Thursday, November 29, 2007

El Valle Bridge is Falling Down

El Valle bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down,
El Valle bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Did you know that the London Bridge nursery rhyme goes back almost a thousand years, to the destruction of London Bridge by Viking invaders, led by King Olaf II of Norway in 1014? In fact that ill-fated bridge over the Thames was destroyed and rebuilt many times: the wooden bridge was burned by Olaf I, torn down by Olaf II, destroyed by a tornado of all things about 80 years later, and then burned down again in the early 1100's.

Finally, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine - the "fair lady" - commissioned a new bridge with permanent stone construction. Eleanor was queen of both England and France, mother of Kings Richard and John, and perhaps the most powerful and wealthy European woman of the Middle Ages. The new bridge was completed under the reign of her son, King John, and was so well built that it lasted over 600 years.

I don't expect El Valle de Anton to be invaded by Vikings, but our bridge is shut down nonetheless. El Valle actually has three main bridges that I can think of, all on the main road: one at the entrance of town, just past Centro Commerical; one in the center of town, just before the Melo store and chicken shop; and one past the church.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a small pothole developing in the middle of the center bridge. This is a crucial bridge, since 90% of the town's traffic passes over it at some point. Nothing was done, and the hole widened, until it was a literal hole in the bridge - you could see the water rushing down below. The rebar held, but the concrete was gone.

Now there are two holes in the bridge, and the police have taped it off so no one can cross. This means that anyone who wants to get from one side of town to the other by vehicle must go all the way around on Calle de los Millonarios ("Millionaires Street"), which is itself badly rutted and potholed and is in no condition to withstand heavy traffic. Other vehicles are using smaller side streets - most of which are unpaved, just dirt and grass - as detours, and are digging ruts and holes in these small residential roads.

Cherry, a friend of ours, dropped by yesterday and told me that she ran into a woman named Irene near the market. Apparently this Irene is a wealthy woman with connections. Cherry talked to her about the bridge, and Irene said, "Usually someone has to get hurt before they fix things. But I'm seeing the President today, I'll mention it to him."

I guess there's some benefit to living in a town where some residents lunch with the President. Let's see if it gets fixed quickly or not.

Update: they welded a steel plate over the hole in the bridge, but since then another hole has begun to open up to the side of the plate. For now it remains open and driveable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zippy the Cat

A few people have expressed concern about Salma, since I wrote some time ago that she was not feeling well. Not to worry, she's fine.

It's true that for more than two weeks she had a fever, vomiting, diarrhea and sleeplessness, and we couldn't figure out the problem. Well, it turned out that she had four molars coming in at once. That's a painful change and it was wreaking havoc on all her systems, but once the teeth came in she was fine.

Our cat Zippy, on the other hand, is not doing so well. He's the orange on on the right, above.

Zippy is almost 14 years old now. He lived with me for years in my studio apartment on Market Street in San Francisco, then years more in Oakland after Laura and I were married, then in Linda's house in Palo Alto after I moved to Panama, and then finally he made the trip here to El Valle de Anton.

Both Zippy and Li'l Fishy settled in well here and have been quite happy, but I'm aware that they are getting quite high up in years for a cat.

Zippy has always had a healthy appetite, but about two weeks ago he suddenly began refusing to eat. At first we thought maybe he had eaten a toad or a gecko. The thing is he still has the desire for food. He cries for food at his mealtimes, but when we put his bowl down he simply walks away without tasting it. We called the local vet and he thought that maybe Zippy had an infected tooth, so he gave him antiobiotic injections for three days, and gave us a vitamin solution to feed to Zippy with a syringe.

Two weeks later there has been no change. Zippy's weight has dropped from 18 pounds to 13.5. We can get him to eat a spoonful of wet food at a time but it takes five minutes of following him around, enticing him and petting him.

We may take him down to a vet in Coronado who has more diagnostic facilities. But in the end I think we have to accept the fact that our beloved companion is nearing his last days.

I'm happy that Zippy has been able to live out his last years here in this beautiful place. He loves to go out in the yard and watch the birds, chase frogs, eat grass and lay on the car in the sun. There are no cars to worry about, and the few dogs who wander into our yard leave Zippy alone because he's much larger than the local feral cats. The house itself is by far the largest place we have lived in and Zippy has many comfy spots to sleep or relax. So I feel good for him that he has been able to experience this perfect place.