Monday, August 01, 2005

M24 Get Out of the City

"Summer days are long and lonely.
Cars are moving slowly.
The streets are filled with air so still.

I'm trying to get out of the city.
Trying to get out of the city.

Everybody's angry.
It's hard not to be lazy.
It's a bad time to have work to do.

I'm trying to get out of the city.
Trying to get out of the city."
Ivy - Get Out of the City

I've been feeling an inexplicably urgent need to get out of the city for the past two weekends.

It just didn't jump off. I suppose I am like the jets here; in need of extra fuel just to get off the ground at 7,300 feet above sea level.

I got the extra boost I needed this weekend. Friday night late, my friend Peter, the Danish founder of Mexico City's only bicycle messenger firm, Ciclos Mensajeros, his girlfriend Arlette, her daughter Gala and I made the five hour trip to the Pie de la Cuesta, a small, rustic and waiting-to-be-developed Pacific beach just north of Acapulco. We didn't arrive until 3am.

The next day when I wasn't sleeping in, I was lounging in the hammocks at Casa Blanca, a sleepy hotel abutting the beach. It's the kind of place that's so chilled out it takes just a day to get used to. Here in the shade you can relax as a parade of beach vendors proffers fruit cups, mango cocktails complete with spicy jalapeno pepper and salt (!?), shrimp, clothing, pot and even - this is my favorite - taxidermied squirrels. I hope I didn't give away anyone's Christmas gift.

The hotel has an unpretentious vibe and is owned by a friendly and unsurprisingly flamboyant Frenchman. During the day mellow dub vibes flow from the outdoor speakers segueing to a more up-tempo house vibe at night. It's the perfect aural back drop for a perfect place.

The place attracts mainly in-the-know European tourists and Mexican middle class beachgoers. There is nothing chi-chi about it yet, that's precisely its charm. There is not much to do save lounge, relax, swim, eat and fish. Did I mention watch the sun rise and set? It's not overrun by any stretch and you won't find ridiculously luxuriant accommodations, internet cafes, tourists shops or fancy restaurants. If you want that, you can have it in spades up the road in Acapulco. The entire weekend, I left my cell phone off. When I came back, there were no extreme emergencies that I missed out on.

Surprise, surprise.

What did surprise me was the conservative beach attire of the typical Mexican beach goer and their generally shy attitudes toward their bodies. My perspective may be a little skewed since the last time I was on a beach I was in Rio de Janeiro where thongs are de rigeur. Here, however, I was shocked to see people swimming in the ocean fully clothed. I also saw full peice bathing suits on young women. And alas, there was not a single thong to be spied. Truth be told the excess clothing shielded us from the dark, unspoken underbelly of libertine Rio; the specter of grandma in a thong.

It was still an interesting visual commentary on the contrasts of the two societies that seem much one the same in the eyes of most Americans.

We often confuse Mexico with Brazil and vice versa. But the two countries aren't a whole lot more similar to each other than they are to, say, Canada.

Firstly, the girls in Mexico are not all hot goddess-predators throwing themselves at the feet of men. Quite the opposite is true. Most live at home and display a shyness and innocence I witnessed the beach when I saw two Mexicanas reluctantly disrobe then run to the ocean in their full piece swim-wear only to return again an instantly cover themselves again. And one of them was actually kind of hot.

Thongs can be witnessed on the city streets of Rio. Do I need to say more? Yes, and it gets even better than that but I will save the good stuff for another post.

Further, Mexico is a country which is more conservative, inwardly focused, Catholic and "family value" oriented. (Hey they have a presidential election coming up next year, maybe they could take our family value president off our hands?) Brazil on the other hand tends to be more focused and open to the outside world due to its the links to the rest of the world stemming from its relatively open immigration policies. Everyone knows it's more liberal in its sexual mores but this also holds true with its progressive politics.

For the record, in Brazil Portuguese, not Spanish, is spoken. And speaking of Latin America, both Mexico and Brazil are in Latin America, yet only Brazil is in South America. So if I am asked "how do you like living in South America?" I have to say, "I don't know because I still live in North America". A lot of people think it's hot in Mexico. But much of the country is mountainous, D.F. included, so the thermometer never goes north of 80F degrees and there's no humidity. It's the land of perpetual spring. Most of the population of Mexico is urban and interior. A more rushed urban culture like New York City is prevalent. Contrast to Brazil; while most of the population of Brazil is also urban, it is situated near the near the hot, humid, equatorial coast and thus a more laid back beach culture akin to say, California, is predominant.

So that's the cultural and geographic lesson for today. I know a lot of it seems obvious, but based on the queries I get, apparently it's anything but.

Over the weekend I couldn't get enough of the water and the waves. The sound of the sea. Sand. Sun. Pelicans skimming the cresting waves with the guided precision of one of Donald Rumfeld's "humane bombs". Saturday night the entire beach was gathered to watch the sunset. It was one of the most spectacular I have ever witnessed. The sun, a giant burning sphere descending into the sea. I half expected the sea to start boiling. When the sun was below the sea, the beach goers spontaneously applauded. I will post pictures when I resuscitate my .mac site which is still down, by the way!

Monday we headed back to D.F., a theoretical four-hour drive. We were making good time going 100mph down the toll road, the most expensive mile for mile in the world, with repeated tolls exacting the kingly sum of 100 pesos or nearly $10usd a pop. The road does a good job at masquerading as a first world autobahn. That's until you bottom your ride out and scrape pavement on one of the many hidden drop-offs. We saw a fallen motorcyclist due to the selfsame drop that woke up our entire car. Ouch.

As we neared the edge of D.F. it was my turn to drive, in a Brian Kemler first and likely last, manning the helm of a motor vehicle on the mean streets of D.F. I actually thought I would get to work by noon. That was until I helped get us lost, and practically had a panic attack. People drive in this madness on a daily basis. Now I know that the reaction of just laying on the horn is a reflection of how these people feel on the inside. I know, I felt it too. But I didn't lay on the horn.

It took another three hours to get home and I didn't get into the office till a shameful 3pm, as noted repeatedly by my co-workers who seem to be quite good at making mental time stamps of the office comings and goings.

Let the record reflect, I stayed till 8pm the last two nights out of guilt and shame in violation of my own policy to leave by 6pm!

D.F. seems to have a gravity all of its own, but outside its borders lie vast, varied, interesting and relaxing places. I wish it were easier to come and go, but the difficulty makes the trip all the more worthwhile.


Nana said...

By chance I came across your blog.
It's nice to see that you are valiant enough to cruise el D.F. in two wheels.
Welcome to Mexico: the adventure is only beginning.


Brian Kemler said...

Well, it's not easy, but it just proves the theory that humans get used to anything. I am no so sure how I feel about being part of the experiment and getting used to this :-) But's it's actually fun riding to and from work!