Tip of April

scene

WE’RE APPROACHING the edge of April, which — along with its friend called May — are customarily the warmest and dustiest months of our year here on the mountaintop.

Today’s item is primarily the photo, a view I noticed while sitting in the rocking chair with fruit juice after returning this morning from our 20-minute exercise walk around the nearby plaza.

A sharp eye will notice the Birds of Paradise and behind that is a teenaged bottle-brush tree with its red brushes, and beyond that are banana trees abutting the rock wall. I tossed in the parked car for a touch of modernity and high-tech. And then there’s that pole cactus and something I believe is a begonia, potted, on the right side. My father used to plant lots of begonias, so I’m not a fan.

Family conflict.

But there’s no conflict here today. There is color, cool air, happy thoughts and a sense of gratitude.

Spring cleaning

before

THAT’S MY CHILD bride, in the old, pink, gym pants, leaning against the stone Olmec head, just so you have a sense of perspective, the size of the trash pile. It’s even bigger than it seems.

Every Springtime I have to whack the yard back and, with every passing year, that work becomes more onerous because the serious plants get bigger and bigger, and I get older. This year I did it over a period of about two months, picking away at it, depending on my morning mood.

What you’ve got in there are thick trunks of banana trees, mostly ones that birthed bunches of bananas, the lousy ones we get here on the mountaintop. And there are dead or dying limbs of the fan palm, which have mean-spirited spines. There are swords of a huge maguey, which is also a sourpuss piece of greenery that growls and bites at each opportunity.

An astute observer will note the cardboard box at the right, rear. It’s one of four, the others being just offstage. Those boxes contain paddles of nopal cactus from my towering nopal tree. Every year I cut parts in an effort to keep it growing just upward, not outward. It’s an easy 12 feet high by now, maybe more. You don’t really pal up to a nopal tree just to measure. You steer clear.

The final addition to the pile, around Wednesday or so, are cuttings from the loquat tree. If you don’t count the banana, it’s the only resident of the pile that does not stab. Its distasteful trait, however, is that it’s full of bird crap. Dunno why, but birds love to dump in the loquat tree.

By Wednesday, the deed was all done, and I walked just past the sex motel to ask Abel the deadpan neighbor if he could haul it all away. I told him he’d need to find a pickup truck, something he does not own. He said he’d come Saturday with a truck and clean it up, which he did. I have no idea where he dumps it, and I do not care. It’s all fruit of the Earth anyway.

fini

The locals have a little routine when it comes to being paid by a Gringo. When you ask them how much for whatever they’ve done, they never have a clue, leaving it up to you to decide. They do this because they know we invariably overpay.

Though I have been preaching against this overpayment for years, I often do it myself. The reason one should not do it, and that includes the scandalous overtipping in restaurants, etc., is that it solidifies the locals’ conviction that we’re all filthy rich, stupid with our money and easily duped.

But I’m a soft touch, a dummkopf.

I paid them $300 pesos, which is about $10 each. A bona fide Mexican would have paid less. The boys departed here with smiles on their faces, and I was pleased to have the pile removed for $20.

Mexico online

NOW AND THEN, a reader says that I don’t really grasp how bad things have become in the United States because I’ve been away for so long.

While this would certainly have been the case way back, it’s not the case now, and that’s because of the internet. In a way, I’m sitting up there among you, seeing clearly the silly things that you do.

When I moved south with two suitcases in January of 2000, Bill Clinton was still president and, remarkably, I was still a voter for the Democratic Party. The stock market fiesta of the 1990s was ending, and the final entry in the nonstop line of oligarchic presidents, Ernesto Zedillo, was about to introduce Mexico to democracy — to the consternation of his cohorts.

Lots of stuff was coming to a head.

One of my suitcases contained a laptop that I had purchased specifically for the big move. I left the only other computer I had ever owned, the original iMac, with my daughter.

onlineMy first eight months, in the state capital, initially in a sparsely furnished room over a garage, and then in an even more sparsely furnished, two-story house, were spent with no internet connection. The only access was at an internet café about five blocks distant.

I would go there once a day to email my worried mother and a romantic interest in Mexico City. I would also check financial matters, innocently typing in passwords to my bank and investment house in the United States. Only a imbecile would do that these days.

After those first eight months, I rented a car for a day to move the two suitcases plus other stuff I had accumulated up the mountain, 7,200 feet above sea level, to the small town where now you will find me forevermore. I rented another sparsely furnished, two-story house, and I got internet access from a local entrepreneur via a dial-up modem. It was slow.

But it was the only internet access available in town.

The fellow who ran that internet company sold me a makeshift computer, which I used for many years. After 2.5 years in the rental, I got married and we built the Hacienda. I moved the clunky unit to its new home. Not long after, the local company provided a wireless connection via an antenna on the roof, and that’s what I use today. Now and then, I ascend and knock the bird poop off.

A couple of years back, in spite of some “upgrades,” my mongrel computer had become so slow as to be almost useless, so I purchased a H-P All-in-One, which I am very fond of, from Office Max. I wrote about those thrilling days in The Blastoff and Buck Rogers Zapata.

I had stuck with the original about a decade, and was flabbergasted at how technology had progressed. I have now vowed to myself to buy a new desktop every five years. My previous website, The Zapata Tales, was written entirely on the clunker.

* * * *

ANDROID, YUCK!

androidI am a desktop man to the bone. I can type about 100 words a minute,* which ain’t possible on a smartphone or tablet. A couple of years ago, in a moment of stupidity, I bought a Samsung smartphone. A week later, I sold it at a considerable loss.

I loathed it.

I just want a phone to make calls and send text messages, 99 percent of which go to my wife. I don’t want to be online virtually every minute. I spend too much time online as it is. I have a cheap little cellphone that I buy minutes for as needed. It has no camera. I already have a camera.

After the smartphone debacle, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 to receive email while traveling. We rarely travel,** but it serves its purpose when we do. Mostly, I use it at our condo in Mexico City where the next-door neighbor lets me connect via his wi-fi. Ninety-nine percent of the tablet’s time here at home goes to my child bride who’s addicted to Facebook.

The tablet uses Android, which I find to be a colossal pain the the kazoo, vastly inferior to the Windows on my desktop, a system I am fairly fond of. On dumping my mongrel computer and buying the Hewlett-Packard, I leaped from a pirated Windows XP*** to a legal Windows 8.1.

In addition to the entrepreneur who’s provided me the internet all these years, we now have other options on the mountaintop. Carlos Slim, the gazillionaire who owns Mexico’s phone system, TelMex, offers high-speed internet, and so does the local TV cable company.

We are modern, and I’m as aware of what’s happening in the tumultuous, race-obsessed United States as your neighbor in Topeka. And I keep an eye on you. It’s tragic what I see.

* * * *

* I possessed the sole pair of testicles in my high school typing class.

** But next month we’re flying to Palenque for our 13th anniversary, a week in the jungle.

*** The pirated XP was installed by my local guy without his mentioning that little fact. Most Windows on Mexican computers, I have read, are pirated. We are first-class pirates.

(Tips: Antivirus, Bitdefender. Password manager, Dashlane.)

A thousand words

Russkies
Russia’s man, Putin, front bike.

 

Netanyahu, Israel's man.
Netanyahu, a few years back, Israel’s man.

 

evil
Mohammed’s men, locked and loaded.

 

Barry
America’s  man, Barry.

 

Israel's women.
Israel’s women.

 

Mohammed's women.
Mohammed’s women.

 

America's ladies.
America’s women.

A GALLUP POLL indicates that 24 percent of Americans consider themselves liberals while 40 percent label themselves conservatives. One assumes the other 36 percent are playing with their iPads and feeling superior for being “independent.”

 

We all die

plaza

MORE OFTEN than some would prefer,* the bell in the steeple of this 16th-century church, not far from the Hacienda, begins a special ring. It is ringing at this moment as I write. It was ringing when I woke this morning, and it was ringing in the middle of the night.

What makes it special is its slowness. It gongs about once every 20 seconds and it goes on for hours. It is done by hand, and I often imagine that person, sitting down there in the dark, reaching up every 20 seconds or so to give a tug. Bong! Wait…wait…wait. Bong!

All through the night.

I also imagine a bottle of José Cuervo and perhaps some tacos or cheese and crackers are at his side. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I feel like getting up, dressing and going down there to see first-hand. Who and how. But I’ll never do that because I’m too old and lazy.

Later, during our morning exercise walk around the plaza, the church door was closed, and the bongs were continuing. It was a good time to check it out, and perhaps I would have done so had the door been open. But we just kept on walking. The door in question is that smaller one at the steeple’s base.

We talked about where my child bride will put me when I’m “promoted to Glory.” The neighborhood cemetery is a couple of blocks away from the church, across the highway. I would like to be planted there, the only American-Mexican, I’m sure, the sole, true paleface.

I’d provide a modish, multicultural air.

No, she said. She’ll keep me in an urn in the Hacienda. And that’s okay with me.

* * * *

* Especially those for whom the bell tolls.

(Note: This post was written yesterday. This morning I awoke, and the bedroom window was open. Birds were singing in the fan palm, and the bell was still gonging. Same deceased, or someone new?)

A good drubbing

TO THE EVERLASTING shame of the United States and the clueless electorate that returned him to the White House in 2012, a blatant anti-Semite now rules from the Oval Office.

In this video Marco Rubio takes him, and — by extension — his starry-eyed fans, to the woodshed, verbally speaking. Barry has a reputation for eloquence, something that’s long mystified me (he’s actually quite wooden), but he pales in comparison to the senator from Florida.

I am a fan of Jews and Israel, the only democracy in its region, a place where women can walk free and all religions can be practiced, a place where you will not be stoned to death or beheaded or thrown from a high building for being gay, expressing a contrary opinion about faith, or murdered for marital infidelity if you’re female.

If you’re a man, well, that’s okay.

Most of the Middle East is a despotic Hellhole.

American university campuses in particular are infested with anti-Semites, both students and faculty, and so is much of Europe, a continent with a short memory. It’s pathetic. Let’s give a hand to Marco Rubio today.

The shifting sun

sun

THE SUN SHIFTS with the seasons, of course, but I’d never actually noticed it doing so until I moved to Mexico.

I’m usually up before dawn, reading the news and gossip on the computer, and facing a large, second-floor window that looks out to the mountains. It’s the sort of setting that makes the seasons’ shifting sun hard to miss.

I attribute my never noticing this first-hand before to my decades of working evenings and sleeping late. By 10 a.m. or so, the sun is simply in the sky, and where it was born at dawn each day isn’t an issue.

This morning, I slept a bit later than usual, and when I walked through the living room en route to the coffeemaker in the kitchen, something I usually do in the dark, this is what I saw — sun on the staircase wall. I delayed my morning coffee long enough to get my camera for the photo. For you, I make sacrifices.

It’s late March, and we dodged the bullet. It’s a rare winter when it does not often freeze overnight in January and February, and once it even did so in early March after skipping January and February, fooling me into thinking we’d dodged a bullet that year too, but we had not. I think now that we have. Not one freeze.

¡Qué bueno!

The tenants staying in our downtown casita asked the other day which month is best for visiting here, February or March. That would be March, of course, I told them, unless you want to risk freezing your keister most nights.

But our sweetest month of all is November, and the sun arrives through a different door.

The pink bedspread

NEIGHBORS

THE VIEW OUT the back window, the upstairs bathroom window, changes often, and it’s always interesting. I have photographed and presented the scene before, of course. Here’s today’s version, the one with the pink bedspread hanging out to dry.

We too hang our clothes on a line to dry, so in that respect we’re like the neighbors. One day perhaps we’ll buy a dryer to go along with our washer, but I doubt it. It would be a gas dryer because when we constructed the Hacienda we had the guys install a gas line for that purpose.

Let’s see. What can we talk about today? Well, it’s been raining quite a bit, which is totally out of character for March, normally a bone-dry month. Last week, it rained 72 hours nonstop if you don’t count occasional, 15-minute pauses to regroup. But now it’s blue, cool and beautiful.

We have vacationers, a Canadian threesome, through the end of the month in our downtown Casita. And the Casita’s neighbors, going uphill, also Canadians, are here for another week or so. They don’t live here, just visit a couple times a year from their sailboat where they hang out off the British Columbian coast.

I noticed this morning on a Yahoo forum that focuses on our area that other Casita neighbors, down the hill a bit, have put their place on the market for $139,000 U.S., including all furnishings, not a bad price.* If you decide to take advantage of this great opportunity, tell them that Felipe sent you. I’ll get a prize.

At first, I figured they were moving back above the Rio Bravo, but no. The owner told me they are moving to the Gringo-infested Lake Chapala area where there’s more stuff going on. Seems they lived there before and are missing it. Since I favor fewer Gringos around here, their departure is a plus, which is not to say they’re not nice people because they are. I just favor fewer Gringos as a general rule.

I don’t want my mountaintop to be like San Miguel de Allende.

But they likely will sell to other Gringos, making it a wash. Mexicans might buy the place, but due to the current exchange rate, it would set them back over 2 million pesos. I’m betting on more Gringos, which I favor in our little housing development for the sole reason that Mexicans can be very noisy.

Yes, I am sorta contradicting myself, but I don’t care.

So that’s what we’ve talked about today. It decided itself. The neighbors out back with the pink bedspread, and then we moved on to the tenants at our downtown Casita, the Canadians next door, and then the other couple selling their property. It’s nice to have neighbors and tenants. Gives one something to ramble on about.

* * * *

* We paid just under 1 million pesos for our Casita five years ago, which was about $77,000 U.S. due to the exchange rate at that time. Pretty sweet deal.

A tip on race

AMERICA IS FIXATED on race, a “problem” that will never, ever be solved due to people being what they are. The race fixation has ballooned since Barry, Michelle, Eric and Valerie came to town.

Coincidence? Course not. tipping2

A story this week caught my attention because it touches on something I know about personally: black people and tipping. I know about this because I used to be a taxi driver in New Orleans, a city populated primarily by black people. At least it was before Katrina. It’s less so now, I have read.

It seems that lots were blown all the way to Baton Rouge and even Houston where they put down roots and never headed back to Basin Street. But let’s not digress.

The news story is that the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., added a 15% “surcharge” to customers at the lobby bar during a conference of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, an organization of almost entirely black educational institutions.

In plain English, the hotel added a 15 percent tip to the bar tabs during a convention of black people.

Oh, dear! Just one step short of burning crosses and pointy, white hoods.

But here, as Paul Harvey famously phrased it, is the rest of the story. And there are two elements.

No. 1 is that many restaurants and bars add an automatic tip for large groups, no matter their skin tone. This is done because waiters tend to get stiffed by large groups. It’s a fact.

No. 2 is that blacks are lousy tippers. Cabbies know this from experience, and it is why a black person hailing a taxi, no matter how elegantly attired, will almost always be passed by if a white person down the block is hailing one too. It is not because cabbies dislike blacks per se. It is because tips make up a huge part of their income, and they ain’t stupid. You head for the cash.

When I was a cabbie, I quickly learned to dodge black customers. I was in it for the money, not racial justice.

As for the Ritz-Carlton, I’m betting they routinely do this during conventions which are, by definition, large groups of people. White customers see no racial element, raise no stink, and there are no news stories. Black people almost always see a racial element, and they have grown quite fond of raising stinks.

And there you have it — the rest of the story.