Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mexico City in Pictures

Paul and Cannon, who have lived in Mexico City for six years.

De calores en el mercado.

Mexico City

Paul and Cathy

Chapultepec castle mural

Chapultepec Park, largest city park in the world.
Vendors add spice to the streets and parks.
Fiesta at Paul's; in the adjoining room, people were dancing salsa.

At the Frida Kahlo Museo Casa Azul

The bridge that connects Frida's and Diego's pads.
San Angel Inn

The Zócalo, one of the largest city squares in the world.
Several of Botero's wonderful "fat lady" statues grace the square.

Zocalo horsies

Palace of Fine Arts

Bellini revolving restaurant on the 45th Floor of the World Trade Center
Delicioso outdoor cafe breakfast.

Perros in Parque Mexico

Mercados galore within walking distance of Paul's place.
No, these aren't statues, they are xoloitzcuintles.

Dave and me hanging with Diego at Delores' pad.

The fabulous greenhouse cafe at the Delores Olmedo Museum.

Xochimilco canal boat, with champagne.

With Raymundo, our driver extraordinaire.

Dinner con amigos.

Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.

Standing where the ancients did.
Our appetites sparked by all that climbing, we ate a great meal at La Gruta, a restaurant in a cave.
Sabor Amor...the flavor of love.

(Photos by Dave Rhine)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Day in Mexico City

What do hairless dogs and peacocks have in common?
Xoloitzcuintles...when people say the word, it sounds to me like "sho-lo-squint-ees."
They're both unusual animals.  And they both live on the grounds of the Dolores Olmedo Museum.  Dolores Olmedo, who died in 2002, was good friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  Olmedo's former home is a gorgeous property featuring the work of Rivera and Kahlo, as well as Olmedo's vast collection of pre-Hispanic, colonial, folk, modern and contemporary art. 

Diego Rivera loved hairless dogs (called xoloitzcuintles) and gave two to his friend Olmedo.  The dogs on the premises are now the ninth generation.  The peacocks strut all over the grounds, fanning out their colorful beauty for great photo opportunities.

After they fan out, they turn slowly like a showgirl exhibiting her costume.

Like the Casa Azul I wrote about in the last entry, this museum is alive with the sense of creativity, of someone who lived a lively, expansive life.   It was an otherworldly feeling walking the grounds and rooms with light rain drifting down.  What an amazing multitude of statues, pottery, paintings, photographs, furniture, and various other objects.  I was especially struck by how prolific Diego Rivera was; he worked in such a wide variety of styles and media.

When our eyes were starting to cross taking it all in, we went to the cafe, which is the former greenhouse.  The only customers, we sat in the glass building, watching the soft rain.  As we sampled cappucinos, hot chocolate, chicken tortas, and orange cake, we agreed this was best museum food we've ever had.

Our next stop was the Xochimilco canals a few minutes drive away.  I had no idea Mexico City had an old canal system you could take a boat down until Dave found about it online prior to our trip.

Similar to our boat.  We have a ton of pictures I'll upload later.
I understand the canals can be very crowded with tourists on weekends.  We hit it right on a Wednesday with very few people around.  Paul, our resident Spanish speaker, bartered the guys down to a reasonable price--and we were off for two hours on the water, just the four of us in a very colorful boat.

As you float down the canals, other boats approach selling beer, food, and handicrafts.  My favorite boats were filled with musicians.  For a few pesos, they'll play you a tune.  I loved singing "Guantanamera" with the band, one of the few songs I know in Spanish.

Paul opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot he had generously bought and that Dave had hauled to the boat in a backpack.  Sipping champagne, we watched the shore life drift by:  modest houses with dogs lounging around, elegant houses with tiled patios, and many nurseries abundant with colorful flowers.

Another dreamy moment brought to you by Mexico City.

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."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mexico City, Day 1

Paul said he loves living in Mexico City because it's not as organizado as the U.S.  And you certainly feel that sense of "disorganization" in his charmingly chaotic neighborhood called Condesa.

Walking Condesa is a delight of sight, smell, and sound.
We've been here for just a day, and I'm struck by the patchwork quality of the architecture.  Also, there's a non-linear nature to the car- and foot-traffic, a bohemian flair to the variety of ways people dress, and a plethora of personas in the streets doing everything from eating in the numerous sidewalk cafes to selling magazines, candy, fruit, and shoeshines.  A guy ringing a bell walking down the street, Paul told us, was signaling to people he would sharpen their knives.  A honking noise let people know they could bring their garbage out to the truck rolling through the 'hood.

In Paul's apartment building, a neighbor's phone ringing might send you rushing to your own phone.  Last night at 10:30 p.m., as I lay in the cool sheets with the window open to the dark night, I could hear a little kid's sparkling laughter, a neighbor's salsa music, and something that sounded like banging on a pan.  Funny how if this were happening in my own neighborhood, I might be annoyed.  But here I accept it as the colorful nature of this place.  (That's a good reminder to live at home as though I'm on vacation, a mindset I love to cultivate.)

Paul took us into a non-descript building that turned out to be a huge mercado selling every meat, fruit, and vegetable you could imagine in what looked like hundreds of stalls.  The multicolored variety was exciting to behold.  We bought chicken fillets cut and pounded for us on the spot, and avocados bigger and more flavorful than any I've tasted in agriculturally-rich California.

Mexico City has the largest city population in the world after Tokyo and Seoul.
Given all this tumult, the streets we've walked on in Condesa and Roma neighborhoods are suprisingly clean.  This morning as Paul and I walked to his yoga-qigong class, I noticed that a liquid smelling of disinfectant had been poured around the streetlight poles, apparently to wash away dog pee.  (Dogs on leashes of all sizes are ubiquitous here.)

It's also not hot and humid, as I expected.  In the morning I needed a light sweater.  In the afternoon, it probably got into the mid-80s, but in the shade it was quite cool.  Paul ascribed that, in part, to the high altitude.  Compared to much of Mexico, the air here is rather dry.

My new discovery is the michelada.  It's about one-fifth lime juice and the rest beer, served in a chilled glass rimmed with chunky salt. Can you say deliciosa? Nothing like drinking a michelada at a sidewalk cafe, witnessing bright and animated dis-organizado.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Extra, Extra: Life Abounds!

Headlines from our 12-day Southern California odyssey,
on the eve of our departure to Mexico City:


Attacked By A Hawk! On a hike in Canejo Valley, I felt and heard the swift rush of big wings and looked up to see a hawk just a few feet above my head.  I encountered two other hikers who told me that hawk had actually touched their heads with beak or claw.  She must have been protecting her nest.  Good mama. ... "Canejo" means rabbit in Spanish.  On the hike, I also encountered a couple of adorable bunnies with dark bodies and white cottontails.  This hike is walking distance from our friends' lovely suburban neighborhood.  I like how there's nature available almost everywhere you turn in California.

Disco Party Takes Over the Garage. There's nothing like a dad--our friend, Paul--who installs disco balls in the garage and cranks up the tunes.  We boogied with the parents and three boys under age 7 beneath the glittering lights.  And we still had enough energy the next day to go to a sports park to play soccer, frisbee, and baseball!  I enjoy the way these friends make life so fun and rich for their very active boys. Each stop on this trip has been a journey into the different lifestyles of our friends--a reminder that there are so many ways to do this living thing.


Father Lives On Through the Love of Family and Friends.  It was an honor to attend a friend's father's memorial service.  What a moving communal experience--and a reminder that these rituals of music, pictures, stories, food and communion help mark the cycles of life.  My favorite moment was when the 11-year-old grandson spoke, telling us the five things he loved most about his grandfather.  One of them was that he came to the grandson's baseball game even though he was in a wheelchair.

Boys on the boat.

Boat Party Rocks Marina del Rey!  And now for something completely different:  There's nothing like spending time with super fun friends who have a boat called "Chillaxin'"!  The minute you step on board, you feel yourself exhale.  Laughter rolls through the day as naturally as the waves lap the shore.  Being on a boat with friends is love and freedom rolled into one.

The effects of Chillaxin'.

Woman Cavorts on Stage Two Nights in a Row!  Our next stop was North County San Diego where we hung out with friends and family.   At the Del Mar Fair--after riding intense rides with the fearless 9-year-old daughter of our friends, and eating  turkey legs as big as our heads-- we went to hear Cathouse Thursday play on the fairgrounds, a band whose members are friends of my sister. 

Only one hand required.
It's a blast to experience music in a community setting where all ages boogie together.  There was an especially lovely Mexican family dancing, including a young boy in a wheelchair who grinned as he was being jiggled to the music.  Suddenly I heard the lead singer say, "Would the woman in the silver hat please join us on stage?"  I was wearing a sparkly hat and pink sunglasses that I'd just purchased at a booth.  I guess I projected the aura of a fun person who would jump on stage.  So I did--and was handed a tambourine, which I shook as I danced to "My Baby Does the Hanky Panky." 

Tony was a hit with his sparkly party shirt.
The next night we went to a wonderful party at the 50 Friends Vineyard where the same band was playing.  Once again, I was one of several invited on stage to take the party to the next level!  50 Friends is a wonderful endeavor, a kind of co-op winery-in-progress.  My sister is one of the 50.  What magic, with the sun setting, white twinkling lights twining around, grapes growing on the vine, food layed out, and of course, music.  It's so clear that in communal events, the whole is bigger than the sum of its individual parts.

North County San Diego Individuals Charged with Abundance.  When I'm immersed in someone else's world, I enjoy exploring all aspects of it. I realize I can sit in their houses and appreciate what's around me without thinking about what needs to be cleaned or fixed or done as I might in my own environment. Another joy is experiencing others' rituals. For instance, in Encinitas, we went to the SRF service with our friends. There's a Sunday school for kids, in which they are taught to meditate. The adult service also starts with a meditation, which I found centering and calming. The speaker of the day talked primarily about positive thinking being the key to abundance; and that abundance and success are rooted in happiness. Now that's a message I can get behind.

Fresh cream on top.

Afterward, we experienced culinary abundance at Solace & the Moonlight Lounge, a bar and restaurant in Encinitas with the most incredible carmel pecan cinnamon roll.  I also had an amazing warm spinach salad--so fresh and rich.  Our friend Shannon swears their salty dog is the best in the west.  The next day a group of us gathered at Shannon and Tony's house for a BBQ replete with fresh summer foods, wine, and stories.  This Southern California adventure has helped me feel to the core how fortunate I am to have so many fabulous friends in my world.  As Cat Stevens once said, "Communal well-being is central to human life."

Abundance of food and love in Solana Beach.