Eating cheese

plaza
All the Christmas tourists have gone, thank the Goddess.

WALKING ACROSS the plaza Friday heading to the coffee shop, I was unaware that soon I’d be hauling cheese.

No sooner had I sat down with my café Americano negro and opened my Kindle to Charlemagne than my child bride walked up and deposited a bag with a container of cream and a half-kilo of cheese on my table.

Please take this home, she said.

She was heading to the gym.

One of the many things you’re warned about on visiting Mexico is not to eat the cheese. Isn’t pasteurized, they say, or something like that. I pay it no mind.

If someone puts a tasty cheese in front of me, I eat it, no questions asked, and it has not killed me yet.

This is named queso fresco — fresh cheese — and it’s my favorite. We  recently found a butcher shop in a bad neighborhood that sells great queso fresco.

When I got home, I took a photo for you. Half a kilo is a big hunk of cheese, and it will last us a while.

cheeze

Till I got it home it wasn’t even refrigerated.

I am fearless.

Happy Ville

out
Happy Ville this very morning! Peach tree in foreground, winter foliage.

A FULL MOON hung over Happy Ville last night, but that’s not its lingering display through the peach branches at the top. That’s a new WiFi antenna.

Here at the Hacienda we woke in high spirits today, so we’ve temporarily — perhaps permanently — renamed our home Happy Ville or, if you prefer español, Villa Felíz.

But there was work to be done, as ever, and I’ve been doing it for days. It’s cutting back summer yard growth. If this is not done, things fly out of control.

I’ve whacked one of the two daturas back to the nub. Same for the roses, and reducing the towering nopal horizontally* is an ongoing chore. And I’ve removed a goodly number of fronds from the big, malicious maguey.

pile
Growing cull pile.

I’m dumping my culls out back in the Garden Patio. Already included are lots of aloe vera, the aforementioned maguey and assorted odds and ends. The pile will grow.

When I’m finished, I’ll hire Abel the Deadpan Yardman to wheelbarrow it down to the ravine out back.

* * * *

Morning Walk

It was such a lovely morning, I decided to take the longer route for my morning exercise walk. This took me to the far end of the barrio where, oddly, a snazzy, four-lane boulevard of cobblestone is being constructed.

One can enter our hardscrabble barrio principally from two directions. This is the direction we rarely use, mostly because it was a potholed nightmare.

This renovation is welcomed, but I wonder why it’s being done so elegantly. I mean, really, four lanes? This stretch is only about a quarter of a mile and funnels into another narrow, two-lane, cobblestone street.

second
Another two lanes planned for the left side. New sidewalks too!

It would have been sweet if they’d made this short boulevard just two lanes instead of four and used the leftover money to build a bicycle lane from here to downtown. We’ve written the mayor about that. He’s ignored us.

No matter. It’s another fine day at Happy Ville.

* * * *

* Trimming it vertically is out of the question now.

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.

Night lights

light

WHEN WE built the Hacienda 14 years ago, we installed a motion-activated light out in the carport. When we drive in at night, it illuminates a nice section of the yard.

It goes out after three minutes.

Alas, that light only exists when we arrive from the street. When we walk out of the house toward the carport at night, there is total blackness on moonless evenings.

You can’t even see the sidewalk.

Now, after all these years of stumbling around in the dark out there, I hired an electrician who installed another motion-activated light just where you see it in the photo.

I am a slow learner. Perhaps a bit stupid.

Now, when we exit the downstairs veranda heading thataway, the light flicks on, and the path ahead is unmistakable.

¡Qué bueno!

There to the rear where you see a raised stone-and-concrete semicircle is where there was a humongous stand of banana trees. I had them removed two years ago.

Hanging on the wall is a big ceramic frog. That’s aloe vera to the left, and a towering nopal tree to the right with a big maguey in the nearer, right, foreground.

Looks a little spooky at night.

I’m really proud of the new light and wonder why the Devil I didn’t install it over a decade ago.

There’s another motion-activated light in the Garden Patio out back if you’re ever thinking of sneaking in here.

The hissy fits

fitWE MEXICANS love our hissy fits. They rarely resolve anything, but we throw them anyway. Here are three examples:

First: Eight or so years ago, Mexico City switched its electricity provider from some unionized outfit that ran an antiquated system to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, the modern entity that provides light to most of the nation.

The unionized outfit promptly threw a hissy fit. For months, they blockaded the entrance to the CFE high-rise on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The government ignored them.

These days the entrance is open, and electricity service is immeasurably improved.

Second: Mexico is in the early stages of an “education reform.” In part, this entails competency tests for teachers and they also lose the right to hand off their jobs to relatives on retirement. Unionized teachers promptly threw hissy fits.

The fits happened mostly in the usual suspect, backward states of Michoacán, Chiapas and Oaxaca. Unions blocked roads and highways, and squealed in the streets. The government is giving them lip service, but mostly it’s ignoring them.

Like the improved electricity provider in Mexico City, the education reform will happen.

Third, another reform is the energy sector, which is getting into high gear this year. For a variety of reasons, gas prices have gone up a lot. How did we react? We threw hissy fits, blocking highways, attacking gas stations, looting stores.

People want the old government-subsidized gasoline price. The government will ignore them and, in time, things will be better. Though gas prices likely will be higher.

Our hissy fits normally result in squat, but we throw them anyway. And it’s usually unions having the fits, fighting change, modernization and improvements.

Real estate baron

sala
Hacienda living room as seen from the dining room table this morning.

WE OWN three homes. One is the Hacienda where we live. Another is the Downtown Casita* where nobody lives. The third is the condo in Mexico City where nobody lives either.

All are stylishly furnished.

If we had to pay Gringo-level property taxes on those babies, we’d dump them fast as a flash.

My second ex-wife still lives in the Ranch-style home we purchased in 1986 in Houston for about $65,000. It’s valued far more now, and she pays way more in property tax than we pay for our three Mexican addresses combined.

We’re likely going to add a fourth address to our real estate empire. It’s a new development of just 11 off-street lots downtown here in a fantastic location.

And all utilities are ready to go, buried underground.

It’s just the lot. We’re not going to build a house, so it will be an investment, nothing more. And with the peso-dollar exchange rate what it is, the price is stupendo!

More on this later, I suppose.

* * * *

* Available to vacationers for a quite reasonable price!

(Note: Actually, we will own five properties if you believe our electricity provider which lists my wife’s pastry kitchen as a commercial storefront, a separate account. Its bimonthly bill is usually a bit higher than the entire Hacienda bill.)

Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Adiós, December

centro

I READ RECENTLY that more people have heart attacks on Christmas Day than on any other day.

The holiday season is not welcomed by many folks. It throws them into a fit of depression. While it does not depress me, the entire month of December is my least favorite.

Christmas doesn’t interest me because I quit believing in Santa when I was 7 years old, and I’m not a Christian, so the religious aspect means nothing. I don’t think it means much to many people, but that’s another issue.

I’m gracious when people wish me Merry Christmas, but my heart’s not in it. Before I moved to Mexico, my favorite day of the year was January First because it’s as distant from the next Christmas season as you can get.

Alas, in Mexico the hysteria continues till January 6, which is Three Kings Day, and that’s when little Mexican kids get their presents, not on Christmas.

My attitude toward Christmas was always a source of much conflict with my second ex-wife who is as pro-Christmas as I am anti. December was painful in our home.

Today is January 1, 2017, a fresh year. I dropped my child bride off last night downtown so she could party almost to the crack of dawn with a mob of her unruly Mexican kin, something she did just a week ago for Christmas.

She’ll come home tomorrow nearly catatonic from lack of sleep while I’ll be fresh as the proverbial daisy.

A few hours prior to dropping her off, I was walking alone down the hill there in the photo. It’s one of our town’s best perspectives. A New Year’s gift to you.

Many thanks to those who give me feedback now and then. I appreciate it. May 2017 treat you well.

For those who stay mum, may 2017 treat you well too.

Fact, Fiction and Opinion Stirred in an Odd Pot

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