Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Big Indulgence

The plan was to do what friend Debbie calls a "light renovation": Update wiring and plumbing, paint, replace lights and fans, and keep the existing kitchen and bathroom pretty much as-is. It has stayed more or less within that description, with a number of changes that made sense to do now rather than later, such as removing a non-original wall to create a front sala out of an unusable bedroom, raising the arch and re-laying the pasta floors in a couple of rooms.
But it became quickly obvious the existing bathroom, while functional, couldn't just be cleaned up and kept in service for a couple more years. The bathoon reno is the one indulgence in this first spate of renovations. I am used to living in less than pristine surroundings (see "Fallingdowne turns 100") but it was truly revolting. I love using locally sourced materials in a home and love the Yucatan's plentiful limestone in all its forms. Georgina suggested covering the bathroom walls in the stuff, and so we've now got the white ("Crema Maya") tiles on the walls and red ("Ticul") stone on the floors. It's amazing to see it in place in these latest photos from our architect, Victor.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More reno pictures

These were taken last month, but haven't had a chance to post until now. Last I heard we were waiting for the plumbing to be done so the tile-setters could come in. Already the date of the next trip is approaching and I'm wondering if most of the work can be completed by then. I'm hoping for a functioning bathroom and kitchen and rooms that are ready for furnishings. I know the roof and other stuff will still need to be done before the rains start and I can't quite remember when that occurs.

Hard to believe it's almost a year already since the purchase of the house was completed. I'm glad we haven't been in a rush to get all the work done, but I am looking forward to seeing this first phase of renovations done.
Opening for the new bathroom window


Arch is raised, front room is bright now, not dank
Shower area with nicho ready for tiling
Electrical and a/c circuits in studio

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The windmills of my mind

From the latest comments, I see I'm not the only one with a thing for windmills. Here's a photo of the ones I saw at the Yucatan state fair in November. It's an artless picture but I wanted to get the phone number in case I ever want to get one for aforementioned irrigation system. These are on a much more modest scale than the ones that dominated the skyline in old images of the city.

I can't see them without thinking of that ubiquitous ear worm that won the 1969 Oscar for best song, The Windmills of Your Mind. Not so sure I'd want to sit in the patio watching the windmill blades turning, with those spooky lyrics running through my head.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Old Merida

The house I rented in La Ermita a year ago had lots of good books for hot afternoons in the hammock under a creaking fan. One great one was Ronald Wright's Time Among the Maya. Many stories about the ways and places in which the Mayan World thrived, or faded, or went underground, in Belize and Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula.
An image from the book that has nothing at all to do with Mayan civilization stuck in my mind. It was from Wright's description of Merida in the 1970s, a sleepy city with windmills planted on every property to draw water up from the household wells.
I've long been fascinated by metal windmills, loved to see them in the dry hills of Nebraska slowly sucking water up from the vast Ogalala aquifer to fill the livestock tanks. I often imagine it would be great to hook one up in our patio to irrigate the plants from the old well, wherever it is. I coveted one of the ones on display at the state fair in November.
The other day this image turned up in my Google alerts. The image that's been in my mind since reading Wright's description. Tom surprised me this week by propping the postcard up on my keyboard after buying it on eBay. I wonder how many people remember the city looking this way?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's not the end of the world but you can see it from here

Image from "Unraveling the Chicxulub Case" in Geotimes
La Princesa is watching television, of course. An animated recreation of a 11.1-magnitude earthquake is busy toppling forests in British Columbia and killing the dinosaurs there. It is the result of the shockwave from the meteor that hit the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago.
I tell her the impact was very close to our Merida home. I tell her you can see the outline of the crater where the town of Chicxulub now stands. Some clever people have even dubbed the spot "the end of the world." La Princesa is clearly impressed. "That is very cool," she tells me.
It is deeply gratifying to find something about our Yucatan initiative that makes the grade with La Princesa. She swears she will never visit us there.
She says Mexico gives her a headache. Too hot, too many bugs. The first and so far only time we took her there, at age 14, she gazed out the bus window at the streetscapes of weathered colonial facades on the way in to the city and proclaimed: "But.. it's.. so.. ugly." She loved the night scenes, the music, the placid dogs, the ruins (though we were crazy to go to Uxmal in the middle of the day). She loved Coke in glass bottles. Homemade corn ice cream from a cart in Santa Lucia square. It's not enough to sway her position, though.
La Princesa is 17 this month and full of her own dreams and plans for the world that beckons beyond high school. Itching already to have a place of her own. Bristling under the oppressive yoke of parents with their irritating questions and advice and monitoring. The parents have a few more years of wage slavery before they can throw off their own yoke and fritter away the winter months in Merida (though the plan is for frequent, shorter stays until then).
Image from "The day the dinosaurs died" in Progreso Hoy
So if she doesn't want to visit us, it's not the end of the world. But perhaps someday we'll be able to entice her with the promise of a short bus ride to that very place.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fallingdowne turns 100

This morning I realized our rambling, run-down old Victoria house is now officially a century old. On days like this, it really feels it, as I'm writing in my fingerless gloves, down vest, wool cardigan and blanket.
In summer, to me at least, the place has a certain charming, beach-house kind of feel, even though it's a half-dozen long blocks from the beach and we never go there anymore now that the kids are grown. In wintertime, its charms are more elusive.
I sometimes think about the commonalities between this house and our Merida casa-in-progress. I'm not quite sure how old the Merida house is, though the 12-foot ceilings, thick mamposteria walls, old pasta-tile floors and iron beams suggest it's also early-ish 19th century.
In Merida, most of the original flourishes (aside from some pasta floors and a couple of doors) were stripped out in an earlier renovation.
Same with the Victoria house. It has the original door and window frames and a few leaded glass windows. The century-old fir floors are worn out; they've been sanded down one too many times so that they split and pop where the traffic is heaviest or the floors are warped. I won't get started on the kitchen and bathrooms.
In our Victoria home the plumbing and the electrical are a dysfunctional mix of original and new. So were the works in the Merida house, but that is already being remedied.
Within a couple of months the main part of the Merida house will be updated and pretty and ready for long lazy days involving hammocks and fresh orange juice.
After all these years Fallingdowne is still waiting for its makeover.