Tag Archives: haciendas

What the hey!?

new-image
Just this morning. Circle of hippie women and the green floral frog.

IT RAINED last night, which is against the rules.

Normally, February is clear, blue and cold at night, cool in the day. The last couple of days, however, have escaped the mold. It’s been overcast, cold and very windy.

This morning dawned overcast, but it’s mostly blue before 10 a.m., and the cursed wind has diminished.

Lots on the calendar. We will soon flee our hardscrabble barrio due to Carnival. We’ll go to San Miguel de Allende where, among other things, we’ll visit a friend of mine from high school. She and her husband are spending three months there.

They live in North Carolina.

She’ll be the first high school friend I’ve seen in over 40 years. She’s a retired professor of Chinese something-or-other. She’s very smart, which is why we were friends.

Shortly after returning, we’ll go to Mexico City for our twice-yearly airing of the condo. It’s highly likely that we will actually get our hands on the deed at last.

On returning from Mexico City, we’ll hire a crew to do stuff both here at the Hacienda and at our downtown Casita, mostly maintenance, but we’ll probably remove the grass, and plant stone and concrete in the yard’s semicircle.

yard
Photo from a few years back. We sold that blue Chevy in 2014.

I’ve been wanting to reduce the grass for years. Maybe it will start this year with that semicircle. Depends on the price. But the peso-dollar exchange rate makes me feel rich.

I’ll keep you posted next month because I know you’re on the edge of your seat about this.

In the meantime, I’ve got to walk the plaza now, take a shower, get dressed, drive to an outdoor market, buy veggies for stir-fry, and fix lunch. Pork chops, pasta and that stir-fry.

I’m a very handy hubby.

The 23 percenter

I HAVE NOW spent 23 percent of my life in Mexico.

new-imageWere I a young buck, this would not be so many years, but I am an old moose with mossy horns. The years are plenty.

I stumbled thorough most of life with no intention of leaving the land of my birth. Georgia rednecks don’t move to Mexico. It was only within a year of moving that I started to think about it.

And then, within a one-month span, I dumped almost everything, got on a plane and came on down. For the first nine years, while my decrepit mother was still alive, I averaged one trip back a year, usually about a week.

I returned only once following her death in 2009, a few months after, and I’ve never been above the border since. I don’t miss it, and as time passes, I miss it even less.

From what I read on Gringo internet forums and websites, most everyone who “moves” to Mexico, be it for retirement or, much less often, to work, the draw of the Old Country is powerful. People can’t let go, and return often.

It appears compulsive, but it’s likely grandchildren.

Don’t tell my wife, please, but I have no intention of ever crossing the Rio Bravo again. I say don’t tell my wife because she really likes it up there, and dreams of another visit.

I have no tight family ties there — wish I did — so here I am, alone with a pack of Mexican relatives, including a number who’ve been illegal aliens above the border.

I speak Spanish almost exclusively. I live in a big Hacienda on what’s just above the U.S. poverty-income level, an interesting phenomenon since I’ve never felt richer in my life.

new-imageCan’t help but wonder what percentage of my life will have passed as a Mexican when it comes to a halt. No matter.

Pass the tacos, por favor.

The evening wall

walll

AS I STEPPED through the Hacienda’s steel door from the street yesterday evening, I spotted this.

The day was fading, and the sky was gray. It was about to rain, which it should not do in mid-November because it’s simply not right. We’ve had enough by now.

Speaking of water, I was returning from paying our water bill, which I do every four months. Most people pay monthly, but I pay four months at a whack just for convenience.

The water office is a block and a half away in a corner building on the plaza. The building is likely about four centuries old. The office is only open the last two weeks of each month.

A woman waits in there at a paint-flaking desk where sits a computer. I don’t know what the computer is for because she does everything by hand on sheets of paper.

The monthly charge for municipal water is 50 pesos, which is about $2.50 U.S. bucks these days. Water usage is not metered. It’s a flat rate for everyone.

And it’s the honor system. Nobody gets a bill.

The woman writes a receipt by hand from a receipt book she likely purchased in a stationary store. I leave 200 pesos for the four months, walk out the door and head home.

Opening the steel door to the Hacienda, I look up at the Alamo Wall, the monkey and the swan. It’s a nice evening in spite of the threatening rain, which did fall later.

Window treatment

window
Nice, clean, fresh windows.

THE FELLOWS just packed up their gear and garbage and hightailed it out of here, thank the Goddess.

Since Monday at 8:30 a.m., we’ve had workmen underfoot, two of them, usually. They were doing renovations.

We hire guys to work here about once a year because a Hacienda requires love and care.

The principal chore this week was to refurbish the windows in the upstairs terraza, the first time that’s happened since we moved here almost 14 years ago.

I should have taken a “before” shot, but I didn’t, and now there is only the “after” shot above. But trust me, it was nasty. There are three windows, but the photo shows just two.

For two days, the fellows sanded by hand and electric sander. They went down to clear wood. Then they stained. Then they laid a varnish that’s also used on basketball courts.

It’s tough stuff.

They also painted most of the downstairs veranda, plus parts of the house exterior. There were other little details to boot.

They were here two 10-hour days and one four-hour day. I bought the paint, but the work cost the peso equivalent of about $235 in U.S. bucks.

About three weeks ago, another crew removed and replaced the tile floor in the upstairs shower stall. The work took two days, and set me back $55 for the labor.

The peso-buck exchange rate is very sweet right now.

terraza
Yellow and green are fresh. The red is the same.

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.

Accidental hippie

pear
Hacienda pear.

I CAME OF age in the 1960s, heyday of the hippies, but I never was a hippie. Didn’t suit my personality.

So it feels strange now that I am harvesting organic pears, tons of them, more pears than we can easily dispose of.

We don’t do anything to make them organic. We don’t fertilize with donkey poop. We don’t light incense. We don’t smudge. We don’t howl at the moon on summer nights.

It’s what we don’t do that makes them organic.

We do nothing.

We have a pear tree that is perhaps 25 feet high in the yard. It was already planted when we purchased the property. We also have a sour orange, a peach and a loquat. But it’s the pear that provides most Hacienda fruit.

Some years the peach gives the pear a run for its money, but the peach is unpredictable. Some years, nada.

The pear is steady, reliable.

We pick up and haul away incredible quantities of pears.  We give them to relatives, amigos and acquaintances.

You will notice two things about our pear:

One, it’s not shaped like a pear. Two, it’s butt-ugly. Of course, being butt-ugly adds to its modish allure. It would likely warrant a high price at Whole Foods.

You’d want to buy brie and skinny crackers.

In spite of its shape and a face like Danny Trejo, it’s quite tasty. I ate the one in the photo after snapping the picture.

Felipe Zapata: organic pear farmer and accidental hippie.

* * * *

(Note: Photo is the first here with my Fujifilm Finepix F850exr, a sweetheart of a pocket camera with a 20X zoom.)

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.

Birth and death

WE WERE IN Mexico City for four days, and a couple of important things happened.

My birthday — I am 69 yet again — and the shocking death of Juan Gabriel. First things first.

People unfamiliar with the Latin world might not know of Juan Gabriel. He was Elvis. He was Frank Sinatra. He was everything. He died, and Mexico went bananas.

Juan Gabriel was a fantastic singer, prolific composer and a stunning showman. I’ve been a fan for decades, far longer than I’ve lived below the Rio Bravo.

Gabriel was also a flaming queen, making his fame ironic in macho Mexico. We forgave him everything.

He came from very humble beginnings and even spent a spell in prison due to — according to him — being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens.

Like Elvis, he started young and handsome, and he ended fat, dissipated-looking and filthy rich. No matter. His talent and heart overshadowed it all. I will miss him.

And the second matter: I keep getting older. I have already racked up six more years than did Juan Gabriel.

Were I to light an accurate birthday cake, we’d have to phone the fire department. Just recently I was sitting on the Jesus Patio when my child bride took this photo.

feliPlease note that my hair remains as coal black as it was when I turned 25 not that long ago.

Our brief jaunt to Mexico City was to air out the apartment and pay a few bills that cannot be paid online.

But it’s sweet to be home at the Hacienda. We returned yesterday.

Time of crickets

New Image2
Rainy season makes plants go wild.

WHEN THE rains come, the crickets decide to move into the Hacienda uninvited. It’s an annual event.

They have a cat attitude toward water.

Their being inside wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t also love to croon, and they croon quite loudly.

The good thing is that the kitchen is their preferred location, and it’s a good distance from the bedroom. And they sing only when the lights are out at night.

But sometimes an adventurer will go exploring. He will hop into the living room, much closer to the bedroom. The adventurers are also singers, so something must be done.

When one heads out from the many hidey-holes available in the kitchen to the wide open spaces of the living room, he’s easier to spot and catch. I toss them back outdoors.

How do they get inside in the first place? you might wonder. Easy because Mexican home construction offers a plethora of pathways. One wonders why even more wildlife doesn’t live with us inside. So far, not one mouse.

That would send my wife over the brink.

Another phenomenon of the rainy season is teeny-tiny bugs the size of pinheads that appear on the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom. They  fall to the counter where we pick them up and toss them down the sink drain. That’s it.

Those guys haven’t appeared this year, and some years they do not appear at all. It’s a mystery.

New ImageNever a dull moment.

A hot-air balloon festival arrives this weekend, and since our local airport — a grassy strip — is quite near the Hacienda,  they’ll be floating over us, which is lovely.

I took a hot-air balloon ride early one morning in Houston years ago, and I did it with a beautiful woman, which is the best way to be in a big straw basket, floating, as the sun rises.