10.07.2009 – 20.07.2009
Mexico City 2: Moonwalking
The stained of light in Mexico City can be quite lovely. I’m not sure if it’s all that brown smog the light has to filter through, or the light bouncing around off all the brown and black sooted buildings... I just know that it’s a delightfully soft and hopeful light, especially in the morning after a good rain.
Without too much trouble, I found my favorite place to stay in Mexico City, Hotel Republica. Not so much because it’s particularly nice or anything. It’s cheap, really old, has a tragic sort of character, centrally located, the people are friendly and they let me park my motorcycle right in the lobby! Add to that, the bonus that they have several brands of condoms taped right to the wall behind the check-in desk. Not that I’d need such convenient access to condoms or anything… just nice to know that they’re a complete, full-service outfit.
The last time I stayed at Hotel Republica, a little over a year ago, I awoke one evening to what sounded like an older American woman yelling and screaming at someone. Couldn’t quite make out what the problem was, but the Hotel staff indicated she was fine and that there was no reason for concern. Again I awoke to the screaming by what sounded like the same woman, only this time she was in the room directly across from mine and I could hear everything clearly.
Well, I’m ashamed to say I could hear everything clearly only if I propped my door open a bit. She sounded like she was some sort of a sex therapist and she was going into a fair amount of detail. So much so, and explicit enough that I almost went ahead and closed my door. Almost. Actually, I moved a little closer so that I could hear even a little better.
Every time you would expect a reply to a very personal question she’d ask, I’d hear nothing, or she wouldn't give the couple she was addressing a chance to respond before she’d interrupt again. Eventually, she erupted into weaving a fine tapestry of the most profane language I believe I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear coming out of a woman’s mouth, or anyone's mouth for that matter.
I heard the door open and then slam shut again, and then someone storming down the hallway. Looked out my door and there she was, standing there wearing a pair of those red headsets you see airline ground crew wearing to block jet noise. She glared at me and shook her fist violently. I looked around to see if the people she was counseling were standing near, hoping she wasn’t actually addressing me. There was no one else there so the shaking fist was indeed intended for me. She then stomped back to her room and slammed the door hard as she continued the screaming sex therapy session.
On my way out the next morning I asked the woman at the desk if that was indeed the same screaming woman from over a year ago when I stayed there. She confirmed it was. When I asked if the woman was ok, she said the woman is crazy. I asked if there was anyone else in the room with her being counseled and she shook her head no.
Back out on the street it was election Sunday. I fully expected it to be fairly exciting since the folks in the smaller towns seemed to be really getting into full election fever. Not so much in Mexico City at all. Actually, If I hadn’t already known it was election day, I wouldn’t have had a clue if was any different than any other day. There was a small group of students protesting about something in the park, but they were viewed more as merely a miner nuisance. Besides, they seemed to be more interested in the stylish and arty excitement of provoking the police than with getting any real message out about any particular cause.
I'd noticed a newsstand headline that Michael Jackson had died a couple two or three days prior, which explained why his music was being played everywhere. While riding the metro, I noticed the pirated music vendors were already hawking a disk of Michael Jackson videos including footage of his last rehearsal. Wow! That was fast! One of the benefits of modern digital technology I guess. Now they can pirate your work and have it for sale on a Mexican subway even before your body’s cold and buried.
When I heard the Thriller tune come up in the pirated medley, I imagined the whole train car breaking into a funky choreographed dance routine. One of the many times I can recall wishing I’d put forth the effort required to learn how to properly moonwalk... I would have just moonwalk-shuffled right on out of the train when my stop came up.
One afternoon I noticed the most amazing light due to what looked like was getting ready to be the storm of the century. I thought perhaps I might consider seeking shelter, but the contrast of those glorious Mexican colors with a dark blue and blackened storm cloud backdrop was simply too much to resist. I had to at least get a few snaps before the rain really cut loose.
The closest area that I thought might have potential was the Plaza Garibaldi. This is where all the mariachis hang. All of them just mulling about, practicing, and waiting for gigs. Sometimes a party vehicle pulls up alongside the plaza and buys a few songs to be preformed right there in the street. Other times they wisk off with as many mariachis that’ll fit in the vehicle. Then it’s back to the waiting, practicing and general mulling about again. It’s always a hoot to witness life on the plaza. It's a great spectacle if you’re sitting at one of the several pulquerias on the plaza sipping pulque.
Didn’t get many shots off before the first wave of rain fell. When it finally let up, I made my move down the street where all the junkies lay about the sidewalk and alleys at night. I was really hoping to make it another four blocks to Sanborn’s to wait out the rest of the storm but the light sheets of rain turned into hard sheets of hail!
There was no going further and I was trapped under a plastic sheet awning with a half dozen mariachis also seeking refuge. The very folks I was just trying to get snaps of initially, where huddled all around me. At first it was a bit awkward because they just saw me and my camera dangling around my neck... a spectator tourist trying to steal their image. Which is essentially true for the most part. But the reality was that we were all just dudes trying to get some shelter from the elements.
The plastic tarp above us was starting to rip from the hail and the wind quickly grew much colder. About that time this other mariachi dashed in with a key in hand to the door we were all standing in front of and let all the mariachis inside. I stood there alone for another couple of minutes until one of the mariachis poked his head back out and motioned for me to come in from the storm as well. We didn’t talk much but I think they could tell I was pretty happy to be invited in and out of the storm.
The storm let up in less than half hour or so. I thanked the mariachi gang for sharing their shelter and then we were all on our way, band out onto the street and heading in different directions.
While I was waiting the storm out underneath the plastic tarp with the mariachis, I was thinking of how just recently I’d felt so peaceful out in the desert and how connected I felt to the earth and the ALL. And, how I felt momentarily able to experience being without my “self" and completely awake. Now, I was listening to the chaos of the city…. to the traffic cop’s shrill whistle blasts. Hurrying past the blocks with all the junkies... car horns blasting... street vendors calling out advertisements for their wares... and, I wondered if I could ever feel the same beautiful inner peace I’d felt while alone and serene in the desert, in the harsh humanity of this jagged city.
I stopped on the street and concentrated on the memory of the desert. All of a sudden, the noise became a different kind of texture of the same feeling I'd had under the mountain. The “self” once again melted away and there was just raw life. It lasted for a while but faded again as I started down the busy boulevard. Only now I was no longer tense, in a hurry, or afraid. I was just another collection of atoms and cells moving through the larger collection of colorful electric music.