México Lindo

IN SPITE OF our sometimes shady reputation, tourists can’t get enough of Mexico, which recently surpassed Mohammedan-infested Turkey as the world’s eighth-most-favored tourist destination.

A friend recently pointed me to an interesting web page that compared the United States with Mexico.

Among its pluses is that you’re 32 percent less likely to be unemployed in Mexico. Before you pack your suitcase, know that you’ll also earn 70 percent less money here.

Not mentioned on the list is that while you will make less money, living in Mexico is significantly cheaper, somewhat balancing things out, an important detail.

And you’re five times more likely to be murdered in Mexico, or so they say.  While that sounds bad, think of it this way:

If you’re chances of being murdered in the United States are 0.05 percent, then your chances in Mexico are 0.25. Still unlikely. I’ve been here 17 years, and nobody’s tried to murder me.

Perhaps they’ve considered it.

In Mexico, we spend 93 percent less on healthcare. In other words, how’s that ObamaCare working out for you?

We use 85 percent less electricity, and we’re 69 percent less likely to be in prison. Of course, a pessimist will say that’s because most of the bad guys are walking free, and maybe they are.

Or wearing police uniforms.

There are more pluses and minuses. If you want to read the entire list, go here. As for me, I’m staying put where I’m less likely to be in prison, and healthcare is far cheaper.

I hope I won’t be murdered.

Up in the sky

SUNDAY WAS the final installment of a three-day, hot-air balloon festival in our mountaintop town.

I shot this brief video from our upstairs terraza.

The airport, and that’s using the term loosely, rests on the edge of my neighborhood on the outskirts of town. It’s a dirt strip that goes virtually unused all year.

There is a hangar there, and a DC-9 without wings on display. A funny story that. The DC-9 was brought here on a massive flatbed tractor-trailer some years back.

It had almost completed the trip when it had to make a right turn from one highway to a lesser road just three blocks from the Hacienda. There is an incline to the roadbed and, halfway around the curve, the jet fell off the trailer.

It rolled briefly toward a carnitas stand about 20 feet away. I imagine those seconds were endless to the crew cutting carnitas. It’s not often you see a DC-9 rolling your way.

The jet was hoisted back upon the trailer and continued the short distance to our airport where it now lives.

The hangar there, the DC-9 and, previously, an ultralight service is owned by some well-off individual. The ultralight service has gone out of business due to lack of, well, business.

Once I drove over there to inquire about learning to fly ultralights, something I never got around to, and the fellow let me go inside the DC-9, which was lots of fun.

I have a private-pilot’s license though I haven’t used it since the 1970s. It never expires. I also took a number of sailplane lessons in Central Texas, but I never got that license either.

There’s something a bit unnerving about being up in a plane with no means of propulsion whatsoever.

I skydived once in Louisiana, and I went up in a hot-air balloon once in Texas. Giving my mother near heart attacks apparently was an unconscious, lifetime goal.

And then there were the motorcycles.

She’s dead now, so I’ve quit doing all that stuff.

My father could not have cared less.

* * * *

(Promo! For those of you who have not recently visited — or never have — my SlickPic photos, there is a new look and new photos. The SlickPic Gallery is where you’ll find gobs of photos of the Hacienda through the years, our Cuba visit in 2012, photos of the Downtown Casita (available on AirBnB), my art furniture, Mexico in general and, last but not least, a blow by blow — photo-wise — of the construction of our free-standing pastry kitchen.)

The silk scarf

JAECI MASHED the mushrooms into the river water with a smooth stone, and he drank.

He was wearing a white silk scarf he’d found years back in the jungle near where he sat this evening on a rotting kapok trunk astride the border between Brazil and Peru.

With the scarf he looked as if he’d be sitting in a P-51 cockpit instead of atop the old kapok as night fell.

He waited.

Moments later, he fell off the tree trunk and thumped to the ground as an unseen hand pushed the throttle forward, and he rumbled down the taxiway.

On reaching the far side, he veered left or right, saw the runway straight ahead as the throttle touched the end stops. The engine roared, but it was not a P-51 after all.

It was an F-22.  As it rose off the runway, Jaeci felt the tires fold into the wheel wells, and he smiled. The silk scarf whipped in the wind.

If only he possessed a pilot’s license.

He felt a stag beetle creep across his left leg just seconds before he became a black-winged heliconius.

My weird world

THIS IS MY hardscrabble barrio’s water storage tank. It sits higher than any other place hereabouts, so gravity is how water gets to my house and those of the neighbors.

About a decade ago, this structure was covered with graffiti, and it was an eyesore. Then it got a fresh paint of white and red, and it remained unsullied for years.

Recently, someone applied artwork, a series of skulls. The one on the right in the middle row is even getting a shower.

Our municipal water comes from an underground spring. It’s delivered to us that way. There’s no purification plant.

We are natural people.

* * * *

MY BEAUTIFUL WORLD

After  taking the photo at the top, I did a 180, and took the second photo, which is one side of our neighborhood plaza.

I’ve shot a number of photos of our plaza over the years, but never from this side. Look at those jacaranda trees. I get to admire them every weekday morning during our plaza walk.

We passed our 15th anniversary two days ago, and now we’re working on the second 15 years. I’ve been married thrice, of course. Five years with No. 1. Nineteen years with No. 2, although we were actually married only the last 10.

That means my current marriage has lasted the longest by a long shot. Although I am a fan of marriage, I hope not to have to do it a fourth time. Three is adequate.

Thanks for stopping by.

Less than a tithe

This is our neighborhood church. Built, I’m guessing, in the 1500s.

WE USUALLY don’t answer the doorbell because it’s often passing kids goofing around or someone selling something we don’t want. And it’s almost a two-block round trip from inside the house to the front gate and back. That more than anything.

* * * *

A Catholic spell

I come from country people who were never anything but Baptists or Methodists that I know of.

In spite of that, I was deposited in a Catholic school for kindergarten and First Grade in Albany, Georgia, about 10,000 years ago. My mother did it because it had the best reputation in town, education-wise.

My sister was sentenced there too. My sister had imagination, however, or maybe it was just childish ignorance. She came home one day and announced that she’d changed the Holy Water, freshened it up with stuff from the tap.

Neither the priest nor the nuns ever noticed, which tells me that Holy Water’s fame is overstated somewhat.

My mother, before enrolling me, made the nuns promise they wouldn’t try to turn me into a Catholic, and they did so promise because, one imagines, our money looked green.

However, one day I came home with the report that, after having misbehaved in some way, I was made to kneel on rice before a painting of the Virgin and beg forgiveness.

Mother took me out of the school at that point, and I left Catholicism forever if you don’t count that my second ex-wife is a recovering Catholic, and Mexico is full of Catholics.

My child bride does not seem to be a Catholic, but the environment rubs off. Her father was an atheist and her evil stepmother, after father died too young, became a Jehovah’s Witness, one of those pests at your front door.

* * * *

Speaking of doorbells

As I was saying, we rarely respond to the doorbell here at the Hacienda unless we are expecting someone.

But my child bride was toiling in her pastry workshop the other day when the doorbell rang — it rings both out there and here in the house — and since there was little walking involved, she opened the little speakeasy portal in the steel gate.

Two ladies were there, and they were not pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses, but Catholics on a collecting mission.

You see our neighborhood church up top? It is very old, and it’s in bad condition. We were informed that City Hall has agreed to chip in a percentage for a much-needed restoration, but residents here in our poor barrio have to pony up too.

We were being asked to pony up, so we ponied.

We learned that the amount one is asked to contribute is based on how well-off you look. In our hardscrabble neighborhood, we look quite well-off, so we were asked for 1,000 pesos.

We paid for the sake of architecture.

I think the Vatican should pay for the entire restoration, but it doesn’t seem that Headquarters pays us much mind.

I hope enough money is raised because I like the church. I see it every weekday morning during our exercise walk. I’ve rarely been inside, but I hear singing at times, and I see funerals and weddings there. All part of the tapestry hereabouts.

Ride to Ucazanastacua

It’s also the road to Cucuchucho.

WE LIVE IN a beautiful area, and some spots approach spectacular, but you have to know where they are.

One is the road to Ucazanastacua.

Yesterday, while my child bride was gossiping downtown with visiting relatives, I decided to take a jaunt.

As you may know, we live near a huge, high-altitude lake. There’s a two-laner that circles that lake, and it’s a nice ride.

But there’s a nearby route that’s relatively unknown. It does not circle the lake, but it abuts it for a spell in a spectacular manner. It reminds me of Route 1 along the Big Sur coast.

Up until about eight years ago, this road was primarily unpaved, consisting of dirt and potholes, only marginally usable. In the rainy season, it was mostly mud.

Then it was paved. It remains, however, little used even though small restaurants are appearing along the way.

I snapped this through the Honda windshield. Lake is to the right.

What the above photo doesn’t show clearly is that along much of the drive, it’s a deep drop-off down to the water. And look! No traffic. On a major holiday weekend.

I did not notice the post till I got home and downloaded the photo. Silly me.
Somebody’s home down thataway.

Being Easter weekend, I spotted a number of crosses along the way. They were decked out in purple crepe paper. The below is not a cross, but it was there for Easter.

Not a cross but an arch.

I stopped at an overlook, rolled down the Honda window and shot this brief video. Bob Dylan was crooning on the car’s music machine and competing with the sound of stiff wind.

I never did get to Ucazanastacua. A sign pointed down a steep road to the water’s edge. I did go through Cucuchucho, however.

And that’s your brief tour for the day. Leave tips in the jar on your way out. A joyous Easter to you Christians. To you Jews, shame on you for what you did! Tsk, tsk, tsk.

No Easter eggs for you people.

Architectural error

Photo shot from a chair. I had just swept.

ARCHITECTS KNOW things you don’t, which is why you hire them. We did not hire one. Perhaps we should have.

Above you see one of the reasons. What should be one of the best aspects of the Hacienda is essentially useless, and we rarely go out there. It’s the upstairs terraza.

We initially intended to have a tile roof over most of it, but it was one of the last parts (expenses) of the construction process back in 2003, and I was weary of spending money.

The tile roof was scaled way back, just large enough to cover the hammock that was out there for years. I wanted my hammock, and I used the hammock for about eight years.

Then I didn’t. Finally I removed it because it was an obstruction to walk around every time we stepped out there.

Let’s count the architectural errors. You see the biggest in the photo at the top. If you sit in a chair, this is your view. The yellow wall. It you’re standing, or even in a hammock, the view is spectacular. If you’re sitting, it’s the yellow wall.

Here’s another: During the rainy season, which lasts about five months, a fourth of this terraza is a lake. The drainage is lousy. We’ve added extra drain holes, but the problem is the floor’s complete lack of incline.

And another: That floor tile is super slick. During the rainy season, well, you can guess. Swan dive!

And another: Plants out there almost always die. It’s freezing cold in the winter, and blazing sunlight in the spring. About the only things that survive are cacti.

Most of these problems could be eliminated by adding the entire tile roof I initially planned, but the primary problem would remain. If you sit, you’re looking at that yellow wall.

That too could be done another way, but then you’re looking at major work and expense.

Meanwhile, sitting on the downstairs veranda is just great, so this upstairs area remains low on the priority list.

It likely will stay the same forever.

Should have hired an architect.

View in the other direction. Both photos shot this morning.

(Note: The house design is mine, and it was written on sheets of graph paper. The workers took it from there.)

Post-bagel labor

MOST WORK around here gets done in the morning, and that would be after the bagels and cream cheese.

The labor this Good Friday morning included the yearly cleaning of the underground cistern.

Child bride descends to mop after I had descended to sweep.

Our concrete cistern holds 9,000 liters of water.

The reason you don’t want to drink tap water in Mexico is less because the water didn’t come from a clean source at the get-go. It may have. For instance, our municipal water comes from an underground spring. It is quite clear.

What happens is that almost everyone stores water in an underground cistern. From that cistern, water is delivered, one way or another, to a roof tank, and from there it’s dropped into the house faucets via gravity.

There are variations, but basically that’s how it works.

I have no statistics, but I’d bet a pocket of pesos that few homeowners ever clean their cisterns. I’ve peered into cisterns that you could use for a horror-movie scene.

But we are better than that.

Here’s how we clean ours. First, we turn off the incoming water. After that, it takes almost two weeks to empty as we use the water in the house. Finally, the cistern is empty, and we switch to a small backup tank for a day or two.

We leave the lid open overnight, and the cistern’s dry in the morning. I go down and sweep. She goes down and mops. We turn the water back on, and toss in half a liter of bleach.

Here comes fresh water into the clean tank! Yipee!

It takes three or four days to refill. The municipal water runs six days a week for six to eight hours daily.

* * * *

Other labor

Having finished that work, it was time to reassign cacti.

You’d think that after what happened with the monster nopal that I would have learned my lesson regarding prickly plants.

But I’m stupid that way.

I love deserts and the things that live in them. I used to plant cacti in my yard in Houston, and they never did squat.

The tall ones.

Next to the verandah, there’s this stand of pole cacti that I started years ago with one small one. The tallest now is six and a half feet high.

Another shorter — but not by much — stand nearby provided a cutting about 15 inches tall. It has been planted out by the property wall, and I anticipate a nice stand of pole cacti there in a few years —  if I live so long.

The little bugger.

Being a newbie, it needs a little support from string and a stick.

Following these two chores, I only had to water the potted plants on the verandah, dust the shelves and sweep the floor.

The only other labor for the day will be cooking pasta and broiling salmon. After that, it’s a café Americano negro on the downtown plaza, watching the beautiful tourist babes.

It will be a Good Friday. Even if I’m not a Christian.

Fact, Fiction and Opinion Stirred in an Odd Pot

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