Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 5

As you know, we're starting to look for a house to rent here for all of next year.  This week we've seen two more houses.  One was fairly close to Centro (the center of town) and therefore easily walkable, on the fairly flat-terrain south side.  The north, east, and west have some pretty steep hills.  It had a tiny shaded courtyard with a fountain, lovely rooms, and was pretty expensive: $950/month.  On the way there I took this picture of the cobblestones in the street.  They're a challenge for anyone like me with weak ankles, but aren't they beautiful?

We've also seen a terrific house in Colonia (pron. colOANnia = neighborhood) Olympo, to the west of Centro.  It's walkable for a fanatic walker like Rick, but not for normal people.  On the other hand the house was large, airy, bright, a beautiful courtyard on the same floor as the kitchen so we can eat outdoors, a spectacular view from the rooftop terrace, and only $700 a month + utilities.  We'll be seeing others within the next couple of weeks and probably make our choice then.  Lucky for us that it's a buyer's market now!

A couple of nights ago we had our friends Béa and Stephan over for dinner.  These are the artists we met our first morning in San Miguel, and the people who have given the wonderful art history talks I've told you about.  Culinarily (a word?) it was not one of my best performances.  The microwave didn't cook as much as I thought (potatoes undercooked) and the oven was hotter than I thought (chicken overcooked), but on the other hand Rick's salad and my mango cobbler were a hit.  I've made that cobbler dozens of times, but this was the first time with mangos and let me tell you, it was sublime.  A lovely evening.  Last night Stephan gave a talk on Modigliani.  I love these talks -- about artists whose paintings I've often seen but I've known little to nothing about their lives and the artistic influences on them.  And he's a marvelous storyteller:  we sit utterly transfixed by the drama he recounts.

Rick woke up the other morning with a poem in his head, his first in almost forty years:

Almost music
Distant yet near
Fleetest of shadows

Unseen breeze
Both warm and cool
Perhaps a ripple,
A sign, a memory.

Softest skin
Parted and new
Fleetest of shadows
Unseen breeze

Almost music
Almost music.

He goes weekly to his writer's workshop and is creatively opening like a flower.  It is so interesting that because he wakes up early and loves to walk long distances, he is exploring far more places than I am and is therefore meeting more people than I am when he's out and about.  In the US between the two of us I took the social lead, but it looks like here he may be doing that.  I'm delighted!

Here's an interesting picture.  Remember, San Miguel is an old colonial town.  It was founded in 1542 and has so much 17th and 18th century architecture that UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.  Therefore:  no neon, no traffic lights, no stop signs, not even fire hydrants (although with these narrow streets and sidewalks, where would they put fire hydrants?).  And the town doesn't need traffic lights or stop signs.  At each corner, drivers stop and wait so very patiently while other cars proceed and pedestrians cross the street.  In fact, many drivers, including taxi drivers, invite pedestrians to go first.  (This is obviously a former New Yorker writing this in astonishment.)  Well, every now and then I hear a "clop clop" outside the window and yesterday I went outside to see what it was.  It was a policeman mounted on a horse making his rounds, wearing an 18th century uniform in the warm sunshine but carrying 21st century communication electronics.  Because it is so very bright here -- we are quite far south -- his face in shadow can't be seen at all.  The sun creates very bright and very dark spaces.

In this photo you can also see the other kind of street surface in San Miguel -- flat stones joined by mortar.  For people like me they are easier to walk on than the cobbled streets, except for places the mortar has chipped away and created holes an ankle could easily twist in.

We spend a fair amount of time at the Biblioteca.  On Mondays and Wednesdays my chorus meets in a room at the Biblioteca, the Sala Quetzal, that has the most extraordinary mural painted on all four sides above the bookshelves -- it's a library after all.  The mural depicts the dozens of indigenous peoples in Mexico.

You can see a man browsing the books at the lower right.  Here's another wall.  As you can see at the top of the photo, he's also painted the windows that one can see from the Café Santa Ana on the other side of the wall.

You can see a bit more about the Mexican artist, David Leonardo, and another photo of the room, at

When the chorus was over yesterday, I found Rick right outside in the Café Santa Ana, part of the Biblioteca, listening to the gypsy guitar and flute trio that plays there every Wednesday.  Here's a photo of the café.

Yes, the tables are made out of copper and the fountain provides the most tranquil sound behind the conversations and sometimes music.  The courtyard is open to the air, but above the tree there is netting fabric stretched to keep out bugs and birds.  In fact, in many courtyards in which restaurants and shops are housed translucent materials are stretched that let in the light but keep out the rain in the summer rainy months.

At the café yesterday we met Susita -- that's her Mexican name.  It's really Sue-Anne in North Carolina, where she's an elementary school teacher.  Looking at her is an odd experience:  she's a dead ringer for Cher in the movie "Moonstruck."  She's also a musician.  She sings with only three other women and has recordings and a website where you can hear her music, which is quite beautiful:  Susita is the second from the right.  This is her first visit to San Miguel and she is enrolled in a Spanish class where the school found a family for her to live with.  For $28 US a day she gets room and full board, and has a family to speak Spanish with.

Later in the day we met Alex, a woman from near Dallas.  We saw her at Stephan's lecture and then when we stopped afterward in a nearby restaurant for some dinner we saw her sitting alone at another table and invited her to join us.  Alex is an art teacher who has been here several times, and is in town for another ten days.  She is delaying her return home until the last possible moment when she has to go back to school for the fall.

And this morning Rick was out of the house before I was up.  He just called from the Biblioteca to tell me he met a really interesting person and wants her to meet me.  The adventures continue!

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