The file man

I’VE MAINTAINED a file cabinet for decades. I find filing satisfying. When I left Houston, I culled wildly, keeping just the bare bones, which I packed over the Rio Bravo.

new-imageI bought a new file cabinet, resuming the habit.

I have insurance files (one for homes, one for cars), bank files (two banks), investment files, three house files (two here, one in Mexico City), receipt file, tourism file, health file, and many more.

But my favorite is the Miscellaneous File where I keep stuff that doesn’t belong elsewhere. Yesterday, killing time at home due to having a cold, I opened Miscellaneous.

It’s a trip down Memory Lane.

  1. Press passes with mug shots. One from my first job, New Orleans. I’m clean-shaven, 24 years old, in a dress shirt and tie. Another for the San Juan Star. I’m 30, My collar is open, and I have Fu Manchu mustache. The third, Houston Chronicle, age 39, shows me in a dress shirt and tie but with the full black beard of a Hells Angel.
  2. Expired passports. Two U.S. and one Mexican. The older U.S. passport shows me in eyeglasses. That’s a no-no now. Both Mexican and U.S. passports were renewed this year, likely for the last time. I’m not immortal.
  3. Air Force shoulder patch. It’s a large circle that says F-106 Dart. The Delta Dart was an interceptor aircraft, and I maintained survival-equipment pods in the ejection seats. Had I not screwed up so much of my youth, I would have been flying the F-106 instead.
  4. A bookmark. On textured blue paper and inscribed with a haiku of my father’s: cajun cabin/the aroma of hot gumbo/floats on the bayou. His name, dates, and the phrase American Haiku Master, which he was.
  5. Air Force discharge. Two versions. One suitable for framing, and the other with dates and mumbo-jumbo.
  6. new-imageA watercolor sketch. Of me, done by local artist Arturo Solis. He just walked over and handed it to me one day years ago while I was on the plaza enjoying a cafecito. We have a number of his works hanging on our walls.
  7. Drug formula. For committing suicide. You never know when it may come in handy. The Hemingway method is messy. Anyway, I don’t own a shotgun.
  8. Texas driver’s license. I arrived with it. It expired six years later, and I never renewed. My DL now is Mexican.
  9. Solo certificate. On the 28th day of June, 1976, I took off alone and returned to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport in a Cessna 152. Suitable for framing. I don’t fly anymore.
  10. A love note. From my wife on my birthday in 2003. We had been married almost 18 months.
  11. Final electric bill. Houston, dated Jan. 8-12, 2000. Amount: $86.02 for just four days 16 years ago. That’s approximately what I pay now in a year at the Hacienda.
  12. Certification card. International Bartending Institute. Dated May 7, 1982. I am a certified bartender. Whoopee!
  13. Flying license. I became a pilot of small planes on Oct. 26, 1976. The license never expires. You do have to renew your medical certificate, however. The last medical expired June 1, 1978. There’s also a radio permit in the envelope.
  14. Cremation certificate. My mother was cremated on Jan. 8, 2009, at Atlanta Crematory Inc. in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She had made it to age 90.
  15. Divorce papers. I had them in this file until fairly recently, but I tossed them into the trash. Two divorces. Two utterly miserable experiences that I’ll never repeat. I would prefer the Hemingway solution.

If you got all the way down here, you deserve a Gold Medal. I also have a Letters file.

Maybe I’ll spill that here some day. That’s where the love notes are stored. I love love letters.

The haircut

AS A YOUNG boy, I spent summers with my grandparents in southwest Georgia, and I got haircuts in town in a spot that could have served as a Norman Rockwell poster.

Zipping forward to the 1970s, I lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on two almost abutting occasions. One lasted 11 months, and the other lasted five. During the fiver, I didn’t get a haircut. It was the ’70s, so nobody noticed my shagginess.

But during the 11-month stay, I did get one haircut. I didn’t speak Spanish at the time, so I was hesitant to use a Puerto Rican joint. So I caught a plane to the Virgins.

GrumanGooseBWTitleIt was an old Grumman Goose seaplane that skimmed the seas between San Juan and St. Thomas. I knew I’d find an English-speaking barber shop in Charlotte Amalie.

I have no memory of where I got my haircut in the Virgins nor how much it cost. Those were my drinking days.

Before and after I lived in San Juan, I lived in New Orleans where I got haircuts on Magazine Street at an old-timey place that could have been a Norman Rockwell poster too, though you rarely spotted kids in there.

Rockwell was fond of children.

It was next door to Casamento’s Restaurant (Oysters). Some Italian guy cut my black locks, and he always finished with a head massage using one of those vibrating hand things.

That was nice.

That barber shop doesn’t exist anymore. I know this because Google Street View shows “Uptown Costume and Dancewear” in the same location. I guess the Italian died.

In Houston, a middle-aged divorcée who ran a one-woman shop in the basement of an office building on Richmond Avenue cut my hair, but in emergencies I’d use Supercuts.

poleWhen I moved over the Rio Bravo 16 years back I first lived 40 minutes down the mountainside in the state capital. I got my first Mexican haircut near the language school I attended. It was more of a ladies’ place.

But I didn’t care.

I got a haircut yesterday, which is what brought haircuts to mind. In recent years my hair’s been cut in an all-woman collective on Calle La Paz. If you exit and walk uphill about a block, you run into a church. If you walk downhill about two blocks you also run into a church.

Plenty of places to pray in Mexico.

Liliana gives me the best haircuts of my life, and she charges me the peso equivalent of about two bucks, but I tip her an extra quarter because I’m a giving sort of guy.

There’s a barber pole outside the door.

My hair has done an amazing thing. It started completely black, and now it’s totally white. Incredible!

Gray hair is God’s graffiti.

— Bill Cosby.

Cobblestone cowboys

cobble 2
Looking uphill.

BEING A GUY, I like to watch construction. I prefer watching to actually doing,  It’s hard work, and I’ve done it.

For instance, I was a minor player in the wiring installation throughout an entire Schwegmann’s supermarket in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie in the mid-1980s.

Yes, I used to be an electrician.

But watching construction is more fun than participating in the work, and I’ve been watching this construction for weeks. It holds special interest because of two factors:

One, it’s a taco’s toss from our Downtown Casita.

Two, this is a wide, major street that was almost impossible to navigate due to its steep incline and mass of potholes.

Here’s the thing about cobblestones. They look cute and historic, but when they go bad, they are a nightmare. Give me a smooth, concrete, street surface any day.

Our downtown has more cobblestones than I like. It’s done because we are a tourist attraction, and it’s what people expect to see in a 500-year-old town in Mexico.

Laying cobblestone is labor-intensive. There’s no cobblestone-laying machine. It’s done strictly by hand.

If the street is long and/or wide, and you want to get it done with a minimum of delay, you better hire lots of guys, which is not difficult hereabouts because lots of guys didn’t see the value in finishing high school.

In this project, the stepped sidewalks on both sides also are receiving a makeover, at some points getting wrought-iron railings to reduce the chance of plunging from the sidewalk to your death on the cobblestones far below.

Yes, I enjoy watching construction. I never saw anyone laying a cobblestone street in Houston or even in New Orleans where you might expect to find them. But you don’t.

Maybe if someone invented a cobblestone-laying machine.

cobble
From top looking down. Cobblestones are new and smooth in foreground.