Monday, 3 September 2007

CableVision, Breathing machines and hairdressers

Barry has sleep apnoea, and uses a Fisher and Paykel CPAP machine to improve his sleep and stop his appalling snoring. I love this machine, which vastly improves my sleep by removing the Harley Davidson from our bed. Last week a small but key part of the face mask for his machine went missing and neither of us has slept properly since. Barry found a couple of listings for suppliers of Fisher and Paykel medical equipment, but didn't get onto them on Friday due to other commitments. Luckily on Saturday someone picked up her mobile and said she would look up the catalogue to see if the part was in stock, and let him know. This morning, while the guys from Cablevision were installing our service at a very reasonable hour, she returned his call saying they had a compatible mask. There were some complex instructions about where the place was, and I agreed to get a taxi there and have him wait while I picked it up and paid for it. After Barry went off to work, I headed down to the local taxi rank and told the cabbie where we were headed, and off we went. I noticed the guy crossing himself and muttering a few prayers at one point - not sure if he does this on each journey or there was some significance to the place where he did it - maybe it is a particular danger spot? Or maybe someone he knows had an accident there? (I have noticed other cabbies doing this also - I suppose it can't hurt!) He had a plastic Jesus (or maybe a Saint? I am not so good on distinguishing amongst figurines in robes with cloaks and staffs) screwed into the dashboard right in front of the steering wheel, and a large circular multi-coloured mother of pearl icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a rosary and an image of the Virgin embroidered in gilt and silver thread on a black background hanging from his mirror, so I figured we were in good hands, but I'd still have preferred him to obey the traffic lights and merge a little less recklessly.

We got to the street we were seeking quickly, but the numbers seemed entirely crazy. We were after 557. I saw number 4, then 160 on one side of the road, after a long stretch with no numbers as there was a golf course and another sporting complex on either side of the road. After 413 there was 484 then 573, then more numbers in the 600's and some in the 400's, then we ran out of street. We did a U-ey and looked more carefully, this time looking on both sides of the street, and eventually found the very number on a blank brown metal fence, with a bell up one end. It indeed was the place. I got the taxi to wait. An armed guard let me in, took my name (Sra Carr seemed an advisable simplification), told me to take a seat in the cramped ante-room, and called the person I was supposed to be seeing. I had time to admire a robot on the guard's desk made from many Marlboro packets, with black thumb tack eyes and a red push pin nose. The person I was meant to contact there, Sra Diana, went up and down some stairs a couple of times and returned with an invoice and the mask, which looked compatible though not identical to the broken one I had wisely brought with me. She also tendered a large plastic bag, which I said I did not need as I stowed the mask in my shoulder bag. She had the guard make a copy of the invoice inside somewhere, then sent him out for change, as only cash would do and I didn't have the right money, which took him several trips. The journey back to Coyoacán was a lot easier, and I didn't detect any more overt praying. I got the driver to drop me at the rank and I checked out a couple of hairdressing salons nearby - my cañas (grey hair) are showing and I decided to have an interim colour before we head north.

The salon down by the rank seemed quite expensive so I came home , dumped the mask and regrouped for the next outing, and went to look at 2 little places on Higuera, the diagonal street that takes us up to the Plaza. But I guess they don't open on Monday, so I had to go a bit further afield and chose a place just opposite the Museum of Popular Culture, close to the Plaza. As far as colour went, I think they did an OK job, but after washing off the dye they proceeded to blow dry my hair into some hideous helmet: just before she was finished I screwed my courage to the sticking point and told the young woman murdering my hairs that I hated the style and preferred a messy unstructured style allowing my natural curl, which I thought I had asked her for in the first place. Quite graciously she wet my hair again, applied some mousse, did a bit of scrunching but in the absence of a diffuser to put onto the dryer, she seemed to decide to leave it damp and let me do my worst at home. By this time it was pouring, really hard - I was in 3/4 pants and sandals, but did have an umbrella and a hoodie so set off for home.

I thought better of it after 5 minutes in the torrential downpour, so I decided it was about time I stopped at a cafe on the way home which has a good reputation for its salads. By now I was really cold with very wet feet so the salads didn't sound so attractive, though I saw a few that looked good. Most things on the menu contained cheese and/or creamy dressings, so I ordered a salmon salad - it did say it came with grilled pineapple but I couldn't believe that, and figured it must mean pine-nuts. Well, the bits of salmon were smoked, and it was indeed grilled, chilli-marinated fresh pineapple - a horrid combination. They brought out a small loaf, a kind of large roll they call a chapata with a little pot of herb butter, but though it was not as sweet as most Mexican bread, it was very soft and I only ate as much of it as I did because I was chilled through and hungry. I also ordered a cappuccino, with full cream milk which was all they had, another mistake though it did warm me up a bit. However there was a guitar player with harmonica and a tambourine playing a somewhat limited selection of early Dylan music, so I enjoyed that and it stopped raining so I came home and changed into dry pants, warm socks and a fleecy top, and after a bit of towel drying my hair looks more like me again. Note to myself: don't go back to that salon!

I am disappointed that the salon I used last time we were here, with an English-speaking receptionist and the very obliging and chatty Lourdes who cut and coloured my hair well, has disappeared. It also offered decent coffee and Yoga and Pilates classes. Their Bio-Spa signs and banners are still there, but the place is plastered about with signs announcing it was closed for breaking the law: whether this means late or non-payment of taxes, opening beyond permitted hours, or maybe not paying the right bribes, who knows.

For visual relief, and to give you an idea of the charming streetscapes of Coyoacán, I am inserting a slide show of random shots I have taken over the last three days while walking in the neighbourhood. The prevalence of flags is due to the upcoming Fiestas Patrias, Mexico's National Day holiday, when everyone hangs out flags and the paper cutouts you will see a sample of on the last shot in the slide show. The stalls selling these have blossomed everywhere since September 1.

I have been trying to make a honeycake for Barry to take to Elias and Silvia on Rosh Hashanah, while I will be in New York. Melbourne readers will have tasted this excellent cake, from the Bialik Cookbook: it has always been a no-fail recipe for me. I found something about high altitude baking on the Internet, and tried to follow instructions as Herzonia and I collaborated on the measuring and mixing. The process was further complicated by the absence of self-raising flour from stores outside of the British Commonwealth (though I haven't looked in Canadian stores!). This means I had to add baking powder and bicarb and salt to make the equivalent of self- raising flour, then discount by the amount of leavening required by the altitude. Also in the absence of my usual sized baking tin, I was using 2 new ones I bought, and computed that I would need 1.5 times the usual quantities to fill these tins. The cakes taste good but collapsed in the middle. Once again I have helped myself to spices and cocoa from Herzonia's kitchen, and having now purchased all the other ingredients (the bicarb was a real challenge, got some at the pharmacy in the end) am going to try again in a Pyrex container and maybe a slower oven. At worst we will have 2 delicious but ugly honey cakes in the freezer, but with luck this one might be presentable enough for Barry to take from the freezer and present to Silvia along with a bunch of flowers. So I am off to try again and when it is in the oven, finish packing for Montreal and my trip to the US. There may be a lengthy blog silence till I get back to Mexico, or I may find time on friends' computers in the US to do another couple of entries.

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