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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

late night meals

"Most friends fade
Or they don't make the grade
New ones are quickly made.
Some of them worth something, too.
But us, old friends?
What's to discuss, old friends?"

So, who says Sondheim can't be sentimental?  Or, that I can't, for that matter?

I stopped by to see my friends Lou and Wynn yesterday afternoon to catch them up on my house closing.  They were good enough to accompany me last Sunday for the pre-closing inspection of my new house.  Both of them had some very helpful ideas.

They were even more helpful yesterday.  They had read about my wandering electronic backup.  I had stopped by their house to use their computer to call my brother to arrange for an emergency muling.  As soon as he makes some arrangements, he will be down to get me back on the electronic highway.

Wynn and Lou did him one better.  Until Darrel gets my new computer to me, Wynn and Lou have graciously lent me a tablet -- and that will allow all of us to answer the question: "What's to discuss, old friends?"

Several months ago Jennifer Rose asked her readers what they eat when they return home, following a trip.  And local eateries are closed.

I am not certain I participated in the discussion.  If I remember correctly, I simply did not have an answer.  But I do now.

Because I knew when I returned on Saturday that I would be moving very soon, I did not bother to unpack my suitcases.  (That is one reason all of my goods were still in my backpack.)  And I have not bought any fresh groceries.

This last trip took me out of Mexico for almost two months.  When I left, I cleared the refrigerator.  My first meal here was at a restaurant on Saturday.  For Sunday dinner, I rummaged through my shelves and found nothing.  But, tucked in the back of the freezer, were two bags of my famous bean soup.

So, that is my answer.  I try to leave one of my specialties in the freezer compartment for these "return home late" moments.

And, just as Jennifer did, I will put the question to you.  What do you eat when you arrive home and have no option but what is on offer in your larder?

And don't just talk amongst yourselves.  Pull us all into your conversation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

everything is new again

That drum roll you hear is the announcement we have all been waiting to hear.  Mexpatriate is opening a new corporate headquarters.  In Barra de Navidad.

My two realtors and I drove down to Manzanillo yesterday morning to complete the transfer.  Our first stop was at the bank to ensure the funds were ready for disbursement.

We then headed over to the office of the notario where he explained, in detail, his title search, how the bank trust operates, and what the tax clearance documents mean.  Then it was signature after signature.

At the end, I was a few thousand dollars poorer and a bit property richer.

Now, you are probably wondering where the photographs of this great event are.  It is a fair question.  

While we were in the bank, someone decided he needed my backpack more than I do.  He is now the owner of a computer, a camera and lenses, a Kindle, a pair of binoculars, and the portable hard drive that contains 6 years of my photographs.

But it also means I get to buy a lot of new stuff to go with my new house.

Unfortunately, it may also mean that I will be offline for a bit until I can figure out a way to share my new adventure with you.  Internet cafe computers just will not do.

I do know one thing, though.  It feels good to build up from the bottom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

changing my galoshes

It is amazing how one small thing can taint an evening.

Take restaurants, as an example.  When I flew back to Mexico on Saturday, Lou picked me up at the Mazanillo airport.  Only a true friend would do something like that.

We started a conversation on our way to my house and decided to recess it until Wynn could join us for dinner.  Because I am about to join the Barra de Navidad set, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant there that has been a rather inconsistent food and service experience for me.

And Saturday was no exception.  The service was indifferent.  I always find that unusual in Mexico.  In Paris, I have come to expect being treated as a painful reminder to the waiter that life is simply a meaningless existential exercise.  But, in Mexico?  Where the closest translation for angst is fiesta.

The food was fine.  However, because my schnitzel was a bit dry, I requested a bit of the restaurant's celebrated goulash sauce.  That night, it was a bit greasier than usual, but, for the first time, I noted a subtle underlying flavor.  Wynn thought it was worcestershire.  I thought it was sherry.

It didn't really matter.  Whatever it was, it did not cut the sauce's oiliness.

On the way out, I saw the owner.  Merely out of curiosity, I told her I thought I tasted a hint of sherry in the sauce, and asked her if I was correct.  She looked at me as if I had asked her for her bank account numbers and her PIN.

She responded: "There is an ingredient" -- in the same tone that an indulgent mother tells an autistic child that it is time to gather up his crayons.

Of course, I had no intention of trying to duplicate her rather pedestrian sauce.  But I would have been very interested in discussing the art of cooking (or the art of managing customer expectations) with her.

I know there are some people who guard even the fact that pork is used in the goulash.  But, for a restaurant, it is self-defeating.  Unless, of course, your idea of haut cuisine runs to the secret herbs and spices found at KFC. 

I am now left with the plausible possibility that "the ingredient" is either ketchup or peanut butter, though, I know it isn't.  But she did nothing to stop such wild speculation.

Hers is the only restaurant where I have ever encountered that secretive response.  Alex in La Manzanilla loves to discuss the ingredients she uses.  A neighborhood cook in Melaque was a bit reluctant to tell me that one of the main ingredients in his Diabla sauce really is ketchup.  But he told me.  And I still eat there, and enjoy his sauce.

There are plenty of places to eat in this area that offer good food, good service, and even better conversation.  I will probably hang out in those places more often.