Tag Archives: goddess

Good and bad

sunrise

WITH SO MUCH bad-weather news happening, I thought it would be uplifting to show good weather. This is a photo taken from our upstairs terraza … a few years ago.

There is other good news. Not weather, dental.

Since I recently had a tooth implant inserted in my upper jaw, we revisited the mouth of my child bride. When we met in 2001, her dental history was typical of Mexicans. When a tooth problem appears, you don’t fix it, you remove it.

Yeah, I know. Incredible.

At 41, she had removed five. All were in the back and not visible when she smiled. The situation,  however, created a problem later due to the spaces, so she got two bridges, also not readily apparent, but bridges are a bother, or so I’m told.

So she’ll be getting implants too, four not five. The dentist said she could easily ignore one at the very back. She begins the process in a couple of weeks, and it will take, as mine did, three months total. This will cost a bit over $5,000 U.S.

We’ll pay cash. Donations accepted via PayPal.

I wonder what four implants would cost above the border. Lots more, I am sure. Likely $5,000 each.

* * * *

Bad news

Now the bad news, also in the medical category.

Recently, I had a sharp pain in my left heel whenever I walked. When I was not walking, I felt nothing.

I visited a clinic here, a hospital actually, that’s part of a church complex. I’ve known two people who died in the clinic, but it’s a good option if you’re in a rush, and it’s cheap.

But that’s not the reason I went. I went because my heel was hurting, and my usual doctor wasn’t available.

The clinic’s right off the main plaza downtown. The doctor consultation was $4. He immediately guessed the problem correctly. Osteoporosis! But I am a poster boy for not having osteoporosis in all categories save one: I’m old.

I am not overweight. I do not drink. I do not smoke. I eat healthily, a salad a day and better. I take calcium tablets. And I’m a guy. Mostly, it’s women who get osteoporosis.

I have a girly affliction!

The Goddess has a wicked sense of humor.

To confirm his guess, the doctor pointed me over thataway to get a couple of X-rays of my foot. Cost of the x-rays: $22. That was done immediately while the doctor sat and waited.

Really.

Seems part of the bone in my heel went elsewhere, leaving a little peak that dug into my heel pad on walking.

The doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory gel plus pills that do much the same.

He told me to get a glass bottle and rub it sideways over the peak twice daily to make it gradually less pointy.

I have done this now for two days, and it’s really helped. I did my daily exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza yesterday with no problem.

And I’m doubling my daily dose of calcium.

Getting old is a bitch.

* * * *

(Update: Online research, plus having my X-rays on hand, has convinced me that my problem is not osteoporosis but a heel spur, a much nicer diagnosis. Tip of the sombrero to Al Lanier for pointing me toward heel spurs in his comment below. This means the clinic doc misdiagnosed. The good news is that treatment for the two separate conditions is basically identical.)

Paddling to heaven

nopal

AND NOW we turn to gardening news.

There’s a rosebush in Tombstone, Arizona, that’s billed as the largest rosebush — tree, actually — in the world.

I have stood beneath it. Zounds!

Little did I know that one day I would be bringing similar fame to my mountaintop town. But in the form of a nopal cactus, that most Mexican of plants.

I have mentioned this monster before, but it just keeps on growing. I attempt to control its horizontal growth with clippers, but its vertical size increases yearly. And now even its horizontal girth is beyond me.

In Springtime, it sprouts red blooms and lots of additional leaves, which are, a reader told me, called paddles. The red blooms will come mostly next month. Sweet.

I planted this big mama about a decade back. There were only two paddles at the time. It was quite small, but it really liked its new location. I planted one in half a whisky barrel in my Houston yard in the 1990s, and it never did squat.

It just sat there lamely.

My wife trashed it after we divorced because she said it was bad feng shui. I do not believe in feng shui because I don’t think the Goddess cares which direction your house faces or if you have cactus in a whisky barrel. Or anything about mirrors.*

The Goddess has larger issues on her plate. She doesn’t care if you eat pork either or clip your baby’s ding-dong. Actually, she greatly prefers that you don’t.

I sat on the ground to take the photo because I thought it would accentuate the nopal’s height, but I think it did just the opposite. This big mama is about 14 or 15 feet high.

No matter. Look at that blue sky.

The cactus below sits in a pot on the edge of the veranda. It’s reveling in Springtime too, as you see.

It’s today’s bonus cactus.

cactus* Mirrors serve only three purposes. 1) Fixing yourself up. 2) Spotting zombies behind you. 3) Lighting fires in the wild.

Dying to music

noteWALKING THROUGH the living room the other day, the FM station was playing a nice classical work, and I thought, “That would be good to die to,” and I envisioned falling forward onto the ceramic floor, dead as that doornail.

I was in a good mood when the thought struck me, and dying in a good mood is desirable. Dying to music is common in movies, but I wonder how often it happens in real life. Not much, I think.

A sudden death, which is how I want it, would reduce the chances of dying to good music, something that likely requires planning. Which is best? Dying suddenly to no music or a prolonged demise to good music. The sudden death wins out because you want to go fast, music or not.

Good mood, fine music, healthy and sudden. That’s how I want to sail away. Of course, a sudden death contradicts the notion of healthy, but let’s imagine it was an unknown heart problem that brought down the curtain. Just thinking you’re healthy till the final moment is enough.

But if a sudden death isn’t in the cards, I would like some good music playing on Departure Day. Kitaro’s Light of the Spirit is the top pick, something I’ve loved since the late 1990s. Downing some ecstasy and turning on that Kitaro tune is a religious experience in itself.

Try it. You’ll see.

A close runner-up would be one of a number of songs by the appropriately named Dead Can Dance. A real standout is their Host of Seraphim, a fine piece to shuttle you off into that distant space where resides whatever God or Goddess you put your money on.

* * * *

(A close runner-up to Host of Seraphim is Yulunga. About the 3:18 mark on the video, it moves into high gear visually, going multicultural in a spectacularly fine way.)

Good and green

summerSUMMER STARTS on June 21, so we’re still in Springtime or, as my Mexican paisanos call it, Primavera.

We step outside each morning with long pants and a light jacket. It will be about 60 degrees. It’ll soar to the mid-70s at midday. Invariably I think of folks I left behind in the sweat pits of Houston and New Orleans.

We sleep at night with only half of one window open to avoid having to pile blankets atop us. We have no air-conditioning, of course, because that would be downright silly. Not much heating either.

Most of the greenery in the photo was planted by me a decade back, and they were just little tykes. When I planted little tykes in Houston, they usually stayed that way or died. I’ve yet to figure that out.

There is some horticultural magic in the Mexican air. You expect that on the tropical coasts, but it seems less likely here on the cool mountaintop 7,000 feet above sea level.

Most spring and summer mornings are similar. I eat a bagel and Philly cheese. I sweep the terraza and pick up the cursed peaches that have fallen overnight from their tree. I wipe dew or rain off the glass table and web chairs that sit on the yard patio, and I hoist the umbrella like a flag.

I take a deep breath, smile and walk back inside to wash the Philly cheese off the ceramic plates we purchased years ago in Dolores Hidalgo. Maybe do a little laundry. Take a shower, get dressed.

Life doesn’t change much. Nor do I want it to.

* * * *

While the above is a typical morning, I detoured a bit today.

At 8 a.m., I was parked outside the little lab downtown as the young nurse opened for business. It was time for the twice-yearly peek into my blood vessels and veins, to see how the old coot is getting along.

I check my cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides.

No appointment is necessary, no doctor’s permission. Just show up, fork over 18 bucks (would have been 10 if I’d waited for the sale next week), step into the adjoining room, roll up my sleeve and wince.

The results will be available this afternoon. I’m feeling fine, but you can put in a positive word with the Goddess on my behalf. It won’t hurt.

Credit card craziness

WHEN THE PRESIDENT called Barry signed legislation a year or so ago, he canceled my U.S. bank account and the U.S. accounts of many other U.S. citizens living outside America.

This colossally ill-conceived legislation goes by its initials, FATCA. You can look it up if you care. Basically, it was intended to nail fat cats who were hiding their riches in offshore accounts. What it actually did was hose innocent Americans, mostly retirees, who had the good sense to live elsewhere.

I was one of those hose-ees.

flagThe United States is the only nation on earth that taxes money held by its citizens in other countries. It is a desperation move due to the sea of bloody red ink the nation irresponsibly swims in.

Entitlements add up. Redistribution only goes so far.

FATCA did not directly cancel all those U.S. bank accounts. What it did was impose burdensome paperwork on banks in the United States with account holders living beyond the borders. And many banks, likely most, found it more convenient to just close the lower-end accounts.

Last July … with very little warning.

My U.S. bank was Banamex USA, the American branch of one of Mexico’s biggies, Banamex. Don’t let the name fool you. Banamex USA must play by U.S. rules. It’s owned by Citicorp.

WE DON’T WANT YOU ANYMORE

I opened the letter that arrived in my post office box in late June and read: After examining your account, we regret to inform you that we can no longer service your account. It will be closed on July 1.  I was mildly annoyed. It was only later that I began to think of all the fish I had in that sea.

The enormity of this event began to sink in.

I receive two pensions. One is Social Security. By pure luck, just months earlier I had switched the automatic deposit from Banamex USA to HSBC-Mexico where I had just opened an account due to dissatisfaction with the Mexican Banamex. But the other, corporate, pension was deposited in Banamex USA.

That corporate pension is distributed by an arm of Wells Fargo. I phoned them and was told they only did direct deposit to U.S. banks, not foreign ones, and the sole alternative was a check in the mail. The problem with Option Two is that you cannot deposit or cash a U.S. check in Mexico anymore.

Thank U.S. legislation again.

It is virtually impossible these days to open a U.S. bank account without a U.S. address and driver’s license, neither of which do I possess. So when Banamex USA dumped me, well, …

After lots of stress and frantic activity, I got Wells Fargo to initiate pension direct deposits outside the United States. I imagine I am still the only person they do that for.

When I moved to Mexico in 2000, I had just opened a checking account at Banamex USA, and I had three credit cards which were paid online from that account. Then the credit cards began to fall by the wayside.

The first to go was a Visa I used to pay for Sky TV in 2003. Without going into dreary details, Sky began to abuse the card. I asked the issuing bank to stop them, but the bank told me they could not, that only Sky could cancel the agreement.

Absurd. So, I canceled that card. Adiós, Sky TV. But adiós credit card too.

Two cards left. One was a Wells Fargo Mastercard, and the other was an AT&T Visa. I had my Mexican mailing address on both. Renewal cards for the AT&T Visa were express-mailed here with no problem. The Wells Fargo people, however, were much more ornery.

Their “fraud department,” before activating a renewal card, insisted I go to my local Banamex branch and have all manner of complex paperwork done to prove that I was the person I said I was. This paperwork would have been a real challenge at a Mexican bank where procedures are quite different.

WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE

I told Wells Fargo to put the card in what would have been a painful place had it been on a human being. There would have been no sunshine there. So I was down to just one credit card.

I consider two credit cards a minimum, so I went to my Banamex branch here in town and requested a credit card. They gave it to me with a limit of just 15,000 pesos, about 1,000 dollars. They absolutely would not raise the limit to something reasonable. And there was a sizable annual fee.

About a year later, I canceled it in a snit, and was left with one card. I use credit cards exclusively online, absolutely nowhere else, but online is important because I shell out not much, but regularly, online.

And then came last June’s letter from Banamex USA, canceling my account and leaving me with no easy way to pay the AT&T Visa card. I still have the card, but it sits idle and useless.

I returned to Banamex and asked them to reissue the card I had canceled. Nah, they said. FATCA was not mentioned, but that is without a doubt the reason they would not reissue the card.

My U.S. citizenship was mentioned. Thanks to Washington D.C., again.

I canceled my longtime account at Banamex in Mexico. It had always been a pain anyway.

TOO OLD TO TRUST

So I went into my local HSBC-Mexico branch and asked for a credit card. At age 70, I was too old, I was informed. Yes, age discrimination is alive and well down south. It’s an unfair world. But I don’t get huffy. It’s life.

As I consider two credit cards a minimum, I also consider two banks a minimum, so I opened an account with BBVA Bancomer. For a credit card, they require an account to be open a few months and that a minimum balance of 6,000 pesos be maintained. I did that.

On Wednesday, they gave me a nice, shiny, blue Visa card with a 50,000-peso limit, which is okay. My child bride has a high-balance account with HSBC-Mexico that came with a no-questions-asked credit card, and spouses automatically get one too. I got one last year, but it’s connected to her account.

No matter. My two-card minimum is fulfilled.

So what did I do the eight months between the time my AT&T Visa was sidelined and getting my own Bancomer Visa this week? I used my HSBC-Mexico debit card for online purchases, which is not wise. Debit card purchases come right out of your checking account. A credit card provides a security barrier.

LAND OF THE CHESHIRE CAT

catWeirdly, a week ago, every online account that used my HSBC-Mexico debit card found that charges were rejected. This came out of the blue.

HSBC-Mexico says there is no reason for this to be happening, but it is happening. I view this as part of the Alice-in-Wonderland tone of Mexican life.

Thursday, I switched all online charges to my shiny new Bancomer Visa. I am a happy boy. Everything works out if you wait long enough. It is the way of the Goddess.

(If you read all the way down here about my credit card situation, you deserve a medal.)

* * * *

(Update: About six months later, I got a phone call from HSBC-Mexico, asking if I wanted a credit card. Apparently, I’m not too old to trust after all. I accepted the card.)

Man and fire

fire

THERE’S AN ART to building a good fire.

And I have no idea what that is, so my approach is to bludgeon the matter. I pile a mountain of firewood, and I torch a handful of ocote, which is a resin-full wood that ignites gleefully when introduced to flame.

Stick the burning ocote under the stacked wood and wait. That’s all there is to it. Perhaps I do grasp the art.

I lit a fire downstairs yesterday, the first of the season. Before that, I climbed the circular stairway on the upstairs terraza to the roof and removed plastic sheeting from the chimney top. Most of the year it’s wrapped in plastic to keep mosquitoes out. It took me about three years to learn that.

On about two occasions, I forgot to uncover the chimney first, and you can imagine what happened.

I paused while on the roof and took a look around at the green mountains. I inhaled the clear winter air, and I thanked the Goddess, hardly for the first time, for landing me here in my declining years. It’s good to end one’s many days in such a spectacular fashion.

There were two blazes yesterday. The first was in the morning because it was dang cold. The second was late afternoon. It was less cold, but I desired a cozy atmosphere. After I got the fire burning, I sat on the nearby scarlet sofa and read a good book about Stanley and Dr. Livingstone.

And felt good about myself. A fine fire will do that.

First fire, last rose

fireWE STAND ASTRIDE the cusp of two seasons. Fall and winter. And today they held hands.

The rose bushes out by the stone wall, in an heroic final effort, birthed a bloom. I’m sure it will be the last we’ll see till next Spring. I cut it, and it now sits in a rosebud vase on the dining room table, looking lovely.

After settling the rose into its spot, I returned to the yard, picked up a large rake and started to toil. Beneath the loquat tree was a sea of dead and dry leaves.  I made a mountain.

Nearby was another ocean of dead leaves. They had descended from a pear tree. They too were brown, but they were damp. I collected them into a separate pile not too distant from the loquats.

I was hesitant to burn them together due to the quantity. Once last year a blaze got away from me, causing quite a bit of dashing about and bellowing. I’m too old for that. But the grass was brown then. Now it’s still green. No matter. Two fires are preferred. Last year someone laughed at my predicament.

Dignity must be maintained.

I got a bit of ocote in hand, plus a lighter. Ocote is starter wood that burns readily. I had a piece the size of my thumb. I lit it and slowly sank it into the loquat leaves. It began to spread. I stood back.

roseThe pile in the photo above are the loquats.

When that hill had almost burned out, I raked the pear leaves atop the smoldering loquats. As mentioned, the pears were damp. Dry leaves burn nicely. Wet leaves do not burn at all. Damp leaves can burn, but they smoke. Man, do they ever smoke.

I would have been executed in California. I sent massive smoke plumes throughout the neighborhood.

But I was burning leaves, for Pete’s sake. It was neither nuclear waste nor even plastic bottles. It was a natural, if bountiful, smoke arising from some of the Goddess’ own children. I felt no guilt.

So the lawn looks better now, and there’s a rose in the dining room, the second loveliest thing in the Hacienda.

I am married to Number One, of course.

Only Gringo graveside

marigolds

LIKE EVERY YEAR, we went to the downtown cemetery this morning to tidy up the grave of my child bride’s oldest brother, gone about 25 years now.

The graveyard is directly downtown and — due to crowded conditions, I imagine — is not open the previous night, the famous Night of the Dead when relatives sit till dawn amid marigolds and candles. The graves are so tightly packed there’s no room for both relatives and tourists too.

But it’s open in the morning, and locals flood inside to gussy up the graves, light candles and incense, and leave their best wishes with the interred in broad daylight. That’s what we do. And there are no tourists because they’re recuperating after staying up all night visiting outlying villages and their splashy graveyards.

Ironically, though our town is one of the most well-known in Mexico for its Day of the Dead doings, neither of the two downtown cemeteries are open on the night of November 1. You must head out of town if you want to see the stuff that makes us famous. To places with names like Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio, Arocutin and my personal favorite, Cucuchucho, which sounds like a passing train.

But let’s return to our downtown graveyard.

Invariably, I am the only Gringo among the hundreds of people.

Another item of interest: Planted two plots down from my brother-in-law is a fellow — young, I imagine — who came out on the wrong end of a gunfight with cops three years ago. Here is what I remember. There was a shootout between police and some narcos in late October of 2011. It was written up in the local press.

Four days later, we were in the cemetery on our annual visit, and I noticed the fresh grave nearby, someone named Luis Enrique but his nickname was Choco. It was a plain metal marker painted black. It included his name, the date of his demise — that same late October day — and an automatic rifle was painted on there too.

Today I noticed the original metal marker still stood, but directly next to it was a nice marble headstone, also engraved with Luis Enrique’s full name, his nickname Choco — and the machine gun too.

On finishing our work, we packed up our gear — broom, dustpan, brush, trash bag, etc. — and headed to the main plaza for a nice cafecito. A couple of hours later, we dined on chicken meatballs, rice and beans.

A year from now we’ll do pretty much the same thing, the Goddess willing.

I’m no spring chicken.

Going for Guinness

Nopal

I HAD A NOPAL cactus growing in a whiskey barrel planter in my Houston yard in the early 1990s. It only had about four fronds, and it was notable for its lack of enthusiasm, no zest for life whatsoever.

After my wife tossed me out on the street in 1995, she got rid of it because it was “bad feng shui,” she claimed. I don’t believe in feng shui. I can’t imagine that the Goddess cares any more about which direction your door is facing than she does whether you eat fish on Friday or pork on any day whatsoever.

She is not so superficial.

She has more important things on her mind, like what those Mohammedans will do next to make peace on Earth dang near impossible. Mohammedans are a burr in her beautiful backside.

My nopal never did squat in Houston.

Flash forward two decades. A few years ago I planted a small nopal, consisting of only two little fronds, in the yard of our Hacienda. It went berserk, and now it’s just shy of 13 feet tall. Yes, I did measure.

I trim it now and then, with ladder, clippers and much trepidation, mostly to prevent its spreading horizontally, which it hankers to do. It wants to spread in every direction, but I keep it pointed heavenward. It’s height that interests me. In time I want this spikey baby to be in the Guinness Book of Records.

An old coot dreams of fame. I will be very proud.

Cactus