Hacienda facelift

2014IT’S NOT ALL about the storefront here at the Hacienda these days. Part of it is about changing color, a new look, a new frock design. An old girl desires change. Above, you see a fresh yellow around the upstairs terraza exterior. Previously, for 12 years, that area was green. See below, a photo from almost a decade ago.

beforeThe painter is also going to refurbish those windows. They are dry and flaked. He’s scraping them down to the bone and will repaint with some product that’s used on basketball court floors. The sun is brutal in the mornings, unkind to wood, and drastic measures are required.

You see that maguey in the top photo, the one with the stalk that shoots up over 20 feet? It’s visible in the second photo, just barely, at the bottom, off-center a tad to the right, tiny. Not the bigger, dark green maguey, which is long gone, but a smaller, lighter green one, below, muy chiquita.

And the walls are going up today on the storefront.

This morning there was frost on the lawn, so winter is on its way. We sit 7,200 feet above sea level where the air is clear, the sky is blue, and black vultures and ravens circle overhead at this moment.

The storefront, cont’d

Trench for one of two new walls.

Trench for one of two new walls.

THE LADS started work on the storefront Monday morning, and they’ve arrived here daily at 8 a.m. Much progress has been made. Above is a foundation trench for one of the two additional walls that will box in the area that currently is walled on just two sides. The trench has been half-filled with cement. It’s drying.

Below is the excavation for the foundation of the half-bath that will abut the storefront. The bathroom, a john actually because there will be no bathing there, no shower, will be the only part that will reside outside the already existing tile roof. The john will have a flat roof and the water tank will sit up there.

Excavation for half-bath’s foundation.

There are some unrelated details around the Hacienda that the boys will complete too. One is to remove that brick grill you see in the bottom photo. It was here when we bought the property 13 years ago, and we’ve never used it. Another is to replace the red tile roof above the green gate (top photo). That’s almost completed. Fast work.

That roof over the entrance gate was installed just last spring by a different workman. He did a crappy job, and tiles easily slipped this way and that. The new guys are cementing them in place.

In the top photo, you can see an old-style fuse box high on the wall just under what will be the storefront roof. Two metal conduits are leading to it. There are only two fuses in there, and it’s where the Hacienda electricity comes in from the street pole. That will be replaced with circuit breakers and moved somewhere to the right, which is to say outside the storefront.

An ongoing photo album of the work can be seen here. It will be updated often until the work is finished.

Watching this is great fun for me. If only I didn’t have to pay for it.

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(Note: The previous, original post on this matter is here.)

2-fer sunrises

morning

JUST MINUTES after posting yesterday’s praise of oxygen and stars, roundabouts 7 a.m., I looked out the window behind the computer screen and saw this, so I snapped a photo.

I think it’s the first sunrise (or sunset) shot to appear here in years. Normally, I leave such fluff to other folks who live in Mexico — sunrises and beaches and margaritas and parades and crocodiles and “such nice people.”

What’s notable about this photo — to me at least, not you — is that the sun is clearly moving into the Southern Hemisphere, setting us up for winter. That is not the mountain the sun prefers for rising in June.

The best month of the year, November, is winding down, and December lurks around the corner. December is unpredictable. It can be like lovely November, but it can also be early winter. You never know.

A visitor to the mountaintop from South Dakota asked me recently if it freezes here in winter. The answer is yes, but not every year. Most years it does, but only overnight. By afternoon, it’s in the 70s.

Generally, it’s a real swell place to live.

New Image

So you get your Moon money’s worth, here’s the last sunrise photo from years ago.

frozen

And to illustrate Hacienda life on winter mornings, here I am in the kitchen in some far January or February, trying to defrost myself with a hot cafecito while facing a sun-lit window. My wife knitted that wool scarf.

Night oxygen

starsOFTEN I AWAKE, usually temporarily, about 5 a.m. or so.

If I’m on my side, I turn to face up. If sufficiently awake, I take a deep breath. No matter the month, the air will be cool to cold at 5 a.m. And the air is remarkable, nice.

There is no central air at the Hacienda, of course. It’s pure mountain air. It is clean. There is no heavy industry here or anywhere hereabouts. Virtually none down the mountain at the capital city either. The air here is how the Goddess made it. It smells real good.

Here is another thing:  We see stars. I never saw stars in Houston, of course. Not a prayer. I remember decades back at my grandmother’s farm in Georgia, I would stand in the yard nights and oh-so-many stars. You don’t get that in big cities. Too much light competition and pollution.

If you’re out in the Hacienda yard on a cloudless night, there are stars from horizon to horizon. You spot dippers big and small. The moon is as it should be, from a sliver to full, depending on its druthers.

In Georgia, fireflies were common. They’re rather rare here, but sometimes you see them too. But it’s the air that’s particularly striking, its clarity, coolness and good smell.

Weekend wrap-up

IT’S BEEN a long time since the last Odds & Ends post:

1. I’ve abandoned my Facebook page. As so many people ahead of me have noticed, it’s a real time-waster. It’s the second time I have abandoned it, but I think it will stick this go-around. Perhaps now I’ll use my Twitter account more (under my real name), but I need to learn to be pithy.

2. I’ve started an album in my SlickPic website that will be devoted to almost daily photos of the storefront construction here at the Hacienda. When we built the Hacienda’s residence back in 2002-2003, I took scads of digital photos. One day, after it was all done, my hard drive committed suicide. Everything was lost.

odds__endsYes, I should have backed it up somewhere. In some areas, I am an ignoramus.

Mexican construction is very interesting and — in many respects — quite different than how it’s done north of the Rio Bravo. I was fascinated by the process, especially the use of tree trunks to hold up the ceilings until the cement dries. Of course, there are no crawl spaces or even basements, nor empty spaces in the walls where you can blow insulation. It’s solid brick and concrete.

3. You may have heard of the conflict in the state of Guerrero where a bunch of radical students (almost an oxymoron here) met up with a bunch of men with guns, some in police uniforms. There was gunfire, a few deaths on the students’ side, and 43 of the students were hauled off somewhere, presumably dead now.

It’s hard to pick the good guys because there aren’t any. The state of Guerrero has long had a particularly severe corruption problem, and that includes — obviously — part of the police.

But the students have long had a sour reputation too. They are called Normalistas, due to the type of school they attend, which are named Normal Schools, and they turn out uniformly left-wing teachers.

The student teachers are given to blocking highways and streets. (Pick your radical issue.) Generally, they have made an horrendous nuisance of themselves all over the nation for years. To get an idea of the “education” they receive, see this YouTube video. Note Karl Marx, Che Guevara and lots of raised fists.

This is particularly true in my neck of the Mexican woods, so I am not sympathetic. At times, when a gang of these youngsters want to go en masse somewhere to stir up trouble, they simply stop buses on the highways, kick the passengers out, and off they go, free bus ride. Cops usually no nothing.

Since thuggish President Gustavo Diáz Ordaz ordered  the Tlatelolco Massacre in 1968, which severely backfired on his administration, students have been given mostly free rein all over Mexico. They have become as most children become without parental discipline: spoiled brats. Spankings are long overdue.

Think billy clubs and tear gas because these are older children, far past puberty.

Perhaps some judiciously applied billy clubs and tear gas years ago would have prevented what has happened in the state of Guerrero. I think so. In the meantime, God knows where those 43 kids are.

4. It’s Saturday, which means we’ll be downtown this afternoon selling my wife’s pastries out of the wicker basket. There are some new items on the menu, especially quiche with caramelized onions. Two weeks ago, we sold out completely — about 40 items — in 30 minutes. Last week, all was gone in 40 minutes.

So, don’t show up late. That’s my advice.

Hacienda, Ltd.

The "Before" shot.

The “Before” shot.

NEXT WEEK a construction project will begin here at the Hacienda.

We’ve had relatively minor construction projects in the past, but this will be far greater. We’re going to build a locale, which is what we Mexicans call storefronts.

Previous construction projects have included the carport for the Nissan, basically a concrete floor and a clay tile roof, much like what you see here, but smaller and behind the photographer, which was me. Another clay tile roof was built in what is now called the Garden Patio. It’s where most yard gear is kept, not visible here.

And then there was the stone and concrete that replaced the grass and dirt (mud) over a wide area just inside the entrance from the street. It’s called empedrado, and you see it here on the ground in the photo. I would like to remove all grass from the yard and replace it with empedrado. Maybe I will one day.

When we purchased the double lot that now houses the Hacienda, this portal in the photo was already in place. It was about the only thing here. We have used the left side to park the car, and the other side for not much of anything. That is going to change, big-time. That’s where the storefront will be.

The street runs parallel to the wall at the right. From the left brick column, next to the Honda, a wall will be built back to the rear wall. And from that same brick column, another wall will be constructed, going right, until it connects with the wall that runs parallel to the street.

All of which is to say that everything will be enclosed except where the Honda sits. On the far right, extending out from the roofed area, a half-bath will be built over a septic tank that will be dug.

On the roof of the bathroom will sit a large water tank that will be fed from the street.

The inside will be stuccoed. Fluorescent lighting and six wall plugs, plus switches will be installed. The floor will be covered with another level of cement and ceramic tile will be laid. Lovely interior paint will go all around.

According to the builder, this will take four to six weeks total.

The cost — labor and material — for all that I have mentioned (plus some other, piddling details around the Hacienda) will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000. When all is done, another $850, more or less, will be paid to purchase and install what’s called a cortina — a curtain — a wide steel door that slides down and up to provide a spacious entry from the street. Thousands of customers will flood through.

Customers for what? That’s a good question. I have no interest in renting it. Don’t need the money and dealing with tenants likely would be a headache. Maybe my child bride will open a pastry shop one day. The storefront will join the downtown Casita as an income source for her in the distant future after I die.

It’s an investment. We’re on the main drag of our neighborhood.

As the work progresses, I’ll post updates. It’ll be fun.

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(Note: I will be taking periodic photos of the work’s progress, and they will be posted in sequence right here.)

Tropical music memories

HAVING WATERED the potted plants on the downstairs terraza, an every-Saturday-morning chore, I sat a short spell in one of the wicker rockers and listened to a song coming through the window behind me from the living room music machine. Roberto Carlos was singing El Show Ya Terminó.

borderIt reminded me of Puerto Rico, where I lived in the 1970s in a penthouse atop a five-story building on Calle Norzagaray* in Viejo San Juan — Old San Juan — overlooking the sea. I lived there with an Argentine named Silvina, a reformed working girl who always kept things from getting stodgy.

Once, she flew back to Buenos Aires for something or other, leaving me briefly alone high above Calle Norzagaray, but when she returned she brought gifts, vinyl discs of Atahualpa Yupangui, an Argentine folk singer and guitarist, and of Vinicius de Moraes, a Brazilian.

We spent many a late night — after I had returned from my work at the San Juan Star and she from her job waitressing at a restaurant-bar — sitting on our rooftop patio, next to the hammock, with Bacardi, Coke and music, watching cruise ships sail into the dark, starry nights.

Those two vinyl records have long vanished. I forget the title of Yupangui’s disc, but I have since purchased another of his albums on a modern CD. I like it, but far better is the compact disc I found of the exact other album she brought from Buenos Aires. It is titled Vinicius de Moraes con Maria Creuza y Toquinho.

mdThey sing in Portuguese which may be the loveliest language of them all.

I left Silvina behind when I returned to the mainland, but about five years ago she found me on Facebook. She was back in Buenos Aires, running a stable of taxicabs. She reminded me that I had introduced her to T-Bone Walker, so I emailed mp3 versions of T-Bone, and she thanked me.

She has grandchildren now, but I don’t — and never will.

It’s amazing where morning on a Mexican terraza will lead one’s time-stretched mind.

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* Calle Norzagaray is a short street, and I think the building where I lived is the pink one in the photo, but don’t hold me to that. It’s been 40 years, even though my second wife and I visited just 20 years ago.

(Other visits to the island are here and here.)

The gay mafia

LEFT-WING television pundit Bill Maher has criticized what he dubs the “gay mafia.”

He was, of course, referring to those who “take offense” at most anything while crouching behind the protective walls of their constant-victim status. Staying with the mafia theme a moment, there is also, of course, a black mafia, a Latino mafia, a feminist mafia and some lesser-known mafias too. All suffer mightily.

Fear them because you could lose your livelihood with an unwise word.

There is also a white mafia. It’s called the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody pays them much attention anymore because of white privilege. You can say whatever you want about them.

543446fed35b7fd43d433af0c2faa1adAnd there’s always the real Mafia, the greasy-coifed guys called Big Palooka and Little Jimmy. That was the mafia you wanted to steer clear of — back in the old days — before collectivists and their shrill political-correctness malarky greatly expanded the pool of mafias and their tactics.

So what floats this topic to the top of the pool today? An incident at a military, full-dress, formal ball in New York in which a couple of lesbian Army officers decided it would be great to French-kiss and play grab-ass and then get “offended” when someone asked them to knock it off. Details are here.

The officer who intervened, due to people taking photos and videos he rightly worried might end up on Facebook and Twitter, is now on the verge of being booted out of the military for insensitivity. Yes, him, not the lesbian smootchers and grab-assers at a formal military ball. They remain off limits, touched by God and holy.

He is a lieutenant colonel and decorated combat pilot. But those qualifications count for naught up against “offended” lesbians. This is the American world in which you live. Weep.

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(Note: This viciously run, unjust, new world is brought to you exclusively by those who favor the NDP — the New Democratic Party. Ironically, Maher, who seems to be growing a bit brighter with age, this week blamed the recent NDP drubbing in the midterms in part on the NDP’s getting “lost in the weeds of political correctness.”)