Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Iguana Friend

I have been getting more serious about concentrating on the book I am currently trying to write.  That means I take my notes and books out to the pool.  My iguana friend, the big guy, visits me every day.  He hangs out just above me on the wall.  I talk to him.  He looks at me.  He stays for a while and then moves on.  I have started cutting bananas and throwing them up on the pool roof for him. He has great white spikes and dark stripes.  His legs look so powerful, especially those big feet he has.  

Last Saturday the sky was blue, I was in the pool having the usual staredown with the iguana. Then he moved along and I kept on working.  I turned around and he had come down our wall and into the patio. He climbed a dead palm tree we use as a cat scratcher. I slowly made my way to the shallow end of the pool, just a few feet away from him. He may have been after some ripe HOT chiles on the bush below him. You can see him holding on to this tree stump.
Then the sky clouded up like, immediately, and I covered the pool and just got everything put away when the heavy downpour started.  The iguana ran behind the pool, through the patio, ate a fallen mamey on his way, and as the patio flooded he took his escape up the mamey tree.  I may write more on the subject if there are any interesting developments. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

After the Rains

These are yesterday's beautiful desert roses.

This is the stinky sludge leftover in the carport. 

The Diario del Yucatán reports we had up to 90 mm of rain (3.5 inches) in that one or two hour downpour.  The entire city flooded.  The centro was a disorganized mess; the buses moved a lot of water, making the waves that entered the houses practically surfable.  My friend told me Garcia Generes was inundated like he'd never seen before.  He watched guys pushing stalled cars, but the cars were floating and going with the current instead of the intended direction.

For a good story about the rain, check out this post:   Where's Noah When You Need Him?

I may have been wondering if the friends on the corner took in water due to waves generated by the cross streets.   But they have pretty good protectors....and their boat may have held tight.....However, there are other folks whose houses were on my mind when the rains came.  I am not sure if you read my post about architects, but the gist of it was that I don't have much confidence in a couple of the TRENDY ones about town. 

I have a friend whose house has a roofless dining room.  Not a cupula or light colored glass, just a big 6x6 ft square (I am guessing and probably exaggerating the size) hole in the ceiling/roof.  The idea was to allow air flow through the house, since it is long, narrow and has no windows except for the two small rooms facing the street and the kitchen facing the patio. A good number of the houses in the centro are attached at the walls. They were built a foot thick to keep out Merida's intense heat.    I ask myself, did the architect forget about the tropical rains when he designed the roofless dining room? Or was he new in town and not know about the three month rainy season?  The floor in that room is gravel with tiles laid on top....but could it withstand four inches of rain in an hour?  I have this picture in my mind of water oozing out in all directions, but maybe I got that picture from the oozing I saw at my own house!  Then I remembered all the fruit trees in her patio....picturing piles of guavas on the ground and leaves of all kinds everywhere. We got lucky with the leaves:  the mamey dropped the last of its leaves last week. Our back patio doesn't look too war torn. The good news about my friend's house is that her street didn't flood, so at least she didn't have to fight water coming in from the front.

There is a wet weather front west of us in the Gulf of Mexico, and some instability on the Caribbean side of the peninsula.  They are predicting 50% chance of rain every day for the rest of the week.  For Saturday night the projected "heat index" is 56°C.  132.8°F.  I am hoping that is a misprint. 

I am constantly amazed how life can change from one day to the next.  This was just a rainstorm, with no major damage done, but for me it was a wake up call for the upcoming hurricane season and a reminder about how quirky life can be.  Mother Nature is on a rampage it seems, so it is time to beef up the hurricane kit. 

Surprise Tropical Downpour

In the morning I took some photos of the patio.  The new desert roses caught my eye.

I photographed the growth of the succulent garden. It is coming along nicely, no?  This garden is roofed and has a reasonably clean YELLOW pasta tile floor.

Today started off like any Mérida day with  a bright blue sky in the morning. I was in the mood to photograph flowers in the gardens and cats and stuff.  In the early afternoon I noticed some stormy clouds in the distance as I was hanging laundry upstairs, but they seemed far away.  When I saw the clouds getting heavier and heading our way I managed to get all the dried clothes safely inside and filed away. 

Our tenant Nacho and a few of his friends were hanging out in the pool with the stereo blaring from the bodega's open windows when the rains came.  I got out to the bodega to bring in the speakers but it was too late, they were dripping wet as well as the cds below. I purposely went out and stood in the rain, but that is another story about a promise I made to myself.  I will blog about it one of these days. Anyhow, the group partied in the covered patio area behind the pool until it became unbearable.   The winds were crazy and blew the sheets of rain in every direction.  There was no escaping WET with this storm. 

It clouded up quickly.  The rain started innocently enough, but then the sky broke loose.  It was the strongest rain I have experienced here since my arrival in 2007.  As a weather freak, I got excited and flew upstairs with the camera to see if I could capture the sheets of rain as they fell, with the pool overflowing and the patio filling up like a lagoon.  I did get a few good photos. 

Rain fell in sheets, it rained so hard and so fast and SO MUCH! It-s amazing to watch. I ran around the house and closed the necessary doors.  Today it was ALL THE DOORS.  I even remembered the side door in our bedroom and the wide open window.  And I kept on shooting pictures.

In my excitement of trying to capture the feeling of a tropical downpour on video and in photos, I failed to notice that the patio had flooded higher than ever before.  The kitchen was a lake with the water flowing in under and around the sides of the big iron doors.  We swept most of it back outside and sandbagged the doors with beach towels.  Water was gushing into my bedroom also.  Weasel was sitting on a cushion that was completely soaked, and the water was heading toward the new bed cushion that is on the floor, awaiting its new down went the last of the bath towels and even newspapers to soak up the water.  Water was insistent upon entering the house today.  I imagine I am not the only one who feels this way right now.

A downpour from 2008 looked like a light rain compared to today..I am used to seeing our street flood up to the sidewalk.  There have been some rains that sent little waves into this area, but nothing like this.  I can hear myself telling someone,"OH NO, water doesn-t ever come into the house, the gate blocks most of it and just a few little waves come in. The kitchen is set so far back from the street......"   Yeah, right.

Then we made a big mistake.  Since the pool party was moved inside one of the guys decided to trudge through a foot of water in the street to the beer store. A storm called for more beer.  The mistake was opening the FLOOD GATES.  When we opened that front gate, of course everyone went outside in awe of the high water, cars stalling, guys pushing their motorcycles and bikes, and the waves lapping up against my neighbors' houses.  My friends on the corner endure the joining of the 66th St River with the 75th St River, causing the confused water to pound against their house.  They have some necessarily elaborate rubber rain retainers, and I was wondering if those worked today. 

Opening the gate allowed much more water from the street in, and the already flooded parking area and garden experienced a little tsunami.  For the first time, water rushed into the front living rooms.  The door has a rubber strip on the bottom, but the door was wide open.  Out came the mops and the squeegies and more clean up began. 
After the worst of the rain stopped, the carport looked like this:
The water is subsiding but look at the dirt it left behind. Flood water is ugly, dirty, disgusting stuff.

75th Street River

I liked the effects in this photo and decided to share. The reflections of the holes in the water inside the patio.  The distinct water line where the floor is dry.

After a good hour or more of serious downpour, a softer rain continued for several hours.  The water slowly receded leaving behind just the dirt and trash the flood water carried in.  I walk with slow calculated steps so as to not slip in the remaining puddles.  It was an exciting first storm of the season and I just had to post it.  I hope that it is somewhat coherent since I am writing in the middle of the night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Mérida Day in May

The temperature reads 102°F.  It's 3pm.  I'm half in, half out of the swimming pool reading and writing.  On top of the tall cement wall sits a three foot iguana.  We are familiar with each other.  I like to watch him look at the mamey tree.  He turns his head from side to side as if wondering how to get at that fruit.  I think he looks at me with scorn because the branch - THE access branch - was sawed off to raise the wall three years ago. He will have to search the ground for fallen fruit instead. 

I hear him eventually saunter away over the broken glass protectors and flop on to the tin roof next door.  He doesn't move gracefully, but he is a beautiful creature.  He isn't the only iguana around either, but I think he's 'da man'..

I hear a bird making all kinds of racket.  His are odd noises, as if he is imitating other birds, cats fighting, or a rooster crowing.  I can't see him, he's up in the giant Batfruit Tree next door, which is growing a huge new batch of bat fruit seeds.  Sometimes I whistle back at noisy bird and we banter.  Then he laughs at me for being a lousy whistler and he flies away.

I look up into the sky.  Lately a hawk has been hovering over the hood.  He makes several passes swooping low enough to just get a look at his white head.  When the birds have moved on, the plant life wakes up.  The mamey tree has dropped the last of the leaves, the patio is all cleaned up, and now the fruit hits the cement like coconut bombs.  The new bright yellow leaves sprouting from the tips of the empty branches create a beautiful contrast against the bluest sky. 

There is a hot breeze today.  I  set up shop in the shady section of the pool where my body feels cool and the hot winds take my senses down  tropical memory lane. This helps me recreate parts of the past I am attempting to describe in writing. I can hear occasional traffic passing, buses farting, cars honking, brakes screeching, loudspeakers blaring political messages; but it is not a constant or loud noise.  It is just enough activity to remind me that THEY are out there suffering in the heat while I sit here and enjoy my interactions with nature, nurture myself in the cool aquatic medium, and write and rewrite the beginning of the sail story.  I may have written the opening paragraphs fifty times so far, but I feel like I am making great progress. How hopeful and positive is that?  I am am applying what I am relearning in the book ON WRITING WELL by William Zinsser.  It seems to make much more sense to me the second time around.  I have stopped overwhelming myself, and that is a great feat for me.

I don't write this to brag about my life.  I have so much self-doubt at times I think I should be on antidepressants. I suffered writer's block all winter, perhaps because I was also stressed about finances.  The warmer season awakens me, and once I am back on track exercising, feeling healthier and toting a little color, my confidence strengthens, and everything else seem to fall into place.    I think I have gotten real about the writing, am enjoying the intense heat, seeing people enjoy the pool, and life just moving along.  It's just another  Mérida day in May.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Messy Mamey

The mamey zapote tree is quite active these days.  The tree is full of fruit, and one has been taste tested.  They are good this year!  I tasted one that wasn't quite ripe, and after all that description of flavors described in this previous post, I thought it tasted like the almond flavor they put in Chinese cookies. If we can figure out how to get the ripe ones down from the very top of the tree without them smashing on the concrete, I will be happy to share with the people I know who really like this fruit. 

The time has come for mamey tree to shed its winter leaves and rapidly grow the summer set.  This photo was taken a few days ago and since then the tree has lost almost all the leaves you see lingering here.
This is where the leaves have gone.
These photos are only a couple days' collection of leaves, as Pablo has been ritually sweeping them up daily for a couple weeks now.  Finally he threw down the broom and decided to wait for it to finish!
It is hard to capture what I wanted to in the photo below, but I think you can get the idea.  The tree is going to produce five times as much fruit next year by the looks of all the babies on the limbs. 
As trees go, this would have to rate up near the top of hassle trees. It seems to make several varieties of messes in the entire patio area.  But, there is something that draws me to this tree.  I love to watch the bizarre changes it goes through during the course of a year.  It is the cat's escape route to the other side.What's more, it's my meditation tree.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mierda! It's Hot in Mérida!

It is nearly 8pm, I just got out of the pool, showered and I feel refreshed and comfortable.  We started our EVENING SWIMS again.  From Mon thru Fri at 6pm we open the gates. If you have read previous blogs, you know it's not a large or grand pool, it is the only pool around.  The morning exerciser(s) come back in the evening just to cool down the body temp, and others come to move around a bit and then relax.  Our evening hour is more laid back than the morning hour, at 8am, when we really walk around in circles a lot, and everyone has his/her own exercise agenda.  Oh yeah, I am happy to have the evening swims again. 

The Mérida summer heat has set in for real. The outside temperature is still 96.8°.  The fans are blasting hot air.  We are using the big guns, the helicopter fans.  Big loud round fans with names like CYCLONE, etc. They are noisy but move plenty of air.  Unfortunately they don't cool the air they just move around the hot stuff.  But at least it's air.  When the humidity is high and the air is so thick it's practically liquid, it's refreshing to have dry air blowing on you. When you are sweating profusely the fan cools you as it dries the dripping perspiration. Maybe it doesn't sound that appealing, but it sure feels great.

You change your drinking habits when it is this hot because you are always thirsty.  Never leave home without a bottle of drinking water; in my case I don't leave the kitchen without at least a big cup of ice water.  I make six trays of ice twice a day because I like my beverages cold.  That idiosyncracy is left over from my living on a boat for three months without refrigeration, just an empty cooler longing for ice, in the tropics, crossing the equator. Since then, 1990, I admit to being a little anal about having ice in the freezer.  I am willing to maintain a big zip bag of it and I am generous with it.  All I care about is I feel like a new person chugging an ice cold Coke.  Oh, I mean water.  Speaking of ice, ten minutes ago I filled a glass with ice and water.  I sucked up the water in two gulps and the ice is almost gone.  Ten minutes.  After a couple weeks I will be bored with water and move on to iced tea, try this year's new flavors of Tang, make fresh lemonade, and who knows what.  This year the Tang flavors are from all the countries in the world cup....El Mundial, which is coming up soon.  I've already tasted the surprisingly refreshing plum flavor from Argentina, and something wickedly (too) sweet from Brazil. 

If you are planning to EAT on a day like today, you have to plan for that early.  I finally understand why in Fiji (the first place I exprienced this) the women cooked dinner early in the morning, right after serving breakfast.  By mid-day it is too bloody hot to be considering using a hot stove. On the days I decide to cook, I often opt for the crock pot because it causes the least external heat... so we eat lots of Wodarski stews.  They could be anything.  Other days I prepare food that we can eat later, but cold, like potato salad and roasted chicken.  Of course because we are human we also occasionally do use the stove when it is 100° during the hottest part of the evening.  Tonight Pablo made us dinner so he's recuperating with the helicopter fan on high for a spell.  Like I said, I am still refreshed from the pool!

Deciding late in the day to prepare dinner is no problem in this climate.  A package of meat will thaw in less than an hour at room temp, but you have to stay on top of that one, because no one wants ecoli.  Another issue is salt.  We lose a lot of salt when we sweat.  Remember the days people who sweat a lot took salt pills?  When you find you are craving salted nuts or chips, eat'em because you need'em.  We like to use sea salt because I have convinced myself it is actually GOOD for me. 

By evening, it seems that everything you touch feels cuddly warm.  Not that you are looking for CUDDLY warm, au contraire!  The bed seems to generate its own heat at night after a long hot day.  Therefore
this is the time of year it is more comfortable to sleep in the hammock, as the air flow helps you reach a comfortable temperature allowing you to sleep.  There is a short period of time just before dawn when I want a sheet, and just after dawn I wake up when Buster pulls my hair to let me know I am late serving breakfast in the cat world.  At that time, around 6:30ish, it is already at least 80°.  So by the time we get into the pool at 8am, it's starting to warm up for the day.  The pool is maintaining an 85°F average, and I swear that morning swim, using the term loosely, is the best way to start the day.  I am such a wuss when the air is cold and the pool isn't mid80s that I am happy for the heat.