Around the barrio …

New street light that looks to be solar. But maybe not.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which means yesterday was Mardi Gras or, as we call it hereabouts, Carnaval. Normally, it’s one of the worst periods in our hardscrabble barrio because the locals go loco with up to four nights of blaring concerts on the neighborhood plaza just a block and a half away.

In recent years, we’ve made it a habit to skedaddle to somewhere that’s not here. Last year we went to Guanajuato. This year we went nowhere because it was nice and quiet even though a Gringa who lives not far away in our hardscrabble barrio was complaining about freelance festivities on her street. I heard nothing.

No official Carnaval this year thanks to the Kung Flu.

Yes, I am not the only norteamericano who lives in the neighborhood, but I have been here the longest. Actually, I have been on the mountaintop longer than almost all Gringos and Canucks who now reside here, too many for my taste, actually.

Most belong in San Miguel de Allende.

Just here in the barrio, there is a Gringa in one home and a Gringo couple in another, all of whom arrived here long after we built the Hacienda. The Gringa lived downtown before moving nearby, and the couple, who are in their 90s, bought a big, fancy home from another Gringo couple who had bought it from another sole Gringo even earlier. I watched all these goings and comings from right here.

The initial owner of that property was a gay bookseller who returned to the United States and shortly died at a fairly young age. The second owners fled to Uruguay due to some police problems, according to gossip. The current owners seem to be really fine folks.


We had been warned yesterday that our state and quite a few others likely would suffer rolling blackouts as Mexico tried to cope with an energy crisis in the north of the nation, which was a result of the problems above the Rio Bravo, the Texans and their hippie fans. But nothing happened here. The lights stayed lit. More importantly, Netflix stayed lit.

Speaking of lights, over the past few days, a crew has traveled around our barrio changing street lights. Before, we had the large bulbous variety — the one outside the Hacienda had been burned out for over a year — and now we have the sleek version you see in the photo. I’m thinking that little circular, blue thing on the top means it’s solar-powered. I hope so. It’s a good use of solar power.

We have a solar water heater on our roof that does next to nothing. I have disconnected and given up on it. If you want it, it’s yours for the taking. No joke. It’s our second solar heater. The first did not work at all. The current one simply works badly, at times sending scalding water to the shower via the cold tap. Yes, the cold faucet.

This morning dawned cold, but it did not freeze last night as it did the previous three nights. How do I know? I check the birdbath at 8 a.m. Solid or not? Low-tech information.


Storefront update

Photo taken just this morning.
The middle of last year to provide perspective. That’s the lone builder and his wife.

Here’s a photo update on the storefront construction that lumbers on across the street. As previously mentioned, it’s being built by one man with the occasional assist of his wife who totes things. He works most days, but he wasn’t at work this morning. I suspect that’s because it’s Ash Wednesday.


It’s a lovely day, and we’ll be dining on beans, rice and sausage (from San Antonio) this afternoon. Later I’ll drive to a carwash, and after that I’ll head downtown for a nice café Americano negro on the plaza with a chocolate-chip cookie.

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.

Looking to next year

Every second morning, more or less, after biscuits, honey and café Americano negro, I head outside to sweep and view the dawning day, which is most always a pleasant sensation. Today was no exception, cool, clear and blue.

I stood on the yard patio and looked up at the house, parts of which have not been painted in 17 years. The area up there, around the glass-brick windows, has the original paint, and it looks better in the photo than it does in real life.

The main reason that has not been repainted is its relative inaccessibility. You cannot walk up there without removing the clay tiles which, now that I think about it, also need to be taken up, cleaned and replaced. And some are broken, and they need replacing with new ones. This work would disturb the bats and the workmen who find them.

Renovation work here almost invariably takes place in December through May, which is to say when it is not raining every day, so I’m thinking about this now.

Perhaps even more than the paint and tile, I want to remove this section of grass below and replace it with concrete and something or other that has yet to be decided, anything but the grass and weeds currently in residence.

I really want to do this, but I really do not want the hassle and disorder it will require for a couple of weeks, guys coming every morning and hanging around most of the day.

But it will happen. Some things are inevitable.

Might even install a fountain there. That would look snappy.

I would keep the aloe vera and philodendron.

By the way, yesterday’s post about having to put comments into full moderation has been deleted because the problem has been solved. FYI.

A nice, tidy roof

Before I swept yesterday. The darker part is rainwater stain.

At least 17 years passed in which I never swept the roof of the dining room/kitchen. It was too much trouble because there was no easy way to get up there. But that changed a couple of years ago when we installed a steel stairway.

And that altered everything, access-wise. And then last spring I hired a painter who came with a pressure-spray machine. He blasted off years of grime, and laid a coat of red, waterproofing paint.

Before the restoration and waterproofing, the roof was brown from grime. It was so dreadful that there was something like algae growing around the edge. I’m amazed cacti didn’t sprout as I’ve seen quite often on roofs in Mexico, usually when they’re clay tile.

Before the stairwell was added, the only way to get to that roof was by ladder, and the ladder had to be set almost vertically, so it was a perilous challenge for an increasingly elderly dude, i.e. me.

You’ll notice a circular stairwell that goes up higher to the second-story roof. That stairway was on the upstairs terraza for 16 years until I had it moved to its current location so the upstairs terraza could be covered completely by the steel-and-glass roof it sports now.

And just visible on the second-story roof is our solar water heater, the second we’ve owned. The first wasn’t worth warm spit, and the manufacturer gave me a refund after about four years. The current one, a different company, has been there five years or so, and it’s defective too. Sometimes it forces scalding water through both the hot and cold faucets.

Yesterday, after bolting out of the upstairs shower stall, screaming, I climbed up and disconnected it entirely, and that’s how it’s going to stay. No more solar.

We’ll remain old-school. It’s not like propane costs a fortune.