Whole lotta shakin’ going on

patio
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.

tank
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.

DSCF1770
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.

roof

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.

nopal
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.

 

 

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.)

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.

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?