Friday, August 3, 2012

First Class (Mexico City, Mexico)

I feel like I'm in a vacuum tube or something. Very little news of the world outside reaches me. I´ve heard that it's sweltering back home. No surprise: it's August! I heard about the shocking shootings at the midnight screening of the new Batman film. I saw a newspaper today that said that Obama maintains a lead in popularity polls in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. I read that there's severe drought in some of the farm states, so food prices are sure to rise. I catch the Olympics on TV from time to time, so I know that Mexico has scored medals in diving and that many athletes have done the US proud. I'm certain that more is being reported -- most of it bad -- and that I'll learn more than I want to know once I get back to the States.

Meanwhile, I spend my days in awe of the industriousness and creativity of Mexicans, who utilize every nook and cranny of buildings, alleys, sidewalks, and metro stations and cars,  to sell everything and anything to passersby. I wander about, stopping from time to time to gaze up at a magnificent building, to visit a museum, or to buy a bite or a meal from a street vendor or in a restaurant. In the evenings, I dance my daily calorie intake off, arrive at my hotel early, wash my clothes in the sink, and sink into bed. I turn the TV on and wake up, between two and four in the morning, to the same shows I was watching when I fell asleep.

These are my last couple of days in Mexico City, and I  already feel sad as I say farewell to friends and acquaintances I may not see again. This morning at one of my regular breakfast spots, an employee greeted me  with a giant smile, a bear hug, and a big, fat kiss on the cheek. As I told her goodbye, the waitress told me how she always looks forward to seeing me and put down her armload of plates to embrace me.  I left the banana that the obnoxious owner placed on my table as a "gift." I passed my friendly neighborhood tacos de canasta guy and waved hello, knowing that I probably won't have time for another taco before I go.

I've got most meals planned out for the rest of my time here:  Saturday's breakfast will be a hearty buffet -- fresh fruit and juice, eggs, breads and sweet rolls, chilaquiles, perhaps a guisado (a main dish -- but only if it's poultry or fish, no more other meats for me!), and cafe con leche bien cargado  (a super-charged latte). I'll need the sustenance, as I'll be skipping lunch before heading to my favorite park to dance most of the afternoon away. I might take some food to eat in my hotel room  (roasted chicken from the rotisserie; a thin, crisp, whole grain flatbread, and a gelatina with a prune, a chunk of canned peach, and a walnut from a nearby bakery) before I ready myself to attend a Middle Eastern dance presentation in which a friend will be performing. I'll get a freshly squeezed oj, a cheese and mushroom omelette, some black beans, tortillas, and the requisite cafe con leche from one of the small, humble restaurants that is open on Sundays. Eating out options are always more limited on this, most people's day of rest, so I don't know if or what I'll eat before heading out to a museum and to my last evening of dancing. My last full day will be Monday, so I might eat a tamal of rayas con queso (a tamale with cheese and green pepper strips), a chocolate atole (a corn-based drink with the consistency of a thin gruel) , and some papaya and mango chunks from sidewalk stands and catch up on my vegetable quotient at a Chinese buffet or a vegetarian restaurant. Perhaps a glass of red wine later in the evening in the company of my friend, I, along with a handful of salty, spicy peanuts with fried, whole garlic cloves and hot peppers. Maybe a little bag of addictive, toasted and salted pumpkin seeds. Before I leave town on Tuesday morning, I´ll grab a filling breakfast at another buffet to keep me satisfied until they feed me lunch (!) on my plane. 

Lest you think that I'm kidding, I have to report how sorry the airline was  to inform me that there were no seats in Coach or Business Class or Under the Fuselage, so they had to put me in First Class for every step of each of my flights to and from Mexico. Oh, well. If someone has to bear the indignities of having more leg room than I would need if my legs were twice as long as they are, of having more elbow room than I would need if my elbows were twice as what? sharp? bent? outstretched? as they can be, of being served a meal, snacks, and beverages that are twice as good (although they're not great...) as what are offered in the fast food airport locations -- and which are already included in the price of my flight  -- well, that someone might as well be me! I´ve already learned from my experience in getting here, that First Class is about a gazillion times better than other classes. Not only did I get on and off my flights sooner than everybody else, but the planes seemed to arrive at their destinations faster and smoother.