Home sweet home

One
On the highway in central Mexico, passing humble homes.

HOGAR DULCE HOGAR, if you prefer. In any event, we returned Sunday after a week in Mexico City.

It was a good week. I wasn’t in a rush to return, as has been the case in recent years, an inexplicable change of heart.

For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up, we have a condo in the capital, a unit in a government housing development built specifically for employees of the Mexican highway department where my wife worked 14 years as a civil engineer.

She purchased the place in 1997, and was living there when we met here on the mountaintop in 2001 while she was visiting her sister who has a business on the plaza.

When we married in 2002, and she moved here, we rented the condo to a coworker. He stayed until 2007 when he bought his own home. Instead of renting it to an unknown, a dicey proposition even when you live nearby, we decided to keep it for ourselves for the occasional visit to the Big Tortilla.

We arrived at the condo in January 2007, painted everything and bought new furniture and appliances.

For the first four or five years, we were in Mexico City about two months each year.

Then I grew weary of it. Traffic is horrendous, and we drove from the mountaintop in our car. After about six years, I abandoned the car idea, and we switched to buses.

There are basically three ways to get about Mexico City. The subway (the Metrobus is just a ground-level subway), which is almost always jammed, microbuses, which are almost always jammed, and taxis. It’s taxis all the way for us now.

They are metered and quite cheap.

two
Driving by a “lagoon” the size of a small ocean.

For some reason, I was in no rush to leave during this last trip, so we did a few things other than the usual cleaning of the condo and paying a few bills.

There was time to visit the Pastelería Ideal, one of the most incredible bakeries you’ll ever see. And we even caught a play at the Gran Teatro Molière where we saw Peter Pan, the Musical, a Saturday matinee.

The theater is located in one of Mexico City’s most-chichi neighborhoods, Polanco. We got there by taxi, of course.

Were I wealthy and required to live in Mexico City, I would purchase a nice home in Polanco.

The most momentous aspect of the trip is that it appears that we’re on the verge of getting the deed to the condo, something we’ve been trying to wrest from the grip of the government since we paid it off about seven years ago.

We visited our notario — a type of lawyer who does deeds — and he says he may be notifying us in a week or two that my wife must return to sign the final papers. Let us pray so.

What brought this about was that we were able to provide a final piece of paperwork to him, something we could have done a year ago had he been a bit more forthcoming instead of indulging in typical Mexican vagueness.

My wife paid 100,000 pesos for the government-underwritten condo in 1997, about $5,500 U.S. at today’s exchange rate. It is now appraised at 600,000 pesos, about $33,000.

An identical unit nearby, however, was sold last year for more than 1 million pesos, about $55,000 U.S.  For years, we had planned on selling when we received the deed, but we’ve changed our minds. We’re keeping it.

The surrounding area grows more upscale by the day, and the condo value is rising at the same rate.

We got the place tidied up, purchased and installed a new, instantaneous, water heater and headed home to the mountaintop via the snazzy ETN bus line.

The photos were taken from my seat.

Mexico City, again

dflrWE ARE HEADING to the nation’s capital next week for a few days. I don’t want to go, but I’m going anyway. It’s a necessity. We have an apartment over there.

My child bride bought it in the late 1990s with the help of her then-employer, the Mexican highway department.

The price was subsidized, and she paid just about $10,000. Now it’s worth about $50,000 due to the neighborhood’s moving significantly upscale even though it’s on the oft-gritty, near northside.

It’s very small and would fit into the Hacienda’s living room. Literally, I measured. But it has two tiny bedrooms (only one has a closet), a living room/dining room space, a minuscule kitchen, a small laundry area on a tiny back balcony, and a bathroom that is so itty-bitty the sink is out in the hallway, not the bathroom.

It was still not paid off when we married, but I paid it off a few years later. When we got married in 2002, she rented the apartment to a coworker and his wife. They stayed there, paying just the measly mortgage payments, until December of 2006 when they bought their own home. We decided not to rent it again.

So in January 2007, we drove over, painted the place in Hacienda colors, bought new furniture and appliances, and planned even more improvements that we have never gotten around to doing. The first couple of years we spent lots of time there, but the visits gradually tapered off to near nothing.

The first few years, we drove there. Yes, I have driven the Hellish streets of Mexico City.  A lot! It is stressful, to put it mildly. The only accident I have had in my years in Mexico happened in Mexico City, a minor fender-bender — but still. I have had my car towed three times in this country. Two of those tows took place in Mexico City.

Finally, around 2011, I decided not to drive there anymore. Now we take buses, and when we are in Mexico City, we get around mostly in taxis but occasionally on the subway, the Metrobus and jitneys called peseros. I prefer taxis, but those experiences depend a lot on the specific cabbie. Sometimes it can be hair-raising.

We once had a cabbie who would just about fall asleep at each red light. I was watching him through his rear-view mirror as I sat in the middle of the back seat. And between red lights, he would floor it till the next corner. We never made it to our destination. We got out, and paid what we owed.

He’s probably dead now, killed in fiery explosion.

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The Taxis

Taxis had a particularly bad reputation in Mexico City about seven or so years ago. The scuttlebutt was that you hailed one on the street at your peril. Some robberies and worse had occurred.

However, if you stood on any Mexico City street corner, you would spot tens, or hundreds if you stood there a bit longer, of taxis racing by with customers sitting in the back, safe and sound. No blood, no nuttin´.

So we did hail them on the street, and we lived to talk about it. A good system I used whenever possible was to stand on a corner and wait till a cab deposited a customer nearby. My thinking was that if that customer was not murdered, we would not likely be murdered either, and we never were.

But in recent years, the city government appears to have improved and better regulated the taxi system. With some exceptions for special services, all taxis now are painted the same color scheme, not like the rainbows of former years, and all honest cabs have special license plates. Most are honest.

And they use meters. All in all, the system works great.

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The Deed

We’ve been trying to get the deed to the apartment in our hands for a few years. The place has long been paid off, but getting the deed has to be done in person in Mexico City, where we visit infrequently now, at the office of a special kind of lawyer called a notario.

With the help of a neighbor, who tracked down two of the notarios who do the deeding for our specific location, we will be visiting the office of one of them on Monday. In the World Trade Center.* We have heard through the gossip pipeline that it’s gonna cost us between $2,000-$2,500. That’s U.S. bucks.

But we won’t be paying that on Monday, I imagine. We’re just take one more baby step closer to having the deed one distant day. When we have it, I would love to sell the apartment to avoid ever having to set foot in Mexico City again. Not a fan, amigos.

There are some fascinating things there, but the incredible hassle of merely getting from Point A to Point B via the maniac traffic or jammed subway in that tumultuous city is more than I want to mess with.

You can have it. Actually, for a price, you can have the apartment too. Special price for Moon fans.**

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* Yes, there is a World Trade Center in Mexico City, and its name is in English. Like the doomed one in New York City, it is very tall. Luckily, the Mohammedan population of Mexico is a fraction of one percent. They don’t much like it here, and that’s fine by me.

** $38,000, furniture, appliances, one parking spot included.