All posts by Felipe Zapata

Gringo-Mexican retired newspaper editor living in the mountains of Central Mexico since the dawn of the 21st Century. Felipe Zapata is a nom de plume. Formerly toiled at the New Orleans States-Item (now defunct), the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), The Houston Chronicle and the San Juan Star (also defunct) in Puerto Rico.

Tip of the branch

MY GRANDPARENTS, all four of them, were born two centuries back, the late 1800s. Jeez, I must be old.

I came upon a genealogy website (geni.com) recently, so I searched for my father, and there he was with links to his parents and other kinfolk. There are even photos of the headstones of my grandfather and father.

I didn’t know my father has a headstone.

serveimageI then switched to my mother’s side, and there are my maternal grandparents with names of their parents and siblings, names I did not know.

The website knows more about my relatives than I do. For instance, my maternal grandmother’s mother — that would be my great-grandmother — was Georgianne Zillytholan Virginia Courtoy. There are no typos in that.

We are Southerners, obviously.

My mother’s name was Virginia, so now I know where that came from, her own grandmother.

Family trees have limbs, and I’m hanging out on the tip of ours. There is only one fruit that hangs out farther, my daughter, my only child. She’s the last apple.

My mother was an only child. My father had just one sister, a lesbian who never reproduced. I have only one sister too, a lesbian who never reproduced — what’s going on here? My daughter is in her early 50s and has no children.

We’ve reached the end of the limb. This is probably a good thing, considering how nuts and conflictive we are.

But it was fun seeing my limb of the family tree. Perhaps the best part was learning that my great-grandmother was named Georgianne Zillytholan Virginia Courtoy.

I wonder what she was like. I’ll never know.

A dental day

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The young periodontist’s office downtown in the state capital.

I MIGHT HAVE titled this post A Tale of Two Dentists because they are so different.

One is a woman. The other is a man. One is young, the woman. The other is not so young, late 50s. One is a periodontist, the woman. The other is just a normal dentist. They are both good-looking, intelligent and talented.

One has a very noticeable office that screams at you in yellow and orange. The other has an office that you would not know is an office had no one informed you.

There is no sign outside, and he does not even advertise. My dentist is strictly word of mouth, so to speak, and he’s talented enough to pull that off.

The two of us had a dental day on Tuesday. She had an appointment with the periodontist, and I had an appointment with the dentist. She has an issue, but I only needed a cleaning, which I schedule about every five months.

I also was at my dentist a week earlier when he took impressions for the implant I will get next week.

Three months ago, I wrote here about my need for an implant. Beats a bridge, I say. Those are for old folks, not me.

Dental care, like healthcare in general, is — as one never wearies of pointing out — one of the many superlative reasons to live South of the Border.

On Tuesday, everything was paid out of pocket in cash, and we were not bankrupted in the slightest.

One more week,  and I’ll have my implant, losing the pirate smile I’ve sported for the last three months. I rather enjoyed the snaggle-toothed grin.

And perhaps I’ve frightened children.

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My dentist’s office looks like any suburban street corner.

Sunday opera

SUNDAY AFTERNOON on the plaza. This fellow sings for tips that go into the glass he’s holding in his hand. His music comes from the blue box hanging from his neck.

I don’t know what’s up with the sunflowers.

After I shot the video, I looked in the other direction and saw the taco vendor sitting on the sidewalk with her two kids.

Years ago the vendor’s mother did the same in the same spot till she died. Her daughter took over, continuing the tradition.

A family enterprise spanning generations.

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Tacos! Tacos! Get ’em right here!

Fooling God

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Saturday morning on the veranda

THIS SATURDAY is somewhat different than most, so I thought I’d gossip with you about it.

Normally, Saturdays are identical. My child bride is in her private kitchen out by the property wall, preparing her pastries for the afternoon sale on the big plaza downtown.

But not today.  She’s going to church this morning.

But first, here’s what I’m doing, and it’s not much different than what I do every Saturday morning. I make rounds under the cursed peach tree scooping up fallen peaches to toss out.

Then I sweep the veranda. I hear the shower running in the bathroom, and I hear a lively Mexican tune blaring from the backstreet neighbors. I also hear the electric pump that’s sending water from the underground cistern to the tank atop the roof. And I hear birds. Lots of stuff to listen to.

Soon I’ll be hearing the lawnmower and weedeater because Abel the Deadpan Yardman arrives later to trim the grass.

The sky is blue. The air is crisp. The lawn is wet because it rained quite a spell last night, making sweet sounds.

Now here’s why she’s going to church. It’s to fool God.

Relatives often ask us to be godparents to the endless array of babies they birth because we look like the best deal going in the family. Problem is that our marriage was only a civil one, not a religious one. A judge connected us, and that’s not good enough to be godparents. I suppose we’re seen as living in sin.

There has been a recent spate of new babies among the bunny-breeding kin, so we received at least two new invites to godparenting. I pass. But my child bride really wants to. There’s nothing she loves more than babies.

This morning, she’s pretending to be single to get the proper paperwork, so she can be a godmother without me tagging along. The proper paperwork requires a three-hour instruction from a priest. She’s doing that in a church downtown.

I hope she remembers to remove her wedding ring.

This amuses me while I sweep the veranda and wait for Abel to cut the grass that I’ve already liberated of fallen, rotting peaches.

It’s a lovely morning.

Cars, cars, cars

I WAS 50 years old before I bought a new car. It was a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup, so not really a car but a pickup.

Before then I’d always purchased used vehicles and darn few of them too. Not a car guy.

Shortly after marrying my first wife in 1965,  I inherited a 1956 Plymouth Savoy from my granny. About three years later, I bought a VW Beetle convertible, used. Now that was fun. But I left it behind when we split in 1971, and I continued sans car.

I had bicycles and motorcycles.

My second wife had a 1975 Toyota when we met in 1976, so that was what we used until about 1985 when we bought another Toyota, used. Later, we bought a third Toyota, used. That was our ride when she dumped me in 1995.

Her current car is a Prius. She votes Democrat.

And that was when I purchased my first-ever new car, er, pickup, which I drove until I moved to Mexico five years later. I sold it in 2000. Most people who move to Mexico bring their cars  — and as much gear as they can manage, foolishly — but the pickup would not fit into either of my suitcases.

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2014 Nissan March

It was after moving to Mexico in 2000 that I shifted into high gear and began buying new cars. I have purchased four in the past 17 years. All from dealerships, all paid in full, in cash. The last was in late 2013 when we bought my child bride’s 2014 Nissan March, a model that isn’t sold in the United States.

I bought new cars, in direct opposition to the fact that it’s smarter to purchase relatively new used cars, because I did not trust used cars in Mexico. I have since altered my tune, and were I to buy another car it would be a “pre-owned” from a dealership. I still wouldn’t buy one directly from a local.

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2000 Chevy Popular (Pop)

My first car here (2000) was a Chevy Pop, very much akin to a Geo Metro from the turn of the century. It was a real honey, and we kept it till we bought the Nissan March in 2013. We sold it to a nephew, so it’s still in the family.

The Pop had become my wife’s gym car. It had no AC, no airbags, not even a radio. It had squat aside from reliability. We once drove it from here to Atlanta, barreling down the U.S. interstates with the windows wide open in springtime.

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2004 Chevrolet Meriva

But the Pop ceased to be our main car in 2004 when we bought a Chevrolet Meriva, another vehicle that’s not sold in the United States. It was sold in other parts of the world as an Opel or Vauxhall. It too was a gem, but it had no airbags, was a stick shift, no cruise control, not so basic as the Pop, but eventually I wanted something more suited to an old coot.

So we bought a 2009 Honda CR-V with automatic transmission — the first automatic of my life — A-C, of course, cruise control and airbags front and side. Mexicans drive like lunatics, so airbags are not optional equipment.

The Honda got its 170,000-kilometer service yesterday, and the mechanic informed me that the front shocks needed to be replaced. We’ll do that next week. The cost — parts and labor — will be 7,300 pesos, which is a bit over 400 bucks.

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2009 Honda CR-V

It’s the first repair of any consequence I’ve had to do with the Honda, which is a pretty good car.

Maybe we’ll buy another car one day, depending on how long I keep breathing, but if we do it’ll be a late-model used one from a dealership. I’m thinking Nissan.

Or maybe a motorcycle.

* * * *

(Note: Until recently, Gringos living in Mexico could tool around in cars with long-expired U.S. plates, and Mexico looked the other way. But a few years ago, rules were changed, and you’re not supposed to do that anymore. Most don’t.)

(Another note: I was surprised to learn recently that Renaults and Peugeots are not sold in the United States. They’re popular down here, especially Renaults.)

Trump’s da man!

(The following is an editorial from the Investor’s Business Daily. For an even more detailed list of President Trump’s many accomplishments, go here.)

AFTER WEEKS and months of fixating on tweets and Russia, someone in the press decided to have a look at what the Trump administration has been up to since January. Lo and behold, they discovered that it’s getting a lot done.

serveimage“Trump Has Quietly Accomplished More Than It Appears,” reads the headline in the Atlantic.

“With the Trump administration’s chaos sucking up all the attention,” the article begins, “it’s been able to move forward on a range of its priorities … It is remaking the justice system, rewriting environmental rules, overhauling public-lands administration, and greenlighting major infrastructure projects. It is appointing figures who will guarantee the triumph of its ideological vision for decades to come.”

It goes on to detail these achievements, many of which we’ve highlighted on these pages.

Border crossings, for example, have plummeted, even though all Trump has done so far is promise to enforce existing laws.

The Supreme Court approved parts of Trump’s travel ban, a success made possible by Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the bench.

Trump is busy filling lower court positions with conservative justices. Ron Klain, a White House aide to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said that Trump “is proving wildly successful in one respect: naming youthful conservative nominees to the federal bench in record-setting numbers.”

What else? Well, Trump pulled out of the Paris climate change deal, which as we noted in this space is a yuuuge win for the economy.

The EPA, meanwhile, is dismantling Obama’s coal-killing, growth-choking Clean Power Plan, and draining the heavy-handed Waters of the United States rule. When a veteran EPA official resigned this week, she complained in a letter to her former colleagues that “the new EPA Administrator already has repeals of 30 rules under consideration,” which the New York Times described as “a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history.”

Trump promised to kill two regulations for every new one enacted, but in his first six months the ratio was 16-to-1.

Trump also approved the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects held up by Obama. He’s also rolled back a ban on coal mining on public lands.

To be sure, Trump hasn’t scored a major legislative achievement on signature issues like ObamaCare and tax reform.

The Atlantic writer describes the administration’s achievements as something akin to a shadow government. But these actions aren’t in the shadows. They’re just being ignored by a media that is obsessed with digging up dirt on Trump.

* * * *

(Note: An excellent way to get correct information on the Trump Administration is to go to the White House website and subscribe to the 1600 Daily, which is a brief wrap-up emailed to you of what’s actually happening every day in the administration.)

Just a nice view

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AS I’VE MENTIONED here on occasion, we own a townhouse downtown, and we rent it to vacationers, mostly Gringos.

Shuffling through internet files today, I happened upon this photo taken six years ago, a photo I had forgotten. Our place is one of those white buildings. They almost look like they belong in Greece, I think. Nice mountains too.

We bought the townhouse in 2010 with money I inherited after my mother’s death in 2009. We purchased it as an investment with no intention of renting it, but after about two years of its sitting there, furnished and pretty, we decided to share the joy.

Turned out to be a good investment. We would have paid much less now than we paid in 2010. The dollar equivalent then was about $76,000. Now it would be about $20,000 less. Oh well, you buy your condos, and you take your chances.

But it’s worth more now than we paid, and it’s fun to have.

We also have a condo in Mexico City, which is far smaller. It was where my child bride was living when we met lo these many years ago. We just recently got the deed to that place, so we own three, free and clear.

Actually, she owns them. They’re all in her name.

I am homeless.

New and improved

typewriter

LOTS OF related websites are connected here. There are links in the right-side column. History has shown me that few folks pay them any mind in spite of their often being more fascinating than what you see here in the middle space.

I’ve not been happy with one of those related pages for quite some time. Newspaper Days. Recently, a nice woman clicked “like” on it, and that brought the page to my attention.

Still didn’t like it, so I zapped it.

In its place is a new and improved version of my Newspaper Days. More info, more photos, better written. Think of it as a Prius instead of a Ford Fairlane.

For folks who’ve been passing by the Moon for more than a short spell, you already know that I am a retired newspaperman. Not a journalist, a newspaperman. Having never taken a journalism course in my life, how could I be a journalist? I did work for newspapers for 30 years, however. Newspaperman.

I never had delusions of grandeur.

When I got into that now-discredited occupation, having studied journalism frequently was not a requirement. Being fairly sober and being able to stand up straight and construct a reasonably coherent sentence often was enough.

And being male. Getting hired in newsrooms if you weren’t a guy was pretty much impossible with one exception: society pages. Lots of ladies in the Society Department.

It’s called Lifestyle now. Or simply Style.

In Newspaper Days, I follow my checkered career from New Orleans to San Juan, back to New Orleans and then to Houston, Texas, where I spent the entire second half of my newspapering life. It was a good gig, so I stayed 15 years.

The best was San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the briefest even though I worked there on two separate occasions in the early to mid-1970s for a bit under two years total.

This is a photo of where I lived the second stay:

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My penthouse was just off to the left, one or two buildings. Sweet, huh?

You can see the news business was good to me. The pay was okay too. I did not get rich, but I did retire debt-free to Mexico when I was just 55 years old. Wife-free too.

Take a look at the longer version, which gets into booze, suicides, mangy bars, mangy dogs, Cuban coffee, the effects of political correctness, the effects of Watergate. And there are my mugshots on all my press passes save one. Cute!

Rain, book, berries

IT’S AUGUST when I normally start to weary of the rain, but that hasn’t happened yet, the weariness. I am still loving it.

Yesterday about 4 p.m., I headed out the door to drive downtown and have a nice café Americano negro, but it was raining, so I sat a spell on a wicker rocker on the veranda.

Pulling the Canon from my man bag, I shot the video. When the rain slacked, I drove downtown. It wasn’t raining there.

I sat with the black cafecito and read my Kindle. I’m about halfway through a wonderful novel, A Gentleman in Moscow by the oddly named Amor Towles who’s a guy.

Who births a man child and names him Love?

While my normal drink at this time of day and at this location is the café Americano negro, I’ve been known to wander off the reservation. That wandering often leads me to the ice cream shop around the corner where one can purchase this pink thing you see below. Agua de fresa con coco.

Water of strawberry with coconut. There is also dairy in there, and it tastes really good. Costs about 68 cents, Americano.

Living where I do provides many pleasures.