Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Snake Bit, Part 4



Spoon 2


Carpinteria, California  is a small seaside town in southeastern Santa Barbara County, northwest of Ventura. In the latter half of the 1970’s my parents used to spend six months of the year there to avoid the inclement winter weather of North Vancouver. My guess is that sending me a plane ticket from Hawaii to Carpinteria  (or the nearest airport) was their way of assuring themselves that they would actually see me on my return to the mainland.

At this point several months remained of their stay in California and there were two bedrooms in their condo, so I opted to stay with them and visit for a while. However, due to the fact that I had not worked for a while before leaving Waikiki my financial situation left a lot to be desired. I felt that my parents had already done more than enough by sending me a plane ticket and allowing me to stay with them, so I thought that I had better get a job. Carpinteria being such a tiny town, it’s really amazing that I actually managed to accomplish that, but I guess being a beach town it was probably very transient like Waikiki.

I found a job my first week there tending bar in a tavern on the main drag, the only drag really. My boss was a gun-toting Republican named John and quite notorious in those parts. We had absolutely nothing in common and did not see eye to eye on pretty much everything, but he thought that I would be good for business. There were rifles in the office, a tommy-gun in his truck and he had a tendency to flash around other firearms in the bar in the evenings. Although he knew absolutely nothing about Canada he believed that all Canadians were left-wing wusses and treated me with thinly veiled contempt.

Considering that the man had the IQ of grape jelly this didn’t particularly bother me, and I just ignored him as much as possible. It really wasn’t a bad job, I made very good tips and quickly met just about everyone that lived in Carpinteria. Thankfully very few of them were of John’s ilk and I enjoyed the company of most of them and even made a couple of good friends. It was nice spending some time with my parents and all in all I had a few very pleasant months there.



Then the Snake raised it’s ugly head. One evening John was showing some of his cronies a 357 magnum that was not registered and apparently belonged to his wife. He told me, when I showed some concern, that “of course it’s not loaded!” After that the bar got quite busy and I forgot about the gun until we had closed and I was cleaning up and restocking for the morning shift.

John had gone out back to dump the garbage and left the 357 magnum on the counter behind the bar. He had assured me that it was not loaded and so my curiosity and better judgment (which was sorely lacking at 23) warred with each other for a minute or two before I gave in to curiosity and picked up the weapon. I did not aim it. I was holding it on the flat of my hand. It was so honed down that I had actually cocked it without realizing as I picked it up.

When the gun discharged (as overly honed down 357 magnums are wont to do) the noise was deafening. I stood in stunned silence, my ears ringing, as John came running into the bar yelling “quick, call the cops, someone’s taking pot shots at me!” “I’m sorry John, but you did say that it wasn’t loaded” I answered. He stood there staring at me, shaking, his skin becoming unlikely shades of red and purple, and saying “you” over and over again.

The gun, which most definitely was loaded, had sent a bullet through the bar, through the office, through the beauty salon next door and finally into the outer wall where it came to lodge about 3 feet from where John had been dumping garbage. John slumped onto a barstool and I poured him, and myself, a drink. We discussed our options.The local police would have given their eye teeth to have a reason to arrest John and at that moment it looked good for them.

John suggested that perhaps if we went to the beauty salon very early in the morning and intercepted the owner arriving that maybe we could explain and offer to make repairs to her mirrors. This sounded like a pretty good plan to me, but then I was somewhat shaken and not taking snake bitteness into consideration.

The salon opened at 9:00 am and we arrived at 8:00 am. There was a police car outside the salon and two policemen inside. Oh crap! For some unknown reason the salon owner had come in two hours early (to do paper work or something, I don’t recall) and had seen a bullet hole in the mirrors at either end of the salon. Needless to say, she had called the police and we had saved them the effort of coming to look for us. With heavy sighs, we went inside and explained the situation to the police.

According to John’s rendition, the accident had happened earlier while the bar was still open and the 357 magnum had mysteriously been stolen thereafter. How convenient, I thought, the man was good under pressure. For my part, I didn’t dispute what John was saying but otherwise told the truth and we were asked to come to the police station later and make a formal statement.

That afternoon we went to the police station and John went into a room with a policeman and I sat at a desk with another. I explained again what had transpired and then the policeman went on to explain to me why this could not have been the case. He explained that if I had indeed, shot that particular firearm, that I would have dislocated my shoulder. He also gently explained that I was not strong enough to have cocked the gun, particularly by accident, then just as gently asked me to admit that it had really been John who had discharged the weapon.

They really wanted John! I told him that no, I was the one who had done it and I didn’t know why I had not dislocated my shoulder but that is the way it was. I was terrified that I would be discovered working illegally and deported, but the policeman was so focused on getting me to admit that I had not fired the weapon that after asking my name he didn’t ask me anything else about myself. He continued to try to convince me that my scenario was unrealistic by handing me his (empty) sidearm and asking me to cock it. It took both hands.

“There, you see?” he said “you couldn’t possibly have done it.” Well I really had been trying to do the right thing but at that point I just smiled at him and said “yes sir, I see that now”. Nothing much more came of the “shooting of the beauty salon” incident. John wasn’t about to admit anything, I wasn’t about to say that John had done it, and the 357 magnum had been stolen, so there was no evidence. Naturally I was canned again though. No big deal, we were heading back to Vancouver soon anyway, and so I had a short holiday before we left.

Now I imagine you are thinking that this is all very interesting but what does it really have to do with anything in the here and now? It all began a little over a week ago. I had recently broken another set of screws in my broken leg and was about to go in for my eighth surgery, actually my tenth in the seven years that I have been living in Mexico, but the first two were on the ankle I broke shortly after moving here. I was sort of contemplating this run of bad luck while I was getting a glass out of the buffet and hutch pictured at the top of the post.

As I retrieved the glass and shut the door, I had to push a little as it is the rainy season and the wood was a little swollen. The pushing dislodged the giant wooden spoon, also seen in the photo at the top of the post, which fell on my head. It landed just above my left eyebrow, hitting a blood vessel and immediately forming a huge egg there. Over the next couple of days I developed a pretty good shiner to take to the hospital with me and while I was there I had some time to think about my dad’s old joke. When I returned home I thought that I would like to share it with you. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Snake Bit, Part 3





The afternoon after the debacle at The Picadilly bar I went to the other bar in our apartment complex. Just one floor above my little apartment, it was on the roof and called The Penthouse. I climbed up on a barstool, ordered a beer and prepared to mull over my employment possibilities when the owner of the bar approached me. He knew me as I lived just below the bar. He told me that his evening bartender had left town suddenly and he was in need of a new one and asked if I would be interested.

Serendipity? I thought so at the time but looking back I think it was more appropriately a snake bite. I told the man that I had worked as a cocktail waitress but never as a bartender but I would like to learn. When I returned that evening for my shift he handed me a large copy of a bartender’s drink guide, asked me to learn one new drink every day and left me there. Luckily it really wasn’t very busy that evening and I managed to wing it.

The owner (whose name, to this day, I do not feel comfortable repeating) returned at the end of my shift, asked me which drink I had learned to make and showed me how to tally the evening’s receipts and put them in the safe in his office. And Bob’s your uncle, as easy as that I had started a new career. One that actually stuck as I worked mostly as a bartender for the next twelve years.

I didn’t really know the previous bartender but over the next few weeks I notice that there seemed to be some animosity directed at me from her circle of friends who hung out in the bar. When I finally confronted some of them and asked if I had done something to offend them they told me that I was responsible for her disappearance. ????????? HUH? I said eloquently. I really didn’t know the woman other than to see her behind the bar.

The bar owner, who we will call Jim, had told me that the other bartender had left town suddenly, and I repeated this to her friends. They all laughed knowingly and asked “don’t you know who Jim is?” Apparently not, I told them. They then explained that Jim was the ex-husband of the head of the Hawaiian Mafia. Yea, I laughed too. However they were dead serious and felt that he had gotten rid of her because he wanted me to be his bartender. Whether she had left town or not no one knew, but she had definitely disappeared.

Well great! I really wasn’t sure if I bought any of this or not but I did ask around and much to my surprise this did seem to be the general consensus.  Still, I worked at The Penthouse for a long time without anything untoward happening and I had really forgotten the whole thing until one afternoon as I arrived for my shift, Jim asked me to come into his office. Once there he proceeded to tell me that because I had stolen the last evening’s receipts that I was fired. ????????? HUH?

I explained that this did NOT happen, that it went against my very nature! It didn’t matter and I was canned. The following day there was a knock at my apartment door and when I looked through the peep hole I saw two very large Hawaiian men in dark suits standing there. I put the chain on the door before opening it and asked what they wanted. They said that they were the police and would like to speak with me. I thought, all right, what now?

I asked to see their identification and they flashed some kind of card but it sure didn’t look like a police shield and they refused to give me their names or tell me what they wanted to talk to me about. They just wanted to come inside. I shut the door and told them to go away, hearing them say through the closed door that they would return. Now I was pretty freaked out. Over the next couple of days the men returned once more and I decided that I had had enough of that.

I packed my meager belongings and went to stay at the apartment of my friend David  (who later became my first husband, but we don’t need to go there) and just sort of laid low for awhile. One afternoon though I had agreed to meet David at a restaurant at the Waikiki Yacht Club. I arrived first so I waited for him at the bar. A man sat down beside me and started to chat, which didn’t strike me as strange because back then it happened every time I sat alone at a bar. However, at one point he offered me a plane ticket off the island because I was a nice kid and I was in trouble.????????? HUH?

Now I was actually panicked. I had never seen the man before or he me, I thought, so how did he know anything about me? I had the sudden feeling that if I got on that plane I would not get off at the other end. I told David what happened and he felt we should go home immediately and discuss what we should do. Call the police? Probably not the best idea. Instead I called my parents. They were wintering in Carpenteria California and sent me a plane ticket which I used in all haste and left Hawaii behind.

As I flew to California I went over and over in my mind all the events that had occurred in the previous couple of weeks, trying to make some sense out of the whole thing. The only thing that made any sense to me was that I probably had inadvertently seen something in Jim’s office that I should not have seen, on the night that I supposedly had stolen the money, but I had no idea what that might have been and never found out.


I’m sorry, I lied, the final chapter of this odyssey will be posted tomorrow. It seems to have gotten rather wordy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Snake Bit, Part Two




I don’t recall if Denny, our latest roommate, ever did get a job, but Gwen and I became dancers at a club in downtown Honolulu. We were not exotic dancers but we were definitely scantily clad. Honolulu is a military town and such was our clientele. The club owner sold posters of the dancers and mine announced that I was Shannon from Vancouver (no mention of Canada) and that my statistics were 42-24-36. They could do that back then without our consent. Or at least they told us that they could. Naturally we graced a lot of locker doors on several military bases.

One young man desperate for a date knew that I wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle and told me that he had a little 250cc job that would be perfect for me to learn on and that he would be happy to teach me. When he arrived to pick me up it was on a somewhat souped up 650cc bike, someone had borrowed the other one, but this would be no problem, he assured me. Sometime later, after tearing up a good chunk of the football field at Hickam Air Force Base and finally wrapping the motorcycle around a plumeria tree, I begged to differ.

Shortly after the motorcycle incident my career as a dancer came to an untimely end as well. During one of my stints on one of the little stages, between which I waited tables, I had an epiphany. This was brought on by a small patch of powder put on the stage by the dancer before me so that her shoes would not stick to the floor. My shoes did not stick to the floor even without powder. In 1975 we wore very high heeled platform shoes. Mine were on a  2 inch solid carved wooden base with 4 inch heels and macramé tops. With these beauties I stood about 5’ 11”, quite a sight with my scantily clad “statistics”.

Shortly into my number, with one foot raised above my head, the other slid into the patch of powder. Lying on my back with the wind knocked out of me and staring up at myself in the mirror on the ceiling I had the epiphany. No amount of money, or lack there of were worth this. I also thought that perhaps if I just lay there they would think I was dead and carry me away, after which I could slip out the back door never to be seen or heard from again.

Instead, with a heavy sigh, I got to my feet and carried on as I ran through the article in my head that I would write and send to Reader’s Digest about my life’s most embarrassing moments. Although our wages, paid under the table, were practically non-existent the tips that we earned at Tammy’s Nightclub for men were fairly lucrative. For this reason, I had managed to squirrel away some money and I decided to give up this somewhat seedy endeavor to look for work a little more in line with what my mother might have approved, although I doubt that actually occurred to me at the time.

I worked in Honolulu but I actually lived in Waikiki, in a four story apartment building just off the main drag. I lived in a studio apartment on the fourth floor and had I been on the right side of the building would probably have had a beautiful ocean view. As it was I was on the other side which looked over our small pool and even smaller poolside bar, a tiny  English Pub style venue called The Picadilly.

After having quit my job without any other prospects I retired there for the evening to drown my sorrows, only to find that a large group of servicemen from the downtown club had followed me to Waikiki to lament my parting of the ways with Tammy’s Nightclub for men. This was more business than The Picadilly had ever seen in one evening and the following day they actually gave me a bottle of Jose Cuervo 1800 as a thanks for all the money it made the previous evening.

I had been drinking this tequila that evening when I first arrived and the boys of the military just kept them coming. At one point I recall sitting cross-legged on top of a Watney’s Red Barrel beer barrel surrounded by young men. This was certainly an improvement over lying on my back on the stage at Tammy’s Nightclub for men. Then of course, because I am Snake Bit, the lid of the barrel fell in leaving only the top of my head and my feet sticking our. They had to turn the barrel over and dump me out, bruised and once again humiliated. The snake bitten story of my life……


Stay tuned for part 3, and I promise I will wrap it up!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Snake Bit, Part One




For most of my life my father used to jokingly call me snake bit. I thought it to be an interesting term as he was the only one I had ever heard use it, but perhaps it was simply dated as he was 40 years old when I was born. I was sort of an afterthought. I don’t think I was really sure what it meant when I was very young so it is unlikely that it was responsible for any psychological damage developed during my formative years.

In retrospect, though, I now think I have a pretty good grip on the gist of being Snake Bit. As a kid growing up on the mostly unpopulated side of a mountain in North Vancouver, British Columbia I was always going hell bent for leather through the forest with my Irish setter, Roxy. To say that I was a little clumsy would be greatly understating the matter. My mother told me later that the first thing out of my mouth when entering the house as a small child was usually, “I fell in”. Even in the dead of summer when there had been no rain for a month ( it does happen in Vancouver occasionally ) I would find a wet muddy  spot to fall into.

Now this, in and of itself is not entirely uncommon and could be chocked up to my being a somewhat ungainly and clumsy kid. Somehow though I guess my father saw through it and realized that there was a whole other dynamic evolving there. By the time I was in elementary school a pattern had developed. If, for instance, in gym class the volley ball net was likely to fall on someone, the climbing rope slip out of the ring in the ceiling or the edge of the vaulting box to slip off the mat and send the gymnast careening ass over teakettle onto the wooden floor boards, that child was most likely to be me.

After such occurrences I think there was some relief among the other students in that they felt they would now probably make it through gym class unscathed, as the odds of these incidents repeating with someone else were astronomically high. In short, I was a good kid to hang out with. A lot of my childhood prior to school had been pretty solitary so this seemed like a good thing to me.

By junior high the trend had escalated. I was a pretty good baseball player but had certainly had more than my share of bruises and broken bones gaining that status. By senior high I had become a little aloof and didn’t fit in very well. I credit my best friends Gwen and Shelley (still in Vancouver) for my sanity during those years. I didn’t go to school very often, but always showed up to write exams so no one really missed me until the middle of my twelfth year when they decided that the best way to handle the fact that I had not been there for two and a half years was to expel me.

I spent the next two years in a cosmetology apprenticeship and liked the makeup end but realized early on that the hair and nails end of things (which was the majority of the program) was definitely not for me. I stuck it out and got my license and then headed off in early September across Canada with my friend Gwen in a bright yellow Volkswagen Van, which we quickly, and appropriately tagged “The Lemon”.

I believe it was our second day out, in the middle of the night in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, that our electrical system failed and we lost all our lights and our windshield wipers. It was dark and snowing and the road was narrow and treacherous. There was no safe place to pull over so we bundled up in sweaters, stuck flashlights out the windows and soldiered on. By morning we had made it safely out of the mountains and into the town of Golden where we had to stay a few days while the mechanic figured out what had happened to “The Lemon”.

With the electrical system repaired we drove on to Calgary where Gwen had relatives. On our second day there, with two of Gwen’s very young cousins in the van, a horrendous explosion emanated from the rear of “The Lemon”, followed by billowing black smoke. As we sat on the sidewalk contemplating the remains of our black and smoldering engine, I think Gwen was having second thoughts about having undertaken this trip with me. Gwen and I have known each other since we were nine or ten years old so she really should have known better.

We had to go to work for about 3 weeks in Calgary to pay for the new engine so it was now late September as we headed out across the prairies. Thankfully snow came late that year so we enjoyed a really beautiful fall. We were heading to Saskatoon and just before midnight we drove into town and noticed the sign said Moosejaw. I was navigating at that point and clearly map reading was not my strong suit. I was off by 224 km. At this point we noticed flashing lights behind us and Gwen pulled over. 

A young smiling policeman told us that he had about 15 minutes left on his shift and had noticed our license plates and pulled us over for a routine check. At 19 we knew nothing about our rights as citizens of Canada and as the smiling young policeman did his illegal search and seizure, all the while telling us about his pregnant wife who was about to “pop”, we just sat and listened. Very chagrined, he notified me that he had found marijuana seeds in the bottom of my purse and that he would have to arrest me.

We went to the police station where they called the circuit court judge. This being one of my very rare incidents of profound good luck, the man was actually in town which meant that I did not have to sit in jail for a couple of months waiting for his arrival. By about 2 am it was over, I had paid a fine for the misdemeanor and we were once again on our way, with Gwen navigating.  “The Lemon”, however was not finished. By the time we reached Halifax we had spent about 2,500 dollars, which was a lot of money in 1974 and also about 500 dollars more than we had originally paid for the beast.

This is how we came to find ourselves in a public park in Halifax with 35 cents between us and a nearly empty gas tank. While we sat in “The Lemon” contemplating our immediate future an old man approached the van and knocked on the window. When I rolled down the window and greeted him he said he had noticed our out of Province license plates and  proceeded to tell us the story of a young boy being recently murdered in that self same park and that we should be very very careful as this was “a dirty, dirty city”.

As it turned out we absolutely loved the “dirty dirty city” and stayed for a year and a half. But by then we were 21 and getting itchy feet again so we returned to Toronto and divested ourselves of “The Lemon”, getting about 2000 dollars, and feeling lucky to have passed on “The Lemon Torch” to someone else. We hoped they had deep pockets.

We had left Halifax with the intention of flying from Toronto to Florida and beginning a new adventure in the States. Our roommate Allen unbennounced to me, had left us a going away gift in a seldom used outside pocket of my carryon bag. He had rolled us a rather fat 12 inch joint. When it was discovered in airport security the agent removed it, held it up and asked me “what is this”? In my ultimate 21 year old wisdom, I grinned and said “it looks like a joint, why don’t we smoke it and find out”?

Everything we owned, which was admittedly little at that point, went on to Florida while we remained in Toronto to straighten out the mess. Thank you very much Allen. In about two weeks we had done so, and with the help of more of Gwen’s relatives in Florida who vouched for us (it was a different time then) we were able to catch up with our belongings. Thank goodness for Gwen’s prolific family.

After a few months of working our way across the southern USA  we wound up in San Diego. We had enough money to either go home to Vancouver or fly to Hawaii. Care to guess whether we went north or south? Yes we went to Hawaii. We had picked up another roommate in San Diego and between us we had enough money to get to Waikiki and rent an apartment for one month. It was two months before any of us found jobs and those to which we had originally turned up our noses were starting to look good.

To Be Continued…

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Emiliano Zapata Wants Brownies






Each time I think I have found my favourite San Miguel de Allende Restaurant I visit a new one and discover that I was wrong. Still, for today I am going to expound on the gastronomic virtues and ambiance of my latest favourite, Café Rama. I had made the mistake of not visiting earlier because of some negative comments I had heard around town.

I had been told that about a year ago Café Rama lost it’s chef and that it was “just no longer the same and don’t bother going there”. Well you can’t believe everything you hear. Tuesday night was my second visit to Café Rama, I like to visit a restaurant at least twice before I write about it, just in case the first time was a fluke. It was no fluke.

I have now had two totally different types of meals and both were exceptional. The menu said that one of the daily specials was a white fish (robalo) baked in pastry. That sounded pretty good to me so I asked the waiter to tell me about how it was prepared and if he thought it was good. He told me that they had actually just got in fresh Mahi Mahi and that that was now the fish special.

As that is one of my favourite fish I opted to try that, grilled with a pesto sauce. The fish came with two side dishes, of the client’s choice, and I chose asparagus baked in pastry (to make up for the fish) and baked red potatoes. I could not have been happier with the outcome.


fish FB


Todd was in the mood for comfort food that night and ordered the chicken pot pie. Having had that on my previous visit, I new he would be happy. Lots of chicken and vegetables that still have a slight crunch even though they have clearly simmered for some time in the rich creamy sauce. This is topped with flakey puff pastry baked to a perfect golden brown. Along side of the pot pie there were some fresh,and fragrant, French bread slices with chopped fresh basil and sliced cherry tomatoes.


pot pie FB



garden FB


Café Rama was expanded about 10 or 11 months ago and now offers two dining rooms. They both have fireplaces but the similarities end there. The room you enter from the street is the upper floor, although only by a few steps, with a ramp for the disabled. An important point for some of us, LOL. This room is windowed and bright with a lovely garden. There is a huge tree there, and rather than remove it they built a garden and the restaurant around it. This area sort of has the feel of a high end New York deli.


Rama1 FB


One thing that the two rooms do have in common is fabulous lighting. All of the vintage lamps and chandeliers are a work of art. Although the main bar is found in the lower room, there is a very small, quaint bar next to the dessert counter on the main floor as well. In the dessert counter reside such delicacies as handmade chocolate truffles, carrot cake, chocolate torte, cheesecake with blackberries, fresh brownies sprinkled with powdered sugar, and cups of flan fresh from the oven, among other things.


rama2 FB


“Downstairs” the ambiance changes, as though you have entered a New York warehouse loft. Whitewashed wood and high ceilings give way to a huge bar at the end of the room. Looking like something out of an old western, it has a television behind it that plays (silently) things like The Munsters and Charlie Chaplin. The walls are covered with colourful art by Jaime Shelley, which can also be purchased, and the floor is carpeted with cowhide rugs.




The evening was chilly so the warmth emanating from the large fireplace on the lower floor was welcome. On the cowhide rug in front of the fireplace sits a coffee table with a vase of roses. Around the table are comfortable high backed leather chairs and a cowhide sofa and chair. There is also a bookcase should you like to relax there and read. The waiter did tell us that we were welcome to have our coffee by the fire after dinner if we were so inclined. Unfortunately we had to be on our way that night, but another time…



bat fire FB


Some of the other items on the menu included Pulled Pork Sandwiches, which Todd says are wonderful, a Veggie Burger with portobello mushroom, gouda cheese, tomato, peppers, pickles and caramelized onions, Fish and Chips and Fried Chicken Rama.

You could also have a warm spinach salad with fish or shrimp and sesame miso dressing, cold spinach salad with apple, candied walnuts, cranberry, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette or a meal size mango salad. If you are in the mood for something different you might like Fish Curry, served on a bed of shallots, apple and mixed rice, or maybe Makhani Chicken Curry, served with jasmine rice, purslane curry and grated apple chutney.

With the daily specials you have a choice of two sides, some of which are Cauliflower with toasted almonds, cranberries and parsley garlic chips, Spinach sauteed with lemon pepper and Olive Oil, Zucchine rolls stuffed with goat cheese with chives, Sauteed Asparagus wrapped in bacon with grated Parmesan cheese, or baked in pastry.

There is also a full breakfast menu which is served from 8 am to 11:30 am Tuesday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm, and rumour has it that the Eggs Benedict and Florentine are very good.


pooch Fb.jjpg

  Pancho, the host at Café Rama is waiting for your visit.


All the photographs in this post are courtesy of Todd McIntosh and you can click on them for a larger image.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Times, They Are A Changin’






Hi, I’m, back. Did anybody miss me? Actually I didn’t go anywhere, I just have not posted for a couple of weeks. We’ve been BUSY! And this is a good thing. For the longest time, even though we have been enjoying San Miguel, we have kind of been feeling like outsiders here.

I don’t know about Todd, but I’ve been a little homesick for Patzcuaro and Michoacán. I miss volunteering in the kitchen at El Sagrario, and all the wonderful folks there. It was nice to walk through town or the mercado, and have so many people wave or stop to chat. I felt like I was really part of the community there.



El Sagrario, Patzcuaro


But then I realized, after a couple of really busy weeks, that our lifestyle has changed quite radically since we first arrived in San Miguel. For the last six or eight months I have been taking a conversational Spanish class twice a week in a little back room in Juan’s Café where I have met some wonderful people. We are such a diverse group, with totally different opinions and perspectives, that our discussions are often very lively.



Juan’s Café on Calle Reloj


At times it seems more like a book club than a Spanish class, as we read novels and discuss them in the class. There are days though, when we don’t even get to the novel because someone has mentioned some current event happening in the news and we’re off and running. Our teacher José, a charming young man from Aguascalientes, is a wonderful mediator, somehow always managing to keep us on track.

This class has really become the highlight of my week, but lately it’s been vying for position with so many other things going on in our lives. A couple of months ago Todd began volunteering for the house tour which takes place every Sunday afternoon. It is one of the many events overseen by Emma Salazar, the event coordinator for the public library. This is one of the ways the library raises money to maintain itself as well as for several local charities.

Somewhere along the way Todd became the photographer for the house tour and Emma’s all around go to guy, which keeps him, and sometimes me, pretty busy. Last Sunday after the house tour we enjoyed the company of Todd’s fellow volunteers at Milagros, one of my favorite restaurants here in San Miguel.





There is always live music at Milagros and the menu is huge. From the inexpensive burgers and Tex/Mex section (which is almost impossible to come by in Mexico) to the moderately priced fresh salads, pastas and seafood, to the pricier classic Mexican cuisine which includes authentic Molcajetes, the food is always consistent and delicious.




The Molcajete is a basalt stone bowl which sits on three little legs and is used to grind spices and make salsas and guacamole. In this case, however, it is piping hot and filled with grilled arrachera, marinated flank steak, grilled chicken, chorizo sausage and panela cheese, chiles, and nopal cactus, all bathed in a homemade salsa verde. You wrap these delicacies in hot freshly pressed corn tortillas and it is absolutely mouthwatering.


the gang FB

Some of the charming Milagros staff


If you go to Milagros on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon you can enjoy your molcajete while you listen to the music of Jack and Francis. They both play seven string guitars, which was totally new to me, and they are incredibly adept. Their music is varied, and depending on their mood you may hear classical, jazz, country, R&B or just about any other genre you can think of. I’m not really sure which category the Beatles fall into but Jack and Francis recreate their music beautifully.

Where I was actually going with this before I got off on a tangent, was that while we were dining last Sunday Emma told me that her next project with the library is going to be an English class for local kids. Emma speaks excellent English and knows what opportunities it can give the local kids when they are ready to go to work. She asked me if I would be interested in helping out with the class. I was delighted and told her that I would love to help.

This may be just what I have been looking for since moving to San Miguel. I’ve been wanting a way to connect with the community here like I did in Patzcuaro.  We have our classes, Todd has taken improv and is thinking about an acting class, and I have my Spanish and recently took a course with the new Lifelong Learning program here and we have new clients that are keeping us busy, but I was still feeling like something was missing.

I think now our “Plan” is finally coming together and somewhere along the way San Miguel de Allende became home and I didn’t even realize it.



All the photos in this post are compliments of Todd McIntosh except the Molcajete.