Monday, July 25, 2011

san miguel stew

On Sunday, Babs outed me in her blog.

She disclosed that, in this computer age, I still draft my posts (including this one) in longhand.  It is not rumor; it is true.

But it is all part of a system.  I carry a reporter’s note pad -- along with my camera -- wherever I go.  To capture thoughts or impressions while they are fresh.

When I am ready to write my post,  I just pull all of those threads into an essay framework, and my post is well on its way to completion.

Too often, though, I end up with odds and ends that simply do not fit into an essay.  But they are too good to simply flush.  Or, at least, I think so.

So let me take you on a journey into my writer’s closet.  I will supply a fixin’ or two for this stew.  But you are going to have to find your own ending.

heroes aghast

San Miguel de Allende is a town filled with heroes.  Chief among them. of course, is the “Allende” in the town’s name.  Ignacio Allende, to be exact.  One of the heroes of Mexican Independence. 

An creole officer in the Spanish Army in Mexico, he joined a conspiracy to declare independence from Spain.  He never saw the independence.  Early in the war, his head, along with three other rebel heads, ended up decorating the corners of a building in Guanajuato.  But you know all that from putting it together.

I have never quite understood why people honor their heroes with outdoor statues.  No matter how glorious a statue looks in the studio, once it has been on display for any amount of time, the pigeon guano tends to turn the glory meter down a peg or two.

But there is almost always an amusing photograph to be had whenever overblown glory meets the mundane life of pigeons.  I managed to catch a male pigeon about to swoop down and Pearl Harbor an unsuspecting female.  To the disgust of Allende and to the fright of his horse.

a hill too far

I have taken photograph after photograph of the hill that I descend to get into town -- and must then climb on my return trip.  It is quite a climb -- even if my weight and San Miguel’s altitude are taken out of the equation. 

I suspect it is easily worth 15 minutes on a Stairmaster.  If I lived on the hill much longer, I would be in marvelous shape.

But the photograph does not even begin to convey the hill’s grade.  Every time I look at it, I think I must be imagining those walks up – because the photograph looks more like a street scene in Omaha, instead of a cousin to San Francisco.

In this tale, it is the camera that is making stuff up.

no sale at any price

I think I have seen a similar photograph on someone else’s blog.  But it truly is an oddity in San Miguel.  The town had one of the hottest real estate markets in Mexico five or so years ago.  Now, like many parts of the world, real estate is moving slower than politicians trying to cut spending.

There are “for sale” and “for rent” signs all over the town.  There was a time strangers would knock on residents’ doors to ask if they were willing to sell their house.

That must have happened once too often for the local priest in charge of San Miguel's landmark church -- La Parroguia.  There is a small house on the street beside the church -- just around the corner from the main town square.  What a realtor would call “prime location.”

Apparently there have been enough requests about the house, it now bears a painted notice on its side -- in huge block letters -- that the property is not for sale.

This is the front of the house.  To a realtor, it has “potential.”  To the church, it is theirs.  Or, more likely, it belongs to the federal government.  After all, there was that unpleasantness almost a hundred years ago where the church property ceased to belong to the church.

Maybe a real estate agent should approach President Calderon.  I suspect everything has its price.

buy a piece of noah’s ark

I was walking home from the town square the other night.  While walking past a building a block from the main town square, I glanced up and saw a Star of David.  Then another.  And another.  Six of them in succession under six second story balconies.

I have seen similar symbols used elsewhere in Mexico, not as the Star of David.  But this was the real deal.  When I returned in the light, I noticed that animal heads were used as substitute gargoyles under the balconies.  (I placed one in yesterday’s post.)  And then I saw the name of the building.  Noah’s Ark.

You may remember Stu and Al from my welcoming dinner at the beginning of the month.  Al writes a blog (rancho santa clara) you can find in my blog roll.

I had lunch with them today.  They told me that the Cohens own the building, and it is quite a property.  It goes deep into the block and is three stories high.  Considering its location, it must be worth a good deal of money -- if a willing buyer comes along.

But unlike the church property, this building is for sale.  I doubt, even if I had the money, I would be interested in the place. 

San Miguel is a place where huge homes once reigned.  Allende’s house and the far more magnificent house of his uncle still stand on the main square.  But one is a museum.  The other is a bank.  If I owned the bank, I might be able to afford to run Noah’s Ark.

Hmmm.  Maybe a bed and breakfast for ultra-pampered pets.


Felipe Zapata said...

Longhand?! I cannot believe this. What are you, a caveman? Jeez.

Steve Cotton said...

I wonder who may have reenforced that method?

blog said...

Babs DID out you - I CANNOT believe you would be working in longhand. Do you sharpen up a bunch of #2 pencils like Hemingway - he had an excuse - no computers, laptops, ipads, or any other pixel pusher. Come on hombre tell me it ain't so!

Steve Cotton said...

It is true.  But I do most of my writing outside.  While the images are fresh.  Before the ocean brine ate my little Sony, I would take it along to prepare drafts.  But it died two years ago and my HP is simply too large.  My big problem is my penmanship is terrible,  At work I often had to call my secretary in to decipher my notes.

As for writing instruments -- no pencils.  But I do use (get ready for it) a fountain pen.

Rick said...

I always wondered what that place was, Noah's Ark. Is it a house?  It just looks like a bunch of empty buildings.

Steve Cotton said...

Apparently, it is one large building -- formerly a great house.  I am not certain if the shops have always been up front.  Are you interesting in buying?

Rick said...

No not buying but the history to these big old buildings alluring.

Marilyn said...

Cudos for the fountain pen.  Penmanship and even the English language is going by the wayside.  I am with you, do what makes you happy!

P.S. there are some pretty awesome fountain pens out there....well balanced and fun using.  Keep up the good work Steve.  
San Miguel sounds like a lot of fun.... visually attractive to me.   Marilyn

Steve Cotton said...

I would love to see what is behind those big doors.  But I doubt my financial statement would get me into the copper sink store, let alone the house.

Steve Cotton said...

My fountain pen and my hand gun are equally ensconced in my hands.

Nita Laughlin said...

At one  time I asked about property ownership in Mexico by Americans or other foreigners. You said you would devote a column to it. When news is slow, (if ever),
do a bit of explaining.

Steve Cotton said...

I have started to draft a post several times.  Until I concluded I really am not qualified to give advice in this area.  I would give you a link to better advice, but every source I have read simply raises more questions.  And that business at Tenacatita did not help.

Kim G said...

I don't know this for a fact, but I think SMA probably suffered its own mini real  estate bubble and is now (painfully) settling out from that process. I was amazed at the number of properties for sale when we were there.

And even if that isn't correct, SMA's real estate market has to be more closely tied to the fortunes of the NOB real estate market than almost any other place in Mexico, save, perhaps, for a few beach resorts like Los Cabos.  With many Gringos under water in their NOB houses, or lacking the equity kicker they had once hoped for, the money to deploy into Mexican real estate is not what it used to be.

So I'd be very very deliberate about buying a property in SMA. In fact, I think I'd be inclined to rent until the market clears a bit more.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we are quite dismayed at what appears to be further softening in our own Boston real estate market.  Sell now and rent?  Hmmmmm.....

P.S. I too am a fountain pen user. And I even refill it with bulk ink. No tidy cartridges for me.  LOL

Steve Cotton said...

I doubt a real estate purchase is in my future. My wanderlust has not yet abated.