To the man whom I almost knocked over rounding the corner of Nemesio Diez and De Los Suspiros, thank you for reviving my interest in a novel that I put down many decades ago but never forgot its influence.
Early Tuesday evening, Moppit and I were walking on Nemesio Diez, past the public parking lot at the corner, heading for home at a brisk pace. Brisk for an old man and a dog with very short legs.
As we reached the corner of Suspiros, a man walking at about the same pace nearly collided with us. Or we nearly collided with him.
A good friend invited me to spend a Sunday in Balboa Park with a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I knew very little of him but Sundays in September in San Diego can be glorious and there are few better places than the park for them.
I think it was promoted as a Day of Mindfulness, another subject about which I knew very little.
The day was pretty much a total immersion. We were blissfully adrift in a gentle sea of brown-robed Buddhist monks and nuns. There were dharma talks and long periods of meditation. Some were led by Thay in his soft, barely audible whisper of a voice. Some were led by his followers.
If first impressions are all that important, facing the entrance to the brand new Hacmans restaurant in the even-newer Hotel Amatte (Amatte Wellnest Community) – which has yet to open – is a daunting one: 71 gleaming white stairs leading seemingly up to the sky.
Yes, count them: seventy-one.
Of course, there is a glass-box elevator off to the side, but what’s the fun in that?
A quick trip to San Diego last week included a nighttime visit to the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas which has decked out what seems to be all of its 37 acres with twinkling fairy lights, whirling kaleidoscopes of rainbow colors, washing waves of luminescent greens and reds, and light sculptures — all set against a canvas of bamboo groves, desert agave and palm plants, tropical rainforests, California palm trees, sturdy and ancient trees, Mediterranean bushes, and sub-tropical fruit trees.
There was even a snow-making machine if the light show weren’t enough for you. There was also wine by the glass for Mom & Dad. Pro tip: A night like this calls for a nice strong red with a side snack of kettle corn.
One thing San Miguel de Allende does well is dress up for the holidays.
Not just San Miguel. Every village, town, and city in the country brings out a million white lights, an enormous community tree, a life-size Nativity scene, and an infectious cheeriness that makes you glad to be living in Mexico.
Which I happen to do.
So here is a small collection of what is ahead in December.
The Christmas origin story has taken a real beating on television in recent years.
The film factories don’t follow a script. The have a playbook. There are fixed characters, types. There are predictable situations. There are tried and true bromides. There are fixed plays. And there are utterly predictable endings in which the “true meaning” of Christmas is disgorged just before credits roll.
And the sudden appearance of the much-anticipated snowfall at the end is a complete surprise to everyone but the audience.
Sunday night was the first night of Chanukah — the Festival of Lights — and the lighting of the first candle of the menorah. The Chanukah celebration is observed for eight nights and days, with a new candle being lit each evening.
I know all this because I was walking Moppit in Parque Juarez when I happened upon members of Chabad San Miguel de Allende lighting the community menorah in the park’s gazebo.
I missed most of the dedication, but I happened upon the gathering just as Rabbi Daniel Huebner was explaining the significance of this year’s menorah, created by artist Meila Penn.