Saturday, October 25, 2014

knocking out the stuffing

Some of you think I went to finishing school on a pirate ship.

But you would be wrong.  My finishing school was the United States Air Force.

I learned a lot of useful skills.  Comradeship.  Loyalty.  Orderliness.  Sewing.  The same skill set other young men learn in prison.

The sewing skill could have come in handy the other night.  Last week, I bought two large pillows at Sam's Club for my new bed.  When I woke up after my first night in the new place earlier this week, I was startled to find the bed was strewn with stuffing.

Not the type that comes out of a turkey at Thanksgiving and gives each member of the family an equal opportunity of losing the food poisoning lottery.

This was some sort of pillow stuffing.  Cleverly called "down artificial fill."  My brand new pillow had made an offer I could not refuse.  But it was better than waking up with a severed horse head in my bed.

Today I needed to drive to Manzanillo to complete a couple of tasks before Darrel arrives.  I have had several "returned merchandise" events in Mexico -- with mixed results.

So, I gathered up my unstuffed pillow and my all-important receipt, and rolled on down the road to Sam's Club.

With all of that build-up, you might think the clerk suggested I could simply sew up the seam that came undone.  If I had had no other reason to go to Manzanillo, I probably would have pulled out my sewing kit to do just that. repaired pillow.

But the young lady I talked with immediately saw the problem, took my receipt and club card, and asked me to retrieve a new packet of pillows.  Just like Salem.  But, in Spanish.  Even though I am not even certain there is a Sam's Club in Salem.

My shopping is going far better than my internet access.  After working for a couple of days, the connection has decided it has no interest in carrying my words to you.  So, I will let it be churlish until the arrival of my sainted brother -- who can fix anything.

Maybe, tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

as the fan turns

Tuesday night was the last night I will spend in Casa Nanaimo -- the house that has been my base in Melaque for just under five years.

I doubt I can adequately sum up the experiences of living there.  It was where I transitioned into my new life in Mexico -- in many ways.  From broken ankles while ziplining to building relationships with my neighbors to touring some of Mexico's more exotic offerings.

Of course, moving house does not stop the experiences.  But it will be a bit different being a homeowner.  Simply running off for a month or two or three at the drop of a sombrero will not be possible.  I may actually be forced to deal with that adult obsession -- planning.

The old garden gave me a fitting sendoff.  I have been waiting for over a year for one of the orchids to bloom.  During my farewell walk-through, I noticed that it had put out not just flower spike, but two.  And one had started its bloom cycle.

For send-offs, I can't think of a better one.

But, that is the old world.  I now live in a new one.  A new one where I slept last night.

Or tried to sleep.  I always have trouble sleeping in new places.  At least, for the first three nights.

There was an extenuating circumstance, as well.  I could not find mattress pads in Manzanillo yesterday, so I slept on top of the mattress sans sheets. 

It was almost as good as camping.  If the couch in the living room had been a bit longer, I would have slept there.  There is nothing as comfortable as sleeping on a couch.  (The Man Union may expel me for disclosing that gender secret.)

Today?  A bit more shopping for odds and ends before mi hermano arrives on Saturday afternoon.

At some point, I assume, the new place will simply become home.  But it will take time.

Maybe I need a blooming orchid.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

gassed and ready

The troops are moving on the Western Front.

I have been waiting for one event to start moving my stuff to The House.  Re-keying the locks.  With new keys in hand, I completed part one of that action-packed thriller: "The Move to Barra." 

My choice on Tuesday morning was to either drive to Manzanillo to buy some items before Darrel arrives or to schedule a fill-up for the new propane tank.  Because we will need propane this weekend, I opted to stay in town.

While I waited for the gas truck to arrive, I sampled the full depths of the new pool.  Whoever is responsible for designing this pool got it absolutely correct -- in both aesthetics and practicalities.  An hour in the cool water made me forget all about air conditioning.  (Of course, some unplanned expenses have also played a part in stalling consideration of that project.)

I wish I could tell you if I have been able to comply with the Escape Rule, but I can't.  I decided it would be simplest to move my few goods in room-size bites.  Because I have no furniture, most of what I have are mere nibbles.

And I have tossed quite a few items.  Most of my white clothes have managed to contract a farther nasty red mildew.  I have tried bleaching the stains out to no avail.  But I have a lot of new cleaning rags.

Then there was the bag of canned goods that have hurtled well past their pull dates.  Most of them four years past. 

That alone would not have been enough for me to dump them.  But the rust covering both the top and bottom of the cans was.  I will eat old food.  But I am leery of eating anything that may have been exposed to the nasty vagaries of an unsealed can.

Moving out always seems to be far easier than moving in.  For some reason, items that once looked appropriate in the living room no longer have that same allure.

To avoid the inevitable piles-to-be-sorted later that start accumulating in houses, I decided anything that is not immediately put away will be placed nowhere but my bed.  That way, when Wednesday or Thursday night come, I will not have a place to sleep until I have found a home for everything.

I say "Wednesday or Thursday" because I will be completely moved out of my rental on one of those days, and Dora will prepare it for a new tenant.  I hope he enjoys the place as much as I have.

But that still leaves at least one more trip to Manzanillo to top off my shopping list.

On Friday, my new life as a Mexican property owner will begin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

putting it together

I am constantly re-learning life's little lessons.

Here is one.  Setting up house is like solving a jig-saw puzzle where the top of the box is missing.  You are not quite certain what the outcome will be.  But you know it is challenging.

Monday was a puzzle day.  The day started and ended with a new propane tank.Lou met me at one of our local hardware stores.  After two stops, we had wrestled a 180 liter tank into his Pilot -- along with the necessary gear to assemble it.  Jaime showed up in the evening to put it together.

Now, I just need to get the gas company to stop by to fill the tank and to relieve me of a fistful of pesos.  Jaime will then return to ensure gas is flowing to my cooktop, the oven, and the two outside grills.  The Cotton boys can then cook up their hearts starting on Saturday evening.

My realtor and I then stopped by the regional CFE office -- our electric company -- to switch names on the account.  After about a half hour of shuffling forms, my name was substituted for the former owner's.  The clerk told me to stiop by a Banamex to pay a $570 (Mx) deposit.  As far as CFE is concerned, I am a brand new (and untrustworthy) customer.

Interestingly, when I tried to pay the deposit at the bank, the clerk would not accept it because the computer still shows a $1,757 (Mx) balance due on the account.  I will need to check with my realtor and CFE today to see how this will be resolved.  I certainly know one way it is not going be fixed.

I tried setting up my internet yesterday -- to no avail.  And for good reason.  While my realtor and I were looking at the hydra-like internet and telephone connections, the woman, who formerly held the position Dora now holds, showed up with the missing modem and several attached cables. 

They were the missing link that allowed the realtor to get the internet working.  Unfortunately, by the afternoon, half of the system had stopped operating.  That may turn out to be Darrel's first project.

When the former maid handed over the modem, I told her her services were no longer required.  The former pool guy showed up later.  He got the same speech.  I almost felt like Carl Icahn.

The day's next project consumed what was left of the day.  The house locks (all eight of them) needed changing.  The town locksmith (and two assistants) showed up to replace the old locks and carve new keys.  They must have been at the house for at least three hours.  But I now have a re-keyed house.

It is now time for my stuff to start making the two or three mile trek to The House.  My goods are stacked primarily in the living room at the old place -- just waiting for an opportunity to prove that Steve has held true to the Escape Rule: I own nothing that cannot be fully packed in the Escape within one hour.

Of course, sometime between now and Saturday, I need to drive down to Manzanillo to buy padlocks for the garage door, mattress pads, sheets, more towels, more pillows, a toilet brush, fertilizer, pruning tools, more toilet accessories, LED lights, and a case or two of light bulbs.  (The house has more light sockets than a Las Vegas casino sign.  That is one of its attractions.)

The best thing?  It is all coming together.  Just as I have been showing you photographs that show the house bit by bit, I am starting to see the big picture of my puzzle.

And my wallet is starting to feel the big squeeze.

Monday, October 20, 2014

pooling my projects

Sunday was a big day in the move project to Barra de Navidad.

When I showed the house to Michael on Saturday evening, he labeled it a "mini-convention center."  I prefer "boutique hotel."  But I immediately understood his point.

When my brother Darrel was here on one of his visits, he suggested we should buy an old Mexican hotel and use it as a family compound.  I think I did him one better.  A new Mexican hotel.

Yesterday after church, I met up with the new "staff."  Lupe will be the pool guy.  Several people I know have used his services -- and they are uniformly pleased.

Jaime has worked -- and still does -- as an electrician and handyman for my landlady.  I had a special project for him.  To install a propane tank where the cylinders once were. 

He can do it.  Today I will meet Lou at the hardware store, and buy a tank, stand, regulator, and some line.  Jaime will then set it up.

The majority of the day was spent with Dora and her sister cleaning the house.  When we started, it looked like a house that had not been occupied for a bit.  When we were done, it was, as the realtors say, turn-key ready.

Well, turn-key ready if you overlook the lack of linens.  But I will fix that with a trip to Sam's Club -- probably on Tuesday.  Monday is dedicated to the tank project, getting the electricity put in my name, and re-keying the locks (or, at least, getting that step scheduled). 

I now have a target day for moving.  Everything has to be in place by this Saturday when my brother (and perhaps a surprise cast member) shows up at the Manzanillo airport.

But, best of all, I finally did what I have been waiting to do for six years in Melaque.  I slipped into a pool of cooling water.

The pool in the courtyard is truly the womb of the house.  For about an hour, I enjoyed its embrace.

The photograph at the top of this post is a "point of view" shot.  You may soon see more variations on that theme.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

another day closer to moving

Saturday was one of those days where everything seemed to turn out better than I could have expected.  Well, up to the end of the day.

After spending almost an hour on hold on the telephone, and then 20 minutes with a Telmex technician, my modem at the rental is up and running.  That was a great way to start my day.

And, of course, because I will be vacating my home of the past five years, the internet speed now seems better than it ever was.  I hope the new tenants enjoy it.

Even though I have the modem for the new house, I have not set it up, yet.  I will do that on Sunday during The Big Cleanup after church.  By the time the sun sets, I should be ready to start moving my worldly goods to -- I have no idea what I will call the place.  The House will do for now.  I am not fond of the cutesy naming convention that has been imported south.

I had planned on driving to Manzanillo yesterday to buy sheets and the final flourishes for an early move-in.  But I can do all of that later in the week.  Instead, I stayed in town and bought a few more items for cleaning -- like a ladder.

Michael, my next door neighbor when I first moved to Villa Oregon, invited me over for the evening.  We started by chatting about politics, family, and music while watching the sun set.  I just do not watch those sunsets as often as I thought I would.

He had not yet seen my house.  And I had not yet seen it in the dark.  It is quite stunning with its accent lighting.  I think you will enjoy it, as well.  As soon as I get my camera and computer back in operation.

That may be a week later than I last thought.  I just received a notice from Amazon that my two-day shipping may take two weeks.  Apparently, my camera and computer are rare retail critters.

Michael and I ended up eating a very decent pizza at Ambar in Barra de Navidad under the efficient and effusive waiting talents of Oswald -- formerly of Rooster's. 

As good as the pizza was, my conversation with Michael was something to be cherished.  I am not certain with whom I could discuss such varying topics as jazz harmonics as they relate to commercial music, the personality quirks of a 1989 Pinchon Baron, the vagaries of developing a war policy that takes into account all of the interests in the Middle East, and why hacienda-style furniture is a non-starter in The House.

The only fly in the ointment was Amazon's announcement.  I will talk to Darrel today to see how flexible his travel plans are.  I would like to see him as soon as possible.  But I would also like to see my replacement equipment.

Here's hoping Amazon is more pessimistic than the facts on the ground will prove.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the great modem switch

Happy Saturday, readers.

I am coming to you live from my favorite table of La Oficina -- a favorite eatery in Villa Oregon.  Well, it would be live if I didn't schedule it for publication in the morning.

As I write, it is Friday night.  I am eating lasagna.  And we are discussing the proliferation of moose and wild rabbits in Canada.  Amongst other arcana.

There is a reason I am writing from here -- and not from home.  But all things in good time.

I had two major projects in mind today.  Both of them once again in Manzanillo.  I needed to switch telephone and internet connections between my old place and the new house.  And, while I was in The Big City, I could get the goods necessary to set up house.

My landlady was in Manzanillo for another project.  I drove her over to Telmex to (1) transfer the new house's telephone service to my name, (2) transfer my telephone service to my landlady's name, and (3) switch out a friend's burnt-out modem.

I am glad we presented each as a separate transaction because the process seemed to be rather daunting for the clerks.  So daunting that the first passed us off to a second.

The only glitch was not of our making.  The previous owner of my house failed to leave behind her modem.  That meant I had to spend about $80 (US) for a new one.  The next question will be whether it works when I hook it up.

I took my current Modena from the rental with us -- just in case I needed to return it.  I didn't.  When I hooked it back up (just as it was in the morning), everything worked except for one small detail.  There was no internet connection.

And there is still none.  That is why I am flogging the good services of La Oficina.  Thanks, Juliana and Aaron.

While I was in Manzanillo, I stopped at Sam's Club, Soriana, Office Depot, and Walmart to buy some basic necessities for the house.  You know the type of stuff.  Dishes.  Towels.  Kitchen doo-dahs. 

I had spent decades gathering all of that stuff in my Salem house.  But it all went to Goodwill or to friends when I moved south.  I had forgotten just how much all of those small items cost.

Late Friday afternoon, I walked through the house with Dora, the woman who currently cleans my house.  She is looking forward to taking on the task of cleaning this one.  Of course, it will take her more hours.  And I will appreciate every minute of her time.

This day is done, and I will confess I am glad the day is done.  I have taken several major steps closer to moving in.  Dora will spend a good portion of Sunday making the place sparkle.  Probably on Monday or Tuesday, I will start setting up house.

If all goes well, my bother Darrel will show up on Saturday afternoon next week with a cornucopia of replacement goods.

And I can then start sharing some photographs of my latest venture.