Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm Starting to Like Carlos Slim (Mexico City, Mexico)

(June 30, 2011)

Breakfast today is yogurt with strawberries, granola, and honey and a cup of instant Nescafe (a weak excuse for coffee) at the homey Restaurante Lucy. Always crowded, you'll be forced to wait forever if you're unwilling to share a table with someone or somemore.

I share my table with Daniela, a recent college graduate who majored in communications. She has just returned from a conference in Colombia, accompanying her sister, a renowned environmental attorney. I notice Daniela´s intermediate English text, and our conversation shifts back and forth between our two languages. We exchange emails and phone numbers, so that we can get together; I'll help her with her English.

I´m running late to meet Pedro because I've stayed too long in the Internet Cafe. Still, I arrive before him at the Palanco Metro, from which we bus and hoof it to Carlos Slims' new art museum. Museo Soumaya, named for Slims's deceased wife, mushrooms from the ground, an asymetrical, windowless structure, covered in hexagonal metal panes. Inside is an impressive array of works from Slims' private collection, including sculptures by Rodin and Dali, paintings by Corot, Rivera, El Greco, Dutch Masters, and more. Even the restroom is a work of art, all marble and mirrors and adorned with vases holding white orchids. A fellow museum goer snaps photos as I close the door to one of the stalls.

The triangular excavation adjacent to Museo Soumaya is the future site of a second Slim museum, this one to house modern art. Two hundred and fifty seven museums to visit in this incredible city!

After he helps me re-activate my (Mexico only)cell phone, Pedro and I sit down to lunch in a crowded restaurant. Pedro worries about eating in a little street dive like this; he's already spotted a few cockroaches scurrying up a wall. As some of you already know, I never let bugs get in the way of my enjoyment of a meal, even if they are an essential or accidental part thereof. So far, my stomach has handled pretty much anything anyone can dish out. As Pedro's willing to take a chance with his digestive system, we dig into the meal of the day, squeezing lime juice into the shrimp broth brimming with cubes of potatoes and carrots. I push the sliced frankfurters to the side of my tasty plate of yellow rice. The whole fried mojarra (crappy, in English, but not crappy at all, in taste) with garlic is almost too big for one person. Almost. Of course, there are tortillas, and all we can drink of agua de jamaica. We stuff ourselves for 45 pesos each, less than $9.00 (US).

Two nice things happen: Pedro says I have a Cuban accent (when speaking Spanish), and the waiter asks if I am from Argentina. Flattery makes me feel...flattered.

Pedro walks me over to a place near my hotel, where I can use the Internet in comfort, thanks to Carlos Slim (whom I am starting to like a little). There are armchairs, sofas, tables, and artwork, and you can use a laptop at no charge, for however long you want, from 11am to 9 at night. I spend entirely too much time there.

Later, at the Ciudadela, I run into Jose. We dance to the sounds of a live band playing son cubano and then stroll over to the middle of the park, where Ismael is helping with a cumbia lesson. He teaches me some new moves and laughs at me, nonstop. I ask if he's making fun of me. He says that I dance well, that it's my constant smiling that makes him laugh. I guess it's obvious that I love to dance, huh?

I return to the area with live music and dance with a young Steven Segal look alike with whom I was taking cumbia lessons two years ago. Ricardo tells me that he wants to learn a couple more turns and then will move to Guadalajara, where he will teach dancing. There will surely be a line of women waiting to sign up; he is really, really good and easy on the eyes, as well. Plus, unlike the other Steven Segal, he doesn't beat you up if you make the wrong move.

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