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Doggerel During Lockdown in Chapala

Hola, mis amigos! (Hello, my friends.)

Truthfully, I haven’t been out much. Being in the vulnerable category (over 65) and not liking (at all!) to wear a mask, I’ve only ventured out to do a little shopping. A neighbor and I did manage to get out to lunch a couple of times this week too to at a couple of restaurants that still have seated service. What a treat!

Funny, given the large number of gringos here at lakeside, merchants and restaurateurs sometimes off helpful suggestions and messages that get lost in translation. This sign was on the tables at one of the restaurants this week. I’m still wondering what it is really trying to say.

Yet, life goes on.

Even though I haven’t seen a lot of hummingbird activity in the backyard, the feeder was drained. I moved to to the table on my little porch to refill it and low and behold, a few hummingbirds flew right up to it. What a treat. As you might imagine, the two cats who live with me now went on Def-Con 5!

The lockdown here has met with what I would call limited success. Although we’re supposed to wear masks at all times outside and are supposed to limit our excursions to only matters of necessity, the streets are still fairly busy and the use of masks is, well, half-hearted.

Today on a stop at one of the local gringo grocery stores, this newly painted sign caught my attention.

It took me a moment or two to figure out what it said, which is “Libertad!”, Spanish for freedom. While it’s a sentiment we could all support (well, unless you’re the governor of Michigan, LOL!), I suspect this expression of freedom was both a positive affirmation of Mexicans and a protest of the halting of the economy and society here.

Finally, while we on the subject of signs, back before Christmas, when the mall was open, the movies were running and the restaurants humming, I encountered this sign in the window of a shoe store. Hope you get a chuckle out of it. Why it’s in English I have no idea.

Be well until we meet again here.

 

Chapala Faces Coronavirus

We’re in lockdown.

Self-imposed, true. The government has strongly urged seniors and the infirm stay home. Find younger persons to do the shopping. Stay inside.

I’ve been out a few times, each to do some shopping. To the local Walmart, to Pancho’s Deli Market (a local gringo favorite), and even to Guadalajara to Costco and City Market (the high-end supermarket in the city) and Superama (a higher-end Walmart of Mexico grocery store).

Two weeks ago, I was isolating here with one exception. I went for a daily walk, down to the malecon to see the pelicans. That week, the malecon was closed off by the city.

In any case, the town has been pretty deserted.

 

 

The week prior to Easter is traditionally a major religious celebration and lots of Guadalajarans would visit Chapala and lakeside.  However, the city is actively discouraging visitors until after the crisis.

Out for a walk last Saturday, I was stopped twice by Chapala police who politely and firmly suggested that I return home. I did, and I have now limited my walking around three sides of the complex.

I have noticed several of the plants along our compound walls. The aloe vera plants are blooming, shooting up a beautiful blossom.

And above the wall, another plant is bursting forth as well. I don’t know what it is, but it’s magnificent.

Likewise when my neighbor and I went to Guadalajara last Friday we saw two police roadblocks on the southbound side. Then we arrived at one on the northbound side too. It was a drunk driving stop. At eleven o’clock in the morning. Mexico is very serious about drunk driving.

On the way back, around five o’clock, the drunk driving stop was gone but we stopped at both of the others.

At the first, we were asked where we were going and what we were doing. At least we think that’s what we were asked. We both then had our temperatures taken and we were waved on.

At the second, the Chapala police were asking what we were planning to do in Chapala. We told them we were residents and we passed through. However, several cars in front of us and behind us were turned away.

And so, I’m being very quiet here. Still, the sun is shining. Temperatures in the low 80s. Light breezes. We are comfortable as we await the world after coronavirus.

Bye, Bye, Bonnie

Back in February, Bonnie transitioned out of this life. With the crush of events that has overtaken all of us in the month and a half (and counting), this seems like ages ago now. But I still miss her every day.

I don’l know what happens to us when we pass. That’s a subject that’s way beyond the scope of this blog. And it’s a very controversial subject. As my parents used to say to me, never discuss politics or religion.

Suffice to say that I still feel Bonnie’s presence in my life. Whether that’s memory or fantasy or reality, I”ll leave it to each of you to decide or choose.
All I have is my experiential reality and that what it’s telling me. I still feel her.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music while on self-imposted house arrest here in Mexico (isolation orders have not been issued here; only requests or strong suggestions).
Each time I do I am flooded with memories of all the shows and concerts Bonnie and I took in together over the last ten years.
Yes, we met a little more than ten years ago now.
A happy accident of online dating. I can’t dredge up what site it was where we connected but that’s how we met.
Bonnie winked at me or something like that. I responded and the rest, as they say, is history.
We were both veterans of marriage and while neither of us really had any desire to enter into a contract with the state by getting married, we both wanted the joy and comfort of companionship and love with someone our own age. (We were literally a month and a week apart in age–1953 was a very good year.)
We loved being together. And a lot of that togetherness was at concerts and shows. Goodness I’d have a hard time remembering them all and yet now as I set listening to my playlists on Spotify, up come songs from bands or acts we enjoyed and many that we saw.
Maybe you remember the ice bucket challenge? I was all that excited by the challenge, but the theme song blew me away the first time I heard it: Come With Me Now by Kongos. Well, they played in Madison (WI) that Fall and off we went to see them. It was a relatively small show, in a theatre holding maybe 500 and not even full. Yet Kongos played their hearts out. We loved it; the crowd loved it. To boot, we were the oldest people there by probably 30 years, LOL!
Indeed that happened to us frequently and nobody cared, let alone us.
Bonnie and I traveled and we worked and played and lived. And, in the end, for both of us (and we discussed this) that’s what it’s all about. To enjoy life, to be of service to our fellow human beings, and to be as much Love as we could muster.
To the end, Bonnie was steadfast. Often I’d know she was in pain of which she rarely or even complained. She just wanted to soak in every minute of life. With me, with her family, with her friends.
And she did.
Now here in my favorite picture of Bonnie. I’ve posted it before. It’s full of the joy and Love and hope that Bonnie embodied.
I miss you; I love you; I expect to join you sooner than later.
Happy travels, Bob

Chapala in Pre-COVID19

[I’m slowly emerging back into the social and cultural stream of life after Bonnie’s passing. I’ll write my own memorial to her soon for these pages. In the meantime the world is being turned upside down with the coronavirus and the turmoil it has engendered. Moreover, when I returned from saying my goodbyes to Bonnie as she was passing, my main desktop computer called it quits and it has been rebuilt slowly here in Mexico. I just got it back yesterday. So here is my first post. One of Bonnie’s daughters encouraged me to continue writing here. And so I am doing so.]

Right now Chapala is in the midst of realizing the threat of the coronavirus. There are less people out and about. People are being a little more concerned, yet the reaction here has been much more subdued than with our northern neighbors. We suspect that reaction is still in front of us here in Mexico.

As I’ve noted before, change seems to happen slowly here, but it definitely does happen. When I was up North, a matter only of a few days, some artist or artists decorated some of the trees along the malecon.

You may have noticed in pictures on prior blog posts that the trees here in town are painted what at the base up to about six feet in height. The trees are painted with calcium hidroxide to protect them from pests and especially from leafcutter ants, who can devastate a growth of trees in a matter of hours. Visit here to learn more.

Well, some artists used the white as a canvas and decorated the trees again. Quite lovely:

Also, a subject I never tire of: pelicans. I go every day to see them while they are here. Alas, their migration North is due to begin soon (although I hope the border patrol will let them pass). I’ll miss their beauty and graceful presence on the lakeshore and ponder their return next November.

Finally, I’ll sign off today with a little video I shot on a trip to Guadalajara shortly after my return from the States. I love the joy and excitement of the kids, playing with these simple and colorful toys. Forever Young, as Bob Dylan said.

Bonnie Tobey, R.I.P.

Hola, readers and followers,

I’ve (and we) have been absent for a least a couple of weeks. Please pardon me. If you read the rest of this post you will know why. The post was written by Bonnie’s daughters. I will write a memorial here sometime soon.

Bonnie Lynn Tobey, born November 17, 1953, returned home with a grateful heart on February 17, 2020 after a life filled with countless blessings, the greatest being her beloved and loving family.  Bonnie was a Home-Health and Hospice nurse for 43 years, certified Hatha Yoga instructor, proud and excellent parent with Jim Johnson to their three daughters Laila Bernhardt, Hannah Johnson, and Paula Johnson Bowers, daughter of Marjorie and Stephen Tobey, doting older sister to Stephen Tobey Jr., Richard Tobey, and Julie Ratcliffe, partner to Robert Rutter, delighted Oma to eight grandchildren, and loving friend to more people than can be named here.

Bonnie’s life was characterized by service to others – though she claimed to be very selfish because she “enjoyed helping people so much”. “I do it all for me,” she was heard to say on more than one occasion, and Bonnie’s dedication to following her own heart and boldly marching to the beat of her own drum was an inspiration to all who knew her.

In her retirement from nursing, she enjoyed travelling, spending time with family, voraciously reading, and lively Words With Friends rivalries. Her final weeks were spent at her daughter’s home, surrounded by family.  She was peaceful and gave the instructions: “Don’t cry for me too much. I have lived the most wonderful life.”

A celebration of Bonnie’s life will be hosted by her family on Washington Island, Wisconsin on August 15th, 2020.

Bonnie’s memory lives on in all who knew her: her friends, family, children and grandchildren.  Any time you do something daring for the greater good and for love, you honor her rebellious spirit. Any time you answer the call of a person in need and lend a listening ear, you live from her own generous heart.

We are all so blessed to have known her. 💖🕉💖

A Taste of Chapala History

Lakeside has a very long history, dating back to prehispanic times. Alas, much of this history is not well-researched (in this area) and, to make understanding it even more difficult for us gringo amateur historians, it’s all in Spanish. I’m learning, yet have a very long way to go.

Chapala has an archive maintained and staffed by the city. So more recent history, and by that I mean from the early twentieth century through the present, is documented in a universal language: photographs.

Recently I ventured into city hall. It’s housed in one of the original buildings of the Spanish occupation, the grand hotel.

Here, a number of luminaries have stayed over the years.

D.H. Lawrence lived in Chapala for a short portion of his life, working on a novel. You can read about that here.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you’ll have observed lots of photos of the malecon and the lake.

Today the water level of the lake is well below even the lowest level of the malecon.

It’s an important source of water for Guadalajara.

Not so long ago, however, the lake was prone to flooding.

In city hall, I found a small exhibit of photos depicting this history, reaching back into the 1960s and prior.

Enjoy, and as I learn more, you’ll be the first to know.

 

 

Winter Break in Chapala

Okay. Christmas and New Year are behind us.

In Chapala, the decorations have come down. The manger has been removed and stored for next season.

Carnival is still a few weeks away.

It’s quiet here, and just wonderful.

It’s the dry season. Pretty much every day the sun is shining and the clouds are puffy white. The evenings and early mornings are crisp and cool, dipping down into the low 60s. The day warms pretty quickly and by mid-morning we’re in the 70s.

Just in time for a walk along the malecon. The malecon is sleek and sparse during January. The rides that populated it during New Year’s have moved out until their return for Carnival.

Every day we look forward to seeing the pelicans on the lake. They’re a study in grace and patience. And seeing them every day, we observe some of their nuances. It seems that each season their behavior changes at least slightly.

Last season, a large flock hung out on the pier at the Yacht Club, just off the malecon area.

This year, they’re hanging out on the breakwater on the east side of the malecon.

And there’s a large flock over on the west side of the malecon by some stairs that dip down into the lake. Fishermen stop by here to give fish to the pelicans. They know where to hang out!

They are such elegant, graceful birds, providing a peaceful, easy feeling right before our eyes every day.

Life is good in Chapala!

On the Trail of the Taco Chronicles Part 5

On our last day of the trail (at least for the present), we visited the el centro of Uruapan and visited the featured taco vendor.

Downtown Uruapan was quite impressive. Of course, there was a cathedral, actually several, and a large central park.

Not surprisingly on a Sunday morning, folks here were worshiping.

The el centro park was lovely, a tree and bench filled stretch of land providing a respite from the bustle of the city.

Most fascinating to me was the long line, a very long line, of shoeshine booths. How often do you see people wearing shoes these days that can even be shined? I guess they do here in Uruapan.

After visiting another city park, we headed over to our final food stop, Carnitas As de Oros.

In the Taco Chronicles, we’re introduced to this restaurant by one of the chefs at Cocina M, the upscale restaurant in Uruapan that we visited and recounted here. The chef came here to source their meat that she would then use to make dumplings (which were very yummy!).

She spoke with the gerente (manager) of the store and finally here I got to meet one of the “stars” of the Taco Chronicles.

We proceeded to enjoy a simple and scrumptious meal: a plate of pork, tortillas, and salsa.

Wonderful food and meeting a star. What a day!

Remember the film crew I wrote of in the last post on the Taco Chronicles? They informed me that a second season of the show was in the works. I sure hope so.

And I hope that we’re able to visit more of the locations and sample the foods from the first season.

We loved it!

On the Trail of the Taco Chronicles Part 4

Leaving Morelia, we headed for Uruapan, planning to enjoy some more great food and hoping to meet at least one of the people making these wonderful tacos that were featured in the show. [If you need to catch up on our Taco Chronicles adventure, you can do so here and here and here.]

We arrived in Uruapan in the middle of the afternoon and after some wondering around, we found our hotel. A lovely place called Pie de la Sierra, a little ways out of town and up on one of the surrounding mountains. We did have a spectacular view however.

It’s a rustic kind of place. Log cabin-y. Nice and clean and well-appointed.

We headed into town with an objective of arriving at Cocina M, the upscale restaurant featured in the series, around 7PM. Alas, sometimes Google Drive seems to get confused and we ended up driving in the wrong direction for some miles before realizing our error and backtracking. We did learn, however, on this wild goose chase that Uruapan is the avocado capital of Mexico. Mile after mile of avocado trees lined the highway. No avocados in bloom, but at least we can think of it as we enjoy the avocados we buy at the local mercado.

Finally, we found Cocina M.

I’ve eaten at a few fine restaurants in my life. Not many, but at least a few. Emeril’s at the MGM in Las Vegas. Le Cirque in New York City. And Cocina M was right up there.

Cocina M features some classic Mexican food with a twist and a flourish.

Not long after we ordered a group of young men and women, about 20 in total, were seated at a large table not far from us. Our neighbor thought they were cartel guys. At one point, a more senior man came over to their table and addressed them all. Were they or weren’t they? Not sure, to be sure.

The next morning we headed up to the (free) breakfast buffet at the hotel. And who should I run into but a few of the guys who had been at that other table at Cocina M. Turns out they were a film crew shooting a documentary in the area and were celebrating the end of shot with a splash-out dinner.

They did me the honor of pointing out which of the breakfast choices had a lot of spice. Just what I want!

Welcome to Mexico!

 

 

Happy New Year from and in Chapala

Just after Christmas, a new addition to the malecon started construction.

In fact, right next to the Chapala sign.

I don’t know if the new addition is in honor of the symmetry of the year or if 2020 is the anniversary of a significant event in the history of Chapala.

Still, it’s always interesting to watch changes on the malecon.

Of course, the sign got a paint job.

And then it was shrouded, awaiting the celebratory unveiling.

Meanwhile, a few banners appeared around town announcing a big dance on New Year’s Eve starting at 10PM. Interestingly enough, the banners didn’t say where.

But it seemed that everyone knew.

On New Year’s Eve, having just returned from Guadalajara, our neighbors and I walked down to the malecon. Oddly, the thoroughfare next to us was empty. Usually when events are happening on the malecon, it’s jammed.

And the eastern side of the malecon was empty. But we heard music and saw a stage and lots of lights by fisherman’s pier. Sure enough, the party was there and rockin’ and rollin’.

We found standing room amidst table after table of Mexican families replete with food and drink, listening to the music and waiting for the big countdown.

Mexicans do know how to party.

Sure enough, there was a countdown, diez, nueve, ocho, seite, seis, cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno!

Cheering and hugging and hooting and hollaring ensued. Along with the biggest sparklers I’ve ever seen. And the 2020 addition to the Chapala sign on the pier was unveiled.

Of course, there were fireworks, lovely as always.

We even got souvenirs to take home!

On New Year’s Day, the malecon was totally packed despite blustery, cool weather. Still, everyone seemed to be enjoying the start of the new year.

We wish you all the best in 2020!