Thursday, July 7, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Day... (Mexico City, Mexico)

(June 29, 2011) As a storm rages, I wrestle with a restaurateur, meet with a foreign correspondent, hop on the wrong subway line, and tussle with a TV.

I awaken to a dark, chilly day. A tropical storm is pounding Vera Cruz and attempting to do the same here and in other parts of Mexico.

Julieta gives me a big hug before she serves me breakfast. I linger long after I´ve finished. It´s pouring, and I´m freezing in my light jacket. What to do today? Maybe I´ll visit a museum; there are at least 200 I haven`t been to yet. Perhaps I´ll just relax and go dancing later.

(Dancing starts at 4:00 pm and ends by 10 o´clock on weeknights, allowing time to decompress after work and still get a good night´s sleep. Pretty civilized, don´t you think?)

As I exit the Cafe Rex, I can`t avoid the owner, who is manning the cash register. I hand him 25 pesos, and he grabs my hand. "I know someone who makes sculptures of models. Should I make an appointment for you?"

I roll my eyes and try to retrieve my hand.

He pulls me closer, into a bear hug, and whispers, "I know we are going to make beautiful love together, aren't we?"

"Not while I´m alive," I tell him.

As I struggle to get away, he lets out a guffaw and releases me. I don´t eat here every day because I get tired of his overtures and expressions of unrequited like. I know it's all BS, but it's annoying, just the same.

I pass two hours in an Internet cafe, at the last minute receiving a message from a friend who wanted to meet me -- yesterday. I call and we arrange a get together in Colonia Roma, one of D.F.´s chic, upscale neighborhoods. Although Mexico produces superior coffee beans, it is incredibly hard to find a good cup of java. Temoris suggests Cafe Colon.

Temoris is rarely in town. Just returned from Colombia, where he lectured on censorship in the Arab press, he is now teaching a workshop on how to do what he has learned to do by experience. A freelance journalist who has written for major magazines throughout the world, he travels to places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, and Gaza. He interviewed the Ugandan politician who proposed the law which would condemn homosexuals to death and who compared himself to Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and others "who are doing God`s work." More often, Temoris tries to report the stories of people who are fighting for justice.

We talk until Temoris must leave for his workshop. As I walk to the subway, I´m considering whether or not to go dancing. Hopping onto a car headed in the wrong direction and spending an hour traveling back to my point of departure settle the matter. I will go straight back to my hotel.

The ride is always interesting: I listen to the young, tatooed boys hawking candies, two for five pesos, in that particular singsong the subway vendors use. An old man, with his trousers rolled up to reveal scabby calves, wheezes through a harmonica. A man touts the benefits of (believe it or not!) a miner's headlamp, which I am sorely tempted to purchase. I try not to collapse in laughter as I surely would, if my friend A. were with me.(See my second blog entry for more on miner's headlamps.)

For dinner, I buy about 90 cents' worth of roasted, salted pumpkin seeds from Sanborn`s. (There I go again, lining the pockets of its owner, Carlos Slim, one of the world´s richest men.) I eat them in my room.

I try reading in the dim light, but give up. I turn on the television, a cranky, crotchety contraption that promptly turns itself off. We tussle. On. Off. On. Off. I eventually win or, as the case may be, lose. I am subjected to an idiotic and obnoxious video -- the fourth most watched on YouTube -- of a drunkard explaining the meaning of the word "Fwa," which emerges from his lips as a great catharsis and (probably) the prelude to a bout of vomiting (which is, thankfully, not shown).

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