We Can’t Seem to Get Out of Town

In this time of COVID-Stuck-At-Home, I am once again reminded of Mexico City. In a place that is so culturally rich — we chose CDMX instead of some beach-blanket-bingo destination for precisely that reason — it is a crime to just sit around the hotel. One has to get out and about around town. And it’s a huge town.

Our sense of being freewheeling tourists took a hit, however, after our opening experience at the hands of clever thieves. Initially, I found myself constantly checking my pockets and walking around on near-constant alert. Not panic-level alert; just a low throbbing hum of increased awareness. But we had a list, damn it, and no jug troupe was going to interrupt that.

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Tiffany Curtain, Palacio de Bellas Artes, CDMX (copyright Leland E. Hale)

There were three cultural sites on our must-see list. The Ballet Folklorico at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The Anthropology Museum in Parque Chapultepec. And the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. Of the three, only Teotihuacan required that we get out of town. And that proved to be a problem.

Lorrie talked to some of our fellow hotel guests and they suggested a really good guide. Done. Or so we thought. They only did agency tours. Try again. Booked. The evening before our scheduled departure, however, we both turned up sick. A few frantic phone calls later, we had it all worked out. They’d reschedule us.

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Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan (copyright Leland E. Hale)

We spent our sick day trying to find the impeachment trial on TV. Yes, there were plenty of other options. We were in Mexico, man. There were telenovelas galore. We landed on CNN International instead. The housekeeping staff came and went, delightfully oblivious to this curious American version of a telenovela.

We are always careful about what we eat. And drink. Ok, the mezcal on offer in CDMX was tempting. But it was probably the food.

On the day of our rescheduled trip to Teotihuacan, no one showed up. They considered us a no-show when we postponed our date. They weren’t coming back. The ever-persistent Ms. Miller was not giving up.

Avenue of the Dead, toward Pyramid of the Moon (copyright Leland E. Hale)

Our intrepid guide was from Belarus, a landlocked country just north of Ukraine. Some irony there, I suppose. He met his Mexican wife in China. Thought about finishing his PhD in the Czech Republic. They got married and moved to Mexico instead. He kept telling us that his wife was better versed in this than him. And he knew a lot.

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Pyramid of the Moon, seen from Pyramid of the Sun (copyright Leland E. Hale)

On our way out of town, he pointed to a sprawling shanty-town on the northern edge of CDMX. There’s a gondola that crosses the highway so residents can get from one side to the other. “If you call an Uber and tell them you want to come here? They won’t take you,” he told us. It was, he said, another world.

And then there was Teotihuacan. In this ancient city, we found ourselves completely at ease. Teotihuacan was, is, and will forever be beyond words. And persistence is still a virtue.

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Platforms along the Calzada de los Muertos (copyright Leland E. Hale)

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