Betting on the Bridge

Jesus del Monte denizen Raymundo Young de la Vega says he’s not a betting man, but he’s asking others to place their bets on how the rest of Morelia will reach Paseo Morelia, destined to be one of Latin America’s latest megamalls.

Last year’s idea of burrowing a tunnel to connect the rest of the city with La Nueva Morelia just didn’t seem to fly. But there’s always more than one way to scramble up the mountain, and betting is now open on whether a Megapuente will be the answer. The green tendrils shown at Young’s blog post is Campestre Morelia, our town’s first golf course.

It all makes me think of the Three Billy Goats Gruff: was the tunnel notion just a red herring?

It’s Too Early to Hide the Matzo

Matzo The only time of year that I really spend much time thinking about matzo is Passover. This year, my annual spring trip to Chicago came earlier than the usual official opening date for spring, and Passover got itself scheduled later than usual this year, which meant that the window of opportunity to even think about buying any kind of matzo passed me over.

But it’s just as well. Manischewitz put its production of my beloved white grape matzo on hiatus. Who cares about the Tam Tam shortage of 2008? I’m bereft and verklempt over not having white grape matzo, a variety so rare than many Jews aren’t even aware that it exists. And yes, I know that the white grape matzo isn’t even kosher for Passover except for the sick and the old. It’s the thought that counts in my book.

Oh, well. There are never any matzo to be found in Morelia anyway. We’ll have to settle for Passover tortillas. This is a household, after all, where Gumby on a Latke appeared during Chanukkah back around 5758, the year before the famed dinner where I completely forgot to light the candles.

And nope, I’m not going to cry for my poor brethren in Argentina who’ll have no brisket on their tables this year.


Fat City Mexico

David Simmonds over at Mexico Premiere points his fingers in both directions, blaming both the U.S. and Mexico for bad food habits now that Mexico’s been named the first runner-up in the international fat folks competition.

Unquestionably, obesity is at crisis proportions in this country, but the blame goes far beyond Coke and McDonald’s. This is a country where Coca-Cola Light, as Diet Coke is known in these parts, sells for more than the old-fashioned sugar-laden version. McDonald’s isn’t exactly affordable for the rank-and-file. The traditional foods of the popular class are laden with carbohydrates and grease and short on protein, because those ingredients are cheap and filling. Tamales, gorditas, chicharrones, and fried tacos are cholesterol bombs, but they’re also a means of making a little bit go a long way. Even the sopa secas are culprits, intended to fill the belly with something cheap and easy before venturing on to the plato principal. Aguas frescas may sound healthy, but they’re full of sugar. The national gelatina fetish delivers nothing more than Jellofied sugar water. This is a country where the primary role of lettuce is to serve as a garnish. The most determined South Beacher or Atkinsite will find locating something to eat in a popular neighborhood a daunting proposition.

Poor folks are fat in Mexico for the same reason they are in Los Estados Unidos, but the incursion of Estadounidense-style comida charatarra shouldn’t bear the full brunt of the blame here. It’s a matter of campesino eating habits in urban cultures. And money.


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Richardson = Judas; Clinton = McCarthy; HRC = AMLO?

James Carville compared Bill Richardson to Judas. An Obama aide compared Bill Clinton to Joe McCarthy.

Will Hillary, like failed Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, insist that she’s the Legitimate President of Los Esados Unidos for the next four years?

The Heathen of Santa Maria

Shortly after noon today, I considered going to Centro to buy myself a Judas, not wanting to risk the good ones all being sold out by tomorrow. But then while I was debating over whether to drive or take a taxi, I talked myself out of the proposition, deciding to rent a couple of movies and grill a steak instead. If it’s really a life-size Judas I want, then I should spring for something custom-made instead of street-quality.

The one day of the year that you can count on peace and quiet in Santa Maria de Guido is Good Friday. The buses and combis don’t run, no one’s gunning an engine, the leaves in the trees don’t rumble, no music rings through the air, and even the dogs don’t bark. There is no sense in wasting that moment of stillness by leaving the house.

I did have to leave the house for the videos and a pack of the elements of vice and destruction. There was no one in the street until I turned the corner and saw two young boys sharing a can of beer on the sidewalk. They quickly tried to hide the beer, but they know me well enough to know that I don’t care. On the next block, a neighbor works underneath his car.

Like everything else in my hamlet, every business was closed, even the video store. But you can always count on Don Chucho being open. His abarrote, manned by his two daughters, never closes, not even in the late hours of Christmas Eve. Jesus Villa, who can only write his name with a great deal of effort, is an astute businessman. His prices beat Walmart’s any day of the week, and he has nothing to fear from Walmart’s ventures into the abarrote business. Beer sales were brisk this afternoon, but I never have to wait at this store, because the clerk always hands over a pack of Marlboro Lights without saying a word. Sometimes it’s almost embarrassing that I never have to stand in line there.

Mauricio and Angelica find me in the street, and they invite me over to eat.

“Thanks, but I’m going to grill a steak today,” I tell them. It’s a religious thing.

“Well, you are going to the Procession of Silence tonight, no?”

I lie and tell them I will. They know perfectly well that I’m lying, so it really makes no difference.

Now the Procession of Silence has passed, obviously making no noise as it swept past my street. Goodman the Nearly Perfect Doberman didn’t notice.

I can no longer stand the silence. I put on some Charly Garcia. No one will complain.

Maybe I’ll walk to Centro tomorrow to see the local version of Burning Man.

Old Lawyers Really Like Us

In his Winter 2008 Making Technology Work for You column in Experience magazine, published by the American Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division, California lawyer Jeff Allen (who also is editor-in-chief of GP|Solo Technology & Practice Guide and Technology eReport) has some good things to say about Staring at Strangers. Including SAS among the interesting blogs he recommends to readers, he writes:

Staring at Strangers. A blog written by two, often politically incorrect, attorneys who comment on whatever strikes their fancy.

It’s too bad that Experience magazine isn’t accessible to anyone online. The Senior Lawyers keep those issues locked up to those who aren’t members of the club. Heck, I’m not even a member of their club.

One More Roadblock for Mexican Truckers

Estadounidense bureaucrats have ants in their pants once again over the matter of allowing Mexican truckers to traverse the highways and byways of Los Estados Unidos. First, there was the fret and worry over how safe those trucks might be. Would Mexican truckers be able to live up to the code of professional Estadounidense truckers? Now, they’re in a dither about how well Mexican truckers will be able to speak and understand the English language.

Mexico Trucker, a English-language blog devoted to Mexican trucking issues, takes on the matter of the mother tongue.

Thousands of Mexicans drive to Los Estados Unidos every year, and thousands to Estadounidenses drive to Mexico every year. None of them are required to prove proficiency in a language other than their own. There are states in Los Estados Unidos which will administer driver’s license exams in languages other than English, and even the Internal Revenue Service distributes tax forms in Spanish.

It’s time for Los Estados Unidos to get real about the situation. The kind of truck which might make the daily milk run from Pichataro to Patzcuaro isn’t going to be the one making the long-distance run, nor will the driver be some kind of idiot. Over-the-road truck drivers are an intelligent bunch, many of them more savvy than your average lawyer. They bear a lot more responsibility than many college-educated fools, too. Let’s give ’em some credit without demanding proof that they can distinguish an adverb from a gerund.

A Clean Wipe

The Florida legislature wants to mandate that restaurant patrons have enough toilet paper when they use state-inspected bathrooms.  Don’t restaurant inspectors have enough on their plates just verifying that eateries are maintaining the minimum level of rat infestation and E. coli without having to count and squeeze the Charmin? Now, we can understand the need for restaurant inspections, since sausage-making is something that many chefs prefer to do away from the prying eyes of patrons, but can’t patrons be left to their own judgment about how well a dining establishment maintains its loos? Or at least come prepared with their own stash of papel higénico?

Los Estados Unidos is on the slippery slope to installing washroom attendants who dole out the Petalo in two-square rations for two bits. On the other hand, it could provide some employment opportunities.

We Mexicans know enough to always go armed with tissues.

Oh, I get it now. Florida’s real motive is keeping the Larry Craigs from having to ask the person in the next stall for paper.

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Bring Me the Head of Doroteo Arango

92 years ago, Los Estados Unidos placed a bounty on the head of a common criminal who terrorized northern Mexico, even invading the E.U.A. and killing red-blooded American citizens. Not only did it not recognize the efforts of José Sáenz Pardo, who did the trick, but the state of New Mexico went on to honor the lout with Pancho Villa State Park.

What’s next—Al-Qaeda Towers?

When Will You Wake Up?

clock Tomorrow morning Los Estados Unidos springs forward, which means that its denizens will lose an hour. We’re smarter than that in Mexico, waiting until the civilized date of April 6 to make that change. But that means I’ll spend the next month guided by Post-it notes plastered everywhere to remind me that Daylight Savings Time means that Chicago is now one hour later than here, New York is two hours later, and that San Francisco is only one hour earlier. Or I could just pretend that I’m living in Denver for the duration.

DST is brought to you by the same folks who came up with the idea of fluoridated water and sex education in the schools: the New World Order and the vast left-wing conspiracy. Let’s give some credit to the souls in Arizona and Sonora who have the brains to resist.

Words to Swear By

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t mutter at least five of the words George Carlin couldn’t say on television. (For the law-related post of the month, see Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978).) Why, trained professionals have even been known to place bets on whether I could make an hour’s presentation to a group of lawyers without uttering at least one of those words.

My language has offended others more than once. When I took up the matter of slipping on dog shit with the manager of PetSmart in Texas, he took me to task for using the word “shit,” insisting that it violated his born-again Christian beliefs. I really think he should’ve been more concerned about a personal injury claim than words which most likely wouldn’t have bothered Jesus Christ himself. A stewardess who awakened me from a peaceful mid-flight slumber by pouring some stinking beverage all over me got all hot and bothered by my outcry of “Shit, fuck!” and insisting that I’d committed an act of near-terrorism by cursing on her flight and offending her family values. Well, she shouldn’t have awakened me like that. She never bothered to apologize, either.

I live on a narrow, one-way street. Yesterday, as I drove out of my driveway, another car was heading the wrong direction. Now, we usually pull a stand-off at this point, making the offender back up. The driver, an educativa in a late-model car, would not play by the rules. I had no choice but to re-open my electric gate and back in, letting her know that this was, after all, a one-way street and she was driving in the wrong direction. She flipped me off, so I returned her greeting with a good ol’ Nelson Rockefeller salute. It had been ages since anyone’s given me the finger, and it had been ages since I’d returned the gesture.

Later that day, over coffee with a well-educated, well-bred, card-carrying member of the buena gente, I mentioned the incident. She, too, had given the finger to the protestors who’d hijacked all of Morelia’s major thoroughfares. They deserved it.

And this week, the kind and good people of South Pasadena are celebrating No Cussing Week. All of that leaves me a little confused. Does that mean everyone there’s supposed to go around saying “Oh, feces” and “You, fellator, you?” What about swearing on a stack of Bibles to tell the whole truth and nothing by the truth? Someone really ought to donate a copy of Richard Dooling’s Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech and Sexual Harassment to the city library.

I guess it’s still socially acceptable to flip the bird in South Pasadena.

¡Pendeja! ¡Cabron!


J. Peterman Comes to Mexico

Back in another era, the end of the day at the law factory meant spending some quality time with the daily harvest of catalogs, which often would amount to a foot-high stack. In a small rural Iowa town where Walmart was just about as good as shopping got, unless you trekked all the way to Red Oak’s K-Mart, those catalogs were a window to the world beyond. Customer service working the night shift and the fax machine meant that the UPS man could deliver some of the treasures to my door even more quickly.

Shopping from a mail-order catalog is far from boring. The enjoyment of reading and dreaming and dog-earring the pages, debating about what to order, placing the order, and waiting eagerly for delivery is just as important as opening up the package and enjoying the goods. 

There are those who can remember some line from a movie, a scene from some concert, the third inning of a ball game, or what they ate last Tuesday. To those who love to shop and read, those are silly, insignificant moments. Our defining moments are filled with memories of what we scored on the big hunt.

Take J. Peterman, for example. I can tell you how I called the phone number which appeared on his small Wall Street Journal advertisement for a horseman’s duster and how that led to a copy of the very first J. Peterman catalog landing in my mailbox.  And how he introduced me to Mephistos in the 1980’s. And then there was the first Banana Republic catalog, printed on heavy stock and filled with intriguing backstores. And the Penzeys Spices catalog, filled with never-ending commentary and recipes about all kinds of spices, fascinating even to someone who doesn’t cook. Who can forget the thrill when the annual Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog arrived?

Those days are gone, killed off by the Internet and the reluctance of mail-0rder merchants to send catalogs to Mexico. Downloading a catalog just isn’t the same. I want the feel of paper in my hands, and I want to take those catalogs to bed with me.

During those good old days, I would spend every spare moment in Mexico, venturing off to artisan villages, not knowing what I was doing, and buying folk art that met my fancy, stuffing it all into the Suburban for the trip back north. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time, effort and expense had I known Rick and Deb Hall back then. Between them, they’ve been building relationships with artisans for sixty years. And they actually know what they’re doing, operating Zócalo Fine Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende and Zócalo Arte Popular in Patzcuaro.

rooster Every business has to have a website, and theirs is no different. But it does take a different approach, because Zócalo Fine Folk Art offers its wares by mail order at reasonable prices, shipping and handling included. Remember that angel’s head at a shop in Tlaquepaque that you didn’t buy, because you didn’t know how you were going to get it home, and now you’re kicking yourself? That and more are available at Zócalo Fine Folk Art. Buying folk art directly at a concurso from the man or woman who made it might seem like a more authentic experience, but there’s a knack to doing so, and Deb Hall walks you through the process. But even if you did manage to schlep that green ceramic pineapple unscathed all the way from San Jose de Gracia back home, and now you’re wondering how to clean the damn thing, the instructions are right here.

Folk art is more than just another decorative object, and the stories behind the lives and communities of those who produce it create greater understanding about how elements and uses are combined to create what we call “art.” A clay horse is more than just a piece of clay formed into the shape of a horse, and a fish depicted on a plate from Capula means more than just something that once swam in the lake. That’s where Deb Hall’s blog, Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art, delivers the rest of the story in a way that would make J. Peterman proud.

God, Mammon and the Mountain

Swing past the bronze statue of John Paul II on the eponymous boulevard, and la Nueva Morelia, now re-christened Altozano, nee Montaña Monarca, bounds with options — the Tec de Monterrey’s Morelia Campus, the yet-unopened golf course, and Paseo Morelia. The university has been up and running for several years, and bets are still on about when Latin America’s next big shopping center will be open for business. Will the chapel open first?

This is beginning to sound more and more like Mexico’s version of Ave Maria, the Naples, Florida, planned community.