It's that time of year again, we have to regret all the bad things we did this year, so since I was such a good boy, we're sending this letter to make you, our friends, suffer at least a little so we have at least one black mark on Santa's score-sheet.
Since we always try to be both tolerant and politically correct, last Christmas in addition to celebrating the big guy's birthday, we also hosted the annual Hannakuh party. It was a great time, made a little more poignant because we knew it would probably be the last time that we celebrated Hannakuh with our friends Kim and Paul Hiller, who had decided to sell their house and move to Palm Springs. The party turned out great, and as usual, Vivian's cooking was superb. We also took the time to buy some special presents for some poor children who live out near the garbage dump here in Mazatlan. We went along with the group to present the gifts, and watching their big beautiful eyes open wide with joy and excitement was quite a treat. We hope to have a repeat of both events this year, though unfortunately Vivian's husband, Hal, is ill this winter and it doesn't look like they'll be down until January, at the earliest. Well, Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas to all!
The end of December also marked the beginning of a new Spanish class for Henry. His Espanol es todavia muy malo, but at least the class was fun. It is due to resume again in a few days. We spend New Year's Eve at the El Cid, all dressed up in Henry's new white tux, complete with a white top hat, and of course Nadine as usual looked beautiful. Being almost old folk, we actually managed to stay up almost till 11, so at least we brought in the new year in central standard time.
We usually try to take a trip in January, and this year the annual Mathematical Association of America meeting was held in New Orleans. That had always been one of our planned destination, so on the ninth of January, we set out to do some math and eat some catfish. We stayed just on the edge of the French quarter, and only about a block from the river. The hotel was great, but I must say New Orleans looked pretty much run down to us. We were warned numerous times to be careful walking at night, and we both witnessed a couple of drug deals going down. One high point of the trip was the nature exhibit at the new science center on the Riverwalk. The re-created the diverse ecology of the Mississippi river and it was extremely well done. There was also a very large shopping center there, and a small exhibition of what happens when a huge Mississippi barge looses power at the wrong place at the wrong time. It came crashing into the shopping center, and it took about three or four city blocks worth of shops to bring it to a stop. Yikes!!
As I'm sure you all know, from our previous letter, in 2000 Nadine became a new mother with the painless birth (at least for her) of our new Italian greyhound, Belle. (http://www.maztravel.com/belle) Well, as April rolled around, Nadine decided that being Belle's sole source of entertainment was just too demanding, so when the opportunity came up to buy Belle's sister, Venus, she was on the next flight out to Amarillo, Texas, to pick her up. It was very interesting watching the two of them as they first met. Naturally Venus (http://www.maztravel.com/venus) was scared, and perhaps we are anthropomorphizing, but Belle's behavior seemed like a mixture of joy and disbelief. Normally she doesn't like other dogs, and while she was wary of Venus, she also seemed to realize that there was something very familiar about her, and the wariness turned into curiosity. Once she began sniffing her, she seemed to oscillate between excitement and denial, she just couldn't believe that her long lost sister was suddenly on the bed next to her. It was really great to watch. Now they are best friends, and like most sisters, worst enemies, depending on the time of day. They play and torment each other constantly, but they are clearly crazy about each other and very happy. We still take them to the beach so that Belle can keep the area clear of birds, a job with Venus is just starting to undertake herself.
Speaking of animals, this was the year that the organization we helped start, the Amigos de los Animales, finally had enough resources to buy a building here in Mazatlan and turn it into an animal shelter. We bought it for around 20K US, but as they say in the real estate business, it was "charming," which means it needed a lot of work. We spent another 20K making it livable for both humans and animals, and it is now nearly finished and ready to open up as a boarding facility for pet owners. In the future we hope to make it a center for low cost spaying and neutering, and an adoption center as well. Poco a poco!
One of our Mazatlan friends, Henri Jarrat, was invited to give a speech about the importance of quality to the local Chamber of Commerce group this January. It was such a success, that he was invited to get a group of gringos together to advise the state government on way they thought thing could improve in Mexico. So he and his wife Francis set up a forum at their beautiful beach house here in Mazatlan were a bunch of gringos, include Nadine and I, gathered to discuss the issues. The result was a four page document which you're welcome to read if you want to. It is located at http://www.maztravel.com/misc/ramblings/mexico\_ideas\_1.pdf After reading it, I'm sure you will notice what a great impact it has had on life here, but what the heck, it was worth a try.
This year (2001) marks the tenth anniversary of our wedding, which took place in May 1991, so we decided to do something special in May, and fulfill one of Nadine's lifelong dreams. She has always wanted to sip Mint Julips, sing "That old Kentucky Home" and watch the running of the ponies on that first Saturday in May, so we decided that this was the year to go to the Kentucky Derby and make her dream a reality. To make a long story short, let's just say that the highlight of the trip was the day we visited the Louisville zoo, which we try to do in every city we visit, and Louisville did a very nice job on their zoo - well laid out and the animals seemed basically happy. The derby itself was a bust. If any of you have dreams of attending the derby, let me advise you that it is much better on television. First the stadium was constructed around 1850, and it seems not to have had much maintenence since then. Next, Louisville in May is hot, very hot, and the stadium is outdoors. Fortunately we were in the "expensive" seats, which had shade, but most do not. Nevertheless, we (almost) never sat in our seats, (which featured vintage 1900 folding metal chairs) but instead went over to the air conditioned Kentucky Derby museum, where we were lucky enough to have tickets (because we bought the high end package.) There we were able to have lunch and cocktails while watching the race on a large screen TV. Guess what, we could have done that in our bedroom in Mazatlan, and the food and the drinks would have been better! Also, on Derby day, the gap between races was fifty to sixty minutes, instead of the usual thirty, so the day dragged on forever. It was a real test of endurance, but we got through it somehow, and promised ourselves never to go back. Some dreams are better left to the imagination, rather than trying to bring them into reality.
We stayed in Mazatlan a little longer than usual this year, in order to throw a big party for Henry's birthday on June 15th. It was on the warm side, so we had a pool party complete with Thorny's hamburgers. Thorny is to hamburgers as Rolls Royce is to cars, so it was a real treat. We left the next day for Belvedere, with our new extended family, Gatita, Belle, and Venus. The first order of business was installing a doggie door, which all the girls quickly figured out. Our big splurge this summer was wiring the whole house for Ethernet access, a fancy new plasma tv for the bedroom, and a new comfy bed for Nadine. We joined a great new service, netflix, which allowed us to rent DVDs by mail. We watched a different movie almost every night. Their service was great, we highly recommend it. See http://www.netflix.com
Since we were in the beautiful Bay area, it was time to take advantage of some the special events that are always going on around there. Our partners in fun, Jerry and Tina Yesson, joined us for an excursion to a torture exhibit at the Presidio of San Francisco. On display were various pieces of equipment, accompanied by quite detailed descriptions of their use. After about four or five exhibits, I almost passed out and had to sit down for a few minutes to recover. It is really amazing how cruel we can be to one another. If you have a tough constitution, you can see the exhibit online at http://www.torturamuseum.com Be warned, it is not for faint of heart.
We didn't really travel at all this summer, but stayed put and took our doggies for lots of walkies. Henry played a little more tennis than usual, and attended the local Linux User Group meetings and the Linuxworld conference, which was held in San Francisco this year. It was a lot smaller and with significantly less hype than in years past, reflecting the state of the "new economy!" We had a few visitors, including Nadine's sister, Cindy, who came up and invited us to attend a big furniture exposition along with her boyfriend, who is a buyer for a major retail chain. That was great fun, and we would up with a couple more little treasures for the house. We also got together with many other California friends, for dinners, walks, and general fun and frolic.
Then came September 11, 2001. We were in the middle of planning our return trip back to Mazatlan when we heard and watched the awful events transpire. Our friends Jerry and Tina were scheduled to leave for Italy that day, for a trip they had been planning for months. Needless to say all of our travel plans were in chaos. Henry decided to do what he does best, which is to give advice, so he wrote a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff about winning the war against the Taliban. You can read it for yourself if you are so inclined at: http://maztravel.com/misc/ramblings/laden.html When we contacted Alaska Airlines to reconfirm our reservations, and the reservations for Belle and Venus, we were told that Alaska no longer allows dogs to ride in the cargo area. That set off a mad scramble to make alternate plans, since there was no way we were leaving California without our babies. We even considered buying a car and driving down, only the sell the car in Mexico once we arrived. Fortunately, Alaska Airlines relented, and decided that the threat of exploding dogs was not "credible," so we were able to depart as planned on September 29th. The trip was uneventful. We were at the airport more than 2.5 hours early, and basically just spent a lot of time waiting around. When we got back, it was hot, hot, hot, but it was still great to be back home, and see Sandy and Romona, and our kitties Tippy and Miss Parker again. All had weathered the summer just fine.
We were only here briefly, when we departed for our fall trip. Our first stop was Lady Lake Florida, where we had a nice visit with my dad, his wife, and their new baby dog Dolly. We ate too much, played cards, got lost while trying to get our flu and typhoid shots, and all around had a nice time. The next leg of the trip was a Geek cruise to the Caribbean, call the Linux Lunacy cruise. We had a great time, and met some great people who we plan on seeing again in the future. We also got a tour of the giant radio telescope in Aricibo, Puerto Rico, which was worth the price of admission. The food was great, of course, and we only managed to gain a pound a day. Thank goodness it was only a one week cruise. Because of our bad connecting flights to Mazatlan, we had to stay an extra day in Fort Lauderdale. We happened to be there during the last day of the International Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, and were able to check out some nice little boats on display. At the high end there was one for only 22M, and at the low end -- there was no low end. While we were there I had a neat experience. I was waiting to talk to the concierge at his desk, when I looked next to me and saw Catherine Bell standing there. She is just as beautiful in person as she is on JAG, and I told her the story about how we saw a snippet about her on TV, which was the first time that we had ever seen Italian greyhounds. (She owns two herself.) So we decided to get one, and we named it after her, Belle. She was very nice, and seemed genuinely interested in my little story. Anyway, what a great way to end a great trip.
We've now been back in Mazatlan for a month after the cruise, and life has returned to normal. Henry is playing tennis five days a week, and Nadine is teaching new dogs old tricks. We are both happy and healthy, and hope we remain that way. Let me close by saying that as each year passes, we are more and more grateful for what we have, the most important being love and trust for each other. Even if that was all we had, we would be happy, but we are fortunate to have so much more. We are thankful every day for the people in our lives who have helped us make our dreams come true, especially my friend Alex. We wish all of you a happy and healthy 2002.