Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

January 29, 2005

A night on Constitution Square

I let the group go on without me tonight and sat in my room until my curiousity about what was going on outside got the best of me.

Across the street was a group of dancers, most young, doing a coordinated twirl to the beat of a set of drummers in the the middle. The drummers surrounded smoky incense fires. They were apparently doing an ancient Indian dance. The women had flowing clothes, although not all of the dancers were in traditional garb; the men were mostly shirtless with flowing belts.

A man in a State Farm Insurance jacket came up to me and asked if I spoke Spanish. I said no, so he started explaining the dance in English. I didn´t hear much of it. He had a pamphlet about the dancers, he said, for a small donation. I said fine, gave him a few coins, and asked if he sold State Farm Insurance. No, he had no idea what his jacket meant. We laughed, he disappeared into the crowd, and I looked at the pamphlet--which had absolutely nothing to do with dancing.

Across the square, a huge pop music concert for the relief of the Asian tsunami victims. Perhaps 5,000 people were on the square--they still are pounding away as I write this in the hotel. Families together, couples dancing ballroom style, old women in blankets selling tortillas and cookies and gadgets, young men selling single cigarettes of any kind you want, a little pot smoke in the air.

My impression from Tucson that the Latinos know how to live has been reinforced here in Mexico City. Dancing, laughter, smiles, bright colors, happy music, good food.

One of our guides--the main Mexican guide, a man in his sixties, very dignified, with a suit and tie, with somewhat broken English, sat across from me at the main meal today at three p.m. I was telling the person next to me that I had gone on one other tour like this in my life, and that was of ballparks. That man passed that info on the Adolpho in Spanish.

"Which citeeees?" he asked. I listed them: Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, etc. He said,¨"You missed the best one!" Which one was that, I asked. "The Meeenesota Tweeeens!"

He had no idea I was from Minnesota, so that was funny. Actually, he was more a Viking fan. So there we sat in a restaurant in Mexico City, both of us lamenting Daunte Culpepper´s overconfidence in the game against Philadelphia.


The colors of Mexico City

At 7500 feet elevation, Mexico City takes your breath away. At that altitude, the colors are so very vivid--impossibly so. And what a city. The history is overwhelming. Today we visited the Castle of Monteczuma, of "from the halls of Monteczuma" fame. What a beautiful place, situated high on a hill in the center of Mexico City and now turned into a series of amazing museums which we raced through at breakneck pace.

My time on this computer is limited, so please forgive typos. I ain´t got time to edit.

We first went to a former cloister built in the 1600s, a monstrous building built by the Basque immigrants for their single women. It had an organ and a chapel. The chapel was impossibly ornate, with carvings covered in gold leaf. The organ was recently restored.

Or destroyed, depending upon who you talk to. We have several organ scholars and the trip, and one gave an impassioned lecture after we heard the organ saying that the woman who¨"restored" the organ actually vandalized it. He threw a royal scholarly hissy fit. We just wanted to hear the thing play. Eventually, some of the many very talented organists on the trip took turns at the keyboard, and some of them were phenomenal.

My roomate is an expert in Mexican and Spanish music, and I am learning just how much of it there is. He plays some of it. He is music director at a Catholic mission in Santa Barbara in California which held its first services in 1820. At that first service, they played a mass written by a Mexican composer. There was a symphony and several choirs. Nowhere else at that time in what is now the USA was there such a musical event. Funny how little we know about that history.

So, we have quite a group. Organists are notoriously prissy and stubborn. There is plenty of snarling. The scholars have their own snarling. Any mispronounciation is immediately scolded. I am glad to stand aside and listen to the catfights.

We are staying just off the national square of Mexico. It has been a center of Mexican history since pre-Spanish times. The Aztec temple was across the street.

As for Mexico City itself, it is fantastic. I am glad that I am with a tour group, but I find the place absolutely exotic and wonderful.

There is a line for the computer, so I must go.





January 28, 2005

Mexico City

Greetings from the Holiday Inn on the main square of one of the biggest cities in the world--22 million people, according to our tour guide.

The Mexican keyboard is an exercise in frustration. The shift key is in a different spot, as are some of the letters, so I will do my best. Outside on the national square is some huge celebration with marching bands--we hope they don´t go too late in the night.

I am in Mexico for a tour of Mexican pipe organs which starts in the morning. Scary item: When we met our group at the Dallas airport, one of the tour members, a physician from Washington state, said--"Oh, you´re the one with the weblog."

Turns out he had been typing in the names of the people on the trip on Google, and my weblog showed up. So, there are no secrets, and no, I can´t tell you about all the strange people who gravitate towards a pipe organ tour.

Suffice it to say, it is a different crowd than what you´d find on a ballpark tour.

But, enough for tonight. Tomorrow we are going to have a chance to hear and play Mexico´s largest pipe organ, the third largest in the world. We have many talented organists on the tour, so each of them is going to try to strut their stuff, I imagine.

It was near seventy degrees when we got off the plane today in Mexico City. In Dallas, it was thirty-seven. That was a bit of a shock.



January 26, 2005

Mexico

Tomorrow I am leaving for a trip to Mexico. My plane flies out Friday morning. My apologies to weblog regulars--I don't know if I will be able to report from Mexico. I am not bringing my laptop because I can't imagine they would have an internet hookup anyway. So, the only possibility would be if we had an internet cafe near the hotel or something, which is actually quite likely. We'll see.

Just in case I have no connection, I wrote this week's column tonight. It is very strange abandoning ritual to write on a night other than Sunday evening, and on a Wednesday at that. So, I decided to fulfill my long-time goal of writing an entire column in one sentence. We'll see what the editors do with it. The length of the sentence is Dickensian, but the comparison ends there to be sure.

So, today I sawed up some more firewood in case the Jeff and Dean want to fire the stove while I am gone. They are done inside the house until the electricians come back, so they are going to be putting on siding tomorrow.


Mexico

Tomorrow I am leaving for a trip to Mexico. My plane flies out Friday morning. My apologies to weblog regulars--I don't know if I will be able to report from Mexico. I am not bringing my laptop because I can't imagine they would have an internet hookup anyway. So, the only possibility would be if we had an internet cafe near the hotel or something, which is actually quite likely. We'll see.

Just in case I have no connection, I wrote this week's column tonight. It is very strange abandoning ritual to write on a night other than Sunday evening, and on a Wednesday at that. So, I decided to fulfill my long-time goal of writing an entire column in one sentence. We'll see what the editors do with it. The length of the sentence is Dickensian, but the comparison ends there to be sure.

So, today I sawed up some more firewood in case the Jeff and Dean want to fire the stove while I am gone. They are done inside the house until the electricians come back, so they are going to be putting on siding tomorrow.


Crow's nest

Somewhere up there is the crow's nest. The boards on top of the big beams are temporary and are functioning as scaffolding. You can see where I started to scrub this particularly dirty beam.



January 25, 2005

Crow's nest

Realizing one's dreams can sometimes be a little troubling. In the past two days, the windows on the prow of the Swamp Castle were installed and the floor of the crow's nest was built. For the first time, I climbed up into the crow's nest and looked at the view.

Well, I had built the thing so high that when you stand up, your head is above the window and you see nothing. I had sort of imagined surveying my domain with my guests, one hand on the railing, the other pointing off into the distance describing future projects.

That won't happen. However, I put the crow's nest up high for a reason. I wanted it to be cozy, against the ceiling, with a view while seated. Dad was out there at the house with me. Jeff and Dean brought up a couple of lawn chairs. We sat down. It seemed perfect. The view was spectacular.

Plus, because the crow's nest is so close to the peak of the roof, we will be able to have a couple of book shelves hanging from the ceiling.

Now the debate is how to make it safe, yet functional. We will have a railing along the sides. I ordered the steel rod for the railing yesterday. However, putting a railing on the front of the crow's next would obstruct the view.

Between the floor of the crow's nest and the window is a two-foot gap. If you fall out, it is sixteen feet down to the floor. Yet, one of the delights of the crow's nest, I would think, would be sitting with one's legs dangling over the abyss, as if you are on the end of a dock--for that is what the catwalk and the crow's nest amounts to--a dock, protruding into the prow of the house instead of into a lake.

So, our collective wheels will be turning on that vital matter for a couple of weeks. What a life, worrying about things like crow's nests. I feel like a kid who gets to build fort to end all forts. I suppose that is what housebuilding is, anyway.



Swamp Castle

The windows arrived yesterday morning, and by 9 a.m., they were going in.



January 24, 2005

Heat wave

Was it beautiful today! Mid-twenties. Pretty still. Cloudy. Very pretty.

My phone rang early. It was a man from the log home company. He was at the house with the last windows for the high part of the prow. I ran over and helped him unload them. Jeff and Dean put them up later in the day and now I can see out the big windows.

I bought a new memory chip for the camera, took some pictures and raced back to my computer to put them up on this weblog. Well, it wasn't going to be that simple. The program I had used to shrink the pictures down to size, Paintshop Pro, was a sample, and the sample time expired. So, I purchased the program online.

It took two hours to download. After that, I tried to run it--and apparently it takes up so much memory that it shuts my computer down to a crawl. So, I have been frustrated in my attempts to share pictures of the house.

That aside, it was a good day. I went to town, forgot half my errands once I got to the cafe, and didn't get back for two hours. I crawled up into the crow's nest to look out the windows from that vantage point for the first time.

I toured another house going up in the area, one that is about four times the size of mine. It is at the same stage. Same frustrations. Same issues.

All of this was a way of procrastinating. I was hoping to start sealing the knotty pine boards, but I didn't get around to it until 4 p.m. Well, the first five boards are the toughest. Once I get a method, it might move along faster.

In preparation for seeding the first trays of flowers, Mom and Dad scrubbed down the seeding room (which doubles as the lunchroom) as if it they were planning to do surgery. It needed the cleaning. Ken scrubbed what we call the germination rack, a series of shelves lit by flourescent lights where plants get their start after getting seeded. Sterilization is important.

So, things are moving along. I have been taking speaking engagements for spring. Today, Lutheran women's gathering and a Swedish Society. I don't know what a Swedish Society is, but I will be speaking to their annual meeting.

So tonight, I decided to sit down and watch some television. That effort lasted about ten minutes, until I saw a news anchor earnestly ask a reporter, "Any word how Ed MacMahon is holding up?" I decided I could do without knowing that.