Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mariachis in Love and Death of a State Poet

Summer 1995, Mexico City Mexico

It was sad leaving Tony and his family behind in Temixco and Cuernavaca, but I had Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning to visit Mexico City before flying back to Portland.

First thing on the agenda: check in to the D.H. Lawrence Hotel, start getting loaded with the half ounce I got from Tony, and then venture out into the city. You never know what might happen with a good buzz, some intense heat and millions of crazy desperate people.

I did some writing in the hotel room while I smoked a few joints. I thought about D.H. Lawrence living here, maybe in this very room, and writing about The Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl. This was the Aztec God which Hernan Cortes impersonated so well in 1521, somehow able to convince the locals that his flea bitten battalion of conquistadors were deities descended from the sky. I tried to feel Lawrence’s presence there, maybe his imaginings still lingered these halls, but his spirit had long since fled and the only thing I channeled was a splitting headache.
I rolled a couple bombers and then left the marijuana wrapped in a towel in the bottom right drawer of the desk. I was three blocks from the Zocalo, which was slowly sinking and tilting farther into the ground, and I heard there was an Anthropological museum showing a section of Tenochtitlan, the ancient city.
There was a room dedicated to human sacrifices and wax models of the priests who used the obsidian blades to cut people’s hearts out. The priests took a psychedelic derived from some plant, and they were tripping the whole time, up on the pyramid, bodies stacked around them.

There were a couple rooms dedicated to training birds of prey, a common thing for the nobles to have for hunting. Also, Tenochtitlan had a highly advanced canal system that served the people’s needs for at least a couple centuries, but then Cortes came with his fear of cleanliness and water as an agent of the devil and just paved over the whole thing. The big church in the Zocalo was also tilting and sinking, held up only by scaffolding and who knows what block and tackle system. Outside people lined up begging, a tent city was built to protest things happening in Chiapas, with vendors lining the alley on either side.

I went in to see the Diego Rivera murals in the government building and was planning to see his and Frida’s house in Coyoacan the next day, Monday. No one told me the Universal Truth that all museums are closed Mondays. I thought that was only barbers. So even though I went all the way out there on the bus, I only saw the outside of the house. The bus driver who took me back to D.F. was the first to explain the truth to me about museums and Mondays the world over.

I left the Zocalo and walked aimlessly through the streets. After about half an hour I came upon a huge plaza with pillars in it. I saw some scattered Mariachi musicians standing around chatting. A few couples were sitting together and being serenaded while others vicariously took in the songs for free, lingering in the park.

I walked on some more, the strains of Volver, Volver crying behind me, and soon came upon a big crowd of people. They were all gathered around a large building watching the coffin that was slowly, methodically being carried down the steps to the waiting hearse. Funeral music played and the widow cried. The crowd parted in front of me as I trained my camera on the procession. A man shot past me and his bodyguards brushed me aside, all captured in the photo. Someone said it was Mayor Cardenas, he had just given a speech at the Bellas Artes Building, eulogizing Octavio Paz.