Gringo-Mexican retired newspaper editor living in the mountains of Central Mexico since the dawn of the 21st Century. Felipe Zapata is a nom de plume.
Formerly toiled at the New Orleans States-Item (now defunct), the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), The Houston Chronicle and the San Juan Star (also defunct) in Puerto Rico.
I WAS A newspaperman for about 30 years before I retired at age 55 in late 1999. I never called myself a journalist, and I’ve never taken even one journalism course.
I’ve also been a taxi driver, a loan shark and a repo man.
But it was newspapering that I was best at.
There’s a link in the right-side column that takes you to Newspaper Days, a description of my decades in that world. It was a profession I fell into, just one more path in a life that’s been almost entirely haphazard.
Take a look if you have some spare moments. It’s a quick tour through exotic places like San Juan and New Orleans, and even haircuts in the Virgin Islands.
You’ll also encounter mangy dogs, suicides, alcoholism, unionism, motorcycles, political correctness, feminist zealotry, homosexuality, paste pots and old typewriters.
* Click on DeLauro’s photo to get the full impact, to see her in all her wacky splendor. She’s 73 years old, the Woodstock Generation! She could strut the streets of San Miguel de Allende, and no one would even notice.
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.