The color tree, etc.

Colorful ribbons did the trick.

A year or so ago — I lose track of time — as part of my campaign to sweep the yard clean of nuisances, I had this loquat tree cut way back to its nubs. Unlike other nuisances, which I’ve simply removed, I left these nubs with a single branch each because I figured my child bride could let it grow big again after I was pushing up daisies.

The plan worked for a while, but then it did not. The tree died, so I have repurposed it, as they say, into yard art. I have a background in colorful art, which you can see here.

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More like my father

My father and I were always like two peas in a pod with a couple of huge exceptions. He had no sense of adventure, and he loathed travel. My sense of adventure long ago landed me here on my Mexican mountaintop, and I loved travel. That has changed, which is something of a problem because my child bride remains a travel fanatic. I lost the travel bug in the past year. I imagine it has much to do with aging.

Like my 18 years in New Orleans, I’m now in another touristy place, over 21 years. I live in a spot where people visit and think, Gee, I wish I lived here. Well, I do live here, and it’s great.

Alas, the pandemic is winding down, and she’s hot to travel! Guanajuato! Zihatanejo! San Miguel! Colombia! Spain! And I’d rather have my fingernails yanked out. I am now in dodge mode, wondering how long I can keep it up.

Meanwhile, she is satisfying her mania for constant movement by crocheting up a storm, housecleaning, fixing pastries, you name it, never a still moment. Maybe I should have married someone closer to my own age, but where’s the joy in that?

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Back to the yard

I phoned my builder a week ago, and he came here yesterday to see what I wanted done. Mostly, I want lots of grass removed and replaced with stone and concrete. There are some unrelated details, but it’s the grass that I want gone more than anything. Alas, he is currently building another house, about the same size as ours, he told me.

So I am in wait mode. We have till next June, which is when the annual monsoon returns. Patience, I tell myself. Of course, I could hire someone else, but this guy is great, and so are his prices.

Speaking of the yard, it appears the rain has retired for this year. The grass has stopped growing, which is good. In a couple of months, it will be brown, dusty and crunchy.

Abel the Deadpan Yardman comes Sunday, and instead of mowing the grass, he will give the Alamo Wall a haircut. The ivy runs amok.

Coming over the top like the Huns at Verdun.

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Honda’s back in shape

As I mentioned a few days ago, the Honda’s air-conditioning ceased to work. We took it to the state capital yesterday where the compressor was replaced. That set me back the peso equivalent of a tad over $700 U.S., money well spent. I loathe heat just as my father loathed travel. One must pick one’s loathing.

My long trip too

A far cry from a Boeing 777.

My wacky friend Steve Cotton lives by choice on a Mexican beach in the sweltering heat which, in itself, illustrates his wackiness. He’s a talented writer, so check out his blog.

Recently, he flew around the world, which is an interesting thing on the face of it, but he did it oddly. Except for two plane changes in which he did not leave the airports in Tokyo and Dubai, the trip consisted entirely of sitting on the plane. That’s it, two days in the air.

Sitting. Go figure.

His long trip reminded me of something similar I did in 1964. I too sat in a steel tube, but it traveled from Los Angeles to New York City. Instead of Steve’s two days, my trip lasted four. Steve’s trip seems to have had no purpose aside from flying around the world.

My trip’s purpose was to see an 18-year-old Jewish Princess hottie in New York City. Her name was Janie Friedman, and we’d been an item in high school. I was in looove.

Unlike Steve’s cushy, Business Class accommodations, I had a standard seat on a Greyhound bus. There was no stewardess, and there were no onboard meals with cloth napkins and a fresh tulip.

We stopped at diners to eat and stretch our legs.

Unlike Steve’s extensive planning (one supposes), I did no planning whatsoever. I did not even think to take a toothbrush onboard. It was stashed in my luggage below. I spent those four days unbathed in the same duds, same underwear, same everything.

Looove inspires madness.

But it was an interesting ride from the southwestern corner of America to the northeastern. We went through deserts and plains and farmlands. Some cities too though I don’t recall which ones. In the middle of the night near Pittsburgh, the bus broke down, and we sat a spell in the dark till a replacement arrived.

It was my first and lengthiest visit to New York City. I stayed four nights in a cheap hotel near the Manhattan bus station.

In the mid-1970s, I returned briefly to New York City en route to Europe, and I’ve never returned.

The reunion with Janie was a disappointment. She had moved beyond me, and I realized we were not to be. I hopped another Greyhound down to Nashville where my parents were living, and life continued thereafter from one misstep to the next.

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(Note: I addressed this trip from another angle over three years ago in a post titled The New York City Adventure.)

Terraza of San Juan

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View out bedroom window toward Bay of San Juan.

YOU NEVER take enough photos when you should, probably because you’re too busy doing other, sometimes stupid, things like drinking.

I have too few photos of the 16 months I lived in Puerto Rico in the mid-1970s, something I sorely regret. But plenty of memories remain. Though relatively brief, it was one of the better periods of my ever-lengthening life.

The 16 months were split into two stays, first, 11 months, later, five months. The first was cut short due to a strike at The San Juan Star, the English-language newspaper where I worked. The second ended because I saw another strike on the horizon, so I left.

The two periods were close together. Following the first strike, since I spoke no Spanish at the time, finding other employment in Puerto Rico was next to impossible, so I packed my bags and flew to Haiti. After a few days in a Port-au-Prince guesthouse, I continued to Mexico City. I had no clear plan. I was just bouncing about.

What I remember most about the next few days in Mexico City was a meal in a second-floor restaurant downtown. It came with a salad, which I had almost finished when I noticed tiny snails creeping among the lettuce leaves. They were alive.

Then I bought a sleeper on a train to Ciudad Júarez across from El Paso, Texas. At Júarez, I walked across the border, spent the night, and flew American Airlines to New Orleans, which is where I had started my Puerto Rican adventure 11 months earlier. It was there that I received word that the strike had ended.

I flew back to San Juan where my job remained available.


silvinaThe penthouse apartment where I had lived before going to Haiti was still vacant, so I moved back in. An Argentine girlfriend returned too. It was almost like nothing had changed if you ignore that she was really pissed at me for leaving her.

Initially, on my first stay, I lived in an “apartment” in Old San Juan that had been carved from a colonial building on Calle San Sebastián. There were no windows. The walls were a foot thick, and the ceiling towered 20-plus feet above. It did have skylights. The plaster shed like a light winter storm, and I woke each morning with its “snow” littering my sheets. Sweeping was a nonstop chore.

A sportswriter who owned a large home on Park Boulevard in suburban Santurce saved me. His home was square on the beach, and there was a lime tree in the backyard to garnish Cuba libres. I rented a spare bedroom, but I soon moved next door to a better bedroom in a guesthouse owned by two aging queens from New York.

Then I found the penthouse apartment overlooking the sea on Calle Norzagaray in Old San Juan. That was the sweetest of all, and it was the place I abandoned when I flew to Haiti. And the home to which I returned from New Orleans. And the Argentinian too.

The penthouse, which was very small, had a terraza that was about half the entire space. That’s the Argentinian standing on the terraza in the photo. The bedroom faced rearward to the Bay of San Juan. The terraza faced the sea.

I remember three things about that rooftop terraza. One was the hammock. Another was the small police holding cell on the first floor next door. Past that was another rooftop apartment, but one floor below me. It was where the hippie family lived.

Mom, Dad and three kids, and they often were on their roof. We would wave now and then, but we never saw each other down on the street. It was an aerial connection. I envied those kids and wondered why I had not been raised that way, footloose and free on a rooftop in the Caribbean. But I was there then, which was what mattered.

And I had done it myself.

Labor strife was boiling again at the newspaper, and I saw the proverbial writing on the wall. I found a job in Florida and flew away. The Argentine later got pregnant with a Puerto Rican waiter in the restaurant where she worked. I never saw her again.

norzagaray
Calle Norzagaray as it looks today.

(Juicy details: The visit to Haiti is touched on here. More on the Argentinian here. A drunken night painfully barefoot in San Juan here. An unrelated night here in a brothel. The rented room in the home of the two New York queens where there were nonstop shenanigans of a sexual nature.)

Crackers, peanut butter & Coke

peanut

NOW THAT I do not have a family anymore, the original one, the one I was born into, I think about them fairly often. I miss them a lot.

Downstairs yesterday evening, alone and sitting on the scarlet sofa, reading the Kindle, I got hungry, so I stood up, and walked into the kitchen for a handful of unsalted peanuts, which I brought back to the sofa where it was comfortable.

Incense was burning, and the light was low.

My mind traveled from the peanuts to peanut butter and then onto crackers and Coke. That’s what my paternal grandparents, who were born in the 19th century, packed for road trips in the 1950s in their Chevrolet. They were in their 60s at that point.

When they arrived from Atlanta to our North Florida home, they’d still have some of those snacks in the Chevrolet, and then later, when they packed to head home, Grandmother would make more and bag them. They’d buy Cokes along the way.

My paternal grandfather owned a small general store during the Great Depression, and they survived fairly well, much better than many folks. My mother’s people who were farmers also weathered the Depression better than most due to growing their own food.

My mother’s parents owned Fords, but they never made trips, ever, which was different from my father’s people who were quite fond of driving about. Since my mother’s parents did not travel, I don’t know what they might have favored for road snacks.

It was not until last night that the fact that my maternal grandparents did not travel at all dawned on me. Maybe farming keeps one close to home, feeding the cows, plowing the fields, but I think it was more a matter of personality.

My mother’s father died when I was 12, and even then Grandmother tended to stay put. We visited her, not the other way around. Maybe she intuited something.

During a rare visit to our home in New Orleans a decade after she was widowed, she tripped and fell one night, was hospitalized, went downhill and slipped into death.

Her last trip. Hundreds of miles from home. She was 81. My favorite grandparent.

Funny where a handful of peanuts on a cool evening will transport your mind.