Doings of November

Downtown yesterday afternoon, walking back to the Honda.

November is delightful here. It’s my favorite month. In another life, above the Rio Bravo, my favorite month was October. But here it’s November because it’s often still raining in October.

I phoned my stone-and-cement man yesterday to get the work started on the yard. I’m planning to eliminate another big chunk of grass, replacing it with stone and cement. There will also be some artistic touches. Alas, he is currently building a house somewhere, but I have through next May to get it done. Rain starts in June.

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Mail from France

This morning I drove downtown to check my PO box, a biweekly chore. I rarely get snail mail, but this morning I did, a handmade greeting card from a woman in France who used to be a coworker on the New Orleans newspaper in the 1970s. As I live in Mexico with a “new” wife, she lives in France with a new husband.

Her card said: The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off.

I find laziness increasing with age, but this morning I hoofed it outside to clean the birdbath, wipe the glass top of the patio table with its web chairs, and water the potted plants on the downstairs terraza. It’s good to have chores. It’s better to actually do them.

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The Honda gets glitchy

The air-conditioning on the Honda committed suicide last week. I took it to my garage yesterday to add more Freon, or whatever they call that gas these days, but sadly it did not need Freon, which means there’s a deeper problem. Monday, we’ll be driving to the nearby state capital where there’s a good AC shop near Costco.

My fingers are crossed. This could get pricey.

We’ve had the Honda for 12 years, and it’s never had a major problem, so we’re ahead of the game. The Honda was nice to do this in November instead of waiting till next April or May, which are the only months you really need AC here, and just in the afternoons.

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Artwork in yarn

November finds my child bride busy too. Her downtown pastry sales have been on hold for two weekends due to the Day of the Dead hubbub, but no grass grows under her butt.

She’s crocheting up a storm. Here is her latest creation, a unicorn. It’s her second unicorn. The first was purchased by a nice lady in Texas via our Etsy website. This unicorn is still not listed there, but it will be.

We’re doing something wild (for us) this afternoon. Eating hamburgers and French fries at a new spot downtown that we’ve yet to try. Eternally striving to stay healthy, hamburgers rarely are placed on our plates, but today will be an exception.

I hope it does not give me the trots.

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More water heaters

We have three functioning water heaters at the Hacienda although we only use two, a solar plus an on-demand version. The solar works great in the afternoon and evening if it’s been a sunny day. On overcast days, it’s easy to switch over to the one that runs on propane.

We have a Dallas couple in the Downtown Casita now, a two-week stay. The townhouse has been mostly vacant since the pandemic hysteria started, so a couple of unexpected problems reared their heads, alas, for the paying tenants. First, the water heater grew balky. I sent a plumber to fix it after two days.

I decided to check the water tank on the roof last Sunday, and it was almost empty because the electronic gizmo that automatically fills it when it reaches a certain level malfunctioned. It was an easy fix for me, but I hope it does not recur. They leave Monday.

Paying tenants should never lack hot water, so I’ve already bought another of the same on-demand heater we have at the Hacienda, and when the tenants depart, the plumber will install it, thus providing two options for future folks.

I am wearying of being a landlord, the hassle, which is why if I like you, you’re invited for a free stay. You might leave a few pesos on the kitchen counter for the maid, the gas and the electricity.

That would be nice. Keep in mind that those things are very inexpensive here.

More stuff about water

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The shiny, new pump above, and the old faded one below.

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A FEW DAYS ago, I wrote about where water comes from, and the annual cleaning of the underground cistern, a chore we handle ourselves, the two of us. Coincidentally, during that same week, the nearby pump that delivers water from the cistern to the tank on the roof made funny noises for the second time in recent weeks, so I decided to replace it. It was 17 years old, installed during the Hacienda construction.

It is not a pump you want to fail. Without it, there’s no water anywhere in the house.

I don’t know the useful life of such a pump, but 17 years seems a long time, and the pump looked quite ratty, as you can see from the photo. The new pump is big and beautiful.

Like Muhammad Ali.

Coincidentally again, and also water-related, the Honda got a new water pump last week, another precautionary measure. That pump too was the original, and the car has 210,000 kilometers. As I write this, the Honda sits in the shop having its A-C radiator replaced. The A-C decided to commit suicide during our hottest month of the year.

Yes, the Honda has a streak of malevolence.

But enough about the Honda. Let’s return to the house. The tank on the roof sports some sort of electronic gizmo — with mercury inside, I think. It dangles inside like a snake — that senses when water falls below half full. At that point, it signals the pump below, the one that was replaced, to ignite and send water from the cistern up to the roof.

Following this?

Just after the pump started acting goofy, the electronic gizmo up top failed its mission, and the roof tank’s water level fell considerably below half. I knew this because I went to the roof, put a ladder against the tank, popped the top, looked in, saw the situation, and gave the electronic snake a shake. It turned on the pump below, and water started to come up.

But obviously, there was a problem. So today, Jorge the Plumber came with the new pump, plus a new electronic snake for the roof tank. Jorge is also an electrician.

So now I have a new pump down below and a new electronic snake up top. With luck, this pump will top the 17 years of the previous one, and the snake will last as long as possible. And the Honda’s A-C will keep me cool for a long time to come, especially in May.

The entire cost — the labor and materials — ran the peso equivalent of $160 U.S. The cost of the work on the Honda has yet to be determined.

Let’s go have a coffee now. I’m bushed.

Another waning day

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A waning day makes nice light.

TWENTY-FOUR hours after the last post, I was walking to the Honda again. But this time I was returning from the Basilica.

I had gone there with my child bride, her sister and the nephew we once called The Little Vaquero. But he’s not so little anymore at age 15.

Once a year, the local luminaries pull our version of the Virgin Mary from her high perch in the Basilica and parade her around town upon shoulders. People take this very seriously. Being neither Catholic nor Christian, I view it less as a religious event and more as a tourist attraction.

It was supposed to start at a civilized hour but being Mexicans we got off to a tardy beginning. So tardy that I wearied of waiting and left, which is when I walked down the hill and shot these pretty photos.

The rest of my crew hung around, but an hour later they too tossed up their hands, figuratively speaking, and left. I’m sure the Virgin managed to make her annual trek through the cobblestone streets of our mountaintop town, but none of us bore witness to the sacred event.

Anyway, if you’ve seen it once, and I have, you’ve seen it sufficiently.

A friend of ours, a fellow who went by the nickname of Don Chino, used to manage this event, but he died last year. When Don Chino was in charge, the Virgin headed out the Basilica door with a spring in her step.

Now she has fallen into bad Mexican habits.

R.I.P., Don Chino. We miss you.

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This is not the Basilica. It’s a big church just one block from the Basilica.

Getting rid of the chicken

Caramba, mi amor! Caramba, mi amor! sang someone on FM 106.5 as I drove the Honda home in the dark of early evening.

Twenty minutes earlier, I had been walking in cool twilight across the beautiful, downtown plaza, clutching a brown paper bag containing two sugar donuts, and thinking of my chicken.

Our neighbors have chickens that roost overnight in an apple tree that abuts our property wall. Now and then, an adventuresome soul will make the leap and walk about in our yard for a spell. Then she’ll head home, back over the wall, in a flap of feathers because chickens don’t fly well. They have a low-max altitude.

This has been going on for years, and we didn’t mind much because the nasty things always went back where they came from. Till a week ago.

One came over and decided to stay. She sticks mostly to the side of the wall that abuts where her kin live, and she lurks beneath aloe vera and bougainvillea. Sometimes, she stands in the big, center semicircle of grass to taunt me.

I’ve tried to catch her, but I’m not as agile as I once was. My child bride assists on occasion, but so far the fowl has eluded our grasp.

New ImageOn Monday, a couple of guys come to lay talavera tile in the downstairs terraza. They’ll be out there for quite a few hours. They say the work will take two days, maybe three.

Here’s my plan: The first day, I’ll offer 50 pesos to whomever catches the chicken and tosses her into the street. If she’s still there on Day Two, I’ll offer 100 pesos, and that should inspire them enough.

I don’t want to eat her, and I don’t want her tossed back over the wall into the neighbors’ yard because this chicken has wanderlust and might revisit. That’s far less likely if she’s out in the street with multiple options for adventure.

The walk across the twilight plaza would have been more enjoyable had I not been thinking about the cursed chicken.

I would have focused fondly on those sugar donuts.

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(Update! My yardman came Saturday morning and had the bird in his clutches within a minute. Incredible. Mexicans can do anything.)