Saturday, October 17, 2009

a moving experience

Decision time has arrived.

For the last two months, I have been looking for the next spot to bear the Casa Algodón appellation.

The search has not been easy -- primarily because I have been changing my mind about the type of living arrangement I would like.

As a result, I have seen apartments, casitas, ranchitos, and family-sized casas.

But the snowbirds are arriving from the north and the pickings are starting to thin out.

Just as in the Mexican beauty contests I love to lampoon, the time has come to pick the final three contestants.

You may recall that the readers of this blog helped me choose the house in which I am staying. That worked so well, I thought I would try it again.

A brief description of each house follows. After looking at the contestants, feel free to cast your ballot.

I am ready to decide. (And, of course, I have my favorite.) Let's leave the polls open until 1 PM (Mexico City time) on Sunday, 18 October 2009.

Pull out your scorecards and focus on the catwalk. (As a point of reference, the rent for each of the houses is approximately the same.)

Contestant #1 -- David Niven's Villa

Of course, David Niven would never set foot in a place that cried out with every element of bad taste as this place does. Its local nicknames run from "The Wedding Cake" to "The Greek Embassy."

Even though the place makes me laugh every time I see it, it does have a certain charm. It is only one block from the Melaque beach -- the better swimming beach in town. And it is close to some very good seafood restaurants.

Three bedrooms (plenty of room for guests). Quite formal in style. But a lousy kitchen.

David Niven might stay a bit, but he would certainly be sweating within an hour.

Contestant #2 -- Ozzie moves to Melaque

Ozzie Nelson, that is. Not Ozzy Osbourne.

This house smacks of 1950s American suburbia. It is a huge ranch rambler with three bedrooms, but most of the living area is on the ground floor.

Three bedrooms (again). And a kitchen that would be the envy of any farm wife. A half block from the beach. Additional photographs.

The house has a very functional yard with a palapa right on a busy street. Handy for practicing Spanish with complete strangers.

Contestant #3 -- The Garden Apartment

I did not see this place until Friday morning.

Of the options, it is furthest from the beach, but it sits on the laguna with great opportunities to watch the birds and reptiles that live there.

Very compact. It is the bottom unit of twin duplex apartments. Two bedrooms. One bath. A nice little kitchen. And this is the only place that has guaranteed a good internet connection.

Even though the living space is small, it opens onto a very nice garden with fruit trees and flowering shrubs. A hammock and fountain top off the offering.


And there you have the finalists.

I now place my fate into your wise and compassionate hands. (I should point out that I took my electoral lessons from Hugo Chávez.)


zannie said...

If you think you can get a satisfactory internet connection, Bachelor #2 all the way. Otherwise, it's a toss up between #2 and #3... depends on whether the kitchen or the internet is more critical to you.

With those choices, I don't know why you'd even consider Bachelor #1 when it has such a terrible kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Go with #2, good kitchen, close to the ocean,(you could probably still hear the waves). I don't care for the #3 apt. because living below who knows who is not appealing. No comment regarding the giant banana palace.

Anonymous said...

No.3, no question. The kitchen in No.2 would make me dizzy. And who needs all that room? I'd want cozy if it were just me (who said live and choose your living space as you do 300+ days a year?) and a once-in-awhile guest. And the further walk to the beach is a good thing. : )

Oh - and not seeing inside pictures of No. 1, I didn't consider it.


Constantino said...

You failed to post the beautiful home in SMA. The one with only 4 stairs, two bathrooms, wheel chair ramps and a view of the compounds and church steeple.
Just kidding....
Sound like you have made up your mind based on your prerequisite for this narcotic you enjoy called the Internet.
I do like the 2nd one, since we would need our own bedroom and would need to be close to the beach.
Plus...the good side, is the cost could probably be negotiated down a few dozen K, and you could then become a committed (in more than one meaning) resident.
Good luck Mr. Phelps.......

Charles said...

Although I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks - #3 most definitely fits the person that comes through in your writings - #2 would be acceptable - but personally I would be bouncing off the walls living by myself in such a large casa (Not that there's anything wrong with that as J.Seinfeld would say!) Maybe you should get a ouija board and ask Jiggs' opinion -

Laurie said...

#3. Less upkeep. As a single person you don't need to be wed to a big house. Trust me. I rented a big house in Tegu for a while. Gave that up for a 2 bedroom apt. BTW, I couldn't vote in the poll on the sidebar. It's not registering votes. Maybe only Chavistas are allowed.

DanaJ said...

Steve, I vote for #1, the Big Banana.
It looks like a guy could get into a lot of trouble, I mean, adventures there. Rent it and the guests will come.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

If I was buying it would be #2 (except that I could not afford it), but for a short term rental the apt is good. I don't need to be on the beach as long as there is beach access, a few rows back is more sheltered from the inevitable storms and parties.
The internet connection is the deciding factor for me.


Anonymous said...

hi steve,

i liked both 2 & 3. since you like to exercise, a walk to and from the beach would be good for you, a nice kitchen and guaranteed internet are also great. but i agree with the comment on living downstairs from who knows who. when we were in chacala last year we had a family with 3 kids upstairs-it got really noisy at times. guess you have to take a lot of things into consideration but i would definitely not pick #1. i think if i were choosing a place for myself it would be #2. i love being near the water and i know you do too. guess it's a toss up. can't wait to hear the results.


Felipe said...

That you would even consider No. 1 says quite a bit about your creaky mental and emotional state. David Niven? Try "El Chapo" Guzman. Niven would not have been caught dead in the place. Guzman would have, literally.

No. 3, hands down, unless you want to hire a maid again, and you´ve repeatedly said you don´t. You can also put this notion of a flood of guests from the U.S. out of your mind. Doesn´t happen.

But I see Hurricane Rick is heading your way. Perhaps this storm will make crystal clear the pitfalls of beach life. Go pack your bags, rapido!!

Calypso said...

Too little information to make an informed opinion - I would weigh many things included price (less a concern for you than me I am sure) - security, parking, access to the rest of it, functionality (more important than form for me)etc.

Off the top of my head I don't like any of them and vote for keep looking.

Babs said...

One of the lessons of living in Mexico is to be nondescript. Living in House #1 says "rich gringo" and attracts all kinds of actions - none of which you would want to have happen. If it were me, I would be in #2 in a heartbeat because of the grounds. I tried seeing addnl photos but couldn't. #3 is all closed up and closed in. Doesn't give me any sense of living in a tropical area at all. It could be in a Mexican neighborhood in Topeka Kansas.......yuk.......

Larry in Mazatlan said...

Number 3 without a doubt. A smaller place to keep clean, and I would kill for that garden. And you're still not too far from the beach. Jump on it!


Anonymous said...

No. 3 would be good if it had another bath. I would want my own private bath.

No, 1 looks too big.

Looks like I would vote for No. 2.

David in Southern Calif.

Anonymous said...

#1 is out for many reasons, some of which have already been mentioned.
#3 is quite nice but small, cramped, need more open space for breeze. Also the mosquito thing being next to the laguna. You can walk there to see the wildlife if you care to., what a nice mexicana casa with such flavor and open space. Look at the windows. This place is built to fully recieve the beach breezes and you are already use to the sound of the crashing waves. Frequent "dusting" of those old terracotta floor tiles will be required, as they very quickly "show" everything.....the maid can take care of the cleaning while you lounge in the hamaca on the terraza. This is it.

Christine said...

#3 makes me nervous. It is beautiful but you would need a maid and a gardener. And I feel like I'd want a mean dog to patrol the fence--it looks very easy to hop over. #2 is small, but you can entertain in the garden AND the internet is very important--to us!we all need to hear from you. Before you rent it, however, have someone walk around upstairs over your bedroom to see if you can hear their footsteps.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Your poll is gone. ? But I vote for #3. Who knows - those neighbors upstairs might become your friends. If nothing else, you'll get to "know" them when passing by and exchanging holas.

Arnie B said...

I vote for #1 as well. You are not buying it, right? This is just for a short term, right?

Bottom Line: When will you ever get a chance to live in a house like that one ever again?

You are already a 'rich gringo' for the sheer fact that you are living in Mexico. Just because you live in a smaller traditional house doesn't mean you aren't paying the gringo tax every where you go.

And I am willing to bet the rent is lower too.

Islagringo said...

I didn't even see a sidebar poll to click on. So.....

#1 is a monstrosity that will cause you more grief than you can yet imagine. See Babs comment. I heartily agree.

#3 would drive you crazy in a very short time. You are used to space. Both in Salem and now in your current digs. Plus I would think that all of the seating choices would be uncomfortable for you. And the neighbors? Who or what lives up there? Do they have use of the garden space also? This is just not a good match for you.

#2 is the one. I bet Marta would follow you so that problem is solved. The portico is right up your alley, hammock and all. And did I see an outside grill? I don't think you will be bouncing off the walls at all. I think you will feel like you can breath. Do the right thing. Sign on the dotted line now!

Felipe said...

IslaGringo: You think Marta the Maid would follow our boy? Ha! She´d follow him to any corner of Mexico, I would bet. He´s her limitless ATM.

Anonymous said...

I really don't like any of them that well. # 1 - I think you would get lonely . It is too big and you would be a target. I don't like # 2 at all. I think you need a view. # 3 isn't bad but it is too basic and small. The internet is vital so keeping looking. Something better is awaiting you. You don't need to be in a hurry. Something out there has your name on it you just need to be patient and it will find you. You don't want to sit inside and look at the walls. You need something that feels like you have an extension of the outside world. It will make all the difference in how you view your time in Mexico. Cozy and comfortable is important. View is essential. I suggest a quiet neighborhood as well.

Charles said...

Well - maybe there's a lonely abuela living upstairs who makes great pozole and would enjoy having someone around. But then again, it seems wherever there's an abuela in Mexico dozens of noisy little rugrats aren't too far away!

Felipe said...

These are rentals, right? What are the rents? Share.

Nancy said...


You are funny sometimes. Why would you care what anyone else says about where you live? I have always had an immediate positive or negative response to a place and know right away whether it would be good for me. After that you dig in and find the things that would make it or break it - loud busses, upstairs neighbors, etc.

I suggest you lie down, shut your eyes, and imagine a normal day in each of those houses. If you can't or you don't like the result, move on.

I'm sure if we had done a poll and showed our readers all the properties we looked at here in Maz many of them would have said "don't buy a big old house in Centro that needs so much work!" But we love it and don't have one iota of regret.

You'll figure it out if you just trust yourself.

Jackie said...

2 - I love the open airy feeling and that most of the living space is on the first floor.

Anonymous said...

Not a listed contestant, but the person in the first photograph is by far the best looking. I vote for the woman in the yellow dress.


Anonymous said...

Unless there is a 700 lb. retired Sumo wrestler living overheard in #3, take #3.

At least it is a start on learning to survive with less as you learn to live with more.

A. Nony Moose

Adrienne said...

Got news of your blog when Ken wandered over to your Salem house last week to be sure the people and the moving truck were on the up and up. First of all, we're sorry about Jiggs - we noticed your absence from the Archives grounds. We miss his face and cheerful bark from your bedroom window as Foster walked me to work. At 14, Foster too, is very slow and is not likely to be here to enjoy next year's Saturday market.

This house choice thing has qualities of HGTV's home buyers/renters programs with only 3 to choose from. But, sitting here just after the skies opened up and promise to deliver more heavy rain, I'm going to vote for what would appeal to me right now.

Number 1 is certainly an eye-catcher, and I'll defer to those who know what that means in your locale. What exactly is "actions" a euphemism for? Your description of #3 as "compact" was, well, generous. So, absent a stunner with all the features you're looking for dropping onto the market soon, I think #2 is the one. As another person mentioned, you might want to see what Hurricane Rick has in store for the one you prefer.

We'll be watching!

Joe S. said...

# 2 would be the aging David Niven seeking advice from the Don at his ramshackle villa. #3 would be the younger debonair David Niven in relaxing seclusion. I'd vote for #3

Anonymous said...

Steve - I agree with Babs - #2 is the place.. All on one floor, room for visitors? and a very nice outside wit great access to the ocean. What more could you want? Regards, Dan in NC

zannie said...

I actually vote *against* continuing to look. If this were intended to be a permanent home, maybe, but since it is temporary, just pick one you're reasonably sure you'd be reasonably happy in, and take it. Then you can quit worrying about it, and spend your time on things other than house hunting. Even if that's just laying in a hammock staring at the trees.

It seems to me that all three of these places are acceptable as temporary accommodations. I think you'll find your greatest physical comfort in #2. While neighbors can be a nuisance, they also have the potential to become friends, and I know you're trying to develop more social ties in Mexico. If they're a nuisance, it's only temporary, and if they become friends, it doesn't have to be temporary. If there's someone already living there, perhaps you can go and meet them before you decide.

Even #1 would certainly be an experience, but an inadequate kitchen is a real bummer for someone who likes to cook.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I totally agree with Babs and others; number one is out. Over-the-top garish, and probably is well-known to all the local kidnappers. I think discretion is the key to being a safe gringo in Mexico, and you would lose that in a hurry with #1.

#2 is quite charming, of the three my definite favorite. However, I'm also going to vote against it. Why? It's too big, will require too much care, and has way to many windows and doors that you'd need to secure each time you went out. The odds of forgetting are high.

So of the three, I'd choose the garden apartment, with one important proviso. Meet the upstairs neighbors BEFORE you sign a lease. Because everything in Mexico is constructed of cement, I doubt you'll hear their footsteps, but if they have children, amplified guitars, or a lot of parties, you will hear them, probably when you least want to.

Also, and this is probably my main point for choosing number three. You seriously need to get out more. Jiggs' health was an obstacle to this in the past. Now is your time to go and explore Mexico. It's a fascinating country with way more to offer than you can possibly imagine from your narrow sphere in Melaque. Moreover, you are now a young retiree. Gadding about the country will only become more challenging as you get older. So live it up and see the country fer cryin' out loud!

So choose number three, and spend little time there.

Fond regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we harbor absurd fantasies of moving to a larger house than the 3-bedroom which we currently occupy solo.

Irene said...

If this were a permanent move I would vote for #2, it is beautiful and roomy. However, if this is only for a few months I think #3 would serve although being in the downstairs apartment is not appealing. As Nancy said above you will know which is right for you.

Carole said...

#3. The others are just more toilets to clean.

Leslie Limon said...

I like casa numero dos! The first house is just too big. And the last one seems a bit small. I felt a little claustrophobic just looking at it. (And I live in a small house!)

But, in the end you should choose the house that feels right for you. Buena suerte in your search for the "Casa Algodon"! :D

Diary of a third age woman said...

If it were me, and its not, I'd go with #3. It looks a little like the 2 bedroom bungalow I rent here in Oaxaca.

Also, the two things I cannot live without is a cup of coffee in the morning, along with internet connectivity.

But, Nancy's right. You'll know. Where I'm living feels like home, where I was living didn't.

glorv1 said...

Nummero Dos sounds like it would be perfect for you. I think mainly because of the internet connection. You don't need that much room I think. That extra bedroom would be perfect if your mom comes to visit. I'm sure there is a place to set up your computer stuff. I know that your decisions will be based on your needs. Good luck Steve and happy days to you. I love all of them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve...all of your choices make my humble accommodations for the coming winter look rather pathetic! But, I think I might be one of your neighbours behind door #2. I do like #3 but it has way too much (uncomfortable looking)furniture for me. #1 might be a problem as I don't think anybody has lived in it on a regular basis. I've never seen it occupied during the 5 winters I've spent there. I think I'd go with #2. Whichever you choose I'm sure you will enjoy.

el jubilado said...

Steve is not looking far and I assume this is just the post o the day

I would no more let someone else pick my place than .....

A Steve says ... this better not (and will not) be a democracy

Alan said...

Having almost voted last night on the poll listed on the right side, sight unseen, I am glad I reserved my comments for some "evidence" first. It seems the attorney representing number one, died with David Niven, or perhaps he was on retainer and did not need to do any work. In any event, no evidence, no vote. As native Oregonian, ranch style suits me fine. Loved the beauty of the wood work! Pin sink to die for (or maybe it already has! 1/2 block from Ocean and the Garden could almost pass for Salem! Covered patio and hammock would certainly work to read the Economist. Number three is an apartment, and not sure how your taste in music would match up to the 700 pound sumo upstairs. The shower looks great, and so is the garden which could easily fit in Salem. And as a wood worker, loved the closet doors!

The decision is, for Alan in Shady Cove,...drum roll... Ozzie for space, openness and kitchen vertigo. Tough call between 2&3 but since you are into making tough calls, you will make the right one!

Anonymous said...

"#3 is all closed up and closed in. Doesn't give me any sense of living in a tropical area at all. It could be in a Mexican neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas.......yuk......." Sorry Babs, I'm from Kansas and any Mexican neighborhood I've seen in Kansas never looked that good. They are all poor working class.
Personally, I would go for #3, just cause it is smaller and you could lock it up for the week-end and go do some sight-seeing. Judy

Jonna said...

wow! I couldn't even get through all the comments. I'm with Babs on #1, too garish and a target.

However, I think #2 is butt ugly. I couldn't live with all that rustico stuff and believe me there is probably not one single comfortable place to sit down (except the hammock) among all that ugly furniture. It's a dump.

#3 is small, lovely garden and easy to secure and leave. Plus, internet is more important than space any day. You do need to get out and about and take some trips and having a nice secure apt that you can easily lock up and go is the ticket.

Plus, the first 2 are just so butt ugly that I'd never want to go home.

Chrissy y Keith said...


Ron said...

I cannot know which place would be better for you.

For me, I could not make a decision without cost information, but I suspect the first two are way larger than I would want.

Good luck with your choice!!

Karen said...

I love casa #2 it is close to the ocean and on one floor and looks very relaxing and seems to have a good flow. I think the first place is a bit too much in every respect,go with #2 and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

#3 - I may be a bit biased, due to the fact that I was born in Nanaimo, BC, it sounds like home to me....

Paul said...

Calypso is right. Keep looking. You have struggled already with your happiness/unhappiness and that was after living on the beach. Away from a water view will only make matters worse for you. Perhaps it is time to really relocate. Don't be afraid. You are going to like SMDA. Or London.

1st Mate said...

Sorry, but #1 looks to me like a drug lord's retreat. I like #2 if you really must decide right away. Lots of trees, close to the beach and a great kitchen! And it looks to me like those beds are real, not concrete. That concrete sofa in #3 really turned me off.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Hmmm, gotta go with Kim G. in Boston on this one.
My vote is for. . . None of the above.
Get a storage place for your stuff and hit the road!
There is waaaaay more to Mexico than Melaque.
Happy Trails!

Steve Cotton said...

Wow! Great comments. I have picked a winner. You will see a post tomorrow -- or thereabouts. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am late with my suggestion, but I go for number 3.....small, easy to leave, no gardening, more private and the ethereal connection to the world guaranteed.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- I will be certain we count your vote.