Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mexico City, First Impressions

Plaza Garibaldi (not my photo)
My guidebook says that Andre Breton said that Mexico is the Surrealist country par excellence; now, I know zilch about Andre Breton, and even less about Surrealism, but check this: Plaza Garabaldi late on a Friday night, some fifty mariachi bands playing all at the same time, creating such an absurd din as I've never heard in my short life, and a raucous, wasted crowd to match, drinking beer out of what appear to be half-gallon cups, alcohol literally flowing between the flagstones; this young man with a bit of an unholy look in his eye takes off his shirt and starts smashing empty bottles, creating a little mountain of broken glass which he proceeds to lay upon. As I'm the only person paying him the least bit of attention, he waves me over and insists that I stand on his chest, hissing todo, todo when I'm not giving him my full weight. After which he stands up, brushes himself off and walks away. And around two in the morning, when I'm plenty lacquered and thinking of heading back to my dirty hovel of a hotel room, I notice this kid wandering through the crowd electrocuting people. I mean, he's got this device hooked around his neck, with two handgrips attached by wires, and he's giving people what looks like some pretty heavy voltage. Of course, I have to give it a shot, so I sidle over and he kind of grins as he hands me the handgrips. He cranks the thing up pretty damn good, almost to where I can't handle it but not quite, and afterward I think he's going to ask for money but he just smiles and walks away. Then I notice there are actually a bunch of kids walking around with similar devices. So I track down another one, and come on pretty macho as he gives me the reins and starts revving it up. Mas, mas, I keep saying as he cranks it higher and higher--and then it's at the point (past the point!) where I really can't handle it, but the thing is that at that high voltage it's impossible to let go the grips--I'm totally at this kid's mercy, and he just keeps staring at me as I beg him to please cut the juice, and for some reason I'm being seriously electrocuted in the middle of Plaza Garibaldi while fifty mariachi bands play at two in the morning. For this heavy session he charges me ten pesos, but settles for seven.

Or, check this: this afternoon, actually just an hour or two ago, I head over by the Insurgentes metro stop, where there seems to always be something interesting happening, and in fact there's a little blues festival going on, this band of pretty frazzled old Mexican dudes with an incredible woman singer is playing, and of course, what should they dive into as I approach but Sweet Home Chicago. "Esta cancion is sobre mi ciudad," I beam to the blissed-out alcoholic next to me, who gives me a big hi-five. But actually the band is totally righteous, way better than any blues band I've ever seen in Chicago. And then this other band starts playing, and I head across the plaza to dash off a blog post at the internet cafe, and as I'm typing it starts raining, and then it really starts raining, monsoon-strength, and the music cuts out and I peek outside and the tent above the stage has collapsed, and the whole crowd is trapped inside, and then so help me god it starts hailing, hailing like a stone-cold motherfucker, and the whole plaza is covered in a thick blanket of hailstones, right now. I gather this does not happen often here. Actually, I really don't know what does and doesn't happen here but it seems like some rather Surreal things tend to happen here.

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