All posts by WilliamLawson

About WilliamLawson

Canadian Ex-Pat who has lived in the Yucatan for 20-plus years now. Occasionally neurotic, observant and trying to document everything I see.

The Aftermath

Um

A group of heavy black howler monkeys clustered on the roof of the opera house. Their growling and grunting had suddenly stopped, and an eerie silence seeped into the air. In the plaza below, a lone human stood among the bursting saplings and greenery, its exuberant jungle energy straining against paving stones and inexorably buckling concrete and asphalt.

The facade of the once-great cultural monument inaugurated to great fanfare in 1897 with money from wealthy rubber barons in what was then to be the most important urban center in the region, and for many decades afterward, the gateway to the Brazilian Amazon, was now a scene reminiscent of one of the darker chapters of Edgar H. Sullivan’s literary masterpiece The Lost Civilizations. Bright green vines snaked wildly across tiled floors and reached up to strangle pillars and columns, filling in arches. Here and there, the stained glass had broken where a branch had poked through a window and at night, fruit bats swarmed out into the cool, moist air, to hunt for insects in the abandoned mass of glass and concrete that was once Manaus.

Back in the plaza, the man – the human the apes had noticed, was a man – stood marveling at the steaming mass of plants that were obviously thriving thanks to a lengthy absence of human feet. Of the famous Abertura dos Portos monument placed in the middle of this space, only the outstretched arm of a bronze woman holding a torch – upon which now perched an indifferent black vulture – could be seen through the tangle of green. The undulating, epilepsy-inducing black and white tile plaza floor was buried under decomposing leaves and marching ants. The scene was peaceful yet somehow menacing at the same time.

The man wiped his forehead and, swinging the machete, began to hack his way towards what used to be the grand staircase leading up to the entrance of the grand building.

He had always wanted to go to the theater and this seemed a good a time as any, he thought with a smile.

Dois

The machete rang as it hit rock. Or was it concrete? Hard to tell. He was at the stairs now and what his machete had struck was the railing. Behind it, he could make out a pink-colored stone wall, now barely visible under a fuzzy green layer of moss.

The howlers began growling, their grunts and groans turning into one long roar that echoed off the San Sebastian church and the other buildings around the theater. The man, continuing his struggle up the stairs and swinging his machete back and forth, was not at all put off by their vocal expression of territorial indignation. He, just as the monkeys had seen men before, had been around howlers before, back in the day, in the jungle, but never had he been part of one of those organ-harvesting expeditions so popular in the decades following the pandemic.

As he forced his way upwards with some difficulty, the monkeys overhead again fell silent and focused their attention on this unwelcome intruder. They had seen men before of course, in the jungle; heard the boom of their weapons and had seen their companions drop out of the trees like ripe fruit, lying motionless on the jungle floor. Those men would sometimes cut them then, the fresh red blood pooling on the jungle floor as they removed some still-warm vital organ and placed it in a rectangular box with a lid, a white cross painted on its side.

At that time, extracting organs from certain apes was western medicine’s last gasp in its attempt to find a potential cure for the latest virus attack upon humanity. In Brazil – the last country on earth that had any great amount of the ape’s natural habitat thanks to an ambitious conservation program implemented in 2021 by the Instituto Jair Bolsonaro de Pesquisas Médicas – organ harvesting became a frenzy, and from the southern forests of Rio Grande do Sul to the northern jungles of Pará and Amazonas, government medical brigades spread out in all directions to collect the freshest possible organs to bring back to their labs. Brasilia assured the world that a cure was imminent and the world waited; watching, expectant, and increasingly desperate.

And so, Brazil – through it’s unwitting and quickly shrinking ape population – had been humanity’s last hope.

Tragically, in spite of the unwilling sacrifices forced upon thousands of howlers, capuchins and even marmosets; no viable cure was obtained and the world of humans – the much-celebrated species homo sapiens – began to crumble.

The Aftermath

A group of heavy black howler monkeys clustered on the roof of the opera house. Their growling and grunting had suddenly stopped, and an eerie silence seeped into the air. In the plaza below, a lone human stood among the bursting saplings and greenery, its exuberant jungle energy straining against paving stones and inexorably buckling concrete and asphalt.

The facade of the once-great cultural monument inaugurated to great fanfare in 1897 with money from wealthy rubber barons in what was then to be the most important urban center in the region, and for many decades afterward, the gateway to the Brazilian Amazon, was now a scene reminiscent of one of the darker chapters of Edgar H. Sullivan’s literary masterpiece The Lost Civilizations. Bright green vines snaked wildly across tiled floors and reached up to strangle pillars and columns, filling in arches. Here and there, the stained glass had broken where a branch had poked through a window and at night, fruit bats swarmed out into the cool, moist air, to hunt for insects in the abandoned mass of glass and concrete that was once Manaus.

Back in the plaza, the man – the human the apes had noticed, was a man – stood marveling at the steaming mass of plants that were obviously thriving thanks to the extended absence of human feet. Of the famous Abertura dos Portos monument placed in the middle of this space, only the outstretched arm of a bronze woman holding a torch – upon which now perched an indifferent black vulture – could be seen through the tangle of green. The undulating, epilepsy-inducing black and white tile plaza floor was buried under decomposing leaves and marching ants. The scene was peaceful yet somehow menacing at the same time.

The man wiped his forehead and, swinging the machete, began to hack his way towards what used to be the grand staircase leading up to the entrance of the grand building.

He had always wanted to go to the theater and this seemed a good a time as any.

On the Road, Again

UPDATE: Please also read the tragic update, below, written just one day after publishing this.

We are all getting back into the swing of things with a sigh of relief at being “let out” and also a bit of apprehension as this virus is nowhere near controlled just yet. (at the time of this writing Mexico has not reached anything resembling a plateau or flattening of the curve) But, we can now order alcohol again (home delivery only) and move about more freely. More stores are open, not just grocery and OXXO either. Roadblocks are fewer and far between and so, traffic is on the upswing as well.

In much of the peninsula outside the main urban areas, there has been little to no traffic with access to many a small town restricted. Now, with these impediments removed, vehicles are once again returning to the highways of the Yucatan. This will lead to the inevitable death of many birds and other creatures who have quickly become accustomed to the lack of human activity and have ventured out from their forest homes to inspect the open and asphalted areas that are perfect for picking off insects and other small natural food items.

All manner of animals have been spotted around the peninsula, from crocodiles and deer to even a jaguar at an empty Bahia Principe hotel, near Akumal. And maybe it’s just me, but there seem to be so many more birds around than before.

Just this week, on a drive back from the village of Telchaquillo, I came across a flash of bright orange on the highway and pulled over to have a look. It was a yuya, which is a kind of local oriole, very beautiful with the typical orange, yellow and black plumage that was lying, motionless, next to another bird that had obviously been hammered by a vehicle at high speed and then run over by another.

At that moment a truck whizzed by and the unflattened bird blew from one lane to the other like an empty bag of Doritos. And its legs moved!

At this point, this little bird was still blinking

I got out of my car and picked it up. It didn’t appear to have anything broken but was obviously in distress and just blinked in confusion. Probably it had also been hit by a car and had injuries that were not readily visible. As I looked at it and took a photo, it stretched weirdly from head to toe – like a cat does – and then remained motionless. The bird had just died in my hand.

I set it down in the underbrush on the side of the road and got back in my car.

If you are reading this and are driving, please be extra careful out there on the highways to as not to accidentally hit anything. Maybe even slow down a bit! It’ll be better for you, better for your gasoline bill and better for the environment.

UPDATE:

It’s strange – almost eerie – that just a day after publishing the above, I encounter this on the entrance road to the La Ceiba golf course. This beautiful animal was killed by someone in a too much of a hurry driving far too fast. Can we please be aware and SLOW DOWN? This is tragic.

The sign says “Exceso de Velocidad”

Primera Piedra

Note: this article was started in 2010! I found it lurking behind the mayonnaise in the back of the fridge and after a quick re-read, thought it worthy of sharing. Enjoy!

I witnessed today what was probably an historical event. It was what those of us who speak English would call a ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony, where officials and businessmen have a little event aka a photo op where someone with completely un-calloused hands grasps a shovel for probably the first time in their life and pretends to actually dig something while mugging for the cameras of the eager press. In the Yucatan, where digging is a physical impossibility in most cases due to the half an inch of topsoil covering a solid limestone rock layer that extends from the hills of Muna to the coast, the groundbreaking become the ‘primera piedra‘ ceremony.

In this particular case, we were witnessing the unveiling and blessing of the ‘cornerstone’ of yet another Centro Comercial (mall) this one to be built by a conglomeration of business interests, most of which are foreign to the foreigners who read this so I will stick to generalities. The fine folks who gave us the Gran Plaza mall have gotten together with the modest Carso group (owners of such fine commercial ventures as Sanborns, Sears, Dorians, Mixup and more (including TelCel and TelMex), the Ramirez clan who own the Cinepolis chain of cinemas, and Yucatan’s largest franchise owner/operator who owns/operates most of the franchises you see in southwestern Mexico such as Kentucky Fried Chicken (known locally as simply Ken-Toh-Key), Pizza Hut (not to be confused with the local Pizza Hot), Burger King (yes, there is a Burger Queen in Merida) and the Bisquets Bisquets de Obregon franchise from Mexico.

The new mall, to be built on the new avenue that takes you to Cholul, will be spectacular, according to all those present. But this article is not about the new mall; rather, it is about the groundbreaking ceremony itself.

Once your car was parked by the obligatory valet parking, you found yourself on a corner of the property designated to soon become treeless and filled with more concrete, the scene was set with billowing white tents, hundreds of exotic candles providing subdued lighting and lounge-style background music. ‘Lounge’ is the latest style to hit Merida and everyone wants to incorporate it into their festivities to make them so much more hip. Plants were everywhere, all rushed in at the last minute and to be removed soon after the last guests had left. All kinds of fine upstanding folks were there, from the proud and fan-waving (it was a hot night) parents of some of the investors, potential contractors (lighting, construction and other) engineers doing their best to schmooze with the investors and line up some work, slim tall edecanes (female models) holding ends of ribbons and standing behind the men at the presidium table like so many exotic flowers, along with local politicians and church officials.

It is important to break here and mention that when you are starting a business in Merida, or perhaps anywhere in Mexico, it is vital that you have a ceremony where a symbolic ribbon is cut by someone important and that someone from the Catholic hierarchy drops by to say a little spiel and splash some holy water around to´’bless’ the new business venture. You can be the biggest crook in town, but if you have enough cash, all this can be arranged without any difficulty whatsoever. Now the more important you perceive your new undertaking to be, the more exclusive the list of invites. In the case of this new mall, it was a Very Big Deal indeed, because the mayor did not send a representative as he usually might do; he came himself. The governor also showed up, in person. This speaks well for the investors of the mall; that these important people, who must have very busy schedules, would take the time to come to a private function such as this and utter a few mumbled words of encouragement and take advantage of the situation to remind those present that all this development was the result of excellent government at both the municipal and state level. Of course.

But your event is complete if you can persuade some higher-up from the Catholic church to perform the Water Ceremony; and who better than the arch-bishop of Yucatan himself? Well lo and behold, he showed up in his newly acquired wheelchair with plenty of help to push him around and a vial of the necessary holy water. The size of this particular project and the actual stone itself compared to the amount of ‘holy’ water in his little vial, reminded him of a case where he had gone to a car dealership to perform this ceremony and the owner had asked him, as he splashed his water around, if that was ALL the water he had brought. He had replied “Do you want me to bless your dealership or wash the cars?” A stand-up comedian! In a wheelchair. The irony.

I don’t know where this was to end when I wrote it in 2010, but it was a work in progress that I found while cleaning up bits and pieces, odds and ends, of my writings and thought it was worth sharing. 

May 18, 2020. On Hunkering… Down

Some new words and phrases have entered out lexicon, hand in hand with COVID19: social distancing, N95 facemasks, PPE, shelter-in-place and more. One term I have seen used all over the place – and used myself – is the phrase hunkering down. Everyone is hunkering down these days.

Hunkering sounds to me like something out of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, something a sailor might be doing, crouched on an island in a shelter made out of palm fronds along with bits and pieces rescued from a broken sailing vessel. Or a man stranded alone in the mountains, protected from the elements by pine and fir branches, perhaps staring out at a small fire sputtering in the drizzle directly outside.

It is rare if not impossible to find hunkering all by itself. You can’t just hunker. “I’ll be hunkering over here for a while” just doesn’t work. You have to hunker … down.

Dictionary.com has five definitions but it is the third one on the list that definitely applies at this moment:

“to settle into the safety of one’s home or other designated shelter for a potentially long time, as would be necessitated by a natural disaster or an outbreak of a contagious disease”

It’s first recorded usage dates back to the early 1700’s and is possibly derived from the Old Norse hüka which means ‘to crouch’ This in turn is similar to the old Dutch huiken or modern German hocken, both of which mean ‘to squat or crouch’ so that theory seems to make perfect sense.

To my untrained ear it sounds very old-British and some have even traced its use back to Scotland. I fact, the Oxford English Dictionary describes how to hunker: “squat, with the haunches, knees and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels (hams? really?) and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”.

An interesting and digressive factoid: the term was popularized in south-western United States dialect form by U.S. President Johnson in the 1960’s.

No matter its origins; while the hunkering down we are doing is less about crouching on haunches in the wild, it is about staying in one place, safe from the outside world and its inherent and contagious dangers, and staring – like the shipwreck victim or the mountain man – balefully out at the bleak world just beyond our shelter.

Down The Rabbit Hole of a Conservative Facebook Group

I’ve heard Obama compared to Hitler quite a bit, heard some of his more inspiring speeches called deception, heard him being called anti-christian for taking down a Christmas tree (which ignores Romans 14), even called Islamic because of his outreach to middle eastern countries.

He was regularly accused of trying to separate people and destroy the nation.

Actual post from the on the Facebook group page “Bridge the Divide”

On the invitation of a friend, I joined the Facebook group called Bridge the Divide – a place for civil political/cultural discourse. Sounds good right? There’s a red and blue graphic at the top of the page and supposedly it’s all about coming together and discussing today’s political (not much in the way of cultural) climate.

What a shit show.

I quickly came to the realization that it was neither bridging any divides nor was it civil, although many fie people on there certainly acted civil in what I perceived to be a smug, condescending way. Also, to me, the site seemed more about pushing the Trump/Fox agenda whose messages were repeated over and over, in various forms. Silly, troll-like questions would be asked with tongue-in-cheek innocence and then everybody would comment with agreeing and validation statements – basically a circle-jerk of “discussion” Any dissenting voices would be quickly quashed again in that condescending/indignant/amused way Kelly Conway and her ilk answer questions they find bothersome.

Note also that in many cases, answers are longer than they need to be and appear rational at first glance. Not the average, short angry and visceral responses you might expect in a conservative/right-wing Facebook group. The language seems thought out, and only occasional grammar errors give us a clue that English might not be a first language in some cases.

In any case, I thought it might be helpful for you, dear reader, to point out some of the questions and tactics so should you desire to get your boots dirty in the manure yard of conservative troll thought. Let me know if you find this helpful or, if you are already stomping through the shit, recognize any of these:

The condescending and innocently inquisitive retort. Don’t criticize the conservatives.

In answer to a comment regarding Mitch MacConnell and Ted Cruz and what awful, self-serving politicians they are (by one of the few liberals on the site) came this reply:

Colin, that’s an interesting take on Cruz and McConnell. Can I ask where you’ve founded those beliefs? I’ve read a lot from Cruz, followed him for a long time, and it’s really hard for me to see where you can say he’s an awful person. Do you actually know him? Do you know his story?

Let’s dissect.

Notice the feigned “interesting take” opening statement. Slightly condescending; the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head. There there. Then the English grammar problem at “where you’ve founded those beliefs” indicating a writer for whom English is not a first language. Then comes the justification (I’ve read/followed him) followed by the challenge question, again feigning interest in dialogue.

It would be easy to think that this really was a dialogue if you were reading it for the first time except this exact pattern is repeated over and over on any comments that challenge the conservative Trump/Fox talking point. The long-ish answer tries to come off as a real, reasonable and educated person but the grammar error sets off my troll alert.

On the EPA. So tired of all those liberal government programs.

You aren’t alone, Amy. The parties seem to want so much to stick us all in a neat little box – for us or against us. They don’t trust the people to understand nuances in an issue. A little common sense would build some bridges, I think. The good stuff seems always to get corrupted by too much bureaucracy. Give an inch, lose a mile. For example: EPA was great for clean air & water in the 70’s. Now it’s a tyrant that tells people they can’t build a home on property they bought 40 years ago to retire on. The backlash is obstinacy.

Here, the author is tired of the political parties but somehow just manages to lean a little to the right and mention that the EPA is no longer a viable entity – too many rules – framed in the context of a case involving some individual. No mention of clean water or mining companies polluting said resource.

The dig against abortion and the right to choose.

I’m pro-choice, but calling it a “medical procedure” is disingenuous. Medicine is healing. A pregnant woman is not sick. I can totally empathize with calling it murder and considering it immoral to demand money for such a thing. It should at most be funded by state taxes, certainly not federal.

Again, the seemingly innocent opener of “I’m pro-choice” The author is a male of course, opining on a subject he will never be completely familiar with. He then segues smoothly into empathizing with “calling it murder” and “considering it immoral” Here the author is also disengaging himself from potential criticism should someone come back at him with those terms. He can claim he never said that HE was calling it murder. Also, a lengthy response in a somewhat stilted fashion denotes possible Engish as a second language.

On finding a political home. Stop labeling us as right-wing or conservatives.

I feel the majority of Americans these days could be classified as moderate. It’s not a bad thing. We just want a good life for our families and a chance to offer a future for our kids. We are willing to work hard to get it.

We’re simple folk, moderates gosh darn it. Our aspirations are simple too. good life for our families and … yeah. The little extra at the end is a subtle reminder (message alert) that we are not like those people expecting a handout from the government, and you know who we mean.

The converted democrat/liberal

As a former performing artist I love all aspects of the arts.
I have been so disheartened at the way my liberal artist friends are behaving. I never wanted to vote for Trump. I didn’t the first time. But I certainly will this time because of how insane and hateful the left have become.

I now feel like I can’t have any artist friends. I was actually hoping there was some group of conservative artists I could join.
I’m for better gun control and affordable healthcare insurance. I call myself Independent because I refuse to work for one party.

I feel our country has lost most of its moral value and common sense

This is a classic and is extremely common in all threads and retorts/stroking. The author purports to once having been a liberal person (insert embarrassed smile here), in this case she’s an artist! – who has become disillusioned with the Democratic party. She is looking for conservative artist groups but it appears she has not been lucky in that regard. Hmm. BUT she is a bit “edgy” in that she wants affordable health insurance – a safe and non-threatening position – and better gun control. Hooray for me. Message? Vote for Trump in 2020. “The left have” along with the overly lengthy explanation once again seems to indicate the presence of a foreign troll – to me at least.

The Pot Stirrer. Questions designed to provoke and bring out the best in the strokers.

Here a meme shows Trump’s face and the text says: I hope you had fun investigating me. Now it’s my turn.

Accompanying this meme is the “new” member’s question, seriously:

Can someone tell me what trump is referring to? Haven’t been following US politics much in the last week.

You’re in a political group on Facebook. This to me indicates that you are
a) interested in politics; b) an idiot or c) a troll just posting this ridiculous question to stir the pot. Gee whiz people, whatever could Trump be talking about here?

The variety / no politics question.

Top 3 favorite movies. Go.

This one is usually posted by a “senior member” never a new member. It’s something innocuous and usually irrelevant, designed to infuse the feed with something that will make it appear there is a community, and people are happily sharing their thoughts and ideas on a broad variety of subjects. This is before the next onslaught of Trump/Fox messaging.

The subject is food, movies or books. Watch for it, you will find it.

The “lying media” and “oh you’re exaggerating” message.

One apparently liberal poster (or maybe it was a plant to get all that messaging out there from the group members for others to see) mentioned that Trump has logged more golfing days in three years than Obama in eight and the not-so-civil members turned into frenzied hyenas on a bloody wildebeest corpse.

Here are some of the many choice defenses presented by some of the intellectually-challenged members:

For me, it is more important who did what for the state. Obama in 8 years has not done as much as Trump in 3. For me, the most important thing is what Trump is doing in cases of human trafficking and pedophilia.

Are you deducting the days that the media claimed he was golfing and he actually wasn’t? As with that b.s. list of 18,000 supposed lies that he’s told, what’s your source that he has played golf 239 times?

Oh yeah, this was posted in good faith…

So if President Trump spends an hour on the golf course, that is considered “ALL DAY”. Has there ever been a president who has been lied about as much as this one? No, there hasn’t.

Hahahaha! I can’t even with this post. Trump works tirelessly night and day, has twice the energy and stamina of men half his age. You think I give two hoots over how much he plays golf, even IF these numbers are true? The man develops and owns golf courses. Good grief.

And on and on it goes. The original poster goes on to say that it was Trump, not she who mentioned it in the first place but that detail falls on deaf ears here in the echo chamber of “civil discourse”

We all know the media lies. Are they 100% truthful about the number of golf outings he’s been on, probably not. They should post his itineraries and not made up ones. Then we know the truth.

It’s why he golfs and with who. My dad made tons of business deals on the golf course – sometimes it’s easier to chat while swinging a club rather than across a table in a boardroom. Obama seemed to golf more for fun and fitness, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it takes up a lot of time if it’s just for fun.

Any of these comments, taken by themselves, might come across as completely normal. But seeing the same style, content and messages over and over again, you begin to see the pattern.

I hope this has been helpful and you will enjoy your time in the pork farm waste water pond. It stinks in there, but you will get a nice feel for the messages social media trolls are hammering home to the gullible.

May 4, 2020 – UnCivil Discourse

While we are all in the coronavirus state of mind, involuntarily or voluntarily hunkered down in our homes, we spend a lot more time on the internet, on social media; in my case, Facebook.

Recently, I was invited to join a private Facebook group that purportedly fosters “civil” discussion between left and right. It’s called “Bridge the Divide – a place for civil political/cultural discourse.

What a shit-show.

A few hours this past week reading, answering and commenting and reading some more, convinced me that it’s a Facebook page designed by the Russians (or the Chinese or – insert evil and foreign villain here – ) to further divide the crumbling United States of America and erode any last shred of empathy and understanding between its citizens.

First of all, the questions posted. Designed to incite rather than inspire, they are asked by what appear to be trolls (always ‘new members’) who will “innocently” ask ridiculous questions like “Is there racism in America? I’m really wondering.” and “Is Trump a decent person?” in order to provoke reactions and the exchange quickly becomes heated and childish.

The conversation train then jumps the rails and bogs down in the swamp of predictable hate and playground-style arguments, as expected.

“Look who’s talking” is a popular comeback. After unsuccessfully trying to make a point about why Trump is far from decent, I was told to watch Shapiro, Glenn Beck and OAN to learn the truth and to avoid the “mainstream media” This person seemed very serious.

One woman posted that racists are those who are constantly pointing out people’s skin color. TO which I replied “said the white person” and of course I got the “case in point” answer. That’s settled then – I’m a racist.

White guy: “Racism? Doesn’t exist. It’s about people and their choices. Self-determination. And reality. Like if I try out for the basketball team I am not going to be as good as the guy born 6′ 10″. That’s just the way it is.”

Me: “First of all, no one is born 6′ 10″. Second maybe you should look back at your family tree to see how many of your ancestors came over chained to a ship. That might determine your present situation”

White guy: “You don’t know my situation.”

Yea, you’re right, I don’t.

There are long posts, paragraphs that would initially seem to indicate some sort of intelligent life dialogue happening until you actually read them.

The more I read, the more I feel the need to rebut some of the more egregious statements, knowing full well that it is useless. Also, I can feel my blood pressure rising. So, while it is entertaining and frustrating and infuriating all at the same time, being a member of this community just isn’t for me.

Civil discourse indeed.

April 24, 2020. Facemasks. Or Something. Rabbits.

We’re so used to exchanging polite smiles in our daily social interactions that I found it strange to see that the cashier at the supermarket wasn’t returning my supposedly friendly smile.

I thought that maybe he was having a bad day but then it dawned on me that he had no idea what was going on underneath my protective face mask that covered my mouth and eyes.

Jeez here I am all motivated to write this and I do a quick search for the subject, I see that it has already been written about, and probably much more thoroughly than I could have done, here What else can I write about. Hmm. Rabbits?

I cooked a rabbit the other day. I had gone out to one of the little villages about 45 minutes from Merida to deliver a couple of despensas and one of the ladies said she wanted to give me a rabbit.

Do readers unfamiliar with Mexican Spanish know what a despensa is? It’s a package/box/bag/collection of usually food items for folks that are needy. Needy as in they need them, not a personality trait.

I asked the lady if the rabbit was already beneficiado, and she assured me that yes. Was it cleaned I asked? I didn’t want to pick up a rabbit that I would have to skin at home and then rip the entrails out of. Nor did I want a “lucky” rabbit’s foot.

Again with the definitions. Some words work better in español so chill OK? Beneficiado means killed, slaughtered. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Beneficiado. Sounds beneficial; positive.

She assured me that it was in her fridge and clean and so I drove back to Merida with a bloody rabbit in a plastic bag in my trunk. I mean it could be a cat for all I know, there is no way for a cooking aficionado like me to tell.

It made it home; no stops at police checkpoints with uncomfortable questions about what the dead animal in the bag in the trunk was and I quickly popped it into the fridge for later preparation.

A day later, I found a recipe online and with a minimum of effort, prepared the rabbit according to instructions. Cooked it in the oven at 175 for 90 minutes.

Ketchup and sugar figure into the recipe. Weird. Should I include the video I made of the preparation here? Probably not.

The rabbit was delicious! Served with some white rice and green beans on the side, it was a delectable feast and made me think about how the folks in the rural village that I am taking despensas to are eating rabbit (and probably venison) while I am cooking up Costco chicken. What the hell is that all about?

That’s my report for today. Have a great night everyone!

Dream of rabbits.

You’re so mean, ‘dream of rabbits’ Geez.

April 20, 2020. Sweeping as Therapy

Who knew?

My morning routine, such as it is here in the COVID19 era, involves taking a broom and sweeping the driveway. 

In case you don’t live in Yucatan and don’t know, we are at the height of our dry season and many trees are popping seed pods off by the thousands in preparation for the rains that will soon come. Nature is smart that way. 

Each morning finds our treed driveway littered with hundreds of cracked open seed pods, their contents strewn randomly and wastefully all over the concrete. These pods are dry and have the consistency of hard plastic. Stepping on them results in a satisfying crunch that will make you jump in anticpation to the next step, just to crunch every pod you can, like a six year old stomping in a puddle. The satisfaction is similar to that achieved when you take that piece of bubble wrap and pop all those delicious bubbles. Step on these hard shells with bare feet however, and you will be reminded of that time you stepped on your kids/cousins/brothers/sisters lego in the middle of the night. Ouch.

But, once again I digress.

The morning sweep with the headphones on comes after the morning walk and the morning coffee enjoyed by the morning fire. There is a certain satisfaction moving that broom back and forth, hypnotically watching the seeds, leaves and dirt accumulate, while listening to Bill Maher trying to be funny from his backyard and without an audience, or the New York Times Michael Barbaro emphatically interjecting yet another “HMM” during an interview with an enthusiasm usually reserved for Mayan mestizas during a particularly juicy piece of gossip.

Once the sweeping is finished, it’s back to the morning coffee and attending to pressing decisions about what to cook for the day’s lunch, whether or not it’s garbage day, washing whites or colors, or any number of mundane tasks that could be undertaken to take my mind off the fact that this situation is dragging on and on (and on) and I have no legit means of income and what will happen when my meager savings are used up and my credit cards limits have been saturated…

Where’s that broom? 

 

Toksel – A Yucatecan Classic, made with Rocks.

Yes, you read that right, rocks. It’s a very old recipe, traditional and all that, some say it goes back to pre-españoles Mayan times. I was going to say pre-conquest but that opens up a whole can of uncomfortable worms.

This dish is made with ibes, (EE-behs) which are the tender ‘new’ beans (phaseolus lunatus) fresh off the vine.

The origin of the word comes from the Mayan tóok (to burn or scorch) and sel/kel which means roughly ground up.

Take the beans and boil until tender, drain and mix them together with ground-up pepita which is/are of course pumpkin squash seeds – ground up with the shell on I might add – and available at any self-respecting market in any Yucatan town. This mix is cooked to completion in a clay pot which also contains some red-hot rocks (cleaned and preheated over a fire) stirring all the while.

The pot is then covered with a cloth and the pepita will emit part of its natural oils and some of the ibes will become slightly burnt. This is what gives the dish its exquisite flavor.

You can serve the toksel in hot corn tortillas or as a topping for panuchos. To accompany the dish, it is customary to use the cooking water from the ibes seasoned with a little lime juice and chile.