Morning of grass, Wi-Fi & tax

flor
View through the bedroom window this morning. Smells great at night.

ABEL THE DEADPAN Yardman normally comes Saturday mornings to cut the grass, but when I heard explosions from the neighborhood plaza at 6 a.m., I knew he wouldn’t arrive.

There was also live music, and Abel is a horn man.

His wife did come, however, to tell us what I already knew. She said he’d be here tomorrow morning instead, and he likely will. He’s pretty reliable.

While the grass continues to grow wildly, the doorbell rang again. It was a technician from Telmex, the phone company that is one of my two WiFi providers. Telmex’s service went dead last Saturday. Having two WiFi providers is a no-brainer in Mexico.

You want both suspenders and belt.

He switched modems, and I’m back in business. I don’t like to rely on the other provider, which is a TV cable company. Its WiFi takes a siesta from a few minutes to a couple of hours most days starting around noon.

As I do every second Saturday, I drove downtown to the post office before 9 a.m. to check my box, which usually is empty, but not always. I found what no one wants to find, a letter from the Internal Revenue Service.

It says I owe $1,206, including interest and penalties. There is a phone number, but it won’t be available till Monday. I bet this has to do with a screw-up of mine. I e-filed in March, as always, and immediately on hitting the Send button, I noticed a big error.

A YUGE one.

I quickly filled out an Amended 1040 (first time ever) and sent it via registered mail. You cannot e-file amended returns. It got there a couple of weeks later, I noticed through tracking. The amended form showed, correctly, that I overpaid by $842, which I applied to next year’s return, as always.

My income has been fairly steady for quite a few years, so I know what I owe. I overpay intentionally, and always apply it to the next year. If I have to pay from Mexico, it could be dicey. I have no U.S. bank account or credit card. There are services that let you pay the IRS by credit card, and if it comes to that, I hope they’ll accept a Mexican credit card,* and even if they do, I hope my bank won’t balk.

Always best to overpay to avoid squabbles from down here.

The IRS letter was dated May 2, and I got it today, almost two months later. Actually, it arrived June 11, but I haven’t checked my PO box lately. I suspect the claim that I owe $1,200 is based on the bad 1040, not the amended one they would have received later.

I’ll find out Monday morning. The phone line opens at 5 a.m. my time.

Otherwise, summer is going well. The golden datura bush outside the bedroom window is starting to bloom, sending perfume into the bedroom at night, which is far better than having the IRS on my decrepit tail.

* * * *

* A decade or more ago, many U.S. online businesses would not accept a credit card issued by a Mexican bank, but I have not run into that problem in many years. The rampant discrimination ended. In any event, almost all major banks in Mexico are foreign-owned. 

Citibanamex (U.S.), Bancomer (Spain), Santander (Spain) and HSBC (Great Britain). I believe the sole Mexico-owned major bank is Banorte.

Life’s little things

downtown
I took this shot Saturday afternoon while sitting near the big plaza.

LIFE USUALLY consists of a series of little things, and mine’s no exception.

First, I had a gut infection a month back with symptoms similar to those of a year ago that inspired me to get a colonoscopy, which declared me clean of life-threatening stuff. This time, I visited a new gastro man who gave me pills that are returning me to normal. Getting old is not for sissies.

Second, I electronically filed my IRS Form 1040, and within 60 seconds of sending it down the electronic highway to Austin, I spotted a YUGE error. For the first time in my life, I have to send an amended 1040. Trouble is, you cannot e-file an amended 1040. You must stick it into snail mail.

Lord knows when they’ll get it.

Third, my child bride and her sister are going on their annual pilgrimage to the nearby town of Tzintzuntzan. This is a trek across highway, hill and dale on foot, and it lasts about three and a half hours. That takes place on Tuesday coming, so I’ll have much of the day off.

I’m not pilgrim material.

Fourth, it appears we may make it to March without another freeze. Normally, March means we’re home-free, freeze-wise, but not necessarily. One year we sailed freeze-free through January and February and then got walloped in March. There was snow on mountain peaks in the distance. The Goddess can be malevolently playful.

Do not turn your back on her.

snow
Early March a few years ago. Shot from the upstairs terraza.

Spring brings gobs of dust and crunchy, brown grass. It’s no fun, but it’s not freezing either. The dust is worse because it lasts weeks, months, till June when the rains begin. Spring is the pits in these parts.

Fifth, two weeks ago, workmen finished removing the red-clay roof that covered part of the upstairs terraza. It now sits bareheaded. The blacksmith promised the steel structure that will support the glass that will cover the entire terraza will be installed early next month.

New Image
Upstairs terraza awaits its new roof of glass and steel.

Sixth, of no interest to anyone but us, but I’ll mention it anyway — since it’s a little life thing — is that I’m canceling my longtime internet provider of 18 years. It’s a local business that was the only game in town when I moved to the mountaintop in 2000.

But things have changed drastically since then. Our television cable company, Megacable, also provides internet for just 100 pesos extra, about five bucks. We have that, and it’s fairly reliable. Having two providers is necessary here if you want to always have WiFi.

Is that true above the border?

The new No. 2 is Telmex’s Infinitum, which was installed earlier this week. It seems to be working fine. Now I have to break the cancellation news to my original provider, a business run by a fellow I know here. His service has always been quite good. My main objection is a butt-ugly antenna that now soars over the upstairs terraza. It will have to be removed anyway to install the new steel-and-glass roof.

Little life things. It would be boring without them.

Mexico online

NOW AND THEN, a reader says that I don’t really grasp how bad things have become in the United States because I’ve been away for so long.

While this would certainly have been the case way back, it’s not the case now, and that’s because of the internet. In a way, I’m sitting up there among you, seeing clearly the silly things that you do.

When I moved south with two suitcases in January of 2000, Bill Clinton was still president and, remarkably, I was still a voter for the Democratic Party. The stock market fiesta of the 1990s was ending, and the final entry in the nonstop line of oligarchic presidents, Ernesto Zedillo, was about to introduce Mexico to democracy — to the consternation of his cohorts.

Lots of stuff was coming to a head.

One of my suitcases contained a laptop that I had purchased specifically for the big move. I left the only other computer I had ever owned, the original iMac, with my daughter.

onlineMy first eight months, in the state capital, initially in a sparsely furnished room over a garage, and then in an even more sparsely furnished, two-story house, were spent with no internet connection. The only access was at an internet café about five blocks distant.

I would go there once a day to email my worried mother and a romantic interest in Mexico City. I would also check financial matters, innocently typing in passwords to my bank and investment house in the United States. Only a imbecile would do that these days.

After those first eight months, I rented a car for a day to move the two suitcases plus other stuff I had accumulated up the mountain, 7,200 feet above sea level, to the small town where now you will find me forevermore. I rented another sparsely furnished, two-story house, and I got internet access from a local entrepreneur via a dial-up modem. It was slow.

But it was the only internet access available in town.

The fellow who ran that internet company sold me a makeshift computer, which I used for many years. After 2.5 years in the rental, I got married and we built the Hacienda. I moved the clunky unit to its new home. Not long after, the local company provided a wireless connection via an antenna on the roof, and that’s what I use today. Now and then, I ascend and knock the bird poop off.

A couple of years back, in spite of some “upgrades,” my mongrel computer had become so slow as to be almost useless, so I purchased a H-P All-in-One, which I am very fond of, from Office Max. I wrote about those thrilling days in The Blastoff and Buck Rogers Zapata.

I had stuck with the original about a decade, and was flabbergasted at how technology had progressed. I have now vowed to myself to buy a new desktop every five years. My previous website, The Zapata Tales, was written entirely on the clunker.

* * * *

ANDROID, YUCK!

androidI am a desktop man to the bone. I can type about 100 words a minute,* which ain’t possible on a smartphone or tablet. A couple of years ago, in a moment of stupidity, I bought a Samsung smartphone. A week later, I sold it at a considerable loss.

I loathed it.

I just want a phone to make calls and send text messages, 99 percent of which go to my wife. I don’t want to be online virtually every minute. I spend too much time online as it is. I have a cheap little cellphone that I buy minutes for as needed. It has no camera. I already have a camera.

After the smartphone debacle, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10.1 to receive email while traveling. We rarely travel,** but it serves its purpose when we do. Mostly, I use it at our condo in Mexico City where the next-door neighbor lets me connect via his wi-fi. Ninety-nine percent of the tablet’s time here at home goes to my child bride who’s addicted to Facebook.

The tablet uses Android, which I find to be a colossal pain the the kazoo, vastly inferior to the Windows on my desktop, a system I am fairly fond of. On dumping my mongrel computer and buying the Hewlett-Packard, I leaped from a pirated Windows XP*** to a legal Windows 8.1.

In addition to the entrepreneur who’s provided me the internet all these years, we now have other options on the mountaintop. Carlos Slim, the gazillionaire who owns Mexico’s phone system, TelMex, offers high-speed internet, and so does the local TV cable company.

We are modern, and I’m as aware of what’s happening in the tumultuous, race-obsessed United States as your neighbor in Topeka. And I keep an eye on you. It’s tragic what I see.

* * * *

* I possessed the sole pair of testicles in my high school typing class.

** But next month we’re flying to Palenque for our 13th anniversary, a week in the jungle.

*** The pirated XP was installed by my local guy without his mentioning that little fact. Most Windows on Mexican computers, I have read, are pirated. We are first-class pirates.

(Tips: Antivirus, Bitdefender. Password manager, Dashlane.)