STEVE COTTON, a retired barrister from Oregon who now lives occasionally in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, and writes now and then on his website Mexpatriate — In the Key of Steve, came with family in February to stay in our downtown casita for a spell.
Señor Cotton, being a well-bred sort (tip of the sombrero to his Mom and Pop), as a token of apreciation — I didn’t charge him for the rental — left this orchid for us. We transported the flower from the downtown casita here to the Hacienda where we live, and we sat it atop the dining room table.
As I said, that was February … of 2017.
Yes, the orchid has graced our table for over a year, and it’s never lacked flowers. I find this remarkable. I didn’t know any plant flowered for more than a year.
So every morning especially, as we chew toasted bagels with cream cheese or the occasional croissant with orange marmalade, we think kindly of the former Oregon barrister who now lives occasionally — when he’s not flying all over the place — in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco.
MOST WORK around here gets done in the morning, and that would be after the bagels and cream cheese.
The labor this Good Friday morning included the yearly cleaning of the underground cistern.
Our concrete cistern holds 9,000 liters of water.
The reason you don’t want to drink tap water in Mexico is less because the water didn’t come from a clean source at the get-go. It may have. For instance, our municipal water comes from an underground spring. It is quite clear.
What happens is that almost everyone stores water in an underground cistern. From that cistern, water is delivered, one way or another, to a roof tank, and from there it’s dropped into the house faucets via gravity.
There are variations, but basically that’s how it works.
I have no statistics, but I’d bet a pocket of pesos that few homeowners ever clean their cisterns. I’ve peered into cisterns that you could use for a horror-movie scene.
But we are better than that.
Here’s how we clean ours. First, we turn off the incoming water. After that, it takes almost two weeks to empty as we use the water in the house. Finally, the cistern is empty, and we switch to a small backup tank for a day or two.
We leave the lid open overnight, and the cistern’s dry in the morning. I go down and sweep. She goes down and mops. We turn the water back on, and toss in half a liter of bleach.
It takes three or four days to refill. The municipal water runs six days a week for six to eight hours daily.
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Having finished that work, it was time to reassign cacti.
You’d think that after what happened with the monster nopal that I would have learned my lesson regarding prickly plants.
But I’m stupid that way.
I love deserts and the things that live in them. I used to plant cacti in my yard in Houston, and they never did squat.
Next to the verandah, there’s this stand of pole cacti that I started years ago with one small one. The tallest now is six and a half feet high.
Another shorter — but not by much — stand nearby provided a cutting about 15 inches tall. It has been planted out by the property wall, and I anticipate a nice stand of pole cacti there in a few years — if I live so long.
Being a newbie, it needs a little support from string and a stick.
Following these two chores, I only had to water the potted plants on the verandah, dust the shelves and sweep the floor.
The only other labor for the day will be cooking pasta and broiling salmon. After that, it’s a café Americano negro on the downtown plaza, watching the beautiful tourist babes.
It will be a Good Friday. Even if I’m not a Christian.
For instance, we spend a third of our lives in a coma, a state of suspended animation. We have a soft place to lie down for this, and we put on comfy clothing, or we just strip naked.
I refer to our need for sleep, of course.
I sleep like the proverbial log, normally. It helps to not have something worrying you. Have you noticed that worries magnify magnificently at night? A trifling concern in daytime becomes a monster worry after the lights go out.
And then when you wake in the morning, that same worry shrinks to its proper proportion, easily resolved.
My child bride worries about everything, so she doesn’t sleep as soundly as I do. She has a mob of relatives, all of whom have big-time issues, being Mexican and all, and she worries about every one of those relatives, nonstop.
I don’t worry about her relatives at all, and I only have two on my side. My daughter who lives in a field of clover, and my nutty sister whom I have not heard from in three years.
You’d think I might worry about that latter, but I do not. Quite the contrary. It gives me peace of mind.
Unlike lots of aging men, I don’t get up repeatedly at night to take a whiz. Just once, usually. Sometimes not even that. My svelte body works well — he said, as he knocks on wood, the desk I had made by carpenters years back.
This happened just once last night, about 4 a.m. Waking up at night here is interesting. There are sounds. Last night, I heard a burro bray and there were the unsettled chickens that overnight in the neighbors’ apple tree.
It’s also said we require less sleep as we age. I haven’t found that to be true. I get a good seven or eight hours as always.
Maybe my nights pass smoothly because I have a beautiful babe next to me, even if she is fretting over relatives.
Our comas end with bagels and Philadelphia cream cheese or, on special occasions, croissants and orange marmalade.
It’s a great way to return from the world of the comatose.
MOST EVERY morning, after café, bagels and Philly cream cheese, lite, I wash the dishes and step out to the downstairs terraza to sweep. This is especially necessary in Springtime because the season creates plenty of dust.
In July or August the terraza may be awash with blown-in rainwater, but that’s not an issue in Springtime, which is a time of dust. And bats.
This morning I arrived out on the terraza, took a look to my right and there on one of the wooden shelves was an ample supply of dry bat shit, guano they call it.
My gaze traveled upward to the red clay roof tiles, which is where the bats hang out during the day in Springtime but summer too.
I know they’re up there, but I’ve never seen them up there, just the proof — there on the shelf — of their presence. And if you’re on the terraza around dusk, you’ll spot them flying out and high on their nightly dining expeditions. However, they do it so quickly you can’t see where they start from, specifically, their hangar. No matter. The guano spills the beans.
Getting a brush, I flipped the little turds to the floor where they were included in the sweep.
We once found a bat hanging from the ceiling fixture in the downtown Casita’s back bedroom, just above the bed. He couldn’t have been there long because the bed was still unsullied by, well, you know. My lovely wife had gone to the Casita alone, and I quickly received a phone call informing me, hysterically, that “something” was hanging from the light fixture.
What is it? I inquired. She did not know, she responded. Some sort of beast.
I hurried to the Casita — about 15 minutes from the Hacienda — and immediately saw what it was. Nothing confusing about it. Women are funny.
I got a shoe box, donned a pair of leather gloves, and “encouraged” the little bugger to move into the box, which he did with little fuss. For lack of any other solution, I tossed him into a grassy area nearby. I hope everything turned out well for him, though I doubt it did.
How did he get into the Casita? I scratched my noodle, figuratively speaking, for the next few hours. It’s a modern construction, well sealed, and I was puzzled. Later, downtown on the plaza, sitting at a sidewalk table with a hot espresso, it hit me. The chimney! Well, duh.
There’s a small, non-functioning fireplace in the living room.
The next morning, I went to the roof and closed the opening with screen.