Category Archives: retirement in Mexico

Music Sunday!

OK, yes, it’s loud. We use our big speakers, and I’ve heard that it can be noticed in a town less than a mile away.

Right now we’re hearing The Eagles. People are on their way to mass. They just can’t miss it.

Time for breakfast of tamales at 5 pesos apiece. With beans, and café de la olla – check it out! Delicious!

Accidente Musicál, Dos Histórietas Y Una Receta

We had a music accident the other day. We were practicing for a Valentine’s Day party, and we were excited, because, well, it’ll be musica romántica. And what could be more fun than learning or re-learning beautiful music for a three-hour gig? We were deep into a rehearsal when The Guitar Player’s pick was mistakenly but enthusiastically thrown across the room. In an effort to protect the drum machines (we use drum machines), they were bumped off their stand, and hit the tile floor. 

These were no ordinary drum machines. They’ve been programmed to hold the rhythms and tempi (speeds) of hundreds (really!) of songs we play. And they’re (ahem!) vintage. If you’re interested, I can name models and ages. The older one broke. Some outside parts (little feet, sliding adjuster knobs) broke, and something inside broke, too. The rehearsal was, well, over, and The Guitar Player began to look for whatever was causing the machine to not work. We were making plans to visit La Plaza De La Tecnología in León, or to call a friendly repair guy we know in León, or ? There was a teensy little copper coil inside (OK, it had been inside, but wasn’t any more). We swept the floor. We looked underhand on top of furniture. Finally The Guitar Player took the rest of the guts of the machine apart, and – gasp – he found it! But that didn’t solve the problem. After all, it was broken. 

We have a back-up drum machine, wisely purchased from eBay a couple of years ago. We studied the manual (yay! we had a manual, and we found it!) and remembered that there was a way to dump all the sounds and all the patterns/songs into another device or into the other drum machine. It’s two days later, now, having had to take a day off of practicing to play for a church service in a nearby town.  End of first little story.

Two drum machines “talking to each other” via midi.

So what are we doing today? The Guitarist/drum machine programmer/composer/singer extraordinaire is getting together a few (a few hundred!) seed and fertilizer bags that a neighbor wants to buy (one peso apiece). And I got a chance to get into the kitchen and make something good. I felt liking creating a memory of meals out of my past – something comforting to help us get past our musical accident and some disturbing personal financial news from California.

Beginning of second little story. A couple of years ago we were invited to play a few hours of music in a big fiesta nearby. The woman who had contracted us is a friend. We finished the night, marred as it was by a gang group of young guys who have a history of (sometimes violent) differences of opinion with the town we were in, and who had been making comments and throwing bottles. We didn’t have to hide behind our speakers as we have on various occasions, (don’t ask!) but we were tired that night anyway. It had been stressful, and the sound we got from our system wasn’t as we had hoped – things like that can really tire you out. 

We were invited to our hostess’ house for a late night supper following the gig. She said, “I made a nice cream of squash.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that might be, but running through my mind was,”Cream of squash? Pumpkin? Yellow squash? Zucchini?” but we couldn’t politely refuse. And besides, we like her, and her very, very pleasant old style mother. We sat at their comfortably large table in the comfortable kitchen (probably not like anything you might be imagining) and she served us bowls of pale green soup. I hesitantly tasted it, and goodness! it was absolutely delicious! After awhile (another bowl, please), I asked how she had made it. It sounded extremely simple, and I imagined that she must have left out some steps. 

But here’s a very, very similar recipe I recently received from Mely Martinez by way of her blog called Mexico In My Kitchen. Don’t worry – I’m not trying to make this a food blog (I save that for my sister)!

Soapbox: (hah! I wrote soupbox first!) I’m a native Californian (a small minority), and proud of it. Californians are familiar with Mexican food. And here comes the opinion: most Mexican food you may eat at a restaurant or at a potluck (all of which I’m inordinately fond of), just isn’t what you might find in a Mexican town. As much as I enjoyed my mother’s homemade enchiladas, with tomato sauce, canned green peppers and Jack cheese, they just weren’t like enchiladas I’ve eaten in Mexico. Too much cheese! (used in Mexico more as a flavoring)! Too much tomato sauce! And when I search for authentic recipes, they’re not readily available, in my opinion, unless they’re in Spanish (and then, not always). End of soapbox – returning to the topic.

I’ve jealously attempted to create salsas and foods like the ones you can find in any little Mexican hole-in-the-wall restaurant, with some successes and many not-so-successful attempts. 

So I was pleased to see this recipe. In English. It looked so similar to the way my friend described making Crema de Calabaza. It’s so simple that you may not be attracted to it (just like I wasn’t), but I recommend making this for you and your family when you’re tired after a long gig, or a disappointment. It’s perfect for a medium-sized party. It can stand alone, with toast, bread, or cheese, or maybe a rice dish. It can be a first course. It’s smooth. It’s delicious. It’s creamy. I really, really like it. The ingredients and instructions are simple, and there are clear photos to help you if you have any doubts.

http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2017/02/cream-of-zucchini-soup-sopa-calabacitas.html

This blog photo is so much prettier than mine, but the flavor of mine was just as good! Swear! Hope you can tell.

What Beautiful Chayotes!

img_5006

On the left are two chilacayotas. We can discuss those later. On the right – a “different” type of chayote. Larger, and a darker green color than the ones I’ve seen in markets.

It took me several distinct steps to get to the point of saying that, over a period of a few years.

Step 1: What’s this in my soup? Bleh. What’s a chayote?

Step 2: Chayotes are OK, I guess.

Step 3: What else can you do with chayote besides put it in soup? What’s “agua fresca?” OK, I’m just kidding about not knowing what agua fresca is. I liked that right away. Who wouldn’t? Fresh fruits blended into gorgeously colorful drinks are wonderful in the summer alongside a meal, or just by themselves. Some of them may sound a bit unusual – agua de pepino, for example, is a cucumber drink. I was skeptical, but it was just  as delicious as lemon, or strawberry.

Chayote (chai-OH-teh) – it’s a pear-shaped squash with (usually) thin, pale green skin. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It has little flavor of its own, and picks up the good flavors in soups. Some people make agua fresca with it, and some people put it in salads.

Today I prepared albondigas (Mexican meatball soup) for Thanksgiving, not having had much opportunity to purchase a turkey, and not having an oven to roast it in. I do have a 6-quart slow cooker, but….

A friend, hoping for a favor from us (thank goodness it didn’t involve money), gave us these chayotes the other day. I put one in the albondigas, and blended one with some guayabas for a fruity, vegetable-ish drink.

Ready for Thanksgiving!

 

Knitting, Not Writing – Confessions

I’m dedicating this blog entry to my friend Michael, who just may be about to pick up his knitting, and to my friend Chris, who scored some yarn this week! if I can do it, YOU can do it.

An aunt knit me a sweater when I was a skinny preteen. (I still have it, Auntie Phyllis! And if I could lift a 150-pound reel-to-reel recording machine off my cedar chest, I’d post a photo of it!) It’s beautiful, and it made quite an impression on me. Other family members had impressive needle and hook skills, and there have always been displays of their handiwork in my life.

When I was eighteen I “got a scholarship” from Chapman College for a ship trip around the world. I use the quotes because the scholarship itself was not even close to covering the costs of the semester at sea. But I went, most likely because of my thoughtful parents and generous grandparents.

In Australia I bought myself some beautiful wool yarn, white thick-and-thin stuff wrapped with thin blue threads. I just loved it, and planned to make myself a sweater. And why wouldn’t I be able to? Our family was good at that kind of thing! And I did commence to knit a sweater. It was a pullover, and amazingly enough, I finished it, it fit in spite of my lack of experience with creating knit swatches to choose the correct needle size and, well, lack of any kind of experience at all with knitting. It was a bit difficult to pull over my head, I recall, and a bit baggy under the arms. And I couldn’t really wear it often because it was an extremely warm piece of clothing. It was beautiful, though.

Years later I began to knit again, and enjoyed it. I did mostly small projects that I could take with me to all types of music rehearsals. I love planning and dreaming about colors, and the act of knitting. I bought and devoured books about knitting, bought yarn and needles and made things.

It wasn’t until recently that I decided to make another sweater. I’d been re-practicing (re-learning?) my knitting techniques with scarves, stoles, neck warmers and such. And I have a rather (ahem) impressive stash of a variety of yarns, pretty much purchased at random.

I subscribe to several blogs about knitting, and discovered to my chagrin that most of them are aimed at selling things – yarn, knitting supplies, books, patterns. The ones I enjoy the most are about the details of knitting – tutorials, lessons, and problem solving. And this summer one site, https://fringeassociation.com,  caught my imagination, by suggesting a knit-along in which the participants would design (gulp) and knit a top-down sweater. This is a type of garment commonly knit on circular needles, starting at the top and going down. It sounded both scary and exciting, but possible.

There was a sweater pattern I like very much that is knit from one side to the other, if you can picture that, and it seemed like it could be great fun to see if that particular sweater could become more personalized, starting from the top with a sort of yoke of one color, and working down to the bottom of the sweater with a different color. And changing the pattern from a side -to-side thing to a top-down thing sounded like fun mainly because the blogger with the idea, Karen Templer, is skilled at explaining and teaching. I thought I would give it a try starting on August 1st. Lots of knitters must have been as enthusiastic as I, because a large group of them joined up, and began blogging and photographing and sharing ideas. I didn’t join, but I read and pored over the photos with great interest, and chose some yarn.

I had purchased some recycled cotton yarn on eBay a couple of years ago with the thought of making pot holders and dish cloths and towels as a way to practice different stitches. I jumped in. It was fun, and I ended up with quite a few finished objects. And I could take the small projects with me when we went to our corn fields. Here are some of them.

img_3999

I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely the recycled cotton yarns were, and I decided to design my sweater with a grey-and-white yarn as the yoke, and use a cream-colored one for the rest. I planned to use a stitch that I like for the body of the sweater. It’s called Roman stitch and it’s rather elegant, and a simple stitch at the same time. It’s visible above on that cream-colored washcloth.

I began by making swatches to check my gauge, and making a practice yoke in ribbing. Here’s the winning swatch.

img_4001

 

First experiment: I decided to use 1×1 ribbing (take a look at nearly any sweater – you’ll see ribbing in the stretchy bits at the cuffs, and usually around the bottom. edge.) The marled gray yarn looked so pretty next to the cream. I had knit the yoke and about six inches more of the sweater in the cream yarn before I decided that the 1×1 ribbing wasn’t what I wanted. Then followed an entertaining period of reading about the qualities of 1×1 ribbing versus 2×2 on line. I wish I had photographed the knitted result at this point, with the Roman stitch, because there was a lengthy time lapse before more fabric was made, and the stitch looked so nice, but the size of the sweater seemed a little small, although carefully planned. I tore the stitches up and started again.

Second experiment: This time I went with a 2×2 ribbing. It seemed more practical, nicely stretchy but springing back to its shape, and the color of the yarn even seemed even prettier in that stitch. I knit about half of the yoke, and was about to move on to joining the new color and using a larger needle when I saw it – a spot where I had put six purl stitches in a row instead of knit, 2, purl 2, knit 2, etc. And it was right close to an edge, quite visible. I tore out the stitches and started over. After all, I had only knit a couple of inches!

Third and fourth experiments: I’ll cut right to the chase here and admit that when I cast on, I only cast on 90 stitches instead of 94. That’s what comes from trusting your memory, instead of reading your notes. MUST R-E-A-D THE PATTERN, GAIL! So when I got to the part where I was increasing, four stitches evenly spaced across the neckline, I didn’t end up with the right number of stitches at the edge of the fabric. You’d think that I would have checked my notes at the end of the third yoke failure, or better yet, before that, but – no. So I made the same mistake again on the fourth one.

Somewhere along here, the knitting Olympics came along, called Ravellenic Games, planned by Ravelry, an enormous online knitting community. The general idea was to cast on a knitting project during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (in Rio this year – cool!) and knit along, trying in your personal way to complete your project by the closing ceremonies. Fun! Although the opening ceremonies had been a couple of days earlier, I madly and irresponsibly decided to combine the two ideas: design a sweater, and knit it during the Olympics.

Fifth experiment: I had a heck of a time getting the correct number of stitches cast on, involving non-silent cursing on my part, but accompanied by dogged determination. I decided to change the size as well, for more negative ease, for a more comfortable sweater that I could wear over a tee shirt or sweater. I made new plans in my notes for the number of cast-on stitches to begin with, and the places to increase, and the spots to place stitch markers. By this time I’d decided to skip the Roman stitch although the blogger has published new helpful information about planning combined stitches. I still have time to decide whether or not to change to the cream color, or just to continue with the gray marled look. (Simplify! Simplify! Or not.)

Sixth experiment: I got the yarn cast on (correctly this time) and I’d knit 3 rows on August 20th. But who was counting?

I stuck with it. The Olympics came and went. I could no longer go for the gold. Umm, what comes waaaay after bronze?

img_4226

I made a big, big mistake in one of those connecting open-work lines between each section. I got confused and couldn’t fix my error, and decided to leave the obviously crooked increase there. i was just so tired of ripping out and starting over, I chose to leave it there, to remind me of what happens when you don’t stop to think when you know something it wrong. It can be a design element! I kept going.

And then this happened.

img_4321

See that tangled mess? It doesn’t look so daunting in the photo, but it was! It was! I’ve been knitting two ends of a yarn cake at the same time, and at one point I just kept knitting when there was a small blob of yarn that had come out of the center, pushing the yarn away from where I was working. That was a big, big mistake, and it cost me a long break from knitting anything at all. I did try to untangle it, to no avail. I appealed to Chon’s genius in untangling knots in electrical cords. He looks at the tangle, makes a few magical moves, and voila! But he didn’t seem to be interested in exercising his mechanical genius. I waited. Then one day, he wanted a button replaced on a favorite shirt. I did that and waited. Another request came for another replacement, and it made him so happy! That was when I reminded him about The Tangle. I placed the mess in his lap, and he began. It took a long time. It would have taken me until never. I would have had to cut the yarn. But he did untangle it, and I gratefully picked up where I had stopped. I would have thrown my hands up and grabbed the scissors, but with his help I got to continue knitting, this time much more carefully tugging the yarn from the big cake. I’m approaching the spot where I’ll divide the back from the sleeves and front, and work on each part separately, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m not a fast knitter, and it sounds much more accessible to work on small sections instead of rows of more than 300 stitches.

Having tossed out the idea of using the Roman stitch, I forged on. I was really looking forward to reaching the point where the stitched get divided into back, fronts, and sleeves.

I’ve reached that spot now, and I’ve passed it! I have a few inches of the body to work, (it’s a short cardigan) and the bottom ribbing. Then, on to the sleeves. And the button bands. When I pick up stitches for the bands I may use a cream cotton instead of this hedgehog color. Maybe.

img_4543

See the big zig (or zag) in the right increase? I could try to hide it. A true knitter would have ripped back to that spot and fix, but I was afraid I couldn’t. I made the same mistake an inch or two below that, and it wasn’t difficult to fix at all.

f you have actually made it all the way to the bottom of this post, please consider subscribing to galilleoinmexico.com, if you aren’t already a subscriber. I will never share your email, and promise to hardly ever bother you, aside from the occasional blog posts that will land in your inbox. To subscribe, simply enter your email address into the little box in the very top of the upper right hand side bar. Thanks!

 

Yesterday

img_4544

We practiced! Yes, we did! For the first time in – no, I can’t say it. Just know that there were many, many reasons that other activities took precedence. It took several hours to locate all the equipment we needed, and to set up. We’re trying out a new spot in the portál. In this photo you can see our Audubon bird clock (very popular with the denizons of the rancho), some framed needlepoint work, our ancient electrical switch box and the place we hook up our musical electrical equipment, and a very old cement tile floor that I have grown to like.

In the afternoon when we took a break, we went to survey the lot behind the house.

img_4547

On the other side of the stone fence is our neighbors’ corn field. For the first time in 6 years, the two middle-aged sisters have a respectable crop. Since the parcel slants down, and is dry land, the season was perfect – some rain every night.img_4558They also have some squash plants, tomatillos, and beans. I cooked a big handful of beans with lentils, and I must say that they were excellent. I had small hopes for them because the bean pods were beginning to dry. I shelled the driest ones to find tender, pale beans inside, and as for the greener ones, they soften right up, and the combination of legumes was delicious, cooked with onion, garlic and tomatoes. We had an excellent supper, served with bolillos.

Our friends Michael and Richard headed home to the Los Angeles area today without us being able to spend time with them. Their Mexico vacation didn’t turn out quite as planned.

In the afternoon I found some time to try to make up for lost time knitting. It’s beginning to look like a sweater! That’s the back of a short top-down cardigan knitted with recycled cotton yarn.

img_4543And in the evening, more practicing!

Just Another Day – Rancho Life

Just as we finished the afternoon fertilizer work it started to rain, which couldn’t have been better timing to dissolve the fertilizer granules so the plants can use it.

This is the sort of thing that makes people say jokingly, with a little bit of caution in their eyes, that we have a pact with the devil. How else could we have started off so well 5 seasons ago, and continue to do well when we’re only musicians?

IMG_3798

Manotas, Beto’s male dog, seems to think he belongs here. He’s out sitting next to our pickup (which we left in the street because I don’t want to get wet in the rain moving it) and Chon says “We have to give him something. He’s cold”.

And I say “Do you want a dog or something?”

“No.”

“He’s just fine. If he really gets cold he’ll go to his real home.”

I’m trying not to love the two black and white litter mates.

El Correo – The Post Office

images-1

I believe this photo shows a modification of a delivery truck using colors and logo of the Mexican postal service. Found on Google Images. Great colors, aren’t they?

We’ve used private mail box services in California to get our mail held or forwarded to us in Mexico. The services were efficient, but to us seemed expensive in the long run. The charges can add up quickly.

We needed to maintain an address in the US, and in December, 2014, we decided to switch to the United States Postal Service. Yes, the good ole’ USPS, in California, close to where we stay for our two-week-plus Christmas holiday gig.

Our annual PO box rental fee was due in January of this year. We figured it would be simple to make the payment online. But it wasn’t. It may be my fault, but I can’t find out. We received an email message that the rent was due. Included was the amount due, and an address for mailing. We made the payment in a timely manner. But then we received a second email, couched in sterner terms, that our payment had not been received, and if we didn’t make the payment within ten days, the box would be closed, and any mail in it would be returned to senders. We couldn’t make the payment online through the handy USPS service, because we repeatedly got the message that the name on the account had to match exactly the name of the person who had signed the contract. Hmmm. Now, where could that pesky contract be? And how many ways are there to spell the name Anderson?

What to do? We called the post office on many different days, at different hours. No answer. Finally we called a relative, who went to the post office. Yes, he discovered, he could make the payment for us, but they could not give him the contract information. Now, I’m a mature person, and I do understand about rules and regulations, but it was quite frustrating. At last we got the mailbox rent paid for another year by sending money to our long-suffering and long-standing-in-line relative. Whew! Covered for another year.

Now when I relate the next part of the story you’ll think, if you’re not already thinking it, that we’re thoughtless and irresponsible people. We’re not, but we do occasionally forget things, and we do get busy. This year, when we returned to Mexico after the longish stay in California, we jumped right into wheat farming. It took the best part of nearly every day, and well, we just didn’t drive the 15 or so miles to visit our post office in San Francisco del Rincon. We didn’t expect any mail, anyway, although we knew our rent had been due in January. Truly, we just didn’t think about it much. A few times we even drove past the post office, but we didn’t feel like we had time to stop. We had to go to the bank to get the money for the farming investment, or there was some other obligation. But it did begin to weigh on us a bit. We hadn’t paid our box rent.

Then, a birthday present was on the way. We seriously discussed the problem. Nearly six months had passed. What would the Mexican postal service do? We already knew what the US postal service would have done.

s-l225

image from ebay.com

Maybe you thought I was going to say something accusatory about the Mexican postal service?

Finally, with a bit of dread, we went to the post office. As we entered, a woman we didn’t remember greeted us warmly, saying that we hadn’t received anything. It had been a long time since she’d seen us! How were we? Where had we been?

When we told her we wanted to pay for our post office box she said – get this! “It’s already been six months. Why not wait until next January to pay for your box?  We’ll hold anything that comes for you, and you can pick it up here at the desk”.

We glanced at each other and grinned.

Only in Mexico.

 

Tractor Tires

Here’s my friend Josefina and her helper – early morning sweepers.

IMG_0709

This morning, bright and early, we drove our new red tractor to the llantero, tire guy, about 3/4 of a mile from here. Since we’re going to use it starting tomorrow (already!) we had to get the tires filled – get this – with water. Water. I didn’t have a clue.

We backed the tractor out of our garage, and started up the street to the carretera, the highway that’s in the process of being reconstructed. On the gravelly, dusty highway, we made our tractorly way to the tire repair guy, Pancho. He repairs and fills all kinds of tires, and is an pleasant guy. We got to his shop and sat there for awhile as he began.

A woman we know passed by, carrying sacks full of plastic bottles to recycle. She used to come to our house every couple of weeks to pick up the bottles we save for her, but she hadn’t come lately, and we had several fertilizer sacks full of bottles. They had been there so long the sacks had begun to deteriorate.

As it so often happens, and as it turned out, she is the aunt of a neighbor woman. In these small ranchos, nearly everyone has relatives in the surrounding ones. We often see her trundling by on the highway, carrying bags of plastic bottles to sell to the recyclers.

There’s a very small hardware store very to close to the tire repair place, and we walked over there to get a couple of things for the tractor. We needed a new what’s-it-called, thingy to drop through the holes to hook the disc to the tractor. when we received our tractor, the holes weren’t properly aligned to do the hook-up,

IMG_2126      IMG_2128

and we needed to either enlarge the holes or get a smaller thing to drop in there. And one of the nipples for greasing had broken off, so we bought a new one of those. The hardware store had all sorts of things to keep me looking, as do many hardware stores:  nest boxes for parakeets, fish hooks in two sizes, rope, and fiddly little things necessary to keep your house running well.

Next to the hole-in-the-wall hardware store was a restaurant that serves seafood, and we had resolved to spend our hour-and-a-half there to have some breakfast. There was one thing on the menu – shrimp cocktail. We ordered a large one to split between us, and it was excellent! I watched as the owner prepared it for us. In the kind of tall glasses with large bases you’d expect, he started with about a half-cup of water (shrimp water?) he dipped out of a plastic bowl. Then he added the shrimp, and as I watched he chopped up onion, then tomatoes, and then avocados. He poured a red liquid over the top (probably Kermato or Clamato, maybe with some sweetener added). And then, voila! he brought them to the table and opened a cardboard box of Saltines, called Saladitas here. It was excellent, and a wonderful breakfast. It cost less than six dollars for the two of us.

The tire man finished filling the tires with water, and we headed for home on the dusty, bumpy highway. Once there, we parked the tractor behind the house and started filling the big water tank in the back of our pickup so we can dump water in the bottom of a narrow ditch our workers have been cleaning. It’s been so hot and dry that it required pick-axes to break the surface of the ground in the dry ditch.

And then, the señora showed up to get the bottles, so we helped to re-bag them in newer plastic sacks. This is the first time I’ve seen 100-lb bags that are a green color. They deteriorate rapidly in the sun. Farmers use these sacks by the hundreds and thousands, so it’s a wonderful thing that they are clearly biodegradable. This woman is a widow, and supports herself by picking up bottles along the highway. She walks several miles every day.

IMG_3264

We had six or seven sacks to fill with the plastic bottles. We have a few bottles that we buy ourselves because we purchase Coke-a-Cola to serve to visitors (that’s about all they care for), and I pick up bottles whenever possible while we’re working.

Navidad – Going To Mexico

IMG_0708

Our recent annual Posadas Parties gig in downtown Los Angeles ended quietly on December 24th.  As we were setting up several employees asked if the evening would end earlier than the other nights, and Yes, we said. We used less equipment and smaller speakers, and shortened the times between events, so that we ended about 9:15 instead of at 10 p.m.

Some of our equipment waiting to be stored up two flights of stairs - ah, the life of a musician!

Some of our equipment waiting to be stored up two flights of stairs – ah, the life of a musician!

We trudged up and down stairs and put away our equipment in the storage room. We said our goodbyes to the dancers, the puppeteer and the employees, and drove to our motel for our last night.
In the morning we packed up our equipment and clothing, and went to a local pawn shop to purchase a drum machine we had spotted similar to the one we like to use for recording. We then drove to a cousin’s house near Covina where we enjoyed a wonderful meal with ham as a main dish (thank you, Sylvia!. In spite of all the excellent meats available in Mexico, ham and turkey are two things that just are not of the same quality. I am not embarrassed to say that I had several many servings of ham. I had an extremely enjoyable conversation with Sylvia and her lovely daughter while the daughter made guacamole as Christmas gifts for her friends. They were so attentive I probably talked way too much. I do miss having women friends to talk to, and I probably totally dominated the table talk.
As the afternoon wore on I began to cast glances at the clock and fret a little about leaving on time. Our car was due back at the rental agency in San Diego at 9 p.m., and I hazarded a guess that it would be perhaps a three-hour drive. We left about 6:45 after our goodbyes. While I kept driving at a steady pace for about three hours, Chon napped off and on.
We were on an unfamiliar freeway, and it just didn’t feel like exactly the right direction. When I began seeing signs for San Diego, but not for the airport, I called my sister, who was on the receiving end of a snow-and-ice storm in Arkansas. She speedily looked for directions to the airport (she is really, really good at using the computer), and told me if I saw highway 163 I should take it. As her words came through the phone we were just arriving at the off-ramp, and we zoomed onto it. Her directions were perfect and in a short time we were near the airport; we gassed up the car, checked it in and re-packed our things.
I may not have mentioned that one part of our luggage was a large box (The Box) with digital recording equipment we had purchased in Los Angeles. Chon packed it with clothing for additional protection. It had carrying handles, but it was quite heavy and rather awkward. In addition I was carrying a bag we bought at a thrift shop because it had wheels for ease of movement.
Although we had taken the Volaris shuttle from the Tijuana airport to the San Diego airport, we weren’t exactly sure how to catch it back to the Tijuana airport. Although I was fairly sure of the location, I hadn’t really thought about the lateness of our return, and wondered if it would come. An extremely rude taxi driver tried to convince us that my directions were wrong. We showed up, though, at the Amtrak station, and I got directions for the shuttle stop right outside the door. It would arrive, the attendant told us, at 11 p.m. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:10 a.m., and we were beginning to feel pinched for time. That is to say, this is when both of us were feeling that pinch; I had felt concerned since, say, about 5 p.m. There was one other person besides us at the shuttle stop, a young man who told us HIS flight was leaving at 11:45.
Our luggage under street lights outside the Metro Station in San Diego, CA. See The Box

Our luggage under street lights outside the Metro Station in San Diego, CA. See The Box

We looked at each other wordlessly. IF the shuttle arrived at the scheduled time, and IF it took zero minutes to officially cross the border, it still would just not be possible for him to make his flight because of the 20-or-so-minute drive to the border. He suspected it, and we knew it. He asked if we would like to share a taxi. There was one parked a half-block away, and before Chon went to ask if it was available, I asked him to make sure the driver wasn’t a complete A. He wasn’t, and it was available. He wanted $50 to drive us to the border, and the other passenger offered to pay half.  That made OUR taxi ride cheaper than taking the shuttle! We got a strong young guy to help carry The Box, and HE got at least a chance to make his flight.
We raced to the border, the cab driver probably in a hurry to harvest more work on this busy Christmas night. The cabbie had lied, however, when he told us that it wasn’t far for us to walk to cross the border; “less than a block”, he said. We tumbled out of the cab, unloaded our gear and began to walk on the new pedestrian path across the border. My bag, the one with wheels, would begin to rock wildly if I walked speedily or held the handle too high, so I brought up the rear.
We sweated our way along the well-lit, smooth sidewalk that led to a small brilliantly lit room where a sleepy-eyed female border agent asked us where we were coming from, and going to. Chon told her that the three of us were a band, and we were making a regular border crossing to play at a party. She waved us past her with a bored smile.
And then we walked, and walked. And walked some more. The sidewalk became a bridge. With many switchbacks. Chon and the young guy made several changes of sides of The Box because their hands hurt. Several times we passed a middle-aged gringo (and he passed us), and one of those times he asked us, panting, if we wanted to share a taxi. Yes, we did. As we finally arrived, panting, at the taxi parking area, we beckoned to him to hurry so he could ride with us. The taxi driver quoted a $20 price (yes, $5 apiece) and amazingly, loaded The Box and some other luggage into the truck and tied the trunk lid down. The four of us piled in, and passed around our smaller bags so that we could fit.
We started off for the airport, and every time we drove across a pot-hole the trunk lid would bang and the gringo with us would mutter “bad shocks”. We made it to the airport in record time, and the young guy and Chon picked up The Box again and carried it to the luggage scanner. We made it through that first hurdle and I had my visa checked. The young guy began to slink away, and Chon called him back to haul The Box to our check-in line, where he promptly and efficiently disappeared. Who could blame him? He DID make his flight, though.
And WE pushed The Box through the lines to the check-in, where we paid for the extra weight. Then we headed with our backpacks to the security check, where we were told that we could not carry our (brand-new, extra-heavy-duty, expensive) instrument cords in our carry-on luggage. (What???? No electrical cables in carry-on? That is not something I have seen listed as being prohibited by the airlines.) I waited while Chon ran back to the check-in counter where the airline workers told him to leave his backpack with them.  As this was simply not an option (great NEW backpack designed for computer, with a fine drum machine inside), he talked them into leaving only the cables with them, and returned cum backpack to the security check-in, and then, finally, we were through, and the rest was easy.
The Volaris flight took off and arrived on time (congratulations, Volaris!), and when we arrived I had my first opportunity (??) to help carry The Box. After only a few seconds I was so relieved that I hadn’t been the one drafted to lug it all the way across the immigration trails!
A friend picked us up at the airport, and as we headed for the highway to take us home, there were hundreds and hundreds of urracas, boat-tailed grackles, in enormous parvadas , flocks, flying overhead.
We got home about 40 minutes later, unloaded our things and went to sleep for four hours.