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Queretaro, the Best-Kept Secret in Mexico

The TG and I just came back from a wonderful week at my sister-in-law's amazing house in the city of Queretaro, the best-kept secret in Mexico. She lives in the historic center of Queretaro – the Centro Historico -- which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, and it's a charming trip into another century.

The Centro Historico is a unique combination of the geometric (from the Spanish conquerors) and the twisty (from the original Otami, Tarasco, and Chichimeca inhabitants.) You can spend hours wandering the streets and alleys of the district. There are churches and piazzas, interesting stores and vendors, street entertainers and musicians. The area is filled with civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries. The city has an active cultural life, and an Arts Council that never quits.

Located in central Mexico, about a two hours drive, northwest of Mexico City, Queretaro is favored by a mild, semi-arid climate. There is a rainy season in summer; we missed. What I particularly love about Queretaro is its light. Sunsets are simply magical, especially from my sister-in-law's fabulous 360-degree-view roof garden.

The city of Queretaro is full of interesting sites including Los Arcos, an enormous aqueduct consisting of seventy-four arches, stretching more than half a mile, built in the 1700s to bring water to the city (and now used for art exhibits) ... the Church of San Francisco, the city's largest house of worship ... the Plaza de Independencia, the largest of city's many grand square and public spaces. We always say that walking around the Centro Historico is like taking a little vacation in Europe. The people are lovely, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial.

Regularly called Mexico's safest city and the city with the best quality of life, Querataro is a boom town with the second highest per capita income in Mexico. Fortunately, the restrictions required to remain a UNESCO World Heritage Site restrict changes in the Centro Historico, so this lovely area is well protected from the "progress" growing around it.

When you go to a restaurant in Querataro, there is no English on the menu: this is where Mexicans go on vacation.

I love going there, too.

And now, back to work.



Music Self-Therapy

To stay positive, I've been working hard and taking mega-doses of music. Here's what I've been aurally self-medicating with:

TOSCA at the Los Angeles Opera

Tosca isn't my favorite opera. It's not even my favorite Puccini opera. (I prefer La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.) But I've listened to the legendary Maria Callas/ Giuseppe di Stefano/Tito Gobbi recording about a million times, and this was a chance to see Sondra Radvanofsky, currently the top American soprano and one of our favorite singers, in a role that's perfect for her. In fact, we saw her in this very production in 2013.

The Tiny Goddess and I have seen Sondra four times: as Leonora in "Il Trovatore," her signature role ... a stunning Suor Angelica in Puccini's one-acter, directed brilliantly by William Friedkin ... ... in recital ... and as Tosca. Each time, she has delivered "Golden Age" thrills to my ears, and this time was no different.

Conducted by LA Opera's musical director James Conlon (leading, by his reckoning, his 69th performance of TOSCA – more than any other opera) and directed by John Caird (co-director of the Royal Shakespeare Company's stupendous NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and other things including a knockout Siegfried and Roy show we saw with the kids in Las Vegas many years ago), this was a straight-ahead TOSCA with few surprises but many blessings. First of all, it was very well-sung and well-conducted. Conlon and Radvanofsky have obviously studied the Callas/ recording and made perceptive choices, deviating from the "perfect" line created by conductor Victor de Sabata for interesting dramatic purpose.

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Second Draft, Second Wind

My week has taken on a good, anti-Trump* rhythm – basically, it's two days helping watch my grandson Calder, one day writing this blog, and four days working on the new draft of WHEN I GOT OUT.

Writing is hard, but I think rewriting is harder. When writing a first draft, one is free to explore. By the time you're ready to revise that draft, you have a definite concept formed that you now have to adhere to. As you see the target more clearly, you have to improve your aim.

I set up my existing draft on the left side of my screen and put my "NEW ADDS FOR WHEN I GOT OUT" file on the right side, with thesaurus.com in the middle, and I start going through the whole thing. I add my new ideas (x-ing them out when they've been incorporated), I cut, I move chunks. I got some very good ideas on the first draft from my agent, my brother, and the TG. I know what I have to do. The worse things get in Washington, the angrier I get, the better I have to write.

This week I had/have computer problems and lost power for half-a-day to the Santa Ana winds, but I'm finding a second wind in this second draft. I've been cheerleading myself – to get this overdue draft "finished" and sent to my publisher The Story Plant.

This is what I've been telling myself:

"Grasp the subject, the words will follow." – Cato the Elder (234-149 BC)

"Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing." – Bernard Malamud

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon." -- Robert Cormier

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