I went for a wander downtown yesterday. Truth be told, I don’t often leave my neighbourhood because, well, it’s quite nice, and everything I need on a daily basis is here. But, I was looking at Google Maps, and noticed a museum on there that I’d not heard of before: Museo Mural Diego Rivera. It costs 17 pesos to get in, with an extra five pesos if you want to take photographs. I wanted to take photographs, so I stumped up that extra 26 British pence.
Two tangents. Number one: on the topic of money, cigarette prices were raised this week from 30 pesos to 38 pesos a pack. That’s, what, just over a 25 percent rise. That’s a heck of a price rise in one go. It still means that cigarettes are crazy cheap for the visiting Western wallet: £1.98 / €2.32 / US$3.07
Tangent number two: I want to see one of those TV-advert-washing-detergent style tests when it comes to flash photography in museums. I don’t doubt that flashes and touching a) damages art over time, and b) constitutes like sexual assault. But I’d like to see an artist paint two exact copies of a painting, and then do an experiment where one is left in normal conditions, and the other has flash bulbs going off in front of it every few seconds for a year or so, to replicate long term damage.
The main thing in the museum, and well worth the paltry admission price, is the big ass mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Absolutely crammed full of detail, lots of Mexican people on there, elements that I recognised, and others that I didn’t cos, frankly, my knowledge of Mexican history isn’t that deep. But even I could see that it goes from the Conquest on one side, through to the Revolution on the other.
According to this site, the mural was originally in a hotel foyer, but when that hotel was destroyed in the 1985 earthquake, the mural was saved, and now it has its own wee museo. The rest of the museum’s collection doesn’t amount to much, really, and were most of it in a bigger museum, I wouldn’t really pay a huge amount of attention to it, cos aside from the odd thing here and there, it wasn’t really overly impressive. And it was one of those museums where the guards stand a bit too close and follow you around. I understand the need for guards. If they’re not present enough, you get cunts like Banksy walking around and hanging their own tedious shite on the walls like they think they’re clever or something. (Oh, you really don’t know how angry I get just thinking about him. Breathe, Craig, breathe…) But when they hover, I find it impossible to actually pay any attention to the art. My mind just stops, and I start pretending to look at the art; it’s like I’m acting and my role is “person looking at art.” Except, this isn’t Hollywood or a West End theatre and I’m not Al Pacino or Laura Linney; I’m acting in a Manor Leas Junior School play and I’m a seven-year-old who is very bad at pretending to be enjoying looking at a painting. On top of that, the guards at this place never smiled. I was one of very few people in the place, and in every room I smiled at the guard, but not once was my smile reciprocated.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about seeing this mural, a mural that I have never knowingly seen a picture of in my life, was how something I am working on, and have been working on intermittently since I arrived in September, is vaguely reminiscent of Rivera’s mural. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because the idea for my drawing came after I saw his “Man, Controller of the Universe in the Time Machine” mural in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. I wanted to do something as detailed as a Rivera mural, but in pixels, and as a “first impressions of Mexico” type of drawing. Seeing “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park,” though, has spurred me on to finish it. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
What you can see in my drawing so far is… front row, left to right: EZLN “leader” Subcomandante Marcos; the luchador Blue Demon; revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata; Frida Kahlo; two Day of the Dead-style skeletons in green and red either side of an eagle stood on a cactus eating a snake, just like the Mexican flag; former L.A. Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela; Jesús Malverde, the “narco saint”; El Santo, another luchador; composer and band leader Juan García Esquivel; and Miguel Hidalgo, leader of the War of Independence. Behind those people, there’s a torta stand, a street sweeper, a shoe shine guy (not a guy giving another guy a blowjob as a couple of friends have suggested), and a woman selling corn snacks from a cart. On the other side of the road, there’s a cilindrero (an organ grinder, or as I tend to call them, cunts), and behind the trees, an actor/comedian called Cantinflas. Eventually—eventually—it’ll be full of people and things. Eventually.
Across the street from the Museo Mural Diego Rivera is this building. Obviously, a huge building like this in the centre of Mexico City dedicated to whatever idiotic space alien some two-bit sci-fi writer made up in his silly head was probably entirely funded with the generous and willing donations of members of this particular “church.”
I plan on eventually opening a church in Mexico City. It will be the Church of Depeche Mode. It seems to exist already on an informal basis, but I plan to write a book about the great god Gahan and his god pal Gore, and there will be adventures of how Gahan, Gore and the lesser god, Fletcher go around the world spreading joy. Not just spreading joy, but also tearing down walls in Germany so that people with mullets and snow-washed jeans can unite with their mullet and snow-washed jeans-wearing brethren. And how the former god Clarke left our holy warriors to sing with a girl. And how the former god Wilder blasphemously abandoned our divine group due to “increasing dissatisfaction with the internal relations and working practices of the group.” And there’s even a part of the book where Gahan dies and is born again two minutes later. And these tales will be illustrated with moody photographs taken by a Dutch man whose name I can never pronounce correctly. And we will worship their Depecheness and their Modean ways by the singing of their hymns from the hymn book, which shall be called Music for the Masses. Please turn to page 76, and let us sing “Never Let Me Down Again (Split Mix)” for it is fucking awesome. We will try and cram song titles into our sales pitch on the streets and university campuses of Mexico. We will promote a New Life! We will teach The Meaning of Love, and that People are People, and that if people ignore the Blasphemous Rumours they will Enjoy the Silence that comes from having Love In Itself. And I, some two-bit blog writer, will be rich forever. Rich, I say! And many chicks will want to blow me. And they’ll probably want me to do them in the pooper, too. And I will build my big office compound right next to the Scientology one, and we will laugh at the poor saps who give us money. (The more I think about this, the more it sounds like a good idea, frankly.)
On the way to the museum, I must’ve taken the wrong exit out the subway station, or turned the wrong way at street level, and ended up walking a block or two in the opposite direction. When I saw a landmark I recognised at the end of a street off to my right, and I’d regained my bearings, I decided it was time for a coffee and a bite to eat. There were two or three well-dressed elderly men outside a place called Cafe La Habana, which was quite nice to see; I’m a sucker for older gentlemen who don’t wear trainers and sweatshirts, mostly because I imagine my generation and the generation younger than me will be the most hideous generation of old folks, clothing-wise. (This comes from a 40-year-old man in jeans, a hoodie, and a baseball cap). It didn’t look empty or overly busy, which is pretty much my favourite thing when it comes to cafes.
Inside lots of square tables, a nice big wooden bar with circular stools, some with busted upholstery. On the walls, up to the high ceiling, lots of framed black and white and sepia photographs of Havana and, I assume, Cuban people. They even had copper fire extinguishers, which seemed to have brass plates with words engraved on the front. Above the bar was a huge photograph of the cafe itself. Being in there was like when you’re looking at a tree at dusk. Your brain knows the leaves are green, so you see green, but if you were to actually look at the colour of the leaves in that light, they may well be purple. In that cafe, my brain knew I was in a Cuban cafe in Mexico City, but if I actually looked and turned off my brain, it kinda could’ve been a northern social club in 1970s England. Here’s a couple of photos, but like a fool, I had the setting on macro, so while furtively snapping the pictures I didn’t notice that they were focussing on the foreground, but you’ll get the idea.
I kind of like that in this photo, the man in the middle is dining with an enormous human/lightbulb hybrid on one side, and a man with a transparent balloon for a head on the other.
As I’ve seen in a fair few other Mexican restaurants and cafes, there were a couple of TVs. One a flatscreen, the other a fatback TV. Seems like that should be the retrofit word for old tellies. The reception was fuzzy on the fatback, but it was kind of in my eyeline, so I ended up watching it. There were people doing some sort of dancing in a bright pink studio. And when that stopped, the camera cut to a sofa where a young man with gelled hair was being interviewed. I have no idea who he was, but he kinda looked like a soccer player. All the time during this interview was a man dressed in a furry gingerbread man suit behind the sofa, waving and being silly. A few moments later, the gingerbread man ran over to the middle of the studio, joined another man in a snowman suit, and did a kind of pile-on, like you’d do in the school yard. And a load of people—adults!—in pink or blue jumpsuits joined in. It wasn’t odd in the slightest.
The waiter brought me a menu. I ordered a coffee. He heard my flawless Spanish accent and brought me an English menu. He asked how I wanted my coffee: strong or light? Strong, please. With some milk, please. And sweet baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, that was an awesome cup of coffee. Absolutely the best cup of coffee I’ve had this year. Maybe last year, too. Frankly, I can’t remember having a strong cup of coffee—or even a cup of strong coffee—that was as good as that. I’d ordered a chorizo omelette, too, and soon enough, I was taking this photograph of it.
And a lovely omelette it was, too. The frijoles refritos were better than most I’ve tried, (I’ve just noticed, when checking the spelling on the Internet, that “refried beans” is a mistranslation, and that frijoles refritos means well-fried beans, not twice-fried beans), and the omelette itself was a good half-inch thick. Best of all, was having the chipotle on the side. A proper marinated chipotle, not just the sauce stuff. Chipotle is a whole heap of spicy goodness.
I got the bill: 81 pesos (£4.22 / €4.95 / US$ 6.54). Generally, the place was fantastic. It’s about 15 minutes away on the subway from my place, but I foresee I’ll be visiting here many, many times. The waiter was super friendly, and, well, let’s not pretend this doesn’t make a difference: a couple of the waitresses working there were cute. While I’m in a Rough Guide to Chipotle and Cute Waitresses kinda mood, here’s the address, should you be here and fancy checking it for yourself: it’s on the corner of Bucareli and Morelos, just a block or two from Juárez Metro station.
On the way home from the museum, I went into a Radio Shack to get the cable that I didn’t buy yesterday. Something that I’ve noticed happens here a lot is that cash registers in stores seem to run out of change. This is no Argentina where cambio is prized like water in a desert, but nonetheless I’ve found that lots of people who work in stores end up rummaging around in their own pockets, or asking colleagues for enough change for the 200 peso note I’ve handed over.
Back on the subway, and as always, there are people selling stuff in the carriages. I’ve never taken a subway ride where the carriage hasn’t had someone selling sweets, gum, sparklers, toys. Today there was a kid selling little bubble thingies. I don’t know what they are called, but you dip the plastic stick with an O shape at its end into a small bottle of washing-up liquid type stuff and blow. I don’t know if it’s a general evolution in this product’s make-up, but here the bubbles seem to be made of something less poppable that washing-up liquid. When they land, they kinda stay there until they wither, and they’re a wee bit sticky, too. This little kid was selling them, and blowing bubbles into empty space, but they inevitably landed on people. Passengers were wafting them away, and the kid was ignoring the nuisance he was causing. I was stood in the doorway, and sat next to the doorway was an old fella in nice shoes, a lovely tweed jacket, with a handsome moustache and the balding yellowish grey hair of a smoker. He was ignoring the kid and his bubbles. One landed right on the top of his bald head. If you had placed it carefully with tweezers you couldn’t've done a better job at getting slap bang in the middle. He had one clinging onto the arm of his glasses, too. I wanted to alert him, but I didn’t. I caught the eye of a woman sat opposite him and she smiled conspiratorially, so I felt that alerting him would’ve been being a bad sport. Ho hum.
And another thing. I wonder what it must be like to be of an older generation and see an everyday word you use have its meaning changed. Gay, for example. This isn’t, by the way, the part of the blog post where I go on to lament that you can’t say darkie any more, gosh no. There would’ve been a time, before I was born, I imagine, that people used gay in the old sense of the word regularly, but now that version of the word is all but dead, because were one to use it in the sense of something being lighthearted or carefree, you would have to follow it with an explanation that you meant lighthearted or carefree, not homosexual. I guess that definition of gay is heading towards the history books where words like thither, mischance, and felicity live. (Yes, that was a “You’ve Got Mail” reference.) And there’s something very delicious when one thinks about the homophobes of the world having to use such a lovely word to describe something they hate. But I guess that’s where words like faggot come in, sadly; another word that’s original meaning has been dispensed with. I got to thinking about this when, on the subway, I heard an English-speaking tourist use the word nightmare. I wonder how far away the English-speaking portion of the human race is from using that word primarily in a sentence like, “I had to wait three minutes for a bus, it was a nightmare,” rather than “I had a nightmare last night about having sex with my dead uncle Tony in a battleship on Mars.” It can’t be too far off. Although I guess we don’t really have as many linguistic options to cover a hole in the language that nightmare would leave, compared to the rather small hole left by the original meaning of gay disappearing. Anyway, should you want to read a blog post about not being able to use the word darkie any more, you can find something like that if you go to Flip Flop Teapartyin’, my Sarah Palin fan site.
Anyway, thanks for visiting the blog this year. It’s not always been good or interesting, but it has at least plodded along, and there was a time there in the middle of the year when I seriously thought it would end for good. 2010 hasn’t been my best year. I wrote a book, which is something I am pretty darn proud of; but apart from that, I’ve spent way too much of my time feeling unhappy. Boo fucking hoo. But, onwards and upwards. 2011 beckons, and if I don’t write anymore before the Gregorian calendar does its thing, may I wish you a Happy New Year y Feliz Año Nuevo und Guten Rutsch!