My Personal Blog

This is a once-in-a-while blog about my personal life and some of the goings on in Lerdo and Laguna. 


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Requiem for a Tienda

14 April 2014

Miscelánea La Gloria

1989 – 2014  RIP

The local newspaper says that drug gang violence is at its lowest level in several years in Laguna, but common crime seems to be on the rise.  That is certainly true in Lerdo, and it has brought down a treasured fixture in my neighborhood.

Gloria’s little store has been robbed several times in the past couple of years, but the most recent was the most violent.  Two robbers with guns stormed into the store.  One held a gun to Gloria’s head while the other guy short  holes in the ceiling.  That was just too much for Gloria and her husband Hugo.  They closed Gloria’s tienda and move the stock to Hugo’s tienda a few blocks away in another neighborhood.

Gloria’s tienda has been more than just a neighborhood store for the past 25 years.  It has been part of the social fabric of the neighborhood.  The ladies gather here to exchange news and gossip.  We have watched Gloria’s three children grown up.  We have felt a little part of the family of Gloria and Hugo.

One day as I was leaving the store, I tripped on the curb and would have fallen to the ground but for the quick action by Misrain, Gloria’s oldest son, who was able to catch me.  The next time I came to Gloria’s, that piece of curb had been removed and replaced by a ramp from the street to the door.  I was told that my near mishap had prompted them to make that improvement.  What’s not to like about a store like that?

Gloria’s is the place where I met Nery in 2006.  From that meeting grew my adventure as an English teacher which has profoundly affected my twilight years.

Gloria, we will all miss you and your tienda.

You can visit Gloria and Hugo here.

This is an update  two years later -- January 2014

A Traffic Nightmare is Coming

Saturday 25 February 2012

This railroad underpass is on the main boulevard linking Lerdo and Gómez with Torreón.  This four-lane section interrupts the otherwise eight-lane boulevard causing frequent traffic jams in both directions. 

The planners say it will be done in one year.  Of course, no one believes that. We are hoping it won't be more than two years.

Well, two years is was.  Here is the result January 2014.  Very big and welcome improvement.

11 November 2013

I haven't posted here for almost a year because the cataract in my only functioning eye had grown so bad that I was unable to use my computer.

I had been unable to have the cataract removed because of a chronic infection that would not respond to treatment until this past month.  At long last, my eye doctor deemed it safe for surgery last Wednesday.

Today my vision is better than it has been for the past 5 years.  I am a very happy camper!!!!!

19 January 2013

The Mexican drug wars are heating up in my area again.

First a little geography.  As most of you know, I live in Lerdo, Durango.  Lerdo abuts the larger city of Gómez Palacio.  Across the Nazas river is the large city Torreón in the state of Coahuila. Total population in the tri-city area of about 1,500,000.  9th largest metro area in México.

Durango is controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel while Los Zetas own Coahuila.  So I live where the two warring gangs meet to fight.  It’s been pretty bloody recently.  We have a large presence of the army and federal police without whom we would really be in bad shape.

The local police are part of the problem.  Yesterday the federal police and the army arrested 158 cops in Lerdo and Gómez Palacio and their police chiefs.  110 of the cops were from the Lerdo force.  This was the second Lerdo police chief in a row to be attested for gang corruption.  The police force in Torreón seems to be doing better.  They had their major house cleaning a couple of years ago.  Now they have very strict hiring standards.

I go to Torreón almost every Sunday for lunch and have noticed a substantial fall off in the number of customers.  The Torreón restaurant association is reporting a 50% drop in business.  Many restaurants are closing by 9 at night.  Some close at dark. Some offer discount pricing at night. .

I have no thoughts of leaving.  I’m here to the end.

Applebees Restaurant in Torreón

9 September 2012


Nery and I went to check out the place. It was my second visit. Unfortunately,  it was just like the first time --- OK food and really bad service.  We shared the starter sampler plate with chips, chicken nuggets, fried cheese sticks and quesadillas.  The spinach and avocado dip was great.

I had three kinds of shrimp and Nery had a steak.

The food was not good enough to overcome the bad service.  No third visit.  There are better restaurants within walking distance of Applebees.

A party for Alex

17 June 2012  

Now it's Alex' turn to graduate from his veterinary studies. He has now completed all the course work, but he can't put Doctor with his name just yet. He still has a research project to complete and write a thesis based upon the research. It may be another year before he compete his doctorate.

A word about his research. He did his internship at a large dairy farm where he hit it off well with the owner. Alex approached the owner with a research idea using some of his herd. The owner said he did think that would produce particularly useful information, but he did have a project in mind that he would like to see done. If Alex agreed and the school approved, the owner said he would pay all the lab costs which would be around $30,000 pesos. That's the project Alex is working on now. It should end in October, and then comes the grueling task of writing his thesis which must be in both Spanish and English. I will probably have a hand in some of that as I did for the first prospectus.

While this is a large dairy farm with over 1,000 cows, it is not the main business of the company. It's a show farm for an international company that manufactures milking machines and turn-key milking parlors. They also offer computer software, consulting and other dairy-related services -- everything for a dairy farm except the cows.

To celebrate today, the four of us went to our favorite Chinese place, the Oriental Grill in Torreón.

We started with Peking Duck followed by 6 dishes and dessert.

The Peking Duck was assembled table-side by our waiter (who speaks excellent English).

Good show and good food.


Nery's Graduation Day

4 May 2012

To celebrate, we went to our favorite seafood restaurant, Huarichick, where we enjoyed oysters on the half shell and lots of other fine seafood.

Nery is the big guy standing next to his girlfriend Liz. Liz finished number one in the computer science department.  Nery, as usual, was number two.

I Fell -- A Follow Up

Friday 20 April 2012

Back in November I wrote:

Walking down a sidewalk with the sun in my eyes blinding me, I stepped in a hole and fell. I scuffed my leg, no big deal; and pulled a muscle in my right arm which is a very big deal -- hurt awfully bad.  24 hours and several pain pills later, I'm a little better, but I can't use the arm at all.

Well, a lot has happened since then.  I was on my way to get a new handicapped parking card at my local DIF office.  The application would include a check by a doctor in the office.  After my fall, the doctor checked me for broken bones and decided I was whole. He missed one vital point -- I had dislocated my shoulder. 

That went undetected until several months later when I called my acupuncturist friend to see if he could give me some pain relief as he had done on another occasion.  He took one look and said he could not help because the problem was mechanical.  He saw what the original doctor had missed -- a dislocated shoulder. He arranged for me to see a trauma specialist.

The specialist examined me and my x-rays and said my shoulder was beyond repair.  I had waited too long, and my age and general health made surgery too risky.  He referred me to another trauma man for a second opinion.  Same story.  Both doctors recommended physical therapy.

After six weeks of daily physical therapy sessions, I was able to regain a good bit of mobility in the arm, not total by any means, but a major improvement.  I can do almost all the things I need to do.  I can't touch, wash, or scratch my left shoulder or the top of my head with my right hand.  But I get by.

A Train is Coming to Town

Saturday 24 March 2012

A "train" is coming to Lerdo to carry tourists to see the sights of our fair city.

The train will have this engine (a disguised truck) pulling a carriage holding 25 passengers.

A Christmas Surprise

Saturday 24 December 2011

This has been a day of nice surprises for me.

This afternoon my students came bearing food for a surprise Christmas Eve lunch (cooked by their mothers, of course).  Meatloaf, macaroni salad, ceviche, flan and candy.  We cleared my always junk laden table and had a great lunch and a fun afternoon.  They even washed the dishes.

In the evening, Enrique came with his two little sons, Julio and Winston bearing gifts for me.  A giant box of cookies and more candy.  Later, Enrique came back with a plate of fresh tamales.  I'm sure to be sick from all this.

     Alex, Chico, Misa and Nery

Some good news and some really good news

Sunday 18 December 2011

The good news is Nery graduated from college this week. He spent this past quarter as an intern at the CFE regional office. That office is still in the paper age; all their inventory records, everything from chairs to trucks and tools, are on paper. Nery’s assignment was to write a custom program to computerize the inventory. He completed the task a week ahead of schedule. His supervisor was so pleased that he arranged for Nery to make a formal presentation to the top management.

The really good news is that they were so impressed that they offered him a job. He starts to work in January. What a nice graduation and Christmas present

And that’s not all. Yesterday, his older brother got married and moved out. Nery will now have his own bedroom for the first time in his life. He is a very happy camper!

Garufa Argentinean  Restaurant -- Round 2

Sunday 27 November 2011

Nery and I were headed for a Mongolian restaurant; but it was closed for remodeling.  Since we were only a few blocks from Garufa, we went there as our backup.

I was given a menu in English -- nice touch.

We started with empanadas (their translation was turnovers).  Nery had one with ground beef.  I had ham and cheese.  Both were good and quite large. $29 pesos = about US$2 dollars.  5 of them and a soup or salad would make a full meal.

We had the clam(less) chowder again.  It's a tasty base, but it needs more clams.

Nery had a different steak which he said was very good but not as excellent as the one last week.

I had lasagna which was very forgettable.

We ended with ice cream.

Total with tip was $905 pesos = about US$65.

Garufa Argentinean  Restaurant

Sunday 13 November 2011

The first thing i saw as Nery and I were seated was a real table cloth and large  cloth napkins.  Oh boy, this is going to be expensive, but it turned out not so bad -- $750 pesos (about $55 dollars) with tip for very good three--course meals for two.

We began with New England style clam chowder.  I was surprised to find  it on the menu and surprised that it was pretty good although it had far too few clams.  Nery had the house specialty steak -- two pieces of tender, juicy meat with mashed potatoes, sautéed onions and a wine gravy all in an interesting presentation.  I had cheese ravioli with shrimp, very large ravioli, much better than the ravioli at Ilalianni's.  We both had ice cream for dessert.

Clam Chowder, New England style

Garufa Special with wine gravy

I Fell

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Walking down a sidewalk with the sun in my eyes blinding me, I stepped in a hole and fell. I scuffed my leg, no big heal; and pulled a muscle in my right arm which is a very big deal -- hurt awfully bad.  24 hours and several pain pills later, I'm a little better, but I can't use the arm at all.

I was a little lucky -- I fell into an empty flower bed, much softer than concrete.  If I had fallen on concrete, I surely would have broken something.

The doctor, whom I was on my way to see, checked me and determined there were no broken bones.  He put my arm in a sling -- hard to sleep with that.  The sling will be needed for 4 to 6 weeks to be followed by physical thearpy.

Enrique, as always, is taking good care of me.

One of my students, Misa (Misael) came by the other day.  I don't get to see him much now that he is in his 4th year (4 of 5) in medical school.  It seems like just yesterday that he was graduating from high school and anxious about getting admitted to medical school. 

He took an advanced science program in high school that allowed him to go directly into medical school if he could pass the entrance exam.  More than one thousand applicants applied for the ninety seats in the freshman class.  He said that over half that starting group is gone now -- dropped out or flunked out. 

He has been having classes in the emergency room giving shots, and stuff.  He has sewed up a few wounds and next week will start learning to put a cast on broken arms or legs.  Before he started to school, he said he had no interest in surgery; now he wants to be a neurosurgeon.

My Pickup is dead -- RIP
Thursday 27 October 2011

My 14-year old pickup died last Sunday as Nery, Liz and I were retuning from a not very good lunch at a new restaurant in Torreón.  Fortunately, if that is the right word, it happened just as we were arriving at my house.

An autopsy at the mechanic's shop revealed that an oil pump failure had resulted in massive damage to the engine, irreparable damage.  Only a new engine could put the truck back on the road.  The cost for that was way more than I was willing to spend.

If I were still driving, I'd be really upset.  Since I gave up driving a year ago, I'm OK with losing the truck.  I'm blessed with five friends who are willing to take me places in their vehicles.  No more $$ for gas; no more $$ for insurance.  What more can an old man want?

My only regret is that I can't leave the truck to a friend who needs it when I start pushing up daisies.

Saturday update.  I had expected to tow the truck to a junk yard, but that turned out to be a rather unattractive deal.  I had paid the mechanic $2,000 pesos to do the autopsy.  The junk yard offered $2,000 for the truck. BUT they wanted only the metal which meant I would have to remove the tires, seats, glass and upholstery -- not an appealing idea.  The mechanic to the rescue.  He decided he wanted the remains to strip for parts and was willing to pay $5,000 pesos.  So guess where the truck is now. :-)

3 Kinds of Tacos: Tripita, Carne Adobaba and Carne Asado
Wednesday and Saturday, 5 and 8 October 2011

This is a typical neighborhood taco stand set up on the sidewalk in front of the owner's home, operating only in the evenings, and with a half dozen tables in the street in front of the stand.  The open space in front of the stand facilitates take out service.

What makes this stand unique are the kinds of meat offered.  Tripitas are fried pig intestines (chitlings).  Carne adobaba is marinated pork leg. On Saturday and Sunday they also have carne asado (beef) tacos with grilled onions.  After our Wednesday visit, we wanted more, so we went back again on Saturday and really enjoyed the asadoLook here for more pictures and details.

The carne adobaba was very good and I will surely go back for more.  The tripitas tasted good, but the hard, fried texture was not to my liking.  The asado tacos were outstanding -- my new favorite taco.

Left to right: asado, adobaba and two tripitas

The taco stand of Luis and Maricele is at Bravo 925 Sur in Gómez Palacio. 


Troubles in the Police Department
Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sadly, Lerdo has joined many other cites with a problem police department.  Yesterday, the federal police arrested our chief of police and 40 officers out of a force of 153.  Charges have not been announced, but it's obvious it will be some form of corruption, probably drug related.

Our two sister cities have on-going security problems. Torreón's police department is still struggling to recover from the firing of 300+ officers a while back. Gómez Palacio is still blighted by the scandal at its state prison that landed the warden and three of her top officers in jail for corruption.

Monthly Lunch Party at HuariChick Seafood Restaurant
Sunday, 18 September 2011

Nery and I have eaten here several times.  Alex and his girlfriend joined me here once.  This was Misa's first time.  We were all hyped-up for oysters on the half shell, but they were out, sold out yesterday.  This was a holiday weekend (Independence Day), so they had done a brisk business. We were disappointed about the oysters, but we left fully stuffed anyway.

Javier was not our waiter this time.  His section was full.  But he did come by several times to say Hi. Our waiter did a good jib, but Javier is special.

Nery and I have our food while Misa and Alex are still waiting.  As always. the fish and shrimp were excellent.  The seafood soup was a little more spicy than I really like, but I ate it all.  Salmon salads came later.

The tab with desserts and tip was $1250 pesos or about US$96 at today's exchange rate.

Water Wars in Laguna
2 September 2011

This is a desert where water is scarce to supply the needs of more than a million people.  It is also fertile farming land if it can be watered by man since nature can't do it.  The nearby mountains are blessed with abundant rainfall that flows down to the desert via the Rio Nazas.  But its distribution gets complicated.

In the 1800s and early 1900s disputes over the distribution of irrigation water from the Rio Nazas sometimes led to bloodshed.  After the revolution (civil war) in the early 20th century, the government began building an extensive network of irrigation channels and two large dams to create reservoirs to store rainfall in the mountains.  The water wars then changed from guns to politics which continue today.

One of today's pressing issues is protection of the aquifer which provides all the potable water for Laguna.  The aquifer has been drawn down so much that water from several wells in Torreón now exceeds the allowable limits of arsenic.  The city is scrambling to find money to install filters to remove the arsenic.  The technology is there, but the money isn't.  We're still OK in Lerdo.

The drawdown of the aquifer has two causes:  the substantial population growth in the area and agriculture usage.  Many farmers have drilled wells to augment their allotment from the federal irrigation system.  In some cases, farms lie beyond the reach of the irrigation channels. The government is struggling to find a way to control this agriculture usage.  In the meantime, several proposals have been advanced to recharge the aquifer by releasing more water from the reservoirs.  The solutions to these aquifer problems, if any, remain elusive and controversial.

There is another kind of water war raging in Laguna -- the city water departments vs their customers who don't pay their bills.  In my city, the water department says only about one third of its customers are current with their bills.  The city has tried all sorts of campaigns to get folks to pay up.  They have not yet resorted to cutting off the water to delinquents.  Across the river in Torreón, the city is not so patient; they have begun cutting off non-paying customers. The newspaper reports that about 7500 disconnects have been made.  About 2500 have paid up and had their water restored.  The real headline grabber was the disconnection of the Marriott hotel.  The hotel had not paid their bill for four and half years, running up a total of more that nine million pesos. After several months of fruitless negotiations, the city sent a crew out to disconnect the hotel.  That was yesterday, no word yet on how the hotel is coping without water.

My books are all gone
22 August 2011

It turned out the Lerdo Library did not want my books.  They said they did not have space for them.  I tried some other places with no luck until I found a guy who teaches English at a school in Lerdo.  He was happy to have 6 boxes of books.  Now the empty book case will go to Nery's house to hold his growing library.

My 80th Birthday Party
21 August 2011

This story has its own webpage here: My 80th Birthday

Such a sad day

5 August 2011

Oh woe is me.  I am so sad. Dozens and dozens of my friends have left me -- my books are gone.  Since I am no longer able to read a print book, and the prognosis for improvement is poor, I have decided to clear out my library.  There is another reason for disposing of the books now.  I'm 80 years old.  I'm not likely to be around much longer.  If I depart with all those books still in my house, they might just be trashed.  By giving them away now, I can be sure they go to good homes. 

Last night two of my students came to take what they wanted, which was a lot.  Most of the rest will go to the Lerdo library.  Some are headed for the trash, I am sorry to say.

When I moved to México, I gave away about 2/3 of my library, and brought 12 boxes of books with me.  Since I have been here, I have bought many more, but now they are all on the way out the door.

Over the years, I have been proud to say that I have read all the books in my library -- except for now.  I bought a number of books to read in my retirement in México, but I never got around to reading some of them.  I was too busy learning about México and building houses

But all is not lost.  I can still buy and read books on Kindle.  Thank goodness for that.  And I am especially pleased that my guys now have enough English skills to enjoy the books.

A week at La Majada
10 July to 17 July 2011

La Majada is a large steak house in Torreón. On Sunday 10 July, Nery and I went there for lunch to check out the place before bringing the other two guys for our monthly lunch party.  The setting, food, service and live music were all very good.

A few days later, it was Enrique's birthday, so I invited him to go there for lunch.  Then on the next Sunday, we had our monthly lunch there. This was also Alex's birthday lunch.

I've made a webpage of our culinary adventures at La Majada.

Monthly Lunch Party at Oriental Grill

Sunday, 19 June 2011

This was Misa's mouth to select a place.  I had told him about the fine meal Nery and I had here, so he chose it for the group.  We had a fantastic pig-out at this very fine Chinese restaurant. Good Chinese food is rare in México, so we are doubly blessed to have this fine place only a little drive away,  I have made a picture page of our Chinese adventure here.

And there has been no relief from the record-breaking heat!

And No Rain
Monday, 13 June 2011

It's been 10 months since our last rain.  The agriculture folks are reporting problems with cotton, corn and sorghum crops.  Although most of these are irrigated, they also depend on some rain that has not happened.  5,000 cattle have been lost due to the drought and high temperatures.


Record-Breaking Heat
Wednesday, 1 June 2011 

In February we had record-breaking cold, including the coldest temp ever recorded here.  Now Spring has become the hottest on record.

April recorded 6 days above 105° with many other 100+ days.  May has been a real scorcher -- every day over 100° and 25 over 105° and one day that set an all-time record of 112°.  May is always our hottest month, but this year has been crazy.

Welcome relief today, we didn't reach 100°.  I hope this is a real break in the heat wave.

Monthly Lunch Party at Tony Roma's -- again

Sunday, 15 May 2011

For the next three months, the guys will select the places for our monthly lunches.  This was Nery's pick to return to Tony Roma's  He is in love with their fillet mignon plate - three medallions of filet, each with a different sauce.

Special Fish Lunch at HuariChick Restaurant in Torreón
Saturday, 7 May 2011

My friend Alex loves fish, so I told him if he would get a driver's license, we could go to a very special fish restaurant in Torreón, with him driving my truck.  We invited his girlfriend Chio to join us.

The place had been recommended by another gringo friend.  Nery and I tried it out a couple of weeks ago and decided it's a winner.

One of their specialties is oysters on the half shell which I dearly love.

I was looking forward to having them today, but, alas, they were out.

I cracked up our waiter when I parented to cry over the missing oysters.

Our waiter for both visits has been Javier.  He does a good job

The food is good, although some of it is a bit more spicy than I really like, but I can deal with it.

Top left - Shrimp Cocktail
Top right - Mixed Seafood Cocktail Bottom - Shrimp Soup

I had this fillet of white fish with a house dressing they call Rockefeller.

Alex had Grilled Salmon

Chio had Pescado ala Veracruzana

I forgot to take pictures of the deserts.

Family Lunch Party

Thursday 21 April 2011

It's Easter vacation time, so off we went to La Alhambra Lebanese restaurant in Torreón.  I had been there last October with my English students.  We had enjoyed an excellent all-you-can-eat buffet, and I was looking forward to doing it again.  But NO, the buffet is only on weekends, so we had to order from the menu.  How the hell do you order from a menu when you don't know what anything is?  We found they have some party groupings of several mystery items.  We ordered a group listed for 3 or 4 persons. It was good,  and we were all please and stuffed.  But the buffet was better.

Andrea (Chico's sister), Brenda (his wife) and Chico

Just as the food began arriving.  More food than we could eat.  My fridge is full of leftovers.

Monthly Lunch Party at Tony Roma's

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The cost with tip was $1,900 pesos. That's about US$162 at today's exchange rate.

We began with a very tasty spicy shrimp salad. The menu calls it a cocktail, but it's really a salad

Misa had the Baby Back Ribs.

I chose the St Louis Ribs.

Nery loved the Fillet Mignon with a wine sauce gravy and mashed potatoes with herbs and cheese.

We shared the Beef Ribs which were half gone by the time I took this picture.

The other guys have dogs, but they didn't want to take the bones, so I took all of them home for my dogs.  They went crazy over them. The pork bones are soft enough for the dogs to consume entirely.  The beef bones are too hard, so they just got very gnawed.

More Bad News on the Crime Front
Sunday 17 April 2011

A regional medical society announced today that most doctors in the area will no longer answer house calls for people they do not know in their regular practice.  This is to prevent doctors from being trapped by bogus calls and subject to kidnapping or being force to treat a wounded criminal.

A Parade Remembering General Villa
Friday 25 March 2011

It seems like every other day is a holiday, fiesta or parade for something or other. Today it's remembering General Francisco (Poncho) Villa and the capture of Torreón during the Revolution (civil war 1910 - 1920).  He was born in Durango and his army operated in this area often, so he is a major local hero with several museums in his honor.  History books in the USA call him a bandit, in México he is regarded as one of the major forces in the Revolution and a national hero.

The Trash Woes
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The hard freeze we had in February damaged many trees in Laguna.  Now it's pruning time, and the volume of the tree trash is overwhelming the trash trucks and the land fills.  Street scenes like this are common as the prunings wait for pick up, sometimes for many days.

Family Lunch Party

Monday, 21 March 2011

Today is a holiday, Benito Juárez Day, so there was no school.  Chico had been telling me about a Thai food restaurant that he liked, so we decided to give it a try.  We being Chico, Brenda, Nery and I. 

Well, it turned out that the restaurant had gone out of business.  Since Tony Roma's was only two blocks away, and I had been wanting to go there for years, we headed for baby back ribs.  I was surprised at how large the place is, bigger than the one in my old neighborhood in Tarzana (Los Angeles).  I'll be back there next month with my students.

A Busy Sunday
Sunday, 20 March 2011

In the morning, I went to Adriana's house to photograph two cooking stories -- Corn Pie and Cheese Cake.  Both were very good.  Nery and I asked for small samples because we we going to a sushi restaurant in the afternoon.  (Nery is her son and one of my English students, best buddy and dining partner.  I call him Nieto = grandson, and he calls me Grandpa.  He is one of my drivers, and the only one who doesn't scare me.)

This sushi place is on the main drag in Gómez just a couple of miles from my house.  I had driven past the place a jillion times without noticing it.  I was always too busy dealing with the heavy traffic.  I found the place one day while I was playing with Google Street View.  (I love that program!!!) Nery and I were very pleased with the food and the prices.  Of the four sushi places we have tried, it comes in at number 2.  It gets points for being close, for being a bit less expensive than the other places, and for making the sushi without too much rice.  In fact, in all my years of eating sushi, I have never seen it served with so little rice -- a definite plus.  The place is operated by a Japanese family.

Monthly Lunch Party at Bistro Garden

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The four of us enjoyed sharing 9 different dishes: fried shrimp, tuna steaks, tuna tartar. spicy Buffalo wings, chicken fajitas, assorted fish tostadas, onion rings, fried jalapeños, and fried mozzarella cheese sticks.  As though that was not enough, we had decadent desserts.

The restaurant has a garden theme inside and outside.  In the picture below, the food is just beginning to arrive.

The tab with a generous tip (excellent service) was $2,000 pesos or about $167 dollars.  This is the first place of the 8 where we have eaten where we felt the food, while good, was not worth the price.

Enrique's Pollo al Carbón
Saturday, 12 March 2011

My friend Enrique, has opened a Pollo al Carbón stand operating from 10am to 6pm each Thursday - Sunday.  I think his prices are too low -- a whole chicken for $50 pesos and a half for $30.  Rice and tortillas included.

Two blocks away, his mother, Doña Martha is now selling tamales every Saturday evening.  On the other side of town, his son, Chico, is operating a Tacos al Pastor stand Wednesday - Saturday evenings.  The whole family seems to getting into the food business.

Chente plates orders while Enrique mans one of the two charcoal grills which he built in the family welding shop.

A New Monthly Lunch Program

Sunday 20 February 2011

For the past year, I been having monthly Sunday lunches with my English students, now I have started a new program to have lunch with some of my family -- my favorite grandson Chico, his wife Brenda and his sister Andrea.  It starts here.

Monthly Lunch Party at Koto Sushi

Sunday, 16 January 2011

We went to a sushi place in Torreón. Nery and I had gone there two weeks ago for his birthday and to check out the place. Excellent -- miso soup, giant seafood salad and several sushis. Unfortunately, today's visit was not quite as good. The miso soup was a little messed up with too much scallion tops. The salad was wonderful like last time. But the sushi turned out to be a bit disappointing because the waiter misunderstood what we wanted. Instead of five pieces of traditional sushi for each of us, we each got five sushi rolls -- much too much rice!  For the first time on our monthly lunches, there was more food than the guys could eat.  So take home boxes all around.

Since these lunches are for expanding the guys' food knowledge as well as English practice, they learned some new words today -- tofu, soy, scallion, roe, take home box and doggy bag. They also got introduced to chop sticks with varying success. Alex had a Sapporo beer which gave us a chance to talk about Japanese rice beers and Sake. Alex was so impressed with the unique Sapporo can that he took it home as a souvenir.

The tab with tip was $1,700 pesos -- about $!40 dollars.

Saturday Concerts on the Plaza

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Every Saturday morning a youth band performs in the bandstand in the center of the main plaza.  The band has 40 members with openings for more players.  For those wishing to participate there are twice weekly free classes.

Monthly Lunch Party at Pampas do Brasil

Sunday, 19 December 2010

This is an all-you-can-eat Brazilin steak house with a novel way of serving the meat.  There were 14 offerings of beef, pork. chicken, turkey and sausage.  Waiters were buzzing around with skewers of meat offering us more meat faster than we could eat.  The serving sizes were small -- no more than 3 or 4 bites, which was just right to allow us to try everything with as many repeats as we wanted.  We waddled out very full.

This time there were 5 of us.  Nery's nephew Eddy joined us.

The total tab with tip was $1,200 pesos = about $100 dollars.  Free off-street valet parking.

This is half of the modest, but very tasty, salad bar.  Two soups.

Beef ribs were carved at the table.

Most of the meats arrived as small cuts on skewers

Some were carved off bulk items.

They let me go into the kitchen to take pictures.  The meat is cooked over a charcoal fire, then the skewers are held in this warming rack until needed.  There was nothing being cooked at the time I was there.  Judging by the size of the crowd when we left, I'm sure more meat would be cooking soon.

A High School Computer Lab

Monday, 6 December 2010

Nery is working on a project for one of his college computer classes.  The project is to create a website for one the high schools in Lerdo.  The website will have a number of photographs of various activities at the school.  He brought some of the pictures to me to massage with PhotoShop.  This is a picture of the school's computer lab.

I find this picture interesting for two reasons.  First it illustrates the country's commitment to education for the modern world.  Computer classes begin in the third grade -- 8 and 9 year old kids.  The second reason:  note that everyone is wearing a coat.  The school, like most homes and businesses, is not heated.  Winter heating is not common in México.  In this area, air conditioning is common, but not heating.  I'm cold as I type this.

Here in Lerdo our winters are not killer cold.  Freezes are uncommon.   Nevertheless, temps in the 40s are still uncomfortable without heat, so everyone has an ample supply of coats and sweaters. We do not have natural gas in this area.  We use bottled propane for cooking and hot water, but it would be too costly to heat a house that way.  Electrical heating is also out of the question.  Electrical rates in México are much higher than in the USA.  So warm clothing and good blankets are the way.

The last snow was in 1997. The snow was accompanied by a hard freeze. It left many people in a serious way; and it was very destructive to plants. Lerdo is called the Garden City because of its many tree-lined streets. That freeze killed many trees from both the cold and ice loading. It was a sad sight.  A few years later a fierce wind storm uprooted more trees.  Lerdo still has lots of trees, but nothing like it was before 1997.


The City Announces a Crackdown (sort of) on Unlicensed street Vendors

Monday, 6 December 2010

Of the 300 fixed and mobile street venders operating in Lerdo, only 26% are licensed by the city.  Today the city announced a mild crackdown with the hope of having 50% registered by the end of 2011.  The city also hopes to limit street vendors to actual residents of Lerdo, excluding "invaders" from Gómez Palacio and Torreón.

The license is not exactly demanding -- it costs $25 pesos per week.  The same price as a taxi ride in Lerdo. About US$2.00.

Lunch at Alex's House

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Nery. Misael and I had a wonderful lunch at Alex's house. 3 kinds of fish, carne asada, and too many cookies. We ate on the patio which is beautiful. The weather was just right for a great afternoon. Here is usual gang of suspects and friends:

Nery, Santa Claus, Misael, friend, Dr Uribes (Alex's father), Arturo (youngest brother), Señora Cuevas (mother), Alex.  Ricardo, another of Alex's three brothers took this picture.

The way the fish and meat were cooked is quite unusual.  Look here.

The main fish dish was macabi = bonefish. It was the boniest fish I have ever eaten, but it was delicious -- well worth the trouble to pick out the bones. The other fish dishes were shrimp cocktail and white fish ceviche.

After lunch, Alex picked three sacks of tangerines for me. They have three trees in the patio.  Nery has one at his house.  I love tangerine season which is just starting.

Their house is all stone inside and outside.   It is strikingly beautiful.  I love the patio.  Here is a view of back of the house from the patio.  More pictures later.

Another feature that I really like is this stone (not tile) sunflower.

Monthly Lunch Party with My English Students

Sunday, 21 November 2010

This is the only Italian restaurant in the area.  The food is good, and they do a brisk business even though the prices are a bit high.  We had six entrées, soft drinks and deserts for $1600 pesos including a generous tip.  That's about $130 dollars at today's exchange rate.

We asked for two tables -- one for us and one for the food, so we could have our own private buffet.  I guess the waitress had never run into that before because we had a bit of a problem getting through to her what we wanted.

Moving clockwise from the lower right: Pollo Milanesa (chicken brests), Ravioli, Fruta del Mar (pasta with shrimp and clams with a salmon sauce), Lasaña, Gratinato Italianni’s (artichoke hearts, mushrooms and cheese), and Filete Toscano (large medallion of beef with a peppercorn sauce and roasted potatoes).

We'll go to a Brazilian steak house next month.

Monthly Lunch Party with My English Students

Sunday, 24 October 2010

We did our monthly lunch date at La Alhambra restaurant in Torreón.  It's a Lebanese buffet.  None of us had ever eaten Lebanese/Arabic food, so it was a new adventure.  The place is comfortable, the food was good even if we didn't know what most of it was, and the service was excellent.  The price $750 pesos (about US$65) for four of us.  We elected to do Italian next month.

Opera en el Mercado (in the market)

Sunday 10 October 2010

Shoppers at the Lerdo Mercado were treated to a rare event -- four opera singers masquerading as vendors sang various opera selection a cappella. The event was a huge success. It had been well publicized, so there was a large crowd in the Mercado.

Similar events have been staged in many European cities. One was recently staged in Tijuana.

The story from the Torreón El Siglo is here in Spanish. Scroll down to a video of the event.

Drug Wars Return

Sunday 10 October 2010

After a fairly calm summer, things have heated up big time here in Lerdo.

Last week the city police captured a Zeta guy. That set off a rash of vengeance killing by Los Zetas. Six officers have been killed. One was tortured and then dragged to death behind a truck. Another was killed in his own home. Today 40 officers resigned saying they could not protect themselves and their families.

Painting the Patio Wall

Saturday, 2 October 2010

After talking about it for years, finally Enrique and Chico are painting our long patio wall.  The light color that has been on the wall reflects such a glare from the morning sun that it blinds me when I'm in my kitchen.  I hope this dark purple will cut down on the glare.


Update the next day:  The purple paint did the job.  The wall is still bright in the morning sun, but MUCH better than before.  Now I can work in the kitchen in the morning. I can't believe Enrique and Chico got the whole wall done in one day.


The Rio Nazas Flows Again

Friday, 1 October 2010

A couple of days ago, the water people opened the gates of the dam up in the mountains because the water level had reached a critical point.  This is the second time this year that has happened, and the third time in two years.  The flood of '08 was the first in 17 years.  Now we have three floods in 2 years.  Who can say climate change is not real?

This release of water from the dam has nothing to do with the storms from the Gulf that have caused so much devastation in eastern México.  Our problems are caused by uncommon amounts of rain in the Sierra Madre mountains northwest of us.  For a full understanding of the problems caused by opening the flood gates, read this The Flood of 2008.

Monthly Lunch Party with My English Students

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Once a month we go out for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  Several times we have gone to a Texas-style BBQ place and a Chinese buffet.  This month we decided to try something different -- Sirloin Stockade.  They have a huge buffet -- the biggest I have ever seen.  It's an American chain that has several locations in México.  I expect we'll be back here again. In October we're planning to go to a Lebanese restaurant. None of us has ever had Lebanese food, so it should be an adventure for us all.

We have two rules for our lunch parties: Be on time at the rendezvous point (Nery's house) and speak only English. The second rule seems easier than the first. Since I don't drive anymore, Nery is our designated driver in my pickup. He has a license; the other two procrastinators don't.

November will be four years since Nery stopped me on the street and asked me to help him learn English. A year later he brought Alex and Misael to my house. Nery is now truly bi-lingual with a good accent. Alex is doing pretty well on vocabulary, but his accent is not good. Misael is so busy in medical school that he has little time to study English. His vocabulary is still limited, but his accent is good. He is so smart that he'd be bi-lingual by now if he had a little more time to study.

Nery is mi nieto, Alex is Curly Top, and Misael is El Alto (he's over 6 feet). I feel so blessed to have these bright young guys as my friends.

Rolly, Alex, Nery and Misael



Modernizing the Police means Goodbye to some Horses

Friday, 24 September 2010

The municipality (see note below) of Lerdo has decided to sell 19 of its 29 police horses. The upkeep for 29 horses amounts to $35,000 pesos per month. Since the horses are only used to access areas where a vehicle cannot go, such as some mountain parks and along the river, the city feels 10 horses will be enough. Since they are not purebreds, the city expects to sell them for about $5,000 each.

The pangs of nostalgia...

Their last parade?

Municipality:  México does not have counties.  Instead the states are divided in municipalities which usually have the same name as the major city in the municipality which acts as the "seat" of government.  Hence the president (mayor) of Lerdo presides over the whole municipality as well as the city of Lerdo.  The police force is divided into city and rural units. It is the rural police who have horses. All the rural police wear cowboy hats as in the picture.  Their uniforms also differ from the city police. 

The city of Lerdo has a population of around 80,000; the municipality has a total of about 120,000. There is frequent (constant?) friction between the outlying villages and the city.  The villages feel (probably correctly) that the city gets more than its fair share of municipal funds for water, sewer, and streets.

Books and Eyes
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Since I got Kindle for PC, I've been reading like mad.  23 books finished and 4 more underway.  That's in just 2 months.  No more TV in my house.  My eyesight has gotten so bad that reading a printed book is so tiring that I have given it up.  That's why I was so happy to find Kindle.  Of course, now I run the risk of wrecking my budget buying books.  Kindle books cost less than printed ones and without shipping costs to México, I'm actually paying about one-fourth of the delivered cost of a print book.  The instant download is so much better than the 3 or 4 weeks it takes a book to come by mail to México. 

On the subject of eyesight: I have lost the vision in my left eye due to a detached retina that could not be repaired.  My right eye is growing a cataract that will be ready to harvest this winter, the doctor says. The operation will cost about US$1,200 -- much cheaper than in the USA.  

Because of my eyesight, my age (79) and slowed reaction time, I have reluctantly decided to give up driving.  My driver's license expires in November.  I plan not to renew it.  I feel like that is the last surrender to old age, but I also feel like I am a danger to myself and to other drivers, maybe even to people on the sidewalks.  Taxis are dirt cheap -- less than two dollars to go anywhere in town.

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