Neighbors then and now

Back in Texas, I lived in a middle-class Houston neighborhood. My house did not stand out. In Mexico, I live in a working-class neighborhood, and my house stands out a lot.

Here are my current neighbors:

Directly to the left, as one faces the street is, of course, the sex motel. Directly to the right is a family of surly people. They have animals that come and go, plus a tractor and a horse. Across the street, a nice, late-middle-aged couple who live two blocks away are building two storefronts. We’re looking forward to that.


My neighbors in Houston couldn’t have been more different.

Directly to the left was a woman from Finland. For the nine years I lived there, I never saw the inside of her home, and she never saw the inside of mine. She was standoffishly friendly. To the right was a retired Baptist preacher and his wife who were about 60 when we arrived. They were very nice people. Once he invited my then-wife and me to a church where he was delivering a guest sermon. We accepted the invitation.

I am not a Christian, but I support and favor them.

Directly across the street lived an elderly woman and her troubled, unemployed son who was about 40 years old. The woman was very nice. She was a chain smoker, and her home smelled like an ashtray. I was over there now and then, mostly to do her favors. Her son was worse than useless.

One day there was an ambulance parked outside. I looked through my window as a covered body was wheeled out and slipped into the ambulance. I figured it was the old lady, but it wasn’t. It was the son. I never knew why he died.

Cater-cornered to the left was a couple in their 30s with two children, one of whom was born about midway through my time on that street. It was the second marriage for the woman, and she also had a son from her first marriage. That son was mentally dysfunctional in some way. He was about 10 when I moved there in 1986.

They were a very nice couple whom I liked a lot. The second baby was born about 1990, and they named him Travis, a traditional Texas name. Travis was a good boy. Around 1993, we heard that the older boy had been caught molesting a girl child down the block, but he was not arrested. I do not remember why.

Later, during the years after my 1996 divorce and before I moved to Mexico in 2000, my ex-wife told me the older boy had died. He would have been in his early 20s. I don’t know the details, or perhaps I just don’t remember. Been a long, long time.

My second ex-wife still lives in that house. The Finnish woman moved to New York to live with a sister. The Baptist preacher and his wife likely are deceased as is the old woman across the street. I think Travis’s parents are still there. I would enjoy seeing them, but I doubt I ever will. Travis would be about 30.


I paid $65,000 for that ranch house in 1986, and now it’s worth over $200,000. I got the house in the divorce, and shortly afterwards, in a moment of madness, I gave it to my ex-wife, not the most financially astute move of my life.

We paid about $100,000 for the Hacienda land and construction in 2002-03, and I have no idea what it’s worth now, but I’m not going anywhere, which is, of course, what I thought when I lived in the Houston house. Life springs surprises. Sometimes they hurt.

And neighbors can be very different.

Sex hotel facelift

The enticing façade, fresh from new paint.

UNLESS YOU’RE a relative stranger hereabouts you know I live next door to a sex motel, a fascinating neighbor.

It wasn’t there when we purchased the property and built the Hacienda 14 years back. There was a cow pasture next door where a lone cow lived and attracted flies.

About four years later, the construction crew arrived and started building the sex hotel. There are just eight rooms.

The hotel is part of a nationwide phenomenon called Hoteles de Paso, meaning “pass-by hotels.” These establishments are noted for their very low prices.

Our neighbor, for instance, charges the peso equivalent of about 10 dollars for eight hours; 14 dollars for 12 hours; and 22 dollars for a 24-hour stay, all taxes included.

Take that! Motel 6.

They are usually nicely appointed places with discreet parking. Three sorts of customers, basically. Single folks with nowhere else to get it on. Married folks who just want to have some “us” time away from the 12 children and Granny.

And anyone else who simply wants a nice, inexpensive place to bed down for the night, mostly travelers.

Not being on a major highway, we don’t get much No. 3 trade. It’s almost exclusively Nos. 1 and 2.

We were very apprehensive when the construction began because we thought the hotel would be a noisy neighbor.

Mexicans are noisy.

But no. It’s been tranquil these last 10 years, and the place even serves as a 24-hour guard service of sorts since it’s always open, and the office is out front.

The hotel has provided us with some entertainment over the years, as you might guess. If you walk out to the edge of the upstairs terraza and peer over, you’re looking directly into a couple of the bedrooms.

Toward the tail of the construction process, my wife and I crept over there one afternoon and slipped up the stairs of the back room. Very impressive, beautifully appointed, even with crown moulding. One of the rooms sports a jacuzzi.

But after a decade it began to look a bit scuzzy, and a week ago a couple of fellows showed up with paint and brushes.

Now it looks like it did on its debut day, a place you’d be proud to take your pants off to have a little fun.

Border wall

This is today, April 5, 2017.

I AM BIG on border walls. We have one here at the Hacienda. It separates us from the sex motel next door.

Walls create happy neighbors.

Stepping out to the terraza this morning — it was 48 degrees! — I snapped this photo to illustrate the difference between the two worlds of Hacienda and, well, you know.

When the motel was constructed almost a decade ago, I had this section of wall raised about a foot so folks in the motel rooms could not peer directly into our yard.

But we still can peer directly into their rooms.

You’re also looking at our two border guards, which are yuge!* The nopal and the bougainvillea, both of which I planted when they were little pups out of pots.

The sex motel manager recently asked if I would mind if they cut the bougainvillea on their side of the wall. I cannot imagine why they would want to do that. It’s quite pretty.

I replied yes. What they do on their side of the wall is their own business, not mine.

What I am particularly pleased about this morning is the temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

It makes me happy to be alive.

That and other factors too, of course. Like the V-formation of white egrets that just flew overhead.

* * * *

* Tip of the sombrero to the Blond Bomber in the Oval Office for adding this spelling variation to the language.

The pink bedspread

NEIGHBORS

THE VIEW OUT the back window, the upstairs bathroom window, changes often, and it’s always interesting. I have photographed and presented the scene before, of course. Here’s today’s version, the one with the pink bedspread hanging out to dry.

We too hang our clothes on a line to dry, so in that respect we’re like the neighbors. One day perhaps we’ll buy a dryer to go along with our washer, but I doubt it. It would be a gas dryer because when we constructed the Hacienda we had the guys install a gas line for that purpose.

Let’s see. What can we talk about today? Well, it’s been raining quite a bit, which is totally out of character for March, normally a bone-dry month. Last week, it rained 72 hours nonstop if you don’t count occasional, 15-minute pauses to regroup. But now it’s blue, cool and beautiful.

We have vacationers, a Canadian threesome, through the end of the month in our downtown Casita. And the Casita’s neighbors, going uphill, also Canadians, are here for another week or so. They don’t live here, just visit a couple times a year from their sailboat where they hang out off the British Columbian coast.

I noticed this morning on a Yahoo forum that focuses on our area that other Casita neighbors, down the hill a bit, have put their place on the market for $139,000 U.S., including all furnishings, not a bad price.* If you decide to take advantage of this great opportunity, tell them that Felipe sent you. I’ll get a prize.

At first, I figured they were moving back above the Rio Bravo, but no. The owner told me they are moving to the Gringo-infested Lake Chapala area where there’s more stuff going on. Seems they lived there before and are missing it. Since I favor fewer Gringos around here, their departure is a plus, which is not to say they’re not nice people because they are. I just favor fewer Gringos as a general rule.

I don’t want my mountaintop to be like San Miguel de Allende.

But they likely will sell to other Gringos, making it a wash. Mexicans might buy the place, but due to the current exchange rate, it would set them back over 2 million pesos. I’m betting on more Gringos, which I favor in our little housing development for the sole reason that Mexicans can be very noisy.

Yes, I am sorta contradicting myself, but I don’t care.

So that’s what we’ve talked about today. It decided itself. The neighbors out back with the pink bedspread, and then we moved on to the tenants at our downtown Casita, the Canadians next door, and then the other couple selling their property. It’s nice to have neighbors and tenants. Gives one something to ramble on about.

* * * *

* We paid just under 1 million pesos for our Casita five years ago, which was about $77,000 U.S. due to the exchange rate at that time. Pretty sweet deal.