The lights go out

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Down thataway on the edge of our plaza.

IT WAS 10:30 this morning when my child bride came back from the butcher shop just down the street and told me the electricity would be cut soon and wouldn’t be back on till 2 p.m.

Somebody had told the butcher, and the butcher told her.

Whenever a native tells you something is going to happen at a specific hour, feel free to roll your eyeballs. It could happen at any time.

But turning the electricity off came quickly, about 10 minutes after she returned. Blap! Everything was off. Were it not daytime, we would have been in darkness. As it happened, we were in dimness.

On the rare occasions this happened in Houston, for maintenance, the light company would leave a note on all the houses in the neighborhood the previous day. In Mexico, however, they prefer to surprise you.

Were it not for the butcher, we would have been surprised.

I poked my head out the front gate. There were light-company trucks all over the place. The job at hand was to pull a new cable from down on the left to up on the right, about two long blocks, to the neighborhood plaza.

Electric service in our hardscrabble barrio is pretty reliable. Not as reliable as it was in Houston, but pretty darn reliable, and for a tiny fraction of the price. We pay the peso equivalent of about 12 bucks a month.

The power was restored by 2:20 p.m. Just 20 minutes later than promised.

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And just outside the Hacienda’s gate.

Lotsa wives, lotsa in-laws

AS YOU MAY know, I’ve been married three times. That means I’ve had three fathers-in-law and three mothers-in-law. This can be a good thing or not.

Let’s look at my in-laws because it’s the in-laws who created the wives.

* * * *

Buddy and Violet

My first in-laws lived in a shack in the woods of Louisiana on the outer reaches of New Orleans. Well, not exactly the woods, but it was close to it.

It looked like a shack in the woods. A car motor slept on the floor of the living room, and as you sat on the toilet you could see the ground through a hole in the floor between your legs. The shack sat on stumpy brick pilings.

There was ancient grease on the kitchen ceiling.

My father-in-law was a carpenter when sober and a raging drunk when not. He was more the latter than the former. In spite of this, he and I always got along fine, not because we were drinking buddies because this was before I started drinking.

And I never drank like him. He was a world champ, and I never rose above bush-league status. My first father-in-law was named Durward, but everyone called him Buddy or Bud. Maybe it was after Budweiser.

Buddy was a beer man, 100 percent.

To his credit, in late middle age, Buddy went cold-turkey, completely on the wagon, and he never drank again. When sober, he was charming. He was also a wonderful artist.

His wife was named Violet. She mostly bore up. It was a life of endurance. I liked her. She never drank at all that I recall.

* * * *

Art and Dorothy

My second in-laws lived in a big, beautiful house in St. Louis, Mo. You couldn’t see the ground through a hole in the floor in any of their bathrooms.

I don’t recall exactly how they came to live in that lovely house because my in-laws didn’t buy it. Someone bought it for them. I forget the details.

Art was a schizophrenic who spent long periods institutionalized. He’d be released on occasion, and my second wife-to-be would find herself with another sibling. Release, baby. Release, baby and so on. They were Catholics.

People who breed.

When he wasn’t in the mental hospital, he was a lathe operator, apparently a very good one. He finally was put on lithium and spent the rest of his life very subdued. Dorothy, who always welcomed him home with open arms and open legs, worked, but I don’t recall exactly what, something to do with offices.

They had ten children. My second ex-wife was the first of the litter.

I don’t recall meeting Art more than once. We lived in New Orleans and later Houston, and we never went to St. Louis but one time.

* * * *

Carlos and Margarita

I never met my third set of in-laws because they died before I came upon the Mexican scene, but I hear good things about them. They were neither drunks nor schizophrenics.

They were hard-working folks.

They had one thing in common with my second in-laws, however. They were fertile, producing five babies. There definitely would have been more had not Margarita died in labor while having her final child. She was just 31.

Carlos was a doctor, a general practitioner and surgeon in Los Reyes, Michoacán. He remarried and went on to produce another six babies, well, that we know of.

The doc was a lover. A heart attack killed him when he was 61.

I would have liked to meet my third set of in-laws, if for no other reason than they produced the best — for me — wife of the lot. Carlos was not fond of Gringos, I’m told, but that was true of the whole family. My charm brought them around.

* * * *

One’s roots

It’s said that one’s childhood plays a large role in forming the adult. I put more stock into this idea than many folks do. I believe the effect is enormous.

I look back on my in-laws and later the problems I had with their children, my wives. And I look at my parents and see issues my former wives had with me.

With luck, you mellow as you age. I think that’s why my child bride has few problems with me. I have none with her.

Getting up quite early

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Our cool morning world today.

I’M AN EARLY riser. I also like cool weather, which is one reason I live on a mountaintop and not on the edge of a beach. I sweated enough all those years in New Orleans and Houston.

This morning, I was up at 5:15. I was wearing a tank top — still am as I write this — and after checking the dismal news on both sides of the border on my H-P desktop, I slipped on my terraza sandals and went outside.

The thermometer on the wall told me it was 66 degrees. It was overcast, apparently due to a big storm in the Pacific. I liked the look of things. And the sound. There wasn’t much sound aside from the chickens next door.

Things looked good, so I got my camera and took the shot. See that tallest tree there in the yard? That’s the damnable peach, which trashes the grass every summer. That baby is coming down early next year, to my child bride’s dismay.

We’ll be installing a nice stone patio in the whole area. No trash trees allowed.

Maybe we’ll get some rain today due to the storm. That would be good and cooling. But I hope it doesn’t start before 10 a.m. because that’s when Abel the Deadpan Yardman comes to cut the grass.

But now it’s time to head downstairs for croissantitos and marmalade.

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Doing the propane shuffle

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“The guy” and his son install the new propane tank, left, on Friday.

I’M A GAS MAN, and I’ve been a gas man since long before I flew over the Rio Bravo to settle down. I don’t like electric stoves, for instance, and can’t imagine why anyone would use one when there is a gas option.

Gas is cheaper, and you can fine-tune the gas flame far better than you can adjust the heat on an electric burner. Quicker too.

When I lived in Texas, our house received gas from God knows where via buried pipes. Water came the same way. Both were metered, and you paid for what you used.

In Texas, and New Orleans before that, my stoves were gas as were space heaters and water heaters. Gas is the way to go. Cheap, clean, explosive. Nothing’s perfect.

When we constructed the Hacienda 15 years ago, I bought about the biggest residential propane tank you ever see. It holds 500 liters. I filled it when it needed filling, but otherwise I gave the thing little thought.

About a year ago, the gizmo that measures how much gas is in the tank decided to quit working. This is problematical. I began winging it, guessing. Recently, I had a plumber over, told him about the issue, and he asked how old the tank was.

He said that it’s a good idea to replace them every 10 to 15 years, something about the interior welding that can go bad. So instead of replacing the meter, which would have been a special order, time-consuming, and the tank was nearly empty, I bought a new tank.

They’re not that expensive.

It’s smaller, holding 300 liters instead of the 500 the bigger tank holds.

I’ll be using the smaller tank exclusively, so I can either let the big one sit there forever, or I can have it removed. I’ll likely do the latter although that’s going to be a bear. The only way out is through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

The tanks are in an interior patio.

I’d prefer to have the big tank empty before hauling it through the house. Since the meter is broken, the only way to judge the quantity is by knocking on the side with your knuckles. It’s sounded empty for weeks, but we’re still using its gas.

But it will run out one day soon, and I’ll just switch to the other tank, which I had filled yesterday from a tanker truck.

The plumber rigged the copper pipes and connections so that I can fill either tank separately from an outside connection on the street, and I can send the gas into the house from either tank too, separately.

Excellent Mexican design.