Remains of carnival

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WE’RE FIRMLY into Lent, but the banners of Mardi Gras still wave wearily in the street outside the Hacienda.

As if to cement the locals’ faith, none other than the Pope himself, the Argentine leftist Francis, arrives next Tuesday at the capital city just down the mountainside.

I’ve never been this close to a Pope, nor do I want to be. He will create traffic jams and other annoyances, but he will be gone on Wednesday, and we’ll settle into our sins again.

Train of thoughts

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CARNIVAL JUST ended. Bring out the ashes. My hardscrabble neighborhood, more than any other here on the mountaintop, goes bananas for Mardi Gras.

Living just a block and a half from the plaza presents problems. The worst are the monster concerts that blare for four nights straight. We sleep with silicone earplugs.

Having lived 18 years in New Orleans, I know Carnival. What passes for Carnival here pales in comparison, but I think my neighborhood excels in noise, a Mexican specialty.

Roundabouts August, I am weary of rain, every year. Roundabouts February, I am weary of cold, every year. Walking through the living room this morning, it was, I’m guessing, about 50 degrees at most.

We have no climate control in the house. Our electricity bills are constant all year long. Constantly cheap.  I have not been in the United States in seven years and was there only sporadically, briefly, the nine years before that.

Most Americans live in sealed houses, which is great where temps vary wildly, but it’s pretty even here with the exception of January and February when it can freeze at night.

There’s no playing with a dial on the wall to make life sweet. The temperature just is. Here are a couple of other things. No junk mail in my post office box. No sales calls as we sit down to supper. Is that still common in America? Bet so.

My wife is the most important thing in my life. A close second is my Kindle. Departing a restaurant yesterday alone in the state capital, I left it unseen on a chair. The waiter chased me down outside to return it. Bless him.

That was very unlike me. Long ago, I formulated what we’ll call Felipe’s First Law of Placement, which is that you never put something important out of sight in, say, a restaurant unless you literally cannot leave without it.

Car keys or an umbrella during a downpour.

I abide religiously by the law, usually. Why did I break it yesterday? No clue. Got me to thinking. While I do not have a backup wife, I need a backup Kindle, so I ordered one today, a newer version, the Paperwhite.

A backup wife has appeal, but I don’t think I could get away with it, nor should I. Too old for that anyway.

I’ll close with that. We’re going to take our exercise walk around the plaza. Wonder what we’ll see this morning. Unconscious bodies? Blood stains on the cement?

We’ve seen both in the past.

The modern Felipe

capI HAVE UPDATED the Felipe page, the first significant makeover in years.

It includes a recent photo, replacing the one taken a decade back while I was sitting in a rocker on the veranda with an orange juice. I am now sporting what I call a bebop cap, a new style I adopted recently after cutting my silver locks significantly shorter. I embrace neat.

The face one presents to the world should be honest. Recently, I picked up the mugshot that will appear on my Mexican passport renewal, and I was gobsmacked when I held it next to the mugshot on the passport issued 10 years ago.

Time marches on.

In addition to the current photo, the updated  Felipe page contains some new information that will give Felipe Fans (See Facebook and Twitter — just kidding) much to chatter about.

Also available is my email address if you have something to say that doesn’t relate to a specific post. The Felipe page, along with separate pages of Library, Art, Hacienda and Web Roll always rest up there in the header on the right side.

Just so’s you know.

In closing, I offer a heartfelt tip of the sombrero (or bebop cap) to those of you who dance along with me here on the dim Mexican fringe of cyberspace. I appreciate it.

The long table

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SEE THAT CHAIR down there, just opposite? That’s my chair, and it’s where I sit when I eat a morning bagel or an afternoon pozole. The King’s Chair, and I’m the King.

The Queen sits to my right. The Princess and her Prince by marriage live in Georgia and have yet to visit the castle.

Perhaps one day.

Nobody sits at this table for the evening meal, which at the Hacienda is always a green salad with diced chicken on top. I make that, and we go upstairs and watch something on Mexican Netflix, a great service.

We have side-by-side recliners separated by a tiny table.

But this is a view I rarely see, which is why I photographed it. What I always see is what’s behind the photographer’s back. That would be me at this moment.

There’s a big window to the left, and another behind, both of which provide great outdoor views.

But it’s uplifting to view life from a different perspective now and then. I think so, and I want to stay uplifted.

Concrete mesas

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MESA MEANS table in Spanish. I now have two mesas in the yard where damnable bananas long held sway.

The photo above was taken on a nice summer day. You see two stands of banana. One is just this side of the black-rock Alamo Wall, and the other one, higher, is beyond. A third, which abuts the house itself, is not visible.

More on it below.

As recently noted in the post dubbed The winter scalp, banana trees, which I stupidly planted years back when they were cute little babies, had become the curse of my life.

I have taken concrete action against two of the three. The ground in which they grew has been covered with concrete and stone, which is raised to form two mesas.

I could have simply covered them with concrete and stone at ground level, but the two mesas give me places to set things, maybe artsy-fartsy stuff to give drama to the yard.

Below are photos of the work:

No. 1
Removing banana remnants with machete and pickax.
No. 2
Early stages of mesa No. 1.
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Work done. No more freaking banana trees here! It’s 60 centimeters tall.

Now I need to find a stone or metal sculpture to dress it up.

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Long, long ago, I planted a little banana tree in this corner against the house. It grew high and multiplied. I snapped this photo one dark night many years back.

It grew and grew and grew until it was impossible to walk into this corner or even see the corner, so it had to be eliminated.

To wit:

shot 1
Workman with pickax uprooting banana bases and roots.

That big aloe vera bush, left side of photo just above, was not even planted when I took the night photo.

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Second mesa just lacking fill at this point.
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Interior is filled with rubble from God knows where.
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All done. This one is larger than the other. Also needs a sculpture.

And that concludes another construction caper. The toil spanned four six-hour days, and the total price for material and labor was 2,450 pesos, about 135 bucks. I tossed in a 200-peso tip because that’s the kind of guy I am.

I’ve loved stone and mountains all my life, and now — at last — I’m surrounded by both. Life is good.

Healthcare in Mexico

New ImageMUCH IS said, especially here, about the differences between Mexican healthcare and the dreadful, pricey, irrational system found above the Rio Bravo.

An online publication named Mexico News Daily published this informative piece on Friday. It deals with the differences in medical training on each side of the border.

Quite interesting.

The American voter

I AM NOT a fan of universal suffrage. Perhaps a stiff civics test is appropriate or a poll tax. That one should be a property owner sounds stupendous to me.

Tossing the “right to vote” out there for absolutely anyone to pick up is nuts and dangerous.

Here’s a lovely example of voter stupidity. They are Hillary fans, it seems, and one imagines that if a similar petition in support of Bernie Sanders’ vice presidential choice of Vladimir Lenin were offered, people would sign that too.

Mark Dice, the petition guy, not only says Karl Marx out loud repeatedly, he also states that Marx is a communist. No matter. Sounds good to these voters, all of whom should be swept up and sent to Cuba. A one-way ticket.

Sunny side up

(To celebrate the Moon’s new color scheme, and to note the arrival of some new followers who’ve likely not seen The Pearls of Zapata, here’s a brief fiction piece from years ago.)

* * * *

LIKE ALL  pre-menopausal women, Bett produced a monthly egg. But it wasn’t like the eggs of other women.

It was more like a condor’s.

EggShe had never married, and she’d never taken the issue to a medical professional. It was her secret. She had a nest in the spare bedroom, made of pillows and potpourri, not twigs.

And none of her eggs had ever hatched. Bett assumed that if she kept one warm, like good mothers should, it would in time vibrate and crack open. And there would be her baby.

Or likely not, due to lack of fertilization. Bett had no boyfriend.

So she ate them. Over easy. Sunny side up. Scrambled.

They even poached.

And they were great with grits.

We’re back!

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Enjoying a smoke in the cool mountain air.

WHEN I MOVED south of the border in 2000, nobody asked me if I was afraid because there was no reason to be.

It was great for six years.

Then something happened during the administration of Felipe Calderón, a president I voted for. I believe his hard-nosed approach to the narco issue made things worse.

Violence between narcos and police and military escalated, and violence between narco gangs themselves spiked.

Your average citizen remained safe, however.

It didn’t take many stories — one, actually — of severed heads rolling across cantina floors plus hundreds of Americans* being slain to stop tourism dead in its tracks here.

When we first visited Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast years ago, there were always cruise ships in the bay. That stopped. We haven’t seen even one in a long time.

My mountaintop town, a 16th century colonial beauty on the shore of a huge lake, lives off tourism. To a large degree, that screeched to a halt too. It was quite noticeable.

But, through those bad years, a tourist’s chances of encountering violence was virtually zero, no more so than what one faces during a winter weekend in Tampa.

Our bad reputation was fueled nonstop by an irresponsible, clueless, American news media with the assist of an absolutely hysterical U.S. State Department whose “travel warnings” were laughable to anyone who lived here.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012 things calmed down considerably, but our ill fame lived on. But now, four years later, things appear to be changing.

In recent weeks, the quantity of tourists to our quaint mountain town has skyrocketed. For those of us who do not depend on tourism, it just means more traffic snarls. But to many others, it means a livelihood.

I am happy about this. Perhaps this is a light at the end of a long tunnel and that clear thinking and rationality are coming to the forefront. It’s a great place to live.

And an even better place to visit.

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Jam-packed central plaza on Sunday.

* The Americans are invariably named Garcia, Torres, Hernandez, never Smith or Jones. They are inhabitants of border zones who get involved in the narco trade, and often end up dead, but they are U.S. citizens. They are not tourists.

Fact, Fiction and Opinion Stirred in an Odd Pot

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