Squeaky toy

Early at my desk. Back door open for pets. Suddenly a loud squeaky toy. But our pets have no squeaky toys. Rush to dining room, drag the little dog from hell by its tail from underneath the sideboard. In the next moment cradle in my hands a small brown songbird, upside down, damaged, panting furiously. I carry it to side wall. Its eyes blink, look at me. I imagine healing energy from my hands, but it looks like a goner. I gently place it – not upside down – atop the wall amongst squash plants, safe from cats.
An hour later, it’s gone. Apparently not a goner after all.

Yard man

Walking toward the beach, a bicycle approaches. A guy my age or more, graying hair, riding at a decent speed. With his left arm, he carries a rake. With his right arm near the seat, he tows an electric lawn mower, cord neatly coiled atop. I turn and watch, somewhat in awe, and listen to the whirring of the lawnmower wheels, quieter and quieter.

The legendary Hotel Termas!

Before my theme included the word short, and only a few months after arriving in Uruguay to live, we went with our friends Syd and Gundy on a bus tour of northern Argentina, seeing many things we would never have otherwise. Including this gem.


7 Apr 2010

“The legendary Hotel Termas de Rosario de la Frontera has conditioned its facilities and opened its doors once again to all the visitors in search of the tranquility and health offered by its hot spring waters.”

Before looking at my little 10-minute photo essay, done with a borrowed camera on our way back from northern Argentina, please take a minute or two to check out this review of the hotel, from which the quote above is taken.



You’ve found a cozy, clean spot and we want to make sure you enjoy everything about your stay.


You can have a sunny room overlooking the front…what are all those dots, you ask?


Why, they’re moths — moths enjoy this area as well.


Perhaps you’d prefer a room facing the courtyard? Anyway, have a look around!


Peek into our well-maintained, modern  kitchen…


…catch a glimpse of our efficient and clean laundry room.


Then make your way to our luxurious individual spa rooms.


It’s not every day a person gets to bathe in radioactive mud!


Our facility invites you to explore…




Wander around our lovingly landscaped gardens…


…find a little something special in our boutique…


Or just make yourself at home in our welcoming front lounge, where dedicated and professional staff stand ready to serve your every need!

So this is Christmas

Tzurumútaro, Michoacán, Mexico — 25 December 2007

So this is Christmas
Here you see the corner of our town plaza today, Christmas. I offer this as an introduction. The guys on the left are the good guys. The guys on the left are the bad guys. Got it?
So this is Christmas
The bad guys are the demons.
So this is Christmas
It starts with girls dressed up carrying – well, what the hell are they – going into the church…
So this is Christmas
…followed by some good guys (saluting), some bad guys, and the band.
So this is Christmas
And people with various iterations of baby Jesus, presumably to be blessed during this most sacred ‘Christian’ celebration.
So this is Christmas
After mass, they re-emerge.
So this is Christmas
The good guys are ready.
So this is Christmas
The bad guys warm up by threatening onlookers.
So this is Christmas
They don’t seem all that formidable, until you notice the gear they carry – chains and hooks.
So this is Christmas
Yes, you read that correctly.
So this is Christmas
The girls pound their colorful stick thingies with bells on them, the band strikes up a distinctive off-key refrain, and it’s fun time – the good guys start taunting the bad guys…
So this is Christmas
So this is Christmas
…and the bad guys attack, lunging at their legs with the hooks.
So this is Christmas
And connecting – notice the state of the jeans. You’ll notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves. Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves….you’ll see why I repeat this in a moment.
So this is Christmas
The staged mayhem can get a little out of control…
So this is Christmas
..but it’s all an impromptu act, a play.
So this is Christmas
Everybody knows everyone else. Well, maybe, but hold a minute for that…
So this is Christmas
And besides, it’s Christmas. Ya know, Santa Claus’n’all…look again at this picture…
So this is Christmas
OK, a tad more WWE than Bing Crosby, but what the hey.
So this is Christmas
Then the girls and boys in white start doing a weaving in-and-out Maypole thing, and all seems kind of civilized. Wait, you say, Maypole? At Christmas!? Well, think about it:  no actually, don’t…because just now,

So this is Christmas
…the band strikes up its monotonous discordance once again.
So this is Christmas
And the battle between good and evil continues, Maypole/whatever be damned.
So this is Christmas
Anyway, it finally wraps up and people head off to – who knows. Hours later, they’re still wandering around town in costume. At least the demons.
So this is Christmas
But first they rest a while…
So this is Christmas
…giving a gringo photographer an opportunity to take a photo of another gringo taking photos – our Canadian friend Gary, who brought his wife, daughter and 12 year old grandson Lucas (‘this doesn’t really seem like Christmas,’ he confided to our son Jesse) to make up the handful of gringos observing.

Oh, Jesse. Did I mention that he ended up being a total pain in the ass this morning? I won’t go into details. If you’re the parent of a teenager, no further explanation required. If you’re a teenager or above (but not yet parent of a teenager) just think how incredibly oppressive-retarded your cro-magnon parents can be (which, curiously, your friends’ aren’t).

That kind of day. We go to our friend Donna’s for lunch and games (her family tradition) but eating wonderful food and sitting on her patio overlooking Pátzcuaro, blahblahblahing with Jerry and Shelly and Harry and Judy and Betty (we have five times more friends here in less than a year than we had in Spokane in almost two), enjoying a glass of wine or two, we decline to play Scrabble in Spanish or Monopoly in Turkish (f’real – Betty lived in Turkey couple years), The shared horror stories of teenage children serve as a balm to our souls, and on the way home we stop to buy carnitas para llevar (pork’n’tortillas’n’salsas to go) because we figure Jesse will be hungry and, pain in the ass or not, he deserves to eat.

But he’s not home.

I don a dark sweatshirt/hoody (good local look) and walk five minutes to the plaza to look for him.

Halfway there, saying buenas tardes to one of neighbors, a horn blares, and I greet Rick and Deb, and their parents Rose Ann and Errol, cruising our pueblo Tzurumútaro on their way home from a dinner in the big city Morelia (they all – well, except for Errol, who doesn’t give a shit about such things – wear black; we haven’t achieved that level of sophistication yet ;-).

Lots of people in the square, all eating – communal feast of some sort, as the Posada couple nights ago, which I didn’t quite get around to blogging about – one of several we’ve attended last few days, – sowweee!; styrofoam plates and cups left in the street because the planning, which may involve bringing huge metal pots in wheelbarrows, doesn’t extend to disposal of the disposables – all of which nonetheless have disappeared the next day.

No Jesse.

I wander by a cluster of giggly teenage girls, one of whom asks, ¿Busca Jesse?

Si, I reply.

Está en la tienda, she says, pointing, ‘the store.

Conosco ‘tienda,’ I reply with a wry smile (and giggles from them), gracias.
And sure enough, there’s Jesse, in the middle of couple dozen locals, several cradling cervecas.
One’s our immediate neighbor, others I sort of generically recognize. A slightly older (and slightly inebriated) guy affirms this is my son and asks my pardon for what has happened to him.

Meanwhile, Jesse clowns to a receptive audience.

Es un muchacho grande, I say to the ‘responsible’ guy, hoping that translates as ‘he’s a big boy.’
Jesse, I say, we brought you some carnitas. You hungry? Heading across the plaza, we (no actually Jesse: no, gracias) refuse a couple styrofoam bowls of food held out to us; all the way we entertain laughter, and at one point Jesse says to bystanders looking at his bloodstained trousers, ¡Pinches diablos! (Damned devils!)

So here’s the deal. In our absence, our son has been engaging the locals. How cool,
you must think, but consider that the locals whom he has engaged have hooks.
So this is Christmas
Is that blood? we ask. Yeah, he says, they cut my finger.
So this is Christmas
Then he shows us his leg. From the front …
So this is Christmas
… and from the back.

Remember my comment about the performers: Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves… Jesse has no gloves, hence his hand gets cut, subsequently staining his jeans. The claws tearing his jeans also tear his flesh, because he has only one layer of jeans.

The gringo kid joins the local fray, sin protection, gets his pants shredded by metal hooks, shows blood – which the performers don’t – all a bit interesting. Moments ago, as I edited photos and prepared this, he reappeared home, then took off again, on foot, to the plaza, five minutes away. I don’t wish I was in his place: I have no desire to be 19 again, but I look on in marvel, as perhaps my parents did, or as perhaps would have his birth parents had they lived that long.

Life manifests in remarkable ways.