Tag Archives: romance

No black people

ONE OF THE many changes I encountered on moving to Central Mexico was this:  There are no black people.

Nary a one.

After living in the American South for 98 percent of my life, this was very noticeable. I grew up with blacks, literally. For the first six years of my life, I lived on my grandparents’ farm in southwest Georgia. All of my playmates were black, 100%.

When my family moved to Florida when I was 7, however, schools had not been integrated, so I went completely through public schooling with no black kids in sight. They were on the other side of town in their own schools.

“Separate but equal.” Yeah, sure.

But on joining the Air Force in 1962, I immediately entered an integrated world. My barracks roommate was black, and so were some of my friends.

America changed in the following years, and blacks and whites now live and work together though not always in peace, something that is worsening, unfortunately. This I blame on the Democrat Party and famous black hucksters.

I moved over the border, leaving American racial conflict behind me. There are no black Mexicans in my part of the country. I understand there are some Mexican blacks on the Gulf Coast. Caribbean islands are full of black Latinos.

Statistically, Mexico is about 10 percent white and 90 percent brown. The brown 90 percent is split into 60 percent Mestizo and 30 percent indigenous. You often cannot tell Mestizos and indigenous apart. Their clothing can be a clue.

Often the indigenous speak their own language.

When I say there are no blacks in my part of Central Mexico, I mean Mexicans. I do know of two non-Mexican blacks here. One is half of a biracial couple from Washington D.C. who bought a home here for part-time living. The other is a young black American I’ve spotted now and then for years. I do not know her.

On rare occasion, I see a black tourist on the plaza. They invariably appear to be American. Yes, you can tell. But that’s rare. I guess American blacks prefer other vacation spots.

Maybe Cancún or Cabo.

Mostly, I live in a brown world, and I’m fine with that. I even married one, which I heartily recommend.

* * * *

(Bet you got a little uncomfortable reading this. Blame political correctness and people who vote left.)

Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Moving days

THIS MORNING, 16 years ago, September 10, 2000, I awoke in my two-story rental downtown in the state capital. I had lived there alone more than three months.

The house was virtually unfurnished. There was a king bed with a side table in the master bedroom. A second bedroom upstairs had a double and side table.

There was a rocking chair in the living room, nothing more. A large table with chairs in the kitchen-dining room, a propane stove-top, no oven whatsoever, and a refrigerator.

That was it on the furniture front.

It was moving day! My second in eight months.

Before moving to that home, I had lived in a room above a garage, just a few blocks away, for four months. So this virtually vacant home was a step up in comfort and grace.

No matter. I was moving again.

But first I had to rent a car to tote the accumulations of the previous eight months. It would be the first time I would drive on the loco streets of Mexico. I was nervous.

Later that day, car lightly loaded, I headed up the mountainside where I had rented a two-story house that was poorly maintained and pathetically furnished.

The first necessity was a new mattress. The house had one, but it wasn’t anything you’d want to lie down on.

I also ordered a dark green love seat and matching chair that would be shipped from Guadalajara. That arrived four long months later. Mexican express.

That sofa and chair now live in the Hacienda’s bedroom.

chairs

I lived in that rental for two and a half years, the last year of which I enjoyed the company of my child bride while we constructed the Hacienda a couple of miles away.

We moved into the Hacienda 14 years back next May. It’s quite a step up from the room over the garage where I slept on a sagging twin bed that was fond of tossing its slats, leaving me sprawled rudely on the floor. Ker-splat!

It’s been quite an adventure, the best of my life. The mountaintop has been good to me, 16 years today.

In many ways, it all seems like yesterday. But gazing ahead, 16 more years looks like another life.

It likely will be. Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

In summertime I often pause before sunrise at the small, eye-level (for me) window in the bathroom and smell the golden datura just inches away. A good way to start the day.

At times in summer it’s raining gently.

My next move will be into an ash urn. And I won’t need to pack a suitcase for the journey.

End of spring

abel
Abel at work, pushing my lawnmower.

IT’S OVER. Spring has gone, and summer has begun.

I know it’s not the official end of spring, but we march to a different seasonal drummer at the Hacienda.

When Abel the Deadpan Gardener (and neighbor) mows the lawn for the first time, it means summer has started, and it has. The summer rains are easing in. Sweet.*

Abel mowed the lawn yesterday.

Another sign of spring is that two bunches of lily bulbs beneath the ground in what I call the Willy-Nilly Zone** push their noggins above the dirt.

I often think of my second ex-wife when I survey our Hacienda domain. She’s a gardening fanatic and a certified “Master Gardener” via a course offered by the county extension service in Houston. Her yard is nice by local standards.

I see it via Google Street View. It pales, however, in comparison to the Hacienda spread, and I’m not a gardener, neither certified nor master. I’m a rank, lazy amateur.

Our yard tends to itself and only requires stern discipline. This year, more than ever before, I’ve eliminated lots of greenery because it was getting out of hand, berserk actually.

I like the cleaner look. Some of the eliminated stuff was huge, all planted by my child bride who gleefully plants whatever and then goes on her merry way, leaving the fallout to me.

But summer is here. Rains will quickly increase until they become daily. Downtown streets will flood most afternoons. The air will be cool, and the nights romantic.

Philodendron in its niche. Trimmed by me. About five feet high.

* * * *

* I won’t think it’s sweet in waterlogged October. I’ll consider it a curse, but that’s for later.

** The Willy-Nilly Zone wraps itself around the two exterior sides of the downstairs veranda. It’s hemmed in by the Romance Sidewalk. It’s a happy zone for plants because, I think, the proximity to the house reduces cold in winter. In modern parlance, it’s a “safe space” for greenery. Plants are never offended in the Willy-Nilly Zone.

The age of dust

WE ARE IN The Age of Dust. It lasts, more or less, two months, April and May. There is also the Age of Rain, the Age of Freeze and the Age of Loveliness.

That last one runs from November until late December. It is the Age of Loveliness because it has stopped raining; it is not freezing, and there is no dust to speak of.

It is neither hot nor cold. Our world is green, and the sky is blue. It is like that little bear’s porridge, just right.

The Age of Dust rivals the Age of Freeze as the worst of the year, but even those two Ages are pretty swell because this mountaintop is a wonderful place to live.

April also brings our wedding anniversary, 14 years now. Of my three marriages, this has been the longest even though I lived with my second wife for 19 years.

We were married just the final 10.

My Mexican child bride and I had known each other just under six months when we wed in the interior courtyard of her sister’s home on the main plaza.

We did not know each other very well, in large part due to the language barrier. My Spanish was still marginal, and her English was nonexistent.

But we took quite a shine to one another, and 14 years later it’s turned out just fine. I’d do it all over again.

Here’s a photo from the evening in question:

wedding

It was a low-budget affair. We didn’t even hire a photographer. A friend took pictures that were mostly useless.  A professional wouldn’t have that mystery hand in the photo.

There were about 30 guests. There was dancing, pozole and music, part of which was provided by this fellow:

We were married in the Age of Dust, and one day we will be dust, the both of us, likely me first, of course.

But it’s been a spectacular time. If you marry often enough, eventually you get it right. Dust doesn’t matter.

Papacito Day

jetSUNDAY WAS Father’s Day, of course. Unlike Mother’s Day, which falls on different days in Mexico and the United States, Father’s Day is on the same day. One wonders why.

I am a father, but my daughter has gone entirely, it seems, to her mother’s side (my first of three wives), and her mother long ago remarried, providing my daughter with a substitute, and he is a very good guy.

That leaves me, apparently, not a father anymore. I have been deleted.

That means, for me at least, yesterday was not Papa Day. It was Papacito Day, which is another matter altogether. Being a Mexican woman’s Papacito is a romantic thing. And being a Mexican man’s Mamacita is too. I am married to my Mamacita, and she is married to her Papacito.

It is not always that way. You can have a Mamacita or Papacito on the side. Even though you can get into trouble doing that, it is fairly common.

We celebrated Papacito Day by dining in a nice restaurant just outside a village near here. The restaurant has an unpronounceable name that comes from our local indigenous people. I think it’s sort of silly to put an unpronounceable name to a business, but it seems to be doing well.

eat2And here is the restaurant. It’s a humble place. The ceiling and the roof are one and the same. Beams and artificial clay tiles. A major storm erupted while we were both digging into plates of breaded fish and guacamole, and a few raindrops fell on my gray-haired head.

* * * *

So you may be asking, What’s with the airliner?

I snapped that shot on Sunday too, as we were driving to the restaurant. Our hardscrabble neighborhood on the upside of town is where you’ll find our airport. It’s a dirt strip, and walking distance from the Hacienda.

A few years back, someone started an ultralight business there for tourists to see the area from on high. In the early days, we often had two-seater ultralights over the Hacienda. But that’s kind of petered out. And we’ve had hot-air balloon festivals at that airport too. But not recently.

A couple of years ago, someone decided to buy an old Aeromexico DC-9 airliner and install it at our dirt strip, you know, just for show. Getting the airliner here was fun. Here’s what happened:

It was trucked here. The wings were removed and the tail too, leaving just the cylindrical body, which was lowered onto some monster trailer and pulled by a semi. It came from the direction of the state capital, and everything was going fine until it arrived at the turn here in our neighborhood. A DC-9 corners poorly.

At the right turn from the main highway onto the secondary road, there is a gentle incline downward, and there is a carnitas stand right on that corner, directly by the highway, and it was the eating hour.

As the airliner entered the turn, it began to roll off its trailer. It landed on the highway with a considerable thump, one imagines, I was not there, wish I had been, and began to roll toward the carnitas stand.

You can imagine the eyeballs of the fellow slicing carnitas as the DC-9 rolled toward him. It stopped just a few feet away. I happened to drive by minutes later and saw the airliner resting on the highway, which is not something you see very often, especially without blood, body parts, mangled luggage and flame-retarding foam.

To make a long story shorter, they got it off the highway somehow, and later installed it on a concrete stand at the nearby airport, and put the wings back on, plus the jet housings.

Months later, I drove to the airport, and the owner was there, the same guy with the ultralight business, and he gave me a tour inside the jet. The seats were missing, but it’s fun to stand inside a bit of aviation history.

I took this shot Sunday, and we continued on to the restaurant with the unpronounceable name, breaded fish and terrific rainstorm.

All told, it was a good Papacito Day.

And I hope I have lots more.

Caribbean memories

window

OLD MEN’S MINDS tend to wander, and they usually wander in reverse, which is to say memories as opposed to plans or anticipations. This morning my crusty cranium conjured up memories of Puerto Rico where I once lived. I’m here to share photos, yet again.

We’ll start at the top, a shot taken out the bedroom window of the tiny penthouse where I lived with an Argentine girl of 20 whom I called, then and now, the Argentine Firecracker. I rescued her from a sleazy San Juan bar, and she reformed herself rather nicely.

Had I chosen to reproduce these photos in their original, faded, 1970s colors, you could more easily spot her fire-engine-red panties there on the right end of the pillow.

Red is always a spectacular color for panties.

eats

AND HERE above is a shot from the balcony of an apartment on Mango Street that I shared at another time with a Brooklyn woman. That’s her on the beach just below. What always comes to mind on seeing that restaurant photo, where the crowd stands, is Johnny Nash singing “I can see clearly now” on the jukebox down there where we often ate chicken and rice.

Puerto Ricans make great chicken and rice.

The Brooklyn woman and I shared space and time during the first of my two stays in San Juan. When I moved back to New Orleans after five months, she packed her bags and her damn cat and followed me, uninvited. Sometimes I had that effect on women. It was the devil getting rid of her, but I wish her well, even today. She clearly did not see that I was not a keeper in those days.

But now I am.

brooklyn

JUST BELOW is the aforementioned Argentine Firecracker, hair blowing in the constant sea breeze of the penthouse digs. She was a part of my second San Juan adventure, which is to say she followed the Brooklyn woman about 18 months later. And she lasted longer.

firecracker

THOSE OF YOU who’ve read along for most of the decade I’ve been blabbering hereabouts may have seen these photos and read similar words, but new folks appear now and then. This will be fresh for them. And I enjoy my Caribbean memories.

* * * *

(Johnny Nash sings I Can See Clearly Now, a great song.)

Frogs, roosters, milk cans

morningI’VE WIPED the ceramic frog, the rooster too. And I’ve dusted the metal milk can, the one with the skeleton musicians playing round and round.

Now I’m sitting on a wicker rocker, watching the sunshine, hearing the wind chimes and guitar (Alacrán by Reflejo de Luna) from the player in the living room. The window’s open.

The grass needs a cut, which it will get mañana. Not by me, the neighbor. The ancient (from 1883 or so) clock on the inside wall just chimed 10 a.m. (I stop it every night so it won’t keep us awake.)

There is a vine with red flowers climbing yon wall (Did I say yon?) and it’s making friends with its aloe vera neighbor on one side, ignoring the bougainvillea on the other side. Nature discriminates (and so should you).

I have wiped the patio table and its four chairs, and I raised the umbrella (you can see it up top) just in case the urge to sit out there comes over me later today.

I also yanked some weeds and cleaned the Honda’s back window of grime. So here I sit on the rocker, hearing birds. I really need to water these potted plants in front of me. That’s for later.

Oh yeah, I cut a rose bud for the dining room table. It lends a romantic air.