Mexican life

Nearing the end

gas
Our very large propane tank.
heater
The solar heater is dicey, but it can work. It’s our second. The first was useless.

OUR PROPANE tank is almost empty.

Normally, the response is to phone the gas company, and they send a tanker truck, usually the same day, and refill it.

But we have a problem. There’s a gizmo that sits inside our tank, and it tells us, via a gauge outside, the level of the propane. That gizmo has gone on vacation!

This happened almost two years ago.

Since then, the gizmo decided to start working again, so it’s been filled a time or two. A fill-up lasts almost six months. But now it’s not working again. Our plumber says the gizmo cannot be changed unless the tank is empty.

If you knock on it with your knuckles, you get an empty sound, but there remains some gas in there because the stove and water heater are still functioning fine.

When the gas runs out, we’ll call the plumber pronto. Whether he comes pronto is another matter.

You know how we Mexicans are.

Both our stove and water heater rely on gas.

We have a second water heater — solar-powered — on the roof. However, it’s temperamental. Sometimes the water is blazing hot, sometimes not, sometimes tepid.

The kitchen stove is considerably less of a problem because we have another stove out in the pastry workshop, and it’s on a different gas tank.

And if the solar water heater totally fails, we can always drive the 15 minutes to our Downtown Casita, which is currently unoccupied, to take showers.

A few months ago, our plumber told us that the measuring gizmo inside the tank almost never malfunctions. He’d never known of it to happen. Lucky us.

* * * *

(Note: We have more gas tanks, water tanks and pumps than you can shake a stick at. I could be a survivalist kook.)

Edición dominical

Music and whiskey

TWO HOURS after shooting the video above from the upstairs terraza, I was sitting on the Jesus Patio eating seedless green grapes and listening to the hog next door expressing displeasure with her situation, which she does often.

This is being written yesterday, Saturday. The previous night had seen a heavy downpour that lasted I don’t know how long because I went back to sleep after waking briefly to notice it.

Some things don’t change much in these parts, and the sounds of sunrise are one of those things. Roosters, tractor-trailer trucks on the highway up the mountain behind us, crickets, the loudspeakers of the house-delivery propane trucks.

However, some things do change, and they’re generally for the better. We got some great news recently. An international chain of movie theaters, Cinépolis, is opening here in our mountaintop town. Hooray! Now we won’t have to drive to the state capital for first-run flicks.

The changes that have occurred over the past 17 years that I’ve been here are considerable. There were no major supermarkets. Now there are two. There were no stoplights. Now there are many. There were few Gringos. Now there are way too many!

I wonder how they’ll react to the Cinépolis chain. Over a decade ago, the Mexican convenience store chain Oxxo opened its first store here, and the Gringos, many of whom are aging hippies, went bananas. Egad! Modernization!

We have numerous Oxxos now, including one directly on the major plaza. Another sits on the nearby smaller plaza. Their signs are subdued, not intrusive.

I’m praying for a full-blown Walmart and Costco.

Convenient shopping is a good thing, and it does not detract from the morning views I get from the upstairs terraza, something I love and that never changes.

* * * *

An old friend emailed me this week. I rarely hear from people above the border, so it was a welcomed event.

He and I worked together on newspapers for decades both in New Orleans and Houston. Like me, he is divorced more than once. Unlike me, he is not currently married. He’s three years older than I am, and he lives alone in a home he bought in Colorado after he retired from the Houston Chronicle.

I had sent him a note after seeing him briefly on a Netflix documentary of Janis Joplin who was a close friend of his in high school in Port Arthur, Texas, and later in her early years of fame and drug-addled degeneracy.

My friend is a much-published poet, but not in recent years. He said his life now is mostly whiskey and music. And that all his major life decisions were wrong ones. That last resonated with me because all my major decisions were wrong ones too. Till 1996 when my major life decisions did a 180.

What happened in 1996? I stopped drinking. My friend is 76 years old, and I doubt he will do that.

I didn’t even mention it.

Here’s to music and whiskey! And staying the course.

The Odd Pot

Scratchy towels

STEPPING NAKED and wet from the upstairs shower stall this morning, I grabbed a fresh towel to dry myself, and it was scratchy and very nice.

I don’t understand the fixation on soft towels, fabric softener and so on. A scratchy towel is like a loofah pad. It’s invigorating, and you get dry at the same time.

We dry our clothes on a line in the sunshine under a clear acrylic roof out back. The first eight years we didn’t have the acrylic roof, so drying clothes during the five-month rainy season was a challenge. Sometimes, clothes would dangle out there for days awaiting a sunbeam.

When we built the Hacienda, we had a gas line installed next to the drain and faucets for a washer. We bought the washer, a nice Whirlpool that’s never given us a lick of trouble, but we never bought the gas dryer, and we’ve never missed it. A dryer would give us soft towels, and I’d miss the loofah thrill.

I’ve never purchased a clothes dryer in my life, though some abodes I’ve rented came with them. I used them when they were available because my fondness for scratchy towels was something that appeared later in life, like a good wife.

Some places I’ve rented came with dishwashers too, and I cannot imagine a more useless thing.

When I lived in Houston, married to Wife No. 2, we owned our home, but we never bought a washer or dryer. I was in charge of clothes washing, which likely had something to do with the fact that she worked days and I worked nights, so I had afternoons off. Once a week I would drive to a laundromat with a book and dirty clothes, which I would wash, dry and fold.

She always found clean, folded clothes and, often, a nice supper waiting for her when she got home evenings. I would already be gone to work. In many respects, she had a darn sweet deal.

Speaking of loofah pads, I once grew loofah gourds on a trellis in the back yard of the Houston home. They are an interesting phenomenon, and come with an outer shell that you must peel and break off. Then you’ve got yourself some mighty fine loofahs.

If you ever spend a night at the Hacienda, don’t expect soft towels.

Expect invigoration.

* * * *

What’s the photo got to do with anything? Nothing much. I was sitting downtown at a coffee shop today with a hot espresso, and I noticed how deserted the street and sidewalk were, which is quite unusual. It was about 4 p.m. I took this photo, which is nicer than a photo of a towel. ¿No?