Sidewalks of Mexico City

The sidewalks of Mexico City were built to bear the tireless strides of giant statues. I long for legs of marble here. The sidewalks have been so patched and battered, been so drilled through, picked at, trampled on, and generally raddled by earthquake, that they take on an air of something dug up by archaeologists, something bearing the marks of some grand fall. Even when, as around the Park in Polanco, they are relatively new.

This morning, I went in search of a memory; and as is the way with all such quests, it turned into a lugubrious fugue. I was thinking of having breakfast at the Habana, a café in the newspaper district. The first time I came to Mexico City, I was taken there by my friend Stefan. Stefan, K. and me travelled to Mexico together, first to San Allende, then by train to Mexico City. It was a notable trip. Stefan was a German American who was stuck in the Sargossa Sea of Eternal Studenthood back when that was still cheap. He´d been at U.T. for a long, long time, and was a fixture in the café/coffeehouse scene. He was a wiry man with short dark curly hair and he had the air of one of the Castle´s messengers in Kafka´s novel. He seem bent over by some invisible wind. It was his fatal bent for perfection that undid him. He never finished a class – he never finished a piece of writing, so torn was he by the thought that anything he wrote would inevitably expose him in some way. He could not accept the sheer humanity of making a fool of himself on paper, as though he were surrounded by enemies that would jeer at him for a faulty clause, a banality, or a tedious theme. He dreamed of a writing a novel about Boswell – or was it in the style of Boswell. Besides literature, he had a passion for the kitschier songs of Meatloaf, pool, a blond waitress at Les Amis, and Mexico. When he was a teen, he said, he had gone hiking, or even hitchhiked, in the backlands of Chihuahua.

The Habana was just the kind of place that Stefan would discover. It had been there forever, or at least since the 50s. Castro had once drunk his coffee there, but the world had smiled on him since those days, and now his enemies, exiles from the Castro monarchy, sat around the tables and grew grayer and fatter. But the way Stefan presented the place instantly turned these old boys into the denizens of some Cabral Infante novel – or the journalistic comrades of Garcia Marquez. Whenever I have come back to Mexico City, I make an effort to go there again. Except this September. So, since I am down here now, I wanted to make up for my neglect. Unfortunately, it was two years ago that I had breakfast there last, so how to get there was not entirely clear in my mind. I took the subway to Bellas Artes, emerged at streetlevel, and immediately took off, as though I could get there if I went decisively enough. I zigzagged through the area, passing by a demonstration of teachers on Balderos, finding myself in an industrial area at one point, passing by a theater for children and then a college for police men. At that point, I thought that I would not find the Habana. And I did want breakfast. So I ducked into a restaurant near the cop school, with the vague thought that this, too, would be colorful material. The place was a mistake. I was the only customer. The breakfast was execrable. The waiter emitted a suspicious smell, the electricity went off, the coffee was made out of some material that might have been like coffee once, two men started a jackhammer outside the door of the place to batter the sidewalk for another project, and the chilequiles with eggs were tossed together in some fit of absentmindedness which made me wonder what the huevos borrachos were like.

But laying out the princely sum of forty pesos, I proceeded to go up to the center of town, and did, at least, go to the top of the Holiday Inn and have a beer to settle my nerves and write this account in my notebook. And now here it is in Limited Inc.


northanger said…
northanger said…
p said…
So LI, an unrelated question, can you say a little more at what is at root in this complacency? Isn't it the unprecedented comfort, the utter lack of poverty in the US? Now that the economic situation deteriorates, do you foresee a return to virtue (hardness)?