The cusp of Hell

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Grass turning yellow and grim.

LIFE IS ABOUT to get even lousier!

Next week we enter the first of the two worst months of the year here, April and May. They are dry and warm, a warm that comes indoors at night, especially upstairs where we have our evening salad with Netflix, and becomes incredibly stuffy.

The low upstairs ceiling does not help.

We strip to tank tops and skivvies. We have no air-conditioning, but two years ago we bought some sort of water-tank cooler, and it assists a lot upstairs, but it’s loud. For the bedroom downstairs we purchased an oscillating tower fan, which also is a boon.

Why we waited 15 years to make those meager moves is a mystery. Before we just suffered with a pedestal fan upstairs that blew heat around.

Downstairs, we had an elegant ceiling fan in the bedroom that was nearly useless. A saving grace of downstairs is a higher ceiling, especially in the living room. But even in the bedroom, the ceiling is higher than upstairs.

April and May are incredibly dry. The mountains turn brown. The campesinos burn fields, which sends ash and dust everywhere. You’d think we’d open the windows in the warm months, but we close them instead, keeping dust out and a bit of cool inside.

Spring is not a joyous time at the Hacienda. We just buck up.

Don’t visit in spring.

Toil and beauty

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Lovely red flowers adored by hummingbirds.

JANUARY IS THE time for annual chores, but the chores are done before a backdrop of beauty here at the Hacienda. Well, at least till the first overnight freeze clobbers us.

That likely won’t be long in coming.

The chores include paying for our post office box for another year. Paying for water at the Downtown Casita for another year. Paying property taxes for our three places. For the Hacienda and the Downtown Casita, we go to City Hall. For the Mexico City condo, which continues to be rented to a nephew university student, I do that online.

I won’t even mention that property tax amounts because it would shock and sadden those of you who live above the Rio Bravo and pay through the nose. The water bills too.

The Hacienda’s unmetered water runs 720 pesos annually, about $38 USD.

January is also a great time to begin outdoor renovations because the annual monsoon is on hold till June. The Hacienda is almost 17 years old and, like aging people, is beginning to sag. That includes the Romance Sidewalk, which was sagging at one spot, literally.

So the guy who was painting here for a couple of weeks — he finished painting — turned his attention to repairing the sidewalk. First, he ripped up the sagging section.

There was a little cave below, empty space caused by Lord knows what. Were there bears living in there? Wolverines? Rats? I neglected to snap a photo. But here’s how it looks after the cavern was filled with sand and concrete detritus.

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And here above is how it looks this morning. Ready for romantic walks in a level manner for another 17 years. We’ve now finished this season’s renovations at the Hacienda. However, there will be more work at the Downtown Casita. We’ll hire a blacksmith to install a circular stairway from the balcony to the roof and a handrail for the stairs inside.

A homeowner’s work is never done.

Life of little things

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Elephant on our plaza.

FEW MEN lead lives like James Bond’s. Maybe none do.

Most lead lives that are a string of chores and small events. I am no exception. Here’s how it went on Monday. The morning hours went as always. Eat, walk, read news.

The real thrills began in the afternoon.

I headed out at 4 p.m. after tossing three bags of trash in the trunk of the Honda. We have neighborhood trash pickup almost daily, but it’s not like you put your garbage can on your curb where its contents get dumped into a huge truck with a mechanical rear end.

No, you have to keep your ears peeled for the clanging of the bell, which announces the trash men are nearby. Then you have to grab your trash bags, unlock the gate and dash down the street where the garbage men wait none too patiently.

It’s a bother, so I rarely do it.

Instead, I toss my junk into the Honda and drive to a spot near downtown that’s behind a large market. A trash truck waits there daily from 4 to 6 p.m., primarily to dispose of the market vendors’ garbage. I take advantage of that.

I’ve become buddies with those trash guys over the years. They love to see me coming because I’m a better-than-average tipper. And there’s my good nature too.

Just before dropping off the trash, I stopped at a paint store nearby and purchased lots of paint that set me back $1,800 pesos, which is a little under $100 U.S. bucks. Later this week, two guys are coming to start some major refurbishing at the Hacienda.

The most noticeable will be the whole front wall facing the street, which is currently a garish, almost orange, shade. It will morph into the color of adobe. The rest of the work will be primarily touch-up in various spots inside. And the entire roof over the dining room and kitchen will be scrubbed and a waterproof paint applied.

I left the paint store with the floor of the Honda’s passenger seat jammed with paint cans. Then I headed to the main plaza where I parked near a pastry shop before walking two blocks to my barber. I just got a rim job, and she charged me 15 pesos, a pittance.

I gave her 20 instead.

Returning to the main plaza, neatly trimmed and with a wool bebop cap atop my head, I went into the aforementioned pastry shop and purchased a chocolate muffin. I then walked to the family coffee shop, sat at a sidewalk table with a hot café Americano negro and my Kindle, and finished a short bio of Paul Newman. Then I drove home.

It appears the monsoon season has ended. It lasted longer than usual this year. Must be that “climate change.” I filmed the short video below this morning because it was a beautiful day, “climate change” or not.

I planted that palm when it was about 18 inches high, and the same goes for those pole cacti, some of which are, I suspect, of the hallucinogenic variety, but I don’t eat them. I just enjoy seeing them. It’s a visual high.

At the end of the video, you see one of the canvas curtains we installed last spring to block rain from entering the upstairs terraza. I’ll be raising the curtains soon, and they’ll stay up till next June when the monsoon descends again.

What’s that elephant up top? Part of a humongous Nativity scene that’s being installed on the plaza. It’s an annual Christmas event. The Yule elephant is larger than an actual beast. I shot the photo with the chocolate muffin in one hand, the camera in the other.

Multi-tasking.

Little things. James Bond would be bored if he walked in my shoes.

We have beautiful women here but no Aston Martins.

First of December

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Dining room near dawn today. No sign of Santa. Or reindeer.

THIS IS HOW the dining room looked this morning when I entered from the rather distant bedroom just after 7 a.m. The Canon sat nearby, so I snapped the shot.

The First of December, so the Yuletide is upon us if the shelves in Walmart and Costco are to be believed. They’ve had Christmas stuff for some time now.

Like most kids, I loved Christmas in those distant days when I was young, but I’ve lost touch with it. I’m not sure how that happened or when. I loved it, and then I didn’t.

Due to an ever-stressed environment (booze) at my childhood home in Florida, Christmas was best celebrated at my mother’s family farm in southwest Georgia, my maternal grandparents. The tree was always tall and green, and Santa was fond of stopping there though Lord knows how he found us in those rural, dirt-road boonies, but he did.

Maybe he smelled the cows or was drawn by the orchard of pecan trees.

I hesitate to cast blame, especially when I played a major role, but I think I went south, so to speak, on Christmas during my second marriage. That wife, you see, was fanatical about Christmas. You couldn’t deck the halls too much. More was always better.

The tree had to be a real one, of course, and those things are nasty. It’s a sticky tree. They prick you. They shed. And then you have to get rid of them somehow, dragging them out the door while they leave a trail of trash behind. And those are all things the guy must do. The womenfolk just direct. I balked, and so did she.

It was an annual crisis. We both were at fault. Her overdoing, my underdoing.

Wife No. 3 does not provide those problems. We have an elegant, high-end, artificial tree we bought about 15 years ago at a department store in the nearby state capital.

Sometimes we put it up. Sometimes we don’t. I say we, but it’s really her. She does not ask for help. I sit on the sofa providing moral support. She does not get mad about it. We rarely have visitors, so I’m not sure why it gets put up. It’s just for us, and I don’t much care. I do enjoy traditional Christmas music,  however.

Silent Night, Holy Night, and so on. Deck the Halls!

Christmas Eve does not happen at the Hacienda. She does the usual Mexican thing elsewhere with her relatives, sometimes here on the mountaintop, sometimes at the nearby state capital. We have kinfolk splattered all over the place.

Christmas Eve dinner takes place near midnight in Mexico. I don’t do midnight, so I’m at home enjoying peace and quiet. When they get around to eating, I’m snoring. Everyone is happy. Our Christmas tree stays up till she gets around to dismantling it. Again, I watch and provide moral support, reveling in not having an angry Christmas spouse.

This is just one of many pluses one finds in Mexican women.

I wonder if she’ll put up the tree this year. I’m always ready with moral support.

Fa-la-la-la-la and Kalamazoo!