Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tales from the Neti Pot

I'm sick. Or, rather, I'm trying desperately hard NOT to be sick. I came home from work Thursday with "hot throat"; you know, that hot, dry feeling you get way up at the top of your throat? Well, that's always a harbinger of ill-feeling for me, and I quickly downed a couple of Airbornes. Friday morning, sure enough, I hurt every time I swallowed. I started in on the chicken broth, Motrin, and frequent trips to the bathroom to Neti myself. For those of you who are uninitiated in the ways of the Neti pot, allow me to explain: the pot is a little ceramic teapot-looking character with a handle on one end and a tapered spout on the other. Fill this with 1/2-tsp. sea salt and stir to dissolve in hot water. (There are various other concoctions and potions that are available, but for me the salt alone works best.) Then, stick the spout up one nostril (yes, you heard me), tip your head sideways...and pour. Magically, the warm salty water makes a trip through your sinuses and...proceeds to drizzle out your OTHER nostril! The water clears out your nasal passages, and the salt both disinfects AND allows the membranes up there to stay moist. (Sorry, Kat. I know you hate that word...) If this sounds like the OPPOSITE of sexy to you...well, I suppose it is. Let the record show, however, that my pot was a gift from Miss Tessmacher, and that the winter months commonly find us fighting over the sink in a nostril-dripping race to be the first one done so as to get to bed faster. To read, of one gets laid after Neti-ing. No one.

I'm an odd mixture when it comes to sickness: I like holistic things like the Neti pot, and this vile sore-throat "tea" I found in one of our herbals (1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, dash of cayenne pepper, splash of lemon juice, 1 tsp. honey; stir thoroughly in hot water). But, I also take a Motrin every 4 hours, and I besot myself with Robitussin nighttime formula anti-cough syrup before bed. (Might as well take a shot of whiskey...oh, wait, I did that too...) Apparently I'm a slave to both the health food aisle AND the giant pharmas. And I know that most of this simply treats symptoms, 'cause there's no cure for a cold. Whatever. The hilarious part of all this is when I do things that are so obviously contra-indicated for a sore throat: I drink coffee in the morning, smoke cigarettes with my visiting mother, and consume dark chocolate & red wine at night. Hey, wait though: red wine is alcohol...that KILLS germs, right? Yeah, lemme go get another glass...

When I'm sick I like to be left alone on the couch with "comfort movies." Last night I was in the mood for Saturday Night Fever, and I was struck again with the notion that Tony Manero might just be one of the best fictional anti-heroes ever. As a kid in the 70s, I was only vaguely aware of this disco movie, and shunned it entirely as having nothing to do with Kiss. (Conveniently overlooking the fact that Kiss had released a quasi-disco album at the same time...) I didn't see the movie for almost 25 years, but heard as part of his eulogy that Gene Siskel considered the film to be the greatest ever made. Siskel even went so far as to acquire Travolta's white suit at an auction. I picked the movie up, and now consider it to be one of my faves. Thing is...the movie isn't even ABOUT disco. The scuzzy nightlife of 2001 Odyssey serves only as a backdrop against the real story, which is the journey Tony Manero makes on his way to manhood. This is a coming-of-age story that bears witness to the painful transformation of a do-nothing bigot from the Bronx into someone who actually GETS IT. Manero is immediately unlikeable: he's a good-looking punk who sort of slides through his day-t0-day life, waiting only for those few hours on the weekend when he can blow his earnings at the disco. He's vehemently bigoted (asking his friends at one point "Would you put your dick in a spic, or does it get bigger in a nigger?"), and makes a clear distinction between the women he loves (his mother and sister) and all the others (who are merely partners for dancing or fucking). His gang of friends are all the same, brazen late-teen Italians who swagger through life thinking that one day they'll "put some money together" and buy a Cadillac.

Even so...we get hints early on that Tony is different. Even though he loves his mother, he calls her on her hypocrisy ("You're gonna go to church to ask God to have Father Frank call you? You're turnin' God into a messenger service!"), and he clearly makes no apologies for his actions (when pressed by newfound dance interest Stephanie as to why he never went to college he bristles "I just didn't! Okay?!?"). Everyone else in the movie has some sort of hidden agenda except Tony: he wants to dance, he wants to get laid, and he'll work a menial job in a hardware store to afford these things while living rent-free in his parents' house. By the end of the movie, though, he is transformed: when a Puerto Rican couple CLEARLY outdance him and Stephanie in the climactic scene, he chides his friends for failing to acknowledge that the contest was rigged. His eyes now opened, he takes the 1st place trophy and cash award, hands them to the Puerto Rican couple (who are already thrilled at their 2nd place showing) and storms out of the club. He shuns the girl Annette (whom he had earlier claimed "Only wanted to be another married sister."), then attempts to keep her from getting gang-banged in the back seat by his buddies. At the end of the film he flees his dwindling group of friends and wanders the city, finally ending up at Stephanie's apartment. Despite attempting to rape her earlier she lets him in and his transformation is complete: we finally get to see that he's known all along that his friends are losers and that his life is going nowhere, and now he wants to DO SOMETHING about it. Where he was once tough and unapproachable, here he is open and vulnerable, and the film closes on that scene.

I don't remember enough of the sequel Stayin' Alive to know whether or not Travolta's character follows through with his plans; that drastic bomb never should have been shot in the first place. I'm happy to think that Tony DOES get his shit together, and I guess I never tire of watching him make that journey, seeing as I'll watch it every few months. And now, if you'll pardon me...I need to go make my sore throat concoction. "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Baby Pictures!

Whew! I sure am glad to be done with that Mexico blog. I mean, I enjoyed sharing the photos with everyone, and the stories, but I did feel sort of confined when it came to actually being thought-provoking with the blog. I mean, it's hardly a "brain fart" when I'm basically just transferring a journal from one format to another. (BTW - does that word have two r's in a row like that?) Take, for instance, the State of the Union address tonight. That's a perfectly legitimate thing to be blogging about, especially since...

Huh? What's that, you say? Oh, you're RIGHT! I titled this thing Baby Pictures, didn't I?? Well, bust my buttons! You probably want to SEE the little alien, dontcha? Fine, then:

Great lookin' kid, eh? Kinda how I look after I've opened that second bottle of wine (hey, I AM drinking for TWO now!). Oh, no, wait...this isn't how I LOOK after that second's how I SEE. Yeah, that's it. Anyway, you parents out there surely recognize the 15-week old staring out at you. For those of you who HAVEN'T been through this yet, allow me to elaborate with some visual aids:

This is a sideways view, as if the babe is about 1/4 of the way through a sommersault. Which, judging by the uterine aerobics the little peanut was engaging in, could very well be the case. As you can well see, there ain't MUCH to see at this level, although I do count 1, 2, 3, 4, yes, FIVE little fingertips there, so at lease we're not talking about a seal-baby, with flippers instead of arms. All joking aside, it was pretty overwhelming to see the bugger actually LOOKING more or less like a tiny human; the scale was off, inasmuch as the screen magnified by about double the actual size of the fingerling. (You parents - yes, YOU! - who called here tonight wondering if it was a boy or a girl: gimme a break! Wait a month 'til there's a little more to see, willya?) S/he was just bouncing & rolling around, arms all akimbo and just generally being quite rowdy. Could be because, oh, I dunno, the uterus was being BLASTED WITH SOUND WAVES! But, nah, I think it's just what babies do at this stage. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, though: the little heart was beating, and the technician even told us at one point that the babe was opening & closing its mouth. Pretty awesome. Another few weeks, give or take, and Tess will be able to feel the movement. Sweet.

If I may go on about my lovah's plumbing: her cervix was a VERY healthy length, something that is a concern with us, which is why we're getting an ultrasound at 15 weeks anyway. But, a small blemish did occur on our otherwise keen appointment: it seems Tess picked up a very early diagnosis for placental previa. Basically, the placenta can implant anywhere in the uterus, and previa means that the blob o'baby food has implanted over the cervical opening. Commonly this means that a vaginal delivery is impossible, a scenario that would only FIGURE inasmuch as a C-section is a phobia for both Tess and me. Worst case scenarios involve bleeding and early contractions, a condition that is serious and involves hospitalized bed rest. However, a site we both looked at mentions the following: "Diagnosing a previa is usually made when there is painless bleeding during the third trimester." Hmmm...since we're only at the beginning of the SECOND trimester, I can see why our Dr. was insisting we not panic, that it's very early to be worrying about this. The article continues "...second trimester ultrasounds...will show that there are many more previas diagnosed at this stage. Typically at 16 weeks the placenta takes up 25-50% of the surface area. Also, the third trimester brings a growth of this lower uterine segment, that out flanks the growth of the placenta. For these reasons, while 5% of pregnancies are diagnosed with complete previa in second trimester ultrasounds...90% of them (are) resolved by term." The uterus is kind of like a balloon, and as it gets bigger the placenta, which is implanted in the wall, moves as the organ that, something covering the "hole" of the "balloon" today will probably move out of the way as the "balloon" gets bigger. That's better...but, you know, we want everything to be just PERFECT, and of course we're both prone to be worriers, so there was some tempering of good spirits today.

Anyway...I know that our eye candy is still a little on the "rough" side, but give us some time. Let the little nugget cook some more, and we'll be back in a few weeks with better photos.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 8

Saturday, 1/6/07

And so all good things must end. We were up, fed & out the door by 8:40am. We bumped & scraped our way up the road to Highway 307 & headed north to Cancun. Once we dropped off the slightly-worse-for-wear Stratus that had been our chariot during the trip (luckily no one looked underneath) we shuttled over to the airport for a fairly easy check-in. Our 12:25 flight to Houston was delayed by 20 minutes, but we ultimately hit the gate nearly at our scheduled arrival time. Luck was with us, as we arrived at Gate E2, and were LEAVING for Detroit from E3, so I figured we had plenty of time to grab some lunch & not feel rushed. HA!! First we had to walk all the way to the main terminal to go through immigration and customs, a trip that seemed to be no shorter than a mile. THEN we had to get the checked luggage, only to have to RECHECK same. That could have been less efficient...or, wait, no, it couldn't. :-( THEN we had to go through security...only because we'd left the passenger boarding area to go through customs. By the time all this had taken place our outbound flight home was no longer showing on the board...but we decided it was worth a run for it just in case. Lo and behold the plane was still at the gate, so the 6 of us got on (to the sullen stares of passengers who by this time had been SITTING on the plane for nearly an hour). We later found out that 12 other people trying to make that connection didn't make the dash to the gate, and were instead replaced with 12 stand-bys.

As I'm writing this we're in the air, due to arrive in Detroit on time (tailwinds, I guess). The trip was grand & exciting, and now I'm glad to be going home. And back to work. WAIT!!! Turn this stinkin' plane arouuuuunnnd...!

Mexico by the numbers

Cuban cigars smoked: 2
Pints of tequila consumed: probably 6-8
Beers drunk: upwards of 30
Gallons of salt water swallowed: 10!
Miles traveled packed 6 to a car: around 200
Bumps hit in said car: ∞

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 7

Friday, 1/5/07

We awoke PAINFULLY early to go to the Sian Ka'an biological preserve. This is a huge (1.5 million sq. mi.) area south of Tulum that is a system of lagoons, canals, jungle and cenotes. We met our guide, Luis, at the office around 7:30am, packed 14 into a Ford van, and headed out. The road to S-K is the bumpiest (is that a word?) in the universe: I thought the jostling & bouncing might cause Tess to spontaneously give birth. We finally arrived and met our OTHER guide, Vanessa, who missed the ride there due to a hangover-missed alarm. Awesome.

The rest of our tour group was a comical lot (I wonder what they all said about the 6 of US??). There was an attractive Spanish couple who spoke little English and were probably a bit perplexed about taking a tour in Mexico only to have it not conducted in Spanish; a couple about my age (the fit father had both his nipples pierced...and if you don't think THAT looked foolish!) who never really spoke to each other, instead doting endlessly on their son, who seemed to take every advantage of this; and, finally, a larger family from Colorado who were ALL characters. The husband was a dorky Woody Allen lookalike who constantly had to point out how smart he was and challenge Luis' every statement; the wife was rather catty, remarking how practical she thought Sue's Keens were, following this by saying she herself opted to wear "fashionable shoes"; and, two rather obnoxious 20-something daughters, one of whom had a wisely silent ex-frat-boy husband. Hilarity ensued.

The main part of the day was given over to a long boat trip across the first large lagoon and up a canal to a 2nd, all-freshwater lagoon. Six of us fit onto a boat, with our captain & guide, Cosime. His English was a little harder to understand, but he pointed out many birds (ibis, egrets, flown-south American storks, brown pelicans, and on & on). There was a lot to take in about the various types of mangroves, and as we traveled up the canal from salty water to freshwater, the mangrove strands disappeared and gave way to the Yucatan "savannah": endless sawgrass waving in the breeze, as far as the eye could see.

After scooting around the 2nd lagoon we turned back & had a snack, then floated down the river sitting on life jackets. This is a nice way to use such a flotation device: instead of putting your arms through the holes, put one of the front "panels" under your butt, and sit back against the jacket back, allowing your head to rest on the other front panel. Very comfy. We eventually got back into the boats & shot down the rest of the canal, crossing our first lagoon and entering yet ANOTHER one, this time just off the Carribean Sea. LOTS of trash was washed up onto the shores at this area; currents bring in garbage from literally all over the earth. Water bottles from Korea, beer cans from Australia, various junk from Russia...I'm sure stuff ends up being dumped off of cruise ships as well. We zoomed back to the biological center for a lunch that included a delicious juice mixture of pineapple, orange juice and "Mayan spinach." Despite the nuclear green color, it was quite tasty. We had about an hour after lunch to play in the ocean: boogie boards were available, and Joel, Amanda & I had a great time in the unusually large waves. But, it was exhausting as well, as we had to really fight to get out to where the waves were breaking, and I got tons of salt water in my eyes & lungs.

Our trip ended with an even MORE bumpy ride back up the Road From Hell to a cenote swimming opportunity. All 6 of us were pooped (it was about 3:30-4:00pm at this point) and sunburned, so after walking back to the tiny dock we went back and chatted with Vanessa & Luis before finally riding back to the office for our car. Which almost felt embarrassing large after the sardine-can Econoline. Luis & I talked quite a bit on the ride: he's VERY proud of his Mayan heritage, and has made me interested in reading more about this ancient and still-thriving culture.

We made a VERY quick trip back to Tulum to spend up pesos by buying more of the delightful handmade stuffed animals we all went so crazy for...

then stopped at La Lunita to make dinner reservations. We made a quick shower/clothes change stop at La Sirena, then had a lovely last dinner at the only place we ate at twice. We went back to the condo to pack & drink (Sue was humorously drunk: Amanda & Tess finally cut her off by physically replacing her wine glass with water), watch leaf-cutter ants, and smoke cigars (Joel stuck with his Cohiba, while I tried a Monte Cristo).

We relived the trip a little, comparing it to ther places we've been (my closest: Fresno) and places we'd like to go. It was a wonderful last night in paradise. Tomorrow: homeward bound!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 6

Thursday, 1/4/07

We're all up for a fix-it-yourself breakfast before Amanda, Joel & I head off for Dos Ojos cenotes. "Cenote" is a Mayan word that means "fresh water (underground) sinkhole": basically, this describes a whole system of underground fresh-water river-filled caverns that flow beneath the Yucatan peninsula. In fact, one guide told us that the whole peninsula is pretty much like Swiss cheese, it's so riddled with these things. Dos Ojos is one of the main places to enter the system, Hidden Worlds being the other nearby in Quintana Roo state. (Those of you who saw the iMax Journey Into Amazing Caves film would instantly recognize Dos Ojos, as most of the filming was done here.) Many folks scuba dive this system, but since none of us are certified we just snorkeled on top.

After picking up our guide Isais we drove down a VERY bumpy dirt road (Mexico seems to have no end of these) to the caves entrance. We all got our gear (fins, snorkel & mask, flashlights and, for us, life jackets) and then Isais took us to a platform where we could jump in to test the water temperature. Wetsuits were available, but the water was about 78˚, warmer than most lakes - pools, even! - get to be in the hottest Michigan summers. Once we actually got our gear on & started in, it was like being transported to a whole new world. The photos here were lifted from the web, and mostly feature scuba shots; you'd have to imagine us floating on TOP of this water, looking down on all these scuba-ers.

Looking down on swimmers at the cavern entrance.

An amzing underground water world.

Inside the "bat cave."

Sometimes we'd be in tunnels so low that our snorkels would scrape the cave ceiling above us, but a huge cavern would be open below us, perhaps 30-45' deep. There would be two layers of tourists: the snorkelers on top, and the scuba-ers below. Isais led us into one cave that, above the water, was only about 12" high and no bigger than the area inside a patio table umbrella; it was VERY crammed, with four people jostling around bumping into each other, the ceiling, and various stalactite formations. But, as soon as a feeling of claustraphobia would start to creep in, all I had to do was put my mask in the water and see that we were floating near the "ceiling" of an enormous room, with as many as 25 more people in there with us...just BELOW us! Pretty cool.

After the tour we met Bruce, Sue & Tess at Imelda's for lunch, then the four "kids" shopped a little at the touristy stores in Akumal and played in the water by the dive shop. We sat down for beers, then walked back to La Sirena in need of a BIG siesta. I showered off the salt water after I woke up, and then it was time for a make-your-own-pizza night. We all kind of seemed beat that night: we didn't go out for drinks, electing instead to stay at the condo, drink beers, smoke cigarettes (not Tess, of course!) and bullshit. One enormously entertaining part of all this was watching a path of leaf-cutter ants go back & forth in front of the porch. Some seemed very busy but carried nothing, many were trundling along in a line with bits of leaf (some quite large bits, which rather turned into sails in the stiff breeze, requiring a Herculean effort on the part of the ants), and every once in awhile some idiot ant would grunt by with a large (for him) flower. We liked to imagine him saying "Hey guys, this'll really look nice in the ant-hole, don't ya think? Guys?"

A line of marching ants.

Ants being blown by leaf "sails."

Idiot ant with large red flower.

We all knew we had an early morning the next day, so bedtime was rather early.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 5

Wednesday, 1/3/07

Up & around again as usual: we seem to have settled into a routine of getting up around 8:00 (excluding Mr. Joel, of course), eating (this morning was huevos rancheros) and showering (separately, you pervs!) before heading out to do our daily thing. Bruce was better, but not 100% today, so he elected to stay behind while the 5 of us went shopping for souveniers back in Tulum Ciudad. Actually, Amanda & Joel were quite disappointed because they had wanted to go to a bullfight in Cancun this day. Joel felt - and I agree with this, in principle - that while in Mexico, let's do the things you can ONLY do in Mexico. But...a bullfight is still a bullfight, and if I had any hope that the BULL might actually win I'd be more tempted to go, but as things stood the rest of us just weren't interested in the inevitably sad spectacle.

In other events, Joel, Amanda & I had tried to get reservations to go snorkeling out on the reef, but the weather was deemed too windy; we'll try again tomorrow.

Tulum was fun: still touristy, but also a "real" city, unlike the ruins.

We all bought presents for ourselves and others, then had lunch at one of the many sidewalk restaurants. Seems funny to see Chinese food and a pizzaria among the offerings...but, of course the Mexican food the group of us was going ga-ga over is but daily fare to the people who LIVE there. I was amused on my trip to the baño, where the door bolt was missing but had been cleverly replaced by a spoon. (Note to self: save some disposal-mutilated flatware for just such an emergency occurrence.)

On the way home we stopped in to make snorkeling reservations at Los Cenotes for Thursday, as well as an all-day trip to a biological reserve on Friday. Back at La Sirena there was the obligatory cool dip in the pool (today was the hottest day yet, with none of the typical late-afternoon clouds rolling in), followed by "charm breaks," as my friend Margaret likes to call them. Some people napped, others chilled out & read, I chose to have a smoke & a margarita up on the large balcony, listening to the close pounding of surf and the gentle rustling of roof thatching from the awning above my head.

Bruce again skipped out on going to dinner, so the 5 of us went back to La Buena Vida to sample the food. A posted sign advised that LBV was throwing a "full moon party" that same eve. (One gets the feeling that the restaurant finds a reason to throw a party several times per week.) The wind was really whipping off the surf and Tess was chilly, so I hoofed the 1.5 mile round trip back to the condo to get her long-sleeved shirt. I was surprised that not even a drink order had been taken during my 1/2-hour absence, but Joel opened up a can of whup-ass & eventually we were eating a lovely meal. Afterward we trekked out to the Super Chomak (cha-cha, cha-cha-cha) for pesos from the ATM and food. As our snorkeling appointment was set for 10:00am, we elected to skip the full moon party and relax on the porch with beers & smokes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 4

Tuesday, 1/2/07

Another beautiful morning in tropical paradise. Monday night's rain took away some of the humidity (Note: Sue disagreed with me on this, thinking that it was actually MORE humid, but whose blog is this, anyway?!?), so the morning was a comfy 77˚ at 9:00am. We're up & off to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum, this time with Tess well-fed and a guide for the tour.

Tulum (the ruins) is a fantastic site: quite a large city, walled in, right on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. When the Spanish first arrived here they saw the large "tower" as being akin to a castle, and imagined the whole area as a kind of defensive fortress. Turns out Tulum was more likely simply a place where goods were traded as they came from different Mayan cities. The fact that the city dwells on a cliff is just for ease of access to the sea; in fact, Mayan legend told of the return of their god Quetzalcoatl who would appear golden and whiskered...just like the Spanish conquistadors looked, which is why the Mayans never even thought to fight them. Several thousand nobles lived inside the city walls, while some 20,000 people lived outside. The ruins are very clear: lots of open space, with short grassy areas separating the various crumbled edifices. There were LOTS of tourists there, and with steps leading down to the sea the beach below the main pyramid was bustling with swimmers. Our guide was Alma, herself Mayan, and nearly everyone in her family worked as a Tulum guide; her father was one of the first, after the ruins were discovered.


Sleepy iguana by the beach.

Bruce wasn't feeling well, so after Tulum we came back to Akumal. The four of us "kids" got dropped off to look at some of the art galleries lining the main road, after which we grabbed lunch and lazy beers. We were back at La Sirena by 3:30, took a quick dip in the pool to cool off, and then Joel and I went snorkeling at Yal-Ku, a lagoon a short distance from the condo. VERY cool: I'd not been snorkeling before, so I didn't know what to expect, but the salt water allowed us to float on top of the water effortlessly, and I could kick my fins kind of lazily for maximum effect. The lagoon seemed kind of barren to my eyes, but for a first time I felt very comfortable in the gear. We saw a small variety of fish, most notably Dorys (Dorries? You know, the blue fish played by Ellen.), silvery fish and a variety of smaller, colorful angelfish. A VERY large fish alarmed me momentarily, but I saw little likelihood of predators in the lagoon.

We arrived back at La Sirena to find Bruce feverish and Sue sounding worried. We fed him some Motrin for the fever and then, since he wasn't hungry, abandoned him in search of dinner at La Lunita. The five of us ate at a table on the beach, 20 feet from the sea. sucked. ;-) My Keens were wet from walking in the sea at Tulum, so I took them off & enjoyed digging my toes into the sand, watchful for hermit crabs and tarantulas. We came back to La Sirena to drink beers (well, not Tess so much), soak our swollen feet in the pool, and Joel & I spent quite a bit of time talking death & good books. 'Cause, you know, you need something good to read when you're dead. Or something.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 3

Monday, 1/1/07

The Millers (Tess included!) went to the store while I drank coffee and took a VERY healthy shit. (Note to self: this might be due to the copious tequila consumed the previous night. Must investigate this phenomenon further.) After a shower there was breakfast of fresh pineapple and gold mine sandwiches, then we all loaded into the car (fast becoming my LEAST favorite thing) and headed to the ruins of Tulum. The site was "open", but with no guide we decided to return a different day.

We skirted east of town and had a leisurely lunch at the seaside Zamas restaurant, then played on the adjacent beach.

I finally understand why sea water is undrinkable...SO salty! My only previous experience with salt water was the summer I turned 8, and memory has long since faded of the taste. I also finally understand the concept of undertow, as the sea slowly & deliberately pulled us further and further out. We all enjoyed watching small pelicans and other sea birds dive for fish in the shallows. (Note to self: learn how a bird with a 5' wingspan can dive from 50' into water no deeper than my shins without sticking beak comically into sand.)

Some time was spent browsing the quasi-tourist fare in Tulum proper, but Tess tires quickly these days (all that baby-making energy!) and the sky was starting to darken toward the short equatorial dusk. Amanda, Joel & I enjoyed a swim in the pool upon arrival back at La Sirena, accompanied by hefty margaritas.

Dinner became a slightly hectic affair: Tess pretty much gets hungry RIGHT NOW, with little warning. No one had started dinner because we thought we might go out, but our destination restaurant was closed. Attempts were made to placate Tess' growling belly with various offers of make-do snacks, but what she really wanted was FOOD. The galley kitchen at La Sirena only really accommodates 3 people...

and it's crowded at that, so I graciously allowed the 3 Miller women to fuss about the narrow space while I escaped into a nap on the couch.

A relatively short time later we sat down to "Aztec Casserole", which was delicious in spite of missing a few minor ingredients, such as chicken. The meal was late and everyone seemed done in by the sun at Zamas, so instead of going out we consumed leisurely beers (in Tess' case, yet another flavorful water) and engaged in philosophical conversation re: Joel's Brethren heritage.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 2

Sunday, 12/31/06

We were awakened by the whistling & screeching of tropical birds. This was hilariously similar to our honeymoon experience in West Chester (PA), when we were woken up by flocks of noisy, gossiping geese every morning. I was expecting a brightly-colored, exotic-looking bird, but I espied one later and was disappointed by its plainness: the male is a dark blue, skinny crow-looking thing with a longer, pointier beak. The female was a drab brownish color. Oh well.

The days are very nearly equal here (duh: EQUATOR, numbnuts!), and while I was stunned that darkness fell at 5:30pm, I was also surprised by full sunlight around 6:00am. Our morning was typical of the Miller cottage: breakfast, coffee & small talk. I showered, which was a lovely experience as the whole affair was open & tiled. (Note to self: engage in constructive debate re: the value of vacationing in a place where refreshing shower is followed immediately by application of sticky sunblock.)

We walked/drove back up the road to the main beach & cluster of dive shops & knick-knack stores. The beaches are BEAUTIFUL, but the sand is oddly coarse, as if it's made primarily of ground-up shells.

I saw my first of several topless women, which after an initial mild thrill (Wow! Boobs! Out in PUBLIC!) was kind of a ho-hum affair. The breeze is pretty brisk here, and for my own personal sanity I bought my first touristy item: a straw hat that's part cowboy, part rock & roll, and all tacky. Tess rolled her eyes when she saw it. But, not only did it keep my wisps out of my eyes, it also helped block the tropical sun, which is HOT and immediate.

After a beachside lunch I walked back to La Sirena while everyone else went for groceries at the Super Chomak (cha-cha, cha-cha-cha). I took a refreshing dip in the pool, and upon reentering the condo was startled by the presence of a large cockroach on the wall. I briefly considered my feelings re: the sacredness of all life before smashing the offensive insect with my shoe. Later that evening, a small gecko entertained us by chirping from atop the living room painting. (Note to self: in future, avoid places where insects outsize lizards.)

The Millers went for a walk while I began work on my woodwind quintet, Cork Pine Suite. (I started, of all things, the wintry movement. Nice.) Most of us took an afternoon siesta in the air-conditioned bedrooms, then Sue & I prepared tostadas de pollo for dinner. Before heading out to La Buena Vida for New Year's Eve festivities, I attempted to move my bowels, with disappointing results. I may have to start drinking the water, as I seem to be the ONLY person to come to Mexico and become constipated...although I suspect it's all psychologically derived from a reluctance to throw poopy paper in the wastebasket instead of flushing it.

Joel, Amanda & I had fun at the bar: I drank Bohemias with lime and tequila shots 20 feet from the Carribbean Sea, smoked Cuban cigars & toasted in 2007 wearing a tank top and shorts, 1,500 miles from the drab chill of Michigan. Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mexico Log, Part 1

What follows for the next several posts will be my account of the recent trip I took to Akumal, Mexico with Tess, her parents (Bruce & Sue), and her sister & sister's fiancé (Amanda & Joel). Enjoy.

Saturday, 12/30/06

Spent last night at Amanda & Joel's in Ann Arbor, since that's much closer to Detroit Metro than we are up north of Lansing. Slept poorly, fearing we'd oversleep both alarms. Awoke at 4:00am to a cold house, cold hard-boiled eggs, and hot coffee. Took a foggy drive to the airport; everyone is in good spirits and excited for the trip.

Our check-in was easy (despite practically having to strip at the security gate; honestly, who makes a bomb out of hand sanitizer?!?), but we sat on the plane for 40 minutes due to a bad storm to our south. Once we were airborn the flight was smooth. We landed at Houston only 2 minutes before our connection to Cancun was due to leave! Surprise surprise, our connecting flight was late to arrive, so we basically stepped off one plane and onto the next. And...proceeded to sit THERE for 40 minutes while mechanics changed a tire. (Better that than a wing, I suppose.)

We arrived at Cancun around 3:30 local time, and it was freakin' HOT!! I deplaned wearing long pants, a black thermal shirt under a brown t-shirt, and warm hiking socks. Yikes! We checked in through customs & got our baggage, then needed to get our rental car. There was a brief moment of panic when a tiny yellow subcompact shot up to the curb...oh no! This CAN'T be our car, can it?!?

No, luckily we took a shuttle over to the Avis counter, wherein I proceeded to unzip my long pantlegs & strip off my socks & thermal long-sleeve while Bruce haggled with the woman at the counter. Seems she wanted to have us watch an hour-long video or something that dealt with real estate investments, the trade-off being we'd get a car larger than our Dodge Stratus. Despite everyone being hungry & wiped-out, maybe we should have listened, as we spent the next 6 days shoe-horned into a silver 4-door.

The car itself was nice, but there are a lot of speed bumps on Mexican roads, and we hit bottom & scraped muffler on every one. Every. Single. One. (Note to self: be sure to distract Avis employees upon return of car so that they fail to check this undercarriage damage.)

We shot off south of Cancun & finally arrived at Puerto Morelos, where we ate dinner. The menu was about 1/2-&-1/2 English & Spanish, but we made do. Early warnings to avoid ice were dismissed as almost everyone ordered a margarita. We walked around the town square after dinner, which was overrun by throngs of children & packs of roving dogs. Joel & I hit an ATM for a few thousand pesos (running 10 to the dollar, that's not as much money as it sounds) and bought tequila & Cuban cigars. There was a LONG car ride to Akumal, and our condo, La Sirena, was practically the last of a long line of rentals surrounding the twin Turtle and Half Moon Bays. The road leading past all these properties was a mix of nicely paved road and ruts only slightly smaller than your average canyon.

The condo was lovely & clean, with large bedrooms & a pool directly out the front door.

The parents, Tess & Amanda collapsed from exhaustion; Joel & I scavenged up a couple of beers & investigated the Carribbean Sea which lay just the other side of our condo...the water was warm & inviting. We ended up on the front porch, drinking margaritas (made with bottled-water ice, thank you) and smoking Cohibas. Life is good.