The house, aesthetically speaking, is three single-wide house trailers stacked one on top of the other. From the street all you see is a narrow and tall structure that is painted yellow with big black bars on everything. The house’s prime location of being just 3 blocks from the plaza on one of the oldest streets in town can’t change the fact that it has zero curb appeal and even less charm. But that is Mexico for you. Sometimes the simplest doorway on a dusty old street opens up into a sunlight courtyard filled with flowering trees and singing birds. Unfortunately that’s not true in my case.

The house itself is 15 feet wide by 75 feet deep and is 3 stories high and there is no yard. It is constructed of concrete and brick; and not the fancy exterior brick in the way they do up north. Concrete is poured into columns and beams; all the in betweens are filled in with brick and then whole surface is covered with a concrete like stucco which might or not get painted.

The interior of the house is all hard surfaces; tile floors and concrete stucco walls. Every room is painted yellow the same shade as the exterior. The hard surfaces create echoes which can kind of be annoying when you’re talking on the phone. It feels so extreme at times it feels like I am living inside of a giant loud speaker cabinet; a single fart can reverberate throughout the entire house like a howitzer. My neighbor’s house Banda music, especially the bass notes, becomes my house music as well.

The house came completely unfurnished: no stove, no refrigerator, no washer and dryer, no curtains; no nadda unless you want to count the 3 light bulbs the previous tenants forgot to take with them. I pay $230 bucks a month for the place. The irony of that sum is not lost on me; the same amount of money couldn’t cover the rent on an old model single-wide trailer anywhere in the United States.

This house like most others does not have heating or air-conditioning. The climate is so agreeable on most days that it doesn’t even enter my mind that one or both is missing. On cold days you leave your windows and doors closed and on warm days you open them up; that’s heating and cooling at its simplest. And most days are like 75 degrees F so the point is really moot anyway.

One of the great benefits of not having to power either a heating or cooling system is how ridiculously cheap that makes one’s electric bill. For example my last electric bill for the previous 56 days came to precisely $6.20 or a little more than 10 cents per day. And that electricity at any given time is powering something like 2 light bulbs, a laptop and a refrigerator.

My gas runs me $15 per month which keeps me in hot water and cooking fuel. When my gas runs out I hail down one of the trucks that continually circulate throughout the city. The guy totes in a new 30 kg. cylinder, he hooks it up, I pay him in cash and I’m good to go for 2 more months. Oh yeah, water is free or at least I guess it is because I’ve never gotten a bill for it.

Half of the first floor, the street facing part, is garage. The garage door is dual 12 foot tall iron barred gates topped with sharp spikes. There is an outward facing window into the garage that is also covered in protective iron bars. The kitchen lies at the far end of the first floor and behind it there is an open air laundry room that is accessed through a steel door with iron bars over the windows.

I’ve now locked myself out of the house twice, both times while doing laundry. The first time I was able to break the window to get back in. I had just gotten the wet side of the tubs cleaned and sussed out and was turning my attention to fixing a hose to the spicket when I the felt the bumping of mosquitoes at my ankles. The mosquitoes in this part of the world are truly sneaky little bastards. They only operate in stealth mode; there is no announcing whine and they work only at ankle level. They are a total nuisance and I hate them because they are almost impossible to kill.

I angrily reached over and pulled the door closed, my satisfaction of denying them egress was very short-lived as I realized just how screwed I was. My mind did a rapid security assessment. Spare set of keys? Yes, but not very helpful as they were on the other side of that door that I just closed. Tall skinny house with every single entry covered in some aspect of iron bars, nasty medieval spikes, or (my favorite) embedded shards of broken glass. As for getting back into the house, there were precisely two options: somehow get up to the third level and go in through the open terrace door or break the glass on the door and try and get the key that lay on the countertop on the other side of the bars.

The present situation shed new light on my new home which I then saw in all of its Mordor like impregnability. The house was fundamentally a cross between a row house and a multi-leveled iron barred gated fortress. Unlike suburbia, there are no backyards, only the walls and roofs of other houses; and some that have dogs with big sharp teeth. So if you lock yourself out of your house there is no alley way or alternate path or neighbor who can lend you a screw driver with which you can pry open your kid’s bedroom window.

With little hope I pushed on the door. I said, shit about 5 times in a row, each time a little louder. Through the glass pane I could see the key. I didn’t want to break the window but the alternative of climbing hand over hand up three floors was without question the less attractive proposition. So I broke the window.

Several months later I got locked out again when the wind slammed the door shut. I tried to break the glass but those clever repair people replaced the broken pane with some version of glass that was unbreakable. I pounded a brick against it to no avail. I said ‘shit’ a bunch of times, sighed loudly and looked sourly up at my challenge; namely climbing the 20 feet of vertical walls that separated me from the only open portal into the house.

And thankfully the 3rd floor terrace door was open. I just had to find a way to get up there. And this was one of those many things I’d never thought about before, one of those ‘what ifs’ that maybe could have been avoided if I had thought about it.

So I climbed up on the wash tub, then stepped over onto the top of the gas cylinder and grabbed hold of the roof over hang and pulled myself up to the second level. My bedroom’s barred window could conceivably be shinnied up and then standing on it there would only be another 6 feet or so to negotiate to gain the terrace. I took stock of the situation and realized that if I was somehow unable to make it then there was the possibility of getting trapped between levels, neither able to go up or down; a very risky proposition for a man wearing only boxer shorts.

So there I was, standing on the roof of the laundry in flip flops with my boxers billowing in the breeze and I knew whether I liked it or not that I would have to find a way up even if it killed me.

It turned out to be easier than I thought. I scarpered over the wall to my neighbor’s house, got on top of their hot water heater, shinnied up the pipe to their 2nd story roof, then managed to climb with fingers and toes the additional 8 feet up the bare brick wall, then pulled myself up and flopped myself over the top of the east wall. The damage was surprisingly light; two skinned up elbows and a torn finger nail and a bleeding toe. This easy access route explained how this same neighbor’s son was able to get up on my terrace for his attempted break in while we were in Morelia a few weeks earlier.

The second floor of the house has 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. I sleep in the room that is the farthest back from the street. I also use the shower on this floor because it’s all tile with no walls or doors and easy to keep clean; just a squeegee with a long handle does the trick.

The third floor has a bedroom that I use as my study/workroom; I like it all except for the connecting bathroom with its stupidly useless Jacuzzi tub. But it is what’s on the north end of the floor that is so cool and was the very reason why I rented the place; it is the crown jewel of the entire house: a most awesome terrace that consumes half the square footage of the entire floor.

The terrace has a 270 degree panoramic view of the city. I have a hammock out there and a bunch of plants. I open the door in the morning and it stays open until dark. The big south facing workroom windows I open as well so there is always this nice breeze that carries through the rooms.

I live on the 3rd floor; the rest of the house just serves as some sort utility. For instance I only go into the kitchen to cook a couple of nights a week or to hit the refrigerator for a cold Modelo. I sleep on the second floor and shower there but that’s it. I do my laundry by hand in the concrete washtub behind the kitchen in one of those washtubs that’s standard equipment in every house in Mexico. Everything gets dried on clothes lines up on the terrace although the laundry area has clothes lines too. There is a Laundromat just a block and a half away but it seems easier to just do everything by hand. And it’s not like I have lots to wash. I wear t-shirts, shorts, and sandals everyday but only boxer shorts and flip flops around the house. None of the windows have any kind of window covering but the house is so private, terrace included, that I could pretty much walk around naked and go unnoticed; at least until the next time that I locked myself out.

The house does have a couple of idiosyncrasies that I’m still not quite reconciled with. And I don’t know which one is the bigger pain in the ass; the fact that there isn’t a single closet in the entire house or that there is no hot water in either the kitchen or laundry. The fact that the house has cable connections only on the second floor but not a single telephone line in the entire house is of only minor importance. I haven’t owned a TV since ’92 and between my cell phone and weak but consistent WiFi I manage to stay in touch with both family and current events.

Furniture is mostly a makeshift affair; imagine college dorm room circa 1973. My work table is made out of three 7’ long planed white pine boards supported on 2 thin tubular welded steel sawhorses painted flat black. Elegant, timeless, and cheap; the whole thing cost me forty bucks. I had a plumbing problem a couple of months ago and my upper-middle class landlady, who came along with the plumber, took a sneak peak around. I could tell she was more than a little mortified that I hadn’t outfitted her house in furniture more suiting to the presumed prestige of that Calle Victoria address. I’ve been in her house. Very nice, much much nicer than mine; modern kitchen, nice wood cabinets but loaded with all that heavy, dark, over carved 19th century German Baroque furniture which is one of those Mexican affectations that I’ve never been able to figure out.

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