A gift of books


I FELT QUITE the intellectual Thursday afternoon as I circled the huge downtown plaza afoot with a red bookstore bag under my arm. I’m sure everyone noticed.

There were three books in that bag, the ones you see in the photo. The three of them combined set me back about eight bucks, U.S., but in pesos, of course.

But they are not for me. They’re for our nephew, the one I once dubbed the Little Vaquero, who turns 17 next month. In the past, on Christmas and birthdays I always just slipped him some cash, which he prefers, but I’m not going to do that anymore.

I’m buying him books. If you don’t read books, you remain ignorant all your life, which is why so many nincompoops walk the streets and roads of the world. Will he read these books? Were I a wagering man, I’d say no, but he’s getting them anyway.

We have a load of nieces and nephews, but he’s the one we’re closest too, and he’s the only one who was adopted. He is very bright. When he was 6 or 7, we used to gift him complicated jigsaw puzzles, which he would complete lickety-split. It was amazing.

It was like watching Kasparov play chess.

He’s had a difficult life. His “father” accidentally shot himself dead about 10 years ago, and his “mother” finds motherhood challenging. I’ll leave it at that. He dropped out of school a few months back, and I doubt he will return, though he says he will. He was in the 10th grade. Few of our nieces and nephews have finished high school.

He spends his time staring at a cell phone. That’s pretty much it. All day long.

His redeeming quality is that he is good-natured,* even more so now that he’s dropped out of school, and his days are completely free for cell phone staring.

I told him a couple of days ago that I would not be gifting him cash in the future, that I would be buying him books. He smiled.

* * * *

* Not so much with his mother.

Using child labor


THIS IS CARLOS, and he’s 11 years old. He’s painting our house.

We hired him because he charges almost nothing because he has little food, no home and no parents. We found him crying on the street last week.

Aha! I thought. I can use this to my advantage.

Okay, I’m making all that up. It’s his father, José, who’s painting parts of the Hacienda, but Carlos had no school today, so he came along with his dad who promptly put him to work scraping old, flaking paint on our downstairs terraza.

He did a good job of it, and then he swept up the mess, and his dad showed him how to apply some liquid that will hinder humidity problems in the future. Then the new paint will be added. José did not just bring Carlos. He also brought his daughter who is 6 years old. She mostly sits in the car and plays with a cell phone.

They are both very nice and well-behaved kids. Nice to have them around.

Eternal bloom from the barrister


STEVE COTTON, a retired barrister from Oregon who now lives occasionally in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, and writes now and then on his website Mexpatriate — In the Key of Steve, came with family in February to stay in our downtown casita for a spell.

Señor Cotton, being a well-bred sort (tip of the sombrero to his Mom and Pop), as a token of apreciation — I didn’t charge him for the rental — left this orchid for us. We transported the flower from the downtown casita here to the Hacienda where we live, and we sat it atop the dining room table.

As I said, that was February … of 2017.

Yes, the orchid has graced our table for over a year, and it’s never lacked flowers. I find this remarkable. I didn’t know any plant flowered for more than a year.

So every morning especially, as we chew toasted bagels with cream cheese or the occasional croissant with orange marmalade, we think kindly of the former Oregon barrister who now lives occasionally — when he’s not flying all over the place — in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco.