Work and solitude

WHEN WE first wed years back, I was the primary cook and dishwasher. I remain the latter.

But I tapered off on the cooking, mostly due to shiftlessness. It’s not that she took over so much as we just prefer the easy route. Quick stuff, takeout, restaurants, etc.

I used to do other work too. Decorative painting on the Hacienda’s walls. I’ve stopped. Too much effort.

Due to feeling increasing shame recently for my laziness, I’ve begun fixing more meals. I have some old standards. There’s jambalaya and gumbo. Jambalaya is lots easier than gumbo, so gumbo hasn’t returned to our plates just yet.

Maybe it never will. It’s not a quick meal.

I prefer easy fixings. I do a nice 15-minute minestrone. And there’s a pasta dish on which I dump steamed broccoli and garlic. Just today we’ll be having meatballs that I made yesterday in a crockpot.

And I’ve decided to work more in the yard, easy stuff. And wash the Honda more. I’ve been letting carwash guys on the plaza do it because it only costs a bit over two bucks.

Paying anybody to wash the car in these parts from June through October is akin to burning cash since it rains every single day. A clean car lasts about an hour.

But you gotta do something or, come November, you won’t even remember the color of your car.

So I’m working more now. Cooking, gardening, carwashing. It’s good to keep fairly busy, I think.

* * * *

The hermit life

I‘m reading a fascinating book called One Man’s Wilderness: an Alaskan Odyssey. A writer named Sam Keith used the journal of Richard Proenneke to construct the story of a man who moved alone at 51 to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s where he erected a cabin and lived solo for 30 years.

Proenneke’s talents with his hands and mind were awesome. He wasn’t an actual hermit because he received occasional guests, which he enjoyed, and, now and then, he returned to the Lower 48 for brief visits with relatives and amigos.

The book spoke to me perhaps more than to most people due to my longstanding hermit inclinations. Were it not for my love of womenfolk, perhaps I would have been a Proenneke. But I would have needed to hone my handyman skills first.

As a youth, I dreamed of living alone in an underground home on the bank sweeping down to the pond among cypress trees that rested on my grandparents’ Georgia farm.

Decades later, my hermit dream was to live in a half-buried school bus in the desert near Big Bend National Park. I read of a woman who did just that. I was flush with envy.

One wonders what a psychiatrist would say about those two dream homes being half buried beneath ground level?

I would have required a hermit woman, but doesn’t that negate the concept of being a hermit?

New ImageI would have cooked her gumbo in the school bus. And I would have washed her dishes. And maybe I’ll fix gumbo at the Hacienda again one day.

One must be kind to women.

Only Gringo graveside

marigolds

LIKE EVERY YEAR, we went to the downtown cemetery this morning to tidy up the grave of my child bride’s oldest brother, gone about 25 years now.

The graveyard is directly downtown and — due to crowded conditions, I imagine — is not open the previous night, the famous Night of the Dead when relatives sit till dawn amid marigolds and candles. The graves are so tightly packed there’s no room for both relatives and tourists too.

But it’s open in the morning, and locals flood inside to gussy up the graves, light candles and incense, and leave their best wishes with the interred in broad daylight. That’s what we do. And there are no tourists because they’re recuperating after staying up all night visiting outlying villages and their splashy graveyards.

Ironically, though our town is one of the most well-known in Mexico for its Day of the Dead doings, neither of the two downtown cemeteries are open on the night of November 1. You must head out of town if you want to see the stuff that makes us famous. To places with names like Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio, Arocutin and my personal favorite, Cucuchucho, which sounds like a passing train.

But let’s return to our downtown graveyard.

Invariably, I am the only Gringo among the hundreds of people.

Another item of interest: Planted two plots down from my brother-in-law is a fellow — young, I imagine — who came out on the wrong end of a gunfight with cops three years ago. Here is what I remember. There was a shootout between police and some narcos in late October of 2011. It was written up in the local press.

Four days later, we were in the cemetery on our annual visit, and I noticed the fresh grave nearby, someone named Luis Enrique but his nickname was Choco. It was a plain metal marker painted black. It included his name, the date of his demise — that same late October day — and an automatic rifle was painted on there too.

Today I noticed the original metal marker still stood, but directly next to it was a nice marble headstone, also engraved with Luis Enrique’s full name, his nickname Choco — and the machine gun too.

On finishing our work, we packed up our gear — broom, dustpan, brush, trash bag, etc. — and headed to the main plaza for a nice cafecito. A couple of hours later, we dined on chicken meatballs, rice and beans.

A year from now we’ll do pretty much the same thing, the Goddess willing.

I’m no spring chicken.