Home For The Holidays

¬°Feliz Navidad!

My lovely supermodel wife and I want to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed and joyful Christmas season. Well, and probably any other season too, for that matter. Unless it’s football season. If you’re a Packers fan, or a Bears fan–all bets are off.

In that instance, we hope that your team sucks and that you, as a fan, are miserable every time your team plays our team.

Despite a mediocre record this year, the Vikings still have a chance to make it to the playoffs as a wild card team. I had pretty much given up on them, and didn’t even bother to watch their game last week. So they played their best game of the season and clobbered the Miami Dolphins.

We’ll probably watch the game today. They’re playing the Detroit Lions. Besides, we’ve already watched every Hallmark Christmas movie at least five times. I’ve written about the Hallmark movies before. Despite the fact that they’re all essentially the same movie, we’ve apparently become addicted to them.

I’ve had my heartstrings pulled a few times watching them this year. As predictable as they all are, it’s Christmas. And everyone loves a happy ending at Christmas. ūüéĄūüéÖ

* * * *

This will be our third Christmas in Mexico, but it’ll be the first Christmas in our new home. It actually feels like Christmas this year. For one thing, it’s freezing inside of our cavernous abode. Lea and I are from Minnesota, and Christmas is almost always cold there. Like, below fucking zero cold. It’s one of the reasons we moved to Arizona.

We have a couple of portable propane heaters at the new house, and we’re getting good use out of them. They kick out a lots of heat, until their tanks run out of fuel. The propane guys who fill the two big tanks that supply the main house and the casita can fill the portable tanks whenever they’re in the neighborhood, but I hate to request a special delivery from them if I only need a few liters of propane.

There’s a place called Zeta Gas about a mile west of here. They have a drive through facility. You pull up to the pump, hand the guy your tank, and he fills it up for you. It’s a minor hassle in the Big Scheme of Life, but the last two times our heaters died, they died on a Sunday. The one day of the week that Zeta Gas is closed.

Back in the States, you don’t actually buy propane tanks. You more or less rent the canister, and when it’s empty you take it back to the store and rent another full one. And you can do that at probably a dozen different places any day of the week. Here, you buy an empty tank at the hardware store. It’s up to you to get it filled and keep it filled.

It was one of those “on the job training/This is Mexico” things for me. We didn’t have this issue at our last house. So I bought a backup tank the other day, and filled it right away. Take that, Sunday! I’m ready for you now.

* * * *

Second, our Christmas decorations are on display. We even have a Christmas tree, thanks to Al and Jane Castleman. They loaned us one of theirs. It even looks fairly festive. We set it up on the patio so our kit-tens, Mika and Mollie, can’t destroy it.

Kit-tens. I don’t remember our last kit-tens being so…mischievous. I struggle to find the right word to describe their antics. From their point of view, all they’re doing is what comes naturally to them. They’re smart, they’re curious, and they’re very good at jumping. And they like us, so of course they want to help us, no matter what it is we’re trying to do.

I’ve discovered I spend quite a bit of time talking to our growing furbabies.

“Mollie! Get off of the table!”¬†

“Mika! How the hell did you get up there?”

“Don’t make me get the squirt bottle!!”

I don’t like having to use the squirt bottle on the kit-tens, but it’s the most effective tool in feline behavior modification, ever.

* * * *

And thirdly, we have guests this year. Gwen and John Henson flew down from Austin, TX to celebrate the holiday with us. Gwen is Lea’s oldest daughter. She’s also our brilliant financial planner. John is her loving husband. He’s a very good man.

Historically, Gwen and John have always traveled back to Minnesota for Christmas. I’m not sure why they decided to come here this year; I’m just glad they did. And Lea is thrilled beyond words.

Other than Lea’s boyfriend, Todd, they’re probably the only people who actually like us. They’ve come to visit us more than anyone else.

* * * *

We’re finally settled in at our new house. It feels like home. We’ve been here about two months, but it seems somehow longer. Like, this is the place we were supposed to be when we moved here. All of the big things we wanted to do when we moved in have been crossed off the list. Pretty much all of the little things that needed to be done have been taken care of, too.

I can get back to resting on my…laurels…again. And playing golf.

I went golfing last week with the guy who painted our house. Francisco Flores Bernini is a caddy at Vista del Lago, the country club that I’m a member of. He showed me several of the houses he had painted out there. That’s why I decided to hire him to paint our new house.

Francisco is a very good caddy, which has been good for me. He’s also a very good golfer, which wasn’t so good for me last Thursday. I played the best round of golf I’ve ever played in my life, and Francisco still beat me by seventeen strokes. He gave me a lots of tips while we golfed, and some of them even worked when I tried them. I might end up being a decent golfer someday if all of his suggestions work.

But my favorite best memory of that day was buying coffee from Luli, the refreshment cart girl. I was paying for our drinks, and I gave Luli a nice tip. You know, it’s Christmas…

“Do you want to give her a hug?” Francisco asked me in English, but the way he said it made it more of a suggestion than a question.

“Sure. Why not.” I replied. Francisco told Luli that I wanted to give her a hug, in Spanish. She speaks some English, but I guess he didn’t want there to be any confusion about this. Luli giggled, and she hugged me. That’s when I figured out why Francisco wanted me to hug her.

Luli has what we call in America an epic set of tits.

“¬ŅPuedo tener un abrazo tambi√©n?” Francisco asked Luli, and she smiled and hugged him, too. “Man, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.” Francisco confessed, as we drove to the next tee box. “When I’m caddying out here, she won’t give me the time of day. But today, I’m a golfer. After you gave her that tip, I knew she wouldn’t say no to hugging you.

“I was just hoping she wouldn’t say no to hugging me. I’m never going to forget this day. I’m going to remember this as one of the best days in my life.”

Because of Francisco, I’m going to remember it that way, too.

* * * *

Christmas, as every Hallmark movie will tell you, is a time for family. I can tell you it doesn’t always work out that way in real life. The last time my entire family got together for Christmas was 2006 when my mother was dying to death from cancer.

It’s not one of those warm, fuzzy memories for me.

Given the fact that Lea and I are now living deep in the heart of Mexico, it’s not likely that we’ll travel to the Great White North. Lea has sworn that she will never go back to Minnesota during the winter. To be honest, it’s not something I would look forward to either. It’s even less likely that anyone in my family would come down here to see us.

That’s the reality of life. Even so, if I don’t spend another Christmas with my family, it won’t be the worst thing that will ever happen to me. Or them. We still love each other. Well, most of us still love each other. I can always call them. Or at the very least, send them a deeply affectionate text.

Once you grow up, you realize that family is a word that can have multiple layers. There’s the family you were born into. There’s the family you make when you get married. There’s the family you make with friends, co-workers; pretty much any group of people you want.

Family, much like unto reality, can be anything you imagine it to be.

So, Merry Christmas to us. Merry Christmas to you. And as Tiny Tim so eloquently stated, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.”

The House of Diez Doors

¬°Hola! Buenas tardes, y’all.

Now that we’ve finally completed the moving process, I can sit my ass down and try to write something. Until Mollie or Mika decide to help me edit this post. The kit-tens are getting so big! They’re still cute and adorable, except when they’re getting into mischief, and they’ve gotten pretty damn good at that. Mika has shown herself to be the leader when it comes to getting in trouble. That darn kit-ten!!

It’s like my crazy Polish grandmother used to say,¬†“If I had two assholes, yous kids would climb in one to see what was up there!”¬†Those old Pollacks, they had a way with words, not?

Mika and Mollie have been busy exploring their new home, and racing around the rooms playing kit-ten hockey. It’s a game I invented. All you need is two kit-tens and a ping pong ball. It’s seriously fun to watch. I’ll try to take a video one of these days, if I can stop laughing long enough to hold my camera steady.

Or maybe I’ll think of something I was going to do until I got distracted by another thing and forgot to do the first thing. Then I’ll have to quit writing and take care of that dangling thing immediately before I forget that I remembered that I needed to do something. Whatever it might be.

That has happened a lots the last few weeks. And it’s likely to continue for awhile.

And there was this, too:¬†Where did I put the hammer?!?¬†I have five hammers. I’ve used every fucking one of them putting this house together because I couldn’t find the one I was¬†just using. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and can’t rememberate stuff so good anymore, or because I have a very diffuse attention span. It might be both.

But another part of this equation is the sheer size of this place. I’ve posted a lots of pictures of our new house on my Facebook page. Many people have commented that our house looks like unto a resort. Yeah, it really does. But the photos fail to convey the scope of the space, and the layout. I’ve actually called my lovely supermodel wife on her cellphone when we were both in the house to ask her where she was.

I couldn’t find her, and I probably thought she had taken my hammer…

* * * *

We had no idea we’d be moving into the largest house we’ve ever had when we started our home search. Our last house was roughly 2200 square feet. This house is easily twice as large.¬† In Mexico, anything under a roof is considered indoor living space. Like, you know, a patio. If you use Mexican math, it’s probably closer to 5000 square feet.

I suppose the yard is bigger, too. But 90% of the lot is filled by the house. And the casita. And the swimming pool. Our backyard runs parallel to the first fairway at the Chula Vista Golf Course. It’s the¬†other golf course in the Lakeside Area. The one I’m not a member of.

* * * *

I could say we have a great view of the golf course, but we don’t. There’s kind of a forest growing on the hillside below our house. And there’s a verdant garden growing along the fence line. You actually have to look pretty hard to see the golf course.

There are a couple of downsides to the Chula Vista course. It’s carved out of the side of the mountain, and the fairways run over hill, over dale. That in itself isn’t a deal breaker. There are no golf carts at Chula Vista. If I wanted to walk that much, I’d sell my car.

That’s not gonna happen.

On the bright side, I have found two golf balls in the backyard. I may never have to buy another golf ball…

* * * *

There aren’t many long-term rental houses available in the Lakeside Area this time of year. It’s Snowbird Season! We didn’t think we’d find a new place to live until May or June of next year. Then a kind of funny thing happened. Our friend, Cheryl, alerted us that this house was available. That wasn’t the funny part. Several of our friends had told us about available rental houses they knew of, and suggested we check them out. The funny part is Lea contacted¬† the property manager, Belva, immediately. Lea never does that. She has to think about stuff for awhile first.

We were the first people to contact Belva, and arranged to take a tour of the place. When we arrived for our walk through, she informed us that ten other couples had contacted her expressing interest in the property. But we had been first; we had dibs.

Belva had a fistful of keys in her hand. And she needed all of them. Two of the three exterior doors in the kitchen were on the same key. All of the other lockable doors, exterior and interior, were on separate keys. And you needed two different keys just to unlock the huge hobbit door that is the grand front entrance, that hardly anyone will ever use.

It’s an old house, probably twenty years older than our first Mexican house. It’s a classic Mexican style gringo mansion. The decor and furnishings were straight out of the 70’s. If¬†The Brady Bunch¬†(El Grupo de Brady en espa√Īol) had been set in Mexico, this would’ve been their house.¬†An elderly British couple had lived here until they got dead. Their son, Lord Mark, the Duke of San Antonio, inherited the place and has been renting it out as an income property.

This is The House of Ten Doors, not counting the two main gates. One gate leads to the grand main entrance. The really big gate secures the carport. There’s actually thirteen exterior doors here, but the title of this post is an adaptation of the title of the novel,¬†The House of Dies Drear,¬†and I hope at least one of my readers caught that.¬†The number thirteen just wouldn’t work in my title, no matter which language I used. I suppose I could have used¬†Gone With the Wind because the name of our¬†casa is Tara, but that title didn’t make any sense. Not even to me.

“Well, what do you think? If you don’t want it, the next couple I show it to will take it.”¬† Belva said, after we saw the house. If she was bluffing, I couldn’t spot her tell.

Lea and I had a quick discussion. The place was old. It wasn’t move-in ready. The interior needed to be painted. We’d have to install a water filtration system. And there might be other surprises. It’s an old house…

As renters, that was money we’d be spending on a property that we were never going to purchase.

It had everything we were looking for, plus several things that weren’t on our list. Like, a casita, an attached exterior room that defies conventional description which could easily be converted into a workshop where I could play with my power tools, and it had a solar heated swimming pool.

* * * *

Okay. The Unconventional Room. It’s attached to the back of the north wing of the house, behind the kitchen. You can’t access the room from the inside, you have to go outside to get to it. Seeing how the only entrance to the Unconventional Room is an exterior door, it can be locked.

There were bunk beds in the room when we took our initial tour. Okay, it was a kid’s bedroom suite with a full bath. A bedroom with an attached bath that could be locked. It looked like a seclusion room to me. That’s what I called it until I converted it into my workshop.

* * * *

Back to the discussion Lea and I were having.

The house was huge, certainly much larger than anything we needed. Three bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms. Plus the casita. And the pool. And, well, everything!¬†And it had so many goddamn doors! We were going to have to be on double secret alert for the rest of our lives to make sure we didn’t accidentally lose the kit-tens. But it wasn’t any more expensive than our first house. Plus, it came with a maid, and a gardener, and a pool guy, all of which were included in the rent.

A bird in the hand…¬†¬†Yeah, we took it.¬†Brady Bunch decor and all. It’s probably the only two times in her life that my lovely supermodel wife has made two decisions in less than ten minutes.

* * * *

By the way, Monica is our maid. She’s the best maid we’ve ever had. Miguel is our gardener/pool guy. They are both great at what they do, and we’re fortunate to have them.

* * * *

Our painter, Francisco Flores Bernini, had all of the interior rooms prepped and painted in less than two weeks, except the kitchen. Lea’s boyfriend and my golf wife painted that room. Thank you for that incredible gift, Todd and Phyllis.

Lord Mark had upgraded the kitchen appliances and had moved the old stove and refrigerator into the casita. In the process, the gas line to the stove in the casita had developed a leak. It took Moses the repairman three visits to fix it.

We moved fifty loads of the smaller household items in our SUV from our old house to our new house over a two week time period, with more help from Todd and Phyllis. The moving crew took five hours to transport the rest of our furniture here.

I spent something like unto fifteen hours setting up my home theater system. It sounds so good!! It was built for this house. It took two days to install the water filtration system. It took the satellite dish guys three visits to get our two TV’s up and running.

The locksmith we hired had to make two trips here to rekey four locks on the kitchen doors and the main entrance to one key. It took us about a week to find the key to unlock the third patio door.

* * * *

That mountain of keys! We threw them in a pile on the dining room table, and every time we needed a key we had to dig through the fucking keys until we found the one key we wanted.

Several years ago I had bought a whole bunch of oversized decorative keys. They look like the skeleton keys the head jailer might carry around in an old prison. I hung a decorative key by every exterior door, and the corresponding key to each door.

Mischief managed.

And then there were the light switches. There are a whole lots of those, too. We had to replace at least fifteen light bulbs, but now we know what what most of the switches operate, and the coolest light switch ever is in the hallway running along the bedrooms. It’s a sensor. The lights turn on and off automatically as you enter and exit the hallway. There are two switches we’ll probably never figure out. For all I know, they might turn on the lights at the neighbor’s house. Or, possibly your house.

* * * *

All in all, it took only nine days for Lea and I to put the new place together. We finished today.

Casa Tara, the House of Ten Doors, looks cool. It also feels cool. Literally. It’s like living in a cavern. The high ceilings and the brick and mortar walls make the interior feel as though it’s air conditioned, which will be very nice in the summer. But it’s actually kind of cold inside this time of year.

There are three gas fireplaces; one in the living room, one in the den, and one in the master bedroom. None of them are functional. Yeah, we need to fix that.  ¡Pronto!

There are hundreds of small jobs still left to do. I’ve completed several of them while I’ve been writing this. It’s one reason why it’s taken me so long to finish. It’s¬†also one reason why I need a workshop.

Pretty soon I can start to get back to playing golf three times a week and doing as little as possible of anything else. I was getting really good at personal energy conservation.

Speaking of golf, Phyllis and I are playing in a tournament tomorrow. I need to visualize my one, true, authentic swing. Maybe I’ll be able to do it once or twice when the spotlight is on me…

* * * *

We’ll be taking reservations at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa soon as the Casita/Guest House is ready. Please call ahead to check availability before showing up at the front gate. Ring the doorbell if you arrive unannounced. It’s a big place. We might not see you otherwise.