My hometown now

I normally do not mention here the name of my mountaintop town. It’s just a quirk of mine. There are numerous videos of the place on YouTube, but few as nice as this one. so I’m putting my quirk aside today.

I was living in Houston in 1999 when I decided to retire early, toss caution to the winds, and go where Ambrose Bierce went almost a century earlier. He arrived during the Revolution and was never heard from again. There was no revolution when I arrived, thank the Goddess. To plan a bit for my adventure — I did darn little planning — I bought numerous travel books at places we used to call bookstores. I don’t think they exist anymore above the Rio Bravo.

Some of the books focused on retiring in Mexico. I saw next to nothing about where I am now, but I ended up near here due to finding a language school online that looked good. It was in the state capital, so that’s where I moved.

One day I took a bus over here for a look-see. I walked around, and I liked it. I moved here shortly after and rented a furnished, two-story house that’s walking distance from the huge downtown plaza. Been here ever since.

It was sheer luck.

Back in 2000, there were about 40 Gringos here, and many were real ding-a-lings. No one knows how many are here now, but there are, I believe, at least 10 times that number, and more come every year. I wish they wouldn’t.

The limeade days

May is the most miserable month of the year, and we’ve just entered it. What’s so bad about May? It’s hot, or rather what passes for hot at 7,200 feet above sea level where it’s cool to cold most of the year, which we like. And it’s not just hot. It’s dusty and dry. Most of the year it’s green, wet or damp, which we also like.

You’d likely refer to May here as stuffy. I sometimes do.

Turning now to positive things, May is limeade month. Limeade in the afternoons makes the days more palatable. Here at the Hacienda, I am the limeade maker. Interestingly, Mexicans don’t call them limes. They are limones, lemons. The larger, yellow fruit that Gringos call lemons are far less common down here.

My recipe is easy. A glass the size in the photo. Squeeze four limes into the glass, then add 2.5 tablespoons of that bottled sugar water. Stir and add ice. The bottle of sugar water is available where bar supplies are sold. I’m almost to the bottom of this bottle which I bought at least three years ago. It doesn’t go bad.

I have professional skills. Back in the 1970s, I was a bartender in two establishments in New Orleans. I was fired from both, the only jobs in my life from which I was fired.

Those who know my history might think it was due to my imbibing the merchandise, but it wasn’t. One was a hotel bar which I think was run by the Mafia. The manager decided he didn’t like my style, so out the door I went. The other bar was in the French Quarter. That manager and I had eyes for the same woman, a major babe who waitressed at the bar. He got rid of me, but I got the gal. I enjoyed being a bartender.

I am a certified bartender. Yes, I even completed a course.

Another move south

For years I’ve been moving my entire life south of the border, little by little. That is to say, if I can do it down here, why should I continue doing it from up there? That is what most Gringos living in Mexico do, it seems. They have many lifelines, or rather that’s how they think of their continued connections to the United States.

Some examples of my American disconnect is that I have no U.S. driver’s license. I have no U.S. bank account. I have no U.S. mailing address if you don’t count a mail drop I’ve kept for almost 20 years in Miami because, at first, I needed it, but I’m needing it less and less, and I anticipate canceling it in two more years. The only reason I need it now is to have a U.S. address on my IRA account at The Vanguard Group, a necessity.

Vanguard had no problem with my correct address here in Mexico till 2014 dawned, and the FATCA law was dumped on us by the inept Obama Administration, a move intended to crack down on drug dealers and money launderers but which hosed retirees living outside the United States more than anything.

Long story short, my U.S. bank, a California branch of Mexico’s Banamex, summarily canceled my account, and Vanguard looked like it was going to follow suit till I provided the Miami address. We opened an investment account at Mexico’s Actinver in my child bride’s name and, to minimize the tax blow, I’ve been transferring money little by little since 2014. I’ll be done next year, and the Miami address can be canceled along with the Vanguard account, which I’ve had for over 35 years.

Another move south? Says the headline up top. It’s a biggie for me. My Kindle committed suicide a couple of days ago, so I went to the U.S. version of Amazon to order another, which is what I’ve done since the dawn of Kindle. I’ve had about five Kindles, plus I also order my digital books in English from the American version of Amazon.

They balked at shipping the Kindle I wanted to my Mexican address in spite of initially saying it would ship to Mexico. Well, darn! I turned to the Mexican Amazon. I knew Kindles are available there, but would I have access to the thousands of English books for sale on the U.S. website? I suspected not. I was mistaken.

So my new Kindle is en route from Mexico City, and it will not only get to the Hacienda quicker, the e-reader and accompanying cover cost less than the same order from above the Rio Bravo even if it had been shipped to a U.S. address. This all puts a smile on my face. Another departure from America and its increasing craziness.

It will arrive on Monday. “Guaranteed!”

Amazon opened its Mexican version five years ago.

Road to Los Corrales

MY LAST DAY as a working stiff, December 19, 1999, I came to the newsroom in Houston with Happy Faces of all sizes that I had cut from yellow poster paper the previous day. I tacked and taped them to my cubicle. Yes, a cubicle, I never had an office.

That evening about midnight — I worked the swing shift — almost all my coworkers had gone home. I stood up, waved to the few remaining folks, and walked out the door for good, having no clue what I’d be doing even a year later.

Twenty-plus years later, I’m hanging loose.

It was a lazy Saturday today, so the two of us took a ride into the countryside. We went to the tiny town of Los Corrales and turned around.

The road to Los Corrales.

Corn beyond an old stone wall.

The green fields of home. Somebody’s.

It’s been said repeatedly that our state resembles Hawaii during the green months. Never having been to Hawaii, I cannot vouch for that, but it’s darn nice here.

Half a century ago, when I was visiting my maternal grandmother in the summertime, after dinner at noon, my grandmother and I would take the Ford for a ride down the red-clay roads. Usually, we would stop half a mile away at her sister’s place — her name was Bubba, and she was rail thin and chain-smoked — so she could come along for the ride.

I was too young for a driver’s license, but nobody gave a hoot.

I often think of those Sunday drives through the fields and woods of southwest Georgia when my child bride and I do pretty much the same thing on weekends. The two-lane, rural roads here are not red clay, of course, just your garden-variety asphalt at best. I always wanted to live in the mountains.

In the video, which I made in the morning, the music you hear is coming from the neighbors out back. They are sharing sorts.