THERE ARE NO two abutting nations on earth that are more different than the United States and Mexico. Moving from one to another can be a jarring experience.
It is so jarring that it causes Gringos in Mexico — and Mexicans in the United States — to huddle with their own people for comfort and familiarity.
While the Gringos often crow about assimilating, blending in, the Mexicans know better. While Gringos often say they “love the culture” of Mexico, Mexicans never say that about the United States. Blame envy.
If you go further than simply moving from one nation to the other, and marry into a family from the other side, things can get more jarring or less, depending on you. It definitely provides a different perspective.
Speaking of perspectives, here are some photos my child bride recently pulled from the closet. Above is my father-in-law. He owned a horse and a pistol, and he would pull the pistol out if necessary. He was a family physician and a surgeon to boot. I never knew him because he died over 30 years ago at the age of 61, a heart attack.
He was not, I am told, fond of Gringos.
Here are two more photos, both of my child bride in the early 1960s. I graduated from high school in 1962, so it’s clear why I call her my child bride.
I RETIRED QUITE early, age 55, and that means you potentially have lots of years ahead of you, years in which you must do something or other.
My plans were few. I knew I’d use the time to read books. I like to read books because it’s an interesting thing to do, plus it makes me even smarter than I already am.
Not on the plan was yard work, which I dislike. My distaste for yard work was one of the reasons I recently had part of the Hacienda lawn filled in with stone and cement. That’s the lighter part in the photo above. The darker is the sidewalk, which is 15 years old.
But I’ve discovered that I’ve simply substituted one form of yard work with another. The stone and concrete require sweeping. The primary reason is that there are plants, big ones. One is the towering nopal, and the other is the monster bougainvillea.
The nopal drops big, dead, prickly “paddles.” Ker-splat! The bougainvillea snows dead leaves and other miscellaneous crap.
I was out sweeping this morning when this realization came to me. It’s still yard work. However, sweeping stone and concrete is far more fun than fussing with grass.
I don’t regret the stonework. We intend to do more next year.
Back to the theme of retirement. Lots of folks dream of retiring early, which is a phrase open to interpretation. The standard “early retirement” is 55, and that’s what I did. Other people, mostly young ones, dream of leaving the work world even earlier. At 40, for example. Good luck with that, amigos.
Here’s what you usually have to do to retire early, say, at 55. Don’t go into debt. Save, save, save … and invest wisely. Being single can help. These are not difficult things to do, but few folks do them. It’s equally simple to lose weight. Eat less crap, and do regular moderate exercise. Again, easy, but few people can do it.
I’m having a fun time, and I’ve been having fun since 2000. Before that, not so much. One late afternoon recently, I was sitting here before the Hewlett Packard screen, and I looked out yon window. Below is what I saw.
We stayed three nights in a pretty swanky place off the highway between the Gringo-infested burg of San Miguel and Dolores Hidalgo, which is a bit farther north.
The drive last Sunday was uneventful. We had lunch in a San Miguel restaurant named Hecho en Mexico where we’ve eaten quite a few times.
The following day we drove to Dolores Hidalgo and hit a few tourist spots, one of which was the Colonial building that housed the city’s jail down to 1957. It’s not a place you’d want to be in the slammer, but it’s a museum now. My child bride snapped the mugshot above.
Not surprisingly, it’s not the first time I’ve been in jail.
We dined in the Restaurante Plaza, which faces the plaza as the name indicates. We’ve dined there before, happily. The place where we had intended to eat, a joint called DaMonica, was closed Monday. Dang!
Back in San Miguel on Tuesday, we ate somewhere new for us, a restaurant named La Frontera. It was recommended to us by the inimitable Jennifer Rose, a woman who thinks red shoes are better than bacon. I do not agree.
While Ms. Rose may misjudge the value and/or taste of red shoes, she does know restaurants, and La Frontera was a good call. I had a BLT, and my child bride ate some brisket thing. They were both good, but they weren’t the highlight of the meal.
That was the root beer float. We love root beer floats. The only root beer float my child bride had ever tasted was near San Antonio, Texas, years ago. I have never seen root beer in Mexico. I asked the owner where she got root beer, and she said at the major supermarket in San Miguel.
There are some advantages — few but some — to living in a Gringo-infested town. Having root beer at the store is one of those advantages. I am jealous.
Now let’s venture on to politics. San Miguel hates Donald Trump. We walked through a street market and saw lots of T-shirts on sale that sported (expletive) Trump this and (expletive) Trump that. Tsk-tsk.
We walked around an art gallery and saw a huge oil painting of the great American president, but the artist was really angry with The Donald.
Oh, the ill will at losing an election, fair and square.
Wednesday morning, Ash Wednesday, we packed our bags, hopped into the Honda and headed southwest to our mountaintop home, having avoided the worst of Carnival here, which was the objective, after all.
I LIVED 18 YEARS in New Orleans, so I know Mardi Gras.
Now I’ve lived 18 years on my Mexican mountaintop, on the hardscrabble outskirts of town. My new paisanos do Mardi Gras too. And of all the neighborhoods, mine embraces Carnival the most. It goes bat-shit crazy.
Carnival is best if you’re a drinking man, which I was during most of my time in New Orleans. Some events are best enjoyed while sloshed.
I embraced the bottle for almost precisely 25 years, from age 26 to age 51. Not coincidentally, that quarter century, which should have been my best and most productive, was precisely the opposite, and booze did it.
I’m going to list the pros and cons of boozing. First the pros:
You feel real good for the first hour.
There is no No. 2.
Let’s move on to the cons:
Your life lacks focus.
Your relationships suffer.
Your job suffers.
You lack concentration.
There are others I could put on the cons. Going on the wagon was my best decision ever. My life changed overnight, literally.
But being sober, I don’t enjoy Carnival anymore, especially how it’s done where I live now. We try to get out of town, and we’ll be hightailing it tomorrow to a suite hotel in the boondocks between San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo. The place is called the Grand Las Nubes by Inmense. La-dee-dah.
So while the neighborhood plaza at home roars with nightly concerts, we’ll be in the boonies sleeping blissfully with the only sounds being the occasional coyote singing in the moonlight.