The Middle Ages

AROUND  6 P.M. yesterday, I was watering the yard with a hose. Six months a year, this is not necessary. The other six months, it surely is. Just plants. I don’t water the grass.

If grass grows, it needs mowing.

I started with the Alamo Wall, spraying the ivy that covers the far side. Had you told me when I was middle-aged that I would spend my waning years behind an ivy-covered wall, I would have thought you daft or worse.

I went on to water things on the wall’s other side, where the yard sits. I only water plants I like. I do not like the loquat tree or the peach either. Not too fond of the pear.

They are trash-tossers.

I do water the sole remaining banana stand, the four rose bushes and the two daturas. I water the towering nopal cactus because I don’t want it to die and thunder down.

I do not water the huge maguey, but I do soak the two beefy aloe veras and the surrounding greenery. I douse the pole cacti, which are over my head now.

I water no bougainvillea. Damn things are on their own.

While watering I was thinking about history.

I have a bachelor’s degree in history. There are few degrees more useless than history. I almost topped myself, however, because when I first attended a university right out of high school, I majored in philosophy.

That was at Vanderbilt in 1962. But I soon dropped out and dropped philosophy too. What was I thinking?

I read lots of history these days. Recently, I’ve been focusing on the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, but it’s unfashionable to say that now. Maybe it’s a race thing.

There was lots of fun stuff in the Middle Ages. There was Charlemagne; his daddy, Pepin the Short; Vikings; Dual Papacies; tribes with names like Lombards, Franks and Jutes; and women named Gerberga and Himiltrude.

Nobody is named Himiltrude anymore.

lady
Gerberga

About a thousand years passed between the Roman Empire’s demise and the Renaissance. That time in between was the Dark Ages. We’re about 200 years shy of another millennium passing.

We’ll enter another Dark Age because people never learn. When baby girls once more have names like Gerberga and Himiltrude, you’ll know it’s time to dig caves and stockpile canned goods and hand grenades.

In the meantime, I wake every morning in the king bed next to my child bride, feeling fine and looking ahead to another day of blue skies, cool breezes and flocks of snowy egrets flying between here and the green mountains.

My Middle Ages were Dark Ages, but now my Old Age is a Grand Age even though I gotta water the yard.

Memory Lane

WELL, THAT’S enough about you. Let’s focus on everyone’s favorite topic: Numero Uno, themselves.

Here are four of my favorite photos of my own true self. Sure, some have been posted here before. So what? When one focuses on oneself, overdoing is not an issue.

I was young once, but I’m not anymore. I like to look back and think, Gee, is that me?  And it always is.

My life up to this point has been a bit more varied than most. I did not choose that road. It just happened. Some was fun. Some was decidedly not. Booze played a role for a long spell.

But I’ve been a teetotaler now for 16 years, and I’m having an even better time than before. What does that tell you?

With no further ado:

OneSitting in a San Francisco streetcar in 1963. I was 19 and in the Air Force.

I had dropped out of Vanderbilt University about a year earlier — women troubles — and enlisted. Women have long been a curse for me.

It was only when I latched onto a Mexican woman late in life that the curse was cracked at last. Heed this, young men.

twoFlash forward about 15 years, and here I am sitting in a Cessna 172 in New Orleans. The cap was a gag item. I used to fly small planes.

I never mixed booze with planes because I am not totally stupid. I did, however, mix booze with motorcycles on a regular basis, indicating I am somewhat stupid.

Roundabouts the same year, someone took the next photo, likely my second wife. That’s my daughter on the back.

She’s cute, and considerably older now. Pushing 50.

fourOver the last couple of years, I’ve developed a real hankering to buy another motorcycle. I’m not going to,  however, for a number of reasons. My bones won’t mend so easily, and Mexican roads are full of potholes and maniacs.

The previous photos are in time sequence, but we’ll have to back up a bit — about five years — for the following.

threeI love this shot. I’ve even used it as an avatar online.

Note the cigarette and, if you’re sharp, the apron. I like to cook, or I used to. Now I just prefer to be served.

And I used to smoke — cigarettes, cigars, pipes — but I stopped that stupidity about 25 years ago.

The photo was snapped by my Argentine girlfriend atop our penthouse apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Now I’m 71 with a child bride. And feeling fine.

And that ends today’s stroll down Memory Lane. Feel free to post your own old photos in the comments.

Evolution of a yardman

SOME THINGS just stick in your mind.

As a kid, a century ago, living with my family in Florida, one of my responsibilities was mowing the yard. I was not fond of it.

That ended when I graduated from high school and headed off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt. Ahem!

Flash forward about a quarter century. I bought my first house — in Houston, Texas. It had a yard. Two, actually. One out front abutting the street and another out back abutting the rear neighbors who, strangely, in my nine years there, I never met.

Once again, I was faced with mowing a lawn, and here’s where the moment came that sticks in my mind.

I was mowing the front lawn for the first time, and a neighbor across the street walked over. I mentioned that I had not cut a lawn in decades. Her response was: It hasn’t changed any, has it?

I laughed. No, it had not.

clippersI mowed that lawn for nine years until 1995 when my then-wife divorced me for an illegal-alien yardboy. Just a coincidence that. She worked at a plant nursery.

I moved into an apartment and then another. No yards. And then I moved to Mexico in 2000, renting a two-story house that came with its own yardman. Indeed, I was not confronted with a yard that needed cutting until 2003 when we moved into the new Hacienda.

My new lawnmower was not big, and it sported a Briggs and Stratton motor. Those engines have changed little since I was mowing in Florida. They are clunky. A couple of years later, I bought a bigger, better mower from Sears that came with a good Craftsman motor.

For about six years, I mowed the grass. I got older. I got my wife to chip in, 50-50. I got older. That was when I hired Abel the deadpan neighbor to cut the grass. I still did the edging with a weedeater. I got older still.

About a month ago, I hired a guy down the street who has his own gas weedeater to edge the Hacienda lawn. I am out of the yard business in all its aspects. Last week, after removing the extension cord, I hung my electric weedeater on a wall. That’s all she wrote.

I’ll hit 71 very soon. It’s interesting to watch life wind down.

Time to smell the roses, which hopefully are not growing overhead.