Downtown life

Rained cats and dogs downtown yesterday. I was sitting at one of these tables when it started, and we had to move the table a bit back from the street. This rainy season — normally June through October — has been the lightest in all the years I’ve lived here, and I like it. There is more than enough rain, but not too much.

Usually, it’s way too much. Yesterday was way too much.

That’s my sister-in-law’s coffee shop to the left. Business has fallen off due to the Kung Flu, but she’s doing okay. A couple of months ago, the city tore up the sidewalk on this block, dropped new drainage pipes into the ground, laid a level of concrete atop it all, and then ran out of money before laying the sidewalk tiles. They say it will be done in November. The unfinished work is why you see that mound of gravel to the right.

The mayor announced this week that our mountaintop town has become the first plastic-free municipality in the state, a bit of an overstatement because there’s still plastic all over the place. However, our few supermarkets have mostly quit supplying plastic bags, which leads to amusing scenes when customers stumble out the door trying to balance their purchases in their open arms. We bring reusable cloth bags. Duh!

We’re still commanded to stay home due to the Kung Flu, but most people ignore it. I do. You can only stay home so long. I stopped on May 10. We’ve also been threatened by the governor that if we don’t use masks we face 36 hours in the slammer. If that’s been enforced anywhere, I’ve not heard about it. Rules in Mexico are issued to be ignored.

It’s a great nation for a libertarian.

For over a year, the mayor has closed streets around the main plaza to vehicles on Sundays, making it pedestrian-friendly, a move designed to attract tourists. A few months ago, due to the Kung Flu “threat,” the plaza itself was closed to pedestrians to discourage tourists. But the traffic closure continues, so we have two contradictory policies on Sunday. Actual plaza shut to discourage tourists. Street circling plaza shut to encourage tourists.

To paraphrase Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, “It’s nuts!”

I pointed out the contradiction to our mayor on his Facebook page a couple of months ago. He responded that he would think about it. I guess he’s still thinking.

About the only good thing about this year is that we’re spending less money.

And there’s less rain.


In other Hacienda news, my child bride turns 60 next week, raising the question of whether I can continue referring to her as my child bride. It’s always been a matter of perspective. When we wed, she was 41, and I was 57.

¡Mama mia!

My gut feeling is that she still qualifies. In part because she does not look like a woman of 60 summers in the slightest.

Plus, on the day she was born at home in the city of Uruapan, Michoacán, I was a high school junior. When she was 3, I was in the Air Force. When she was 6, I was married with a child of my own and living in New Orleans, never dreaming that my third wife was in First Grade way south of the border.

Life takes unusual twists at times. I like it.

Road to Los Corrales

MY LAST DAY as a working stiff, December 19, 1999, I came to the newsroom in Houston with Happy Faces of all sizes that I had cut from yellow poster paper the previous day. I tacked and taped them to my cubicle. Yes, a cubicle, I never had an office.

That evening about midnight — I worked the swing shift — almost all my coworkers had gone home. I stood up, waved to the few remaining folks, and walked out the door for good, having no clue what I’d be doing even a year later.

Twenty-plus years later, I’m hanging loose.

It was a lazy Saturday today, so the two of us took a ride into the countryside. We went to the tiny town of Los Corrales and turned around.

road
The road to Los Corrales.

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Corn beyond an old stone wall.

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The green fields of home. Somebody’s.

It’s been said repeatedly that our state resembles Hawaii during the green months. Never having been to Hawaii, I cannot vouch for that, but it’s darn nice here.

Half a century ago, when I was visiting my maternal grandmother in the summertime, after dinner at noon, my grandmother and I would take the Ford for a ride down the red-clay roads. Usually, we would stop half a mile away at her sister’s place — her name was Bubba, and she was rail thin and chain-smoked — so she could come along for the ride.

I was too young for a driver’s license, but nobody gave a hoot.

I often think of those Sunday drives through the fields and woods of southwest Georgia when my child bride and I do pretty much the same thing on weekends. The two-lane, rural roads here are not red clay, of course, just your garden-variety asphalt at best. I always wanted to live in the mountains.

In the video, which I made in the morning, the music you hear is coming from the neighbors out back. They are sharing sorts.

Summer cleaning

MY CHILD BRIDE  encountered a nasty allergy in March — first ever — shortly after we started staying home due to the Kung Flu. That staying at home lasted till May 10 when we wearied of it. Now we are out and about since it’s become patently obvious that it’s just another pandemic like the world sees now and then. You die, or you don’t.

Most don’t.

She’s been to two doctors, and various solutions have been offered. The allergy has calmed down about 90%, but she still has occasional flareups, but nothing like what was happening in March, which coincidentally was when she stopped going to the gym religiously, again due to the Kung Flu. She returned to the gym about two months ago.

She imagines a new cause of her problem — sneezing and runny nose — on a daily basis. One, of course, is dust, so she’s been on a cleaning campaign that comes and goes. Today was one of those days, and she tackled the downstairs terraza.

cleaning
Wall stripped of hats. Shelves stripped of clay pots.

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Pots get a good wash.

Inside one of those clay pots, she encountered — much to her dismay — a mummified bat that had gotten himself trapped. That whole pot went into the trash barrel. She also tossed most of the sombreros that had been hanging on the wall for about 15 years, including the cowboy chapeau of my old buddy Al Kinnison.

But I was no slacker this morning. Swallows had built one of their nasty mud nests high on a second-floor overhang in the service patio. A family was there before I noticed it, so I left them in peace to raise the kiddies who tossed plenty of poop to the patio floor. They finally grew up and flew away. Good freaking riddance!

An extension ladder and a broom put me within range, so I knocked the nest down this morning. I’ll be more vigilant next year. I also climbed to the roof of the kitchen-dining room to sweep accumulated dirt that gives algae and weeds a happy home.

I was surprised to find the roof completely dry. Usually, there’s a pool up there throughout the rainy season, but it’s been raining less this summer. Must be that climate-change thing. If so, I favor it. We’re getting plenty of rain, as you can see in the video, but not so much that it causes problems. I shot that video about three days ago.

We’ll be having green pozole for lunch today. Come join us.

The rat house

I USED TO LIVE in a rat house. Next to an open sewer. Let me tell you about it.

There were mice too, far more mice, but rats make a greater impression.

When I arrived on the mountaintop from the nearby capital city in September of 2000, I rented a two-story, haphazardly furnished house in a walled compound that included four other residences, but mine was the largest and the only one of two flights.

The compound, and my house specifically, abutted a large open sewer that flowed through a very deep ravine from downtown where it also was fed offal discarded directly from the municipal slaughterhouse. As you can guess, this was a smelly affair although the rainy season keep the ravine flowing much of the year, reducing aromas.

The sewage did, and still does, flow into our mountain lake because there is no sewage-treatment plant in our town.

New ImageThe dry season, about seven months, could bring smells over the wall easily. And, of course, rats love sewers. Think Washington D.C.

The owner of the compound was an interesting Gringo, quite likable, who had moved to the mountaintop just after the Second World War, the story goes, and married a local woman. Both have long since died. The point of mentioning that he was a Gringo is that I paid rent in dollars, not pesos, and it was $350, if memory serves.

Now, let’s address the issue of rats and mice, and the fun times they provided during the 1.5 years I lived there solo. I lived there an additional year after marrying, but the rodent problem had been resolved by then. Had it not, my child bride would have run screaming back to Mexico City from where I had brought her.

Rats only appeared twice. And they were both dead. I found them in the toilet on two separate mornings. Luckily, I glanced down before sitting, immediately shut the lid and flushed them back where they came.

Here’s where they came from: The toilet pipe simply went under the floor, over thataway through the wall abutting the sewer and flushed everything into the ravine far below. The pipe was wide open for visitors to enter at will. Mostly, it was a one-way street, but those two rats were adventurous. Too bad for them.

They got into the toilet bowl, couldn’t get out, and drowned. At times, it does not pay to be brave and bold, especially for rats of all forms. But enough about those rats. Let’s move on to the mice, a far worse problem.

My bedroom was downstairs abutting a small interior courtyard that was walled off with glass. There were floor-to-ceiling draperies in that bedroom, and that’s an element in my worse encounter with mice. One evening I was lying in bed reading when I heard scurrying up the draperies, lots of scurrying, on the far side, lots of mice. And then a couple of heads popped over the top of the draperies, looking down at me.

I got up, shut the door tight, and climbed to the bedroom upstairs to spend the night. But I had encountered mice before, running around the living room, for instance, in the daytime. I purchased that sticky paper and put it out nights, and I always captured mice who would be squirming on the sticky paper every morning when I picked up the paper, took it outside and heaved it over the wall into the ravine.

This continued for weeks. I went through lots of sticky-paper traps. I don’t recall now, two decades on, how the rodent problem ended, but it did.

Had any of this happened after my new bride arrived, I would have lost her, and I would be single to this day or married to someone less qualified. That would’ve been bad.