Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Refugio en el Norte - Day 15

It is hard to believe that I’ve been in this apartment as of today for 15 days. I’ve settled in and developed little routines with breakfast and at my desk, just making myself a home in Houston. One of the things that I do every morning is go walking. Across the street from the apartment complex is a lovely, tree-shaded neighborhood called West University Place. It’s mailing address is Houston but it is actually a small city within Houston. When I go out at 7 AM, it is just before sunrise. The air is cool and so far the humidity has not set in for Houston. I lived here for years and I know that before long I will be peeling off sweaty clothes as soon as I return from my early morning walk. But it is lovely now.

This morning I passed several houses where a gardener had mulched flower beds yesterday and the smell of the mulch was pungent and earthy. The squirrels were already out looking for breakfast and they would jump to a tree trunk and peek at me from the other side to see if I was going to keep walking. Some houses had sprinkler systems that were busy spitting water on the lawn and flower beds so sometimes I felt the a light mist on my face. There were a lot of red-breasted robins on the lawns looking for the early-bird worms. One big blue jay must have had a nest somewhere close by because he spouted warning chirps at me. Of course, I knew it wasn’t were he had flown up into the tree because jays are smart and they try to distract you from finding their nest. 

Everything seems so normal at 7 AM. How could that be when we are bracing for, but hoping against, overloading our medical system and losing too many of our citizens.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Isolation Isn’t the Same as Boredom

I promised you a report on my banking adventure. It did not turn out to be much of an adventure. I was expecting to have someone run out of the bank to shout through a bullhorn that I could not walk-thru the drive-thru but that didn’t happen. There were cars in the two lanes of the drive-thru as I walked up. One pulled away and I stepped into the lane. They asked what I wanted and I told them. They send out a withdrawal slip, I filled it out and sent it back with ID, ATM card and the list of the dollar dominations that I wanted. While they were counting the money, one man came to the window and told me to watch out for cars. The only car was the one in the other lane but I said I would be careful. They sent out my withdrawal in an envelope with my receipt. I walked back to the apartment.

Some of you may be wondering what I do every day all alone in isolation. Today is kind of typical.

I was up at 6:30 and by 7:00 AM I was out the door to walk. I’ve found that I need to leave by 7:00 or I start to encounter too many other people out for walks. For the most part if we are approaching each other on a side walk one of us moves out into the street except for joggers. They barrel straight ahead like they own the road. You just know they are not going to move over, so I do. My walks are about 2.5 miles but they are a good pace with no stops and I’m feeling stronger so I plan to kick it up to 3 miles everyday.

When I return to the apartment it is breakfast time and I’m a breakfast eater. With breakfast I scan emails and the NYT’s and then the work begins. Today, I spent time trying to trace down a package that said it was delivered yesterday but wasn’t. After some defective work I found Mr. Baker of the USPS and he told me that the regular delivery person was off yesterday and the substitute didn’t know what to do with the packages since they could not be left in the office of the apartment complex so he marked them delivered but the regular person was back today and he thought I’d have my package today.

Next came signing on to the Kroger app and trying to order some items. I was really excited when the first thing I saw was Clorox wipes. Check YES but the limit is one. Okay, I’ll be glad to get one. By the time I was ready to check out, the Clorox wipes were no longer available. And that seems to happen regularly with the Curbside and delivery apps I’ve tried. I checked back on other grocery apps and none of them had Clorox wipes are any of the cleaning supplies that are effective against the virus.

Next, the Bosu I ordered was delivered. Yea! But my Yea! didn’t last long. The little hand pump was a cheap piece of crap. I doubt that I could ever blow up the Bosu with it but I tried valiantly for a long time because I want to use it. So, now I’m trying to figure out if I know someone who will bring me a real pump or if I should order a pump on Amazon.

Downstairs and out to the mailbox. No package delivery yet. Back upstairs and disinfect door, keys and hands.

I bought an inexpensive laptop from B&H but I don’t like it for working with my images. Actually I hate it. I won’t go into the long story but after some lengthy discussions with B&H that included about how long I had been their customer and how I had to flee my home in Mexico because of the virus and here I was in Houston unable to work on my images. Oh, woe is me. I’ve made a terrible expensive mistake. What I wanted was to return this computer and buy a Mac Laptop which isn’t a wise financial decision but what the hell. They finally relented. Sunday morning I’ll order the Mac laptop but that meant that I then had to spend time comparing models and deciding which one I would order.

Next was downloading the app for the apartment complex and setting up to pay the rent on line. That went fairly well after a phone call to the complex.

Downstairs and out to the mailbox. Yea, the package was there. Back upstairs and disinfect door, keys and hands.

During the day there were a few phone calls with family and friends and an occasional session at the TV to see what is happening.

By this time it is 4:30 and I haven’t eaten since breakfast so I cooked dinner. Another day of isolation has passed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Life isn’t easy in Houston. In fact, trying to stay in isolation is proving difficult, more so each day. Not the time I spend in my apartment but the part that keeps me connected with the outside world is difficult.

I need cash. Unfortunately, I find myself with large bills when what I need is small bills so that I can tip the person who delivers groceries or other door-to-door services that are available.

I’m not renting a car while I’m here, at least not yet. Using the iPhone, I looked for close by locations for my bank. Yea! One is just seven-tenths of a mile from the apartment. That isn’t a difficult walk for someone who has been walking the streets of San Miguel.

A lot of “essential” businesses have changed hours so I called to see if that location was still open 9:00 - 5:00. No, their hours are 9:30 - 4:00 but I’d have to use the ATM because the banking lobby isn’t open or I could use the drive-thru. I said that I would walk through the drive-thru because I needed smaller bills that the ATM distributed and I didn’t have a car. The banker told me that no one is allowed to walk thru the drive-thru. What? I explained that we are in the a pandemic and rules should be adjusted for this time. We discussed my problem. He finally said that I could try it if I wanted to but it was dangerous. I wanted to say, “being 83 is dangerous in this pandemic and I don’t think walking through a bank’s drive-thru is any more dangerous.” But, I didn’t say it.

So, tomorrow I’ll walk to the bank at 9:30 and walk thru the drive-thru. I’ll let you know if I live through that and if I get the cash that I want.

I have another story, a long one, about trying to enter the cyber world since I moved into the apartment, but that is for another day.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Refugio en el Norte - Day 5

I am not sure of how to start this post. It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this blog but I feel the need to write and I have the time so I’ll see how it goes. I am writing from an apartment in Houston which right now is my refuge from a dangerous world because of Covid-19. Hence, the term, Refugio en el Norte, which is a play on the name of the street I live on in San Miguel de Allende.

A planned trip to Texas to visit family, go to FotoFest, and SXSW became more than a 10 day trip because of my concern about being in Mexico alone should I become ill with Covid-19. When I had to put my sweet Carly who had been going downhill for about nine months, to sleep two days before I was scheduled to leave, I made the decision that when I arrived in Houston I would stay in Houston until I could figure out what I needed to do.

Ned and I liked the apartment we rented in Houston 10 years ago while he was sick so the first thing I did after getting the rental car was head to that complex. It is next door to an HEB/Pharmacy and across the street from a Kroger and Walgreen drug store. Also, close to a number of restaurants that I could walk to. Of course, now that the restaurants have been closed except for takeout, that doesn’t count for much. I rented one that was immediately available and took possession of the keys last Tuesday. Wednesday the furniture I rented was delivered and I moved in. I’ll be writing from my Refuge in the North. What I’ll write about I’m not sure but I do feel I need to write. It may be too personal for some or boring as hell for others but that is okay if you decide not to read it at all.

PS: I wanted to send a photograph of the sala of my apartment but for some reason something has changed since the last time I wrote on the blog. I can’t figure it out tonight but I’ll work on it tomorrow. Busy day tomorrow. LOL

Monday, February 4, 2019

Rockport is not Port Aransas

While working on my book Common Tide; Port Aransas, Texas, I had a list of things from the Mercer Logs that I wanted to photograph and I was having trouble finding some of those things on today's Mustang Island. Things like gardens, chickens, cattle, horses, and pigs. So I thought that I could spread out my search to the mainland just across the bay from Port Aransas. Contact with county Farm Bureaus gave me the names of some farmers and that is how I found Four String Farm, an organic farm in Rockport, Texas, owned by Justin and Kayla Butts.

I made some photographs that I really liked on the farm of chickens and pigs and the garden and I thought I could slip them into the book but when I started putting the book together I could not include them. The book is about Port Aransas and Mustang Island and Rockport is not on the island. How could I explain a connection to a reader if they asked who has pigs like this or where did you find these chickens?

As much as the questions that I might be asked, the image above told me I could not use the images from Four String Farm. The landscape is different. I have not seen any area of the island that has vegetation like this image. It would not be true to the Mercer Logs from 1866 to 1877. But, I do like this image; the way the light filters through the canopy and you can see back into the tangle of the trees.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Playing with Textures

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I make to-do lists. Since it is almost the end of January, I pulled out my list to see how I'm doing. Oh my, I'm afraid my list for 2019 is rather ambitious. But the good thing was that I have started on one of the items, learn how to use textures in Photoshop. By that, I meant more than just learn how to add a texture layer to an image. That is the easy part. What I want to do is learn how to manipulate an added texture or textures to enhance an image. And I want to find out if the use of textures "feels" like it belongs in my tool kit. The feeling part is something I'm really not sure about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ROMA - More Like a Poem than a Movie

When the Academy Award Nominations were announced today, my favorite film for 2018, Roma, garnered 10 nominations. Actually, Roma may be one of those films that will stick with me for a long time and becomes a yardstick for other films.

Natalia Green in her article in Mexico News Daily writes, "More like a poem than a movie -- in the Hollywood sense at least -- Roma is not for those who crave plot, elaborate dialogue or choreographed action sequences. Shot almost in docudrama style, its subject matter is daily life in all its mundaneness."

Not everyone I know who has seen Roma likes the movie but they have not put it aside. They are still talking about it and trying to understand why the director did this or included that. I loved the film and I've already watched it twice and plan to watch it again. I think it is a beautiful film shot in 1970s black and white format with the wide-angle camera moving through the house and the streets taking in life as it is occurring around the main characters. The way it captured the chaos of the street was as if one were actually walking in a Mexico City street. It was masterful the way the scenes were choreographed to also include symbolism of the current events in the 1970s.

Having been in Colonia Roma in Mexico City a number of times, I feel like I know the street where the house is located. The street sounds of bands, car motors, the whistle of the knife sharpener as well as the sound of mops being rung out and dishes clinking in the kitchen are substitutes for a musical soundtrack. The cars getting in and out of the portico was a mundane event for the family but are hysterical for the viewer. There isn't a lot of dialogue but the acting is superb.

Have you seen Roma?  What did you think? What was your favorite scene?