Monday, July 21, 2014

Meet Lola

Meet Lola. She is my new wheels. Actually, Lola is more like middle-age wheels instead of new. I've bought a Semi-Neuvo car. Semi-Neuvo, or almost new, is what the dealerships call used cars. Lola wasn't from a dealer. She is direct from her original buyer in 2006. She was checked out by two mechanics and both of them said she was in very good shape for her age.

Lola is a Nissan Platina. Autoevolution writes: The Platina, which is not sold in Europe, shares its platform with the Renault Clio and Modus as well as with the Nissan Micra and Note. Though not particularly visually attractive, it has all the features that have made Clio one of Europe's best selling cars since its launch in 1990: reliability, affordability and agility.

It is without a doubt not an attractive car and Lola's color is gray/silver. She already has the required San Miguel scuffs on her bumpers. She isn't going to attract any attention on the street but the part I like is reliability, affordability and agility.

Buying this car has been an interesting experience and I've been "enjoying" the experience for a week. Taking her for a test drive, Sitting with her at the Mechanic's shop. Getting my physical and blood type. Getting a Mexican Driver's license, Getting the title transferred, new license plates and emissions testing done. I took the Kindle along for two days to sit in government offices and wait my turn but I ended up watching the system work. It does work....slowly. Some things I do not understand. For example, I could turn in a copy of my passport and permanent resident card but I had to have the original of my physical. It is easiest to just do it and stop trying to figure out why.

I have great friends who have taken me along to Queretaro and Celaya when they were headed to Costco or Home Depot but I'm a Texan and I've been feeling the need to get my own horse. I can't begin to tell you how exciting it was on Thursday when I got in MY car and drove myself to Celaya. Maybe that sounds silly but it was another important marker in life without Ned.

If you are wondering how Lola got her name it is an acronym for Little Old Lady's Auto. Lola and I are not planning any big excursions but it is possible that you will pass me on the highway to Celaya. Oh....if I'm pulled off the highway with the hood up, don't pass me! Stop and help.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Makes Olga Run?

Last year about this time I wrote about reading the book Younger Next Year and how I drank the Kool-aid and was going to try to follow the recipe. I pretty much did what I set out to do since 2013, weight resistance training and cardio exercise weekly. Do I feel younger than last year? Yes, yes I do and not just physically but mentally as well.

A few months ago I heard about another book, What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What she can teach us about Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson. Wow, the titles of some books are getting to be so long they take up the whole cover. At my age I'm interested in living a longer, healthier, productive life so as you have probably already guessed, I bought the book.

Grierson uses Olga's amazing success in the USATF Master's track and field events to explore the mysteries of aging. Not from the standpoint of the deterioration of our bodies but looking at the extent that we can influence the aging process and keep going full out longer. Seeing Doc Severinsen's musical performance this week is an example of someone in their late 80's who is still productive and creative. Grierson's research for the book reveals that there are many completed and on-going studies that are confirming what I got out of  the book, Younger Next Year.

So, it looks like even if I do not have any plans to be a Master's athlete, I can't let up on my exercise schedule. Another thing I think it confirms is that it is important to be involved with friends and to always have plans for something in the future whether it is tomorrow, or next week or next year.

Most of the time, I think self-help books are kind of WooWoo---a little bit on the far side. Maybe I'm grabbing at straws but yeah, I'm drinking some more of that Kool-aid. It worked pretty well for the last 12 months.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Doc Severinsen, Gil Gutierrez and Garbriel Hernandez - Amazing Concert

Okay, so the video is crap. My excuse is that I'm sitting in the middle of the Angela Peralta Theatre, in the middle of the row, in a FULL house, with an iPhone. I can't get up and move closer but I wanted you to know that Doc Severinsen may be 87 years old but that doesn't stop him from blowing that horn. Just listen to the Audio. 

Last night the concert was amazing. It could have been in Carnegie Hall. But it was here in San Miguel de Allende at a very moderate cost to hear world class musicians. At least half of the musicians, 12 in all, were from Cuba. I've seen Gabriel Hernandez with Gil Gutierrez before. Gabriel was on the piano and keyboard and he did the musical arrangements. He is so amazingly musical. A young violinist from Cuba, Alejandro Cervantes, was also amazing. Adriana Valdez  who won the San Miguel opera competition sang several songs. Her voice is amazing as well. I know I'm overusing amazing but it was a fabulous concert.
Mostly Doc Severinsen played a supporting role but when it was time for him to take the lead there was no doubt that he could still do it. What a joy music must be for him to continue to play and to keep meeting and playing with world class musicians, some of whom are less than half his age.   
While we were in the theatre there was a rain storm and it was still raining lightly when we got out. I was glad that I had a ride home because cabs would have been hard to come by since it was the weekend and just across the street from the theatre was a Blues/Jazz concert and it too was breaking up. So much to do in San Miguel. At any rate I got home safe and sound and went to bed with the rain on the window and the concert still playing in my head.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Life Style Center

Antea, Queretaro's new commercial development is not a Mall, not a Shopping Center, it is named a Life Style Center. It is suppose to be the largest in Mexico and the second largest in Latin America of whatever you may wish to call it. I will probably always call it a Mall.

I had seen the list of all the stores that would be in it eventually and I had been hearing more and more reports from friends who have been although it is only about three-fourths completed. Crate and Barrel looks like it will open before too long but the other big anchor store, Palacio de Hierro (think Harrod's in London) looks like it is months away from being customer ready. Nevertheless, when I had an invitation from Margo to go with her, I said, yes.

Antea is actually located on this side of Queretaro, just past the Superama on  Highway 57. I use to think the Superama was way outside of Queretaro but not anymore. It is pretty much surrounded by housing developments now. Theoretically, coming from San Miguel the Mall should be easy to get to but it isn't. There is a lot of work on Highway 57 through that area and some exits are closed. Also there is not any signage that gives you a hint of where to get off the highway. I didn't see a big sign that said Antea. Maybe when all the stores are open there will be more signs. You just need to be looking for this clump of buildings and hope you have gotten off in time to enter the parking lot. If you haven't, too bad. There isn't a nearby overpass or anyway to circle around and come back to the Mall without going a long way or making a few very creative and unintuitive turns. But I'm sure that over time that will change. In the meantime, it will be one of those mental agility tests that is suppose to be good for our older brains.

Okay, let me just say it right out, I like Antea Life Style Center. It isn't a covered mall and the landscaping and water features are really lovely. There are a lot of off-shoots from the main hall which makes for interesting walking but might take me a time or two to get my bearings. All the stores do not seem to be made for 20 somethings. There are actually things I would buy. The stores are well laid out and merchandized. And, something I do not often see in Mexican stores except for maybe one rack of clothes, SALES! Yes in that photo with the red coat it is a 50% discount. The sales people were well trained and knew their merchandise. There was a food court with the usual kinds of fast food but there were several nice restaurants also. Liverpool had a fabulous food court in the store on the fourth floor with all kinds of food counters, drinks and wine.

Sometimes I choke on the price of things in Mexico because the price is more than what I figure to be an additional 15-17% import fee if it comes from another country but I am really amazed when goods that are made in Mexico are just as high or higher. I don't think that difference is going to the average worker in Mexico. However, in a lot of the stores the prices were a little more than what I might pay at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Macy's in Houston but not so much that if I needed the item I'd do without it. And in the gourmet area of Liverpool, I found the imported gourmet items like red quinoa or some US salad dressings or preserves to be less than I would pay for them in San Miguel.

I have some suggestions for Antea, put up signage for bathrooms. Get site maps in some strategic locations to help people find their way around the mall.

Oh, another thing, they have started charging for parking. We were there about four hours and the cost was 50 pesos. You have to pay at an automatic machine just outside the entrance, not at the gate as you exit. We found out the hard way.

I'm glad to have Antea and I hope it does well. All and all, life in San Miguel just gets easier and better and better.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ready to Roll until 2024

I picked up my new US Passport this morning. I'm good to go until 2024. This is the second Passport I have done via the US Embassy in Mexico City. It is easier to do now that it was 10 years ago. I filled out the application form on line and printed it out. Stopped at a photo place and had my photo taken just the right size for a US Passport. Went to the bank and got the US dollars to pay for the new Passport. Took everything to the Consul's office and turned it in. They instructed me to go to DHL to pay to have the Passport returned to me. I did that but instead of having it delivered to my house I had them deliver it to DHL where I could pick it up. Three and a half weeks later, I have the new Passport.

Easy, peasy! Except seeing the expiration date of June, 2024 started me thinking about how old I would be in 2024. WHOA! I'm already considered too old for some travel and medevac insurance plans. But I'm going to save that story for another blog entry. Tonight I'm just going to think of places that this Passport and I are going to see.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mexico City Metro

Last weekend I was in Mexico City. What a great city. I took the bus there for a birthday party but as long as I was going to be there I stayed a few extra days. Margo from San Miguel also went for the party and we were staying at the same place, The Red Tree House in Condesa. Margo goes to Mexico City often so she became my guide to the public transportation system. While I don't have it all figured out, I've got a few of the basics so at least I can get from the Condesa/Roma area to the Zocalo or Bellas Artes or the Saturday Market.

I really like the Metrobus because you can see what the neighborhoods are like. The bus passed a huge Liverpool. For those of you who don't know, Liverpool is a department store like a Macy's. The one we have here in San Miguel is very small with a nice but limited selection. So, if I need to do some serious shopping, I can always just run over to Mexico City. Just kidding. In Queretaro about an hour away, a new shopping center has opened. isn't a shopping center it is Antea Life Style Center. And it is said to be the largest shopping center or Life Style Center or mall or whatever you prefer, in Mexico and the second largest in Latin America. There is a Liverpool in it with about 100 other world name brand stores that you would recognize like Calvin Klein or Crate and Barrel. I haven't been there yet but hope to go this week.

Back to Mexico City. I had a fabulous time. I went to the Bellas Artes and saw Picasso Revealed by David Douglas Duncan. Duncan, an American war photographer, lived with Picasso many times while he was in Europe. He photographed Picasso at work and at play. The show was a juxtaposition of his photographs along with Picasso's drawings, ceramics and sculptures. One thing that really interested me was the many drawings that Picasso made of his studio especially the end of the studio that had three windows. They were the same studio but all different. It made me think of two artists who have focused on the same thing over and over. For example, Monet and the haystacks and of Josef Sudek and the many photographs he made of the window in his studio.

In a video of Duncan talking about Picasso, he tells that after he had made 1,000s of photographs of Picasso, he asked him if there were any that he would not want published. Picasso said something like, I paint. You photograph. You do what you want with the images.

Also at the Bellas Artes was a small exhibition of the photographs of Robert Doisneau, who was a contemporary of Henri Cartier Bresson.

What a thrill for me to see two wonderful exhibitions. But wait, there is more! I walked a couple of blocks from Bellas Artes to Palacio de Cultura Banamex on Madero and saw a fabulous exhibition of the Architecture of Mexico, 1900-2010.

Then my great accomplishment of the day....I found my way to the big Metro Station by Bellas Artes, found the line I needed going in the direction I needed to go, changed trains at the right station and got off at the right stop. The hardest part of all of this was figuring out which way I needed to go once I came up from the subway to walk back to the Red Tree House. I was confused but then I remembered my iPhone. No problems, the little GPS guided me right to Culiacan #6.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Afternoon Rain

It is 5:00 PM and it is raining. The second hard rain this afternoon. It is especially loud in the studio because of the skylight over the stairs. I love being on the second floor where I can see the mountains fade into the rain but what is close by becomes saturated with color. When I focus on the raindrops against the window everything else disappears into a blur of watercolor. Seeing something as simple as the raindrops has brought joy to my heart on a difficult day.