The New York City adventure

I WALKED OUT the front gate of Castle Air Force Base in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California a free, young man. It was the mid-1960s.

Taking a taxi the few miles into Merced, I got on a Greyhound down to the City of Angels where I boarded another bus headed to New York City, 2,451 miles away as the buzzard flies. It was a four-and-a-half-day ride.

I thought I was in love, and maybe I was. The object of my desires, my high school sweetheart, lived just outside New York City in White Plains. She was staying with her psychologist — or perhaps psychiatrist; I don’t recall — and his family, sent there from Jacksonville, Florida, by wealthy, worried parents.

Her name was Jane, a beautiful, teenaged Jewish Princess and only child.

Aside from one breakdown near Pittsburgh, Pa., in the middle of the night, and the fact that I had stupidly put all my clothes and toothbrush in my suitcase locked in the belly of the bus, the trip was uneventful.

I walked out of the Greyhound station in Manhattan and spotted a hotel across the street. I checked in, showered, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. Ah, that’s more like it. And I phoned Jane.

It was either that afternoon or the following day — it was over half a century ago — that she came into town to see me. We got naked in the hotel, just the second time in my life, and then we went out. The first had been with her too, a couple of years before.

I recall neither where we went nor what we did, but I do remember she was distant, which saddened me.

Over the next three days I found a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and got a job as a painter’s helper via an employment agency. The memories are quite vague now. I saw Jane one more time, and I walked her one evening to a subway station that would return her to Grand Central and on to White Plains.

I spent just one night in the apartment and never reported to my first day of work as a painter’s helper. Instead I returned to the Greyhound station and boarded a bus to Nashville, Tennessee, where my parents lived.

I did not say goodbye to Jane, and I never saw her again.

* * * *

(Tomorrow: The City of Angels Adventure, back to California.)

The Ironman

weightsI AM TRIM and, to all appearances, quite healthy for an old fart.

I attribute this to years of steady, light exercise, salads and a child bride. Don’t discount the latter.

In 1980, I weighed 60 pounds more than I weigh today. Oddly, I was not so much fat as formidable.

It was in that distant year in New Orleans — where I often would eat French fry po’ boys — that I decided to get trim and svelte.

Being fat is not an issue of hunger. It’s about habits and emotions. Services like Weight Watchers can address your bad habits, but they do little with your emotions, which is why 99 percent of overweight people get fat again soon after ending a weight-loss program.*

Of the two — habits and emotions — it’s emotions that play the primary role. They form the habits, after all.

Here’s how I took and kept off 60 pounds, and you can do it too. Well, except for those sneaky emotions.

I quit eating crap, and you know what the crap is: cakes, pies, burgers, Snickers, deep-fried anything, etc. You don’t need to buy a book that spells it out. It’s common sense.

And I started exercising. Twenty minutes of brisk walking five days weekly does it.  Thirty-five years later, I’m still at it.

Most folks start brutal exercise routines, weary of it within two weeks, and that’s the end of that. Don’t overreach.

In addition to walking, I do what my wife considers a laughable series of weight-lifting. That’s my weight machine in the photo. Three times a week, and it takes about 10 minutes.

I weigh what I weighed at age 21, half a century ago.

Before buying the weight apparatus, I visited a gym here three mornings a week, but the gym went out of business about five years back, so I purchased my setup at Liverpool in the capital city for the peso equivalent of about $600.

So there you have Felipe’s Foolproof Weight Loss System. Don’t eat crap, do light exercise five days a week (forever!) and marry a child bride, preferably Mexican.

You womenfolk can adjust that last element to your liking, but know that folks will gossip behind your back.

* * * *

*Don’t ever start a “diet” because they never work. The concept of a diet implies a beginning and — when you reach your “goal weight” — an end. When you end your diet, you start eating like you did before. And you get fat again. Never go on a diet. Instead, change your habits permanently.

Energy of autumn

FALL MAKES  me want to do something. It puts a spring into my step.

In just the last few days, the presence of autumn has become more obvious. Leaves fallen from the peach tree litter the Jesus Patio, and the summertime dawn temperature of 60 has plummeted to 58.

So, this morning, with that spring in my step, I cast procrastination aside and decided to do something. First, I did what I do every Saturday morning, and that’s water the potted plants in the veranda.*

Dave Brubeck played Take Five  through the living room window.

fallEnergy up, I cleaned the glass-top table and web chairs on the Jesus Patio. I brushed dust and bat crap from the shelves along the veranda walls. And I swept the floor.

I cleaned the psychedelic ceramic birdbath and changed the water. I swept the Honda carport but not the Nissan’s.

I stuck my head into the bakery workshop and said hi to my child bride, baking in a cloud of flour. It smelled good in there.

I walked upstairs and oiled the squeaky parts of the gym set.

Fall has always been my favorite season. When I lived in Dixie, it was as far as you could get from the next summer swelter. There is also a certain sadness — a tristeza — involved, but a sweet sort.

In spite of that, fall holds optimism for me. It inspires hope, and that’s always a good thing. It’s fall, not spring, that reminds me of love.

* * * *

* I am reading my third excellent book in a row about India by William Dalrymple. There are lots of verandas in India, and I like the word. Plus, it applies to what we have here at the Hacienda. So veranda will replace the old “downstairs terraza.” The upstairs terraza will remain a terraza because it is not a veranda. It’s mostly uncovered.

The corn vendor

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I POSTED THIS photo on The Satellite Moon some days back, and the more I look at it the more I like it.

The girl, as do others, sells roasted corn on the main plaza downtown. I have watched her grow up, as I have watched many young vendors downtown since I settled here 15 years back.

During my first year below the border I was talking with a female friend who lived in Mexico City. We were in a coffee shop in that chaotic capital, and a woebegone woman walked by. I commented that the passer-by had a very sad look on her face.

My friend replied: Mexico is full of sad women.