Neighbors then and now

Back in Texas, I lived in a middle-class Houston neighborhood. My house did not stand out. In Mexico, I live in a working-class neighborhood, and my house stands out a lot.

Here are my current neighbors:

Directly to the left, as one faces the street is, of course, the sex motel. Directly to the right is a family of surly people. They have animals that come and go, plus a tractor and a horse. Across the street, a nice, late-middle-aged couple who live two blocks away are building two storefronts. We’re looking forward to that.


My neighbors in Houston couldn’t have been more different.

Directly to the left was a woman from Finland. For the nine years I lived there, I never saw the inside of her home, and she never saw the inside of mine. She was standoffishly friendly. To the right was a retired Baptist preacher and his wife who were about 60 when we arrived. They were very nice people. Once he invited my then-wife and me to a church where he was delivering a guest sermon. We accepted the invitation.

I am not a Christian, but I support and favor them.

Directly across the street lived an elderly woman and her troubled, unemployed son who was about 40 years old. The woman was very nice. She was a chain smoker, and her home smelled like an ashtray. I was over there now and then, mostly to do her favors. Her son was worse than useless.

One day there was an ambulance parked outside. I looked through my window as a covered body was wheeled out and slipped into the ambulance. I figured it was the old lady, but it wasn’t. It was the son. I never knew why he died.

Cater-cornered to the left was a couple in their 30s with two children, one of whom was born about midway through my time on that street. It was the second marriage for the woman, and she also had a son from her first marriage. That son was mentally dysfunctional in some way. He was about 10 when I moved there in 1986.

They were a very nice couple whom I liked a lot. The second baby was born about 1990, and they named him Travis, a traditional Texas name. Travis was a good boy. Around 1993, we heard that the older boy had been caught molesting a girl child down the block, but he was not arrested. I do not remember why.

Later, during the years after my 1996 divorce and before I moved to Mexico in 2000, my ex-wife told me the older boy had died. He would have been in his early 20s. I don’t know the details, or perhaps I just don’t remember. Been a long, long time.

My second ex-wife still lives in that house. The Finnish woman moved to New York to live with a sister. The Baptist preacher and his wife likely are deceased as is the old woman across the street. I think Travis’s parents are still there. I would enjoy seeing them, but I doubt I ever will. Travis would be about 30.


I paid $65,000 for that ranch house in 1986, and now it’s worth over $200,000. I got the house in the divorce, and shortly afterwards, in a moment of madness, I gave it to my ex-wife, not the most financially astute move of my life.

We paid about $100,000 for the Hacienda land and construction in 2002-03, and I have no idea what it’s worth now, but I’m not going anywhere, which is, of course, what I thought when I lived in the Houston house. Life springs surprises. Sometimes they hurt.

And neighbors can be very different.

Dead birds, sheets & towels

We’re having a scaled-down Day of the Dead this year due to the Kung Flu hysteria. Normally, there’s a massive artisan market installed all around our big, downtown plaza, but not this go-around. Instead of the market, they installed this decoration, which is cordoned off, appropriately, with crime-scene tape.

To stand where those people are, you enter from the right, way over there, after having your temperature checked and a glob of anti-bacterial gel dumped on your hands, no matter that the virus is not bacteria. This year, all good sense has sailed out the window.

I took the photo yesterday.

This morning, I trimmed some bushes, raked up some crap, found a dead bird, tossed him into the trash, and picked up rotting, mystery fruit that falls from the neighbors’ tree that they have growing directly against my property wall. Yes, my wall, not theirs.

Later, I ascended to my roof via the circular stairway atop the dining room to check on something to do with the defective solar water heater and, while up there, I noticed the sex motel next door was drying sheets, towels and blankets. Directly on the floor.

I’ve noticed this many times over the years, but I’ve never photographed it. The sex motel has two or three giant washers in a room that sits on the backside of the roof, but what it lacks is even one dryer or a clothesline, which I guess would look low-brow.

So, flat on the roof they go. Nobody knows but me.

Yep, right on the roof. Towels, sheets, blankets, whatever needs to dry.

New neighbors en route

When we built the Hacienda and moved in more than 17 years ago, we had neighbors directly to the right, a vacant lot across the street and a vacant lot (with a resident cow) to the left.

Now we have a sex motel to the left, the same neighbors to the right, and what appears to be a house under construction across the street. Exactly what’s going on there is a mystery. The property owner lives about two blocks away. We asked what he was building, and he told us he was just putting a wall around the lot.

But that is baloney, the sort of baloney the locals voice on a regular basis. It’s going to be a house or some other sort of edifice. We hope it’s not going to be a salon de fiesta, a rental space for parties, which are quite common in Mexico.

But that’s unlikely … he said optimistically.

***

This morning, I made my biweekly trip to the post office downtown to check my box. There was nothing. If what I read is correct, Trump is mailing me a check for over $2,000 to ease the financial blow the Kung Flu has dealt me. Of course, I have been dealt no financial blow whatsoever by the Kung Flu, or the China Flu as Trump likes to call it.

Love his sassy humor, don’t you?

I’ve given some thought to what I would do with that dough. First, I’d have to figure out some way to cash a dollar check here in the middle of Mexico. There are exchange houses, but I’ve not used one in ages, and I rather doubt they would react well to a check for over $2,000. My bank will not accept it. Too early to fret about that. It might never arrive.

But if it does, I’ve decided to give a good chunk to a niece and her husband who recently opened a small business in the nearby state capital. They sell cheeses and other dairy products, but cash is a problem for them. They bought a used display case, which immediately stopped working. Trump to the rescue!

That he dislikes us Mexicans is a bald-faced lie.

***

Let’s move on to weather, something that interests everyone. This rainy season has been the lightest I remember. Maybe it’s that “Climate Change” Greta is so hysterical about. If so, I’m a fan because the rain has been quite sufficient for the yard, but not so much that we’re wading in mud for months, which is usually the case.

Hooray for Climate Change!

We have happy plants.

My Mexican mistakes

New Image
Bougainvilleas I planted 17 years ago in error.

THERE ARE almost too many to count, my errors. And I committed most during my first two years here. I have since wised up or I’ve been corrected by hard knocks.

Where to start? How about where we constructed the Hacienda. Big mistake. It’s on the edge of what once was a separate village, one of numerous surrounding our huge lake. Being the closest to the “county seat,” we’ve been incorporated, and we’re now just another neighborhood (colonia) of our mountaintop town.

An acquaintance who works with the police once told my child bride that of all the villages surrounding the lake, ours causes the most problems.* In spite of that, we’ve never experienced a crime. I think that is due, in large part, to our being next door to the sex motel, which is open 24/7. It offers us cover, so to speak.

Getting downtown requires about a two-mile drive down a high-speed, two-lane highway with no bike lanes, no sidewalks and often no shoulder. This rules out bicycles, which we would have enjoyed. Rules out a motorbike too.

And then there’s the property, which is two adjoining lots that extend a full block from the street out front to the street out back, which is way too big.  I thought it was nifty when we bought it. I don’t think that any longer. The yard is almost constant maintenance which is why I’ve removed a number of trash-tossing plants/trees and covered part of the yard with stone and concrete, more of which I plan to do.

Let’s move on to the house itself. Again, way too large. I thought it was a great idea, but now it’s obvious that it’s not. I could never have afforded such a palatial home above the border, but it’s a housecleaning problem. We could hire a maid, but my wife opposes the idea for some reason. Perhaps she just enjoys complaining about the house size.

Looking at the plus side, you won’t suffer claustrophobia here.

And the details. My wife had the idea of “sinking” the living room a bit, so we did, but not much, just one step down. There is a step up to the dining room/kitchen and another step up to the hallway that continues to the bedroom and bath.

I have stumbled, but not fallen, on the step countless times, and that won’t get better as I age. My child bride sailed off the step a couple of years ago and broke her arm.

For such a large house, it has just one bedroom, which will be a problem if she ever wants to sell it. Don’t be your own architect. There is another huge space on the second floor, which serves as a second bedroom because there’s a closet and bathroom up there.

It’s good for guests, which we rarely have. In addition to having a queen bed, the top floor serves as a TV room, office and gym. And access to the spectacular upstairs terraza.

And there’s the railroad track behind the houses across the street. We did not notice that when we purchased the property. Trains pass in the night, and they rarely do it peacefully. The good news is that we are accustomed to it, and usually don’t wake up.

We could sell the Hacienda and move to our Downtown Casita, which is ideally located just a 10-minute walk from the main plaza. We could get bicycles. We could buy a four-wheeler. We’d have no yard to mess with. But, after 17 years in the Hacienda, I would feel cramped. There is only a one-car garage, and we want our two cars.

You never know. Maybe one day. But I’m used to living large.

* * * *

* At some point in the distant past, we were dubbed “The Village of the Damned.”