Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I like nopales. OK, they're not for everyone, (their texture is a bit like okra) but I really, really like them.

Our next-door neighbor Doña Elena has practically no income, but she enjoys bringing us little gifts, usually food. Last week she brought two glasses filled with red gelatin, and some nopales she had harvested and prepared herself. Yesterday when we were sweeping the street in the early morning she asked me how we liked the nopales. We had forgotten about them, I’m afraid, but I told her they were wonderful - very tender. Right after that I got them from the refrigerator and prepared them so I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty.

Nopales are the pads of the prickly pear cactus, and they are low in calories and contain modest amounts of vitamins and minerals.
I cut them into strips and boiled them. As they are boiling, nopales make lots and lots of bubbles, and you have to tend them so they don’t boil over. When they are cooked you drain them and cool them quickly, and throw away all the now-slimy, bubbly water.

After they are rinsed they are not (so) slimy, and you can prepare a salad with them (with chopped onions, tomatoes and cilantro), or use them like a vegetable in main dish recipes. I asked Elena if she wanted to use them and she said yes.

Today she cooked some very pretty flor de mayo beans - they are a pinkish pale yellow, and cook fairly quickly, and then she added the prepared nopales.

I could scarcely believe it last week when a truck came through town with large red tomatoes for sale for 4 pesos per kilo. We bought 2 kilos, and have been enjoying sliced tomatoes often. (Four pesos is less than forty cents, and a kilo is well over two pounds  - figure it out!)

And today i sliced the last two and served them with the beans and nopales, and toast. What a wonderful meal!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On The Radio

This is not my image - it's from Google Images

Last night I drank just a little too much tequila. Maybe that’s why this morning I felt a bit raw and emotional. But that’s how I felt while we were enjoying Breakfast With The Beatles (raw and emotional).

Nearly every Sunday morning we enjoy the program, courtesy of my sister, (thank you, Eileen) on Sirius radio. Today’s program was especially good - the host had chosen songs that seemed to me to flow really well together. There are often a couple of surprises as well, and today was no exception. Donovan was a special guest. As a child of the sixties I grew up knowing the sound of his voice, and liking his songs very much. But today I more fully realized how much I was affected by the music he gave us.
Donovan then - from Google Images

There was always one song that deeply moved me. When I was seventeen or eighteen I had major surgery to shorten a leg that was mysteriously more than an inch longer than the other leg. (Evidently a genetic thing, as my brother had a similar difference in leg length). Years later it seems a medieval idea to correct this with surgery. Medieval as it may have been, there I was in the hospital, on heavy pain medications and I had a little device to call the nurse if necessary. It was was equipped with a radio, clipped to my pillow (remember that, anyone?) and tuned to sounds of the mid-sixties. I kept it on night and day for company.

One night around midnight I was dreaming waking morphine dreams and Donovan’s new song “Hurdy Gurdy Man” was playing though the tiny speaker. The night nurse had not yet closed the curtains and I could see out into the night. It seemed that I was looking into time and the words of the song reached out and grabbed my imagination. The sweet clear voice seemed to speak directly to me, and I felt that I really understood the role of us performing musicians in everyday lives. There was also a guitar making sounds I simply had never heard the likes of before; unbeautiful, raw, emotional sounds that went right to my heart. At the time I knew nothing about the guitar player - it just seemed then that it had been planned as part of the arrangement of the performance.

And today, in April of 2012, there was Donovan on the air speaking with Chris Carter, the program host, about his recollections of events that had happened many years ago with the Beatles in India and in the recording studio. My impression of him was that he is really an “artist” - a bit fey and clever, and - just, well, different.

Donovan willingly agreed to sing, right there in the studio. He played his acoustic guitar energetically and sang wonderfully well. And he sang  “The sunshine came softly through my window today...” from Sunshine Superman and I was catapulted straight back to the sixties.  He followed that performance later with "Mellow Yellow" (quite right-ly)

Then he sang “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. The host asked him about the “lost verse” of the song that was omitted in the recording. The verse had been written by George Harrison while they were in India. Donovan explained that all the musicians, while they were there together in India had sung for each other, and he had sung the song for George who told him that he, George, could write a verse for the song. Then Donovan recited the verse for us who were listening. It seemed to me to fit perfectly into the song. And Donovan explained why he had not included the verse when he recorded the song. During those days there was an exact length that each commercial song was to have, and the verse would have made the song too long.

Here is George Harrison’s verse:
When the truth gets buried deep
Beneath the thousand years of sleep
Time demands a turn-around
And once again the truth is found
Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Who comes singing songs of love.

As Donovan recited the verse, I wiped away tears for the dead musician who wrote it over 40 years ago, and for the little hole in my life where the words could have been living for decades.

I had never heard of the extra verse. In the sixties I was a young musician hoping and planning to continue music studies. This came to pass (thank you, Mother and Daddy and Grandma). But in those days I knew next to nothing about the details of lives of musicians and the creative, bubbling fermentation of music of the times. I knew the songs, but not their makers. Many years later, Chon told me about how Jeff Beck had been in the studio that day, casually and by chance, and had added the iconic guitar part that had stunned me that night in the hospital. I had had no idea of this collaboration, nor of the friendships of the musicians during that magical time in Britain.
Donovan more recently - from Google Images

So thank you, Donovan, for sharing your recollections, and for singing songs for us today that you must have sung literally hundreds of times in the last 40 years. Thank you for making it as real as when the music was new. It was wonderful to hear your voice again.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Friend Connection - San Miguel de Allende

Michael, My Friend, I’m so glad I got a hold of you three days ago! I called Richard but he hadn't set up his voice mail. THEN I called Beth as you suggested and there was no answer, but I thought maybe she couldn’t get her phone in time. I thought what a bummer it would be to just tell you lamely “Well,we just couldn’t get in touch.” and I called her back, and she picked up!

Richard suggested we meet them in front of the “Parroquia” there in San Miguel, because they would be there in three minutes or so...We had to drive down from an overlook where we were, looking down on the city. We parked where we thought we were within walking distance, and asked directions from two women, obviously from the States. One told us we had about a fifteen-minute walk, but, well, you know us - we were there in about 5 minutes, I think.

Every town and city here has a “parroquia” or two and you must ask the name. But in San Miguel there is only one Parroquia. It is not a modest building. It is directly across from the Jardin, and things were a-hopping when we arrived. There were many, many tourists, and small Indian women selling colorful toys and bracelets and other things from trays they carried.

And we found Richard right away. When we had passed a park earlier on our hike from where we had parked, we saw a tall man with a T-shirt and shorts, and Chon asked “Could that be Richard?”  No, that was not Richard. THIS is Richard! T-shirt and shorts, indeed!

And David and Beth were there, too, very friendly and companionable right away. I felt comfortable after feeling just a little anxious about finding them.

Richard had Plans. He suggested an exploring sort of walk around a few blocks, and it was quite enjoyable, including an art gallery with a friendly artist - “No photos, please! I’ll have to charge you $500!” Richard obediently deleted the pictures from his camera. Chon was looking for information about legal matters, and went into an office and Richard accomodatingly said not to worry, that they would wait in a local restaurant/bar. We took only a couple of minutes, though - most things were closed because of Holy Week - ane we met up with them right away, and had a margarita (two for the price of one - 80 pesos, less than 7 dollars!) And they were delicious, and seemed pretty strong on empty stomachs, so we had some laughs and got to know each other a little bit. I was comfortable with Beth right away - a different kind of artist, a classical ballerina, and teacher.

Soon we pushed on, and visited the local library, well-supported, Richard informed us, by the local gringo population. It was quite attractive, and busy for its small size. There were English lessons happening, and lots of posters announcing upcoming events of music, reading, and book sales.

The streets were old, of stone, and it seemed like everywhere you looked there were beautiful colors and images. Old doors, colorful houses and shops, stones, brick, and lots and lots of people in vacation mode for Holy Week.

Richard knew “a nice spot right around the corner” and we went to order the house specialty, chiles rellenos nogados. They were stuffed chiles with a lovely sauce of walnut cream. They were wonderful - sweetish, stuffed with spiced, ground meat with a few raisins. Chon and Richard ordered the “hotter” version, which reportedly was not hot. The sauce topping the chile was almond and cream. Goodness! A lovely meal, with crunchy French rolls and butter, and a bottle each of the house red and white. The conversation was wonderful, which I enjoyed nearly as much as the wonderful meal, having spoken English almost exclusively with Chon for more than a year or so...

We needed to head home by that time, a pleasant two-hour drive, having said we would return the next day. The business we needed to see to was not completed, the American consulate having closed only a few minutes before we arrived.

The next day we left a little earlier, and arrived at the consulate around 10:30 in the morning. The consul assistant spoke with us only very briefly, saying “No, you do not need ANYTHING from the consul. Stop by the ministerio publico who will give you a list, and then go to the Officina de Migracion, which will give you a different list of requirements. Since it was Holy Week, the ministerio publico was closed. The immigration office was open, but the line was too long for me to wait for the list after I took a number and analyzed the number of people before me, each with a thick sheaf of papers.

We went instead to meet Richard, Beth and David at La Terraza, right next to La Parroquia. They had margaritas in front of them, and Chon ordered a coffee, heavily spiked with rum, with a name, nearly forgotten, “Tarugillo”, like “For Dummies” in Spanish. We heard about the trio’s morning walking tour, given by a woman who had written a lovely book about San Miguel with wonderful photos.
View of La Parroquia from La Terrazza

And for lunch? Richard knew of a very pleasant restaurant right around the corner, owned by a Frenchman. Everything was beautifully served, and delicious: Milanesa steak, salad, with a beet salad as well, chicken in almond sauce, tacos. The young waitresses were pleasant and attentive. And Richard introduced us (well, me, anyway) to a lovely drink, kir, that I had heard about before, but never had the opportunity to sample.

We continued our visit in the lovely and comfortable jewel of a house where our trio of friends were staying - the home of a designer who rents it by the week to lucky travelers. Each space had natural light from above, from skylights (tragaluzes). The furniture and color and art was very beautiful and comfortable.

We needed to leave at 3, but we stayed until nearly 5:30, relaxed and happy from the wine and conversation.

About San Miguel de Allende: it is every bit as lovely as I had heard - flowers, stone streets and sidewalks, gorgeous colors and friendly faces. Everywhere you look there are beautiful vistas. Because of the large gringo population there are shops with different types of clothing and fabrics than can normally be found in Mexico, wonderful food, and thanks to Richard and our new friends David and Beth, comfort and relaxed enjoyment. When we travel to places it is nearly always because of some kind of business, and we don’t take the time to explore. Our two afternoons were like a vacation for us. Thank you, Friend Connection!!