Golden touch

A few days back. Lots of dangling flower pods.
Golden Datura! Shot on Saturday in a light rain, which you might see.

SCANT GRINGOS live in my hardscrabble neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Plenty — too many — live in other barrios, but few within shouting distance of the Hacienda.

Almost since we built our home in 2002-03, there have been three Gringo residences in our ´hood. There were three back then, and there remain three today.

The other two have seen turnover. Even before we built the Hacienda, there was an old American woman living about four blocks away. She was Judith Deim, an artist of some renown and reportedly an ex-lover of John Steinbeck.

During a recent stop in the Gringo-infested town of San Miguel de Allende, we spotted Deim’s work in a fancy gallery there.

Not really to my taste.

She was 92 when we moved into the Hacienda, and she died three years later, old as the proverbial hills.

Her home became the property of relatives who sometimes were there, sometimes not, I think, but last year a Gringa who’s lived hereabouts a number of years bought Deim’s home and is remodeling it. She gave us a tour a couple of weeks ago.

It was the first time I’d been in the place. Though Deim and I occasionally sat near one another at my sister-in-law’s downtown coffee house on the main plaza, we never exchanged a word. I doubt she knew I was her neighbor.

She was ancient, eccentric and wore no eyeglasses. I, on the other hand, was far less ancient, eccentric and I did sport specs.

The other Gringo house in the neighborhood was constructed not long after we moved into the Hacienda. It is about three blocks away, and the owner was a gay book-seller who came from somewhere in New England.

He was in his 50s, quite friendly and dissipated-looking. I liked him. Unlike most who move here, he lacked independent income, so he tried to scrounge a living by selling books he bought down from above the Rio Bravo. It did not work.

He sold his place to a Gringo family, and moved back to the United States. He died a couple of years later, a heart attack.

The new Gringos were a family who published children’s books, something you can do long-distance. They significantly remodeled their place, and now it’s spectacular.

The couple came with an adopted son in his early 20s. The young man was colossally ill-behaved, and would ride a small bike around the local plaza ogling teen girls. His behavior, it appears, eventually got him into serious trouble.

So the family hightailed it to Uruguay.

Soon after, the now elegant home was purchased by more Gringos, an elderly retired couple. They’ve been here a number of years, and everything seems to be going well for them.

What has this to do with Golden Datura in the photos?

The first Gringo, the bookseller, gave me a cutting from his lawn, and my two datura trees are the result. Every winter, I whack the plants back to the trunk nubs, and every summer they resurrect with a vengeance of green and gold.

The one shown is outside our bedroom window. In summer the aroma of datura sails into the bedroom, and we can hear bumblebees buzzing the blooms.

The top photos were taken this week. The video below was shot way back in 2011.

The neighborhood

I CHANGED THE hues here and added the photo up top, which will be a permanent fixture until I change my mind again. That’s the view on a foggy morning of my neighborhood out back of the Hacienda. As you can see, it’s no Beverly Hills.

Though more Gringos move hereabouts every year, they don’t seem drawn to my specific neighborhood, which suits me just fine. When we built the Hacienda 11 years back, there was just one other Gringo living nearby, actually a Gringa, a woman named Judith Diem who was over 90 years old at that time. The scuttlebutt was that she had been a lover of John Steinbeck, and perhaps she was.

Though we lived only about four blocks apart, and she frequented my sister-in-law’s coffee shop downtown, often sitting at a sidewalk table just opposite me, we never exchanged a word. She was a odd one, to put it mildly, driving her pickup around while wearing no glasses.

accordionA year or two after we moved into the Hacienda, she died. Mexicans live in her old place now. Here’s a video of Diem. The fellow playing the accordion at one point is also an artist, an excellent one. He is named Solis, and I like him. He lives downtown.

Solis is exceedingly fond of my child bride’s pastries. Some of his works adorn our Hacienda walls.

Roundabouts when Judith Diem died, a gay bookseller named William, from New England, purchased a good-sized plot about three blocks from us. He renovated a rundown home that was already there, turning it into something downright nice. He was in his mid-50s, not on a pension, and he seemed to have financial troubles. William often seemed extremely stressed.

He brought English-language books from above the Rio Bravo and opened a little bookstore in his home. It was not a profitable concern, and after a couple of years he returned to New England. I heard three or so years later that he had died. Dunno why.

The golden datura that proliferates in our yard comes from cuttings that William was nice enough to give me.

Before returning to New England, William sold his property to a guy we’ll call Joe, his wife and son, a snotty youngster in his early 20s. Joe tore down the house William had built and constructed an adobe palace in its place, much like the Spaniards built the great cathedral in Mexico City’s Zócalo atop the ruins of the Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc’s homestead.

EmperorBut William was no emperor, and Joe and his wife were publishers of children’s books.

The new owners lasted about three years before selling the palace and moving to Uruguay under mysterious circumstances. During our morning power walks around the neighborhood plaza we would often see Joe’s son tooling about atop a small day-glo bicycle, the kind you usually see owned by 10-year-olds, but he was not 10.

He was far past puberty, and he had an obvious hankering for neighborhood girls. I believe some subsequent mischief led to the family’s pulling up stakes rather suddenly and moving to the tip of South America.

I could be wrong about that.

The adobe palace stayed on the market for a good spell, but it finally was purchased by an older Gringo couple. The fellow is named Ellis, and I do not recall his wife’s name. I have spoken to Ellis a time or two in passing, and he seems like a real nice guy.

They do not appear to live here full-time.

After 11 years, there are still only two Gringo houses in my hardscrabble neighborhood. That’s plenty.

There are lots of Mexicans, however, plus pigs, dogs, donkeys and chickens.