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

color
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.

downs

The City of Angels adventure

(Note: It’s advisable to read the previous post, The New York City Adventure, before reading this one.)

* * * *

GETTING OFF the Greyhound bus from New York City, there I was in Nashville, Hillbilly Heaven, and where my parents had relocated three years earlier.

My father picked me up at the bus station, drove me back to their apartment, phoned my mother where she was working, and said: Brace yourself.

Those very words.

I soon had a job at a small firm that refurbished mattresses. I and another guy would drive a truck to homes and pick up tatty mattresses that would be cleaned and returned to the owners. I worked there just long enough to save money for another Greyhound ticket, back to California.

My parents were still bracing themselves when I headed west again.

The ride from Nashville was not quite so long as the earlier trip from Los Angeles to New York, but it was a long haul nonetheless. Only a few months had passed.

I got off the bus in downtown Los Angeles, and a friend from the Air Force met me. I quickly found a studio apartment in Santa Monica and a job parking cars in a Beverly Hills lot. Things went downhill fast, economically and emotionally.

Just a few weeks later, I was broke. And living in Los Angeles without a car ain’t no cakewalk. I phoned my parents and asked for bus fare. Soon I was back on a Greyhound heading east to Nashville.

Shortly after my return, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, but that did not last long. Nothing lasted long for me in those times.

My parents were in Nashville because my father was working on The Tennessean newspaper. Within a year after my second return, my parents moved to New Orleans. I jumped into the Rambler’s back seat, going along for the ride.

New Orleans. Now that was a place where I felt at home.

For 18 years.

Two wives, one divorce, two (almost three) degrees, the newspaper business, bars, motorcycles, airplanes, raw oysters, Dixie Beer, crawfish and ketchup, hangovers, Mardi Gras … and even more Dixie Beer. It was a city that suited me.

Hightailing it from Carnival chaos

I LIVED 18 YEARS in New Orleans, so I know Mardi Gras.

Now I’ve lived 18 years on my Mexican mountaintop, on the hardscrabble outskirts of town. My new paisanos do Mardi Gras too. And of all the neighborhoods, mine embraces Carnival the most. It goes bat-shit crazy.

Carnival is best if you’re a drinking man, which I was during most of my time in New Orleans. Some events are best enjoyed while sloshed.

I embraced the bottle for almost precisely 25 years, from age 26 to age 51. Not coincidentally, that quarter century, which should have been my best and most productive, was precisely the opposite, and booze did it.

I’m going to list the pros and cons of boozing. First the pros:

  1. You feel real good for the first hour.
  2. There is no No. 2.

Let’s move on to the cons:

  1. Your life lacks focus.
  2. Your relationships suffer.
  3. Your job suffers.
  4. You lack concentration.
  5. It’s expensive.
  6. It’s dangerous.

There are others I could put on the cons. Going on the wagon was my best decision ever. My life changed overnight, literally.

New ImageBut being sober, I don’t enjoy Carnival anymore, especially how it’s done where I live now. We try to get out of town, and we’ll be hightailing it tomorrow to a suite hotel in the boondocks between San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo. The place is called the Grand Las Nubes by Inmense. La-dee-dah.

So while the neighborhood plaza at home roars with nightly concerts, we’ll be in the boonies sleeping blissfully with the only sounds being the occasional coyote singing in the moonlight.

And there will be no morning hangovers.