March 17th, 2018

krazy koati

Each time you hear a sad guitar

The line wasn't any significantly less after I'd got a chocolate bar. And I was still hungry. So I thought to get some more substantial dinner, and walked toward a marketplace the taxi had passed. It was a couple blocks away, in a big enclosed building that made me think of the Collingwood Flea Market, packed and varied and a little musty and overstuffed and feeling so very much at home. For a while I pondered skipping the Frida Kahlo museum altogether and just savoring this spot, but I felt like that would be ridiculous even by my standards. ``What did you do in Mexico City?'' ``I took a taxi to a place I don't know and looked at the not-quite-licensed costumes for kids.'' But yeah, I looked around that and just loved the variety of souvenirs and tchochkes that even normal people might want around their house and a lot of restaurants or food kiosks, and fruit-juice stands that reminded me of Singapore, and tight-packed bodegas that you could probably get much of a shopping trip done in. I eventually sat, none too sure, at a place promising quesadillas and got a couple, speaking hesitantly through a waiter who mercifully had a menu I could just point at. And got to chatting a little with two guys from southern Texas who explained they came to Mexico City often for the weekends. I felt pressed down by the strangeness of the many arbitrary decisions that brought two Americans to the same quesadilla stand in a flea market a couple blocks from Frida Kahlo's house in Mexico City on a Thursday afternoon. The TV was playing 80s music videos that so help me I knew well.

I got back to the museum and decided to brave the line. There were people selling souvenirs to the queue. I bought, besides admission, the extra pass to allow me to photograph inside the buildings and got a little camera sticker to wear on my shirt. Afterwards I took the sticker and put it on the back of my conference badge. When she noticed this bunny_hugger wanted to know what it meant and why her badge didn't have one. Reassured it wasn't about something missing from her conference membership she was then amazed a museum might charge extra for photographs. I was a bit thrown by it too, but I'd heard about this sort of thing in other places and was ready for it.

I'll admit that I didn't really know much about Frida Kahlo going in. A little bit, since I'm not quite that savage but mostly what I had picked up reading about Diego Rivera's controversies in the 20s and 30s, and from one episode of the BBC's In Our Time podcast. And the odd slightly-more-than-a-cameo appearance in Coco, which we had finally gotten to see the week before going to Mexico. But that's not liable to slow me down. The museum, La Casa Azul, had been her (and her husband's) family home. It's kind of a rounded off C shape, with a big central courtyard. There's maybe a dozen rooms inside. The first several have paintings on display. After that come a couple rooms with statues and other things, including a puppet stage --- marionettes included --- that Kahlo had designed and built.

After that are rooms with the more personal, you know, living side of the room. The kitchen, for example, with pottery hung on the walls and patterns decorated in tiny teacups, things like doves holding a banner between them, or Frida and Diego's names spelled out in again these dollhouse-scale teacups. The kitchen. The guest room where Trotsky had stayed for a couple years. The working studio, including arts supplies and a string of bookshelves and a hefty binder labelled ``- PROTEST - ROCKEFELLER VANDALISM''. A lot of anatomy books, naturally, and photo references. Plus just stuff people might read, like War and Peace or (this amuses me) a Drew Pearson Washington Merry-Go-Round volume. And a gas mask. I asked the docent in the room about that. She explained it was used by Rivera to avoid the fumes when painting murals or other large work. (Well, it seemed imaginable he'd have had it in case of tear-gassing. See previous comment about Trotsky's bedroom; for that matter, had I had time and a surer sense of direction, my admission ticket was good for a visit to Trotsky's house a few blocks off.) She also wondered if I were British, since I had gotten her attention by asking, ``I beg your pardon''. She liked the gentleness of that.

Father inside were Kahlo's daybed, with a mirror above the bed; and past that, the night bedroom, with a plate of butterflies above that. From there the path is to the courtyard, with a (temporary?) exhibit of other artists' sculptures beneath. Also a television reading off an hourlong-or-so biography that's in Spanish (naturally enough) but whose pacing and tone was familiar enough that I could work out the general gist. This would turn out to be a pattern: while I was terribly unprepared for an actual Spanish-speaking nation, I could usually work out enough context clues and handful of familiar words that I wasn't completely lost. There also was another building with the explicitly labelled temporary exhibit of Kahlo's dresses, including the corsets she'd designed and worn for herself, some prosthetic legs, and dresses inspired by her outfits.

I went around the museum another time, to feel more confident I hadn't missed anything; this also gave me more time to just appreciate little stuff like the kitchen knicknacks and the stuff of regular living. I got pretty close to closing the museum out for the day, which also meant I did't have time to go to the Trotsky house anyway.

Outside the museum I looked for an Authorized Taxi stand but couldn't spot anything. I was thinking out the loose directions I'd remembered to a subway station, trusting there would be one there. (This was not so sure a thing, I'd learn.) I shuffled uncertainly toward a police officer, figuring he'd have usable advice, when a taxi dropping somebody off asked if I needed a ride. I didn't have any better ideas so after clear warnings from bunny_hugger about just picking up a taxi on the street, I took a taxi off the street. He did drive me back to the hotel along what seemed like the same route I went out. He did pull over to point out a feature of interest, the 1968 Olympic Stadium. I'd seen that on the way out, and thought: (a) I wonder if that's the Olympic Stadium, (b) I wonder if that's a Diego Rivera-based relief along its front, and (c) oh come on, it's a big city. Not everything is going to be the first couple things that come to my mind. Plus no way was Rivera alive as late as 1968, right? (Correct; he died in 1957.) There's probably a dozen major stadiums and scores of artists that would look similar to an untrained eye like mine. The taxi driver explained the relief was by Diego Rivera. (The stadium was built in 1952; it goes back to the days before the Olympics demanded custom-built new facilities for everything, including highways, that would be abandoned and destroyed after the games.) This teaches me something, but I don't know what. And then we went back to our hotel, where I waited for bunny_hugger.

When she got home we shared stories about our day. And thought about what to do for dinner. We went across the expressway to a small shopping mall, one with a Best Buy, a Carl's Jr, an International House of Pancakes that seemed irresistibly silly a place to eat, and the Crepe Corner. This would be the first of multiple places we'd find that sold crepes, a thing we didn't realize was a Mexico City thing. Well, we ate there, at this little kiosk that had a pair of workers who seemed to be having fun with each other. One spoke English well enough for us to stagger through ordering food. They weren't crepes like we'd expected --- more like pizza-sized folded-over slices with four cheeses within --- but they were really, really good. We were there to about the closing of that mall, spoiling the chance to poke around a Mexican Best Buy and see how it might compare to anything we knew. But we'd had a successful day, she at her conference, me just kicking around town. Now we could figure out what to do for Friday.

Trivia: The Continental Congress spent £6,000 and the State of Pennsylvania £400 to set up the salt works in Toms River, New Jersey. Source: This Is New Jersey, John T Cunningham.

Currently Reading: Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers, Matt Kaplan.

PS: AnthrOhio's cake-decorating contest!


My decorated cake: a flying saucer zapping a kangaroo while a mysterious silhouetted figure looks on.


bunny_hugger's decorated cake: A bunny watching Rocky Jones's Orbit Jet.


Somebody else's cake: I don't know what this represents but it's probably a something.