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Looking for comals


kcd
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Just back from 3 weeks in Oaxaca, where we took language and cooking classes.

I loved the comals. (I love bowls, or anything that is similar to a bowl. The larger the better.) We purchased 2, a almost large one (perhaps 22") and a smaller 15" (or so) one.

We intended to hand carry the large one. The smaller one was packed in cardboard, and covered with bubble wrap (packed between rugs and table cloths). It was put in the suitcase.

A @##$%^ airport guard put a suitcase on the large one, the smaller one broke in the suitcase (I prefer to think the TSA person broke it when our luggage was inspected. grrrr)

Anyone know of a source for these wonders? Can I get a potter friend to make one?

This was a bitter disappointment; we even brought back some "cal" (lime).

Facts and opinions equally welcome.

kcd

(who really wanted the large 30"+ comal)

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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There's a thread here somewhere. You can get nice red ceramic comales from Nuestra Tierra in Half Moon Bay. They do mail order. They also have black chamba comales as well.

They laughed here at eG but I use my ceramic comal a lot!

Edited to add: you can get cal at any good Mexican store, along with a metal comal which is preferable for tortillas.

Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I'd suggest you go back to Mexico and get some. Along with whatever other large, breakable, cumbersome items you couldn't get on the plane.

According to your profile, you're in Austin. It's 230 miles to Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna. You can do that in a day trip. Which I've done on more than one occasion.

It's about an hour or so more to Nuevo Laredo, although there's trouble there right now, so I wouldn't recommend that until things settle down.

But I just got back from Nuevo Progreso, in the Valley, which takes about 5-6 hours. We did it over a long weekend. It's a great little town, clean, safe. We left Austin around 9 in the morning, and were there by 3pm. Spent two nights at the Best Western in Weslaco, and just hopped over to Progreso for meals and shopping. Great fun! And you can haul back all the comales you want. Along with other pottery, dishes, Talavera, glassware, jewelry, foodstuffs, clothing, leather goods, booze, etc. Load up the car. God knows we did.

If you don't want to do that, get into your car and go to Fiesta Mart at 38th and I35.

They probably have quite a nice selection of comales.

PS -- If you decide to go to Progreso, let me know and I'll give you a blow by blow account of exactly how to go about it; i.e., where to park, eat, shop, etc.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks for the tips.

I thought I might check out Fiesta (the equivilent of "HEB" -or a mainstream grocery store), or even Michoecan, but didn't have much hope. I am encouraged.

As for day-tripping to Mexico, always an option, but rarely with DH, as he spent his adolescence in El Paso, and is a bit worried about boarder towns. We just went to (south) South Padre for the first time together. I will certainly write for tips to Progreso.

I am hoping that our new Spanish skills will help. :rolleyes::blink::laugh:

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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As for day-tripping to Mexico, always an option, but rarely with DH, as he spent his adolescence in El Paso, and is a bit worried about boarder towns.  We just went to (south) South Padre for the first time together.  I will certainly write for  tips to Progreso.

Just don't rent the film Touch of Evil before you go!

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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As for day-tripping to Mexico, always an option, but rarely with DH, as he spent his adolescence in El Paso, and is a bit worried about boarder towns.  We just went to (south) South Padre for the first time together.   I will certainly write for  tips to Progreso.

Just don't rent the film Touch of Evil before you go!

DO rent Touch of Evil -then you'll know what to expect!!!

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As for day-tripping to Mexico, always an option, but rarely with DH, as he spent his adolescence in El Paso, and is a bit worried about boarder towns.  We just went to (south) South Padre for the first time together.  I will certainly write for  tips to Progreso.
Just don't rent the film Touch of Evil before you go!
DO rent Touch of Evil -then you'll know what to expect!!!

Thanks, you two. You're a huge help!

First, your DH's experience in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez.... I lived in Southern New Mexico for a number of years and went to Juarez frequently. That's NOTHING like going to Progreso. There are over 2.5 million people in the El Paso/Juarez/Las Cruces area, and it's a major point of entry/exit for both nations. Progreso is tiny. There CAN'T be more than a few thousand people there, if that. And most folks have never even heard of it.

El Paso/Juarez is on a number of major highways leading to and from each country. It's a main traffic artery for all sorts of commerce, legal and illegal. What roads there are out of Progreso are narrow, inconvenient, and not particularly well-maintained. There is a myriad of activity and industry going on in Juarez, a huge, busy city. Progreso is nothing but an eating/drinking/dentists/shopping center for norteamericanos. That's its sole purpose to exist. It's small, clean, and safe. And the prices are much better than at the larger and better-known border towns.

So. This is what you do.

There is a little hotel in Nuevo Progreso, Pitayo's Inn. You can stay there, and I have, but it's no giveaway at $50 a night, and it's a better idea to stay in Weslaco, on the US side. Especially now. I usually stay at the Best Western Palm Aire Resort.

It's about 5 miles from the border, but a straight shot. And it's a great place. And affordable. We usually pay about $60, and that includes a full breakfast, which is delicious. There's a pool, tennis courts, bar....everything. And a wonderful gift shop that offers items from all over the Americas.

So, you make your reservations at the Best Western, and you get on the road early from Austin. Like I said, depending upon how fast you drive, and whether or not there's a lot of traffic in San Antonio, it'll take you 5-6 hours or so. You arrive at the Best Western, check in, stow your stuff, and then head for the International Bridge at Nuevo Progreso. On your way to the border, you'll notice several large shops on the US side. A particularly wonderful one is Gabii's. It's new, and they are trying what is really a bit of an experiment: offering very high-end Mexican products. It's a beautiful store. They have exquisite clothing, jewelry, and a terrific selection of pottery, including the black pots from Oaxaca, and Cocuchas, the famous pots of Michoacan. Actually, that's where I just got two Cocuchas for my best bud, Mr. Lucky (so-named because he's lucky enough to have a friend that's willing to drag two of these pots across the country for him).

Gabii's is rather expensive, more so than the stores across the border in Mexico, but their merchandise is wonderful, and you should check it out. Directly across the highway from Gabii's is another pottery store selling the more typical, and cheaper, types of pottery -- chimineas, garden pots, etc.

But you can visit those stores later. Now, you're getting to Mexico for drinks and an early dinner.

Drive directly across the bridge and into Nuevo Progreso. Begin looking on your left for Arturo's Restaurant. It's on a corner, a couple of blocks in. It's a beige building. The sign that says "Arturo's" is up high on top of the restaurant, so look up. They have a big, fenced-in parking lot immediately adjacent to the restaurant. As you come down the street from the border, the parking lot is on the far side of the restaurant. As soon as you pull into the parking lot, the attendant will spot you and begin waving you to a place. He'll give you a parking chit, which you take with you.

Get out, lock your car and go into Arturo's. This is sort of the "student union" for trips by Gringos to Progreso. It's kinda your headquarters. The bathrooms are clean, and I don't know about the men's, but the women's loo has an attendant there all the time, so take a few pesos to tip her.

The deal is that the parking is free if you spend at least $10 in Arturo's, which ain't hard to do, believe me. We usually start with Arturo's sangrias, and the Coctel Campechana. Right there, you've got your $10, which will free you up to have dinner elsewhere, if you'd like. Hand your waiter your parking chit, which he'll validate.

Once you're relaxed and have gotten your bearings, you can head out into the streets. There are MANY excellent restaurants in Nuevo Progreso, along with a lot of wonderful taco carts that extend down the side streets. The key there is to look for a cart that has a lot of people around it. Not only do the more popular of these stands offer the best food (obviously), but the high turnover helps to ensure that the food is fresh. My favorite restaurants are Arturo's, La Fogata (which is a grilled meat place that has the best Charro Beans I've ever tasted), and the small restaurant in the hotel I already mentioned, Pitayo's Inn. But there are quite a few other restaurants, and I've not tried them all.

As you shop, you can return to your car and keep depositing stuff. If you buy something really big and heavy, like a large pot, or chiminea or something, tell them that you need help, and a supple lad will appear. They'll wrap the pot for you and haul it to your car for a buck or so.

Shopping -- there are a LOT of great stores, and I don't really remember the names of most of them. Just take your time and stroll and peek and poke and peruse. You'll find them.

Although I guess one to mention is the Canada Store. Have no clue how it got its name. It's in the next block down from Arturo's, and across the street. Also, there's a very large store that I don't remember the name of, several blocks back toward the border from Arturo's, and also across the street. I was just there a few days ago, and saw several comales (although I've noticed them in lots of the stores).

There is a restaurant over the Canada Store (as there are over several of the stores). I think it's called Garcia's. Some people love it, but it's not one of my favorites. Although to be fair, I've only eaten there once, so didn't really give it much of a chance.

Now -- a quick word of caution. I am a 60-year-old woman, and I go there ALL THE TIME BY MYSELF. So clearly I think it's perfectly safe. However, I have lived all over the world and didn't get this old by being stupid. So, here's my current caveat. With the recent, well-publicized troubles on the border, even as comfortable as I feel in Progreso, which I do, I still try to use good sense. The drug traffickers come out at night, so, even though Progreso doesn't have a reputation of having a drug problem, given the current climate over the past several months, I do try to be back on the US side by dark. Especially since your DH is skittish, I'd recommend that. After you've shopped for a while, have dinner. And then head back across the border.

Because Progreso is out of the way, and not on any major highways, it is not a big commercial port of entry. So you won't find a lot of trucks backed up at the border, trying to get across, like you do at Nuevo Laredo, for example. I've never had to wait more than a few minutes at Progreso. But do be sure to empty your car each time you arrive back at the Best Western, so if the US customs guys want to go through your car, they don't have so much stuff to look through.

And also, since checkout time at the hotel is 11AM, if you want to go back across for lunch and a little more shopping before you head for home (we always do), don't take your suitcases with you. Leave them with the front office at the hotel. Not only does customs seem to be more likely to search your car if you have suitcases, but it's harder for you to convince them that you're not coming from the interior if your trunk is full of personal baggage. It's not a huge problem, but it's just easier to leave your luggage at the hotel and pick it up on your way out.

You can leave Weslaco at 3pm and easily be back in Austin before 10pm, even if you stop somewhere for dinner.

And finally, be sure to take some sort of proof of citizenship. Even though it's the border, you ARE leaving the country. The chances are excellent you won't even be asked, but take something anyway.

If you have any other questions, fire away!

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Fabulous!!! :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

This is just what I needed. I may need to go soon. Or, I'm off for the summer, but when I go back to school we both work 4/10s, and can easily leave Friday morning, return Saturday, and have a day for relaxing before we go back to work (this seems more important working long days).

Also, it will give us a chance to practice our newly acquired Spanish (which we are worried about trickling out our ears as we sleep.)

This will be great. I think our 3 weeks in Oaxaca did a lot to help Jim "be easy" about Mexico. Your information/advice about Progreso will help with "boarder town" concerns.

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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Another thought...

From what you've said about DH, I suspect he might get all funny about driving your car across the border. Tell him to just calm down.

For one thing, you're only going three or four blocks. Your insurance undoubtedly covers you up to 5 miles into the interior. Most companies do.

And it's absolutely no comparison as far as shopping goes. That stuff is heavy. It's unbelievably easier to just keep putting it into your car. If you have to keep hauling it back and forth across the bridge, never mind going back and forth through customs and immigration, it's hardly even worth it.

If your DH refuses to take the car across, after you get there, start pointing out to him all of the cars with Texas plates. And make him carry all of the crap you buy.

That should cure him.

:laugh:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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PS -- But if you want more comales before you have a chance to hop down to Mexico, you really should check out some of the myriad Mexican stores in Austin. And San Antonio. Cannot imagine why you'd even consider ordering one online, and paying for the shipping, before you check around a little in your own 'hood. You're now in the heart of Mexican/Texican country, you know.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Been to Fiesta, and Michoacan. Will "nose" about some other places before I pop $43 (including shippig) for a small version of what I paid $1.50 for (plus airfare, of course :blink: )

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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Been to Fiesta, and Michoacan.  Will "nose" about some other places before I pop $43 (including shippig) for a small version of what I paid $1.50 for (plus airfare, of course  :blink: )

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

At least you're learning your way around town.

(For some reason, I got the idea you just moved to Austin recently. Is that right? Or am I all mojada?)

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Well, you may be right about moving around Progreso, but not about this, I'm afraid.

I've been in Austin for awhile, just at 20 years. So far I haven't surcombed to the North/South, East/West thing that seems to be one of the few "glitches" in the city. Near as I can tell, my car takes me anywhere I point it.

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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If it is the fine & delicate comals of Oaxaca your looking for, I have never found them along the border. I brought a small (13") comal back from Oaxaca last year wrapped in clothes in my suitcase and it made it. The larger comals (20 - 30") are a different story. I suggest that you contact Susanna Trilling (seasonsofmyheart.com).

She has a cooking school in Oaxaca and knows potters who make some of the finest comals around. You might even get her to ship them for you. Regardless, she is a wealth of information and a really great person. Good Luck!

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I suggest that you contact Susanna Trilling (seasonsofmyheart.com). She has a cooking school in Oaxaca and knows potters who make some of the finest comals around. You might even get her to ship them for you. Regardless, she is a wealth of information and a really great person. Good Luck!

And she often teaches classes at the Central Markets in Austin/San Antonio/Dallas, which I have taken. She might indeed have some good tips. Or you could call Central Market and see if they have any ideas.

Edited to add: Just got off the phone with Fernando Garcia, the general manager of Gabii's, a wonderful store down on the border (on the US side). He takes buying trips all over Mexico. He says that clay comales are no longer popular in the northern states of Mexico because "we're too Americanized." So they're hard to find up here.

But, he does take buying trips all over Mexico, and is going to Oaxaca in November.

It sounds like, unfortunately, your best bet if you want one before November is indeed to order one from Nuestra Tierra or other such high-end retailer.

But, Sr. Garcia was very knowledgeable and personable on the telephone, and I think he'd be a great contact for anyone that's interested in acquiring upscale Mexican items. As I said, the store is Gabii's, 956-825-9557, and when I was in there last week, they told me that they ship all over the US.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks for the tips.

We went to one of S. Trilling's classes. What an experience!!!!! It was grand! I went to 3 other classes, and none compared. Nor were as expensive. (and worth EVERY penny.) Or as thorough (altough Iliana de la Vega provided a lot of historical information.)

One of the two comals were from her place. It was wrapped in bubble wrap, and cardboard, and was heavily cushioned between soft shawls, a table cloth, and other soft items, and near the rigid reinforcing bar of the suitcase to protect it from external jabs.

It seemed very secure, even to my doubting husband. I suspect that one of the 6 inspections (3 on each side of the boarder) was to blame.

No hurry here. I may wait, and make a trip to Progresso in the fall, to place my order, and later to pick it up. <grinning here>

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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  • 3 weeks later...
One of the two comals were from her place. It was wrapped in bubble wrap, and cardboard, and was heavily cushioned between soft shawls, a table cloth, and other soft items, and near the rigid reinforcing bar of the suitcase to protect it from external jabs.

Comals are extremely low fire - so fragile. Mine did not make either with all the fragile stuff I bring home. I think you'd almost have to carry it in your arms.

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Right.

And stop rude security guards from setting a suitcase on it after he has confirmed that it was a comal. That one hurt.

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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Whenever I fly down to Oaxaca, I leave and return via the Tijuanna airport. This way I rarely have my luggage inspected and also save about $200 on my airline ticket.

Unfortunately, it's been my experience that that doesn't work from NLD.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 3 months later...

I just wanted to drop a note to say that I finally was able to take a trip to Progresso, and look for comals. In fact, I was able to get an iron one, and 2 (count 'em "2") clay comals. And get all to Austin. :biggrin:

I needed to go to Edinburg Texas for work, and arranged it so I could make a fairly quick dash into Progresso. As per (most excellent) suggestion, I parked at Arturo's and toddled back and forth to my car as needed.

Given my short 2 hour trip, and a summer trip to Oaxaca, I mostly concentrated on the comals. I am hosting a Oaxacan cooking experience on Saturday with some friends so I also picked up some Monte Alban mescal and 6 small wooden animals (not quite sure how we will get 6 cooks in the kitchen, but we'll manage, and the mescal should help).

We'll be cooking a combination of foods from S. Trilling, Z. Martinez and the El Naranja restaurant. Partners will join the cooks for the dinner.

Now, any advice on seasoning and/or curing the iron or the clay? I think we threw away the white powdery stuff we brought back after the comals turned into dust.

Facts and opinions equally welcome. :smile:

kcd

" Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."--Dorothy L. Sayers.

As someone who just turned 50, I look forward to this state-of-being.

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This, being my final day of shopping Oaxaca, was the day to buy my comales. From the back of the Abastos market where the cazuelas and comales are sold. I have bought three clay ones from San Marcos Tlapazola and one metal one that has a handle, very nice and a new improvement. These are designed for coal heat sources so they are very thin. I find that a comal lasts about a month or so. My main pottery is in a carry on gym type bag, and I´ve discovered that I can just zip it up and rest my clay comals on top and secure them with the hand straps. They are always visible and I can keep them from getting cracked. I bought 5 plastic jars and transferred my Mole Eugenio to them for the trip. Mole Negro Chocolate Mayordomo is a superior mole and comes in sealed bottles to gurantee freshness, the other brands...well the oil may go bad if they sit on the shelf awhile. However, I liked the Eugenio coloradito because it is less sweet and has a good chile bite.

I am heading to Mina street now to videotape the ladies milling their spices, etc. for frijoles (cooked black beans, avocado leaves, and onions) and moles for their fondas or homes.

Jay

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  • 5 months later...

Great post regarding Nuevo Progresso,

My office is just across the street from the Best Western written about. I live in Harlingen, Nuevo Progresso is my favorite place to visit across the border.

The best food in my opinion is the tacos in the stands running to the east from the main road after you cross the border. I'm pretty sure these are south or Arturos'

Ive only eaten at Arturo's once, but wasnt that impressed. Maybe I need to give it another chance.

PD

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I think a lot of Arturo's is in what you order. They make an effort for "fine dining." Some of what I've had there is exceptional; some is just so so.

The main thing is that it's got great restrooms, so it's a wonderful spot to kind of base your explorations out of.

The "taco stand" street is at the same corner where Arturo's is. That is definitely better for Mexican stuff like tacos.

They're famous for their frog legs, which I've never tried. But I adore the mixed Sangria, and the seafood Campechana cocktail, and the bean soup, among other things. And last time I was there, about a month ago, I got a snapper dish that was absolutely delicious. Can't remember the name of it but when I asked the waiter why there was no snapper Veracruzana on the menu, he pointed at whatever it was and said, "That's practically the same thing and if you like Veracruzana, you'll like that."

And he was right...I really did.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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A note --

The last time I was in Nuevo Progreso, there had been a change in the parking procedures at Arturo's. It seems that they have tired of people parking in their lot filling it up, and then going shopping. Around lunchtime, folks would arrive at Arturo's for lunch, only to discover no parking space available.

So now you cannot park there until 11am, when the restaurant opens.

The same policy applies -- spend at least $10 in the restaurant, or pay $10 for parking.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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