Walls and weight

This is Miguel Jr. He’s 13 years old. Yep, child labor.

A crack developed in an upstairs wall recently, stemming from an array of glass bricks we had installed about 16 years ago in a space that originally had wooden windows like the one you see to the left in this photo. There was a serious problem with rain because the windows are badly made, so we removed the most vulnerable window and installed glass bricks.

No problem until a crack in the wall appeared recently. This is not rare in this type of construction. It happened in the stairwell many years ago, and I just spackled it over and painted. No sweat. But since this was happening in an exterior wall and jutting out from the glass bricks, I called my main man, Miguel. That’s his son in the photo, Miguel Jr.

While Papa Miguel was downstairs working on something else, some talavera tile that had worked loose, he assigned the preliminary toil to his son who is 13, and he did a fine job. Dad did the finish work, and all was completed in half a day.

They left the work unpainted because I wanted them gone as soon as possible, and I told Miguel I would do the painting, and I will. Lord knows when.


The fat boy

In the late 1970s, I weighed 225 pounds. I was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and maybe I still am (doubtful), but the poundage was evenly distributed, so I really did not look fat, just very large and imposing. A black beard added to the menacing effect.

Around 1980, I knocked off about 55 pounds simply by eating better and doing regular, relatively light exercise, and I’ve been around 170 pounds ever since, 40 years. It wasn’t that difficult. Tip: Diets do not work.

Something odd happened recently. I put on some weight around the waist. I attribute it to age. My body is settling a bit. I admit, however, that I’ve become a bit careless with what I eat. No major deal except for one thing. I went from 34-waist jeans to 35-waist. Well, there is a second thing. For some irrational reason, finding 35-waist pants is almost impossible. The sizes leap from 34 to 36, and 36 is too loose.

I bought two pair of new jeans — I only wear jeans — with 36 waistlines, but they tend to slip south. The belt saves me. I recall that I once wore Dockers khakis in Houston, and Dockers were available with 35-inch waists. Don’t see those available now, however, but I prefer jeans anyway.

On Amazon Mexico, I found Wranglers jeans with 35-inch waists. A pair is winging its way to the mountaintop as I write this. If that works, I’ll order a couple more. Three pair should be enough.

Plus I have the two droopy 36s.

Meanwhile, my child bride made apple pie this week for the first time ever. Yesterday, I bought vanilla ice cream at the supermarket. After lunch today, we heated two slices, put vanilla ice cream on top. It was the first time I’d eaten apple pie with vanilla ice cream in about three decades.

It was lovely.

And around 5 p.m., I was downtown, sitting at a sidewalk table with an agua de fresa, which translates to strawberry water, but that fails to convey how good it is. I included a photo. Yes, the expanded waistline is due to age, nothing else.

I curse the years.

Getting rid of the chicken

Caramba, mi amor! Caramba, mi amor! sang someone on FM 106.5 as I drove the Honda home in the dark of early evening.

Twenty minutes earlier, I had been walking in cool twilight across the beautiful, downtown plaza, clutching a brown paper bag containing two sugar donuts, and thinking of my chicken.

Our neighbors have chickens that roost overnight in an apple tree that abuts our property wall. Now and then, an adventuresome soul will make the leap and walk about in our yard for a spell. Then she’ll head home, back over the wall, in a flap of feathers because chickens don’t fly well. They have a low-max altitude.

This has been going on for years, and we didn’t mind much because the nasty things always went back where they came from. Till a week ago.

One came over and decided to stay. She sticks mostly to the side of the wall that abuts where her kin live, and she lurks beneath aloe vera and bougainvillea. Sometimes, she stands in the big, center semicircle of grass to taunt me.

I’ve tried to catch her, but I’m not as agile as I once was. My child bride assists on occasion, but so far the fowl has eluded our grasp.

New ImageOn Monday, a couple of guys come to lay talavera tile in the downstairs terraza. They’ll be out there for quite a few hours. They say the work will take two days, maybe three.

Here’s my plan: The first day, I’ll offer 50 pesos to whomever catches the chicken and tosses her into the street. If she’s still there on Day Two, I’ll offer 100 pesos, and that should inspire them enough.

I don’t want to eat her, and I don’t want her tossed back over the wall into the neighbors’ yard because this chicken has wanderlust and might revisit. That’s far less likely if she’s out in the street with multiple options for adventure.

The walk across the twilight plaza would have been more enjoyable had I not been thinking about the cursed chicken.

I would have focused fondly on those sugar donuts.

* * * *

(Update! My yardman came Saturday morning and had the bird in his clutches within a minute. Incredible. Mexicans can do anything.)

Home improvement

WE JUST ended a month of nonstop renovations here at the Hacienda. It all started with the driveway.

before
View from street before work started.

Stones removed and piled on sides.
Stones removed and piled on sides.

one
Rebar this way and that.

two
Samuel, the sole workman, cuts space for the art circle.

end
Work all done. Note circle on the incline and paint on sides.

cat
Close-up of that circle. It’s a Big Cat, ceramic.

The incline from the street, when we bought the double lot 13 years ago, was already in place.

Mostly, it was big stones buried in dirt which allowed weeds to flourish wildly in the spaces between.

The area at the top between the work zone and the Alamo Wall was dirt and grass when we bought the property, and it was mud during the five months of the rainy season.

Seven or eight years ago, we had that section covered with stone and cement — empedrado in Spanish — a treatment that’s quite common in these parts.

But that incline from the street remained an eyesore which I was hesitant to improve because it would block the cars from coming and going during the work.

And it surely did.

While this renovation was happening, we parked the Honda in a parking lot downtown. Every morning, I took a minibus there and picked the car up. Did the same in the evening to leave it. The Nissan was simply left trapped at the Hacienda.

That situation continued for nine days.

* * * *

THE NEW THRONES

toilet
Folkloric.

We also replaced the john in the downstairs bathroom.

The original, which my wife describes as “folkloric,” and which we purchased in the talavera capital of Dolores Hidalgo, was a bit smaller than standard in size.

It was a conversation piece but not the best place to sit, so it was out with the old, and in with the new.

white
Pristine.

Now here’s a regal place to squat. The old throne was given to a  nephew who’s son recently busted their toilet.

Gifting the “folkloric” johnny means we won’t be using it as a yard planter, the initial idea. Just as well because I was told by a high-born woman that it would have been very cheesy.

This is the first time in my life I’ve changed a toilet, especially just for the heck of it. This new baby is Mexican-made, and cost the peso equivalent of about 120 bucks.

It was installed for about 10 dollars. I could change my ride every couple of years just for the ever-living thrill of it. Different colors. Oval versus round, whatever.

The initial plan was to replace only the john in the downstairs bathroom, mostly my wife’s environment. But I began to seethe with envy, so I bought an identical one, and had it installed in “my” bathroom upstairs.

Here’s the old throne upstairs:

john

The new toilet is exactly like the new one downstairs, so no need to duplicate a photo. Your time is valuable.

* * * *

THE OUTBACK

Now let’s turn our attention to the rear of the Hacienda.

beforeback
High weeds everywhere. Butt ugly.

New Image
Weeds gone. Work under way.

sidewalk
Progress made. Looking the other direction. Yes, it’s long.

Feathered overseer of the project.
Feathered overseer of the project. Chickens run wild.

done
Work completed. Far better than the sea of weeds.

What you see here are the first-ever photos published of the backside of the Hacienda, which fronts — if that’s the proper term — on what I used to call Mud Street.

So these photos are collector’s items. That’s the tail of the sex motel in the distance of the second and last photos.

The work done out there was a civic gift. It is not on our property, but it was an eyesore. It was a dirt strip between our property wall and the street.

* * * *

NEW VERANDA ENTRANCE

There are two arched entryways to the downstairs veranda. One serves a dual role. During the five-month rainy season,  it doubles as a conduit for rainwater which creates lakes inside the covered veranda, a colossal nuisance.

After 12 years of cursing this phenomena, we decided to do something about it, a redesign that directs the water outside instead of inside the veranda.

Next Spring we’ll also have metal gutters installed along the tile roof of the veranda, long overdue.

repair2
First, the problem area is dug up.

drain
Then it’s rebuilt with a slight down-and-out incline.

As mentioned at the get-go, this work took a month, exactly. It was done entirely by one guy, a very talented workman who lives in the neighborhood. Unlike all work we’ve had done in the past, we paid him by the day, as he requested.

This can be a mistake because it can lead to slow work, dragging it out to earn more. We prefer a set price. Then work can be done at whatever speed the workers prefer.

I watched his toil closely. He did not foot-drag, but he was very detailed, which took longer than necessary. However, the results were spectacular.

And he did some painting to boot.

He arrived on the dot at 9 every morning on his bicycle. He took an hour off for lunch at 2 p.m., and he went home at 5, working steadily in between. We’ll hire him again.

The entire project cost about $420 for labor and $555 for materials, excluding the two toilets, which were about $120 each. Those are dollar equivalents at today’s exchange rate.

Month’s grand total: $1,215 or about what a U.S. plumber would charge for a one-hour house call.

* * * *

(For your architectural pleasure, here is a photo collection of the Hacienda over the years. Come visit, but phone first.)

Vista, 2015

october

PLACES, LIKE people, change over time. I climbed the circular stairwell today to take this year’s roof shot. The one I posted recently in black and white on Mood piece was a photo from a couple of years ago.

The horse shot was fresh though.

We’re off to Palenque, Chiapas, for a week later this month. Will be my first visit since 1999 when I flew down there from Houston to attend an entheogen conference. It’ll be interesting to see the jungle again.

It won’t be interesting to sweat, but there’s no avoiding that.

On returning we’ll start some work here at the Hacienda. The driveway up from the street, behind the stone wall and not visible in the photo, will be renovated with a nice mosaic design. The windows looking out to the upstairs terraza need lots of work and varnish.

There’s a weed-filled dirt strip that runs the width of the property between our back wall and the street surface that we’re going to fancy up with rock and cement even though it’s not our land. Community service.

toiletAnd we will replace the toilet downstairs. The current johnny was purchased in the talavera capital of Dolores Hidalgo in 2002. It has a painted desert scene all over it.

Though interesting and lovely, it’s a bit undersized and has never been very practical. We’ll replace it with something modern from Home Depot, and the old toilet will start a new life as a planter in the yard.

No one has thought of that before.