Monthly Archives: June 2014

Where to watch the World Cup in Merida – Round Two

To continue the reviewing of possible options for your FIFA World Cup viewing, here is the latest contender for your beer drinking pesos.

Merida Restaurants and Bars and other Venues

Stars are awarded in each category as follows:

* Horrible, stay away
** Not quite as bad as horrible, but not worth the drive. If you’re in the neighborhood…
*** Average – hit or miss, meh
**** Pretty darn good, make an effort.
***** Worth driving to and find parking for

HENNESSY’S

The game on the menu today was USA vs Germany, and, since the gringos were playing I thought it best to watch this at the popular expat hangout everyone knows and loves: Hennesseys.

1. Screen quality and location: ****
Hennessy’s screens are behind the bar so you will need to sit at the bar or thereabouts in order to get a view of the screen. There is one on each side and while these are great at night, the 11 AM game time was not an optimum moment as there was some glare from the sun outside and so one of the screens had a big white glare spot in the middle of it and I had to watch the one further away. A nice touch was a temporary third screen showing the simultaneous Portugal vs Ghana game, which, had things gone differently, would have affected the outcome of the main event today. Unfortunately the Portugal game was an internet feed that cut out every 2 seconds or so, making it impossible to watch. Thank you TelMex, for that excellent internet service.
2. Air conditioning: ****
Could have been a little cooler in my never humble opinion but perhaps there were enough older folks there with thin blood that need a little more heat than I. Boston’s wins this round as well.
3. Service: ****
With the friendly guys that Sean and Colm are, I am always surprised the wait staff is so serious. But you will get your drinks (or coffee) and Hennessy’s has prizes for every single match. So each time Portugal scored a goal, free shots of whisky all around. Can’t beat that!
4. Food: *****
We all know and love the Hennessy’s menu. Great pub food and the mussels are worth licking the bowl, Emily Post be damned.
5. Prices: *****
Hennessy’s is not cheap but you don’t feel like you are getting ripped off by any stretch of the imagination. You are paying for the food, the drinks and the place is gorgeous.
6. Ambience: Maybe it was the fact that the Germans (yawn) were playing the USA team coached by a German (snore). No yelling, no fist pumps, no hooting and hollering. Just a reflective kind of fandom that is probably not used to watching football. Real football I mean. I expect there would be more excitement if it was college American football or basketball or something. Or maybe a book reading. It was pretty quiet. I suspect things get more lively when Mexico is playing and the more enthusiastic Mexicans come to cheer on their team.

http://www.hennessysirishpub.com/

Where to watch the World Cup in Merida – Round One

Unless you live in a Yucatan cave (sacred or otherwise) – or the United States of America – you will probably have noticed that the World Cup is on and the world is watching.

There are many options to watch the matches (also called games) both at home and in the city of Merida itself. Here are some of those options, along with the pros and cons.

Home Viewing

If you have Sky or Dish you are all set to watch the World Cup at home. But if you are like me, you don’t have the fantastic television offerings (sarcasm) of the aforementioned satellite networks and have to resort to watching games on the computer via some live streaming feed on the ‘net with sleep-inducing British announcers that give you the play-by-play from their sofa where they are lying in some sort of tea-and-scone-induced coma. It’s akin to watching a Golf Channel transmission; it’s that exciting. The video quality of these streaming feeds is so low that the players look like Lego pieces chip-chopping along a green background, like an old Nintendo game from the Pleistocene era. Then, when your team is about to score a goal, the screen freezes altogether and the sound cuts out as well.

If you are watching on the afore-mentioned television networks, you are going to have to make sure to avoid the pre and post game commentary which runs the gamut from childishly clownlike to Beavis and Butthead teen toilet humor to Dumb and Dumber a la mexicana. Soap opera commercials will leave you breathless with anticipation as you wonder how close the camera will get on that teardrop crawling down the poor (but pretty) servant girl’s only slightly brown face (she can’t be all that pretty if she is too obviously of indigenous descent – Mexican television rule number 18)

Merida Restaurants and Bars and other Venues

Stars are awarded in each category as follows:

* Horrible, stay away
** Not quite as bad as horrible, but not worth the drive. If you’re in the neighborhood…
*** Average – hit or miss, meh
**** Pretty darn good, make an effort.
***** Worth driving to and find parking for

BOSTON’S PIZZA

The first match I watched in a restaurant/bar was USA vs Portugal, at Boston’s Pizza’s Gran Plaza location, with Better Half. Boston’s Pizza so far leads in the unofficial survey of Great Places to Watch a Sports Event like the World Cup (GPTWASELTWC por sus siglas en inglés, as the Diario would say). 

1. Screen quality and location: *****
Boston’s has a lot of screens and you can be sitting anywhere and see the game. And hear it. They pipe the audio in to the restaurant’s sound system and so you won’t miss a thing. Video quality is clear and sharp and the screens are large. 
2. Air conditioning: *****
Excellent and you will be able to fist pump the air without the potential embarrassment of underarm sweat stains grossing out your date or fellow game watchers who might care about such things
3. Service: ****
Fast and more or less attentive. They will keep you plied with drinks and enough food if you are willing. Could have a sense of humor, but then again, these are all just kids barely out of high school.
4. Food: ****
Good, fatty bar food and pizza that is really excellent. Try the Mama Meata (lots of carne) and notice the wait person say Mama Miata as in the car.
5. Prices: *****
Excellent prices, for them. Boston’s is not cheap but it is probably worth it if an important game is on.
6. Ambience: Chill. No one is going nuts, unless a goal by the favorite team is scored, then there is a lot of yelling and shouting. But the mood is somewhat on the civilized side as the game progresses. The usual oohs and aaaahs as goalposts are struck by errant balls projected from unbelievable angles by various body parts.

http://www.bostons.com.mx/

ELADIOS

The second match was Mexico vs Croacia, at Eladio’s in Altabrisa again with Better Half but with an additional 13 people as well. We all sat at one long table in their small-ish salon con aire acondicionado. That’s right, Eladio’s doesn’t enjoy A/C in the main room, preferring to keep it more on the al fresco end of the temperature spectrum, an interesting choice since they are only open mid-day, the hottest time of the year. The World Cup is on in June this year and it is only somewhat warm (more sarcasm)

1. Screen quality and location: **
The screens at Eladio’s seem improvised and were installed specifically for this, it would seem. They are smallish and the color is off on a few of them, rendering them fluorescent and difficult to watch if you are epileptic. Sounds is muddled and piped in through a KBR sound system. You’ve seen the KBR speakers: they are the cheap, Asian version of JBL speakers complete with the same style of red letter logo on the front. It’s the audio equivalent of trying to get a throaty 427 V8 hemi sound out of your six-cylinder 1974 Dodge Dart. Uh uh; ain’t gonna happen.
2. Air conditioning: **
No fist-pumping the air hear – your underarms will show that the A/C in this room is not keeping up with the amount of warm bodies inside. Plus the giant sliding glass doors that open and close constantly as waiters and busboys enter and leave, more or less negate what those poor compressors are trying to do. Think sticky.
3. Service: *****
Fast and furious. As in right on it. They are super fast with both drinks and botana and if the game sucks, the highlight of the visit might be seeing those waiters and busboys carry in a tray-load of botana plates for a large table of 15, stacked impossibly on top of one another. Waiters are fun and have a great sense of humor
4. Food: ****
It’s all Yucatecan and for the most part pretty good. To me, it’s a little on the bland side, but it is rich and heavy the way Yucatecan food should be and you will leave with a solid distension of abdomen that will go away in about 24 hours. Added bonus: no pickled pig ears. No worries.
5. Prices: ****
Stick to beer and botana and you won’t be spending that much. You will get to sample most of the menu without even looking at it. Just keep drinking.
6. Ambience: *****
It’s raucous. Here you will enjoy live renditions of the Mexican “PUTOOO” chant, in all it’s expletive glory. Don’t even think about complaining; you’ll be the object of that chant faster than you can grind some pepita seeds on your dzotobichay. When there is a goal from the favorite team, the place will go batshit. Chairs will fall over, drinks will be spilled and much fist pumping, clapping, yelling and back slapping will ensue. Go batshit with everyone else and enjoy a true Mexican moment. Also, when Mexico plays and the pre-game national anthem comes on and people in the restaurant stand, go ahead and stand with them. Don’t be sitting there like a puu… You get the idea.

 http://www.eladios.com.mx/18-1-La+ciudad+de+Merida.html

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more reviews as the World Cup continues!

FIFA WEBSITE

 

6 Places to Get Out of the Rain

It seems, for some strange reason, that the rains this June here in Merida and the Yucatan in general, are never-ending and the humidity is threatening the paint and stucco on your restored colonial in el centro. And there is the mould that is sprouting on belts, shoes, handbags and the gear in your dungeon playroom; ugh.

Here is a short list of six things to do or places to go while this west coast (of Canada) weather continues to hamper your tanning,  organic tomato-drying and other sun-related activities.

1. Trámites. If you don’t know what a trámite is, you are missing out. Trámites can be loosely translated as paperwork (usually) involving something to do with the government. The rainy season can be used as an excuse to visit some government agency and do some paperwork: perhaps you need a license renewed, which you can do at the Siglo XXI convention center and movie theater complex across from what used to be Carrefour. You can easily spend a half day there, asking questions, filling out a form or two, getting some photocopies made and generally enjoying the dry, somewhat air conditioned space. Reward yourself with some popcorn from the movie theater concession stand afterwards.  OR, perhaps something to do with Hacienda? Hacienda has a modern office on 60 street near Sam’s and is fully air conditioned, has plenty of seating and there are lot of other people in there as well, so you can practice your Spanish and perhaps make new friends. I would not recommend doing anything related to immigration as their waiting room is tiny and you may end up waiting outside under a tarp in the humidity waiting for a spot in the air conditioned waiting room. There’s a lot of waiting in that last sentence.

2. Movies. Rainy season is a great time to catch up on movies. Go to a decent movie theater like the Cinepolis complex at Altabrisa, which will afford you the opportunity to also spend time in the mall. Head out early in the morning and spend the day watching all the movies, back to back. Barring any power outages, you will have a great day, seated in air conditioned comfort and watching potentially decent movies and overdosing on candy corn which is quite good at Cinepolis. TIP: Avoid the movie Maléfica, with Angelina Jolie. It is truly hideous and you will feel your toes curl in pena ajena embarrassment for her. What was she thinking? She actually produced as well as starred in this drivel.

3. Mall time. Great time to go to a mall! The best mall is Altabrisa, where you can spend the better part of the day, especially when combined with a visit to the Cinepolis movie theaters (mentioned in the previous paragraph if you’re just skipping through this). Figure for an hour or two at Starbucks, people watching and drinking expensive but great coffee. Visit the Haagen Dazs shop and eat an ice cream that will cost as much as a dinner for seven at any panuchería downtown. Another hour or two can be spent at the Sanborns magazine rack, reading through anything of interest there. A movie will kill an hour and a half as well. There is a grocery store if you are so inclined as well as several restaurants upstairs such PF Chiangs, IHOP, California Pizza Kitchen, among others.

4. Serious grocery shopping. If you are used to the hustle and bustle, the grime and the crowds of the markets downtown, a rainy day is a good opportunity to visit a big grocery store in the norte of the city. Perhaps Comercial Mexicana or Chedraui or, what the hell, Walmart. Please note that Walmart here is not the same as trashy Walmart in the US; it is a more upscale experience and you will not find the g-string-clad and balding 65 year old with his gym pants around his knees shopper here. You can also enjoy the interesting concept at La Comer, for example, of laying out raw meat on giant tables with a little ice underneath, the carne exposed in all it’s raw nakedness, edges curling, to the supermarket air and people sneezing, coughing and poking with fingers. Nevermind the science that has evolved over several hundred years regarding temperature requirements for the storage of raw meat. The store is air conditioned so that is enough, apparently. And while the meat is placidly rotting, notice the ham and cheese ladies who are obliged to wear disposable masks. Does anyone else think this is somewhat incongruous or is it just me? Hmm. Cruise the aisles and look for interesting items you may have previously thought were not available here, like the Spam, located near the Paté du Canard. A gourmet item, surely.

5. Museum time. You might spend a day at the new Mayan museum, built to honor all things Mayan with money that could have been better spent on actual Mayans still living in abject poverty to this day. But who am I to know about these things and the deci$ion$ made by the powers that be. It’s all about promotion. Keep in mind that a visit to the museum might be thwarted if some dignitary is visiting the convention center nearby and the entire area is sealed off by the state police and men in white guayaberas, khaki pants and earpieces. These guys are the estado mayor and take care of presidential level security, so don’t expect any sympathy from them when you try to explain that you came all the way from Santiago by bus and were really wanting to see the how the meteor killed the dinosaurs at the museum.

6. Stay home. A great time to read, clear up your email inbox, file and label those papers you have been stacking in a pile near the door. Of course if the CFE doesn’t cooperate you will need candles and reading glasses as the power will flicker out and you sit in the damp, warm darkness listening to the lovers quarrel, cats mating, dogs barking or the roosters crowing just below your window. At that point you might consider renting a room at the Hyatt, which is what the well-to-do locals are prone to do during a hurricane.

I hope this list comes in time for you, dear reader, to take advantage of it and enjoy the rest of your mouldy day.

The Coliseo Experience – Marc Anthony Comes to Merida

marcanthony

From the poster, we should all have known that the temperature inside the Coliseo was going to be heat-stroke inducing.

I drive by the new (as of this writing) Coliseo every day. I marvel at it’s size and the potential of having world-class entertainment come to Merida at last, and not have to play on a baseball field or a sports stadium. Until last night, however, I had not been inside the building. Marc Anthony came to town and of course the Better Half wanted to go so we got some decent tickets in the tiered section, three rows up right in the middle. Fantastic seats with a perfect view of the stage.

But let’s step back for a moment and start at the beginning of the experience, from when you approach the Coliseo on the highway. If you are coming from Progreso, you must take the Dzibilchaltun exit on your right, but of course that is not marked so you will unwittingly reach the Maseca exit only to find it blocked off – at which point you will have to continue on to the Xcanatun exit and come back and find yourself in the same predicament as the people coming from Merida! From Merida, you need to be in your left lane practically from Liverpool on as the process of getting to the Coliseo is not exactly a streamlined process, to say the least. On the highway to Progreso, in your left lane with your emergency flashers a-flashing like a good Mexican driver, you advance slowly but hopefully patiently.

Bring an audiobook for this part of your trip as it may take a while. I suggest something calming as your nerves are about to be tested. You notice that many people pass on the lane to your right but pay them little heed until you come to a point where you notice that all these people, who had far less patience than you and were NOT going to wait in line, are now trying to force their way into your lane. You will notice cars behind you and in front of you closing in on their neighbors, moving to literal bumper-to-bumper status so as not to let ANYONE in.

When you come to the Dzibilchaltun roundabout, you will notice that there are other cars, probably from the Ceiba or Country golf residential areas, trying to merge into the roundabout which is now a solid line of vehicles with only a henequen fiber’s space between the front of one car and the back of the other. Then suddenly someone from the the golf lineup will just drive into the line of cars and force someone in your line to apply the brakes, causing much horn-honking and high beam flashing, but nothing more serious. (Yes, that was me) If this were Los Angeles…

Now you have come around the roundabout and are going again in a Progreso to Merida direction. You will notice that there are two lanes to choose from, so you pick the right lane, which is moving slower than the left, but it is the one that will take you into the Coliseo, you figure. A third lane appears as impatient drivers move to take over any available asphalt in their quest to reach the Coliseo.

The show starts at 9 and it is 8:30 when you finally reach the entrance to the Coliseo and that one lane that became two and then three? They are all turning into the Coliseo parking lot. You are merging almost bumper car style from three to two lanes and then are met with – surprise – a guy that tells you you need to pay $30 pesos for parking. Never mind that you already forked over $100 – $400 USD or more for your ticket, this is extra*. And it’s not like you have a choice either, the highway across the street and any available parking in the area has been blocked off by the state police.

So you pay and get a very official looking little ticket (insert chuckle or snort here) and proceed along the 3 yards of pavement to what is now a Xmatkuil parking lot, complete with a few rocks lining the route and plenty of dusty dirt. In fact, the Xmatkuil parking lot may be better, as they at least left some trees in the parking lot as a nod to Mother Nature; but in the modern Coliseo world, Mother Nature probably didn’t pay her 30 pesos ticket and so was kicked to the curb by a bulldozer. Note to self – don’t wash car to impress anyone if coming to the Coliseo. It will be covered in dust (as will you) at the end of the night.

After parking almost in Sisal, you then embark on a leisurely 15 minute stroll to the building, breathing in the gritty dust of the hot night air and enjoying the blinding bright white glaring in your face as you stumble behind the people in front of you.

At the door your ticket is checked and you are relieved of your cigarettes. Not your lighter, but your cigarettes. What the hell? I save two for later in a shirt pocket and hand over my pack and this seems satisfactory to the person doing the cigarette collecting.

At last, we are inside.

The place looks like it is not yet finished, but the spaces for concessions and so on are full; it appears many companies have paid big pesos to be there and have even brought their sound systems and skimpily clad edecanes (models whose purpose it is to draw your attention to whatever the company that hired them is trying to promote, which they do by flaunting skin tight lycra clothing, as much cleavage as they can push up and exposed navels) The sound systems create the kind of cacophony that would rival Xmatkuil on opening day, which seems to be what the Coliseo is all about.

There is a lineup for the elevator (yes, elevator) to take us to the seats and section where we are supposed to be, but I don’t want to stand in line and also want to see the place, so I suggest we take the stairs. The semi-open building is still pretty hot as we hike up several flights of concrete stairs in a never-ending spiral.

Somewhat out of breath, we arrive at our level and a random young lady takes the tickets out of my hands and starts walking so we follow. If she had had a uniform it would have been a little less adrenaline-producing to have those tickets snatched out of my hand like that. But, it turns out she is one of many ushers, none of whom are wearing anything remotely resembling a uniform and we are shown to our seat, such as it is. The seats are the plastic kind you would find at a sports arena and quite close together both on the sides and in front and back. Walking out from your seat to the stairs to say, go to the bathroom, would require some care and in the high heels some of these ladies were wearing, it would be downright dangerous and the chance of falling into the seats and onto the heads of those seated directly in front would be pretty high.

Immediately we notice the heat. It is unbearably hot and everyone of the female persuasion and the occasional male is fanning themselves. We all acquire a healthy “glow” as we wait for the show to begin.

As I mentioned the seats were great. I felt sorry for the folks in the front row, where there is a balcony looking down on the sorry-ass VIP’s below, because this front row is also where the vendors are passing by selling everything from beer, pop and water to snacks to junk food to whatever else they can, out of elegant 5 gallon paint buckets. There are at least 1,000 of them in the entire place and they DO NOT STOP the entire evening and so, those people who thought they had an unobstructed view of the stage, spend much of their evening peering around the sweaty bodies of vendors looking forlornly and expectantly into the bleachers.

Did I mention the heat? As I said before, if you are a woman, don’t bother putting on makeup or dressing in any light colors as the dust outside will dirty your clothing and the heat inside will smudge the Sephora garage sale on your face. It is really hot. Reading up on the Coliseo’s Facebook page, someone complained about the fact that the air conditioners weren’t turned on until half way through the concert, and the Coliseo answer was that yes they were, but there were so many people that “affected the air flow”. Um, OK. That makes perfect sense.

Oh yes, the sorry-ass VIP comment. The people on the floor had paid top peso to be there in their little seats and all. As soon as the lights dimmed and the music started, however, the seats were abandoned as was all sense of decorum and it became a large mosh pit filled with an over-dressed mob that jostled to get as close to the stage as possible. Aisles? Forget about it; those filled up as well.

An MC announced a welcome to the disinterested crowd, and informed us all where the emergency exits were, should an emergency arise. The immediate concern to me was suffocation and heat stroke as my shirt stuck to my back in spite of Better Half’s vigorous fanning.

Marc started his show more or less on time and people continued drifting in until about 10 AM and by then, the show was 1/3 over and the Coliseo was finally full. The powers that be at this point started thinking about turning on the air conditioning.

Perhaps in another post I will write about the concert itself, but for now, this report has gone on for far too long.

Ahh, what the hell; a few lines about the concert. Short show, awful, muddled acoustics due to all that concrete, and he stops singing during almost all the songs and asks the audience if “they know this one” and then holds the microphone out to the audience and they all scream along in their charming tone-deaf but enthusiastic way like autistic children at a birthday party. I know this is how concerts at Xmatkuil and other palenque events work, but I was hoping for a more enlightened experience at this new and supposedly more sophisticated venue. Alas, it was not to be. Marc by the way was also sporting a healthy glow that quickly metamorphosed into a full blown flow of sweat and he laughingly mentioned on more than one occasion that it sure was cold here tonight which got a laugh out of the audience every time.

So what about after the show you ask. Well, I could write for another 12 minutes about the absolute MESS that is all those people leaving the Coliseo parking lot at the same time with no direction, no courtesy and driving like a herd of horny hippos that have been let loose from the zoo to find a mate after 2 years in captivity. I could, but I won’t. Have you been to Costco and seen how the charming mothers from the catholic Merida school across the street, who use it as their personal parking lot, will commit vehicular homicide against anyone who is in their way? It’s like that, but on a larger, unmarked, chaotic and of course dustier scale.

The Coliseo has potential, but I don’t see anyone working on it these days so perhaps the half-finished look and feel is what they were going for. One day perhaps, the plastic-looking facade will be redone with something more striking and the parking lot will be landscaped (insert another snort here) or at least paved and there will be some adequate lighting outside and the air conditioners will be turned on (or they will let less people in to enable more “air flow”) but for now, I will avoid it and retain my sanity thank you very much.

 

* The parking fee, from what I have learned extra-officially is the Coliseo’s payment to the state police for “helping” them “organize” the parking situation. Apparently the money goes to some sort of fund for policeman’s families.