A week of misery

The swept sidewalk and the stone steps.

I’M ALMOST back to normal after a week of suffering from a cold.

It wasn’t a horrible cold as colds go, but no cold is a good cold. During the past week, I have done virtually nothing but sit it out, which is my approach to colds. My child bride’s approach, on the other hand, is to go to the gym and work out. She’s loca.

During the week, chores piled up. One, which had piled up far longer than a week, was to sweep the sidewalk out on the street. If you don’t sweep your sidewalk, it doesn’t get swept. The municipality does not sweep it. Our town has no street sweeper.

So I swept my sidewalk this morning. It had the usual collection of Styrofoam cups, candy wrappers and whatever else the slobs enjoy tossing out car windows.

Also this morning, I did my daily exercise walk around the nearby plaza. Thursday is market day, so there were stalls selling lots of stuff. I bought broccoli for lunch tomorrow. I have a nice spaghetti recipe that requires broccoli and garlic.

There were about 150 people lined up on the plaza for some reason or another, likely to benefit from some government giveaway.

In a month or so, we’ll start this year’s renovations. One must wait till the monsoon season ends. It used to end in October. Now it ends in November. Cursed climate change!

We need you, Greta Thunberg! Do you speak Spanish?

On the schedule is to paint the wall in the photo and get rid of that garish color we never requested in the first place. It was done a few years back during another series of renovations. I had asked for an adobe color. What I got was reddish-orange.

My attention must have been elsewhere when that paint was applied.

The stone steps rise to that steel door which leads into my child bride’s pastry kitchen, built in 2014. We added that door so the space could be used as a storefront one day. That day has never arrived and, I hope, never will in my lifetime.

Those stone steps are a very popular place for people to sit and rest a spell as they head down the sidewalk, especially kids. And lovers at night.

Thankfully, my head has mostly cleared up and chores are getting done. Scheduled for later today are buying breakfast biscuits in a pastry shop, washing the Honda (not me, a car wash), getting cash from an ATM and sitting at the coffee shop on the downtown plaza with my Kindle* and a nice, hot café Americano negro.

* * * *

* Just started Inside Trump’s White House: The Real Story of his Presidency which came out this week. It’s stupendous to have honest information about a man who’s turning out to be one of America’s greatest presidents. The author, Doug Wead, is a former adviser to two presidents and served as a special assistant to President George H.W. Bush. His numerous books are known for their primary sources (not partisan rumor).

Good-luck charm

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WHEN WE moved into the Hacienda almost 16 years back, the late, great Al Kinnison, who was not “late” at that time, of course, gave us a necklace of garlic, a Hacienda-warming gift.

Garlic repels not only vampires but other evil entities to boot. In general, it blocks bad stuff from passing through the front door, and that’s where the chain of garlic has hung for all these years.

It hasn’t been touched or even dusted.

And it’s worked. Like a charm, which it is.

Good fortune reigns. It’s another beautiful winter day, brisk and blue. Everyone here is acceptably healthy and happy. It’s incredible what garlic can do. You don’t even have to put it into a stew.

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.

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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.

Al Kinnison’s hat


I DUSTED IT yesterday. Al Kinnison’s hat. It’s been hanging on the wall here about nine years, since just before he died in 2005.

Long before the cancer appeared, I often told Al that I wanted him to leave the hat to me in his will. I was joking, but I did covet it.  Since he was almost old enough to be my father, I figured he would go first, and he surely did.

I had no idea the hat was too small for my head, so it’s been a wall decoration on the downstairs terraza all this time.

The hat had been a gift to Al around 1940 when he was 14, and he kept it — and wore it — all his life. Al was an Arizona cowboy in spirit, bred and born, and a mining engineer by trade. He did other things in his 79 years, but mostly he was an old mining engineer/cowboy.

I met him here not long after I moved to this mountaintop. Al arrived before me but not by much, a year or two. He and his wife Jean, a very crusty woman who often had a snoot full, had bought an old Colonial directly downtown, and they renovated it.

After we built our Hacienda, Al gave us a housewarming gift, a string of raw garlic to hang over the front door for buena suerte, good luck. It dangles there to this day — and we’ve had no bad luck whatsoever.

Al was a wonderful guy, a brilliant fellow. He would help you with absolutely anything you asked. He and Jean would often lasso tourists into their home for chitchat and coffee. And Al was a libertarian’s libertarian, about as anti-government as it’s possible to be.

He was complex, as are most brilliant people. Though warm as 9 o’clock coffee, he angered easily, but he got angry only at things that had it coming. Stupidity sat badly with him — and street musicians. Stupidity is worldwide, and street musicians are all over Mexico.

Jean died first, about two years before Al. She felt real bad one day, and Al took her to a clinic a block away. As she lay on the cot, a look of shock and surprise suddenly spread across her face, and that was it. Al told me this the next day. I had gone to his house and found him alone shuffling through paperwork, distracting himself. In that situation, I likely would be doing the same. Al loved Jean.

As we sat there in the dimly lit kitchen, he stood up and starting walking in circles, trying not to cry. I really miss her, he said. I felt badly for him. A short while later, I left him there with his paperwork and his sadness.

The cough started about a year later. Al wouldn’t mess with chemo, of course. He decided to let things happen naturally. I visited now and then. A sister came down from California, the best-looking 70-plus-year-old woman I had seen in all my life, to lend a hand. She was divorced from one of the lesser Beat Poets in San Francisco. I forget which one. She was exceptionally nice.

AlAl had told me about his plan right after the cough started. He had a stash of cyanide that he’d owned for years, something he’d obtained back during his days as a mining engineer. That was to be his end game.

He went gradually downhill. He never seemed to be in pain, which surprised me. He only grew weaker and weaker. I visited him at his home on his final evening. I did not know till the next day that it was his final evening. But it was. He could hardly stand up.

Another friend who had stayed the night told me that Al was found later lying peacefully in bed. He had taken that strong medicine he’d been saving for decades, and it pushed him over the brink. I miss him still. He was a stupendous guy.

And I have his hat.