Mexican life

Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.

 

 

The Odd Pot

San Miguel Holiday

MANY YEARS AGO in Puerto Rico, the early 1970s, I was visiting a friend in her Old San Juan apartment. Another woman was there, a visitor from the United States. I did not know her.

For some reason, she asked if I’d ever been in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I told her no. She then asked if I was gay, and I gave her the same response. Why would she ask that?

Flash forward 40 years or so till last weekend. We paid San Miguel a visit, scarcely for the first time. The official purpose was to attend the Food Fest — or, as San Miguel calls it, the Gastronomic Festival — but we really just wanted to get off the mountaintop for a spell.

For years our favorite hotel was the Siesta on the outskirts of downtown. It was an old, sprawling, single-story place consisting mostly of connected rock cabins. The rooms were big, and you parked right outside your door. I loved it. But they tore it down. There’s just a weedy lot there now.

So we met Gerardo Ruíz online and stayed in a room at his house. His place is part of the Fabrica La Aurora, an old cloth factory of days gone by that has been turned into a huge complex of art galleries and related stuff.

And Gerardo Ruiz is an artist of considerable renown, it seems. His work, not surprisingly, was all over the walls of his house and studio.

2Our room had a high ceiling. It was painted white. There were two twin beds that were very comfortable. The connecting bathroom had a large counter by the sink. The shower worked well. The toilet flushed fantastically. We found a scorpion in there the first night, and I stomped him dead.

OneThere was a huge, screened window in the bedroom that opened to a long-neglected garden with tall trees, cacti and bushes where crickets crooned us to sleep every night. We slept the sleep of angels and little children.

We ate at the Food Festival Saturday afternoon, but we also dined at two of the three restaurants in La Aurora. One was a fancy burger joint and the other was a coffee shop slash restaurant where we enjoyed vanilla ice cream atop brownies one afternoon and breakfast Sunday morning.

You don’t get that sort of stuff here on the mountaintop where we live.

Sometimes you gotta get out of town and see how other people live.