Change of scenery

I SPENT MOST of my life before age 55 in hot zones. Southwest Georgia, northeast Florida, south Louisiana and east Texas.

I know sweat, and I don’t like it one bit.

So when I leaped off the treadmill, I opted for a big — very big — change of scenery not only in moving to Mexico but in settling atop an ever-cool mountain.

We  live 7,200 feet above the faraway sea — the Pacific Ocean — and we enjoy cool weather year-round. It can get a bit stuffy in the afternoons and early evenings of springtime, but it’s a small price to pay for the other 98 percent of the year.

Sometimes we like to visit a beach, and almost invariably we go to Zihuatanejo, which is about three hours from the Hacienda down a smooth autopista* past mango and avocado trees and high mountain lakes.

That’s our favorite beach, La Ropa, in the video.

If the urge to visit a throbbing megalopolis strikes, it’s about four hours, also on a smooth autopista, to Mexico City, or three hours in the other direction to Guadalajara.

If I don’t want to fight the traffic or teeming mobs of Mexico City, but I do want a wider variety of restaurants than we have here on the mountaintop, it’s less than a three-hour drive northeast to San Miguel de Allende.

Also on, of course, a smooth autopista.

In San Miguel, we now overnight at the Hotel Quinta Loreto right downtown, wonderfully located, not elegant but quite comfy, and a big room costs about $38 these days.**

The fabulous Café MuRo is less than a block away.

Sure, you have to elbow aside hordes of Gringos in San Miguel, both those who live there so they don’t have to learn Spanish and tourists who flock there for the same reason.

But that’s a minor distraction.

Then we return to the cool mountain air.

Changes of scenery are available in every direction.

It’s dang sweet.

* * * *

* An autopista is a fast-traveling toll highway. The tolls, which can be a bit high, keep the riffraff away.

** Including tax!

Writing stuff and mango snowballs


I STARTED THIS website in mid-2011 with the intention of writing stuff. It replaced the six-year-old Zapata Tales, which was also written stuff, but that stuff was mostly about my living in Mexico, a topic that had begun to bore me, so I was branching out.

I’m good at writing stuff, far better than average. But I’ve never taken a class on it. I’ve never attended workshops. I don’t worry about themes and structure, nor am I interested in the slightest in trading tips with other “writers.” I fly entirely solo.

When I do write stuff, I just wing it. I prefer fiction, but there have been periods in my life that were so wacky that they’ve provided real-life material. A couple of examples of that are Victoria and the cowboy and Swimming with the fishes. Yes, I’m plugging myself, drumming up traffic.

The fiction that I’ve written in recent years now rests on my other website The Pearls of Zapata. I have some favorites. More plugs: The broken staircase, which I’m particularly fond of, The old wolf, and then there are the relatively brief Waco spaceman and the demented Sunny side up.

Some things never landed on The Pearls of Zapata. Instead they got their own websites. There are links in the right-side column. Two are jungle-themed. I think strange things tend to happen in the jungle because it’s hot there, and people go wild in heat.

One is Dark girl in the blue dress and the other is Last night of the iguana.

For many years I’ve wanted to go deep into the jungle, perhaps in Ecuador, and eat ayuhuasca while lying naked, but I never did and cannot imagine that I will now since I’ve gotten rather long in the tooth. Some things are best done when young.

* * * *

My father was a writer, a very good one. He and I shared many traits. He was a newspaper editor, as was I. He retired early, as did I. He was a rather serious dude, as I have become. He drank too much for a long time, as did I. He quit in his mid-50s, as did I. He spent his post-work years writing poetry, settling at last into haiku, where he became quite well known.

He was a life-long left-winger. I am a right-winger. He had no adventuresome spirit while I have lots. His politics were shaped by the Great Depression and witnessing — as a newspaper reporter in the late 1930s — violent, machine-gun-involving, union-busting by fat-cat corporate types.

mugThe 1930s made him while the 1960s, to a lesser degree, made me. The 1930s were miserable times and, looking back, so were the 1960s because they created the self-absorbed, clueless American culture we now see spiraling down the drain hole.

My father died of a heart attack at 75. I am 70, but I feel real good.

How did we wander off to my father? Oh, yes, I like to write, and so did he. Plus, I confessed up top that I never studied structure nor attended writing workshops that might have focused me better. My father did attend workshops and studied structure. Haiku is very structured.

Some time last year, I stopped writing fiction. It was unintentional. The muse deserted me. Perhaps it had something to do with age. Maybe the little gray cells are drying up. I wonder if it’s permanent. Concurrently, I notice that living in a foreign country has ceased to amaze me.

But I still like it very, very much.

We’re going to the Pacific coast tomorrow for a few days. It will be very hot. Perhaps I’ll find some ayahuasca, but I doubt it. I’ll stick to mango snowballs and fried shrimp.

* * * *

(Photo notes: The mugshot is my father though it could almost be me. And what does the photo up top have to do with the post? Nothing at all. Those masks hang in the Hacienda hallway.)

The painted earth


DECEMBER BRINGS orange-colored tangerines, and April produces rosy, yellow mangoes.

Purple jacaranda comes in April too. You cannot eat jacaranda. You cannot peel it like a tangerine, or stir it with onion, cilantro and oil for a nice salad, as you can with a sliced mango. What jacarandas do is paint the earth. Bougainvillea is a Picasso too, but let’s stick to jacaranda now.

When we moved into the Hacienda 11 years back, I planted a jacaranda in the yard. I wanted a purple lawn now and then, and I wanted to look overhead to see an amethyst sky because jacarandas grow tall and grand.

It wasted no time in dying, the defeatist little bugger.

Just as well because the ground in which I planted that little jacaranda is now solid concrete, a floor of the garden patio that hides behind a wall that had not even been considered when I planted the jacaranda.

But I still see amethyst skies and purple earth because jacarandas are all around. There’s a tall one about two blocks away that I see right now through the window over this computer screen. Another stands high behind the 500-year-old church steeple on the neighborhood plaza. I see that mornings as we do our power walk.

On the far side of that same plaza, behind the red tile roofs of the portal, rises a jacaranda resplendent in mauve. I saw that one and smiled just moments ago when I returned from downtown in the Honda.

It’s okay that there’s no jacaranda in my yard. I don’t have to deal with a sea of purple leaves that at some point must be dealt with. I already have enough work raking reams of defeated bougainvillea blooms.

I have the best vantage point in this purple world of April — all see, no work.

I wish I could say the same of bougainvillea.

The final blast

A bottle of bourbon (Old Crow Reserve) sat on the nightstand, and a dead body was on the bed.

An icepick in its neck.

krisKristanabel Wasoo sat on the stool and looked at herself in the vanity mirror. She wasn’t 22 anymore, and it showed.

The hair was still long and blonde, though helped with a bottle. The face was beautiful and seemed smooth, if you didn’t look too closely and the lights were dim as they were in the dives where she lurked.

She didn’t know why she had brought him to this hotel, this latest horndog doofus. Perhaps it was a slayer’s nostalgia. She had not been here or even in Dark City in 13 years, but here she was, and it was nearly midnight.

His wallet held $156 in cash and 12 credit cards. She smiled.

But the years had turned her reckless.

She doffed her clothes and lay atop yellowing sheets on the second bed, the one with no corpse. She offed the light and stared at the ceiling that was faintly illuminated by neon outside that flickered  The Marbol Hotel.

Yes, she had turned reckless.

Standing on the sidewalk was the wetback cop, Mark Montoya, and 35 buds in the law-enforcement biz. And that did not count the demolition crew.

A crazy sequence of circumstances had led to this moment. Montoya had tracked Kristanabel down, and she had entered the Marbol, a decrepit hotel that was scheduled for demolition the following week.

City planners had contracted a 20-story condo, part of an ongoing downtown restoration that would attract young, wine-sipping professionals. The Marbol sat on primo real estate these days, prime dirt.

Kristanabel knew none of this. She also did not know that when she closed her eyes she would never open them again. She did not know the demolition had been rescheduled to kill two birds with one stone, as they say.

Or three if you include the already dead corpse.

By 6 a.m., the charges had been set, and the hotel had been quietly evacuated, every room save one, the one where an aging but still lovely blonde slept on one bed and a man with an icepick in his neck slept on another.

As sunlight shone on concrete, Montoya told the crew chief: Let ‘er rip!

And he did.

The blast went viral on YouTube, and Kristanabel soon had her own Wikipedia page with links to Ma Barker, Bonnie Parker and Lizzie Borden.

* * * *

Montoya retired, changed his name back to Manny and built a big home on a mountaintop in Mexico. It was made of adobe and red clay.

He adopted a street mutt and named him José.

He found a girl of 17 named Lupe. She had smoky skin, shining eyes, straight white teeth, a protruding butt, a chest like two mangoes, and he lived happily ever after, eating blue-corn tortillas and pinto beans that Lupe’s mama made.

* * * *

KristanabelThis concludes the epic yarn of the Marbol Hotel and the beautiful serial killer Kristanabel Wasoo.

It began innocently enough with a bus ride.

Included were incredible characters like Billy Lancing, a redheaded negro; and desk clerk Lenny Slick, a dimwitted bachelor. And who could forget Maxence the Bellman, a former Foreign Legionnaire?

There was Bo the Bartender, born Beauregard Lee Johnston who, after having a homosexual relationship with a black boy, was banished from his family’s plantation and found himself on a Trailways bus pointed north.

There was Maurice the Hall Prowler and Maria the Maid from Guanajuato and pedophile Myron Blade, Kristabel’s first victim. There was bloody roast beef and Black Sheep Ale. Oh, so many memories.

The series of 22 can be found here. It reads from bottom to top.