Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home Again (Mexico City)

I am glad to be back in the D.F. (a.k.a. Distrito Federal or Mexico City). Back to the crush of people, the snarls of traffic, the beggars' entreaties, the symphonic cacophony, the sweaty, bustling, sooty beauty of it all.

Here is where I can be alone, and even lonely, among thousands but where I can get my ego stroked simply by asking directions. "Turn right, then left at the next corner, Beautiful," the policeman will say.

Here is where the bright-yellow-suited mambo man, his head cloaked in black cloth and crowned with a jaunty top-hat, his hands black-gloved, turns on his boom box and turns the pedestrian street into his stage. His spats-clad feet glide and slide across the pavement as he moonwalks, cakewalks, sleepwalks -- smooth, sleek, silent. Around a tree and to the beat he chases little children, who scream in terror and elation. He dance-flirts, shaking his ass suggestively at a handsome young couple. He moves, all slink and sex, toward the woman, then embraces and bends the man backward -- to the crowd's shocked delight. When I add my pesos to his dish, he, now sitting, shakes my hand, then tugs me toward his lap. "Oh!" escapes me, surprised and embarrassed.

Here is where I can find, on the street or in a bus station, tamales wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, stuffed with chicken and mole, with strips of green pepper, with cheese, with raisins and almonds and with God knows what else -- but it all tastes so explosively fabulous! And I can wash them down with guzzles of atole, a corn drink flavored with fruit or chocolate.

Here is where my favorite waitress tells me to eat some of my fruit salad, so the boss won't yell at her for giving me extra, and where the hotel maid hugs me warmly each time I see her.

Here is where what I call the gypsy musicians play 40's Cuban ballads on the steps of Waldo's (translation: The Dollar Store). The pirate-guitarist flicks, strokes, and strums; his brother coaxes the drum; the main singer silkens the air. Only the dogs and the very young hustle by without hearing, slowing, stopping, or listening. The rest of us can't help ourselves. Couples pause, embrace, pour into each others' eyes. Men lean against walls, their faces slack and dreamy. Women stand motionless, mouths ajar, tongues licking lips without even realizing, eyes half-closed, hearts pulsing, heating, throbbing to the beat of the music. We are all in love.

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