I am sitting in an internet cafe in Oaxaca. Bonnie is across the street at the dentist potentially getting a root canal and Caroline is there with her, serving as her translator. The street is busy I am on here and everything is open air. The smell of diesel exhaust is wafting in and so is the sound of idling cars. Aside from the crazy traffic of this city, it is quite beautiful, set in the mountains and filled with small, pretty buildings, lots of chocolate shops, lots of mezcal shops, and lots of beautiful crafts made by the indigenous communities that live nearby. I arrived in the city a bit dazed sometime yesterday afternoon after a six and a half hour bus ride from Mexico City. Bonnie gave me dramamine for the bus ride so I wouldnt (I have no idea how to make apostrophes on this computer) get motion sickness, but afterwards we determined that it was probably Benadryl she had purchased in the Mexico City pharmacy because all three of us were totally knocked out for the entire ride, unable to stay awake at all. I would wake up for moments, brief ones, and watch the shitty action movies they were playing on the bus for a moment before turning to look out the window, the bus moving through a steady stream of rain through moutainous terrain, twisty roads, cacti going up the sides of mountains, houses built from cinder blocks, a car accident that looked bad to our left at one point, which made me slightly fearful of our mode of transportation crashing on these wet, winding roads, but we made it safely, as you, the reader, may be able to guess from this update here, from my writing from this city.
Mexico City was the amazing city I thought it would be. I was a bit sad to leave it, not feeling like I had experienced enough of it in the week that I was there, wanting more and more of the rush of being in a big city and seeing its sights, its bars, its various subcultures.
The history of the place is really staggering, that the city is built upon the Mexica city of Tenochtitlan, an island city that Cortes destroyed and built a new city upon. There are ruins of old pyrimads right next to the Zocalo and outside of town by an hour or so are the really gorgeous and humbling ruins of Teotihuacan, the center of the Toltec civilization, buildings thousands of years old, built by people that yet to be changed by the arrival of Cortes. To be in such a place with so many ghosts provokes so many thoughts about the nature of history and life. Standing atop those pyrimads after climbing their stairs and looking out at the world, at the ruins of one and the green of the surrouding mountains, is magical. Riding back from there, we stopped at the Basicla of the Virgin of Guadalupe, seeing the magical shroud with her image on it. There is a lot of magic to the city, an energy from all its layers of history and from its mass of people.
The subway costs only 2 pesos, which is twenty cents, and in the stations, they play pretty English songs from the seventies and sixties, probably the same soundtrack from when the system was originally built. I went to the market at Tepito, which is notorious for its criminality, my guidebook saying to avoid the area if I valued my saftey, but I was escorted there by this nice boy, Chicle, who I had met online and who showed me a really lovely time while I was there. My second night there, I went over to his house, beautiful views of Mexico City from his fifth floor apartment windows, and we listened to music I knew, talked about cities, drank forties of Indio beer and smoked massive joints because, at least according to Chicle, weed is comically cheap in Mexico. I slept in his bed that night, getting off with him, and feeling much more comfortable, much more at ease, somehow more at home, in that city because of that, because of the comfort around his body. His bed was more comfortable in so many ways than the bed in our hostel and so I spent a couple nights in it, enjoying them and him so much.
I saw Frida Kahlos house and seeing that space inspired lots of thoughts in me about the relationship between place and art, how much it can influence it, that by living in such an amazing setting and beautiful house, art and creativity can come more easily, that the place can stir things, unblock things, produce things. A few blocks away, I saw the building where Leon Trotsky was killed with an icepick. Walking around Coaycan was lovely, the neighborhood so beautiful. We were yanked out of that lovely stroll though because Caroline saw posters for a free concert by Julieta Venegas, and so we took a cab to south of the university, close to nowhere, and stood in the pouring rain watching this Mexican póp singer. My time in that city was so packed day and night with things, me wanting to take it all in, to experience as much of it as possible. There was so much amazing food eaten, all of it really cheap, big meals for just a few dollars.
The nightlife is the thing that I think I will miss on the rest of my journey around Mexico, it being so amazing in that city, and me having experienced just a small portion of it. I went with Chicle and his friend Hector to Toms Leather Bar one night. There were this really sexy and muscular go-go boys, totally naked and with hard dicks, who would do acrobatic feats on the small bar, would jump up in the air and land in a split. The back of the bar had a big darkroom with some people fucking and lots of dick sucking and jerking off occuring. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of my time at that bar in that back area, getting off with strangers. Apparently lots of the gay bars there have naked dancers and backrooms, the city beating New York it its level of sexy fun. Maybe when I return to Mexico City at the end of the month to fly out of there, I will have a chance to check out more of these naughty bars.
I went to a bunch of gay bars on Calle de Cuba, they being more foreign to me, scenes I wasnt used to, and for that reason really amazing. Marraquech was where we started out, lots of cumbia music was played and all of the girls I was with, Bonnie, Caroline, and Meret, were all constantly asked to dance by all the guys there. We went down the street and came upon another gay bar, Oasis, which was a lot gritter, reminded me of a country bar in some ways, and there they were also playing lots of cumbia music and it was amazing to watch all these same-sex couples dance to this music. I waited til they played some cheesy techno to dance, waited also til I had more beer in my system. We went to the gay bar next door to that, and then went to Garibaldi Square, which was filled with mariachi bands, countless numbers of them, and took in that scene for a while, talking to lots of people, before heading back to Oasis to watch a drag show. I left the ladies at Oasis and went next door to try my luck by myself and found myself dancing with this really cute guy, Leonardo, who I could barely communicate with, him speaking no English and me speaking very little Spanish. His friend, who knew some English, kept on trying to serve as translator, but that proved too annoying and so we just kept dancing and making out, a language both of us understand, that of physical attraction. He tried to teach me how to dance to cumbia, kept straightening my back, but I failed pretty miserably, seeming to have a lot less rhythm than I normally think of myself as having.
The next night, a really goth guy, all in leather and white face paint and with lots of facial piercings, asked for me a light in front of the 7-11. I had Caroline, our Spanish speaker and translator, ask him where a fun bar was. He took us to one, a goth bar, Paranoid Visions. It was pretty amazing, three floors of all these goth kids, dancing to Depeche Mode, the Cure, and everything else you would expect to be played, plus some Spanish songs, including a few by Soda Stereo, a band I had never heard of but which I liked a lot and which I need to download when I get home, that maybe if I listen to Spanish bands that I really like a lot over and over again that will help in my attempts to learn Spanish, attempts which are getting better and better, but are still at the most basic level.
I can ask people what time it is, none of us having watches for some reason, and can ask how much things cost, and even how to get places, but beyond that my ability to say things in Spanish is pretty much nonexistant. That night when I was trying to talk to that cute boy, Leonardo, and kept hitting my forehead over and over again, angry at myself for my failure to have learned Spanish by this point in my life, at the age of 27, and me being Latino, made me really determined, made me resolve to myself that I was definitely going to learn this language.
----And Bonnie is still at the dentist and I am killing time, but also trying to say things, to get them down so I can remember them, and so pardon the lenght of this if you have even made it this far.------
In this country, I have been thinking about moving to somewhere Spanish speaking for a while, potentially getting a job as an English teacher, that I would really like to fully learn this language and that this is the only way I really see myself doing it, that in this week or so I have been here, I have probably learned more about Spanish than I have in the last six or seven years, maybe even all my life. But I am not sure where that place would be, potentially Mexico City, that Spain would probably very difficult to live in and afford, and that this city would at least be close to home.
I dont know. I have been thinking about other things also, about life and jobs in general, about what I should be doing with myself in New York once I return there. I have been thinking about all these art projects I want to realize upon my return, that I want to take seriously, and that I am going to, that I am going to somehow enforce isolation on myself there, that I need to find a space where I can work alone now that Niki is home all the time.
I also have been thinking about love a lot, this even before I saw Wall-E here in Spanish during a torrential rainstorm that we were hiding out from, but that movie certainly made me think about it even more, about how I want a really strong connection with someone, and I thought about the people I do and have had connections with and whether they are or were what I wanted and what it is that I do want and who. Those are normal thoughts and they have followed me to this country, snuck across the border somehow when they were supposed to stay in the US, and they are perhaps even heightened here, me surrounded by people that I have so much trouble communicating with. Here, I guess, there is at least the excuse of language to comfort myself with, that my lack of Spanish knowledge is the reason for the trouble communicating. In the US, that excuse doesnt really work.