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 modern Felipe

capI HAVE UPDATED the Felipe page, the first significant makeover in years.

It includes a recent photo, replacing the one taken a decade back while I was sitting in a rocker on the veranda with an orange juice. I am now sporting what I call a bebop cap, a new style I adopted recently after cutting my silver locks significantly shorter. I embrace neat.

The face one presents to the world should be honest. Recently, I picked up the mugshot that will appear on my Mexican passport renewal, and I was gobsmacked when I held it next to the mugshot on the passport issued 10 years ago.

Time marches on.

In addition to the current photo, the updated  Felipe page contains some new information that will give Felipe Fans (See Facebook and Twitter — just kidding) much to chatter about.

Also available is my email address if you have something to say that doesn’t relate to a specific post. The Felipe page, along with separate pages of Library, Art, Hacienda and Web Roll always rest up there in the header on the right side.

Just so’s you know.

In closing, I offer a heartfelt tip of the sombrero (or bebop cap) to those of you who dance along with me here on the dim Mexican fringe of cyberspace. I appreciate it.

Die-hard habits

MOVING TO another country doesn’t mean you leave your habits behind. Some of those habits are good, others less so.

One example is the American habit of medical insurance. The necessity of having coverage is ingrained into the Gringos, and I was no exception when I moved south in 2000. Almost immediately, I bought coverage from a Mexican government provider that goes by its initials IMSS.

The annual premium for major medical was the peso equivalent of about $350. There is an IMSS clinic/hospital here on the mountaintop. After a year, I had begun to lose the Gringo medical insurance habit because I’d seen how relatively inexpensive private healthcare was, plus I’d noticed the crowded conditions at the IMSS clinic.

I knew I would never use it.

stock-footage-mexico-detail-of-waving-flagDuring that year, I’d had some routine health issues, but I had not gone to the IMSS clinic, which would have been free. I went to private doctors and paid out-of-pocket. When it was time to renew the IMSS coverage, I let it lapse, and I’ve been uninsured since.*

But today’s topic is not the superlative Mexican medical system. It’s die-hard habits. My health-coverage obsession 15 years ago is an example. Another is the U.S. passport. Mine will expire soon.

Coincidentally, both my Mexican passport and U.S. passport expire next year, the former in February, the latter in May. Both were issued for 10 years. There will be no waffling on renewing the Mexican passport. That’s a no-brainer, and it’s not that difficult to do.

A decade ago I got my first Mexican passport in an office in the old Colonial center of the state capital. The system was good, but the offices were cramped and jam-packed with people, most no doubt dreaming of visiting America. That was not my dream. It was my past.

Those offices have moved out of downtown and into a large space in a strip mall, eliminating the previous, cramped conditions. My wife renewed her passport in those new offices a few years ago, and I was impressed with its well-oiled efficiency. You make an appointment online, and you leave after a few hours with fresh passport in hand.

The last time I renewed my U.S. passport, I went to the bunkered Embassy in Mexico City. Once I penetrated the building the process went smoothly. The passport was express-mailed to me weeks later.

us flagThis time, however, I would do it at the U.S. Consulate in San Miguel de Allende about 140 miles away. I don’t know if that option was available 10 years ago. I’ve only been to that office once, to get something notarized, and I had to wait in a long, slow line.

From what I’ve been told, processing takes five weeks (Compare to Mexico’s passport process of one day.) and I’d have to return to San Miguel, or they would express-mail it to me at a higher cost.

But I face a dilemma: Why do I need a U.S. passport? I have not been in the United States since early 2009. I doubt I will ever set foot there again. I have a Mexican passport that will get me anywhere a U.S. passport will — with the sole exception of the United States.

And here we encounter a die-hard habit. I likely will renew it even though I know it’s a total waste of time and money. But I promise one thing. It will be the last renewal, one way or the other.

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* Not quite true. About three years ago, at my wife’s insistence, we enrolled in another government healthcare system named Seguro Popular (Popular Insurance). It is totally free, zero co-pay, but I cannot imagine ever using it either for the same reasons I balked at IMSS.

We’d have to be dead broke.

The switcheroo

New ImageA PAIR OF YOUNG ladies rang our doorbell this week. They said they were from City Hall and that all the house numbers in our neighborhood were being changed. They even had a can of black paint and a brush to slapdash the new numbers on the exteriors.

They said they wouldn’t do it on our front wall due to our stunning new paint job, done during the recent bakery construction, plus the old address numbers attached out there are artsy ceramic tile.

But we will have to do it. You can’t opt out.

My child bride answered the gate, not me. I would have asked questions. The first to enter my mind was, Does CFE know about this? That’s the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, the light company. In order to get most anything official recorded here, one usually must show a comprobante de domicilio, a proof of residence.

Your latest CFE bill normally does the trick. Your phone bill will work too, but we have no phone bill. A water receipt will suffice, but our water receipt is handwritten down on the plaza and doesn’t show an address.

The only option we have is the CFE bill.

You might ask: Can’t you just show your driver’s license? Makes sense, but you usually cannot. We also — unlike the silly Gringos — have laminated voter-identification cards.* That won’t work either, even though you have to show the light bill, etc., to get a driver’s license or a voter-identification card at the get-go.

Sometimes logic is in short supply hereabouts, but it’s what makes us so freaking colorful.

I went to CFE’s website and signed into my account. There is the old address, not the new one.

Here’s what I will do. I will buy the new numbers on more artsy ceramic tile, and I will attach them to the property wall just below the previous numbers. Yes, we will have both. Other than that, I’m not changing anything unless the CFE bill appears with the new numbers one day.

If that happens, I may have to change lots of stuff — banks, driver’s licenses, passports, online shipping addresses and so on. The list will be lengthy. Time will tell, but until then we’ll just have two addresses.

While this will be an inconvenience, I understand why it’s being done and embrace it. Currently, many — likely most — houses in our neighborhood have no number outside at all. And when they do, they often make no sense, as if the residents simply made them up, which is quite possible.

Let’s say our old number is 32. Guess where the old 34 is? Instead of next door where it belongs, it’s about four blocks down that-a-way — and on the other side of the street!

This explains why deliverymen often ask not only your house number but what two cross streets you are between. Our being next door to the only sex motel in the neighborhood simplifies matters for us.

If you’re delivering something, and you hear squeaking bed springs and howls of glee mixed with moans, well, you’re almost at the Hacienda. Brake soon and keep an eye peeled.

This standardization of addresses is just one detail in the ongoing modernization of Mexico, a good thing.

* * * *

* This sensibly insures that only citizens vote, plus it doubles as an official ID. Nobody thinks there’s anything discriminatory about their voter ID. We think it’s just common sense.