Doing time in the State of Guanajuato

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In the jail of Dolores Hidalgo, State of Guanajuato

WHEN LAST we spoke, the Hacienda Duo was hightailing it out of our hardscrabble neighborhood due to the approach of Carnival, which is when our neighbors go berserk.

We stayed three nights in a pretty swanky place off the highway between the Gringo-infested burg of San Miguel and Dolores Hidalgo, which is a bit farther north.

The drive last Sunday was uneventful. We had lunch in a San Miguel restaurant named Hecho en Mexico where we’ve eaten quite a few times.

The following day we drove to Dolores Hidalgo and hit a few tourist spots, one of which was the Colonial building that housed the city’s jail down to 1957. It’s not a place you’d want to be in the slammer, but it’s a museum now. My child bride snapped the mugshot above.

Not surprisingly, it’s not the first time I’ve been in jail.

We dined in the Restaurante Plaza, which faces the plaza as the name indicates. We’ve dined there before, happily. The place where we had intended to eat, a joint called DaMonica, was closed Monday. Dang!

Back in San Miguel on Tuesday, we ate somewhere new for us, a restaurant named La Frontera. It was recommended to us by the inimitable Jennifer Rose, a woman who thinks red shoes are better than bacon. I do not agree.

While Ms. Rose may misjudge the value and/or taste of red shoes, she does know restaurants, and La Frontera was a good call. I had a BLT, and my child bride ate some brisket thing. They were both good, but they weren’t the highlight of the meal.

That was the root beer float. We love root beer floats. The only root beer float my child bride had ever tasted was near San Antonio, Texas, years ago. I have never seen root beer in Mexico. I asked the owner where she got root beer, and she said at the major supermarket in San Miguel.

There are some advantages — few but some — to living in a Gringo-infested town. Having root beer at the store is one of those advantages. I am jealous.

Now let’s venture on to politics. San Miguel hates Donald Trump. We walked through a street market and saw lots of T-shirts on sale that sported (expletive) Trump this and (expletive) Trump that. Tsk-tsk.

We walked around an art gallery and saw a huge oil painting of the great American president, but the artist was really angry with The Donald.

Oh, the ill will at losing an election, fair and square.

Wednesday morning, Ash Wednesday, we packed our bags, hopped into the Honda and headed southwest to our mountaintop home, having avoided the worst of Carnival here, which was the objective, after all.

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Child bride on the cobblestones leading to the hotel.
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Unoccupied edifice near our hideaway hotel.

Hightailing it from Carnival chaos

I LIVED 18 YEARS in New Orleans, so I know Mardi Gras.

Now I’ve lived 18 years on my Mexican mountaintop, on the hardscrabble outskirts of town. My new paisanos do Mardi Gras too. And of all the neighborhoods, mine embraces Carnival the most. It goes bat-shit crazy.

Carnival is best if you’re a drinking man, which I was during most of my time in New Orleans. Some events are best enjoyed while sloshed.

I embraced the bottle for almost precisely 25 years, from age 26 to age 51. Not coincidentally, that quarter century, which should have been my best and most productive, was precisely the opposite, and booze did it.

I’m going to list the pros and cons of boozing. First the pros:

  1. You feel real good for the first hour.
  2. There is no No. 2.

Let’s move on to the cons:

  1. Your life lacks focus.
  2. Your relationships suffer.
  3. Your job suffers.
  4. You lack concentration.
  5. It’s expensive.
  6. It’s dangerous.

There are others I could put on the cons. Going on the wagon was my best decision ever. My life changed overnight, literally.

New ImageBut being sober, I don’t enjoy Carnival anymore, especially how it’s done where I live now. We try to get out of town, and we’ll be hightailing it tomorrow to a suite hotel in the boondocks between San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo. The place is called the Grand Las Nubes by Inmense. La-dee-dah.

So while the neighborhood plaza at home roars with nightly concerts, we’ll be in the boonies sleeping blissfully with the only sounds being the occasional coyote singing in the moonlight.

And there will be no morning hangovers.

Mulatto Ville

WE ESCAPED the Mardi Gras celebration in our hardscrabble neighborhood over the weekend by heading to the Gringo-invested burg of San Miguel de Allende.

I always find San Miguel unsettling to the soul. There is something just not right about it. It’s about as Mexican as I am, which is to say legally yes, spiritually no.

Perhaps Disneyland, but better: Mulatto* Ville.

It’s a combination of two very different worlds. Two mindsets, two races,** two cultures. And they do not stir well.

Oil and water.

Walking around downtown San Miguel, it’s all I can do to not burst out in howling laughter. The rayon shirts, the Bermuda shorts, the Birkenstocks, the berets, the feathers in the hat bands, the old white women*** wearing native blouses, the art paint smeared preciously on khaki pants.

So one might wonder, why do you go there? The main answer is restaurants. Mulatto Ville has great places to eat.

I enjoy eating.

And this recent trip was also to visit an old friend from high school who was wintering there, a retired university professor who included Marco Rubio among her students.

Another beautiful day in Dolores Hidalgo.

We took a drive north to Dolores Hidalgo where we had not gone directly downtown in a long time. We were pleasantly surprised, shocked even.

It’s a wonderful city that’s been undergoing renovation for a few years. Most of the plaza has been closed to vehicles. The church has been painted. Much of downtown too.

Some good restaurants and hotels can be found. And, unlike San Miguel, which has horrible streets and sidewalks, Dolores Hidalgo is flat, smooth and easily walkable.

It’s also one of Mexico’s main sources of talavara ceramics,**** the quantities of which are astounding and beautiful.

Next time we flee our area due to Carnival, we’ll be staying in Dolores Hidalgo, not south in Mulatto Ville.

In Dolores Hidalgo I spotted nary a Birkenstock*****.

* * * *

* I am playing loose with the word, of course. A true mulatto is the offspring of one white parent and one black one, à la Barry Hussein Obama who “identifies” as black.

** Oh, I know Mexican is not a race, but bear with me.

*** Why does everyone complain about Old White Men but never about Old White Women?

**** The other is Puebla. FYI.

***** My second ex-wife, now an Old White Woman, used to cringe at my own Birkenstocks, so perhaps I should avoid this point. Nowadays I sport Crocs but only at home.

Change of scenery

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Where I lived for 15 years. Houston.
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Where I’ve lived for 17 years.

THE FIRST five years of my life, I resided in the countryside, a farm not far from Sylvester, Georgia.

The latest census puts Sylvester’s population at about 6,000 souls. Lord knows what it was in the late 1940s when I was toddling around there in the dirt.

My current mountaintop pueblo is home to about 80,000 folks, dwarfing the population of Sylvester, but 80,000 is a far cry from the 6 million you’ll find in Houston’s metropolitan area or even the 2 million in the city itself.

Before moving to my mountaintop, Houston was where I lived and worked. I don’t work anymore unless you count pulling weeds and watering veranda potted plants.

I play and relax.

The switch from Houston to this mountaintop pueblo was a drastic move. I’m a big-city boy. And my child bride is a big-city girl. Why are we here?

Lack of communication.

One morning, about two years after constructing and moving into the Hacienda, we were sitting on the veranda in our wicker rockers, talking. We discovered that we’d both have preferred settling in a big city.

How did we not know this? Answer: I assumed she wanted to live here because relatives live here, especially her favorite sister. She assumed I wanted to live here because I was here and had moved here intentionally.

But we never discussed it specifically. Dumb, huh?

Why not sell the Hacienda and move elsewhere? Actually, about that time, I did advertise it online, and got an offer for twice what we had paid to build this place.

But I chickened out because I love our home, and there is a large city nearby, the capital down the mountainside. But, aside from weekly Costco shopping jaunts, we rarely go there.

We’ve become small-city folks. But every time I see a photo of Houston, I sigh. And she likely does the same when we make our twice-a-year visits to Mexico City, which is where she lived when I found her.

But we can stand in the yard on dark nights and see stars from horizon to horizon. And I never heard roosters at dawn or burros anytime in Houston.

Just occasional gunfire.

* * * *

(Note: We’ll be home this afternoon from San Miguel de Allende where we fled on Sunday to avoid the worst of Carnival in our hardscrabble neighborhood.)