Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shame on Me

I could blame it on my toe (which I stubbed badly last week). Tried to find a podiatrist and was directed to a "pedicurista." He took excellent care of me.The purple is an antibiotic. Later I found out that his medical degree came from working at a Dr. Scholl's shop. Seriously!

or on my work selling books for the Authors' Sala ( See the display in the picture to the right, and be sure to buy the book from Amazon (Solamente en San Miguel).

....but I would be lying.

It was just plain sloth, laziness and general decrepitude caused by my old age.

I did manage to spend a busy week with Linda out of town.
  • I got a haircut
  • I sold a bunch of books for the Authors' Sala
  • I bought a new tire after getting a flat (visited about 5 stores)
  • I had dinner with friends
  • I took quite a few siestas (both before and after drinking quite a few cervezas)
  • I walked the dog a few times
  • I met twice with an attorney
  • I ate lunch with workers doing construction at my home
  • I drove home the construction workers
  • I got half a chicken free at Pollo El Machin (see earlier blog)
  • I never managed to get to the gym (sloth again)
  • I got a new key for my motorscooter (you wouldn't believe how long this took!)
  • I went to a chili cookoff and a mini-rodeo

Not surprisingly, there was a plethora of Texans at the cookoff, which was a fundraiser for an orphanage. My favorite chilis were pretty darn good, though I didn't stay long enough to find out if they were prizewinners. The real prizewinners were the outfits worn by the chefs. I especially like the hat of the Rat's Ass Team! That is actually the rear end of a rat on this man's head.

The young man in the picture with me is Said Merkel, who I am tutoring for his Bar Mitzva next year. He is actually having a better time than it appears. He's 12, so it's uncool to show that you are enjoying yourself with an old gringo.

There was a mini-rodeo, which included a team of young women in identical dresses doing synchronized riding (kind of like synchronized swimming on horseback). Said's English teacher was also riding on his horse, Amigo. Finally there was an amazing display of lassoomanship (to coin a word).

While watching the riding, I sat next to an attractive Texan woman, and snapped a picture of her. Big sunglasses, big hair, big breasts and a short skirt! Muy Texas!

  • I tutored a 12 year old boy for his Bar Mitzva
  • I watched an old couple making out on the curb in front of our house
  • I met some of the neighborhood kids, who were watching the gringos line up for a house tour of the house down the block
The attitude displayed by these boys is all an act for the camera. They are mugging for me. While I printed pictures for the kids, they watched my dog. At the bottom is a friend, Michael Sudheer, an interior designer, and Araceli, our neighbor's housekeeper. They were hosting visitors for the house Michael designed and Araceli works in.

Every event listed above requires way more time than the equivalent event in the US (although sometimes less money). Any one could have justified its own blog.

But let's face it. I was lazy.

I'll try to do better from now on!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

El Machin Chicken

Cooking chicken in San Miguel has been raised to a fine art. The majority of cooked chicken sold is called Pollo Rostizado - spit broasted chicken, seasoned with a secret blend of herbs and spices. It is sold in chicken restaurants and carry out stands all over town. The best known is Pollo Feliz (Happy Chicken....go figure) that is kind of the local KFC.

However, the chicken I prefer is cooked over a grill fired by mesquite wood, and is called Pollos El Machin, which roughly translates as "The Macho Guy's Chicken." It is also referred to as Pollo asado, or barbecued chicken. One of the owners is Victor, shown below at the grill, where he spends six days a week. He certainly must be a macho guy, to spend all day over a hot, smoky grill! El Machin is next to the bus station, and one often finds bus drivers in the tent, eating a quick meal before their run.

El Machin's chicken is drier than broasted chicken, although still plenty moist. It has a delicious mesquite flavor that I have tasted nowhere else. Victor is very proud of his chicken, and says that he uses a much higher quality of chicken than Pollo Feliz. It shows...or tastes!

The downside of El Machin is its location - outdoors and far from the center of town. Also, because the cooking is done under a tent, a cloud of (deliciously) scented smoke surrounds the restaurant. Most gringos aren't aware of its existence, and since El Machin doesn't deliver, Americans are denied the pleasure of sampling El Machin chicken. Only a lucky few know about it, including us, our friends, and a fellow from the Culinary Institute of America, who I ran into a few weeks ago!

The staff on weekends includes about eight people, who take orders, cook the chicken, make tortillas, salad and salsa, quarter the chicken, and package it to go or to eat under the two palapas (tents).

For the first time today, some of the staff were wearing masks. When I asked Victor about them, he explained that it was to protect the staff from the smoke. I guess it would be tough for the customers to wear masks while eating the chicken!

After I had been at the restaurant for a while, and the staff realized that I knew Victor, and therefore was about a half rung above the typical gringo loco (crazy gringo), they began to speak to me and pose for the camera. Guadaloupe (Lupita) chose the picture below for the blog. Note the sultry pose. She thought she looked pretty hot in it. I certainly agree.

I'm hoping that with all the publicity and business that I am generating for El Machin, one day I will be issued an official yellow El Machin shirt. I'm crossing my fingers!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Best Honda Dealer in San Miguel

Welcome to the best Honda motorcycle dealership in San Miguel. Well, to be honest, it's the only Honda dealership in town, so you're stuck buying there. On the other hand, it's conveniently located and the staff is friendly and speaks English.

Today, I was in for a free 30 day inspection of my new yellow Honda Bros. Turns out that the labor was free, but there was a 75 peso charge for the oil. Also, I was checking (for about the tenth time) to see if my backordered key blank came in for my scooter. No luck (again). Thanks Honda of Mexico.

Gustavo is the salesman I worked with when I purchased my first scooter and my recent motorcycle. He is shown above with my new yellow moto! He's a good looking young man who used to race motocross. Now he drives in daily from Celaya, a town about 40 minutes away, to sell motorcycles to gringos. He's the eternal optimist, and has a ready smile.

Lately, I've seen him on the street demonstrating this new quattromoto - or 4 wheel motorcycle. I'm not sure who he's trying to sell these to - children, small adults or the insane. I would certainly like to see Honda's market research on this baby! For you Detroiters, how do you think this would do in the Woodward Cruise?

Gustavo insisted that I photograph the office staff, las bonitas (the lovely) Claudia (left) and Margarita (right). He may be trying to score with them. Also, note the picture of Gustavo at his desk pretending to work! Hopefully, el jefe (the boss), Pavel, won't see this one.

I'm still lusting after larger motorcycles, but fear (of falling and of Linda) will probably keep me with the current inventory for the time being. Based on my (low) level of machismo, they may not even be willing to sell them to me! Below are some of the motorcycles for future consideration.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Michoacan Runaround Weekend

Our Texan friends, Clint and Karen, invited us to accompany them on a weekend buying trip to the state of Michoacan, about four hours from San Miguel. Clint was buying crafts to sell in a giant show in Texas, called Roundtop and he has been establishing relationships with the finest artisans in tiny remote villages throughout Michoacan. [As an aside to our Michigan friends, note that both Michigan and Michoacan mean "land of many lakes" in indian dialects]. We loaded up Clint's Texas-size diesel pickup truck and off we went

Clint is a special kind of guy - Texan through and through, a perfect drawl, tall, handsome, charming, with a constant stream of interesting stories. He knows his way around Michoacan thoroughly, and knows where to get the best meals, whether from restaurants or food carts. On the way down, as soon as our stomachs started rumbling, Clint pointed out a torta (sandwich) restaurant on the side of a dusty road, where we filled up on delicious quesadillas of cheese and avocado. Under the same awning was a car stereo store, and when I walked over to look at the stereos, a restaurant worker came in and asked if she could help me. Pretty efficient - the same employees work at both stores!

We arrived in Patzcuaro, our destination, late afternoon. Patzcuaro is a lovely colonial town on a beautiful lake. The hotel was a old hacienda with rooms around a central courtyard. Patzcuaro is up around 8500 feet above sea level, so nights were cold. Carlos built a fire in the fireplace, but most of the heat went up the flue, so we had to huddle together for warmth.

Next morning, we took off for the town of Tzintzuntzan, well known for its pottery. We were looking for Consuela, who has created a unique style of pottery that no one else does. Her normal spot in the market was vacant, so we asked where she lived, and wandered up a dirt road where, after a few inquiries, we found Consuela's home. The home was a series of brick rooms, some open to the weather, some closed. She lives there with, among others, her son, who recently lost his four children in a fire. She wasn't exhibiting this weekend because a batch of her work had cracked in the kiln, leaving her nothing to show. She did have some plates, however, so Karen and Linda mixed and matched. She also had a lovely avocado tree in the yard, and we bought some for future eatin'.

Leaving Consuela's home, we saw an unbelievable sight - a small horse lugging a load of firewood with a dog atop the load!

While in Tzintzuntzan, we saw a small crowd in front of a lovely church. We walked over to investigate, and found a group of youngsters in costumes for Three Kings' Day. This is held on January 5, and is the day when Mexican's traditionally exchange gifts, rather than on Christmas Day itself. The children danced in the church as the priest blessed them and sprinkled them (as well as us with a smile) with holy water.

On to another village - this time to a place where they make pots. We entered another world - dirt roads, mangy dogs, no restaurants, hotels or tourist attractions - a place virtually no American would bother with. We parked the car, and knocked on a door that Clint pointed out. Although it looked like every other door on the block, a smiling woman opened and invited us in.

Children flocked around Carlos as he took pictures of them, spoke to them, and clowned around. Sadly, they were filthy and had bad teeth. But they were like children everywhere...smiling, laughing and having a great time, and generally oblivious to their poverty.

The lovely woman is one of the premier potters in Mexico. Her work is found in many books, museums and collections. Yet she is modest and unpretentious, and her work is still inexpensive.

We were certainly the only gringos in the town, and it was clear that they didn't get many visitors. Generally, they show and sell their work in other towns, and at annual fairs, like the one in Uruapan during Semana Santa (Easter Week). Some of them work virtually all year in order to have things to sell during this one week of the year!

This is one of the artisan's houses we entered. Neat and clean, with dishes and glasses carefully stacked on the kitchen wall. But pitifully few possessions, compared to what we are used to. No running water, outhouses, etc. The toilet had a barrel of water with which to "flush".

After some discussion, we decided to go on to the "Pineapple" village, where the local artisans make traditional pottery in the shape of pineapples, a traditional sign of welcome. Although most of the pineapples are green, some are brown. They range in size from a couple of inches to five feet!

We were terribly hungry and thirsty after all this shopping, but fortunately Clint came through again! In a small town, at a roadside stand, he found some wonderful sandwiches and fruit drinks. The owners had been selling at the same location for 24 years. Four of their five daughters were living in California. Note the quail and chicken eggs for use in the fruit and vegetable drinks. Clint, Karen and I had giant Cubana sandwiches - meat, lettuce, avocado, onions, etc., while Linda had a vegetarian concoction, equally declicious. We had juice drinks made with oranges, pineapples, mangos and strawberries. Heavenly! The owners were so proud that they gave us a juice made with carrots and beets.

To be continued....