Archive: 2007 2nd Quarter

A Talking Parrot

Hello, my baby
Hello, my honey
Hello, my ragtime gal

Send me a kiss by wire
Baby, my hearts on fire

If you refuse me
Honey, you'll lose me
Then you'll be left alone

Oh baby, telephone
And tell me I'm your own

—Written by Ida Emerson & Joseph E. Howard
Performance by Michigan J. Frog

—§—

Our Boston Terrier Rosie, and that leaky bag of feathers, Chiapas, have begun interacting. Chiapas makes a great show of innocently swinging from his rings, luring Rose closer and closer until she's in range. Then Bam! He nips at her. For her part, Rosie thinks it's all a game and keeps coming back for more.

Thus underscoring Dave Barry's notion: He loves dogs "because they are morons."

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Chiapas and Rose form a sort of food chain. I gave the bird a piece of my apple turnover. Chiapas sat on the door to his cage, holding it in one foot and nibbling, most of it falling on the floor. Rosie lurked beneath, snarfing up the crumbs.

—§—

I previously wrote that Chiapas is a talking parrot. His one word is in Nahuatl and sounds like "suckitup" or "buckaduck". Or something. That's all he's said for a week.

So I was surprised this morning when I let him out of his cage and he said, "I LOVE you."

Now, this bird was bred and raised in Chiapas or Oaxaca by non-English speakers. I assume that if he speaks any English, he learned it from his owner, Clint. A tall, raw-boned Texan. Drives a pickup. Wears a cowboy hat. A man's man.

I simply cannot imagine Clint training his parrot: "I LOVE you. I LOVE you. I LOVE you. C'mon, pretty bird. I LOVE you."

Perhaps he'll explain himself in the comments section. We'll see...

Chiapas says "I LOVE you" for the second or third time. I call Jean. "Jean! Jean! Ya gotta come hear this. Chiapas is saying 'I LOVE you.'"

Jean comes in. "Yeah. Right." (Always the skeptic.)

With Chiapas perched on my hand I say, "Chiapas! I LOVE you."

"Puckapuck."

"No, Chiapas. Say 'I LOVE you!'"

"Chuckleluck."

"Honest, Jean. You gotta believe me. He really says it."

"Sure he does. I gotta go now, Sweetie. Things to do. Don't bother me anymore."

She leaves. I glare at Chiapas. He says, "I LOVE you."

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Wail, Hail

When we lived on our mountaintop in Sonoma County, California, we'd get hailstorms two or three times a year. We've never experienced even one during four years in Mexico. Yesterday, that changed.

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This is not happening in chilly weather. Must have been 85º.

It started out as a typical tropical rainy season thunderstorm: intense, violent, noisy. Our Boston Terrier, Rosie, snuggled up next to my leg, shaking as she does whenever there's thunder or fireworks. Poor thing.

Suddenly the courtyard was filling up with hailstones the size of garbanzo beans.

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Much of our living space communicates with courtyards through open archways. Ice, ricocheting off paving stones, started to accumulate on our carpets and upholstered furniture. The responsible members of the household broke out mops and squeegees. I broke out my camera.

Twenty minutes later it was all over. I looked around, assessing the damage. Broad-leafed tropical plants haven't evolved to withstand hail. This Plumeria tells it all.

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One of my former English students, Arturo, was visiting. He told me he thought that the last hailstorm in San Miguel was in 1980. That would have been before he was born. At this rate, odds are good I won't be around to see another one.

Saturday Comida in a Restaurant

San Miguel boasts a number of restaurants in the Centro Histórico.

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Many allow dining in elegant colonial courtyards. Most offer some variation on Mexican cuisine. Many are moderately priced, so Jean and I can afford to eat in them frequently.

Above, we see Jean in a typical courtyard restaurant. She is negotiating with a little girl selling Chiclets—a typical if sad scene in any Mexican city.

It's a lovely, sunny day. The courtyard with fountain, tiles, and graceful arches creates a serene space for us to relax in. The cast iron furniture, the festive Corona umbrellas, the Spanish-speaking waiters surround us with warm Mexican ambience.

But we won't be ordering enchiladas today.

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The dragon statues and the Chinese lantern give it away. We are in the Palacio Chino, the Chinese Palace. The Mexican Chinese Palace, going by the pottery chimenea behind Jean's right shoulder—with a red dragon painted on it. Culture fusion.

We love Asian cuisines. But we've given up on Japanese restaurants, at least in the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro. The delicate flavors of Japanese food doesn't register on Mexican tongues, so sushi bars amp up the vinegar in the rice, overwhelming the taste of any topping. And as I've mentioned before, these places cater to Mexican tastes with offerings such as tekka maki with chipotle sauce (tuna with smoked jalapeño chiles).

Chinese food is another matter. As a couple who lived for decades in the San Francisco Bay Area, our Asian palates are fairly sophisticated, and I can assure you that the menu at Palacio Chino is anything but authentic. However, Szechwan cooking shares many flavors with Mexican food—assertive and spicy, so it's a good choice when you're jonesing for Chinese.

Jean ordered General Tao Chicken. This consisted of chunks of chicken meat dredged in cornstarch, deep fried, coated in a brown, sugary sauce fired up with lots of long red dried chiles. I ordered Orange Peel Beef, which consisted of chunks of beef dredged in cornstarch, deep fried, coated in a brown, sugary sauce fired up with lots of chiles. Oh yeah, the cook threw a few strips of orange peel into mine.

Both dishes were delicious, though surprisingly similar.

We had to wait a half hour for our meal because we threw the kitchen with a request for steamed rice. Plain rice is generally not served in Mexico. Rice, insofar as Mexicans are concerned, is supposed to be served with vegetables mixed in, the way God intended. Did we want fried rice? No we didn't. So they had to cook our steamed rice to order.

We also wrong-footed them with a request for palitos—chopsticks. The waiter spent several minutes looking for some. He finally brought us nice bamboo ones, manufactured in China, presented in a little paper sleeve. They appeared to be intended for the American market, judging from the amount of English on it. Chinglish, rather.

Please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks the traditional and typical of Chinese glonous history and cultual.

Instructions:

1) Tuk under tnurnb and held firmly
2) Add second chcostick hold it as you hold a pencil
3) Hold tirst chopstick in originai position move the second one up and down

Now you can pick up anything:


For me, there's something comforting about reading stuff in Chinglish. I'm reassured I'm patronizing real Chinese people cooking real Chinese food, and not some "Magic Wok" stall staffed with gum-chewing teenagers named Dawna.

Your better Chinese restaurants don't insult you by offering fortune cookies. The Chinese Palace isn't one of them. My fortune read, "Si lo tienes, muestralo." (If you've got it, flaunt it.)

That's it for now. Have a glonous day.