Sunday, August 14, 2005

M25 Closing One Chapter and Opening Another

I feel relieved. I finished my (paper) journal today. It's 120 pages long and it took me a year and a half to write. It's only the second journal I've ever completed in my life. The other one took four years to complete.

On the first page of my newly completed journal, I wrote:

"My last journal was something of a watershed for me. What I'd like to do with this journal is, firstly to continue the habit of writing more regurlarly and secondly, build upon it by pushing the limits of recording events and devling into the creative realm of fiction."

I didn't write any fiction, but that doesn't mean my journal wasn't filled with its critical elements; drama, action, conflict, love, hate, passion, change and all too occasionally, glimmers of happiness. I often feel I am flying standby on an emotional roller coaster.

Today, in a fabulous and newly discovered cafe in Colonia Roma, Azul y Blanco (Blue and White, Orizaba 161 y Queretaro), I reflected on the last page of my journal.

"I am feeling more relaxed. I rode around the city taking pictures. It's nice to reconnect and continually rediscover a city with a seemlingly infinite supply of new and interesting places such as this fabulous cafe from which I write. The cafe has an antique espresso machine and art by a Mexican artist named Carlos Marquez. I stumbled apon the cafe just riding around and I decided to stop and check it out. Even the music agreed with me. They were playing some wonderful Brazilian Bossa Nova.

One of many incredible blue and white paintings by Carlos Marquez at Cafe Azul y Blanco, stumbled upon while riding the photogenic streets of Distrito Federal.

Maybe I've been pushing things too much as my friend Peter suggested yesterday."

Peter, a Dane and founder of DF's only bike messenger company, CiclosMensajeros, is acquiring a taste for baseball in general and not surprisingly, the Boston Red Sox in particular. Peter didn't know much about baseball, and unprompted, he watched a Sox game the other day. This is what I like about Peter, he is completely and totally open to new things and needs no prompting. I find this is a very rare trait in people and this is perhaps why I consider him to be one of my better friends these days.

He was impressed by the relaxed batting stance of David Ortiz Boston's super-slugger. He said this guy was just so chilled, it was like he was just waiting for the perfect pitch to come so he could knock it out of the stadium. And he was. Peter picked this up on first glance, perhaps because he is a similarly relaxed and unphased person. Minutes later, he hit a grand slam and the Red Sox won, continuing a great follow-on season to last year's World Series win.

It's not like getting stressed really ever gets you anywhere. The best athletes and most efffective people in the world, are also the most relaxed.

I am "putting that one on a shelf in my brain".

I wrote further, "It's all about embracing what is right now, because it's not always going to be and I am going to miss it when it's gone. As much as I want to be the author of my own endings, that is simply impossible in life. For endings are only beginnings. And neither are necessarily good or bad because because they are in or out of concert with the outcome we set out to write".

The fact is when I am here, I often bemoan the fact that I am single, the fact that I can't exacly ride my bike in Rock Creek Park or out the Potomac, the fact that I am sometimes feeling trapped and claustraphobic and the fact that for the time being I am powerless to change that and there is no exit strategy in what was supposed to be a one year move. But today I felt like I could be here for another year.

I just enjoyed DF for what it is, a fabulously diverse, interesting, colorful and world-class city filled with amazing cafes, art, restaurants and yes traffic and pollution. It's an up and coming city. The kind of city that is not yet acclaimed and concomitantly, not overwhelmed by acclaim. It's like a city of cool neighborhoods before the suburbanites discover they're cool.

I am in on the ground floor.

The other day at a work lunch some co-workers asked me jokingly if I had been to Giribaldi. When I replied "yes", they laughed in disbelief that a gringo would have gone there. But I had gone, and in fact, it's home to one of my favorite antique markets. I buy little paintings of miracles on tin there. I learned at the Frida Kahlo museum that Frida loved these little tin paintings too and there's, in fact, a whole room in her house devoted to them. They have a Spanish name that I am forgetting right now.

Perhaps they laughed because they themselves hadn't been and could not imagine a foreigner going where they themselves don't go. But sometimes it takes being a foreigner to appreciate what's right in front of your own eyes. But I take pride in the fact that I do not hold myself up in my house or in my car (that I don't have any more). That I get out on my bike to see things that others don't or have long since forgotten.

I wonder how much people see of this city cruising around everywhere in their cars? Always going somewhere yet never being anywhere.

As crazy as riding bikes around DF sounds, it's the best way to see this city to connect to it and to discover its fabulousity. And in that way, to me, cars, buses and taxis all seem like ways not to see this city. Weekends provide a rare, relatively traffic-free window for exploration and recreation. On the bike I've seen more things than would be humanly possible by foot, taxi, car, micro or subway.

Perhaps that is how I've seen as much in so little time. Almost everything cool I've discovered has been on bike. Whether archictecture like the fabulous old theaters and buildings of Roma, cafes, monuments, the art garden, San Angel, the antique markets, street art, parks or old hulks of buses, I've found it all riding. I am pretty sure that aside from some of my fellow cyclists, I've seen more than most people who've lived behind the winshield of a car. I wonder if they know what an incredible city is in their midst?

But I know what it's like not to see. I am not talking about just because you're behind the wheel of a car. Much of my life is spent behind the windscreen of my own brain. Perpetually wrapped up in thought. Fears of the future, regrets from the past, neglect of the present. Not living in emotional time instead of living in real time. In that way, I am just like the drivers missing out on the city.

When I got home from the cafe, I somehow felt a chapter of my life was closed. I was both glad and releived. I can only hope that I will be happier or at least more accepting than I have been since I started my last journal.

Finishing a journal should seem like a rather arbitrary event with no greater significance than say a birthday or New Year's. There's no real reason I should feel differently, yet I do.

Maybe it because the pages of my new journal are still blank.

More pictures from today here: Photography by Brian Kemler

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nor del terror said...

hey...that`s the "enanos the tapanco"!!! i used to go there some sundays night to listenning tango... mmmmmh sorry my english is not good enough but well, i have to try.
saludos de una fan de la colonia roma! te estaré visitando.

Brian Kemler said...

Gracias de dejar tu mensaje. Brian

gwadzilla said...

I have kept journals before
I can not read my own hand writing....

if DC is still here in a few years... Rock Creek will be here as well
often I yearn for the Rockies questioning my urban existence

it is not so much where we are
but what we do with our time in each local
I think I do pretty well with DC
mountainbiking and the team that you invited me along as a member is a big part of that

good seeing you the other night
sorry it was so short
that is the life of a father of two making contact with an international traveler