The blueprints

casa

HERE IS THE “blueprint” for the construction of the Hacienda. It was drawn by me back in 2002. I’m no architect, obviously.

It’s on standard graph paper. It’s the ground floor. For some reason, I did not save the plan for the second floor, but I do have one for the window designs, which I did, and another for the electrical schematic.

I used to be an electrician. Did you know that?

The only changes to the downstairs plan are that the stairwell to the left of the sala (living room) could not go directly up. It had to hang a right up top and continue, a question of physics, and we extended the recamara (bedroom) about a yard farther to the right to make it roomier.

The second floor is one huge space, a fireplace, a walk-in closet and a bathroom with shower stall. The upstairs terraza covers the downstairs bedroom, closet, hall and bathroom, the same fat L-shape.

The second floor extends from the stairwell all the way to the right. The downstairs terraza and the kitchen/dining room (cocina/comedor) have no second floor above.

The “patio de servicio” at the top left is open to sun and rain. That’s where you’ll find the propane tank, the washing machine and the clothesline. At the very top left you’ll see a bathroom. It only has a toilet, and it was there when we bought the property, a brick outhouse. We just left it in place. It’s now a storeroom with a never-used johnny.

The living room is slightly sunken, my wife’s idea. There is one step up to the dining room/kitchen and a step up to the pasillo (hallway) at the right. Both of these have a stone archway above, which is snazzy.

The design below is the downstairs terraza, side view, drawn by my wife who used to be a civil engineer. Did you know that?

Click on either drawing for a closer look.

Before the three albañiles (bricklayers but far more) and the helper began work in August of 2002, we got a permit from City Hall, and that was the end of that. No one ever came to check the work. Construction lasted nine months and cost just under $100,000.

We moved here in May of 2003.

The photo at the very bottom was taken around 2006, I’m guessing. You would be looking at the top diagram from the right. See that baby palm at the bottom left? It’s now about 18- to 20-feet tall.

The only drawback to being our own architects is that the living room could use more light. The windows facing the downstairs terraza are huge, but the downstairs terraza is wide and roofed, so little light enters through those windows. An architect would have seen that coming.

No matter. It’s why Edison invented light bulbs.

And, as always, tons of photos can be found here.

terraza

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The first ride

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On the Gulf Coast beach at Biloxi, Mississippi.

MY WIFE’S INITIAL visit to the United States was very surprising to her. “How clean,” she remarked as we walked through downtown San Antonio on our first night, having just driven up from Laredo. I think she meant “how orderly” because Mexico is clean, but sometimes it’s not too orderly, part of its romantic, chaotic charm.

It’s not that she was some provincial bumpkin who’d never been anywhere. She spent six months in the mid-1990s in Spain doing postgraduate studies in civil engineering in Madrid. She took advantage of that opportunity to travel all over Europe in her spare time.

But she had never been above the Rio Bravo until we drove up there in 2004 a year after our wedding. Before the trip, she was fond of saying that she had little interest in visiting. Hadn’t lost anything up there, she repeated with a smirk. There was a strain of anti-Americanism in her family.

All that changed immediately when she saw Texas … and Louisiana … and Mississippi … and Alabama … and Georgia. We drove in our little Chevy Pop, which is something like a Geo Metro. No AC, no stereo, no power steering or power brakes or power windows, no power anything. It was the first car I purchased in Mexico.

We spent a couple of nights in San Antonio, strolling the Riverwalk. There was a side trip to Bandera where we ate barbecue on the main drag. It was followed down the street by root beer floats. There’s no root beer in Mexico.

We drove on to Houston, my old home town, for a few more nights. We visited with a few of my previous coworkers who were still wage-slaving on the Houston Chronicle. Then on to New Orleans for rides in the streetcar on St. Charles Avenue and beignets at Café du Monde abutting the river in the French Quarter.

We hired a carriage, horse and driver for a romantic ride. Though she has seen Paris, New Orleans made a big impression on her. We walked the sidewalks of the Garden District. We ate oyster po’ boys.

The stretch from New Orleans to Atlanta is a long, mostly boring haul. We spread it over two days, spending the night in a Holiday Inn somewhere in the sticks of Central Alabama. The best thing about that night was a fried-catfish plate at a nearby restaurant. Alabama knows how to fry catfish.

She’d never had fried catfish. She’d never had oyster po’ boys. She’d never had a beignet. She’d never had a root beer float. She was happy. And her opinion of the United States changed forever. She was in love with the food, the shopping (Target in particular) and even the people, especially Southerners.

Southern people are genuinely friendly, unlike the famous (feigned) friendliness of Mexicans who grin and hug you to death if they know you and cast you a stone-faced glare if they do not.

A Mexican’s face is a mask, and so is his smile. — Octavio Paz.

We made it to Atlanta where we stayed about a week, visiting my mother, doing more shopping, more eating, and then we headed south, mostly repeating the route north but with briefer layovers.

The trip had begun the first week in March, so the car’s lack of air-conditioning was not a problem. But we almost got nailed on the return drive in mid-March, just one day, the leg between Houston and the border at Laredo. We sweated a bit. Ironically, on entering Mexico, things cooled off. There are mountains.

My wife returned a changed woman. Before she loved only one Gringo. Now she loves them all. She wants to rent a home and stay in the United States for months at a time. She wants to eat po’ boys and barbecue and beignets and catfish every day. She wants to roam the aisles of Target with a debit card and a smile.

Other trips followed, but it’s been six years now since we’ve been above the Rio Bravo, and she’s unhappy about that. Maybe we’ll return some distant day, but only the Goddess knows when … or if.

We haven’t lost anything up there.

My child bride

YoungMY WIFE possesses an exotic face. Her eyes are slanty, and she is thin-lipped. I am extremely taken with her face. She feels just the opposite.

Women are goofy.

Looking through an online photo gallery of her recently, I paused at this shot. It’s a detail of a far larger photo taken when she was about 7. She is holding a baby, one of her many siblings. Daddy never kept it in his pants.

The shot was taken somewhere in the State of Michoacán where she was born, raised and educated before moving to Mexico City where she worked 14 years as a civil engineer for the federal highway department.

That ended when she met me in 2002.

totThe second shot is even earlier. She was on Mexican beach around age 3 or 4, and she looks to have a bad attitude. This too is a detail from a much larger photo, which shows that she had been playing in mud.

Her hair is no longer short, and she’s quite a few years older, but still far younger than I am, and she still looks marvelous. She was my best Christmas present this year, as she’s been the best one for the past 14 years, the greatest gift from God ever.