Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category
A friend of mine called Steve started up a web site a while ago. It’s a very simple, nice idea. It’s called No Movement for Goalposts. He takes photographs of football (soccer) goalposts. And he invites others to do the same and submit them. It’s lovely stuff. I submitted a few photos taken on my recent vacation in Belize, including the couple above. If you like football, you’ll probably like his site. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably end up taking photos of goalposts and submitting them, too. Either that or seeing some posts and wishing your camera wasn’t sat on your desk back home.
Bigger version of the photo on my Flickr.
On a nearby street, Calle Liverpool, there’s a hotel. Separating two parts of the hotel is the thinnest of alleys. That alley has a door. It’s about a foot wide. But it seems to be a fully-functioning door. You can see it on Street View here.
More photos from Belize on Flickr.
Here’s a handful of photos from my Belize trip. On the Flickr.
Last week I popped into the Museo de Arte Popular. It’s a wonderful place. Here’s some photographs.
One doesn’t really expect a club like Barcelona to be regional partners with a brand that looks so… so… crappy. But they are here.
Nothing makes you regret your order more than seeing your cappuccino come in a glass like this.
It is currently raining for the first time since November 3rd. (It might’ve rained when I’ve been asleep between then and now, though.) So that makes a grand total of four rain showers since I arrived in September. Life is tough in Mexico…
Woke up feeling glum after a dream that I’d been turned away from entering the country in an American airport and put back on a plane to Lincoln. I reached out of the bed to look at the time on my iPod, turned off the alarm that was due to go off ten minutes later, and opened my email, trying to hold the iPod in such a way so I could still read it lying down, without it flicking between landscape and portrait view. First email I see is from my mate John telling me Roy Hodgson is out and Kenny Dalglish is in as caretaker manager. The glumness disappeared. It’s rarely a good idea to get back together with an ex-girlfriend, but I was a little bit giddy reading that. Kenny Dalglish is pretty much the only hero I’ve ever had. Later in life, I came to love the work of Brian Wilson, but it’s tough to have new heroes when you’re out of your teens, I think. It may well be a disaster having him back, but in this horror of a season, what could be better than having 24 hours to dream of thrashing Mufc tomorrow. And who knows, it may well happen. Anyway, I’ve been in a good mood ever since John’s email, which might explain why I took this photo of me and the cat reflected in the baubles hanging from the lampshade in the lounge.
After a few days out of the city at the weekend home of the family of friends, after those few days of sunshine and doing nothing much, getting back to Distrito Federal, it’s noticeable how loud the city is. Every regular big city has noise, but what makes Mexico City different to London, Berlin, Toronto is how much of that noise is specifically designed to disturb you. One could be charitable and say it’s noise that is there to alert your attention to certain things, but on the whole, the noises are there to be loud enough to make sure people in apartment buildings can here those noises through closed windows. And if, like me, you don’t really want to traipse down four flights of stairs to buy bananas or get your knives sharpened, they’re just added noise to an already noisy city. Still, I could leave with the trash men ringing their bells, the knife-sharpener’s whistle, the tamales guy’s looped announcement coming from the speakers on his bicycle, the steam whistle of the guys selling sweet potatoes, the shouts of “agua!” or “gas!”… I could live with all of those if the cilindreros, the organ grinder who plays on the street outside my bedroom/workspace would be swallowed up by the earth for crimes to the ears of human beings.
So, yes, as you can tell, I came back from a weekend away fully relaxed. I went to this place called San Gil. It’s a strange (to me, at least) little private estate, spread out around a big artificial lake and 18 hole golf course. It’s near a town called San Juan del Río, in the state of Querétero, about an hour-and-a-half northwest of Mexico City; a pleasant ride on a motorway through yellow-ish countryside with dusty hills on the horizon. And, since leaving Bellingham in the middle of 2009, I’ve hardly spent five minutes outside of one city or another. I spent the majority of the journey staring out of the window at the lack of buildings. Every now and again, there’d be cattle or sheepses in the fields, farmhouses, or by the roadside, cafes, restaurants, Pemex gas stations, auto shops, and places that sold concrete crap for the garden.
Nearing San Juan del Río, we found out that the people who’s house we were heading to were behind us on the road from the city, so we stopped for food at a barbacoa restaurant. Barbacoa is lamb cooked slowly in a hole dug in the earth, and covered with leaves. And it’s fucking delicious. It’s so very, very tender. I had some soup with the lamb, and, duh, some tacos de barbacoa. Also of interest at the restaurant were the pictograms used to indicate the toilets. Because all men smoke pipes, and women use fans.
At the house, it was one of those weekends where, afterwards, you wrack your brain to try and remember the order of events, but it’s impossible. The relaxation all blends into one mush of doing lots of nice stuff. Playing basketball and chess with teenagers, drinking tequila, eating all kinds of awesome food, sitting in the sunshine, riding a bicycle around the resort, playing with the dogs, and watching the freshly bathed and brushed male dogs suddenly get all fruity and spend an afternoon humping each other.
Noticing how quiet life is, noting the lack of policemen, enjoying the guilt-free drinking of beer before lunch, drunkenly not caring about making a tit of yourself playing the Xbox Dance Central game, trying to take poker seriously but just enjoying bluffing with a ridiculously stupid hand, developing intricate handshakes with a 12 year old, standing around chatting in the ever-busy kitchen, watching some gorgeous sunsets. It was a lovely long weekend.
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!
There I am saying there are no clouds in Mexico City, and look at this grainily-photographed beauty that I saw when I went out of the house a few moments ago.
This is the view from my bedroom window. As you can see, it’s not snowing here. In fact, the last time I saw any precipitation of any sort since early November. Now, I realise that most of the people reading this are likely to live in countries that are cold and wet right now, so I don’t expect any sympathy, but it’s weird. It’s weird to be in a city where the weather has been virtually identical every day for a couple of months. It’s not particularly hot. One could wear a t-shirt in the daytime, but one can also wear a sweater and feel fine. And there’s virtually never any clouds. I miss clouds. I guess you only realise you liked something so much when you don’t see it any more.
Anyway, on the photo, you can see a roof with a black water tank in the middle. Just to the left of the tank is a spiral staircase. At the top of that staircase is a dog.
That dog spends all day every day on that roof. It makes me sad. I don’t know if it’s up there at night too, the roof is too dark to see properly after dusk. I really do hope that he’s taken inside, or taken for a walk in the evenings, cos he seems quite miserable up there, and spends a lot of time at the top of that staircase looking down.
From my bedroom window last night.
This is a big city. By population, It’s the second biggest city in the Americas after São Paulo, and there are around half a million more people here than in New York. There are 8.8 million people in Mexico City. Lincoln, the city I was born in, has 85,000 people. Mexico City has roughly the population of 103 Lincolns.
There are a lot of the same cultural aspects that I’m used to in England, Germany, the States, and, recently, Canada. But it is different here. For one thing, I don’t really understand what people are saying. I can kinda muddle through reading a sign, a newspaper headline, or an advertisement, but if those same words were spoken, I’d have a difficult time understanding. I’ve spent a total of three weeks here in the past on three separate visits, so it’s not entirely a new experience for me, but the one massive difference I’ve noticed this time is within myself. It’s not very often I notice a positive change in my head, but I’ve noticed one this first week in Mexico City.
I’m a lot less nervous about being somewhere that is “different.” I kinda knew theoretically that I’d relaxed and trusted my instincts more during my six months travelling around the Americas in 2008, but this is the first time I’ve been back to a place where I have been nervous in the past. Mostly unfounded nervousness, of course. My first time here, I was so ridiculously convinced I was about to be mugged at any second in the city centre, it was incredibly annoying for my then-girlfriend. The second time I was here, I really didn’t do much if there wasn’t a taxi involved. And when I was walking around, I was like a squirrel; constantly looking for predators. But this time, I’ve found myself wandering around, and as long as I have my watch on my wrist (it has a compass on it), I know that I’ll be able to find my way back.
Not that I’ve strayed that far — I’ve stayed within a half-hour radius — but I really have noticed that I’m not looking over my shoulder all the time. I’m not expecting to get mugged at any second. It’s not even something I think about. Which is a far nicer way to live your life, frankly.
Today I had a wander, ended up on Reforma (the big avenue where the parades were), and headed west towards Chapultepec, a big ass park. I was on the wrong side of the street — a massive street with about 100 lanes of traffic and a big barrier in the middle — but there was an underpass. There is no human invention as dismal, grimy, and inherently ominous as pedestrian tunnels under big roads. You never see them in children’s stories, do you? There’s a reason for that. They are the invention of a city planner who’s imagination was equal to the darkest corners of David Lynch’s mind.
So, I went into the underpass. This is where one would normally say how it was dirty and smelled of piss, right? That’s not entirely true. It did smell of piss, but it wasn’t that dirty. It was queasily lit, though, as is the law with underpasses. This underpass wasn’t straight, it had a bend in it, so I couldn’t see the other end. And there, right in front of me… was a little ginger kitten! And a little black kitten! Aaaaaw, cute! They miaowed at me. I thought they might be hungry, but I saw an empty can of cat food on the floor. And there was an open door on one side of the tunnel. I looked inside, and there was an old guy in there. I didn’t want to be too nosey, but the quick glimpse I got indicated he lived there. There was a mattress, a chair, and he was sewing something. I looked at him, he looked at me. I smiled, and said “hola.” He said “hola” back. Just outside the door was little red shelf with a framed picture of Mary, a couple of house plants, and some glittery tinsel in the colours of the Mexican flag.
I carried on along the tunnel. When I came out of the tunnel, I noticed it was kind of a tunnel to nowhere. To my left were plywood panels, the sort that go around the outside of a building site. To my right was a locked gate to the park. So rather than go back through the tunnel, I walked along the edge of the road and after five minutes or so I found an open gate and had a stroll around the park. It was getting kinda late, so all the market stalls in the park were closing up for the day. But should I want to buy a picture of a luchador cut out and stuck on a neon pink piece of paper, I know where to come.
I tell you what is nice: the Niños Héroes memorial. The Niños Héroes were a bunch of kids (aged 13 to 19) who resisted U.S. forces in the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. As they were killed, the last one wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and leapt to his death from the top of the castle to stop the flag falling into the Americans’ hands. And there I was proud of getting my O-level in art at school…
Anyway, here’s a picture of a common bird here. It makes a nice clicky noise when it flies, and it’s got red bits on its wings that you can only see when it’s in flight. It’s called an Inca dove. I asked the guy at reception what the bird was called in Spanish. He started to Google it, and was about to tell me it’s proper Latin-y name, but then I asked what he would call it, and he told me people just call it a coquita.