From the Nazis to Amazon

vocho

IN THE EARLY 1970s, when I was married to my first wife and had a toddler, I bought a VW Bug convertible. It was so much fun! Totally unsafe, but who cared?

Airbags? Nah! Viable seatbelts? Nah! Padded dash? Yeah, right. It was hard steel. But we really enjoyed it, especially with the canvas top flipped down.

One afternoon in a summer rainstorm in New Orleans I was driving alone up Magazine Street (driving up, not down. There’s a difference.) and the puny wipers were doing their best. Janis Joplin was singing Me and Bobby McGee on the radio.

It was the first time I’d heard that song, and I still associate it with the interior of my Bug convertible in a sweltering New Orleans afternoon deluge. I gave the car to my wife after we split up, and she rapidly ran it into the ground. Sad.*

The world’s last Bugs were manufactured only in Mexico over the last few years, but that has come to an end. Sad again. And the only place the final cars will be sold is on Amazon Mexico. You can pay the full ride, or you can fork over 20,000 pesos for a layaway.

That’s about 1,000 U.S. dollars. Layaway is alive and thriving in Mexico.

Now, let me return to that rainy afternoon in New Orleans when I’d only been married once, had a cute little girl named Celeste, and I drove a white Bug convertible.

Imagine the rain.

* My second ex-wife scored even better. I gave her a house! Voluntarily. Or stupidly if you subscribe to my mother’s point of view.

Embracing the lifestyle

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Felipe relishes his pineapple.

NORMALLY, EVERY weekday morning, I sit on the downstairs veranda with fruit — usually pineapple chunks — following my exercise walk around the neighborhood plaza.

But this morning, I changed my tune. I went upstairs, took a seat atop one of the new chairs that we purchased from Amazon. They are more comfy than the hard rockers on the downstairs veranda, and I ate my fruit. That’s me doing it.

We’ve been enjoying June since the annual monsoon began a couple of weeks ago. The temps have dropped considerably. This morning around 5 a.m., I even rousted myself out of bed to close the windows. It was chilly in there. I went back to sleep.

My child bride might have been in this photo too, but she skipped on the exercise walk because she was busy in the pastry kitchen, baking for her weekly sale tomorrow on the principal plaza downtown. I usually walk solo on Fridays for that reason.

Since this post is solely about the photo, that’s all I have to say right now.

The modern mountaintop

MY HOMETOWN has a new hospital, a large, snazzy spot just two blocks from the main plaza. It’s called the Bora Medical Center (yes, in English*) and Hospital.

The website, like the medical center itself, is still not completed, but both are up and running, open for some business if not all. That will come later, they say.

This is the second significant private medical facility to arrive here, the other being the far humbler but still quite good Clínica Pátzcuaro, as some call it.

When you grow old, medical facilities rise in importance.

When I moved here almost two decades ago, there were two small government hospitals and a few clinics. I would not have voluntarily spent one night in any of them.

Before moving south of the border, I frequented bookstores in Houston, sitting and thumbing through all the “Retire in Mexico” books available. Most did not even mention my current mountaintop pueblo, and those that did didn’t have much good to say about the place, mostly that it got real cold in winter, which it does.

I wish that would keep more Gringos away, but it ain’t working.

When I arrived, there was only one internet provider. Now there are various. What passes as a ring road, called the Libramiento, was a potholed four-laner. Now it’s a smooth six-laner. There were no traffic lights anywhere. Now there are quite a few, all on the Libramiento.

We did have a movie theater that was hidden on the edge of the central market downtown. It was an old, dingy place with two screens and mildewed seats. One showed X-rated movies, and the other showed mainstream fare that had debuted months earlier in the nearby state capital. That theater shuttered years ago.

A huge lot on the Libramiento is currently being leveled. Reliable scuttlebutt says a movie complex will be built and a Domino’s pizza too. Twenty years ago, there were no Gringo-style convenience stores. Now we have lots, a Mexican chain called Oxxo.

When the first Oxxo arrived, many in the Gringo community were outraged. It conflicted with the “authentic” look of the town, they whined. Mexico ignored them, and good for that. Oxxos are very convenient. You can even pay bills and send money about anywhere via an Oxxo cashier. I wish they had ATMs, however.

Two decades back, there were no chain supermarkets. Now we have two. One is the Walmart-owned Bodega Aurrerá, and the other is the Mexican chain Soriana.

I want a Costco and a full-fledged Walmart. A Best Buy too.

We had no department stores till a few years ago when the Coppel chain constructed a large, two-level store across the street from the Bodega Aurrerá.

Mexico now has its own Amazon, which debuted about five years back. It’s just as good and efficient as the branch above the Rio Bravo. It even sells Alexa.

Speaking of Gringos, when I arrived on the mountaintop, there were about 40. Now there are 10 times that number or more, and newbies arrive every year. I wish we could funnel them all to San Miguel de Allende. It’s warmer there, and they’ll be happier. You don’t even have to learn a word of Spanish in San Miguel. Everyone speaks English.

* * * *

* This is a bit disturbing. When the natives speak English to you, it usually means you’re gonna be charged more.

A better way for water

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The new compact system.

THE HACIENDA has come into the 21st Century, water-wise.

After 18 years of hauling heavy, five-gallon, plastic jugs here, there, everywhere, we have retired the longstanding Mexican tradition of getting purified water via the big bottles and kitchen dispensers of various sorts.

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The old cumbersome system.

Instead, we have the little blue thing you see up top. It has three filters inside. If you’re interested in buying one you can go to Amazon or directly to the company itself.

Not visible in the photo is a little knob where you can easily switch from drinking water to normal water for washing dishes, etc.

We’ve installed the new filter here where we live, in the separate pastry workshop and in the Downtown Casita. The next time we head to Mexico City, we’ll take yet another to install in our condo there.

This change was inspired by my back trouble a month ago, which I detailed here. I could not lift one of the big bottles, and my problem lasted two weeks. Painful as those two weeks were, I’m almost grateful due to its bringing about this new system.

Change comes to the Hacienda slowly, but it comes.

My child bride now informs me that when she was an actual child, her family did not buy bottled water but instead had a filter attached to the kitchen sink. It took her almost 16 years of watching me haul big jugs to tell me that, and she only told me after I switched to the new system. Sometimes you gotta wonder about folks.

Even the one you’re married to.