¡Adios Muchachos!

See You All in February!

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, my flight leaves for Guadalajara, where I will putter around for three hours, and then take another Volaris flight to Mérida. I will drive to the airport with Martine, and Martine will drive back by herself. (She’s not coming with me because she is allergic to anti-malaria medications.)

During my absence, I will not blog. Instead I will go into experiential mode to get something to write about when I return in February.

Incidentally, today is my 75th birthday, which is a milestone for me. My father died at the age of 74, so I had always wondered whether I would outlive his span of years. It appears that I already have, so that is one less morbid imagining. To spend the time after my birthday in a place I love (Yucatán) can only lengthen my life, no?

 

In Trump’s America

Make America Suck Again

After my day had a bad beginning, I was not surprised to read my horoscope in the L.A. Times: “Knowing you’re not in control can be frightening or frustrating, especially when the situation is one you would normally handle without a problem.”

I am continuing to have problems obtaining my prescriptions from Anthem Blue Cross. After being requested to call Anthem on a Saturday morning to check on the status of my order, I found that the phone number they gave me is open on weekdays only. When I called Anthem Customer Service, I was told that my prescriptions would not be ready on Monday—despite having been assured they would be. Every person seemed to have a different story.

Net result: I will be playing by Mexican Rules. I will attempt to get the drugs I need in Yucatán over the counter at a large pharmacy. Some drugs I will run out midway through the trip.

Once again, corporations rule. While we are being assured that everything will be jake with us, our benefits, our rights, and our protections are being whittled away to nothing. All this while Trump’s phony triumphalism continues unabated, and while ignorant hicks wear red hats to celebrate their loss of status. One can’t even talk to corporations any more:

AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: Please tell us what you are calling about.
ME: I need to speak to a human being.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING!!!
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
*** And so on ***

Eventually I got through to a representative who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about my problems and who provided yet another face-saving lie.  (Incidentally, hitting the O for Operator didn’t work.)

 

 

Financialism

Some Wealth Is Real—Based on Actual Products and Services That Fill a Need—Then There Is Financialism

One of the things that really bothers me about this economy is that, increasingly, it is based not on satisfying real needs, but on playing games with finance. According to an essay by Ezra Wasserman Mitchell:

Financialism is a system in which the real economy plays a secondary role to the financial economy, in the process stripping future real economic profits for present consumption. While it bears similarities to the process often identified in the economic literature as “financialization,” it differs both in historical scope and in its suggestion that financialism differs fundamentally from capitalism.

Let me give you several examples:

  • Executives in such “gamed” industries as pharmaceuticals, insurance, or rental real estate get together and decide what level of profit they want for the coming year. In order to achieve their goals, they raise prices to achieve goals that are based on how much money they want—not how much money they can reasonably be expected to earn in the course of business.
  • Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin represent financial speculations divorced from providing products and services. It’s not so much the finger pointing at the moon so much as it is a finger pointing at a finger pointing at the moon.
  • Bank charges and airline nickel-and-dime fees can cause real economic pain that is far removed from the actual value of the services being accounted for.

This came home to me today when I discovered that the forms of insulin I must take for my Type 2 Diabetes have been removed from Anthem Blue Cross’s drug formulary. Outraged, I called Blue Cross and suggested they accompany their “drug not in formulary” notices with ads for cemetery plots and mortuaries. That didn’t go over well with them, but I was pissed. Evidently, if Anthem Blue Cross saw their projected profit as more important than they basic services they provided.

 

Autobuses de Oriente (ADO)

The Service Area of ADO First Class Buses

There have been many changes since I last visited Southeast Mexico. Among other things, Autobuses de Oriente (ADO) has merged with Ómnibus Cristóbal Colón (OCC) to pretty much monopolize first class bus service in Yucatán. I remember the days when I had to ride the rackety old Unión de Camionéros de Yucatán (UCY) second class buses with their broken seats and cracked windows. There are still a number of second class carriers, but UCY is no more.

Before going any further, allow me to clarify what first class and second class mean. First class buses directly connect larger cities and do not allow passengers to board or alight from a bus between its origin and its destination, unless the city is of a certain size. A bus from Mérida to Mexico City would typically be first class, stopping only in larger cities en route such as Campeche, Ciudad del Carmen, or Coatzacoalcos.

Second class buses connect small towns with larger cities, or with other small towns. When I go from Mérida to Izamal or Uxmal to Campeche, I will have to take a second class bus. The fare will be less per mile, the passengers poorer, and the bus less deluxe. Most importantly, the trip will take longer because passangers can board or exit anywhere they want.

There is also another class of bus usually referred to as combis. These are multi-row vans connecting even smaller cities. Typically, they do not leave until they are full.

ADO Bus at Station Platform

Instead of renting a car, I will travel around Yucatán and Campeche states almost entirely by bus. In some cases, I may join a tour organized by a local travel agency, but only to visit some ruins that are harder to get to via public transportation. When I return from Mexico, I will hopefully have some stories about bus travel in the Sureste region, as well as scads of my own photos.

 

 

Haibun: At the Ruins of Dzibilchaltún

The Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltún

A Haibun is a uniquely Japanese medium in which prose and haiku poetry are interspersed. I will attempt to memorialize some of my travel experiences using the Haibun genre from time to time. My intent is to follow the style of Matsuo Bashō:

First look at the ruins
My eyes glued to the chess board
Losing to my guide.

On my first trip to Yucatán in November 1975, I ordered guide services from a company called Turistica Yucateca. The lady who ran the company couldn’t speak a word of English, but we managed to communicate by nouns more or less common to English and Spanish. As my first destination, I chose Dzibilchaltún, about 20  miles north of Mérida. My guide, who had his own vehicle, was Manuel Quiñones Moreno who spoke good English and was well educated. I spent a few minutes looking at the ruins, which were mostly fairly ramshackle; but then he brought out a chess set, and we played several games. I lost all of them.

I have always loved chess, but not with any degree of proficiency.

In any case, I didn’t hold it against Manuel. I hired him the next day to show me the ruins of Acanceh and Mayapán. I kind of wish that Turistica Yucateca were still around, but that was almost half a century ago.

Things change.

 

 

Poles Apart

Chanel High School R.I.P.

A strange memory from the past popped into my mind this afternoon as I was heading for the exit of the Century City parking garage. I thought back to our old high school cheer, which was openly contemptuous of Poles. Chanel High (later renamed St. Peter Chanel High) belonged to the North Central Athletic Conference, which consisted of a handful of Catholic high schools, including St. Edward, Elyria Catholic, and—most particularly—St. Stanislaus. I say “most particularly” because we had chosen St. Stan’s to be our official enemy. It was only a few miles away and located in a largely Polish Catholic neighborhood.

When our cheerleaders revealed the following chant, there were a few hard feelings:

OOH sah sah sah!
OOH sah sah sah!
Hit ’em in the head with a BIG KIELBASA!
Put ’em in a barrel
Roll ’em down the street
FIREBIRDS, FIREBIRDS
Can’t be beat!

We, of course, were the Firebirds. Fortunately, during my years at Chanel (1958-1962), we mostly prevailed over St. Stan’s. And it didn’t keep us Hungarians, Slavs, and Italians from enjoying Kielbasa sausages.

Back Then, All Our Cheerleaders Were Male

Once I graduated from Chanel, big changes happened. The biggest of them was the admission of girls. Then, there were a number of black students. Finally, the school was ceded to the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and was no longer controlled by the Marist order of priests. Around the same time, the name was changed from Chanel to St. Peter Chanel.

Unfortunately, it’s all moot now, as Chanel closed its doors a few years ago and has, I believe, been subjected to the wrecking ball. Sic transit gloria mundi!

 

Haibun: The Norte

A Norte Storm Lashes the Gulf Coast of Yucatán

A Haibun is a uniquely Japanese medium in which prose and haiku poetry are interspersed. I will attempt to memorialize some of my travel experiences using the Haibun genre from time to time. My intent is to follow the style of Matsuo Bashō:

November norte
White-clad Maya point and laugh
Paper boats bobbing in the street.

It was November 1992. I was in Yucatán with Martine and three friends from work: George Hoole and Jin and Christine Han. On the last day but one of our trip, the peninsula suffered a storm called a norte, because it originated in the United States and gathered strength as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico. The streets of Mérida were flooded: There was no walking without wet stains halfway up the leg. We were staying at the Posada Toledo, an old mansion turned hotel, near the center, worried whether our return flight the next day would be able to take off. Jin Han lightened the mood by carefully folding paper boats and setting them adrift in the street. They aroused considerable hilarity among the passersby.