We'd been having rain, rain and more rain. My brother-in-law, down from Alaska to escape the northern gloom, was having trouble doing that. He'd run into ice storms in New Mexico and gloom in Dallas. Here when it wasn't raining, fog and mist swirled round the mountains and down the streets and filled the valleys. Very English said the Americans here. I thought it was beautiful. In fact, I think the winter weather here is the best weather all year. For example, one evening we went to Xico with friends for dinner. The restaurant we'd hoped to go to was closed, but the owner pointed us to what we all thought might be an Italian restaurant. We followed a curving, cobblestone street with lamplight diffused in the mist to El Restaurant Mediteraneo hidden in a stucco building. It wasn't Italian. I'm not sure what it was, but they had reasonably good food and drink. Actually, we got their last bottle of red wine and had to supplement it with beer. We sat around for hours, drinking and eating shrimp and meat and other stuff and finally staggered out back into the fog. And, yes, we drove home, thinking it looked even more beautiful than ever. Except for John who was really craving a bit of sun. Anyway, he escaped briefly to Veracruz and environs and encountered weather that was at least a bit warmer and then returned and milagro de milagros the morning we thought to take a drive the sun greeted us.
Not yet the trip -- Jim has a blog now. QUITE an interesting one and beautiful to boot. It is at cascada-jb.blogspot.com
And here is another detour. I have started to read "My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, last year's winnder of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In this book there is a chapter called "I Am a Dog," written, indeed, by a dog. The reason I am bringing this up is that living here in Ursulo Galván, I have watched many of the neighborhood dogs and have come to the conclusion that, though their lives may be shortened by parasites and their fur may not be the most glorious, many of them are indeed happy. Our indulged and beloved Rita, in fact, longs to join them more often than she is permitted. This is a revolution in my thinking about dogs in Mexico. It's not that there aren't dogs in Mexico that suffer terribly, it's just that some of them clearly don't, and not because they are coddled.
So here is some of what Pamuk's dog says (including a detour about coffee within the detour about dogs):
"Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen."
"...this Husret Hoja [a cleric]...declared with spittle flying from his mouth,'Ah, my devoted believers! The drinking of coffee is an absolute sin! Our Glorious Prophet did not partake of coffee because he knew it dulled the intellect, caused ulcers, hernia and sterility....Coffeehouses are places where pleasure-seekers and wealthy gadabouts sit knee-to knee, involving themselves in all sorts of vulgar behavior....coffeehouses ought to be banned....Men frequent these places, become besotted with coffee and lose control of their mental faculties to the point that they actually listen to and believe what dogs and mongrels have to say. But those who curse me and our religion, it is they who are the true mongrels.'
"With your permission [says the narrator-dog] I'd like to respond to this comment by the esteemed cleric. Of course, it is common knowledge that hajis, hojas, clerics and preachers despise us dogs. In my opinion, the whole matter concerns our revered Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, who cut off a piece of his robe upon which a cat lay sleeping rather than wake the beast. By pointing out this affection shown to the cat, which has incidentally been denied to us dogs, and due to our eternal feud with this feline beast, which even the stupidest of men recognizes as an ingrate, people have tried to intimate that the Prophet himself disliked dogs...."
Well, this narrator-dog tells us a lot more about how dogs have been maligned and mistreated because of the misinterpretation of the Koran and also recounts its true noble place in that holy book.
The dog-narrator acknowledges that clerics aren't the only one to mistreat dogs, and this mistreatment may surprise you. He says:
"In the lands of the infidel Franks, the so-called Europeans, every dog has an owner. These poor animals are paraded on the streets with chains around their necks, they're fettered like the most miserable of slaves and dragged around in isolation. These Franks force the poor beasts into their homes and even into their beds. Dogs aren't even permitted to walk with one another, let alone sniff and frolic together. In that despicable state, in chains, they can do nothing but gaze forlornly at each other from a distance when they pass on the street."
Now here is the ideal dog life which could be found in Istanbul and can, minus the biting, be found in Colonia Ursulo Galván:
"Dogs who roam the streets of Istanbul freely in packs and communities, the way we do, dogs who threaten people if necessary, who can curl up in a warm corner or stretch out in the shade and sleep peacefully, and who can shit wherever they want and bite whomever they want, such dogs are beyond the infidels imagination."
So when you come to visit, realize the dogs are just enjoying themselves, being true to their dog selves.
Since this is so long, the trip to Tembladeres will comprise the next entry.