Beheading Birds of Paradise

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Survivors. Birds of Paradise who made the cut … or didn’t.

THIS SUNDAY MORNING, I awoke and thought of Sundays of Long Ago, specifically when I was married to my second wife and living in Houston.

We had a routine. I’d retrieve the fat Houston Chronicle from the lawn, pour coffee for the two of us — maybe we ate something too, can’t recall — and back to bed we went for an hour or more, reading the newspaper. It was fun.

I wonder if the Houston Chronicle still publishes a print edition. The world has changed so much in the past two decades. Another former employer, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, does not. It’s only online.

Just like me.

But this morning, here at the Hacienda, a far cry from Houston and New Orleans in all aspects, after coffee and bagels and cream cheese (lite), I went out the veranda door to do a bit of yardwork.

Madeleine Peyroux was still singing on the music machine.

I deadheaded a few Birds of Paradise. I whacked back one of the small bougainvilleas. I picked up rotting golden datura blooms from the ground in the Willy-Nilly Zone. And I cut stalks of defunct aloe vera flowers.

The weather was wonderful, and it appears the rainy season, which long overstayed its welcome this year, may have retired till June. I pray so.

We have plenty of work planned around here,* and it awaits the genuine end of the rainy season because it’s outdoor work. Not work I will do, of course. Work that people I employ will do, guys who do cement and stone.

And colonial tile.

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Potted plants sitting on a scruffy surface. But you just wait!

There are three arches in the veranda, as you can see in the photo. There are potted plants resting on the three ledges below. They sit on a dingy brick surface. In about a week, a guy will come and lay beautiful colonial tile. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this 15 years ago or even last year.

It will be a huge — Yuge! — improvement. I’ll post photos.

In the meantime, I wonder if my second ex-wife still reads the Sunday newspaper in bed. I almost emailed her this morning to inquire. But I didn’t.

* * * *

* More work than has been done by far since the Hacienda’s construction. Roofs will be razed. Stairs will be moved. Floors will be ripped up. The Jesus Patio will be destroyed. Fruit trees will fall. More on all that when it happens.

Bougainvillea and Moonlight

MY CHILD BRIDE headed by bus to Querétaro Monday morning on family business, but I stayed here at the Hacienda.

It’s always strange being here alone. There are aspects to it that I enjoy, but the negatives outweigh the positives.  I’ve grown accustomed to her face.

About 7 p.m. I headed outside to walk about the yard for no other reason than to stretch my legs, but I noticed yardwork that needed to be done. It was still light out, but the moon loomed in the sky. It was day and night.

I grabbed clippers and trimmer. First, with clippers, I removed some aloe vera flowers on stalks that had lost their will to live. The moon watched.

Dropping the clippers, I turned to the hedge trimmer and rounded two of the smaller bougainvilleas, the ones that are still controllable. Then I bent over and pulled some weeds at their bases, weeds that I should have pulled weeks ago.

I’m getting lazy. Years ago, I would never have let those weeds grow to that extent. You get older. You cease to care about some things.

I was in my pajamas, or what passes for my pajamas. Flannel pants with Garfield the Cat all over them and a black T-shirt from Lands’ End.

Getting darker out and feeling that I’d done enough yardwork, I came in for the traditional evening salad and foccacia bread.

The Goddess willing, she’ll be returning tomorrow afternoon.

And evenings will be normal once again.

One of the lazy days

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SOMETIMES YOU wake up to a day in which nothing of note is waiting. This is one of those days. They do not bore me. I like them.

Given that the eventless day stretched before me, I decided to do at least one thing that needed to be done, and that was to whack back three bougainvilleas, the smaller ones. The fourth, a monster, is beyond hope and goes its own way.

But due to the day’s relaxed atmosphere, I just whacked back two of the three. The third will have to wait. Maybe mañana. It was warm out there, and the sun was glaring, reason enough to come inside and drink cold, red tea.

Speaking of red, I photographed the above before calling it a day. Midday actually because it was scarcely beyond noon. That’s a bottle-brush tree, the red of which complements the red of the house. While the grass grows more yellow and crunchy by the day, some yard plants are blooming.

Though you cannot see it, buds are erupting on the uppermost reaches of the nopal tree there at the rear. That’s always fun until they fall to the ground, ground that was until recently grass, but now is concrete and rock.

In a couple of hours, we’ll be lunching downtown, location yet to be decided. That will happen around 2 p.m., breaking up the afternoon nicely. Then we’ll come home, relax a spell, then head back downtown for a nice cafecito on the plaza.

Lazy days are great days. I’ve never been ambitious.

Early retirement is fun

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We bought that red, ceramic globe recently near Dolores Hidalgo.

I RETIRED QUITE early, age 55, and that means you potentially have lots of years ahead of you, years in which you must do something or other.

My plans were few. I knew I’d use the time to read books. I like to read books because it’s an interesting thing to do, plus it makes me even smarter than I already am.

Not on the plan was yard work, which I dislike. My distaste for yard work was one of the reasons I recently had part of the Hacienda lawn filled in with stone and cement. That’s the lighter part in the photo above. The darker is the sidewalk, which is 15 years old.

But I’ve discovered that I’ve simply substituted one form of yard work with another. The stone and concrete require sweeping. The primary reason is that there are plants, big ones. One is the towering nopal, and the other is the monster bougainvillea.

The nopal drops big, dead, prickly “paddles.” Ker-splat! The bougainvillea snows dead leaves and other miscellaneous crap.

I was out sweeping this morning when this realization came to me. It’s still yard work. However, sweeping stone and concrete is far more fun than fussing with grass.

I don’t regret the stonework. We intend to do more next year.

Back to the theme of retirement. Lots of folks dream of retiring early, which is a phrase open to interpretation. The standard “early retirement” is 55, and that’s what I did. Other people, mostly young ones, dream of leaving the work world even earlier. At 40, for example. Good luck with that, amigos.

Here’s what you usually have to do to retire early, say, at 55. Don’t go into debt. Save, save, save … and invest wisely. Being single can help. These are not difficult things to do, but few folks do them. It’s equally simple to lose weight. Eat less crap, and do regular moderate exercise. Again, easy, but few people can do it.

I’m having a fun time, and I’ve been having fun since 2000. Before that, not so much. One late afternoon recently, I was sitting here before the Hewlett Packard screen, and I looked out yon window. Below is what I saw.

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