November 3, 2010

La Ultima Vez

Dear Readers

I have spent the last 6 months in upper California and no longer am I running the guesthouse. The El Boleo mine, painfully on hold during the worst of economic times, is now about to become a reality with funding underway. The mine will bring many new opportunities for jobs and investment to the citizens of Santa Rosalia. Hopefully it will improve the town in many ways and perhaps allow them to fulfill the dream of becoming one of Mexico's Pueblo Magicos sometime in the future. As for my blog, it has served its purpose for me of describing my day to day life as an innkeeper and of the life and times in Santa Rosalia. I no longer plan to post new blogs. And so I bid you a fond farewell.

Hasta luego, La Duena de la Casa

September 9, 2010

Where to eat in Carlsbad, New Mexico

Hermana and I drove down to Carlsbad, NM to visit our Mother recently. We spent all of our time eating out, then napping and then trying to decide which restaurant to devote our attention to next. We made some surprisingly new finds and repeated old best ones—people in Carlsbad have some clever dining options now that have not always been there.

Our first night we went to the No Whiner Diner. The name by itself is enough to turn me off, but the food is actually very fresh and appealing with a diner sort of aspect, lots of options (including great salads for dieters), even though they don’t serve liquor. The thing about Carlsbad according to my cousin is that the townspeople fall into two groups: those that drink and those that oppose drinking. Every restaurant in Carlsbad has to decide which group they plan to appeal to because teetotalers and lushes avoid each other’s restaurants on principle.

The next morning as my sister and I walked down the hall to my Mother's room, we sadly discovered our Mother’s dining companion fallen on the floor in her room with a badly broken knee; she was taken off to Lubbock for surgery that couldn't be done in Carlsbad. That sort of dampened our mood to eat breakfast in the independent care dining room that day, so we hustled off to the Blue House Bakery and Cafe, a darling coffee shop and bakery with amazing artwork, excellent food and a convivial atmosphere on North Canyon Road. My sister parked in front of the vacant lot next door to the Blue House and pointed out to me that this was where my Mother had first lived as a child. Two Cyprus trees had overgrown either side of a single concrete step which was all that remained of where the house had stood, and the vacant lot next to that was where a beloved family pet, Star Puppy, was buried. I always asked my Mother to tell me Star Puppy stories over and over again when I was little.

Best place to meet and mingle with friendly locals--a must do!

That evening we had reservations at the Stock Exchange Steakhouse, one of the more pricey places. I wish they would put a new front door on the restaurant; the existing one is plywood painted a flat black and kind of sets the tone for the poor interior design in the restaurant. The facility is owned by a caterer and the food is imaginative and unique, even though the menu is somewhat limited. All of us were impressed with the fine food (and me the wine list); the desserts were exceptional. The dining furniture is beautiful, but although the restaurant is expensively decorated it is a claustrophobic space inside. A beautiful old bar dominates the end of the room, but has been effaced by the black ceiling and dark red-brown walls that take over the room and press you down. I believe they had the best food, but the interior made all of us very uncomfortable.

Thursday came and lunch was held at The Little Teapot, a very girlie spot in an old Carlsbad house, cater-corner from the Blue House. Inside the home was decorated with ladies hats, teapots and floral china, and a beautiful framed wedding dress from the ‘50s complete with pearls, handbag and photo of the bride and groom. The groom’s dinner jacket was framed on the other wall. The food was fresh and not too much, and all the meals were served on beautiful pieces of mismatched china. It was a cute place and was popular enough that a children’s birthday party was underway upstairs.

For dinner we drove 30 minutes distant to Artesia to an Italian restaurant called Piccolino which got good reviews on Trip Advisor. It turned out to be sort of your red-checkered tablecloth kind of Italian restaurant and didn’t make any claims to being fancy, though it was housed in a cute old brick building and was attractive inside. The portions were quite generous and the menu very comprehensive. I would definitely go back again. I wondered who the Italian counterpart of the establishment was since the staff seemed all to be of Mexican descent though giving the impression of being part of a large family who owned it. There were lots of unique menu items that hinted at a very Italian cook. Artesia is an oil-and-gas town, a tiny town of about 15,000 but embellished with some very impressive large-scale bronze sculptures of horsemen and cattle along the main street and highway through town.

Bronze sculpture, El Vaquero, in downtown Artesia

The next day, Friday, was our last day to enjoy each other’s company as Hermana and I would leave bright and early the next morning to catch up with Esperando in the Albuquerque Airport. I can never understand how times flies by so quickly. I convinced Hermana that we had to go to San Jose, the Mexican part of Carlsbad, to eat at Rojas Mexican Grill and Restaurant, the best Mexican restaurant in town. Their red chile sauce for chips and for enchiladas is fabulous, hot and spicy. The Mexican American citizens of Carlsbad lay claim to many generations of residence here all the way back to the Spanish occupation of Mexico; they are not ‘wetbacks’.

Our last night’s dinner was saved for the Trinity Grill and Hotel. This historic property was constructed in 1892 as the First National Bank. It once served as home to the first newspaper and headquarters of the Carlsbad Irrigation District where my grandfather had his office as Project Manager of the U.S. Reclamation Project. For my Mother, my sister and me, it evokes nostalgia of times past and some emotional claim that we have on Carlsbad as our birthplace. However it is also a wonderful place to eat, full of light and elegant interior spaces. The food is always good, the Maitre D’ knows my Mother and delights in escorting her to a table, and somehow it just always feels like home.

The old bank building these days houses Trinity, a B&B and hotel.

August 23, 2010

Canadian Border Crossings

Yesterday we flew back from Vancouver where we spent the past several days for Esperando’s work. The weather was beautiful and we ate at some really great restaurants.

Esperando tried to check us in online, but for some peculiar reason he couldn’t acquire my boarding pass. Our flight didn’t leave until 4 pm, so we waited around for one last lunch at our new favorite sushi restaurant Oysi Oysi. I am on a lowfat diet and Esperando is on the Atkins diet—Japanese food works really well for us as we can both have the raw fish and salads. The wait staff is super friendly. We ate there 5 days in a row we liked it so well.

Oysi Oysi means yummy, yummy in Japanese.

We decided to get to the airport a little early—it was Sunday and not much was open downtown. We tried to check in at the United kiosk at the airport, but again my boarding pass wouldn’t pop up. We had to get the agent to print it out for us. I guess we were just too dumb. When I finally got my boarding pass I had the dreaded four S’s on it, which meant I had been singled out for a special random security check. Lucky me. In the past when this has happened (and I seem to have had more than my fair share of times), Esperando has been excluded. But somehow in the intervening months since the last time, he was glued to my fate for better or worse. Those security guys probably felt sorry for the left out spouses and have decided the more the merrier.

When you get the four S's the wisest course of action is just to turn around and go back home.

Now we shunted off into the special high security section. Before we passed through your standard metal detector the security guy advised us we would be searched on the other side and had the option of a hand pat-down or the much maligned Whole Body Imaging Scan. On the other side we passed into the control of two guards who asked us whether we wanted to be frisked or scanned. We both elected to be scanned which took about 5 seconds. I hope those guys were blinded by my Medusa-type fat middle-aged body, serves them right I say! After that we came back to the table holding our computers, purse, backpack, shoes and wraps. A guy took our boarding passes and proceeded to check each item out with the explosive swab test, not allowing us to handle anything until it was checked, determined to be free of explosive residue, and then individually handed back over to us, a process that took about 15 minutes. We had to open our computers to show that they were not bombs and they if they had been we would have been the ones to have been blown away first.

Now Esperando and I went to a lot of trouble when we lived in Canada several years ago to drive an hour away to the U.S. border to apply for Nexus cards so could be deemed reliably trustworthy individuals who would sell all their children to the government for slave labor if we ever broke any kind of law here or in Canada. Having a Nexus card meant we could avoid waiting in long lines at immigration after gettng off the plane. We had to answer all kinds of detailed questions about our life history and residences, stuff you hope you will always remember but are afraid you will forget as your brain ages. You get a secret password that you better write down as it is super complicated—and woe to you when you can’t remember your security questions. It makes me tremble even now to think of getting on line with them. If you fail to get everything right, after the third time your access to their website is locked down permanently. Having gone through the whole rigamarole and having cards issued we thought we were now cool dudes. However the dreaded four S’s supercedes any previous cool dude status and we were next hauled off to a place that was actually labeled 'Detention Area for Baggage and Individuals' while our bags were retrieved so they could be hand inspected. Cops with guns on their hips cruised around in case anyone tried to make a break for it.

We were now seated in a room of equally criminally minded people who sat cooling their heels while their bags were likewise retrieved. We were all guilty until proven innocent.  A new couple came in and sat by us. They had been through this before and missed their flight one time because it took so long to be processed. The woman stated that the government had to keep doing this to, "keep us good and scared." Esperando and I had lots of time to wait and weren't in danger of missing our flight, but it was annoying to be treated like a criminal. Somehow our bags were not cooperating with a positive attitude, refusing to be found and since they couldn’t find them we were stuck. Finally after what seemed like forever our bags decided to make an appearance. Lots of other people had come and gone. Our bags were re-processed through the X-ray machine. We were asked if we had anything we wanted to declare, why we had come to Canada and how long we had stayed? I tell you they don't want us or our money there really. The government already has its own citizens paying for everything through the nose, why would they want Americans to come in and throw a few bucks around and lighten the load? I tell you next time you will have to drag me kicking and screaming into Canada. This time they have finally convinced me that I do not belong there, even if my forebears did land there 300 years ago, at least they had the sense to leave.

This was just a random check, but those security people are so hostile they make you feel guilty for everything you ever did in your entire life while you sit waiting. The have no sense of humor. The only thing I know for sure you must tolerate their hostility without cracking and making a snippy remark, or they will hound you across the border forever. We know—we have friends who are in that boat, too.