The Hacienda marks its quinceañera

WHILE THE BIG adolescent birthday above the Rio Bravo is Sweet Sixteen, down here it’s the 15th, which we call quinceañera. Quince is 15 in español.

The Hacienda marks its 15th birthday this month, which is to say it was complete, more less, and we moved into the house in May of 2003. It looked like this:

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Home done, but the yard still a mess in 2003.

We hired no architect, and we used no blueprints. We drew what we wanted on graph paper and handed it to “the guys.” This is how part of it looked:

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My civil engineer child bride drew the top part, which is the downstairs terraza. I was not planning on arches. That was her good idea. The bottom part was drawn by me. It’s the downstairs floor plan.

Now you know where everything is. Downstairs, at least. We only planned on building the downstairs initially. We were going to wait to do the upstairs, but “the guys,” three of them, plus a helper, were so responsible and talented we didn’t want to lose them, so we continued nonstop with the upstairs.

I took photos of the entire construction process that lasted nine months. They were digital photos, and I stored them on my computer, a computer that suffered a hard-drive meltdown when all was done. I lost all the photos.

Moral: Always create backups.

Here’s a view from 2014. It’s not much different now:

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One of my favorite photos. I took it in 2014.

I often crow here about the place because I’m proud of it. While the two of us did it, I did the lion’s share, most of the design, almost all of the color, almost all of the interior artwork. Some folks find it overboard, especially inside.

I don’t care. I love it.

I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my life. Runner-up goes to a house in Jacksonville, Florida, where I lived with my family from age 7 to 17.

Second runner-up is the Houston home I shared with my second ex-wife from 1986 to 1995, just one year less than the spell in Florida. There is no third runner-up because I moved around too much.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself, a middle-class Georgia Cracker, living in a place like this, but here I am. Not only that, but with a lovely child bride. At times, life exceeds expectations greatly.

Sometimes I think I should pinch myself, but I might wake up.

I sure as shootin’ don’t want that.

Felíz quinceañera, Hacienda!

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(As always, a horde of Hacienda photos available here.)

The bedroom wall

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RETURNING HOME late yesterday afternoon after sitting on the big plaza downtown, watching workmen erect metal scaffolds to support canvas roofs under which the yearly Semana Santa market will unfold next week, I walked into the bedroom and noticed this part of the wall in the light of early evening.

The camera asked for a flash, but I ignored it.

The lamp light did the trick, along with a little extra from the nearby window. Sometimes, you just gotta follow your gut instinct.

Miles of counter space

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Shot last night just before I hit the sack.

ONE OF THE MANY advantages of designing your own home is that you need not follow the dimensions of other people. And size does matter.

In the five-year period between when my last wife tossed me on the street in Houston in favor of her new boyfriend, an illegal-alien Mexican half her age,* and the day I boarded a Delta jet in Atlanta headed to Guadalajara I lived in three apartments in Houston.

Their kitchens were laughable in size. The strangest of all was the second place, a huge, two-bedroom, living room, dining room, office, spread that had a kitchen you could hardly turn around in. And the counter space? Virtually zero.

The other two abodes were not much better.

When I designed the Hacienda on graph paper (no architect in sight), an effort I shared with my child bride though I did most of it, I decided to go big.

The kitchen counter measures a bit over 23 feet, and yet my wife and I bump into one another if we’re both fixing something. And that 23 feet does not include the separate work table there at the right, added a few years later.

Then there’s the bathroom where again I decided to go long. The bathroom counter is almost 11 feet, but it has a major defect, a reflection of my stupidity. There is just one sink. It never occurred to me to install two sinks, which is all the rage.

Lord knows there is space. Again, we bump into one another.

I am tall, and all my life I’ve been bending over to get under showerheads which sprayed me nicely … on the back. The two showers here come straight down from high overhead. It’s really sweet, akin to bathing in a jungle waterfall.

Designing your own home is preferable, and if you do it in Mexico, cheap.

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* The relationship did not last long. Shocker!

(Note: Tomorrow marks the end of President Trump’s first year in office. I have an exciting roundup of his remarkable accomplishments. Stay tuned. You don’t want to miss it. Manaña on The Unseen Moon where the news is biased but never fake!)

Dream from half a century ago

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Didn’t envision this half a century ago, but here I am.

WHEN I WAS 22 years old, married to the first of three wives, I drew plans for a Mexican-style home I would have liked to have built. I was broke, of course, so there was no way to do it. I thought maybe with cinder blocks it would be possible.

Cinder blocks?

The plans reflected my thoughts of a single-story hacienda (small h, not big H) that was completely enclosed with an open courtyard in the middle.

Nobody in my family had ever lived or aspired to live in Mexico, so where did this architectural dream come from? I didn’t think of living in Mexico either. I simply liked the idea of that type of house. I wanted it there in New Orleans.

I was a serial renter, not buying a home until I was 42 years old, and I bought it in Houston, Texas, not New Orleans. The house was not Spanish-style. It was a Texas ranch house of medium size, not a ranch house on a ranch, of course. Ranch house is a style: single-story, low roof, yard out front and back.

My second ex-wife lives there today, more than three decades later.

But I am living in a Hacienda with a big H. And, like the one I designed half a century ago, I designed this one too. I used graph paper. My child bride assisted with her civil engineering skills, but the design is 95 percent mine.

Perhaps the design would have more closely copied my ideas of 50 years ago except for one thing: I wanted a mountain view, and for that I needed a second story due to the brick wall that surrounds our property, Mexican-style.

So here I am. In the circle of life. What goes around comes around. If you manage to live long enough, stuff happens. And so on.

Maybe I should have been an architect.

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Color and current events

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With luck, we’ll start burying utility cables soon, but it’s still pretty.

My child bride is abandoning me today, heading to Querétaro by bus for a belated Baptism and 4th birthday party for a niece named Sophie. I’ll be batching it here until Sunday evening. It will be lonely but quiet.

For years I tried to participate in these sorts of family activities, but I’ve given up. I’m not cut out for endless chitchat and peals of hysterical laughter.

Thursday afternoon I was taking a leisurely stroll alone down a back street of downtown, thinking of the above, when I noticed the scene in the photo. I had my camera. Our mountaintop town is changing rapidly.

I do not believe most, or even any, of those houses up there existed when I moved here over 17 years ago. And the city recently began a major renovation of streets and sidewalks around the main plaza. It will take months, if not years, to finish but we will be so pretty when it’s completed. The downside is that it likely will attract more Gringos.

I prefer they stay put in San Miguel de Allende, being all artsy-like.