Oct 31, 2013

The Apple Tree

2136
The desert wind picked up as the weak sun’s rays hit the side of the mesa. The dozen women sat at the edge of the rim, chanting into the wasteland which spread out below them. They looked as old as the mesa. In fact, they were barely into their sixties. When the chanting ceased, an old man climbed out of the low composite metal shed behind them and crossed the cool sands to join the line of women.


He sat quietly for a moment and spoke with an uncertain voice. “They say the Rhizome has completed its task. They say a new world awaits us.”


The women looked at one another, disturbed. “What news is this? How can we have a new world? Were not the arks a failure? How could the arks have traveled to a new world with such oceans of space to cross?”


“I know not how so quickly a new world beckons us. The message is an invitation. Shall we leave this place and go to a new world, or stay and perish?”


He did was not looking at the women, but out to the barren valley where it had not rained in over a century. The trees has died of thirst, the few insects had eaten what leaves remained, and even the dead, white trees had long since been burned for fuel. The climbing sun was already whipping up vortexes of dust in the distance.


The oldest woman spoke, her voice a cracking whisper from the recesses of her woven shroud.
“Three days ago, we found a band of men traveling with composite panels. They had been mummified by the sun and fell as they walked.  We followed their trail back to a the ruins of a village. The people who had lived there had been killed, and their bones were scattered around the corroded remains of the communal heatplate. The marauders had cracked the bones of the young to suck out the marrow. “


“We cannot go. We have made our peace with the Creator, and we, like the rest of life, shall die here. We have had our time.”


2131
Kerwin sat on the concrete floor of the small meeting room and goggled in a mixture of fascination and horror at DC. “Do you realize what you are proposing?”


DC shifted uncomfortably. “Of course I do. I never said this was a great idea or a comfortable idea. Really, it’s only palatable when you consider the alternative. But listen to me: a few days ago, amid the horror and revulsion, I felt a hope that I have not felt since I could read. Do you not now feel this hope as well?”


The two men sat in silence for awhile. Finally Kerwin spoke:
“Yes, I feel it too.”


“Good. There is a lot of work to do. I will need your help in the committees. I think they will come around. Really, there is no other choice. But cheer up, we have no idea if this thing will work until the moment we turn it on. If our souls are lucky, we may all die yet.”


2130
Feril hummed happily as she adjusted her mask. She swayed with the rhythm and lifted her feet in time. Even here in the communal bathrooms, she could hear the cacophony from the streets. Samba bands, street performers, chamber musicians. The cracks and booms from the fireworks was indistinguishable from gunfire. Grinning madly, Feril attempted to look at herself in the mirror with a critical eye. Apart from the elaborate feathered carnival mask, she wore only paint and sequins. Her eyes, like her paint job, was red and black with the drugs she had injected into herself an hour before she started painting.


Behind the noise from the street, her arual implants were whispering a loop from a broadcast which had gone out on the Rhizome data networks yesterday: The Rhizome, the last lifeline which held together the shattered ecology supporting human life, was fraying and facing imminent collapse.  Feril struck a seductive pose for the mirror and then ran out the door, leaving it open behind her.


Rio was rocked by the throes of a final bacchanal. Feril dove in the riot of flesh and drugs and sensuality to the pounding beat of 10,000 samba drums. She swam with the crowds, most of them as denuded as she, dancing, screaming, fucking, up and down the streets, to the bonfires which burned on every beach and mountaintop. The statue of Christ overlooking the city was overfilled with worshippers. A ring of men in white protected the base of the mountain from the revelers, beating back, often fatally, those who tried to break the line.


After three days of unending partying, an emaciated and fried Feril joined a riotous and massive conga line, which swelled into the tens of thousands as it danced out of the city and up into the hills. The pace of the music quickened, the pounding of feet on the rock matched the beat, and laughing, screaming, embracing, the river of people cascaded over the edge to the embrace of the rocky beach and ocean far below.


2124
A yellow dot appeared at the base of the water recycling unit and by flicking her eyes to it, the yellow dot expanded into a yellow alert circle with a short message in her retinal viewer. Blueberry north is 5 minutes late estimated time of arrival now 0819. Zara sighed, blinked the message away, and stared at the perpetually overcast skies of Jaipur through her 5th floor window. She was going to be late for her meeting.


She sat down on the bed which also served as her chair in the gray concrete and steel apartment. She lifted her slim, brown legs to better admire her sandals. They were the latest models of composite spun steel fabric and vat-grown cork. She'd seen shoes made of leather once, in a museum, back from the days when the farms could keep the limited animal stocks alive. The museum had explained that before these leather shoes, people used to wear shoes almost exclusively made of various hydrocarbons. Unthinkable.


The streets outside were full of pedestrians and heavily armed security. Everyone wore a buisnesslike mask of urban indifference, but there was an undeniable air of barely contained panic. The barbarians at the gates were not nearly as pressing a threat as the barbarians behind the other masks.


China had already disintegrated. When the emergency stockpiles of rice reached critical levels, the nation had exploded as various military commanders seized power and marched on the local silos. The rice had quickly disappeared, and militias of starving farmers fought in horrific, desperate battles with militias swelled from the urbanites fleeing the cities like a sinking ship. Meanwhile, those who could not flee the cities, died. Beijing, Shenzen, Guangzhou, Shanghai became rat infested necropolises, and those who survived did so by stacking the dead in industrial freezers and refrigerators for the months ahead. Those who managed to swim to escape from Hong Kong, rumors said, did not speak of what they left behind.


Zara rode Blueberry to the Rhizome center and a lot of people got off and followed her into the massive complex. The Rhizome had been a response to the Three Crisis, three related perfect storms of war, ecological collapse, and drought. Many had thought it was the tolling of the Malthusian bell. Now, well beyond the brink, people finally understood what the shattering end of civilization would mean.


On the eve of total collapse, governments consolidated and coalesced. Sweeping new powers were granted to any agency which could forestall the apocalypse. Disparate and formerly adversarial groups of developers, scientists, engineers, and officials turned to the digital networks and expanded it to encompass and account for the entire planet. Water systems, energy systems, the flow of vital elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous and carbon, cultural attitudes and social networks. The ultimate hybridization of the biosphere which revolved around the activities and needs of mankind, a network without a center, the Rhizome.


"The data from Kashmir is solid, although we have had some problems with tampering in Uttar Pradesh." Zara was speaking to a small group of engineers and a few administrators in a small, but clean concrete room not dissimilar from her apartment. Her retinal implants filled in ghosts of the engineers who had logged in early. The latecomers populated a long list at which hovered near the ceiling. In the middle of her, and everyone else's view, floated a single word: Nitrogen.


While Zara went into more technical detail about localized nitrogen cycles, Suki, one of the ghost attendees, a transfer a phosphorus storage group in China, called up the background information Zara had assembled for the presentation. Apparently the were using similar riparian and atmospheric sensors to monitor nitrogen flows, and a network of soil sensors.


Suki's attention returned to the meeting as Zara sent everyone a hologram of the tampering. Suki was immediately standing on a rocky plain. There was a bit of lichen on the rocks, it looked like, and a few sickly looking trees. Mountains loomed in the distance. In front of her, a metal square with a small communications nub marked the location of the buried sensor. A man strode into the view. He was filthy, wrapped in a coarse woven garment of some kind, possibly hemp or linen. With a heavy stick, he wordlessly attacked the sensor, digging at the edges, until he wrenched the stake-like probe from the earth and walked out of view. He wore two human skulls with rope threaded through the eye sockets at his side.


“Unfortunately,” Zara concluded, “it looks like we have lost the majority of central Asia.”


1974
“Which story would you like, my love?” mama asked Kiki. Illuminated by the dim light of the glowboard, Kiki lay back in her hammock and looked precociously thoughtful. The cool ocean breeze ruffled through the curtains and up through the passive cooling ventilation system in the concrete vertical neighborhood. Mama bit into an apple and waited for a reply. Her gaze fell on the grove below the window, which provided much of fresh fruit for her neighborhood. She did love apple season.


“I know! The apple story!” Kiki looked expectantly towards mama.


“Face, show me the text of the apple tree.” Mama waited as pigmented molecules in her right eye grouped and dispersed with faint flickers of moduled electricity, changing the corneal display from 19:35hrs 7 10 1974 to the single word: The Apple Tree.


It was hardly necessary. This was Kiki’s favorite story and mama nearly had it memorized at this point. Mama began to read as the words scrolled across the face of her eyeball:


Once upon a time
there was a big apple tree filled with caterpillars.
For a long time, the caterpillars were happy, eating the apples, and crawling around the tree.
Then, some of the caterpillars got greedy.
The greedy caterpillars started eating the leaves of the tree, and they burrowed into the trunk of the tree, looking for the sweet sap they loved.


“Mama, why were those caterpillars so greedy?” Kiki asked. .
“Well my love, maybe they didn’t care about the tree,” (small gasp from Kiki), “or maybe they didn’t know how greedy they were being. Maybe they didn’t even know they were making the tree sick.”


The tree got sick and weak from the burrowing caterpillars, because without leaves, the tree could not eat and make many apples.


“What do trees eat?”
“Sunlight”
“Like houses!”
“Yes, my love, exactly like houses.”


Without apples to eat, many of the other caterpillars started eating leaves too. This made the tree even more sick and it could not make even make a single apple.
With nothing to eat, the caterpillars started to die.


“Awwwwww!”
“Yes, my love, it’s a very sad story. Now hush.”


Because the greedy caterpillars had eaten more than the other caterpillars, they were able to live longer than the ones who had not eaten the leaves or the heart of the tree. They tried to eat fewer leaves and they stopped burrowing into the tree. But it was too late. The tree was dying. The greedy caterpillars were sad about what they did and they felt bad. We shall all die now, they said.


Then, the wise old bee, who had crossed the meadow heard them talking.
The old bee landed among the caterpillars and said, I have a secret to tell you. Although you are all dying, you have a bit of magic left in you. If let me, I will change you so you will be able to find a new life in a new place.


He whispered the secret words in their ears and they all fell fast asleep in their sleeping bags. While they slept, they were changed by the magic of the earth, and they became elegant flying butterflies.


When they woke up, they said let us go find a new life! So the butterflies flew away to the next apple tree, which was still full of apples.


This apple tree was also home to some caterpillars who were busily creeping around, eating the apples. As the butterflies landed, they heard some of the caterpillars say “let us eat the leaves and the sap of this tree!” The butterflies got so mad at the caterpillars that they made all the caterpillars leave the tree so the butterflies could keep it safe and protected. From then on, the butterflies lived happily ever after, eating just the apples they needed.


Kiki was silent for a moment.
“Mama, what happened to the caterpillars in the other tree?” Kiki asked.
“Well, they had to leave. They would have made that tree die too, and then everyone would have been in trouble.”
“ok.”
“Sleep well my little caterpillar”
“But not a greedy caterpillar!”
“Well I should hope not!”


Mama left the tiny room and the proximity sensor dimmed the glowboard so Kiki could sleep. In the spartan living room, Mama sat down in her favorite wooden rocking chair and scanned the day’s news: Tigers had eaten some hikers in Singapore. A wind turbine passenger ship had run into engine trouble in the Atlantic, and it was going to take a week to sail out to rescue the passengers. The local section warned her to keep an eye on the pomegranate trees as they should be reaching peak ripeness, and below the usual updates on the local micro-ecosystems there was a review of a cafe which had opened a few levels above hers. Mama blinked off the newsfeed and headed for the showers.


She murmured a hello to her neighbor as she peeled off her clothes and stepped into the tiled room. She turned on the faucet and allowed herself to be soaked by the warm spray of two cycle water. You weren’t supposed to drink it, but it was clean enough for washing. One cycle was only good for edible crop irrigation, and three cycle was only for hand washing, cooking, and drinking. She automatically shut off the water after a minute and began to lather with the lye soap. She was thinking about her mother.


Her mother had also told her the Apple Tree story. But she also told her different stories. She had been a pioneer, one of the billions of refugees who had arrived here from a dying world. Stories filled with horror and sadness. A dying and tortured planet. Cannibals and savages. The collapse of the Rhizome (unthinkable!). Colonists who perished in the madness of deep space. Dispair.


And then, the Ladder, a gateway to a paradise. The wonderful early days of exploring Eden. The importance of meditation and discipline. The holiness of water, the sanctity of all life. Her mother had told her about the first time she ate an apple, and even then, at the age of 84, the tears of emotion had trickled down her wrinkled cheeks.


1923
The first year of the colony had been rough. The natives who had survived had to be hunted down, but the engineers had done their work well. The Seven Brides had found many more than seven brothers, and the aerial dispersal units reported back a 99.7 percent efficacy. The 0.3 percent of the survivors didn’t survive long. The real bitch had been the reconditioning. The empathy training. The guided meditations. The socratic sessions. In some cases, brainwashing. But those were limited cases. The colonists embraced the new religion with their new life. The cities were already being reconfigured, reworked. This time, they were going to do it right.


1922
Arden unlocked the side door of the train station in downtown Chicago and lethargically traded his hat for his broom. Something strange was in the air. The usually cacophonous streets filled with vendors and horses had been oddly muted.  His jangling streetcar had been roomier than usual- he’d even been able to find a seat for once. It was good, too since he felt like he might have been coming down with something. He’d paid a boy on the corner for an apple, and the little snot nosed kid looked a little more haggard than usual. Opening the janitor’s door to the main terminal floor, he sneezed in the dusty, sunlit arrivals halls.


“Hey! Yous kids! You can’t sleep here! Come on now, move on!” The ragamuffins sleeping slumped against the newspaper wall weren’t moving. He poked one with his broom, and the boy fell over like a doll. His head hit the marble floor with a dull thud. The hairs raised on Ardens the back of his feverish neck as he realized that none of them were sleeping. He straightened up in shock, and his eyes settled on a full-spread announcement by some fellow named Henry Ford.

Oct 30, 2013

Special Report: World Saved by Alert Blogging Community

It was a dark and stormy night.
And then the world ended.


Hmm. A little abrupt.

I've been working on a short story for Halloween. I usually try to punch something out since Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. Anymore though, reality is more terrifying than anything you'll find in a costume shop, haunted mall parking lot castle, or a Rob Zombie movie.

What if the very air you breathe causes cancer? What if the congressional NSA oversight committee had no oversight? What if a fleet of armed flying robots were killing hundreds of civilians and children? What if we were losing the fight against bacterial infectious diseases? What if Polio came back? I worry less about zombies and more about bunker mentality.

We should take Halloween as a moment to reflect on the things that should scare the bejeezus out of us. I want to see people dressed in suits with top secret clearances, as MRSA, as George Zimmerman. I want to see predator drones instead of Predator. I want to see people dressed as cars.

Sorry, just need to clean the spittle foam off the tablet.

In addition to ranting, I helped shuttle Larry back and forth to the CSR repair center to get mom's car fixed, and then I bought a pair of running shoes at the Nike factory outlet. When I got home, I worked on roughing in the paper machie skulls for Dia de Los Muertos and went for a run. 3.2 miles. A good start. Also did some local job hunting although no luck yet.

Oct 27, 2013

Suburban Mansions, Dapper Bicyclists, Dia de los Muertos

This morning mom made us all pancakes and we sat around drinking coffee trying to figure out what Brenda wanted to do with her morning in Phoenix.

We settled on visiting "Street of Dreams," a tour of five palatial homes in a new development among the alfalfa fields and outlet malls of south Gilbert. Each of the homes was over 6000 square feet, and most of them ranged in price from 1.7-2 million dollars a pop. We decided to go to these homes because Brenda, mom, and I are all incredibly snarky and these things are almost self-parodies.

To start with, there is the absurdity of owning a 7000 square foot house which has been designed with 2-3 bedrooms. There is no staff space. An army of cleaning staff will probably come once or twice a week to maintain the huge spaces. The houses also sit on lots which are barely larger than the house. You have to turn sideways to squeeze through gaps between the side walls and the house- the backyards don't have room for real pools since they're jammed up against the next phase of development.

One of the houses had a massive garage, and then a second garage which was even larger below grade. This garage we renamed the batcave since there was a giant turn table to rotate your car when you drive in. And a boat.

Another house had a shooting range in the basement with a painting of the Godfather at one end and a life-sized statue of Predator at the business end of the range.

There was a below grade window to a bedroom which had been converted to an aviary filled with colorful African finches.

One of the houses featured a giant stuffed peacock perched above ludicrous magenta couches. We decided the decor of the house was intended for a flamboyantly gay couple and perhaps one of their mothers.

One of the houses, the one with at least 10,000 square feet of space and slate tiled conical roofs, was supposed to have been inspired by "classical Parisian chateau living".

The gatehouse to the subdivision featured an outdoor fireplace.

Everyone agreed that that the decor had been provided by TJMaxx and Ross Dress for Less. It was awful across the board. Amazingly, some of the houses had drawings where you would provide them with your contact info and they you could win a piece of the decor. I'm interested in a lot of things, but I didn't see a single thing (apart from some seriously large TVs and expensive built in appliances) that I would take home with me.

The least awful house was done in an "Old World Mexican style," never mind that Mexico is part of the  New World. It at least acknowledged that no life was to be found in the street or the views of the other depressing houses in the subdivision, and so it turned inward to focus on a pleasant interior courtyard with a shady colonnade around and lots of hand painted tile. They also overfilled with with crap and furniture since apparently Old World Mexico means over the top textures and too much furniture.

We stopped by Joe's Real BBQ for lunch since Brenda had never been and she bought us plates of BBQ. I just grabbed a single sandwich and side since I always overeat there. It was a good call.

This afternoon, I biked over to the bus and bussed up to central Phoenix, aiming for the second Dia de Los Muertos festival at the library park. On my may, I ran into a bunch of bicyclists dressed up in hipster and foppish attire, and I thought, you know, I bet Tempest is with these guys. Ryan Tempest was a friend from undergrad who stayed in Phoenix after he graduated, became a licensed architect, and is now heavily involved in trying to advocate urban living in Phoenix. He did pull up beside me and I joined him on the last leg of a big group ride out to the Palomar, a swanky new hotel in Phoenix in the CityScape development.

We chatted for a bit, and exchanged cards, and then I biked back north to get to the park and the festival.
It turns out another guy I know, Noah, was also there, and I didn't recognize him, although his wife won the "most dapper dame" prize at the hotel.

The festival was a small affar at one end of the park. I was curious about how the festival would be translated. It was much more multicultural, with a few African dancers, and a Japanese kodo drummer also in attendance. Lots of people in calavera masks. Got a few good photos.

There is something much more intimate about Dia de Los Muertos than Halloween. The indigenous populations believed that on a certain day, the spirits of the ancestors would return to earth, and so they set up altars. When the Spanish missionaries arrived, they combined with the All Saint's Day, and threw a vener of Catholicism over it, and the two became inextricably mixed, although the original customs are more clearly seen in the older, more indigenous parts of Mexico while it simply became a symbol of national/ethnic pride in Mexico City.

 In any event, in the US, Halloween means different things to different people- it's amazing when you're 5, it's  lame when you're 13-17, it's binge drinking and wild costume parties when you're 18-25, and then it kind of devolves into waiting until you think little kids in costumes are cute when you hand out candy. The holiday is a sugar rush, a plastic mask lightly worn.

Dia de los Muertos goes much deeper- it is both a meditation on death, not a terrifying, but a natural and spiritual part of life, and a remembrance of people who died. It is also a festival, but a festival which seeks to celebrate life through the acknowledgement of death. It makes a friend and a companion of death.

Oct 26, 2013

Cooking with Alec

Brenda came to spend the night with us after coming for an AIA women architect's convention which included a presentation by Billie Tsien.

Spent a lot of time in the kitchen today. My ambitious menu for tonight's dinner was chicken tortilla soup and squash salad. The way Bayless structures the recipes requires very little technique and a lot of manual labor and steps. For the soup stock, I had to first saute chopped onions and garlic and then boil a tomato to prepare it for peeling and seeding. All that stuff went into a blender and then simmered for 30 minutes with chicken stock. That's just one part of one dish.

For the garnish, I bought tortillas, cut them, and fried them myself into strips for the soup. I bought special chiles, stemmed and seeded them, and then (over)fried them just to add as a garnish.

I overcooked the zucchini, making it mushy and I should have NOT put in any sour cream until the moment of service. The zucchini needed salt, the soup base was too salty. Overall, pretty good though. Fun to bring all the parts of the soup together though.

Oct 25, 2013

a story about mallets

This is a story Saori told me recently. One of Saori's friends from Japan went to visit her in Stuttgart. Saori's friend plays a musical instrument like a marimba or a zylophone or a glockenspiel but not any one of those. Neither one of us could remember what it was called.

Anyway, this friend said to Saori, hey I play professionally, and I want to get some great mallets. There is a very old German man who makes the best mallets in the world, let's go see him. So they take a train a bus out to his house which is also his workshop and salesroom, a reasonable distance from Stuttgart.

The old man invites them in and then proceeds to measure Saori's friend for mallets. The process sounds a lot like picking a wand on Diagon Alley. He had her play for him with a basic mallet so he could get a feel for what she needed, and then they went through what sounded like an hour of testing and balancing. The wood handle material, the size of the thing at the end, the material, the finishes. Each of the mallets are hand made by this one guy, and run at least a hundred dollars each. But Saori's friend swears they are worth every penny. She took home two pairs, each left and right slightly different to account for the difference in the hand usage.

Still in Phoenix

Busier day today.

Updated the resume. Applied for short term work at Architecture Resource Team north of downtown. Went to Bookmans with Larry for an introduction to German book. Debated for about twenty minutes over whether to buy a cheap ukelele to play on the porch. Decided I was already hipster enough without the ukelele, and it's just another project I'd likely abandon halfway. Good barbeque at Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert, and then a quick trip to the birdseed store.

Hit the Pro's Ranch Market (who is Pro, anyway?) and bought a bunch of stuff to make the Mexican food for dinner tomorrow night when Brenda stops by for the night. The cashier was chatty. She talked about how much she loved playing Loteria. I think she was trying to figure out why two blatent Gringos were interested in the game.

Went through the usual paces. Studied German for an hour or so. Walked 2.4 miles.

Last night, I went shopping at Target. I picked up a rope basket for dirty clothes. Browsing the book section, I found the mass market paperback re-release of Ender's Game. On the back, in large, bold letters, it gives away a major plot twist. Granted, it doesn't spoil the book, but it's basically selling Old Yeller with the tagline "They shoot the dog."

Oct 24, 2013

Still in Phoenix

After looking at the map, I realized that it's really not that far from mom's house in South Phoenix to Mom's old house in the Ahwatukee foothills. There's a bit of a barrier in the way called the South Mountain Range, part of the largest urban park in the US. So I decided to race public transportation. Which would be a faster way to? To take public transportation around the mountains, or, (dramatic pause) to walk over it.

The street route runs about 12 miles. The mountain crossing route is about 6.5 miles.
I took three busses to the trailhead on the far side of the mountains. It took a little over two hours and cost me $4. The busses were uncrowded and air conditioned.

Crossing the mountain had 4 distinct parts. The first part was crossing the expanse of relatively flat rising lands in the foothills. The second part was an ascent which relentlessly switch-backed up the mountain. Amazing views back south though. You feel like you're a fly on the walls of the valley, the mountains just shoot up from the desert floor. The mountains are actually two distinct ridges with a small valley between them. The third part is the valley- a shallow descent and then a traverse along a sandy arroyo (riverbed) at the bottom of the valley, and then back up to the second ridge. There is a road there, the end of the road which begins at the bottom of the mountain on central ave, and from there, the fourth part, a fast 40 minute descent into the valley of the sun. I was out of the mountains in a little over two hours, but it took me an additional twenty minutes to walk back to mom's house from where the trail dumps you in the Heard Pueblo Scout camp. All told, taking the bus saved me 30 minutes of travel time. It was a lovely time to climb though with the sun going down and casting everything in beautiful orange and then pink light.

Mom was hungry when we got back, so I changed my filthy shirt and dusty shoes and we drove straight to Oregano's for deep dish pizza. Good stuff. I also got my new Warby-Parker glasses and they got the prescription right. They look good.

Today I finally got to Skype with Saori again and show her my glasses and some of my other purchases. She loved the combination of my sweater and the glasses. She said I looked like I'd walked out of a Norwegian forest. She liked the coat, but she said that it looked very much like Taylor's style and I had to admit that Tay was my chief fashion consultant this trip.

She also recommended that I wait to find work before coming over to Germany. The cramped room, the expense of Europe, the aggravation of her flatmates. So I'm here in the US for at least a month. I will not miss Christmas with her but that is a few months off.

For now, I guess, wait, learn German, and apply apply apply like it means a ticket out of Phoenix.

Today I also fixed the bathroom door so that it wouldn't swing open anymore. It was a simple trick of removing the top hinge pin, putting a slight bend in it, and tapping it back into place. Surprisingly, it worked.

Also found out that DWL isn't hiring for short term, so I'm a little disappointed. More time to work on my book I guess.

Oct 22, 2013

Still in Phoenix

Got my glasses I ordered from Warby-Parker last Thursday. The only problem was they were the wrong prescription. I called them up and over the phone with a rep we looked at the emails I'd sent back and forth. They realized they'd written down the wrong number for one of the lenses, so the woman apologized and told me they'd start working on an expedited order immediately to be next day sent to Arizona as soon as they were done. Really, I cannot complain with that.

Today I borrowed Larry's bike and rode to the Scout camp at 19th street a few blocks away. The camp actually contains a trailhead to the south mountain park trails, so I hiked up the trail for a little over an hour. It's a really good trail. Instant gratification for getting into the mountains, no messing around with gentle grades or foothills. I hiked up to the end of the road at the top, turned around, and hiked back down. Next, I want to do a loop of crossing the mountains. Mom's old house to her current house. Or something along those lines. It felt good to work my legs, and to take a deep breath of the dry desert air and catch the hint of the desert jojoba.

I've been using Duolingo's app to study German. It's a slow process, but I'm already translating things like Die Jungen essen Brot (the children eat bread). I just need to keep at it around 30 minutes a day.

I met Sally and her kids for lunch yesterday at Chino Bandito. Some things change (her kids are older) but some things stay the same (Chino Bandito food). It was good to see her. It sounds like she's got some hard times going on with her business.

Tonight, I met Sal and his fiancee Staci for dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant on Apache for some pho. I missed pho in Mexico, although it feels like it could be a Mexican dish. Just throw in some hominy, change the broth to a pork base, and pum!, pozole.

Oct 19, 2013

Phoenix

Tay and I landed in Phoenix Tuesday morning, after an easy early morning flight out if Houston. Larry picked us up at the airport in a rental and we drove out to meet mom for lunch at her office.

We ate at Lolo's chicken and waffles, a place which had really killer fried chicken. There was a deliberate decision to fill the menu with southern Ebonics e.g. "drank menu" that it would have felt like House of Blues, which is to say, 'safe' places for whites to experience black culture. However, Lolo's was started by a black family out of a converted house, and the clientele is still mixed, so the provenance at least denies censure. And the food is damned good.

Mom worked the rest of the week so Tay and I settled into a luxurious pattern of waking up late, meeting mom for lunch out someplace, seeing movies, and having usually lighter dinners in or out.

We saw Captain Phillips and Gravity both of which I enjoyed a lot and thought were both great movies. Tay insisted we see Gravity in IMAX 3D and it was a good call.

We ate lunch one day at Phoenix Central Market, which was really good, a fresh downtown place next to where they hold the farmer's market.

I met Kiyomi-san one day for lunch at the Heard. I borrowed Larry's pickup and since it was the first time I'd driven in about a half year, I drove slowly in the right lane the whole way. She took off for Germany the next day to visit Saori.

Tay and I took off for the Dillards outlet and then Bookman's for an afternoon.

This was the shopping weekend. We struck out early and hit
Nordstrom Rack
Men's Wearhouse
Arizona Quality Outlet Mall
(break for delicious lunch at Bink's midtown)
Scottsdale Fashion Square
Arizona Mills outlets

I can't believe I spent the entire day shopping. I picked up a pair of pants, jeans, and shoes.

Oct 15, 2013

If you're going to kill a lobster , you'd better be prepared to finish the job

Tuesday we had a slow start getting out. We mostly hung out at the house all morning and I got caught up on blogging. When Neri came back, the three of us went out to a really good wine bar/chophouse called Underbelly. Definitely a foodie joint, and a highly designed experience. Simple menu, unusual selections or preparations. We had Korean spicy braised goat with gnocci to start, then Tay got their Wagyu beef burger and fries and I got a "pork zampone" sandwich with melted cheese, onions, and 1000 island dressing. For dessert, we split a slice of vinegar pie and salt brittle. The vinegar pie was surprisingly good with a sweetness from the apple cider vinegar and a slight sharpness like key lime pie.

After lunch, we drove to Westheimer for all the used clothing stores. Not like goodwill, but trendy used clothes and "vintage" apparel, a few doors down from upscale label boutiques and American Apparel. Just guessing, but that stretch of Westheimer may be a major gay culture epicenter as well.

Tay got bored of the used clothes and headed towards the coffeeshops, but never made it, becoming ensnared by the American Apparel. By the time we got out, we had to make a beeline for the grocery store for dinner.

Central Market is the most upscale grocery store I've ever seen. Huge selection of wines, fresh baked breads, a staggering array of cheeses, fresh exotic seafood. Beers from around the world. Sushi. I'm surprised there aren't waiters passing champagne flutes. Exorbant prices. We picked up about a pound of fresh mussels and two live main lobsters.

The seafood counter guy uses a small rake to fish the lobsters out and throws them in a heavy plastic bag with ice. The second lobster was feisty. It dramatically jumped out of the rake and quickly scuttled backwards across the bottom of the tank undoubtedly thinking NoNoNoNoNoNo, before the guy caught it again. They didn't move much after that.

Back at the house I helped prepare the mussels for moules marinaire and we ate them before turning to the lobsters on the counter. I have a lot of blood on my hands, but I don't think I've ever actually killed anything and eaten it before.

When you pick up a lobster, it spreads its claws and legs way out, like it's a flying crustacean. Tay's reacted to being rinsed off by flipping it's tail, startling Tay into dropping it in the sink.

I thought that being dropped in boiling water would immediately kill a lobster, or at least a few seconds before its small brain would be fried. These were depressingly hearty lobsters- they both moved around in the boiling water for upwards of two minutes, their color already changing, before succumbing to the heat.

It's a bit sad, but I feel better at least acknowledging and taking direct responsibility for the killing. How many cows, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, and fish have I had killed for my convenience? We live too disattached from our environment. If people really understood the implications and costs of what they were eating, the amount of feed and hormones and antibiotics which go into livestock, the embodied energy and water, would we still look at it the same way? At least, we'd all be a lot less cavalier with meat.

Anyway. After dinner, I stitched my cheapest bag in the world back together, said a little prayer for it to hold to Phoenix, and repacked my luggage. Got to bed a little after midnight. Didn't sleep well, and 6:30am came way too early.

Oct 14, 2013

New Orleans: Quatre

Sunday was predictably, a slow start. Nights of heavy drinking do not early mornings make. We checked out of the hotel, and grabbed a bite at Gott's on magazine street before heading out of town. I really like New Orleans. I haven't seen all of it, but I got a good feel for many of the neighborhoods off of the tourist track the last time I was here, and I am a sucker for good food culture. I wish that it was a better city for architecture, that the city was growing, that people were investing there. As such, I kind of have a sinking feeling that NOLA will slowly become a theme park, a Venice inhabited only by tourists.

We took the river road for a ways, which was pretty and industrial at the same time. Our goal was the Oak Alley plantation on the Mississippi river. Oak Alley named for an allee of live oaks French planters planted over 200 years ago. The live oaks are massive, ancient, covered with mosses and other plants. They are the real attraction of the place. The plantation house is pretty, but there has been so much restoration, its more an example of "this is kind of what life was like" and "these are the typical characteristics of a home at this time." Our very young tour guide wore a hoop dress and a digital watch. She was really nervous and nearly forgot to tell us what the rooms were which we were in. 

Apparently, even for a wealthy planter, life really sucked 150 years ago. Mosquitos were the least of their problems. Three of their children died in childhood, people took ill and died from TB and yellow fever, roads were bad. The planter's wife was a free-spending socialite who did not take to the country life and moved back to New Orleans, and he died sick and alone at the ripe old age of almost 40. 

We pressed on, stopping for lunch in St. Charles close to the Texan border at Luna Cafe, a decent cafe in an historic downtown revitalization. Didn't see any pedestrians. We rolled into Houston with the Doors blaring from the speakers around 9pm. 

A good trip- a culinary highlights tour of New Orleans.

New Orleans: Trois

I insisted on Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets because as a far as I am concerned, man cannot live on bread alone, but he can get pretty far on hot, fresh beignets. The line to sit stretched down the block, and it wasn't moving. It was crazy. We hopped over to the pickup window line and that was a lot shorter and faster. I can't even imagine. Those people will wait in the heat and humidity for an hour for a table, and then they'll wait for at least half an hour at the table for the exceptionally slow service. I'm not saying the beignets aren't worth it, but the take-away window exists for a reason.
We ate ours in Jackson Square. After the beignets were gone, we were left with a half pound of powdered sugar in the paper bag.

Lunch was at Amelie, a courtyard tucked away close to the middle of the vieux carre. I just got basic eggs, bacon, and grits.

Tay and I split off and walked to cemetery 1 on St. Louis street close to Treme. We picked our way through the decaying graves and found the pyramidal tomb that Nicholas Cage built as his final resting place.

We took a streetcar to the garden district for drinks at the bar in the victorian Columns Hotel on St. Charles. Pretty scenery and historic mansions. I do really like the streetcars in New Orleans. After drinks, we hopped back on the streetcar and rode it back to the hotel since we were all kind of tired. The heat and humidity take their toll.

We drove back to the garden district for dinner at Superior Seafood. I got fried alligator with a kind of 1000 island dressing, and a cajun seafood linguine. Quite good.

After dinner, dad and Neri dropped us at the entrance to Bourbon street and Tay and I plunged back in. It was, if anything, more crowded. We picked our way through half clothed and drunk revelers and slipping into a side street, walked through the doors of French 75, a world apart. French 75 is an old, elegant bar where the wait staff wear tuxes, and the clientele are more genteel than the fall breakers outside. Tay and I were offered to share a table with a couple, but we declined and found our own table. I ordered a caipra de gallo and Tay ordered a Napoleon. My drink was basically a caiperhina, except it was flavored with sriracha sauce and guava. It was a sweet and spicy drink. If you're a fan of chamoy you would probably love it. Expensive drinks, but strong, and long lasting. We were there for nearly an hour. Through the windows, we watched a wedding parade march by with a second line band, a horse drawn carriage, and everyone waving scarves. Ahhhh, New Orleans!

We left French 75 and went back to Bourbon street. Tay really wanted to get the full bourbon street experience so of course, we had to find a sugary drink in a plastic container. After we couldn't get a fishbowl (a plastic fishbowl you wear around your neck, filled with Hurricane), we opted for a frozen daiquiri at some anonymous and brightly fluorescent lit bar which caters to the takeaway crowd. There were a gaggle of drunk blonde undergrads from some sunny university who, after asking about Tay's hair, highly recommended the pina colada freeze. Bartender joe initially brought us out the two drinks in foam cups but we made him serve us in marti-gras jester glasses, where it looks like you're sipping out of the jester's head. We said adios to Tiffany (or whatever her name was) and wandered back down Bourbon.

We walked over Frenchman street for some live music. Another totally different environment- much more local, much more bohemian. We self-consciously ditched the novelty cups and looked at sheet metal art under a string light lit art market. Tay wanted to go to D.B.A, a recommended venue, but apparently word had gotten out and cover was twenty bucks. Twenty bucks! We crossed the street to Spotted Cat, a livehouse I'd remembered from the last time I was here, and paid a five dollar cover to get in. The beer was cold and the swing jazz band was just beginning their second set for the night. We had a few beers there, and debated how to stump the poets for hire lined up on the sidewalk outside.

After the second beer, we headed over to Maison, a place with no cover. The music wasn't as good and the spaces was obviously designed to handle massive crowds. But still, no cover. We had another beer here and listened to the band awhile before we staggered the long way back across the vieux carre. We were both at the end of a night of drinking kind of drunk- the toastiness and mellowness of burned down coals rather than the leaping flames of recent intoxication. We were also hungry. The concierge recommended the diner around the corner.

We slid into a booth at City Diner, part of a cheap Wyndham hotel, and watched the steady stream of returning young drunks through the large windows, some of whom pressed up against the glass to get a better look at Tay's hair. I remember the food was warm and that the biscuit with my breakfast plate was good. Tay inexplicably ordered a side of fried green tomatoes, a decision he regretted.

We got back to the hotel room around 4 am and passed out still mostly dressed.

New Orleans: Deux

At Commander's Palace, we were seated in the garden room with big glass windows overlooking the courtyard. I ordered chicken and mushroom gumbo, andouille encrusted shrimp and grits and a gin fizz. For dessert, Tay and I split a strudel and their bread pudding soufflé. The souffle was one of the best things I ate in New Orleans.

The four of us had Sazeracs at the eponymous bar in the hotel and enjoyed the ritzy ambiance. One sazerac per trip to New Orleans is good for me. I'm just not a fan of rye whisky.

Around 11, Tay and I walked the length of Bourbon street. It was friday night and there were apparently several sorority conventions in town so it was packed. You know you're crossing into Bourbon street by the smell of vomit. They should really rename it Hurricane street, which at least is a prettier name than Frozen Voodoo Daiquiri street. Watch where you step. Actually, I don't really mind it for the following reasons:

  1. It's a huge tourist draw, and NOLA needs all the love it can get.
  2. People really have fun there
  3. It focuses obnoxious drunks into a predictable and controlled area, leaving the rest of the Vieux Carre relatively free for other people to enjoy.
  4. It's a great example of how public spaces and pedestrian streets can work in urban contexts
  5. The sociological implications of the bar balconies, communally lowered inhibitions, general intoxication, and a bead token economy encourage acts of spontaneous pectoral exhibitionism.
Tay and I finally made it through to Laffite's Blacksmith, a historic bar towards the end of Bourbon. It's a dark, old bar, lit only by tabletop candles and the glow from the frozen daiquiri machines. It does actually feel like the kind of place to drink from pewter mugs and recruit piratical sailors.

New Orelans: Un

Over dinner the night before Tay arrived, we were tossing out ideas of what we all could do, and someone brought up the idea of New Orleans. Everyone jumped on tablets and started hunting for available hotels.

Tay arrived (see previous post) and friday around two, dad came back from work early and we hit the dusty trail for NOLA for the weekend. It's normally about a five hour drive, but with heavy traffic on the way, it took us over six hours. It's pretty though, the rolling Texas coastal plains gives way to swamp and bayou and industrial corridors, and before too long we were flying over the elevated freeway over the salt mashes.

Since I was about five years old, my parents had talked about how great the food was in New Orleans. I grew up learning that all everything you ate was amazing, and that the best restaurant was someplace called Commander's Palace. Dad made us reservations there friday night, and we were trying to fight the traffic to get into NOLA with enough time to check in and change at the hotel.

It was a little surreal to be back in New Orleans again. I was happy to be back there, and really excited to be seeing it with family and Tay in particular since we both enjoy exploring old walkable cities. It reminded me of visiting three years ago with my architecture and infrastructure studio, and made me miss the friends I had in studio. It also made me a little sad to think about Saori, since in my previous trip to Nola, I told myself, "The next time I'm New Orleans, I'll be showing it to Saori." In retrospect it's a stupid thing to think since we're both such avid travelers, and I did look for jobs in New Orleans for while she was working in Germany. Thinking back on it now, my studio trip was shortly after Saori took off for her study abroad, and I really missed her a lot in the time I was there.

Anyway, dad used a bunch of his hotel points and booked us two rooms in the beautiful old Roosevelt Hotel on Canal Street just across from the Vieux Carre. It's a gilded luxury hotel from a golden age of New Orleans. Mosaic tile floors, gilded columns, eagles and medallions on the walls, soaring, painted coffered ceilings. Leather chippendale furniture, valets and bellhops and concierge staff.

While dad checked in, we were approached by an early 40s guy in Tommy Bahama apparel and clutching what looked like a hurricane in a foam cup. He was drunk and wanted to know if Tay's hair was a wig. I forget sometimes that Tay's hair is a kind of mesmerizing attraction. The entire trip, Tay was being accosted by strangers who wanted to know (frequently) how he got his hair to do that, and (infrequently, always female) if they could touch it. Blitzed Tommy Bahama gave us a fistbump and that was our official welcome to New Orelans

Oct 11, 2013

AT&T and other anachronistic tyrants

Yesterday morning I spent at the house, sending emails, and working on looking for work in Europe. In the early afternoon, I took a walk to the AT&T store about a mile away. A mile is about a 20 minute walk, depending how fast you walk it. When I told Tay about it later, he laughed and said, "don't you know it's a crime to walk in Houston? Anything over a quarter mile is a felony." 

It does feel like I'm breaking the law, or at least acting suspiciously subversive. In the two miles trip, I saw only two other people walking. There's a self-consciousness here that makes me feel like the driving Houstonians look up from their texting to stare. Houston feels like a city under siege by plague. There is no life on the street other than the sterile hulking masses of trucks. The strip mall with the AT&T store looked entirely lifeless. I wanted to see a tumbleweed roll across the parking lot. 

It was therefore a little surprising to find actual humans inside of the AT&T store. I have an iPhone which is unlocked, a dumb phone, a sim card, and a contract with AT&T as a customer for over seven years. They told me that they could cut the sim card and move it to the iPhone, and wouldn't charge me anything for it. However, they also said that AT&T would immediately add a $30 monthly charge for data. I told them I didn't want a data plan, that I wanted to use the unlocked iphone as a regular phone. They told me that AT&T didn't allow it. I said, thanks but no thanks and left. AT&T evidently still is clinging to the days where Ma Bell owned your rotary dial telephone. It's just irritating. 

Anyway. I caught Saori on skype for a few minutes just before Neri and I took off for the airport to go pick up Tay. Traffic was horrible. It's normally about 15-20 minutes to the airport from here. It took us an hour. Tay ended up waiting for us about 45 minutes out at the curb. 

I would have to think very carefully about where I was living and working if I lived in Houston. At this point, I don't think I would ever want to live in a city where you spend two hours a day in traffic. In a typical month, this means you are spending 40 of 480 waking hours behind the wheel, or 8.3% of your time. 

After we brought tay back we all changed for dinner and then went out to Hugo's for dinner. Hugo's a really upscale Mexican restaurant. It was really good. I had fish tacos to start with, and then I got a kind of carnitas still on the bone with jicama salsa, guacamole, and black beans. Churros and hot chocolate for dessert. Was it Authentic Mexican? It's kind of like asking if a dish in Europe is authentic American. Mexican food has always been a hybrid, contentious, malleable. Mexico is really culinarily diverse-each village has its own speciality and preparation, and within Mexico there are really four or five major regional divisions with totally different food culture. Even within these regions, there aren't standards as much as there regional ingredients, methods of preparations, flavor combinations, spices.

What we had was delicious and well-prepared, meats and sauces and flavor combinations which are familiar to Mexico. The only things that seemed amiss were that the tortillas were not like those in Mexico City- these ones were smoother, whiter, much higher flour content and the corn meal they used was a lot more finely ground than the ones in Mexico City. These also felt and tasted a little old, like they'd been made in the morning and simply been sitting all day before being re-heated. Once you have a hot, fresh tortilla off the griddle, you never mistake it. I think there's also the knowledge of how to keep tortillas fresh and hot without them getting soggy from the steam that may be lacking here.

Also drank some mezcal and tequila served with sangrita to go with the meal. I just don't see how wine and Mexican food can mix.

Oct 9, 2013

Houston

I think everyone should live outside the US for at least six months- it's such a bizarre and fascinating place to return to with fresh eyes. I walked to Walgreen's today from dad's townhouse, and I spent about 20 minutes browsing the "As Seen on TV" aisle. Yes, I know those products are an extreme manifestation of what it is to be American, but still.

Also, as I walked today, it should be noted that the streets and sidewalks in MĂ©xico city are better than those here in Houston.

This morning, I got up early and went with Neri to the Galleria where she plays tennis. I was still tired from travel, and hungover from to much beer and wine, so I grabbed breakfast at the food court McDonalds, and bathed in the light of the Chick-Fil-A just sat and thought for a long time. I started outlining a short book I'd like to write about design, wants and needs, and power.

Then I went to an eye doctor.

I've been trying to get a pair of Warby Parker eyeglasses but they're damned insistent on having a non-expired prescription. My first idea was to ask nicely and remind them that their competitors Zenni and Coastal.com both are happy without prescriptions. I briefly flirted with the idea of simply photoshopping a new date on the prescription, but finally I caved and simply shelled out the $80 for an eye exam at LensCrafters. Weak option. My vision had changed only slightly, but I sent off the order today. I should get it soon sent to Phx, my next destination.

They dilated my eyes so I spent the rest of the morning shopping at the Galleria with my sunglasses on. It made me wish I had a graphic tee which said "I'm not wearing sunglasses because I'm a badass- I just had my eyes dilated." Neri got me a few new heavy sweaters for Germany, so I now feel just about set. Still need shoes and a coat, although I think I can find a coat secondhand at some of the used clothing stores either here or Phx. Or the outlet malls.

Really good lunch of blackened catfish at a restaurant in the Galleria, and then came back and slept a bit before heading out to the Walgreens.

Oct 8, 2013

Travels

Mexico City, 5:30am
I did manage to fall asleep after all. Writing helps, although I awoke in confusion less than an hour later to my alarm going off. Woke up cold and shaking. I'll try to sleep a bit on the 2 hour flight to San Antonio. This morning was a confused blur of last minute packing and sweeps through the apartment. I nearly left behind my Bluetooth keyboard and tablet charger. I paused for a moment in the threshold and closed the self-locking door behind me. I had all the important stuff anyway, passport, wallet, cell phones.

The journey begins, with all my 17 tons of luggage. I hauled all my bags to the sitio taxi and after I woke up a driver we vamosed off to the airport ahead of schedule. The freeways were largely empty so we got there in about 20 minutes.

Checked in with no line, cleared security, and after six months of walking on broken, uneven city concrete, ancient wooden parquet, and dusty village roads, I was was strolling through mirror-gloss white tile floors and advertisements featuring impossibly beautiful anglo people. The international departures concourse makes me feel like I've arrived at the orbiting city of the elites.

San Antonio, 11:00am
Had a really good flight with Interjet. I think they're a relatively new Mexican airline- definitely a Spanish-first airline, with a few small typos in the air safety card. I was just really impressed with the special deal I got ($120 mexico city to San Antonio) and the fact there's much more legroom than any other airline coach.

One thing I never got to see, mostly due to timing or pollution or haze, was the twin volcanoes which loom southwest of the city. When our plane punched through the clouds we were suddenly flying in the orange and pink light of the dawn, and amazingly, with crystal clarity, above the city, the twin snow-capped peaks of the two ancient volcanoes revered by the Aztecs. Popocatepel had a steady stream of smoke rising from the crater. It was the city's parting gift to me.

When we landed in SA, we had to wait to collect our luggage before clearing customs. I was expecting to be grilled but all I got was a few cursory questions and I was waived on.

I'm kind of surprised by all the Texan drawl here. At least at the airport, people are real friendly, and also apparently super Texas jingoists. We really a confederation of states with very different ideas about who they are and what they need.

Checked in to my Houston flight and dropped all the luggage off, ate a greasy American breakfast Stromboli and a root beer (first in six months?), now just killing time before my flight. Didn't expect everything to go so smoothly. It probably means either my flight to Houston will be a nightmare, or all the pottery I bought is broken.

For next time

I'm going to catch a sitio taxi to the airport at 4:30 for my early morning flight back to the US, and I can't sleep. Part of it is simply nerves- I never sleep well the night before big trips, and this is a pretty big trip. The other thing keeping me up is this annoying sinus whatever it is. My ear is stopped up, I've got some dull headaches, my eyes tear up, and my nose is leaking like a faucet. I wonder if I've got a cold, or a sinus infection. On the beach in Colima, I took a powerful blow of wave to the face which blasted into my nose and sinuses. After I got back to Pepe's house an hour or so later, I tilted my head to the side, and bunch of seawater ran out of my nose. Maybe there's still some stuck in there. At any rate, it's going to make flying that much more enjoyable.

So here's my 2:30am list of things to do when I come back to Mexico:

Diego Rivera murals and the National Palace
--Oaxaca city and beaches
--Chiapas
--Tulum, the ancient Mayan ruins on the dramatic cliff overlooking the gulf of Mexico
--San Luis Potosi and Xilitla, to see the waterfalls, canyons, and the giant surreal fantasy garden of Las Posas
--Small town Day of the Dead celebration
--Complete the Turibus circuit in Mexico City
--Bike around the city in the monthly cicloton when the government closes major streets to form a giant bicycling loop around the city.
--Centro de Abastos in Mexico City
--More salsa dancing
--Asado tacos in Hermosillo

It's a actually a pretty short list, and really there's only a few places and things I didn't get to do in Mexico City. In six months, I actually did quite a lot. Some things I'm most proud of accomplishing:

--improved my Spanish a lot
--surveyed and photographed a ton of modern and contemporary architecture in and around Mexico City
--visited six or seven cities and villages outside of Mexico City, some of them twice
--made friends with locals and other internationals
--became a part of Tatiana's office
--improved my social skills
--traveled across the country to visit a new friend in his home village
--grappled with understanding the complex social and political life of the country/city
--got some attention for writing about Mexico in Archinect.com
--bought some really interesting ceramics
--pushed the culinary frontier to seek out the best Mexican food
lots of reading about the city- two histories, one classic work of fiction, and a history of food

Considering I didn't know anybody here before I came, I think I did pretty well. I am of course in debt to K, who rented a room to me cheap and became a good friend. I am also in debt to the Prado-Patino family who welcomed me in to their family when I arrived, and held my hand to guide me through the first month of living here. If Alejandro had not shown me how to ride the paseros, I think I would have lacked the confidence to do a lot of other things here. And I am also in debt to the friends who made both of those things possible- my old friend Salvador and my ASU classmate T Cody.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...