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October, 2008:

If Judas Priest falls in a forest and no one hears them, do they still exist?

Tonight during my business trip to Guadalajara, I discovered that one of my coworkers has been hiding his knowledge of über-trendy spots in GDL (by instead allowing us to end up repeatedly at Karne Garibaldi which, while it has amazing food, is arguably less “trendy” and more “cafeteria-esque”).  So after a ~10 hour staff meeting today, we went to dinner at de Santos, a hip, fusion dining spot owned by the drummer of international rock band Maná. The other two sites are in Puerto Vallarta and of course, hub of all-things-trendy, New York City.

Anyway, we arrived at de Santos American-time, and by that I mean a minimum of 30 minutes before la gente bien (a.k.a. anyone who’s anyone) arrives. EXCEPT for one table of 6 guys about 10 feet away from us, who we instantly decided had to be a rock band. No one could say with certainty WHICH rock band, but with their long flowing hair, slightly gaunt British-y looks, and disinterest in talking to each other as though perhaps they’d had dinners in trendy restaurants together 6 times a week since 1969 & simply had nothing else to say, we knew something was up.

Thanks to judaspriest.com for sharing this intimidating photo

Thanks to judaspriest.com for sharing this intimidating photo

A inquiry to one of our servers eventually produced an answer to verify my friend Eduardo’s initial guess (slightly biased since he knew they were performing in GDL this week): Judas Priest— a name I certainly have heard, but from whom I certainly could not name one song. This brought about one highlight of the evening– our boss’s boss kindly e-stalking Judas Priest on his Blackberry upon our request, as we tried to determine whether any of us knew enough about the band to approach them for a photo. (Survey says: no.)

Potential introductory tactics bandied about included:

  • “35 million albums, huh? What a coincidence– that’s almost as many semiconductors as we sold last year!”
  • “It’s such an honor to finally meet the band who wrote the song I first danced with my husband to at our wedding– all of our guests loved Screaming for Vengeance.
  • “Wow, I’ve always wanted to meet Mick Jagger! That’s you, right?”
  • “This is so funny– we were just listening to your album Painkiller before our staff meeting this morning!”

In the end, none of us interacted with Judas Priest, outside of awkwardly staring at them with disappointment when they failed to meet stereotypes by NOT pounding through 3 bottles of vodka & a pile of meth and instead simply ate & drank bottles of water in near-silence. We attempted to make up for it by ordering fancy martinis, jovially discussing the impact the amero is sure to have on Mexico/US relations, and celebrating my friend Jorge’s 35 years with our company. (Top that, folks.)

In summary, both Judas Priest and I strongly recommend de Santos for tasty food, thirst-quenching beverages, good people-watching, and minimal papparazzi (a constant concern for us in the semiconductor industry). As for now, I am off to start memorizing one of the songs off their newest album for my next karaoke outing– nothing gets a crowd riled up like “Pestilence and Plague”.

My singing taxi driver

I take a lot more taxis around Mexico City than I ever did in DC, and each taxi trip here begets the question of “to chat or not to chat”. (And by extension, “to practice my Spanish or not”) You can pretty much tell as soon as you get in whether the taxi driver is going to be the chatty/friendly type or not, but sometimes one misgauges.

For instance, Friday morning I hopped in my cab to work and the first few minutes were pretty quiet, save for the standard commentary about the weather (cold). I was a little sleepy, and hence hoping for a silent ride that would allow me to do my trademarked “head bobbing in-and-out of consciousness”. But then we exchanged a few more pleasantries regarding how long I’d been living in Mexico, what did I think of it, whether I liked the music, whether I liked mariachi music specifically. It all seemed innocent enough, but little did I know that my elderly taxi driver had a master plan.

After confirming that yes, I like mariachi music, he informed me that he happened to have a tape AT THIS VERY MOMENT in his car with this type of music, with a song that talks about a muchacha bonita (pretty girl), and conveniently, it even has him singing! Now I wasn’t so sure that I followed that last part correctly in Spanish, but I was entertained and so heartily consented to the tape being played. It was all cued up right at the start of “Muchacha Bonita” (in fact the name of the song). As I listened carefully to what seemed to be a rather poorly mastered tape, I realized that I was hearing the song w/its standard lyrics PLUS my taxi driver’s warbly-but-on-pitch voice dubbed over it. Classic.

I was then treated to three additional songs, each a bit more advanced in that the normal singer was completely replaced with my taxi driver singing. For these, I was also treated to him singing along in the taxi! The only time this concerned me were the occasional instances where he seemed to be so into the song that his eyes appeared to close as he looked towards the heavens to belt out his tunes. (Luckily, this usually coincided with us being stopped at traffic lights.)  He paused between a couple of the songs to inform me that he was not a professional singer, but he just really enjoyed singing. :) During another lull, I inquired how he made these tapes. Apparently he owns a special dual tape deck with a microphone which allows him to create these works of magic in his very home. I was duly impressed with his resourcefulness and dedication to his craft.

Finally, the time came to part ways as we reached our final destination– my office. To his additional credit as a taxi driver, he was one of the few cabbies I’ve ridden with who knew the correct route to end up directly in front of my office door (due to some trickiness with ‘no left turns allowed’ on the major street I work on). He inquired my name & assured me what a pleasure it was to have me in his taxi this morning. I responded with a “¿Como se llama?” as well, and he turned around, introduced himself as Salvador and shook my hand, informing me he was at my service. I must say, it is hard to have too bad of a day when it starts off with a private vocal performance & unabashed flattery.

I close with the lyrics from my first taxi cab serenade, along with my loose translation:

Muchacha bonita, bonita bonita  
con todas las fuerzas que tengo en el alma
con toda mi vida te voy a adorar.
        Pretty girl, pretty pretty
        with all the forces that I have in my soul
        with all my life I’m going to adore you.


Muchacha bonita, bonita bonita
en todas las noches que duerma
te juro que siempre te voy a soñar.
        Pretty girl, pretty pretty
        in all the nights that I sleep
        I swear to you that always I’m going to dream of you.


Te quiero y me quieres
te extraño y me extrañas
y sé que cuando andas solita
le pides al cielo volverme a mirar.
        
I love you and you love me
        I surprise you and you surprise me
        and I know that when you want alone
        you ask to the sky to return me to watch.  

 

Por eso te quiero
muchacha bonita
por eso ante Dios
te prometo que nunca
te voy a olvidar
         For this, I love you
         pretty girl
         For this, before God
         I promise you that never
         will I forget you. 
 

 

Acapulco– Mexican Independence Day Wknd Part 2

One of the pretty-pink jeeps that carts you around the multi-tiered resort facility

One of the pretty-pink jeeps that carts you around the multi-tiered resort facility

Sunday morning Sept 14, John, Robyn and I rolled into our fancy-pants hotel in Acapulco, Las Brisas. Although we probably didn’t *need* to stay in one of the top 3 hotels in Acapulco, this was our last hurrah before I started work and after all, one never knows when one will get back to Acapulco! So we splurged on the Pink & White Wonder (the theme colors of the resort), with our own private pool outside the door of our room.

View of Acapulco Bay from our hotel's hillside

View of Acapulco Bay from our hotel's hillside

Clearly the question on that front is– was Las Brisas worth the ~$300 a night? Our vote is– if you are interested in a complete get-away, where you don’t really need to leave your hotel room at all & just lounge around your private pool (sipping the $7 tequila + Squirt that you smuggled in), then yes.

Pro reasonings include–

  • it is certainly a unique, high-rent, flashback-to-the-50’s experience
  • the beach club down on the water is amusing with a pool + a couple salt water swimming areas which offer easy entertainment watching people step on crabs & yelp in surprise

    A Corona-esque view of the Las Brisas Beach Club

    A Corona-esque view of the Las Brisas Beach Club

  • the private pool makes a great space for a private dance party w/your Ipod
  • fairly close to the Über-trendy mammoth clubs on the main drag

Cons include–

  • since you’re probably being lazy & can’t be bothered to hike up the mountainside, you have to wait for the jeeps to come and drag you around everywhere & a van to drag you down to the beach club
  • prices for food/drink are (unsurprisingly) steep, & reasonably priced food options are slim-to-none
  • they promise you a magical breakfast through a secret passageway in the wall, but the breakfast is light on tasty, unhealthy pastries & heavy on not-so-tasty papaya
  • can’t walk anywhere, and taxis in Acapulco are pretty spendy

 

Our trendy private pool complete w/matching flowers!

Our trendy private pool complete w/matching flowers!

Anyway, we had a lovely time lounging about during the day Sunday, being whisked to a random faraway restaurant for dinner after naively asking the cabbie “well, we were thinking about place X, but what do you recommend?”, and having a few beers in a wacky pirate-themed bar where we encountered a waiter with the largest bubble-butt on record. (got you beat, Steve) 

Seriously? Please don't bring your dirty, breast-free chicken wings to my house.

Seriously? Please don't bring your dirty, breast-free chicken wings to my house.

We also saw the Acapulco Hooters, whose sign strongly promoted its home delivery service. I thought this was the funniest thing ever, because let’s face it; Hooters isn’t exactly *known* for its food. Why you would want to eat cold, slimy chicken wings in the privacy of your own home without even any busty girls to stare at is beyond me, because somehow I am guessing that the delivery person is not showing up at your door dressed in micro-shorts and a tank-top & waiting to be sexually harassed. I am fascinated to know how successful Hooter’s Home Delivery service is.

Noooo rain! We are paying too much money to lie here to get rained out!!!

Noooo rain! We are paying too much money to lie here to get rained out!!!

Monday brought another day of lounging at the Beach Club until our efforts were thwarted by rain, so we retired to our room. The weather cleared but we were too lazy to make the jeep-to-van trek down to the water, so we initiated a tequila and 80’s music-fueled party at our private pool…with just the 3 of us… There may have been some karaoke/air guitar involved. Anyway, suspicions began to grow that we might all crash and burn, since as around-30-somethings, our ability to get drunk in the afternoon and then go out at night has decreased…  HOWEVER, in a burst of dedication to celebrate El Grito (Mexican Independence Day), we all showered up & headed out to dinner.

Here's the air guitar band who gave a private performance

Here's the air guitar band who gave a private performance

Who's up for some grilled Billy Goat's Gruff (the prime cut, that Gruff)

Who's up for some grilled Billy Goat's Gruff (the prime cut, that Gruff)

We found a restaurant down in the thick of things & had a nice Mexican dinner at El Cabrito where we were able to watch a bit of the official “El Grito” on the TV, and also watch the ‘goat cooker’ grill carcasses on spits over a large fire. Then we rallied up to go celebrate at one of THE CLUBS of Acapulco– Palladium. We jump in a taxi and promptly find ourselves in standstill traffic outside of this clump of the three über-clubs, so we jumped out and very un-fresa-ly hoofed it up the steep driveway to find a crowd of Mexicans standing outside the rope. Luckily apparently us three stunning Amercans passed the “threating eye of the bouncer” test, and made it inside to be graced with luxurious Palladium-branded goods. And by ‘branded’, I mean, ‘written on with a black permanent marker’.  We scored 3 sombreros, 3 festive handkerchiefs, and about 9 mini-clay-pot-like shot glasses full of tequila among the 3 of us.

The inside of the club was not what I expected, with a fairly small dance floor against the middle of a massive wall of windows with a stunning view of Acapulco Bay. Then in a semi-circle around the dance floor, there were tiered floors of tables & chairs, almost a bit like an over-sized cabaret venue. Apparently everyone else got the memo about reserving a table in advance, as there were essentially no tables left to sit at (which is what everyone does at bars/clubs here). Robyn worked her magic though, and got one of the waiters to offer up the fact that “his friends had some space at their table” and promptly led us over to a teeny table with 2 guys and 1 girl (who was CLEARLY displeased with our arrival). Unconcerned, we donned our sombreros for some photos while listening to the inital foray of classic Mexican folk songs.

Highlights of the evening included:

Redefining the phrase "The nightclub was a total cockfight"

Redefining the phrase "The nightclub was a total cockfight" (look closely for the rooster he's holding)

* COCK FIGHTING. Yes that’s right, at Acapulco’s trendiest club, everyone stopped chatting and gathered ’round the dance floor to watch TWO MEN HOLDING COCKS er ROOSTERS, walking briskly around in circles, pausing, setting the roosters on the dance floor, letting them peck at each other briefly, and then repeat. Fascinating

* Lassoing. One dude with a frigging-huge lasso, also on the dance floor. Check.

* The crappiest techno DJ I’ve heard in a while. I love techno music, but this guy kept making the looongest mixes that I have ever heard of techno songs from like 5 years. Just when the song would start fading down & you were ready for the next one to start up, it would get louder again WITH THE SAME SONG.

* People who dance WORSE than I do. I mean, let’s be honest, I am horrible dancer, but somehow even I felt like I had better moves than the 37 people on the dance floor.

* And on that note– no one on the dance floor– WTF??  Everyone was hanging around their tables on the various tiers, chair dancing or dancing in place. This is a techno club, people!! Go dance!!!

One of the light bursts at Palladium that usually lasted about 9 seconds too long

One of the light bursts at Palladium that usually lasted about 9 seconds too long

* Excessive lighting. Whoever was controlling the lighting (which to its credit was at least heavy on the green lasers), didn’t understand that no one really WANTS to be able to clearly see the people they’re dancing with at a nightclub. Let people at least have the HOPE that they found a total hottie. Instead, they kept flashing the lights at random intervals during the songs, but then would sloooooowly turn them back down after like 10 seconds. At least long enough for me to stop dancing because I realized everyone could see me clearly.

* Fantastic people watching with some of the sluttiest outfits I’ve seen in recent memory. Guys, take note.

* Commoners on the podiums. Usually hot clubs have slutted-up girls dancing on the podiums to help, er, inspire people to dance. Here, for the first hour or so after the DJ came on, one of the podiums was graced by two somewhat-dumpy kids in sweat pants & t-shirts who looked about 17 and who didn’t appear to feel even slightly out of place. Eventually they were replaced by half-naked girls who also looked about 17, but for at least a good hour, the dumpy kids had their moment in the sun (or in this case, lasers).

Observe a) how much space there was to take photos on the dance floor, b) the white-hot podium dancers behind John, and c) our table mate/cast member from Austin Powers (yes I'm a bad person)

Observe a) how much space there was to take photos on the dance floor, b) the white-hot podium dancers behind John, and c) our table mate/cast member from Austin Powers (yes I'm a bad person)

In summary, good times were had by all at Palladium, even if we did wuss out early (3 AM) because the bad music/dancing was simply more than we could handle…  Luckily this meant we had enough energy the next day to take some strategic photos of the high level of security in the rooms at Las Brisas. The little window you see next to the door is the secret entry point where the staff magically leaves your coffee & breakfast each morning. However, we had a good chuckle after observing that when missing a small interior latch, the magical breakfast nook became a hilarious vehicle for breaking and entering. Observe John’s stealth maneuvers below.

Hmmm...is that someone's arm easily accessing the door of our pimp room at Las Brisas???

Hmmm...is that someone's arm easily accessing the door of our pimp room at Las Brisas through our breakfast nook???

 

Aha! Our thief is caught in the act!

Aha! Our thief is caught in the act!

...but not before he demonstrates that someone could easily send a small person through here to rob you blind (if they for some reason opted not to just open your door).

...but not before he demonstrates that someone could easily send a small person through here to rob you blind (if they for some reason opted not to just open your door).

Las Estacas: Mexican Independence Day Wknd Part 1

Lush grounds of Las Estacas, about ~90 miles south of D.F.

Lush grounds of Las Estacas, about ~90 miles south of D.F.

Finally! Getting around to writing about our trip to Acapulco & Las Estacas over the Mexican Independence Day long weekend (at 11PM on Sept 15).  We headed south out of town on Saturday morning with several friends, thinking an 8AM departure would surely put us well ahead of any other holiday-seekers. Boy were we wrong. To traverse the ~90 miles to our initial destination, we spent a cool 5 hours in the car. Ouch. But, we finally arrived at Las Estacas, a gorgeous “natural water park” + campground-type setup, with a river running through it & lots of stellar BBQ spots.

Here's the "Good meets Evil" section of water the boys swam through...totally clean, honest....

Here's the "Good meets Evil" section of water the boys swam through...totally safe, honest....

It was pretty funny because the river, usually crystal-clear, was completely clouded over & a bit sketch-looking (apparently due to a nearby dirty river flooding after recent rains).  The staff were draining/cleaning out all the pool areas that were supplied by the river water, so it was a bit sad that we couldn’t lounge about in all the water spots, but impressive at how diligent they were working! Anyway, I got a good chuckle because the guys decided to go for a swim in the area of the river that was still crystal clear. However, they got ambitious & decided to swim some loop which sent them right through the middle of the muck on their way back. There was some mention of ‘eyes burning’, but I am confident that there TOTALLY was not any sewage in the mucky bits…honest… :)

We don't need no stinking grill tools...

We don't need no stinking grill tools...

BBQ-ing tools didn’t quite make it into anyone’s car, so John put on an impressive performance grilling things with chopsticks, with extra emphasis on the “stick” part.  After stuffing ourselves with oh-so-tasty burgers & other snacky bits, John, Robyn and I headed off west, Acapulco-bound!  To minimize our night-driving in Mexico (ref. elephant article below), we stayed overnight in a town a little over halfway there– Chilpancingo. (Perfectly fine for a quick nite in a hotel, but wouldn’t necessarily RUSH back for a lengthier visit.)  On to the next post for Acapulco!

Undervalued Perk of Business Travel

Over 1 billion people in the world can't drink this

Over 1 billion people in the world can't drink this

So I spent 5 nights in Guadalajara last week, and this week I am in Dallas for 3 nights. And with these 8 nights of hotel stays, I have discovered a previously underappreciated perk of business travel when you live in Mexico City: all the tap water you can drink.

That’s right. Tap water. As you may know, you can’t drink the tap water in Mexico City (or at least, it is strongly recommended that you don’t). So we pay the ~$3 a week to have a big 5-gallon jug to plop in the dispenser on our counter, which is usually plenty of water for the two of us. And we always keep a backup 5-gallon jug in our apartment. AND there is a tap with filtered water down in our parking garage from which we can refill things as needed.

But despite all this filtered water available, I never seem to drink enough, maybe because of some sort of subconscious desire not to have to replace the 5 gallon jug and thereby splash water all over the counter?  Anyway, for a girl who seems to be constantly slightly dehydrated, l was thrilled to learn:
        a) that my hotel in Guadalajara had potable water running from all taps, and
        b) that Dallas water, which was the first public water that made me understand why people buy Brita filters, now tastes possibly superior to Evian to me.

Sometimes one needs to pause for reflection on these minor details previously taken for granted.

*pause*

Ok. Now I am off to savor another free-flowing cup.

Land Speed Record for…serving meat

Tonight in Guadalajara, I visited the Guinness World Record holder for the “fastest service in the world”. I was not overly impressed by this concept prior to entering Karne Garibaldi, but I must say, as soon as we sat down, I was excited by the flurry of food that emerged. One possible reason for their speed in service is their somewhat limited menu. And by limited, I mean there is one entree-basically a soup that consists of beef roasted in its own juices, some beans, and chunks of bacon. (ok, ok, twist my arm)  All you have to do is pick the size– small, medium or large.

That said, they bring so much random food to your table as soon as you sit down (random apps/accoutrements for the soup) that you kind of feel like “well, I should just get the small because look how much food is already on the table!”   Let me assure you– much like a Brazilian churrascaria, do not be fooled by the first round of accoutrements & naively fill up your belly with chips + beans w/corn kernels in it. Instead, get at least the medium & fill your belly with tasty tasty meat. Mmmm. Karne Garibaldi is definitely getting added to the “places to bring John when we come back to Guadalajara” list.

(note: yes, acknowledged, still no pictures from basically the last month, but I deserve forgiveness because am operating on <6 hours of sleep a night for the recent past & forseeable future, and can barely form coherent written English thoughts because am so focused on trying not to sound like an ignorant American with the bazillions of Mexicans I am meeting for business this week. FYI, meetings in Spanish when you speak Spanish like a 3rd grader are exhausting.)  :)

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