Monday, June 18, 2012

"Painting completed my life." - Frida Kahlo

It's dusk, and it's raining in Mexico City.  A gentle rain.  We are back at Paul's apartment.  Dave's reading a magazine, Paul and Cathy are resting in their rooms, and I'm looking out at the golden lights in the neighbors' windows.  Somehow this is a fitting end, a peaceful end, to an unforgettable day.

Frida, Diego and wedding attire:  motifs of this blog entry.
There's something wonderful about vacationing with a group of friends.  This morning as I did yoga in the living room, laughter and shreds of conversation drifted to me from my three compatriots in the kitchen.  It reminded me of that warm, secure feeling I used to feel as a kid in bed when I could hear the adults chatting in another room.

We had a leisurely morning of coffee and tea, followed by fresh fruit, yogurt, and omelets made by Cathy's artistic hands.  She used ham and guacamole left over from last night's party.

Yes, last night's party.  I must back up:

Dozens of Paul's amigos--many of whom he's met in dancing classes--had descended on the apartment.  Earlier, Dave and Paul had cleared the living room of furniture.  The hardwood floor was perfect for dancing the salsa, cha cha, danzon, and however else we were inspired to move.  Dave and I know nothing about such dances, but when people pulled us to the dance floor, we learned we could do more than we ever thought possible when guided by experienced hands. 

Enhancing the fiesta were micheladas, tequilla, fresh guacamole, conversations in half-English-half-Spanish--and lots of laughter.

So: back to the leftovers.  Not only food but felicidades lingered the next morning.  It was almost noon when we decided, upon Paul's advice, to take a trip to Coyoacán.

By cab it takes about half an hour to get to Coyoacán from Paul's Condesa neighborhood.  Cab drivers here are like Gulliver, magically shrinking and expanding to fit through impossible spaces in traffic.  We were dropped off at a lovely, tree-lined Zocalo, teeming with Sunday strollers and those who hoped to sell them colorful things.

Similar to Dave's wedding shirt. 
A few months ago, I mentioned to Paul by email that we thought we might find our wedding outfits in Mexico.  No pressure, just that if we happened to come across a guayabera for Dave and a dress for me--something for a casual Hawaiian beach wedding--that'd be cool.  Paul said he doesn't pay attention to women's clothing stores, but a few weeks later he came across a place that looked promising.  So that was where we were now headed.

When the four of us wandered into Ayllu we were immediately drawn to a single dress displayed near the front.  It was so lovely but a bit more formal than I thought I'd wear, and white (well, off-white) to boot.  But Cathy said I must try it on.  The men urged me too.

It fit like it was designed for me.   I knew I was in for it when I walked out of the dressing room with tears in my eyes, to be greeted by Dave's teary smile as he gazed at me.  He was wearing a white guayabera that looked like it was tailor-made for him.

For months, instead of "searching" for wedding outfits, we trusted the right ones would cross our path.  Dave said we'd know them when we saw them.  Boy was he right.

Our next stop in Coyoacán was the Museo Frida Kahlo Casa Azul.  I've always wanted to come here, especially after seeing an exhibit of her work in San Francisco.  It's a striking blue building that was once the home of Frida Kahlo's family and then became a place where Frida and Diego Rivera lived.  In 1958, four years after her death, it was turned into a museum.  

Azul to the max.
"Museum" seems like the wrong word for this place.  It's a space that hums with creative energy.  We were all especially moved by Frida's gorgeous studio, where her easel (given to her by Nelson Rockfeller) and hundreds of her art supplies still sit.  Many of her works--finished and unfinished--are displayed throughout the house, as is her sweet little bed and one of her trusses that held together her broken body.  It was fascinating, too, to see the bedroom where Diego spent his last days (which is also the same room where Trotsky stayed when exiled).  

It seemed that Frida and Diego were fond of miniatures; there are tiny objects everywhere.  Many of them are ancient indigenous artifacts.  You can feel the lives lived by the former inhabitants and their many guests pulsing through the house and the beautiful patios and gardens.  It made me think of the four of us--friends with long histories who are spending all this time together in a co-creative spirit.
Apparently living apart but connected was their style.
We experienced more Frida and Diego mojo by next going to their House-Studio Museum in the San Ángel section of the city, just a few miles away.  It's actually two houses connected by a bridge; one house was hers, the other his.  Only his side is open for viewing--and it's filled with amazing objects, including huge, eerie papier-mache puppets, his typewriter, and many of his art-making materials.  As I marveled over Diego's partially-used pastels in an open box, Paul captured the feeling by saying, "Can't you just feel his DNA everywhere in here?"

I know Frida and Diego had major conflict in their lives, what with his infidelities and her physical ailments.  But spending time in their living spaces makes it clear that their lives were very rich in many ways--and that in spite of (and perhaps also because of) their conflicts, their creative and intellectual energy thrived.

Just when I thought the day couldn't get any more magical, Paul steered us across the drizzly street to the San Angel Inn.  The first words out of Cathy's mouth as we walked through the arched doorway were, "I love this place."

Cathy loves old stuff, and this place delivers in romantic style. It's an old Carmelite monestary converted into a restaurant.  We were seated in the hacienda-style outdoor garden area, open air but protected from the rain.

Of the angels, indeed.
Apparently we're not the only ones to dig this place.  Other visitors have included Muhammad Ali, Rock Hudson, Brigitte Bardot, Neil Armstrong, and Octavio Paz.

As we drank sangria, Paul called the three musicians to our table and asked them to play his favorite song, the Tango version of "Volver," followed by a song about how a man's novia seemed destined to come into this life to bring him happiness.  Dave and I could just feel the meaning of the song.  Our friends smiled at us in our obvious ardor.  But when the moment shifted from lovely to a bit sappy, we re-directed our passion to the food, which certainly deserved it.  Paul's duck was moist and served in a savory sauce.  Dave's breaded veal cutlet was a delicious, generous portion--as were Cathy's and my chile rellenos.

On our drive back home, rain misting the taxi's windshield, I said:  "That was a magical day."  Paul told us of a PR campaign to encourage visitors here:  "Magico Mexico."  That's one slogan that's right on.

"Frida and Deigo lived in this house 1929-1954."





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