Wednesday, May 31, 2006

M30 The Museum of My Childhood Colonia Doctores

Jardin Dr. Ignacio Chavez is a park that stradles Avenida Cuauhtemoc on the fringe of what is reputed to be one of Mexico City's shadiest neighborhoods, Colonia Doctores. Doctores, for short, is known as a place to find cheapest rents and to avoid stopping your car if you like your hubcaps and gold fillings.

But to me, it is home of one of my favorite markets in Mexico City: the Museum of My Childhood. While a fraction of the size of a typical flea market, it more than makes up in quality what it lacks in size.

If it was thrown away somewhere else, you can bet that they've saved it here. And if they had went out and tried to put together a place with more pieces of my past, they couldn't have done a better job than what has been randomly assembled here.

Like most of the best finds, I stumbled upon it while riding my bike. At first I thought it was an ordinary market. But on closer inspection, it turned out to be the motherlode of antique markets. I have never seen anything like. Not in a flea market or store. I suspect eBay is the only thing that could actually rival it.

While I can't claim to have ever owned a "Continental Transistor Radio-Phono", I am pretty sure it was the Ipod of its day. Sleak in its faux-gold package, it contains a still working radio and portable record player that I have yet to test. Its single speaker still picks up radio and lends a low-fi charm and authenticity to the Cuban music I pick up from my dining room.

There is something about its sound that is real and reminds me of the truth that those who love music the most are not necessarily those blessed with the best equipment. That music can be enjoyed by the poorest among us. It even came with batteries to boot.

My parents probably threw this find out two decades ago. Though it is possible Mattel Football 2 dwells somewhere in the recesses of our basement, which is something of a museum itself. However, I wasn't going to take any chances on reclaiming this piece of my past and certainly not for $5US Dollars - batteries included.

My younger brother, Justin, and I passed many a Saturday night playing Football 2 and ogling the Solid Gold Dancers while sucking down cokes and eating cheese Doritos.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

M29 Bodas Mexicanas (Mexican Weddings)

Someone asked me if all my friends were married. Come to think of it, all but one is. I myself am still working on the girlfriend thing.

This spring weddings have been sprouting up like flowers. I was honored to attend two weddings of my closest Mexican friends; Claudia's wedding to Stefan and Fernando's wedding to Loary.

When it comes to weddings, Mexicans go for broke. They rent out giant haciendas (huge farms with castle-like buildings, moats and walls) have massive white dinner tents the size of football fields, multiple dinners, bands, dj's, mariachi performances, lucha libre masks and even mock bull-fights. And to top that off, so to speak, alcohol that flows like the Amazon er El Rio Grande.

Even the most extravagent American wedding would look austere by comparision.

As formal as Mexican weddings are, they are often characterized by the kind of improvision at which Mexicans thrive and us gringos cringe.

Just prior the ceremony, Claudia asked me if I would pass her "lucky coins" during the ceremony. This is a symbolic ritual presumably meant to signify luck and prosperity.

It would mean that I would have to be onstage, suddenly cast into the limelight as a member of the wedding party. I practically blushed with honor. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but it turned out her childhood best friend was supposed to do this and no one had heard from him. Plan B for Brian.

About 10 minutes before the actual ceremony, he showed up. So much for my fifteen minutes, but I had another fifteen coming.

Claudia and Stefan invited me to make a two-hour Bossa-Nova mix for the dinner. The plan, however simple, like many things in Mexico, worked out to be complicated.

Give the sound man the CD, insert it into CD player, press play. Voila! We would then we'd be entreated to some of the nicest romantic Brazilian Bossa-Nova this side of my favorite country.

Instead, I arrived underneath the wedding tent, to my ear-stabbing horror, to a Muzak version of "Dust In the Wind". For a funeral, maybe, but a wedding?!?! That right that there would have been enough to ruin mine.

I went to the head table. Claudia implored us to "Do Something" in Spanish. I went over to the mixing board and tried to explain to them the should play the Bossa-Nova CD's. They said there was a problem, so I proffered my Ipod. But aparently they were missing the cord to connect it to the mixing board, even though Claudia had asked for that.

The missing cord then suddenly materialized, but that didn't solve the drama. Then they couldn't figure out (after reassuring me they had taken Ipod 101) that you had to tweak the volume to get the right sound. So it sounded like were were listening inside a tin can.

For some reason they thought they should make their talents known by mixing tracks between the Ipod and the CD's. That wouldn't have been such a disaster on its own, if they hadn't kept playing all the songs twice. EQ'ing forget it. For the most part, my fastidious ears were the only ones that really noticed. I was flattered to receive compliments about my playlist.

After a delicious gourmet meal, dessert and more drinks than I care to or probably could remember, the dancing started. They hired a band which played mostly covers of wedding and Mexican pop standards. They got eveyone dancing their asses off. It's probably the only time in my life I will hear the Village People's "YMCA" played right after Daddy Yankee's regaeton anthem "Dame mas gasolina". I was absolutely delighted when they covered Belanova , my favorite Mexican pop group.

But it worked and it was 100% unselfconscience fun. As if the music wasn't enough, we celebrated their wedding while conducting mini-celebrations for carnival, mardi-gras, the running of the bulls and luche-libre. The later is Mexican "free fighting" which is basically this country's masked equivalent to our WWF wrestling. Though luche-libre has more culture poignance due to its link to the use of masks in pre-colombian Mexico - but that's another story.

The handed out feathers, hats, long ballons and even a picture frame. By the time the band ended, it was time for another dinner. Then the garter toss which was hillarious as Stefan pulled from underneath Clau's dress an enormous gag bra and garter belt before tossing the real thing to a gaggle of solteras (single women). Shortly after the mariachis entered and played for seemingly hours.

While they played, there was a mock bull fight with Stefan as the madator. After all that, the mariachis left and we switched venues to what appeared to be a Mexican beer hall to dance the rest of the night to a DJ. By my watch, the wedding began at 1pm and ended around 5am without a minute's pause.

More photos here: Photography by Brian Kemler

Selected tracks from Claudia and Stefan's playlist:
Track - Artist
1 A Ra - Joao Donato
2 Diz a Ela - Lisa Ono
3 ¿gua de Beber/¿guas de Marco - T.Jobim-V.deMorais/T.Jobim
4 Samba de Verao - Marcos Valle
5 Carta Ao Tom 74 (Toquinho E VinÌcius De Moraes) - VinÌcius De Moraes
6 Chega De Saudade - Tom Jobim
7 The Girl From Ipanema - 45 Rpm Issue - Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
8 Cinnamon & Clove II - Balanco
9 Disse Me Disse - Manoel Da Concricao
10 Ela e Carioca - Marcos Valle
11 Bossa 31 - Rosalia De Souza
12 Falsa Baiana (Jo O Gilberto) - Various Artists
13 Mas, Que Nada! - Jorge Ben
14 Monsieur Binot - Joyce

Thursday, May 11, 2006

No Worries

The other day I had a small, but interesting, realization about to worry. If I worry about a future event, I suffer one more time than I may need to.

When I worry, I first suffer in the present and then again if that future event comes true.

Note the word “if”. It may or may not come true.

So if that event doesn't come true, then I suffered unnecessarily by worrying. If it does come true, then I suffered twice; the first time while I worried and the second when it occurred. Note the worry can’t have any material effect on the future, but it can have the profound material effect on the present of making you live in a state of fear.

It makes no rational sense to worry. I will have to remind myself of that next time I am freaking out about something.

BK Brazil

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

El Principio de Final..?

May 2004. My well planned move to Mexico City is only going to last 10 months. I am then going to come back to my house in Washington and in all likelihood get married to my girlfriend.

May 2006. I no longer have a house nor a girlfriend and they're mum on the idea of rolling out.

Will I have to accept a local position at a reduced salary? Is my current position available for me if I want to stay, go back to the States, to Brazil or to Argentina? How will the organizational changes afflicting my company affect my current position?

I thought hard work and setting clear expections would yield the desired outcomes. I have now been asking what my next move is supposed to be since July - the month I was supposed to come back.

Still no word.

In the mean time, I have saved them close to two million dollars single-handedly saving a multi-million dollar account at a global firm where it's safe to say were there Brian, there would also no longer be the aforementioned account.

From November through April, I was the tech lead on an implementations of our company's most complicated and expense solution. I had never taken a training course in this solution and never had a mentor walk me through its implementation. I picked it all up on my own and in the process became a hero as the president of my company watched my work.

I earned the respect of technical support and even eclipsed some of the seasoned and trained specialists in the United States. My work made me a lot of friends and perhaps if not a few enemies, I made some people scared. I gave up weekends, evenings and peace of mind. They gave me a Blackberry.

The harder I work and the more I accomplish, the happier they are keeping me right where I am. And now that they are ready to take up my cause, organizational changes have stymied my plans until they know what the organization is going to look like.

I am getting used to not knowing my fate and in the mean time I am savioring my time in Mexico because I know it is not going to last forever. Truth be told, I could probably hang for another year. However, I really feel like I need a vision of what my future is.

Since my geography is very much tied to my job, I very much need to know what I am going to be doing so I can know where I am going to be living.

In the past month, since my tenure as technical lead on the above mentioned account ended, I have relaxed in a way unknown to me since living here and in the process made me wonder just what the hell had turned me into a work-a-holic in the last year and a half.

Stay tuned.