Sunday, October 5, 2008

October 5th, 2008

To all my dear readers, please take note:
This will be the last time I shall be posting my column in this blog site as you can all find it now in our new venture's web site:
All you have to do is download the entire paper and leaf through it.
I hope you enjoy it, and I thank you all for your steadfast loyalty over the past little while.
Below is the column that was published in the first issue of the PVMirror:

This is very exciting indeed – a brand new publication, a new format, and old friends all around me. Once again, I am surrounded by wonderful people with whom I have worked at some time or other during the past decade, until they gradually quit, one by one, to go on to calmer, more productive employment. And all this coinciding with the Jewish New Year, what a fabulous omen!

Before I forget, I want to thank all the readers of this column who have communicated with me over the last month, through my blog.

At this point, I think I should give you a little background history on the recent course of events. Personally, I met Jesus de Avila, our publisher, fourteen years ago, when he hired me to do some translations for him, well, actually for the company for which he was working at the time. He became my first Mexican friend, and what a wonderful friend he has proven to be over the years.

Jesus is the guru founder / owner of one of the first internet web sites exclusively devoted to Puerto Vallarta: That site comes under the umbrella of which now includes all of the country’s major tourist destinations.
Before the PV Tribune (as it used to be called) went on line, Jesus and I decided that we would create a “subdivision” of go2vallarta that we called the PV Mirror, which would publish all the articles written by the Tribune’s contributors, just so that folks could keep up with us on the net even after leaving town. That continued for a few years, until the powers-that-be decided to put the Tribune on line. The PV Mirror went from being a weekly source of information, to a monthly one, without the Tribune’s contributors.

When what happened … happened, this past August, we went back to Jesus. We asked him if he wanted to put the Mirror in print. His response was “Whenever you want. Tomorrow?”
So here we are, a month later, with what we hope to make everyone’s favorite weekly local paper.

As our editor has said, the Mirror intends to provide our readers with more local news –in English- than they’ve ever had access to before. (I just hope I have enough time to translate so much for you every week…) I’ve been told that our distribution will be limited to Puerto Vallarta proper, at least for the first few months. And as I know the folks who will be doing the distribution, I can assure you that it will be done properly. Hopefully, now our readers won’t need to put their names on a waiting list at their condo building, or fight over a forgotten copy on the beach… The circulation will be high enough so that everyone who wants a copy of the Mirror will be able to find and get one. Now, that’s good news, isn’t it?

Although we are still in the so-called “slow season”, we will do our best to find out anything and everything of interest that is going on in PV. I have to tell you, we contacted the City’s Department of Culture a few times over the last couple of weeks, to ask them – once again, and then again- to inform us of any events they may have scheduled for the month of October. Need I tell you? We’re still waiting for an answer from them. It baffles me. I have never understood why it is that they don’t inform anyone until the day of, or the day after, an event. Do they not want big audiences? What on earth is going on behind the doors of that department? Is there anyone there or is the “Arte y Cultura” department just a plaque on the door? Their original web site has disappeared from cyberspace, and the one that replaced it hasn’t been updated in months. They organized a whole hoopla called the ‘Festival Vive Puerto Vallarta’ that began in August and purportedly continued throughout September. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, very few of us foreigners were aware of its events.

The movie that was shot here earlier this year, the one that was supposed to be called “South of the Border” and whose title was changed to “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” opened this past week. I haven’t seen it yet, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s good or not. I did see “Mamma Mia” while I was in Montreal. If it’s still playing when you read this, go see it! It is an absolute delight, you just sit there with a silly grin on your face throughout the show, tapping your feet and singing along to the well-known tunes. The perfect escapist summer fare!Well, that’s all for this week, folks. Please note that you can now read this and all the other columns you enjoy in the PV Mirror at If you want to write to me directly, my new email address is easy: L’Shana Tova to all my Jewish readers and until next time, may your mirror always reflect a happy, healthy you! Hasta luego.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 25, 2008

It has been a very exciting time for me this past week, and I apologize to those of you who are used to have me upload this column every weekend.

We’ve all been working very hard, putting together our new paper, the PV Mirror. If all goes as planned, it should be out in the streets by Saturday, October 4th – if not sooner.

Also, you’ll be able to read this column in the Mirror’s web site, regularly, every week without fault.

In the meantime, on a personal level, I finally got my little Tracker back, 10 days late. It was very strange for me, not having wheels for so long. I wouldn’t have minded so much taking the bus to the various places I had to go, but as a matter of principle, I refused to pay for a taxi to bring me back with all the stuff I had to buy, a.k.a.: food!

In any case, the first day I got it back, I tried to do everything at the same time. I’m sure you know that’s not possible, especially in Puerto Vallarta. What should normally take 10 minutes, ends up taking an hour…

I did notice the number of stores and restaurants that have closed, apparently forever. And a number of them are being literally torn apart inside, with mounds of debris on the sidewalk in front. Very sad, destruction and construction. I just hope that new endeavors will appear where others have not fared well. Basilio Badillo used to be such a lively, exciting street. Now it looks deserted – except for Steve’s Place. All sorts of folks in there, having fun and enjoying good food.

I also noticed that they’ve added new signs in the Benito Juarez parking garage. They obviously want to make it easier for visitors to understand the way it operates, which is a good thing. But –and there’s always a “but”- why can’t the owners get someone who speaks English to write out the four or five words correctly? I realize that I’m being picky, but still… Who was the maven in linguistics who told them to write “Pay before entering to your car”? Reminds me of that dental clinic in Plaza Villas Vallarta that had that huge sign out on the sidewalk that read “Walking clinic”.

It also looks like they’re back to their old tricks with the stop signs on the south side of town. Once again, they’re facing the wrong way on one-way streets so that no one who’s obeying the legal direction of the traffic can see them…

I witnessed something this week that can only happen in Puerto Vallarta… I had to go out –probably for the last time- to the offices of the Tribune, to pick up some papers. On the way there, Ecuador Street was flooded with about 6 inches of water, higher than the sidewalks. The weird thing is that Ecuador is way up high on the hill. Anyway, on my return trip, which was less than an hour later, there was no sign of the flood. None. The street was clean and dry. Couldn’t tell where the water came from, nor where it went …or evaporated with the heat. Very strange indeed.

Food? Ah, yes! I went to try Jason’s specials at the Back Alley Steakhouse on Wednesday night, $279 pesos per couple. Wow! I don’t know how that young man does it, but the place was full, and the portions huge. I must tell you: the salmon I ordered was just superb! And my friends literally licked their plates clean. I couldn’t. I ended up taking half of mine home, it was just too much for one meal.

Having been “away” (in Montreal, then in the house …carless), I’ve been doing a lot of getting together with friends for lunches and dinners, way more than usual. Another day, I went to meet some at the Beach House, that fabulous little place next door to El Dorado on Los Muertos beach. They have a lot of succulent items on their menu, but the Salade Niçoise is nothing short of amazing. If you haven’t had lunch there yet, do give Marco and his staff a try! You won’t be sorry. Tomorrow, I’m going back to Vitea on the Malecon, and then to El Arrayan while Carmen still has those yummy Chiles en Nogada during the Month of the Patría…
Addendum: Guess what? I had to park in the Benito Juarez garage again... someone changed the signs. They now read "Pay before returning to your car." Yeay! English! I guess someone must have told them...

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, folks.
Stay happy, keep healthy, and enjoy our last rains ‘cause they’re bound to end soon, which does not make me happy. Hasta luego. My new email address:

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 14, 2008

First of all, I would like to respond to the gentleman who posted the comment last week.
Among the many reasons why the editor quit was the number of complaints she was receiving week after week about the Tribune’s lack of distribution and the lack of presence on line. No matter how many times she would forward them to the powers-that-be, they told her not to worry as it was not her responsibility, and they would look after it. They never did. Another reason is that she was totally opposed to the new format and their desire to fill the paper with articles downloaded from the internet which had nothing to do with our town. That’s all I can say for now.

When I’m up in the Great White North (which thank heavens it is not at this time of year), I try to keep up with the news in PV through the internet, and by chatting with my friends who are on one of the servers’ instant messaging systems. I also check out the various bulletin boards / forums on the net.

While checking out JR’s forum, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Liz Broughal, announced by her business partner and friend, Anjalla Berttall. Liz was the co-founder and owner of Puerto Vallarta Vacation Baby, a business offering a much needed product in PV. Her business will be carried on by Anjalla under the name Lots for Tots Mexico. If you’re a grandparent, or want to find something for friends of yours coming down this winter with little ones, you can check it out at

I have to tell you, I am really not impressed by the events this past week; more killings, shoot-outs, violence, etc. Not a good thing! Not for Vallarta’s image, and certainly not for its people.

Now that I’m back – thank heavens – it’s no better. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely delighted to be back HOME, rain or not, but the news is still awful. I heard that there were a number of chain emails going around asking people not to attend the famous “grito” on Independence Day as a protest against the wave of violence and social insecurity permeating the country. In fact, to the best of my knowledge of Mexico’s fascinating history, the only time changes occurred was when the people got together to oppose something (a.k.a. revolted) in one way or another, as a unified force. Perhaps something similar will happen again. Only time will tell.

On the flight back to PV, I was sitting next to a lovely lady from Florida, a grandma like me, but much younger looking. She was going to have a get together with other female family members of hers who live somewhere in the Midwest, and whom she hadn’t seen in a couple of years. They were planning a fabulous one-week holiday in what they were told was Puerto Vallarta. It wasn’t.

Their reservations were at the Grand Mayan in Nuevo Vallarta, but their travel agent had told them it was in Puerto Vallarta. Again, don’t get me wrong, please. I know that they will be staying in a wonderful resort, no doubt about that. But I really thought that with the creation of the Rivera Nayarit name, this kind of shenanigans would stop. Obviously, it did not. I felt bad for them, just because after talking to me, she was eager to get to know Puerto Vallarta, and now she and her relatives would have to pay a pretty penny just to get here and back.

Talking about which, when I arrived at PV’s airport, I had to take a cab as the only people I would ask to come pick me up couldn’t. So I asked the dispatcher how much it would cost me to Basilio Badillo. He said $280 Pesos. I said, “No way, the Colonia Emiliano Zapata is still considered the center zone. I’m not paying that kind of money.” (It’s a matter of principle…) So he hailed another driver, who drove up with a full-size van! He only wanted $230 Pesos. Done deal, plus he was very nice, we had a lovely conversation, and his cab was air-conditioned. Boy, was I happy to be home again.

Upon my return, I got to see the current issue of the paper for which I worked for eleven years. I found it very sad, especially the page filled with letters from readers criticizing what it has become. And none of the letters were answered. I also noticed the big ad they inserted, offering home delivery – for a price! That’s something they never wanted to do before, while I was there. And if they could never get their distribution system to function properly, how will they get home delivery to do so? Curiouser and curiouser. Oh well, I’m not an accountant, so, as I’ve said many times since I left: “Que les vaya bien.”

Haven’t got much else to share for now, but if I do, I promise to update this blog.
Keep well, my dear faithful readers, and do keep those emails coming. Note my new email address:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

September 7, 2008

Well, by now I'm sure you've noticed the changes in the Tribune. Aside from the fact that its editor for the last seven years or so has quit, this column is no longer published in that publication.
I am posting this in Montreal, my former home town, where the weather is as crazy as always, if not more so. It was 32 degrees Centrigrade a couple of days ago and today it was a most uncomfortable, rainy 14 ! My friends tell me it was the worst summer they can remember... As I've said on numerous occasions, we've really screwed up this planet of ours.
I've only got one incident to share with you at this moment. It happened on my Mexicana flight up here, but I should give you a little forword first. The rear calipers on my little old Miata were killed by time ...and rust. So I called the Mazda dealer in Montreal, who told me I could get replacements for $100. each - a huge savings over the regular price, but only on one condition: I had to bring the old ones in. What the dealer did not tell me was that each weighed a zillion pounds. OK, so I put them in my carry-on bag so as not to pay for excess luggage at 5 dollars a gram... (I'm joking, of course.) I read all the rules on Mexicana's internet web site, so I knew that I could not put my bag in the overhead rack as it was superheavy, and could pose a danger if it should fall out. I had to put it under the seat in front of me but... it did not fit as I had chosen a window seat. So I pushed it in as far as it would go and hoped for the best.
The stewardess, or flight attendant as they are called nowadays, came by, saw the bag sticking out and told me, ordered me, to put it in the overhead bin. I told her it was super heavy and thus illegal to be stored up there. That's when she switched tone and using the same voice as that TelMex woman who lets us know when a line is busy (as if we didn't know), snapped "Then we're going to bring it down in the cargo hold!" Now remember, her colleague had just finished informing all the passengers over the PA system that "nothing heavy should be placed in the overhead bins"! I repeated that it was very heavy - and I'm not kidding here - to which she responded, "Don't worry. The plane is well built; it will support the weight." Sure, but the law says NO. She sends me one of those oh-so-pleasant "I am in charge here and you're not" looks, and repeats her threat to place it in the cargo hold.
No way, ma'am. That was not going to happen, not with my two calipers, my laptop and all my accessory cords in there, it wouldn't. So I had a nice gentleman help me heave it up into the bin ...and hoped that the door wouldn't open to let it fall out and onto an unsuspecting passenger's head.
So that was my experience with Mexicana this year, the only event I thought you might be interested in. The rest of the few days I've been here so far was devoted to family matters ...and eating, dining, enjoying all those little delicacies Montreal is renowned for, so I won't bore you with my kvelling over fresh croissants, real baguettes, freshly-picked blueberries and "peaches & cream" corn, strawberry rhubarb pie, 15% coffee cream, etc. etc.
I promise to let you know if anything funny or potentially interesting happens within the next while. In the meantime, if you're reading this in Puerto Vallarta, enjoy yourselves 'cause it really is paradise, folks - at least as far as the weather goes.
Take care, and hasta luego. Please note my new email address:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 30, 2008

This week’s column was supposed to appear in the Vallarta Tribune as usual, but it did not. So those of you who are reading me on line will get to share my unedited comments about the week that was.

There is something I forgot to mention in my column last week, which I really intended to share with you. When I was visiting the mezzanine / check-in level at the airport, I heard some beautiful music, which I recognized, one that I love. It was by that wonderful duo, “Arcano”, broadcast from a little stand with a screen showing their performance. A little group of people were standing around it, waiting to pay for the group’s CD, which a gentleman was selling. I went over to ask him WHERE the duo was playing, as I had not seen them anywhere for a while now. He told me that they’re at the sMall Vallarta shopping center downtown, just about every evening. So now you know too. (Unfortunately, the Department of Culture doesn’t even bother advertising them at all.) If you haven’t heard them yet, do give a listen. You might just fall in love with them and their music, like I did.

I have often described or listed the many reasons for which I love Puerto Vallarta, and one of the most prevalent ones is the unpredictability of events in this town. We never know what will happen, but something always does, something new, something we haven’t experienced - no matter how long we’ve been here.

A couple of days after moving down here from Montreal, some fourteen years ago, friends and I were having dinner at La Palapa, on the beach, when one of those humongous sea turtles came up on the beach, right beside us, where she proceeded to dig a hole where she then laid her one hundred or so eggs. It was magical, like being on a natural set for a National Geographic documentary feature. As the years went by, I realized that some folks have lived here for much, much longer than I have, and yet have never been lucky enough to witness this awesome event.

I consider myself blessed. Never does a day go by that something, no matter how small, doesn’t happen to make me thank heavens for being here. Sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always the kind of thing that would probably never happen in Montreal. And when it’s something unpleasant, it usually makes us laugh, or at least smile, which always reminds me of my friend Barry’s statement to me so many years ago: “You either laugh, or you leave.” So I’ve learned to laugh - even though sometimes I don’t until “it” has already happened.

Example: As we were negotiating the Grand Slalom course along the infamous Libramiento (the one with the potholes described in last week’s cartoon) on our way to our last fabulous dinner at Barcelona Tapas -until it reopens in October- my friend who intends to settle in Vallarta casually ventured, “I don’t understand why they bother putting in all these speed bumps… What with all the potholes around, you would think that folks would be driving very carefully…” We both laughed. He’s got the right attitude.

Ah, yes, attitude. We see all kinds of ‘em in this town. This town has more interesting characters than a fiction writer could invent in his wildest dreams, and more tales to tell. It’s no wonder that so many books have been written about this place. I remember one acquaintance of mine who wanted to write his memoirs of life here (after only eleven years) and title it “The Last Resort”. For many it is.

By the time you read this, I will be getting ready to leave for my yearly week-long visit with my children up in the Great White North. This column will no longer be published in the Vallarta Tribune, so if you want to keep up with my weekly blather, you’ll just have to read it in this blog …for the time being.

About five years ago, the then President of the Tourism Commission at City Hall was wondering if “Vallarta was losing its magic…” Councilman Agustín Alvarez considered that the main problems that were beginning to damage the city were the deterioration of its image as a “typical pueblito”, public safety, and the tranquility that have all characterized it for so many years. “I think that when it comes to streets, we’ve already gone past the eleventh hour, we are way behind in matters of visual order and efficient transportation, for tourists and locals alike. They have managed to achieve this in other towns and we must preserve downtown Puerto Vallarta as our main attraction.”

Back then, he also qualified as “strange and inexplicable” the decision of the President of the Urban Development Commission of the LVII legislature, regarding the revocation of the license number 190/05, suspending the work, and totally demolishing the Grand Venetian development.

Five years have passed since then, and not much has been done in those respects. The Grand Venetian is just about completed, as are all the other humungous towers whose building permits were illegally acquired. The Mayor who issued them wasn’t even given a slap on the wrist, and neither were his cronies in the municipal government. So what else is new?

I came across a quote I find most appropriate at this time: “The best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way.” ~ Josh Billings

Nevertheless, in spite and despite everything, we should consider ourselves lucky. Besides, our weather is a whole lot better than so many of the destinations with which Vallarta competes for the almighty tourist dollar, and we have so many more conveniences than they have - while still being a beach resort.
To all my readers, local and first-timers alike, I wish a wonderful stay in this very special place we like to call home. Enjoy yourselves, visit as many places and as many of our wonderful restaurants as you can (of the few that remain open this month), and if anyone asks you what time it is, just tell them that the time is NOW … none better than the moment itself. As my favorite late night talk show host likes to say: “tomorrow’s just a future yesterday.” So live today to the fullest ...and do take care of each other. Hasta luego.
Please note that I have a new email if you want to communicate with me: and remember you can always read me online here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 23, 2008

This was originally intended to be a diary of a couple of days in my life in the «paradise» that is Puerto Vallarta, but it’s turned into a little more...

It all started at noon on Thursday, August 14th. The thermometer showed 36oC (that’s equivalent to approximately 98oF in the U.S.) in the shade. I had to go out to the airport to pick up a friend of ours. As I had some time to kill (even without knowing that his flight would come in late), I figured I would take the day’s issue of the Tribuna de la Bahía with me, to read while I was waiting.

By the time I got there, the car was hot, despite the air conditioning unit working at full force. True, she is 8 years old… I noticed -again- that they corrected the sign that used to read «Nice Trip», which never made much sense to me. Now it says «Have a Nice Trip». That’s better. I walked into the terminal, expecting -and looking forward- to be hit by a wave of cold air, like usual, but that was not to be. As we were all standing there, madly fanning ourselves with whatever we could as the drops of sweat trickled down our faces, I got two different explanations from a couple of the young men waiting for clients of their travel agencies. One was «the air conditioning is not turned on», while the other was «the air conditioning system can’t cope with the all the hot air coming in each time the doors open» …which is every few seconds. Whatever the case, it was most uncomfortable.

I looked around for a place to sit. No such thing. I looked for the screen that normally shows arrivals, it was dark. Nothing there. I asked one of the airport employees if any of the screens were working, she told me that the one at the other end of our now expanded, huge international airport did. As I had already walked the entire length, upstairs and downstairs, looking for Starbucks and a cup of espresso, I was in no mood to undertake the trek again, especially considering the fact that I had put on high(er) heels to look nice for my friend.
I still wanted to sit down, so I went to the little bar nearest the time share enclosure through which all international passengers must pass before entering the airport lobby per se. Having already had my espresso while perusing the various shops on the upper level, I figured a would ask for a Coke Zero, for my friend, which would entitle me to a chair. They don’t carry Coke Zero, and no, I could not use one of their chairs if I didn’t want anything else.

Two gentlemen, airport employees both, were sitting there. They invited me to join them, despite the waitress’ menacing looks. I accepted and we started chatting. «Isn’t is stupid,» one of them asked, «not to let anyone sit down? The other day, I had to go up to my office to get one of the chairs there and bring it down for an old lady I thought was going to pass out. We do our best to welcome the tourists so they’ll have only nice things to say about Vallarta, and look what these bar and coffee shop owners do!» He’s right of course. But who you gonna call? The airport authorities obviously don’t care. I saw an «older» couple sit on the floor. They just couldn’t stand any longer.

«And when are they going to install a clock?» I asked the two fellows. They burst out laughing. The older one asked me if I remembered the huge digital clock that was up on the wall above the now disappeared escalators. I remembered. It was never connected. I think we have the only airport in the world without at clock anywhere. On the other hand, that shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially when we’re talking about the only city with a parking garage built on prime beachfront property.

Getting back to the events of that day, my friend’s flight finally landed, everyone came out of the time share «obstacle course» safe, sound, and unscathed, and we both drove into town to have lunch at ViteA (he had missed it a lot since his last visit a couple of months ago). As we passed the main square, he exclaimed, «They still haven’t painted over that ugly Hooters sign!» Our lunch at ViteA was excellent - as always. It was a beautiful day.

As the evening approached, another friend -with whom we were going to have dinner at Maximilian’s to sample the special Greek menu they’re offering this month- called to tell me that it was raining way too hard for her to attempt the perilous descent from her aerie up in Amapas. A few minutes later, the cloudburst hit Alta Vista.

Some of you may recall the flooding I experienced throughout the house last year at this time. Back then, it was the water and the mud coming down from the various unfinished construction sites up in the hilly Amapas area. Stuff that had previously been absorbed by the earth, the trees and their roots growing in it, now replaced by cement and concrete. But now it was different. Now it was clean, clear rainwater that came in so fast and furious that the city’s system could not cope with it. So once again, out came the brooms to sweep the current of water out of our living room and dining room, and out the front door …while the big bath towels were pushed up against closed doors to stop the water from entering the various rooms along the way. In the middle of it all, one of my kitties found herself stranded in a tree, during the worst part of the downpour. She was terrified, screaming hysterically, which is why I could hear her above the sound of the storm. By the time I got her down, she and I both looked like drowned rats. As I told my friend after it was all over, I felt as if I had gone through three full routines at the gym, not just one. Needless to say, I slept very well that night.

My colleague, T.J., sent me an email referring to what he called our «monsoon season» (some 6 inches in a couple of hours!!!). He wrote: «As a result of the heavy downpour, it would be interesting to check out some of the local underground car baths, er - underground parking facilities - at the new condo projects in the area.» If anyone out there has any juicy information to share on this topic, please don’t hesitate to send us a little email.

When the rains stopped, and my satellite feed of the Olympic Games reappeared, I heard the frogs sing. What a wonderful sound! The background track was provided by the crickets, or cicadas, I’m never sure.

The next day, when my girl Enya arrived, she looked around the house and said, very nonchalantly, «you had another flood, I see.» «Yes, we did, how can you tell? Just because the floors are immaculate?» «Yup.»

We got another rainstorm two days later, on Saturday, but this time, I was a little wiser. I set up my own version of sand bags (using crunched up plastic bags) to block all the entrances the rain might take into the house. There was no rain the next three days, but we did get one of the most impressive, spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen. We always talk about how many nuances of green the mountains sport at this time of year, but that night it was the blues that were incredible, and the fiery red separating those of the bay from those of the sky and the clouds above.

These last few days, the air has been as clear as could be. Every ridge on the mountains on the north shore could be seen. The mountains that surround us are more beautiful than they have been in years, and the Cuale River is powerfully charging forward, running for the ocean, as if it were competing in its own Olympics.Have a wonderful week, dear readers. Keep well and take care of each other. Hasta luego.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Aug. 16, 2008


…nothing much about “Living in Vallarta”. The only thing that stands out in my mind is the radar traps coming out of the tunnel, in both directions. Watch out, and keep it down to 40 kph, folks!

I’m stuck on the Olympics this week. There is something definitely magical and beautiful that happens during the Olympics, especially among the residents of the host city. If you were around 100 years ago in St. Louis, Missouri, or during the last century in L.A., Mexico City, Montreal, or at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Squaw Valley, Lake Placid, or Calgary, you know what I’m talking about.

Differences -and wars- are supposed to be set aside for the duration of the Games, just as it was decreed thousands of years ago. (The decree during the original Olympiads applied to all cities in the realm, not just the host city.) In my particular case, it was nice to see the French and the English speaking to each other, everyone was happy, everyone was friends when my former home town, Montreal, hosted the Olympic Games in 1976 – just as they had been nine years earlier for Expo, our World’s Fair in 1967.

I was lucky. I got to see the incredible «perfect 10» performance of Romania’s then 14-year-old gymnast, Nadia Comenici. It made me very proud to be Romanian too. Unfortunately, the previous Olympiad had been marred by the first terrorist attack – against the Israeli team in Munich, in 1972. They had to whisk Mark Spitz and his 7 world record setting gold medals away, just because he was Jewish too. Little did we know what would happen three decades later... We have to hope and pray that these Olympic games will evolve as they should: in the spirit of sportsmanship and universal friendship. Four years ago, as I was watching the Games televised from Athens, I found it very symbolic that the Israeli judo champ should win his medal exactly on the 32nd anniversary of the massacre of his country’s team in Munich. Now I hear that Phelps, the amazing American swimmer, will try to beat Spitz’ 7 gold medal record.

According to AFP, legendary Spitz won’t be on hand in Beijing because, he says, «no one bothered to invite him.» Is he miffed? Darn right, he is! «They voted me one of the top five Olympians in all time … I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too,» he added. Spitz said it would have been a great idea if he could be the one presenting the gold medals to Phelps, who has for years been candid about his ambition to eclipse the mark of seven golds. May the gods on Mount Olympus smile upon you, Michael!

This time around, with the Games being in Beijing, I find myself getting up at 6 a.m. just to watch the events «live». Bear in mind that I am anything but a morning person, so this is playing havoc with my internal clock. Am I addicted to the Olympic Games? Yes. And yes, of course, I will be stuck to my TV until they end. I don’t normally watch sports on TV, but this and the World Cup (of soccer) are different. I also very much appreciate the advantage of legal and «not-so-legal» satellite feeds than enable us to watch other countries’ viewpoints and reports on the Games. With all due respect to the many qualities of American TV stations, I much prefer the other countries’ coverage of the Games. They admit and realize that the Games are for all 204 participating nations, and just because an American athlete isn’t expected to win the gold in any particular event doesn’t mean that such event should not be covered…

Getting back to these 6 a.m. reports, I must admit that the opening ceremonies in the «Bird’s Nest» were unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, nothing short of awesome, incredible, stupendous; I think that even the announcers ran out of superlatives to describe them. The same thing must have happened in India when Abhinav Bindra became the first individual athlete to win the coveted gold medal for India (in the 10-meter air rifle) thus ending decades of Olympic misery for India, the world’s second most populous nation - and a perennial underachiever at the games.

With the internet being what it is today, it is also fascinating to watch replays and read statistics online – as they happen. However, I never cease to be amazed by the continuous stream of spam that I’ve been receiving lately. It is all directed to my spam box, but I still check it, just in case something important has somehow been categorized as spam just ‘cause I didn’t have the sender’s email address in my list.

So Dr. William Smith writes «It me williams please reply your mail», while others have «URGENT REPLY!» Mr. Geir Helmerson tells me «YOU HAVE WON 1,500,000.00 *CONGRATULATIONS*». Others start with «Dearest beloved, please urgent response needed.» Sounds like the beginning of a funeral service… I guess it makes sense, considering that they go on to tell me about the deceased relative who has left someone or other zillions of whatever currency. If even one of the hundreds of such emails I’ve been getting over the years were legit, I would be a multi-zillionaire by now… I also get a whole bunch of «pre-approved credit» card applications, from all sorts of banks …except Santander! Of course. I’ve only been applying for that one for some three years now… And then there’s the newer rash of «Become a CSI, Anna!» What is that all about? Who, other than my friends, knows that I’m addicted to all the CSI programs on TV? Maybe the Mayor of Puerto Vallarta installed one of his 48 surveillance cameras in my living room, aimed at our TV, so that he could report my viewing habits to those Spam generators… Who knows? At this point, I wouldn’t put anything past anyone. By the way, have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?

One of the Canadian Olympians is an incredible 58-year old (yes, you read right!) woman called Susan Nattrass who made sports history at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal as the first and only woman entered in the trap shooting event. She’s been an Olympian for some 40 years! Anyway, she stated in a televised interview that her motto is «If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.» What a wise woman! I think I might just follow her motto too.

Have a fabulous week, enjoy the heavenly sound & light shows, and do take care of each other! Hasta luego! Please remember that you can always find this column here …even if you can’t find the Tribune on line.