Tag Archives: art

Golden touch

A few days back. Lots of dangling flower pods.
Golden Datura! Shot on Saturday in a light rain, which you might see.

SCANT GRINGOS live in my hardscrabble neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Plenty — too many — live in other barrios, but few within shouting distance of the Hacienda.

Almost since we built our home in 2002-03, there have been three Gringo residences in our ´hood. There were three back then, and there remain three today.

The other two have seen turnover. Even before we built the Hacienda, there was an old American woman living about four blocks away. She was Judith Deim, an artist of some renown and reportedly an ex-lover of John Steinbeck.

During a recent stop in the Gringo-infested town of San Miguel de Allende, we spotted Deim’s work in a fancy gallery there.

Not really to my taste.

She was 92 when we moved into the Hacienda, and she died three years later, old as the proverbial hills.

Her home became the property of relatives who sometimes were there, sometimes not, I think, but last year a Gringa who’s lived hereabouts a number of years bought Deim’s home and is remodeling it. She gave us a tour a couple of weeks ago.

It was the first time I’d been in the place. Though Deim and I occasionally sat near one another at my sister-in-law’s downtown coffee house on the main plaza, we never exchanged a word. I doubt she knew I was her neighbor.

She was ancient, eccentric and wore no eyeglasses. I, on the other hand, was far less ancient, eccentric and I did sport specs.

The other Gringo house in the neighborhood was constructed not long after we moved into the Hacienda. It is about three blocks away, and the owner was a gay book-seller who came from somewhere in New England.

He was in his 50s, quite friendly and dissipated-looking. I liked him. Unlike most who move here, he lacked independent income, so he tried to scrounge a living by selling books he bought down from above the Rio Bravo. It did not work.

He sold his place to a Gringo family, and moved back to the United States. He died a couple of years later, a heart attack.

The new Gringos were a family who published children’s books, something you can do long-distance. They significantly remodeled their place, and now it’s spectacular.

The couple came with an adopted son in his early 20s. The young man was colossally ill-behaved, and would ride a small bike around the local plaza ogling teen girls. His behavior, it appears, eventually got him into serious trouble.

So the family hightailed it to Uruguay.

Soon after, the now elegant home was purchased by more Gringos, an elderly retired couple. They’ve been here a number of years, and everything seems to be going well for them.

What has this to do with Golden Datura in the photos?

The first Gringo, the bookseller, gave me a cutting from his lawn, and my two datura trees are the result. Every winter, I whack the plants back to the trunk nubs, and every summer they resurrect with a vengeance of green and gold.

The one shown is outside our bedroom window. In summer the aroma of datura sails into the bedroom, and we can hear bumblebees buzzing the blooms.

The top photos were taken this week. The video below was shot way back in 2011.

Up in the sky

SUNDAY WAS the final installment of a three-day, hot-air balloon festival in our mountaintop town.

I shot this brief video from our upstairs terraza.

The airport, and that’s using the term loosely, rests on the edge of my neighborhood on the outskirts of town. It’s a dirt strip that goes virtually unused all year.

There is a hangar there, and a DC-9 without wings on display. A funny story that. The DC-9 was brought here on a massive flatbed tractor-trailer some years back.

It had almost completed the trip when it had to make a right turn from one highway to a lesser road just three blocks from the Hacienda. There is an incline to the roadbed and, halfway around the curve, the jet fell off the trailer.

It rolled briefly toward a carnitas stand about 20 feet away. I imagine those seconds were endless to the crew cutting carnitas. It’s not often you see a DC-9 rolling your way.

The jet was hoisted back upon the trailer and continued the short distance to our airport where it now lives.

The hangar there, the DC-9 and, previously, an ultralight service is owned by some well-off individual. The ultralight service has gone out of business due to lack of, well, business.

Once I drove over there to inquire about learning to fly ultralights, something I never got around to, and the fellow let me go inside the DC-9, which was lots of fun.

I have a private-pilot’s license though I haven’t used it since the 1970s. It never expires. I also took a number of sailplane lessons in Central Texas, but I never got that license either.

There’s something a bit unnerving about being up in a plane with no means of propulsion whatsoever.

I skydived once in Louisiana, and I went up in a hot-air balloon once in Texas. Giving my mother near heart attacks apparently was an unconscious, lifetime goal.

And then there were the motorcycles.

She’s dead now, so I’ve quit doing all that stuff.

My father could not have cared less.

* * * *

(Promo! For those of you who have not recently visited — or never have — my SlickPic photos, there is a new look and new photos. The SlickPic Gallery is where you’ll find gobs of photos of the Hacienda through the years, our Cuba visit in 2012, photos of the Downtown Casita (available on AirBnB), my art furniture, Mexico in general and, last but not least, a blow by blow — photo-wise — of the construction of our free-standing pastry kitchen.)

Mulatto Ville

WE ESCAPED the Mardi Gras celebration in our hardscrabble neighborhood over the weekend by heading to the Gringo-invested burg of San Miguel de Allende.

I always find San Miguel unsettling to the soul. There is something just not right about it. It’s about as Mexican as I am, which is to say legally yes, spiritually no.

Perhaps Disneyland, but better: Mulatto* Ville.

It’s a combination of two very different worlds. Two mindsets, two races,** two cultures. And they do not stir well.

Oil and water.

Walking around downtown San Miguel, it’s all I can do to not burst out in howling laughter. The rayon shirts, the Bermuda shorts, the Birkenstocks, the berets, the feathers in the hat bands, the old white women*** wearing native blouses, the art paint smeared preciously on khaki pants.

So one might wonder, why do you go there? The main answer is restaurants. Mulatto Ville has great places to eat.

I enjoy eating.

And this recent trip was also to visit an old friend from high school who was wintering there, a retired university professor who included Marco Rubio among her students.

Another beautiful day in Dolores Hidalgo.

We took a drive north to Dolores Hidalgo where we had not gone directly downtown in a long time. We were pleasantly surprised, shocked even.

It’s a wonderful city that’s been undergoing renovation for a few years. Most of the plaza has been closed to vehicles. The church has been painted. Much of downtown too.

Some good restaurants and hotels can be found. And, unlike San Miguel, which has horrible streets and sidewalks, Dolores Hidalgo is flat, smooth and easily walkable.

It’s also one of Mexico’s main sources of talavara ceramics,**** the quantities of which are astounding and beautiful.

Next time we flee our area due to Carnival, we’ll be staying in Dolores Hidalgo, not south in Mulatto Ville.

In Dolores Hidalgo I spotted nary a Birkenstock*****.

* * * *

* I am playing loose with the word, of course. A true mulatto is the offspring of one white parent and one black one, à la Barry Hussein Obama who “identifies” as black.

** Oh, I know Mexican is not a race, but bear with me.

*** Why does everyone complain about Old White Men but never about Old White Women?

**** The other is Puebla. FYI.

***** My second ex-wife, now an Old White Woman, used to cringe at my own Birkenstocks, so perhaps I should avoid this point. Nowadays I sport Crocs but only at home.

Chet Baker moments

JAZZ GREAT Chet Baker provided musical backdrop to this video of a living room corner on a recent morning.

The tick, tock, tick, tock you hear is coming from an off-camera antique wall clock that I inherited years ago from a great aunt. The clock was made in the 1880s.

It chimes on the hour and half-hour too.

The capital city

BEING A VERY part-time resident of Mexico City, this video snatched my interest.

A recent international study claims the Mexican capital has the worst traffic in the world. I believe it. For years, when we visited from the mountaintop, I drove.

But not anymore. Now it’s 100%  public transportation.

The video, however, has nothing to do with traffic jams. It’s an artist’s take on his monster city.

We’ve been visiting our condo there regularly since 2007 when the last tenants departed, and we’ll be going again next month for a week or so. Send prayers.

The file man

I’VE MAINTAINED a file cabinet for decades. I find filing satisfying. When I left Houston, I culled wildly, keeping just the bare bones, which I packed over the Rio Bravo.

new-imageI bought a new file cabinet, resuming the habit.

I have insurance files (one for homes, one for cars), bank files (two banks), investment files, three house files (two here, one in Mexico City), receipt file, tourism file, health file, and many more.

But my favorite is the Miscellaneous File where I keep stuff that doesn’t belong elsewhere. Yesterday, killing time at home due to having a cold, I opened Miscellaneous.

It’s a trip down Memory Lane.

  1. Press passes with mug shots. One from my first job, New Orleans. I’m clean-shaven, 24 years old, in a dress shirt and tie. Another for the San Juan Star. I’m 30, My collar is open, and I have Fu Manchu mustache. The third, Houston Chronicle, age 39, shows me in a dress shirt and tie but with the full black beard of a Hells Angel.
  2. Expired passports. Two U.S. and one Mexican. The older U.S. passport shows me in eyeglasses. That’s a no-no now. Both Mexican and U.S. passports were renewed this year, likely for the last time. I’m not immortal.
  3. Air Force shoulder patch. It’s a large circle that says F-106 Dart. The Delta Dart was an interceptor aircraft, and I maintained survival-equipment pods in the ejection seats. Had I not screwed up so much of my youth, I would have been flying the F-106 instead.
  4. A bookmark. On textured blue paper and inscribed with a haiku of my father’s: cajun cabin/the aroma of hot gumbo/floats on the bayou. His name, dates, and the phrase American Haiku Master, which he was.
  5. Air Force discharge. Two versions. One suitable for framing, and the other with dates and mumbo-jumbo.
  6. new-imageA watercolor sketch. Of me, done by local artist Arturo Solis. He just walked over and handed it to me one day years ago while I was on the plaza enjoying a cafecito. We have a number of his works hanging on our walls.
  7. Drug formula. For committing suicide. You never know when it may come in handy. The Hemingway method is messy. Anyway, I don’t own a shotgun.
  8. Texas driver’s license. I arrived with it. It expired six years later, and I never renewed. My DL now is Mexican.
  9. Solo certificate. On the 28th day of June, 1976, I took off alone and returned to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport in a Cessna 152. Suitable for framing. I don’t fly anymore.
  10. A love note. From my wife on my birthday in 2003. We had been married almost 18 months.
  11. Final electric bill. Houston, dated Jan. 8-12, 2000. Amount: $86.02 for just four days 16 years ago. That’s approximately what I pay now in a year at the Hacienda.
  12. Certification card. International Bartending Institute. Dated May 7, 1982. I am a certified bartender. Whoopee!
  13. Flying license. I became a pilot of small planes on Oct. 26, 1976. The license never expires. You do have to renew your medical certificate, however. The last medical expired June 1, 1978. There’s also a radio permit in the envelope.
  14. Cremation certificate. My mother was cremated on Jan. 8, 2009, at Atlanta Crematory Inc. in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She had made it to age 90.
  15. Divorce papers. I had them in this file until fairly recently, but I tossed them into the trash. Two divorces. Two utterly miserable experiences that I’ll never repeat. I would prefer the Hemingway solution.

If you got all the way down here, you deserve a Gold Medal. I also have a Letters file.

Maybe I’ll spill that here some day. That’s where the love notes are stored. I love love letters.

Two ways of seeing

bw

I WAS SITTING on the main plaza with a café Americano negro, a frequent occurrence because I don’t have a real job, when I looked over thataway and noticed this young woman.

She was selling artwork that she’d laid out on a sheet atop the sidewalk, and she had a toddler in tow.

Based on what she was selling and the spectacular colors of her skirt and purse, I’d say she was a Huichol. They tend to come here during the Day of the Dead week to hawk their intricate, beaded artwork to the hordes of tourists.

Generally, I prefer black-and-white photos over color. There are two reasons: Everybody does color, and black-and-white is more dramatic, perhaps a bit old-school — like me.

I decided to offer a choice today due to the color of the door. You might think that ancient door opens into some fascinating realm where rides the ghost of Pancho Villa.

But it’s a bank.

color

Window treatment

window
Nice, clean, fresh windows.

THE FELLOWS just packed up their gear and garbage and hightailed it out of here, thank the Goddess.

Since Monday at 8:30 a.m., we’ve had workmen underfoot, two of them, usually. They were doing renovations.

We hire guys to work here about once a year because a Hacienda requires love and care.

The principal chore this week was to refurbish the windows in the upstairs terraza, the first time that’s happened since we moved here almost 14 years ago.

I should have taken a “before” shot, but I didn’t, and now there is only the “after” shot above. But trust me, it was nasty. There are three windows, but the photo shows just two.

For two days, the fellows sanded by hand and electric sander. They went down to clear wood. Then they stained. Then they laid a varnish that’s also used on basketball courts.

It’s tough stuff.

They also painted most of the downstairs veranda, plus parts of the house exterior. There were other little details to boot.

They were here two 10-hour days and one four-hour day. I bought the paint, but the work cost the peso equivalent of about $235 in U.S. bucks.

About three weeks ago, another crew removed and replaced the tile floor in the upstairs shower stall. The work took two days, and set me back $55 for the labor.

The peso-buck exchange rate is very sweet right now.

terraza
Yellow and green are fresh. The red is the same.