The morning light

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DEPENDING ON the season, sometimes I begin the day in the dark and sometimes not. I prefer starting with light. For instance, this is the scene that faced me this morning as I walked from the bedroom through the living room headed to the kitchen.

The hour will change, alas, next weekend, and I will be plunged back into darkness when I hop from the king bed about 7 or so. This is not good, but there’s nothing to be done about. It is ongoing foolishness that I do not control.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Here at the Hacienda, we’ll be initiating changes for the upcoming month due to the Kung Flu.  We will eat in restaurants less. We will still drive once a week to the nearby state capital but earlier, getting to Costco and Chedraui just after they open.

There will be fewer pesky people.

There is also the matter of my afternoon visits to the big downtown plaza where I sit at a coffee shop table, admiring the passing babes and reading my Kindle. It gets me out of the house. One element of that routine that has bugged me is being served café in questionable ceramic cups by the hodgepodge of employees.

Solution: Take my own coffee in a thermos. And tote my cup from home.

Of course, this would be discouraged in any other coffee shop, but this is a family establishment, so I can implement my plan easily.

Sadly, there are far fewer passing babes now.

Speaking of the Kindle, I’m now reading the second of two books about the White House permanent staff. Few people think about the White House’s employees, many of whom work there for decades, passing through many presidencies. Interesting stuff.

The first was Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West, who was a head usher. Don’t be fooled by the movie-theater job title. It’s akin to being a hotel manager. The second, which I’m still reading, is The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Brower.

I was surprised to read that it was not Hillary Clinton who was the biggest First Lady harridan in White House memory. It was Nancy Reagan. I wager that Hillary came in a close second.

Jackie Kennedy, Betty Ford and Barbara Bush were good guys, especially Barbara Bush. Did you know Jackie was just 34 when Kennedy was killed?

This afternoon I’ll be at the coffee house. Come join me. I have java to share, but you’ll need your own cup. And sit over there at the next table, please.

That time of year

RETURNING WEDNESDAY from three nights on the road, it dawned on me that it’s that time of year. It hadn’t seemed so obvious when we departed Sunday morning.

That time is the season shift, which is pretty stark here on the mountaintop. The rains have gone — we may still get a surprise, but it doesn’t matter — and I need to water yard plants, a chore.

I have no warm spot in my heart for chores.

And the hour changes next weekend in a good direction. I can never keep it straight which is correct, and which is man-made.

The end of Rains from On High comes almost always with the arrival of the Day of the Dead. Perhaps there is some celestial connection.

Candy-Skull-01b-1As some passers-by know, my mountaintop is one of Mexico’s hot spots for the Day of the Dead.

After so many years here, I’ve grown a bit weary of it, jaded, mostly due to the tons of tourists.

After 18 years in New Orleans, long ago, I had also grown weary of Mardi Gras, another massive tourist draw. But it’s good for the economy, and I love capitalism so very much.

It gives one the opportunity to be a One-Percenter, something communism does not do and socialism discourages. Even though I am not a One-Percenter, I want that path open for me, for everyone.

It’s only fair.

So get in your car and drive up here. Bring cash for hotels, tacos, sugar skulls and souvenirs. The enormous tree-lined plaza will be full of art, some quite stunning, lovely and affordable.

On the Big Night, head out to one of the cemeteries to marvel at the candles, the marigolds, the old women in rebozos, the men with tequila, lime and salt, the babies crawling about. The spirit guests.

Some of the cemeteries have surrendered to tourism. Others haven’t yet. Your task is the find the latter, avoid the former.

* * * *

Yes, we just returned from three nights away. We had planned for months to spend this week at Palenque, down in the Maya area of Chiapas. But at the last moment, we just did not want to.

So we got into the Honda and drove four hours to Mazamitla in the State of Jalisco, just south of Lake Chapala. Mazamitla is a mountain town that puts on airs of being Alpine. Lots of wood and A-frames.

A Mexican Twin Peaks without the weirdos.

We spent two nights in the Hotel Huerta Real, and decided Tuesday morning to drive the short distance north of Lake Chapala to spend a night in Ajijic, a place absolutely crawling with Gringos, mostly of the geriatric variety. We slept at the Hotel Casa Blanca.

There are two famous places in Mexico where Gringos love to gather. San Miguel de Allende is one, and Ajijic is another. I’ve spent many nights in San Miguel, but this was only my second in Ajijic.

The best reason to go to one of these Gringo havens is the abundance of good restaurants. In Ajijic we discovered the Meson Don Quijote, which is run by an actual Spanish gentleman.

I am a fan of paella, which is a Spanish dish, not Mexican as some less-swift people sometimes think. My second ex-wife and I ate superlative paella often at a Spanish restaurant in Houston.

Since moving over the Rio Bravo almost 16 years ago, I’ve encountered paella occasionally on menus. I have ordered it three or four times, and it’s always been disappointing. Mexicans cannot cook paella.

But there we were, standing in the lovely patio of the Meson Don Quijote talking to the Spaniard owner, when I saw paella on the menu. I decided to risk it once again. Call me crazy.

It was very good paella. Not quite what the Spanish joint in Houston served, but it easily merited four stars out of five.

While conversing of food, let us back up a bit, to Mazamitla where I had a culinary religious experience at a place called La Troje. The religious experience manifested itself in salmon. Yes, fish.

We had lunch at La Troje both days. The first day, by pure luck, I ordered that salmon and, Good Lord Almighty, that was some fine salmon.

If you ever find yourself at La Troje, know there are two styles of salmon on the menu. One is called Mediterranean, which is what I ordered. The other is called something else. I do not remember.

* * * *

And we’re home again. The salmon is gone, and so is Twin Peaks. Gringo-crowded Ajijic, which sounds like a spice, likely won’t be visited for another decade. And I may never eat paella again.

* * * *

A tip of the sombrero to Bonnie and Bill Garrison who pointed me toward Mazamitla, the Hotel Huerta Real and La Troje restaurant.