Friday, September 21, 2018

Leaving Guadalajara, starting Vacay

Working backwards....

Friday morning, I packed up and said my goodbyes to my new friends before hopping a rickety bus back to the Central Nueva station back out of town. I arrived around 11:30am, and there was a bus an hour later out on Primera Plus to La Penita de Jaltemba, a city where I could catch a connecting bus to San Pancho.

So killed an hour, grabbing some fried flautas de pollo in a spot near the bus station.  The bus arrived and left without issue, and again was quite nice.

The Mexican buses, while not cheap, are very nice.  Full reclining seats, leg rests, TVs on the back of the chair in front with scores of movies and programs to watch, and a power outlet below the seat.  There are even separate bathrooms for women and men in the back of the bus.

So I rode out of Guadalajara and across the verdant Mexican countryside.  Rolling green hills and cliffs dotted with cacti.  We passed fields upon fields of blue agave, growing for tequila.

The ride was pretty and otherwise uneventful.  We cross from the central region to the lush, sweltering coasts.  I arrived to Penita, to a world gone sweltering.

I hopped off my bus and made my way to the next bus stop.  Lucky for me, the bus was arriving just as I got there so I quickly got the last ticked and hopped another bus for 30-40 minutes until it dropped me just outside San Francisco aka San Pancho.  Why Pancho?  Pancho is a nickname for Francisco (see under: Pancho Villa, whose original name was Francisco)

I made my way down Avenida Tercer Mundo until I found the Hostel San Pancho.  I quickly dropped my stuff at the chilled-out hostel, and headed straight down towards the beach to watch the first of many sunsets into the Pacific.  The sun set a rusted golden-pink, that faded into burnt mandarin afterglow.  It was beautiful.

After managing to find some dinner at a non-touristy restaurant, I made my way back out to the beach to watch the lighting flash through the night sky.  The rush of the waters with the light of lighting on the beach and the heavens growled was auspiciously incredible, and a quick verification that I had come to the right place.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Wandering Jew on Yom K

I am a long way from any synagogue so I cast my sins into the Pacific Ocean with a swim in its warm, forgiving waters.

They say the Pacific has no memory; no better way to Fast my way to a blank slate for the years to come.

And I got to share some memories in the sea, with a random appearance of a hostel friend from Guadalajara.  A fellow wayfarer indeed, who had brought along a Canadian pair.

I Fasted until I watched the sun set gold, orange and pink into the watery horizon.  Then I broke my Fast at the stellar corner spot La Loncheria Chuyita with a sinchronizada (think a quesadilla-layered sandwich) of chicken, avocado, melted cheese and chiles.  With all sorts of salsas de chile and chipolte mayo squeezed under the tortilla hood, it was a gooey mess. I washed it down with a fresh- squeezed limonada.

For dessert, I found some homemade arroz con leche that was spiced with cinnamon and its stick, topped with a gigante dried ciruela (plum).

I have definitely had worse Yom Kippurs.....

Solsbury

And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Guadalajara

Working backwards...

There are few who treasure a 7-hour bus ride like I do.  Maybe Marco Polo would have, if he knew how much quicker and more comfortably he would have arrived.  But Mexican buses are fantastic and comfortable, some of them anyway.

We slowly passed out of the endless Mexico City, through its endless sprawl. Outside the city, greeted with fields covered in blue whisps and yellow trim.  Near Morelia, we began to pass verdant fields of cacti and maize. I woke up to the site of a giant lake, with cows sleeping on the banks and grazing in shallow water.

Cacti gave way to fields of blue maguey that would make golden tequila.

I love the long journeys a bit more than most. They give me time to decompress and stare out at the rolling countryside.  My bus window has always been my best tv.

I arrived to Guadalajara's central nueva and eventually worked out my bus into town.  It was a rickety thing that took every corner and every side street but eventually arrived to the city center amid a downpour and the evening traffic.

I suited up as best I could towards the rain and ventured with my daypack in propho and a purple paraguas.

I wandered through the flooding streets of Guadalajara, only slightly aimless with my lack of map and firm directions, but eventually found the hostel.

I checked into the Hostel Hospoderte Centro, a nice spot that I had been in some 9 years prior on my trek from LA to Panama (I arrived to Guadalajara after 40 hours on the bus from LA.  It was a welcome spot (II).  The place had improved a bit since I was last there, and was really nice.  I dried off and dropped my stuff before venturing over to a recommended local spot, La Chata.  In pastel yellow, La Chata was pure Jaliscense charm.  I had a Plato Jaliscience, a delicious plate of a quarter rotisserie chicken, sope, enchilada, flauta with some thick fried potatoes slathered in the glorious spicy tomato sauce and salad.  I washed it down with a dark Bohemia.  It was a welcome start to Jalisco and Guadalajara's charms.

I returned to a hammock in the middle of the hostel, and called it a night after a long day.

The next day, I woke up to breakfast.  I grabbed some granola covered in yogurt and melon, with a nice cup of coffee, and sat down next to a bunkmate.  His name was Carlos, he was from Costa Rica.  We ate breakfast and chatted about Ticos and pura vida and become quick friends.  In good old fashioned hostel form, we had a nice chat going with a Mexican fellow named Felix who was off on a tequila tour.  Carlos and I decided to go to Tonala the following day for its Thursday artisanal market.

After breakfast and a bit of flâneuriendo around the semi-familiar city, I found my way to the aforementioned drowned sandwich ahogado.  After lunch, I made my way to a nice park to translate, and wandered back around the main thoroughfare, appreciate the value of a 8 peso (40c) soft-serve cone of vanilla and (accidentally) strawberry ice cream covered in chocolate sauce.

I puttered about the city before settling in to watch an incredible sunset peer through the glass of the yellow-spired cathedral of the city.  It was an impressive and glorious site to see the fading light pour through the neo-Gothic yellow spires and renaissance stained glass.

I made my way out to dinner to find a local speciality carne en su jugo.  That local specialty can be translated a number of interesting ways but most resembles "meat in its juices."  I found a local spot nearby called "La Gorda" which had an excellent version of the dish.  Shredded hunks of beef and beans swam in a consomme of beef juices.  With some tortillas and salsas and cilantro and cebollas (onions), it was a real carnivorous treat.

The next day, Thursday, I had made plans to head to a big market in Tonala outside of Guadalajara.  I was going to Carlos the Tico (Costa Rican) I met the other morning, and our fellow bunkmate Chuy, an interesting young fellow from Monterrey.

We split an uber over to Tonala a few kilometers away.  On the way, we chatted and got to see Chuy's drone video work.  Chuy is quite a talented videographer with his drone, which he had brought with him to the market.  For starters, he made this one of Puerto Vallarta, which is stellar:


Definitely have a watch, it is beautiful stuff.

We arrived to the endless streetside markets and wandered our ways through the maze of stalls.  Carlos was buying some souvenirs for his friends and family back home, and I think Chuy bought a few things too.  I was just happy to browse and peruse, and look for Quixotes (nothing different than stuff I already have).

After wandering up, up and back down, and in and out, we finally stopped for lunch for some enormous quesadillas.  They split a giant quesadilla with some stewed pork inside, while I had a giant version with grilled cactus strips.  It was a juicy deliciousness that bore little resemblance to the more familiar versions.

After wandering endlessly, and after some drone time for Chuy, we hopped a long winding rickety bus back into town.

After a long break in the afternoon, the 3 mosquiteros went out to a traditional birria spot at a point called La 9 Esquinas (Corners).  It took some wandering to get through, and this Virgil was wondering if I had led the group astray into some shady territory.  But  we found the spot, and had a terrific Jaliscience fare.

Apparently, Chuy from the roasted-goat capital of Monterrey was not a big fan of the celebrated fare.  He opted for some barbacoa-ed borrego (sheep/mutton), while Carlos opted for more traditional carne asada (He was apprehensive to try the new fare, apparently just getting him to come out to dinner was a coup).

So I alone got to have a large bowl of my fav Mexican dish: birria.  The Jaliscience style of the goat stew was slightly different than the more tomato/onion/chile version I know from Zacatecas.  This was more spiced soup with hunks of stewed goat meat.  The soup had hints of anise and other yummy spices.

After dinner, we wandered out of harms' way and back into the city center and cathedral.  I had a good time explaining to Chuy why Central America saw Mexico as a gringo-to-the-north in a "same-same but different fashion" as other such neighborly relations.  We talked about things sometimes completely unknown to most Mexicans about the goings-on of Central America.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Journey to the Center of the Earth, and other such naval gazing

I woke up late, as vacation allows.  After meandering through the morning, I decided upon taking a hike.  I walked up the main thoroughfare Avenida de Tercer Mundo, Avenue of the Third World, named for colonized regions, revolutionary states and Nonaligned standouts.

As such, I walked out of Africa.  I follow the stone-paved roads until where the pavement ends.  I found myself hiking through a veritable Land of the Lost.

In a brief turn of fates, I found myself face to face with Asilah, where I was just a year prior.  I will follow up with a picture to prove my Moorish meanderings are not just the babble of a daydream.

I continued on with Dvorak in the Jungle, listening to the whole New World Symphony while hiking through the wild.  On that note, and with a recommendation, watch Maestro Gustavo Dudamel perform a portion of this piece with true mastery.

Butterflies flew past, and things howled in the jungle, and I was lost in thought.

The one I was ruminating on upon the most, randomly but always timely, was about the VOC.  Yes, I spend my idle time pondering the Dutch East India Company.  But for good reason: it is no accident that the first multinational corporation kicked off an age of exploration plunder.  Ol' Jan Company had to seek out spices to bring profit to its investors, and to do so, it went about conquering south and southeast Asia.  The stockholders, the various old Dutch pensioners, oligarchs, school teachers and other businesses that invested in its success, didn't particularly know the brutality that was being exacted on their behalf to bring their shareholder profits.  Anyway, a much longer conversation about capital and conquest (I was playing around with simple equations in my head: Economic Colonization + Greed = Capitalism).

Anyway, I wound my way till I decided it was time to return.  I walked back until I reach a beach and a Door of Perception, a white half-built walled structure framing the beach and sea.  I will have to return for a pic. 

I sat out under a palm tree, lost in memory.  My ipod plays lurid tricks with my memory and I listed to the Dellas sing Aged Pine in Bishkek:
I built this heart
like an aged pine...

But this idiot continued his trek on back into town, back down cobbled stone paths until I returned to the third world streets and gangplank.

Thus Spake Anita Hill

"Refrain from pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing. Our interest in the integrity of the Supreme Court and in eliminating sexual misconduct, especially in our public institutions, are entirely compatible. Both are aimed at making sure that our judicial system operates with legitimacy."
-Prof. Anita Hill, "How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right"

Cold Hard Dinero

I have encountered air conditioning in San Pancho in three spaces:
1) The thatched roof convenience store
2) The pharmacy that has prescriptions that would make Dr. Feelgood blush
3) The Banconorte ATM near the hospital, slightly off the main part of town.

Now the first two are businesses with people inside, and traffic in and out.  The third was merely an empty stand-alone ATM booth with no one inside yet had AC to cool you down when you wanted to withdraw money.  I found it profoundly strange that a company would pay to use electricity to keep an empty space cool just so you can get cash.  

Monday, September 17, 2018

San Pancho Panza

Random observations from San Pancho Panza:

-My apartment has a gangplank. I am totally okay with that.
#Apirateslifeformi
#ApARRRRtment
#ArrrBnB

-Drinking Corona in my own space. Gracias Poppy, this one is in your honor.

-I am surrounded by a thatched convenience store and a giant leafy leafy green beauty of a tree.

-I watched a superb sunset last night. A golden sunset across the horizon with a rainbow arching over the jungle behind me.  Golden pink light casting its majesty across a horizon slowly burning dark; a purple canvas of rain ribbed with an arc of colors.

-This is a pueblita quite accepting of walking barefoot in the streets. I am okay with that too.

-And I have a corrugated tin roof to listen to the rains pitterpatter upon. I am happy as a rain-listener.

Ok

"I'm Not OK, You're Not OK—and That's OK."
— William Sloane Coffin

 H/t Dr. Mardy

Tortilla Love

Random gastrodiplomacy quirk: after buying hot, fresh tortillas at the tortilleria, I like to place the warm tortillas directly on my heart and hold them there. It is warm and soothing.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Streetside Ceviche > Gas Station Sushi

Oh San Pancho, I know why I came to visit you: the ceviche.

The ceviche I had today was incredible.  And it came from a little cart.

It was fresh as can possibly be. From a little cart, packed in a cooler filled with ice.  The tostada was covered in ceviche de pescado, chopped onion/tomato salad and spicy agua de chile with some lime squeezed over top.

It was 12 pesos a tostada (60c). I got two and opted for a third. I told the owner Doña Tere that we would be good friends this week. 

Costa Deliciosa

Occasionally, I catch the smell of guava on the wind.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

San Pancho: where the jungle meets the Pacific

I spent my first day in paradise taking it blissfully slow.  I slept well in the rather open dorm that was surprisingly comfortable.

After a slow start to the morning, I found breakfast ariba--of fresh papaya, pineapple and melon, with some sort of carrot or pumpkin cake on the side.  And some coffee to open the eyes.

I took a nice long walk down the beach towards the rocky outcrop north.  Amid the majestic rock outcrops on the sea, I climbed.  The surf came crashing in, far higher than I expected and unexpectedly soaked me.  Thankfully no harm, as none of my stuff got truly wet.

I took the morning slow.  I slowly accumulated the accouterments for lunch including fresh hot tortillas.  I like to hold warm tortillas to my heart.  They are the perfect size and temp to warm the heart just a bit further.  Lunch rolled around for a plate of Oskar's special: curried eggs cooked in diced red onions and tomatoes.  One of the cleaning señors was curious of the dish, so I delivered her a tortilla of curried eggs.

After lunch, I slathered up in the worst Moroccan sunscreen that is more like white paint, and I meandered south down the golden beach.  I let the warm water crash up on me as I admired the palm trees that separated the salvaje from the sea. 

I wandered down to the end of the beach, where a jungle rock jetty juts out its arm.  I nestled myself in the pooled crevice where the beach met the jungle and I played in the wave pools.  I sat in the warm water pools as the waves crashed against the rocky outcrop.

I had my own sea pool to myself as I perched myself with back against a rock, as the waves rocked against me.  I watched the waves break with great swells along the golden shores.  I simply sat there in the salty sea, listening to the waves and enjoying the peace and the ocean breeze.

Paraiso.  Paradise.

After such a placid, perfect afternoon, I decided I will be staying put here for another week.  That had been the plan all along, by the quiet perfection of the jungle and sea gave an acclamation and a reminder: if you are happy, stay put as long as you can.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ode to a Drowned Sandwich

Since it is the rainy season, I was welcomed to the City of Guadalajara amidst a torrential downpour.  Lovely flooded streets and rivers at the corners.

When I finally found my sopping-wet way over to the hostel, I remarked to the person at the counter: yo soy torta ahogada, I am a drowned torta.  Local joke, jaja, as the specialty of Guadalajara is indeed dish called torta ahogada.  I got to try one today for lunch.

Not my pic, but along the lines of what I ate
The sandwich torta ahogada is literally a drowned sandwich.  It is a bolillo (Mexican French bread roll) stuffed usually with stewed pork--although I got mine with shredded chicken.  It is covered in a tomatillo-chile salsa and topped with shredded white onions.  The sandwich comes swimming in a puddle of the tomatillo-chile salsa, with tiny limes on the side to squeeze on top of the sopping sandwich.

There is also a spoon on the side to laddle more of the salsa on top of the already-drowned treat. 

It is an gastrodiplomacy offering to the Drowned God, because what is dead may never die.  It is delicious gooey mess, that left my lips ablaze even after I walked away from the little sandwich shop.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Indian Pear

Today's random Mexican factoid: The word aguacate (avocado) comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which means "testicle."

 Enjoy that next time you get Avo Toast....


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Museo Nacional de Arte

I made my way over to the Museo Nacional de Arte yesterday.  It is housed in the gorgeous Palacio Nacional de Communicaciones, a giant neo-classical beauty in grey stone.   The building was originally built by General Porfirio Diaz during his august and autocratic presidency.

The museum was featuring a fascinating exhibit by/on Nahui Olin.  Born Carmen Mondragon, she later took the name "Nahui Olin" which means "four movements" in Aztec.  The word relates to "earthquakes," and she was just such a person.

Nahui Olin was a talented painter, poet, and more importantly, green-eyed Muse to a number of famous painters like Diego Rivera and photographers such as Edward Weston and others.  She had these captivating green eyes that gazed toward infinity.  She scandalized conservative Mexico with her short skirts, her beauty, her feminism and sexuality.  And she had a tush for the cameras and canvases.

El Violeta Intangible De La Atmósfera:
Las armonías en violeta, que tienen algo de rosa, algo de azul y un gris que es plata, que es suave entonación de lo imposible, son la misma vibración atmosférica que nos rodea, y que pretendemos interpretar en color siendo pobres e impotentes nuestros modos de expresión y erróneos nuestros conceptos de limitar lo limitado-el intangible violeta de los seres que llevan un poco de esa belleza, que es su espíritu- en la belleza de sus cuerpos. 

Y son armonías en violetas que aún tienen algo de rosa, algo de azul y un gris que es plata, que es suave entonación y algo indefinido, en su belleza que es lo intangible, que es lo impenetrable y que es su espíritu, que no podemos traducir en colores- limitar lo limitado del violeta intangible de los seres- del violeta intangible de la atmósfera.
- En Óptica Cerebral. Poemas dinámicos. 1922

It was quite an interesting exhibition of a woman who towered large in the Mexican cultural landscape.

I wandered through the lovely building and found a little museum on the telegraph, which was surprisingly interesting.  The exhibition discussed the importance of the telegraph in Mexican history, and its relationship to communications technology of its age.  There was something profound in a point made: "what was once dots and dashes has been replaced by ones and zeros"

The next floor hosted the museum's permanent collection including a wonderful series of landscapes of Mexico by Jose Maria Velasco

This was my fav.  The landscape paintings were stunning for their perspective. 

There was a continuation of the permanent collection of a number of romantic paintings of Mexican history, which were quite excellent.  Also a statue gallery of Mexican sculptors from the age of Rodin as well as more modern varieties.

The top floor had a series of art from the Spanish viceroy period.  Beautiful but very goyish. 

Anywho, the museum was excellent and the exhibitions were wonderful.  The building was ornate with beautiful murals above and decorative touches all over.  The collections were beautiful and thought-provoking.  

Out in the Streets, They call it Murder...

From the crime-ridden streets of Bethesda that plagued the childhood of Judge Kavanaugh.....

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Pixza

(Not my pic)
And I just had grasshopper pizza ("Chayito").  It was surprisingly good.  The grasshoppers were fried in salt and lime, it gave salty little crunch on top of the blue-corn dough pizza.  With a little bit of guacamole and chili paste on top, it was actually really good.

The other slice ("Cuta") was covered in slices of fried poblano pepper and fried onions.  It was covered in lines of crema, and was also quite good.

I went to a place called Pixza, a socially-focused pizza place in Roma Norte in CDMX.  I got to chatting with the owner Alejandro ("Alex"), who shared with me a bit about his project. 

The place trains and employs street kids to work in the two pizza restaurants.  Also for every five slices of pizza they sell, they donate a slice towards feeding street kids. 

I had a nice chat with Alex and the ins-and-outs of a social enterprise such a Pixza.  Definitely some real challenges in dealing with social enterprises such as his.  But it sounds like it has been a real positive, if exhausting, venture for him.

Alex had also studied in the US, nearby Brandeis at Babson.  And he had traveled a bit so we chatted about the world, about Morocco and India and other such spots.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

El Centro

I was discussing this last night with my friend Tim about why I love Mexico City so much.  While in the US, we have the political center in DC, the cultural center in LA and New York, the financial center in NY, the academic center in Boston, roughly speaking, in Mexico all these things center on Mexico City.  It literally plays host to all of these elements, plus being a metropolis of diverse populations.  The city has an all-encompassing vibrancy that few cities around the world can compete with.  

Talkin' about YOUR generation....

"The American Baby-Boomer is probably the most destructive population humanity has ever or will ever see.....and they won't live long enough to see the damage they have done."
-DKL

Me llamo Alma

Some seriously macabre yet hysterical Spanish lessons from Funny or Die, "Me llamo Alma"

Monday, September 03, 2018

Huazontle

Mid-morning daydreams make for hungry Quixotes, so I wandered my way over to the nearby Mercado de Medellin.  After meandering through the market for a spell, I made my way over to a simple lunch spot to get the menu del dia.

I zoned in on the dishes I didn't recognize, and asked the waitress what a few entailed.  I eyed one called Huazontle en Chile Pasilla, which I had not the faintest idea what it was.  The server explained huazontle was a veggie/plant, also known as cabellera de amaranto ("the hair of amaranth").  I ordered it for curiosity's sake, and she helped me pronounce it: "waa-zontlay"

First came the soup, a caldo de habas, a green broad bean soup.  I squeezed in a lime and sprinkled a little salt.  It was good, but needed a little pep so I added a fiery chile that was in oil.  That got the blood moving and the lips tingling; I literally felt my pulse quicken a tad.  What I love about spicy is that no other food additive or spice affects the body in quite the same fashion; sweet, salty, savory all stay in the mouth and down, but spicy hits the lips, the tongue, the mouth and the pulse.

Then came the dish.  The waitress had to explain to me how to eat it.  It had little branches--like little veggie skewers, sticking out of a rich sauce with part of it covered in a gooey queso.

She explained that I needed to take the strands in my hand and chew off the seeds on the little branch roots.  I smiled wide at the prospect of eating with my hands and trying this new dish.

And it was delicious.   I picked up the fried little branches and stripped the soft, fried chewy amaranth off its rooted stalks.  It had a rich meaty flavor but in that veggie sort of way.  It tasted a lot like a seedy eggplant parmesan. 

I tried to tell  to the waitress, but became lost in language because I kept called the eggplant a melanzana which is Italian and not a berenjena which is Spanish.  Eventually we reached the right word with a bit of descriptive walk-arounds.

I left nary a branch unturned, and polished off the delicious, different dish while soaking the rice in the rich sauce.  The meal plus a Mexican glass bottle coke set me back 80 pesos ($4).

It was a meal that would have left Sidi Benenjeli full, and always a nice adventure to try something new.

El Ingenioso Hidalgo

While sitting on a wrought-iron bench in the Parque de Los Suenos (or Parque de Rio de Janeiro, behind David's derrière), a blind Senior Cervantes almost whacked me with a cane. This knight-errant dodged the blind hidalgo's blow with a subtle shift on the iron bench.  Sometimes truth and fiction go hand-in-hand.

But what is fiction if not spinning imagination to twist the banality of the commonplace?  This simple act of applying imagination to the present.  Everything I wrote above surely happened.  I didn't imagine it, even if I am a knight-errant lost in a daydream.

Maybe it is simply that Mexico is a land of windmills.

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no querio acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivia un hidalgo de los de la lanza en astillero, adarga antiguo, rocin flaco y galgo corredor.
-On the walls of a bookshop/cafe, Un Lugar de La Mancha 

Pass the Crackers, Darwin

The surprising role cheese plays in human evolution.

And on that note: "Dairy products, especially cheese and yogurt, were found to protect against death from any cause, according to new research."

Or as Judd Aptow responded: "The world can fuck off now. I am going to get a quesadilla. This is the research I have waited my entire life for"

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Here you may see the Tyrant

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
-MacBeth

Hark friends, and all those pay heed to the tales of the Good Bard, I beseech thee: get thine eyes upon Good King MacBeth:


Fin de Semana

I had quite a stellar weekend, of art, history, anthropology, design and fantasy.  Muralismo.  Surrealismo.  A lot of Diego Rivera thrown in the mix.  And the lovely Leonora Carrington, whose work I was not previously familiar but will mention later.

It started on a recommendation from my friend Tim, who apartment I have been staying at for the last few days, to visit the Secretariat de Education Publico (SEP) where there are scores of Diego Rivera murals.  I had not previously visited, and I will never turn down Diego Rivera murals--especially for free in a public building.  I climbed into the absolutely full metro Centro Medico on the orange to Hidalgo to Allende on the blue.  Full, full, full.  Check-to-jowl rides, but such is the price of admission.  I skirted out through the centro historico until I made my way to the secretariat.

I was greeted with stellar murals of Diego Rivera, floor to floor.    His stunning renditions of pre-Colombian life, the struggles of the Mexican people, the fight for workers' rights, cultural customs, the arts and sciences, everything--filled the walls floor to ceiling in the palatial building.  I slowly took my time to admire his handiworks that covered the walls and dreamscape.  Rivera wasn't alone, as there was a stellar huge mural of Siquieros as well.  I will have to return to take it all in once again, because it was superb.

In the late afternoon, I wandered down the peatonal Alvaro Obregon.  The stone avenue that bisects traffic is filled with bronze-cast statues in stone pools.  Statues of satyrs and gods, legends and myths.  All under a lovely canopy of trees. 

Friday night I decided to treat my self to a shabbat bowl of birria--my absolute favorite dish of spicy goat soup.  It is always a treat, and I spend my days in Mexico always looking for the best bowl of birria, as it is Mexican cooking at its highest culinary art.  I went to find a place not too far from the apartment but it was more of a bar and louder than I cared to deal with.  So in the name of good birria, I hopped the metro over to a stellar spot I know, El Chivito, in my last DF neighborhood of Revolucion.  It was a bit of a trek and the metro was still crowded since it was Friday night, but good birria is always worth the effort.  And it was.  Stellar tender morsels of stewed goat swimming in the ancho chile broth with bits of cilantro, onions and stewed tomatoes with hand-made tortillas to make delicious goat tacos.

"The arts, humanities, philosophy, and theology, beauty, all of these things exist to ennoble the spirit, to make it possible for humanity to discover its highest form of dignity and spirit" 
-Rob Rein

Saturday I headed over to the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli via busy metros Centro Medico black to Chacabacano to Taquena blue and down to the end of the line.  I love above ground metros that let me watch the cityscape.  We descended to the last stop and I switched over to the light rail to Xitapango and wandered my way to the museum. 

The Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli has to be one of the most stellar museums I have ever visited.  It features pre-Colombian artifacts, statues and various pieces housed in a black volcanic stone museum.  But it is hard to describe the full genius of the museum.  It shares history and anthropology through the lens of Diego Rivera's artistic ascetic and design.  The exhibitions are freed from the conventional linear style, and instead pieces are grouped more by design and ascetic.  The works are grouped in elements and directions.  Scores of faces staring back through eternity. 

And the museum's physical design itself plays into the presentation.  The visitor climbs up or through spaces, or descends down into the underworld. 

The pre-Colombian universe permitted [Diego] to break the barriers of time and space to focus his gaze on the profound direct expression of true art.
-Susana Avina Herrera

So true.  Easily one of the most affective museums I have ever visited.

Y si ahoro hablo
del caso de arquitectura
es proque tengo tal pasion
por ella
que no puedo morime a gusto
sin haver construido un edificio
destinado a lo que mayor placer
me ha dado siempre:
la plastica
prehispanica de Mexico
y dedicado a lo ha constituido
junto con ella,
el material objetivo que
indudablamente hizo de mio
un pintor: el pueblo
de Mexico
-Diego Rivera

Truly an excellent museum, and even better that I was given a local ticket.  Since I am local everywhere.  Sometimes it helps to be a swarthy gringo who speaks Spanish--that alone can be worth a local discount.

I ventured back from Diego's world, stopping to grab street-side fried quesadillas and other accouterments of a delicious street-side lunch.

I returned to Roma and ventured down to the Parque de Rio de Janeiro, with its colossal David statue in fountains to sit and read, and translate Tintin. 

The evening was spent quietly cooking curried lentils and watching a stellar version of MacBeth on Netflix.

Sunday I wandered my way over to Parque Chapultapec to visit the Museo de Arte Moderno.  I wandered through the sleepy Roma streets over the lush park and wandered in with the Sunday throngs visiting the park.  The Museo de Arte Moderno is featuring a big exhibition of Leonora Carrington, who was quite a fascinating woman. 

First, her art.  She created painting and sculptures that were canvases of twisted fantasy and magic.  It looked like an art display straight out of Pan's Labyrinth.  She mixed the surreal with myth, magic and her feminist impressions of the divine.  Her work was equal parts beautiful, rich, macabre, weird and a whole host of other descriptions I am trying to apply.

But also fascinating was Carrington herself.  She was right there at the side of some of the luminaries of 20th century art.  She dated Max Ernst, and was a pupil and lover of Man Ray.  She ran in circles with Picasso and his ilk.   And her story of escape and exile from Vichy France to Franco Spain to Mexico.  In Mexico, she would take center stage in the artistic world, and also help push the women's liberation movement.

So lucky me, my weekend was filled with stellar art and flanneuring my way through Mexico City to admire its Europeanesque charms.  I smiled at how I can make the most of my present realities.

Friday, August 31, 2018

El Vampiro


Grabbed my most favorite Mexican juice drinks this am: a vampiro. A vampiro is fresh beet, carrot and orange juice, sometimes with other things thrown in the juicer mix like celery & pineapple chunks. It's a beautiful color of red that looks like plasma--hence the vampire name.

Viva Mexico


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Chilaquiles Welcome

I was welcomed back to Mexico City with a phenomenal roadside breakfast of chilaquiles.  The dish is a perennial fav, complete with deep-fried tortillas covered in green salsa, shredded onions, lettuce and cream, topped with fried eggs. 

The yellow runny yolk poured out over the green salsa and white cream for a plate as rich in color as flavor.  I doused the dish in salsa bruja, a tangy vinegar hot sauce in a bottle filled with peppers and herbs. 

At 30 pesos ($1.50) for the divine dish of chilaquiles I am reminded that, penny-for-peso, Mexico City remains an incredible gastrodiplomacy value and delight.

Ningún País Para Los Viejos Quijotes

"You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place"
-Maya Angelou

Ah, but I remain a public diplomacy ronin--because there is no country for old Quixotes and other such knight-errants. 

So Odysseus ventures on, slowly giving himself the time and space to mourn what was lost, and trying still to find his way back into the Good Fight.

Hola México, mi viejo amigo, he venido a hablar contigo una vez más.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

No Country for Old Quixotes

"As long as there have been men on earth, reflected the Count, there have been men in exile. From primitive tribes to the most advanced societies, someone has occasionally been told by his fellow men to pack his bags, cross the border, and never set foot on his native soil again. But perhaps this was to be expected. After all, exile was the punishment that God meted out to Adam in the very first chapter of the human comedy; and that He meted out to Cain a few pages later. Yes, exile was as old as mankind."
-Amor Towles, "A Gentleman in Moscow"

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Slippery Slope of Complicity

"Is Trumpocracy what Republicans always wanted?

Well, it’s probably what some of them always wanted. And some of them are making a coldblooded calculation that the demise of democracy is worth it if it means lower taxes on the rich and freedom to pollute.

But my guess is that most Republican politicians are spineless rather than sinister — or, more accurately, sinister in their spinelessness. They’re not really ideologues so much as careerists, whose instinct is always to go along with the party line. And this instinct has drawn them ever deeper into complicity.

The point is that once you’ve made excuses for and come to the aid of a bad leader, it gets ever harder to say no to the next outrage. Republicans who defended Trump over the Muslim ban, his early attacks on the press, the initial evidence of collusion with Russia, have in effect burned their bridges. It would be deeply embarrassing to admit that the elitist liberals they mocked were right when they were wrong; also, nobody who doesn’t support Trump will ever trust their judgment or patriotism again.

So the path of least resistance is always to sign on for the next stage of degradation. “No evidence of collusion” becomes “collusion is no big deal” becomes “collusion is awesome — and let’s send John Brennan to jail.”

To some extent this is just human weakness in action. But there are some special aspects of the modern GOP that make it especially vulnerable to this kind of slide into leader-worship. The party has long been in the habit of rejecting awkward facts and attributing them to conspiracies: it’s not a big jump from claiming that climate change is a giant hoax perpetrated by the entire scientific community to asserting that Trump is the blameless target of a vast deep state conspiracy."
-Paul Krugman, "The Slippery Slope of Complicity"

Take a knee

Texas Senatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke gives a wonderful, meaningful answer to the question about "taking a knee"



The Tashkent Underground

Apparently Uzbekistan is finally allowing the Tashkent Metro to be photographed.  That is great, because it is a beautiful space.  Each metro station is unique and different.  When I was there, I went from stop to stop just to see it and take in each station. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

JFK on universal health care

JFK arguing for universal coverage almost 6 decades ago. Amazing that we are still having this fight.



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

On Privilege

"When you are accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression."
-Stephanie Herrera