Of Friends and Transitions

Living overseas seems to bring with it a mobile and transitory lifestyle of a caliber foreign to those who steward the home traditions. We become accustomed to a series of pronounced and frequent life transitions. In Tokyo foreign friends would transfer to assignments in other exotic locations every three to five years. It makes it nice for traveling, a privilege to be able to stay with friends around the world, but their departures leave huge holes in our lives. In Mazatlán there seems to be a frequent seven to ten year cycle to expat life, with beloved friends moving to the interior of the country or back home, closer to grandkids, so they can be an integral part of those children’s lives.

Transitions are a normal part of life; I know this. Life is comprised of cycles; I know and believe this from the depths of my heart. Yet dealing constructively with transitions is the reason I made a career as an interculturalist oh so many decades ago. I am not good at them. They hurt. Things change. They can even change for the better, open new doors and windows for which we’ll forever be grateful. But, they involve change nonetheless. Someone “moves our cheese.”

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Our friend Janet Blaser

Right now I’m dealing with the wonderful new cycle of a dear friend who has done so very much for Mazatlán during her life here—astoundingly so, in my opinion. I admire her greatly and love her dearly. Janet Blaser started and has run M! Magazine, that terrific English-language monthly we are fortunate to have seasonally. As part of that endeavor, she’s thrown some of the best parties the expat community has had over the past decade, in some of the most unique venues in town. Janet also was the visionary and founder of the Farmer’s Market, our local organic produce market, which has played a crucial role in transforming the reality of food and restaurant offerings in Mazatlán. She pretty much single-handedly organized our Women’s March Mazatlán last January, bringing together nearly 500 locals and expats so that we could be “on the map” and have our voices heard with the rest of the world as Trump took office. Personally, she’s always ready with an alternative viewpoint, a contradictory opinion, the inside scoop on goings-on around town, and a good belly laugh. I will miss that.

She is so ready for her new life cycle. She’s rented a darling home with a killer view in Nayarit (the state south of Sinaloa), and has it fully furnished in her mind. She has a two-minute walk to a quiet and incredibly scenic little beach; it’s going to rock. She’s already made her first new friends, who share her passions for organic, sustainable living and surfing. She is excited about the new projects she’ll now have time and energy to work on, which will take her new places mentally, emotionally and physically. All is good. I’m thrilled for her. It’s full of growth and wisdom; it’s right. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

And she is doing it right. With a month before she actually moves, Janet has already cleaned many things out, packed up a bunch of stuff, and advertised for a garage sale. This way her apartment reminds her on a daily basis of the excitement of her new life, and helps her deal with the reality of the shift. She’s smart and wise. Damn her. 😉

What a gift to be that type of person, one who leaves a place better than when she entered it. A new owner is now the custodian of M!; the growers themselves are now in charge of the organic market. Good karma for beginning a new cycle.

Godspeed, my dear. We will be visiting you very soon. Know you will be missed, by so many, in deep ways. And know we are all rooting for your joy. Thank you for moving my cheese, even though I hate it. Life is change, it is a journey, it’s all about transition. Darn it.

The Clock Whisperer

dsc_0984Gabriel Alfonso Gamez Zuñiga is Mazatlán’s resident clock whisperer, an incredibly talented, personable guy who is the last of a dying breed—the keeper of knowledge and skill that is nearing extinction.

People from throughout the municipio and surrounding communities ask Gabriel to work his magic on their timepieces. He does so with everything from the most expensive, bejeweled wristwatches— Chopard, Piaget, Rolex—to the brass mechanisms of antique wooden clocks and high-tech GPS-enabled dive watches. He also sells clocks and watches on commission. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

The son of clockmaker Alfonso Gamez, who learned his craft via a correspondence course with Swiss-based Vaucher, went on to train five different apprentices over a 60-plus year career, and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as Mexico’s best clockmaker, Gabriel grew up sweeping floors amidst the hairspring levers, count wheel trains, chiming movements and recoil escapements on his father’s workbench. He tells me he loves challenges in his work, “the more difficult the better.” He approaches his craft as problem solving: “it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.” What he hates is boredom.

Gabriel is the last of his father’s apprentices still in business; he has been repairing clocks and watches for over fifty years—the longest in Mazatlán. Most of those decades he worked just up the street from his current location on the corner of Canizales and Rosales downtown. During that time he has seen clocks trend from the mechanical to electrical, quartz, chronographic, digital and back again. “Life is circular; everything old becomes new again. Now is the perfect time for my skills, because the old is in fashion again,” he tells me.

Gabriel is so humble that he refuses to call himself a relojero or clockmaker, but says he “only repairs” watches and clocks. Everyone else raves about how gifted he is. On any given day he also repairs lights, computerized car keys; you name it, Gabriel fixes pretty much whatever his beloved customers bring in. His shop is constantly bustling: several people at the counter, cars pulling up to drop off or pick up merchandise. When Gabriel needs time to focus on a project, he has to roll down the doors of his shop and refuse to answer the knocks or the phone. When he tries to take a day off people come to his home for assistance!

The demand for his skills is obvious. We live in an age that is hyper-vigilant of time—it blinks on our cell phones, dashboards, microwaves, computers and televisions. Over a billion watches are sold each year—we have more need than ever for clock makers and repairers. Despite that fact, Gabriel tells me young people just aren’t interested in learning his trade, and only a handful of clock repairers remain in Mazatlán; their “heyday” was in the 60s and 70s when there were dozens of shops in town. Gabriel is very social, so in addition to the steady flow of customers through his shop, there are usually at least one or two people just visiting.

Sprawled across Gabriel’s workbench are hundreds of movements, wheels, rods, and springs, yet our clock whisperer knows exactly what parts he has where. He buys his parts from the Central de Funitura, the clock market in Guadalajara. He has a magnet attached to the end of a pole to help him find and pick up any small, dropped parts, and another magnet in his pocket to capture pieces he might put there.

Relojes Gámez is open Monday through Friday Clock 9:30am to 1:30pm and 4:00-7:00pm, and on Saturdays 9:30am to 1:00pm, on the corner of Canizales and Rosales, telephone 985-5620.

Talented and dedicated tradespeople are one of the joys of living in Mazatlán. Here we are fortunate to be able to have shoes, pots and pans, electronics or clocks repaired expertly and at a reasonable price. Every year, however, it becomes more difficult to find these quality-driven artisans; the world has changed, and people no longer want to spend years apprenticing to learn a trade. It makes me all the more grateful to know Gabriel and endorse his work, as he has helped us with more than a few watches. If you know anyone seeking a much-needed and rewarding trade, I’d urge them to contact Gabriel!

Do You Love Maestro López Saenz, Too?

P1100159 - Version 2 Do you love internationally renowned Maestro Antonio López Saenz’ work? We are so blessed to have such a talented artist who is a native Mazatleco. You’ll remember that back in September the Maestro told us he would be issuing canvas prints very soon. Today was the official launch of an exhibit of those prints in the Museo de Arte, although Victor Manuel, his nephew and agent, and the Maestro have had the prints on sale for some weeks now. The giclee prints are incredibly high quality, printed on canvas with original signatures. The color really pops, and at first glance you don’t even realize that they are prints. I am so excited to finally be able to afford a López Saenz for our home (an approximately 15″ x 25″ print costs 2800 pesos)!

The exhibit officially opened a little after 5:00 this afternoon. The Maestro arrived on time, and spent a few minutes hugging and greeting his fans. Then the Mayor arrived, and after a big more mingling, a few very short speeches were given and the red tape was cut. The event was extremely well attended. It was difficult even to get to see some of the artwork, and definitely not easy to move in the galleries! There was also a reception in the patio area of the museum, with wine and snacks. Below are some event photos, and a video of the opening ceremony as well.

The exhibit, “Todo López Saenz,” is well worth seeing. It will continue at the Museum of Art all through February and March, 2014, and from there will travel to Culiacán, Los Mochis, El Fuerte, Guadalajara and San Francisco (California). If you are interested in purchasing some of the works, contact Victor Manuel López de la Paz (in Spanish) at 6691-47-0582. And please tell him Dianne and Greg sent you.

Adventures in “La Comer”

Expats here call it “Mega.” Most of the locals I know call it “La Comer” or “Comercial Mexicana.” Either way, to me it’s a pretty boring place. I’m not a big shopper, I prefer the mercados to the supermarkets, and when there’s not a lot of variety in the offerings (fresh, local-grown or caught, unique), well, suffice it to say, Mega is not my favorite place in town.

So, we went grocery shopping there today, and we actually had a bit of excitement!

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First of all, we met one of my favorite painters, Maestro Antonio López Saenz. I’ve heard him speak several times, but until today I’d never met him. What a friendly, kind and gentle soul he seemed to be! Soft-spoken, warm, and hospitable. We spoke right there between the epazote and cilantro. I was finally able to make my request, which I’ve hoped for for several years now.

“Please, maestro, might you paint a painting of our malecón as the biggest gymnasium in the world? You know how every Mazatleco uses it: running, roller blading, walking, yoga, pushups, sit-ups, bicycling? It’s perhaps the world’s longest oceanside promenade, and it’s a popular free gym for so many. It would be a gorgeous painting! It would really capture the Mazatlán of today.”

He told me how the original malecón is really just the Olas Altas portion, and that this longer part down towards “La Comer” is all new. Then he and his colleague Victor shared some really exciting news!

From December of this year the Maestro will be issuing canvas prints of his paintings! He wants them to be affordable and accessible! Woo hoo! Can’t wait to possibly have a replica of a López Saenz on our walls! Bravo!

And, the excitement in La Comer didn’t stop there. Maybe I just haven’t been looking closely enough, but I saw several interesting looking products. Rather unbelievable that they were there, actually. These included sushi rice, sushi roll wrappers (soy paper), and sesame seeds in bright “rainbow” colors (yuk—artificial dyes, but fun). Slideshow below:

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Back in the dairy case, they are carrying wine sorbets, and even one that is flan-flavored!

Just when you thought supermarket shopping couldn’t get any more boring! 😉

You Drive Us Wild We’ll Drive You Crazy

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We had a whole lot of fun this past Wednesday, March 6. Our gorgeous Angela Peralta Theater, venue for so many classical music performances, became host to… sit down and take a breath — a rock band!

It was a KISS tribute band called “Dynassty,” composed of four young Mexicans including two Mazatlecos (García and Barrón):

  1. Carlos García as Gene “The Demon” Simmons, vocals and bass
  2. Angel Barrón  as Ace “Space Man” Frehley, lead guitar and backing vocals
  3. Mijael Chaín as Paul “Starchild” Stanley, vocals and rhythm guitar
  4. Miguel Ángel Chain as Peter “Catman” Criss, drums and backing vocals

The boys in the band seemed a bit nervous at the start, or perhaps just low energy due to the large venue and the less-than-overwhelming turnout. I imagine they’re also used to performing in a bar, to a much rowdier crowd. So, the four of us (Greg and me, our son and niece—who took all these photos, Arely Hernández), along with many others in the crowd, turned up our own energy and the night ended up being awesome. What a treat to dance, sing and shout en familia, especially with our seventeen year old!

The guys’ costumes were incredible; whoever made them should really be commended. They all had those really tall platform boots, too, and it sure seemed tough walking around and rocking out in them. One of the guys told me he spends two to three hours getting his makeup put on prior to an event. The boys rocked hard, spit up fake blood, got on the floor to play, and even pretended to break a guitar. It was a whole lot of campy and a whole lot of fun.

PonchoOne of the best parts about any event here in Mazatlán, of course, is the chance to meet and greet some of the many famous people who call our city home. I was beside myself when I first met Ferrusquilla, and I am afraid I acted starstruck on Wednesday to finally be able to meet Poncho Lizárraga of Banda El Recodo. I have loved their music for so long, and shouted and danced at their concerts as well. He was very kind, and I just sort of stood there smiling. I guess it’s a good thing once in a while. I wanted to ask him and failed: “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY IN YOUR HOMETOWN AGAIN?” We haven’t seen them since they played in the bull ring during Carnavál three years ago!

Thank you, CULTURA. This was a far from typical Angela Peralta Theater event, and it was really enjoyable. And thank you and good luck, Dynassty!

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day! Who’s with me?