Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Today marks two full months I've been in Oaxaca. I arrived here on the evening of the 21st of May. It doesn't seem like two months have passed. They've slipped by effortlessly, and that's a good sign. The new "Mexico Me" is all about effortlessness. "Go with the flow," as the aging hippies say (yes, I know all about aging hippies). And these 60 days have just washed over me like warm ocean waves on a sandy beach.

This morning, I celebrated. With a mango. (see how wild & crazy I am?) Now, if you've never had a fresh mango, you just haven't lived. They are a spectacularly ugly fruit: kidney-shaped, mottled green and yellow, depending on ripeness, with black flecks on the skin.

The proper technique for eating a mango:
First, you carefully slice off the skin. The peel is quite thin. You'll want to keep the knife as close to the outer skin as possible so as not to remove much flesh. You can't use a potato peeler since the peel is quite tough. Once you've removed the peel, slice the flesh in vertical slices, cutting as close to the pit as possible. The pit doesn't have defined edges, so you just have to cut around it in a rectangular fashion. Then you take the pit, with some flesh still attached, lean over the sink and SUCK. Slurp up the juice. Slobber the stuff all over. Let it run down your chin. This is best performed with SHIRT OFF.

Yesterday, I bought a new toy. Boys like their toys. Even 58-year-old boys. I went and bought a piano keyboard. I shopped around a bit and found a 5-octave Casio keyboard for around $160 (with stand included). I had brought down a bunch of sheet music, so I've got something to fool around with. Plus, when I join the chorus, I'll need it to go over my music. Oh, did I tell you I found a chorus? I did. They're on summer break right now, but begin again in August. The director is a Frenchman and the singers are all Mexican, except for one American lady. By chance, I wound up going to the Guerreros baseball game with the director, Christophe, last Friday. That was different. It was his first game. Imagine explaining the finer points of American baseball to a Frenchman, watching the game for the first time in MEXICO. Talk about cross-cultural! I'm looking forward to weekly rehearsals with the group beginning next month.

Along the way I discovered a new rule about Mexico: If you need it and you find it, buy it. Right then and there. My quest was for a sustain pedal for the new keyboard. That's what holds the chords and sort of blends them together. No problem, right? Well the Wal-Mart-type store (Chedraui) where I bought the keyboard didn't stock the pedal. No surprise. So I went to the biggest music store in downtown Oaxaca. They've got everything under the sun dripping off the walls, stacked up to the ceiling: microphones, drum kits, cymbals, cords, tubas, stands....everything. Except--of course--sustain pedals. Now why would one expect a full-service music store to carry a basic item such as that? "Sorry," said the clerk, "we don't have it." "When will you get them in?" I replied. "Oh, maybe 2 weeks." For those of you who don't know, 2 weeks is the standard answer for just about anything. And it means: "maybe 15 days, maybe a month, maybe never." OK, so out of luck.

Then, I remembered a little hole-in-the-wall musical instrument store just outside downtown. I walked over there. Shazam! They had just the pedal I needed. At this point, old Mexico hands understand, I grabbed it and held it tightly. "I'll take it!!" And they even had the cable to connect the pedal to the keyboard. "I'll take that, too!!" I got them both home and the cord fit the keyboard and the pedal worked. For those of you NOT familiar with Mexico....those are very rare occurrences. Like a minor miracle, really. I was extraordinarily pleased. When something actually works the way it's supposed to here, one is overjoyed. And that's how you learn to be thankful for small things.