Passage of time

The House of Horrors. Well, not really. There were good times … I think.

Saturday dawned in a lovely mood which inspired me to get off my lazy keister and do yard chores I’d been noticing and ignoring for weeks. While out there, I began to think about how long I’ve lived here at the Hacienda, 18 years. This is not how my vagabond life played out in the past. I rarely lived anywhere for long.

My previous record was in my youth when I lived in the house just below from ages 9 to 17 when I graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University where I lasted just a few short weeks before dropping out and enlisting in the Air Force.

The Jacksonville suburb of Arlington.

My parents were the first buyers of this house, into which we moved in 1953. The window on the right was the living room. The one in the middle was my bedroom, and the one on the left was my parents’. My sister’s bedroom was on the other side of the house.

This photo was shot about 10 years ago, I think, by my daughter who was passing through Jacksonville, Florida, which is where this is. What strikes me most about this photo is the front yard. My father worked at night and enjoyed gardening in the daytime. We had a lovely yard, and now there is nothing.

Those huge trees were not there in the 1950s. Neither was the sidewalk.

In 1953, this area was a brand-new subdivision of the postwar, growing middle class — Levittown in the Florida sunshine. Now it appears to be a working-class neighborhood. The owner (or renter?) probably drives a delivery truck, or he works at Auto Zone.

I lived there with my parents and sister almost a decade, and it was my longest home stay before constructing the Hacienda 40 years later. Taking third place in the longevity list would be the house at the top where I lived nine years with my second ex-wife before she tossed me unceremoniously onto the cold, dank pavement.

She lives there to this day, thanks to me. She’s done a lot with the place. When we bought it, the kitchen cabinets were the original knotty pine from 1955, which is when the house was constructed. I really liked that knotty pine, but she had it all torn out after I departed, and now it’s modern. I’ve seen photos. She also constructed an enclosed “sun room” out back. If I’m ever in Houston again, I’m gonna request a tour.

But I doubt I’ll ever be in Houston again.

As Thomas Wolfe said, well, you know …*


* Likely the first literary reference that’s ever appeared in The Unseen Moon. Tip of the sombrero to Steve Cotton, a maestro at it.


Update: Here’s a more recent photo that I grabbed off Google Street View.

And in 2020.

Ice on the mountaintop

This is not our yard, but it sort of feels like it.

We awoke this morning to the first freeze of the season. January First, how appropriate. There was frost on the grass, and the birdbath was a skating rink.

The terraza thermometer indicated about 40 degrees at 8:30 when I stepped out there, but the other indications made it clear that an overnight freeze had occurred. This is not rare in January, and the good thing is that it warms up quickly as the sun rises.

Occasionally, we pass through winter without even one freeze, but that does not happen often. I prefer to dodge freezes because the plants get walloped, especially the banana trees that turn brown and require heavy trimming, which is a bother.

A cold front came through overnight, obviously, and yesterday announced its imminent arrival none too subtly with blustering winds. We were blowing all over the place. Three clay tiles even sailed off one of the carport roofs.

But let’s move on to other topics.


Old dogs, new tricks

Like most people, I enjoy music. I am not an aesthete. I just know what I like. I’m the same with food. I am not a foodie. Music enters the ears with pleasure as grub goes down the gullet pleasantly too. I am a simple man, raised on the red-dirt roads of Georgia.

Like most people of advanced age, I once listened to music on vinyl. For some reason, it comes to mind that I had a few records — that’s what we called them — when I lived in San Juan in the Caribbean. I did not have many. I had a Willie Nelson, maybe his first. I also had a few of the Argentine Atahualpa Yupanqui and the Brazilian Vinicius Demoraes that my Argentine girlfriend had brought up from Buenos Aires.

Flash forward more than a decade, and I was living in Houston. I remember my debut compact-disk player and the first day I used it. I heard Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. CDs are better than vinyl no matter what Luddite aesthetes tell you.

Here at the Hacienda, we have tons of music CDs, almost all of which I toted over the Rio Bravo years ago. And we have the players. Alas, the players are going belly up, and new ones are more difficult to find.

More difficult, not impossible, and the available ones aren’t that good.

One of the three we still have in the house committed suicide last week, leaving two others with somewhat evil tempers. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. It was then that a word popped into my feeble, aging brain. Bluetooth!

This is a technology that’s about 20 years old, but I had never used it. The only thing I knew about Bluetooth was that if you put one device near another, they could communicate. That was the totality of my understanding. I knew people all over the place were using Bluetooth to listen to music, but I had no clue how. I went online to investigate.

Let’s make a long story short. Cut to the chase, as they say.

I am now the owner of a Sony Bluetooth portable speaker via Amazon Mexico. It’s only about four inches high, but it produces a great sound to my unaesthetic ears. It cost about $60 U.S. I can buy a second to provide stereo sound, but I doubt I’ll do that. I am happy with what I have.

I also subscribed to Deezer, a music app that has a gadzillion tunes, including Vinicius de Moraes and Atahualpa Yupanqui.

So, bye-bye boomboxes. The old dog has learned a new trick.

Bluetooth. Who knew?

Downtown life

Rained cats and dogs downtown yesterday. I was sitting at one of these tables when it started, and we had to move the table a bit back from the street. This rainy season — normally June through October — has been the lightest in all the years I’ve lived here, and I like it. There is more than enough rain, but not too much.

Usually, it’s way too much. Yesterday was way too much.

That’s my sister-in-law’s coffee shop to the left. Business has fallen off due to the Kung Flu, but she’s doing okay. A couple of months ago, the city tore up the sidewalk on this block, dropped new drainage pipes into the ground, laid a level of concrete atop it all, and then ran out of money before laying the sidewalk tiles. They say it will be done in November. The unfinished work is why you see that mound of gravel to the right.

The mayor announced this week that our mountaintop town has become the first plastic-free municipality in the state, a bit of an overstatement because there’s still plastic all over the place. However, our few supermarkets have mostly quit supplying plastic bags, which leads to amusing scenes when customers stumble out the door trying to balance their purchases in their open arms. We bring reusable cloth bags. Duh!

We’re still commanded to stay home due to the Kung Flu, but most people ignore it. I do. You can only stay home so long. I stopped on May 10. We’ve also been threatened by the governor that if we don’t use masks we face 36 hours in the slammer. If that’s been enforced anywhere, I’ve not heard about it. Rules in Mexico are issued to be ignored.

It’s a great nation for a libertarian.

For over a year, the mayor has closed streets around the main plaza to vehicles on Sundays, making it pedestrian-friendly, a move designed to attract tourists. A few months ago, due to the Kung Flu “threat,” the plaza itself was closed to pedestrians to discourage tourists. But the traffic closure continues, so we have two contradictory policies on Sunday. Actual plaza shut to discourage tourists. Street circling plaza shut to encourage tourists.

To paraphrase Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, “It’s nuts!”

I pointed out the contradiction to our mayor on his Facebook page a couple of months ago. He responded that he would think about it. I guess he’s still thinking.

About the only good thing about this year is that we’re spending less money.

And there’s less rain.


In other Hacienda news, my child bride turns 60 next week, raising the question of whether I can continue referring to her as my child bride. It’s always been a matter of perspective. When we wed, she was 41, and I was 57.

¡Mama mia!

My gut feeling is that she still qualifies. In part because she does not look like a woman of 60 summers in the slightest.

Plus, on the day she was born at home in the city of Uruapan, Michoacán, I was a high school junior. When she was 3, I was in the Air Force. When she was 6, I was married with a child of my own and living in New Orleans, never dreaming that my third wife was in First Grade way south of the border.

Life takes unusual twists at times. I like it.

A history of beds

As a youngster, I often spent summer weeks at the farm home of my grandmother in southwest Georgia. It would only be the two of us, separated by long decades of life. We slept in the same bedroom on two spindle beds head to head just by an open window that faced the yard, the passing dirt road and, beyond that, a pasture that sloped down to a tree-lined creek a quarter of a mile away, more or less.

There was no air-conditioning, so we depended on the incoming breeze. We would talk a while before dozing away somewhere or another.

Often there were fireflies in the yard.

Decades later, long after my grandmother’s death, I slept on that same spindle bed in Houston. I do not remember how it got from Georgia to Texas, but it did and, after the divorce from my second wife, she sold the bed for some reason known only to her.

The first place I lived after being tossed unceremoniously out into the cold, unloving world, was a small apartment in a downtown Houston high-rise. I left the spindle bed behind and chose instead to use this bed that I had painted.

A happy bed for a sad time.

Painted by me.

The bed of many colors was a double, what we call a matrimonial in Mexico. While they are fairly common below the Rio Bravo, they are far less so up north. That was true even back then in the 1990s.

I left the small apartment after a few months, moving to a much larger place where I still slept in the bed of many colors. And after a year I moved into yet another apartment, and that was when I moved up to a queen bed, leaving the bed of many colors somewhere I do not now remember, but I do know that my daughter has it today in North Georgia unless she got rid of it too. Women do odd stuff.

Queen beds are more spacious than doubles, of course, and I enjoyed the extra room even though I rarely slept with company in that last Texas bed.

On arriving in Mexico, I spent seven months in the capital city in two very different beds. First was a lumpy twin in a room above a garage. The slats collapsed regularly, dumping me onto the floor. Then I moved into a sparsely furnished house that had a brand-new king, my first king ever. I slept like royalty.

Later, on moving to the mountaintop, I bought a double for the rental in which I lived alone for one and a half years. After marrying and moving into the Hacienda, I was back in a queen with my bride. Then, a few years later, we moved up in life and bought a king. That’s the situation today, but overnight guests sleep in the queen that now sits upstairs.

I suspect I’ll die in this king unless I’ve been hauled off to a hospital. I hope not.

Kings are the best, but they’re a bitch to make up in the morning.