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Cedric Justice
Works at Spectrum Culture Magazine
Attended Portland State University
Lives in Portland, OR
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Cedric Justice

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I went to see Xymox last week.  The trip surrounding it was great, too.
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We got up at about 7:30 and had our morning coffee.  I polished off the tequila in my coffee. It was the perfect amount of tequila to have on hand, apparently. And last night, I spent all but ten of my last pesos in cash. So that’s working out for us pretty well.

We hung out on the roof in the morning, and M and I took a tour of the house next door after being shown the top-level roof (where we saw what would be the area accessed by the fruits of my plans). By the way, if anyone wants a house in Mexico next to J, his next door neighbor is selling his place for about 100kUS$.

We set out for our last meal: the chicken vendor on the side of the road up the hill. We had dropped by several days before, asking about their hours, but had other things to do and eat that day. En route to the Catedral, which we wanted to see before we left, we dropped by the old, gorgeous house that we saw last night. It looked so dilapidated and unhappy, but M noticed that there was an open door. So, we investigated.

Inside was sparking marble floors and a clean chandelier. Two tables blocked the path to the courtyard viewable from the doorway.  J knocked and stepped inside. We were greeted by a lady, sceptical in her eyes (basically like “what are you gringos doing here?”) I asked in Spanish if this was a restaurant. No. A business? No.  [Squeamishly] Your house? 

Yes.

Eek. I told her that it was incredibly beautiful and apologised for bothering her. As we left, she closed the gates. 

At the Catedral, J was in shorts, but I was in a full suit and M was in a nice dress. Since we were not wearing sandals, we toured the inside and J would meet us outside. 

It was very typical of a Catholic church, and I can’t take photos.  But the miracle of the internet will still let the reader see a virtual tour.

We continued to the central marketplace so I could get a couple of photos and contrast it with the experience of walking through the same area last night. M didn’t get a chance to experience the market, so it was a good way to share that.

I got an horchata, one of the few things left on my Mexico bucket list. The lady let us try the guava juice, but we all felt it too sweet. For 12 pesos, we could get a litre, but I preferred a half litre size. It was 6 pesos, leaving me with 4.

Across the way was a fruit stand, and M deftly spied that they had vanilla by the bean for sale. J bought us 10 vainas for 300 pesos (20US$). “So, that’s where I get them!” he mused aloud. “Of course it would be here.”

We wound our way past the clothing vendors, the butchers, the fish. Severed pig heads smiled at us; a worker began whistling the Addam’s Family theme song as we passed, M and I clad in black and sunglasses. 

We made our way outdoors, and the streets were bustling with shoppers, street merchants with stands selling tacos, auguas frescas, snacks, and more. We climbed the hill past several fashion vendors, all playing modern dance music in Spanish (all at a rational volume, which was a major contrast to when we first arrived). The sun beamed down on us gently.

We turned left at the top of a hill and saw a brick-and-mortar corner grocer selling fruits. 5-kilo bags of limes were 130MX$. J stated that this was a major discovery: the market had pre-chopped veggies and fruits, which would decrease preparation time for food greatly and this place was markedly cheaper than many of the other stores and vendors he was familiar with. M said “See, you can cook for yourself!”

Just down the hill were the guys cooking whole chickens and skewers over open charcoal-fired grills. I studied the price list to see if there was anything that I should try that would be new. “Shit, guys! We haven’t had any beans!” Frijoles puercos: pork beans, or refried beans, was something that we hadn’t had the entire time we were here. So we ordered that and a half kilo of skewered beef and a whole chicken. The lot of it, including salsa in a plastic bag (as is typical) and a few fresh tortillas were 200MX$. It was in a pink plastic bag in under 5 minutes.
“Now, that’s fast food. Screw Burger King!” We made our way down the hill and past the large boulevard we would take as we left. Up the street from our house was the coco helado (cold coconut) vendor, who J knew at this point. For 13MX$, they had cold coconuts that you specified if you wanted for the water or the meat. The clerk offered to convert it to meat after we drank the fluid.

We took it all home and scarfed quickly. Maurice showed up mid-meal. I’m not a fan of beef, but this was so excellently fired over a hot flame that it was seared on the outside, and medium on the inside. The char was brilliant and the chicken was incredibly well seasoned. This is one of those things I would really like to see more of, and reminded me of some of the story ideas I had rolling around in my head, such as The Real Food of Mexico. 

The trip to the airport was eventless, and in the airport, security was a breeze. Because we were early enough, we were upgraded to an exit row which made the flight to LAX incredibly comfortable.

The path to customs and immigration was a labyrinthine walk that was probably about a half mile when all was said and done.  For the first time, we weren’t hassled at immigration or customs. 

M tried to coordinate with her cousin if we could meet up, but it didn’t work out.  There were no restaurants that were on the outside of security, which seemed like a bad business idea, but that probably wasn’t considered when the place was designed in the 60s or 80s, depending on the building, and security wasn’t a total clusterfuck-nightmare.

But it was about 18:00 at this point, and I hadn’t eaten in nine hours—I was a bit hungry. Fortunately M had some snacks, and after figuring out that we’d just have to wait in the airport, we were poked and prodded, shoe-less and humiliating with our hands up, etc. After the security guise, we made our way to our terminal. We looked for food, maybe something Chinese, and passed a Ruby’s burger place, a “California Deli”, which offered white-bread sandwiches and pizza, and a place in the terminal area that was a self-serve deli counter, like the grab-and-go at a grocery store.  I asked the attendant how much a possibly 6-ounce sandwich was and she said matter-of-factly that it was 11.59US$. 

My eyes bulged out of my head.

The one thing I needed was water, though. So we bought a litre of smart water and a Naked fruit juice. The total was 11.16US$ with tax. That’s right, it was five bucks for a litre of water.  Fuck LA.

After going through Classist Boarding™ (“Rich people with lots of money can board now…” “Now for the old…” “People with babies can now board…” “5-foot-1 jugglers born on a Tuesday may now board…” “If you’re currently on your period and your name starts with a K, you may now board…”), we settled in to our seats near the back of the plane. I was greeted by my former boss’s wife, who is obviously a flight attendant. This made me feel like I was going back to my community, where I know everyone and have my network of people, you know?

The 737 was an updated model, complete with LED lights, plug-ins at the seats, wi-fi and LEG ROOM! I actually fit in the seat and my knees weren’t smashed into the seat in front of me. It was sort of amazing.

The cab ride home was uneventful and quick; Tyler and Stefanie greeted us with dinner on the table: whole-wheat pasta in alfredo sauce with anchovies, parmesan, and rock fish. Yes.

Sleeping in your own bed after over a week is the biggest treat about coming home from a vacation.
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M was up before me, per usual. We had a much better sleep on the second floor, devoid of street noise, dog barks, and although the bed was a tad smaller, it was a lot more comfortable due to its softness.

“Flan for breakfast?” she musically asked.

“Sure! Let’s try it!”

We carefully used a knife along the ridge of the saucepan to break it free (which was probably unnecessary as it was Teflon…) and she put a plate over it and flipped it. Caramel flowed down the little mountain like a brown-yet-cold lava. We dipped our spoons.

“Yum! You’re going to make this all the time, right?”

“I’ll try…”

So, that worked out. Thanks, Chuy!

We wanted to take J to Hector’s for lunch. It was so good that we figured we could introduce him to some good food. At about 9:30, we set out in the windy morning sun toward la plazuela machada. We wound our way through the old part of town, taking a different route than usual. When we arrived, Hector’s main building was closed, but off the back patio, there was sidewalk seating which led to a culinary school/marketplace that sold veggies and pastries inside as well as coffee.

We sat down at one of the outdoor sidewalk seats under an umbrella. We perused the menu: “Oh, this is nothing like what they have,” M and I promised.  Sadly, it was just an American breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast, etc. So, we opted for coffees, a juice, and conversation.

We decided to pay Macaw’s—a bar near the malecon—a visit. En route, we spied a nice art gallery, a dilapidated, gorgeous building that looked as if it was for sale for maybe the last one-hundred years, and an arts school sporting quotes in English about art. I insisted to take M’s picture at the latter location.

Outside of Macaws sat Eduardo, J’s “long-lost son”. He’s in medical school as we had talked about on the way. It was just chance that we ran into him. Anabel, his mother, ran the bar, which was dotted with Americans. Food didn’t happen, but we had a drink or two and more conversation.  With Hector’s being a strikeout for breakfast, we all agreed to go to Torino’s, which is in the reforma district, where Rick lives. J called him to invite him as we walked back home along calle 5 de mayo and dropped by the house to attend to our laundry.

In 10 minutes, we set out. It was hot, but windy, which helped immensely. We took a seat outside and were attended to by three waiters. When I went inside to use the bathroom, I passed a live trio playing music in the corner; many of the tables inside were filled, and there were few gringos at all.

We ended up ordering much more food than we expected, but I learned that ‘mortar’ is mocalteje in Spanish—non-coincidentally, that is the name of the seafood restaurant just behind J’s house in the Centro district. In the mocalteje, there was a soft, chewy, grey meat we couldn’t figure out. I asked the waiters, and they told me it was caracol… “Caracol… escargot…” 

“Oh! It’s snail!”

We also had a black bass ceviche, a small cup of hot broth, grilled prawns, and “paella”, which ended up being similar to the rice Chuy made and had a lot of nice, soft seafood in it, but wasn’t much like Spanish paella.  It lacked the crunchiness of pan-fried rice. Nevertheless, the meal was delicious.

A siesta at home followed.
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Mazatlán 2015: Day 9, part 2: Dinner with Chuy

We saw the sunset at the ‘Bean; Maurice, Denis, Rick, J, M, and I all were gathered around a familiar looking backgammon game. “Is that yours?” I asked J.

“Yeah, I gave it to the café.”

Maurice and I were having beers in the warm night air, and M and I were chatting with the Irishmen about plenty. At around 19:00, J said he’d meet us at home—to take our time. He just wanted to ensure that Chuy could get in. 

This went on until about 20:00. Denis decided to stay and have dinner at the restaurant next door (which was deserted, Maurice pointed out—“The places need turnover to be any good, you know…” he mused musically in his Irish accent), and Maurice gave us a ride home.

“Come, stay for dinner…”

Maurice and Chuy have a backstory. I won’t broadcast it, but he had his hesitations. Nevertheless, he came in and we all hung out. Chuy was already there, and I played sous chef:

“OK, cut the broccoli like this, throw in some butter and water and pop that in the microwave.”

“Smash this garlic, it’s going to go in the sauce with the chipotles.”

Chuy runs a kitchen like I do—quickly, and effectively. Only he’s better about keeping dishes clean than I.

Within less than an hour, we had Mexican rice (that was what the bouillon and celery and tomatoes were for), octopus (with tomatoes, butter, and celery), shrimp in a cream/chipotle sauce, and fresh broccoli/carrots. “OK, slice the avocado like this, and I’ll lay down the tomates. Presentation is importante.”

“Where did you learn to cook?”

“In the golf clubs of California.”

The five of us ate on the roof, floored at how good the meal was. Afterwards, I remembered aloud: “We forgot about the flan!”

Chuy had bragged (which before the meal, I thought he may have been overselling himself, but he certainly did not) that he made an excellent, classic-recipe flan. The sugar was intended for the flan, but we forgot the key elements. In many places, there are three-milk cakes/custards/desserts. Flan is the Mexican one, dulce de tres leches is another (Italian?), and crème brulee is yet another. 

These are the few desserts that M likes.  So we had to try it. We already had great flan once, and having it a second time would be tremendous. Chuy and I jotted over to the Oxxo, were we found crema media (whipping cream, I think) and leche evaporada, which would be milk number two.  The third they did not have. 

We stopped by a tiny window of what looked to be a house, where he asked for ‘Carnation’, as in evaporated milk, which is where the sweetness comes from. This entire excursion cost us no more than 35 pesos (2.50US$). 

Back to the house where we half-filled a roasting pan with a lid with water and made due with one small sauce pot (about 7”) and two ceramic coffee cups. I blended the three milks together ending up with about 1500ml of fluid and we tossed in 5 eggs. “OK, for the caramel, all you do is put the azucar over a fairly high heat—when it starts to caramelize, move it around like this.”

I had no idea it was that simple.

When the caramel was hot and ready, we poured enough in to fill the bottom of each vessel. Then we quickly poured in the custard base. In a 400-degree oven, we let it bake/double-boil until a knife came out clean.

This ended up being over an hour and a half. At this point, J had already gone to bed, and Chuy had a fishing mission that night, so bid us farewell.

“Just make sure you cover it before putting it in the fridge. Wax paper, if you have it…”
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The fabled ‘Golden Zone’ is the area most famous for orange-coloured, older gringos and English language. It is where the large condos are and the fancy hotels that are about 3 to four miles north of the central city area where we’re staying. Morbid curiosity drove M and I to want to wander in the area to see how different it was from our experience. 

M and I expected essentially a Rodeo Drive sort of experience with Guess Jeans and fancy international retailers. It wasn’t like that at all.

Rhio met up with us at the house and J and M and I set out up the Malecon. It was about noon, and traffic was noticeable. The sun was hot and beating down on us, so we opted for a bus. The bus was also packed, but we stood in the back together. Gringos populated a few seats ahead of us; grey hair faded to orange skin and tank tops. These were not classy people, and I twinged when I heard them talking about shotgunning a six pack of beer as if they were at a frat house.

We got out in an area that pretty much looked like any intersection in LA. Mostly one-storeyed buildings and convenience stores dotted the commercial area. We stopped by the Oxxo (7-11 equivalent) for some hydration. Then we proceeded west and half-way along, perused a little shop. It had shoes, clothing, and cloth goods. I tried on sandals (like the ones bought yesterday) out of curiosity—they were a slightly different style, but not really compelling enough to buy again.  We could tell rents were higher here and/or they just started high in their price negotiations because they could get it from many of their clients—a win/win, really. But J’s a local, so that didn’t fly with him.

He ended up with a couple gifts for some friends; I got a bug up my ass to get some vanilla (vainilla in Spanish, by the way), so we looked around for that.  Around the corner, next to a silver jeweller, was a little place called Martha’s that sold herbs and spices. I enquired about the bean, and they said their other location by Gus Gus restaurant would have it; they were sold out. M and J and I perused the silver place; the guy behind the counter spoke amazing English—the place had a tantalising aroma.  All in all, great presentation. Of course, we didn’t really need anything, so we didn’t get anything.

With a sort-of aim in mind, we wandered over toward Gus Gus, dropping by tucked away mall shops offering much of the same things: pottery, leather goods, silver. As continued through the area, we happened upon a nice leather factory where they were making goods right in the store. M was potentially looking for a new purse/backpack thing, but nothing quite worked.  If it had, it would have cost us about 20US$ for a really high-quality (at least on the surface) item.

A couple of doors down, I spotted a distillery. We were greeted by a white guy who introduced us to the master distiller of the place who told us about all the offerings. They made everything in house, and even made mango spirits. We looked around and I had tastes of their agave, their aguavera (tequila liquor), their coffee spirit, their gin, and their three tequila-like (technically mezcal because it isn’t Jalisco) spirits. The coffee one was amazing, but everything else was OK. Smooth, sure, but not worth the cost (upwards of 45USD$ for 500ml). 

J spied some vanilla beans and surreptitiously purchased them for us. This was revealed as we were leaving. A small container was 130MX$ (12US$); with four beans in it, that’s not a cheap thing. Onward—we looped around the street in a weird condo area full of skyscrapers and pools. The luxury of a dilapidated LA building that was once in its prime was the general feeling. Many of the commercial buildings were for rent in this area, adding to the sad feeling of the place. The street gave way to the original Sabalo Camaron main street (that turns into to Paseo Claussen and is just another section of the Malecon). A Dairy Queen proudly announced their wares. To our left and down a few blocks—past strip-mall buildings that had silver shops, dry cleaners, and all sorts of somewhat East LA-looking architecture and quality—was Gus Gus. As we approached, a few shops sat outside, and an arcade gave way to Martha’s second location. I asked for vanilla beans (vainas de vainilla… a bit of a tongue twister, especially since the V is pronounced as a B: Buy-nass day Buy-knee-yah), and they said they had sold out and I should come back tomorrow. I asked how much they were, and she said 45MX$/bean. Turns out the distillery was the best buy after all.

Rhio already had a table at Gus Gus, where we partook in chips and really good salsa. M and I had vampiros (tequila and sangrita); the second waiter (there were a few working) was a bit of a character—a multi-lingual globe trotter, working in America, Canada, Poland. He had a funny way about him and would just randomly go up to table and start talking about his musical tastes or about a certain country he lived in. 

The reggae in the background oddly gave way to three Cure songs before going back to Spanish-language reggae. We asked the funny-man if he had any part in it, and it was obvious by his answers that he didn’t. 

We decided to take a pulmonia back; it was M’s first on the trip. It took us along the half-circular bay and we got out at our normal stop. Here is where we met Chuey.

Chuey and Valentino (his “son” which turned out to not be his son at all) were feeding the frigatebirds with hunks of marlin on chopsticks. Chuey would whistle, and the birds would flock around. “Here, you try”, he said in California-flavoured English. M and I ended up chatting with him for the next half hour or so. Chuey is one of J’s contacts for things such as getting a boat ride from a local guy to his upcoming trip to Deer Island (it’s something he wants to do eventually, but isn’t willing to blow 50US$ to do it). As I will continue to learn about him, he seems to be sort of a gringo/local cartilage—smoothing out dealings between them as a translator/friend/supplier. He does everything from fishing to cooking to just hanging out and getting attention from people and asking them for money.

“How about I make you dinner? What are you doing tonight?” M and I were still full from our breakfast and snack of chips. “Well, not tonight, but I’ll see if J is interested and maybe we’ll do it tomorrow?”

“Sure. Come by tomorrow in the morning; we’ll make plans.”

I ended up talking back and forth between them over this time about lots of things, including how Chuey learned to cook, about his Dutch wife who is an anthropologist in Olympia right now, and about how Valentin is a twelve-year-old in sixth grade. His Spanish was flawless to the extent that I could understand upwards of 80% of what he was saying (maybe I just am a sixth-grade speaker of Spanish?). It was one of those weird moments when everything just makes sense—any second-language speaker will know what I’m talking about.

The most notable thing about this exchange is that I learned that Valentin is our dog-friend-visitor’s owner. Her name is Pinta.

When we got home, this pleased J greatly. And M and I enquired about Chuey’s somewhat hustler leanings (he asks for cash, etc.) and if he thought it were a good idea to do dinner. “Oh, yeah, Chuey’s fine. Let’s set it up.”
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Curried devilled eggs in preparation for #TweedRidePDX2015.
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We got up before sunset from our siesta. The wind whipped through the second floor the entire nap, and I enjoyed that very much.

The three of us walked down to the Looney Bean for our final sunset. We learned that Rick and us have the same flight home. And, I also remembered that we hadn’t yet gone to the liquor store. So, after the Bean, Maurice and Denis gave us a ride to the liquor store which was a couple of miles away.  I procured the Cuban rum my friend raved about (and that I tried at Macaw’s—it was pretty damned smooth!), as well as some tequila liqueur (aguavera) and a black Herradura.  Five bottles of booze came in at 1100 pesos, about 77US$. (Sidenote: I don’t have all of it because we were managing our baggage weight. We’ll get the rest in a month or so.)

We returned home for a tad and hung out a bit. At about 21:00, we were hungry enough to go out to dinner; we still had plenty in our bellies from Torino’s, but we had to try this Indian place.

Yesterday, we had dropped by and mentioned that we wanted to try the place to the guy working there. He invited us in, but we said we had dinner plans already and that we’d be in tomorrow. When we showed up, he was shocked—apparently keeping your word isn’t a Thing here (and Anabel told J she’d call him as we invited her out to dinner with us tonight; she didn’t).

The place was empty—we were the only customers there all night (from our perspective). The menu had typical and atypical items: veggie pakoras, samosas, butter chicken, etc., as well as Thai shrimp curry, fish pakoras, palak paneer with broccoli in it.

We ended up ordering a half order of the (marlin) pakoras (70MX$), an order of the lamb curry with the side of the saag paneer (130MX$). After we ordered, the waiter hung out a bit, sort of talking at us a bit. He seemed lonely. Apparently, he used to live in LA and then lived in the Portland area, so he wanted to talk with us about that. He was younger, so I understand a bit why he’d want to overshare a bit—but we were trying to have dinner, so it was a little awkward.  Eventually, someone called him over—I think they understood that we were trying to have our own conversations. All our conversations were in English—everyone here spoke English natively.

When they brought out the meal, the two dishes were prepared as expected. The fish was encrusted in a red-tandoori chana crust, deep fried perfectly sitting on a bed of lettuce and garnished with orange peels. The fish was meaty, yet soft. The saag with the broccoli was different in taste, but not in texture. Creamy, earthy… so incredibly good that I want to try putting broccoli in my saag now! And the lamb was hot, soft, and seasoned perfectly. Although we ordered it 7/10 on the scale of spicy, we definitely could have had more on the spice side of things, which was good.

When the waiter gave us candied fennel, I identified it as such, which surprised him. “You do know about Indian food.”

We lingered a bit longer and the chef/owner came out and talked with us.  I told her, honestly, “this is some of the best Indian food I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot.” She was pleased.  My guess is that she was maybe 30—a Canadian citizen (likely dual citizenship) with a Mexican mother and an Indian father. They live in Quebec, but are the source of her supply of basmati rice, which is apparently difficult to procure in Mexico. We talked about that—about what’s hard to get in certain places and what’s easy. It’s part of that whole expatriation process, isn’t it?

It was 23:00 by the time we left. The air had chilled a bit, and our walk home was pleasant. We walked through the market district at night, which was completely desolate. And we talked about how in many places in the world, we’d feel completely unsafe here, as if it is an area to avoid. But, through the veneer of the grit and the broken sidewalks and infrastructure, M and I noticed that we didn’t really feel unsafe.  And that’s a big part of the appeal for J. He loves the place with its faults and really was attracted to it for the hearts of the people, who are gregarious, welcoming, and friendly. They all say “good morning” back to you as you’re walking down the street. And that makes it feel like a much smaller town than it is.
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Mazatlán 2015: Day 10, part 1: My first flan; Torino’s
(The majority of these photos are with respect to this day, but technical issues prevent me from posting just a select number. Sorry.)

M was up before me, per usual. We had a much better sleep on the second floor, devoid of street noise, dog barks, and although the bed was a tad smaller, it was a lot more comfortable due to its softness.

“Flan for breakfast?” she musically asked.

“Sure! Let’s try it!”

We carefully used a knife along the ridge of the saucepan to break it free (which was probably unnecessary as it was Teflon…) and she put a plate over it and flipped it. Caramel flowed down the little mountain like a brown-yet-cold lava. We dipped our spoons.

“Yum! You’re going to make this all the time, right?”

“I’ll try…”

So, that worked out. Thanks, Chuy!

We wanted to take J to Hector’s for lunch. It was so good that we figured we could introduce him to some good food. At about 9:30, we set out in the windy morning sun toward la plazuela machada. We wound our way through the old part of town, taking a different route than usual. When we arrived, Hector’s main building was closed, but off the back patio, there was sidewalk seating which led to a culinary school/marketplace that sold veggies and pastries inside as well as coffee.

We sat down at one of the outdoor sidewalk seats under an umbrella. We perused the menu: “Oh, this is nothing like what they have,” M and I promised.  Sadly, it was just an American breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast, etc. So, we opted for coffees, a juice, and conversation.

We decided to pay Macaw’s—a bar near the malecon—a visit. En route, we spied a nice art gallery, a dilapidated, gorgeous building that looked as if it was for sale for maybe the last one-hundred years, and an arts school sporting quotes in English about art. I insisted to take M’s picture at the latter location.

Outside of Macaws sat Eduardo, J’s “long-lost son”. He’s in medical school as we had talked about on the way. It was just chance that we ran into him. Anabel, his mother, ran the bar, which was dotted with Americans. Food didn’t happen, but we had a drink or two and more conversation.  With Hector’s being a strikeout for breakfast, we all agreed to go to Torino’s, which is in the reforma district, where Rick lives. J called him to invite him as we walked back home along calle 5 de mayo and dropped by the house to attend to our laundry.

In 10 minutes, we set out. It was hot, but windy, which helped immensely. We took a seat outside and were attended to by three waiters. When I went inside to use the bathroom, I passed a live trio playing music in the corner; many of the tables inside were filled, and there were few gringos at all.

We ended up ordering much more food than we expected, but I learned that ‘mortar’ is mocalteje in Spanish—non-coincidentally, that is the name of the seafood restaurant just behind J’s house in the Centro district. In the mocalteje, there was a soft, chewy, grey meat we couldn’t figure out. I asked the waiters, and they told me it was caracol… “Caracol… escargot…” 

“Oh! It’s snail!”

We also had a black bass ceviche, a small cup of hot broth, grilled prawns, and “paella”, which ended up being similar to the rice Chuy made and had a lot of nice, soft seafood in it, but wasn’t much like Spanish paella.  It lacked the crunchiness of pan-fried rice. Nevertheless, the meal was delicious.

A siesta at home followed.
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Mazatlán 2015: Day 9, part 1: el mercado central

A day of rest was in order. We hung about the house on one of the hottest days we’ve had here. And Chrissy was leaving today.

So, we bummed around the house, mostly on the roof much of the day. When we got on the roof, J asked “Did you hear the gun shots last night?”

“No, I missed it”, I replied.

“I heard something, but didn’t know what it was”, M said.  (It turns out, the shooting was in the Golden Zone and two non-tourists and a pig were killed. The beheaded bodies were left in front of a restaurant, and the heads were in separate bags and left elsewhere. More info, if you want.)

I both blogged and made plans for J’s deck, which will be an addition to the house. During this time, a dog yelped maniacally on the street below. I was annoyed at how loudly it was whining, thinking that the dogs just never stop bitching here. M and I peered over the edge to see a dog hobbling out of Paseo Claussen to the corner of Calle Mexico. The blood drained from my face… it was hit by a car and injured severely.  That was why it was yelping.

A young man on a bike stopped at the corner and had the dog lie down on the corner. He pet the dog and told it to wait there. Another man around the corner watched after the dog, and the guy on the bike shot up Calle Mexico and up the callejon (small street/avenue). In a couple of minutes, a man and a small girl on a bike marched down the street. The man picked up the dog carefully and carried it home. I could see that the dog’s back left leg was broken.  M was in tears at this point, which was understandable.

We talked about it and about how different the animals are and are treated here. We hoped that it was a family pet and that they would take the dog to the vet, instead of killing it. I assured her that it was a pet—the dog yelped when the man picked it up and snapped a bit at the man due to the pain, but I could tell that they were familiar with one another and that it was a pet, not just a random dog. And the fact that the guy on the bike knew where to go and who to tell also made me feel like it was a family pet. We talked with J about it and he assured us that veterinary care was not bank-breaking and that the dog would be looked after.

A little while later, J and I made plans with Chuy at about 11:00—Chuy would cook for us at J’s house. And we’d need to get the food. Chuy asked us if we heard the gunfire. He said he heard about 30 or 40 shots, but didn’t know much about it yet.

Chuy and I set out for the Mercado Central. On the way, we stopped by the fish ladies, a street of vendors that offer everything from shrimp to fish to octopus to squid. We got a kilo of large shrimp for 180MX$(~12.50US$) and 450 g of pulpo (octopus) for 80MX$. Onward to the central market, as Chuy and I are talking and he is high-fiving people along the street. He’s definitely connected here.

The mercado is a full city block or two in size. On the outskirts of the building (towards the exterior walls) many of the vendors sell clothing, housewares, souvenirs, and all the other stuff that I just simply gloss over. As we get toward the middle more, there are butchers, fishmongers, and vegetable vendors. We got some carrots, onions, garlic, avocado, tomatoes, and broccoli at one vendor, and went to another for salt, crema, chipotle (canned), rice, sugar, and both shrimp and chicken bouillon.  In total, it was about an additional 100MX$ (7US$). The total meal, was about 380MX$ (28US$) and would feed five that night.

We returned and sent Chrissy off. J and Maurice took her to the airport, M took a nap as sleep is a commodity here, and I blogged and continued building the plans for the deck. Chuy arranged to be back at the house at about 19:30.
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Cedric Justice

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That night, J headed down to the Bean. I wanted to take M out to dinner, so we went out on our own.  We walked down to Plazuela Machado to look for an Indian restaurant I had spied. Not knowing exactly where it was, we looped around a couple of times.  On the first pass past Pedro Y Lola’s, our waiter from the other night said hi to us. On the second pass, I asked him where the Indian place was.

“I think it’s… oh, un momento.”

He asked a table of diners to our right. A guy about our age in a purple dress shirt spoke to us in American English. “Oh, it’s right over there, two blocks.”

“Is it any good?”

“I don’t know, man. I lived with Indians and, honestly, I hate the food.”

We ended up chatting with him for a good 15 minutes; he worked at the jewellery shop next door to Pedro Y Lola’s, and we ended up talking about music, business, etc. He knows a guy who organises the moto festival here, so I may have the opportunity to gig here because of that contact. Who knows what will happen.

In the interim, he suggested a place that we walked by a few minutes prior, Hector’s. “You’re into food, this place is great. It’s all organic and… you’re going to love it.”

M and I weren’t super hungry, so we decided to skip the Indian place for another night.

Hector’s had an old-school/deco charm to it.  The art was of Sinatra-era actors and musicians.  Our waiter had long hair and spoke with a semi-thick Mexican accent (the kind you hear from Speedy Gonzalez, only not so fast) in English. We ended up with the carpaccio octopus, the marlin with a salad, and a country pate. Vampiros accompanied the meal. For dessert, a flourless chocolate cake finished the night.

“We have breakfast next door from 8-11:30, every day,” the waiter let us know as we left.

M and I were impressed. “That’s the best food I’ve had here,” M excitedly exclaimed.
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Cedric Justice

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For breakfast today, we tried menudo for the first time from Gustav’s Kitchen around the corner. We also had some pork tamales. J and I were quite impressed with the menudo—we enjoyed it much more than we thought we would. 

So, a few months ago, the government finished a new toll highway. It goes from Mazatlan to Durango, and shaves off 4 hours from the normal 7-8 hour drive time. Here’s the thing: it’s pretty expensive in pesos and with respect to how much Mexicans earn. Maurice took a van-load of us. He picked us up at about 11, and Dennis, an old Irish friend of his (Maurice is Irish too) was in tow at the start. The four of us loaded in and we picked up Santa Claus (Rick) at his place.  We drove out of town and I noticed that sure, things looked shabby on the exterior, but the sense of overarching sketchiness that I felt went away. Now that I’ve been here a while, I feel safer and like people are just trying to get by.  Judgements… don’t be a slave to them.

We passed the airport and came upon a small commercial district. Pollo asado was being cooked on the side of the road, filling our nostrils with the luscious aroma of charcoal smoke. We stopped there to pick up a couple of birds. As we were doing that, M noticed that there were some leather sandals next door very much like the ones I brought. Only mine are in terrible shape.I tried on a few pairs and picked up a nice leather pair in black for 280MX$ (20US$). 

Since lunch was covered, we made our way to the state of Durango, the next province/state in. The 2+ hour journey to our destination, a waterfall in a small rural village) was incredibly scenic. And the toll highway (128MX$ for the first leg) was an engineering marvel. As we got up into the sharp-sided mountains, we travelled from bridge to tunnel, bridge to tunnel. There was hardly any actual earth that we were driving on. I can only imagine the expense of it (turned out to be 15B MX$ or 1B US$, which is a hell of a lot less than it would have been in the US). The longest tunnel we went through was 2.8km long, over one mile long. It had large industrial fans on the roof to ensure airflows. 



Most of the journey was one lane (and a half); heavily laden trucks creeped up the steep incline, sometimes as fast as 15MPH, but not much more than that. We all noted that these truck drivers were saving much more time, money, and effort with this new road, and Maurice was quick to tell us that the old road had zero guard rails and was incredibly unsafe. Rick quipped that this was a part of Mexico’s plan to utilise their port resources more—getting goods to the Midwest of the US via the Port of Mazatlan was apparently the ploy here. 

Outside, basalt columns and semi-mesa mountains melted into deep valleys and river canyons. Thick, nearly jungle forest gave way to alpine pine trees and a high-desert set of flora.

After the main bridge span, we got off to a village called Chavarria Nuevo. We made our way into the dusty little town; tin-topped, low-slung concrete homes bordered the road with dogs, sheep, and chickens wandering about. The level of pavement slowly deteriorated. 

We stopped at the bodega in town that offered sodas and snacks; even all the way out here, the refrigerators sported LED lighting; although the overhead lighting was turned off. A girl approximately 16 staffed the store with her maybe 5-year-old cousing hanging about. We got a few refreshments, used their extremely clean bathroom (complete with a nice indoor palm), and continued on our way.

We started to hit the outskirts of town in about 500 metres; about where the baseball game was going on in the hot just-afternoon sun. The road got progressively more and more bumpy, making the next maybe 5 km take approximately an hour.

I fretted a bit that if we broke an axel or got a flat, we would be stranded; but that sort of thinking really doesn’t help the situation in any way, so I just gave in to what will happen. We wound our way over tiny bridges over tiny arroyos and eventually came upon a small school and a dilapidated church. It was desolate, likely because of it being Sunday.

We forged on, bump after bump; at one point a big rock hit the underside of the van, but all was well. We arrived at a wide spot in the road with a small break in the fence. We exited and made our way to a small river that was split into several rivulets; the ground was rocky and there was a large outcropping of rocks, followed by a flat spot behind. J, Dennis, Maurice, and I all explored the waterfall, which was a huge drop. As Maurice explored, J semi-joked that he should give us his keys—you know, in case he totally screws the pooch and ends up leaving us stranded?

We all returned back to safe land after about 10 minutes and proceeded to unveil the chicken.  In the bag was some prepared rice, some salsa, and tortillas. The chicken was cut up into bite sized pieces making it easy for us to have a fine little lunch.

After maybe 45 minutes, we piled back into the van and bounced our way back through the old and new parts of the village. At one point, some sheep impeded our passage. We made our way past the bodega and back onto the highway. 

Bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel… and then we found an overlook. A small roadside stand advertised ‘goYditas’—the R was malformed. I snapped a few photos of the enormous canyons and steep drops to the river below. There were no guardrails, no warning signs. As if we need those sorts of things pointed out to us (yet in the US, man do we have a lot of pointing-out-the-obvious).

A few dozen more bridge-tunnel combinations, and we were at the main bridge. We pulled over there for photo opportunities as well.

Fast forward and it is about 17:30, just prior to sunset. We drove to the Looney Bean for our regularly scheduled viewing of tonight’s slightly-cloudy sunset.  The ‘Bean was packed though and left us no seats. We met up with Rhio there at that point, and we all decided to head down to La Puerta Vieja, the bar down the street instead. We snatched up a table for eight and saw our sunset. We all had some drinks and some chips and salsa while an incredibly inept live band played yet more 50s and 60s inspired music; the tone-deaf singer blended unharmoniously with his backing vocalist; a mop-topped androgynous perhaps-15-year-old drummer clacked away. It wasn’t miserable, but it wasn’t awesome either. I chatted mostly with Dennis, a self-proclaimed old-school atheist and socialist, about work, society, Ireland, his experiences in bands in Dublin, etc. etc. I grew to like him greatly. 

All in all, it was an eye-opening and beautiful trip. Completely unexpected, but really great.
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Independent Business Consultant
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Business Consulting, Process Improvement, Data Management, Greenhouse Gas reporting, Energy Efficiency, Data and Knowledge management
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  • Spectrum Culture Magazine
    Food and music writer, 2012 - present
    I write pieces for this online magazine on food, recipes, concert reviews, and CD reviews.
  • This Twilight Orchestra
    Vocalist, 2014 - present
    This is my new band, an orchestral tribute to the Cure featuring harp, viola, and guitar or bass.
  • Colourless Green
    Consultant and analyst, 2010 - present
    Independent consulting for small businesses. Services include process improvement; integration of Excel, Word, Quickbooks; data grooming; business intelligence; and sustainability/business metrics analysis and reporting. Make your business sustainable: make it transparent in operations, green, and enjoy the benefits of making the world a better place for you and everyone around you.
  • theXplodingboys
    Manager, vocalist, 1999 - present
  • Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
    Planning Analyst II, 2011 - 2014
  • Bonneville Power Administration
    Energy efficiency analysis, 2010 - 2011
  • Paragon Consulting
    Demand-side analyst, 2008 - 2010
  • Conservation Services Group.
    Data and reporting lead, 2005 - 2007
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Portland, OR
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Energy efficiency buff; data analyst; business owner; musician; writer; foodie.
Introduction
I own a small data viz and analysis company called Colourless Green, where I leverage my skills in analysis to prove the merits of living sustainably.

By night, I sing in theXplodingboys, Portland's tribute to the Cure, or This Twilight Orchestra, a classical/goth/darkwave concept band.

I live in inner NE Portland with my wife, cats, close friends, and chickens. I ride my bike to business meetings in a three-piece suit because that's just how I roll. 

I love travel, exploration, and am constantly exploring the wondrous restaurant scene here in Portland. I write for Spectrum Culture magazine on the side. 

I'm an avid fan of music, new and (especially) old, and will often be found at nightclubs, bars, or concert venues. 

I sleep and meditate in my down time, as well as practice yoga. 
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First to graduate from the Master's in International Management programme with a focus on Sustainability.
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  • Portland State University
    Master, International Managment, 2003 - 2004
  • Portland State University
    Applied Linguistics, minor in Computer Science, 1995 - 1999
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Çædric
Synopsis: Korean/Japanese dishes that are flavorful and innovative. I was riding my bike downtown to lunch and realized that Sushi Ichiban is always closed on Monday. This place, except for the price, is a decent substitute. They did a lot right. The menu consists of “Combos” from $8-10 and small-side “kickers” for between $2.50-3 depending on how many you buy. The combo consists of a 10-piece sushi roll or a Korean main (pork, tofu, kimchi over rice or spicy chicken over rice) with two sides. They even have three hoagies that are a fusion of American and Korean food. The sides are a decent array of everything from yakisoba to homemade stuffed wontons to a four-piece California roll to kimchi. We had the Red Roll--a tempura shrimp roll replete with a thin, crunchy slice of jalapeño, a bit of mayo and tobiko--and the spicy pork/tofu/kimchi dish. For the sides, we got the wontons, the California Roll, wakame (seaweed) salad and yakisoba. All of it was delicious. Of particular import: the wontons were vegetarian and the gari (pickled ginger) seemed to be housemade and fresh. It was zingy and delicious. The pork was typical of most Korean places’ spicy pork, but the roll had a great crunch, flavor and texture. The crunchy Cali roll sported little tempura bits on top as well. It was a nice touch. Scores: Time: We got our order in about 9 minutes. We were done eating within the half hour. Value-1: Well, although it was very tasty, you can’t win them all. Our total order was $18 for the two dishes, which is a bit steep considering... Gut check at 3pm: I had to have a coconut water at about 2:30 and a couple of handfuls of nuts at 3:00. In short, I’m hungry. Sustainability-2: I was able to use my Go Box subscription which was nice. No other eye toward local or organic, though, seemed to be on the table. Fear Factor-3: Average: sushi out of a cart still seems a bit daunting for some. My dining companion protested the option of eating scallops, for example. The place seemed clean and very good--after eating there once, I think any hesitations will wash away. Staying Power-3: Average: It doesn’t have a flashy or trendy marketing ploy and it is amongst some pretty decent contenders in the area. If you go, though, I think you’ll be impressed by the quality of the food. I will be going back, most definitely. Creativity-4: These guys nail some creative rolls and sides. I can’t stress the quality of the food enough, but combined with the Korean/Japanese options, they could go one step further by fusing them. Nevertheless, all of the rolls seemed appealing and none of them seemed to come from a script given buy their cousin to get them off the ground, like with some of these other places we’ve tried.
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Public - 4 months ago
reviewed 4 months ago
Very nice beach, including access to swimming in the ocean in a warm lagoon with natural basalt breakers. Serene and pretty.
Appeal: Very GoodFacilities: Very GoodService: Good
Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
I think I have 9 suits from Duchess with no end in sight. I'm one of those guys who most would consider 'big and tall', but whenever I go to the big and tall stores, I find that I'm just tall. I also have a penchant (fetish?) for early 20th century fashion. I also run hot, so polyester linings don't work for me (Hello Men's Wearhouse?). If anyone knows vintage clothing shops, you know that men weren't all built like Abe Lincoln in 1920. Until I discovered Duchess, I simply went without. Sure, I had a sports coat here and there, but finding pants that fit (or lasted), shirts... all of it was a tedious nightmare. And going to the mall to find clothing: insulting. From the first suit I got, I've been hooked. I literally have a closet full of Duchess. Having clothes made to fit you, instead of having you fit into the clothes, is bloody revolutionary. A custom-made shirt not only lasts a LOT longer than anything off of a retail rack, it also is loads more comfortable. To top it off, YOU choose the fabric, colour, cut, cuff length/style (cutaway French cuffs for the win, people), collar style--everything. All my shirts have removable collars so I can mix and match those! The same goes for suits. You choose what looks best on you and what you want, you don't hunt for something that kind of works. My first suit fits me 5 years later like it did the first day I got it (OK, it is a bit roomier, but that's OK with me), and I buy two suits a year because I can mix and match everything they've created for me. I don't have 9 suits, I have 27 pieces that I can mix and match to create an enormous amount of variety. I've had also them make vests and shorts/knickers so I can sport Duchess in the summer as well. There is nowhere I know of where I can pick up a 1920s, 30s, or 40s suit. It is likely the case for you as well. Duchess suits don't have the 'love' of age (moth holes, cigarette odour, you know... old stuff). Having one tailor made is the best thing I've done. Crafting the suit, the details, the fabrics, the linings, buttons, and the theme of a suit with Ariel: pure joy. It is seriously a lot of fun. If you're lucky enough to not be Abe Lincoln-sized and can buy off the rack, it doesn't matter. If you thought jeans and t-shirts were comfortable, you have no clue: try one custom suit and you'll seriously be sold. And you'll look and feel amazing in it.
• • •
Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago
6 reviews
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Map
Map
I found this place to be unimpressive. The best part about it was the hike to it. The tiny beach was nothing to write home about and it was smelly. A bag of garbage hung off a tree just off the beach. I saw no reason to really go here. It was not scenic, there's no place to swim, and it is just not interesting. The parking lot was nice and the bathrooms seemed to be open... for what that's worth.
Appeal: Poor - FairFacilities: GoodService: Good
Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago