Friday, April 07, 2017

ciudad de parques

From my travel journal:

Thursday, our first in Mexico City, we kept it mellow and walked around Polanco, which all the guidebooks say is the "Beverly Hills of Mexico City." It's true that I saw a BMW motorcycle and lots of professional dog walkers, but Polanco has more urban flare than BH. We spent a lot of time at Lincoln Park; there's a statue of Lincoln here that says "a gift from the people of the United States to the people of Mexico." Nearby a store had hung a #fucktrump banner.

Better than a wall.
We stayed up talking to the friends we're staying with, Laura and her wife, Molly. I've known Laura since I was a little kid; our moms were good friends, and hers passed away recently, from Alzheimer's. Laura said that navigating her mom's illness would have been twice as hard without her sister Lindsay, and that's part of why they wanted a second kid (Cora is four, Evan is 20 months). It's sobering, but it did push me more in the direction of trying--somehow, with some nonexistent money and energy--to bring a sibling for Dash into our lives. I don't know. Maybe we can start with a cousin and take it from there.

Friday morning we visited Coyoacan, an arty, historical neighborhood that's held a place in my mind since reading The Lacuna (although I sort of thought it was a small town, not part of Mexico City). Being there was immediately just-right--the blue and yellow and salmon-colored buildings, the red and pink flowers. The market like the old Grand Central Market, with its gorgeous fruit-porn, neon smoothie kiosks, fish, chiles, arte, pinatas.

Mexico loves fruit.
The first restaurant I saw with Frida's name on it, I started crying. More than any other artist, she embodies for me the spirit of "My body may have problems, but it is my tool; I will make you share its fierce beauty and pain. No one gets to look away." Some people make pilgrimages to La Virgen; the artists and lesbians line up against a bright blue wall in the sun to pay our respects to Frida.

Frida loves fruit. Fruits love Frida.
AK played with Dash in the courtyard (he loved throwing coins in the agua) while I visited a temporary exhibition of Frida's clothes and all the plaster casts she decorated; even a prosthetic leg with a gorgeous red flowered boot. For lack of a better word, it was kind of triggery, taking me to a time when I didn't have the luxury of forgetting about my body and had to convince myself that losing parts of it was cool if I could figure out how to own it. All those hours I spent perusing alternative nipple tattoos. I cried and felt grateful and wanted to throw up all at once.

That night Molly and Laura and I went to Lucha Libre, which was pretty great. Afterward, I told AK (who stayed behind because we had some logistical confusion and because Dash has bedtime separation anxiety), "They say it's a sport, but it's actually acrobatics and theater."

AK said, "So what you're saying is 'but it's actually good.'"

I think Molly was mildly worried I'd be offended by all the eye-candy girls in fishnets and pseudo-violence, so she did a lot of contextualizing. But the whole thing is amazing, even ideologically. It's this mix of improv and choreography, stereotype and complexity, masculinity and homoeroticism. One of the "good guy" teams consists of two beefcakes who do hip circles after pinning a dude, and a guy in a little tutu who literally minces between (badass) moves. To me, that's three or four degress removed from mocking homosexuality. It's more like finding a way to embrace it.

Maximo Sexy.
Saturday we paid a guy named Dante to drive us to the church where La Virgen appeared to Juan Diego, and then to the pyramids. Seeing La Virgen--the painting with the blue and gold rays emanating from her--is a little like seeing Frida imagery. She's in a million hipster boutiques and on the side of the closed-down convenience store across the street from our house, but this is the real thing. It's hard to wrap your head around. But two of the three churches on the site were beautiful (the third was built in 1972 so...not so much). These ornate, listing, brick-and-concrete homages to faith and colonialism.

I was wearing shorts, semi-inappropriately, but the space was full of little kids in frilly dresses and tiny white suits. We saw a couple of people making pilgrimages on their knees. Families of poor Indios with skinny kids who seemed like they'd come a long way.

Dash pointed and said "house."
CDMX traffic being what it is, we had a lot of car time with Dante. All of us improved our Spanglish. We learned about his four kids and his parenting philosophies; he asked about adoption and our parenting differences, and teased AK about her bad Spanish (the consensus seems to be that I have a few more words, but she has more confidence and a better accent).

By the time we got to Teotihuacan, we were both exhausted from trying to carry on a conversation with a stranger in a language we didn't really speak. I'd been letting AK do the heavy lifting on that front. She was intimidated by all the shallow-but-steep stairs, but I was seized by a sudden desire to do something impressive. I've spent so much time lately feeling mediocre at everything--work, writing, parenting, marriage. I wanted to do something great in the simplest way. So with Dash strapped to my chest, I powered up all those stone stairs. And my knees were jelly and I cried; I think my body just remembered what it was like to actually push myself to do something other than stay awake. In other words, I finally worked out hard enough that some endorphins got released.

Dusty but happy.
We ate fish and lamb and drank tequila with Dante while Dash got drunk on mango juice and befriended some hairless dogs.

Dante and Dash.
Sunday we hit Chapultapec Park with Molly and Laura and their kids in the morning. It's a beautiful space--the center of CDMX seems like a gorgeous maze of parks. There was a long walkway of fountains--a kind of stream divided into like twenty connected rectangles--and the kids went nuts making their way upstream.

Babies on parade.
Then AK, Dash and I walked to the Museo Antropologia, which has to be one of the most beautifully designed museums I've ever visited. In the courtyard, there's a big column with water pouring onto the ground, looking out at a sliver of cityscape horizon, like an urban rain forest. Dash adored the fish pond. Pointed to a big fish and said "orange." Insisted the fish go into a "tunnel" (new obsession since riding around the city sans car seat, which is more fun that I'd like to admit).

I understand the significance of ancient artifacts, but a lot of times they don't speak to me. It's like, yep, there's a carving. But behind each exhibit, the doors opened onto an outdoor space where you could climb on replicas of pyramids or wooden houses. It was jungley and kid-friendly, and it felt more like inhabiting an ancient world than learning about one.

Our docent had a short attention span.
We ended our week in Xochimilco, a neighborhood of canals where you can charter a boat. You become a captive audience for people to sidle up on smaller boats and sell you things: mariachi and marimba songs (which Dash decided were too loud), jewelry, food, pulque, flower tiaras, plants, dolls. It was a little overwhelming, but I had a good quesadilla and AK bought me a silver and coral ring for my birthday.

I'm forty now. That's a whole other post.

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