Tag Archives: beauty

Kitchen window

I SEE THIS a lot. It’s where I wash dishes, and I’m the chief washer here. I clean those dishes lickety-split. When she washes them, it can take half the day, or so it seems.

If you don’t let food dry on dishes, washing them is no biggie, which is why dishwashers are silly. I know many disagree, so you don’t need to tell me that unless you can’t help yourself.

Yes, this is the window over the kitchen sink. It has many elements, as you can see.  The most notable is the stained glass, which I did with my own hands.

Ten or 12 years ago, we took a months-long course at a trade school in a town called Santa Clara del Cobre about 10 miles farther up the mountainside.

It was during the rainy season, and we’d get out of class after dark and drive home through forests amid downpours on a winding, rural road with no centerline. It could get hairy.

But we had our stained glass. We made lots of it.

My child bride — she was even younger then — got so hyped up about making stained glass that we ended up buying most all of the gear one needs to do that. It’s been sitting in a box atop shelves in the closet for over a decade now.

Other glass beauties, better than this one, hang in the windows of the living room. But this is the one that gets the most notice, by me at least, while I’m washing dishes, quickly.

King’s clothing

THIS TIME OF year hereabouts everyone goes nuts for flor de calabaza,  pumpkin flower, or maybe it’s squash in English. Don’t know, don’t care. Irrelevant.

The interesting thing is that the locals go nuts about it. They eat it in every possible form. They crow about it on restaurant menus. The fact that it’s seasonable just boosts the allure.

As you can see, it’s a very pretty flower. That’s my child bride holding a bouquet she bought in the neighborhood plaza this morning while we were doing our exercise walk. She paid 10 pesos, which is about fifty cents U.S.

When flor de calabaza is included in a recipe for whatever and cooked, it loses its beauty entirely, but that does not reduce its popularity one bit.

Today I’m going to reveal something that may get me run out of Mexico. I may have my citizenship revoked. I may receive death threats. Only the Goddess knows, but here goes:

Flor de calabaza has no taste whatsoever. None.

The king is parading in the streets buck naked, and everyone is oooing and ahhing at his raiment. And not only that, as I mention above, when it’s cooked it loses its loveliness.

So what is going on here?

Flor de calabaza is a beautiful flower. And it’s edible. This means its beauty must also make it tasty.

‘Fraid not. So flor de calabaza is merely an idea, a notion, a myth of sorts. I often say Mexican life is like Alice’s Wonderland, and this is a lovely — but tasteless — example.

Don’t tell anyone I wrote this. Por favor.

* * * *

(Note: My child bride admitted a couple of years ago — the first actual Mexican to do so — that flor de calabaza is tasteless. So why did she buy it? To include it in her pastries for the weekly sidewalk sale. Myth sells, amigos.)

My weird world

THIS IS MY hardscrabble barrio’s water storage tank. It sits higher than any other place hereabouts, so gravity is how water gets to my house and those of the neighbors.

About a decade ago, this structure was covered with graffiti, and it was an eyesore. Then it got a fresh paint of white and red, and it remained unsullied for years.

Recently, someone applied artwork, a series of skulls. The one on the right in the middle row is even getting a shower.

Our municipal water comes from an underground spring. It’s delivered to us that way. There’s no purification plant.

We are natural people.

* * * *

MY BEAUTIFUL WORLD

After  taking the photo at the top, I did a 180, and took the second photo, which is one side of our neighborhood plaza.

I’ve shot a number of photos of our plaza over the years, but never from this side. Look at those jacaranda trees. I get to admire them every weekday morning during our plaza walk.

We passed our 15th anniversary two days ago, and now we’re working on the second 15 years. I’ve been married thrice, of course. Five years with No. 1. Nineteen years with No. 2, although we were actually married only the last 10.

That means my current marriage has lasted the longest by a long shot. Although I am a fan of marriage, I hope not to have to do it a fourth time. Three is adequate.

Thanks for stopping by.

An utter calm

Fan palm towers behind the sour orange bush.

ROUNDABOUTS noon on a spring day is the perfect time to sit in the yard with an electronic book.

If the natives have nothing to celebrate, which happens often enough, you’ll find a smooth calm. The air will be cool. The sky will be blue. The breeze will be blowing stiff enough to wiggle the wind chimes hanging in the nearby veranda.

Bottle brush

At this hour the hummingbirds will be dining about the bottle-brush tree and so will butterflies. Sparrows will be chirping.

I’ll be sitting in a mesh chair next to the glass-top table, and I’ll be shaded from the sun, which grows a bit brutal in spring, by the big brown umbrella. It’s a good mix altogether.

Two things might disturb this scene. One is that I doze off, which is common, no matter how engaging the book. This does not affect the calm. It simply renders it moot for moments.

The other is that a freight train will blow by, but this lasts no longer than 60 seconds, and the calm returns. The butterflies and hummingbirds don’t seem to notice.

Even on a calm spring midday, I like the passing train especially since it’s brief. It sounds of vagabonds, a life that appealed back when I was very young.

This midday peace is broken when my child bride comes out of the house and says she’s ready to go to the restaurant.

She looks very pretty.

A capital time

A bunch of bananas in the making.

WE RETURNED from a week in Mexico City last Sunday to discover that we had left home in winter and returned in springtime, weather-wise, at least.

We’ve passed thorough 14 winters at the Hacienda and only twice, perhaps thrice, have we enjoyed a winter without one overnight freeze. The 2016-17 season is the latest.

Alas, spring here is no circus, the worst of the seasons. The only positive aspect is that there are no overnight freezes.

Instead there is dust and drab, brown mountains. What passes for heat in these parts happens in springtime. The fact of the matter is that spring is pretty yucky.

Our capital visit was very profitable. After years of waiting, we picked up the deed to the condo. We hired a guy to lay a nice ceramic floor on the service patio. He also improved the drain system for the clothes washer.

We found a great new restaurant nearby. Fact is the entire area is going upscale rapidly. When I first set foot there 15 years ago, it was ugly and industrial, which is why the colonia* is called Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

My arrival, it seems, on most any scene delivers a certain panache. It happened here where we live on the hardscrabble outskirts of our mountaintop town, and it’s also happened in Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

We fled to San Miguel de Allende to escape Carnival. We went to Mexico City for practical matters. But now it’s time to get down to business. Springtime is for renovations.

Our favorite contractor comes today to provide prices for work here at the Hacienda and also at the Downtown Casita.

Due to the stupendous dollar-peso exchange rate over the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of improvements we likely would not have done otherwise.

And that’s where stuff stands at the moment.

Thanks for passing by.

* * * *

* Sort of like a big neighborhood.

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.

Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Hula holidays

nosering

I SPOTTED THIS young woman downtown Saturday, across from the main plaza. She dances with Hula Hoops for handouts at traffic lights. It’s clever work.

I’ve seen her both here on the mountaintop and down the mountainside in the capital city. She gets around.

We’re geared up for the holidays. There’s a brief video below that I filmed on the same day. That occasional thump-thump sound comes from workmen off to the left who were building a wooden stage for a huge Nativity Scene.

We had a Christmas tree last year, same size, but it was green, a different material, and one afternoon a kid tossed a match onto it, and it burned to the ground.

I happened to be walking around the plaza when that happened. It was a sight to see. Quite a holiday bonfire. The city had it rebuilt, however, before Christmas day, and this year’s tree seems more fire-resistant.

The entire tree changes colors at night. Quite lovely.

Never a dull moment on the mountaintop, and we never lack for beautiful women either, some with Hula Hoops.

Mother-in-law

inlaw

MEET MY mother-in-law.

She was beautiful. I never knew her because she died at age 31 in childbirth with her fifth baby.

The baby was being delivered by my father-in-law whom I also never met because he died in 1986 at the age of 61. Heart attack.

He was a doctor.

This is a detail from a larger photo. I cropped and had it made computer-worthy. She would have been about 80 now.

The family never fully recovered from her death, and I imagine my father-in-law felt guilty the rest of his days.

The resemblance between my mother-in-law and my child bride, her third delivery, is quite remarkable.

Daughter didn’t fall far from that avocado tree.