Listening parties and ticketed conversation events are two things that are quite new to me, as in I had never even thought of them as a concept. The former is a house party with a band and paid entry and a staffed kitchen bar, the latter is an event that includes post-it notes on a wall with conversation prompts.
I didn’t attend either of these, well, I did attend the ‘listening party’, but I’ll go into that later. I didn’t stay long, I don’t think my chaperone was willing to deal with my attitude and fair enough. Either way, I now have two hilarious names for very regular nights out. Leave it to the Americans to categorize the most basic of events.
My day started with a trip over the road to the fruit and veg shop. They do huge boxes of fresh fruit for a few pesos. Munched it down and finished my writing for the day. I’m now an expert on kayaking shoes if any of you are in the market.
I decided to see what was on the menu for the day. I knew there was some stuff going on in the evening, but I needed to fill the day first. As it was Saturday I thought I’d head into the city and see what the weekend markets were like. I wanted to find somewhere to write my blog, and I spotted a bar/library in Rosa that looked perfect. I would hit the markets on the way over, I loaded my bag up with a camera, kindle, and laptop and bust a move.
The market was in a car park connected to Járdin Del Artes. On a Sunday this fills up with local artists selling their wares. I’ve only breezed through it the once, but it makes me wish I was staying with a permanent residence just so I could buy. The art filling the enormous park is something to behold. Genuinely beautiful stuff, I’ll make sure to do some writing on it.
The market what exactly the kind of thing I’ve become accustomed to in CDMX. An entrance of vast swathes of food stalls, then deep into the labyrinthine sweatbox of clothes, watches, poppers, electronics, and health food supplements. It’s great, you’re guaranteed to find something you need. The first thing to catch my eye was a Mexican USB plug and cable. Picked it up for a few pesos. Next on the agenda was a t-shirt. An impulse buy for sure but it’s a perfect lounging-around piece, I shouldn’t wear it outside. Lastly was a patch for my bag, I’m still looking for a Mexico city one.
Market done, I made my way to the library to type some stuff up. A coffee and a cocktail helped me write my blog for the day. It’s such a pleasure to write for myself after writing for websites. Whether or not what I write is good, optimized for the googles, or even grammatically correct doesn’t matter. It’s only edited by the friends that read it and point out the mistakes, and it’s all for me.
I intended to head home before going out, but writing took a little longer than expected. I had already decided that the ‘conversation party’ was a no-go. If anything is either a gateway into a cult or a swingers party, that’s the one. The tickets were not cheap either, around twenty US. I do my entire weekly shop including booze and meat for that. If anything, they should be paying me for the pleasure, my conversation is some of the best on the planet, and my topics are fucked.
There was some music for free afterward, I was planning to pop in once everyone had chosen their sticky note prompt and really worn themselves out with the effort. I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed much by not chatting to a real estate agent about ‘My Favourite Cool-Aid Flavour’ or ‘My Most Memorable Virgin Sacrifice’. Either way, I didn’t make it to the music either. I ended up chatting to a friend on a roof bar and drinking mezcal instead.
They invited me back to one of their friends’ flats around the corner. Another spot with a porter. It’s starting to give me a sense of insecurity. I just have loud as fuck dogs in my lobby. We made out way up the stairs to an apartment like I have never seen. Two grinning Americans welcomed me in with a “this is a shoes-off household” and an air of pride.
The first room, with a full hardwood floor and half-wall windows, was bigger than my flat in Bristol. This was their yoga studio. Not to be mistaken with their massage room they paraded to me after. I took a stroll to the window and gazed out at the bright lights of Mexico City. Wealth gazing out on wealth, I guess it’s nice to be surrounded by your comfort zone and peers. Until you look down anyway.
Five floors down and running along the length of the building were tents of the homeless and often indigenous people. Nicely tucked in there between the high-rise luxury apartments. If I opened the window I could empty the incense stick ashtray onto them. It explains why they weren’t wall-length windows; looking at the homeless taking their morning, gutter-side shit, would really ruin the release of upward-facing dog. I had already had a bit to drink, and this made me noisily belligerent.
The host’s porcelain smiles barely cracked. They did well. I could still hear the listening party next door, and I wanted some more fuel. We left, breezed past the doorman, and went in.
It was experimental jazz, of course. They had used their ‘yoga studio’ as a gig space. The floor was covered in more white Americans. They were listening deeply and with respect. It was a sober environment. I rolled around scowling for a while until Phoebe suggested we leave. I don’t think I’m better than it, I’m not. I just don’t like to have to see it. Pretension and wealth make me feel sick, maybe because I have no wealth and would like the intellect and culture to at least feign pretension.
I said my goodbyes and made my way home. I already knew my behavior would leave me with a healthy dose of hangxiety the next day, but that was future Leo’s problem. I had affected nobody and made absolutely no lasting impression beyond being an abrasive cunt, but at least I hadn’t pretended to appreciate sub-par free jazz.
I decided to go to a famous Sunday market the next day. I had been warned it was gargantuan and got a little crazy. No kidding. It was blocks wide, spread over perhaps a few square miles, maybe even more. I was in there for hours and had forgotten what the outside world looked like. Ther have a saying in Mexico City about these markets – “uno puede reunir las piezas necesarias para construir un helicóptero” or close enough. You can gather the pieces you need to build a helicopter. You could do that, and probably do it for under £100.
There wasn’t anything that wasn’t for sale in the main body of the market. There were anabolic steroids, entire stalls dedicated to selling porn on USB sticks, microwaves, iPhones that aren’t even out yet, drug dealers, car parts, pets, and more clothes than the entire population of Mexico needs. It was a trip, and it was already blagging my fragile brain right out. I sat down and ate the worst street food I had ever tasted. It had the flavor food gets after a long night on the bag: sand, a bit of skimmed milk, and regret.
As I made way deeper into Dante’s fourth ring of hell, I started having to dodge kids on motorcycles blasting their way through the wall-to-wall crowds. They came in ones, twos, threes, and fours. I’m not talking about gangs of bikes, that’s a gang on a bike. Some of them honestly looked like circus acts. Working my way between the USB porn stalls and Nike Air Jordan specialists I started to hear the familiar rhythm of Reggaeton.
The stalls changed. Now they were bars, in stalls, wall-to-wall bar-stalls. All of them with DJs who looked no more than 15, all of them serving micheladas for pennies a go, and every single one packed to the gunnels with drunk, dancing Mexican youth. This was the first place I had come that was really live, and actually full of locals. It was intoxicating, and not geared toward me.
The stalls were often feet apart and yet they both had sound systems to rival festivals. Like some nightmarish sound-soup, they were playing music in complete contrast to each other. It felt like I was being beaten to death with Reggaeton. The crowds inside the tents danced, kissed, drank the vast, colorful drinks, slapped hands with good friends, and looked like they were having a ball.
The motorcycles I had seen earlier bludgeoning their way through the crowds were crammed in there with them all. That sense of joyful, loud community I had mentioned before was here, it was in full swing, and it was completely in the hands of the young. When I have my key to this side of the city, I will revisit it with whoever it is. As it stands, I’m sure I would be welcome but I don’t know where I would begin.
I took myself home with my head ringing. There is life in this city I haven’t really ever seen before. It is communal, it’s incredibly boisterous, and it is wildly free.