Friday, September 7, 2007

Hurricane Dean, Heard But Not Really Seen

In our latest weather news, hurricane “Dean” passed by about 150 miles to the south of Playa on Tuesday August 21st leaving us with nothing more than high winds and waves and a little rain. In Playa, everything was back to normal in less than 24 hours.
Dean gave the residents and authorities in Playa a good opportunity to see what we all learned from our two female guests “Emily” and “Wilma” in 2005. In general, everything went very calmly and smoothly. Plywood sales were brisk, many businesses remained open until Monday afternoon and the streets were filled with people going about their business as usual until the early evening when a pre-announced curfew when into effect.
For our part, we purchased a Sinaloa style grilled chicken on the corner of CTM and Ave. 30 for Monday’s dinner complete with marinated onions, Mexican rice and a huge stack of fresh corn tortillas. We ate late and played Yahtzee until 10 pm when we decided it was time to turn in. Everything was still very quiet although we had some interesting thunder and lightning which we always enjoy.
Around midnight the wind picked up enough to wake me up and from 2 am to about 6 am it was howling pretty good. It was light enough to see by 6:15 or so and by 8 I was able to go outside. By 9:30 Cupcake was at a doctors appointment on Ave 15.

The waves were pretty large after the storm passed and access to the beach was restricted due to the size and the strong currents but since most businesses remained closed on Tuesday everyone headed to the beach to look at the waves and have lunch.
Our office reopened on Wednesday morning at 9 am and we had two different clients in looking for property before 10 am. “Dean” turned out just to be a break from the routine and of course we are all thankful for that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


We have a new Sunday afternoon pastime in Playa that we use to fill in some of our spare time. It’s called Washers. From my limited background investigation, Washers, like many other of our favorite pastimes was created by accident when Jim Bob and Cooter Cratchett of Racoon Flats Tennessee were rebuilding their uncle Leroy’s truck in the front yard and accidentally dropped a few engine nuts and bolts down a rabbit hole underneath the truck. As the story goes, the truck or at least what’s left of it, is still sitting in the front yard surrounded by holes full of uncle Leroy’s truck parts and the entire Cratchett family, except of course for uncle Leroy gather every Sunday to toss in a few more truck parts.

Mrs. Princess, also known as “Cupcake” and I were introduced to the game a short time back by some really nice folks in Paamul who have made a weekly tradition of the game for awhile now. It’s an easy game for just about anyone to learn and to play. Although the game has been somewhat refined over the years it is really just a variation of the Cratchett’s front yard game and we have elevated its stature even a little more now by referring to it as a “sport” rather than a “game”. Additionally, we all like to think that there is a tremendous amount of skill and strategy involved but my personal experience has found that luck and stupidity usually carry the day. In all fairness, I must say that my good friend, Pepe “Listen To Me!!” Rahill, is probably the most skilled player amongst our group at this time. Pepe seems to be keenly aware of this as well and does a magnificent job of being his own personal promoter. With his boundless energy he does a marvelous and endless job of telling anyone within listening range of his elevated expertise and prowess at the “sport”. Pepe generally arrives a little early on game day for light snacks, sandwiches and beverages that have been prepared, packaged and hauled up to our third floor terrace in coolers by his sweet wife Marisol for his convenience. Resting comfortably in his custom folding beach chair which his dear wife Marisol has carried up for him, he prepares his game plan and strategy for the upcoming match. His pre game battle cries and colorful taunts to his opponents are legendary and serve to both intimidate and enrage his opponents and also help to keep the entertainment value at a fever pitch. Otherwise we might all be napping between games. Typical taunts are “Suit up!”, “Prepare to die!” and “I’m going to crush you like a bug!” If we are heading into a playoff round, all of these could be used at once on an opponent with a maniacal laugh thrown in at the end. Really scary stuff.

In all fairness though I must say Pepe has a softer side as well. He is not always only willing but in fact feels obligated to take on the role of trainer and coach for the seemingly less skilled players (which would be the rest of us) and seems to have an endless repertoire of advice regarding playing stance, washer trajectory and scoring tactics. We’re sure lucky to have him around to improve our game. Otherwise we might all be lousy players. His charming wife Marisol is particularly lucky to have him as a full time live in life coach. She has the patience of a saint.

I think it would be safe to say that we play Washers in the most beautiful setting that the game has ever been played in. Our big rooftop solarium overlooks Coco Beach, the Caribbean Sea and the island of Cozumel. A wooden pergola for shade and a constant sea breeze keep us comfortable on even the hottest of afternoons. Lawn chairs and coolers filled with snacks and beverages (beer) keep the contestants happy while waiting for their next match. The game involves any number of two person teams who seem to play an innumerable number of other two member teams in order to eventually arrive at what is called the “playoffs” where everybody plays some more. Keeping track of the players brackets is probably the hardest part of the entire ordeal, I mean game. Fortunately we have Pepe’s intelligent, sweet and sometimes clothespin clad wife Marisol to keep the games moving. You’ll have to come play if you want to get in on the clothespin action.

And maybe what keeps the whole thing going is, we play for money. Well, not really money, but pesos, which are sort of like money but different. They are used in Mexico to buy things but they’re not really like real money. We all use them down here and they seem to work pretty well for both gringos and locals alike. Did I mention they are not like real money though. For some reason pesos and Monopoly money remind me of the same thing. Anyway, it’s a ten peso entry fee and ten pesos a game to the losing team each time they lose. Of course the winning team picks up 10 pesos each time they win or so I’ve been told. At the end of the day and if you’re on Pepe’s team you might split forty or fifty pesos with him which would be enough to buy two beers downtown or three from the little store on the corner. Not bad for an afternoons work but hardly enough to survive on.
If you’re ever in town and want to join us on a Sunday afternoon just come on over. You’ll find us up on the roof. We start at 2 pm sharp and you have to be on time to play. It takes two people to form a team so bring a friend, some pesos and something to drink. Pepe will do all the rest for you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Waves, Wahoo And Wasabi

The fishing season is heating up in Playa and Cupcake’s sister who was visiting from Oregon wanted to see what it was all about. After a couple days of delay for one reason or another, she and I made it out on the last day of her vacation.

We arranged our trip the night before with Kike and José for 7 o’clock the next morning. Kike keeps his boat just a couple hundred yards up the beach from our house. It’s a typical small fishing boat or lancha, nothing fancy but adequate for a short 4 hour trip. The seats however are hard and unforgiving and there is not much protection from the high waves we experienced. As a result we finished the day a little sore and wet but more than happy with our results.
Cost of the trip was $150 US for four hours. This included some snacks, pop, beer and water, bait, four fishing rods, a skipper and a mate. Everything was on time and we were on the water by 7:10 am. We were looking for dorado (mahi mahi), wahoo and maybe even a marlin or sailfish. I was most interested in the dorado and wahoo for my refrigerator and dinner table. While Kike pointed the boat north towards Xcalacoco, José prepared the 4 rods with fresh bait. Three rods were set up with bait that simply skimmed the surface of the water from 30 to 60 meters behind the boat. These were intended for dorado which are surface feeders and travel in schools. Dorado can swim more than 50 miles per hour and can often be seen approaching at very high speed as they attack the bait. It’s pretty exciting to see, especially if it’s your bait! The fourth rod was set up with a downrigger in hopes of finding a wahoo or two deeper down. Wahoo are solitary fish and are also capable of reaching speeds of over 50 miles per hour. Wahoo and dorado are not only two of the fastest fish in the Caribbean but two of the best tasting as well.

While we were trolling around about two miles offshore in big 6 to 7 foot swells, I noticed a large log with branches drifting about 75 yards away. I casually mentioned it to Kike who immediately headed towards the drifting wood. As we approached the driftwood, Kike and José started talking excitedly in Spanish. Suddenly two, three or maybe all four of our fishing rods were arching towards the water. In the confusion, we came up empty on all but one of our rods but still managed to bring in one dorado. After getting all of our gear under control and back in the water again, we drifted through the same area again and picked up two more dorado at the same time. With three dorado now on board, we went back one final time and pulled in a wahoo from the deeper water. We were more than content with our catch by this time but still trolled for another hour without results before finally pulling in our lines. Kike brought the boat in close to shore and we enjoyed the scenery and shoreline from just a couple of hundred yards out as we covered the 4 mile stretch back to Playa.

While we did not catch a marlin or sailfish, we did see a large sailfish being caught from a larger boat in the area. We watched the last five or ten minutes of the battle complete with the obligatory aerial display provided by the sailfish before it was hoisted aboard.
Back on Coco Beach, José and Kike filleted our catch on the beach. We left them one whole dorado and half of the wahoo and still went home with a dozen or more dinners. Unfortunately Trish, and her friend Margie had to get to the airport in the afternoon and didn’t get to stay for dinner. I have a feeling they’ll be back. After taking them to the airport, Cupcake and I had a quick and simple dinner of fresh wahoo filets with wasabi mayonnaise, white rice and tossed salad. It was great! Wahoo is awesome! Here’s how we did the fish:

1 nice, thick wahoo filet per person
Johnny’s seasoning salt or other
Fresh lime juice
Purple onion coarsely chopped
Make a tin foil pan from aluminum foil. Rub surface with a little salad oil to keep fish from sticking
Place fish filets skin side down on oiled tin foil
Sprinkle filets with Johnny’s
Squeeze a little lime juice on each filet
Put a little of the diced purple onion and parsley on each filet
Top each filet with a couple of slices of butter
Bake the fish uncovered in the oven for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees until just cooked
The wasabi mayonnaise is simple and tasty with the fish. Just mix the desired amount of wasabi paste with mayonnaise until you get the flavor you like. A squeeze or two of fresh lime juice never hurts.

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