Our interesting times

May you live in interesting times.

— ancient Chinese curse

CITY HALL here on the mountaintop yesterday reported the first Kung Flu case in our quaint Colonial town, news I could have lived long without, perhaps literally.

So we have pivoted, the two of us.

Till today we had reduced our gadding about, but every afternoon, simply to get out of the house, we had gone downtown with a Thermos of café, which we filled at home, to sit a spell in the open air of the coffee shop on the sidewalk abutting the plaza.

People-watching and reading.

Well, that’s off the table, so to speak. We’re staying home.

There will be exceptions. For instance, early this morning, we drove down the mountainside to the nearby capital city to shop at Costco and Chedraui. We got there just after they opened. There were few shoppers, which was the idea.

We’ll make that jaunt every Monday.

We purchased enough vittles at the two stores to last a week since we have now eliminated restaurants from our lifestyle.

Days will consist of some light exercise on our gym set at home, plus the daily walk around the neighborhood plaza. One must keep the blood circulating.

Mexico has relatively few Kung Flu sightings, 2,143 cases and 94 fatalities as I write this, but it will worsen, of course. Government action has been somewhat spotty so far, and our demagogic, airheaded president is setting a horrible example by continuing his hugs and kisses to one and all, including relatives of a famous narco capo.

The uneducated, not surprisingly, love him, especially since he gifts money, á la Bernie Sanders, but there are even a significant number of otherwise well-educated Mexicans who also embrace him, literally if possible. Astounding.

The good news is that his popularity is slipping.

I think we have an old backgammon board in a cabinet downstairs, and we need to wash windows and do other chores that we’ve been putting off. And there is also the internet, Kindles and Netflix. Life plods on.

About that Chinese quote at the top. It’s those damn Chinamen who got us into this Kung Flu mess in the first place. Ah, the irony.

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We’ll be sitting out here more often. Come join us, but sit over thataway.

Birds, paint & plague

balls
Playground of the orioles.

SPRINGTIME, THOUGH we’re not officially in springtime yet, brings birds to the Hacienda, pretty birds and fun ways to watch them.

It began three days ago. In the early mornings, between 7 and 8, I’m generally upstairs checking out the woeful state of the world via the internet. There’s a bank of windows just beyond my desk, and they open to the upstairs terraza.

orioleHanging out there, pure decoration, are two large balls made of straw or something like a thick vine. The larger is about 18 inches across. It’s the big one that’s become a post-dawn playground to black-vented orioles.

They fly under the glass roof and at the top of the ball is an opening through which the orioles, two of them, descend into the ball, flit about inside, and then depart to climb around the outside of the globe. This goes on for a minute or two, and they leave.

Three days in a row now, about 7:30 or so. They have a schedule.

This morning I tried to sneak to the door with my camera, but orioles are cautious, unlike house sparrows and hummingbirds which are fine with human company, and when I merely stood up from my desk, the orioles fled, lickety-split.

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The Downtown Casita’s new look.

We’ve gussied up the Downtown Casita, a fresh coat of light yellow and an artsy circular stairway from the balcony to the roof. The twirly design is the same we have on the stairwell inside the Hacienda. I found that style online years ago.

The ironwork was done by a young, very talented and artistic blacksmith. That would cost a small fortune above the Rio Bravo if you could even find someone who could do it.

It’s available for vacation rentals, plus we house visiting relatives occasionally, which comes in handy because Mexicans have lots of relatives, and they like to visit.

* * * *

Moving on to the spreading plague of coronavirus that is leaving millions dead in its wake worldwide. No? Well, okay, but it’s scaring plenty of people.

We have very few cases in Mexico, about eight, last I heard. Just south of us, Guatemala and El Salvador are quarantining themselves. El Salvador will let no foreigners enter for the next month. Guatemala is barring people who’ve been in China.

Here in Mexico, on the other hand, our nincompoop leftist president is doing next to nothing. On the contrary, he’s sticking with his hug approach, the one he extends to narcos. He always favors hugs, he says. Narcos, plague? No matter, he wants to hug.

Leftists love hugs because it distracts you while your pocket is picked.

Don’t fault me. I voted for the other guy. Maybe the other guy was corrupt. Who knows? But at least he wasn’t a nincompoop.

How to end mass murders

THE HEADLINE was to draw you in. I learned that back during my newspaper “career.”

New ImageThere is no solution to mass shootings in the United States. None, zip, zilch, nada. It is an American cultural cancer without a cure. No radiation. No chemo.

Gun control certainly will not do it. Gun sales could be brought to an immediate, complete halt, and it would not solve the problem because America is floating in firearms already. It would be shutting the barn door after the horse has skedaddled.

Blaming Trump won’t do it either. Ain’t his fault anyway.

No one is to blame. It’s just something Americans do now and then. Mexicans don’t do it even though we have plenty of guns floating around down here too, which proves, by the way, the futility of gun control. We’re highly gun-controlled.

Bullet-riddled, bloody, gun-controlled Chicago proves the same point.

And the shooters span the political spectrum. The El Paso gunman was a right-wing nut. The Dayton killer was a lefty, a fan of Fauxcahontas and Antifa, which the media have tried to keep quiet. But not that of the El Paso gunman, of course. White supremacist!

And it was a Bernie bro’ who shot Rep. Steve Scalise in 2017.

Why were there no mass shootings above the border, say, a century ago? To a large degree, because there was no rapid communication, no internet. High tech has made it very easy for maniacs to get wild ideas about manifesting their fantasies and communicating them all over the place, which makes them feel so very good. And important.

Rapid communication, internet, social media exist in Mexico too, of course, so why don’t we do mass shootings? The culture is different.

I cannot imagine it would ever enter a Mexican’s mind in his wildest drunken dreams to go into a mall and start killing random strangers. It would be unfathomable.

Wipe out a rival narco gang? Well, sure, but that’s just business.

As for senseless, mass murder, better get used to it.

Above the border, that is.

* * * *

(Note: Here’s an interesting piece by a writer who thinks America has an “angry, young man” crisis. He’s correct and, again, it’s the culture.)

Death, a constant presence

THE OLDER you get, the closer to death you are and the more death you witness in one way or another.

In my years here on this Mexican mountaintop, plenty of people I’ve known have died.

The brother-in-law, of course. He killed himself unintentionally with a small-caliber pistol that he aimed too close to his heart.

Long ago, there was an old fellow named Charlie who drove around town in a rattletrap Volkswagen Bug the color of a bluebird. Every time he saw me, he asked: Are you still here?

And I always was.

Once Charlie was having lunch at a sidewalk table outside a restaurant on the main plaza when a car pulled up and thugs got out. They walked by Charlie, went into the restaurant, grabbed a man, tossed him into the car trunk and drove off.

They were rivals from narco gangs. This all happened right next to Charlie who didn’t bat an eye. He later said he thought the guys in the car were cops. But they were not. Charlie is gone now, a natural demise. He’s not here.

But I still am.

There was another fellow. He was quite fond of my child bride, and he often would sit with us Saturday afternoons during the weekly pastry sales that my wife did then and still does now.

He was a nervous man, gay, quite smart, about 50 years old, but very nice. We enjoyed his company. He was a Cárdenas, a descendent of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas. One day we heard he died under questionable circumstances.

Then there was the wonderful Al Kinnison. I loved that guy. He was almost like a father to me. When he died here in 2005 at the age of 79, I wrote a tribute to him. And I miss him still. His wife, Jean, preceded him into the unknown a year or two before.

Almost two years ago, a nephew died at age 31 of cancer. We had driven him almost weekly for a year to the state capital for chemo treatments, to no avail. He left a wife named Alma (soul) and two small children.

Last May, a second brother-in-law died. A heart attack in his early 50s. He was a younger sibling of my wife. No one had a clue about his health issue, so his death came out of the blue.

And very recently, two more. One was an old man we knew fairly well. The other was a young boy we knew far less well but who had impressed us mightily the last few years.

Almost every Saturday, before heading downtown for our pastry sale, we eat lunch at a very humble, roasted-chicken eatery on the highway near the Hacienda. The family business started about three years ago in exceedingly low-rent surroundings. A small dark room with a couple of metal tables and chairs.

A father, mother, two children and a granny who made the tortillas by hand.

The father roasted the chickens on wooden stakes stuck vertically into glowing coals which were spread directly on the ground outside. He also cooked chorizo and ribs in the same way. He is a very serious young man whom I’ve seen smile just once.

His wife is far more outgoing, a young, happy woman who looks in her late 30s. The husband is about the same age. The children were a daughter about 7 and a son, 16.

They toil seven days a week.

The food they sell is excellent, and the business grew. Last spring they moved a few doors in the other direction to a larger, less gloomy location, but the roof consists of log beams and a plastic cover. That’s what keeps the rain at bay.

My wife and I always noticed the boy. He was tall, good-looking, clean-cut, polite, attentive to the needs of both customers and his parents. He seemed like a great kid, the sort of son anyone would be proud of, and they were proud of him.

He did home deliveries on a small Honda motorcycle. He was killed on that bike two weeks ago. This is what tragedies are made of. We learned of that last Saturday.

Last week, Michael Warshauer died. He and his wife, Susie, came to our house not long after they moved to the mountaintop in 2005. Mike was a superlative cook, and I had mentioned that I missed Vietnamese pho soup, which I often ate in Houston.

Mike and Susie visited, and Mike made pho. It was good. Not quite what the Vietnamese served in Houston due to the lack of some ingredients hereabouts, but it was a stellar effort. The inimitable Jennifer Rose has written an excellent tribute to Mike, which you can see here.

She did it far better than I could have.

R.I.P., Mike, and to all of the others I mentioned or, as it’s written in Spanish, Q.E.P.D.

Perhaps I won’t be far behind you. Have pho prepared, please. Fixings shouldn’t be an issue up there. And I’ve heard good things about your chocolate eclairs. That too would be appreciated. I adore eclairs.

Thanks in advance.