December 31, 2010

Facebook neurologist

Dr. Jose Yupit is a Facebook friend. He was my neurologist nearly three years ago when Dr. Salas admitted me to Galenia Hospital in Cancun for a suspected exacerbation of multiple sclerosis. He also is certified in Internal Medicine. So he was the man my surgeon, Dr. Jose Manuel Mendoza, wanted to do a work up on me. And he sure did! Best physical I've had in a decade!
I did not mention any of the aches and pains and annoyances I am having. He diagnosed a sinus infection and inflamed kidney the old fashioned way, without scans or specific X-rays. And I have had flank pain and an annoying post nasal drip which he discovered by poking and looking. So...
He has given the go ahead for the surgery, with the stipulation that the anesthesia be "regional" and not general. That translates to an epidural spinal block under sedation. He thinks this will be less of a shock to my nervous system, more kind to the dopamine receptors. So I will see the surgeon, Dr. Jose Manuel Mendoza, again on Monday and will will discuss the prices at the various facilities he uses. I talked to Mendoza a bit last nighton the phone, so I know what we will talk about.
From the 70 dollar x-rays and 100 dollar lab work, to the 35 dollar EKG, it has been a pleasure. I paid Dr. Yupit 90 dollars for his thorough work up and written report to Dr. Mendoza. I would have spend more on my Medicare co-pay in the US. It is reassuring to know my ticker is fine and what my dosing for Avonex (beta interfeon 1a) the MS drug should be before and after surgery. No one at the Cleveland Clinic paid attention to that detail for the last two procedures I had there.
It is also reassuring that Dr. Yupit has not entered the pages of Facebook for two months. Facebook friends know that kind of detail about each other. "I mean to, but I get too busy,
he says.
And another Facebook friend, Tammi Lewis, returns from Sandusky in time for the New Year with three months of that MS drug. Life is good here in Mexico.

December 26, 2010

Forgiven: Dance Partner

It had been a while since Punta saw her dance partner. He begged her forgiveness.
And so they made up. Sergio, a native of Chile, had been moved to dance with Punta seeing the story of Carrie, a Chilean golden retriever on You Tube.
So Christmas was good to Punta and she once again had a dance partner. Feliz Navidad! Oh, they are still not ready for prime time!

December 24, 2010

Police presents

Near the Christmas donkey ride in the park, next to the new mini-soccer stadium for the 4-8 year olds, next to the new gazebo, will be the new police mini station in La Gloria. I caught it on cell phone as workers topping were it off yesterday. Feliz Navidad, a la policia!

December 21, 2010

Running on Empty - cranberry sauce

So you're about to do it again: Cook a bird and then, last minute, open a can of cranberry sauce. Of course, you could cook berries and making 'em poppin' good. But really, now, you know yourself! Or maybe you know me. And this is what I did today, even though I am picking up a turkey dinner At Vivian's Qubano on Saturday.
I saw kumquats, really sour ones, at what we shall call LoLo's Mestiza: A woman not of pure Maya extraction from a Maya village that sells fresh fruits and veggies on a corner near LoLo's place. My Mestizas didn't have them; they had kohlrabi, but that's another story.
So, I took about 8 of the kumquats, and cut them in half and removed the seeds, Then I quarter ed the halves and put them in a pan with a good bit of sugar and about 5 minced garlic cloves. And boiled! I had also put some celery tops in there, to soon be fished out.
When they seemed done, I added a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and cooked it all up. It's done when the colors blend.
THEN, add some deveined and diced celery. I added three stalks. And about a half a jicama, sliced, julienned and then finely diced. A teaspoon of nutmeg. Stir is all up and refrigerate.
Cranberry sauce never tastes as good as does a cranberry relish! Are you really just going to open a can of sauce now that you know?

December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May all your Christmas Dreams come true!

December 14, 2010

A torment of noise

What was all the brouhaha about in Centro yesterday? Here's a little back ground. The mayor (presidenta Alicia Ricalde) entered into an agreement with the bus company to put combi vans on the streets. Since the bus never got enough riders to fill a van, the cabbies see this as the mayor chasing after a way to put then out of business while rewarding an inefficient private operator.
They had just re elected their leader and the company had just put its combis on the street. Only one thing left to do. Turn it over. Then, the gendarmes were called in. The police batons were like the drum beat for what unfolded.
The issue is about the mouths that are fed by cab fares. Based on ridership habits, it is hard to imagine islanders herding toward the vans. They might feel different if their own drivers were behind the wheel. This excellent montage of the day's events: Click - Courtesy TV Isla Mujeres.

December 13, 2010

Ghetto furnace

I have fired up the stove in an effort to bring some warmth into the house. It's going to get a degree or so below 50 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.
When I was a reporter, I covered too many tragic deaths - by carbon monoxide poisoning or fires caused by people whose heat had been shut off trying to keep warm . In the case of public housing projects, heating systems all too often are in shambles and not repaired.
And people in that situation tried to use stove tops and ovens to keep warm. Hence the term, ghetto furnace, for trying to get warm in a cold spell.
Since we don't have heating systems in paradise, this nor'easter is a long term job. So I can't just cook a little something and expect to get the place truly warm. No, this is a job for DOG FOOD!
In a dutch oven, cook black beans to start. They take a long time and in cold weather, soaking isn't needed. Just cook them in a lot of water to start. Put in several cloves of garlic. Dogs like garlic and it is a natural tick repellent. If this were mosquito season, I might make some human food with a lot of garlic!
I also cut up a six ounce pack of hot dogs, aka vienna sausages, sliced thin. Boy, it's really starting to smell good. I figure they can cook forever and maybe therefore will fall apart.
At this point, I add some more water and start looking for veggies. A vacuum box of mixed veggies is good.
And it cooks some more, providing some warmth and making Punta go antsy in anticipation. She knows one of her food batches when she smells it.
I had been a little preoccupied, so I hadn't make this in a couple weeks. There was the half can of pork dog food in pork and rice gravy from this morning. So I threw that in.
And now, when it looks about a half hour from done, add rice and water. Hmm, there's five-day old potato/chicken salad, too! Toward the end, a couple whole eggs, crushed in their shells. A protein rich stew!
What more? Oh, with all that flavor going on, a little sweet nutrition never hurts:
There's left over sweet potatoes from November still...Punta's gonna love this. And the air is warmer and more humid for creating a ghetto furnace with an actual supervised cooking pot on top of it.

December 12, 2010


It's officially finished, but workers were polishing the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church "El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús" on Sunday, the Feast Day of the Virgen of Guadalupe. It's two short blocks from Zina's Guest House.

December 9, 2010

Backside of "Jesus"

Workers are crawling all over the rear of "El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús" (Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church) to be dedicated Christmas Eve in La Gloria, just a couple blocks from my house. A couple blocks in another direction, a gazebo is being finished in the park. A sculpture of the Virgin Mother and Baby Jesus is already installed in the park. It's beginning to look a lot like December, here in La Gloria!
At the SuperXpress the other night, just before closing time, two cashiers in elves hats begged Diane and me to buy Hershey cookies in chocolate. Two bags for only 10 pesos. They went on and on! Well, I asked the fatal question, and yes it was true, they get a commission on each two they sell! It's Christmas on the island for sure! So, we bought. as my Tweets yesterday hinted.

December 6, 2010

Hearing aids trauma

There is a liquidator in South Dakota that has one pair of Widex Senso Diva estate hearing aids that are identical to the pair of which I lost one. No, he's not budging from the $1500 asking price! His client's estate paid more than double that. Of course, that was three years ago!
So, I have been playing with others and truthfully, the ear piece variety is not so great here. The shape of my ears, "curvy" is how the audiologist described them, make the piece fit tight and gives me an earache after a time.
So I have been carefully looking at eBay sales. And researching. I like this approach, cheaper yet on eBay. The little ear bud, retractable by the wire, is the kind Bev Caldarelli had just gotten when I was in Malvern. So...stay tuned. Bidding ends tomorrow! Boomers, listen up. You are going to need them soon, too!
And the spare I'll have...goes to Blackie, my Mexican neighbor and sport fisherman guide. He was helped by the cheapie one I brought back in October, just to see if he could ever hear again after not hearing from the left ear for 20 years after a lobster dive near Contoy Island. We'll help him get it calibrated with a new ear mold in Cancun.

December 1, 2010

Taxi cab questions

Tourists are planning their trips to the island and asking how much to pay a cab. Someone suggested yesterday that to go to the Villa Vera area from Centro, you should just give the cabbie 15 pesos when you get there and get out of the cab!
Let me suggest that if you cannot afford 20 pesos, the tourist rate, you might consider a stay-cation. I mean, that's $1.50 for a cab for you and your honey to get out of the chaotic reconstruction of the main drag in Centro!
The recession, a decline in tourism, the rise in gasoline prices and related cost of living increases, has made this a difficult time for the cab drivers.
Many have left the island. Owners of the cars and union licenses, have gone from 12 hour shifts in which they collected 200 pesos, to 16 hour shift in which they are charging the drivers 300 pesos. It is hard with the population being as it is, underemployed, to collect the rental and gasoline money!
So, the first $25US collected, goes to the cab owner. I, as a local, don't feel in the least put out, to pay 100 pesos to someone who takes me into town, gets me past the construction, waits while I hop into the Seven-11 for the ATM, and takes me home. That would be $7.50 in US terms.
Yes, I have a reputation of being thrifty amongst my friends and detractors as well. But I am a reasonable person. I don't know how or why these cabbies continue to drive. But some do and we are lucky to have them.
So, if you are going to, say, La Gloria, from Centro, consider 20 pesos to be a fare rate, and a more just one. You are arriving during a deep recession in Mexico, one with inflation like you have not seen oversees, with gasoline prices higher than in the US, and people with families to feed and electric bills, unlike anything seen virtually anywhere else in the world, facing the drivers. And yes, the rest of us here as well.

Construction on Isla Mujeres

The bad news spread like wildfire yesterday. The reconstruction of our " front street," Avenida Medina, was out of money less than a quarter of the way through. Six weeks ago, I heard the same thing about the new hospital and church in La Gloria. That was the subject of another blogger, but as soon as I came back from my late October trip to Ohio, I took a picture of the church, intending to blog about it myself. Then I asked a couple locals if they thought the projects would be done by the end of the years, as officials had promised.
"No problema," they answered. Really?
It hardly seemed doable and since I was on a blog block, I didn't rush to blog about it. Then, Ric and Christina came for two weeks and watched from the rooftop. As they got ready to check out last weekend, they noted that the view from the top suggested the church was nearly finished.
Hey, so does the street view!
Located on the corner across from the Bead Ladies Taller, "El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús" church, The Sacred Heart of Jesús, is now getting finishing touches. It will seat more people than the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Centro, where the celebration of the feast days began last night.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus also has additional space for meetings and classes. Work has slowly been going on inside the hospital too, and outside, where and ambulance dock ramps have been added. Never underestimate the construction possible when the municipal president and president of the republic of Mexico are of the same party!

November 29, 2010

The traveling hearing aid

I am short a hearing aid. It has gone on a journey without me.
When I spent five days in Ohio in October, I was showing off my ability to hear. Rick Moody's mom, Bev Caldarelli, even came over to Karen Gamber-Wackerly's place so show off her new pair. We both cooed, delighted with ours.
And then it was time to go. Emilio was picking me up at 3:30am and it was cold, so I wore the new, slightly stiff hooded sweat shirt layered on top of a T-shirt, layered on top of a camisole. Since I was the first person at Akron-Canton Regional Airport, I had time to kill. When the gift shop opened up, I opted for a neck pillow, all the better to sleep sitting up.
So I went to the gate and slept. I did well and woke up in time to board the plane and had a nice flight to Atlanta and another little nap before deplaning in Atlanta. There, at the ATA gate area, I notice my hearing aid was gone. They searched the plane and sent me to customer service. They gave me the number to Lost and Found at CAK Airport. I waited 24 hours or so and called from my home in Isla Mujeres. THEY HAD IT!
After an elaborate verification that it was my make and model, I was told to send an insured FedEx enevolope to them. Having heard that, Emilio rushed to the airport and picked up the hearing aid package.
He mailed it to Johanna after a bit and she opened it as soon as she got it, a couple days before coming to Isla Mujeres early in November.
Well, she emailed me. She had two in-the-ear hearing aids, clear in color. Not one behind-the-ear (BTE) with a taupe body.
I called Lost and Found at Akron-Canton Reginoal Airport. "That's the only hearing aids I had," Karen said. "But I'll call home to the five others who work here."
Time has passed. I talked to Karen again. "No one remembers your hearing aid and it's not here. It probably was donate to AmVets." Call them, I said. "Well, they just get a box of junk and I am sure they won't be able to find it."
Now, the asking price for that pair of hearing aids this week on eBay is $1500, a give away price, but still three times what I paid. I've submitted a bid, resigned to the hopelessness of getting the traveling one back from some lucky disabled veteran.
It's probably sleeping on a sidewalk somewhere near the Stark County Regula Federal Building, waiting for an appointment with the owner's case worker. Or, maybe it's flying to Florida for the winter with a thrifty shopper like me, feeling lucky to have a Widex Diva Senso hearing aid.
Me, I've learned to get along with the one and am careful where I wear it. And I keep looking at eBay to see if anyone else is interested in the pair, worn only one year until the owner died and they were placed in a box for safe keeping a year ago.
So here is a warning to you. The airport doesn't keep track of it's found items or a list of names of people looking for items. Need a gold watch? Try calling Canton-Akron Regional Airport.

November 27, 2010

How dogs schmoozle

Punta and Pony pose for a portait after the 24 hour sleep over began. See how nice Pony sits?
The pipsqueak rat terrier came in here thinking she'd own Punta. So then Punta never let it rest.

A bad sign was her escape upon arrival, after I had locked down the compound and opened her pet carrier. Ric and Christina, guests from Canada, saw me trying to get her to come back as she did a couple fly-bys. So they worked with a brigade of neighbor children led by David, and ultimately carried her home.
This was a miracle because Pony isn't all that fond of children or males, being the second dog taken away from a Maya boy in San Cosme, where a pet sterilization clinic was recently held. The boy didn't mind giving up his abused dog because, hey, they're just toys.
OMG. That's when I realized the fence posts can't hold her, nor the bars in the steel door in the back patio entrance. She's that tiny, just slips right through even though she looks bigger.
Then Wrestlemania began. By about 3am, Pony played dead. Without a command to do so. I believe that in collegiate wrestling, this is called passivity. But it would pick back up and continued all night. Then the dog walker came at 7:30am, having not slept for other reasons, and took one look at me and said, "Oh no!" She knows rat terriers. "I'm scared of that dog. I was just bitten by a cat!"
I suggested she just take Pony just go to the corner for business and back, since she gets a lot of doggie play opportunities at Alison's Isla Animals and the "no can do" emergency call was already made. So just a short walk before Jeff and Alison come, please.
Pony had other ideas, slipped herself out of her collar after pooping during the walk and headed into a neighbor's house, hammock sleepers still asleep at 8am, into their sleeping room and up a flight to stairs onto the roof.
There the whole neighborhood looked out at them and laughed.
Inga Gross, the dog walker, says this kind of puppy play is called schmoozle in German. That's where we get the word schmooze. It also applies to rat terriers napping in the spoon position, which I am sure might have happened had they continued over days
But I have multiple sclerosis and am unsteady on my feet, having a 10 pound dynamo at my feet is far more dangerous than Punta alone, though she is a big dog. "Casi un pony," Alfredo the dog groomer said. Almost a pony.
Carmen calls her Barbie because of her long, slim legs. But she is learning not to jump. She doesn't pull on her leash. She will mature into the only dog I need and can have play dates at Alison's or with the beach dogs near Mar y Sol when she needs more socialization.
Now, Pony resumes waiting on a ride to Seattle or Portland. She needs a good person to schmoozle with and lots of space to run. And having some rats around to catch is perfect for a feisty rat terrier.

November 22, 2010

Birthday Dog

Her adoption papers say she is one year old. So, Punta and I went for a golf cart ride so she could show me where Inga Gross takes her on walks. Full of energy, she requires a walk of about an hour a day to keep her focused.

Her favorite area is near the sea. She loves the smell. In the golf cart, she is a perfect passenger because she wants her nose to catch all the air and its smells.
She likes flowers, too. Bougainvilleas are OK with me because she doesn't dig those up!
For her official social outing later, we went to Chuuk Kay Restaurante near the laguna. It has sand on the campus and is pet friendly, unlike most locales here. There were four dogs there yesterday afternoon. One, her playmate. And two small dogs with airs. No problem. Any day mom gives her shrimp tails is a good day. That and a can of dog food there and it was a feast. Afterward, she went to the electric company to pay our bills with the scanner and money machine. Now, she is exhausted and I am up because we went to bed so early.
So today, she starts year two. That means a lot of studying for her so she can be helpful and not just pretty!

November 20, 2010

Charro Negro!

The "Black Cowboy" is one of my favorite drinks since a couple from Northern California visited last spring. So easy too:

Basically, tequila and Coca-Cola

Quantities for one drink:

  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 oz white tequila
  • 4 Cubes Ice
  • Fill With Coca-Cola
  • Salt


  • Rub rim of glass with lemon juice and dip rim in salt
  • Put 4 ice cubes into the glass, add Tequila and juice of half a lemon
  • Add some more salt if you like and fill the glass with Coca-Cola
  • Stir gently
It really lifts the spirit, so to speak!

November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving approaches!

So here are some Halloween pics! Above, Anna Douglas, from PEACE. The party at the Garden Restaurant near Punta Sur was a fundraiser for scooter helmets for toddlers and children.

Roger hosted alone. Marilyn had to go back to Saskatchewan to be with her mother who has cancer.
In Marilyn's absence, Inga Gross cleaned the house, arranged the snacks and poured the drinks.

So all the usual ghouls were there!
Gunther is the steady date of Gladys, the fallen angel. Nice couple!
Katie Milton the pugilist scared off Mexican men who wanted to dance at the next party!
Javier Martinez came alone. But wow, it took no time for him to find Marilyn Monroe in the body of Mary Ann Burns.

I was a half baked pirate, so I'll save it for the Pirates of the Caribbean party January 2! Be there or be square.

November 9, 2010

Food thoughts...

The cold, rainy snap has my mind swimming in thoughts of comfort food. Last night, as I was waiting for sleep to overcome me, I recalled my weekend's reading that included the November issue of Food! from the Food Network.
I paid particular attention to the pie recipes because it is the one thing I'd like to bake. And low and behold, each of the recipes called for making the crust in a Cuisinart processor. No cutting butter into flour, no needing. I am inspired.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I have a thought of making papaya pie. I made the filling last spring or so, dicing the papaya and cooking it lightly with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. If you click the link, you'll get basically that for a recipe. It was awesome and Carmen and Sergio both loved it. So, papaya pie it is!
This morning, I was still cold after getting my hair cut, so I stopped at Carolina's loncheria, which will be named Carol's. Americanized is how she sees it. It was 11am and my stomach was empty.
I had a flouta and that held me over until...Carmen came by with a huge bowl of chicken mole and rice. Mole (mole-ay) is the dark salsa that has cocoa in it, but also about 50 spices. It is warming on a cold day.
After my siesta (it really is part of the neighborhood culture) I will have a huge green salad. I might break open the white balsamic vinegar I bought with Mio minutes after he picked me up at the airport.
He wanted to shop for Italian items for his family's table, so we went to an Italian deli-grocery. I also got a risotto mix that has diced sun dried tomatoes in it. All good for cold weather eating. But here, greens are always welcome because even the green grocers don't seem to place much stock in them.
Those are all pleasant dreams!

November 8, 2010

About time!

I'll ease back into blogging the easy way, slowly! When I saw Jana at Casa Sirena at the end of summer, we talked about the things that kept me from contributing to her cookbook and why I sometimes can't get it together to blog.
She suggested I just write about what I cook and forgo the measures, which I can't say I use. So, today, I had someone working in my office with me and the handyman painting and cleaning the outside.
At the same time, I cooked. I made a potato salad with a little inspiration. I bought three potatoes from the Maya vendor on the corner. Literally on the corner. She puts he things out on a bench and works until she is sold out.
I also bought a a firm but ripe avocado. I had an onion and celery at home. So, potato salad!
First, I chopped the seasoning vegetables: onion, celery and a red pepper in a fine dice.
I cooked the potatoes, boiled a couple eggs. I cooked the potatoes already in the size chunks I wanted and as soon as they were drained, I put them on top of the diced veggies and topped it all with a couple table spoons of reduced fat Hellman's mayonnaise.
As I started tossing it all, I realized it needed a little more zip and moisture, so I added a couple tablespoons of white vinegar and a table spoon grape seed oil. Then I cut up the warm eggs and folded them in and added a tablespoon of sweet relish and a large pinch of salt.
I refrigerated until the potato mixture was sufficiently cool for the avocado. I cut it in half and took a sharp knife and scored each half, sort of a dice, and scooped it out with a table spoon into the potato salad. And folded it one more time and used the pepper mill to make it just right! Then I chilled it some more.
That fed me and two hungry workers around noon and at 4pm, I am still not hungry. So now that I am back to blogging, I will take a siesta before uploading pictures for my next blog.
Oh, I also cooked a dutch oven of dog food today! I'll give you the rice and beans and healthy stuff recipe later in the week. Doggie mommie is back!

October 25, 2010

Rural diversity

What's a little diversity among friends? Having grown up with pre-school playmates who were almost all black, recovering tuberculosis patients at the hospital where my dad worked as medical director, and spent my teen years in Malvern OH, where the small percentage of blacks didn't seem all that different from anyone else, I wondered why the publisher was wasting his money on "diversity training" when I worked at the Plain Dealer.
Sure, my former copy editor Felipe Nieves, a Puerto Rican, was moved to ask "Where's the color?" when he visited me in Minerva and Malvern a couple years ago. I lamely pointed him to Clearview Golf Course just outside Minerva in East Canton, founded by a graduate of Minerva High School, frustrated by discrimination in golf. Most of my friends learned to golf there and take advantage of the PGA/LPGA professional instruction provided by the Powells. Certainly they helped educate the rural people with some money.
Facebook friend Bill Monroe Sr. used to caddy there himself, while is mother was the postmistress of Malvern, OH. People like my father, who was truly color blind, were proud of that and didn't like that Diane's parents moved her out of town when she took up with one of our basketball stars.
So I can't gloss over America's shortcomings in race relations by pointing to a golf course or a black postmistress. Malvern had some other integration problems, too, but to me, a white girl, they seemed not too great.
Let's just say we got along better than our counterparts in the big cities and leave it at that. So, that's the backdrop for our gathering at West End Inn a couple Saturday's ago. Some of us had not seen each other for nearly 40 years and were eager to be reunited with Dietra Monroe Turner and Faye Brown (Stokes-Gardner), whatever he last name is now! As aside, she announced, "I've been married and divorced three times!" Oh, two knee replacements, too!
Faye was a live wire when were growing up. She and I used to run together in my little red VW. Earlier, those who were allowed to go to the sock hops, were entertained by her rendition of the funky chicken.
My friend and colleague at the Plain Dealer, Philip Morris, a black columnist, used to quiz my about rural blacks, how they got there. I guess I could only say the same way as everyone else everywhere else. Anyway, for a dozen of us, it was a great reunion, that Saturday night in October.
Cheryle Burwell Clark was some years older than Dietra, but you couldn't tell, could you!
The Gamber girls, Karen on the left and Beth seated next to me, lived on a farm very close to the Eakin girls. And Faye spent a lot of time there. Kathy Eakin Shingleton is on the right below, with Donna Early Tope and Connie Lambert Crowl. Stan Gamber is the only guy in the group picture. at the top. He graduated with me.
It was a great evening among great friends. We vow to do it again!

October 22, 2010


"I thought I'd never see you again!" she said. Helen Decker, 91, moved away from Lake Mohawk while I was heading out to college. She lived two doors away when there was not yet such thing as next door neighbors; she and her family lived several lots away. We lived in a bay that had few year round residents. When I came home from school, I'd head there first and she would make grilled cheese and pickle sandwiches. Her daughters were friends and one, Zella, lived next door to her parents with her sons.
37 years is a lot of time. Before I saw Helen, I saw Zella and we talked. At first, I thought she was Helen! Zella, God bless, is a breast cancer survivor.
My best friend from the second half of eighth grade, when I moved to the lake and left behind Deb Page Novak in Louisville, was Debbie Decker. She and I used to comb each other's hair for hours and jabber away about our crushes. Helen recalled how I was crushed in eighth grade when my crush would not given me the time of day.
We met Saturday night, after a marathon shopping day - done in two shifts - at the Lake Mohawk Club House during a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Dave Decker's son, Doug, who has small cell carcinoma of the lungs. Dave was the older brother with a boat who taught me to water ski.
He remembered how hard I was to teach. He did not remember how in subsequent years, I used to ski past his house and spray him with my hot little slalom ski. Selective memory I guess.
Karen Gamber-Wackerly, left, was my hostess on my trip home. The Gamber girls were cousins to Debbie, on her father and their mother's side. Karen is now the postmistress at Malvern. Her sister, Beth Shearer, has a cattle farm now. Both are widowed. Growing up, their father Dick was the cattleman and my school bus driver. My senior year, I served him breakfast at the Kopper Kettle before he went to the bus depot.
When we were growing up, Beth went on my first spring break to Florida with me. Yes. we were the hot chicks of North Miami Beach that year. And boys our age from our hometown stayed a hotel away and kept track of us, made sure no boy sharks got near. We were close that way, all of us from Malvern, Ohio.
The night was still young and the Gamber girls and I had a date at the West End Inn. Tomorrow, that story. And a little bit about the Funky Chicken.

October 14, 2010

Out of the office!

I am, as an email reply might say, out of the office until October 20. My house and dog sitter is not authorized to negotiate on my behalf (!) but if you are patient, I will! Punta dog and Zina's Guest House are in good hands. I will be in rural Ohio, the land of little wifi. I'll write when I can.

October 11, 2010

Mission accomplished

Ashley Dixon's fall vacation is down to the final hours. Friday, she met with Dr Antonio Salas, pictured here in front of La Vida Dulce Casitas, to pass along a wheel chair for a grandmother of an Isla Mujeres man. Armando is a maintenance worker/handyman who recently moved off island in search of work. His mother is a Mestiza now back in her Maya village between Merida and Campeche.
For the past six months, Armando has been trying to assemble money to get his grandmother a wheelchair so she can be amongst her great-grandkids. Things are so slow now, his family's needs so great, he could not assemble the 2500 pesos to buy her a wheel chair.
Dr Salas turn to me for help. I didn't have enough time in Ohio in June to pull it off. I turned it over to God and Facebook. Then, Gladys Galdamez got involved. She enlisted our mutual friend Kathleen Price, founder of Ohio's Mission of Love Foundation, a woman without limits, who had just finished a cleft pallet surgery brigade at the orphange founded by Gladys's mother, Casa Guatemala. Robin Mostachetti recently blogged bout her visit there.
Kathy called upon one of her donors, who made a donation in memory of his father, a long time Mission of Love volunteer. Kathy shipped the wheel chair to Ashley, who brought it down on her vacation. It didn't hurt that she has an aunt working as an airline nurse in case there were transportation issues.
Armando was leaving for the village where his grandmother now lives on Friday afternoon. Everything timed out great! The rendezvous was at 2pm and bam! the job was done.
Armando has a camera he got when times were better. He promised to take a picture of his grandmother in her new wheel chair, scooting amongst her great-grandchildren.
It doesn't take much to make a difference in lives. The motto of Mission of Love: You are not here to save the world, but to take the hand that reaches out for you.
Thank you Ashley Dixon. You made a difference.

October 7, 2010

Oxxo store in the middle of Centro!

It's the brouhaha of the Oxxo store nearly ready to open at the interesection of Hidalgo and Madero. Three doors west of Miguel's Moonlite. The bright neon is the light in front of Farmacia Mejor, on the left would be the old Gomar's restaurant. Progress?

October 6, 2010

My name is Punta

I am 11 months old now and just full of it. This blog is all about me. I demand it.
Actually, who needs to be demanding around my owner? She is a soft touch for dogs. The way I get all wound up in public, people might think she doesn't educate me. Let me tell you: At night, when the doors are locked and we are alone, she tortures me. Sit. Up. Down. Sit. Shake. Down. Up. Sit. And if I try to move away, Come! Ven, pronounced Ben because we are in Mexico.
Ben Punta is what I hear when I am in the yard ready to dig something up. Like mommie's got radar vision. Ben Punta!
Yesterday morning, Ben Punta meant we were going to get money at 7-Eleven. I like that clerk and he likes me. Right away while mommie was at the money machine, I spotted a guy I didn't like and I barked. The clerk knows to pay attention to what that person does because not everyone at all makes me bark. After mommie got her money, we rode around the island. I like to sit up straight so I can smell it all. But if I sense we are coming up on another dog, I lean in to mommie, just to make sure it's understood: I have a person!
So we came home and mommie wanted to nap because she had taken her shot at night. So I got into my bed in the closet and snoozed myself. When we got up, mommie made sure I drank water. Oh boy, that means we go!
First, we went to Chuuk Kay, Ventura's new bar on the bay where yachts pull up and the ground is beach sand. Marla was having a little get together with Katie and friends. Oh, I loved it. I sat with mommie and Gladys and pulled dead leaves off a palm. Then I wandered away and mommie wasn't worried, but a waiter came after me because you never know if someone will hurt a dog in Mexico.
Then we were off! We stopped by the dog groomer for a tick shot. He said I was handsome, that I could soon be a pony. Does that mean I'll see more kids?
Then we went to Miguel's Moonlite because mommie wanted to get a bottle of La Pinta to take to Ohio. Miguel was very nice. Mommie took that money she was saving and got us a dinner! I had rice and beans with shredded tortilla and a diced coconut shrimp. Mommmie ate the rest of the coconut shrimp. Really, one was enough for me!
And then we were off. Looking to see if Blanca was open for a mommie haircut, stopping at Susa for bleach for pets. No really, it's great. If I have an accident, hardly ever any more, then this stuff in the water makes the dirt foam until there is no odor. Cloralex para Mascotas is what she told the clerk to look for. I am a dog. I can't go into a big store like that. So we got it and mommie tipped the man 20 pesos. What? Everyone is hungry now, Punta.
We ate at Miguel's so that Miguel, the cook and the fisherman could also eat. Understand? And wasn't it yummy for us?
Then mommie got on the phone and called Blanca's husband about a haircut tonight. She says this time, I can't go. Oh well. I am, after all, a dog. Ha!

October 4, 2010

Saving another 50 pesos

Sue got me to thinking how thrifty all of us get when around here when she wrote her blog entry titled 50 Pesos.
We all live this way on the island. I referred to it the other day in the next blog entry, while I was sitting still and not spending money as I thought about my high school wave mate, JoAnne Coyle Fox. I've Tweeted about spending a day at a friend's pool with not 50 pesos between us and how well we ate.
So, along those lines, I offer a way to stretch an 18 peso can of dog food (and some kibble to spread around) into 10 days worth of of high quality dog food that Punta dog loves. Yours may too.
Put just under a pound of brown rice (arroz integral) and a similar quantity of black beans in a dutch oven. Cover with a lot water. Add 12 pesos of chicken livers (more than a pound) when the grain and bean start to get tender. Or, as is the case today, when there are no chicken livers to be had, add a can of Juicy Pedigree puppy food. Mince in some chaya leaves and cook until it is one. I have used freezer burned green beans before. You can also add in a half cup of kibble for flavor and vitamins. This yields a full dutch oven of dog food, one that the finicky Punta loves. About 12 servings at a cost of 30 pesos. Even if your dog normally eats dry kibble, this is a savings of 50 pesos! Oh, go on. throw in 3 salmon oil capsules. Tastes fishy, that Omega 3!
To enrich the flavor and not waste anything, I have occasionally added water from my canned tuna, left over tacos, a wilted carrot...whatever moves me while I clean up the fridge. It is a balanced dog food! And talk about saving, jack, Bill!

October 1, 2010

The quiet

September is a quiet time on the island. The music stops and we sit. Septiambre and Octuambre are here: a play on the word for hunger, hambre. Visits to the pawn shop are delayed as long as possible. But some are already there now.
Most of the locals have found their cheaper apartments. The landlords are all full or totally empty. The last motos or laptops have been sold. Servicemen are johnny-on-the-spot. In too many households, pets have been turned loose to fend for themselves. Grandfathers go to the sea with their grandsons and give a few pointers about the art of free diving. Then they go to town and try to sell a few lobsters or return home with with a few pesos toward getting the power back on, or no pesos but a family feast
Day before yesterday, the morning after JoAnne Fox died, a kid who raises chickens "broke" my fragile chaya bush. An audience waited as Carmen came to tell me. She left the house with scissors and bags for people to pick leaves off the suelo, ground. She was the jefa on the scene.
Loved by all, chaya leaves are rich in calcium, protein and vitamin A. They make great tamale wrappers in addition to great enrichment of scrambled eggs, soups, stews, dips and, in a blender with water and some OJ, the ultimate tart, green electrolyte-replacing beverage. Great for kidney stones, too.
La Gringa is not stingy with her chaya, so the breaking of the bush surprised me. But at least the others had the respect to see what my wishes were. Whatever...I said to Carmen. My mind was with JoAnne.
So I sat. It was a perfect day, but I didn't go to the beach. I thought about about what made us think of each other as super friends. There was the IQ thing and how our brain cells were arrayed. "Ya know" was not just an idle phrase with us. Neither of us pursued a multi-lettered academic career, but in a conversation, could just say, ya know, to each other and get it. I think health issues put us more on the same wave length than even before.At another high school reunion, we joked about that and got caught up
We always recalled, especially at high school reunions, how JoAnne and I both had mono the same season - junior year in high school. I got super fatigue due to an enlarged spleen. Her vision went. Dad gave me drugs and looked into JoAnne's eyes and sent her to an eye specialist. She had a detached retina. Weak points of the body are occasionally driven over the limit in mononucleosis. She had surgery. I got cortisone.
My mom, a customer at the hometown bank where JoAnne worked after Dad died, kept us up to date on each other. JoAnne getting a job at the bank was our joke. When she worked for Dad one summer after the mono, there was never a day she could balance the ledger at the end. She'd call me and I'd say, "Did so and so come in an pay on their account today?" And it was always something like that. So cute because the cash drawer was always in Dad's favor, but why? Ya know.
We had the 35th a year early since no one thought she'd last a year. I had written a Plain Dealer story a several years earlier about a lung transplant patient from Lake County who went to Presbyterian in Pittsburgh to get it because the Cleveland Clinic was not yet offering them. She asked if I knew if he was still alive. No, but my guess was not. She knew. Ya know?
JoAnne had some good time left. She golfed, she enjoyed her family. The birth of every one of her grandchildern. But we both understood all her time was borrowed time. When I was home in June, JoAnne was failing and so was I, in an air of desperation as I could not see how I could go on without my $35,000 a year MS drug, interferon beta 1a, Avonex. Out of drug, out of money, was how I described myself to the neurologist who invited me into his clinical trial nearly 25 years ago. Patient 3 site 2.
Avonex is referred to as an immunomodulatory. I still use the cortisone occasionally to dampen the immune system in an attack. Anyway, JoAnne and I both knew a lot about manipulating the immune system, ya know? She fending off rejection of her lungs, me of my myelin.
JoAnne went after another transplant, but her immune system and heart were against her. Transplant committee against her, she a knew she was pretty much at the end of the line. She suggested she'd label her transplant drugs, some of them experimental, in case they would come in handy with the MS. Ya know?
I was near frantic about being able to replace the Avonex source, and my old doctor at the Cleveland Clinic was working with me. But I went back to Mexico early because I thought I could get it here at about $300 a month, which is less than cost of the waiting period and the co-pay on Medicare Plan D.
So I wrote my doctors in Ohio about the various suitable interferons I could get here, what the cost of the CCSVI surgery is in Merida (highly experimental yet seemingly effective) and that I had access, if I wanted, to a host of immuno-supressive drugs in JoAnne's pantry from over the last years.
I don't know if the jugular surgery got Biogen moving or if my doctor realized that he was under the threat of JoAnne and I cooking up an immuno-supressive brew, but he got Biogen to grant me the drug free of cost for the next two years.
So, I was sitting here, not spending any money because the few dollars I have are coming to Ohio with me in 12 days. I'll be paying my respects to JoAnne at her grave with Mio , a best friend of hers from grade school, actually before grade school.
All those sentimental and grateful thoughts were coming into play yesterday afternoon when Carmen breezed in with a platter. A chaya-masa and hardboiled egg loaf with roasted, ground pepita seed and tomato dressing. A dish that belongs in a cook book. Desde el suelo. From the ground. Eggs from a neighbor boy.
So that's what I was thinking yesterday as arrangements were being made for JoAnne Fox's funeral and the music stopped on Isla Mujeres. Ya know?


September 27, 2010

LoLo's Back in Town

LoLoLorena was gone all summer helping Evaristo run his mother's business at a beach side community in Veracruz. Saturday night's dinner was proof she didn't lose her touch.
First there were cocktails or wine brought in to be uncorked. Then a little lentil ceviche with mint instead of cilantro and a fusion gazpacho made with cantaloupe and apples, seasoned with basil.
Next there was a Thai salad with enough browned ground beef to pass as a full meal, but there also was an alternate. What? Mussels! But I focused on my choice!
At this point, I put down the camera. The baby lobster was on its way. Absolutely perfect in every way and split lengthwise, served with a shrimp Hollandaise sauce. Well, I lingered and didn't let any tentacle rest until I had consumed every gram of juice and flesh. Another choice was fillet Mignon of pork with a mustard and green pepper corn sauce or a fish dish in the same shrimp Hollandaise.
The desert plate was anchored with a small servings of Belgian chocolate mousse and chocolate ice cream and varied fresh fruit with a caramelized glaze drizzled about.
I had hoped a friend would join me. But she called LoLo's dinner pricey. I respectfully disagree. At $30 ($40 for the lobster) while there may not be enough food for a doggie bag for breakfast or Fido, the human leaves feeling very satisfied for the experience and eager to come back for another gourmet dining adventure. Reservations for her dinners (at the moment limited to dates when she can assemble a seating) can be secured by email via LoLoLorena (at) She is working now on a menu and pricing for her carry out deli, offering for the first time Mexican specialties affordable to Mexicans.

September 25, 2010

Jorge "George" and just plain Jorge

Meet Jorge, a WiFi access installer, from CablesMas. I thought I'd be have Jorge "George" come to the house, but just plain Jorge came. Why? Because I speak Spanish and it seems George. whoo speaks more English, goes to the real gringo jobs. He was great! Walked around the whole compound with my laptop checking the signal strength and concluded he did good work. Well, I could use an extra router, which CableMas does not sell. And they wonder why some gringos call it CableMenas!

September 22, 2010

He was a reprobate

I sat next to Don Bean my first seven years at The Plain Dealer. As I recall, his favorite word was reprobate. Here is his obituary, in his own words.
Rest in peace, buddy. And because of this, possibly your best writing, you have made possible for me A BEACH DAY. I'm going to beat the bushes for more stuff.

September 21, 2010

Something old, something new

Starting with a 99 peso breakfast plate we shared, Gail and I frittered the day away Sunday at Villa Vera Yacht Club. The breakfast plate was abundant. We got juice, fruit salad, yogurt, toast, coffee and chilaquiles. It seemed endless. The waiter was so kind to double plate everything, so we didn't have to life a finger to share.
Afterward, we spent the next six hours in the pool exercising with our noodles. Virtually alone. The kids under the giant almond tree with their parents for breakfast did not stay.
Around 5:20, we left, intended to go to Seso Loco's. They would not open for another hour, according to the man setting up. What to do?
I suggested we try the new Chuuk Bay, a place I'd learned about from Steve Broin during my mini-vaction at Casa Sirena a few weeks back.
My mango mash, or was it mango tango? was yummy. The restaurant, on the laguna leading to Villa Vera, is adjacent to Gym Tonic, the gymnasium with trainers. The boating set has already discovered it on their gas ups into the laguna. Lookie - those fishing poles are sporting the bar's lights!
I had cesar salad with shrimp, Gail arrachera fajitas. The owner, Ventura, the former maitre'd of Brisas Grill, came by and asked how everything was. I suggested there was a tad too much salad dressing and he said he'd already concluded it should be served on the side.
This place isn't going to hurt any business, well, possibly Veradera de Oscar because of it's location. But it's real goal is to be a special events place. There was a kid's inflatable splash slide on the property, all sand covered. The yachting set was wandering around and kibitzing. Their crew was being waited on by boat waiters.
But it's goal is to be a party and special events center. There are several palapas with curtains scattered on the property. Jerry Magana, founder of Hotel Francis Arlene, was in one of them with family.

The tik n chik fire on the property may or not be a problem in windier times. But wow, you should have seen those platters of fish going to the boats!

September 20, 2010

Naval Club Ball

Friday night's dinner-dance at the Naval Club on Isla Mujeres was promoted as a Bicentenario Ball, but the only true ball gown was worn by the belle of the ball, who enjoyed many dance partners.

The invitation said only to wear typical dress for the 200th celebration of independence from Spain. There were many interpretations, from the officers who wore jeans to commemorate cowboys to this lady at my table.
She wasn't typical. Dehlia Canales, the dentist's wife on the left, and other ladies from the monthly breakfasts, wore simple traditional colors or simply white. And unlike many other balls, ticketing and seating was quite mixed. Seven women and two men at our table.

The food was red, white and green, the three national colors. The first course had taquitos or flautas dressed in tomato salsa, cream and guacamole traditional colors.
The second course was a delicious chicken and leek soup with fresh avocado.
The third course was chilies Nogado. An interested interpretation of a national dish developed in the Santa Monican Monastery of Puebla. It is a poblano chili, stuffed with fruits and nuts, covered with a sweet almond gravy and garnished not in the traditional cilantro, but parsley, and pomegranate berries. It was so sweet, it was no one's favorite.
Desert was Chijuahua cheese, red white and green. I tasted a bit of the white and opted not to go for artificial coloring.
We were entertained by a band and a solo soprano concert during the meal. Afterward, we danced. I didn't get a good picture of Ricardo and Mary Ann Burns Gaitan, but Enrique and Maria del Mar Lima were close-by and photogenic.
And a the end, Dr. Antonio and Christina Salas cut up the floor.
Our exceptional waitstaff were sailors from the Armada. A big tip of the hat to you!