A gift of books


I FELT QUITE the intellectual Thursday afternoon as I circled the huge downtown plaza afoot with a red bookstore bag under my arm. I’m sure everyone noticed.

There were three books in that bag, the ones you see in the photo. The three of them combined set me back about eight bucks, U.S., but in pesos, of course.

But they are not for me. They’re for our nephew, the one I once dubbed the Little Vaquero, who turns 17 next month. In the past, on Christmas and birthdays I always just slipped him some cash, which he prefers, but I’m not going to do that anymore.

I’m buying him books. If you don’t read books, you remain ignorant all your life, which is why so many nincompoops walk the streets and roads of the world. Will he read these books? Were I a wagering man, I’d say no, but he’s getting them anyway.

We have a load of nieces and nephews, but he’s the one we’re closest too, and he’s the only one who was adopted. He is very bright. When he was 6 or 7, we used to gift him complicated jigsaw puzzles, which he would complete lickety-split. It was amazing.

It was like watching Kasparov play chess.

He’s had a difficult life. His “father” accidentally shot himself dead about 10 years ago, and his “mother” finds motherhood challenging. I’ll leave it at that. He dropped out of school a few months back, and I doubt he will return, though he says he will. He was in the 10th grade. Few of our nieces and nephews have finished high school.

He spends his time staring at a cell phone. That’s pretty much it. All day long.

His redeeming quality is that he is good-natured,* even more so now that he’s dropped out of school, and his days are completely free for cell phone staring.

I told him a couple of days ago that I would not be gifting him cash in the future, that I would be buying him books. He smiled.

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* Not so much with his mother.

Golden touch

A few days back. Lots of dangling flower pods.
Golden Datura! Shot on Saturday in a light rain, which you might see.

SCANT GRINGOS live in my hardscrabble neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Plenty — too many — live in other barrios, but few within shouting distance of the Hacienda.

Almost since we built our home in 2002-03, there have been three Gringo residences in our ´hood. There were three back then, and there remain three today.

The other two have seen turnover. Even before we built the Hacienda, there was an old American woman living about four blocks away. She was Judith Deim, an artist of some renown and reportedly an ex-lover of John Steinbeck.

During a recent stop in the Gringo-infested town of San Miguel de Allende, we spotted Deim’s work in a fancy gallery there.

Not really to my taste.

She was 92 when we moved into the Hacienda, and she died three years later, old as the proverbial hills.

Her home became the property of relatives who sometimes were there, sometimes not, I think, but last year a Gringa who’s lived hereabouts a number of years bought Deim’s home and is remodeling it. She gave us a tour a couple of weeks ago.

It was the first time I’d been in the place. Though Deim and I occasionally sat near one another at my sister-in-law’s downtown coffee house on the main plaza, we never exchanged a word. I doubt she knew I was her neighbor.

She was ancient, eccentric and wore no eyeglasses. I, on the other hand, was far less ancient, eccentric and I did sport specs.

The other Gringo house in the neighborhood was constructed not long after we moved into the Hacienda. It is about three blocks away, and the owner was a gay book-seller who came from somewhere in New England.

He was in his 50s, quite friendly and dissipated-looking. I liked him. Unlike most who move here, he lacked independent income, so he tried to scrounge a living by selling books he bought down from above the Rio Bravo. It did not work.

He sold his place to a Gringo family, and moved back to the United States. He died a couple of years later, a heart attack.

The new Gringos were a family who published children’s books, something you can do long-distance. They significantly remodeled their place, and now it’s spectacular.

The couple came with an adopted son in his early 20s. The young man was colossally ill-behaved, and would ride a small bike around the local plaza ogling teen girls. His behavior, it appears, eventually got him into serious trouble.

So the family hightailed it to Uruguay.

Soon after, the now elegant home was purchased by more Gringos, an elderly retired couple. They’ve been here a number of years, and everything seems to be going well for them.

What has this to do with Golden Datura in the photos?

The first Gringo, the bookseller, gave me a cutting from his lawn, and my two datura trees are the result. Every winter, I whack the plants back to the trunk nubs, and every summer they resurrect with a vengeance of green and gold.

The one shown is outside our bedroom window. In summer the aroma of datura sails into the bedroom, and we can hear bumblebees buzzing the blooms.

The top photos were taken this week. The video below was shot way back in 2011.

The bookish artist


THIS MAN is an artist who’s been roaming our mountaintop streets for years. I do not know his name. At times he totes his work with him, out and about, and it can be quite large.

One of his very large paintings was leaning against a concrete column just behind him when I shot this photo.

For sale, one assumes.

He sat at a coffeehouse table for hours recently, reading a book. He does not own glasses though he clearly needs them. Instead he uses a magnifying glass.

And he’s the fellow sharing the table with the shocked woman who was featured here last week. But this photo was shot the following day.

This photo and others can, of course, be viewed bigger and better at Felipe’s Fabulous Fotos.

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New Image

The above are the same two girls shown in the recent photo on the post titled Divergent Lives. They appear a couple of years older here. They’re standing in the same positions.

The one on the right, again, is my child bride. The one on the left, a sister, is, well, she is what she is.

My wife adores children though she never had any. Maybe that’s why she likes them so much. The one in her arms is a brother, one of many siblings.

The faces of the two girls are revealing, reflecting their personalities, their true inner beings.

As mentioned previously, the one on the left went on to have four illegitimate children and lived unmarried with a bum for many years. The one on the right twiddled her fingers until her early 40s, waiting for me. ¡Qué bueno!

Cusp of books


BOOKS WRITTEN on tree cuttings are a dying breed, but many still embrace them, which amuses me.

Most people go their entire lives without reading a book that wasn’t required in school. Let us pity them. But for those of us who do read, who do know what’s going on in the world, who have active minds, there are now two camps.

Electronic and paper. The future and the past. Modern and old-fashioned. Convenient and, well, less so. Hip versus fuddy-duddy. I, of course, am in the hip category, the future, the modern, the convenient.

For those of us who live in Mexico but read books in English (though I speak Spanish, I never read books in Spanish), electronic books like the Kindle are a blessing because finding works in English can be challenging especially if you live far from Gringo havens like San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic. In those places, they have periodic book sales which, I imagine, amounts to everybody switching books, kind of like musical chairs.

So you better hope that someone who shares your tastes lives nearby. The better option, of course, is the Kindle or something similar where you can get about anything you want out of cyberspace. And trees are not involved.

We have three Kindles here at the Hacienda, but before they arrived (express-mailed separately to our front door in short order, not smuggled, which is the way most folks here get them), we brought books back from the United States during raiding expeditions to Texas. The used-book chain Half Price Books was always on our itinerary in San Antonio.

We have not been in the United States since 2008, making the Kindles even more valuable.

The shelves in the photo are in our living room. The first few years here it was an active location, but now it’s a museum. Nothing has been added there in years, but books look good, makes you look bright and provides a warm, learned atmosphere.

There are photos too. For the curious among us, they are, left to right, me sitting on the rocky shore of a river in the redwoods of Northern California. I am talking to Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) and her husband, Mickey; the house in the Florida Panhandle where I took life-altering entheogens in 1997; my child bride; my mother who died in 2009; finally, me at the age of 26 on the Georgia farm.

A sharp eye will note the book with the swastika about midway between my mother and my wife. Aha, some will say, I knew all along he was a Nazi. But two books farther to the right show Mao. And between those two sits Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The book with the swastika is the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and the book about the Chairman is Mao: The Unknown Story.

That last book, a biography, is particularly interesting because it’s only in the past decade or so that Red China has released information on the dictator to Western biographers. He was not a nice man.

But back to the cusp on which we sit. Like vinyl records and buggy whips, tree books are vanishing, soon to be of interest only to collectors and fuddy-duddies. The modern among us prefer our reads on a screen these days.