The rat house

I USED TO LIVE in a rat house. Next to an open sewer. Let me tell you about it.

There were mice too, far more mice, but rats make a greater impression.

When I arrived on the mountaintop from the nearby capital city in September of 2000, I rented a two-story, haphazardly furnished house in a walled compound that included four other residences, but mine was the largest and the only one of two flights.

The compound, and my house specifically, abutted a large open sewer that flowed through a very deep ravine from downtown where it also was fed offal discarded directly from the municipal slaughterhouse. As you can guess, this was a smelly affair although the rainy season keep the ravine flowing much of the year, reducing aromas.

The sewage did, and still does, flow into our mountain lake because there is no sewage-treatment plant in our town.

New ImageThe dry season, about seven months, could bring smells over the wall easily. And, of course, rats love sewers. Think Washington D.C.

The owner of the compound was an interesting Gringo, quite likable, who had moved to the mountaintop just after the Second World War, the story goes, and married a local woman. Both have long since died. The point of mentioning that he was a Gringo is that I paid rent in dollars, not pesos, and it was $350, if memory serves.

Now, let’s address the issue of rats and mice, and the fun times they provided during the 1.5 years I lived there solo. I lived there an additional year after marrying, but the rodent problem had been resolved by then. Had it not, my child bride would have run screaming back to Mexico City from where I had brought her.

Rats only appeared twice. And they were both dead. I found them in the toilet on two separate mornings. Luckily, I glanced down before sitting, immediately shut the lid and flushed them back where they came.

Here’s where they came from: The toilet pipe simply went under the floor, over thataway through the wall abutting the sewer and flushed everything into the ravine far below. The pipe was wide open for visitors to enter at will. Mostly, it was a one-way street, but those two rats were adventurous. Too bad for them.

They got into the toilet bowl, couldn’t get out, and drowned. At times, it does not pay to be brave and bold, especially for rats of all forms. But enough about those rats. Let’s move on to the mice, a far worse problem.

My bedroom was downstairs abutting a small interior courtyard that was walled off with glass. There were floor-to-ceiling draperies in that bedroom, and that’s an element in my worse encounter with mice. One evening I was lying in bed reading when I heard scurrying up the draperies, lots of scurrying, on the far side, lots of mice. And then a couple of heads popped over the top of the draperies, looking down at me.

I got up, shut the door tight, and climbed to the bedroom upstairs to spend the night. But I had encountered mice before, running around the living room, for instance, in the daytime. I purchased that sticky paper and put it out nights, and I always captured mice who would be squirming on the sticky paper every morning when I picked up the paper, took it outside and heaved it over the wall into the ravine.

This continued for weeks. I went through lots of sticky-paper traps. I don’t recall now, two decades on, how the rodent problem ended, but it did.

Had any of this happened after my new bride arrived, I would have lost her, and I would be single to this day or married to someone less qualified. That would’ve been bad.

House of horrors

phil
Seven feet high! Doesn’t look it. I just finished whacking it back.

I DON’T WANT this to become a gardening website, but awful things merit mention.

The plant in the photo, a philodendron, is about seven feet tall.  Before moving to Mexico, I thought philodendrons were little, potted plants for the home. Only sometimes.

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Better Homes & Gardens says this about philodendrons:

(It’s) one of the toughest houseplants you can possibly grow. Whether you choose upright or trailing/climbing types, they are perfectly happy in a home setting. Even people with so-called “black thumbs” are usually successful at growing these plants. Philodendrons are very low maintenance and can sit idle for long periods. You can train them up a trellis or simply leave them to their own devices — philodendrons will survive no matter what.

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By toughest houseplants, they don’t mean tough to grow. Quite the contrary. It’s a tough customer. Very low maintenance? Will survive no matter what? No joke!

Not only does this grow easily. It multiplies. It started with one little stalk about a decade ago. Now it has many and continues to add more. And the plant is creepy. As it grows, it tosses “stuff” below. It’s the sort of stuff you’d expect to see in a werewolf movie, the scene in which the villagers discover what happened in the forest overnight. Oh, gross!

But this is one plant I do not plan to remove because it doesn’t toss trash over a wide area, just at its base. I do wish it would stop the proliferation of stalks, however.

I foolishly planted another in the small, carport, garden area of the Downtown Casita. It too is beefing up at a remarkable pace. I never seem to learn.

trash
The wheelbarrow contains just a bit of the gooey, grim material found at the plant’s base. The photo does not do justice to the miserable stuff.

Bull dick taco

IMAGINE MY horror.

But first, let’s back up a bit.

It was just two weeks ago roundabouts that I was standing beside my favorite fast-food stand on our small plaza downtown, eating a shrimp cocktail.

The proprietress with the bleach-blonde tresses tossed a meat cylinder of some questionable appearance on the chopping block and proceeded to dice it with a cleaver.

What is that? I inquired, foolishly. She was chopping a cooked bull penis. Again, imagine my horror.

Part of said material landed atop a tostada with all the trimmings and served to a customer. My mind reeled.

You run into some pretty weird stuff living down here, but this one had passed me by. In the 17 years since I crossed the Rio Bravo, that was the first I’d heard of this, uh, delicacy.

I finished my shrimp cocktail and walked away.

Then yesterday I was on the big plaza. There’s a new taco restaurant near my sister-in-law’s coffee shop. I was hungry, so I stepped in and stood by the stove.

While waiting to order, there it was, a familiar sight. The cook dropped a bull penis on the grill. I knew it by sight because it’s not something you easily forget. He diced it and served it on tacos to the customers ahead of me.

Returning to the coffee shop with a couple of normal tacos — they weren’t very good, by the way — I asked my child bride and her sister if they had eaten bull dick tacos. My sister-in-law said yes and that they were quite tasty.

My wife said no, thank God. I can still kiss her.

Embrace the misery

porch
Sitting still.

BEEN A LOUSY week because I’ve had a cold. I loathe colds. When my child bride gets one, which she rarely does, she pretends it’s not there, ignoring it.

She even works out at the gym, which is nuts.

I don’t ignore it. I embrace the misery, and misery there is in spades. I sit still until the cold goes away.

It’s been a full week so far.

Mexicans, at least the ones I know — mostly relatives — ignore contagion. Not even the most horrific affliction — leprosy, you name it — will prevent the social smootching.

It’s appalling.

But they’ve learned not to come my way with their hugging and kissing if they’ve got a cold. I bolt like lightning.

The photo is not recent. Actually, it’s seven or eight years old, but it captures my mood this lamentable week.

If the Goddess smiles upon me, perhaps I’ll be back to normal mañana. Jeez, I sure do hope so.