Watch that step!

This looks insignificant, but it isn’t.

Age at times brings clarity. Things that never occur to you in youth or middle age become crystal clear with your increasing decrepitude.

Take stairs or even single steps, for instance.

When we built the Hacienda in 2002-03, my child bride suggested we do a “sunken” living room. I was neither here nor there about it, so we told the builder to do it without specifying how “sunken” it would be. He took the easy route, thank the Goddess, and sank it just one step, which you see in the above photo.

And then there was the notion of a second floor even though the property is large enough to have expanded a one-story villa all over the place with lots of yard left. A smaller lawn would have been nice because the yard is a constant wedgie in my butt.

I was a nimble 58 when this place was constructed, and now I’m 77. Things change, and my advice to you is that if you’re building a home in which you expect to live out your life, don’t do steps.

They are not a significant problem yet, but they likely will be with time. Let’s look at the one-step up to the dining room, the one you see in the photo above. My catching one foot on it as I step up is fairly common, but I have yet to take a dive.

My child bride, however, due to a damp rubber sandal a few years ago, sailed off that step and ended up in an arm cast for six weeks. When will it be my turn?

And there’s the stairwell to the second floor, a floor that could easily have been avoided, as I mentioned earlier. Climbing it many times a day is good exercise, so there is that. Neither of us has fallen on the stairwell yet, but will we and when?

I read recently that stairwells are a major cause of accidents. And if one or both of us live long enough, it could be an almost unpassable barrier to half of the house. You never think about this stuff when you’re relatively young.

But I’m sure thinking of it now.

The glass bomb

Small chunks of glass were all over the terraza floor.
A photo I took from the yard Tuesday morning. That’s a jet trail in the sky above.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Okay, that’s not quite true, but it was dark. There was no storm, thank the Goddess. We were sitting atop our recliners about 9 p.m. Monday eating salads and watching a movie on Netflix when, all of a sudden, KA-BOOM!

But KA-BOOM! doesn’t quite convey the reality. It was like a bomb dropped.

My child bride reacted in typical Mexican fashion: “It’s a SHOTGUN!” But no. A huge pane of the glass roof atop the upstairs terraza exploded.

It’s tempered glass, and apart from a small section of overhang, nothing fell down … just yet. The pane was spiderwebbed with tiny cracks. And it made ping, ping, ping sounds about an hour, almost like falling rain, but it was not raining.

Then nothing happened for about 10 hours.

The next morning it crashed down in chunks, splintering on the terraza floor. We thought that would happen in the middle of the night, but it didn’t.

View from up top. That rectangular section on the right edge fell off at the get-go.

After sweeping the terraza and dumping a half-ton of glass into three heavy-duty garden bags, we drove to the business that installed the roof two years ago. That was Tuesday. After the usual “We’ll be there tomorrow” lies, typical here, someone finally appeared yesterday. He measured and said the new pane would be installed Monday, a promise one can take with many grains of salt. But it will happen eventually.

Meanwhile, we’re hoping it won’t rain much. It’s sprinkled a few times this week. Looks like the rainy season will be starting early this year. Usually, it starts in early June.

Our initial thoughts were that someone threw a stone or something from the neighbors’ home or the sex motel, but that would be very difficult and unlikely. I think it spontaneously self-destructed. Perhaps a defect in that one pane.

I, the architect

The ground-floor layout, drawn on graph paper by me.*

This springtime will mark the 18th anniversary of the Hacienda. I’ve only owned two homes. The first, in Texas, was mine for just nine years, and I purchased it ready-made, a vintage from back in the 1950s. The second is the Hacienda, which I designed myself with some assist from my child bride.

The downstairs terraza from two directions, drawn by my wife.

Who needs actual blueprints when graph paper is available at the stationery store? The construction began in August of 2002 and ended in May of 2003, which is when we moved in from a two-story rental near downtown. I confess to being something of an architectural copycat. The Hacienda is a much larger version of that two-story rental, a design that I liked and stuck with to a great degree, but not entirely.

Electrical diagram, also done by me.

Among my many talents is that of electrician. Among my portfolio of four-year and two-year degrees and certificates is an Associate Degree in Electrical Construction Technology. I worked as a professional electrician for a spell in New Orleans. So I knew where plugs and lights were needed.

Three talented men and the occasional helper built the house. During the nine-month construction I took a ton of photos, and they all disappeared shortly after we moved in due to their being stored on a hard drive that committed suicide. I stupidly had not backed up any of them anywhere.

A real estate writer on the Houston newspaper where I once toiled wrote a column back then listing the pros and cons of homeownership as opposed to renting. One of his pros was simply that owning a home is fun, and it is most of the time. Renting is not fun.

Though I lost all photos of the construction process, I do have this one I took shortly after we moved in, and at the bottom is a shot from two years ago. It’s been lots of fun.

2003: Fresh paint and disheveled yard. The upstairs terraza is very different now.
That’s the second patio, built in 2019, replacing a grubby stone version.

* The stairwell goes straight up in the drawing. But it would not fit that way, so it actually goes straight up and then hangs a right to complete the turn to the second floor. The revised version is seen in the electrical diagram.

The tail of October

Here’s my little pumpkin for Autumn 2020.

Back in my newspaper days in Texas, I always marked October’s arrival with a small pumpkin that I sat atop my office computer terminal. In time, even a few of my coworkers started doing the same. Well, one at least, that I recall.

Now I don’t have the fat computer console we used in the 1990s, so I sit my little October fruit atop the Epson printer just a tad to the left of my H-P screen.

Autumn brings changes, and one happened this morning as I told Abel the Deadpan Yardman that mowing is done for this year. The rain has ended, and some yellow spots are appearing in the grass. In time, the whole lawn will be brown, dead and crunchy.

I know Abel wasn’t happy with the news since it’s a good little chunk of change for less than two hours of relatively easy toil once a week. No matter. It had to be done.

He still has his day job, tooting a trumpet.

Speaking of toil, I enjoy witnessing the ongoing house construction across the street. You may recall that one guy alone is doing the work. Well, mostly. His wife shows up to tote some stuff for him, and a couple of times a month, a younger fellow chips in, but it’s primarily a one-man operation.

He was working this morning, but he took off for a spell. Noon shot.

A sharp eye will notice that he’s building his own wall to the left directly abutting the property wall of his neighbor, as he should. It would be cheaper and faster to just utilize the neighbor’s property wall. When the sex motel was built next to our house, the owner should have done the same, but he opted to take advantage of our property wall.

Our town is one of Mexico’s primary Day of the Dead destinations for tourists. Due to the Kung Flu, festivities were cancelled a month or two ago. Then, due to complaints from business owners because it’s a YUGE income generator, it was back on again. And now it’s off again.

The graveyards will be closed to tourists and, if I understand correctly, to the locals also. Sad situation, both spiritually and financially.

We’ve been told to build our altars in our homes. We usually do that anyway. Well, my child bride does while I sit, watch and offer moral support from the sofa.

It’s a lovely day here on the mountaintop. The sky is blue. The air is cool and breezy, and we’ll be dining this afternoon on ravioli from Costco. Yum!