News of the day

Photo from seven years back, standing in the kitchen one evening.

This photo sat hidden on my computer. I’m sharing it with you. It’s a chilly morning today. On Friday it snowed in Chihuahua, way north of here, and this morning there were weird, front-type clouds in our sky. Winter is on the way.

Winter is always a challenge due to the Hacienda’s lack of adequate heating, so we bundle up. It won’t be long before I don my thermal underwear which I will keep on till Springtime. Perhaps we’ll light the fireplaces on occasion, but we rarely do that. I still have lots of firewood that I brought here 17 years ago from our previous home.

We rely more on portable gas heaters, two downstairs and one upstairs.

Mostly, we just bundle up with extra layers.


The trains are running again

After a lengthy, silent lapse, railroading continues down the tracks just a block away, providing us night music of a rumbling nature.

One or more of the teacher unions, in cahoots with ever-radical “student teachers,” had the tracks, which are a major commercial link to the port of Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific coast, barricaded for two months to protest some nonsense or other.

The government stood idly by, as it always does if possible, till commercial interests finally forced action, and the government came to some agreement with the trouble-makers and the tracks were cleared. Among the common demands of “student teachers” and their union cronies is guaranteed employment after graduation. That’s right, guaranteed.


Elections coming up

Mexico has elections next year, not a presidential vote though so many of us would love to get rid of our demagogic doofus, but we’re stuck with him for another four years. No, the elections are lower ones, especially congressional spots.

The three traditional and long-running parties, the leftist PRD, the rightist PAN and the whatever-works PRI, are joining in an odd alliance to support common candidates against Morena, the party of the presidential clown. I wish them luck.

Morena is a new party formed by the doofus when no other party would have him.

In Mexico, people must have laminated IDs to vote, and you have to prove citizenship to get one. And you can’t (insert laugh track) mail it in. You go to the polling place and stand in line. The United States could learn a thing or two from us.

Speaking of elections and mail-in votes, I leave you with the following:

Facing springtime with trepidation

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Banana trees making their annual comeback after being whacked back to nubs.

WITH LUCK, winter and its too-frequent overnight freezes is behind us, not officially, of course. That happens later this month.

As challenging as winter can be — we have no reliable heating system — the real bear is springtime, specifically the months of April and May. It gets stuffy in the house in the evenings, particularly upstairs where we wind down the day with Netflix and munch our salads in recliners like old people.

As we have no reliable heating system, we have no cooling system whatsoever. Of course, the upside to this situation is that our electric bills year-round are the peso equivalent of about ten U.S. bucks per month.

Bet you’re not feeling sorry for us now, huh?

Sometimes in the evenings of April and May it gets so stuffy upstairs that we turn off Netflix early and flee downstairs where it’s always cooler due mostly to the considerably higher ceilings, especially in the living room.

We have a fancy ceiling fan in the bedroom that we only installed about five years ago. Aside from looking elegant, it does squat. It’s only usable at the lowest speed because higher speeds make lots of racket, and that interferes with sleep.

Last year I said: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not taking it anymore. Just before the cooling, summer rains arrived, I purchased one of those tower fans that sits on the floor. It does all manner of fancy stuff, but it’s still a fan. We’ll use that downstairs instead of the elegant ceiling fan.

That leaves the more serious problem of upstairs. A fan helps, but not much. I’m going to buy one of those “coolers,” which appears to be a fan with some sort of water system. Some you can even drop ice into them somehow.

Buy a room air-conditioner, you say? No way, José. It would murder our electricity bill. I’m assuming the cooler won’t do that, and if it does, it won’t be as bad.

I’d never heard of these coolers till last year when I noticed them in our only department store here on the mountaintop. The store is Coppel, a Mexican chain. I’m leaning toward a cooler made by Symphony. If you have any experience with coolers, I’d like to hear it.

Meanwhile, spring inches closer. The grass, in spite of some rare winter rainfalls, is turning brown and crunchy. I took the photo above this morning. The banana trees are making their annual comeback. They’ll grow high, eight to ten feet.

I used to have three batches of banana trees, but I had two removed and the area cemented. Otherwise, the bananas would have returned like the living dead. Below is a rock-and-concrete table where a batch of overbearing bananas lived for years.

esquina
This mesa is about 15 inches high. No bananas can break through that, amigo.

Gonna be a hard winter

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IT FROZE at the Hacienda Monday night. A little birdie told me, or rather a little birdie bath. That’s the most obvious sign of an overnight freeze, the talavera birdbath on the Jesus Patio freezes over.

Another clue is frost on the grass.

This does not make me happy. Just because I loathe heat, and that being one of the main reasons I chose to end my life here on the mountaintop, does not mean that shivering pastes a smile on my face. It does not.

The cold does serve one fine purpose. It keeps the Gringos from moving here, or rather it used to, or seemed to. It doesn’t appear to be working so well these last few years because more and more have followed me here to altitude.

The Gringos are a hoot. Yeah, I know I used to be one, but I’m less so now than before even though I make a really lousy Mexican. Caught somewhere in the middle, a sort of weirdo limbo.

Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting at a sidewalk table on the big plaza, as I often do, with a nice café Americano negro when a couple of Gringo tourists walked by. Maybe they were Canucks. They all look alike.

I was bundled up with a jacket and scarf, wishing I had gloves, and this goofy pair walks by in shorts, tank tops and flip-flops. I doubt they did that intentionally. I suspect it’s the only sort of clothing they brought.

It’s Mexico, you know. It’s hot. Everywhere.

After finishing my café, I walked around the plaza, investigating the extensive street renovation that’s under way that will take months. I took the photo during that unscheduled scroll. As you can see, it was just after 6 p.m.

It’s gonna be a hard winter.

A capital time

A bunch of bananas in the making.

WE RETURNED from a week in Mexico City last Sunday to discover that we had left home in winter and returned in springtime, weather-wise, at least.

We’ve passed thorough 14 winters at the Hacienda and only twice, perhaps thrice, have we enjoyed a winter without one overnight freeze. The 2016-17 season is the latest.

Alas, spring here is no circus, the worst of the seasons. The only positive aspect is that there are no overnight freezes.

Instead there is dust and drab, brown mountains. What passes for heat in these parts happens in springtime. The fact of the matter is that spring is pretty yucky.

Our capital visit was very profitable. After years of waiting, we picked up the deed to the condo. We hired a guy to lay a nice ceramic floor on the service patio. He also improved the drain system for the clothes washer.

We found a great new restaurant nearby. Fact is the entire area is going upscale rapidly. When I first set foot there 15 years ago, it was ugly and industrial, which is why the colonia* is called Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

My arrival, it seems, on most any scene delivers a certain panache. It happened here where we live on the hardscrabble outskirts of our mountaintop town, and it’s also happened in Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

We fled to San Miguel de Allende to escape Carnival. We went to Mexico City for practical matters. But now it’s time to get down to business. Springtime is for renovations.

Our favorite contractor comes today to provide prices for work here at the Hacienda and also at the Downtown Casita.

Due to the stupendous dollar-peso exchange rate over the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of improvements we likely would not have done otherwise.

And that’s where stuff stands at the moment.

Thanks for passing by.

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* Sort of like a big neighborhood.