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.

Moving days

THIS MORNING, 16 years ago, September 10, 2000, I awoke in my two-story rental downtown in the state capital. I had lived there alone more than three months.

The house was virtually unfurnished. There was a king bed with a side table in the master bedroom. A second bedroom upstairs had a double and side table.

There was a rocking chair in the living room, nothing more. A large table with chairs in the kitchen-dining room, a propane stove-top, no oven whatsoever, and a refrigerator.

That was it on the furniture front.

It was moving day! My second in eight months.

Before moving to that home, I had lived in a room above a garage, just a few blocks away, for four months. So this virtually vacant home was a step up in comfort and grace.

No matter. I was moving again.

But first I had to rent a car to tote the accumulations of the previous eight months. It would be the first time I would drive on the loco streets of Mexico. I was nervous.

Later that day, car lightly loaded, I headed up the mountainside where I had rented a two-story house that was poorly maintained and pathetically furnished.

The first necessity was a new mattress. The house had one, but it wasn’t anything you’d want to lie down on.

I also ordered a dark green love seat and matching chair that would be shipped from Guadalajara. That arrived four long months later. Mexican express.

That sofa and chair now live in the Hacienda’s bedroom.

chairs

I lived in that rental for two and a half years, the last year of which I enjoyed the company of my child bride while we constructed the Hacienda a couple of miles away.

We moved into the Hacienda 14 years back next May. It’s quite a step up from the room over the garage where I slept on a sagging twin bed that was fond of tossing its slats, leaving me sprawled rudely on the floor. Ker-splat!

It’s been quite an adventure, the best of my life. The mountaintop has been good to me, 16 years today.

In many ways, it all seems like yesterday. But gazing ahead, 16 more years looks like another life.

It likely will be. Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

In summertime I often pause before sunrise at the small, eye-level (for me) window in the bathroom and smell the golden datura just inches away. A good way to start the day.

At times in summer it’s raining gently.

My next move will be into an ash urn. And I won’t need to pack a suitcase for the journey.

Dust to dust

I’M A FILE man, a decades-long habit. I had a jammed file cabinet in Houston, and I have another one in Mexico.

I was going through the Miscellaneous file recently and came upon my mother’s death certificate and the certificate of cremation from Atlanta Crematory Inc. My sister mailed these to me in 2009, which is when my mother died.

You learn things by reading a death certificate and a certificate of cremation. I notice that my mother died on Jan. 8, and she was also cremated on Jan. 8. No time was lost.

There was no wake.

The certificate of cremation doesn’t have lots of details, but the death certificate is more informative. Mother died in Emory University Hospital at age 90. She had been hospitalized about a week, and had been taken there by my sister.

deathI only have one sibling, and she is a very conflictive person, which is one reason I was not present. I prefer distance between my sister and myself.

The death certificate says my mother’s “usual occupation” was teacher, and that’s quite right. Eighth Grade was her preferred class because she said they were old enough to wipe themselves but too young to have become smartasses.

Her parents — my grandparents, of course — are named. Her father’s full name was Walter Jackson Powell, which I knew. Her mother’s full name was Osie Evelyn Moree, which was interesting. I never knew her middle name.

Osie is a very old-fashioned name, but Evelyn isn’t so much. Nonetheless, you don’t see many babies nowadays named Evelyn. I like Evelyn. It’s all about Eve.

(Going back further, her father was Dard Moree, a very wealthy farmer who would have been born about the time the Yankee General Sherman was laying waste to Georgia. Dard’s success played a role in my being able to retire at 55, bless him.)

She was my favorite grandparent by far. My maternal grandfather died when I was 12, and my father’s folks lived farther north, way up in Atlanta, and we lived in Florida. Mother’s people lived in south Georgia.

It was an easier drive in the Plymouth, plus my father didn’t like his parents. My mother, an only child, loved hers.

Moving down the certificate, I see that even though the Atlanta Crematory Inc. cremated Mother, it was Wages & Sons Funeral Home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that handled the arrangements. Mother had a contract with them.

Wages & Sons Funeral Home. Ironic, no? Wages & Sons also handled my father’s funeral back in 1991. I attended that one. I did not attend my mother’s funeral because there wasn’t one. I’m not sure exactly why. My sister ran that show.

The certificate goes on to point out that Mother was not embalmed, which I guess is normal if a cremation is in the cards. And then we get to the cause of death.

Since she was 90, the cause is pretty straightforward. She died of old age, but hospitals and City Halls want details, and here they are. Three conditions did her in.

Starting one week before she drew her final breath was “pseudomonas healthcare acquired pneumonia,” which sounds like she got pneumonia from being in the hospital. And then two days before her death, there was acute renal failure and hyperkalemia. I had to Google that last one.

The “cause of death,” it says, was congestive heart failure. And there was no autopsy. Good. Any halfwit who’d finished Junior High knows why she died. She was 90.

Down at the bottom of the certificate are the names of the attending physician, Sonjay Raja Lakar, and the “certifier,” Dr. Ronak Patel, demonstrating that multiculturalism is alive and well at Emory University Hospital.

Did you know the overwhelming majority of American motels are operated by East Indians? I read that somewhere.

It’s interesting to get into the files now and then.

* * * *

(Note: For a more heartfelt yarn about my mother’s death, one written just after the event, read Dancing the Hassapiko.)

We all die

plaza

MORE OFTEN than some would prefer,* the bell in the steeple of this 16th-century church, not far from the Hacienda, begins a special ring. It is ringing at this moment as I write. It was ringing when I woke this morning, and it was ringing in the middle of the night.

What makes it special is its slowness. It gongs about once every 20 seconds and it goes on for hours. It is done by hand, and I often imagine that person, sitting down there in the dark, reaching up every 20 seconds or so to give a tug. Bong! Wait…wait…wait. Bong!

All through the night.

I also imagine a bottle of José Cuervo and perhaps some tacos or cheese and crackers are at his side. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I feel like getting up, dressing and going down there to see first-hand. Who and how. But I’ll never do that because I’m too old and lazy.

Later, during our morning exercise walk around the plaza, the church door was closed, and the bongs were continuing. It was a good time to check it out, and perhaps I would have done so had the door been open. But we just kept on walking. The door in question is that smaller one at the steeple’s base.

We talked about where my child bride will put me when I’m “promoted to Glory.” The neighborhood cemetery is a couple of blocks away from the church, across the highway. I would like to be planted there, the only American-Mexican, I’m sure, the sole, true paleface.

I’d provide a modish, multicultural air.

No, she said. She’ll keep me in an urn in the Hacienda. And that’s okay with me.

* * * *

* Especially those for whom the bell tolls.

(Note: This post was written yesterday. This morning I awoke, and the bedroom window was open. Birds were singing in the fan palm, and the bell was still gonging. Same deceased, or someone new?)