Category Archives: Mexican life

Bagels and sausage

My child bride is at my side, but she didn’t have her feet up just then.

THE RAINY season changes everything hereabouts. The mood, the grass, the feel, the temperature.

The daily rain was reluctant to start this year, but I think it’s finally worked up some enthusiasm. It rained gently most of last night and, as I write this in late morning, it’s still falling quietly and steadily, the rain. Nice.

Speaking of mood, usually, after our morning bagels or croissants, we step from the dining room into the living room and sit on the sofa, which is nice and soft. I put my feet up.

Sometimes incense and/or music.

We finish our coffee and talk. Okay, truth be told, she talks. And I listen. She is female, after all. And I’m not.

God created them to talk. Us to listen.

That lasts 15-30 minutes till we get up and start chores. There are always chores. We have no maid.

Life’s been pretty slow since we got back from our anniversary trip to Mineral de Pozos about a week ago.

Last weekend we hopped into the Honda and headed around the lake to an eatery I simply call The German Restaurant even though the real name is Campestre Alemán.

The German Restaurant offers grub you won’t find anywhere else in these parts, this world of endless tacos and cheese.

There is Bavarian sausage, for instance, and goulash too. I always order the Bavarian sausage, which comes with sauerkraut, something else you rarely encounter locally.

I took this photo of my Bavarian sausage and sauerkraut. Just beyond is the bunny my wife ate. I consider eating bunny appalling, but she does it anyway.

It’s still raining as I wind this up, which means there will be no morning exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza. I guess I’ll  just shave, take a shower and put my jeans on.

It’s almost time for Breakfast #2. Cereal.

Sex hotel facelift

The enticing façade, fresh from new paint.

UNLESS YOU’RE a relative stranger hereabouts you know I live next door to a sex motel, a fascinating neighbor.

It wasn’t there when we purchased the property and built the Hacienda 14 years back. There was a cow pasture next door where a lone cow lived and attracted flies.

About four years later, the construction crew arrived and started building the sex hotel. There are just eight rooms.

The hotel is part of a nationwide phenomenon called Hoteles de Paso, meaning “pass-by hotels.” These establishments are noted for their very low prices.

Our neighbor, for instance, charges the peso equivalent of about 10 dollars for eight hours; 14 dollars for 12 hours; and 22 dollars for a 24-hour stay, all taxes included.

Take that! Motel 6.

They are usually nicely appointed places with discreet parking. Three sorts of customers, basically. Single folks with nowhere else to get it on. Married folks who just want to have some “us” time away from the 12 children and Granny.

And anyone else who simply wants a nice, inexpensive place to bed down for the night, mostly travelers.

Not being on a major highway, we don’t get much No. 3 trade. It’s almost exclusively Nos. 1 and 2.

We were very apprehensive when the construction began because we thought the hotel would be a noisy neighbor.

Mexicans are noisy.

But no. It’s been tranquil these last 10 years, and the place even serves as a 24-hour guard service of sorts since it’s always open, and the office is out front.

The hotel has provided us with some entertainment over the years, as you might guess. If you walk out to the edge of the upstairs terraza and peer over, you’re looking directly into a couple of the bedrooms.

Toward the tail of the construction process, my wife and I crept over there one afternoon and slipped up the stairs of the back room. Very impressive, beautifully appointed, even with crown moulding. One of the rooms sports a jacuzzi.

But after a decade it began to look a bit scuzzy, and a week ago a couple of fellows showed up with paint and brushes.

Now it looks like it did on its debut day, a place you’d be proud to take your pants off to have a little fun.

Overnight in Pozos

View from our hotel apartment.

WE PASSED the 15-year point in our happy matrimony back in April. We had intended to go to the beach for a couple of days for the occasion, but we never got around to it.

Then I remembered our previous visit to a place called Mineral de Pozos. That first jaunt was eight or 10 years ago. It was mostly a ghost town, having previously thrived due to mines in the area, but those good times were long gone.

We hopped in the Honda and headed there this past weekend for a way-overdue anniversary blow-out.

Pozos, as it is usually called, reminded me of Real de Catorce, another ghost town resurrected by tourism.

A Brad Pitt movie called The Mexican was filmed in Real de Catorce. It was a fun flick. Also starred Julia Roberts.

The traffic was insufferable. Can you see my child bride?

But forget Brad and Julia. We’re talking about Mineral de Pozos here. Way back when, the town had another name, Ciudad de Porfirio Díaz, after the old dictator.

During our first visit, I thought, “This place will never get off the ground.” It was primarily shells of old stone buildings, mangy dogs and deserted streets.

We had driven up there from San Miguel de Allende, just for a few hours. We didn’t spend the night.

We noticed a couple of hotels that were under construction. We poked our heads into one during that visit, and it coincidentally was the same hotel we stayed in Sunday night.

Part of our hotel.

It’s called Posada de Las Minas, and it’s a very nice place. The hotel consists of eight rooms and two apartments, the difference being that the apartments are larger and have kitchens.

Since the apartments cost the same as the rooms, 1,800 pesos, we opted for an apartment. The view from the windows and balcony was spectacular, and the hotel has a great restaurant.

Old street goes up thataway.

Since our first visit, Pozos has been named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos. Magic Towns. We Mexicans are fond of thinking ourselves as magic in one way or another.

Here on the mountaintop is also officially magic.

If a Mexican town has a cobblestone street, the chances of the government calling it magic are pretty good.

The designation seems to have given Mineral de Pozos a shot in the proverbial arm because when we returned Sunday, things had picked up considerably.

Of particular note is an art school that’s being constructed on the edge of town, an art school that will be the largest in Mexico and, according to some, the biggest in Latin America.

We drove by the place, which is not yet open. It’s huge and beautiful, as an art school should be. Even the dusty neighborhood is being renovated in spots.

As mentioned, we were there just one night. The bed was comfy, the view was wonderful, the restaurant was delish, and the art school was stupendous.

We’re not likely to make a third visit, however.

It’s just a one-hour drive northeast of the Gringo-infested burg of San Miguel de Allende, which is where we had lunch on the drive up and again on the return trip.

But we’re back home now, and happy for that. And well into our 16th year of matrimonial bliss.

Little plaza in Pozos.

Street food

Yum, yum, yum!

A FREQUENT warning to people visiting Mexico is not to eat food from street vendors, advice that I’ve ignored for 17 years, and I haven’t died yet.

This afternoon, sitting at a sidewalk table on the main plaza with a café Americano negro, I hankered for something solid. I narrowed the options down to two.

One was a shrimp cocktail from a street vendor on the small plaza a couple of blocks away. Two was whole-wheat fig bread from another vendor quite near the shrimp stand.

I chose Option Two, the fig bread. That’s it in the photo. I brought it back to my coffee shop sidewalk table and cut into it with my pocketknife, the one you see there.

The fig bread is a great example of an amazing phenomenon you often encounter down here. Persistent food heat. I purchased the fig bread out of a basket. The bread had a cloth covering both it and its compañeros, all awaiting diners.

The vendor likely had left home, or wherever the bread was baked, a couple of hours previously, but the bread was still quite warm as she tucked it into a plastic bag.

I walked the two blocks back to the coffee shop, sat, opened the bag, and the bread was warm still. I cut it in half for the photo. Then I ate a good deal. Still warm.

How do they do that?

After slipping what remained of the bread back into its bag, I was surprised by the sudden appearance of the inimitable Jennifer Rose who sat with me a spell.

I offered her some fig bread, but she declined.

Moments in time

FOLLOWING MY afternoon café yesterday, I stepped across the street to sit a spell on a stone bench. I whipped out the Canon from my man bag and shot a brief video.

It was about 6 p.m., and nothing much was going on. Kids were playing. You can hear them. You can also hear music, which is coming from ground speakers installed around our plaza, part of a renovation about five years ago.

City Hall says it’s the largest main plaza in the country after the Zócalo in Mexico City. Maybe it is.

The rainy season is easing in. We got a good blow just last night, rain and wind colliding with the windows that face in that direction. The bedroom windows.

The Hacienda lawn got cut last Saturday, first of the year. Within three days it needed cutting again, but once a week is the limit. The rest of the time we’ll just wade through grass.

Things are getting cooler, which is the main advantage of the five-month rainy season. Cool summers! Who would have imagined it? I had no idea before I moved down here because I had done little research about anything at all.

I’m writing this at 8 a.m. It’s time to go downstairs for croissants and orange marmalade. Then I’ll sweep the veranda of the crap that storm last night blew into there.

It won’t take long.

(Post-croissant update: We played Pancho & Lefty on the music machine. A hummingbird flew into the veranda and looked directly at us through the dining room window screen.)

Watch your step

THERE’S A street project right off the main plaza downtown that’s been going on since last autumn, which is a long time because the renovation is just two lengthy blocks.

This project interests me, and I take a stroll by there almost every weekday after sitting at a sidewalk table with my Kindle and a café Americano negro.

In the United States, it would have been done far faster, and the entire work site would be blocked off so pedestrians and gawkers like me could not walk all over the place.

Around the workmen. Hopping over wet cement.

Here, no effort is made to keep pedestrians out of the work area, and none of the workers sports a hard hat. The main reason the project is taking so long is that there is little mechanized about it. It’s strictly manual labor.

If a passerby trips on something, falls and busts his noodle, he should have watched where he was going. He does not sue the city. We are not litigious that way.

The work started last year with an extensive excavation. New sewer and water lines were buried deep as were electric cables and wires in fat orange conduits.

Part of the reason the project is taking so long is the detail work, primarily on the sidewalks.

I should have photographed some of the detail, but I didn’t. This is fine rock work that will last a century.

There is sunken lighting for a nice nighttime look.

About the only nod to modernity are wheelchair ramps.

This photo shows the area where most of the stone is being worked to make it usable. It was a rose garden outside the church/hospital to the left before the renovation began.

Big stones are cut to size by hammer and chisel.

The scenes of the first two photos are at the end of the block down thataway, the far side.

We don’t have the reams of rules and regulations here that are so prevalent above the Rio Bravo, rules and regs made necessary by lawyers and government meddling. No environmental impact study was required.

Bugs were just squashed.

Here, if you need something done you hire some guys and do it. There are always guys available, plenty of idle hands of men who never grasped the need for schooling.

Just around the corner from the renovation I noticed this sign outside a tiny pharmacy. Look what you can have done. (Excuse the photos’ blurry edges. I had the camera set for that effect, but I did not notice till later.)

You can measure your blood sugar and blood pressure, or get a pap test.

You can get a medical certificate, maybe to get out of class. A problem with your toenails? No sweat.

A wound will be bandaged, and if you need an injection, they’ll stick you with the appropriate needle.

And all will cost next to nothing, and no pricey doctor reference is needed, but a doctor is likely there. Just go in, pay a buck or two if you want some medical advice or a prescription.

Living here is easy. Even if renovating a street takes forever. It will last forever after it’s finished.

Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

Bats and teeth

THERE ARE TWO items on today’s agenda.

The first is bats. They have returned to the Hacienda in a goodly but uncertain number, something they do every year about this time.

Must have something to do with the rain’s arrival.

There are a couple of ways to know they’ve returned. One is to be on the veranda downstairs at dusk. It’s their takeoff time. The other sure clue is the pile of bat crap every morning on the floor of their corner of the veranda.

It’s a sizable display.

The first method is fun. The second … not so much. The bat crap must be swept with care and tossed into the yard trash.

I assume that it’s Mexican free-tails that we have. I assume this for two reasons. One is their name. Mexican. And the other is that we are firmly in the middle of their range.

Over the years I’ve had some exciting moments with these bats. One morning, we sat on the veranda with coffee and bagels, and I noticed a bat trapped in the nylon strings of a wind chime.

I donned leather gloves and liberated him. Another time, while cleaning on the veranda, I was surprised to find a couple of the little, brown buggers sleeping peacefully inside a sombrero hanging on the wall.

More recently, just about two years ago, we encountered one hanging from a light fixture in our Downtown Casita. I captured and liberated him too.

I’ve become quite the batman.

I couldn’t understand at first how he got into the casita, but finally I noticed the chimney was a direct route.

I have put wire screen over the top of the chimney. We rent the Downtown Casita to vacationers, and I doubt they would want to awake one morning and see a bat hanging from the bedroom light fixture. That’s where the bat was, in the bedroom.

I like bats, and you should too. They’re an essential element of the ecosystem. They gobble lots of mosquitoes.

* * * *

Pirate smile

Let’s move now to the second item on today’s agenda. Teeth. About a month ago I wrote about my first step in getting a tooth implant (A dental case).

After having the problem tooth pulled, the dentist inserted a metal post in my jawbone and covered it with a temporary tooth. It looked quite snazzy.

The next step was a three-month wait till the bone connects with the post. Then the permanent tooth will be applied.

Three weeks later, the temporary tooth fell off. I phoned the dentist down in the capital city, and he said come right over. I did, and he quickly reattached it.

Two weeks more passed. It fell off again. That was yesterday. I still have almost two months more before the permanent tooth can be attached.

A bulb lit over my head.

I phoned the dentist again and asked: Is this thing totally cosmetic, just for looks? Yep, he replied.

See you two months, I countered.

I always wanted to look like a pirate with a snaggletoothed smile. Now I do, and it’s a look I’ll sport till August. The gap is not directly in front, but it’s not hidden way back either. It’s midway, quite apparent when I give a good grin.

One of the joys of retirement is that you can look however the devil you want. I look like a pirate.

Or a Mexican bricklayer.

The first yank

My trusty machine, red like the house.

THE RAINY SEASON arrived this week with a splash!

Three days ago I was enjoying a nice café Americano negro at a sidewalk table downtown when the skies opened with a vengeance.

In short order, the street vanished, and a lake took its place. Passing cars pushed waves onto the sidewalk, so I retreated closer to the wall with my chair and table.

The temperatures have dropped. The dust is washed into the gutters, down the drain pipes and into the lake.

And now my grass is greening. Soon it will need mowing and edging. Yesterday I pulled the mower from under a table on the Garden Patio and wiped it off with paper towels.

I poured fresh gas into the tank. I primed the carb (three times), and I yanked on the rope. Roar! The first yank!

Craftsman makes good stuff.

That leaves the weedeater, which I bought just last year, a Stihl, which is also a good item, but all weedeaters are a bitch to crank. The Stihl is just a little less so. But it has a rather complicated process you must observe to start it.

And being along in years, my arm is not what it once was. If the Stihl does not crank  quickly, I’m out of the game. I have not tried to start it yet. I am procrastinating.

Stihl weedeater, better than most.

While I let Abel the Deadpan Yardman mow the grass with the Craftsman, I am hesitant to put the Stihl in his mitts. The last time I let a local use a weedeater, it ended up in tatters.

Mexicans tend not to take care of things owned by other people. It’s a cultural trait and not one of their better ones. But I may be forced to hand it over to him.

Happy cacti.

After shooting the mower and Stihl, I photographed these cacti. I’m a cactus man. I planted them in Houston, but they never did squat.

Here, however, they’re right at home. I planted these cacti when they were small. The ones at the far end are  now taller than I am.

So summer and its accompanying rains are here. We love it when that happens after the stuffy, dry, dusty spring. But by soggy September we’ll be praying for an end to it.