Thursday, July 30, 2009

fiesta del mezcal : best 15 pesos spent ever

during la guelagetza in oaxaca, you are treated to non-stop fanfares, parades with giant costumes and heads, fireworks, fireworks lit from the giant heads and pretty much all around FIESTA. one thing i noticed though is that no one drinks in the street or is rambunctiously drunk. this is really a family thing. and so that's why you see 1 year olds running around unaccompanied in the street at 2am, chasing balloons and such.
so in the evening, you basically wander the streets and hope to cross paths with one of these pageants, either synchronized dances, little kids with giant sombreros or a 100 foot long dancing fish. a few guys had big papier mache turkeys and cows on their heads with round wheels on them. when you least expect it, someone runs up and lights a fuse and then, in the middle of an eager crowd you get those whiny fireworks and roman candles that make the wheels on the headpiece spin around and create fire spirals. (someone needs to explain to me how papier mache and fireworks are a good combination on someone's head). the guy continues to dance around and little firey ashes rain down on the crowd, it's madness. i think this is my favorite part of the guelagetza.
well, after the mezcal. the reason why no one is drunk on the street is because they're all around the corner at the mezcal festival. it's 15 pesos to get in and there is a live 20 person horn band playing to some of the dancing heads and costumed peoples who must have wandered in from a nearby parade. you make the rounds of the mezcal booths tasting everything from the bottom of the worm barrel to tasty reposado out of little plastic shot glasses. all for free. so it gets kinda rowdy. i thought i was hallucinating when i saw a guy in a tie and mexican wrestler mask dance with a dude with a giant bull head both holding up a large flag with a marijuana leaf on it that read something like "weed is the future." i danced with a goat. we were about to leave when we saw the oro de oaxaca booth which is known as a good mezcal. i bought a mini bottle which came with a free big mezcal sombrero. as if i don't stand out already. so rafa got one too. we were already content with our purchases and leaving but for some reason they rrrrreally wanted us to try all 37 varieties of flavored mezcal. non stop. in a row. one after the other. i felt like i was in a fraternity reality show but as a crowd gathered around it just seemed normal to down shot after shot after shot after shot after shot. kiwi flavored! yum! throw the shot glass on the ground. handed another. vanilla creme! yum! throw the shot glass on the ground. now try mango! this went on for a good 15 minutes when i realized my world was spinning while all these varieties were fighting themselves in my stomach and i just might vomit right now. i high fived a bunch of mexicans and zig zagged towards the exit. it took us 25 minutes to find our hotel which was only a block away as we took more of a spiral route, honed in by our instincts. the sad part was that at this time, it was only 9:45 pm. we hadn't even had dinner yet.
you can imagine how painful the consequent hangover is when there are 1/4 sticks of dynamite being set off outside your hotel room all night, and the drunk tuba and trumpet players that drank mezcal on my stoop and played a boozy version of la cucaracha until dawn. make it stop!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

beware of the mariachi!

so in plaza garibaldi in mexico city you can cruise by in the evening and see what the mariachi market has to offer. here, the mariachis from all over gather around, and kind of like the home depot parking lot is to day laborers, here they offer their music services. you can also drink there, unlike anywhere else in the city, which is a major plus. so if you hear what you like, you can take them, or give them an address or whatever. i can imagine the poor fool "dammit! my wedding band just canceled!" and then you go to plaza garibaldi, problem solved.
i imagine some sort of violent musical feud between rival mariachi gangs. smashed bloody instruments, would make a good movie. in reality though, it's more of a horror genre that quickly turns ugly. the mariachi can be aggressive, and as they can also be expensive (mariachi is actually a luxury good) so you can get yourself into trouble if you're not careful.
and if you happen to be driving by, roll up your windows! they actually swarm vehicles like in a zombie movie and will try to play to you inside your car. it's el mariachi! step on it! don't worry if a mandolin guy rolls over the hood, we've got to get out of here!

Monday, July 27, 2009

now that's street service

one of the wonderful things about mexico is the sheer variety and multitude of street vendors. if you are sitting on a patio, you're guaranteed to have a delightful choice of sweaters, rugs, limes, batteries, novelty sunglasses and lighters and a number of weird services offered to you. most people might find this annoying, but some of the things people offer is pure gold.
first of all, a mariachi band, now that's a great service. i unfortunately found out the hard way that you can't just give them what you want, but you actually ask what a song costs, then negotiate, then let them play. i happened to invite a $35/song mariachi band to our table and they nearly spat in my face when i offered 10 pesos. what? que? we barely even listened to the song and we probably would have to get our money's worth. and the last thing you want is an angry mariachi.
we've seen the lighters in the form of louis vuitton purses, a watch with el demon azul on it that to this day i regret turning away and an 8 year old selling those eyeglasses with eyes painted on the lenses, so you can pretend to not be sleeping in a meeting. i found my pair far more valuable to have to put on when anyone starts telling a boring story. vincente is telling us about his hacienda. glasses on, yawn.
then there was the bearded lady who comes up to us, clicking two metal sticks together, holding a home-made box full of D batteries connected to these two metal sticks by a long wire...the mexicans couldn't believe i've never willingly paid for an electric shock before. "it's awesome!" to which i respond, no wonder why your GDP is so low, eh? i don't want to perpetuate stereotypes, but in this case i'm quite happy to.
so we try it together. 10 pesos paid, i hold one anode, rafa the other, and we hold hands. before she even turns the dial to 1 i imagine myself going into cardiac arrest and start jumping around uncomfortably. a 1.5 i feel a static, this is not enjoyable. a 2, 3, a twitch is running up my forearms and i can't take it anymore, i let it go. the he-woman is all "this level is for children! "you do this to kids?? rafa takes it to 8, and walks away, content. what a macho.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

LAX to MEX

i had the pleasure of starting my vacation by stopping in the nice new airport in Guadelajara. (i dare you to look that city up in Google Earth, holey moley) within minutes of entering the terminal the duty free muchacho was offering me generous tastes of all the top shelf tequila. my newfound buzz made the sleazy old lebanese guy who kept inviting me to Cancun with him much more bearable.
arriving in D.F. i was met by my host's driver who spoke fast spanish as he took me along a fantastic route through the city. i recognized when we were passing through sexytown even before he muttered something about that 'gente fea.' you can say that again. fattie mexican ladies with skirts so short and see-through they surpass the definition of one.
next, we stop outside el dr. rafa's place of work, the ministry of education. my friend rafa gets mad respect for his phD from Cambridge, hence the title "el doctor." he'll often say "listen, por favor, please don't call me el doctor" and the reponse with a bowed head. "si, doctor."
ironically, just outside the ministry of education there's a guy hawking totally passable diplomas from esteemed universities. you can get a phD in physics from Harvard for $20! i'm going to see if there's a degree in partying from Tiajuana University. or maybe fastrack a master's in Botany from SUNY Buffalo?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009