Nights of solitude

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The omelet and the toast.

I’M WRITING THIS last night, alone. It’s the second solitary night this week.

The first was planned. My child bride and a sister took a bus Monday to a town called Los Reyes, which is about three hours southwest of here.

(They changed buses in the city of Uruapan, which gained infamy years ago when bad guys rolled a decapitated head across a cantina floor.)

The sisters had to confer with a lawyer on a property issue. I slept solo in the Hacienda’s king bed, the window open for the cool air and the scent of datura. They stayed in a hotel. She returned the next day, and I was happy.

Yesterday, we got news that the son of a half brother — hers not mine — had been killed on a motorcycle in the nearby capital city. My child bride and a different sister took a bus down there to attend the wake. She’ll return today. Again, there I was in the king bed with the window open to cool air and the aroma of datura.

Last night, just like Monday, I skipped our traditional, evening salad, and I opted instead for a two-egg omelet with eight-grain toast.

There were no eggs in the house yesterday, so I had to walk half a block down the street to a very humble, hole-in-the-wall store. The eggs likely weren’t far from the hen’s heinie and, of course, Mexicans do not refrigerate eggs, which is no problem.

The omelet had onion, olives, tomato sauce, capers and Parmesan cheese from the green, plastic jar. After slipping it onto the plate, I added lemon pepper and Tabasco.

The toast received “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” Clearly, I’m no foodie.

I skipped Netflix too, instead reading some old yarns of mine, in part to correct punctuation. Also to relive moments, which passes the time when you’re sailing solo.

Here is one of my favorites. It’s a true story, written maybe 15 years ago, recalling a trip I made to Scotland in the 1970s. The references to the hammock and roof tile hark back to the upstairs terraza here before the recent renovation.

That hammock was long one of my favorite reading spots.

The piece is called:

Last train to Holyhead.

New ImageSwaying in the hammock softly with Rosamunde Pilcher.

Though wet June is weeks away, there are rain clouds.

But the hammock is safe under the roof tile.

Pilcher’s book Under Gemini is set in Scotland, my ancestral home.

Look here on this page: The rain had turned to a soft blowing mist which was beginning to smell of the sea.

If it rains here now, it will smell not of sea, but of mountains. You will hear soft sighs of parched plants, see the settling of dust.

Under Gemini was published in the mid-1970s, and at that same time I was alighting alone from a train at the Inverness station, just up from Edinburgh.

Stepping off another car at the same moment was a California woman on the very eve of her 40th birthday, also alone.

She was a professor of anthropology, attractive, heading slowly, with backpack, toward a conference in faraway India. We ended up in the same guesthouse, dining together after passing through a few dark pubs.

We found each other engaging, and spent the next five days as constant, carefree companions, becoming one.

After Inverness, our train headed west to the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. And later, there was the big smokestack boat that carried us south through the Sound of Isleat to a railhead at Mallaig.

We held hands on deck and smiled as our freight ship steamed through watery mountain passes. It was cold October, and we were the only passengers.

At Mallaig, we caught another train, continuing on through Fort William, Glasgow and finally, leaving Scotland, to Chester, England.

It was a five-day romance with no time for pains, sorrows or regrets.

Until those final moments. I had to return to London. She continued on to Holyhead on the windy Welsh coast, a roundabout route to India.

We kissed and waved goodbye as the old train chugged from the station in medieval Chester. Her window was open, and she leaned out, like in those old-time movies.

We never mentioned our last names and, even now, her first name, like her face, has faded. But not the memory of those final moments. Definitely not that.

The sweetness spiraled into sadness.

There is thunder here now. Let’s head inside the house.

Whole lotta shakin’ going on

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The Jesus Patio. The tallest “bush” behind it is the cursed pear. It’s coming down!

WHOEVER SAID life in retirement is easygoing was only sometimes correct.

We have too much on our plates right now. First, my child bride broke her arm a month ago. The cast came off last Friday. She still has swelling in her wrist, however, so we phoned the traumatologist yesterday. We got an X-ray of her wrist in the afternoon, and this morning we go back to the doctor.

* * * *

Five guys arrived yesterday morning and lugged the old LP tank from the service patio through the dining room, through the living room, and outside, leaving it in what I call the garden patio. It’s out back.

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This tank is extremely heavy and six feet long.

I said it was free for the taking, so one of them will return Thursday morning and haul it away. It is 15 years old, our first LP tank.

We were going to have this tank removed in January when other work is scheduled, but this weekend a blacksmith is coming to install circular stairs from the service patio to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, something we should have done ages ago because it’s necessary to go up there at times.

Now I creak up there on a ladder.

The circular stairs will partially obstruct the door from the kitchen to the service patio and likely would have made removing the LP tank next to impossible. I say “next to impossible” because Mexicans can do anything.

So we got the LP tank out of there while we still could.

* * * *

There is another circular stairway on the upstairs terraza that climbs to the roof of the second floor. That stairway will be moved next January to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, so we still have access to the highest roof.

One circular stairway from the ground to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, and then another from there all the way to the roof!

And why are we doing that? Because we’re going to remove the small, tile roof from the upstairs terraza and install another that will cover the entire terraza. This is how that terraza looked on a fine day many years ago.

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This is going to have an entire roof overhead.

But nowadays, it’s never used at all. It was never used much in the first place because it’s under blazing sun in the dry season, and it’s got an almost perpetual lake in the five-month rainy season.

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In the above shot, you can see the current tile roof, a small one, at the very top. It was installed almost exclusively to cover the hammock that was there for years, but the hammock is long gone. I just stopped using it.

The new roof will cover all of the upstairs terraza. It will be either more red-clay tile, or something more modern — glass and steel, which will not blend with the architectural style, but it will be more convenient.

For the entire space to be covered, the circular stairwell has to go.

That work will be done early next year.

* * * *

At the same time, we’ll tear up the Jesus Patio you see in the first photo, replacing it with a larger patio with a nicer ceramic floor. We’ll also remove the cursed peach tree, not shown, and the damnable pear. They both toss hundreds of fruits on the grass every summer, and I’m sick and tired of picking it all up.

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Nopal: Thirty-plus feet high.

Also to be removed is the cursed nopal tree. It tosses its little “tuna” fruit onto the new rock-and-concrete yard surface below, more crap I have to pick up. It sheds hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those “tunas.”

This nopal tree is at least 30 feet tall, and it’s covered with spikes. I stupidly planted it years ago when it was knee-high to a petunia. If I had only known.

Originally, I had planned on removing the nopal along with the other work in January, but I asked the crew who moved the LP tank if they knew of someone who would remove it for a “good price.”

Someone’s coming Thursday morning to remove the nopal! They will charge me $1,500 pesos, about $80 U.S. today.

* * * *

Our washing machine has committed suicide, so we bought another yesterday afternoon. The original washer, like the LP tank, was new when we moved into the Hacienda 15 years. I found a repossessed washer at a store marked down from 12,000 pesos to 6,500, which is a steal. It looks like new. Whirlpool.

We’ll repair the old washer if it doesn’t cost a bunch, and we’ll take it to the Downtown Casita for the convenience of vacationers.

* * * *

So, lots going on. I hope it settles down soon, and I can return to my previous life of croissantitos, orange marmalade, bagels, cream cheese, cafés Americano negro, and Kindle books on the sprawling plaza downtown in the afternoons, a child bride and no more broken bones.

Let us pray so.

 

 

Two birds, one stone

upstairs

FIRST BIRD:

This lovely photo of the upstairs terraza was taken years ago, but don’t be fooled. It’s the worst spot of the house.

Doing a 180, and taking another shot, you get this below, which was taken within the last year.

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The chairs are the same, but the table now lives on the balcony of our downtown Casita, and the umbrella rotted from blazing sun and scorching heat.

For years I had a hammock under the roof tile, which covers a small percentage of the overall terraza, but in time I found myself rarely using it, so I gave it away.

Nowadays nobody goes out there much. No plant survives there except for cacti. Due to the floor being too level, a pond lives out there, ignoring the drain holes, covering about a fifth of the area, through the five rainy months.

A few years ago, a big section of the ceramic floor buckled from the heat and sun, and had to be replaced.

The spot should have been planned better during the construction, but it wasn’t. A darn shame. Mistakes happen when you’re too cheap to hire an architect.

SECOND BIRD:

new-imageCan’t let a post slip by without a political element, at least not these glorious days.

Fidel Castro died. This may be the best month in decades. First, Donald Trump wins. Then Castro dies. Some are suggesting a connection, but I doubt it.

I was saddened, but not surprised, to see Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressing sorrow for the pendejo’s overdue death. I voted for Peña Nieto.

But even more appalling is the reaction of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who described Fidel as a “remarkable leader” and “legendary revolutionary.”

You cannot argue with either of those descriptions, but Trudeau meant them positively, not negatively.

Trudeau is a world-class ignoramus, and Canadians must be so proud. I guess he’s never been in Cuba, and if he has, he got the standard whitewash tour delivered by despots.

I have been in Cuba. A snarky hats-off to the Canuck nincompoop PM for inspiring me to link to this.

Let’s take both these birds and flip them toward Prime Minister Trudeau, using two hands.

Life changes

oldhammockSINCE DAY ONE, over 12 years ago, this hammock has hung right there on the upstairs terraza. I brought it from the porch of the two-story rental where we lived before building the Hacienda.

This hammock is actually second generation. Its papa rotted in time and was replaced by another, identical, that we purchased during a visit down to the coast. Good hammocks are not sold here on the mountaintop.

This one too is beginning to rot. It was always outside. We never brought it in, even in frigid winter. A couple of weeks ago, two young nephews were here visiting, and they played on the hammock in the typical fashion of 11-year-olds, which is to say maniacally. One string broke.

For many years, I was out there daily, swinging in the cool air under the red-tile roof, usually with a book, often with nothing but a peaceful heart. Those were good times. But I gradually tapered off. Dunno why. My child bride has never used the hammock much. She’s not much for kicking back.

I, on the other hand, am a first-class kicker-backer.

The perspective does not make one thing obvious. You step through that screen door, and you are almost against the hammock. It’s an obstacle, but when the hammock was used a lot, it was an obstacle I was willing to accept. Yesterday, I said to myself:  You will never use this hammock again, so get rid of it.

And I did. We folded it up and upended it into a corner out in the garden patio where the yard gear lives under another red-tile roof. My child bride does not want me to throw it away, even though it is well rotted, because she never wants to throw anything away. It’s a Mexican thing.

So I will wait some months, then toss it. Don’t tell her.

I went out this morning, and swept the upstairs terraza. It felt more open, more accessible, more friendly. I think even the magueys in the big pots are glad it’s gone. That terraza has always been a bit of a problem. Tough magueys are about the only plants that don’t die up there due to winter freezes.

In summer, it’s usually covered by a third with puddled rainwater. In springtime, the sun is brutal if you’re not under the relatively small percentage covered by the red-tile roof.

But we’ll be replacing the hammock with a couple of nice, soft chairs that are designed for outdoor life. We’ll get them from Costco in the capital city. It’s just a question of when we see something we like.

For years we also used the yard patio a lot, the one downstairs with the glass-topped table, web chairs and big, brown umbrella. However, that space too has dwindled almost to zero usage. Nowadays we use the downstairs terraza with its wicker rockers almost exclusively for kicking back.

Life changes. Dunno why.