Sunday, December 31, 2006

That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - It's New Year's Eve and the world here is gearing up for a night of wild dancing, loud fireworks (There are quiet ones?) and plenty of that 'frozen concoction' that Jimmy Buffet sings about in his song Margaritaville.

It's 7 p.m. here and the neighborhood is eerily quiet, the calm before the real action starts just before midnight.

The city culture here doesn't really even start most nights until after 10 p.m. and tonight, given that everyone has to claim that they stayed awake to bring in the New Year, the parties will begin even later.

The wild card is that it is Sunday - traditionally a very quiet time for most of the Mexican families. Several of the neighborhood restaurants where I thought we might dine tonight were closed when we walked by an hour ago.

No matter, there's booze in the blender already, but I don't dare push the button to start that train rolling for a few more hours if there's any chance I'll see midnight.

I regret to report that there are no gratitious bikini photos with today's missive - I was too busy have a great time in the surf to snap any photos, though it was a remarkable day for photography. (Great lighting, you know.)

But I did snap the photo below of a Mom and her daughter aboard their four-wheeled cycle, out having a fun day. Mexico's laws about helmets, et al, are a tad less strict than those in the U.S.

Nina on four-wheel cycle
Out for a ride

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Escaping the madcap woman doing braids

Hair-do in process
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PARADISE VILLAGE BEACH, Nayarit, Mexico - I narrowly escaped having to spend the first part of the New Year with my hair neatly braided in some kind of Rastafarian 'do' when a very polite, very insistent young lady came by our palapa today seeking to do both my hair and Admiral Fox's.

She was much more interested in getting her hands on my hair than the hair of Admiral Fox - even offering to do a few braids 'gratis' just to show me how cute I would be.

When I told the young braider that my wife didn't speak any Spanish, and that I would interpret, she told me in whispered Spanish that I should get my hair braided because it would be a surefire way of attracting a lot of women. I didn't pursue that conversation in either Spanish or English to get a clarification.

Admiral Fox did get her hair done and is happy as the proverbial clam, saying that she will keep the braids in until she returns to the U.S. in late January. Me? Well, I'll continue to avoid the Bob Marley hairstyle for now, mon.

Finished hairstyle
The finished product

It was a great day at the beach - even better waves than the day before and I was thrown off the boogie board twice and landed on the sand without screaming from shoulder pain. This is definitely good therapy. I just wonder if I can deduct the cost of the trip (and assorted expenses like tequila, beer, wine, hamburguesas, etc..) as medical expenses.

The chair tango - which I described a couple of entries ago - was in full force again today, except that many people had simply changed their minds about even going to the beach and there were dozens of vacant chairs and plenty of palapas for shade.

But, of course, there were a lot of people at the beach risking serious sunburns again, including this young lady.

Gratuitous bikini photo
Gratuitious bikini shot

Church's Chicken joins Chili's and Starbucks and...

Church's Chicken sign
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
LAS JUNTAS, Nayarit, Mexico - We explored an area between Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta yesterday called Las Juntas and there in the middle of it all was a Church's Chicken - a big chain the states.

Since last year, the PV area has started sprouting American fast food chain outlets all over the place, including a Starbucks and Chili's. And for fans of Hooters Restaurants (Great food!), the second Hooters just opened.

We tend to stay away from these joints, mostly because we certainly have enough opportunity for such foods in the U.S. Also, when I was in Spain years ago, the only time I had any kind of gastrointestinal distress when after my amigo Jack Brown convinced me to eat at a Burger King in Barcelona. After eating the most exotic of foods all over Spain - including raw octopus in Santiago (Raw octopus!) I finally got that down-on-the-hands and knees sick for hours after a simple cheeseburger and fries.

We had a good dinner at Cafe Tacuba last night, tequila-filled of course, as owner Victor is insulted if you don't drink at least a straight shot or two with him. (No headache this morning, which is good, except that I think I am building a tolerance for tequila. Hmmm...)

One chain that most of the boaters would like to see open up here is West Marine, a semi-discount outfit that sells all manner of marine gear. Amigo Dan Olsen bought a compass yesterday for about $200 U.S. The same compass in the U.S. costs about $115 (retail) at West Marine.

There is one big marine store with the unlikely moniker of Zaragosa's where we stopped yesterday to pick up some sandpaper (papele abrasivo) and other goods for son Dustin's projects. It has become Americanized in recent years with lots of boutique marine stuff like sunglasses and fancy shirts. But, it's almost the only game in town.

The store for boaters
Zaragosa's - the Puerto Vallarta West Marine

Front door
Zaragosa's entrada

Friday, December 29, 2006

Old Neptune's statue stands tall at Marina Vallarta

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The statue of Neptune stands very tall at the entrance to the marina area of Marina Vallarta, a few miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Whenever I see the statue, I marvel at its intracies, little of which, I'm sorry to say, can be seen in this photo because of the massing storm clouds behind him. We drove by on our way home after a day of boogie boarding and swimming (topped with rum-filled lunch) at the Vallarta Yacht Club.

Well, it was run-filled for me. Admiral Fox and son Dustin remained sober, letting me stock up on anti-flu medication. It's a dangerous time of the year for colds.

The beach area at the Paradise Village Resort is quite crowded at this time of the year, filled with vacationers mostly from the U.S. and Canada.

Every morning at 6 a.m. (just about dawn here), people rush out of their hotel rooms, grab lawn chairs and create little family/group compounds around the shady palapas. They (the arranger/creators), of course, don't stay out from 6 a.m. until around noon; they simply leave a few towels (owned by the hotel) and a stray tennis shoe or shirt to mark their territory. Some really awful novels are usually placed on these chairs, too.

The Admiral and I erroneously got too close to one fellow's staked-out territory when we tried to sit in the shade of the palapa nearby at about 11 a.m. It seemed he had arranged the 24 or so lounges just so, and our dragging in two chairs (10 feet off to one side) was going to crimp the family style, when the balance of the people arrived, later that day.

How do I know this? He told us in excellent, slightly accented New York City English. It might not have been New York City, actually. But I suspect you've heard the dialect.

Here's a photo of the compound:

Protector of the beach compound
The beach compound

The surfing, however, was better than the company (which we abandoned for a spot closer to the surf), with great waves and clear water, making the day overall a 9.9999999999.

After we go to the Cafe Tacuba for dinner in a few hours (where the owner, Victor, drinks tequila at the table with you), well, I think I will be able to change that 9.9999999999 to a 10.

If I can type.

More manana.

Cats always know who the allergic person is

Cat's rule
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
VERSAILLES DISTRICTO, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - Son Dustin's cat Lattie has the same gene as every other cat I've ever been around.

It's the gene that allows cats to figure out who is likely to get a stuffy nose if the cat gets too close. If you're lucky, it's only a stuffy nose and not a sneezing fit that clears the room and makes people nervous.

I had cats for 20 years and thought that you were supposed to have trouble breathing a good part of the day. A doctor ran an allergy panel on me years ago and found that both cats and hair spray trigger a strong reaction. One type of woman's perfume, called Emeraude will actually induce my gag reflex, but I digress.

This is Lattie's house so I have done my best to be a good guest without flinging her away. We are both adjusting and the only time it's an issue is when I crawl into the bed in the upstairs loft where she has easy access to - yes, you have it - curl up next to my head.


On a totally unrelated note, the Admiral and I visited neighboring La Cruz two days ago, a small town about 10 miles from downtown. We were on assignment for a story about the new marina being built and where the developer simply backfilled the beach in front of people's million-dollar homes and started the project.

We saw lots of dogs (but no cats, Gracias Dios) and we found a novel use for old outboard motors.

I once did the same thing in my backyard with an old wooden rowboat (named the Guppy) that had lost all hope of ever floating again. It became a playboat for the kids and occasionally was filled with ice and beer for parties.

When old outboards die
When old outboards die they return to the soil

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Just another day on the beach, again (sigh)

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - Thursday was spent on the beach at Paradise Village, doing a little boogie boarding and keeping a watchful eye on people who were likely to get sunburns.

There were enough Canadians on the beach to start an entire hockey fan club and their lobster-like skin was pretty easy to spot.


We took pity on one young couple - he was on crutches and she was toting all their assorted beach crap - and had them share our thatch-covered palapa with us. Then it struck me: What a great gimmick at this always-overcrowded beach! I should just get crutches and limp around until someone takes pity on us - preferably close to the water so I don't have so far to fake a limp when I boogie board.

My physical therapist (Hi Cary!) will be happy to read that I was able to boogie board with a minimum of shoulder pain. The rush of the waves covered up the straining quite nicely. Also, the waves were very small: kind of the bunny slope of boogie boarding. Tonight I did have a margarita with dinner as a preventative for any pain that might keep me away. Hmmm. Perhaps a second to ensure sleep might be in order.

Mid-afternoon, Admiral Fox received a cell phone call on the beach, drawing lots of stares from Canadians and non-Canadians alike (see photo above), but was polite and walked away from our enclave to talk. Her call started a trend however, and by the time we left the beach for the swimming pool (more physical therapy, I swear), I saw a half-dozen folks on their phones, no doubt telling the people back in Canada what a hard life we have in Puerto Vallarta.


And the sunburn patrol?

Well, I spotted these young ladies at risk. You decide if I should have gone up and warned them of their impending danger.

Dangers of sunburn
Sunburn victims?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The tiger in the cage was just the beginning

Tiger, tiger
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - I had forgotten that the Paradise Resort has a small zoo on its property until we wandered by the cages with tigers and pumas and monkeys and all sorts of other animals, eclipsed only by the startlingly white legs of the tourists all gawking at the animals, animals who seemed blinded by the reflected light.

Ok, the whiteness included me, in spots. Most of the rest is a lovely pink. And sore. (Sorry Dr. Silva.)

Before anyone from PETA emails me (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or is it Edible Treatment of Animals?), I need to point out that the animals at the zoo are all rescued critters and not bagged in the wild for the zoo. Of course, they are now in a zoo, the difference to them might not be that much.

We visited the harbormaster's office, in part to check on slip availability for next year for the sailing vessel, Good News, owned by amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont who have been bitten by the Mexico bug and want their boat snugly in a slip here. There's a lot of water between Marina Village in Alameda (where Good News tugs at her lines) and Paradise Village (1500 miles, give or take), but gawd it's nice here.

At the harbormaster's office, Sylvia got to hold the latest rescue, a four-week old mountain lion cub. So tiny today, so big in a year!

Sylvia with new kitty
Sylvia with mountain lion cub

The marina is filled to overflowing with boats, many of them the massive mega-yacht kind of vessels that are money buckets for son Dustin's Fox Marine Services. Last year he made a boodle fixing a mega-yacht's hot tub.

Their hot tub.

Sweet Jaysus.

The contrast today - between the yachts and a Mexican fisherman using a hand net in the harbor to catch a few fish - is quite stark.

Opulent yachts at Paradise
Opulent yachts at Paradise Village

Fisherman in Paradise Harbor
Fisherman in the harbor

But no day in Mexico is complete without:

a. An icy margarita
b. Lunch at the yacht club
c. Surfing the waves
d. Doing the laundry in a hot laundromat

If you picked D, you are correct. It was laundry day, but we squeezed in lunch at the Vallarta Yacht Club with amigos Bob & Karen O'Hara (answer B.) and a swim at the pool. Tomorrow is 'test-the-frozen-shoulder' day with the boogie board and most likely, one of more of the letter A from above, too.

My Spanish was sorely tested when we read the instructions for the washers and dryers, but the clothes and towels and sheets all came out fine, some of them even the same color as when we started.

Laundromat instructions
Put in the soap and what?

What's that sound I hear in the background? OH-MY-GOD it's a blender. It must be 5 o'clock somewhere.

Madre mia! Es 5 aqui!

Hasta luego, amigos.

Catching some rays in sunny Sayulita

Catching rays
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SAYULITA, Nayarit, Mexico - A lot of the beach residents of this town north of Puerto Vallarta were out getting sun Christmas Day while I hunkered in the shade, trying to stay out of the sun.

(Yes, Dr. Silva (my dermatologist), I was staying out of the sun, for the most part.)

I still got a fairly impressive sunburn, but nothing like in years past when I first hit the beach after months and months of no sun at all.

We were at the famous surfing spot to spend Christmas Day with Dustin, Dan and Lorraine Olsen, and a lot of other gringos on the shore. A lot of other gringos.

The surf was huge - way beyond my boogie boarding abilities, even without my shoulder problems. I still haven't dipped the 'frozen shoulder' into the warm waters of the Banderas Bay to see if it will help.

Maybe today.

Surf's up, amigos
Surf's up at Sayulita

We also had the company of a beach dog for awhile, well known to the locals, who begs food, but is a true Mexican gentleman most of the time, waiting patiently for people to feed him.

Dustin lost patience with him early on, though and chased him away several times.

Later on, Dustin discovered that the dog has lifted his leg on Dustin's beach bag, which was sitting in a row with a group of others. Smart dog to know which one was Dustin's.

Adopted dog
Smart dog

Here's some other photos from the Christmas adventure:

On the beach
On the beach at Sayulita

Packin' the truck
Packing the truck

Thursday, December 21, 2006

'Rocky Balboa' - a fitting end to the film series

Rocky with Marie
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - Who would have ever thought that Sylvester Stallone could have written a movie that was tightly knit as a Charles Dickens novel?

In a mostly empty theater I watched the last in the Rocky film series, a movie that is more about relationships and the passing of time than boxing.

The fighting, in fact, is quite secondary, though spectacular as it was in the previous five movies, spanning 30 years.

The film is full of surprises and non-Rocky afficiandos might find parts of it hard to follow. He reunites with Marie, a minor character in the first Rocky movie. Spider Rico, the man Rocky pummeled in the opening scenes of the original Rocky is back, too.

Rocky prays with Spider Rico
Rocky prays with Spider Rico before the fight

But some of the most powerful scenes - and a denouement of sorts - involves Rocky with his son, who believes he is living in his father's shadow and forces a showdown of sorts.

Worth seeing? Yes. Worth seeing more than once? For me, absolutely.


Rocky & Son
Rocky with his son

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rocky Balboa about to step back into the ring

Rocky Balboa
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - I watched the original "Rocky" movie the night before I was about to take a new job at a newspaper in Grass Valley - a job I had bluffed my way into.

I had about a thimbleful of experience for the editing and page layout job I had gotten and the night before, I was terrified of what might happen the next day.

Rocky got me through the next day, the 'can-do' images burned in my brain.

Now I see that the Rocky franchise has one last hurrah left in it and all over the country those of us who have watch Rocky Balboa keep coming back as he gets older - and winning - will no doubt cheer.

The critics, of course, are already groaning that this is just a pathetic attempt by Sylvester Stallone to revive his flagging movie career.

So what?

I hope he keeps making Rocky movies until he has to fight his way out of assisted living to get to the set.

It's a better alternative than having him become the governor of California.

Rocky Balboa II

The blogging system is giving me gas

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The blogging website seems to be down this morning, which is mildly irritating, of course.

So this is a short test post to doublecheck all the settings from this end.

Apologies for readers.