Saturday, March 31, 2007

Time getting short south of the border

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - For the first few days here, the spring-break vacation/real-estate tour/Tequila marathon stretched out like an endless vista in front of us. Then suddenly, like riding a Harley-Davidson at 115 mph across a desert salt flat, we are at the end of the clear space with our mental momentum still roaring at full throttle.


Several hikes up the steep hills of town today revealed several houses (for construction ideas only) that are elegant in their simplicity. We hope they are equally elegant in construction cost and that the designs can be adapted to either Admiralty Beach in Tenacatita or Arroyo Seco where the town is already talking about the blonde gringa and the gringo with the ponytail who looked at property on the hill.

Let's hope the Arroyo Secans like the sounds of ukulele and violin strings, mixed in with some Toby Keith and the occasional Steppenwolf on the stereo.

'Born to be wiiiiild, born to be wiiiiild...

A last sweep down the beach yesterday gave me the photos below, a trench for a sea-wall, an inland-Mexico resident coming to town for the week-long Holy Days holiday at the beach, and yet another sundown over the bay.

We're not yet done though - there's the rest of today, an evening meeting with an engineer/architect, a nearly-finished bottle of Tequila and then two days in Puerto Vallarta before touching back in Sacramento Monday where the real world, I fear, will seem much less real than this one.

Trench for a seawall
The trench for a concrete seawall

Lady in red
The young lady in red

Sunset at Tenacatita Bay
Sunset over Tenacatita Bay

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Admiralty Beach Land Co. expands to the hills

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Just 30 kilometers north of Tenacatita (where our lot is being prepared for eventual construction of Casa Admirale), we found a wonderful little town called Arroyo Seco, located in a valley that opens to the ocean.

It's a real-deal Mexican town. If we build a house there and join the community (the latest plan hatched over margaritas) we will boost the gringo population to three in a town of probably 500 people. The only other Norteamericano in town is called Spiderman, a surfer who moved in a dozen years ago.

Yup, Spiderman. I can't make this stuff up.

Like all things Mexico these days, we fell into a situation where a lot was for sale, a neat parcel already level and ready for construction on a hillside overlooking the tiny pueblo. Today it looks like we will add it to our list of places to write from.


View from the lot
View from the lot looking north

What, have the Admiral and Captain gone totally mad, buying a lot that is, gasp, almost a mile from salt water?

Rest easy, amigos. The lot was embarassingly cheap, leveled & ready for construction, electricity is available 100 feet away and the city water tank/supply is on the lot next door and available to tap.. So we can scratch 'expensive water tank' off our list of utlities. Coupled with all that is the mayor of the town is also the fellow who owns a bulldozer and who our builder/friend Arturo says would like nothing better than to improve the goat path driveway we have into a real road.

And best of all, a house can be built muy rapido, so we will have a place to live while we decided exactly what we want the beach house to look at Tenacatita.

The road up to the lot
The road from the town square to the lot

Down the hill
Rolling down the hill towards town

Perhaps one of the nicest things about the town, weatherwise, is the way valley opens to the ocean, letting a cool seabreeze in almost all the time - a big factor as temperatures in the inland of Mexico are in the mid-90s right now. At Arroyo Seco, I doubt it topped the mid 80s at the heat of the day while we sipped beer purchased at one of the three tiendas in town. One of them is named Mini-Super Miguel's. Maybe I'll get a discount there.

When we took our tour of Arroyo Seco (and a lot of other places) yesterday, we were guided by Joe Santana who can barely drive through any of these places without half the town coming out to chat - and frequently asking him to buy their property. We ran nearly out of gas in Joe's SUV, so in very Mexican-fashion Joe got some petrol from a friend (who also has a beach lot for sale, hmm...) who siphoned it into Joe's tank.

'Nino' and Joe
'Nino' and Joe (right) putting some petrol in the car

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More beaches, more hammocks and now swimming

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - There has been a thaw after six months, not in the ice, but in the 'frozen shoulder' I've been battling that took me from a guitar to playing a ukelele and left me almost addicted to aspirin.

For the first time yesterday, I was able to actually swim - a few breast strokes anyway - without screaming. The shoulder is still sore, and my left arm has started giving indications that it, too, would like to go on strike, but progress is evident.

In the bay water yesterday, in front of our palapa, I was joined by Chief Engineer Scott Noble who has discovered 'organic tequila,' a home-brew of sorts made with no preservatives. The smokey-tasting stuff probably encouraged him to jump in, and do a little mugging for the camera. He also was studying some documents before he went crashing into the surf (the second photo below) until he saw that I wasn't carried out with the tide or fell victim to any sea creatures.

Scott superman pose
Scott does Schwarzenegger

Scott studies on the beach
Scott studies mysterious documents

Less mugging and more relaxing was done by Captain Sanders Lamont at the palapa where he discovered an unused hammock and demonstrated the side mount, side dismount and one-handed-plop-into-the-hammock maneuver that is so difficult when carrying a full can of Modelo in one hand. Later today, we have hammock practice scheduled, once we replenish the Modelo Especiale supply.

Sanders finds his niche
Sanders demonstrates his prowess at hammocking

Every day has included some amount of exploration of the town and countryside, during which we've spotted dozens of plants (and a few animals) that are unlike anything we've seen before. Scott and his crew reported seeing a fairly large critter that looked like a combination of a monkey and an anteater - sort of a Mexican sasquatch. Yesterday we saw some strange fruits hanging off a tree on a street in one of the neighborhoods just up the hillside. They look like a cross between a banana and a starfruit, with a few genes of a New Zealand Kiwi thrown in.

Strange fruits
Strange fruits

Tonight was supposed to be fish-on-the-barbecue night, but the local fishing fleet struck out earlier today and Javier, who is the all-around guy here our palapa, said we will have to wait until tomorrow night for our fish fiesta - provided the fishermen can find some dorado in the morning. And no word from anyone on whether the strange fruit is edible or not either.

Another mystery for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New homes and anchorages and roosters on guard

OCA DE IGUANAS, Jalisco, Mexico
- We did a short road tour around the area today, including trip to an area called Boca de Iguanas, where tomorrow we hope to get a tour of some eco-friendly housing being built there. Despite my best efforts - and flashing a Reuters business card - the security guard kept telling us the site was private and it didn't matter who I worked for or why I wanted in.

Right near his post was a small flock of roosters who were equally insistent about not letting strangers past into their little corner of the beach. They weren't impressed with my Reuters' credentials either.

Guard roosters
Back off, gringos...

We also checked out some houses along the beach, one that Admiral Fox had already seen and taken some photos of, others with neat gates and walls and ornamentation. There are some modest casas under construction but most look like the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

The beach house with the infinity pool had arguably the most classy front gate I have ever seen. We are wondering how much such a monster could cost.

One idea for a house gate
One idea for an entrance

Pat & Sylvia at the pool
Sylvia and Pat at poolside

We also visited the Tenacatita Bay anchorage where cruisers anchor for extended periods, spotting a boat we have travelled with many times, Ladera Star. Already the anchorage is starting to clear out as boats make their way north to Mazatlan and across to the Sea of Cortez for the summer.

The tiny palapa where we spent many hours over the year has gone upscale, with new bathrooms and even an outdoor shower.

Civilization comes to Tenacatita Bay.

Ladera Star at anchor
Ladera Star at anchor in Tenacatita Bay

A return visit to Las Hadas in Manzanillo

ANZANILLO, Colima, Mexico
- An hour south of La Manzanilla is the city of Manzanillo and the famous hotel & resort called Las Hadas, most famous perhaps because it was on that beach that part of the movie '10' was filmed.

For '10' fans, the scene in question was of Bo Derek jogging along the beach, part of the late Dudley Moore's movie-long obsession with her.

For the record, Bo is now in her early 50s. This shot is from four years ago.
Bo Derek in 2003
Bo Derek

  • Bo Derek

  • Although not much of the resort made it into that movie, it is a beautiful place.
    Las Hadas in Manzanillo
    Las Hadas resort and marina

    We took the trip to visit with cruiser friends Dan and Lorraine Olsen who have been sailing their 38-foot boat around these waters for three seasons. Next year, they plan on heading south to Central America, going as far as Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Last summer Dan and Lorraine spent several months in Alameda, aboard another sailboat in their fleet of vessels.

    Dan Olsen


    The anchorage at the resort - outside the breakwater for the marina - has some of the cleanest and clearest water I've ever seen in Mexico. Even at the small dock where people tie up their dinghies, the fish seem so close you could almost grab them.

    Spotted blue fish
    Spotted blue fish

    Exactly what kind of fish is in this photo, I don't know, but I have seen quite a few of them out at the Aquarium in Tenacatita near Admiralty Beach, where, with any luck, we'll get out to again for a day of snorkeling.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    House or pool? Bedrooms or hammocks?

    ENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico
    - The problem with all the beautiful homes here is, well, the problem is all the beautiful homes.

    My feet are sore from walking to look at this adobe house and then this steel frame place and the latest - though I wimped out and let the Admiral do the walk - is a house with a pool right at the edge of the seawall.

    Poolside at Tenacatita Bay
    Poolside palapa on Tenacatita Bay

    It doesn't help that we have hooked up with a local fellow who is a construction whiz who knows everyone who builds everything and already has built homes - and pools - that are soooo gorgeous.

    So, you are thinking (as I was at first) why a pool when the ocean is so near?

    Answer: Fresh water & no critters.

    Is that Ray in the water?
    Slow-moving sting ray

    As I was kayaking yesterday I cruised through a small patch of jellyfish that would have made me quite uncomfortable, had I been swimming. They don't come in to the beach that often, but they probably know when it is hotter than hell and you are dying for a cool dip.

    Admiral Fox scans the beach
    Admiral Fox scans for more houses to view

    Today's excursion is likely to be unrelated to getting more sunshine. The kayaking, compounded with a slight overcast, led me to believe I didn't need that much sunscreen yesterday.

    I believe I was quite wrong about that, though this morning the red has faded appreciably and perhaps a short kayak trip could be in order. Or at least a walk on the beach to shoot some scenic photos.

    Walkin' on the beach
    Citizens of the beach

    Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Sleepy Sunday in La Manzanilla for everyone

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - If one stereotype persists in most peoples minds about Mexico it's that these small pueblos are sleepy - as in very slow moving.

    This burg was anything but sleepy last night, as Palapa Joes rocked until past 2 a.m. with amateurs showing off at open mic night. We probably should have stayed up. It sounded like we were trying to sleep inside the bar anyway.

    But today at noon, the town was largely shuttered, even the Catholic Church was all but deserted.

    Catholic Church in La Manzanilla
    Catholic Church on the square

    Just like the lyrics from the Mamas and Papas' song California Dreamin, as I went by the square, 'I stopped into the church, I found along the way,' to light candles for my late father and mother. But this church doesn't have the usual setup with candles, and though I searched around, no fount of holy water, either. The only person in the church was a woman bent over her Rosary intently so I decided not to interrupt her moment with questions. Perhaps I'll catch the priest tonight when he says an evening Mass and ask him, "Donde esta las velas?"

    The day was spent mostly on the beach - and I have the sunburn to prove it (sorry Dr. Silva), though except for kayaking, I hid under the umbrellas most of the time, chatting with the Admiral about plans for construction of Casa Admirale on Admiralty Beach in Tenacatita. Friends are all asking: How many guest rooms? Well, as we look at construction costs we ask: How many 'hammocks?'

    But before you cancel those plans to visit next season, we will make sure you can get una hamaca with your name embroidered on it and your very own bolts in the wall, at just the right height for you to climb in.

    Getting ready for a beach day
    Getting ready for a beach day

    Sanders and Pat Lamont got totally into the spirit of the day, too, resting up so we can all go out to the town square tonight where vendors set up their booths selling homemade foods and families gather for a very social evening. It's a very traditional town in that way and the vendors get a kick out of selling some of their local (and sometimes very hot) foods.

    Pat Lamont sleeping
    Pat recharges for an evening out

    Sanders Lamont sleeping
    Sanders lives the life

    And what about those Seven Dirty Words of George Carlin's that Jane Gorby used as part of her act last night? (Someone emailed me and wanted both the Spanish and English versions.) Well, you will have to ask privately for those. This is only a PG-rated blog (with occasional excursions into R, depending on the swimsuits displayed on the beach.)

    Scott and David's excellent fishing adventure

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - After a day of snorkeling, eating at beachside restaurants and taking a Joe Santana Wild Jungle Ride, our friends Scott from Sacramento and David from Oakland were ready to take on the fish of Tenacatita Bay today.

    Scott Noble, aka Scotty, is the Chief Engineer on Sabbatical, on leave here to check out the mechanical specs of our lot on the ocean at Tenacatita township and maybe buy his own piece of paradise.

    After much brave talk of getting up with the roosters this morning - and there seem to be as many roosters in La Manzanilla as there are transplanted gringos - it turns out that both guys are still sound asleep as this blog is being written.

    Still, the fish are waiting all day to play their favorite game: Fool the Gringos in Small Boats.
    Great White Shark
    Not commonly found in Tenacatita Bay

    After much consultation, we opted to delay our musical debut at the Palapa Joe's open mic last night, though we did see a few of the acts and listened to Jane Gorby do a monologue that included George Carlin's 7 dirty words you can say on the radio.

    But Jane did them in English, followed by the seven dirty words in Spanish. (Now I know what that cab driver was saying in Puerto Vallarta last week.)

    But we may also have a name for the band. While we were trying to play a little music under the palapa outside in the dark, Scotty lent us his headlamp, the kind that straps on your forehead so your hands can be free.

    And Voila! We might be called the Four Headlights, or something like that.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    On the beach for the first real day of vacation

    TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent the first full day in La Manzanilla and Tenacatita today, doing all the usual (flipping kayaks in the surf, downing seemingly endless bottles of Pacifico beer, shaking sand out of the digital camera).

    But this morning's tea and coffee in the palapa facing the beach was interrupted by one of our neighbors - who knows I am a journalist - yelling to me that there was a topless girl on the beach next door. She was, in fact, not just topless, she was also sans bathing suit bottom, he said. He knew such a shot was a sure winner to land in this blog, somewhere.

    But I am sooooo glad I didn't stub my toe running to get the camera (I only banged one knee, and slightly at that) to get this shot:

    Topless babe with floatie toy
    Topless babe dragging her floatie to the surf

    So the day started out well and it was nice to check out the beachside residents, some of whom seemed somewhat confused about whether they were supposed to be relaxing, working, or in the case of this photo, a little of both.

    Multi-tasking on the beach
    Multi-tasking in the sunshine

    At Tenacatita, where we spent most of the afternoon snorkeling, drinking even more Pacifico beer and eating the area's signature lunch, a Rollo de Mar (seafood roll) it was obvious that spring break had arrived big time.

    We've been warned by local residents, including Jane Gorby, (the rentalor here at Santana's), that the placid days we see now are about to be shattered when hordes of tourists will descend on La Manzanilla and Tenacatita as spring break vacationers and Mexican tourists coming for Easter Week, creating kind of a perfect storm of tourism, jamming restaurants, wreaking havoc on traffic on La Manzanilla's streets and generally driving local residents to madness.

    We're braced and stocked up on all the necessary supplies to protect ourselves from interloper tourists (even though, technically, that's exactly what we are).

    But more on that tomorrow.

    Tenacatita Beach resident
    A tourist at Tenacatita Beach

    Return to Tenacatita -an Admiralty Beach sequel

    A MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico
    - The drive from Puerto Vallarta to La Manzanilla was uneventful, except for the normal sorts of things that happen when you pack four adults, luggage, snorkel gear and groceries into a car that was built for young midgets.

    The car we rented is a called a Tsuru, probably the most commonly used vehicle for taxis in this part of Mexico.

    Mighty Tsuru
    Mighty Tsuru
    If you ever wondered what the Singer Sewing Machine Company does with used sewing machine motors, look under the hood of a Tsuru. There were a lot of strange noises coming out from under the hood whenever it downshifted, and the high-pitched whine of the engine would probably drive a dog to distraction. We just talked louder.

    Still the little Hoover got us here pretty quickly and now we are safely ensconsed at Santana's for the week with snorkeling on tap for today at a place called the Aquarium, a reef out in Tenacatita - about 250 yards across the road from our property there.

    We did find time late in the day of our arrival to practice a little music in anticipation of 'open microphone' night across the street at Palapa Joe's Restaurant. We're not sure if we are ready for a public debut yet, but after hearing that Jane Gorby - who handles the rentals here - is going to do a comedy routine, we're screwing up our courage to do a couple of songs.

    Writing in the morning
    The Admiral does her daily journaling

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Touching down in Mexico in time for Regatta

    PUERTO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico
    - We landed in Mexico just in time for the pre-race festivities at the Vallarta Yacht Club where Captain Sanders Lamont finally got to meet the famous Cherie Sogsti, world traveler and bon vivant who has landed a gig with ABC to do travel news.

    Sanders & Cherie
    Sanders and Cherie on the deck of the VYC

    The Admiral and I have known Cherie from even before she got famous through her website, Where's Cherie, which has had more than 1.6 million hits. Makes From Where I Sit's palty 25,000 hits seem pretty tame. If it wasn't for one photo of people doing yoga in the nude, well, cut out 5,000 from that total.

  • Where's Cherie?

  • It was also a reunion of a lot of folks from early days, including Tom LaFleur, captain of Mistress and son Dustin's first maritime boss, when Dustin captained Tom's 53-foot Swan sailboat for a season. We also saw Dustin and Camelia and Captain Rennie Waxlax, whose 65-foot Swan Cassieopea is at Paradise Village Marina.

    Tom LaFleur & Admiral Fox
    Tom LaFleur & Admiral Fox

    Anne, Rennie and Tom LaFleur
    Rennie Waxlax, center

    Sanders, Dustin & Camelia
    Sanders, Dustin & Camelia

    After a long session of telling tales about how each boat would win the Banderas Bay Regatta that began today, we went up the highway a mile to the Fajita Republic, where we took over the restaurant - well, at least one full table - and careened home later before heading down to La Manzanilla today for a weeklong stay and adventures at Admiralty Beach.

    We take over the Fajita Republic
    Occupying the Fajita Republic

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    St. Patrick's Day is when everyone wants to be Irish

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - By all accounts, the San Francisco St. Patrick's Day festivities were grand. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a great spread on the downtown parade, featuring photos of a happy crowd and even a dog dyed green for the day.

    Green dog celebrates St. Patrick's Day
    Even the dogs were in the spirit.

    It was a quiet St. Pat's around my house, where a week's worth of work has to be done in just a few days so I can leave guilt free for Mexico and Tenacatita Bay on spring break from the University. Of course, even if there's a little residual guilt, I'm going anyway.

    We have University Trustees coming to campus, a general faculty meeting about a budget deficit that threatens classes and a strike vote all this coming week. No sweat.

    Just a year ago, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day in San Francisco while taking a cruise around the bay aboard Sabbatical with Ruth Bills from Hector, N.Y. aboard as crew. We docked at South Beach Harbor and spent the day in the city, going out for St. Pat's in the evening.

    I believe we were back aboard the ship by what's known as 'cruisers' midnight' - 9 p.m.

    Ruth gave me a great T-shirt to wear last year, which I will wear proudly for many years to come every St. Pat's.

    Irish Yoga T-shirt logo
    Irish Yoga T-Shirt

    The 'to-do' list calls if I am going to catch that flight to Mexico at the end of the week.

    Admiralty Beach, I am on my way.

    Admiralty Beach Canadian tour
    Admiralty Beach

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Stories to write, papers to grade and Mexico ahead

    ACRAMENTO, Calif.
    - We took a day 'off' Saturday to visit Sabbatical, washing the ship and making sure she doesn't feel too neglected as we rush about, pell-mell with lives that are about 150 percent of normal.

    Michael heading home on Sabbatical
    In San Francisco Bay, aboard Sabbatical

    But what is normal anyway?

    I looked at my TODO list this morning which is littered with stories to write, papers to review for my magazine writing class and all I really can think about is our impending trip to Mexico where we will visit our Admiralty Beach property and - we hope - sign the final papers so I can call myself Don Miguel de Tenacatita and start planning on building a casita.

    A colleague who teaches about Spanish culture told me that the title Don is the lowest of nobility rank and is generally believed to have come into use during Moor's occupation of Spain (nearly 800 years). The native Spaniards needed lots of knights for their armies and so they started handing out the title Don to anyone who would pick up a sword.

    Unfortunately, in today's vernacular, it's generally reserved for people who are, well, old, and not really swashbucklers. I'll do what I can to fight that image.

    don quixote
    Don Quixote, the famous Don of Cervantes

    In the meantime, earlier this week I created a sister blog to From Where I Sit - yet another a way of avoiding the stories and papers and long list of chores I need to do: The Tenacatita Bay Bugle.
  • Tenacatita Bay Bugle
  • Look to it for our adventures posted there (and here) starting a week from Friday when we will be in La Manzanilla with the Lamonts and Sabbatical Chief Engineer Scott Noble and his attorney (and spouse) Jennifer.

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    Swim mask, fins packed for the trip to Tenacatita

    ACRAMENTO, Calif., USA
    - The swim fins are already in Mexico, thanks to Dustin and Camelia, and a new swim mask, purchased at Scuba World, is already in my bag along with assorted 'must-take-to-Mexico-items' like the latest Jodi Picoult book and several DVD copies of the rockumentary, Admiralty Beach.

    The movie at this stage is definitely a rough cut - the director's cut I like to say. But it certainly has wowed the people who have viewed it here in Sacramento. We'll see what the La Manzanillans think.

    One part of it uses some Google satellite photos which are remarkable in their clarity.

    Here's one that shows the entire Tenacatita Bay.

    Tenacatita Bay
    Tenacatita Bay

    In the next shot, you can see the peninsula with Admiralty Beach stretching to the north. The beach to the south (and east) contains a row of about 10 restaurants, all of which serve food that is soooo good I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. There's also a reef called 'The Aquarium' because there are so many fish of every size and species.

    No sharks though, I don't think anyway.

    Admiralty Beach (left side of peninsula)
    Admiralty Beach - to the left (which is north)

    The last shot is a closeup - at least as close as the Google shots go - and shows the large rocks directly in front of the property where we filmed the video.

    Admiralty beach up close
    Admiralty Beach close up

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    New look for From Where I Sit...

    ACRAMENTO, Calif
    . - From Where I Sit had to undergo a makeover this week, thanks in large part to the software that's used to post here.

    In order to make any changes to the template and add any new features, Blogspot said: How about our new templates?

    So, here it is and it will be evolving over the next few weeks with, I hope, more bells and whistles - at least that what seems to be promised in the new software.

    In the meantime, it's countdown to throwdown in Tenacatita Bay and I've been practicing several Toby Keith songs, Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction (seems quite fitting these days) and, of course, the old standard, Tiptoe Thru the Tulips.

    I wish now I had bought that amplied ukulele - the plinking isn't nearly loud enough to drown out my voice.

    Outside of the blog world, Admiral Fox has been taking on her new role at the California Newspaper Publishers' Association by storm, hanging out with all types of big shots, political and otherwise.

    In the photo below, she's captured talking with the new Attorney General of California, who also happens to be a former governor, a presidential candidate and, it turns out, also a friend of Sylvia's brother David, now a resident of Ithaca.

    Jerry Brown with Admiral Fox
    Jerry Brown with the Admiral

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Tenacatita Bay ukulele-guitar throw down planned

    A MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico
    - After several years of being holed up in the mountain town of San Miguel, Mad Mike Gottlieb, a novelist and guitar player extraordinaire says he might come down from his high altitude aerie to sea level at La Manzanilla while the Admiral and I, along with Sanders and Pat Lamont. are visiting the pueblo and staying at Palapa Joe's palapa on the beach.

    The reason? Well, he heard that the four of us will be packing - musical instruments that is - and he wants to have a House of the Rising Sun musical throw-down.

    I don't know exactly what in the hell that means, but it sounds like fun, especially for me playing a ukulele. When Mad Mike doesn't know - and I've discovered - is that if anything even approximating music escapes from the ukulele, everyone thinks it's a miracle.

    And I suppose it is.

    Here's a photo of Mad Mike and I last year, talking novels and boats at Victor's Cafe Tacuba in Puerto Vallarta, a quaint little watering hole at which owner Victor comes around and slams shots with patrons, hugging and kissing all the women, usually infuriating his wife.

    Es Mexico, si?

    Two Mikes in Puerto Vallarta
    Two Mikes conferring at Victor's

    It seems to me that the evening last year devolved into many more rounds of tequila before we retired to our respective casas. No throw-downs, though. Fall-downs, mostly.

    Of course, if I get worried about a competitive musical situation, I can always call in a ringer to do a ukulele duet with me.

    I found the young lady in the photo below who just might be distracting enough that I can take any 'throw down' challenges.

    But where is area code 900 anyway?

    girl with uke
    The perfect ringer to bring to La Manzanilla