Tag Archives: early retirement

Moments in time

FOLLOWING MY afternoon café yesterday, I stepped across the street to sit a spell on a stone bench. I whipped out the Canon from my man bag and shot a brief video.

It was about 6 p.m., and nothing much was going on. Kids were playing. You can hear them. You can also hear music, which is coming from ground speakers installed around our plaza, part of a renovation about five years ago.

City Hall says it’s the largest main plaza in the country after the Zócalo in Mexico City. Maybe it is.

The rainy season is easing in. We got a good blow just last night, rain and wind colliding with the windows that face in that direction. The bedroom windows.

The Hacienda lawn got cut last Saturday, first of the year. Within three days it needed cutting again, but once a week is the limit. The rest of the time we’ll just wade through grass.

Things are getting cooler, which is the main advantage of the five-month rainy season. Cool summers! Who would have imagined it? I had no idea before I moved down here because I had done little research about anything at all.

I’m writing this at 8 a.m. It’s time to go downstairs for croissants and orange marmalade. Then I’ll sweep the veranda of the crap that storm last night blew into there.

It won’t take long.

(Post-croissant update: We played Pancho & Lefty on the music machine. A hummingbird flew into the veranda and looked directly at us through the dining room window screen.)

Unemployed 17 years

scene
Pastoral scene not too far from the Hacienda.

JUST EIGHT weeks shy of reaching 17 years of no paid employment. Me, that is.

If someone had told me at, say, the age of 40 that I would retire at 55 and, 17 years later, would be living in a lovely Hacienda on a Mexican mountaintop in good health with a child bride, speaking Spanish all day, I would have said:

Yeah, sure. In my wildest dreams.

Yet stuff happens. I would not have believed it, that such good fortune would fall atop my head, but it did.

One reads of people who retire, usually men, and then drop dead a year later, often out of sheer boredom, having lost their reason to live, their job. But I’m not that person.

I’ve never been bored in my adult life. Not a moment.

How does one survive that long with no paying job? I do it with a combination of capitalism and socialism. I profited from the roaring stock market of the 1990s, plus I have a corporate pension, although it’s a puny one.

And then there is Social Security, the socialist element.

None of the above would have been enough were it not for the final element: moving to Mexico. One reads that living in Mexico is not as cheap as it was “in the old days.” Maybe, but it’s sure way cheaper than living in the United States.

Seems like it’s every week that I read about the ever-soaring medical insurance premiums the Gringos have to pay for the ObamaCare scam, the “you can keep your doctor” and “you can keep your current plan” bamboozle.

And the taxes! Lordy, what taxes, especially property taxes in some areas, and paying taxes for those unionized schools that turn out young, brainwashed airheads.

I was sitting at a sidewalk table on the plaza yesterday with a hot café Americano negro, reading a book, when I paused and looked at the cobblestone street and the red-clay roofs, and I thought to myself: Boy, you’re one lucky sumbitch.

Moving days

THIS MORNING, 16 years ago, September 10, 2000, I awoke in my two-story rental downtown in the state capital. I had lived there alone more than three months.

The house was virtually unfurnished. There was a king bed with a side table in the master bedroom. A second bedroom upstairs had a double and side table.

There was a rocking chair in the living room, nothing more. A large table with chairs in the kitchen-dining room, a propane stove-top, no oven whatsoever, and a refrigerator.

That was it on the furniture front.

It was moving day! My second in eight months.

Before moving to that home, I had lived in a room above a garage, just a few blocks away, for four months. So this virtually vacant home was a step up in comfort and grace.

No matter. I was moving again.

But first I had to rent a car to tote the accumulations of the previous eight months. It would be the first time I would drive on the loco streets of Mexico. I was nervous.

Later that day, car lightly loaded, I headed up the mountainside where I had rented a two-story house that was poorly maintained and pathetically furnished.

The first necessity was a new mattress. The house had one, but it wasn’t anything you’d want to lie down on.

I also ordered a dark green love seat and matching chair that would be shipped from Guadalajara. That arrived four long months later. Mexican express.

That sofa and chair now live in the Hacienda’s bedroom.

chairs

I lived in that rental for two and a half years, the last year of which I enjoyed the company of my child bride while we constructed the Hacienda a couple of miles away.

We moved into the Hacienda 14 years back next May. It’s quite a step up from the room over the garage where I slept on a sagging twin bed that was fond of tossing its slats, leaving me sprawled rudely on the floor. Ker-splat!

It’s been quite an adventure, the best of my life. The mountaintop has been good to me, 16 years today.

In many ways, it all seems like yesterday. But gazing ahead, 16 more years looks like another life.

It likely will be. Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

In summertime I often pause before sunrise at the small, eye-level (for me) window in the bathroom and smell the golden datura just inches away. A good way to start the day.

At times in summer it’s raining gently.

My next move will be into an ash urn. And I won’t need to pack a suitcase for the journey.

Work and solitude

WHEN WE first wed years back, I was the primary cook and dishwasher. I remain the latter.

But I tapered off on the cooking, mostly due to shiftlessness. It’s not that she took over so much as we just prefer the easy route. Quick stuff, takeout, restaurants, etc.

I used to do other work too. Decorative painting on the Hacienda’s walls. I’ve stopped. Too much effort.

Due to feeling increasing shame recently for my laziness, I’ve begun fixing more meals. I have some old standards. There’s jambalaya and gumbo. Jambalaya is lots easier than gumbo, so gumbo hasn’t returned to our plates just yet.

Maybe it never will. It’s not a quick meal.

I prefer easy fixings. I do a nice 15-minute minestrone. And there’s a pasta dish on which I dump steamed broccoli and garlic. Just today we’ll be having meatballs that I made yesterday in a crockpot.

And I’ve decided to work more in the yard, easy stuff. And wash the Honda more. I’ve been letting carwash guys on the plaza do it because it only costs a bit over two bucks.

Paying anybody to wash the car in these parts from June through October is akin to burning cash since it rains every single day. A clean car lasts about an hour.

But you gotta do something or, come November, you won’t even remember the color of your car.

So I’m working more now. Cooking, gardening, carwashing. It’s good to keep fairly busy, I think.

* * * *

The hermit life

I‘m reading a fascinating book called One Man’s Wilderness: an Alaskan Odyssey. A writer named Sam Keith used the journal of Richard Proenneke to construct the story of a man who moved alone at 51 to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s where he erected a cabin and lived solo for 30 years.

Proenneke’s talents with his hands and mind were awesome. He wasn’t an actual hermit because he received occasional guests, which he enjoyed, and, now and then, he returned to the Lower 48 for brief visits with relatives and amigos.

The book spoke to me perhaps more than to most people due to my longstanding hermit inclinations. Were it not for my love of womenfolk, perhaps I would have been a Proenneke. But I would have needed to hone my handyman skills first.

As a youth, I dreamed of living alone in an underground home on the bank sweeping down to the pond among cypress trees that rested on my grandparents’ Georgia farm.

Decades later, my hermit dream was to live in a half-buried school bus in the desert near Big Bend National Park. I read of a woman who did just that. I was flush with envy.

One wonders what a psychiatrist would say about those two dream homes being half buried beneath ground level?

I would have required a hermit woman, but doesn’t that negate the concept of being a hermit?

New ImageI would have cooked her gumbo in the school bus. And I would have washed her dishes. And maybe I’ll fix gumbo at the Hacienda again one day.

One must be kind to women.

Sunrises and cisterns

sunrise

THE SUN RISES over yonder, and I get a great view from my upstairs terraza. Just thought I would share.

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Under construction a few years ago.

Switching focus now, we just completed our annual cleaning of the underground cistern. It goes like this: We turn off the incoming municipal water supply. We wait about a week, and the cistern is empty. All used up!

We descend via ladder, sweep and mop, and flip the water supply back on again. It takes about two days to refill, 9,000 liters. We toss in a bottle of bleach to kill cooties.

cistern2
Smooth cement surface added to wall.

It now sports a concrete top with an square, entry door just big enough for one person to descend by ladder.

tank
Still refilling.

So, we’re set for another year. You still don’t want to drink the tap water in the Hacienda, but it’s likely fresher than you’ll find in most Mexican homes.

And after the labor, I get to do what I prefer doing:

patio
Sitting on my lazy can.

Home Sweet Home

house

THIS HOUSE sits directly across the street, and its upper reaches are clearly visible from our upstairs terraza, which is where I was standing as I snapped this shot.

It’s been sitting there, unpainted, unfinished, for years. I imagine it’s someone’s retirement home, down the line. Building homes, very slowly, bit by bit, is common in Mexico. Often the cash is being sent by illegals in the United States.

But I don’t think that’s the situation here. About two years ago, there was a snazzy sedan parked outside, and I spotted a middle-aged couple on the roof, looking our way. I waved, and they waved back. New neighbors, someday.

Maybe they work in Guadalajara or Mexico City.

Prior to that, for a year or so, construction was under way over there. It reached the point you see here, and stopped. Nothing has happened since, a couple of years now.

When it’s finished and painted, it will join the Hacienda as one of the nicest homes in our hardscrabble neighborhood.

Home Sweet Home — for them.

Recently, I learned of another Home Sweet Home, but it is being sold. It belongs to a cyber-amiga named Debi and her husband, Tom. They are selling their house in downtown Mérida in order to return to the United States.

You encounter this on occasion. Gringos or Canucks who move to Mexico but discover it’s too much for them, the changes.

What’s unusual in Debi and Tom’s case is the long time they’ve lived here. Most people, I believe, see the error of their ways rather rapidly, within a year or two — or even months. Debi and Tom have lived in Mexico almost a decade.

If you’re looking to move to Mexico, their Mérida home would be a nice choice. They even have a low-mileage, Mexican-plated 2002 Chevy Corsa that appears to come with the deal.

But returning to the United States after a decade in Mexico is an inexplicable move as I see it. A team of wild, angry burros could not drag me back across the Rio Bravo.

debi
Back yard with pool at Debi’s house.

 

A rare breed

DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.

oddballsThe trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.

With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.

Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.

Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country:  a minuscule 0.3 percent.

This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.

Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!