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.
WE JUST ended a month of nonstop renovations here at the Hacienda. It all started with the driveway.
The incline from the street, when we bought the double lot 13 years ago, was already in place.
Mostly, it was big stones buried in dirt which allowed weeds to flourish wildly in the spaces between.
The area at the top between the work zone and the Alamo Wall was dirt and grass when we bought the property, and it was mud during the five months of the rainy season.
Seven or eight years ago, we had that section covered with stone and cement — empedrado in Spanish — a treatment that’s quite common in these parts.
But that incline from the street remained an eyesore which I was hesitant to improve because it would block the cars from coming and going during the work.
And it surely did.
While this renovation was happening, we parked the Honda in a parking lot downtown. Every morning, I took a minibus there and picked the car up. Did the same in the evening to leave it. The Nissan was simply left trapped at the Hacienda.
That situation continued for nine days.
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THE NEW THRONES
We also replaced the john in the downstairs bathroom.
The original, which my wife describes as “folkloric,” and which we purchased in the talavera capital of Dolores Hidalgo, was a bit smaller than standard in size.
It was a conversation piece but not the best place to sit, so it was out with the old, and in with the new.
Now here’s a regal place to squat. The old throne was given to a nephew who’s son recently busted their toilet.
Gifting the “folkloric” johnny means we won’t be using it as a yard planter, the initial idea. Just as well because I was told by a high-born woman that it would have been very cheesy.
This is the first time in my life I’ve changed a toilet, especially just for the heck of it. This new baby is Mexican-made, and cost the peso equivalent of about 120 bucks.
It was installed for about 10 dollars. I could change my ride every couple of years just for the ever-living thrill of it. Different colors. Oval versus round, whatever.
The initial plan was to replace only the john in the downstairs bathroom, mostly my wife’s environment. But I began to seethe with envy, so I bought an identical one, and had it installed in “my” bathroom upstairs.
Here’s the old throne upstairs:
The new toilet is exactly like the new one downstairs, so no need to duplicate a photo. Your time is valuable.
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Now let’s turn our attention to the rear of the Hacienda.
What you see here are the first-ever photos published of the backside of the Hacienda, which fronts — if that’s the proper term — on what I used to call Mud Street.
So these photos are collector’s items. That’s the tail of the sex motel in the distance of the second and last photos.
The work done out there was a civic gift. It is not on our property, but it was an eyesore. It was a dirt strip between our property wall and the street.
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NEW VERANDA ENTRANCE
There are two arched entryways to the downstairs veranda. One serves a dual role. During the five-month rainy season, it doubles as a conduit for rainwater which creates lakes inside the covered veranda, a colossal nuisance.
After 12 years of cursing this phenomena, we decided to do something about it, a redesign that directs the water outside instead of inside the veranda.
Next Spring we’ll also have metal gutters installed along the tile roof of the veranda, long overdue.
As mentioned at the get-go, this work took a month, exactly. It was done entirely by one guy, a very talented workman who lives in the neighborhood. Unlike all work we’ve had done in the past, we paid him by the day, as he requested.
This can be a mistake because it can lead to slow work, dragging it out to earn more. We prefer a set price. Then work can be done at whatever speed the workers prefer.
I watched his toil closely. He did not foot-drag, but he was very detailed, which took longer than necessary. However, the results were spectacular.
And he did some painting to boot.
He arrived on the dot at 9 every morning on his bicycle. He took an hour off for lunch at 2 p.m., and he went home at 5, working steadily in between. We’ll hire him again.
The entire project cost about $420 for labor and $555 for materials, excluding the two toilets, which were about $120 each. Those are dollar equivalents at today’s exchange rate.
Month’s grand total: $1,215 or about what a U.S. plumber would charge for a one-hour house call.
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(For your architectural pleasure, here is a photo collection of the Hacienda over the years. Come visit, but phone first.)
Though we paid in full last Thursday, and the saleswoman drove the car from the capital to our Hacienda on Saturday, it sat looking pretty in the carport, unmolested, till yesterday.
There had been a little difficulty with getting license plates.
Though my paisanos often drive with either no plates or expired ones, and the police pay little mind, we didn’t feel comfortable developing that bad habit.
We finally got plated and stickered around noon yesterday and, four hours later, she took off alone toward downtown and later the gym, her first solo jaunt ever in a car with automatic transmission, which had her a bit perplexed. Left foot does nothing?!
To say that she was happy is a colossal understatement. Think 7-year-old on Christmas morning. It’s only her second car ever, the first being identical to the 2000 Chevy we recently sold. We sold hers shortly after marrying because we did not need twin cars.
As is normal, she wants everybody to notice her stylish ride, to be as impressed with it as she is, which is to say monumentally impressed.
I can’t help thinking about my father’s remark back in 1956. Our family had just purchased a new green Plymouth Savoy, tail fins and all.
I was 12 and feeling like my bride feels today, jubilant.
I was over the moon, and as we drove down the street that first day, the old man looked over his shoulder at the excited boy in the back seat and said:
Son, nobody gives a damn about our new car but us.