Friday, December 21, 2007

Arrival

Dingy, dark, and faded by the sun with a layer of dust placed by the wind; old, scarred and wrinkled by years of work; unordered, disheveled and disobedient – these describe the way I like life. For some unexplained reason I’m repulsed by the luster and veneer that keep truth, life and genuineness hidden. Perhaps it’s the result of some deep psychological flaw but this is no time to look inward. There’s too much unpolished life to be experienced out there. There’s no time to search for an explanation in the burrows of my mind and thoughts. I’m in my version of heaven.

I have often wondered what it’s like to have a family and be desperate enough to cross the border knowing no English and having only memories of shared myths, multitudinous second-hand stories and a few personal accounts by repatriates to guide me. Not knowing the language must add a tremendous layer of stress. I don’t know what it’s like. Being in Mexico and knowing only a handful of Spanish words adds not to stress but to a sense of excitement, anticipation and discovery.

A steward on the plane mentioned gate M1 so we had a clue where to begin. Following cyptic Spanish signs and pictographs we joined the end of a long line and waited with passports and completed forms. A polite young lady who called me “Mr. Paul” swiped the passports and stamped our forms. The forms were free and will be needed to leave the country. The cost of replacement if lost: 42 US dollars.

We retrieved our bags and presented a second form at customs, put our bags on a conveyor that ran them through a security scanner, retrieved them a second time, pressed a red lottery button that illuminated a green light and won! A red light would have indicated a search of our bags. I saw waiting personnel and empty tables but no searches.

We threaded the crowds searching for a yellow counter and found one quickly. A ticket for a taxi ride cost 132 pesos (about $13) for the shuttle to the Cathedral Hotel. (Only pesos and American Express accepted.) With ticket in hand and only 1 hour after landing we exited and found a man who appeared to be in his fifties. He spoke no English but after a quick glance at the written name and address of the hotel loaded our bags and took us on an exciting ride.

Yesterday I wrote that no way in Hades would I rent a car. I reaffirm that decision. We used every lane, ignored painted lines, pedestrians and Flagstaff’s version of traffic courtesy. It was like listening to a reading of good poetry or watching a confident surfer play with a monstrous wave. I salute our driver. He was good. We had gone about three miles when Julie leaned over and said “Give him a good tip!”

Had a porter not materialized, I wouldn’t have realized we had arrived. The exterior of the building didn’t advertise itself. Stepping into our hotel was a huge step. The street was dingy, crowded, loud and a little intimidating but the porter led us into a clean quiet world of shining marble and pressed uniforms. The porter, like me, wasn’t bi-lingual but he took us to our room and pointed out the features which included a tap labeled “filtered water” and wireless internet (which he couldn’t point to). Interestingly, there are only two electrical outlets. There is one in the bathroom and one behind the television. We had packed a three prong to two prong adapter and need it.

Hunger led us to the hotel restaurant. Aztec fish for Julie and salmon back for me. A red thread lay on top of my bowl which was filled with salmon, boiled egg, potatoes, and small sea shells that had been home to some mollusk. I pulled on the red thread and discovered it was the feeler of a crawfish. Beneath Julies fish was a pad from some form of prickly pear cactus. I’ve wanted to try cactus and took the opportunity for a taste.

After we set out on a walk around the block. It was dark and the street lights where high and widely spaced. The semi-darkness was noticeable. There were no lighted signs advertising stores, sales or gadgets. The darkness and the sidewalk were filled with people who overflowed into the street. We chose to tempt the fates and traffic by joining those in the street. A strange thing happened. We realized we were two of a small minority going the wrong way. We checked both sides of the street and it was the same. The obvious solution was to turn around which we did – and we were still going the wrong way! All evening it appeared the crowd was going west if we walked east – or the crowd moved from the street to the sidewalk if we chose the sidewalk. Hand-in-hand was walked and laughed and stopped occasionally to look in a shop.

I probably haven’t made our first evening in Mexico City sound attractive to most Americans but it was enjoyable -- extremely enjoyable.

3 Comments:

Blogger Buffalo said...

Extremely well written. Truly enjoyed the reading.

12/21/2007 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger SimplyTim said...

Oh, this is ever so much better than ANY glossy travel magazine.

Keep 'er comin.

Tim

12/21/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger THE Michael said...

The hell with actually GOING anywhere......I'll just follow along with YOU guys!

12/21/2007 11:39:00 AM  

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