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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(by Levon who is listening to American Analog)

I’ve been sitting here at the table having coffee with my cousin back in Donna, TX.  We’re swapping accounts of Mexico like it’s someplace further than five minutes from here and longer ago than yesterday.  Over the last week we’ve crossed Mexico again, six weeks after we did it the first time in a 33 hour bus seat.  Breaking it up is better.

We were braver on the return, but also much heavier: one 30 liter pack at full capacity of fabric and art materials, three small backpacks, a guitar case (stuffed), two shoulder bags, and a plastic sack with ten of Ashley’s paintings on hand stretched canvases.  The trip continued to be a learning experience; less jungle gear and shorter books.

We met our Tennessean friends Lindsay and Joy last Saturday and began a new chapter in the Mexican rambles.  We began by walking in the wrong direction from the bus station and ending up in Boca del Rio instead of Veracruz.  It was not our first time to be lost in Mexico, and better to be lost in a resort district than others I have seen.  and Taxi.

Back in Veracruz we wandered the ports and colonial era streets, toured a fortress and found a cheap hotel to drop the piece of Chiapas we had been lugging.  We lay on the beach all day and took the first hot showers Ashley and I had had since January 26th at 8:15 AM and 8:27 AM.

There is music everywhere at night and the town square has Danzon, one of the traditional styles we had just been taught.  The men wore suits and hats and the ladies waved fans to the music that is like a big band jazz version of salsa that feels elegant rather than sensual.  Ashley and I, underdressed, practiced near the markets where an old lady with a cane found us and gave us some pointers.  She reached up and patted me heartily on the shoulder and we were all smiling.

Sunday we bused again to Mexico City and stayed at Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral in the town center beside the Cathedral and National Palace.  I think it’s possible for everything I’ve heard of Mexico city to be true.  It is modern and impressive, very urban and trendy, yet suddenly can be extremely filthy and I don’t doubt very dangerous.  We never found great food, which was okay because the hostel included two meals a day (which weren’t very good either).

Like any city, some will try to give you a hard time.  A nice restaurant in the trendy Zona Rosa tried to over charge us by 30% without an itemized check.  We asked for one.  We found an extra drink, a wrong portion, and a mathematical error of 125 pesos.  Bienvenidos.

Other hard times happen in subways: a herding of elbows, a ramming of running starts into closing doors, and a body-to-body mass of persons.  If you are female, as were my three travel partners, the trip includes all the harassment of invisible hands that one can imagine in such a situation.  An old lady was nearly trampled.  A ticket costs 3 pesos, or about a quarter, and this is a city with almost twice the population of New York City.  I speculate that the population of NYC is at all times riding the Mexico City subway system.  It is a sporting event.

Everything else I can say about Mexico City will be wonderful things.  We explored Coyoacan and toured the Casa Azul, the museum and home of Frida Kahlo where she lived with Diego Rivera.  This part I will leave for Ashley to say.  She stared at a Diego Rivera mural for a morning.  She may mention that also.

A window of Frida's house

We took a tour offered by our hostel to sites like Tlatelolco, the plaza of the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, the Church of our Lady of Guadelupe, and finally Teotihuacan.  The inspiration and history of these places is profound enough that I could never forget it.  We’ve all read the Humanities books, this is why they say, “You just have to see it.”  My teacher Mrs. Ashby said that, and she has always been right.


I love hostels for their transient, dissimilar souls; eager to share the three pertinent cultures: the one they brought, your’s, and the one in which all have chosen to experience in the present.  While I was sleeping off a fever, I missed the greatest example: the three Tennessean ladies teaching a German, two Austrians, a Canadian and an Australian how to square dance to the music of Cruz Contreras and the Black Lillies while on the roof overlooking the Spanish Cathedral built above the toppled ruins of the conquered Tenochtitlan.  There is such good advice readily available in hostels that people often have learned a city’s best secrets while they are just gumping about making chit chat.  Call it trading goodwill in the urgency of adventure.

from the front steps of Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral

Our bags are all in the car now.  We celebrated our return oddly by going to Pizza Hut.  It’s strange what is comforting, also strange in that there were Pizza Huts all over Mexico.  Yet we somehow felt childlike in driving by this one and saying yes.  Later, we went to a raucous biker bar where my cousin has a silver jewelry booth.  It was Karaoke night and I don’t know what came over me.  Selections: Billy Joel “Movin Out” and John Prine “Illegal Smile.”  My actual words were “Anything Billy Joel and anything John Prine.”

Juan Diego hears the heavenly sound

Tomorrow we head to Austin, TX where I have a gig at the Crush Lounge with the band American Analog from Evansville, IN for the South by Southwest Music and Film Festival.  This came about because, conveniently, my keyboard was nearby in Western Kentucky, and I was conveniently nearby in Mexico.

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