Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let It Be

Thise is an electrocardiogram of the mighty engine powering our copy editor, Jesús "Chucho" Nicholas-Koughan - who, despite his humble position on the masthead, is also the majority shareholder in our parent company, Burro Hall Enterprises, S.A. de C.V. (His name at birth was Apple Valley's Northern Star; he was hardly a man of the people.) This magnificent little pump, which worked longer than we had any right to expect it to, finally went quiet at 2:55PM on November 12, 2014. He was a few weeks older than 15-and-a-half. Five thousand seven hundred and seven days, to be exact. Or, since he had a canine's concept of time, 493,084,800 seconds.

Because posting here has slowed to a trickle lately, we should probably back the story up a bit. (Caveat lector: This will probably be the longest post in Burro Hall history. Go ahead and pour some coffee. Or mezcal.)

Jesús was well outside the statistics for pugs, and it's not like we couldn't grasp the inevitable. If you look back on what I wrote here on his various birthdays, you can hear that train a-comin' miles away. (See here for 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8 - plus a bonus post for being 100 in dog years.) I can't even remember how long he's... he'd (oh, this past-tense thing is going to take some getting used to) been deaf, blind, arthritic, slightly incontinent and utterly indifferent to where he'd poop. And in the past several months, the decline started to accelerate.

In early August, we hit a turning point, when I stupidly tried to pick him up with one hand and he toppled over my arm and landed face-first on a marble floor. The faceplant left him dazed, and for a moment we thought his back legs were paralyzed. The silver lining is that this happened on a Sunday.

Now, we love our long-time vet, and have praised him here many times for his weird, shamanistic ability to diagnose and treat the boy while barely even touching him. But he doesn't work on Sundays, and so we had to call someone a good friend recommended: Dr Helia Acosta Córdova.  It was her day off, too, and she was having lunch in San Miguel with friends, but she cut it short and drove an hour back to meet us.  Note that, at this point, she was not actually our vet.

In terms of care, this was like upgrading from a vocho to an F-15. The fall didn't really damage him, but wrenched his already arthritic back - which for the last two years had been curved like the Elephant Man's and which, she assured us, had been a source of constant pain for him, even though he was never one to whimper or show distress. She put an end to his daily walks, changed his diet, gave him a series of analgesic shots and went to work on a treatment plan for his back. X-rays, blood tests - do any of you know your dog's albumin level? We did, and it was dangerously low. She brought in a specialist from Mexico City to give him the electrocardiogram above. She recommended stem cell therapy, though we eventually declined. I'm surprised she didn't suggest sending him into orbit to see if zero-gravity might help. And after the initial visit at her clinic, she did everything via house call, often late at night, because she worried the ride to the clinic would stress him. She and her team became such regular fixtures at Burro Hall, it was like they were on staff. The perro had become Melvyn Douglas in Being There.

Rehydration infusion, Aug. 15, 2014

For a several weeks, it all seemed to work. And then eating became problematic. Understand, this is a dog who over the course of 17,000 meals had never had his bowl taken away in mid-bite, yet attacked every meal like it was a race against the Apocalypse. Any time we visited the home of another dog, he dispensed with hellos, strode right over to his friend's bowl, and helped himself to its contents. (The fact there would be a bowl of food left uneaten always surprised us; we had no idea dogs did that.)

But by mid-September, he had lost his taste for dog food, and for his favorite snack, carrots - his rejection of which was a devastating blow to root vegetable futures. Meals became an exercise in experimentation and frustration. Dry food, wet food, bread, tortilla, chicken, steak, cheese, a different kind of cheese, yet another cheese, cochinita pibil, ham, eggs... homemade French fucking toast! All the above. None of the above. Maybe he wants it, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he'll wolf it down, maybe he'll throw it up. Let's not talk about the diarrhea. And by the way, according to all the tests, there's nothing actually wrong with him. Nothing treatable, anyway. Dr. Helia's diagnosis: Es su edad. He's just old.

Still, he was basically okay. He would always eat something eventually. And how can you tell when a dog who slept 19 hours a day in his prime is slowing down? Even though he was sleeping in in the mornings, he would still plod out to the patio in the middle of the day and lie in the blazing sun. And whenever one of us moved from one room to another, he'd haul his weary bones upright and come trotting after us, even as his path grew ever more drunk-and-disorderly. Through most of October, we had good times together, even while Dr. Helia was making several house calls a week. Dehydration was a problem, and he needed IV infusions. (IV is actually a misnomer - the infusions were subcutaneous, and left him looking and feeling like a furry, half-filled water ballon, which was as funny as it sounds.)

And then, two weeks ago, The Man called. "America's reserve of public affairs documentaries is down to critical levels," said the electronically-altered voice. "Your country needs you." So I called the coyotes and arranged for passage to El Norte 36 hours hence.

Now, I'm not what you would call a morning person, but I get up pretty early anyway. And for most of the last decade and a half, Jesús would get up with me, wait impatiently for his carrot, and we'd sit alone drinking coffee (me) and drooling in my lap (both of us, but mostly him). This was our time together. Compared to the rest of his day, this was - to him - nothing special at all. Dozing and drooling took up most of his waking hours. For me, though, it was the best part of the day, every day. But over the last several months, he'd begun sleeping later. Sometimes he'd come trotting into the living room an hour after me. Sometimes I'd have to pull him out of bed even later. It varied from day to day. This is why, try as I might, I can't remember what he did the morning of Wednesday, Oct 29.  I think he got up right after me, but maybe that's wishful thinking. I just can't say for sure. This is important to me, for some reason, because Oct. 29 would be our last full day together, and it really would be nice if I could remember every second of it. I know I spent a lot of it out of the house, doing errands. And at 6:57PM, I took this picture of him, as we were on our way out to meet friends for cocktails. The little fleece jacket was doctor's orders, to warm his aching bones as the fall turned to winter. It was the last picture I took of him alive. (This, on Oct. 14, 2000, is the first. These are, admittedly, rather unimpressive bookends to the oeuvre of the World's Most Photographed Perro, but we present them in the interest of the historical record.)

The next morning, at 4AM, I patted him on his head as he slept, and headed north to toil in the fields of The Man.

Over the next 13 days, his eating problems worsened. Señora Burro Hall, who was left to care for him alone as she had so often over the last eight years, spent most of her time as the chef of a restaurant catering to a lone, absurdly finicky diner. Dr. Helia came and went, sometimes multiple times a day. Nights were no easier, as he would wake up whimpering, then sleep all morning, uninterested in breakfast. And yet, the little fella would rally enough to convince us he might be out of danger. One day he bounded out of bed at dawn and ate everything put in front of him. As recently as late last week, Dr. Helia declared he probably had months ahead of him.

A few days later, the Missus called at 8PM New York time. Dr. Helia was with her. "Come home tomorrow." A few hours later, I was at LaGuardia, where for some stupid reason the bars aren't open at 3:30AM.

Backing up a bit: I am, as you know, an utterly fearless man. Except for one thing - for probably the last five or six years, I've had a nightmares about one day having to decide to euthanize my best friend. Anyone who's had to do this know that you're acting in the animal's best interest, but for my own selfish reasons I knew I would almost certainly deny the obvious for far too long. (After fearlessness, this is my other great talent.)

So that's what was going on in my head as I searched for an airport bar before sunrise.

On the flight to Houston, though, I felt, for the most part, kind of hopeful. Dr. Helia had hedged the diagnosis a little, and said I should come home just as a precaution. I did some work on the flight. I watched a silly movie. I wandered around Houston airport. I called home, and was told everything was cool.

Everything was not cool. Dr. Helia was already there, with her assistant Cesar, and would be there for the next seven hours. Things had gone from bad to worse, and the magnificent little pump was slowing... slowing... slowing... slowing. IVs had been placed. Short-term, life-sustaining drugs were being administered. But there was no reason to tell me this, because what could I have done, hijack a plane? So I sat in the Terminal B Chili's drinking a 20-oz. Shiner Bock and sending incredibly important emails, the details of which I can't remember.

My second flight was delayed, but we made up time in the air. I'd been upgraded to first class, which is no great perk on a 100-minute flight, but does get you closer to the exit. I refrained from punching the obnoxious Juriquilla douchebag sitting across the aisle from me, thus avoiding a time-consuming arrest upon landing. I was the first passenger through passport control. My bag was the first off the plane. Got the green light at Customs. First in line for a taxi. No significant traffic hassles. From the moment I crossed into Mexican airspace, I was a charmed man, and I didn't even realize it.

At least until I got to Burro Hall, and the first person I saw was not the Missus, but the vet. "Why's she here?" I asked, charmingly. We all went to the bedroom.

It looked like a fucking MASH unit. Dr. Helia's cantilevered gear box sat open next to a pair of upright oxygen tanks. An IV bottle hung from a stand. Detritus was strewn around the room, and Cesar's bulky figure sat on the edge of our bed, hunched over the little brown doggie bed in which lay our fragile little copy editor, rasping for breath with his legendarily-long tongue hanging out.

My first draft of this paragraph, in which I described my reaction at length, from my steel-eyed stoicism to the way I said all the right things in prose that bordered on poetry, was sent back by the factcheck dept. with some questions. So let's just say that, if you care enough to have read this far, you'd probably have behaved like a blubbering idiot, too.

I took his head in my hands and we had a very long, one-sided conversation, while the Missus dripped water into his mouth from a cotton ball. Dr. Helia was on the other side, holding her stethoscope under his ribs. "Keep talking," she said. "He can hear you."

This continued for about 10 minutes, until somehow we (the people) wound up in the living room, as Dr. Helia tried to explain the options. But her generous attempts at sugarcoating were making it hard for me to understand what she was saying, and I think I began to get nasty and abusive, and it started to descend into a three-way argument when Cesar's voice called out: "Doctora!"

We raced back to the bedroom. He was wheezing again, and the magnificent little pump was slowing... slowing... slowing... The Missus and I pressed our faces into his. I won't drag out the scene here. His breathing grew softer, gentler. We whispered things in his ears, including, repeatedly, "thank you." His breathing stopped, but the magnificent little pump kept trying. Dr. Helia held the stethoscope for another minute or so and then, red-eyed, she took it away.

[Here, insert 30 minutes of stunned silence, as black and as empty as the vacuum of space.]

Let's take a moment to accentuate the positive: this little creature, our constant companion for 14 years, never once did anything unselfishly. I mean never. Though I took great pleasure in having him doze on my lap, he dozed on my lap because he wanted to doze on my lap, not because he gave a shit what I wanted. It was part of his charm, I suppose. But on his final day on Earth, he performed the first two generous acts of his life, and they were enormous: 1) He waited for me; and 2) he went on his own, sparing us the wrenching responsibility of having to choose for him. I have never been as grateful for anything in my life.

[Another 30 minutes of stunned silence goes here, punctuated by the occasional primal scream.]

As Cesar packed up the MASH unit and gently withdrew the IV, Dr. Helia said, "why don't you keep him for a while?" This was enormously appealing; the question "what happens with him after he dies?" had never actually occurred to us, and since I had only gotten out of the taxi 20 chaotic minutes ago, we decided to keep him overnight. Mexico seeps into you without you even realizing it, sometimes. Keeping the dead close felt perfectly normal.

The next morning we cleaned him and brushed him, lay him in his favorite bed, and then just sat with him. It's probably comforting to believe that death is only the end of the physical body, but with him, the physical body was the entire point. He didn't run, he didn't fetch, he didn't bark very much - all ever he did was sit with you while you ran your fingers through his fur or stroked his velvety ears. So for the entire day, that's what we did. People always wish for "just one more day" with someone they've lost. That the perro wasn't exactly lively when he was alive made it feel like we got that wish.

But by late afternoon, it was time for him to go. Spanish, which is such a beautifully indirect and euphemistic language, has for some reason opted to call this next step incineración. We covered him in one of my t-shirts (he loved the familiar smell), and gave him a favorite toy (though he hadn't played with it in years), and a carrot for the journey. We tucked in some photos of ourselves and some handwritten notes. And because - largely thanks to this blog - he was something of a minor canine celebrity, we printed out a dozen pages of condolences sent to us via Facebook. (In the event that Doggie Paradise is run by Mexican bureaucrats, we wanted him to have good references.) Dr. Helia and Cesar arrived, along with a guy from the crematorium. We bundled his little bed into the back seat of our car - the same spot where he slept on the six-day drive to Mexico in 2006 - and the Missus got in next to him. I got behind the wheel and reached back to hold his paw. (Good luck getting a live pug to let you touch his front paws.) And so began Jesús's three-car funeral procession.

It was a true Mexican sendoff: darting at top speed through rush-hour traffic, the incinerator guy running red lights, taxibuses cutting us off. We lost Helia after about 10 minutes, and narrowly avoided three rear-end collisions. A fairly typical drive, all in all. And then we turned out of the city onto the road towards Coroneo, going in the space of a mile from urban chaos to rural emptiness - mountains, cacti, grazing animals, and mile after mile of shattered, neglected pavement. Despite what you may have read, it's surprisingly hard to get rid of a body in Mexico.

Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at "El Cielo de las Mascotas" - literally, Pet Heaven. Despite its trippy, hallucinogenic website, Pet Heaven is a monument to functionality, i.e., it looks like a place where you'd dispose of an animal carcass. According to Helia, it was started a couple years ago by a guy who'd lost his dog and didn't think there was any place around that could handle the task with dignity, which of course explains why she steered us there. ("Steered" is actually the wrong word. When we asked her for directions, she just shrugged; she'd never accompanied a "patient" out here before. If it's not clear by now, she loved Jesús as much as we love her.)

The cinder block interior of Pet Heaven contains two things: a small altar and a big incinerator. We carried the little bundle inside and said a very quick adios, for fear that anything longer would seal that room too much in our memories. Helia said it was okay if I wanted to load him into the machine myself, but I almost knocked her over rushing for the exit. We went outside and watched the sun set. It was probably the most perfectly quiet spot in all of Mexico. At least until the massive gas jets fired, and the metal parts began clanking. This wasn't quite the beautiful pyre you see in the movies.

Perhaps out of professional curiosity, Helia stayed in Pet Heaven for most of the process, but came out near the end just to talk and hug and reminisce. And she took my hand and said, very seriously, "I want you to know something: when you were talking to Chucho, his heart began beating faster and stronger. That's why I told you to keep talking to him. I've not seen that happen before." That story is the third and greatest gift he gave me in those final 20 minutes.

The clanking machinery had stopped, replaced by the sound of scraping and shoveling, and then a horrible crunching and grinding. (There is apparently a third object in the interior of Pet Heaven.) The technician gave us back his bed - we'd wanted him cremated in it, but, as it was hecho en México, it was thought that the stuffing might be toxic when burned. And then he handed us a little box, and inside was a knotted plastic bag full of what looked like salt-and-pepper colored sand: Jesús. He's about the size and shape of a human heart.

Christmas 2013, Querétaro

This humble blog and the World's Most Photographed Perro are linked inextricably. Our blogspot.com address was originally a place where we posted some goofy, badly Photoshopped pix of him. We converted it to Burro Hall en route to Mexico, and wrote our first post with the boy snoozing on our luggage.

We broke ground on our corporate headquarters about the same time Calderón broke ground on his Drug War, when a mere quintuple decapitation was worthy of its own post. Since then, we've ground out 3,275 entries - probably a fifth of which were about the perro. He'd been propositioned, gay-propositioned, adopted his own namesake street urchin, discovered horses, danced with concheros, befriended serial-killer-survivors, appeared in a miracle paint chip, outlived at least two Mexican perro amigos and one (possibly two) co-pets. (God, this isn't even our first pet incineration here.) All the while, he tirelessly pursued sunbeams, and provided us endless photographic comedy. Hell, he passed away on Mexican Mailman's Day. A showman to the very end.

As of this month, we've been running Burro Hall longer than we worked at CBS, making this the longest job we've ever held. It's been clear for at least a year that, now that we're working full time, it's harder and harder to maintain this site and - after eight and a half years - to come up with anything original to say. (To those readers who came here hoping to learn how to retire at age 38, we apologize.) And now our muse is gone. Burro Hall started with the perro, and it's only fitting it should end with him.

We can't begin to express how much we've enjoyed all the comments, the feedback, the friendships we made (see the blogroll on the right), many of which have spilled over into other social media or in person. We've written more than a million words here, and have been struggling to come up with the right ending. But as our distinguished copy editor taught us last week, sometimes the best way to end something that means a great deal to you is with a simple, heartfelt thank you.

So.... gracias.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Mex In The City XXXVI

Broadway & W 138th St

Monday, November 03, 2014

Today In Clumsy Metaphors For Returning the PRI to Power

This is what happens when you make a U-turn in Querétaro:

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Salem's Blot

For years, we've been saying that Querétaro is essentially the Boston of Mexico. (So much so that we even undertook an ill-fated attempt to make them sister cities - at one point even having ourselves appointed as QRO's official representative to Sister Cities International.) But we've watched with dismay over the past several years as the town gradually morphed into the Salem of Mexico.

Salem, 25 miles north of Boston, and adjacent to our hometown of Swampscott, is a lovely little city, but basically a year-round Halloween theme park, its entire economy built on the murder of 19 women in 1692 for the crime of being witches. (Spoiler alert: they weren't witches.) Normally, we would find a celebration of femicide repugnant, but in Salem's case we let it slide because the tourist dollars means there are a bunch of good bars within a short drive from our parents' house - critically important around the holidays - and because, really, it's kind of all Salem's got.

Querétaro, on the other hand, is a city rich in genuine Mexican history.  But over the years, seemingly dozens of tour companies have popped up, all with names that are some variation of "The Legends of Querétaro!!!" (This is not strictly a QRO phenomenon, by the way - they're found all over Mexico.) "Legends" basically means "ghost stories from the 18th Century," and the problem in Querétaro is that, while there are dozens of Legends tours, there are really only about half a dozen legends, so all the companies tread on the same ground.  Which we mean literally - these are walking tours, and on any given night you'll see groups of dozens (sometimes hundreds!) of tourists with color-coordinated bandanas marching behind a miked-up, torch-bearing actress, minstrels in tow, moving from spot to spot around town, where they're treated to several minutes of overwrought theatrics (Querétaro produces two things in volume: airplane parts and terrible thespians) before moving to the next location.  The logistics involved in keeping the various groups from colliding is actually kind of impressive, given the town's complete inability to manage automobile traffic.  But this has also required that some of the Legend performances have to be staged away from the actual Legendary locations - including, as of a few months ago, outside the master bedroom suite at Burro Hall Headquarters, which has the misfortune of overlooking an andador lit by gaslights, which totally seemed like a plus when we broke ground there.

So one of Mexico's richest historical cities - seriously on par with Boston on Philadelphia - is slowly turning itself into a cheesy haunted house populated by bad actors in worse costumes.

Anyway - what occasioned this rant is that this year the city's official Day of the Dead Altar is dedicated to the town's already-most-over-celebrated departed: The Legends of Querétaro. The worst part of this altar (which, we must concede, is actually really beautifully constructed), is that it encourages the bad actors who pay the actual personages honored here to hang out in costume and interact with the tourists.  It's as if the actors from Colonial Williamsburg were working the Times Square Elmo beat.

But if you're looking to get your Dead on today, go about 100 feet from the altar, into the Casa de la Corregidora (a genuine figure of Mexican history), where there's another, more modest altar honoring notable Querétanos - all of them completely obscure.  A couple are academics or newspaper writers, but our favorite is "El Patines," a colorful local oddball who had a good upbringing, married a beautiful woman, fathered a couple of kids, and then apparently went nuts and started living in the street and rollerskating around all day with a little dog called Frying Pan.

El Patines - the man, the legend - died in 2003 at the age of 55.  QDEP.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Un Pozole del Burro Hall

* While we were out of the country (with an air-tight alibi, and the credit card receipts to prove it), one of our neighbors in this quiet little peaceful paradise, Hector Beltran Leyva, of the famous Beltran Leyva Beltran Leyvas, was arrested on charges of being Hector Beltran Leyva.  He had been living openly here in our completely non-corrupt little state, much like Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. 

Beltran Leyva, who went by the gangster nickname "El H" - which sounds goofy until you realize H's are silent in Spanish, which makes it the most gangsta nickname ever - was famous for dick moves like sending goons to the funeral of a soldier killed in an operation that nailed his brother, and having them basically execute the entire fucking family right there in the funeral home.  So it's not surprising to learn that one of the last things he did as a free man was invite a local security guard from his tony neighborhood watch association over to his house in Juriquilla for a little chat.  It seems that a day earlier, someone had rather unwisely broken into the manse and made of with about 3 million pesos, which is the kind of cash most legitimate businessmen keep lying around their houses here. Predictably, the chat ended with the security guard's badly-beaten, bullet-riddled body turning up on the side of the highway to San Luis Potosí.

What wasn't predictable was that the cops would actually investigate and solve the crime, and raid the house in Juriquilla.  A few hours later, HBL was arrested over lunch in San Miguel de Allende.

What is either absolutely mind-blowing or completely predictable, depending on how long you've been in Mexico, is that the raid on the house and HBL's arrest later that day, were unrelated to each other.  Querétaro's attorney general, Arsenio Durán Becerra, says it was a "coincidence," and that they didn't know the house they raided was Beltran Leyva's. During his interrogation, HBL surprised the officers by asking if his arrest had anything to do with guard's murder. Presumably the cops just stared blankly at each other.

Incidentally, the NY Times reports that HBL was nabbed while "dining in a fine restaurant." The Times's living allowance for foreign correspondents must be pretty shitty, since here's the restaurant:

* Here's a bit of travelogue from the Pathé Archives.  It will tell you almost nothing about Mexico in 1963, but just about everything you'd ever want to know about Britain in the mid-20th Century. 

(Also, the outtakes are kind of fascinating.  Who knew that literally every shot in a newsreel was faked?)

* So another thing that happened while we were in El Norte is that Querétaro had a gay wedding.  To understand how amazing this is, recall that just three short years ago, when a state committee was debating the issue, the public comments were 12 in favor, 51,627 against. (That's not a typo.) Our award for Best Official Reaction to the crisis goes to the head of the State Supreme Court, Carlos Septién Olivares, who fears that gay marriages - of which, we remind you, there has been exactly one in the history of the state - could lead to a court system being overburdened by gay divorces. No, really.

* We reported a while ago on Arkansas State University, Jonesboro's plan to extend the "Harvard of the Ozarks's" reach south of the border with a campus in Querétaro - ASU-Q (pronounced A-SUCK). Not surprisingly, because the project is taking in place in the Aerospace Capital of Mexico, there are problems - specifically a lack of water and electricity.

The opening of the Arkansas State University campus in Queretaro, Mexico has been delayed due to insufficient infrastructure including water and electricity. The original opening date was projected to be in 2015, but the new opening date has been pushed back to 2016.

Lynita Cooksey, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and research, said the site for the construction of the new campus is located in an undeveloped part of the city that is projected for major growth.

Actually, as we pointed out eight months ago, the new campus is located out in the middle of nowhere, about 50km from anything that could even remotely be considered "part of the city." We'll keep you posted on the lack of progress over the next couple of years.

* Sorry, ladies, but Burro Hall executive photo editor Franci...Oh! is taken!  He announced his engagement with a suitably bizarre photo of the happy couple frolicking in the waves from here to eternity.

* If you ever wondered what the cover of Abbey Road would have looked like if the Beatles were from Querétaro, wonder no longer...

* Since Miley Cyrus was practically pursued by Interpol after being spanked onstage with a Mexican flag (okay, it was in Mexico.  On Independence Day.  Still.), we assume Justin Beiber will be similarly ostracized for his Mexican flag boxers.

* With the whole country riveted on the 43 missing students from Iguala, we thought it would be worth mentioning that there are about 200 people missing here in Mexico's safest, most secure state.

*And finally, here's your new NB Mexico 2014, Miss Aguascalientes, whose actual given name appears to be Wendolly.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mex In the City XXXV - Washington DC Edition

Statue of Benito Juárez outside the Watergate complex

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oh, Hi

So this is a conversation we had on another site on the interwebs this morning:

And the we realized we hadn't posted anything on this blog since... shit, we'd have to ask the interns. But a while.  The truth is, it's become something of an albatross - not in a bad way, really.  More like, well, we're not actually sure what an albatross is, and if you gave us one we wouldn't quite know what to do with it.  That's sort of where we are with Burro Hall at the moment.  We started it back when we were coming down to Mexico for a year or two to open the Latin America bureau, and it seemed like an easy and efficient way of keeping in touch with friends and family back in El Norte.

Eight years, five presidents (Bush, Fox, Calderón, Obama, Peña Nieto) and 3,267 posts later, we're still here.  But the world is different.  We spend at least half our year in El Norte, working for The Man, and the other half at Burro Hall HQ, also working for The Man.  (In other words, unlike 2006, we actually have a full-time job now.) And then some meddling kids went and invented social media, which, despite our initial resistance, we've grown quite fond of, and active on.  How many sources of Burro Hall wit and wisdom can the media-consuming public be expected to follow? (Smartphones, which didn't exist back when we broke ground on the Burro Hall offices, still don't have a very good version of Blogger.)

And then there's the fact that, in Mexico, things don't change all that much.  They do, of course, but those sort of grand cultural, societal and political shifts have never been our primary area of coverage.  (See the links at right for dozens of sites for which they are.) That leaves just the weird goofball  gringo-in-Mexcio shit, which turns out to be constant, but also repetitive.  Like, at this very moment, there are about 1000 concheros in loincloths and feathered headdresses dancing and drumming outside our office windows, and we're not even looking up. Sure, we could take a bunch of photos and give you a report, but it's the same fiesta we covered in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2012.   Coming up next: our eighth grito de independcia! (Which we also won't write up, because, seriously, we're gonna do better than this?)

And so that's how it happens that, despite being in Mexico much of the time and online about 18 hours a day, we managed to forget to feed the blog for seven weeks.  Now here it is, all brown and crunchy, like an unwatered fern.  We're not trying to kill it, of course.  It's just that life has changed enough in the last eight years that we don't need the fern quite as much as we used to.  (This is a terrible analogy, we know; we're a bit rusty.)  But we still greatly appreciate your patience and loyalty, and will endeavor to reward it more diligently.

Oh, so the thing that prompted that Facebook question in the first place was this photo of a local  department store offering what we think is the most Mexican Halloween Costume Ever:  The Sexy Murder Scene...

C'mon! That was worth the wait, wasn't it??

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Walk-On Part In the Propaganda War

We were out a couple of mornings ago taking our once-athletic asses out for their twice weekly jog, when we came across hizzoner, Gov. Calzada, striding boldly up the andador, crisply attired in a dark suit and open collar, and with a retinue of aides circling around him filming him - heroically from a low angle.

This is of course not an uncommon sight in this town. Rather, what caught our eye were the two other aides operating the octocopter-mounted GoPro.

Turns out to be a propaganda video in advance of hizzoner's upcoming informe - his State of the State Address.  With just one year to go til he's out of a job, and clearly harboring national ambitions, this address will take on Kim Jong-Il-style grandeur and pomp.  So we're proud to say that this 30-propaganda video, introducing the world to the Querétaro of the Future (summed up in one word: leadership!) features a cameo by our executive editor...


(Amusingly, while he was standing around waiting for the drone to fly, hizzoner spotted us lurking off to the side and, sensing - like the governor of Sinaloa before him - that we were men of power and influence, walked over and extended his hand.  We pretended to be tourists who didn't know who he was, and he asked us about our jogging routine before moving back to his mark.  We can report that he's a nice enough guy, but about as relaxed as Richard Nixon.  He'll make a great president.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

There She Is...

...your Miss Querétaro 2014 - Karen Saldaña Sandoval, 19, believed to be our first anorexic NBQ. We don't know much about her yet, but she's just two victories away from having to sleep with Donal Trump.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today in Calzada Fangirling

Plaza de Armas, the ongoing piece of performance art masquerading as our local newspaper, turned four years old this week. PdeA has always been less about journalism than about fangirling the local priistas, especially the governor. So we were not at all surprised to see the paper's society section listing the Most Notable Events of the Past Four Years - 11 of the 16 involving the governor, his wife or their kids somehow (including #13: "Plaza de Armas Celebrates 3rd Anniversary"). Tiger Beat was never this slavish.

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Estimados Niños de Haití..."

We love these new bus stop ads for the Mexican Postal Service showing the Mexican mailman delivering a shipment of "Mexico 2014 World Cup Champions" t-shirts to needy children in the third world. Our hearts grew three sizes that day.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Feliz Cuatro de Julio

Years ago, Mexico started emulating the eating habits of America - The Greatest Nation On Earth™ - and today that've proudly supplanted us as the World's Fattest Country™!  Literally one out of every two Mexicans is now diabetic!  Let's face it, when it comes to being America, no one does it better than Mexico.

So this is exciting news:

Activists Struggle to Loosen Gun Laws in Mexico

What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Treasure of the Puta Madre

We're not really all that interested in the big sportsball tournament going on in the Amazon right now - it's basically foosball played with real people, which makes it just a more athletic version of human chess.  Still it's hard not to love the Mexican team, and above all its coach, Miguel Herrera, seen here on the sidelines of a Club America game last year:

If this guy were any more of a national treasure, the Spanish would have looted him.

So by virtue of having defeated sportsball powerhouses Cameroon and Croatia (like we said, we don't really get this sport), El Tri advances to the next round, where they'll face Holland on Sunday.  We're wagering heavy on the muchachos.  Mexico has a history of clutch victories over the Dutch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Lady of Perpetual Pulchritude

This is our favorite story of the day, not least of all because it lets us dress up this blog with some serious pay de queso. This is a screen grab of the Facebook page of one Jorge Manuel Guevara Corona, a man who knows what he likes.  "Mmmmmm mamacita" he drools!

Awesomely, Padre Jorge is the parish priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Pastor Ortiz, Michoacán.

Or he was, until a couple of days ago.

Más mamacita aqui.