San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Happy Birthday, Rose

I didn’t even know we had roses.

Well, a rose. This one you see above.

It bloomed on Saturday. One of a kind. A lone rose.

It bloomed just hours before the Running of the Roses.

And it bloomed for my Rose,

Who celebrates her birthday on Monday.

Also a one-of-a-kind Rose.

Which raises my once-a-year question:

What do you give to the woman who IS everything?

A woman for whom a rose blooms on cue?

The pandemic has changed what is really important.

Instead of a new dress with nowhere to wear it,

I want to offer her security in an uncertain world.

Instead of a 1,000-piece puzzle of an exotic destination,

I want to offer her unwavering devotion in a fickle world.

Instead of a nifty new pasta maker with seven attachments,

I want to offer her unconditional love in a divided world.

Instead of a store-bought birthday card,

I want to offer her this, a rose not quite as beautiful as her soul.

And my humble words.

Happy birthday, Rose, the woman who is everything.

Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

That time Romeo proposed to Juliet? Well, yes, but it wasn’t quite as we remembered


Davit Karapetyan’s proposal to Vanessa Zahorian came at the end of their performance in “Romeo and Juliet” with the San Francisco Ballet. We may or may not have been there to witness this amazing moment …

Last night, Rose and I watched the streaming performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the English National Ballet. It was an exuberant performance of the Rudolf Nureyev production with the music of Sergei Prokofiev.

Alina Cojocaru and Isaac Hernández are the young lovers of Verona. The ballet was filmed in October 2015 at the Bristol Hippodrome.

Quite by coincidence, it was exactly 10 years ago — to the day — that we attended a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the San Francisco Ballet at the stately War Memorial Opera House.

Like I said, to the day. Continue reading

San Miguel de Allende

A guest video blogger offers a fresh look at San Miguel … and our home


My guest video blogger Caira Button is the Catrina on the right. Her lovely assistant is Catrina Rose Alcantara. Facial art is by our talented friend and neighbor Jimmy Hickey.

Good news, Musings & Magic fans, we have a guest blogger today!

A guest VIDEO blogger.

Let me introduce Caira Button, daughter of my dear wife, Rose Alcantara, and an accomplished video blogger who lives in Chicago. Continue reading

San Miguel de Allende

Miss Rose weighs in with photos from last night’s Dia de Muertos parade in San Miguel

IMG_0446A lot of people don’t know this but Rose Alcantara is a shy person. You wouldn’t think it if you ever took one of her pilates or yoga classes.

But that shyness extends to her photography, too.

Whereas I take lots of pictures and post them willy-nilly to the blog, my wife sits down with her iPhone and hits delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. Continue reading

Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized

Rose’s birthday season draws to a close … whew!



A piece of birthday cake from the staff at Hank’s in Centro, San Miguel de Allende.

Well, the Rose Alcantara Birthday Season has closed the books on another year.


Since the day she was born — on Sept. 7, mumble … mumble–  the world has often felt a rather frenzied uptick in activity and happiness in the week’s preceding this event.

Long before I met Rose, her birthday season was filled with road rallies, theatrical skits and dancing, scavenger hunts, magical enterprises and most importantly, lots of friends and family.

My idea of a birthday celebration is the sound of the escaping hiss from a single can of beer in an otherwise vacant and monastically enshrouded livingroom. Or on an empty beach. It is in April and usually, that means a cold and rainy and empty beach. Continue reading

San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized

Hiking the Rio Laja to Antotonilco


All it takes is to miss a turn and you end up on a quiet country road like this one, which leads to the long-ago abandoned hacienda Las Trancas, about midway into the first section of the trail and a fabulous spot from which to engage the river.

We did it! We found the off-road, Rio Laja trail from San Miguel de Allende to Antotonilco. Several weeks ago, when we walked to Antotonilco along the old highway it was pleasant enough but the road is narrow and pretty busy.

Here and there we’d catch glimpses of the chalky gray Rio Laja which flows south into the sprawling reservoir called La Pressa Allende. And here and there was evidence of a trail!

We’re still new at this hiking/walking thing and lacked the confidence to jump off the road and into the brush along a river we hardly knew. Who knew where we might end up? Continue reading

San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel: Where ever you may be, there it is

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Let the road lead you to where ever it may.

One sight around San Miguel de Allende that is inescapable — and delightfully so — is the curlicue confection-inspired spires of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel.

No matter where you walk, there it is: the pinkish-salmon spires of the city’s most iconic church. And, there, around it are the half-dozen aspirant church belfries and towers and domes.

The Parroquia is a big reason for San Miguel’s designation as a World Heritage Site and it is one of the most photographed churches in all of Mexico. And that is saying a lot. Churches here are like Starbucks in the United States, on every corner it seems. Continue reading

San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized

Going micro at El Charco del Ingenio


A view of the opposite wall of the canyon from El Charco. One of the few “scenic” photos I allowed myself today.

A wise old friend once said, “If you really want to observe life in the desert, get down on your hands and knees.”

His point was, everything that goes on in the fissures and tiny patches of shade on the dessert floor is every bit as complex and magical as the sweeping vistas and craggy mountain ledges and canyons and arroyos.

And he was right, you know. Thanks, Bud Murphy, where ever you may be.

I was thinking about old Bud this morning as we hiked up to El Charco del Ingenio, the jardin botanico in San Miguel de Allende. Two weeks ago when we hiked up here, I was mesmerized by the big picture: beautiful trails, the Presa las Colonias, the ancient canyon below the reservoir dam, the vast diversity of central Mexico flora on display.

Today, it was different. In the intervening two weeks, the rains have returned. Everything is green and healthy. The reservoir is spilling over just enough water to activate some of the canyon waterfalls.

But my focus was on the extraordinary patterns and textures of many of the plants in the garden, especially the cacti.

So, here is some of what you find when you get down on your hands and knees and look deep into the biosphere. Click on each image for an expanded view:


Memoirs -- fact and fiction, Uncategorized

Hanging out on Leo’s private island


Walking around Blackadore Caye on my birthday in April, 2016, enjoying the splendor of a deserted island — with 20 of my best friends!

Did I ever tell you about the time that my wife threw me a surprise birthday party on Leonardo Di Caprio’s private island off the coast of Belize?


I know what you are thinking so let’s clear that up right away: No, Leo did not attend the party. Was he invited? I don’t know. Should have been. It was his island, after all.

But 20 of my closest friends on Ambergris Cay, where we lived, did show and that was party enough for me.

In fact, it was on a Sunday.  I sat on the porch reading the New York Times online when a boat filled with laughing and shouting people pulled up to our dock. They started singing “Happy Birthday.”

That’s when I learned we were going to spend the day on Blackadore Caye.


Wow! Imagine the shock of looking up on a Sunday and see the C-Monkey loaded up with friends ready to help celebrate my birthday on a deserted island! They had party horns, food and drinks aboard, too.

For a newspaper writer who is a trained professional observer, it is pretty easy to pull off a surprise anything on me. My wife, Rose, did it again this year on my birthday here in San Miguel de Allende,  just as she did the first year we were together, at Lake Tahoe.


(Which reminds me, her birthday is coming up in early September. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! But keep it between you and me ….)

We all boarded one of our favorite island transports, the C-Monkey and an hour and a couple of cold rum punches later, we were on the island.

Blackadore Caye is three miles long and barely a few hundred yards wide. If you were to make a movie about being stranded on an impossibly beautiful and deserted tropical island, this would be the place.

You can see pictures here and read a bit about the party.


The landscape on Blackadore Caye hasn’t changed since this visit in 2016.

I am writing this is because my old friend and Belize blogger Rebecca “Scoop” Coutant just posted yet another blog about Blackadore. I say “yet another” because over the years she and I were constantly posting stuff about Leo’s plans for turning the island into a high-end, environmentally-responsible, resort and residential paradise.

Rebecca recently re-visited the island and reports that it is virtually unchanged. You can read her latest account here.

Frankly, it may never get developed. The more Di Caprio’s partners tried to be responsive to local concerns and be responsible guardians of the environment– well, the deeper into the muck sank their plans.

The whole dream development has been shelved.

Meanwhile, as Rebecca points out, some incredibly shitty and sleazy developments are moving forward at the speed of many a greased palm. That’s just life in a corrupt Caribbean nation, I suppose.

I feel bad about Blackadore. It could have been one of those showpiece developments that define a whole country and could have set the bar high for all future projects. Of course, it would have become a place that I couldn’t even dream of visiting.

As it is, thanks to Rose and a bunch of great friends, we’ll always have Blackadore — as it is now.

Thanks for the memories, Leo.