Thank you for smoking

April 21st, 2014

Not long after I began this blog, a law was passed in Mexico City banning smoking in restaurants and bars. At the time, so many people smoked here that I thought the statute would be resolutely ignored. To my surprise, just about everyone complied; it was the subject of one of my first posts. Since then, it has been a lot easier to eat and drink in public places; you can go home without wheezing like an asthmatic and smelling like an ashtray.

However, a couple of years ago, I noticed a man smoking at the next table to me at a sidewalk cafe. I asked him to stop, but a large woman at another table, quite vehemently, told me that if I didn’t like it I could lump it and go elsewhere. I mentioned that it was against the law to smoke in restaurants, and even more aggressively, the lady told me that I was wrong.

It took me a long time to get the story straight, but if I understand correctly, the tobacco companies lobbied very hard among local politicians, and got regulations passed that it could be at the discretion of management whether or not to allow people to smoke at sidewalk tables in bars and restaurants. Mexican waiters would be loathe to tell their customers not to do anything, so now the outdoor tables — obviously the best seats in the house when the weather is good — are loaded with smokers. While having my lunch the other day in Colonia Condesa, I was downwind from Poindexter over here. He made the experience less appetizing.

Well, the ban was fun while it lasted.

Labels: Mexico City



A hundred chilangos

April 7th, 2014

How many Mexicans can a foreigner meet in two weeks? That was an arbitrary question that Jason Schell asked himself before embarking on his current art project. Schell — who hails from Pennsylvania, but has lived in the D.F. since 2008 — got a taxi driver’s license and tooled around the city for 14 days. Needless to say, each one of his passengers asked what a gringo was doing driving a taxi in Mexico City.

This was his chance to explain that he is a painter and wanted to do a series of portraits of 100 chilangos. About half of the people he drove let him take their photo, and signed a release allowing him to later do their portrait. He is currently about halfway through the series of paintings.

His best passengers were old men, who liked to tell their stories and always left tips. Older women tended to be mistrustful and wouldn’t allow him to take their picture. A prostitute, on her way to an assignation, suggested that her face was not her best feature and that perhaps he’d like to a more complete photograph. A drunken passenger wouldn’t tell Schell exactly where he was going, and kept asking him questions along the lines of, “Does your family know where you are?” and “Will your friends miss you when you’re gone?” The artist was sure that he had a serial killer in the back seat, and luckily was able to ditch him when the man had to go pee.

When he is not driving a cab, Schell teaches graphic design at the American School. He has exhibited in both the U.S. and Mexico, and in fact, you can see some of his work in two metro stations. He hopes that when he finishes the portrait series that they will be exhibited in different parts of the country and eventually find a permanent home in Mexico City.

Here’s a link to a video with more information about the taxi project.

Labels: Mexico City



Paella (y pa’ nosostros también)

March 5th, 2014

Paco Ponce makes the best paella in Mexico City. (At least I think he does.) Usually he makes it for private parties, for groups of 20 or more people. But periodically he cooks it at a small restaurant in Colonia Roma called La Chicha, at Orizaba 171, almost at the corner of San Luís Potosí. Don’t miss your chance this Saturday the 8th, from about 2 pm. That’s him in the foreground, next to the pan. I haven’t a clue as to who’s talking on the telephone.


Labels: Mexico City



The last sale of the evening

February 4th, 2014

A very tired man selling statues of Santa Muerte and Christ at the cantina Tio Pepe, December 2013.

Labels: Mexico City

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Taste of Polanco

January 13th, 2014

A former colleague, Jimena Gil, teamed up with with a friend of hers to begin Mexican Food Tours, a company which offers walking tours in the Polanco neighborhood. The tours include not only history and folklore, but samples from six different places to eat.

Because I mostly associate Polanco with high-end restaurants, I wasn’t sure how well it would lend itself to such a tour. In Polanco there is far less street food as in other areas of the city. Instead, Jimena takes people to restaurants, such as Barro Negro, where three different kinds of mole are sampled.

At La Surtidora, you can try a taco villamelón, and at Karisma, you get a bowl of goat cheese and black bean soup. Pulque and mezcal are also sampled. Even with two desserts, at the end of the tour I felt richly satisfied rather than grossly overstuffed. Plus enlightened by some of the facts about the area that were previously unknown to me.

Click for a link to their website for more information.

Labels: Mexico City

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