Saturday, December 30, 2006


Happy New Years to those few who read here. Let's hope aliens come down this year and fix everything. Maybe they can use their ET healing powers to resurrect the late, great James Brown. On the good side, I like my new apartment and am myself looking forward to good times after the 1st. If it sounds like I've got a lot to gripe about, believe me I don't. I'm going to Maui on Jan. 10th so feel free to call me up and tell me how full of it I am. Actually, don't do that. My Grandmother is turning 99 this January and while she's on the edge of becoming a centenarian, I feel I should be paying her a visit. She is after all, my single surviving grandparent. I've been bagging groceries like crazy over the Christmas holidays and I can't complain too much. At least I was out of the rain and employed. From a grocery baggers perspective, people in town seem kind of glum this Holiday Season. Low on cash, low on initiative, cynical about the future etc... Maybe I'm projecting but I've heard retail sales in the downtown shops were un-inspiring (if retail sales can be such a thing) so maybe people're hunkering down for some serious not having too much dough left over- times. Skip the ipods and motorcycles, a box of organic mandarins and all the Christmas cheer money can't buy should do. I had a great Christmas. My mother came to hang out for a week and it was made merrier by the presence of good company and friends. Chocolates were shared, mandarins were eaten, cheese plates passed, and no Christmas would've been complete without a Baked Sockeye Salmon. mmmm.... Well here's to being over the hump of short days and I wish everyone well in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jinga-ling ling jing a ling ling...

Christmas is coming and people seem to be getting into it- deep. Despite the weak US retail indicators on Wall Street or whatever, it seems people can't get enough of shopping on Main St and Robson. Bad job? Bad credit? Bad indicators? "Nuthin's gonna stop me from gettin my daughter a Ipod this christmas!" Seems to be the motto. I've been listening to a lot of modern Christmas Carols at work and in malls and everywhere even when the music's stopped it continues to circulate in my subconscious long after. Thank you Jesus! Thanks Father Christmas! With a big shout out to Maria Cary, David Bowie and George Michael who seem to be everywhere on the xmas Muzak scene which is an indicator to me that the whole Christmas spirit thing is kinda like Broadway Musicals - about 10 years behind on the cultural chic-o-metre. However, speaking of chic, being a fan of early Hip Hop I do like Kurtis Blow's seminal carol (there's two words not oft co-located), and ingeniously named, "Christmas Rappin" which seems to very closely echo one of my favorite disco tunes of all time: Chic's Good Times. Now that's a Christmas tune if I ever heard one. James Brown also produced a very very good Christmas album entitled "James Brown's Funky Christmas". ...and it is. - so... options are out there. Here's my Christmas advice, load up Good Times, crank the VOL, crack the Cuban rum, and bust a move on that 5 dollar-a-square-foot-per-month linoleum you've been squandering by cooking stir-frys alone waiting for "Lost" to come on. Do it, do it for St. Nick! Oh, and if you want some friends to come over, may as well invite them too; more's the merrier.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Or did I mean to say, "boogie wonderland"? Many are staying indoors and with good reason. There is at least a half foot of frozen snow on the ground. For the throngs of Vancouvergoers who can't stand the thought of brewing their own coffee or for those like me who don't own a Mr Coffee and want to shell for the stuff down the street it's hazerdous. True the many who had the extra cash to buy the SUV of their teenage dreams a few years back before the gas prices made the rest of us douches wag our fingers and say "in your face - landrapers!", we are now recieving a counter wag in the face, a "coup-fouret" as the French like to say. This morning I was navigating the ice patches down the hill to a local coffee chain with a girl no less (my neighbor) and in my weathered, New Balance and low-cut wanna-be jeans when my feet went out from under me and I wiped out pretty spectacularly with my feet scrambling for control and then whammed straight down on my ass. Seeing people wipe out is usually pretty funny, especially when they're so unprepared for wiping out, but it still hurts. Especially when you imagine others watching you wipe out. Vancouver is definitely not well prepared for snow, but anyone who lives here knows, that - and it's a good thing. I'm not sure I could handle -30 degree winters every year, but that's me. Something about the tropics just calls to me. Maybe it's the warm weather, laid back lifestyle, or the abundance of fresh fruit. Or maybe it's just the warm weather. Apparently I'm not alone. And for all those of you who say, "Oh, I looove the snow and cold in the winter. I wouldn't have it any other way!" and then jet off to Acupulco for 2 weeks in January just when the gettins good; you can't handle it either. Admit it, snows fun for 1 month tops and then it starts to become a pain in the !##$##@ read, "my fucking" ass.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I'm not prepared for the weather of Canada. It's been terrible. It's rained pretty much every day in November and there's no sign of it stopping. It's dark, it's dank and every time I get on the bus some drippy person comes on with a stinking bag of McDonalds. Why is that?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Blogger

Well, I've got the new Blogger account. so I guess I'll soon see if it's anything different. So far it looks pretty much the same. I was actually trying to do some manual editing to my site earlier in the day, but it proved a lot more difficult than I thought. Now I know why people get paid good money for that sort of thing. Still when you look out there on the internet at all the well designed pages and blogs people have, it's pretty surprising how many look slick. I thought I could get all photo-centric with the layout and stuff, but once I started moving stuff around. It got pretty difficult to put things in the right places. I guess I just take computers for granted sometimes. Hmm... beta indeed. Looks like I'll need a few more hours to work out the bugs.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sorry no pictures

My camera is loaned to someone else so there won't be pictures here for a little while. I was performing on a children's park ride as a swamp creature through out October and that just ended so it's nice to take a breather as it's quite exhausting being gregarious and happy for 4 hours in a row. I'm also a cashier at a grocery store so between the two jobs there was a lot of insincere happiness that I had to dole out. Tiring stuff but now that it's over I can relax and only be insincerely happy with the usual 30% of the people I deal with. Remembrance Day is today and people seem to be doing a fair amount of remembering or "never forgetting" or however you want to look at it. Lot's of depressing war and slaughter on the news webs to make it easier too... If the rain would relent here that'd probably put me in a better mood in general. There is no end...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Five Buck Bus Stop Umbrella

Daily drizzle punctuated by slicing winds and hard rain. Ahh... yes, Vancouver and the familiar "ssssss" of cars on wet streets. It's 10 o-clock in the morning but the sky looks like it should be 7 in the evening. Well, my stint at the Vancouver Ghost Train has ended with little fanfare, but a slightly wetter and heavier wallet this month. I think I've probably spent the difference on draft beer and wines around the hood already. Hmmm, what else is new? Not much. I've been kinda sick lately; colds, sniffles, indigestion. It's all been adding to my malaise-o-metre. It must be part of that problem they talk about in Finland and Sweden where despite the fact that you have a great job and clean running water, it's so grey and dark during the day- you just wanna commit suicide. I'd forgotten how much it rains here in November. Well- I'm off to work. Hopefully I'll have more photos and stuff to post soon.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

UBC Leaders of Tomorrow!!!

Here's one picture I have of Vancouver, sort of... In case some of my readers in Mexico want to know if Ale is truly going to UBC or not. Here's actual proof that she's been attending. She's standing in front of the UBC rose garden and that's the ocean out behind. UBC is in quite a nice spot. Actually, we see little of each other because she's quite busy reading and writing all the time, but she seems to be doing well!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back in Vancouver

I'm back in Vancouver and I still need batteries for my camera so I don't have new pictures, but, well, they will be there soon. I'm writing this in a coffee shop that has free internet! Woah. It's great, but it's made everyone into internet addicts here. People seem to expect you to get back to them the same day if you receive an email. The weather has been really cooperative though- so that's nice. So have a lot of other things... I've got a pretty decent day job and a really nice, although cold apartment. I guess the excitement factor will be toned down a bit now that I'm in Vancouver and not somewhere where many who read this blog aren't. Grey today. I went out last night and performed in a plastic costume made to make me look like the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Pretty good costume. I was swarmed by children though and it's exhausting work especially in the cold, damp climes of Stanley Park at night. I'll explain myself. I'm part of a theatrical installation that is put inside the parks nature train ride every halloween to amuse families. Basically, I'm a professional Haunted House performer, but I hang out outside the ride where all the kids run around eating sugar and pulling on the fins of my plastic costume. Some parents think it's funny to see me swarmed by children pulling at me (I am paid after all) and laugh as I hold back the desire to become physically violent. Don't worry though. I'm really good at holding back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Solo to San Miguel

San Miguel is nestled in the mountains near Quéretaro Mexico in the state of Guanajuato and one of the most popular non-beach tourist destinations in Mexico. It has become a kind of mecca (in a world of meccas) for artisans, artists and people who love them and want to buy their wares, especially people from the US.

I took the bus there alone and the journey was nice. In Querétaro I decided to get a second class ticket to San Miguel as I had sprung more for the 1st. class ticket to Querétaro.

Second class busses to San Miguel weren't quite as clunky and funky as the ones in Oaxaca and other states, but it still stopped everywhere and packed in people from the countryside until it was standing room only. There was a guitar player for awhile who saranaded us with the classics.

When on the bus in central Mexico you spend a lot of time climbing and descending mountains while looking at small, impossibly insignificant villages, dry scrublands, lush tropical forests, pine forests, and busy cities. All this could be in fairly close quarters. If you're riding second class a lot of people pile in over time, usually carrying stuff or just going to work, or both.

I believe that many people from "el otro lados" to the north and in Europe who, having realized the great exchange rate and cheaper prices of retirement in Mexico have migrated down to Mexico for retirement or whatever and San Miguel is popular in this vein. There are some stellar houses here. It's a very beautiful, manicured town in the central part and English is widely spoken. There is a peaceful central square with bubbling fountains and some great stores for buying art crafts. Apparently San Miguel was once popular with painters from Europe and elsewhere for it's extraordinary light.

It was grey and pissing rain on the day of my arrival, but the next day when the clouds parted and I could see what people were talking about.

There is an clear and crisp quality to the sunlight. Maybe it's the clarity of the air and the fact that the town is up in the mountains that makes it so. Mexico City sometimes has light like this when the air is clean. At any rate I can see why the place has been popular for so long. It's quaint, temperate, fresh, bright, and peaceful without being dead either. I basically wandered around ducking under awnings to get out of the periodic deluges, bought some coffees, looked at stuff. If you're from Canada or the States then you won't want for anything here. There are veggie restaurants, coffee bars, Jazz joints, clubs, lotsa shops, and even trendy food like pressed panini sandwiches. If you don't swing this way, you can always look for a place over on the other, less popular, side of town where most of the locals probably live. It looked nice there too.

Some people here say that San Miguel is too manicured and I can kind of understand what they say. Many cities have this now. It's like when Chinatowns decide they're real, "Chinatowns" and begin the erection of all kinds of plaques, dragon sculptures, statues, etc... Theme cities and theme neighborhoods. If you ever find yourself in Vancouver or if you're currently there, like me you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. See the "totally drive certified" embossments in the pavement on Commercial Drive in order to induce wretching. Well San Miguel is still pretty nice. And I recommend a visit and stay in one of the many pleasant hotels around there. You may never leave or at least return with your matured yet insufficient RRSP cheque in the future. If you are lucky enough to have one that is...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Metro Pantitlan

A coupla times a week I teach an early class on the eastern side of the city at the Benito Juarez Airport. I usually take the metro out there and I have to be on the train at 6 to get there at 7. I descend into Metro San Antonio at around a quarter to six if I'm making good time on the western side and it's usually a pretty tame affair. At six the Metro is still tolerable in that neighborhood. It's a long trip and I need to transfer 2 times.

By twenty to seven the train shoots out of the ground on the eastern side of Mexico City and on a good day the sun will just be starting to come up, breaking dramatically over the sprawl of Delegation Pantitlan. Sitting right in the middle surrounded by a six lane highway, baffling traffic glorietas, thru-ramps, a water pump station, steaming taco stalls, Tamale hawkers, and a bus plaza for incoming suburban busses, is Metro Pantitlan.

Pantitlan is the terminus of 4 metro lines, and many many suburban Collective busses. The busses are all private, loud, large, and in all manner of shape. Some are relatively new while others belch diesel clouds. The first indication you are getting near the pantitlan area is the acrid, smell of sulphur. In the surrounding crowded neighborhood light industry and people are packed in tight little streets. By the time I reach it, Pantitlan is in full swing with no signs of stopping.

It seems that the entire city of Mexico is trying to squeeze through it's turnstiles. Everything is grey slab concrete. Papers swirl around in the bus plaza below the platforms as busses, hundreds of busses with names like "Pepe, 'Lucia", and "El Perdido" make thier way through the unorganized lanes. Out on the streets a endless river of trucks, busses and cars are slowly trawling by honking incessantly. Some honk in rhythm others use special "General Lee" styles of musical horns. In places of mass transit there is always an Ad-hoc establishment of food stalls and other market items like cellphones for sale called "Tiangis". Down in the bus plaza a woman is making tortillas, tacos, and quesadillas, while her husband sells fresh squeezed OJ. Dogs abound. There are dogs in the plaza, doggies on the platforms, dogs in the street and a special black doggie that I've named "el pancito" who always wanders in the same place on an overpass stairway I go through.

When I first set my eyes on Pantitlan I realized that here is the Real Mexico City. While the fountains and plazas of Coyoacan and La Condessa are much more attractive and pleasant to actually be in, Pantitlan Station is where all the other millions of Mexicans who're priced out of the downtown real estate index come into the city at 7 in the morning to work. Horse carts sometimes clop along with the traffic and men with cardboard boxes full of plastic cell phone holsters await the next train to the Zocalo. Mexico City has many such "nodes" where people transfer from the State of Mexico to urban transit in the city. Of course there isnt any visible line where the city ends and the outskirts begin. It all seems to be one solid flat slab of humanity. A slab that I am soon to leave after nearly 2 years.

But it will always be here as has been the truth for thousands of years. And I look forward to coming back soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

General Street Stuff

Juarez St downtown is a great place to get ripped off and/or score a cheap electronic thing. It is the market of ripped software, video games, and all kinds of stuff made in China that Americans didn't buy enough of. If you ever wonder what happens to stuff that Wal Mart can't get rid of - this is where it goes. To the streets! I like it down here. I usually never buy anything, but it's interesting to wander around for a little while on Juarez or in the surrounding area. It's not as groomed as some of the other neighborhoods, but it's downtown and while there's a movement on to "rejuvenate" the downtown core, it's not progressing at a "canary wharf" (London) pace. It seems that's what all the big cities are doing now- kicking out the rent control scum and glitzing up the downtown cores. One could also call it "sterilizing" but one man's hovel is another man's loft I guess. I do like espresso coffee though so I'm guilty of complacency. I'll never forget last Christmas when I came down here to buy gifts and saw a woman selling tequila shooters and raw oysters on the half shell from a rusted shopping cart over a windy, dusty metro grate. So as you can read, it's not gonna be Times Square tomorrow.

tiangis in Juarez ave.

"networking appliance wholesale reseller requires FT personnel"

Torre Latino in the Bkgrnd. Frustrated looking dude in the fore.

Where would the world be without tarps? The tarp has saved us all. Someone should get a Nobel Prize for that- I'm serious.

Look at this picture: Can you see something wrong? I took it in the middle of the Zocalo.

Let's move in a little closer...

Uh huh. This room cleaner emerged nonchalantly and started cleaning the OUTSIDE of the window in her uniform and runners with no ropes or nothing!

And you thought your job sucked. Scary stuff. I wanted to run over and scream, "it's not worth it!" but maybe it was. Now I know that people are full of it when they say, "Mexicans take jobs Americans won't do!" I think it reads more like, " I'm too afraid to do or unskilled to do without dying!" This experience confirmed for me a suspicion I've always had about the claptrap surrounding the construction of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State building in NYC among other big things... I used to believe that romantic story the tour guides tell about how Mohawk first nations people were shipped in to do the dangerous work cause they "Had no fear of heights..." Sure sure... ok. Is it the same "fearlessness of dynamite in caves" that Chinese immigrants had while they were making the railroads? I'd dig deeper into this ironic joke, but the whole idea is so obviously racist, sexist etc. that I have trouble writing it. But I think you get what I mean. Why do I have to always be so bleak? It's not entirely my fault. She stepped onto the ledge. The world presented itself to me and I filled in the blanks. How can you look on the bright side of that? There is no bright side of that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Pres blah blah wealth divide blah blah

Well, it looks like barring some kind of revelation about vote tampering Philipe Calderon will keep PAN in the president's chair for another 6 years. Vote tampering is no stranger to Mexico. There is considerable proof that elections have been tampered with in the past; especially during the 75 year tenure of the PRI party. We gave directions to an observer on election day so it's good to know that there are some people looking out for the uh, "fairness" of it all. At any rate it's going to make the whole issue ugly now that the closest opponent Manuel Obrador is fuming mad about the results and demanding a re-count. A friend of mine works in the Elections Department and I didn't see any new sports cars parked outside his building so that's a good sign, but the reality of having such a close vote is that no matter what happens, people are going to feel cheated.

What i think it means is that Mexico will continue along the same way it has for the last little while barring any economic meltdown in the US. Foreign investment will continue to come in and Mexico will continue to top the charts with Brazil as one of Latin America's top "growing economies". I think little can be done in the long term about crime as Calderon seems to favor a gloves off approach with more police and "special units" which are notoriously corruptible and probably will be underfunded. The PAN party did not win many seats in the senate which will make for a lot of governmental gum-flapping I'm sure. What really happened was that the middle class (which many people seem to think is growing and often refer to it as "Mexico's Growing Middle Class" but I've heard from others that it's actually shrinking) and the rich voted for Calderon and many poor people especially in the south and in Mexico City voted for Obrador. The elections mirror the wealth divide, have brought the anger and disillusionment of Mexico's poor into relief and even possibly polarized many to stand behind the flags of the PRD. Perhaps they will be able to cash in on it in 2012. Until then it seems to be Business As Usual with a capital B - and I'm not talking about the platinum Men At Work album. ...hmmm, and in case you wanted more information that you could've gotten just by watching the news, uh, Italy won the World Cup-bye.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mexico will know soon.

Mexico had an election yesterday and the tension has been building as they continue to count the votes in the close race between Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador and Philipe Calderon. People are pretty nervous on both sides of the coin as each candidate has fairly different ideas on how to solve Mexico's problems and which direction to steer the country in for the next 6 years. Obrador is seen as a left-leaning guy, an ex-activist and, being reared in a poor neighborhood in Tabasco, in touch with Mexico's large poor population. He pledges he will take "big money" to task while spending lots of cash on government projects. Philipe Calderon seems to echo the feelings of much of Mexico's Business community and rich and middle classes. He's pledged to "crack down" on crime and violence all the time increasing jobs and economy through more NAFTA, free enterprise and incentives to Business. I think both will have a hard time living up to these promises, but Calderon has the advantage of running under the banner of the current Government, PAN. Many who work outside of big multinational companies are not happy with the results from the last 6 years of the Fox Government, but even those who wouldn't side with him seem happier seeing a government tried and tested in office than a left-wing hothead who may muddle up the already hot-potato issue of US-Mexico relations. Obrador is considered by many to be a man of the people. He's often shown shaking hands with farmers in jeans and casual attire and has promised an end to violence mainly through fighting against poverty. He's apparently promised hefty wage and Tax reform both of which will have a hard time implementing, but are sorely needed. His party is very popular in Mexico City. Mainly people are worried that his kind of policies will scare away foreign investment, which it just may do to some degree. Mainly the ideologies at play here seem to me to be the people who feel business as usual is good business against those who are tired of seeing vast quantities of money in an apparently well-performing economy passing, uncontested to those who need it the least ie: the rich.

I've read that as a foreigner in Mexico it's actually illegal for me to become too involved in Mexican politics. I'm not sure about the trueness of this as it seems there's no end to the foreign interests vying for a slice of the Mexican pie and pundits who scramble down on expense accounts to cover, study, analyze, and even coerce it. Lets just say my meager 2 cent's is about all it's worth. I'm practically paraphrasing and anyone who wants the real goods can go to their website of choice and read paid-for articles about the same and more... As for me? I hope Obrador wins. I hope foreign interests won't pack up and take all their money with them and I hope Mexico will find itself a better off place because of it. If Calderon wins? Well I for one don't expect things will change too much. He seems to feel his government is doing a great job right now. He'd do well though to keep his eye on that huge crowd in the Zocalo and pay attention to how big and angry it grows.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Eating High and Low

MMmm. I was in Cuernavaca awhile ago and I went to a restaurant that serves food from the Yucatan Peninsula. In case you don't know where that is, it's the jungly southern protrusion into the Caribbean where the hurricanes hit this year and where Cancun is located. I've never been there but by all appearances the people there eat well at least.

These are little chalupitas done in the style of the yucatan with a red salsa and pork.

This is chiken with a kind of sauce maybe a little like a mole which my friend ate. It was spicy and delicious.

Now you'd be looking at three Yucutan style tamales wrapped in banana leaf and just sitting there waiting to be eaten my me as the case was. If you like Tamales, you'll like these kind. Yucutan food is enjoyed by many Mexicans as it is usually hot and has unique flavors not found elsewhere. Yup eating is fun still. I just hope I'm not eating too much.

This was the lime soup served with tortilla strips that is always good. Down here limes are eaten with just about everything if you want. Lemons however are rarer. Also Limes in Spanish are called "limon" whereas lemons are "Lima". Interesting huh? Well, I've got more material coming up for the blog so don't worry if this post wasn't interesting enough for you. Also don't get the impression that just because I'm posting all this exotic food means I'm eating like this all the time. I mean, this is exciting stuff for me as always. Most of the time it's something cheaper and faster like a tamale torta or a taco and yes, yes, sadly, instant noodles failing that. Sometimes I wonder, while eating instant noodles, how many other people in the world are also eating instant noodles at the same moment. If you think about it the popularity of Instant Noodles its phenomenal. They are hugely popular in Mexico. I've seen Ad's for the local variety of styro noodle cups during prime time football games. Actually, I have to admit. Instant noodles are a little better here. They are usually hotter and you can get flavors with shrimp things inside and chilies too and none of those weird "curry" flavors. I wonder if the "I'm gonna eat at Mc'Donald's for a month and video it" guy had eaten Ichibans for a month and recorded his health. He'd have probably gone through time or something; just dissolved into another dimension. Let's face it though here it's generally a question of cost. I mean, when I see that the local corner store has a whole shelf devoted to styro noodles It's not because people relish them. I see the local masons (construction workers) go in there and buy those for lunch with an imitation coke and a kraft slice ham on white. Mexico City is being built on Ichibans.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

run pig run

run pig run
Originally uploaded by 2-way.
Well, I´m not even sure if i´ve shown this photo before, but in light of not contributing to my blog for sometime, I guess this is the photo of the day. I haven´t been taking many pictures lately. Pigs do have a lot of reason to run here as Mexicans have found many delicious ways to savor their flavor. ¨The Other White Meat¨ is probably the most popular here with beef at a close second. Many people seem to crave beef, or pork, but settle for chicken which is cheaper and No3 on the guts´most wanted list. It´s been really hot and stormy here lately. Hard rains often roar down in the early evening along with some pretty impressive thunder and lightening shows. At this point it´s a nice change from the hot and dry weather of early spring.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tyin' the knot

My mother likes Mexico a lot so it's not difficult to get her to come down for visits. She principally was visiting to come for the wedding of my cuñada but since she arrived a few days early, we went to Taxco for a quick two days. I've mentioned Taxco in previous posts, but now I have a picture to post.

Well, the family wedding was a few weeks ago and everything was nice and happy and sweet and delicious. It was held at a mansion hotel in Cuernavaca, a small town near Mexico City. There were maybe 150 guests or so and many stayed on to party into the late evening with dancing, karaoke and DJ hits. The then Radiant Bride has returned from her honeymoon in Southeast Asia and seems happy that things have returned to normal and of course is excited to be married yay!

We went to a rather good art show by a Dutch artist who lives in the Centro Historico of DF the other day. His name is Francis Alys and his show is huge, taking up nearly the whole gallery and including drawings, writings, videos, photographs, multimedia, sculpture, and found stuff that all somehow relate to the neighborhood around his studio. There are always lots of good modern art shows to see in Mexico City as well as the more touristy art galleries and museums and much of it is interesting and good. This show seems to be inevitably as much about the life of a foreign artist living in Mexico City as it is about more banal contemporary art ideas - bodies in space, time, intersection, etc... I haven't been to scores of shows, but when making visual art in Mexico City it seems impossible to erase the watermark that the city's uniqueness leaves. Mexico doesn't have the governmental arts funding of fancy places like Canada or France, but it is a net exporter of artists nonetheless and in Mexico City and some other places like Oaxaca, there seem to be strong arts initiatives both publicly and privately funded.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I'm 95% water, 5% tacos

Maybe you don't know it but the World Water Forum or something like that is coming to DF this week. Mexico City is dry and often hot and the water has almost disappeared. One thing I learned recently is that Mexico City isn't just sinking because it was built over a lake. It's sinking because we're literally drinking the lake. Water is already being pumped from nearby states in enormous amounts and at enormous cost and still apparently over a million people here have to have it trucked into their houses by private companies and their taps start hissing before noon. And just because I said they "have to have it trucked in", doesn't mean they do. Seriously, how many dishes would you wash and how many showers would you take a day if you had to pay by the cup? I remember David Suzuki's smiling face on CBC pleasantly talking about how millions of people are probably going to die from water crisis and it kind of being this far away abstract idea. I mean, there's so much water around in Canada, there's no way that's ever going to effect me or anyone I know, just some poor people in the Sudan or wherever and their probably used to it, but I can now unfortunately relate a little better. Here I am in this modern city with malls and cineplexes and if I'm thirsty there's scarce public fountains. One week we ran out of water and it sucked. I boiled water just so I could get a glass in the morning. A secretary at one of the companies I teach at told me she wakes up at 7am on weekends and I asked why? "That's the only time they turn on the water in my neighborhood." she said. There are over 20 million thirsty people living here. World Water Forum? How about a World Water Tank? I guess the moral to this story is, uh, enjoy the hose games while you can, or store it away for a rainy day, cause as David Suzuki so calmly warned, we'll all be paying 25 cents a litre for recycled urine before we're 80. Some of us already are. I don't think he actually said that, but he was probably thinking it.

There is a man who brings the water to my house. He charges about 2.50 for a big jug and he carries 2 at a time up 5 flights of stairs, and If you've ever loaded one of those water coolers, I don't need to tell you this is what we call "hard work". He rides a commonly seen type of delivery bicycle in Mexico which has a welded basket on the front for holding things- bread, tacos, tamales, water, newspapers, whatever... In his case it's maybe 6 or 7 big plastic jugs of filtered water. This is his business. He claims it's "Electropura!" which he shouts at the top of his lungs in the street every morning, but he and I and everyone knows it's a "Just as good as Electropura knock-off water." Clean water is big biz in Mexico. You can find small bottles, medium, and the large 25 gallon water cooler sizes for sale in any store. Coca Cola has it's fingers in the pie as well as most of the other major bottlers and 100 pesos says that's the kind of thing they were talking about in the Forum as opposed to how we're going to get through the next 100 years with everyone having a clean running tap. "FORUM" - even the name has a suspicious, purring Mercedes limo convoys outside the W hotel, ring to it.

And in case you thought this guy was working too hard there is another guy who comes around every other day and shleps those four foot steel bottles of propane to the roofs of every building in the hood. I can barely lift one of these things, and while I'm no strong man by any standards, jolts of pain shoot up my back in sympathy seeing these guys. There are a lot of hard livings to be had in DF.

In case anyone's actually interested in what happened over the few days of the Forum, there were some big protests. G Bush and some other big names from around the globe were in town. They shut down the entire downtown core; busses of cops, riot gear, helicopters, blast walls, the whole shebang. Anti globalization groups clashed with police and many of the cities populace came out to walk and make their voices heard about being thirsty and tired of it. Yeah, it was actually fairly depressing. BBC has a link HERE I still haven't heard anything about what was accomplished. My mouth gets dry just thinking about it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bride, ponytail, turbo scratcher

Well, my friends from Canada are gone now, so things have once again returned to the daily dodge and metro swing. It's going good. Ale's sister is getting married in Apr. and the family's winding up for the pitch. There are lots of tasks and each one of us must carry some responsibility and as the date moves closer everyone seems to be getting more nervous. IT's kind of interesting, I don't think I've ever been this close to the whole wedding planning thing. It's going to be a nice, smallish wedding though so it's not like we have to be too over-stressed. But by smallish I don't mean a justice of the peace, 1 bowl of styro cup punch, and a potluck spread of garbanzo stew and potato salad. Don't get me wrong. I was raised on these kinds of weddings and would welcome one, but Mexican weddings are usually a pretty big deal. I guess you can add Mexicans to the long line of cultures that have the stereotyped distinction of having big weddings. Someone should make a My Big Fat Mexican Wedding themed movie to further cash in on the seemingly neverending interest in wedding movies. In Mexico even in smaller and often poorer communities people still find the wherewithal to throw a big bash, often bigger than in the more conservative and wealthy circles I'm told. The party apparently sometimes rages for a few days. With that much material you could make one of those 4 hour films.

Ale and her soon to be wed sister have been stressing for the last few days on the right type of hair bun/do for her to sport on her big day. I never realized the intricacies involved, but to those who know me well, that won't come as a surprise.

I had a pony tail for, like, 8 years or something and it never occurred to me that other things could be done with that hair or that it even might make finding jobs harder etc. Actually, now that I think about it I think that while I wore the ponytail I basically just forgot the hair existed. It was as if I stuffed it in a drawer or something- gone. I mean, you can't see it in a mirror straight on and as a guy I guess I wasn't in the strong habit of looking at other angles in mirrors. It wasn't until some girls from Art School told me that my pony tail looked like shit that I decided to put the issue under review. Then the more people I talked to, the more people told me that, yes, it did indeed look, if not out of style, like shit. Well, now my hair is going grey and the whole being over-concerned with my hair issue is on the verge of expiry. Or actually, probably it's just the beginning of a new more-concerned era. I mean, I shouldn't feel too bad about it I guess. At least I had a pony tail even if I did wear out it's fashion statement by a decade or so. Yeah, it was uncool of me. Uncool regrets. Grecian Formula here i come!

In other big news, we bought the cat a turbo scratcher. You may remember a fairly insignificant previous post wherein I mentioned and posted a picture of our overweight live-in cat. Well in an attempt to get his blood going and help him lose a few pounds we're instituting a two pronged plan. A turbo scratcher co-initiated with a "Fat Cat" food type which is supposed to help him realize a new thinner self. The Turbo Scratcher was an immediate big hit. I don't like to endorse as-seen-on-TV products, but the combination of catnip impregnated cardboard and whirly ball had him scratching away practically before I could remove the cello wrap. The food was also a big hit, but as it's more expensive I can only surmise that it has more to do with the exposure to higher grade bone meal, snouts and cartilage than he was used to. The "diet" formula seems to have more to do with the size of the scooper than anything else and this is the one part of the equation that the cat is not too keen on. He's basically starving all the time. Whereas before he was content heaving on the couch all day, he is now a green-eyed, screeching fur purse. Not only is he using his scratcher, but he scratches everything in the house out of frustration. He chases us around and scratches our legs and howls for food constantly. Sometimes he even howls for it while he's eating it! It is no longer a give and take relationship, but a one way repetitive exercise in gullet stuffing. What can we do though? His stomach was grey from dragging on the ground and he was the subject of drawing room jokes!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hotter, visitors, and the bus

Well, back in DF I've been getting a little more busy with the teaching stuff and whatnot as well. It's finally getting warmer here so I can shed my sweaters and wear T-shirts during the day. Twice a week I have a pretty busy schedule and end up having to metro and pesero my way around the city quite a bit.

Basically, peseros are Mexico City's bus system and they do a surprisingly good job in my eyes of supplying the other 80 percent of Chilangos who don't own vehicles a way to get around. Let's get one thing straight, it's not Coast Mountain Bus Company. The "system" is totally ad-hoc it seems. There are no machines that check tickets, no definitive routes, and the busses are small, falling apart, have no leg room and lurch and drive like crazy weaving in and out of traffic with some 16 year old at the helm and his buddy from school swamping people in and out of the broken doors. They are also often customized with all manner of subwoofers, mini tvs, dingo balls, fur fringe, Holy Marys and Jesuses, family/girlfriend pictures etc... which makes them pretty cool I think. Usually the bus drivers play music and this can range from classic rock to rap to salsa to banda depending on taste. Despite all this I find people generally accommodating and not too put off by the hassles of bus life. This is not to say that people are greeting eachother with smiles and enjoying the experience. No one likes the bus. No one likes the metro anywhere really. And always, everything is moving too slow, but some people realize the probs that arise when you are either lugging some crazy black plastic bag full of clothing or trying to get across town with three toddlers and a baby and a crazy black plastic bag full of clothing and often help out by giving/making room or at least coping without freaking out and generally realizing that they might be in the same situation tomorrow. All that said, It can drain your nerves and often I end up falling asleep with my backpack in my lap if I'm lucky enough to get a seat. It's nice to have the hot weather back too, but it also makes the streets hotter and more oppressive.

Here's a snapshot of a more modest bi-level through Reforma in Polanco at rush hour. The only plus to this I can think of is that you can sometimes use traffic as an excuse for lateness. The minus is that it's more often than not true.

We've got another couple of friends visiting from out of town which is nice especially since the weather is being cooperative. The day they arrived we all drove out to Tepostlan and went on a gruelling hike up the mountain to a lookout where there are also some ruins and a small pyramid.

The town of Tepostlan.

HIgh eroded bluffs make the valley unique.

The hike was steep and by the time we all got back into town our legs felt like they were going to collapse especially since none of us had had a good nights sleep. The market in town was nice and we had lunch and then drove back into DF with time to spare but we just went back to sleep. We woke up the next day and they went off to Oaxaca, but they will be back later in the week.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Long time, no se...

Well it's been months since I last posted here, which makes me a pretty lazy blogger, but i've been a little bit preoccupied with friends visiting from lands afar once again and Christmas / wedding stuff. Two friends from Vancouver came and visited Mexico City and Oaxaca city which they seemed to like most everything except the dry weather which I have to admit was also a shock for me moving here from the moist Canadian coast . I did manage to go on quite a few holidays over Christmas. I went for an overnighter to Taxco which is not far from Mexico City and just inside the state of Guerrero. It's a nice, small town that clings to a mountainside with super tiny mazelike euro-streets all over the place. The market is so confusing and full of stalls and tarps that it's easy to get lost. It's actually one of my favorite places just outside of Mexico City, plus it was hotter which made me happy as it's been cold and dry here. Unfortunately, I took photos on a camera that I don't have the cable for so I can't give you any photos right now. Read and Imagine.

Then... On to Veracruz where Ale and I went to have New Years with some family friends and their whole extended family in a small ranching town off the tourist map called Juanita.

There is a local Veracusanian custom that involves putting a large amount of hand made fireworks into a stuffed effigy of a "viejo" or old man. You then set him on fire and literally, totally blow him up publicly to usher in the New Year. I'm not completely sure what the symbolism of blowing up the old guy means, but I'm pretty sure it's about renewal and such. It was good fun though.

The gulf coast is beautiful and Veracruz has many interesting things to see. We went to an area called

Catemaco where they have big mangroves and lagoons meeting the sea, and lot's of

bugs and jungly plant life. There are a fair amount of wildlife preserves around here and I'm told the place is known for it's natural beauty and from what my eyes told me, it's true.

It's very different from Mexico City here. The people are maybe more "caribbean?". Anyway, it's hot and the sea food is good. There seems to be a lot of dancing, music and celebrating during festive times. Sea food in Mexico City isn't rare but it's not all over the place like it is on the coasts. In DF it's usually more expensive if you want the high quality fare and not as fresh probably, but I'm no expert.

Coming from Vancouver though I've always been a big fan of fish and clams and all that so it was nice to get a taste. I just realized that if you say, "I'm a big fan of fish and clams.." you sound kind of straight. It's like something a lame neighbor says in order to be funny in a movie or something. Anyway, who cares, next topic-

I've been reading all the news about the Canadian Federal Election. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get it together to vote out of country. I guess you can all blame me and others like me for not "rocking the vote" or whatever. Anyway, it looks like Steven Harper is going to steer the boat in more or less the same direction as per usual. However for those of my friends whose checks have "Government of Canada" written on the upper left hand side - sorry double-time. Mexico is having a vote this year too and it's a pretty heated race. Apparently they were trying to get out of country voters to participate this year as there are an estimated 20 mil or so Mexicans living in the States who generally don't vote. After spending millions registering them etc... there were 5000 or so new voters. Boondoggle city. I guess when you're busting ass picking apples in Bellingham, who gets to sit in the red chair in the Zocalo is a pretty logistical and ideological far away idea and I can concur.

Uh, well after getting back to DF from Veracruz I journeyed with Ale's family to Acapulco for a weekend wedding! Woah. I'd never been and Acapulco's pretty dazzling to say the least. Basically, geographically its a deep bay surrounded by mountains. The temperature, beach and coastline are amazing, if you can overlook the solid wall of 1000 room hotels standing at attention on the beach and gazing, expensively out to sea. There is an "Old Acapulco" which is near the bay, but sort of climbs up the mountainside. This is where most acapulcans live. It's similar to many Mexican cities, but the contrast between the crumbling colonialness and Mexicaness of the old town and the glitz of the hotel strip is pretty intense and it's meaning will not escape the more querying tourist. The wedding actually wasn't in Acapulco proper but a 20 min drive away in a little beach zone called "Pie de la Cuesta".

Here the vibe was much more laid back and the hotels less extravagant. The ocean is not protected by a bay here and the waves were a bit too violent for normal surf fun, but we did some swimming and the wedding was really nice right on the beach and pretty low key, but fun in the end. A lot of people in Mexico don't like Acupulco because it's totally over touristed and over developed and a holidayland in no small way, but the area and the ocean are truly beautiful but as I said before you have to overlook the "Tony Roma's, Planet Hollywoods, malls, and other assorted conglomerates that have descended full-force. One could view Vancouver in the same way IE: new casino conference centre slash cruise ship port of call going up ocean front but it's not like you're going to tell your visiting friends to go down there for Tony Roma's unless you're doing it ironically or something weird like that but there's nothing really that ironic about Tony Romas is there?