Spring cleaning


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.


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.

19 thoughts on “Spring cleaning

    1. Carole: Perhaps, but I still think it’s best to do in Rome as the Romans do. The overpaying is most flagrant in restaurants in the form of outrageous overtipping. The locals do not see it as generosity. They see it as foolishness because Mexicans, with very few exceptions, do not do it. The results are that they are quick to overcharge us for most everything. And if you live here fulltime, this can become a problem.


      1. Overpaying and charity are not the same thing. Overpaying causes bad karma. If someone overcharges me I never tip them. If they are extra courteous or provide an extra service, I may give them a little extra and let them know it is a tip.

        Charity is when you loan a friend or neighbor some money to help pay a utility bill or for some other need, without an expectation of being repaid. I previously overpaid two handymen. After a while, they developed sticky fingers, and they were never hired again.


      2. I think you are wrong about this, Felipe. We were in a small restaurant on Sunday when a Tapatio came in with his family (this place is a madhouse during Semana Santa) and started yelling and demanding immediate service, running back to the kitchen because his food was not coming out fast enough. The owner finally came out and told him to leave. The waiter was pretty shaken up and we talked to him, to try to calm him down. I said, he is almost as bad as the gringos, no? He said, “oh no, the gringos are great. The Tapatios are demanding and rude, then leave a few pesos on a six hundred peso bill.” Now, most gringos I know are not exactly over generous, but a 10% tip in the country of No-tip-istan is appreciated by these hard working people. We tip 15% to 20% because it is what we do in the USA for much inferior service. Why would I want to undervalue the Mexicans’ service in order to save a few pesos? We give the guy who washes our giant Texas truck during Sunday church service 100 pesos, which probably sounds foolish, but once he told us he works everyday because it costs him 100 pesos a day to feed his large family. I want to give him enough so that he can go home to his family on Sunday. We pay more than that to run the truck through an automated carwash in the USA, and in the USA nobody blacks the tires and the running boards and opens my door for me when I come out of church.


        1. Bonnie: A 10 percent tip is standard here. If I get good service, I usually leave 15 percent. As for those Tapatios (folks from Guadalajara for those of you who don’t know), you’ve wandered into a separate area. The nouveau riche, or even those whose “riches” go back further, can be quite haughty in this country. Well-off people often treat those below them arrogantly. Egalitarianism is not something Mexico embraces, neither in word and certainly not deed.

          As for your paying the truck-wash fellow 100 pesos, that wouldn’t be too extravagant if it also includes detailing the interior.

          And as for your wish to pay the fellow enough that he can spend Sundays with his family, you’ve clearly moved to Mexico in part to save people, and you are in line with the attitudes of many Gringos here. I will not badmouth it. Your intentions are good.

          I, however, am not in a rescue mode. They live their lives. I live mine. I prefer to pay, more or less, the prevailing rate on anything, and it really annoys me when I get charged, or someone tries to charge me, more because they know Gringos are easy touches and soft-hearted. And why do they think Gringos are easy touches? Because most are. Including me, now and then.

          Much of this is due to huge cultural differences.


  1. Felipe, we JUST bought one of those stone Aztec heads (like in your first picture) on our trip down to Mexico a few weeks ago. Ours, however, is about the size of a softball. One note if you buy one of those, they will NOT let it pass in your carry-on luggage. We had to go all the way back with one carry-on and check it. It looks great in the garden though!

    Have a great weekend, Felipe!


    1. Mike, If I’m not mistaken, the head is Olmec, not Aztec. Different folks. I’m not too surprised you could not carry it on the plane, in spite of its relatively small size. I’m sure they saw it as a potential weapon. Just another reason I try to avoid flights having anything to do with the U.S.

      As for my weekend, they’re all great. Same to you.


  2. Now THAT is a rattletrap truck. Nothing like what I toured Mexico in.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where most of the vegetation is still under much snow and spring is only a change of the calendar.


    1. Kim: One of the reasons I paid more than I might have is that the owner of the truck, whom I’d never met and who walks with a limp, struck me as a very sympathetic sort. I liked him. He was good-natured. And the truck, which is his, is a total disaster.


    1. Señor Cotton: Enthralling, eh? Well, we enthrall one another. Yes, I like the truck shot too. I’ve been trying to use black-and-white photos here whenever possible, which is to say whenever the colors are not an issue, but I did like the colors on this one, especially the two shades (inside and outside) of the front gate.


    1. Patzman: Yeah, I overdid, breaking my own rules, the rules I often use to criticize others. I’m a very bad boy. But those guys left happy. Especially since the work took all of about ten minutes, at least the part here. I wonder where they dumped that stuff.


  3. You received what you needed, and they received a little extra for their services. And, you could afford it. Seems like a win/win to me. Another month till I can think about launching the boat. This has been a cold spring in Southeast Michigan, it could be worse, I could be in Boston.


    1. Francisco: A real Mexican likely would have paid 50 pesos each or perhaps for both.

      Another month to launch the boat? Yeah, it could be worse. You could be in Boston, as you say. Or it could be much better. You could be in Mexico.


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