A rare breed

DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.

oddballsThe trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.

With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.

Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.

Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country:  a minuscule 0.3 percent.

This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.

Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!

Donating to Barry

I SENT MY kilo of carne to Barry yesterday. Yes, I filed my tax return.

Actually, I did not pay Barry yesterday. I paid him last year in the form of withholding when I took some cash out of an IRA. I pegged it very well, close to perfect, because I was due a refund of just $31.

turbineI imagine Barry will use my $4,969 to fund bald-eagle-killing wind turbines in Texas. My payment was nothing compared to the $13,000-plus federal heist that Steve Cotton suffered.

My tax return is a simple affair. We live on Social Security payments and a small pension from the Hearst Corp., my final employer. I toiled there 15 years. And occasionally we take money from the IRA. It’s when we take cash from the IRA that tax sometimes is due. The SS and pension alone is official U.S. poverty.

Thank the Goddess for the internet, which makes this yearly curse easy, labor-wise. Every year since moving over the Rio Bravo 15 years back I have used TurboTax, which is the most popular tax-filing website, it appears. However, a few times TurboTax has given me headaches, so I looked at alternatives this year.

One of the most popular options is TaxAct, and that’s what I used. It is far better than TurboTax. The only glitch, a temporary one, was when I neared the end of the process. What to do with the $31 refund? TaxAct showed only two options: electronic deposit to a U.S. bank or a check in the mail.

Neither of those work for me. Due to Barry (and this is true), I no longer have a U.S. bank. It was pulled out from beneath my feet last year due to fresh legislation known as FACTA, a poorly thought-out, Democrat-sponsored and Barry-signed piece of baloney that intended to catch fat cats with offshore accounts.

What it did mostly was torment retirees and other honest U.S. citizens living outside the United States.

A check in the mail is useless too because — also due to new U.S. legislation from the Democratic Party — Mexican banks no longer cash nor accept dollar checks for deposit. Unintended consequences.

When the U.S. bank closed my account — to avoid Barry’s onerous paperwork — I also lost my two U.S. credit cards that were paid in full each month from that bank account. I still have those cards, but I cannot use them because I cannot pay them. I paid for the TaxAct service with my wife’s HSBC credit card. HSBC will not give me a credit card because I am “too old.” I guess I could drop dead at any moment, and leave an unpaid balance.

Well, back to that $31 refund. I emailed TaxAct support because I was reasonably sure the refund could be applied to next year’s tax obligation. They answered the next day, pointing me to a rather obscure corner of the process where I could do that — and I did. Then I easily e-filed. I’ll be sticking with TaxAct.

Best of all was learning with certainty that I am exempt from Barry’s chaotic socialized medicine scheme due to living outside the United States. The advantages of living in Mexico keep piling up.

* * * *

I am not a fan of the president of the United States. I was borderline horrified today to read that a recent Gallup Poll showed his popularity had risen to near 50 percent again. Freaking incredible. Why?

BarryMany of the more rabid conservatives like to say Barry is a Mohammedan or that he was not born in the United States. I do not believe those things, but I do believe Barry is absolutely inept, a true child of the 1960s. Those of you who voted for him should do penance.

Re-education camps should be established for those who voted for him twice.

One of the best, most sober descriptions of the Barry situation that I have ever read is right here.

Early blackbirds

DSCF1770

Upstairs terraza photographed in some distant springtime.

I CALL THEM blackbirds, but they’re really just soot.

Every springtime the rural folks in these parts burn dry fields, and this produces soot like you wouldn’t believe. Some days it’s like black rain, but with “drops” the size of feathers. And these fall into the yard, drift into the downstairs terraza and, of course, the upstairs terraza.

But it’s not springtime, so I don’t know what the Devil’s going on, plus it’s not falling anywhere near the quantity that drifts down in true springtime. No matter. Here it is. Like shedding blackbirds.

This morning, before 8 a.m., I decided to sweep the upstairs terraza before going downstairs for bagels and Philly cream cheese light. The feathers were plentiful, and I disposed of them.

Speaking of blackbirds, we have real ones, lots. There are ravens and black vultures and grackles. The ravens and black vultures — that sometimes circle high above in scores — I enjoy. The grackles, no. Those big, black blokes land in the birdbath and splash all the water out. It’s not neighborly.

If only I owned a shotgun.

* * *  *

The Angry Corner

Ouch

THIS IS THE angry corner, and I have no one to blame but myself.

Every springtime the yard gets a good going-over. This entails removing lots of stuff. If it’s frozen over the winter — and it often does at night, but not so far this year — the amount of dead stuff to be cut is considerable. I do much of it myself, and then hire someone to haul it off — to somewhere.

But even during this (so far) mild winter, plants must be cut. The lower, drooping, limbs of the fan palm, nopal, lots of banana leaves, maguey fronds, which grow endlessly and cussedly.

I have taken care of most of that this season. The only place that I keep procrastinating about is the Angry Corner. Years back, I planted a sole, small banana tree, about 18 inches high. And then I planted a cute little maguey, the yellow-green one, that we bought in a nearby village. And I clipped a piece of aloe vera and stuck it into the ground one day. And let’s not forget the sole pad of nopal cactus, four or so inches high.

Flash forward a decade. The stand of banana trees simply takes up lots of space, but those other things are armed, huge, and dangerous. It’s a risk even going near. I’m trying to work up the nerve.

* * * *

Mexico City

WE’LL BE HEADING to our nation’s chaotic capitol soon for a few days. It’s a necessity. Pay some bills for our condo. Dust and mop. Air it out. See what’s changed in the neighborhood. Eat some caldo de gallina in a new restaurant just three blocks away.

And we’ll try to make some headway with getting the condo’s deed into our hands, yet again. We paid it off years ago, but it was purchased from a government agency. Many arms of Mexico City’s government have improved immensely over the years, but the agency handling our deed is mired in the inefficient past.

Don’t try any funny stuff here while we’re gone. The two rottweilers, Rolf and Rachel, will be on duty. We don’t leave food, so that keeps them hungry and on edge. It might get ugly.

Jalapeño cornbread

cornbread

THE PASTRY WORKSHOP is off and running, as they say. It debuted Monday with jalapeño cornbread, something I first enjoyed in Texas in the late 1990s at a popular gumbo restaurant just behind the Houston House Apartments where I lived a miserable year after my second wife tossed me into the street.

But let’s not wander down the sad alley.

While in Houston 10 years ago, en route to Atlanta, my Mexican bride and I lunched at the gumbo joint, the name of which escapes me, and the gumbo was accompanied by yummy* jalapeño cornbread. A Georgia Cracker by birth, I’ve eaten lots of cornbread in many guises, but never before with jalapeños, a Mexican twist.

When we returned to our mountaintop Hacienda, my wife began making jalapeño cornbread, and we have it every night to accompany the big salads I prepare to eat upstairs in the recliners while we watch Netflix.

The proper flour is not common here, but we find it in the state capital in a natural food store.

Unlike all her other tasty goods, she does not make jalapeño cornbread to sell. It’s just for us, and a friend who lives down the road gets some on occasion too.

Now and then I make gumbo which is a stupendous addition to jalapeño cornbread, or perhaps it’s the other way around. No matter. It’s a great way to live, and I pray it continues for a long, long time.

* * * *

* Some years ago I was criticized for using the word yummy. But here it is again. Do forgive.

Mardi Gras Mexicano

carnival

I LIVED 18 YEARS in New Orleans, which is a lot of Mardi Gras beads, raw oysters and Dixie beer.

Fact is that I’ve seen enough of Mardi Gras. I’m weary of it, but here I am living in the most Carnival-crazy neighborhood of my Mexican mountaintop town.

We don’t have parades that rival the Krewes of Louisiana, of course, but gangs of kids and grownups dress up and move through the streets, sometimes accompanied by trombones and tubas. And, of course, explosions because Mexicans never overlook an opportunity to light a fuse.

And there are huge concerts on the plaza a block and a half away. Every year there’s a concert Saturday night, Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night and one year, sacrilegiously, on Ash Wednesday night too. They just could not put a brake to it. They were too jazzed up.

I opened our front gate this morning to let a plumber in, and I found not just the plumber but this group of boys passing by. I had them pose for a photo, so I could share with you.

I am a sharing sort of fellow.

Geppetto’s magic

kitchen

Waiting for Geppetto.

work

Geppetto at work this week.

done

The finished product.

THE PASTRY workshop is finished. The final step, the installation of counters and a worktable, was done by an old carpenter we called Geppetto because his appearance reminded my child bride of Pinocchio’s pal.

Geppetto did much of the groundwork downtown at his shop. Then he and his son brought the bases here in a taxi pickup truck. The final work was done in two days, and we’re quite happy with it.

We had purchased about 15 feet of Formica at a building-supply store here in town.

Now we must move all related cooking gear from the house’s kitchen to this new space.

Before, last November.

Before, last November.

After, how it now looks.

After, how it now looks.

* * * *

You might recall that the solar water heater on the Hacienda roof was removed at about the same time the unrelated work on the pastry workshop got under way in November.

We purchased the heater four years ago, and it was never worth warm spit. This was surprising since it was manufactured by Rotoplas, one of the big names in Mexican plumbing gear. It had a 10-year guarantee and, to Rotoplas’ credit, they removed it and returned the full purchase price of 10,600 pesos.

solar

So we bought a new one, slightly larger, made by another company, Solemex:

newone

The hardware store manager told us they had sold just six of the Rotoplas heaters, and four were lemons. They’ve sold more than 25 of the Solemex and, he says, the owners are all contented customers.

Let us pray that we will be contented too. And it cost only 6,000 pesos.

* * * *

(For a blow-by-blow photo gallery of the workshop construction, go here.)

(For a taste of pastry production, go here.)

The black Jesus

ONE OF THE reasons I subscribe to no religion is that you often must do odd stuff. The believers do not consider it odd, of course, and since I support organized religion for the societal glue that it is, I say to them: Go for it.

This weekend brings a strange Catholic event to our corner of Mexico. It is the pilgrimage to Carácuaro, a small town in our state’s “Tierra Caliente.” Carácuaro’s draw is a huge statue of a black Jesus. Mexican Catholicism has more variations of Jesus and Mary than you can shake a sceptre at.

Every year about this time thousands of Mexican faithful set off to Carácuaro on foot, on bicycle, in cars, on motorbikes, on knees, you name it. Often they tote statues and crosses of varying sizes. The walkers usually start from some town that can be near or far, depending on one’s devotion and physical stamina.

My wife, her sister, and our young nephew (the young vaquero) are fond of this trek even though neither of the adults profess to be Catholic. My father-in-law, the long deceased doctor, was extremely anti-Catholic, so they were not raised in the Catholic church. Or any church.

They only do it half-assed, which is to say they drive most of the distance and then, nearing Carácuaro, they get out and walk the last few miles. They hire a chauffeur from here to accompany them.

Once, however, my wife did it full-tilt boogie. In 2002, just before we married, she and her sister-in-law’s now-deceased husband, the fellow I used to call The Eggman, set off from a distant town and walked for two days, spending the night on the ground somewhere. They trekked down country roads and through woods over mountaintops and rural fields. About 70 miles, to hear them tell it.

Her sister made that trip in a car and brought them back the afternoon of the second day. They were laughable, grimy, limping, groaning and somehow my future wife had chipped a front tooth, since repaired.

Now they do it in a more sensible manner.

One year I accompanied them as driver. Yes, I have been to Carácuaro. I have seen the black Jesus. The only walking I did was from the parking lot in a field on the outskirts of town to the downtown church which was surrounded by throngs of faithful folks in states of exhaustion. We went and returned the same day.

Tomorrow morning, they will set off around dawn. I will spend the day here at the Hacienda, relaxing.

Getting it right

right

OLE FELIPE is a conservative of the non-church variety, primarily a libertarian.

When I vote in U.S. elections (from afar), I vote Republican not because I much care for the Republican Party. I decidedly do not. They get too hung up on religious matters when other issues are far more pressing. No, I vote GOP because it’s the not-Democrat party, the only viable alternative.

Most of my life, I voted Democrat, so I am a recovering lefty. No, that’s incorrect. I am fully recovered.

It’s trendy in some circles to say there’s not much difference between the GOP and Democrats these days. This is silly. If you think the United States would be the same today had McCain won in 2008 or Romney in 2012 as the America over which Barry runs riot, you are quite in error.

Polarization is at a fever pitch. If get your news (and most Americans don’t get news from anywhere) from The New York Times, HuffPost, Slate, Mother Jones, NPR, etc., you have one viewpoint, a wrong one, in my opinion.

If, however, you get your news from the same places I get mine, you will be well informed.

As a public service, here they are:

1. The Washington Times.

2. Breitbart (my personal favorite).

3. Fox online (not as good as the most-watched TV news network).

4. Truth Revolt (Ben Shapiro, one sharp, young Jew).

5. Townhall.

6. Free Beacon.

7. The Federalist.

8. Independent Journal Review.

9. The Daily Caller.

10. The Blaze.

Due to the nonsense emanating from Barry’s White House, plus the shameless collectivist cheerleading done by the corrupt, mainstream media, new conservative news sources are popping up all over, a great thing.

Remember: The best government is the government that leaves you alone most of the time.