Monthly Archives: September 2006

El Gringo Loco Visits Jalcomulco

So you know just how loco this gringo is, I went there on the back of a motor scooter. My ass, which doesn’t carry much padding, will never be the same.

I was in Roberto’’s shop earlier in the week, looking over his selection of “clone” DVDs; and Roberto, who is the gregarious sort, struck up a conversation. Before long he asked if I wanted to go to Jalcomulco Saturday and offered to drive us on his ““moto””. Being in the midst of the adventure of my life and Roberto seeming like a nice fellow, I said ““claro.””

Later, in one of my more lucid moments, I thought I don’t want to travel to Jalcomulco, some thirty miles from Xalapa, on the back of a motor scooter; and decided that on Saturday I’d tell Roberto we will take my truck.

This morning I arrived at Roberto’s shop at the appointed time and told him we I would rather take my truck. Two hours of rigmarole later, during which I had figured that since it was a nice sunny day a motor scooter ride would be fun, we were ready to leave. I asked Roberto how long it would take to get to Jalcomulco and when he responded it would take only a half hour I suggested we take his scooter. The trip was more like an ass torturing hour and a half

Which reminds of when I went with Long Life Harborite to look at some land he had purchased. The land he told me was about a half mile away and about five miles later we arrived there. Not that under estimating the mileage caused any problems, since we were driving; but I still remind him of the incident.

I was greatly relieved to arrive in town and to be able to dismount the motor scooter. So relieved, in fact, I started to give Roberto a bit of static about his half hour estimate, along the lines of the static I give my buddy Life Long Harborite.

Jalcomulco is a very picturesque riverside puebla, surrounded by mountains, that is home to quite a few river rafting guide services and camps. The town, it appeared to me, is largely supported by tourism. When we were there two groups of rafters passed, and as we were leaving two tourism buses were pulling in.

We spent a bit of time looking around town and walked across the suspension bridge,
you see in the photo with Roberto mid-span, had a great lunch of Camarones a la Diablo, which I think the dish is called because of the very hot tomato sauce in which the shrimp were bathed. Roberto told me that I would experience the spiciness of the lunch again in the bathroom tomorrow.

The ride back to Xalapa was pretty much excruciating for the first fifteen minutes, or so, until my ass went numb. After that it wasn’’t so bad except when Roberto failed to notice a peton (speed bumps which are installed in populated areas to slow traffic) and I rose off the seat eight or ten inches. Rising from the seat wasn’’t bad, but the landing was damned painful.

Roberto was a great traveling companion and a very safe driver. We enjoyed lots of laughs together, especially on the ride back after a couple of dark Victorias with lunch. I’’m afraid I’m too old, or have too boney of an ass, for extended trips on a motor scooter, though, and told Roberto that next trip I’’m driving.

If you’re in Xalapa you will probably enjoy a half day trip to Jalcomulco which is a bit warmer than it is here owing to its lower elevation.

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Guest Posting By Donald Brown

I think my brother has it exactly right in his letter to Sen. John Warner of Virginia. I haven’t seen my brother’s original letter to the senator nor the senator’s response, but anyone who has ever written an elected official and received a response can well imagine the pablum that constituted the Senator’s response. You will notice that my brother is much politer than I am.

The Honorable John Warner
225 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510-4601

Dear Senator Warner,

Thank you for your prompt reply and I feel that with minds like yours on this intractable issue a fair and equitable solution will be found to end the chaos in the Middle East.

I agree with you totally when you describe the situation in the region as tense and would like to ask you this; to what do you attribute these tensions? I believe that there are four main reasons for the tensions you characterize and a fundamental reassessment of our direction in the region should be a goal of United States Foreign Policy.

The four main reasons that I believe perpetuate the tension in the Middle East are as follows:

Reason 1: The question of natural resources, namely oil, is fundamental to any debate regarding the region. They have it and we need it. They have it due to a roll of the dice and we need it because our government has been very short sighted in my view. Petro-chemicals are endemic to every aspect of our economic system. From wasteful packaging that is thrown into the garbage the instant a product is brought home. To the massive homes being built that require huge amounts of energy to cool and heat. To energy inefficient vehicles which only use is to display the economic status of its user. The Petro-Chemical basket is where we have deposited all of our eggs which makes us very exposed, both militarily and economically, as a nation. In short part of that tension we are experiencing in The Middle East is caused directly by our own greed.

Reason 2: The United States conscious effort to destabilize specific governments of the Middle East. This effort has taken many forms and is mostly a post WWII phenomenon. The most aggressive form is being exercised as we speak in Iraq. Whether we like to admit it or not, prior to our unwarranted invasion, Iraq was in a state of equilibrium where all factions lived side by side in relative harmony. Granted Saddam Hussein wasn’t a nice guy but sometimes the status quo can be a better option than an unsure future of violence and disharmony. And I think we should all admit that we knew Iraq was no danger to The United States prior to our efforts at de stabilization and Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda . During the decade of the eighties we armed and manipulated the Hussein regime and fueled the Iraq war with Iran by sending massive amounts of weaponry to Iraq so we could attempt to de stabilize Iran. And later, when we realized Iraq might lose the confrontation, our executive branch, ala Ollie North, decided to arm Iran. And I hate to think that our government loved this scenario because what can be better than the financing of Arabs killing Arabs.

In 1952 our CIA orchestrated a coupe in Iran and deposed a democratically elected government. We then inserted a puppet government of the USA headed by The Shah who was most decidedly a brutal and barbarous dictator. I realize that this happened during the cold war and the fear of Communism was very strong. But I feel that our country should be more reflective when contemplating the future and think of the immense cost in lives and treasure to our country.

The countries of the region are no strangers to attempted conquest and occupation and as we can all see in Iraq and southern Lebanon that they are getting better at defending themselves. And we keep taking a bite out of the same rotten apple.

Reason 3: Our irrational support for undemocratic regimes and the hypocrisy we display to the world which in turn breeds mistrust and extremism. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan Egypt and Jordan are all either dictatorial or authoritarian in nature and most definitely un democratic. And the facts show that the 9-11 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Osamma Bin laden is now comfortably tucked away in Pakistan. But we tend to focus all of our energy on Iran and Syria neither of which is now or have ever been a threat to the US.

Reason 4: Our support for Israel, which I have a hard time calling a democracy ( how can a democracy exist when it is also called an exclusively Jewish State), is weakening our country because we spend massive amounts of support to prop it up and we get absolutely no pay back except a continual state of war. The only reasons, that we give all these billions of dollars to Israel, that I can think of is that most of the money they get from us goes directly into the pockets of the purveyors of our military industrial complex and the fact that the Israel Lobby gives so much support to the politicians in Washington DC. I ask you Senator Warner; is it wise to let a foreign government have so much control in the halls of Congress?

Israel was created with the overwhelming military support of a few western countries and it continues to ignore many UN resolutions and expand its colonial outposts in the West Bank. It pulled out of Gaza because it has created a de-facto prison there and routinely sends Palestinians from the West Bank that “misbehave” to do time behind the concrete walls and razor wire that encircles The Gaza Strip. Hamas has stated that it is prepared to recognize Israel if it is defined dy the pre 1967 borders which are also delineated by a UN resolution. Is Israel prepared to also recognize Palestine when its leaders have proclaimed that” Palestinians don’t exist and are akin to cock roaches”.When the Palestinians elected Hamas to lead its aspirations at statehood it represented a referendum and proves that they feel ,at the very least repressed at, and want strong leadership to guide them forward.

I hope that instead of constantly waving our finger at the Arabs and Persians and chastising them that we can learn about them and experience their rich culture and history. We live in an anything goes Liberal Democracy where wealth generation and share holder accountability have supplanted morals, decency, and respect of our fellow man at the top of the list of our daily personal goals. And as a Country and as individuals we need to reassess and reflect to create a more positive and peaceful future for the people of planet Earth. Because we have that power and if we look around the world we see the negative environmental effects of all this share holder accountability and wealth generation. Don’t get me wrong because I am not against the generation of wealth but at this point in time the wealth is being concentrated in the upper classes while the middle and lower classes are being left behind to work more and more hours for less and less pay.

I hope that America and the west in general is able to chart a course into the future which will lead us to a point where we can actually “ win the hearts and minds of the people in the Middle East. Our present policy, I fear, is a dead end because the aggression we exhibit is creating polarization and extremism. I wonder how many Hezbollah recruits signed up for active duty when they found out about the rush shipment of bunker busting depleted uranium bombs that where sent air-mail to Israel 2 weeks into the most recent conflict in Lebanon?

Sincerely and With Ultimate Respect,

Donald MacRae Brown

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My Social Life

One thing very nice about having shops close by where I buy my produce, bread, meat and etc. is that I can shop for what I need for just a day or two. So I get to often see Tere from who I buy produce, ands who is very talkative and inquisitive as to matters of my life. I also stop daily at the bakery where the folks are very nice.

Today I learned that Tere has two children and a brother and sister that live with her in the same building in which her shop occupies the front room. When I told Tere that it looks like I may be able to rent the house a block down from her shop she insisted that I invite her over to look at the house, so I told her I would invite her and her family over for dinner.

To give you and idea as to the cost of produce, today I bought a large cantaloupe, a green pepper, and a couple pounds of carrots for $23 pesos, or about $2 US. Also today the itinerant juice orange vendor, who pushes a large basket on a cart around the neighborhood, stopped at the front gate of the dog pound and I bought thirty oranges for $17.50 pesos, about $1.60. Thirty oranges will provide me a large glass of juice each morning for a week.

So, as you can see, shopping comprises my social life.

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I May Have Found A Home

The prospect that I may soon be leaving the dog pound is looking favorable. Today Rosie left the gate open and I took the opportunity to escape to go buy a telephone card, which one slides into the ubiquitous public telephones, and called the number on the banner advertising a house around the corner for rent. Here when one is selling or renting a property a large banner advertising such is usually posted on the property.

I spoke to Leonora, who as it turns out is a realtor, who informed me the rent is $2500 pesos per month, or about $230. US dollars at today’s exchange rate, and that the house has six bedrooms. Leonora told me she would meet me at the house in 30 minutes.

When she opened the front door I was stunned. Entering the house, which from the exterior looks plain and relatively small, one climbs six or eights steps and emerges into a front room that is perhaps 15’ x 20’. The front room opens into a court yard surrounded by about six doors into various rooms, with a walkway around the perimeter and walkways in the shape of an X from corner to corner. Within the blank spaces of the X are triangular garden beds. Through one room off the courtyard is a large workshop in which the owner has woodworking shop and off the shop is a laundry room, off of which is another patio. The kitchen is large enough for a good sized table. In short it is the house of my dreams, though there is no garage; and it’s in the same neighborhood so I can continue to trade with the folks I have found with whom I like to trade, including the bar I went to for the first time a couple days ago where the beers are only $12 pesos.

The owner is a choir director moving to Mexico City, and at present there are a piano, a small harp, congas, and bongos in the house.

Leonora indicated that she thinks there will be no problem but she must check with the owner who returns from Mexico City Tuesday. I’m holding my breath until next Thursday when I will call Leonora again. If it works out, and after I get a few furnishings, the welcome mat will be out.

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Expo Flor Xalapa 2006


Today in el Parque Juarez the Expo Flor Xalapa 2006 opened. As you can see in the picture at right, today there was an orchestra playing.

There are a number of vendor booths set up and selling flowers and plants of all types. You can see in the photo at left a display of Plantas Carnivores, amongst which the only one I recognized is the Venus Flytrap.

There were lots of Orchids, cacti, African Violets, ferns, and al sorts of other plants of which I don’t know the names.

Somewhere I seem t remember reading that of all the plant species found in Mexico, sixty percent are found in Veracruz state. I haven’t been able to find the fact in a quick internet search and it’s time for me to head to Dancing in the Rain so I’ll leave you with my always dubious recollection.

At any rate the park was busy today.

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Waterboarding

With all the talk in the media and on Capitol Hill about torture lately you’ve probably heard of “waterboarding”. I have but had no idea waht it really involved. David Corn, one of the few courageous journalists left, has photos from the museum at the “Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia”.

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An American In Paris

The Wednesday offering in the musical comedy series was An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and “introducing” Leslie Carson.

It, I think, was very well done, with lots of what you’d expect in a musical – singing, dancing and the obligatory romance, in this case involving Kelly and Caron. The music was composed by the Gershwin brothers. Leslie Caron was quite the ballerina and Gene Kelly was quite the crooner. There was a very long dance segment toward the end of the movie to the song An American in Paris, involving a number different sets and of outfit changes for Caron and Kelly, and which was a product of Kelly’s imagination, after learning that Caron was to marry another man the next day. At the end, predictably, Caron returns to Kelly, her true love.

There was also a very cute segment with Kelly and a bunch of supposedly French children, who all spoke English without an accent. Kelly played a serviceman who stayed in Paris following the Big One to paint and theneighborhoodd kids all liked him as he gave them American bubblegum. The kids swarmed him one afternoon as he returned to his room and asked for gum. He responded “tomorrow”, so the kids asked him top speak English and he began pointing at things and pronouncing their English names. Soon he broke into I Got Rhythm and had the kids pronouncing the “I got” part of the line.

Most of the movies in the series I’ve attended in this series were produced by Lowes to supply their theaters, back in the days when theater chains produced movies and/or owned studios.

I learned to night that the Cine Club de la UV presents movies on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays all year around, though don’t know what’s in store after tomorrow evening.

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