The arch at night

arch

HEADING TO bed the other night, I turned around and saw this, and it occurred to me that I’d never taken a straight-on shot of the arch.

The camera was sitting on a table by the front door just off to the left, so I grabbed it, set it on flash, and shot this picture. I almost never use the flash, but it was necessary.

I was standing in near-total darkness.

Those two large plates hanging on either side of the arch were purchased years apart. The one on the left we bought about a decade ago during a trip to Taxco. The one on the right we bought more recently in Ajijic, Jalisco.

Ajijic, like San Miguel de Allende, is one of the most beloved spots for Gringos who want to live down here, do “art,” and not have to be bothered with learning pesky Spanish.

See those two carved-wood columns at the bases of the arch? That was my child bride’s idea. She came up with some doozies during the Hacienda construction.

About a week after moving into the house in 2003, we had a party to show it off to people we knew here. It was back before I turned into an almost complete hermit.

One of our invitees brought someone visiting from above the Rio Bravo. He was an architect, and he told me that finding someone in the United States who could build that arch would be almost impossible these days.

The old guy who built ours, Don Felipe Gonzalez, did it by hand, and it was interesting to watch the work. He was the boss of the three-man construction crew. Don Felipe turned 70 during the construction, and he’s since died.

He also chipped stone blocks out of rock piles to build the two fireplaces and, later, the Alamo Wall out in the yard. He did them by himself. Don Felipe was an artist.

When we hired him to build the Hacienda, he was 69 and just recovering from a lengthy illness of some sort. He was having trouble finding work due to his age.

Ageism, sexism, almost all the isms, thrive in Mexico.

People thought he was not up to it. He was recommended by a relative, and Don Felipe gave us an exceptionally low price for the labor. We jumped at it.

He’s long gone, but I think of his talent almost daily as I wander around here, even late at night before beddy-bye.

The age of dust

WE ARE IN The Age of Dust. It lasts, more or less, two months, April and May. There is also the Age of Rain, the Age of Freeze and the Age of Loveliness.

That last one runs from November until late December. It is the Age of Loveliness because it has stopped raining; it is not freezing, and there is no dust to speak of.

It is neither hot nor cold. Our world is green, and the sky is blue. It is like that little bear’s porridge, just right.

The Age of Dust rivals the Age of Freeze as the worst of the year, but even those two Ages are pretty swell because this mountaintop is a wonderful place to live.

April also brings our wedding anniversary, 14 years now. Of my three marriages, this has been the longest even though I lived with my second wife for 19 years.

We were married just the final 10.

My Mexican child bride and I had known each other just under six months when we wed in the interior courtyard of her sister’s home on the main plaza.

We did not know each other very well, in large part due to the language barrier. My Spanish was still marginal, and her English was nonexistent.

But we took quite a shine to one another, and 14 years later it’s turned out just fine. I’d do it all over again.

Here’s a photo from the evening in question:

wedding

It was a low-budget affair. We didn’t even hire a photographer. A friend took pictures that were mostly useless.  A professional wouldn’t have that mystery hand in the photo.

There were about 30 guests. There was dancing, pozole and music, part of which was provided by this fellow:

We were married in the Age of Dust, and one day we will be dust, the both of us, likely me first, of course.

But it’s been a spectacular time. If you marry often enough, eventually you get it right. Dust doesn’t matter.

Old toilet times

johnTHIS IS THE upstairs john. The walls are ceramic tiles and look like a checkerboard. They are black and white, one of my favorite themes. The john is British racing green, and the seat is wooden.

What is notable here sits on the little table. Two books. One is 501 Spanish Verbs and the other is The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice (For intermediate and advanced learners).

Those two tomes have lived right there in that very spot for 12 years, which is to say since we built and moved into the Hacienda in 2003. Twelve years back, my Spanish needed work. It could still use some but not nearly as much as before. I almost never speak English now.

And I rarely thumb through those books anymore either while I’m, well, you know, sitting there. But there they remain. I’ve had reading material by the johnny most of my life. Unfortunately, nowadays, I have no magazines to put there because I no longer subscribe to magazines.

And I have no book to leave there because all my books are on a Kindle, which does not live in the bathroom. It travels with me.

Times change, but habits are hard to break. So these two Spanish textbooks stay put, and I imagine they will be there on the day I die.

Getting Mexicanized

Typewriter
Typing citizenship application on my 1923 Royal in 2005.

WHEN I FLEW 30,000 feet over the Rio Bravo from Atlanta to Guadalajara on an icy (in Atlanta) night on January 20, 2000, I had a few plans, but becoming a Mexican was not one of them.

My plan consisted of three parts:

1. Learn Spanish.

2. Get married.

3. Build a house.

I had completed all three in three years. Well, the Spanish was dicey in 2003, but that’s all I spoke because my child bride’s English was — and continues to be — marginal.

One thing not on my sketchy list of plans was becoming a Mexican citizen. Hadn’t even entered my aging mind. It was only after I had been here a spell that I began to see the advantages.

The pluses* were that I do not have to renew my visa every year. I can now vote against Latino leftists. I can open a bank account without, one hopes, Barry breathing down my neck to support his socialistic schemes. I can tell Mexicans that I am a paisano. It makes me look good. I possess two passports. Basically, it’s just fun.

For anyone planning to spend the rest of his life in Mexico, becoming a citizen is — as the old phrase goes — a no-brainer. And, amazingly, it was very easy, a piece of chili cake.

From what I can make out, there was a window of opportunity, possibly unintentional on Mexico’s part, from about 1999 to 2005 in which one might become a citizen without doing much of anything aside from asking.

No language test. No history test. No civics test. Nada. I typed out an application form (see photo), provided a few mugshots, paid about a hundred bucks, and sat back. It was like renewing the yearly visa.

Eleven months later, I had my sombrero, black mustache and bottle of tequila. It’s nice to be part of a nation on its way up instead of on its way down — into the abyss. I shall mention no names.

It was a great idea. Note to Mexico: Thanks for letting me in.

* * * *

* At that time. In recent years, the visa situation has been totally revamped.

(Here is an earlier version of the event in question.)