Parking attendants are a different breed here. It isn’t a sit-and-check ticket situation, it is a competitive sport similar to the one played by nightclub promoters. A team of them will run up and down a road, often standing in the stream of traffic cajoling people to park their cars regardless of whether they actually want or need to.
The car parks are everywhere and almost always private. They’re cheap and guarded and a number of them offer services like engine checks and valeting. They’re built on the flat rooves of the buildings, or in cavernous basements below. A large number are simply in abandoned and demolished lots. Parking for a whole day can cost as little as $50 pesos.
The attendants run down the road, leaning into moving car windows, enticing the drivers in. Obviously, I have no clue what they’re saying but they seem to be raising a riot. The drivers find it hilarious, often slipping them coin without pulling in. The attendants, who are sometimes a street or so away, come riding in on the footplates of busses and pick-up trucks, and the bonnets of hatchbacks whooping and cheering their way back to the lots. It’s like a party.
A lot of México City has the same feeling to it. Excitement, friendliness, and joy seem to back most of what everyone does. Market sellers call out to locals and tourists alike, who call back, and end up standing and chatting with no obvious intent of a sale. People get on the bus and natter away with the driver for a journey, and the food stalls are almost buried behind the volume of people conversing standing up, eating, and drinking every evening. The city has a loud and communal happiness to it that has none of the coldness and hostility I feel I may be used to. Everyone isn’t out to get in your pocket or move you along, they’re usually just pleased you’re there and just as gladly take a conversation as they will a sale.
I am feeling good about being here. It’s always the simple things that finally make me feel like I’m settling in, or finding my way. This time it was finishing my work for the day, popping around the corner for some lunch, and hopping on a bus. Nothing drastic, nothing difficult, just something very regular. I sat down on the bus and started moving my way to Polanco, a disgusting modern money metropolis. As I rode there a calm serenity settled in, I think I felt relaxed for the first time since I arrived. Well, as relaxed as anyone who routinely forgets how to breathe in new social situations can be.
I was on the way to Polanco, an area of wealth and arts. It’s favored by the rich and honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact I was going bowling and it had a number of galleries there, I wouldn’t be interested. It’s one of those tall glass and steel jobbies that you could pick up and drop anywhere in the world and it would fit in.
The drive over took twenty minutes or so on a small city bus. When you got on board you had to drop your change into a little meter before you took your seat. The driver paid no regard for if you had finished even fishing your change out of your pocket before blasting back into the traffic. It was a wild ride.
The bus had barely filled about four stops away from mine, and by the way, there are no marked stops, you just need to know the route and wave it down. The driver decided that one person stood up was absolutely far too many and called time at the bar. As people hailed his bus, he would dip slightly toward the curb, open his door, and flip off whoever was waiting with the traditional upwards punch of Mexico. He wouldn’t shout, he wouldn’t look at them, he would just curtly raise their hopes and tell them where to shove their bus fare. I loved it, he’s an inspiration.
Museo Soumaya was where I wanted to go before I had to socialize and bowl. The museum is an incredible, silver, waisted building towering out of the ground like a space-age vase. It cut a beautiful figure against the contrasting glass monoliths around it, there was no doubt it was designed as a gallery. The interior, guarded by a model of Rodin’s Thinker, opens up to an equally shapely interior built over five floors. A life-size replica of Michelangelo’s David towers in the atrium, but I’ve been to Florence so who cares. The bottom floor also hosted a huge Riviera mosaic mural. After taking in one side, I rotated around to the back of it and realized he had done the same water scene from the rearview. Good job, very clever. I’m embarrassed to admit how impressed I was, I’m a child.
As I progressed up the floors there were more exhibitions. One floor was dedicated to the progression of technology, from the first gramophones to the invention of the pocket watch. There were a lot of great pieces to look at. The real juice was on the top floor.
I had about 15 minutes before I had to pop around the corner for a quick drink with someone I had met a few days before when I finally reached the last floor. It had all the masters in it, and they weren’t replicas. I could have wasted an hour in there. I’ll have to go back.
We had arranged to meet in a place called Twin Peaks, A bar located in the same shopping center as the bowling. A quick glance at google maps told me it was a sports bar renowned for its cocktails, views, and waitresses. I think I knew what to expect, and, I’m not going to say I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised.
The American obsession with scantily clad, twenty-something, waitresses is one of the (many) reasons I’ll probably never grace their bloodstained shores. Their barely masked perversions for forced sexuality from the financially desperate is everything that is wrong with a country based on prudish religion. How going to a bar where the staff not only have to wear the corporate branding of a faceless business, but also have to do it with their asscheeks hanging out is anything other than embarrassing, is beyond me. Thankfully Hooters is losing custom by the ton these days. The generation that thought having a wank or fucking your wife for anything longer than three minutes in missionary on a Wednesday night, in the dark, was a sin worse than murder, is finally dying out. Roll on the sexually numb internet porn generation. We have about 600 scantily clad Instagram models fired into our hypothalamus daily. Either way, I got a cocktail and offered the waitress my jumper.
Bowling was fun, it was far too expensive, and the company was fine. I rolled some balls, drank some drink, met some folk, and dipped before they all headed to a bar which for me is a show of self-control never usually seen. Almost all the people I met are ‘Digital Nomads’ which basically means they work in business and marketing and can do it everywhere. I’ve never had friends in either of those fields, I’m not sure there are any in Bristol. Unless you count the businessmen whose office is in the front seat of a Mercedes and their numbers go online between 6 pm and 6 am.
I took a walk back along the old train tracks that lead through Polanco. They’re lined with floodlit courts for football, handball, squash, tennis, and everything else. I watched a game of handball for a while and made my way to my metro. The very one I had narrowly avoided dying on.
As an aside, a metro I had been on and gotten off of, had crashed the other day. I was on it, then got off because I needed the loo. A few people died. Not gonna get me that easily death, ya slow bitch. My bowels are too powerful.
The next day had a slight hangover to it, nothing too sharp, nothing a shower and some eggs and bacon couldn’t shake anyway. I got my writing done and headed out into the perfectly warm 22-degree weather. I wanted to see the Museo Belles Artes, but I may have left it a little too late. A quick metro ride left me with an hour. I was going to be a lot longer than that so I diverted and went to have a look at the area instead. I use something called Atlas Obscura when I’m at a loose end, it’s an amazing site that shows you the lesser-known or odd sites wherever you are. It directed me to a post office.
I wasn’t disappointed, it was still fully functioning, and it was one of the most majestic buildings I had seen so far. Gilded ironwork and marble floors framed the post office booths, still serving the Mexican public dutifully. Around a corner rose a twin pair of spiral staircases into one, archway stairs maybe? The whole thing was a treat.
I wanted a new lens for my camera so headed into the camera district, which just happened to be right around the corner. I still can’t afford a decent E-Mount lens, even in Mexico. I think I may have to save, I really do need one though. The 50mm that comes with this camera makes me hate my pictures, I’ve tried everything to make it work. The Nikon D50 I traveled with took nicer pictures, and that was made almost 20 years ago. If you’re reading this Mr. Sony, sponsor me, I get like 5 readers a day, you need that publicity.
I grabbed a pile of wings and a beer in a bar that was reminiscent of a Budapest ruin bar, marked it as a spot to come back to later, and hit the gym.
I had a night out planned. My housemate, Alex, had invited me to meet him and his salsa class palls at Jardin Juarez for some bevs and a boogie. I couldn’t say no, I feel I would have perhaps more in common with international salsa dancers than international marketers. Although who knows, the only dancing I got up to at home included 12 hours of industrial noise and a Lemmyesque cocktail.
I stood in the queue for 15 minutes and didn’t move, I stood for half an hour and didn’t move. Alex wasn’t here yet and I was alone. I stood for 45 minutes and moved maybe two meters. Alex dropped me a message, he would get there soon. In the meantime he got one of his mates to come from home and keep me company in the line. He works on Mexican time, but he’s a good man. Queueing is one of my least favorite ways to spend any of my time, but it was an exercise in patience.
Ili met me, she had come from home at the behest of Alex. She was lovely, spoke wonderful English, and became my chaperone for the evening. We stood and chatted away about the city, her hometown of Monterey, the Spanish word for how the Mexicans treat time, and all sorts of other things.
As we got closer to the front, more and more people joined us in the line. After a total of more than ninety minutes, we were at the front. As we got to the door, Alex appeared. He’s short, but I’m almost certain I hadn’t seen him there before. The energy was back up and I was ready to dance. The anxiety had turned my mouth into a Cholo’s espadrille, I needed a tequila.
The wide open space was built into a place a building once was. Pounding reggaeton filled the area, one side was bars, and the other was Soundsystem. Everyone knew all the words and everyone was dancing. The energy was live.
Being in Mexico is a culture shock for a lot of reasons, but one of the ones that took me a while to put my finger on is the music. Everywhere blasts tunes all day, it makes the streets what they are and I love it. What took me a moment to realize, is that I know almost none of the music. They have an entirely different playlist out here. Maybe it’s just my ignorance, but I thought a lot more of what’s big in Europe would be big everywhere. It’s subtly adding a soundtrack to the country that I think I will always associate with Latin America.
Either way, I hate reggaeton. I just cannot get it. I know I listen to techno, grime, drum and bass, and other insanely repetitive music but come on. It has so little to it, I just cannot get my head around it. They love it though, and the crowd of maybe 15 – 20 folks I was with was throwing those loose-kneed, slippy-hipped moves. They tried to teach me, especially Ili, all to the amusement of them all. I’ll get it, but my knees have so little bend in them, putting my socks on requires those long arm litter pickers, and I don’t have hips, I have leg-back. I wasn’t impressing anyone with my swivels, they were good hypemen though, and recommended I went to some classes: beginner classes for the geriatric.
The reggaeton honestly got too much for me in the end, it was about two, and I said my farewells and headed home. I had topped up my social meter a little, I felt good about the night. I spoke to Alex the next day, who by the way is one of the most well-known men in the city no joke, and they had stayed out till about 6 AM. When the club had kicked out, everyone moved around the corner to a 24-hour shop and keeps the party going. This is the side of the city I still need to delve into, and I feel these might be the people to do it with. They were kind, they danced, talked, laughed, and didn’t really drink that much honestly.
I decided to walk the few miles home. I was hungry and a city at night has a charm to it. The walk took me to a taco van still busting eyeball tacos out at 2 AM, it had two guys sitting there and I noticed they had a five tacos for $45 pesos deal going on. Muchacho laid me up with five of the greasiest suardero tacos I’ve ever eaten. They were heavenly.
I sloshed the salsa, onion, lime, and radish on there and dug in. That salsa was hot, a lot hotter than I’m used to. It was delicious, but it did give me hiccups. I’ve sneezed a few times here, the fumes and pig fat tickle my nose, and never had a blessing. Ungodly cads. I bumped one hiccup out and the two old boys and grill master all looked up chucked and blessed me in Spanish. I fucking love this place. I drunkenly giggled into my greasy plate and munched away into the rest of the night.