WHEN I MOVED to Mexico 19 years ago next month, this is the city in which I initially lived — above a garage.
Unlike most folks who relocate below the Rio Bravo, I did almost no research beforehand. What investigating I did was almost entirely hunting online for a language school that was not too far from Mexico City.
I had a girlfriend of sorts in Mexico City but, not being a masochist, I did not want to live in the chaotic national capital.
Here is the language school I found. If I had decided on a different language school, I would have moved to a different city, and everything that’s happened since would have happened differently.
I stayed in the capital city for just eight months before moving to my mountaintop town of about 80,000 souls that’s located 50 kilometers to the southwest up a modern, four-lane highway.
Having the big city nearby makes living in my hardscrabble backwater considerably more bearable. We drive down there once a week for shopping, a good meal and the occasional odds & ends.
Our dentist is there, and our internist too.
My child bride did post-graduate study in Madrid in the mid-1990s. She often would get irritated at Spaniards who believed Mexico consisted entirely of dirt roads and burros.
As you can see from this video I found yesterday on YouTube, we are far from being just dirt roads and burros. We do have dirt roads and burros, but we are much more than that.
In many respects, living here is better than living above the Rio Bravo.
MOST EVERY morning following croissantitos and orange marmelade or Costco bagels and cream cheese lite, plus café americano negro, of course, we retire to the living room and sit on the red sofa.
The music machine is already playing. I turn that on before bagels or croissantitos. This morning it was Madeleine Peyroux who was serenading us. She’s been our morning music for quite a few weeks now.
And will remain so till we weary of her.
This is how the scene appeared this morning. It doesn’t last long because we are a very busy pair, but it lasts long enough to count.
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(Note: The rather loud tick, tock, tick you hear is my Aunt Ned’s (R.I.P.) antique wall clock which dates from about 1885. I date from somewhat later than that.)
HERE’S A GOOD video a nice-looking couple made of our mountaintop town and lovely things nearby.
I landed here by pure luck 18 years ago, first living eight months in the state capital which is about 40 minutes away down a smooth four-laner.
One day I came up here, sat at a coffee shop sidewalk table on the main plaza (not the one owned by my sister-in-law), took a look around and said to no one in particular: I could live here.
So I went back to my two-story, sparsely furnished rental in the middle of the state capital, packed my few things, rented a car, tossed it all in, and drove up the mountainside where I moved into yet another two-story, sparsely furnished rental. I lived there for 2.5 years until we built the Hacienda.
The first 1.5 years, I lived there alone.
When I moved to the mountaintop, there were about 40 Gringos in residence. Now there are about ten times that number, too many for my taste.
No matter. It’s been a fine time. Best decision of my life.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.