Tag Archives: tacos

Just like home

SEVENTEEN YEARS ago when I packed my two bags and flew to Mexico alone to reinvent myself in late middle age, I arrived in a spectacularly strange world.

Many of the things I was accustomed to simply were not available down here, and most of those things were commercial. I am a fan of capitalism and the goodies it offers.

Flash forward from 2000 to 2017 and — oh, my — how things have changed. Just about anything you can buy above the Rio Bravo is now available Down Mejico Way.

There is even a Mexican version of Amazon.com even though I much prefer our homegrown MercadoLibre.

The list of Gringo chain stores in Mexico is too lengthy to repeat here, and it seems to grow longer each year.*

I was particularly delighted when Bed Bath & Beyond, one of my favorite stores when I lived up north, opened recently in the nearby state capital. I shop there often.

There are eight BB&Bs in Mexico. Six are in Mexico City or its environs. A seventh is in Cuernavaca, the not-too-distant Mexico City playground,  and the eighth is in our capital city, the only one relatively remote from Mexico City.

Why were we chosen over the considerably larger burgs of Guadalajara or Monterrey? God knows.

Mexico commercially improves on a daily basis. You can now get most of what is available to the Gringos up north. Plus, we have great tacos, fresh avocados and beautiful babes.

Best of both worlds.

* * * *

* Very incomplete list: Best Buy, Sears, Costco, Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Sirloin Stockade, iHop, Home Depot, Office Depot, Office Max, KFC, DQ, Starbucks.

(Note: We don’t depend entirely on the Gringos for great shopping. For example, the Mexican chain El Palacio de Hierro — The Iron Palace — will knock your high-end socks off, especially the flagship store in Mexico City’s Polanco.)

Down the mountain

I OFTEN refer to the capital city that sits down the mountain, about 40 minutes from here on a smooth four-laner.

We drive there at least once a week, almost exclusively for shopping. My mountaintop’s shopping is restricted mostly to tacos, tires and rebozos.

My first eight months in Mexico were spent in the capital city where I studied Spanish at a language school while living two months over a garage. I then spent another six months just walking around and living in a rented house.

I didn’t much like the town. Before moving there I read online that it was similar to the American Midwest, sorta dull. It was to Mexico what Topeka or Omaha are to America.

One day I took at bus up the mountain to visit the ancient and very different town where I’ve been a long time now. I liked it. I moved here. Been here ever since. Gonna die here.

However, in the past 17 years, the capital city has improved immensely. I would not mind living there now. I might even prefer it, but I’m not going to move.

Recently, an online piece from two years ago was brought to my attention by the inimitable Jennifer Rose. It describes our capital city in an admirable and accurate way.

Take a look. There are also great photos. The author, Stephenie Harris, claims it’s the most beautiful city in Mexico that nobody visits. And she says why she thinks that is the case.

The 23 percenter

I HAVE NOW spent 23 percent of my life in Mexico.

new-imageWere I a young buck, this would not be so many years, but I am an old moose with mossy horns. The years are plenty.

I stumbled thorough most of life with no intention of leaving the land of my birth. Georgia rednecks don’t move to Mexico. It was only within a year of moving that I started to think about it.

And then, within a one-month span, I dumped almost everything, got on a plane and came on down. For the first nine years, while my decrepit mother was still alive, I averaged one trip back a year, usually about a week.

I returned only once following her death in 2009, a few months after, and I’ve never been above the border since. I don’t miss it, and as time passes, I miss it even less.

From what I read on Gringo internet forums and websites, most everyone who “moves” to Mexico, be it for retirement or, much less often, to work, the draw of the Old Country is powerful. People can’t let go, and return often.

It appears compulsive, but it’s likely grandchildren.

Don’t tell my wife, please, but I have no intention of ever crossing the Rio Bravo again. I say don’t tell my wife because she really likes it up there, and dreams of another visit.

I have no tight family ties there — wish I did — so here I am, alone with a pack of Mexican relatives, including a number who’ve been illegal aliens above the border.

I speak Spanish almost exclusively. I live in a big Hacienda on what’s just above the U.S. poverty-income level, an interesting phenomenon since I’ve never felt richer in my life.

new-imageCan’t help but wonder what percentage of my life will have passed as a Mexican when it comes to a halt. No matter.

Pass the tacos, por favor.

Independence day

man

TODAY IS Mexico’s version of the Fourth of July.

Here on the mountaintop, we start partying on the previous evening, and we continue today. I don’t participate much because I’m not party people.

I did salute the flag yesterday evening on the plaza as a police band played, and the banner was brought down for its usual overnight siesta indoors.

That makes the third time since I became a citizen in 2005 that I’ve saluted the Mexican flag. It’s not that I avoid it. I just rarely find myself at an event where it’s appropriate.

I’ll admit it feels weird. Wish it didn’t but it does.

While downtown yesterday, I took the photo while sitting on a cement bench on the plaza. And, of course, you’ll find other Fabulous Fotos by Felipe right here, amigos.

¡Viva México! Bring on the tacos and cerveza.

Cobblestone cowboys

cobble 2
Looking uphill.

BEING A GUY, I like to watch construction. I prefer watching to actually doing,  It’s hard work, and I’ve done it.

For instance, I was a minor player in the wiring installation throughout an entire Schwegmann’s supermarket in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie in the mid-1980s.

Yes, I used to be an electrician.

But watching construction is more fun than participating in the work, and I’ve been watching this construction for weeks. It holds special interest because of two factors:

One, it’s a taco’s toss from our Downtown Casita.

Two, this is a wide, major street that was almost impossible to navigate due to its steep incline and mass of potholes.

Here’s the thing about cobblestones. They look cute and historic, but when they go bad, they are a nightmare. Give me a smooth, concrete, street surface any day.

Our downtown has more cobblestones than I like. It’s done because we are a tourist attraction, and it’s what people expect to see in a 500-year-old town in Mexico.

Laying cobblestone is labor-intensive. There’s no cobblestone-laying machine. It’s done strictly by hand.

If the street is long and/or wide, and you want to get it done with a minimum of delay, you better hire lots of guys, which is not difficult hereabouts because lots of guys didn’t see the value in finishing high school.

In this project, the stepped sidewalks on both sides also are receiving a makeover, at some points getting wrought-iron railings to reduce the chance of plunging from the sidewalk to your death on the cobblestones far below.

Yes, I enjoy watching construction. I never saw anyone laying a cobblestone street in Houston or even in New Orleans where you might expect to find them. But you don’t.

Maybe if someone invented a cobblestone-laying machine.

cobble
From top looking down. Cobblestones are new and smooth in foreground.

We all die

plaza

MORE OFTEN than some would prefer,* the bell in the steeple of this 16th-century church, not far from the Hacienda, begins a special ring. It is ringing at this moment as I write. It was ringing when I woke this morning, and it was ringing in the middle of the night.

What makes it special is its slowness. It gongs about once every 20 seconds and it goes on for hours. It is done by hand, and I often imagine that person, sitting down there in the dark, reaching up every 20 seconds or so to give a tug. Bong! Wait…wait…wait. Bong!

All through the night.

I also imagine a bottle of José Cuervo and perhaps some tacos or cheese and crackers are at his side. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I feel like getting up, dressing and going down there to see first-hand. Who and how. But I’ll never do that because I’m too old and lazy.

Later, during our morning exercise walk around the plaza, the church door was closed, and the bongs were continuing. It was a good time to check it out, and perhaps I would have done so had the door been open. But we just kept on walking. The door in question is that smaller one at the steeple’s base.

We talked about where my child bride will put me when I’m “promoted to Glory.” The neighborhood cemetery is a couple of blocks away from the church, across the highway. I would like to be planted there, the only American-Mexican, I’m sure, the sole, true paleface.

I’d provide a modish, multicultural air.

No, she said. She’ll keep me in an urn in the Hacienda. And that’s okay with me.

* * * *

* Especially those for whom the bell tolls.

(Note: This post was written yesterday. This morning I awoke, and the bedroom window was open. Birds were singing in the fan palm, and the bell was still gonging. Same deceased, or someone new?)

Beach-bound

Cheesecake -- Mexican-style
Cheesecake — Mexican-style

WE’RE OFF TO the beach today for a brief vacation from … well, nothing really. It’s just a change of scenery and temperature.

And because we can.

Our Hacienda is ideally situated. It sits high in the cool mountains — 7,200 feet above sea level — but it’s only a 3.5-hour drive to the Pacific bay of Zihuatanejo and its upscale neighbor of Ixtapa. And the drive from here to there is 95 percent down a toll autopista, which is called an interstate above the Rio Bravo. The toll keeps the traffic sparse, another plus.

The drive goes through high mountains and valleys, orchards of mango and avocado, a lovely lake or two, plus plenty of old, high cactus.

In brief, it’s a nifty drive.

We always stay in the original town of Zihuatanejo, not the chichi, artificial Ixtapa, about a 15-minute drive away. We usually do visit Ixatapa, however, to see how the other half lives and to buy tacos in a great stand on wheels we found in the parking lot of a resort hotel.

And there’s Ixtapa Island, reached by a motor launch. It’s small, provides good snorkling over a reef and great food in a number of funky restaurants under the palm trees. Our favorite is the Restaurante Princesa.

The little island also has a nudist beach, but you cannot see it from the Restaurante Princesa.

We’ll be back when we get back.

In the land of cotton …

. . . old times there are not forgotten.

I once had an American family, back when I was young. We were sons and daughters of the Old South. We are almost all gone now. Dust to dust.

Three generations, and we had names.

BollDee, Charlie, Diane, me, Mama Powell, Papa Powell, Mama D, Papa D, Aunt Ned, and Marthalyn. Not that many, actually.

All dead now, save three. Diane, me and Marthalyn who is quite old, my father’s younger and only sister who never married.

Willie and Cap, the domestics. And Pepper the pooch. The cars in the southern end of the state were Fords, farther north Chevrolets. All made in Detroit.

The places had names like Sylvester, Red Rock, Albany, Marietta, Atlanta — and Jacksonville, our 10-year exile in Florida with the Yankees and Cubans.

We had crops like pecans, cotton, peanuts and corn. We had beasts called cattle. And, for a spell, chickens, lots and lots of chickens.

Especially in the southern end, we ate what we grew. Corn, string beans, beef, chicken, tomatoes and okra, which is good when battered and fried.

The roads in the southern end were red clay. Farther north they were paved. Down south we were farmers. Up north we were a number of things, including housing developers.

I gaze around me at times, and wonder how I ended up here.

Among sombreros and tacos.