La Capital: The Biography of Mexico City by Jonathan Kandell
I went to visit my friends in Mexico City! I had a great time down there for reasons including but not limited to the fact that you can buy desiccated bat corpses by the pound down there. Here are a few more of my observations about the largest metropolis in Latin America:
-It’s not as dangerous as people say it is. However, it has a bad reputation and few Americans vacation there. For that reasons, most of the Mexicans I spoke with assumed that I am from Italy or Germany. Most Europeans I met thought I was Mexican, which I find odd because I look like this.
-It’s similar to New York City, but with way more mangy street dogs. Also, everyone in el DF speaks Spanish, unlike in NYC, where only most people speak Spanish.
-Punk (“Ponk”) is very popular in Mexico. Popular “Ponk” imagery includes but is not limited to safety pins, emo-hair, mall-goth bondage pants, the Rolling Stones logo, Doors/Beatles album covers, and swastika arm bands. I even saw a pudgy teenage girl working behind the counter of a cyber cafe near Salto del Agua wearing a t-shirt that said “SKINHEAD” in big, bubbly letters.
-The marketplaces are wonderful. I bought a mirror with the illuminati’s “Holy See” image printed on it for twenty pesos! Other strange ephemera available for sale in markets: live peacocks, hypnotism cream, luck juice, dried monkeys, etc.
-The ultra-wealthy neighborhoods in el DF smell like trees. The regular wealthy neighborhoods smell like car exhaust. The slummy neighborhoods smell like sewage back-up.
-Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilets. I questioned several people as to why this was the case, and every answer was the same: “the pipes just can’t take it.”
-I took a shitload of pictures and uploaded them to Tumblr. They have since been liked and reblogged by dozens of Mexican teenagers, because that is Tumblr’s target user base. Look through them here. I also filmed a pretty crazy fight between some cats on the terrace of Frida Kahlo’s family estate and put it on Youtube.
Because I have severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (self-diagnosed), I took it upon myself to read this hulking, out-of-print history that I found at The Strand before embarking on my trip. Here are a few half-remembered facts I sort of recall reading:
-Aztec clerics kept strict birth records of their citizens. They divided the year into twenty astrological signs, of which four are considered “slave signs.” When they needed bodies to sacrifice, they would flip through the records, find citizens born under those signs, arrest said citizens, and rip out their still beating hearts. Another way they chose sacrificial victims: cowlicks.
-Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata are often considered peers, but Zapata was a pretty cool guy, and Villa was uncool (KEY: uncool=commits arbitrary murders/skirts genocide).
-One Mexican president was assassinated by a struggling revolutionary artist who was trying to impress women.
-Most Mexican presidents are assassinated by their own security detail.
-Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo housed Leon Trotsky and his wife at their estate. Diego Rivera slept with Leon Trotsky’s wife, so Frida Kahlo slept with Leon Trotsky. The Trotskys left the estate on bad terms, and it is hypothesized that Leon Trotsky was then murdered by a gardener who had also been sleeping with his wife.
-Diego Rivera died from cancer of the penis.
The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Man, Japan is a weird place. Despite harboring a deep hatred for animu in my adolescence (which I overturned upon devouring Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White, which you are now powerless not to read), I’ve always been confounded and mesmerized by Japanese culture. How many flavors of Kit-Kat Bar do you think they have in Japan? 1? 2? 3? FUCK YOU THERE’S LIKE 200 OF THOSE SUMBITCHES!!!!!!!
Clearly I have forgotten how to blog, and for this I apologize. Here is a brief summary of The Woman in the Dunes, as if my description could possibly be better than Wikipedia’s. A bug-collecting hobbyist (dual nod to Kafka and Nabokov) journeys off to a remote fishing village in search of a rare insect. He finds that the town is contained within a series of sand dunes the walls of which are inescapably high. The village elders lower him into single home occupied by a lone woman. He discovers that he cannot escape. The sand dune is his prison. From there the story has all of the elements of Japanese literature, being
3.meandering passages about the fleeting nature of memory
4.(spoiler alert!!!)inevitable submission.
There is only one important topic that this book neglects to touch upon (although it very nearly does). JAPANESE BUG FIGHTS.
X’ed Out by Charles Burns
There is no air conditioning in my home. But not so in my old college library! So I went there and I read this and basked in coolness. I recommend it (air-conditioning). The same cannot be said for legionnaire’s disease, which is why I use a fan. (Thanks to Jackson for the tip on avoiding legionnaire’s disease.)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Who lent me this copy of Middlesex? Zoe, was it you? It appeared in my massive “to read” pile about three years ago and for the life of me I cannot recall the source. Seriously, I never bought it so who gave it to me?
Anyway, whoever you are, I read that book you gave me. It was slow at first, but there was a satisfying pay-off. And it propagated many unsettling Google image searches.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
I just finished reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover last week, so I could easily write one of my old-timey blog posts about whatever I used to write about. But I won’t. I’m not busy. I just won’t. Just go read it and form your own opinion, okay? Do you really need me to hold your hand through this process? Jesus, grow up. #Book dump over.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Batman is old… with a vengeance.
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
I bought The Female Man at a nice little bookshop in Philadelphia where, if I’m not careful, I may spend all of my money in the future.
Epileptic by David B.
I wrote all this last month. Thanks for doing all the work, past me! Sucker.
You may recall that among the first books I read while keeping this blog was David B.’s Epileptic 1. Epileptic 1 was the first half of a run of six autobiographical comics about the author coping with his brother’s severe epilepsy. I vowed to read Epileptic 2 one day, but there is noEpileptic 2. Instead there isEpileptic, a complete collection of the run which I was lucky enough to pick up for two dollars at a stoop sale near my bank.
While the first half focuses almost exclusively on his brother’s illness (and is replete with doom), the parts of the tale I hadn’t read are refreshingly abstract, with long passages detailing the histories of certain hermetic orders, Swedenborgian theology, etc., as well as an assurance that the author’s life isn’t as ruined as you think by new age thinking.
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
This book is sick. I’m tired of this. Have you been reading my parenting blog on VICE.com? Happy birthday, Lina & Mac.