The Tourist Axis

Mérida Is One of My Favorite Cities in the World

When I got off the plane at Manuel Crescencio Rejón Airport in Mérida (aka MID) on January 14, my spirits lifted. I had had a rough flight from LAX to Guadalajara and from thence to Mérida—all after a sleepless night—but my spirits lifted as soon as I found myself once more in “The White City.” The city’s tourist axis runs from the bus station north through the Plaza de Independencia (pictured above) and Calle 60, taking a slight jog eastward and continuing northward along the Paseo Montejo several miles to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.

Along this axis are numerous sixteenth century churches, hotels, museums, restaurants, and shops aimed at the tourist trade. No sooner did I dump my bags at the Hotel La Piazetta at the Parque de la Mejorada than I hoofed it to the Plaza Independencia and had a world class shoeshine. In past visits, I wore a set of custom-made hiking boots of chrome leather which the shoeshining fraternity stationed at the plaza polished to a gorgeous sheen. Then, as it was hot (90º F or 33º C) and humid, I went out for a  beer. My old favorite—Carta Clara from the Cervecería Yucateca—was no more, but Mexico still has good beers that make Budweiser and Coors taste like horse piss.

The Palacio Cantón Contains a Great Museum of Maya Antiquities

On my first full day in Mérida, I hiked to the Palacio Cantón on the Paseo Montejo, home to the Regional Museum of Anthropology. In it are primo examples of Maya sculpture, stelae, and glyphs—the best of the best! They are housed in a century-old mansion belonging to a former army general, who was also a millionaire.

Maya Stela

It is unlikely you will find better examples of Maya carvings anywhere else in Mexico. Even in the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, several miles north, there is a slight drop-off in quality compared to the Palacio Cantón.



Indian Wells

The Serious Side of Indian Wells

California Route 14 cuts directly through the Antelope Valley and the Mojave Desert until it joins with U.S. 395 just north of Inyokern and just a few miles west of the epicenters of the Ridgecrest earthquakes. Along the side of 14 are a number of deserted motels and restaurants dating back to the 1930s. And there is also the Indian Wells Brewing Company, the manufacturers of Rocket Fizz Sodas, which, unlike the ruined properties, is very much a going concern.

On our way back to Los Angeles from the Eastern Sierras, the Indian Wells Brewing Company was the last stop on our trip. I didn’t know what to expect; but what Martine and I found turned out to be a hoot. Although the company also manufactures beers, I didn’t try them because I had to drive back to L.A. traffic stone sober. But the soda pops were a different story.

Alien Snot and Worm Ooze Are Just Two of the Colorful Soda Brands

So far I have tried the Marilyn Monroe Lemonade Soda, the Rocket Fizz Pineapple Soda, and the Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla (which was delicious). We also got bottles of the King Kong Cola, the Three Stooges Root Beer, and a Key Lime-flavored Soda, which I suspect will be just as good. Altogether, we spent an hour at their store in the desert being entertained by the wild array of amusing brand names and the wild sense of humor they exhibited.

Beer Keg Urinal in the Restroom

Next time we drive around there, I’m going to have to try some of their beers.

Two Disasters

Close-Up of Beer

This is a tale of two disasters, separated from each other by a little more than a century, and oddly representative of the countries in which they took place. After the horrendous hurricanes that destroyed so much of Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean—and the earthquakes that devastated parts of Mexico—I began to think of some of the strangers disasters that have befallen man. My source for both is FutilityCloset.Com, one of my favorite sources for odd facts.

The first disaster occurred on October 17, 1814, in London during the Napoleonic Wars. That’s when a giant vat bull of beer at the St. Giles brewery ruptured with such force that it ruptured many of the adjoining vats. Within minutes, some 323,000 gallons of the stuff that makes Englishmen happy flowed into the West End. That day, it turns out there was little happiness: Eight people were killed “by drowning, injury, poisoning by porter fumes, or drunkenness.” Basements were flooded, and several tenements collapsed from the onslaught of the brew.

What Can One Say?

It is a hundred five years later across the ocean in Boston, Massachusetts. The date is Wednesday, January 15, 1919. As Wikipedia describes the event:

“A muffled roar burst suddenly upon the air,” wrote the Boston Herald. “Mingled with the roar was the clangor of steel against steel and the clash of rending wood.”

The tank collapsed, sending a giant wave of molasses sweeping through the North End. Even in the January cold, the wave would have been 8 to 15 feet high and traveled at 35 mph. It broke the girders of the elevated railway, lifted a train off its tracks, and tore a firehouse from its foundation. Twenty-one people stickily drowned, and 150 were injured. Cleanup took six months; one victim wasn’t found for 11 days.

The 2.3 million gallons of molasses that caused the flood was being used to convert it to grain alcohol. Maybe so, but it kind of stands to reason that the American disaster involved a whole lot of sticky, sweet stuff.

The Only Way to Survive in the Jungle

Having a Beer in Puerto Iguazu

Having a Beer in Puerto Iguazu

When I went to Iguazu Falls last month, it was the first time I had ever been in what I call a “monkey jungle.” There isn’t much jungle in Argentina, but the northeasterly states of Corrientes and Misiones readily qualify. Many of the trees have been cleared to make room for the Yerba Mate crop, of which most is consumed within Argentina itself (and sometimes in the United States by strange people like me).

Although I had Yerba Mate even for breakfast in the jungle—in the form of teabags, usually referred to as mate cocido—the drink which kept me going during the day was ice cold beer. In the above picture, I am enjoying a Quilmes, which is as popular down there as the various Anheuser-Busch productoids are here. You can see the edge of the pool at the Posada la Sorgente on Avenida Córdoba in Puerto Iguazu. In the late afternoon, I enjoyed having a cool one by the outdoor bar while reading my Kindle.

My overwhelming impression of the selva was that it was hot and humid, especially as it was getting ready to unleash a Biblical thunderstorm on the evening of the day the above picture was taken.

Bananas on the Bar at Posada la Sórgente

Bananas on the Bar at Posada la Sorgente

Here is another view of the bar, which had a handy basket of home-grown bananas at its edge.

I don’t know if I will ever find myself in the jungle again. For the Iguazu Falls, though, it was worth it. My greatest fear going there was the possibility of getting bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes. Not too far north, in Brazil, the Zika fever (carried by the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue, and chikungunya) is so prevalent that residents of the State of Pernambuco and surrounding areas are being urged to avoid getting pregnant. The danger? The children are in danger of being born with microcephaly.

Fortunately, not only was I not bitten: I did not even see any mosquitoes.

Of Mexican Beer

One of My Favorites

One of My Favorites

Today I walked into Santa Monica to use a 20% off coupon at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the Promenade. Because Martine has another bout of irritable bowel syndrome, she is on a diet of chicken and cookies for now (though I am not sure that is the best thing for her). After buying a couple of DVDs (Kenji Mizoguchi’s Sansho Dayu and Federico Fellini’s ) and a Ukrainian mystery novel (Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin), I decided to stop for a quick lunch at La Lotería Grill.

Although beer is one of the beverages which is discouraged because of my Type 2 Diabetes, I decided to risk ordering a Dos Equis Lager to accompany my two tacos de huachinango (that’s Pacific Red Snapper in Nahuatl). I thought as I sipped the beer how much I loved Mexican beers during my many travels in that country between 1975 and 1991. In Yucatán, there was Carta Clara, Montejo Clara, and Léon Negra by the now defunct Cervecería Yucateca, which sold out to Modelo. In Mazatlán and along the Pacific Coast, I would drink Pacifico Clara. And just about anywhere, I would drink Cerveza Superior from Cervecería Cuautémoc-Moctezuma or Corona, the only good beer produced by Grupo Modelo.

Today turned out to be an unseasonably hot day in Southern California, so the beer went down smoothly, as did the fish tacos. It may be months before I venture another bottle of beer, but I will eventually return for that same sensation. And it will probably be another Mexican beer. I have many happy memories with Mexican beers going back a long time.

I don’t write very much of my travels in Mexico. That is mostly because I would have to convert a ton of Kodachrome 25 slides to digital format. I’ll probably do it eventually, and I will regale you with my adventures in Mexico, mostly in Yucatán and Chiápas, but also including Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca, Teotihuacán, and Tula. Those were good times, and that’s when I caught the travel bug big time.