MEXICO CITY: A Sandwich Tree

I’ve been feeling guilty for not churning these blogs out. As I sit typing, I have been in Mexico City for well over a month and experienced a delirium of wonderful things. It’s already halfway over and I can’t believe it. In these weeks, I’ve done considerably less than my last visit, which was only a quarter of the amount I’m staying this time. I’ve been an awful, fool, though, and decided that it would be in my best interests — and it really is — to continue taking university courses online to get my degree done as fast as possible. The classes, now that I’m actually in a program that intrigues me, are fine and I have no issue with them. It’s just that I have so little time to go and wander and get lost. This was a silly thing to do. I love getting lost. I have spent the past couple of weeks working on — with plenty of labored procrastination — a fifteen page research paper that examines the usage of the ancient Egyptian language in modern English. That was the last post on this site, so please do enjoy it if you are desperate for something to read. It is surely only for a select audience, not everybody is quite so thrilled by the etymological histories of ancient Egyptian words as me. Let me assure you, though, that it took up all my time and a considerable portion of my brainpower. 

Blessedly, that class is now over. Cursedly, I have two new ones to work on. I’m really not sure when these posts will all get sent out, but please bear with me. I’ll get to them. Eventually… Like I’ve said before, I’ll probably be on my next trip before I’m done with all of these. I have a few ideas that probably won’t come true, but I’ve been toying with a trip over the December holidays for some time. I just might whip out my trusty Discover Card and go. We’ll see, that has nothing to do with this! I just hope, and pray, that if I do go on that trip, I’ll be done with my Mexico posts because…well let’s just say I’m pretty sure the posts from that trip will be novella length.

Anyway, let’s get started.

It was challenging to get to sleep that first night in Mexico City. I was overstimulated with all the things that I wanted to do and the places I wanted to see and the foods I wanted to eat. Mexico City was just as wonderful as when I’d left it, and all my feline friends were with me. I honestly couldn’t have been happier. But I could not sleep to save my life. It turns out Jessica snores at about the same decimal level as a fighter jet taking off. I don’t know how she slept through the racket she was causing. I certainly couldn’t, and you might remember that I’m deaf in one ear. Just imagine how awful it would have been with two functioning auditory nerves. Somehow I eventually passed out. 

The late morning was absolutely beautiful, and I took inordinate pleasure sipping coffee in the courtyard, watching the sunlight cast everything in gentle yellow light. The sun here, on clear days, is like the sun in the south of France. Everything glows softly and becomingly and looks more lovely than it really is. It’s one of the endless reasons I would stay here forever.

Jessica was delirious with delight over one of the neighbor’s dogs that keeps coming over.

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Her name is Basha and she is massive and she smells slightly and she is the sweetest dog that I have ever met in my entire life. There is not a mean bone in that elderly lady. I adore her. 

After much dillydallying and procrastinating, we finally headed out for the day to see the zoo in the Bosque Chapultepec, the largest green space in all of Latin America. It’s like Central Park on steroids, and you could wander along the lanes and paths for days without ever seeing the same thing twice.

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Ninos Heroes monument.

Down the main thoroughfare were vendors selling everything from henna tattoos to freshly shaved ice. If you are in need of a souvenir in Mexico City, you would be hard pressed to find more variety in a more scenic locale. You could get absolutely anything! I even saw a t-shirt with Minnie Mouse done up to look like Frida Kahlo, and that certainly could not have been approved by Disney, could it?

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This is, perhaps, my favorite picture I’ve taken so far in Mexico City.

We strolled rather lazily through the park, taking a look at all the wonderful things. One of the more delightful aspects of Mexico City, something that I have found here more than anywhere else in my travels, is the frequent change of scenery. You round a corner and suddenly you’re somewhere new and fantastic. Luxor and Paris are both fabulous, but they’re a lot of the same thing. Mexico City is a wonderful study in contrast. There are modern buildings next to crumbling old ones, rich areas abutting abject poverty, nature suddenly leaping up, palm trees palm trees palm trees. It’s too fabulous. We had a delicious time watching a tiny little puppy play beside a park, and it really was just perfection.

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The zoo here is free, which is fabulous, because if you’ve ever been to a zoo in the summer, you know the great irritation of spending twenty dollars to get in only to read placards saying, “It’s too hot for the big cats. They’re inside chilling!!” Then you roll your eyes and look everywhere for something only to find something you can find in your backyard, like a deer. And the food is gross and you’re tired and there are too many strollers…look, I’ve never loved a zoo. So I was glad this one was free, and it really was quite fun even if many of the animals were in hiding. 

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CAMELS!!!!!!!!!!!

The landscaping of the area was nice enough to keep me satisfied, and I really enjoyed the lush trees and greenery that surrounded almost all of the exhibits. We saw delightful birds chase their shadows, a black jaguar prowled by the window, I watched a monkey climb a tree with its tail, lemurs leapt around all over the place, there were bears, and there were these adorable little cats that were supposedly ferocious hunters that would tear your guts out. I loved them. And there was a giant panda, which is something I don’t think I have ever actually seen in person before. I mean, I feel like I probably should have. But where? They are beautiful creatures. The zoo here was very proud of their family of giant pandas, so they even have their entire family tree written out on a big placard.

“Look,” I told Jessica, “here’s the entire family tree.”

“What?” she gasped in delighted delirium, “A sandwich tree? Where??”

I stared at her in consternation for a few beats and then asked what in actual hell a sandwich tree was.

She couldn’t come up with a valid excuse for her confusion, but I wasn’t surprised, this is a woman nearly in her third decade of life who just realized that South America is not Australia. I mean, Jessica isn’t dumb all of the time, but some of the things that she says are remarkable. Just ask her to look at a map and tell you absolutely anything on it. Literally anything. Ask her where the Middle East is — she’ll point at France. That’s comedy gold.

The sun was beating down on us and we were a bit hot, so we decided we were done with the zoo. Outside, we strolled through the vendors and I bought a ridiculous keychain that shows a skull with a pharaoh’s crown on it. Historically absurd and far from accurate, but I can’t wait to affix it to my car keys just as soon as I get home. Only fifteen pesos. Silly.

And then there it was, and Jessica lost her ever-loving shit again: a carousel. 

She is a ho for a good carousel. She rides every carousel she comes across without any shame, so we bought tickets and hopped aboard.

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Holla at the iPhone X Portrait Mode!

It really was quite pleasant to whirl around in the middle of the beautifully shaded park. And it was cheap. Everything is so cheap. I can’t understand it. I mean, it’s only ever so slightly more expensive than Egypt, and y’all know how much I went on about that!

On the way back to the apartment, we savored all we could enjoy. Jessica bought cotton candy from one of the vendors, which is now a tradition for her to get absolutely everywhere she goes. Allegedly some are better than others. I don’t know, I can’t stand the stuff. Instead, I had a cheese and mushroom pasty from Pastes Kiko’s and nearly died. Those flaky pastries stuffed full of savory fillings are just absurdly good. I love them almost too much. My waistline doesn’t love them quite as passionately as I do, mind you. Oh well. We’re all going to die eventually! 

It was absolutely imperative at this point to take a siesta, so we gladly crashed for a good spell at the apartment. It was much needed, but then we were feeling, as we seemingly always are, a tad peckish. I wish there was some kind of pill that would make me not feel like I’m constantly starving to death. Any reasonable side effects would be fine by me. I know I’m not always as hungry as I feel, but my god, I don’t know how to convince my brain otherwise! 

We decided it would be genius to go for a cheeky bite at McDonald’s. If you’ve read my blog over the years, you will know that we love McDonald’s with a seemingly unreasonable passion. I can’t explain it. The McCafé in Paris is honestly life changing. They make some of the very best pastries in town, which you wouldn’t ever expect, but I’m telling you with full honesty, I’d rather eat a macaron at McDonald’s than at Laduree. Remember, reader, I am a professionally trained pasty chef and an alumni of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I’m not just talking out of my ass; I know this shit. Pierre Hermé is greater, of course, but if you want a decent macaron…McDonald’s is your bae. If they have lime or apricot for sale, get all of them. I REPEAT: ALL OF THEM. I may have done that repeatedly. Anyway, back to Mexico City.

The first McDonald’s that we went to was closed for some reason. There were armed guards on the outside and it didn’t seem likely to open back up in time for us to satisfy the increasing anguish we were feeling. So, I hopped onto my iPhone and we set off for the next nearest location. Hilariously, this place didn’t seem to ever exist. It advertised itself online and on my map, but in the spot where delicious fries should have been being fried, was a secondhand gold vendor. I love gold, but I wanted food.

At this point, I began to grow concerned. Jessica was becoming somewhat terrifying. When she is hungry, she is not just hungry, she is possessed by some kind of demonic spirit. It’s like being hangry, but it’s so much more worrying. Alarmed, I hurried back onto the app and found a location that I remembered existing at the Zócalo in the past, so we went there just as fast as we possibly could.

Jessica wasn’t emotionally stable enough to wait in line and order her food, so she absconded to the upper levels of the restaurant to sit and ponder how many moments of life she had left before she starved and death claimed her. This location, like almost every McDonald’s in the world, was packed to bursting, but I eventually made it to the head of the line and made the most complex transaction I have ever done in Spanish. I don’t know why this was particularly demanding, but I think I burned hundreds of calories by the time I was done maneuvering in Spanish through the menu. 

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We had a bit of everything: potato wedges, french fries, jamaica, onion rings, something called a cheese pie, and then Jessica ate some dead animals. The potato wedges, reader, were LIT, and the onion rings, were TURNT, but the cheese pie was not at all to our liking. For whatever reason, we assumed this was going to be a savory treat, kind of like an elongated mozzarella stick, but we were hideously wrong. This was instead some sweet pastry covered in sugar and filled with a sickening amount of cream cheese. I couldn’t even finish one bite of it. Horrifying; I still have flashbacks of that moment. 

Blessedly, there were all sorts of sauces to dip the fried potatoes into, and I delighted in trying them all. It was marvelous to have a chipotle ranch dipping sauce that really accentuated the fries and elevated them to something nearing a gastronomic triumph instead of plain old ketchup. I am not even being my usual hyperbolic self, reader. Those sauces were a bit of divinity. 

We stopped by Maison Kayser to load up on French pastries and then headed back to the apartment for the night. Along the way we bumped into nuns and the opportunity proved fortuitous to take this iconic portrait of moi: 

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Hang this in the National Gallery, please. Cheers. 

To our uproarious delight, the neighbor with my beloved cats, Patron and Little Chiffon, have two kittens. We looked up and saw them sitting in the threshold and literally screamed. The kittens slunk away back into the darkened recesses of their abode, but we could not stop squealing in delight. Of course we christened them immediately. Instead of the names given to them by their owners, which I promptly forgot after inquiring, we called them Taquito and Frijoles. They are precious and will not come near us. I don’t care. Having them in the vicinity is delight enough! 

As sun set, I continued to tidy up around the apartment. I like to have everything just so, you know? I don’t understand how I can happily and willingly spend hours straightening and rearranging an apartment, but I can’t sit down for twenty minutes to work on this blog, my homework, or one of my writing projects that I love working on. It’s the height of absurdity and I’m well aware that I need to find a way to manage my time better. But that’s beside the point. The point is that when I was cleaning and moving furniture and putting things in a more aesthetically pleasing order, I kept finding chunks of charred wood. 

Now, the first time this happened I just shrugged and moved on, but the deeper I dug into the place, the more pieces I found of what appeared to be massive lumps of charcoal. They were under the couch, in the corners of the loft, under the bathroom sink, hidden in the back of shelves in the kitchenette. And for whatever reason, they had a presence to them that made me feel wary. I replaced them wherever I found them and immediately began searching for local customs or traditions online. I found next to nothing. Allegedly keeping charred wood will either remove odors or protect from evil spirits. The place can have a smell to it, I suppose, so maybe that’s why, but the areas where they were located weren’t likely to ward off bad fragrances. I determined that the place must be deeply haunted and that there was a good chance that I would be possessed by a demon at some point in the upcoming two months. I’ve grown up in a haunted house, so this didn’t really perturb me. 

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With a shrug of “what can you do?” I finished tidying up and tried to go to bed, a task that proved impossible for ages because Jessica was snoring even more forcefully than ever. Seriously, I worry about her. She must be doing some kind of irreparable damage to her esophagus by making that awful racket. Eventually though, sleep found me, and I credit tequila for that. Bless tequila. 

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