September 18, 2008

Homing Pidgeons

Esperando and I are off for the next little while to Estados Unidos. Before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning we will drive to the Loreto airport. First we go to the Bay Area and visit the new fairy princess grandbaby whom we have not met yet for a couple of days, then on to Las Vegas for the Mining Expo. Sounds like we will get to take in some shows including Lionel Ritchie and Cirque de Soleil "About Love" which is inspired with Beatles music. Next stop will be Denver for a short day, then on to Taos for our nephew's wedding. Back to Denver, a few doctors stops, on to Loreto and La Paz to get some more home furnishings and household stuff, voila! before we know it we will be coming back to Santa Rosalia in time to get ready for American Thanksgiving here.

We are expecting some children to arrive for Thanksgiving, an as yet undetermined number of them. I am already scratching my brain as to what will be available locally to fed both carnivores and vegetarians. I'm not sure that we can get turkey, definitely not mushrooms, maybe some sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, for sure rice, beans, tomatoes and onions. Hmmm. This may be one of your more untraditional Thanksgivings!

I am leaving Sweet and Sour Pickle here under the charge of our household help, and the Storyteller. I hope they are no worse for wear when I get back. I am also leaving the staff with 4 guests to care for--clean their rooms, feed them, get the placesettings on the table. I hope I get good reports--and that no mystery guests show up when I am gone! The way things change around here I am not sure what will happen when I go away.

September 17, 2008

The walrus and the carpenter

The dog hates the carpenter. He can’t wait to eat him. I don’t know what the carpenter really did to antagonize such a people-loving dog. One time Esperando went back to talk to the carpenter and Sweet Pickle came with him. The carpenter didn’t realize Esperando was there and he started teasing the dog. The Storyteller and Esperando tell me the dog is picking up on my dislike of the carpenter and is hostile toward him because of that, but I tell you I don’t even have to be around and the dog will bark and growl at him.

The carpenter is one of the few Mexicans here who speaks pretty good English. He is a Jehovah’s Witness and occasionally wants to preach to you. We had two days for Mexican Independence day, and he was here right in our faces hammering away, what ought to have been restful time off was not so. Esperando asked him if he wasn’t taking the two days of holiday, and he said, no, he only celebrates the Lord’s last supper, and nothing to do with Mexico. One day when he entered the room labeled “El Diablo” (remember my rooms are labeled with the Mexican loteria cards and El Diablo is card #2 hence Room #2) he started to lecture me about Satan.

He wants to cozy up to us so he will get more work. He does do really fine carpentry, so I can’t fault him there. But the problem is you can’t turn him off when he starts talking. Both the Texican and I are busy with our own projects and he tries to invade our space. He is always here working when we are trying to eat lunch or dinner because he starts working at 10:30 am, takes a break at 3 pm for lunch and is back here by 6 pm working again. He brings his 9-year old son with him sometimes and the boy stands outside and stars at me through the window.

This morning the carpenter came into my room (while I was in the bathroom!) to tell me he would be working on the doors at the other end of the house. I was a little annoyed he didn’t send the cook or the maid in to find me, or knock on the door. I told him I would keep the animals in my room. In the meantime Sweet Pickle was trying to slink around the table to get away from him but the carpenter was standing between us, then he started waving his hat and Sweet Pickle immediately turned barking and would have attacked him. I had to drag the snarling dog into my bedroom and tell the carpenter how to behave so the dog would not attack him. I said, “you have been mean to the dog and he is afraid of you. Don’t wave your hat at him, or make aggressive movements, it scares him and that is why he is trying to attack you.” “I didn’t do anything,” the carpenter said. “Yes you did, you were mean to him,” I responded, “that is why he does this.’” The carpenter was silent.

September 15, 2008

Cat stories

Our first night on the road in Baja we spent the night in Catavina way out in the middle of nowhere. It is an amazing wild place in the middle of a cactus and boulder forest and surprisingly has a really nice hotel with very good restaurant. That, with about seven houses is the extent of it. This hotel also had a colony of about beautiful starving cats and a darling kitten. We thought about kidnapping her, but in the end decided it wasn’t the most intelligent idea and left her to her fate.

When we arrived here I was determined I would not take on any local animals. Casa Boleo came with two part-time wild cats that live outside. When I say “came with” I actually mean they spend a good portion of their time here sleeping in the side yard under the spare company pickup trucks. One is a white cat with blue eyes, and the other is her darling calico kitten which actually has little black hearts scattered on her fur as part of her calico design. My heart couldn’t bear to watch the kitten with kind of a palsy that hungry little animals have nor the plaintive miaowing one night, so off to the store I went the next day for Purina kitten chow. For about 5 nights in a row I fed little Frida Kahlo, her mother Penelope, and one whom we assume is her father, Diego Rivera. Our cat Winnie was plastered to the window much of the time and wouldn’t even move or go to eat when he could be watching her.

Then no little Frida for two days. Penelope came and Diego came, I was sure she had met some evil fate. Last night she and Penelope were back, I have no idea where she was holing up or why she abandoned us. But I swear to you she looks well fed and has grown about 2 inches. I wonder if she has a real owner but I can’t imagine so she is such a wild little thing. I don’t know if I will ever get close enough to pet her, she runs away each time I go out and put down cat food to reappear in two minutes and chow down on it. Today she is gone again, although the place is lousy with workmen, so maybe that’s not surprising.

September 14, 2008

Dias Patrias

Tropical Storm Lowell never quite got up here to Santa Rosalia which is just as well by me. The day before all the giant-squid fishermen hauled their boats up on the parking lot by the port. We have been told that for $20 you can go out on a squid boat and watch them haul their catch in, then when you get tired of it for another $20 they will bring you back to shore. The squid fishing all takes place at night, and all these squid guys have a big light hanging out in front of the boat to lure the squid up from the depths. Most nights their boat lights out on the water look like a small town, so many of them are fishing close together.

We are getting ready in Santa Rosalia for the national holiday, 16 de Septiembre, the foremost Mexican independence holiday. Cinco de May is independence from the French, but 16 de Septiembre is independence from Spain and is really the real biggie. In any event it is very hard to park downtown these days as everyone in town is selling jewelry, flags, and whatnot. Kids are in the big barnlike structure that houses some historic photos and are practicing folkloric dancing for the big parade on Tuesday. We have Monday and Tuesday off. Esperando bought a big Mexican flag to hang in front of the house. Monday is a full moon so any partying and I can tell you there will be a lot from the looks of the plaza and the banners in the streets, will have that as its influence! Esperando and I plan to watch the parade.

Yesterday we had the kitchen fumigated to keep the ants at bay. It was pretty gross with chemical smells and I got a sore throat from it. We had to empty everything out of the kitchen and then of course the cook wanted to go home as there was nothing for her to do, and I had to tell her no. The pets don’t seem to have been adversely affected, and my sore throat is gone today. I also had them spray the patio for ants, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have had any affect on the flies.

We brought some hummingbird feeders down which haven’t had much action until last night. We apparently have an indigenous hummingbird that doesn’t know anything about feeders. We haven’t seen them for a couple of days so they must have started south. However last night a larger hummingbird showed up and drank a couple of times from the feeder and was quite calm about our presence. Maybe we will have a big hummingbird winter with migrants from the north!!

September 8, 2008

Laughter is the best medicine

Poor Esperando. He came back from Vancouver and right off the bat, Dama de la Casa said “you need a haircut”. Dama de la Casa said, “you are meeting with the Governor and we do need to cut your hair, but I am getting ready to have a nervous breakdown first.” She explained that she had been way too busy, that she had no clue when anything was going to happen, that the servants had secret knowledge about things like when a guard would be on duty or not or the house would have water or not, but that she felt totally clueless. She laid down on the bed in utter exhaustion and tried to imagine how she might restructure things to make them seem more manageable. He came and laid down beside her and told her his life was no bowl of cherries either, and she was just one of many other potential breakdowns on his list. He wanted to know if they could both go to the looney bin together, and she said yes that would be fine.

After about 20 minutes of resting she said she now had the strength to cut his hair and they should go do it because he was leaving the next day. She didn’t want him to look unkempt for such an important meeting with the Governor.

They went into the bathroom and fell into an animated discussion of life as she used the electric shears to form his hair into a trim shape. She told him how difficult his hair was to cut as he had a very uncooperative cowlick, not to mention the clippers seemed to trim unevenly. After about 20 minutes she had him looking pretty good and just needed to touchup one small area. They were carrying on a lively discussion and she felt less like she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She was so close to being finished that she didn’t really look at the clippers. As she trimmed away he noticed the No.4 trim guide that maintained the ¼-inch long length of his hair was lying next to him on the counter, and she realized after cutting 6 inches of hair that a lot of hair was coming off of his head. Then she realized she had actually trimmed a 2-inch wide, 6-inch long swathe of hair down to his scalp. They both began to laugh and cry simultaneously—poor Esperando he now looked like some serious gang member. What would the governor think? She did know all that laughing made her nervous breakdown go away.

The morale of this tale is always take your haircutting responsiblities seriously and don’t get lost in deep conversations until you have finished your work.

September 6, 2008

What a difference a day makes

5 pm -- first “real” company guests arrive from the Vancouver office
I turn on ice making machine on at 5 pm so ice will be ready for drinks at 6 pm
During cocktails cook comes charging out of the kitchen practically in tears
Little red ants swarming over the counter next to the stove
These ants bite hard cook says.
I mop up the ants up with Clorox wipes
Cook asks me for talcum powder to discourage ants
I spend hours trying to locate can of talcum powder which I unpacked and put somewhere
Cook empties the entire cupboard and dusts with talcum powder
Despite unplanned kitchen episode, dinner is delicious, shrimp Mexican style
Carry empty plates back into kitchen
Have cheesecake Cook made 5 days ago and kept in fridge until now
Convince cook to use dishwasher so I can put drink glasses in later
Cook leaves at 7:30 pm
Realize cook has turned washer on when she left, turn it off so I can put drink glasses in later
Guests and I sit out on back porch partying until 8 pm then go to bed
I go around house locking five outside doors and turning on outside lights
Turn off ice machine
I go to bed
Wake up wired at 4:30 in the morning and feed pets
Take bath and get dressed
Go out to kitchen at 6 am and make coffee, set the table
Coffee pot on the blink, takes an hour to make coffee
Go around house turning off outside lights and unlocking doors
7 am cook arrives
Tell assembled guests breakfast options: cereal, omelet, eggs and toast, bacon, fruit
We want huevos rancheros-can't we have huevos rancheros? they say
Cook makes huevos rancheros
8 am maid arrives and tells me we will not have water for all day.
City has turned the water off, unannounced
Water will also be turned off all day on Monday
I decide Koreans better stay in hotel on Monday, not here.
Call office and tell them to make hotel reservation for Koreans on Monday.
Call office back and tell them Koreans arrive on Sunday, add day to previous reservation
How do we clean without water the maid asks?
I feel copeless, I say I don’t know
Water issue sinks in—no water to flush
2 pm the office guys finally get locally hired water truck to dump water in our tanks
Tell cook to make fruit plates for lunch
Guest and I have a lunch of fruit and cottage cheese
Tell guest I am going to take a nap and off we go to our respective rooms
Lie down
Phone rings and it is some guy I can’t understand
Walk around to the other side of the house and hand the phone to the maid
She talks to the guy on the phone and tells me it is the phone company
Want to come check our internet connection but are afraid of the dog
They will come right away
We wait 15 minutes
They show up in an hour
No nap
The cook returns at 3
Guest is has fallen ill, Montezuma’s revenge
I tell staff, no Koreans are staying but we will have bbq on Monday night as planned
4 pm the two maids leave for the day
5 pm turn ice machine back on for drinks

24 little hours

September 5, 2008

Feeling connected

Boy, oh boy, here come the guests— a full house of Korean investors! I have an extra helper for this week to assist the cook and the housekeeper. They have been polishing up the house within an inch of it life. I could never manage to do all this by myself without being utterly exhausted, but its hard managing all the details. I have been making list after list of things to do, who’s doing what as well as when and what has to be done. I have a carpenter here putting frosted windows in the bathrooms and replacing doorknobs for those lacking a key, the plumber here because the tub in one guestroom has extremely hot water and we have to fix it before our guests arrive, the air conditioner has failed again in the living room. The water is off one minute and on the next. Who knows what will happen next? This will be an extra busy week. Starting Sunday, the Koreans are here two days--Monday night we are having a big Korean bbq with the kim chee we brought.

I have actually been pretty amazed at the variety offered in the stores in what initially appeared to have been a very small town with very little to offer. I just ordered an emergency patio set from a local store which is being delivered today. We have been working to get uniforms for the household help. These have to be ordered in San Diego and brought down, they will take about a week to arrive. Then we get them embroidered locally with the Boleo logo.

Some chairs and a coffee table ordered from La Paz are still missing from the living room, but the coffee table for our sitting room is being loaned out there until the real one arrives. Full length wall mirrors are coming from Tijuana. I need a lot more small dishes, like for appetizers or dessert, small bowls, a sugar and creamer, but those I have to get in Loreto. We have an abundance of hibiscus flowers—double red, double white, single pink, single orange, and single yellow with orange edging— for guest rooms and the dining table; the cook can squeeze oranges to make fresh orange juice (its excellent!); Every night I wake up at 1 a.m. and think about everything until I can finally get back to sleep at 4 am. Actually I am not thinking, I just lie there in a stupefied but non slumberous daze. Last night was finally able to I sleep through the night only to be awakened by the His Majesty the Cat at 4 am for his royal breakfast.

Well I didn’t get this posted two days ago, so much has happened, but tonite I finally got an internet connection in my house. I am so excited I’ll probably surf all nite. I actually have cancelled the Koreans visit here. We are having water issues and the last thing I need is not for them to be able to bathe or flush the toilet. We will probably still go ahead with the bbq. I need to start marinating the meat tomorrow morning. Esperando will be back early Sunday morning. I can handle just about anything if he is here—and I have the internet too!

September 2, 2008

Surfing with the cardons

Monday has returned as it always does and the Texican has taken off to Vancouver. Oh woe, sad me—abandoned! Just one house guest, I hope we don’t get tired of each other.

Yesterday Esperando and I had a fine day at the beach at Punto Chivato, a gringo colony of about 50 nice vacation homes on a secluded beach south of here set back from the highway. We had looked at it when we first arrived as a possible place to live. The Architect who remodeled Casa Boleo has built quite a few homes there and gave us a tour of one of them back then; that is how we ended up having him remodel Casa Boleo. We thought about getting a house there facing the beach, but the houses are really close to the surf and we were worried the house might get wiped out in a bad storm. Also it is only seasonally occupied and I didn’t much like being so isolated when Esperando was at work.

The drive there normally takes 45 minutes, but it took us about an hour because the dirt road was badly washed out from the effects of Julio. Picture this: we are driving along the road thick on both sides with cardons (big cactuses that look like saguaros). We can’t go very fast as the road is really rough. All of a sudden 50 vultures perched on top of the cardons in front of us spread their wings to sun simultaneously. It was quite a sight, but the photographer was too slow to capture it.

There is a very upscale Italian hotel there (the owner is Italian and the hotel caters to Italians) which we thought to have a look at, but the owner greeted us as we drove in and told us it had closed for the season and wouldn’t open for another 6 weeks. He told us where to find the beaches. They were very nice small beaches with soft fine sand and pleasantly warm water. The dog went with us, he got quite worried when I started wading out to sea. When I got out far enough to squat down and be totally submersed, it was too much for him and he started out to save me. He doesn’t like getting wet as a Lab would, so I stood up to show him I was safe, and he turned back around and went to the beach.

One of the interesting sights was the cardons that had been uprooted and washed onto the beach from the storm and were rolling around in the surf. Instead of your usual driftwood there was cactus driftwood, something a bit different.