch of beach to another, the swimmers just moved accordingly.

With a little luck, the red tide will be cleared up by tomorrow morning when I think I might take a few casts off the La Manzanilla beach with my last heavy fishing lure, (a legacy left behind by Scott Noble). The Admiral and I are pondering whether to head out to Arroyo Seco for a full day of planning and drawing diagrams in the dirt to show where we want to place things around the property: A barbecue for fish, for example.

No rush on that, I suppose.

April 19, 2008

More progress in Arroyo Seco - and a tamale party

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Our amigos Scott & Jen left this morning to head back to the U.S., just ahead of the fun police who would have run us all in if we had any more of a good time.

We fished, went to the beach, toured around from Barra de Navidad to Arroyo Seco, ate meals at nearly every restaurant in town (some several times) and generally fit a month's worth of adventure into a week.

Siesta time, anyone?

On our fishing expedition, the only fish caught was by an amigo named Francisco, and it hardly would have fed more than one person. But earlier that day, our fishing guide and amigo Chon wisely stopped by the fishing nets and purchased some red snapper for our lunches.

One smart fishing guide.

The great wall project on our downtown lot is about 2/3 done in Arroyo Seco with the rest probably completed next week. Our across-the-street neighbor (Chon) has built a temporary fence in front and is about to start on some huge steel gates - also temporary - so when we leave for the U.S., the Grey Goose Express and our kayaks will be secure.

And a phone line. A phone line! We expect our telephone will be hooked up next week. And we found out that DSL is available after all.

Next thing you know, there will be Comcast trucks rolling through. (Gawd, that would be awful.)

Maestro at work
The maestro putting up bricks

Hangin at the trailer in Arroyo Seco
Camped out in Arroyo Seco

But one of the highlights of the whole week was being invited to (and attending) a party in honor of some surfers who were leaving to head back to France to work - so they can make money to come back again next year. They have been coming for a last few years and staying 6 to 9 months on the beach.

Before we got to eat, we all took part in a huge tamale-making operation at Chena and Chon's house, then went out to the beach for a great dinner..

Admiral fills the tamale pot
Admiral fills the tamale steamer

Kelly, the tamale maker, needs a beer
Tamale-maker Kelly from Los Angeles avoids dehydration

Here's a brief video of the activities:

April 12, 2008

Grey Goose Express becomes base camp at Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Adm. Fox and I spent a good part of the morning Friday trying to find plastic chairs and mats - and some other outside accessories - for the Grey Goose Express, now safely parked in place on our downtown construction lot.

Those plastic chairs - which you can pick up for about $5 USD each in the U.S. - are more expensive here and we ended up spending about $10 per chair after getting the store owner to give us a discount. But now we have six chairs, a table, and woven mats on the ground to keep the dirt from climbing aboard on our shoes when we go inside to the refrigerator for cervezas.

And yesterday I was in and out of the refrigerator like a hungry teenager.

Grey Goose Express on site
Grey Goose Express base camp at Arroyo Seco

We set up our chairs and being the object of much curiousity, we quickly drew some vecinos (neighbors) who came over to get a gander at the work and also get a closeup look at these gringos locos (you can translate that one) who are building in the middle of town.

It turned out one of the visitors was the mother of a local worker just hired that day to move huge rocks and do some shoveling. And like mothers of all nations, she called him over to introduce him to us, then lectured him about the need to drink more water.

And like all sons of all nations, he was mortified that his mother did it.

Lake Cement Mixer
Cement mixer a la Mexicana

When people work in Mexico, most of it is done by hand, quite literally. And the photo above shows the mixing of the mortar for the rock wall that forms the foundation for what eventually will be an eight-foot high brick wall on the eastern portion of the lot. And all the mixing is done right there on one of the concrete slabs, left over from the three buildings we had knocked down early on.

After it's mixed, the guys put the mix into big buckets and carry it on their shoulders over to where the wall is being built. These guys don't bother going to gyms to work out on some Nautilus machine.

Rock foundation
The rock foundation

Clever observers have no doubt noted that there is already a brick wall on that side of the property.


And in initial conversations, we were told that it belonged to our neighbor and so we were advised to build our own divider. It turns out that we do own part of the existing wall. But the workers are doing such a good job, we are going to move ahead with a whole new wall anyway.

Good fences make good neighbors and all that.

View from the back of the lot
View from the back of the lot

After a long day at the site (ok, it was four hours), Dustin and Cami arrived from Puerto Vallarta to take a tour. We adjourned back to La Manzanilla and Palapa Joe's Restaurant where the food and drinks were outstanding (as they always are) and we were there long enough to visit with local bon vivant (and retiree) Jane Gorby, out for a night on the town.

This afternoon Chief Engineer Scott Noble and his wife Jennifer arrive for a much-deserved week of vacation. Jennifer just graduated from law school and will henceforth be referred to as Chief Counsel.

I'm not sure her American-made law shingle has much clout down here, but I have been practicing how to introduce her in Spanish to our non-English speaking amigos: Mi amiga es una abogada...

April 11, 2008

Grey Goose Express makes its move to Arroyo Seco

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - Thursday was moving day for the Grey Goose Express from Tenacatita, where it was temporary housing for amigos Mario & Sharon for a couple of months, to Arroyo Seco, where we just started a big wall project this past week. It will be our home there, on and off, for the balance of the spring.

We thought we would simply drag the old girl out to Arroyo Seco - where it looks like we are building a Hilton, not walling in 800-square meeting lot - but learned that the 'city' water is only turned on for one hour per day in the morning for people in the pueblo to fill their water tanks.

One hour?


So we washed the Goose at Mario's before taking her to the site. It was nice pulling in with a clean-looking unit. The Goose is the second trailer to take up residence in the town. The other is an 18-foot unit owned by a surfer dude nicknamed Spiderman. Spidey lives close to the beach. (No kidding!)

We ran into some trouble getting the trailer over the curb and were ably assisted by Leonardo, one of the fellows building the wall. We had to use Leonardo's truck to make the final push to a parking spot next to the only vegetation on the property. (The Admiral is already laying plans to make the place very green.)

And we also ran into some technical troubles making a short video - the sound didn't come through when I put it into IMovie. Probably just as good, as I was using pretty colorful commentary in dos languages when the tongue of the Goose got stuck. So instead of my rantings, I inserted some music performed by Steve Southworth and the Rockabilly Rays from Valois, New York.

We will see Steve and company in a couple of months when we make our sojourn back to the U.S. and Seneca Lake.

More details and some still photos manana about the move to Arroyo Seco. And some details about our plan to drill a well there, too.

A well? Si.

One hour of water a day, indeed.

April 6, 2008

The sounds of La Manzanilla - sometimes fowl indeed

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Mexico joined in with Daylight Savings Time over the weekend, but the alarm clocks of town - better known as the roosters - didn't seem to notice at all and still light up with their cries whenever the mood strikes them.

And it does, no matter what time of the day or night it is.

But I have made peace with the local fowl population, because they like to eat scorpions, spiders and just about any other creepy crawlies we might have.

So this morning I opened the front gates wide again, and after a few minutes in came our local Foghorn Leghorn (from the Disney cartoons, in case you missed the reference), who, along with a couple of lady friends pecked the leaves and debris on the ground quite thoroughly.

If they nailed a scorpion, I don't know. But I feel better out there knowing that they have done a sweep.

Rooster Cogburn
Foghorn Leghorn's Mexican cousin

Searching for scorpions
Scouring for scorpions

We are frequently awakened by wild turkeys which roost in the trees and also a semi-domestic turkey that our neighbor seems to be feeding in anticipation of the next major holiday. I've yet to entice the turkey into the yard to look for bugs, but he does seem to follow the lead of the chickens, so ...

Hiding out until Thanksgiving
His name is either Thanksgiving or Christmas

Just before we encountered our turkey amigo today, we chatted briefly with some young people riding their horses back after a swim at the beach.

Yes, both the kids and the horses apparently went for a dip.

The temperature here has soared in the last two days. Suddenly, it's full on hot and from what the swimmers told me today, the water is starting to warm back up too - just in time for the arrival of our amigos Scott and Jennifer from Sacramento.

Riding home after a day at La Playa

April 4, 2008

Yet another sojourn to Arroyo Seco to check out progress

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - We mounted another expedition to Arroyo Seco Friday, this time with a full entourage of the Admiral and I, Tom & Mary Jo (La Manzanilla residents) Tia and her daughter Macy (and dog Coda), as well as two Spanish teachers from Calgary, Canada - Laura and Christina - who we hope might come back next year and put on some English classes for los ninos in the village.

We swooshed into town like a motorcade and were greeted with a nearly completed lot and lots of smiles from the local residents who are all curious about what we are going to do.

We wonder what we are going to do with the lot ourselves.

Flattened lot
The flattened lot - and a lot of room it has

After looking over the walls, however, we realized that what we thought was a relatively cheap and quick fix in the back is going to turn into a major bricklaying operation - probably about three times the amount of work (and $$$$) as we had initially estimated. The back wall needs to be a lot higher than originally thought. One side needs raising about six feet. And one side - 125 feet - needs an entire new wall, eight feet high.

Anyone interested in a little concrete and brickwork?

Admiral explains her site plan
The Admiral explains her ideas for the site

Still, it was exciting to see it so flat, the buildings gone and how much space we have to work with. We measured off a footprint for a building about the size of Palapa Joe's restaurant in La Manzanilla and discovered that it would fit neatly a one corner, leaving enough to build three more buildings of that size on the lot.

And still we would have plenty room to park, and even add some other small places.

No trip to Arroyo Seco is complete without going to the beach, where the waves were sooooo much better then when we were there two days ago with Dr. John and his amigos, who have returned to the U.S. but who might make another pilgrimage before we leave this summer for New York.

Some local surfer dudes were there, enjoying some good rides. We just enjoyed the scenery and the wind.

Laura contemplates surfing
Laura and Coda contemplate some surfing

Macy and Mary Jo con perros
A great beach for children, dogs and grandparents

Macy & Coda
Macy & Coda - after a long morning at the beach

April 3, 2008

Great progress in Arroyo Seco - and a beach trip, too

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - After several months of looking at our 'downtown' Arroyo Seco lot, we finally took action this week with the demolition of three small buildings on the street and the importing of 37 truckloads of fill to raise the property up.

Raise it up? Yup.

During the rainy season (June - November), our neighbors, (Chon and Chena) said the property frequently looked like a 'laguna.' And yes, it's the same word in English and Spanish. When the work is done Friday, no mas laguna, we hope.

Arroyo Seco buildings from the front
Arroyo Seco buildings, before demolition

Admiral's new fleet of trucks
Admiral Fox poses with her new 'fleet' - after the demolition

Our newest amigo in town - Javier - owns the company that does this kind of work and in fact he drove one of the dump trucks and then worked with the backhoe/grader to get the place leveled out.

He and his wife also own the grocery store adjacent to the lot. His young son (shown in the video below) has a great collection of toy bulldozers, graders and trucks that he was using on the edge of the lot while his father worked yesterday. No worries about who will take over the family business for them.

Doc John hands over some ice cream
Dr. John hands over some cold treats to the kids

We also had one of those moments that are hard to describe without choking up a little.

Several truckloads of farm workers who had spent the day picking pepper and pepinos (cukes) - mostly very young children - came through town, with one truck stopping at Javier's tienda so the chief of the group could get a beer for the ride home. Dehydration and all that, si?

We had just run into a new amigo on the street - a veterinarian from California and veteran surfer dude - and when he saw the truck stop with the kids, he and a friend ran and purchased ice cream and popsicles for everyone in the truck. I think in all he bought stuff for about fifteen people.

I haven't seen eyes get that big except at Christmas.

Eating a cold treat
A cold treat after a long day working

After the popsicle episode, we drove out the beach to check things out before heading back to La Manzanilla. While there, we talked with Dr. John who volunteered to come in a couple of times per year to do a free clinic in town for the dogs and cats - if we are able to provide him with a place to practice, a place that can be a 10 by 10 open room.

We're going to throw it in the mix of what to build on the lot.