Monday, June 29, 2009

Pre-Columbian Arftifact?

Have you ever owned something and not known exactly what its intended purpose was? I’ve been lugging this “thing” around for about 25 years or so, and still am not sure why!

Provenance is as follows: I bought it at a garage sale about 25 years ago from a family that was cleaning out grandpa’s attic to settle his estate. I think I paid about eight or ten dollars for it. Supposedly, grandpa had trekked all over the world and had accumulated lots of trash and treasures in his travels. It was reported that he was particularly fond of traveling to South and Central America.

My piece of trash, or treasure if you will, was purported to be a Pre-Columbian oil lamp. Indeed, there is a place for the wick and a separate hole to put oil in. It is made of stone and is otherwise rather inconspicuous. Over the years, I’ve shown it to several different dealers and collectors, and not a one of them has ever confirmed its age or authenticity. In any event, I know it’s at least 25 years old! And, authentic or not, it makes a great door stop!

Here are a few photos and some dimensions. It stands just about 6 inches tall and is four and one half inches in diameter, slightly less at the base.

If you can identify this for me, I’ll be your friend for a long, long time! If you can’t, that’s OK, we can still be friends.
Any idea?
Educated guess?

Friday, June 26, 2009

July 8th is coming!!!

I received an interesting e-mail from a friend and thought I'd share it with you:

July 8th is coming!



I had a deep feeling that you just needed to know this.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cantina's in Merida

Cantina is a Spanish word derived from Italian, canteen, meaning wine cellar. Curiously enough, the word cantina is often associated with the Southwestern part of the US, meaning a bar that serves liquor.

The word “cantina” conjures up thoughts of an old wild west saloon where cheap liquor flowed freely, the piano player was always a bit off key and to survive, a man had to be quick on the draw and a woman had to be even faster on her feet! The term “cantina” has endured for many a year and is still widely (and sometimes wildly) used throughout Mexico. Merida is no exception and we have our fair share of cantinas. Today, free flowing liquor, honky tonk piano players, quick-draw cowboys, and dance hall molls are questionable. Not entirely impossible, but questionable!

Ironically, most cantinas do not allow, or at least discourage, women as customers! A bit sexist, but that is just how it is here and that is a long-standing tradition. Some cantinas do employ younger women as waitresses. When it is necessary to hire a waitress, the signs always read something to the effect “young woman wanted as waitress; must have a good presentation”. Fill in the blanks and take it from there!

There are some establishments that clearly display the word “familiar” by their entrances. Translated, familiar in Spanish simply means, family. Curiously, these establishments primarily employ waiters. Go Figure! So, if you see “familiar” displayed somewhere by the entrance, you know it is safe to bring the wife, kids and your mother-in-law, too. If not displayed, best to look elsewhere for your watering hole and leave the family at home. Some of the more elaborate cantina’s in Merida, such as Eladio’s and Henequene’s, proudly display that they are restaurants and bars and even offer separate play areas for the kids! The biggest rivalry in Merida is between these two establishments. They each boast multiple locations and advertise extensively for your business. Having visited both, I am torn to choose a favorite, although I lean towards Eladio’s.

Interestingly enough, most cantinas post notices to the effect “say no to drugs”, “sale of alcohol to minors is prohibited”, “avoid excess”, “it is prohibited to drink alcohol in view of the public”, and even some advise that “if you drive, do not drink”! I can only presume these are public service announcements on behalf of the benevolent proprietors?

Most establishments have the traditional swinging doors at each entrance and often include some sort of barrier wall so that when the swinging doors are opened, you still can’t see in! The way I see it is that this serves two main purposes. First, it complies with the law about drinking alcohol in view of the public, and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, your wife or mother-in-law can’t be just casually driving by or looking in to see if you are there! The establishments protect the privacy rights of their patrons!

Some cantinas offer entertainment in the form of a strolling minstrel, a trio, a full band, singers, and even dancers. The music is always upbeat and very, very loud. As I have come to learn, loud music is also a Mexican tradition. For the music to be good, it absolutely has to be loud; very, very, loud. Usually loud enough to give you a headache or drive you to drink! (I think the pub owners are on to something!!)

There is lots of competition between cantinas. Most people judge the worth of a cantina by how cold the beer is and how good the botanas (snacks) are and sometimes by how good-looking and friendly the waitresses are. There are a few “familiar” establishments here in Merida, staffed by waiters, and they will serve you various botanas as long as you continue to imbibe! I have actually had two dozen or so different botanas served to me while enjoying and imbibing the afternoon away. (Sometimes, far away!) There are lots of times you don’t know what you’re eating, but for sure you can almost always expect the unexpected! Everything from pigs ears to pigs hearts, fried pig skins, assorted chips and dips, and even traditional Yucatecan foods such as tamales, flautas, refried beans, empanadas, kibi, and plenty of salsas. The list can be endless, so you’ll just have to go and experience it for yourself!
This is one of Eladio's locations:


Here's one of Henequene's locations:

As a public service announcement, I would ask that you please do your ex-pat part to help support the local economy and keep this wonderful tradition alive!

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mystical Mayan Medical Miracle (?)

I am a producer. Not of stage or screen, but of kidney stones. Admittedly, I know nothing about “birfing babies”, but I know lots about passing kidney stones. For the past 20+ years, I have been plagued with these damn things. I take medication (Allopurinol, 300 mg) each and every day to inhibit the production of stones. While it just doesn’t always work, I’m sure it helps. I normally pass about 3 – 5 stones per year. Multiply that times 20+ years and you’ve got enough stones to build a wall or pave a highway! (slight exaggeration!)


Recently, while doctoring for pneumonia, bronchitis, gastritis, esophagitis, hiatal hernia, and uncontrollable reflux, the doctor asked me if I had anything else going on as if all that weren’t enough. At that time, I knew I had a large stone passing out of my right kidney as the pain was excruciating! After 20 years or so, you know when the stone is just a “stone’s throw away”! I mentioned the horrible pain I was in and the doctor advised me to go to a homeopathic pharmacy and purchase a product called Yumel. It is supposedly an old Mayan remedy for the malady of which I suffer.

Because I have so much faith and confidence in my doctor, I followed his orders. I went to the pharmacy he recommended and purchased two bottles. I actually forget the price, but it was very, very reasonable. I followed the simple directions, and within a few days the pain eased and I no longer could identify the stone. Normally, I can tell exactly where the stone is at any given time, but this miracle medicine actually dissolved the stone, just as the doctor told me it would. I now have no pain, no stone! Absolutely amazing what some herbal medicines can do for you. I do not know the pharmacology of Yumel, but I do know it is made from a seed that is common to the Yucatan, and perhaps even other locales.

If you are ever unlucky enough to have a kidney stone, rush out and get a bottle of Yumel. Of course, it is always best to check with your primary care physician first. To me, this medication is truly a Mystical Mayan Medical Miracle.

If you want to learn a bit more about kidney stones, the following is an excerpt from WebMD which is a great sight to check out for all that ails you!


Kidney stones are created when certain substances in urine -- including calcium, oxalate, and sometimes uric acid -- crystallize. These minerals and salts form crystals, which can then join together and form a kidney stone.

Kidney stones usually form within the kidney, where urine collects before flowing into the ureter, the tube that leads to the bladder. Small kidney stones are able to pass out of the body in the urine -- and may go completely unnoticed by you. But larger stones irritate and stretch the ureter as they move toward the bladder, blocking the flow of urine and causing excruciating pain. Rarely, a stone can be too large to pass into the ureter and remains lodged in the kidney, but may still require treatment.

Why some people form kidney stones and others don't is not always clear. Kidney stone disease is more common in young and middle-aged adults than in the elderly, and more prevalent in men than women. People living in hot climates are sometimes prone to kidney stones because they may be slightly dehydrated, which concentrates the minerals in their urine and makes crystal formation easier. Medical evidence suggests that drinking too few fluids can exacerbate this chemical oversaturation of the urine.

Most urinary stones are composed of calcium oxalate crystals -- a kind of salt in the urine that's hard to dissolve. Uric acid, the chemical associated with gout, may also be involved. If your urine is chronically infected with certain organisms, you can be prone to getting kidney stones of a specific composition as well.

Certain people are frequent "stone formers." A person who has one stone has a 50% chance of developing another stone over 10 years, with about a 15% risk in the first year or so.