The past two days have just been about finding my feet. That and adjusting to the difference in time. Despite totally ruining my sleeping pattern on the plane I was still getting pretty tired early on. Adjustment is healthy, and I had to remind myself, this wasn’t a quick ten-day holiday, this was a much more long-term move. I have time, just take it and don’t burn out.
I woke up to another cold shower. I hadn’t mentioned previously, but the gas had run out and my host needed to fill it. He promised it by the end of the day. I indulged in a bowl of fruit loops and a coffee. The latter wildly outstripped the former. No wonder US kids shoot up schools if that’s what they’re fed in the morning. I checked my email for work, found nothing, and decided to head out into town. I felt that finding the old town was a good place to start.
I have a small-city attitude. I look at a map, see the distance, and my head tells me twenty minutes. The historic centre was at least an hour’s walk. This wasn’t really a problem though. It’s not like I had anything to do, so I set off. The day was already beautiful, the streets were still calm, closed, and welcoming, and the day had that fresh feeling that could offer anything at all.
The first place I happened upon was the Republic Square of the night previous. This enormous memorial building to the revolution towers above the square, surrounded by the tired and finally silent tents of the night before. It was nice to know the nativities hosted entirely by blow-up T-Rex hadn’t been a fever dream. I weaved my way through the stands in the general direction of the old town.
Along the way, I couldn’t help popping into a church. I’m a sucker for all things religious, even if entering hallowed ground does make my skin burn and my eyes twitch. The church of San Hipolito was the first I had gone to and I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. Gold adorned the walls, the altar, and the monumental reredos. The display was fantastic, I spent a little time taking it in, still unsure if pictures were allowed.
The interior was great, but the approach was better. I’m quickly learning that everything in Mexico comes with a host of market stalls. Basketball court? Here are five stalls selling electrolytes, vests, and some knockoff Jordans. Four-lane highway? Here you go, buy face masks, more knockoff Jordans, and some pig snout tacos. Church? How about a plastic Jesus, enough rosary beads to lay a new transatlantic pipeline, and some knock-off Jordans with Jesus on them? I loved the merch and, as soon as I find a way to post for cheap, I’m sending a plastic baby Jesus or bloody eyes mary to everyone along with a bottle of Mezcal.
Along the way, I made my way through Chinatown. Stopped off for a bite to eat, and continued on. Chinatown is renowned for its Chinese food and light shops. I bought a quesadilla and I have no interest in buying lights. Still, it was interesting, I had no idea Chinese people looked so Mexican.
As I made my way to the old town I found myself wandering through districts. For three or four blocks, the shops would all start to cater to one specific thing. The lights district in Chinatown was the beginning of it for me. Then came the guitar and amp district. Shop after shop was selling, repairing, or catering to the guitar industry. One shop was blaring out riffs from a floodlit stage, it was 2 in the afternoon. Another had a multitude of beautiful second-hand guitars hanging from the roof. All of these shops were open-fronted, slim as about four bodies, and disappeared into dark recesses.
They have a great selection of knockoffs in Mexico City. You have the ones you would expect; the Gucci and Prada, but they have so much more. Some of my favorites are the guys selling USB sticks with a random selection of music. It just comes under a genre. Watch out Spotify. Another highlight is the DVDs. In plain sight of authorities, they play the latest movies and sell pirated DVDs. I watched pretty much the whole new Avatar in Mexican whilst I enjoyed a coffee.
I walked through a district only selling car stereo systems, and this bled into a district that sold amps and sound systems, this then led into what I can only presume to be a district that sold electronic repair parts. The shops looked like dissected bodies: cables, wires, circuit boards, LEDs, and chips hung from every wall. It was a confusion of screens and circuitry. This just reaffirmed my suspicion that the Mexicans like to mend. Their cars are a testament to this and for that, I salute them. As I found my way out of the bazaar of the bizarre I came to the final district before Centro Historico. Sex shops. Well that and more tech shops, but these ones sold actual working tech.
I’m used to sex shops being seedy places you wouldn’t ever want to be seen skulking out of which is why Lovehoney is so prolific in the UK. Us well-to-do, sex-shy, and prudish English hate to admit we self-flagellate under the eyes of god, but the Mexicans don’t give two shits. They were the same as everywhere else in the districts; open fronted, slim, and heaving. Men, women, and dare I say children, were casually browsing and conversing surrounded by French ticklers, bum wanglers, and shaft scaffolders. Their comfort with it was actually rather refreshing. Coming from England, where everyone claims to be woke as the day is long, sex is still rather taboo.
Centro Historico was lovely, I’ll revisit it again. I haven’t much to say about the place but I feel like it was the walk I needed rather than the cultural enrichment. I will say though, I saw the biggest flag I’ve ever seen in Plaza de Constitution. Loved it, rate it, and will watch it flap again. I think I’ll head there when they have something on.
I always had a tradition, starting when traveling Europe with Amy, that whenever we arrived in a new city, no matter the time, we would sit down and have a beer immediately. It would usually only be one unless the journey there demanded more, and it was almost always a local beer. This was more than just latent alcoholism, it gave us the chance to finally sit down, take the packs off our backs, and evaluate. We would talk, sometimes for the first time in hours due to hitching, exhaustion, or just long hours on the road. We would sit and take in a new city, watch the people, look at how they moved, and conversed, more often than not with us at the bar. It was a chance to just stop time and touch base with something that seems universal. I hadn’t had a chance to do this yet, new years closures had kind of put a stop to it, and I knew in the back of my head, this almost decade-old tradition needed to be honored.
I found an empty bar on my walk back. It was blaring Limp Bizkit, A karaoke favourite of mine, so I knew it was a sign. The barman told me to scan the QR code and check the menu. I had just bought myself a Mexican SIM card so it was prime time to try it out, I was so pumped to experience Mexican 4g. The Menu was a dream, I had followed my heart and yet again, Fred Durst had held my hand to heaven. Beers for $17, 10 wings for $40, now they were playing Korn and the sun was on my back. I could cry, this was the beer I had been waiting for. It tasted like nectar. I sucked down three, finished off my book, and headed home.
When I got back, I wrote my piece for the evening and settled in with a can of whiskey and soda. I finally had the feeling that I was going to be okay. I may be miles away from the ones I love, and I may have little to no idea what anyone’s saying, but Fred Durst is always there, and so is beer.