Tag Archives: shelter

may April showers bring June, July and August showers

William just had another one of those events that come around annually, and like most modern folks, said he didn’t really want or need anything in the birthday gift category.  You’re the same way, I know.

But I wanted to do something. So in the merger of cheap and creative, the result of looking at the catalogs that come to the house and my love of the Georgia Avenue Thrift Store, we have an outdoor shower in the well to the basement door under the deck.

I bought these little hooks, found the working outlet for the power drill (my birthday present to myself when I turned 40 just the other day decade), and screwed them into the inside of the deck.


A showerhead on a hose will screw into the hose bib. Only William would have installed a hot water faucet for the outside water source, as you can see here by the red and blue knobs indicators.  That’s how he rolls.


Thrift store curtains were pretty cheap, if a little too bright red.  I stitched little rings to the top to hang on the hooks, and weights to the bottom edge, so that Shepherd St. neighbors Leslie and Carrie won’t have to see to much of William if a little breeze were to blow the curtains around.


He’s still dubious, thinking I wanted the shower more than he.  Well, maybe, but after biking, gardening, sweating on a construction site, or just because you can, an outdoor shower feels very nice.

Inaugural rinse is pending.



view from the deck — Chincoteague Channel



It’s a hazy day.
Even from the sunset deck,
Can’t see Greenbackville.


photo by me, Wildcat, Chincoteague, 4 April 2014


The art of dying — part 1

The art of dying — part 1

What an upbeat and practical way to look at death in the future. (Click on the link above.)

After dying, we’ll still need to live somewhere, won’t we?  I have thought a few times about making a piece at the pottery wheel that would like nice on shelf in the kitchen as a nice tuna casserole cooking dish, and then on some other shelf as a receptacle for someone’s dusty remains.  (I thought about it a bit too late in the case of my late brother-in-law, the demise of whom is mentioned earlier. Other arrangements are made.)

This fellow shows such style in thinking with such deliberation and choosing to learn a new skill in the process. Bravo.


Donde yo estoy (where I am)

Donde yo estoy (where I am)

On the bat-strewn tile floor in the restroom of San Pablo, 1 noviembre 2013.

San Pablo is a sacred space to me.

Helen Hine 1


Helen at our common table, telling about her life, septiembre 2013

This is not a cheery story even when it starts out, so maybe don’t read it. I just saw her about every day so want to note it.  (I moved out of the house described yesterday, as planned.)

Helen Hines was the first person to officially meet us here in Oaxaca.  Her house shares the courtyard with ours, the whole compound owed by her partner Agustino’s daughter, Cathy.  Agostino appeared earlier in these postings, sunning himself outside in a nice hat and a shawl.


Helen at Mercado Sánchez Pascuas, septiembre 2013

She met us when we arrived in early September, gave us keys and a tour of the whole two-room house.

We have gotten small bits out of her, mostly practical information.  She informs where to hide the small plastic-wrapped 5-peso coin for the collector when putting out trash, which restaurants she likes (very similar menus at each of  a consommé, spaghetti, and one kind of meat or another, with a special fondness for fish, conclude with “and for only 40 pesos!”), and where I might find some special thing I have asked about, though maddeningly she can’t recall street names, and “it’s right past that other place” that I have never heard of either.  You know the type.

Helen is apparently quite old, but won’t talk numbers. (She said she once fired a lawyer who disclosed her age to someone.)  Also, every conversation starts with a lot of “What? What?” and a moment or two of firing up the hearing aid before proceeding.

Once in September, I asked her over to the table in the shared patio space, and offered a bit of the wine I had opened.

“Why not?” she said.  And in that quiet one-on-one I heard a bit of her life.  She has been in Mexico, specifically Oaxaca, a long time, more than twenty years, but other versions have put it much longer than that.

She must have been a bit of a seeker — after growing up in New York, there was time in San Francisco, then Guatemala, where she was asked to use her background as a librarian to start a library.  There was a marriage, which ended badly, and Helen has a son in New York City.  “But that was with another guy,” she said, waving her hand loosely at some dismissed relationship.

At some point, she met? fell in love with? hung on to? Agostino, Mexican, once an accomplished archaeologist in Mexico City.  He went to study in the United States, and somehow his career went awry.

So there’s searching, finding, scholarship, romance in the past, now making way for aging, immobility, dementia, deafness and other troubles. Who knows what else.  And you can see from the picture that she was beautiful, with fine features and gestures.

They live in the house behind the gate we share and now owned by Agostino’s daughter in New York.  Helen tries admirably to be the on-site caretaker, but the daily skills don’t come so easily any more.  To use the washing machine, we follow fairly straight-forward instructions, read to us over and over, with the warnings of the bad things that will ensue if we do it wrong.  When the water pump to our house suddenly went out, she yelled increasingly loudly to turn off the pump, ignoring William’s yelling back that it was never on.  And more like that.  Frustration and fear.  Shouting at Agostino and his shouting back.

Her joy remains the Oaxaca Lending Library, a part of her life for all these years.  Through the original and long-time librarian there, Ruth Gonzalez, came her attachment to this house.  Everyone at the OLL has great esteem for Helen, invariably grateful for her volunteer time there and praising her intelligence.  Until recent weeks, she has performed her job there organizing all the periodicals.

Sadly, in the short time we have been here, we cannot help but notice a huge decline.  Daily trips to market, just around the corner, are harder and she needs help with the small package and with clearing the obstructing stairway that’s always been here.

More later.

In William’s words

William’s latest post, to which I’ll add some pictures.

Dear Friends,

It is hot down here, hot and dry, the city is 1542 meters [5,100 ft.] above sea level.  When we first arrived it was the rainy season, May to September, and we were told to expect an afternoon shower every day.  It was different this year though.  It rained heavily almost every day.  Most people said it was unusual to have so much rain.  There were hurricanes on both coasts at the same time during this time.  Then on Thursday, September 26, the rain stopped.  No rain since.  Now the heat is setting in.

When I was here in March I got dehydrated very badly.  I had chills, diarrhea and much discomfort all through the night.  I have noticed that Oaxacaños don’t drink water, at least publicly; they do not sweat; and even though it’s eighty degrees, they have on a second layer and usually wear long pants.  I sweat a lot, and now drink water often.  The air at this altitude feels so dry, and yet if I take my hat off my head is soaked.  I have set up a fantasy time frame of three hours where if I did not drink something, I would have sunstroke.

ImageThe view of the Pacific from our cabana at Zipolite

One weekend we went to the beach.

We opted for the 10-hour overnight first-class bus.  Wow, was the beach hot.  It was so hot Lisa got sunstroke the first day but recovered overnight, nurse Guillermo at the ready.  The next night I got “liquid out the wrong orifice” disease, luckily nurse Lisa was at the ready.  We returned to Oaxaca via a different route, a six-hour bus ride that we split into two three-hour rides to stay in the village of San Jose del Pacifico [8,500 ft.].  There is supposed to be a view of the ocean but there were too many clouds.  When planning for the beach we thought it might be hot; the bus going down was AC’d to sixty-five degrees, then we arrived in the mountains on the return trip in shorts, no sweaters and no rain gear and guess what — it was raining.  We are one brainy crew!  I had sh*t out the last of my brain cells, so I just sat down by the side of the road and let Lisa find us a place to stay.  I learned something new about diarrhea though — it’s not so much the emptying, but the long week it took too fill back up, and the reading of bodily signals that used to indicate solid, liquid or gas meaning very different things than they used too.  My blog will be called “Plug in or Plug out.”

ImageOur lodgings at San Jose del Pacifico, with Sierra Sur behind

Few here have cars so travel is in, first-class buses, second-class buses, vans (15-passenger), collectivos (Nissan Sentra, 6-passenger), or three-wheel cart thingies that carry three in the back for short distances in some towns.  Once you hit the country it is a compact pickup with seats in the bed and a covered roof.  The road from the beach to the mountain town barely clings to the side of the cliffs; I imagined if we went off the road we would roll over and over for a long time until we became a little pile of scrap metal way down below.

I think getting sick started me feeling more desirous of the familiar, AKA, “The Residence at Illinois Avenue.”  There is a little gourmet restaurant down the street run by a Wisconsin girl who fell for a Oaxaca guy, that makes the most amazing carrot cake; each day that passes I want more and more of the stuff.  I have been craving familiar tastes too: pizza.  Now I know how it feels to be away from one’s country for a long time.

While I have been flagging, Lisa has been thriving.  She has an amazing number of interests.  Every day she will point out a random “something” fastened to the wall in an artistic or colorful way, or note how beautiful a hand-painted advertisement is.  Her eyes are developing special fabric discernment receptors so she can spot differences between artificial and natural dyes.  Her new friends at the English Library are teaching her how to do hallucinogenic mushrooms.  Not!  She is simply loving Oaxaca.  We did good by coming here.


Lodgings were Lo Cosmico in Zipolite, in El Arquitecto in Mazunte, Pueste del Sol in San Jose.


Could be worse

I could complain, but my problems are small, and borne of a situation of my own choosing, not forced upon me:

— beautiful but old blue-and-white dishware in this rental house cracked and cracking (‘crackando’ in Spanish) and we’re losing some.  I’m using the plastic cup now.


— wearing the same two blouses and two skirts for a week. Do the simple math, 2 squared = 4 combos.

— just found out today that Spanish has 14 verbs tenses, waaaaaay more than anybody needs. But glad to see only two grammatical genders (German has three) and just two grammatical numbers (Arabic has three).  Just a little grumpy about the 16 noun cases in Finnish, but that has nothing to do with me now.