I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.
When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.
Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.
So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.
I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.
I measured, more or less.
It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.
My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.
While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.
I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.
Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.
Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.
I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.
WE RETURNED from a week in Mexico City last Sunday to discover that we had left home in winter and returned in springtime, weather-wise, at least.
We’ve passed thorough 14 winters at the Hacienda and only twice, perhaps thrice, have we enjoyed a winter without one overnight freeze. The 2016-17 season is the latest.
Alas, spring here is no circus, the worst of the seasons. The only positive aspect is that there are no overnight freezes.
Instead there is dust and drab, brown mountains. What passes for heat in these parts happens in springtime. The fact of the matter is that spring is pretty yucky.
Our capital visit was very profitable. After years of waiting, we picked up the deed to the condo. We hired a guy to lay a nice ceramic floor on the service patio. He also improved the drain system for the clothes washer.
We found a great new restaurant nearby. Fact is the entire area is going upscale rapidly. When I first set foot there 15 years ago, it was ugly and industrial, which is why the colonia* is called Nueva Industrial Vallejo.
My arrival, it seems, on most any scene delivers a certain panache. It happened here where we live on the hardscrabble outskirts of our mountaintop town, and it’s also happened in Nueva Industrial Vallejo.
We fled to San Miguel de Allende to escape Carnival. We went to Mexico City for practical matters. But now it’s time to get down to business. Springtime is for renovations.
Our favorite contractor comes today to provide prices for work here at the Hacienda and also at the Downtown Casita.
Due to the stupendous dollar-peso exchange rate over the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of improvements we likely would not have done otherwise.
There are businesses all over the place that sell construction material. If you drive more than a few blocks, you’re almost guaranteed to see something being built.
It’s an incredible, ongoing phenomenon.
When we get back from Mexico City, where we’re headed shortly, we also will be building stuff, a yearly occurrence in springtime when there is no daily deluge of rain.
And we’ll be constructing in Mexico City too. Ceramic tile will be laid on the floor of the “service patio,” that space Mexican homes have out back where the water heater, clothesline and big cement sink sit.
Mexican homes have big cement sinks out back.
But the best news — for us at least — out of Mexico City recently is that we finally have the deed to the condo. All we have to do is pick it up at the lawyer’s office.
Signed, sealed and delivered!
Getting the deed has been an ongoing process and headache for years. But now it’s done, and we own three homes free and clear that we could sell if we wanted to.
The leftist media has cited “darkness” repeatedly since the election of President Trump. The Washington Post, more leftist even than The New York Times, recently added “Democracy Dies in Darkness” to its online masthead.
The Post says it has nothing to do with Trump.
I don’t want to be associated with leftists and their dark obsessions in any form, so I am abandoning entirely the dark photos I’ve used here for avatars for a long time.
Gone is the black hat and the dark bebop cap in black & white photos. I am out of the cave. The new face to the world is this, which was taken about 12 years ago.
I am enjoying a churro* in the restaurant owned in downtown San Miguel de Allende by Mexican actress Margarita Gralia.
While I added this photo to my comments avatar weeks ago, it was only today that I made it official by adding it to the Felipe Page up thataway.
This change has lifted a darkness from my spirit. I feel more upbeat, happier and fulfilled. Let’s leave the darkness to Democrats and other sourpusses.
Conservatives are happy, colorful people.
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* Churros sometimes are sold filled with something like chocolate. This is an abomination. Churros should always be eaten au naturel.
WE ESCAPED the Mardi Gras celebration in our hardscrabble neighborhood over the weekend by heading to the Gringo-invested burg of San Miguel de Allende.
I always find San Miguel unsettling to the soul. There is something just not right about it. It’s about as Mexican as I am, which is to say legally yes, spiritually no.
Perhaps Disneyland, but better: Mulatto* Ville.
It’s a combination of two very different worlds. Two mindsets, two races,** two cultures. And they do not stir well.
Oil and water.
Walking around downtown San Miguel, it’s all I can do to not burst out in howling laughter. The rayon shirts, the Bermuda shorts, the Birkenstocks, the berets, the feathers in the hat bands, the old white women*** wearing native blouses, the art paint smeared preciously on khaki pants.
So one might wonder, why do you go there? The main answer is restaurants. Mulatto Ville has great places to eat.
I enjoy eating.
And this recent trip was also to visit an old friend from high school who was wintering there, a retired university professor who included Marco Rubio among her students.
We took a drive north to Dolores Hidalgo where we had not gone directly downtown in a long time. We were pleasantly surprised, shocked even.
It’s a wonderful city that’s been undergoing renovation for a few years. Most of the plaza has been closed to vehicles. The church has been painted. Much of downtown too.
Some good restaurants and hotels can be found. And, unlike San Miguel, which has horrible streets and sidewalks, Dolores Hidalgo is flat, smooth and easily walkable.
It’s also one of Mexico’s main sources of talavara ceramics,**** the quantities of which are astounding and beautiful.
Next time we flee our area due to Carnival, we’ll be staying in Dolores Hidalgo, not south in Mulatto Ville.
In Dolores Hidalgo I spotted nary a Birkenstock*****.
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* I am playing loose with the word, of course. A true mulatto is the offspring of one white parent and one black one, à la Barry Hussein Obama who “identifies” as black.
** Oh, I know Mexican is not a race, but bear with me.
*** Why does everyone complain about Old White Men but never about Old White Women?
**** The other is Puebla. FYI.
***** My second ex-wife, now an Old White Woman, used to cringe at my own Birkenstocks, so perhaps I should avoid this point. Nowadays I sport Crocs but only at home.