Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Casual Hotel Critic?

Many moons ago, when this newsletter was still at a long-forgotten and now historical site called GeoCities, there was the mention of a Casual Hotel Critic whose mantra was ‘he stays there so you don’t have to’ which in retrospect, makes not a whole lot of sense.

On the road, accompanying the Casual Restaurant Critic and his Better Half on their travels through Houston and now Tucson Arizona, the Casual Hotel Critic has resurfaced and would like to tell you a little something about the hotels visited on this particular adventure.

First of all the Holiday Inn near the Galleria, in Houston. This frumpy hotel actually uses that as their location name: near the Galleria. It is near the Galleria of course, which implies that it is fancier than it could ever hope to be. It could be called Holiday Inn beside the 610 which would also be accurate and more precise, and perhaps would lead one to be less ambitious in ones expectations of this house of lodging.

I don’t know where or when the Holiday Inn name started to be equatable to cheap and somewhat run down, but that has been my experience lately with anything marked Holiday Inn. This hotel is no exception. The reception is friendly enough but casually so and one can anticipate that a problem would be met with some resistance. The room was tired, carpet somewhat worn and the beds soft which is not necessarily a positive thing but the most striking part of it were the uninviting microscopic pillows on the bed.

The general feel, what with the strippers checking out and the couple having a loud and trashy argument on the bench outside the lobby as their 8 year old son looked on, was one of cheapness. Unfortunately the price did not reflect that and one is charged for the location, which is, again “near the Galleria”.

I would advise avoiding this hotel.

Burkhas and DSW – Houston Multiculturalism

We see so precious little of the flamboyant burkha in Merida, so it was a bit of a surprise to come upon a gaggle of burkha-clad women in what I thought was the last place I would encounter this always flattering attire: a DSW shoe store just off Westheimer near the Galleria mall in Houston.

Peering intently at the sandals and snazzy dressup shoes through those narrow, rectangular eye slits, they checked out the selection with enthusiastic interest.

This amazed ignorant me, because I assumed women bought shoes to be seen wearing them, and these womens’ feet were securely hidden under their burkhas.

So enlighten me. Is it just another manifestation of the fairer sex’s addiction to footwear, regardless of whether or not anyone will see them?

Houston’s Finest Cookies

Michaels Cookie Jar in Houston is where you can enjoy some absolutely scrumptious cookies baked by talented pastry chef Michael Savino.

The Critics favourites include the macadamia cookies bursting with nuts and a hint of orange; the chewy buttery candied ginger shortbread and the lemony lemon bars!

He delivers nationwide so if you are in the US, order some today.

Coach Anita’s iPhone@TelCel Trials and Tribulations

Every once in a while, we here at feature a guest griper who has a fresh and illuminating take on everyday life in the city we all love and find so, well, interesting.

Today’s contribution is from Coach Anita P. Beale; you may already know her! She hangs out in the mercado grande early mornings and is visited by many a local after a weekend night of partying. About 5 AM, when everyone is drunk or coming down from a drunk, they will announce “Vamos por Coach Anita!


The following is my account of my day at TelCel on Saturday…

I ordered my iPhone today… how exciting! It was a tedious affair of driving to one of only four authorized Telmex iPhone outlets at Alta Brisa Mall, checking in at the check in desk, standing in a long and very pedestrian line, and then finally getting permission to go to one of the 40 desk/booths to interface with some kid. Here are some of the highlights of the exchange, let’s see how it went, shall we?:

*Good afternoon, I’d like to discuss the purchase of an iPhone.

*well, we have a lot of different plans, do you know which one you want?

*yes, a friend told me all about her plan, and I would like what she has so I am prepared.

*do you want this in your personal name or the name of your corporation?

*name of the corporation please. (maybe we could get a tax credit or something)

*well it takes 5 days working to get it as a regular citizen and por lo menos twice that for the corporation, and we will need your acta constructiva, original and copies, bills for the last 2 years, originals and copies, taxes paid, names and signatures of each officer, signed form from the accountant of the corporation.

*never mind, just as a real live person.

*we need three character witnesses and their addresses and land-line phones, no cel phones, even though that’s what you are buying.

*didn’t have their addresses so made them up, Juanita had told me that they needed land lines so had those numbers with me, however they asked her for two, and now need three! Good thing I added an extra one to be safe (I guess I’ve lived here long enough to anticipate). They need land line numbers because of course one can’t trust cel phones at TelCel celular phone company.

*”representative” fidgeted constantly, rocking back and forth and up and down like he was comin’ offa crack or something. Cleaned glasses a minimum of 9 times. I do believe he farted twice as well.

*will I be able to keep my old phone number? Yes! But not if you want to keep your old phone.

*all names/numbers will be wiped out of your old phone before we activate your new phone, best to write everything down on a piece of paper. (Now wait just a minute… I can’t see that happening in San Francisco or London or Tokyo… do they ask them to do that there too?)

*May I see phone? See how it works?

*there’s one on display, but I’ll have to help someone else in line while you look, and you’ll have to wait until they are done before I can help you again…

*plus that one in display is out of battery and is a black screen anyway so there is nothing for you to see

*may I see the white one?

*no, all phones are sealed in boxes and only opened if you buy it.

*do you have any white ones in stock

*I don’t know, I would have to go in the stockroom and check.

*it doesn’t show that on your screen?


*would you check please?

*yes, but it will be around 5 minutes or so while I rummage through the stock room

*I want white, I think, please check and I will twiddle my thumbs while you check

*5 minutes*

*yes! we have white, but you can’t see it… do you want it?

*I guess.

*is all info correct on this sheet?

*well, it is Juanita, not Judith

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*OK, is everything correct?

*well, Heitke is my apellido, not my nombre

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct?

*street is between 65 and 67, not 65 and 77

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct?

*my birthday is in July, not June

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct now?

*yes, it is!

*it will take 5 days to process your request, where should we call you?

*my home phone or cel phone number

*but your cel number will be disconnected by us, so we can’t call that and rules clearly state that we have to have two numbers. I cannot go forward without this information

*but you won’t disconnect it UNLESS my dossier comes through Interpol as a go, right?

*we will call your cel number

*would you like to pay by cash or credit card each month?

*credit card

*oh, your credit card isn’t a national one, is it?

*no, it is from the usa, but I use it every single day here in Merida

*I have to go check, this may take a while

*a while*

*computer says no.

*so would you like to pay by cash or credit card each month, but with a Mexican credit card?

*I don’t have a Mexican credit card, so cash, I will physically go to your office every single stinkin’ month to pay.

*OK, I think I have everything, that is all. You will be contacted if you are eligible.

*will I be contacted if I am NOT eligible?


Local 3 – Not Closed

Just a brief note to let people know that the Local 3 restaurant on Prolongacion Montejo between Dante and the former SEAT dealership, is not closed, as was rumored on

They have modified their schedule for summer, as many Meridanos have moved to the beach and I suspect that some of their staff, gleaned from the Culinaria cooking school, are on vacation as well.

They are open from Monday to Thursday for lunch and early gringo dinner, until 6 PM. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are open for dinner (Mexican time) only and the restaurant is closed all day on Sundays.

Try an Agua de Chaya – it’s Good for You!

On his most recent visit to the best panucheria in the world, La Susana Internacional, located of course in the charm-challenged and very “real” Kanasin, the Critic once again accompanied his usual order of one panucho, one salbut, a half-caldo and a taco or two of chicharra, with the agua de chaya, which is – as many know – a spinach-like leafy plant grown on bushes in most real Yucatecans back yards and that is loaded with anti-oxidants which almost (but not really) makes up for all the fat ingested in those other menu items.

Pretty too, the way they serve it.

It’s not the Heat, it’s the Humidity

For those of us who live in the ‘real’ Merida and not one of those multi-million dollar restored and icy air conditioned turn of the century colonial charmers, this is the time of year many of us want to run screaming and sweating from Merida in search of someplace dry and cool.

In the closet, leather belts and shoes, along with luggage and camera lenses, come to life with the sudden appearance of a thin growth of fine green hairlike mold that only sunlight will kill, while producing a lovely odor of decomposition that makes one want to throw everything on a bonfire.

Outside, the chimenea where you would make that bonfire is soaked through and through and everything you try to burn sputters for a brief moment and then goes out in a puff of white smoke.

The morning newspaper that the Diario man thoughtfully puts in a plastic bag before tossing it in the general direction of your door, wilts in your hand like a piece of San Jose Costa Rica McDonalds lettuce.

As a snail crawls up your kitchen wall, oblivious to the fact that it is completely and absolutely out of context there, you sample a previously opened box of Zucaritas and find that the sugared flakes have melded together and are now one limpy lump.

Your bedside novel, a paperback by Michael Pollan on the Omnivores Dilemma, is slowly doing a Cirque du Soleil-like contortion act, it´s covers bending impossibly back upon themselves like an overly ambitious Argentinian acrobat.

Your dryer works overtime as the regular method of sun-drying your clothes on the line is not working; the items hanging there remain humid and develop a rather nasty smell that will necessitate a second washing.

Yes, it’s July and we are in the middle of our rainy season. Torrential downpours and black skies in the middle of the afternoon wreak havoc with visitors and locals plans alike, turning a potentially relaxing beach vacation into a mosquito-infested exercise in staving off cabin fever. Those who remain in the city, battle the flooded streets either on foot, wading through knee high muddy water and getting thoroughly doused by passing buses whose drivers take a perverse pleasure in inflicting wet misery on pedestrians, or in their cars, whose electrical systems threaten to short out as they traverse the rivers that once were streets in Merida’s drainage-challenged centro.

With the rains, come angry black clouds of mosquitoes that can cover a bare leg in seconds, causing its owner to leap and slap like a Tirol lederhosen-clad folk dancer. The official solution is to drive a small truck with a pesticide spraying machine in its bed, through towns and streets, to the consternation of environmentally conscious foreigners and the complacent acceptance of most Yucatecans who know that this smelly solution is better than a bout of dengue fever.

This is a good time of year for those planning to move to Merida to actually spend some time in the formerly white city, to get a feel for the more humid side of Yucatan life!

Uruguay vs Netherlands

The Critic and I enjoyed a rousing semi-finals World Cup soccer match while chomping on crispy chewy pork chamorro washed down with a frosty German Schwarzbier.

Don Jürgen, el owner, stopped at each table to chat and mentioned that for tomorrows über-exciting match between Spain and Germany, every single seat was already reserved; standing room only!

In any case, I will on the road, somewhere between Progreso and Uxmal and will have to conform to the radio version of the transmission on W Radio on FM.

Nothing like the World Cup!

Speaking of Americans

Now that we are on the subject of July 4th (OK we aren’t/weren’t but isn’t this a nice segue) there is an article I read this morning regarding the term ‘American’ which was enlightening, especially in the definition of the term. I always thought that a citizen of the United States referring to him or herself as ‘American’ was really pretentious, since I believed that ‘Americas = continents’ theory, but I am almost ready to let it go.

From the article I read this morning:

How to tell whether or not you believe the term “American” really applies to you.

If you were to go to India and speak to someone who said she had family in America, would you truly respond “Oh really?  Where exactly.. in Chile?..  Guatemala?? … Peru perhaps?”

If a forklift driver in Moscow with nothing more than a high school education reads that “only in America can a dockworker with nothing more than a high school education earn 50 grand a year and if he works hard enough start and run his own business…” , do you seriously believe he’s just as likely to pack his bags for Venezuela or Mexico as he is for the U.S.?

Read the rest here.