Mexico 5: Odds and Ends and Krugman Too
Although I never dined with the Air America broadcasters, I finally had a meal with one of the two invited guests, Paul Krugman, who was just off a plane from Tokyo bearing a cold. Though I tried to sit far enough away not to be infected, I brought it back to Canada with me.
I asked him if he was as surprised as we were by our country's soaring dollar. He said it was because of the "oil shale." Actually, his country has oil shale, Canada has oil SANDS. Different stuff, but perhaps his cold was interfering with his brain. In the seminars, he complained about Obama's health care plan and over dinner, and spoke of the need for instant health care in the US. I gave him and the rest of the diners a capsule history of our own system. As a native of Saskatchewan, I told him how our beloved premier Tommy Douglas fought for 17 years to get it in our province- it was hardly an overnight sensation. He mentioned that Truman tried it in 1947, with the Republicans blocking it then, as now. Thankfully his ignorance of Canada wasn't as contagious as his cold.
Mexico 4: Puerto Vallarta
The 3rd Mexican excursion I'd signed up for was the Dolphin Encounter in Puerto Vallarta. This involved a bunch of glowing white people getting in a pool with two dolphins. The mother let us touch her stomache, which felt like a kind of living rubber. In the next part of the pool, a baby dolphin came over and "kissed" us as the photographer snapped away. The other folks complained that this dolphin spent more time with my face than theirs. Must be the beard.
Lots of flowers. It is after all, Mexico.
The water is not cold enough. I request more ice cubes, At first they seem not to know the word.
It’s a flat San Pellegrino I’m drinking (between wine pairings)and it goes so much better with enough cubes. A subtle comfort food, it is so filling but I refuse to fill up on soup.
The lemon foam the sea bass is bathing in is exquisite. Reminds me of the sea bass at Caruso’s in Sorrento, with the wonderful lemons from its volcanic soil. This lemon foam lacks the bite of Caruso’s limoncello sauce, but that’s not a bad thing. The scalloped potatoes don’t taste like potatoes at all. The chef has invented a new flavour for potatoes. Does he get to be prime minister of Ireland? That’s good cooking: you see something on your plate and you know what it is, but you can’t recognize the taste. The mini ice bucket, to keep my glass cold, not just the bottle. What a great idea! I dread the green cone may contain avocado and rejoice to discover, instead, it tastes like the wonderful Stauffers spinache soufflé I used to enjoy decades ago. Actually it doesn’t work well with the potatoes, magnifies the starchiness. You don’t want bland waves overwhelming the subtle flavours of the potato-bass combination. The flavour begins to fail as the fish gets cooler too. I marvel at the cheapness of one of the best fish dishes I've ever eaten and take a cab back to the ship, where I watch my tablemates feast on something nowhere near as good at dinner. My fondness for Mexico has been magically magnified.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Mexico 3: The Ms Oosterdam
The best part of the Air America Radio seminar cruise, was not surprisingly, the seminars. Usually two a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, though sometimes more. I hope at least a few of them are broadcast on the network.
After the first seminar, I attended a lecture about Miro, given by the ship’s art gallery which is also selling Miros and others. Even my tour of the Miro Foundation in Barcelona in 2002 wasn’t as educational as this talk. We are shown a Miro and asked what it looks like. One person said “Snoopy.” I said “an amoeba” and the lecturer said yeah, the biomorphic resonances abound in the painting. On understanding Miro, she told about how when she first saw this ship, she wondered how it would have enough fuel and carry enough food for all the passengers, whereas a child would look at it and says “big boat.” That’s what Miro wants us to think about art, at least His art. I remember taking Bit as a child to art galleries in Tokyo and learning from her how to look at art.
At the opening party, I saw Jim Hightower’s towering Texas hat and made my way over to him. I gave him an Adbusters, and told him how much his commentaries inspired me when I was writing articles in the mag’s beginning.. He remembered having Kalle on his long format call in radio show in the 90s. In general, a wondrously warm individual, just like on the radio and in his books.
In a seminar, when someone mentioned getting Democrats to agree was like herding cats, Jim said, “anyone who thinks you can’t herd cats has never tried a can opener.” Although I’d rather be Cat than cat food, the metaphor was apt.
The Crow's Nest, on the 10th floor, was the scene of the continuing Air America party that began every night at 10:00. Sometimes it was a race to finish dinner and get there while seats were still available. The bar was quite minor league in terms of drinks it could prepare. My throat was usually so sore from talking to dinner companions, I'd order a hot toddy and they had to go to a different part of the ship to get hot water for it.
This chamber is supposed to put you in an alpha state. Darkness, magic fingers, new age music on headsets= the alpha state? Most interesting to me was the rocking of the ship when combined with the other effects. Worth $100 for 5 half-hour sessions? The ship was relentless in trying to separate you from your money.
I signed up for the yoga class given in this gym, before discovering that by taking it, I was missing the first half of the first seminar, given on Sunday morning. Yoga seems like a good thing to pursue, and well worth $11.00
The 9th floor is called The Lido Deck, where all the free food is, along with the pool and the only place on the ship I could breathe real air. Most of the air on the ship seemed less healthy than the average airplane's air. I never entered the pool, but appreciated its existance, if only because it was surrounded by fresh air.
Our 2nd Mexican destination was Mazatlan, where I'd signed up for the shrimp feast. 3 kinds of shrimp and numerous local beers in the garden of a rich person's house, overlooking the many poor, not quite disguised by the flowers. The most enjoyable part of the feast was talking with a lunch companion, who'd been a soldier in Mao's army, first against the Japanese and then against Chiang Kai-Shek. When Mao took power, he realized that he was even worse than the others he'd fought against, and fled to the west. For all the political savy of the Air America folks, they seemed like smart kindergarteners next to this old guy.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Mexico 2: Cabo San Lucas, Whales, Sea Lions and Pelicans
The music for this is called Sailing Wonder by Masuo. I rented an album by a fusion guitarist I was fond of, Larry Carleton, in the small Japanese city where I was living in the early 80s. When I got the record home, there was this Masuo disc inside, instead of the Carleton. I couldn't complain.
My family went whale watching in Baja, California when I was 11. It was a magical experience that has kept me fond of marine mammals ever since. This was a kind of booster shot for that long ago experience.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Mexico Trip #1- San Diego
As soon as I heard the radio station I've listened to every day since it went on the air a few years ago, Air America, was having a cruise to Mexico. I signed up. Although I had no interest in cruises (my parents once cruised the Caribbean, to no enjoyment whatsoever) or that part of Mexico, the opportunity to plug The Firesign Theatre to a bunch of people who could put them on the air for several million listeners was not to be passed up. Maybe I'd get some good food too.
The ship, the Holland America ms Oosterdam, had to boarded by Saturday at 1:00. It was difficult to get a flight to San Diego from Vancouver early enough to gauarantee I'd board on time so I went the previous day. I booked a motel near Old Town, which proved a perfect introduction to Mexico. Cute old builldings, touristy trinkets (I bought a much needed hat) and some fabulous Red Pepper Soup at O'Hungrys fortified me against the surprisingly chilly weather. I didn't know it ever got chilly in San Diego, just chilis.
Wandering around old town, full and happy from the amazing soup, some lovely flowers around a fountain that seemed lifted out of The Alhambra in Spain demanded I take their picture.
I searched the internet for the best restaurant for fine dining in San Diego and was directed to Bertrand at Mr. A's. The lobster strudel was a signature dish and sounded fantastic, on paper.
I’ve been looking forward to eating this Maine Lobster Strudel since I saw it on the website. As I begin eating it, it’s not nearly as good as I was expecting. The cognac lobster sauce is rather abrasive. I scrape the lobster out of the filo, but it doesn’t improve. The wine is an excellent pair, but the strudel isn’t really edible.
The Pan Seared Dover Sole Goujonnette, sauce Vierge, vegetables Provencale & Pommes Nouvelles is served with a fine Chablis that is supposed to cut the acidity of the Mediterranean ingredients. The server goes on and on about the Dover Sole, how it’s cooked differently than the usual way (what that would be isn’t explained). Well, I’m here for this great chef. His strudel sure didn’t impress me, now let’s try his fish. I get a great sommelier and a great view, do I need great food too? It’s more than I can eat, unfortunately. I’d damaged my stomach’s capacity with the strudel and the fish is superb. Olives and cherry tomatoes invoke the Mediterranean without all that worrisome acid. I evade desert and stroll out onto the balcony to savour the view.