MEXICO CITY: WARY of the AVIARY

Something that Jessica loves with an inordinate passion is a zoo. I truly don’t believe there has ever been a zoo that she didn’t enjoy. We’ve been to far too many zoos in my opinion. I don’t share her unyielding love for them, though I will always enjoy a camel or a sassy ostrich. The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is an excellent zoo that isn’t too big and is full of perfectly lovely creatures. In Mexico City, there is a monstrously large zoo, and while I largely find zoos exhausting wastes of time, this is one that I truly enjoy. Jessica had loved it so much when we were there before, and there were these absolutely hysterical birds, so I didn’t mind at all heading out to the Bosque Chapultepec.

The Bosque Chapultepec is a wonderland in Mexico City, it makes Central Park look like a minor water feature in comparison. It goes on and on and on. I imagine you could lose yourself there for days if you wanted to. There are lakes, and walking trails, and boulevards, and museums, and shops, and vendors of food and treats, and more. There’s even an actual freaking palace where the royal family actually lived before the Mexican monarchy was put to an end. In addition to all of this, there is that freaking giant zoo.

Because the park and the zoo are so monstrously large, we decided that it would be in our best interest to get a hearty breakfast/lunch in us first to maintain our strength. You’re surely aware of how important it is to get at least four to five balanced meals a day, right? Of course you are. You’re an intelligent reader.

We decided on the most popular restaurant on our street, Casa de Toño, which has branches all over the city. I’ve never fully understood the passion residents of Mexico City have for this good but altogether unexceptional restaurant. The line is always snaking down the street. I mean, I’ve been a few times now, and while it’s always fine, it’s not a meal that I dream of repeating. I mean…it’s no Olive Garden.

I treated myself to a luncheon cerveza and some other nibbles and we were soon stuffing ourselves silly. Jessica once again decided that guacamole was the love of her life. She did so many peculiar things on this trip. Walking. Eating avocados. Walking willingly. Walking without arguing. Walking more than once in a day. It was absolutely wild. Our meal finished, we paid and hurried into the street.

So off we went, and thanks to the enormous size of the park, it took us some time to get to the entrance. We were nearly faint with hunger — don’t judge me — so we stopped at a vendor for some nibbles to keep us alive. It was close, reader, believe me. Jessica got cotton candy, which I refuse to believe is an actual snack. I don’t understand the stuff. It’s just a bunch of sugar that’s been melted and whipped up and then colored and flavored? Nasty. Not at all a fan. I don’t support it. I don’t acknowledge it. Who came up with the stuff? And why do the French insist on calling it, when translated, “Daddy’s Beard?” I just cannot.

But enough with spun sugar. We were soon at the entrance of the zoo and were on our way to the animals. Our first stop was one of the most important of all the creatures that are housed here, the CAMELS. You know I love a camel.

They are just the most ridiculous creature. They look stupid, they sound stupid, most of the time they act stupidly. And I adore them with unyielding love. I’m a big fan of nonsense, after all, and the camel is emblematic of the Middle East, that wondrous land that I’m always missing and that feels very much like a second home to me.

Speaking of the Middle East, my dear friend Hassan in Luxor is wanting me to buy one of his apartments, and I wish that I had the power to do it. If I were in different circumstances, I’d be seriously pondering a three bedroom apartment directly behind the Winter Palace. It’s on the corner of the building and faces two streets. It has multiple balconies. You know how I feel about balconies, I’m sure. If you don’t, know this, I’m passionate about balconies. It’s one of the requirements I have for any future real estate purchases. And this place has more than one! Oh, I can picture myself now, sitting on the balcony, listening to the cacophony of ancient Thebes as it thunders past my rooms. The clicking of the donkey hooves, the blaring of the taxi horns, the guttural cries of Arabic…oh it’s all too wonderful. I should really investigate this more sincerely. I could probably rent it as an AirBNB during the months that I wouldn’t be staying there. And because of the way my life works, I’d probably never be there at the height of the tourist season. But I don’t need to be talking about this right now. I just want you to picture me in Luxor, sipping mint tea on one of my many balconies, breathing deeply, feeling healthy, looking over at the waving palms in the gardens of the Winter Palace. Oh it would be simply too divine. I have to stop thinking about it.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.

Oh but I must!

Anyway, the camels were wonderful, both the ones with one hump and two. Delightfully, the placards at the zoo write out phonetically the sounds of the animals, so Jessica and I had a deliriously good time imitating the animals and seeing if they would come to us or at least acknowledge our presence. They rarely did but Jessica and I doubt the validity of the transcription because the sound of the warbling camel was nothing like what was written on the sign.

The next exhibit had been one of our favorites — the leaping lemurs — but they were not at all enthusiastic today. And so everything passed in a blur. A deer. Some kind of gazelle. Another kind of gazelle. So many gazelles. I wonder why? And then…the big cats. Reader, they completely and totally stole the show.

“Oh my god! A zebra!” I exclaimed at a snow leopard. It was a simple mistake and I was wearing contacts that were like two prescriptions ago. I refuse to be shamed by this! Jessica and I dashed forward, threw ourselves at the plate glass, pressed our faces to the window and cooed at the snow leopard.

“You’re an angel!” I said.

“You’re a star!” Jessica cried.

“I would die for you!” I squealed as the snow leopard walked right up to us and stood in front of the glass, staring us in the eye with love, I’m sure.

Soon enough a crowd gathered around and Jessica and I refused to allow children to get in the way. They’re young and they have their whole lives to have another encounter with a big cat. Jessica and I are elderly spinsters, and we needed to have this moment with the snow leopard. Little did we know that this was going to be the beginning of the end for us. In all honesty, it’s a complete miracle that we are alive today. You see, reader, in the next display…there was a tiger.

I don’t know what it is about big cats and us. We love them. We would do anything for them. We would undoubtedly, if we lived in a nation with less strict governance of “wild” animals, adopt and raise our own herd of lions. They would live in the house and have their own Instagram and be pampered far better than any biological child she or I might ever raise. Needless to say, when we saw the white tiger, strolling gracefully, stalking betwixt the trees, rolling, yawning, just existing…we lost it. It was too beautiful. It was a sensation to see that majestic creature so near to us, yet so far away separated by the glass. We stared longingly at her, and then something unexpected occurred.

“Oh. My. God.” I moaned.

Jessica gasped.

Coming out of an artificial cavern was another tiger. An orange one this time! They started to rub their foreheads together and it was like we were suddenly in that weird and wonderful new version of The Lion King where Beyonce is Nala.

Things got even wilder as we stepped into the aviary. I’m always wary of an aviary…lol what a great poem title that’d be. I’m going to change the title of this blog into that. Bear with. I’m chortling and cackling and pleased with myself. Anyway, I was wary of the aviary because Jessica has the strangest affinity for birds. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because birds aren’t cuddly. I like grey parrots because you can teach them to swear like a sailor, but that’s about it. I don’t think I’d care to live with a bird, swooping all over, relieving itself on all my surfaces. Jessica, though, she’d like nothing better. I’ve offered to buy her several birds, but she denies them every time. Why would you deny a gift? She stares at birds, talks to them in French, and screeches at them when they walk instead of fly. It bewilders her that they would use their dainty little legs to move. Aviaries are full of birds, and this one was stuffed to bursting.

There was this gorgeous little green thing that was napping in a tree. It was right off the trail and Jessica went absolutely ballistic. “BONJOUR OISEAU!” she screamed at the poor bird. It opened one eye a smidgen and glared. It was adorable.

“I’m gonna touch it.”

“Don’t.” I sighed, knowing that she was going to touch the bird.

“I’m gonna do it.”

“Please don’t,” I protested in vain, grimacing as her hands reached up to stroke the napping bird’s gleaming plummage. It glistened in the sun with flecks of gold in the green. I’d never seen such a beautiful bird. It was calm, collected, cool, and then finger fondled feather.

“SQUAWK!” the bird absolutely screamed, making us both jump back in delighted fear. Who knew a little bird could be so loud.

Thankfully nobody threw Jessica out of the aviary, so she was free to move on and assault the other birds with love. It didn’t take too long for this to occur, and it was almost impossible to avoid this next one. An enormous pelican or stork or something that looked akin to some Jurassic Park bullshit was stood in the middle of the path like a troll that guards the passage over a bridge. I will insert a photo now to show you the absolute absurdity of this creature. I’m standing next to it for context.

The bird was absolutely massive and I can’t say that I was a big fan. It’s beak or bill or whatever the hell was bigger than my arm. I could be imagining wrong, but I don’t think so. The bird was also had an aura of menace that I did not trust. It looked into your eyes like you were a silver fish shimmering on the surface of the water and it was going to swoop down and swallow you whole. I think if it wanted to it could have certainly done damage.

The monster began chomping and snapping and it was, reader, legit horrifying. It could have killed us all, and it had a look in its eyes that showed us that it was considering it. Like it had killed before and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. I don’t know why the zookeepers let it run a muck, the thing should have been locked up in a prison. That bird would absolutely be the boss of the prison. We cackled in fear and skirted around the bird, but not before taking iconic photos, because that’s important obviously.

We saw plenty more birds, oddly tame squirrels, several varieties of bears, another godforsaken antelope, and butterflies from the monarch enclosure were fluttering around, there were so many animals. It was a beautiful day and it was a beautiful zoo and if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in my favorite North American city, you owe it to yourself to spend the afternoon with all those gigantic cats. They’re gorgeous.

Don’t ask me how because I still don’t fully know, but Jessica and I found ourselves horrifyingly lost.

Well, I wasn’t particularly concerned because looming up in front of me was something that I couldn’t believe. It was a building. And I’d seen that building before. And I didn’t know that building was here! Y’all…it was LOS PINOS.

This is where the president of Mexico lives, and it’s absolutely wild that you can just walk right up to it. I mean, there’s obviously some kind of security presence, but compared to the four separate Secret Service tents that I had to go through to even approach the White House, this was incredibly lax. And suddenly, I was once again Kate del Castillo. This time I wasn’t La Reina del Sur, I was the maligned first lady, on the run for my life in Ingobernable. Jessica couldn’t believe her bad luck. She hates my shows. Foolish thing.

In the distance, we could see what looked oddly like a roller coaster. Turns out it was actually a roller coaster. The massive park has an amusement park in it, too! I couldn’t get over it. We obviously determined that we needed to go there, but the route was not so simple as we hoped. Instead, we found ourselves trapped in the middle of a busy highway and, deciding to give in to giving up, we grabbed an Uber and got out of there.

It was a long drive, but time means nothing to me in Mexico City. We had to head out for dinner, of course, and I thought it would be great good fun for Jessica to lead us back. She couldn’t point out Canada on a map, so I knew I was in for a good time. I was not wrong.

I was thrilled to stop at a shop called Gandhi on the way, because I got to dip in to look for a newly released book about the insane Kate del Castillo story. If you don’t know it, I’m not going to do a deep dive into this. Look up The Day I Met El Chapo on Netflix for more of the insane details. Quickly though, Kate plays Teresa Mendoza in La Reina del Sur. She plays one of the most successful drug traffickers in history, and in the weirdest turn of events, El Chapo, an actual drug trafficker who is ruthless and wanted became enamored of the show. He watched it in his safe house and in the wildest way, he connected with Kate on Twitter and they decided to meet to discuss details of making a movie based on his life. Along for the ride was, of all people, Sean Penn. Eventually, the president of Mexico claimed that Kate was working with El Chapo and that she was an enemy of the state. She avoided her nation of origin for years because she would have been arrested. It’s insane, so I was glad to get a copy of the book.

As expected, Jessica had no clue where she was or how to get anywhere. I cackled and cackled and cackled. We had to stop for churros and drinks when she finally gave up and allowed me to guide her in the right direction. I never wanted to leave Mexico City. I wish I was still there right now.

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