Friday, December 09, 2016

de-barcoing the house

It may not look much to you. To me, that shot is as beautiful as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

What was destroyed has been restored. After living with screen doors Barco had punctured, these doors make me feel as if I am living in a new house.

When Barco lived here, he considered any door that prevented him from going in or out to be just another example of canine oppression and social injustice. Then, he learned he had enough doggy heft to correct that oversight on my part.

He first destroyed one screen door to my bedroom. Then four to the kitchen and four to the library. His coup de grâce was the other screen door to my bedroom. He simply ripped up the full screen.

Fixing the doors while he was still a puppy would have made Sisyphus's rock look like a well-spent afternoon. I had decided nothing in the house would be repaired until Barco made it to his second birthday.

Of course, he didn't make it there. And I dawdled around here for two months without correcting a thing -- until my brother arrived.

Since then, we have been little fix-it bees. The screen doors topped the list.

My neighbor, Mary, is in the process of building a casita on top of her house. Another neighbor, Victor, is managing the project.

He has always been a source of good advice. I asked if he knew anyone who could help me with three projects. Within two hours, two guys showed up, took my specifications, gave me an estimate, and we were on our way. In less than 48 hours everything was installed and in working order.

You have already seen the screens.

The second project was to replace the plastic laminate cover that topped the shower chimney in one of the guest bedrooms. It took French leave (as the British would -- and do -- say; considering their Brexit vote, they may want to re-think that little ethic slur) during our hurricane last year.

Obviously, I did not consider it to be a priority if I was willing to leave it open to the birds, bats, and weather for fourteen months.

The third project turned out to be far more clever than I expected. I already mentioned the chimneys in each of the showers. They are designed to lift the hot air out of the bedrooms.

When I installed the air conditioning for Barco in my bedroom, the foreman told me I would need to block off the screened hole near the top of the chimney. It made sense to me. After all, the hole was desihgned to let air escape my room. In this case, cold air.

What I imagined was a piece of clear plastic laminate that I could push into place when air conditioning season returned, and could easily removed when I no longer required the Arctic blast. Similar to something you would find in a Little Rock trailer park.

One thing I have learned about Mexicans is that when faced with an unusual problem, they will respond with a clever solution.

And so they did. They designed a cover that allows light to pass through, is easy to install, and will stay in place in the face of our weather conditions.

There you have it. A start on de-Barcoing the house.

Of course, Barco had nothing to do with the second and third projects, but this work is in honor of him -- including the woodwork he chewed and the antheria he dug up.

I am not certain why I did not start the process before this sweek. Maybe it was because I knew my brother would enjoy being part of the Restore the Homestead movement.

And so he has.  

Thursday, December 08, 2016

a big anniversary

My father had the soul of coyote.

He loved pointing out to unsuspecting listeners that my brother was born on 7 December, and my mother and he were married on 8 December. My mother, whose spirit is far less mischievous, would sigh with the patience of the beatified and say: "We were married four years before Darrel was born."

Today is the anniversary of their marriage. Their 70th. My father died in 1996 -- in the year of what would have been their golden anniversary.

I am never certain what the protocol is when half of a marriage dies. I would certainly not wish my divorced friends "a happy anniversary." That is simply to avoid dipping into the house of sorrows.

But what does one do when half of a couple dies, especially when the surviving spouse does not re-marry? Are anniversary greetings appropriate?

Emily Post does not refer such questions to me. But, (and do not gasp in surprise) I have an answer. The first anniversary after a spouse dies, I will send an anniversary card to honor the marriage of friends. Marriage is an institution that deserves to receive as much support and honor as all of us can render.

This morning, I violated that rule. For whatever reason (probably because she is here), I wished my mother a happy 70th anniversary. The fact that it was her anniversary had escaped her notice. But she was pleased I had remembered.

I know I have gone on and on about my family. But I am really enjoying their presence in my rambling house. After all, I bought it for them -- to let them have a home in Mexico.

And that makes each birthday and anniversary that much more special.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

aging my brother

I am a poor excuse for a brother.

Today is a very important day for the Cotton family. No, not Pearl Harbor day. We celebrate some rather odd things, but not the start of World War Two.

7 December is my brother's birthday. For years, I have celebrated it on these pages. And, here he is in his new Mexican address, and what do I write about this morning? Breakfast at Rooster's (being superficial). I need to set this oversight straight.

To celebrate Darrel's special day, we drove over to La Manzanilla to feast on baked shrimp enchiladas -- his favorite dish from his favorite restaurant (Lora Loka). As is true of a lot of dining experiences in Mexico, she was not open. And none of the neighbors knew when (or if) she would be.

We are not an easily-discouraged family. Because we had no plan other than to have a good time, we decided to drive a few miles around the bay to a hotel-restaurant (Chantli Mare) we had visited two years ago.

Tenacatita Bay has to be one of the most beautiful bays in Mexico. It is one of those Goldilocks landscapes. Larger than the bay at Barra de Navidad, and not as gargantuan as Pureto Vallarta's Banderas Bay. It is just right.

Long stretches of deserted beach. An almost flat ocean dotted with fishing boats, yachts, and sail boats. And a restaurant that produces a filling meal.

Best of all, I got to spend the afternoon with my family laughing, sharing lies with one another, and telling sad stories of the death of kings. When we were not walking along the strand of sand that separates the republic of the land from the kingdom of the sea.

And for all that, we can thank my brother.

Happy birthday, Darrel.

being superficial

I am still experimenting with the Surface.

But I now know it will be a great traveling tool.

We are breakfasting at Rooster's -- one of my favorite morning haunts. Or it was before I started my walking and revised dining routine. Restaurant breakfasts are simply no longer part of my life.

But my family is here, and today is the day Dora comes to the house to clean. So, we needed to do something else. Like eating strawberry waffles, eggs, fruit cup, and sausage muffin. I won't tell you which was mine.

In the summer time, the place is filled with middle class Mexican families enjoying the thrills of the beach. In the winter, it turns into a Canadian diner.

I come here to talk with the waiters. Whenever I test drive my Spanish, it helps to have an extremely critical audience to keep me from swerving into head-on traffic. In the process, I provide them with cheap amusement.

So, here I sit listening to Chubby Checker twist and shout.

Not a bad day to start the day with my family in Mexico.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

a new mexpatriate

There is no reason you should have noticed, but Mexpatriate has introduced another blog tool to the cast.

Yesterday's essay (bearding the goat) was tapped out on a new device. When I moved to Mexico, I abandoned the world of desktop computers. I had long been a laptop user, but only as a travel convenience. Desktops had been my mainstay for over two decades.

Since 2009, I have had five laptops. Some have died natural deaths. Two were stolen. The fifth, a nifty, thin-line Samsung suffered a hard drive failure a month ago. I bought a Lenovo (a Chinese up-and-comer) to use on my trip to the highlands at the end of October, but it did not really meet my needs -- for reasons that are a bit too embarrassing to reveal.

Each time I have replaced one of my laptops, I have looked at the possibility of becoming truly mobile by buying a tablet. After all, the reason I want a light device is to make it more convenient during my trips -- around town or around the world.

But I always rejected the idea because tablets had their own limitations. They were either not secure enough for my financial transactions, could not multi-task, or could not run the software I needed.

About two laptops ago, Microsoft released its new tablet -- Surface. It performed like a personal computer. I liked that. But the keyboard was a bit too clunky to produce essays.

Microsoft fixed that problem. The new keyboard is as comfortable as the keyboard on my Samsung ultrabook.

My brother brought this little beauty down with him. And you now have two essays to prove it works just fine. It will accompany me on my trip to Australia and New Zealand this winter, to Copenhagen in October, and to some jaunts through Mexico this summer. My mobility has been restored.

And it is a speed demon with an Intel core i7 processor, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and 512 gigabytes of storage on a solid-state hard drive. It is the Ferrari of tablets.

I suspect Microsoft, or some other manufacturer, will soon produce a computer so mobile it can be lodged in the left side of my head. It will probably be the only way my memory will ever be restored.

Until then, I intend to run this handy, little tablet through its paces.

Monday, December 05, 2016

bearding the goat

The sound of machinery woke the household this morning.

Or, should I say, the sound of one machine. That would be more accurate.  But the sound of any prospective construction in the neighborhood always brings out our hidden Gladys Kravitz.

My next door neighbor has been building a casita on top of her house. I thought the rumbling reveille might be associated with her project. It wasn't.

When I opened the front door a front-end loader was scraping a scar in the middle of what had been the local goat refuge. I thought the French Canadian-Mexican architect who built my house and owns the lot had decided to build another house or two across from mine. Once again, I was wrong.

She is clearing the space to provide some occupational therapy for the people who own two of her other houses. It is going to be a vegetable garden.

And what about the goats? It sounds like a great opportunity for them. But she had already thought of that. She is building a wall. No, not that type of wall. A chain link fence to let the goats graze where they should, and for vegetables to grow where they might.

The French often say that deep in the breast of any urban Frenchman beats the heart of a farmer. That may be true. French farmers have a lot of natural allies whenever liberals talk about cutting farm subsidies.

Over the past two years, the empty lots across the street have provided me with a wealth of entertainment. Watching vegetables grow
 -- or not -- will simply be the next act in this on-going theater we call life. 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

wringing in the rain

Our rains are just about over for the season.

That is what I told you in
reflections in the rain. That was early December. I knew even then that my announcement of going dry was a bit premature. We will often have rogue rains that dampen the adoration of our Lady of Guadalupe or even wander through during Christmas week.

That is why the rain we have had the last two days was not so much a surprise as a personal nuisance. I am preparing for my family's arrival later today. And inches of rain were not part of my to do list. Some maintenance items will stick around until my sainted brother arrives. See? There is a silver lining behind every cloud.

The nuisance is only personal to me. The Mexican tourists in town were not bothered in the least by the change in weather. Raining? Let's get in the ocean. Wet is wet. The northern tourists were not quite that stoic.

And the local farmers can use the rain. It has been a dry season for them. That is a mixed blessing after two years of fields so wet that they could not be cultivated. Several farmers were plowing last week. This rain should help their crops get a head start -- as long as the small plantings are not washed away.

My family is leaving snow in Bend. Rain will not be a deterrent to them -- even in this house that is designed for a sunny tropical climate.

For today, the rain seems to have subsided. So, up goes the painting in the stairwell, and off I go to the florist to put the finishing touches on the house for the arrival of my family to their new home.

It is a good day.