Tag Archives: beauty

A capital time

A bunch of bananas in the making.

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.

And that’s where stuff stands at the moment.

Thanks for passing by.

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* Sort of like a big neighborhood.

Mulatto Ville

WE ESCAPED the Mardi Gras celebration in our hardscrabble neighborhood over the weekend by heading to the Gringo-invested burg of San Miguel de Allende.

I always find San Miguel unsettling to the soul. There is something just not right about it. It’s about as Mexican as I am, which is to say legally yes, spiritually no.

Perhaps Disneyland, but better: Mulatto* Ville.

It’s a combination of two very different worlds. Two mindsets, two races,** two cultures. And they do not stir well.

Oil and water.

Walking around downtown San Miguel, it’s all I can do to not burst out in howling laughter. The rayon shirts, the Bermuda shorts, the Birkenstocks, the berets, the feathers in the hat bands, the old white women*** wearing native blouses, the art paint smeared preciously on khaki pants.

So one might wonder, why do you go there? The main answer is restaurants. Mulatto Ville has great places to eat.

I enjoy eating.

And this recent trip was also to visit an old friend from high school who was wintering there, a retired university professor who included Marco Rubio among her students.

Another beautiful day in Dolores Hidalgo.

We took a drive north to Dolores Hidalgo where we had not gone directly downtown in a long time. We were pleasantly surprised, shocked even.

It’s a wonderful city that’s been undergoing renovation for a few years. Most of the plaza has been closed to vehicles. The church has been painted. Much of downtown too.

Some good restaurants and hotels can be found. And, unlike San Miguel, which has horrible streets and sidewalks, Dolores Hidalgo is flat, smooth and easily walkable.

It’s also one of Mexico’s main sources of talavara ceramics,**** the quantities of which are astounding and beautiful.

Next time we flee our area due to Carnival, we’ll be staying in Dolores Hidalgo, not south in Mulatto Ville.

In Dolores Hidalgo I spotted nary a Birkenstock*****.

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* I am playing loose with the word, of course. A true mulatto is the offspring of one white parent and one black one, à la Barry Hussein Obama who “identifies” as black.

** Oh, I know Mexican is not a race, but bear with me.

*** Why does everyone complain about Old White Men but never about Old White Women?

**** The other is Puebla. FYI.

***** My second ex-wife, now an Old White Woman, used to cringe at my own Birkenstocks, so perhaps I should avoid this point. Nowadays I sport Crocs but only at home.

Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Hula holidays

nosering

I SPOTTED THIS young woman downtown Saturday, across from the main plaza. She dances with Hula Hoops for handouts at traffic lights. It’s clever work.

I’ve seen her both here on the mountaintop and down the mountainside in the capital city. She gets around.

We’re geared up for the holidays. There’s a brief video below that I filmed on the same day. That occasional thump-thump sound comes from workmen off to the left who were building a wooden stage for a huge Nativity Scene.

We had a Christmas tree last year, same size, but it was green, a different material, and one afternoon a kid tossed a match onto it, and it burned to the ground.

I happened to be walking around the plaza when that happened. It was a sight to see. Quite a holiday bonfire. The city had it rebuilt, however, before Christmas day, and this year’s tree seems more fire-resistant.

The entire tree changes colors at night. Quite lovely.

Never a dull moment on the mountaintop, and we never lack for beautiful women either, some with Hula Hoops.

Mother-in-law

inlaw

MEET MY mother-in-law.

She was beautiful. I never knew her because she died at age 31 in childbirth with her fifth baby.

The baby was being delivered by my father-in-law whom I also never met because he died in 1986 at the age of 61. Heart attack.

He was a doctor.

This is a detail from a larger photo. I cropped and had it made computer-worthy. She would have been about 80 now.

The family never fully recovered from her death, and I imagine my father-in-law felt guilty the rest of his days.

The resemblance between my mother-in-law and my child bride, her third delivery, is quite remarkable.

Daughter didn’t fall far from that avocado tree.

The old woman

oldlady

THERE IS A handful of folks I spot downtown whom I want to photograph. I just need the proper moment.

This old woman was one of them, and she provided the moment on Saturday as she ambled in my direction.

Amble is her top speed. The other is sitting on a stoop.

Another was this old fellow. I photographed him about a year ago. He has since died. Still on my to-do list are a man who makes and sells bows and arrows — he has a great face — and a couple of lovers I call Los Tiburones, the sharks.

Recently, the bow-and-arrow man walked by my sidewalk table where I was enjoying a café Americano negro, so I asked if he would pose for a shot. I offered 10 pesos.

He said he’d prefer doing it when he was carrying one of his long bows, not the relatively short one he was toting on that day. I said okay. I’ll just snap him when he’s not looking. Like my sister-in-law, he sports the nose of an Aztec king.

Los Tiburones are a young couple who’ve been an item since high school. They are now in their early 20s. I’ve been eyeing them for years. The girl is incredibly beautiful and rail thin. Her guy is good-looking too, but in a normal way.

I call them the sharks because they are ever in motion, making them difficult to photograph. Normally, I spot them as they sweep by me, going in the other direction.

The girl’s long hair is sometimes streaked with blue or pink, and she smokes, which is not what a skinny girl should do.

Just sit on a plaza bench, you two, just for a few moments, will you? I’ve never seen Los Tiburones smiling either, but real sharks seem dead serious too.

One day I’ll show you what they look like. Also the bow-and-arrow man with the Aztec nose.

The woman in the photo above is a street vendor. I don’t recall what she sells. She is remarkably nice.

She is so old and feeble, she can hardly walk. Sad.

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(As always, Felipe’s Fabulous Fotos can be found here.)

Just never know

two

SITTING FRIDAY at a sidewalk table downtown, nursing a nice café Americano negro* and reading Ernie Pyle’s excellent Brave Men, I heard a racket coming down the street.

It was a small parade. I have no idea what the occasion was, but I did whip out my new Fujifilm Finepix 850exr, a sweetheart of a camera, and snapped a few shots.

Living here is great because you never know what you’ll see next. A companion shot can be found here.

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* I love typing this accurate Spanish phrase. Were I to do so while a student at an American university, I would handcuffed, tried by a kangaroo court and expelled.

Accidental hippie

pear
Hacienda pear.

I CAME OF age in the 1960s, heyday of the hippies, but I never was a hippie. Didn’t suit my personality.

So it feels strange now that I am harvesting organic pears, tons of them, more pears than we can easily dispose of.

We don’t do anything to make them organic. We don’t fertilize with donkey poop. We don’t light incense. We don’t smudge. We don’t howl at the moon on summer nights.

It’s what we don’t do that makes them organic.

We do nothing.

We have a pear tree that is perhaps 25 feet high in the yard. It was already planted when we purchased the property. We also have a sour orange, a peach and a loquat. But it’s the pear that provides most Hacienda fruit.

Some years the peach gives the pear a run for its money, but the peach is unpredictable. Some years, nada.

The pear is steady, reliable.

We pick up and haul away incredible quantities of pears.  We give them to relatives, amigos and acquaintances.

You will notice two things about our pear:

One, it’s not shaped like a pear. Two, it’s butt-ugly. Of course, being butt-ugly adds to its modish allure. It would likely warrant a high price at Whole Foods.

You’d want to buy brie and skinny crackers.

In spite of its shape and a face like Danny Trejo, it’s quite tasty. I ate the one in the photo after snapping the picture.

Felipe Zapata: organic pear farmer and accidental hippie.

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(Note: Photo is the first here with my Fujifilm Finepix F850exr, a sweetheart of a pocket camera with a 20X zoom.)