I woke up this morning after finally getting a good night’s sleep. Two nights before I clubbed at The Bulldog Cafe. The following night I spent with farmers in the pueblo, which meant getting up at 4 am to sell their flor de calabaza (pumpkin flowers) at the bus terminal market. Luckily, it all ended well on Monday night when I had a full body massage and facial scheduled, all for $30.
Anywaaay, I got up with the intention of putting my dirt streaked clothes –thanks to tredding in the corn fields– in the washer and then the clothesline. But the forecast was rainy all day. I’d planned on scowering the city for a chef in some high brow restaurant, BUT, you can’t just leave your freshly washed clothes out on the line when it might rain. Shhhh….eeeez.
So, still in my jammies, I put in a couple calls to a couple restaurant associations hoping their communications people might actually do their job. Just then, I get an email from the municipal government (I don’t recalling sigining up for their mailing list). It’s a press release: the mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard will announce a new insurance program for all tourists traveling to the capital. Hmmmmm….that’s NPR spot material, I think to myself!
Friega. Pues a jalar my butt into the city. Two metro rides and several blocks later I’m at Hotel Geneve. Todo posh. Pretty cool, but man was it hot! There were ambassadors from Autralia, Argentina, and tourists from Germany, Chiapas and the Dominican Republic. The mayor finally shows up ( I have to say find him an attractive older man) with his trail of officials. All in all it wasn’t a bad press conference. It was a cool experience for me. I even met a producer for the BBC, but darned it if I lost her card on the trinche metro!
But the real interesting part of the day came later.
I came back home and spent like four hours struggling with the restauarant association PR people, struggling to reach the NPR newcast long distance, writing my spot and editing my audio. All seemed lost….until just before 7 pm, when I was about to give up. Both PR peeps call, each to confirm an interview with a renowned Mexican chef: Carmen Ramirez Degollado and Patricia Quintana. A really big deal for me.
I also finally get thru to NPR and the shift producer tells me, “Sorry we’re full. Try again at 10 pm EST”
Boooooo. Having finally finished my work I could now attend to my growling stomach, which to this point had survived on only a bowl of Mexican Cheerios. But what luck, as I shut down my compu, the forecasted rain finally shows up. And it made its appeareance grandly. Cats and dogs grand. Shhhheeee…huahua. I run to get my laundry from outside. I throw on my just dried rain jacket and grumble to my host family, “I’m going out.”
My pesos ran out after my pueblo trip and I didn’t have a chance to go to the currency exchange before they closed. Taxis or minibuses do not take VISA, unfortunately. So if I wanted to eat (and make an essential trip to the farmacia) I had no choice but to walk in the pouring rain. As I walk the wet deserted streets of Coyoacan, my thin blue rain jacket taking a severe beating, I cursed the weather, the fact I had no pesos, and that nobody had offered me an umbrella before I left the house. I think I sloshed some 15 blocks in the rain.
When I finally arrived at Las Lupitas, a quaint restaurant across from La Casa de la Cultura, I was soaked down to my socks. This is the place that the Washington Post reporter told me filled up with important politicians and diplomatic types in the evenings. ( I figured, then, that they took credit cards). But when I walked in, there was not a soul in the place. I smile at the lone waiter in a crisp white linen shirt, “Oiga Senor, que segun aqui viene gente muy importante a cenar?” (“So I hear very important people come to dine here.”)
“Bueno, si. Pero ahorita, usted es las mas importante,” he says. (“Right. But at the moment you’re the most important person here.” ) “Take your pick,” he says, gesturing at some two dozen empty tables. Later into my meal, I learn this waiter picked grapes in California and marched for workers’ rights with Cesar Chavez.
Just as I decide on a table and slide out the chair to sit down, the lights go out. And that, my friends, made all the difference.
The waiter and I just sort of shrug in the darkness. This kinda stuff happens here. A misty gray light glides in from the tall slender windows. It’s enough to makeout the menu. Thanks to dimness and the and the fact that I’m the only customer, I feel an unusual sense of comfort in this restaurant. So I proceed to remove my wet tennis shoes. Then I slip off my soaking socks and wiggle my bare toes under the table. I hang my socks on the seat of the chair beside me with a sort of mischevious smile.
The waiter disappeared for a second when I was ready to make place my order. So I patter barefoot onto the Mexican tile and into the kitchen where chubby faced women are working under the glow of a long gas stove. “Can I come in and see your kitchen,” I say. Sure, they reply. The warmth of the kitchen feels nice against my moist skin. We get into a conversation about the food and the cooks suggest what I ought to have for dinner. The waiter pops in and says “There you are!” I tell him I’m a periodista and am governed by my curiosity.
Back at my table, the waiter, Jose Luis Martinez, talks about his days as a farmhand in Californa. I like it in Mexico much better, he says. It’s hard being away from your family. Maybe you struggle a bit more, but life is richer here. He brings me my empanadas. We continue chatting through dessert in the dusk lit restaurant.
When I leave the restaurant it’s still raining, but I am no longer cursing the weather. I am thinking about the smiles of the chubby cooks, the warmth in the kitchen, the delicious empanadas, and the waiter inviting me to his wife’s restaurant in a nearby humble barrio. Que chido.
Once back at home I try NPR again. The night crew should know me well by now. “Sure, send us your spot,” the producer says. Maybe the international roaming charges on my cell phone will be more than what I’m actually paid for this spot– but I’m happy none the less. This is my first news spot from Mexico City!!
Tomorrow is my last day en la capital. Maybe it will rain again. When it rains it can be in a bad way, but also in a good way.