Tag Archives: Mexico City

Just like home

SEVENTEEN YEARS ago when I packed my two bags and flew to Mexico alone to reinvent myself in late middle age, I arrived in a spectacularly strange world.

Many of the things I was accustomed to simply were not available down here, and most of those things were commercial. I am a fan of capitalism and the goodies it offers.

Flash forward from 2000 to 2017 and — oh, my — how things have changed. Just about anything you can buy above the Rio Bravo is now available Down Mejico Way.

There is even a Mexican version of Amazon.com even though I much prefer our homegrown MercadoLibre.

The list of Gringo chain stores in Mexico is too lengthy to repeat here, and it seems to grow longer each year.*

I was particularly delighted when Bed Bath & Beyond, one of my favorite stores when I lived up north, opened recently in the nearby state capital. I shop there often.

There are eight BB&Bs in Mexico. Six are in Mexico City or its environs. A seventh is in Cuernavaca, the not-too-distant Mexico City playground,  and the eighth is in our capital city, the only one relatively remote from Mexico City.

Why were we chosen over the considerably larger burgs of Guadalajara or Monterrey? God knows.

Mexico commercially improves on a daily basis. You can now get most of what is available to the Gringos up north. Plus, we have great tacos, fresh avocados and beautiful babes.

Best of both worlds.

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* Very incomplete list: Best Buy, Sears, Costco, Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Sirloin Stockade, iHop, Home Depot, Office Depot, Office Max, KFC, DQ, Starbucks.

(Note: We don’t depend entirely on the Gringos for great shopping. For example, the Mexican chain El Palacio de Hierro — The Iron Palace — will knock your high-end socks off, especially the flagship store in Mexico City’s Polanco.)

A capital time

A bunch of bananas in the making.

WE RETURNED from a week in Mexico City last Sunday to discover that we had left home in winter and returned in springtime, weather-wise, at least.

We’ve passed thorough 14 winters at the Hacienda and only twice, perhaps thrice, have we enjoyed a winter without one overnight freeze. The 2016-17 season is the latest.

Alas, spring here is no circus, the worst of the seasons. The only positive aspect is that there are no overnight freezes.

Instead there is dust and drab, brown mountains. What passes for heat in these parts happens in springtime. The fact of the matter is that spring is pretty yucky.

Our capital visit was very profitable. After years of waiting, we picked up the deed to the condo. We hired a guy to lay a nice ceramic floor on the service patio. He also improved the drain system for the clothes washer.

We found a great new restaurant nearby. Fact is the entire area is going upscale rapidly. When I first set foot there 15 years ago, it was ugly and industrial, which is why the colonia* is called Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

My arrival, it seems, on most any scene delivers a certain panache. It happened here where we live on the hardscrabble outskirts of our mountaintop town, and it’s also happened in Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

We fled to San Miguel de Allende to escape Carnival. We went to Mexico City for practical matters. But now it’s time to get down to business. Springtime is for renovations.

Our favorite contractor comes today to provide prices for work here at the Hacienda and also at the Downtown Casita.

Due to the stupendous dollar-peso exchange rate over the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of improvements we likely would not have done otherwise.

And that’s where stuff stands at the moment.

Thanks for passing by.

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* Sort of like a big neighborhood.

Endless construction

MEXICO’S IN a state of constant construction.

There are businesses all over the place that sell construction material. If you drive more than a few blocks, you’re almost guaranteed to see something being built.

It’s an incredible, ongoing phenomenon.

When we get back from Mexico City, where we’re headed shortly, we also will be building stuff, a yearly occurrence in springtime when there is no daily deluge of rain.

And we’ll be constructing in Mexico City too. Ceramic tile will be laid on the floor of the “service patio,” that space Mexican homes have out back where the water heater, clothesline and big cement sink sit.

Mexican homes have big cement sinks out back.

But the best news — for us at least — out of Mexico City recently is that we finally have the deed to the condo. All we have to do is pick it up at the lawyer’s office.

Signed, sealed and delivered!

Getting the deed has been an ongoing process and headache for years. But now it’s done, and we own three homes free and clear that we could sell if we wanted to.

But we don’t.

We prefer the fun of constant construction.

Change of scenery

houston
Where I lived for 15 years. Houston.
street
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.

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(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.)

The capital city

BEING A VERY part-time resident of Mexico City, this video snatched my interest.

A recent international study claims the Mexican capital has the worst traffic in the world. I believe it. For years, when we visited from the mountaintop, I drove.

But not anymore. Now it’s 100%  public transportation.

The video, however, has nothing to do with traffic jams. It’s an artist’s take on his monster city.

We’ve been visiting our condo there regularly since 2007 when the last tenants departed, and we’ll be going again next month for a week or so. Send prayers.

What the hey!?

new-image
Just this morning. Circle of hippie women and the green floral frog.

IT RAINED last night, which is against the rules.

Normally, February is clear, blue and cold at night, cool in the day. The last couple of days, however, have escaped the mold. It’s been overcast, cold and very windy.

This morning dawned overcast, but it’s mostly blue before 10 a.m., and the cursed wind has diminished.

Lots on the calendar. We will soon flee our hardscrabble barrio due to Carnival. We’ll go to San Miguel de Allende where, among other things, we’ll visit a friend of mine from high school. She and her husband are spending three months there.

They live in North Carolina.

She’ll be the first high school friend I’ve seen in over 40 years. She’s a retired professor of Chinese something-or-other. She’s very smart, which is why we were friends.

Shortly after returning, we’ll go to Mexico City for our twice-yearly airing of the condo. It’s highly likely that we will actually get our hands on the deed at last.

On returning from Mexico City, we’ll hire a crew to do stuff both here at the Hacienda and at our downtown Casita, mostly maintenance, but we’ll probably remove the grass, and plant stone and concrete in the yard’s semicircle.

yard
Photo from a few years back. We sold that blue Chevy in 2014.

I’ve been wanting to reduce the grass for years. Maybe it will start this year with that semicircle. Depends on the price. But the peso-dollar exchange rate makes me feel rich.

I’ll keep you posted next month because I know you’re on the edge of your seat about this.

In the meantime, I’ve got to walk the plaza now, take a shower, get dressed, drive to an outdoor market, buy veggies for stir-fry, and fix lunch. Pork chops, pasta and that stir-fry.

I’m a very handy hubby.

Beautiful day

new-image
Side dish of orchid* with morning croissants.

VALENTINE’S DAY is one of our anniversaries. It marks the day we began living together, and that was in my child bride’s condo in Mexico City in 2002.

We made it legal a bit more than two months later, a civil ceremony held in the interior patio of her sister’s coffee shop here on the mountaintop.

While February is normally one of the coldest months hereabouts, this year so far is an exception. We have not had one freeze. A bit of frost last month, but that was it.

We aren’t out of the woods, and we can’t see the light at the tunnel’s end, but I detect a candle glow down there.

Just this morning, I finished the culling of dead plants from the yard, stuff nailed by those January frosts. It all rests in a greenish pile in the Garden Patio, and I’ll hire Abel the Deadpan Neighbor to haul it away very soon.

My lovely wife seems finally to be recovering from a nasty cold caused by her being phoned at 1 a.m. last Thursday as the wake for our nephew began. Yes, 1 a.m. Who starts a wake at 1 a.m.? Mexicans do. Sometimes.

The wake was held on the street with bonfires outside the nephew’s humble home. It was cold and smoky.

She had not slept the previous night either due to spending it at the nephew’s hospital bedside in the state capital. She was mostly awake for 48 hours. Who wouldn’t get sick?

But today things appear to be returning to normal. It’s a beautiful anniversary day,  air is cool, sky is blue, and we’ll lunch on roasted chicken, beans and rice.

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* Orchid courtesy of the Cotton family who recently visited the mountaintop.

Time to gloat

city-hall
Our City Hall. We pay property tax here, the casita water bill too.

IT WOULD NOT be January if I neglected to showcase one of the many great aspects to Mexican life: It’s inexpensive.

January is when many of us pay annual bills like property tax, the post office box, water service, car tax, etc.

The inimitable Steve Cotton wrote this almost obligatory posearlier this month on his website.

Now it’s my turn. I will state prices in U.S. dollars using the current exchange rate of about 21/1.

The post office box: This set us back $16. Mail comes down here slowly, but it arrives. Be patient.

Water: We pay annually at City Hall for the downtown Casita. It was $90.* Here in the hardscrabble outskirts of town where the Hacienda sits, we pay at an office on our local plaza. I usually pay four months in advance. The monthly price for unlimited water is $2.38. The Mexico City condo is about $1.60.

Property tax: We own three homes. I’ll add them together and announce the total of (drum roll) $84. If you need smelling salts, I’ll mail some to you. Be patient.

We pay property tax for the Hacienda and the Downtown Casita, plus the Casita’s water bill at City Hall. See photo. It’s efficient. We were in and out in 15 minutes. I pay the Mexico City condo’s property tax online.

Garbage pickup: Whatever you want to tip the guys.

I suggest 50 cents.

Car tax: We have two cars. Up until a few years ago, this was pretty steep for late-model cars, but then they canceled the tax. I never understood exactly why. Now we just pay for window stickers. The total for the 2009 Honda and the 2014 Nissan was $78. That was last year. It will be about the same this year. We have until March 1 to pay. I do it online.

Bank Trust Deed: I mention this only because Steve Cotton has it on his list. He lives on the sweaty, bug-infested coast, and there are laws about foreigners buying coastal property. He doesn’t own the land where Casa Cotton sits.

We own the land on which our Hacienda sits. There is no bank trust deed to mess with. He paid $522. We paid squat. In fact, the sum of all our payments — property tax, water, trash pickup, etc., on three homes, car taxes  — is about half of Steve’s bank trust deed alone.

Remember those old tour books titled Mexico on $5 a Day? Of course, you can’t do Mexico on $5 a day anymore, but it’s still inexpensive to visit — and to live here too.

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* This one thing, the Casita water bill, is by far the highest single payment we owe every year.

Note: Steve Cotton and two family members will drive to the mountaintop next week. They’ll stay a week in the Downtown Casita for free. If you’re nice to me, you might be able to stay there free too.

The hissy fits

fitWE MEXICANS love our hissy fits. They rarely resolve anything, but we throw them anyway. Here are three examples:

First: Eight or so years ago, Mexico City switched its electricity provider from some unionized outfit that ran an antiquated system to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, the modern entity that provides light to most of the nation.

The unionized outfit promptly threw a hissy fit. For months, they blockaded the entrance to the CFE high-rise on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The government ignored them.

These days the entrance is open, and electricity service is immeasurably improved.

Second: Mexico is in the early stages of an “education reform.” In part, this entails competency tests for teachers and they also lose the right to hand off their jobs to relatives on retirement. Unionized teachers promptly threw hissy fits.

The fits happened mostly in the usual suspect, backward states of Michoacán, Chiapas and Oaxaca. Unions blocked roads and highways, and squealed in the streets. The government is giving them lip service, but mostly it’s ignoring them.

Like the improved electricity provider in Mexico City, the education reform will happen.

Third, another reform is the energy sector, which is getting into high gear this year. For a variety of reasons, gas prices have gone up a lot. How did we react? We threw hissy fits, blocking highways, attacking gas stations, looting stores.

People want the old government-subsidized gasoline price. The government will ignore them and, in time, things will be better. Though gas prices likely will be higher.

Our hissy fits normally result in squat, but we throw them anyway. And it’s usually unions having the fits, fighting change, modernization and improvements.