Thursday, December 25, 2008

The friend, the wine, the good life!

Life is good! Friends are great! A good bottle of wine thrown into the mix just seems to help cement it all together. Sometimes when we least expect it all these things come together and we have one of those really great times in our lives. They don't need to be life changing! Just one of those "make you feel good" times!

A friend of ours, Gary, from Colorado, Denver to be exact, came down for a visit and to hang out here in Merida for a bunch of months. He plans to travel around and see some of Mexico and surrounding countries via his bicycle and local transportation as needed. He's rented an apartment and we have been inviting him to attend some gatherings with us. Hopefully making a few new friends and gaining information as he goes. This time of year there are many gatherings to attend so we've been pretty busy.

Ok, enough of that. The other day, a Thursday, he offered to take us out to lunch as a kindness for our undying, selfless, big hearted, well, aaaaaa, that's a load! So ok, he's a nice guy and just wanted to take us out. We chose one of our favorite restaurants, Campay, which is a sushi restaurant and on Thursdays their rolls are half price! (If you go be aware that their rolls come made with creme cheese so if you don't want the creme cheese in your roll, yuck, you must order your rolls "sin queso"!)

We had a great meal and when we left we needed to stop by Wally world and pick up a few things and asked if he wanted to come along. Well one thing led to another and we invited him over for dinner that night abnd he accepted. So we bought fish and a few other things and he bought steaks. See, I told you he was a nice guy! We finally got home, talked for a while, and started meal prep.

Now I need to inject here that Gary was, is and hopefully will always be a fellow enophile and we have probably tasted more wines at his house in Denver than any other place next to our own home. My knowledge and appreciation of wine was greatly enhanced at his house. Great times and wonderful wines were tasted, consumed, and talked about on many many days and evenings. Oh, and he's a really great cook too! So good wine, good food and great people made for fond memories that will stay with me forever!

Now for those that have read the blog I posted about my wine cellar, etc you'll appreciate the fact that I offered up the wines I brought with me to him to go with our meal. (Well, except for the wine I am saving for my 60th celebration in 09.) We talked and chose two Las Rocas 01 Garnacha from Spain. We felt that out of all the wines I had that these were two would be most likely reaching their peak or may have gone over the edge. So I popped the corks and poured some and the nose was a bit off and we both looked at each other with the unspoken "uh oh" in the air. Of course we knew that we had to give it a little time before we tasted it.

This wine was not an expensive wine when it was released but it was rated (if memory serves me correctly) at 92 or 93 points out of 100 by WineSpectator. Getting inexpensive wines with high ratings didn't happen every day. Also I feel I need to add that a high score does not guarantee you zip. It always comes back to "do you like it?" So there's only one way to know if you like it so I went to the store and bought a bottle. I opened it with dinner that night and it was wonderful especially for right at $10.00 a bottle. The next day I bought a case. Many times people that collect wine and have a wine cellar are believed to only collect expensive wines. That is far from the truth and I always loved finding and experiencing great wines at inexpensive prices. It had always been like a challenge to me and I loved the "hunt"! I even had given thought at one point to opening a wine store with all wines being under $15.00 a bottle.

So back to this happening........we sat the bottles and glasses to the side and we all leisurely worked on the meal to get it ready! Heck, that was fun in itself. We hadn't been together for over three years so we were talking and reminiscing while we prepped the meal. So the menu was simple, grilled steaks and fish along with some great sauteed veges! Something to be said for simple!

After about an hour and a half we tasted the wine and it was wonderful. Bacchus blessed us and we were thankful! We then reminisced about when the wine was released, how after it was released it became harder to find because of the rating, etc, and it was fun. Something I don't get to do any more down here in Merida.

So the fish and steaks were grilled while we sipped the wine and talked. The meal was served and our glasses refilled and Debi, Gary and I spent a lovely evening together. Simple and spontaneous......I like it! Ain't life grand!

Here's looking forward to the next friend, the next good bottle of wine, and another slice of the good life!

Happy New Year! Prospero Ano Nuevo!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hola! This blog is way over due but as is said...."better late than never".

As I journey through my new life here in Merida I meet new people and some are ok, some are nice, a few are not so nice, but then some are exceptional. This blog is about an exceptional person by the name of Eduardo Perez and going on a fishing trip with him.

Eduardo was recommended to Debi and me as a very good mechanic and that is how we met. It seemed from the beginning there was more to our meeting than just the initial mechanic/client thing.

The first time I walked into his shop I was greeted by a lovely young woman whom shortly later was introduced as his youngest daughter. On my second visit I met his most wonderful and also lovely wife Berta. We all seemed to hit it off on all cylinders right from the beginning.

Since that first encounter we have developed a good friendship and have visited each other at our homes and shared in the delight of good food, good wine and good people.

The subject of fishing came up as it seems to do when two guys start talking about things they like to do, etc. Fishing and doing it together crosses over all language and race barriers and can bond guys together.

Eduardo asked me many questions and as the conversation continued he got more interested in finding out that I was not leary of the water and I liked to fish. This subject came up several times and then he asked if I would like to go out on his boat. He explained that the boat was not large, it wasn't fancy, and that it was a simple Mexican way of fishing without poles, with hand lines and it was mostly about just getting out on the magnificent ocean and communing with good old "Ma Nature". He asked several times if I'd be ok with everything as he wanted me to have a good time and not be disappointed. I did and I wasn't!

Eduardo had hoped for us to go out in April but due to various delays and what have you we didn't get out until June 15th. Eduardo wanted the day to be special for me....sort of like a gift to me, at least that's the way it felt. He didn't allow me to help pay for gas, or bait or anything. Just come along as his guest and enjoy the day.

The day came and he was supposed to pick me up at 4:45 AM. Now you may remember reading in one of my previous blogs and/or in one of Debi's where we have mentioned how it is very usual to be late getting to an event, etc. Fishing is one of the exceptions to that. Eduardo pulled up out front at 4:39 and I was ready.

Our first stop was at Eduardo's shop to change vehicles and pick up a few items. We needed to take the Bronco because it had the hitch that was needed to put the boat in the water.
The next stop was to get ice at OXXO.

And then we needed gas!

The nice thing about getting up early is how Ma' Nature likes to reward you!

Eduardo said that he was taking the back way to Chuburna Puerto. It was an interesting drive. The roads were narrow and we came across an accident where a person on a bicycle was hit by a vehicle. As in most cases on small roads the vehicle didn't stop and unfortunately the person riding the bike was dead. (No pictures of that)

Regardless the view was wonderful and we were getting closer to wetting a line!

The first thing we did after arriving at the Puerto was to back the truck up to the boat.

Hook up the boat to the hitch and transfer supplies

Then Eduardo and Emilio unloaded the two outboard motors and attached them to the boat. Eduardo had converted a 7 hp gas motor to an electric motor and he brought it along to see how it worked. Eduardo is real handy with making things that come in handy. Once at his house he showed us a generator he made that will supply enough power to his house to sustain the necessities if a hurricane hits the city.

Of course the next thing is to get da' boat in the water.

Last minute checks are made and then we sit in anticipation of starting the motor so we can power out into the Gulf. The motor starts as expected and we power thru the Puerto. We pass by many boats moored and anchored just waiting to do what we are doing.

Eduardo is very happy to be out on the water and he is looking forward to a wonderful day of fishing!

We turn right out thru the Puerto into the channel that connects the Puerto and the Gulf.

As we head out Edurado and Emilio each put a line in the water just in case a few robalo might be biting.

Now there is nothing to do but get to a spot, throw out the anchor and wet some lines. I was in the middle of the boat with Eduardo at the stern and Emilio at the bow. They started catching fish right away and I wasn't even getting a nibble. They had each caught over 20 fish each by the time I started pulling a few in. Regardless it was fun!

The fish weren't big but there were plenty of them. Edurado and Emilio each had two lines and I had one. Eduardo asked me if I wanted another line but I declined.

The bait we used was squid and it worked well. It was just cut up and available to bait your hook with. Each line had two hooks and the hooks would get cleaned off regularly. Those fish were smart little devils!

Every now and then Eduardo would start the motor and we'd go to a different spot to try our luck and overall our luck was very good!

Eduardo is a very happy man when he is out on the water. He and I shared some of our philosophies about fishing and the ocean and they were very similar.

As we moved from spot to spot Emilio would fillet the fish and we were accumulating many fillets. Eduardo had promised that I'd get to try some of the freshest ceviche I had ever had. I knew that these fillets were destined to be the main ingredient.

Eduardo and Emilio are a fishing team. They seem to be able to almost know what the other is thinking or wanting to do. It was fun to watch them and how well they got things done.

Of course with all the fish pieces and parts being thrown in to the water it brought around a few hungry winged friends. Not camera shy at all and willing to get close in order to get a tasty morsal.

We finished the day by anchoring in the shallows right outside the channel. Emilio finished making the ceviche and Eduardo and I went swimming. Emilio joined us after he completed the preparation of the upcoming feast!

Upon getting back in the boat we partook of the rewards of our toil for the day and boy oh boy was it good! Many thanks to Emilio for preparing the ceviche.

It was a fantastic day and one that will be listed as one of the very best days I've had since coming to Mexico. Eduardo thanked me for trusting him enough to go out on his boat with him. His thanks were warmly received by me as well as his wonderful hospitality and willingness to share this very personal outing with me.

I can only hope that I have other experiences that will allow me to touch on the basic essence of Mexico as much as this one did. I know that no matter what I do I'll never be able to truly know what it is like to be Mexican but I really feel that I got close this time....real close!

Thanks Eduardo!

Life is pass the ceviche!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sal, Sal, Sal!

"Sal" is Espanol for salt! The Yucatan produces about two thirds of all the salt consumed in Mexico. The Rio Lagarto area at the North East area of the state of Yucatan is where they produce it. Rio Lagarto is a large area and is best known for it’s bio reserve. A facility called “Las Coloradas” is the largest production center in the Yucatan. If you’d like to see more on this facility please click on this link

You are probably asking yourselves why am I talking about salt? Well, when we remodeled the casa we were advised to install a water softener system. It helps to keep the calcium deposits from building up on the fixtures, the tile and the interior of pipes. The system uses sal for the processing of the water. We use about twenty-five kilos (55 lbs) per week at about 43 pesos per twenty-five kilo bag or for my peso challenged friends $4.00US per bag.

I actually started out purchasing fifty kilo bags (110 lbs) but the old back started to protest and reminded me that all the body parts were supposed to be retired! LOL!
Each Monday I dump one bag into the plastic tub that holds the salt for the softener system. Every two months, give or take a couple weeks, I drive over to the Salinera warehouse and purchase ten bags.
This is me driving down Avenida Itzaes on my way to the warehouse.

Yes, my knee was on the steerring wheel! LOL!

This picture is the entrance to the warehouse area. It's called "Centro De Abastos" and it's a commercial area where many items such as fruit, flowers, vegetables, etc come into the city and then are sold and delivered from the area.

After entering the warehouse area there are rows of buildings with loading docks and serious activity going on. Since this is a wholesale area the activity is fierce in the mornings and slowly calms down as the day wears on.

All the produce, flowers, fruits, etc are trucked in from other parts of the Yucatan and surrounding states.

It's just fun to sit and watch all the goings on!

It's a great place to explore but you need to stay out of the way so on to the salinera warehouse.

Here's the Taurus backed up to the dock ready to be loaded. The salt that I purchase is like rock salt.

The interior of the warehouse.

I have never asked how many different types or sizes of salt they have.
These are a couple of guys from the warehouse and they are preparing the mid day meal. I was invited to stay but since the preparations were just getting under way I didn't have the time to spare. Maybe next time!

This handsome man ("guapo" in espanol) is Ricardo who is the boss ("hefe" in espanol).

I feel fortunate meeting Ricardo as he is one of the nicest people I have met since moving here to Merida. He speaks pretty good ingles and he practices his ingles on me. I can only hope that one day my spanish will be as good as his ingles.

He is kind in allowing me to practice my limited spanish with him.

Well, after visiting and getting caught up he has one of his employees load up the salt and I'm ready to head back to the house and unload. Good to go for another two months.

Thanks Ricardo! Muchimos gracias!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stuff and Memories

I am often astonished by what spurs me to think about certain things on any given day. Music certainly steers the mind in specific directions. Aromas can take us to places we have visited and gastronomic events in our lives. In addition there is the “STUFF” that sits, hangs, and lays around the house year after year. Though often taken for granted as it sits, hangs, and lays around the house it does bring up memories and give us pause to ponder.

Stuff that sparks memories is the basis for this blog.

Our ayudo, Marta, didn’t show up last week which was a bit disappointing but not a catastrophe by any means. We managed to clean the house without her help. Yes, we still remember how! LOL! However, this week when the time for her to be here came and went we both figured that she wasn’t coming again. Or worse, she quit. Yes, it happens, domestic help quitting w/o notice. Unheard of you say? Quitting w/o notice?????? What about a reference, and, and……...not! At $15.US a day none of that stuff is relevant but getting more money is! She showed up a bit late as happens frequently. She has three children and they certainly come first, long before the cleaning of our humble abode.

Anyway before she arrived at the casa, we figured that we’d be cleaning again so Debi and I both started in. I am not vertically challenged so there had been a few tall/higher/upper areas that had caught my attention lately. Why? I have no idea as I seldom see much of anything and that fact can be attested to by Debi. No matter, I got a bucket and rags and the vacuum and started in. No the cleaning isn’t the important part but thank you for thinking I’m a good husband and very helpful around the house. I appreciate the thought but I think the jury is still out on that one! Debi is the judge and jury on that subject as well! LOL! Regardless, the important thing that was happening is that I was picking up the “stuff’ that sits or hangs around. Doing this gave me cause to pause and reflect. Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “that was the end of the cleaning for Tom”! However my friends you are sooooo wrong as I actually finished cleaning everything I had planned on cleaning. And at the same time I got this idea for a blog. Wow, I was rolling, multi tasking and all that! LOL! It was a good day!

Now for the disclaimer…..this blog posting is not intended to prioritize, list in order of who or what we like best, nor does it cover all our friends. I will say that the "stuff" mentioned has been out or hung, or exposed since the day we got them and have never been packed away except for transportation requirements.

We have been fortunate in meeting the people we have as we mosey down the various roads in our lives. We have most excellent friends, outstanding memories, and many people who have played a part in our make up! So to you all, mentioned or not, we love ya!

I am not going to go into a long history of all the "stuff" but I will give a brief ditty on them. Some ditties may be longer than others and may fall out of the “brief ditty” category and for that I apologize! NOT!

The oldest and one of the most cherished items came from our oldest friends Pam and Gary. (Not old in age but in length of time in harness as friends.) Pam was maid of honor and Gary was the best man at our wedding. My nickname for Pam was “legs” as she had a pair of gams that were just too perfect for words. Atta’ girl Pammy! We were caretakers on a 31acre farm right outside the city of Alexandria, VA. We lived in an old two story farm house. The only interior plumbing was the kitchen sink, there was a two holer 50 yards out the back door, and the only heat was a kerosene heater in the kitchen that we put in. It was our hippie haven where all our friends would hang out. Our marriage ceremony was held on the side yard of the house. We decided to move to Colorado and this box was made by them and given to us just prior to leaving. There has always been a place for it. For a long time it was out stash box and we now use it to hold incense.

Their gift was more apropos than we could have ever imagined. Little did we know that the compass points on the lid of the box were a mere glimpse of the travels to come in our lives.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Also while we lived in Virginia I met another Gary who became my best friend. He has a most lovely wife, Kathryn and he comes from a super family. Debi and I have basically been adopted by his family and we have spent some of the most wonderful days of our lives with them. After our move to Colorado our get togethers were less frequent but nonetheless great! Gary introduced me to Port wine, 1985 Whidbeys to be exact and we have been fellow Port sippers ever since! Ok, maybe we gulp from time to time! LOL! He also got me into a few other bad habits and I love them all!

Wine in general brings to mind many other friends and everytime I pop a cork I think of Randy and Gary. What good times and what great wines we had.

Upon arriving in Colorado the first door we knocked on was answered by Greg! Greg was with Tonya and we all became friends and are now very good friends. We hope to see them down here this year! In the beginning things were a bit rough and thru hard work and keeping to the path we all seemed to have gotten to a place where the struggles are a bit easier and life is good! This photo was taken by them on one of their journeys into Italy. It was one of their favorite pictures and they brought us wine all the way back over the pond. So what’s not to like about that! LOL! How things have changed over the years and how fortunate we are to have them as friends.

Also shortly after arriving in Colorado we meet Jeff and Amber who were friends of Greg and Tonya. We became great friends and we stood up for them at their wedding as best man and bridesmaid. We had so many good times and the memories that we have of them are genuine treasures! KNOTS! They were/are both into fiber arts and that is how they made their living. The three pieces shown were made for me by Jeff. The first two were kind of experimental as he/they were always changing and moving in new directions with their art.

The coil basket below was a standard for Jeff and he was very successful at crafting and selling them. There has not been a day that has passed that I have not looked into or touched this basket as it is my “stuff” basket. I put my glasses there every night and so many other things that I use daily. You can see it's far from empty!

Around the same time we met Rod. He is truly a gem and one of the most genuinely peaceful and good people we have had the fortune to ever meet. He is a wonderful artist and we have many of his wonderful paintings. These are just three of them. Rod’s best work is himself, at least how he shares himself, and being around him is tranquil and loving.

Continuing on with meeting people there was Gene and we actually met on a Park & Rec sponsored rustic Thanksgiving Day event. You know, log cabins in the boonies, cooking the “bird” on a wood stove, etc, etc. It was a great time and he was the catalyst that got me started working for the City from which I retired. This picture was taken when he was on a trip in NY and decided to do some exploring. He wasn’t exactly sure where he was but got to take this picture of this mural that was on the surface of the sidewalk and gave us a copy. His story of the photo along with just being Gene makes us glad that we haven’t had to “Imagine” what our lives would be like if they weren’t touched by him.

Another good friend John along with Gene were my hacky sack buds and we’d hacky just about every where!

To our dog Jenney and to her favorite stuffed animal and the only one that lasted her entire life. I love you Jenney! (Ok, this one wasn't sitting out so I had to get it out!)

To Patt, my sister. I love you!
To my child hood! It was a very good time….thanks Mom and Dad!

To Dave and Elaina our good friends, fellow divers and lovers of Mexican food. Living vicariously thru David’s travels and adventures and seeing pictures and videos of those travels were amazing. The walking stick and the tribesmen are from Africa and are prized possessions.

Bob, our friend and ex-neighbor is one of those people that will try anything, won’t say “can’t” until he tries and is gifted in so many ways. We shared many good times and hopefully many more! Can you say "pork noodle bowl?"

To the Andersons and the great Christmas parties and a darn good daughter that knows how to keep a good tradition going!! Thanks Kris! You da’ bomb babe!

To Richard and Marie for their unending ability to share their most tranquil lives and this dragon from their garden.

So I guess I’m saying that even though we’re far apart and not always or often in touch you are with us and we feel your presence. We have never forgotten nor will we ever forget as you all have been and are part of our journey and will always be part of our lives.
Take care!