Monday, November 22, 2004

Que tiene?

We went shopping in this endless neighborhood called La Lagunilla. It's a poor part of town and houses one of the biggest markets I've ever seen. It goes on forever in seemingly every direction and it's labyrinthian passages are completely packed with athletic clothing, cross trainers, party clothes, and trinkets mostly from Asia. The goods seem to be of the it-fell-off-the-truck or the last-months-fashion variety, but the prices are cheap. There are many food stalls as well. Deep fat friers mingle in cramped spaces with racks of Diesel jeans and cheap wedding dresses while salsa blasts out of tinny plastic radios. It was an adventure for the first hour or so and then as fatigue set in, I felt like it was a prison. Everywhere I turned, there was more stuff and beyond that more and more. I was lost in this maze of stuff. It was that kind of shopping where there's so much stuff that you can't really make a decision unless you know exactly what you want. I prefer the smaller markets that dot Mexico City where you can at least escape for a breath of fresh air. It's pretty amazing though. It's weird to see an old man propped up on a dusty street behind a chip-board wall of plastic J-lo sunglasses and New Balance sneakers in contrast to the glitz of someplace like Footlocker with it's TV walls and hip-hop soundtrack. I realized what Naomi Klein has been (supposedly) telling me for years, that so much of what shopping is about isn't the product itself, but the process of buying it. On the way home we saw some business guy get t-boned by a bus in his toyota, which is happens so constantly here that the traffic barely paused in response, and merely flowed around his car without hesitation. Luckily, the guy seemed uninjured and the bus stopped which I'm told doesn't always happen.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Out on the town

Last we went out to a fancy awards ceremony at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It's an ornate colonial building that houses a large theatre and art gallery space in the heart of downtown. It's pretty much the most fancy theatre in the city I think. Awards were given to media companies for developing social advocacy advertising, you know, the kind that tells you not to drink and drive or smoke and to give to give to starving children etc... I'll keep you posted on how effective those ad's are. We got free drinks and snacks in the reception area and Ale hobnobbed a bit. It's a bit weird how everyone hobnobs under the gaze of all these incredible massive murals painted by Diego Rivera and other famous Mexican artists most of which are blatant celebrations of socialism and indigenous peoples struggle. I guess it's true of most art though. Most of the enduring socialist masterpieces are housed in fancy galleries or museums. It was nice to be able to sip expensive tequila for free though. At least there wasn't any chamber music and the building is beautiful and old. Unfortunately, none of my pictures turned out well as the flash on my camera sucks, but here's a nice one of Ale and her Friend Ale. Two Ales on the balcony. And heres another of the numerous small stores that are everywhere and seem to sell everything including often, these really good sandwiches with meat, cheese, avocados, beans and peppers in them if you want.

Mexico Cityites eat a lot of these delicious tacos made with some kind of marinated pork, a bit of pineapple, and fresh cilantro and I'm eating a lot of them too. You add some lime juice and any kind of salsa you want and you can find them all over the place. Here's a guy who carves the meat for the Tacos Pastor as they're called. It's a great late night - after the party food. Also, here are some of the Salsas that you might find. The first is a green salsa made with green chilies and tomatillas, the next is a red salsa made with a red tomatoes and some kind of red chili, maybe chipotle? The white one has Habanero Chilies and pineapple and the last is a hot peanut sauce. All are pretty good and quite hot but I'm now at the point where it's hard for me to eat things without that hot taste. I've been slowly adjusting to the schedule for eating here. People tend to eat throughout the day, but usually eat some kind of breakfast, snack at noon, and then eat the big meal of the day at around 2 or 3 o-clock. Many people get a long lunch for this reason. They may eat a small snack at night to tide them over, but there isn't really a big night dinner. One thing that's nice about it is that you don't go to bed with a big belly full of food to digest. I'm used to that big belly full of food though. It's a strange feeling not going to bed with a big, distended belly full of food.

This is a delicious almond flavored tequila that you can buy in Tepostlan and that area of Mexico. It's sweet like an aperitif with all the punch of tequila in one and you can drink it on any occasion just like these two Mexican gentlemen seem to be doing and as I did. Here's a picture of yours truly trying to fit it. Salut!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Burros come los churros

Hi again. Here are some pictures of our small kitchen. Surprisingly it's possible to cook some great meals in limited space. It just takes a bit of getting used to. I want to learn to cook some more Mexican food! The green things I am chopping up are cactus pads called Nopales and Mexican's eat them often and in a variety of ways but usually fried and in Tacos and Quesadillas. They remind me a bit of Okra and are tasty with salsa and creme. They grow like weeds throughout Mexico and you can find them in any market or store.

I was reading Adad's blog and I realized that he's been following a certain trend in Korea wherein people seem to be unconcerned with thievery. That is not a trend here. Practically anything of value that could be nabbed is securely wrapped up and safely behind bars, electric fences, police, and rent-a-cops. Despite this, things are often stolen but it's the nature of the beast as this city is famous for having both some of the richest and poorest people in the world living only a short distance from one another. You can imagine people start to get ideas when they're lying on glass in the road for a peso and some asshole in a Yellow bulletproof Hummer just rolls up the tinted window in your face. The metro actually costs 3 pesos which is amazing when you consider the 2.00 fare we folks in Vantown put up with. I never knew it was worth so much to go to 22nd Ave. Shit, now I'm getting nostalgic. Tears well up in my eyes when I think of Royal Oak station... Why? Anyway, I don't really want to go on and on with the whole, "mexico's like this, Canada's like this" thing. You could go on forever. Many of the same probs are mirrored in Our-Shit-Don't-Stink Canada I'm sure. I seem to recall seeing quite a few assholes in Yellow Hummers the last time I was up a that-a way. As I predicted, I'm having a hard time remembering the Spanish that everyone's been teaching me. People say there's a point when you start to really "get" it. I dunno- I find myself still scrambling to remember the simplest things like, Banyo and Casa. "burro" I've got down pat though and I even know how to pronounce it correctly. I did manage to teach Ale and Adri my favorite lines from the Motion Picture "Colors" which are, "What's da Matta Pac Man?.... Chyoo Don' like ma Body? Thees ees who I am Pac Mac... Thees ees who I am!" and I will attempt to post their authentic interpretations. The actress who said those lines, Maria Conchita Alonzo is actually quite a well known star here in Mexico both as a one hit wonder singer and an actress. I'm not sure if they find those words as compelling as I do, but not many people seem to at first.

I was proofreading this blog and I realized that the whole blogging thing is weird. I mean. Anyone I know could read this. I could say some really revealing thing about someone and hurt their feelings and there it would be published for the whole world to see. It's a good thing most people don't ever bother to read these things. I like the idea of referring to other people's blogs in your blog though. Maybe that's more like a chat though. Who cares. Till next time...

Friday, November 12, 2004

Happy Weekend

Here is a picture of the place "Tepostlan" or something like that that we went to last weekend. As you can see, it's beautiful and the picture doesn't do it justice because there are lots more of those rock formations all around the valley. It's full of colorful, small birds too.
Well. It's Friday night and I'm here blowing time on the internet once again. I guess I just miss all my homies in the couv' more than I thought I would. I went on a day of driving with Ale yesterday to check out some areas of the city while she did some errands for her work. It's a stressful thing getting around here. There is a constant traffic jam basically from 7 in the morning till 9 at night. Gridlock is constant in some areas or moving at a crawl. While you're in the car choking on the fumes of the minibus in front of you there is a traffic cop, out there in the middle of it all attempting to wave people in all manner of directions, some of his brothers on the side razzing thier sirens and yelling through the cop-horn for people to "move-on" or "nothing to see here", children dodging between the cars selling you food and other services. There are no lanes. People weave more than the Weavers themselves did. This is something I've learned about Mexico City. Because it takes forever to get somewhere, people are often a bit late for things. It could take you an hour or more just to go to another part of town depending on what the traffic is like and it's very unpredictable. Often you'll be cruising along on a large freeway and then suddenly the whole thing is closed for roadworks and you have to crawl along at walking speed or slower for 30 minutes. I guess the same traffic problems as anywhere, but very common and unpredictable. It can be exciting at first because of all the noise and activity, but I can see how commuting in this horror every day could wear on one's nerves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I guess it's now very behind the times to be talking about the US elections. I imagine that the coffeehouse banter has slowed in Vancouver and elsewhere with coffee houses and banter to suit. There's a coffeehouse down the way, but it's a bit expensive and pretentious- think of Soma on Main St, but with fancier furniture. I do miss Vancouver already, but that's to be expected when you come from such a nice place. A friend of Ale's bought these bags. I call them gumbags because they're made of folded candy wrappers. I think a few of my regular readers may recognize and appreciate the handiwork. One things for sure- this took a long time and the hands that made them were small and skilled. Fill in Los blanks amigos. Still what do I know? They could have a machine somewhere churning out these things. Somehow, I don't think so though. Mexico seems to be full of these ingenious crafts folded and woven and carved from all sorts of materials and as I write this piece of meaningless drivel I can imagine someone furiously folding together purses and baskets. Viva la NAFTA homies!

Me Vengo! DF es Loco Cabrones!

Ok. I arrived safe and sound here in Mexico City and things are OK so far. This place is quite crazy. I haven't done much so far to adjust myself to the new climes. I guess I could always go out exploring, but I still have some in-trepidation. I'm not sure why. I guess since I'm planning to be here for awhile, I may as well not get too over-zealous about seeing everything in the city right away anyway right?. I'll just cower here in the apartment and listen to the tamale whistles and all the other insane noise. It beats cowering in my apartment in Vancouver, right? OK, so - Mexico City is polluted and dangerous. I can't quite believe it. The smog here is really something else. People here seem to suffer from lots of health probs. The other night I had trouble sleeping because my nostrils were burning and my eyes were watering for no apparent reason. I feel sometimes like one of those farmed salmon in a cage with ten million others eating and drinking and breathing contaminated water and air with sea lice hanging off of my gills. Sometimes anyway... Reading the Lonely Planet guide to Mexico City isn't really doing me much good either in the feel good about Mexico City arena. They've got all these stats about how bad the air and water pollution is here and about all the drastic environmental problems, fecal dust clouds etc... No one told me about the fecal dust clouds! I imagine David Suzuki ominously narrating my morning view past the World Trade Centre. "Clay's feces travels outside of the city to a settling pond, only to be swept up and fall back on his head days later in the form of a fecal dust cloud. It's nature's way of saying, that it's not that easy to get rid of feces." I imagine like a lot of huge 3rd. world cities Mexico City's got this "at any moment this whole place is going to go tits-up" kind of feel to it. Some people talk about it too- "The water's going to run out." "The oil's going to run out." "The debt will destroy the economy and the city will become a war-zone". "tomorrow we will die, so today, we live." That kind of thing... It's a bit to get used to when you come from Vancouver where people are more busy worrying about weather to allow biking and roller-blading in the same lane on the sea-wall than weather or not the new patch of hives on the back of your neck is related to the fecal dust cloud roiling up in the distance.

All this considered, I'm having a great time. Although it's polluted, this city is super vibrant. there's always something going on and many Mexicans are friendly and relatively easy-going by my standards. You can eat cheaply in many places and the food is really tasty. I went to this place north of town this weekend called, "Tepostlan" and stayed with Ale and her friends at her friend's house. It's this beautiful valley surrounded by low mountains with amazing rock formations. It looks like a place from the cover of a sci-fi/fantasy novel. We danced and drank and wandered around the marketplace. It's one of many Mexican places that's so nice it attracts people from all over the world esp: new agers, and neo-hippy types. Despite the new influxes and popularity, the traditional inhabitants of Tepostlan seem like pretty interesting people. Apparently there was a popular movement among the locals there that turned into a pretty major protest when the Government tried to approve a huge resort/golf course monstrosity almost on top of their beloved and sacred mountains. The outrage was so intense that the local government offices were closed down and the entire city went on a general strike of some-kind. The good part is that the government gave in and the resort was never built.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I'm on my way.

We ate 7-layer burritos outside of Everett. My last Pac Northwest mexican meal. Sitting at Sea Tac airport at 10:33pm on the eve of the 2004 US election. People out here in the US seem to be taking it very seriously. At least the people on the TV in the Southwest gate at the B terminal seem to be taking it very seriously. The other people in this airport seem to be more worried with how the 7-layer burrito they ate at lunch is sitting in their stomach than anything else. Across from me is a sign advertising the ease with which you can join the National Gaurd. This airport seems to have a pro-military vibe to it despite the geriatrics that are running the place at this time of night. Night time in North America seems to be increasingly run by the elderly. I'm talking about security guards, fast food industry workers and night cleaners, etc... I'm not sure what the "how and why" of the whole thing is, but in my opinion it's a tragic growing trend with emphasis on the tragic part. Well, Sea Tac airport is kinda boring and there isn't much else to tell so off I go to Mexico. I'll post when I get there- so expect a long one.