redeyes suck, but only a moron would get off of one having slept one hour and proceed to buy a papaya smoothie from an elderly man using all 7 fingers to machete-seed and machete-chop his fruit.
tuesday: trying to nap at my towel-less, no-frills ghetto-hostel was about as productive as trying to shower there (unreliable on-demand heater? this place was subpar). bumbled around condesa ogling eccentric architecture, eating amazing street huaraches, noting good restaurants, until i found el mercado sobre ruedas, which was well-worth the exhausted haul. cooking at a no-frills hostel is a dumb idea. the only thing that hostel DID seem to have enough of was interesting people, but unfortunately it also had more than enough uninteresting people, so in other words, too many people overall— a microcosm, perhaps, of the expat northamerican/european expat scene in latin america. my fodor’s guide recommended (in addition to the “30s mexican cinema golden age” bar my failing health kept me from ever visiting) a bowtie oldman bar where half the people nibble spanish food and watch sports on TV while the other half play loud games of dominoes— pickup game with collegiate strangers, one of whom recommended to me a museum (which i also didn’t make it to :_( ). many beers later they were arguing heatedly over el laberinto de la soledad and the essence of mexican culture, which i suppose was my fault for bringing up chiapas and oaxaca. oops. p.s. best flan of my life, bordering on sour and a texture somewhere between bubbly pannacota and bulgarian feta! p.s.s. high elevation = cheap date.
wednesday: museum-crawl turned into a kiosk shopping spree— the entire historic downtown is one giant claustrophobic (even for a crowd-lover like myself) pedestrian mall from hell. in between the hours of inept haggling, i managed to see the cuevas museum (the TWO wings of his erotic works genuinely touched me— a kindred soul, perhaps) and the caricature museum (it’s just heartbreaking to see a bankrupt comics museum; it’s frustrating to see a comics museum that can’t recommend a good bookstore for buying old or collectable comics!). also touching was watching a dumpy working-class couple compare raunchy tranny porn dvdrs at a bootleg porn kiosk, clearly for shared viewings— reminded me of the couple in “battle of heaven” (reygadas, 2005), which i watched with S before leaving town.
thursday: checked into hotel, then went up to the basilica de la virgen de guadalupe with L, a friend from the hostel. was blown away by the cleanliness, disneyland-esque landscaping, and general feel of the [weekday] crowd— legions of happy [celebate???] young couples on some kind of date, cute family photo ops, celphone cameras left and right trained on the manifold expressions of mariologia. also, the museum at the villa was well worth the hour and a half it took torun through— some amazing vintage mariological work in many media, plenty of colonial baroque awesomeness, not to mention some interesting 20th century/popular tangents. subway to ciudad universitaria which is supposed to be lovely, only they’re on vacation and nothing to see. subway to coyoac’an, walking around the beautiful viveros (“nursery”-park, planted entirely with sapling-to-adolescent trees!), yuppie neighborhood (livingroom yoga studio). checking out a pricey boutiquey clothing store of overdesigned “countercultural” duds was informative and fascinating. in the plaza, after finding a pasteleria that hadn’t changed a whit since the 50s, L+I stumbled across a pre-columbian dance party against the side-door of a beautiful baroque church in the center of the ‘hood: first, we got ritually blessed with burning sage and a kiss from some vaguely shamanic woman, then we chickened out of dancing along with the clearly more educated blessed crowd, only to walk into the church, where we could hear the drummers competing in loudness with the amplified mass being conducted inside. the already blatant irony of the situation was taken to the brink of the baroque by our walking in at the exact moment of eucharist— two kinds of magic in the span of one minute, aggressively juxtaposed. after a run-in with thirdworld customer service at a local coffee institution (what do i care, the coffee was amazing!), L+I tried to see some edgy political cabaret based on galeano’s Los Nadie poem, but the writeup in the paper MISQUOTED WHAT NIGHT IT WAS PERFORMED, which the theater staff could hardly be troubled to consider might entitle us to, say, a perfunctory apology. it was shocking to L, who studies the theater, and after i’d thought about it a while, to me too, that i’d probably seen under 10 plays in my life not counting school. note to self: see plays.
friday: by this point my thunderous case of moctezuma’s revenge and my sore throat/swollen lymph node/nagging cough symptom-suite (which had followed me from oakland, escalated in new york, and at time of writing this in LA is still going strong) are competing for the title of “biggest drag in travel history”. morning began with L + mommy + I taking a tour of the casa-museo barrag’an, the house that mexico’s paranoid super-modernist made for himself to die alone in: i was blown away by it, but at the same time its blatant control-freak excesses so unsettled me that it not only counterweighed the utopian/geometric austerity of the house’s style, but made me wonder if there wasn’t a whole sinister end of the modernist spectrum, and while we’re at it, of my own psyche (so much of this trip’s soul-search boils down to whether, or better yet, in what ways, i am a “control-freak”). leave mom at the anthropology museum to go with L to the siqueiros museum for a jesse lerner-curated exhibit of DF crime scene photos from the archives. two surprises there: 1.) most of the photos turn out not to be crime scenes but enactments of investigative theories of crimes IN those scenes (without any explanation, one features tina modotti enacting a theory!)— creepy!!! 2.) the late siqueiros, like the late matta, was a whole different kind of style, taking on some crazy 60s/70s and psychodelic imagery into a mature style that, like barrag’an’s house, embraces its creepy streak. mommy + I do as much of the archaeology museum as we can take before our brains stop processing any more ruins, then walk grumpily around the bosque remarking that everything closes at 5 and that all these kiosks sell everything except what we need. early night.
sat morning: i let my mom sleep in and attend to her own touristic logistics so that i can subway off to THE HEAVY METAL FLEAMARKET (i.e., the tianguis del chopo), a huge 100-vendor market of youth culture, goth clothing, metal shirts, patches, and most importantly, infinite supplies of legal and illegal rock CDs, performance DVDs, and horror movies. EXCELLENT! some really good (and some really rare) movies were purchased, but little clothing. wandering around beforehand/en route, saw some amazing architecture thereabouts, like the kiosko morisco, the museo de la uni del chopo, etc. meeting up with mommy again, feeling shitty, went to the z’ocalo from a totally different angle: our taxi driver (the first of three that had a master’s in tourist studies, a real [indigenous] architecture/local history buff, and proponent of the cult of benito ju’arez) put us on a certain erudite trajectory. first, the national palace (secular/freemason heaven!) with its rivera supermurals, then the metropolitan cathedral and its seriously creepy baroque sacristy (sorrounded by an acre of canvas and god knows how many tons of gold, those 12 men must’ve felt themselves in the controlroom of the western hemisphere!!!). templo mayor (all those ruins just creep me out, as does knowing that the center of western hemisphere catholicism is, like the house in every horror movie, built on a precolumbian burial ground, namely a sun-temple), banamex museum (some surprises!), too too too many people, the underwhelming frida kahlo show at bellas artes (but some individual surprises there too!). the architecture of bellas artes is a whole headtrip unto itself…
sunday: felt like total shit, had to lay low for a while. xochimilko was an interesting halfday trip, but felt bad spending all that time and money dragging my mom to something that epitomizes why it was hard to get her to come to DF at all. xochimilko’s canals are nothing like anything a tourist would ever wanna see, and its trajineros are nothing like gondoleers (even in a thomas mann version of venice): each boat is basically a floating bench for 8 or for 12, and the canals are bumpercarring with too too many of them, creating an effect somewhere between biergarten and banquet hall, with smaller boats weaving between and latching on to sell beer, tacoes, water, photos, mariachi accompaniment, norte~nas, corridos, jewelry, or my favorite, xylophone-accompanied ballads/traditionals. the average tipsiness of the adults was about 3 beers, but the people bringing up the average make the people-watching amazing by falling off, teasing the trajineros for crashing, singing along with one or more bands, dancing furiously, wacking their kids, etc etc. not my mom’s scene, but under different circumstances (i.e. with a stomach that could process alcohol), most definitely mine— picturesque in a breughel kinda way.
monday: coughing my way up and down the freeway was almost more interesting to me than teotihuac’an itself, particularly given the cantankerous and pedantic character of our guide-driver and his endless interweaving lectures on the middle-ground between privatization and socialization, mexico’s postwar presidents, the changing nature of given neighborhoods, tequila manufacture, and the overrated frida kahlo (he must’ve taken lots of art history electives in his tourism program, ‘cuz his catty formalist/political take-down of the kahlo cult not only resonated with my own uneasiness with said, but held water as a critical position :D). villa redux on way back.
tuesday: casa azul before jumping train— like brecht’s house in berlin, seeing the mundanity of inscribed hardcovers and crockery collections deflates and deromanticizes as it contextualizes and personalizes. our third and last overeducated cabby was an architecture buff (shocked that we even knew who barragan was), high up in his union, a total flirt with the girl who called him for 10minutes of our ride, and most dubious of all, a “doctor” who taught all the other drivers in his union first aid “unpaid”… airport duty frees gave away free samples of tequila so i was ready for my flight, only to find the flight was oversold and to make room, the first few people to checkin (including us) got upgraded to first!!! awesome.
(photos from this trip are awol…)