Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BBQ and Brides 'n' Grooms

There's no prettier time of year in Central Texas than late October, so folks there love to have their weddings around then -- in fact our anniversary is on the 29th. So we were thrilled this past weekend to attend the nuptials of our good friends DeeDee and Jake not only because of our happiness for them but also because it gave us a chance to revisit the haunts where we tied the knot 2 wonderful years ago. Just like back in '05, we got to have an early breakfast at Las Manitas on Sunday morning and even a reunion with the padre who married us, Father Dave, at Sunday mass on the UT campus.

But first, there was the matter of BBQ.

Now people from all parts of the South have very strong opinions on the subject of BBQ: pork vs. beef, dry-rub vs. wet, sauce vs. no sauce, etc. Without wandering into that thicket of weeds, suffice it to say that we prefer Texas-style to all others, and our favorite joint is the City Market in Luling, just outside of Austin. It's the type of food we miss most, and we literally went there straight from the airport.

Like all the great places, it's a simple operation: there's a room where they smoke the meats and a room where you eat the meats. There's brisket, sausage, and ribs, slow-smoked over charcoal from native Texas woods, which you order by the pound and is served on butcher paper with some white bread and pickles -- and no utensils. You walk to your table with something like this:
And if you're Sergio you commence to do this:
Note the dipshit passport in the shirt pocket.

After that business was done, we went on a luxurious shopping spree for ordinary items. It's amazing to realize how much we rely on simple grocery products to get through our daily lives -- until you find yourself with less access to those products. We've made plenty of adjustments, and it's not like we're suffering here, but we took full advantage to buy tons of things like dental floss, good maple syrup, dog treats, etc. Our trip to Target was like a holy pilgrimage of consumerism.

The wedding itself was a blast, as we'd expected. There was a beautiful sunset ceremony performed by Jake's brother in Willie Nelson braids followed by a lovely reception in the crisp Hill Country air. Sergio's favorite moment was "Islands in the Stream" kicking the dance party up a notch. And we got to see all our great Austin comrades...












The Gammon-Beards











The King of All Weddings












Dave brings back the skinny tie.















No idea.












Getting closer as the night goes on.















California wedding date TBA...












The groom feels the groove.







It was a wonderful weekend overall, and we wish the newlyweds all the happiness that we've had over these last 2 years. Special thanks to Tristan and Jessica for their hospitality. It was so fun in fact, that the same cast of characters will reunite in 2 short weeks for the holy union of Brad and Abby:


As you can tell by the photo, it will be hot. Extremely, unbelievably hot.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mother of God!

It's been a little quieter around here so we took the opportunity to join Sasha's Spanish classmates on a little field trip to the Museum of Anthropology. We had been meaning to go because it's reported to be one of the best in the world, and is only a pleasant walk through the park away from our house, but had not yet found the chance what with so many seedy markets and taquerias to visit. Above is the famous Aztec Solar Calendar, with the year divided neatly into categories of animals, vegetables, and elements. If you guessed today is the 5th jaguar of the cactus month in the year of the screaming wind-eagle, well then congratulations because I don't know what the hell you're talking about.

She also goes by "Snaky Skirt"

The hideous visage above is that of Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess of the Earth, life and death, and the mother of several other gods. So I guess she was pretty important. We preferred the name Sasha's teacher gave her: "The Goddess of the Gods." That sculpture is about 9 feet tall, so you can really see the details of the human hands that form her necklace. Those Aztecs were kooky!

The museum itself is also another one of the many interesting architectural sites in Mexico City, designed by the same guy who did the Estadio Azteca. It has neat vantage points like these:












That column on the right is actually a reverse fountain but we didn't get to see it in action, I assume because it was much too early for whoever's job it is to turn it on. Things like that happen here.

Other scary faces...













































This past weekend was pretty quiet. Sergio went to lucha libre again, this time with a big group from work. He was sorry to report that "El Texano Jr." was a major disappointment in the ring, despite the use of his highly-illegal bull whip (shaming his father's memory).

Also with some work friends we went to a great Cuban restaurant to celebrate a colleague's birthday. It was a cool little place in Roma, featuring down-home cuisine, fantastic mojitos, and the most entertaining live entertainment we have seen yet in a restaurant here:
Sergio covets their shirts.





After dinner we were invited to add out names to the many on the wall, starting with the birthday girl.







Finally, Sunday was a lazy one around here. The weather was once again perfect so we took a stroll around the 'hood, found an excellent juice stand we had heard about, stopped in the amazingly-overpriced American Apparel outlet, and ran across this pair:
Yes, apparently Spuds McKenzie has retired to the Polanco area of Mexico City, together with his life partner. So I guess that means he's Jewish, as well as Scottish-Canadian? Fascinating.

Next week: we go back to Texas, on our anniversary weekend! No one has ever eaten as much brisket in a 3-day period as we plan to. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thank you Mr. Columbus!

We had Monday off for Columbus Day. Federal holidays are THE BEST. And we had a super three day weekend as a result.

Who wouldn't with these adorable folks in town?

Our pals, the recently engaged Chris and Jessica (hooray!), took advantage of the long federal holiday weekend to travel down from DC to Mexico City. We had a ball hanging out with them in the big bad Distrito.

First, we made a pilgrimage to the north part of the city to see the Virgen De Guadalupe. The basilica preserves the shawl St. Juan Diego saw with the Virgin's image on it. Naturally, this religious site is a hugely popular place, and we were thrilled to finally check it out.

The Virgen complex contains several buildings: a sinking cathedral that was under construction, a modern basilica and a hillside chapel. Oh and A LOT of giftshops.

The actual Virgen image is kept in the basilica and a series of moving sidewalks pass in front of it to prevent too much gaping/bottleneck.
video

A good crowd-control system, but it gives off a vibe of "Enjoy this quietly, and move along quickly." It also made for difficult views and photos.


We trotted up the hill terraces to the old chapel above the basilica where we caught the end of a mass, passed up several opportunities to have our photos taken with ceramic donkeys, relaxed with some super-sweet aguas frescas and surveyed the view. The weather was glorious, but sadly, the smog stopped us from seeing too far in the distance.

Ride the snake. To the lake.

Next we hit the Centro and the Zocalo, and finally we were on time to visit Mexico City's oldest operating (yet somehow never open when we're around) cantina: El Nivel.
That apron is over 150 years old.

We ordered a round of drinks and soaked up some "first-licensed bar" atmosphere before continuing on to show the visitors the famous mercado in La Merced. Somehow, we managed to approach the sprawling mercado from a different angle on our second visit, and we got fully and totally lost on our way to track down the juicers Chris had admired earlier. By the time we found the restaurant supply part of the market, we were all too tired to do much in the way of actual shopping. We loaded up on some oranges for breakfast and were on our way home!
Where is this damn place?!

As always, we spotted a few items of interest in the Centro:

First, the latest in cardboard box haute couture:

The, a baby Pope. Huh?


Seriously, why is this kid dressed like the Pope?

We spent Sunday in Coyoacan, and moved from the religious sites of Saturday to someplace much more secular: a tour of Leon Trotsky's house. You will remember from your cold war history books that Trotsky was murdered by an agent of Stalin in Mexico City. We got to see the house where it happened (and the pick axe, actually).
It was a lovely place, and in a fine leafy neighborhood. We loved the looks of these contemporary neighbors. The second house is completely tiled, and had a rad old VW van parked out front.


We walked around the main squares in Coyoacan where every type of dormroom trinket was on sale: Che and Simpsons t-shirts, beaded jewelry, patchouli -- all your basic hippie nonsense. But there was also delicious ice cream and cute puppies. And we saw mimes and an old-timers club that dance in the streets for tips!

It was a lovely afternoon, and we topped it off with quesedillas from the best version of a food court ever.

All in all, a very fine weekend with our very gracious guests!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Oaxaca Rocka

We arrived on Oaxaca at 11 o'clock at night on Friday. They have an old school, walk-across-the-tarmac airport. This picture earned Sergio some stern looks form the airport police.

We take this photo every time we see this sign.

The zocalo in the center of town is lively day and night. We took a quick stroll before getting some end-of-week sleep.
Day 1: The City

The next day we got up early to admire our bed & breakfast's patio and get started wandering around the city.

Our patio at the hotel.

We walked to some amazing markets (grasshoppers, a million kinds of mole, chocolate, etc.)

Then we went to look at churches.


Iglesia de Santo Domingo

The Basilica. This is where they saw the face of the Virgin Mary on a donkey's saddlebag. It is also famous for its adjacent palaza and its amazing ice cream fair with flavors like "beso de angel."



"What do you want? I'm eating an angel's kiss here..."

A girls' basketball game in an open gym off the main drag in town! Starved for any kind of hoop action, Sergio made us stop and watch. The girl with the ball appears to have made the team solely based on her relatively-freakish height (she was about 5'5"). Lowest scoring basketball game ever.


On the roof of "our" house Saturday evening. Right across the street, the neighbors had a cage of monkeys living on their roof. Things like that are starting to not even seem weird anymore


View from the hotel roof. You can't see the monkeys, but the mountains look pretty.


Day Two: Monte Alban



Monte Alban are some ruins right outside of town, of the Zapotec people. They're not as large or as well preserved as Teotihuacan but the setting is far more picturesque. The ruins are on top of a mountain which offers a 360-degree view of the whole Oaxaca valley.


Note the lack of other people messing up the vista.

Some of the city's former residents.
Sergio styled his hair in homage to the mountain peaks.
Yet even more steps to climb.

It takes years of research and practice to master this dance.

Back in Oaxaca, on a Sunday afternoon...


There was an orchestra downtown, a couple of lady singers, a cumbia band and political speeches. Apparently, election day was right around the corner and there's a heated contest for city council. We saw a lot of "Lenin for President" signs, which was kind of weird.

Speaking of politics, Oaxaca is a center for social movements. In fact a year ago the whole city was basically shut down by protests against the local government. The street art/graffiti left over from that was pretty extensive.



We got some bonafide organic Oaxacan coffee before we hit the road back to Mexico City.


It was a great trip, and we were happy to take home some Oaxaca with us -- coffee, mole, some handicrafts. Sasha wanted to take this guy too but as you can he's pretty well set where he is.