Events of the day

MONDAY DAWNED chill, gray and ugly. And in the afternoon, it started to rain, which is blasphemy here in February. Climate change. We should do something!

People wonder about folks who retire to Mexico. They ask, “What do you do all day?” The first thing to remember is that chores take longer here than they do above the border. This was very true years ago, but it’s becoming less so now, due to the internet.

After whole-wheat biscuits covered with honey at 8 a.m., I sat before the H-P All-in-One and loaded the website for the state government, specifically the page dealing with car taxes. Dial in the serial numbers and print out the page you take to the bank to pay.

The fee for each of the cars, 926 pesos or about $50 U.S., was the same even though one is a 2009 model and the other is 2014. Twenty years ago, it was necessary to stand in a long line to pay at a government office. Now you take the printed form and go to the bank. Much easier. The bank also has the sticker for the car window.

But the bank visit was for the afternoon. The morning still required other activities like the exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza. Just as we were heading out afoot at 10, José Sosa drove up. He’s the guy who did lots of painting here a few weeks ago.

Now he’s painting my sister-in-law’s coffee shop downtown, and he wanted to borrow one of my ladders. You’d think a painter would have ladders. He has plenty of other gear, but not the ladder he needed, so off he went with my ladder.

I have lots of ladders.

After the second breakfast at 11 a.m., I entertained myself with YouTube videos, and my child bride knitted. Lunch happened at 2 p.m., as always. We had meat pies she made on Saturday plus minestrone I made last week. Mexico life is thrilling.

Then we killed 90 minutes watching a show on Netflix. At 4 we headed downtown in the two cars. She had to pass by a cousin’s house to pick up rent for our Mexico City condo. The cousin is footing that bill for a nephew attending a university in the capital.

I parked on the plaza and walked to the bank to pay the car taxes only to find the bank closed due to a national holiday I had neglected to notice. We have so many holidays, it’s tough to keep up. They usually entail a long weekend no matter the day on which the holiday falls. The holiday weekend is called a puente, a bridge.

It bridges from the weekend to the holiday, and you get more days off. We embrace reasons not to work.

The puente also caused my Social Security payment not to arrive at the bank. It’ll arrive mañana, I suppose. My car tax errand stymied, I headed to the coffee shop, sat at a sidewalk table, ordered a café Americano negro, pulled my Kindle from my man bag, and tugged a scarf tight around my neck. It was raining, cold and nasty.

There were wool gloves on my hands with the fingertips missing. My child bride knitted the gloves. You must have skin showing to flip pages on the Kindle.

crawdadI’m reading a book titled Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, her first novel. It’s very good and, at one point, gave me a chuckle. I knew something Delia did not because I am old, and she is younger. In referring to a school lunch served to one of the characters, she mentioned a “carton of milk.” This was 1952.

There were no cartons of milk in 1952, neither in schools nor delivered at dawn to your front door. Just bottles. Cartons came years later. I miss the bottles.

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Tomorrow we’re off to the nearby state capital for our weekly shopping trip, but we’ll have a passenger, our nephew, the kid once known as the Little Vaquero, whom we are taking to an ophthalmologist. He’s not a Little Vaquero anymore. He’ll be 17 next month.

His eyesight is extremely bad and has been for years. His glasses are old, and so are his contacts, which he prefers because he thinks he looks dorky in glasses. His mother’s approach to this situation is: mañana. She does nada. So we’re stepping in.

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As I left the coffee shop this afternoon and walked through a light rain to the Honda, I stopped at pastry shop to buy a brownie. It was not as good as my child bride makes — few things are — but it was darn tasty. These were the events of the day.

Now, at almost 7 p.m., it’s still raining and ugly. I blame Greta.

A cold, waning day

IT’S 6 P.M., and cold in the house. I’m in flannel pajamas, a heavy coat, a snazzy scarf around my neck and a watch cap on my grizzled head.

There is nothing to be done. It’s late January, and we’ve actually been lucky so far. There were light freezes on two consecutive nights earlier this month, but it’s not dipped below 32º since. Other winters have been far worse. But some have been better.

I never weary of marveling at Mexican thought processes. Of course, it could be just my wacky relatives, not Mexicans in general, but I tend to project family nuttiness onto the nation as a whole.

Last week we enjoyed about three beautiful, consecutive, mild days, so my sister-in-law stated one afternoon with a straight face that she thought winter was over. My child bride agreed. A couple of nice days, and seasons are redefined for them.

I chuckled at the absurdity, and I’ve been proven right, not surprisingly. A few days ago, it got ugly, cold, and it even rained, which is not supposed to happen in January, not here anyway. It’s the dry season. Cold is one thing. Cold and wet is worse.

A few nights ago we watched a movie on Netflix titled The Bookshop which is set in England in the late 1950s. It stars two of my favorite actors, Bill Nighy and Emily Mortimer.

Ray Bradbury is mentioned repeatedly, and it occurred to me that I have never read anything by Ray Bradbury. I downloaded a Kindle sample of Death Is a Lonely Business, and it became clear why. He’s too cutesy and wordy for my taste.

Before coming home and slipping into the flannel pajamas, I was on the main plaza downtown with a café Americano negro and a raspberry muffin from a nearby pastry shop. I pulled out my Kindle and began the Lonely Business sample.

I couldn’t cut it. One of the many great things about Kindles is that one can order free book samples. Ray Bradbury will remain alien to me, and I don’t care.

Before writing this post, I opened the Gab social media website where I have an account. Gab is the free-speech alternative to Twitter. Leftists say it’s a white-supremacy website or alt-right, whatever that is, but it’s not, although you will find lunatics there. Most are not. One of the downsides of free speech is you have to let everyone speak.

The lunatics are easily blocked.

Big Tech has done everything imaginable to destroy Gab, including barring ways to financially contribute. Just recently, Gab found a way to accept credit cards again, and I used that route today to donate a small sum plus buy a Pepe the Frog sticker for my Honda.

pepe-the-frog-sticker-telegram-meme-frogIt is en route, Gab told me. I will have the only Pepe sticker on the mountaintop although in a field between here and the nearby capital city, there is a huge boulder that appears about eight feet high and wide, and it’s been painted to look like Pepe! I keep meaning to pull over and take a photo.

I briefly read Gab daily, rarely post anything but, amazingly, have over 1,000 followers. I do use Gab’s excellent and relatively new browser, Dissenter.

Pepe the Frog has been used as a freedom symbol by those Hong Kong protesters, and everyone knows those Chinamen are white supremacists and alt-right crazies.

Well, I’ve gone on long enough. It’s dark now, and my child bride will return from the gym very soon, expecting her salad to be ready. I cannot disappoint her.

Crackers, peanut butter & Coke

peanut

NOW THAT I do not have a family anymore, the original one, the one I was born into, I think about them fairly often. I miss them a lot.

Downstairs yesterday evening, alone and sitting on the scarlet sofa, reading the Kindle, I got hungry, so I stood up, and walked into the kitchen for a handful of unsalted peanuts, which I brought back to the sofa where it was comfortable.

Incense was burning, and the light was low.

My mind traveled from the peanuts to peanut butter and then onto crackers and Coke. That’s what my paternal grandparents, who were born in the 19th century, packed for road trips in the 1950s in their Chevrolet. They were in their 60s at that point.

When they arrived from Atlanta to our North Florida home, they’d still have some of those snacks in the Chevrolet, and then later, when they packed to head home, Grandmother would make more and bag them. They’d buy Cokes along the way.

My paternal grandfather owned a small general store during the Great Depression, and they survived fairly well, much better than many folks. My mother’s people who were farmers also weathered the Depression better than most due to growing their own food.

My mother’s parents owned Fords, but they never made trips, ever, which was different from my father’s people who were quite fond of driving about. Since my mother’s parents did not travel, I don’t know what they might have favored for road snacks.

It was not until last night that the fact that my maternal grandparents did not travel at all dawned on me. Maybe farming keeps one close to home, feeding the cows, plowing the fields, but I think it was more a matter of personality.

My mother’s father died when I was 12, and even then Grandmother tended to stay put. We visited her, not the other way around. Maybe she intuited something.

During a rare visit to our home in New Orleans a decade after she was widowed, she tripped and fell one night, was hospitalized, went downhill and slipped into death.

Her last trip. Hundreds of miles from home. She was 81. My favorite grandparent.

Funny where a handful of peanuts on a cool evening will transport your mind.

Minestrone and O.J.

min
My minestrone

I WEAR A SILVER ring on my right hand. It sports a miniature version of the Aztec Calendar. Maybe it slows my life down, or maybe not.

I’ll be 75 in a few days more, and that seems to have had an effect on my mind, perhaps because my father and I were near clones, and he died at 75. If the cloning continues into that realm, I still have a ways to go because he almost made it to 76.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a mental and/or emotional switching of gears. I’ve always been a real chill guy, but now I’m chiller than ever. I think it’s related to my birthday.

Enough about that.

I made minestrone for lunch today. It’s a spectacularly easy recipe I discovered years ago, and when we find ourselves nearing lunchtime and no plans to eat out and no leftovers in the fridge, I just toss together this minestrone.

It requires carrots and cabbage, the only two things I normally do not have on hand, but the day this dilemma normally presents itself is Friday, and there’s a veggie market on the nearby plaza every Thursday. I must think ahead at least 24  hours.

But enough about that.

We recently watched a mini-series on Netflix called American Crime Story: The People  vs. O.J. Simpson. It was quite interesting even though I knew how it would turn out. The program ended, O.J. walked, and I ordered Marcia Clark’s written version of the event, Without a Doubt, from Kindle. It added far more detail than did the TV series.

Clark, of course, was the lead prosecutor during the famous Los Angeles trial. Without a Doubt was written with a co-author, one of those ghost writer situations. Clark reportedly earned $4.2 million off the book. Not bad for a failed prosecution.

She left the District Attorney’s Office after the O.J. fiasco and turned to other things like writing books and making TV appearances.

She’s written a series of novels based on a defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman. I’m about halfway through the first novel, Blood Defense, and it’s pretty darn good. There is no ghost writer. Clark wrote it herself.

New Image
Leak was falling from the tip of the beam second from the right.

I was on the upstairs terraza this morning reading Blood Defense when my attention was distracted by a small leak at the far edge of the new glass roof, a leak that began almost immediately after the roof was installed weeks ago. It drips just inside the terraza, not outside where it would ideally fall. It was super annoying, a puddle-maker.

A lightbulb lit above my noodle while sitting there, looking out thataway, holding Marcia Clark, so I got up, walked downstairs to the Garden Patio, picked up a tall, folding ladder, lugged it upstairs and, with a piece of sheet metal and metal shears, made a water detour that I jammed into where the drip was originating. Problem solved.

The new upstairs terraza is so relaxing that we have 99 percent abandoned the renovated yard patio, which was once known as the Jesus Patio. Had we done the upstairs terraza first, we would have left the Jesus Patio in peace. It was a waste of cash.

Oh, well.