Thursday, May 18, 2017

Visit of visits, Post of posts, Guide of guides, you get the idea

Señor Scowly -- a.k.a The Crabby Doorman -- quit. We didn't even get a warning, no chance to say goodbye, not that he would have wanted to say goodbye to us anyway.

We came down one morning expecting to see his usual frowny face opening the door for us all angry and jerky-like, ripping that door open as if the door had disparaged his mother, but no. We saw only smiley Carlos training a new guy, smiley Arturo.

I'm going to miss Señor Scowly. I'm going to miss the times I stood outside the door of the building, hands cupped on either side of my face to peer through the glass, only to see Señor Scowly standing in the middle of the foyer listening to angsty music blaring from his iPhone, his eyes closed, singing every word from the heart as if the words were ripping said heart right out of his chest.

I would knock on the door but his angsty music was pretty loud. It would sometimes take a handful of minutes for him to open his eyes and see me standing there, waving hopefully from the other side of the glass. He'd open the door but would also make it clear by his facial expression I'd ruined his moment.

I'm going to miss approaching the building and wondering if I'll actually get in. Plus everyone in Mexico smiles at me all the time; it was refreshing to have just one who unabashedly hated me and didn't care if I knew it.

My family was just here for a visit and it was the best visit in the history of visits. In other words, brace yourselves for what could be the longest post in the history of posting.

It will never get old.
Just walking around and suddenly bam, mariachi party 

My family's visit was made more special by the fact it nearly didn't happen. Dad has been having trouble with numbness in his leg that comes on without warning, making it difficult to walk and putting him at risk for falling. He decided a couple days before they were to arrive that he couldn't come, that he would be too preoccupied with his walking troubles to enjoy the visit and would therefore bring the rest of us down, too. He wanted my mom and brother to come without him.

Well hell no, Dad. That just will not do. That WILL NOT DO.

I'm happy to say Dad changed his mind the day of the flight. We talked beforehand and eventually came to the conclusion that even if he didn't feel comfortable doing the walking tours or moseying through museums for hours, just sitting here in our apartment with its view of Mexico City, or sitting in the rental house we'd booked for a weekend with its view of San Miguel de Allende, was better than sitting in his house alone in Colorado.

Plus, the food. You don't need legs to enjoy the food and isn't the food the absolute best reason to come to Mexico? Food. FOOOOD.

(Related -- my pants don't fit anymore.)

I talked to my sister, Raba, before my parents and brother arrived and we both adamantly agreed that climbing the pyramids at Teotihuacan was out of the question given Dad's leg. It can go numb without warning and he could fall all the way down the steep stone stairs, especially since several sections do not have anything to hold onto.

We had to go see it, for sure, because Teotihuacan is one of the most impressive places in the world but we would stay down on the ground. No doubt about it, Dad should not go up there.

A few days later, of course, we went up there.

taking a breather halfway up Pyramid of the Sun
(Pyramid of the Moon lurking anciently in the background)

My dad is a strong willed man and the poster child for dogged determination but he's not reckless. He knew he could do it so I knew he could do it. But I still climbed behind him the whole time, arms outstretched and thinking, "oh my god oh my god oh my god if he falls, Raba is going to kill me."

"Chill out daughters, it wasn't that hard."
Top of Pyramid of the Sun

Mom and Dad strolling through Teotihuacan like the bosses they are.

We took a long weekend and rented a house in the gorgeous colonial town of San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is commonly known as "Gringolandia" given its large population of retired English speakers. There's also a popular joke about needing an American passport to live there.

Well you can't blame them, those English speakers know a good thing when they see it. San Miguel de Allende is one of the most perfect little colonial towns. It is almost too perfect, too pretty, too charming, too UNESCO heritage-y. I felt the urge to break a few windows to take it down a peg, or at least smear some dog shit around on them to mess it up a little bit. Is it normal to be jealous of a town? I have problems.

But look at this stupid perfect place.

(pic courtesy of Dad)

(pic courtesy of Mom)

(pic courtesy of me)

Dad walking around the back terrace of our rental house.
See what I mean? Needs dog shit on the windows.

Our rental house was smack in the middle of the action, just one block from the main square. The owner of the house was there to show us around when we arrived and we all detected a slight edge, something slightly off about him. He was nice but it seemed he had to work hard at it, as his teeth were often clenched. All was made clear later when Alex and I found several How To Control Your Explosive Rage books in his bookshelf. Then we were all like, "Yes, that was totally it, he was just trying hard not to punch us."

(I won him over later when I emailed him several times asking about the art in his house, which was spectacular. He loved talking about his art. And then we were friends, phew.)

There were many weddings that weekend. San Miguel weddings involve the most delightful traditions. There are ten-foot-tall puppets representing the bride and groom dancing around outside the church, and a "tequila burro" that walks in front of the post-ceremony procession through the cobblestone streets from which tequila shots are served from barrels on his sides, and a traveling mariachi band that accompanies the procession and makes everyone within earshot happy.

There were at least half a dozen wedding processions through the streets in two days. They looked like so much fun, I'm now planning to divorce Alex and re-marry him in San Miguel de Allende -- that is, if he doesn't piss me off in between. We'll see.

This wedding celebration walked past our rental house after midnight.
I ran out in my pajamas to take a picture of them.
Look at that tequila burro.

As for what else we did, we did a lot. We hit the must-sees, such as the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Diego Rivera murals at the Belles Artes and Palacio Nacional. 

We also ate lunch in a cave --

hours before everybody else because nobody here eats lunch at noon

-- and we visited an ancient archaeological site in the middle of nowhere called Cañada de la Virgen accompanied by the most enthusiastic guide who's ever guided. Our guide, Alberto, is an archaeologist and he loves his job very much. His eyes would regularly glow and widen, near manic with excitement, so on fire was he with his chosen field. It sometimes felt he was about to lose his composure entirely, grab us all by our slender shoulders and shake us, shake the love of archaeology right into us, goddammit!

He was an extremely likable and extremely enthusiastic gem of a tour guide. 

Look how hard everyone is trying to keep up with Alberto
and the mass quantity of excited information flying at their faces.

Bala and Coco enjoying archaeology

After the archaeology, Alberto took us to a nearby Mexican ranch for a traditional Mexican lunch. There, sitting on the back porch of a humble abode somewhere outside San Miguel de Allende, I ate the best mole sauce I've ever had. It was the best mole in the history of moles.

I learned at this lunch you cannot take a picture of mole sauce
without it looking like poop sauce.
 Just take my word, it was perfect.

I don't think the visit could have gone better. My parents and brother fell in love with Mexico, with the warmth of its people and the beauty and history of the country. I think they fell in love a little bit with our driver, Mario, too. Mario drove us everywhere, helped us communicate when Spanish failed us, carried bags, acted as tour guide, bought Mom medicine when she caught my cold, made us dinner reservations, and on and on and on -- and he did it all with a laugh and a smile.

My family didn't want to leave and I didn't want them to leave because even after ten days here, I still had about two weeks worth of stuff to show them. That's the beauty of Mexico City.

I'm so glad you made the decision to come, Dad.
Because someone had to play with Coco
and her bouncy balloon thing
for hours.
And I'm glad it wasn't me.

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mamas out there. Mexican Mother's Day was last Wednesday. It's a big deal around here, I was wished Happy Mother's Day wherever I went and was given roses by the security guard when I left a nearby department store. Coco even had the day off from school in honor of the occasion. My Mother's Day gift is having a kid home from school? We should talk about that one, Mexico.

We only have a few months left here. I don't want to go home. I will hang onto Mexico by my fingernails until someone pries them away and shoves me onto a plane because I love this place -- plus my home country has gone and lost its damn mind. It's a real shitshow up there.

In the meantime, I will eat mole, and smile at the people, and enjoy the sun,
and pretend it is not the end of the world as we know it.


  1. Ahhh, that was one wonderful visit! Happy for all of you!

    1. Thank you, Chrissoup. I'm still processing how happy it made all of us. I think its equal parts my family is awesome and Mexico is awesome.

  2. I never knew I wanted to go to Mexico so much! If MJ loves it, then I have to see it.
    Are the kids happy now that they have had time to get used to it? I hope so.

    1. Laura, I cannot lie. Mexico has many problems of which we're well aware. But it's doing something right, too, and that's what we feel the most while living here, though admittedly we're fairly insulated in Mexico City. The kids are happy --The Loosh more so than Coco; it's very clear Coco left her heart in Seattle. She wants to go home, though I suspect once we get there she's going to miss Mexico. A lot. Just a hunch.