Published: October 13th 2009October 9th 2009
A tad bit smoggy out here
I slowly groped my way into the middle of a pitch-black room. After several 360-degree turns I heard a sleepy female voice murmur: "Take any one you want". The sound came seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once. What? Who was that? I tossed my pack onto the first top bunk my eyes fell on and hurriedly stumbled out of the room.
The airplane navigated through clouds of smog. It took half an hour of flight time after I started seeing the periphery of the tightly packed city until we landed. This city is impossibly huge. The change of air seemed to finally relax my next seat neighbor--slick gangster type who continued to wear a red leather coat throughout the flight. I was sweltering in my t-shirt. Welcome to Mexico City.
I caught rush hour foot metro traffic. It was surprisingly efficient considering amount of people ready to cut into your place every single split second. Packed like a sardine into a train with two bags you can't help but to develop some faith in your fellow human companions. You don't have the luxury of a choice. I stepped out of the metro directly onto the largest public plaza
in the Americas surrounded by immaculate architecture, el Zocalo. Bumbling around the plaza I finally found the street that let me to my hostel. After bolting out of my dorm room in confusion I came directly down to the bar downstairs and ordered a large cold beer. Ah. Hostel bars are breeding grounds for unruly, young, ambitious, adventurous, educated, well-read, curious, in a word, like-minded, individuals. Danes, Poles, Aussies, Kiwis, Irish, Brits, Israelis, Swedes, you name it. All are represented. Within minutes you fall into long conversations with any number of these deviants. You come out learning something new every single time, unfailingly. Strange. Strange indeed. By the time I finished my beer the whole establishment deteriorated into a shitshow consisting of the Mexican bartender yelling incomprehensibles while standing on the bar and pouring tequila into your mouth. I retired to my bunk but failed to fall asleep until deep into the night.
My first day alone in Mexico City began with a long walk. The objective: get lost. I walked for a long time observing a leery city waking up. Streets were getting swept, taco grills fired up, merchandise carefully arranged, money counted. Every now and then I
would take a left or a right, either when my eyes fell on something or the pedestrian light turned green. I walked for a long time without any thoughts, just letting my eyes take-in the sights, stopping to observe a creepy toy-store here, a knife dealership there. Every once in a while I would chat up a local, asking them inane questions: directions to places I did not need, inquiring about merchandise I had no intention of buying. I would stop kind old ladies in their tracks with "Senora, que es eso?" with a stupid look on my face. "Senora, what is that?" and then I would point at something.
When I got tired I sat down at a taco stand and ordered two tacos de lengua (cow tongue) and one de cabeza. The latter of which, if I'm not mistaken, is 'head', i.e. brains. When this fact dawned on me I paused for a second. Being still hungry I asked for two different random tacos, not wanting to know what was in them. Well fed, I returned to the hostel to check my email to see if a certain questionable character had replied to my solicitations to join
For some reason our guide described this as a Xylophone. They are all over, blasting creepy carnival music.
me in Cuba next week. Finding no answer I ventured back onto the streets. The area around Zocalo is lined with endless rows of gold speculators, dealers of religious paraphernalia, currency exchange kiosks, stores selling ultra-elaborate wedding-dresses. After awhile I managed to find a side-street eatery that was quiet--a serious accomplishment in Mexico City--to do some reading. I ordered a fruit salad and toyed with the waitress with the "que es eso?" routine, discovering that I ate two new fruits I've never tasted before. Now, I consider myself a fruit connoisseur, so, two new fruits and I mark the day as supra-productive. After a healthy dose of Hemingway I returned to the hostel for another beer and tequila venture. A group of rowdy irish guys organized a trip to a bar with a lonely piano player atop a high-rise that overlooked the city. Back at the hostel I took a long time falling asleep trying to organize and categorize the experiences of the day into their appropriate shelf. Needless to say my work was never finished.
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