21 Dec 2012
The world is supposed to end today, but I feel fine.
22 Dec 2012
My life right now is so surreal that I feel the need to record it. I still feel I’m in danger of being pinched and waking up and realizing this is not actually my life.
I am currently thousands of miles above the ground, riding in the first row of first class in a 737 headed for Mexico City, where I will spend the next 16 days wrapped in the warm embrace of Fred’s family, amid the chaos of one of the largest cities in the world.
“Mrs. Lambuth? Quiche or oatmeal?” the stewardess just asked me. Below is a sprawling landscape of what I originally thought were fields of beach-white sand, but I’m now realizing are snow, pockets of civilization dotting the silken white blanket.
Is this my life? Really? This time last year, I waas so poor I barely had enough money to rub together for heat; I was sure Fred’s departure for the Navy would be the end of us, as it were; no job prospects on the horizon (I guess that much hasn’t changed).
This morning, Fred grabbed me from behind in the USO at the airport, hugged me fiercely and murmured, “Thank you for marrying me,” into my shoulder. And now I’m sipping on a FREE Bloody Mary, and it’s a damn good one at that.
Somebody pinch me…on second thought, don’t. If this IS a dream, then I never, EVER want to wake up.
I am pretty sure we are over the Gulf of Mexico right now. Not sure if what I’m seeing is the edge of Texas or northeastern Mexico, but my excitement has woken me up. That, and I kept having this dream where we flew into a massive thunderstorm and went into a barrel roll…
How come when you look at the sea from a plane, it looks like the little white crests of the waves are standing still (and since “wave” itself is a motion word, after all, does that make it doubly ironic)?
All settled in at the Lambuth household on Rio Hondo. They really do live in the heart of the Distrito Federal. It’s a large, three-story house with a green, sprawling back yard, complete with his dad’s specially constructed smokehouse out back (sign that says “el Club de Tobi”). The house used to belong to Aida/Mama’s parents, but since the Mexican government bought (and promptly demolished) Fred’s childhood home, they’ve renovated a little bit and turned this into their new home.
From the window of our room, you can see the thick wall of trees that signals the edge of the Parque de Chapultepec. The traffic on the way back from the airport was stressful, to say the least. Cars dart quickly around with little to no regard for their fellow drivers on the road (or, seemingly, road signs, speed limits, LANES, I could go on).
As we descended over the city, I excitedly snapped several pictures of the city from the airplane window. The landscape was breathtaking–hulking mountains with rings of fluffy clouds and fog encircling their tops, laced with pockets of urbanism that eventually dominated the ground until before you know it, all you can see is vast stretches of city, just nonstop metropolitan mapping.
It’s going to be hard to keep up with all my observations–I just don’t want to forget anything. The brightly colored buildings–glaring yellow, Stop (“ALTO”)-sign red, pastel paints, deep purple with a velvety/crimson-red trim–stamped with outline graffiti of giant, high-top, Converse sneakers. How everywhere I look resembles neighborhoods, shades of my life before this–parts of lower/east Austin; Laredo; CARACAS, big time. How even though the menus use dollar signs ($), I KNOW a glass of lemonade does NOT cost 38 dollars (it was pesos, per obvi).
23 Dec 2012
Today, I tried a liqeur (Bailey’s)-filled chocolate for the first time. I also chopped wood for the first time, to supply our evening’s fire fuel. As I write, I sit on the patio of John’s “Club de Tobi” as the guys air out the smokehouse. We’re planning a barbecue party for this upcoming Friday.
This morning we had breakfast at a buffet off the lake in the park. Then we went to the Pabellon Polanco, a mall, for a little last-minute Christmas shopping. The subtle (and vast) cultural differences number so many that it’s hard to keep track of them all.
At stoplights, street performers jump in front of your car to do their thing for a brief moment or two, then go amongst the cars collecting tips. Two parkour boys did some acrobatics/tumbling in front of our car–I’ll tell you what, I’m much more inclined to give them money than those guys who go around with dirty rags offering to “wash” your windows.
I’d heard of, but could not anticipate, the glaring disparity between those who have money and those who have none. On the way to the City Market with Mama, a small boy stood on the corner of the street looking a little lost and forlorn. It was only later that I noticed the belts draped over his shoulder, the plastic-wrapped billfolds in his hands.
At one stoplight, an old native-looking woman with a silver braid down her back and a maroon bundle of blankets in her hands approached our car, holding out what appeared to be a can with a slit cut out of the top. As she passed the car and turned her back to us, I saw the bundle of blankets was actually a tired-looking little girl. Her face was haunting, similar to that famous National Geographic magazine cover photograph of that Middle Eastern girl with the unforgettable obsidian eyes. We made eye contact. I smiled and waved to her. Without changing her expression (except for a slight widening of the eyes), she crinkled the fingers on her exposed hand at me.
I was glad I was wearing sunglasses then. I didn’t want anyone to see my eyes brim with tears and tell me not to be so silly.
24 Dec 2012
This anise-flavored “Christmas” candy that Fred’s dad has is AMAZING. In fact, all of the food has been spectacular. I had a torta de milanesa for lunch that was so rich and fit to burst with deliciousness I could only eat a quarter of it. I chased it with some horchata (rice milk), and it was all so good going down that my body decided it wanted another taste and brought it back up again later That’s okay. It wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get sick at some point. The incessant cloud of cigarette smoke has me with a permanent head throb and mini waves of nausea. I’m so glad Fred isn’t a regular smoker.
He is certainly happy here, and it’s easy to see why. His family is, like, killing me with kindness. Today his mom tried to buy me new shoes and that went over about as well as the time Jack took me to Kohl’s and tried to do the same. It is interesting to see him (Fred) so in his element. Or rather, to finally be a part of what I always (heretofore) had to imagine when I’d drop him off at the airport and he’d leave me behind. I can only imagine how it must be to have me transposed over such a familiar (and yet, also foreign, if we’re being literal) setting.
I finally got Jake (my brother-in-law) to talk to me! Bless this nausea/indigestion! Talking to him is like talking to my stepdad, JJ. Very intelligent and opinionated. Hard to relate to. Specific interests…I love him. And in time, he will love me, too. HE WILL! ALso, thanks to his advice, I really am feeling a lot better.
This morning, I went with Fred to the park. I circled the track while he ran a couple of times, then decided to lay out in the grass and continue reading Papa’s copy of “Seven” by John D. MacDonald. Fred said there were several times on his way around where he was checking me out and realized, “Oh, hot damn–that’s my wife!” Simple pleasures.
25 Dec 2012
Christmas with the Lambuths in Mexico is so laid back. Fred has already made me a paloma (grapefruit juice and tequila) to help loosen my tongue for when the family (including Fred’s two insatiably gossip-mongering young female cousins) arrives in an hour or so for the big Christmas feast.
People here wear hospital masks in the street because of the pollution/risk of contamination. It looks like something from some post-apocalyptic video game.
26 Dec 2012
1. Why is there no Reddit app for smart phones and tablets?
2. Don’t you just hate when you have what you think is a really good idea and with less than a word, someone crashes all your enthusiasm in one fell swoop? My husband is the unfortunate recipient/sounding board for my ideas (both eccentric and otherwise). In addition to an idea I told him about during one of our very first phone conversations ever for a sci-fi story about a doppelganger universe, I had what I thought was a genius idea for a story today. Here’s the pitch: You know how the president gets a federal salary for life once he retires? What if the current president (inept), to cut costs, hires a top-secret CIA operation to kill all living former presidents?
Fred’s reaction (once he got done laughing, of course) —
“If he’s trying to save money or help get the nation out of debt, that really isn’t going to save him very much. Like, at all.”
Damn him for always being right.
I’ve taken a nap like every day since I’ve been here. Mama says it’s because my heart is working harder since it’s had to change basically everything — my diet, my schedule, the air quality, the altitude, everything.
We went into the heart of downtown Mexico City, Distrito Federal, today (aka “Consumer Central”).
27 Dec 2012
This morning, Fred took me for breakfast at Un Lugar de la Mancha, an independently-owned cafe/bookstore with an outdoor patio (sad I didn’t get to go to Diego Luna’s place, La Bipolar, in Coyoacan). It was similar to what I want mine to be like one day. “Nicoletta’s [Bakery and Bookstore].” *fingers proverbially crossed for that one*
On the everchanging backdrop of the city, a bedsheet hung over a brick facade wall, que lo dice,
Mexico City is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. The traffic and pollution here is a nightmare (despite the fact that green initiatives are up ). There is an abundance of open air markets, and only one gas (oil) supplier, PemEx, where gas attendants are a mandatory service. Police cars always roll with their lights blinking, so that the only way you’d even know they were after you is if they turned their sirens on.
I made up two words today. “Intertwoven” and….something else. Oh, you know what? Interwoven is a word. So is intertwined…that’s probably what was happening up there, in the scary vacancies of my twisted little mind.
28 Dec 2012
Another beautiful morning spent hanging out in the perfect-weather park while Fred literally runs circles (laps) around me. This one park reminds of a more exotic Austin — an oasis of physically fit people in a sea full of whales. It is literally the perfect temperature — high of 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and a low of seven (45 degrees F).
Whenever you go shopping, it’s such a madhouse. Bodies packed tightly everywhere in one massive throng, pulsing with life and passing you along in a wave of incessant motion. People stand on the sidewalk outside their stores, peddling their (often contraband) wares and attempting to usher you inside.
“Senorita! Senorita, que buscas?!”
When the wind blows, as I lay on a bed of dry grass and crisp leaves here in the sun, I feel like I’m being kissed by an angel or some other celestial being.
And now, an exchange between myself and Fred’s dad.
Me: I was so sheltered growing up, I had no idea what constituted the actual act of sex.
John: Until you got married to Fred?
Me: ………………………………….yes. *face spontaneously combusts*
29 Dec 2012
Well, diary, I’ve had a doozy of a day (to quote Dale and Tucker)…
30 Dec 2012
I felt so bad for the rest of yesterday that I never got around to saying what happened. Well, I can finally sit upright, so here’s the abridged version:
Due to what I’m pretty sure was a result of bad take-out burgers and fries from Ruben’s Sandwiches, I (as well as everyone else who ate it, though I undoubtedly got it the worst) got VIOLENTLY ill. Like, hospitalized, IV in my arm, sick. I started throwing up around 0500 and did so about every 20-30 minutes until noon. After about the 15th time, when it was all medicine and water coming up, they rushed me to the hospital (I passed out on the floor next to the bathroom due to the loss of so much fluids), where I was diagnosed with colitis. Basically, something had inflamed my large intestine so it was constantly pushing against my stomach, making it feel like I had to throw up all the time. Even after I was discharged, I was in SO much pain. It was literally gut-wrenching. Sleep was slow in coming, but such a blessed relief.
Recent events have definitely put a damper on some of our vacation plans (at least we have 6 more days). On the plus side, at least it happened where there were people to take care of us — his parents have been saints throughout this whole thing. Also, this may be the only vacation I’ve ever been on where I lose weight (instead of gaining it).
Poor Fred is really ill. Everything just runs right through him.
I like how his dad calls him “pumpkin-head.”
Man, I just woke up from like a 4-5 hour nap. I feel like I could sleep the day away and think nothing of it. Fred says it’s good for our bodies to rest so much during recovery. I think it’s because they were working so hard yesterday, just to keep running.
Must postpone sleep so I’ll sleep well tonight.
1 Jan 2013
What I woke up to–a kiss on my upturned lips, then, “I love you…You look better without make-up….your eyes are green today.” How can you beat that? *smitten*
2 Jan 2013
I think one of the reasons me and Fred go so well together is this: Fred stopped believing in magic, the innate goodness of man, a long time ago. His cynicism onset at an early age. I, on the other hand, am filled with an unhealthy level of awe and wonder for an adult.
We need each other.
After waiting for 2.5 hours for Fred to finish up his game, I had a plethora of time to just sit and think. It’s reassuring to know that at the pit of my nature, I am inherently restless. A woman of action.
We explored Coyoacan today. It’s like the hipster neighborhood, around 20 minutes south of the house. Took the Metro (subway) there. Guess that makes four cities I’ve taken the subway in (Mexico, Caracas, DC, NYC, Chicago–oh look, five!). The orange line cars were older–they had these mega-fans blasting warm air and even kept the windows on the cars propped open while the train was in motion. The brown line we transferred to, on the other hand, was brand new. Shiny, clean, ample seating room, sentries posted on the car, televisions suspended from the ceiling. It wasn’t segmented like other trains, either — you could see all the way down from one end of the train to the other, like a long corridor filled with people staring at me as if I was some tall, pale/see-through She-Devil.
3 Jan 2013
It’s funny to think sometimes about the fact that while Fred was making out with some skank in her dorm room, I was probably in the library at WAIS being lectured on how Wikipedia is not a reliable academic source.
4 Jan 2013
Sometimes I have dreams about having a miscarriage. Which is weird, considering I’m not pregnant and never have been. Hope that’s not some sort of scary omen or anything…
Fred’s mom got me socks and a fuzzy warm sweater yesterday for no reason. Also, she got my boots fixed–my favorite brown ones I got at Buffalo Exchange years ago in Austin, I think I was still in school. They’re even nicer than when I bought them. All shiny and soft and smelling of shoe polish. Re-stitched the hem in the back, BRAND new soles…I want to do something really nice for his parents for treating me so well and embracing me as one of their own. I’m just not sure what.
Went to the Cafebreria El Pendulo today. Read on Flavorwire that it’s supposed to be one of the 20 prettiest bookstores in the world, and since I consider myself something of a bookstore connoisseur, decided it was necessary I check it out before we leave. Upon entry, there is a dangling pendulum slowly dripping sand as it swung to form a pattern that looked like two planets orbiting each other. Two stories of winding wooden stairs adorned with ivy (fake or real, I couldn’t tell) and booksbooksbooks everywhere: piled on the ground, floor-to-ceiling, dripping off tables, draped around the base of the staircase. There was ample plush seating both up and downstairs, and there was even a vinyl section (though I found that vinyl trended more expensive down there than it does up here).
The books were all sealed in plastic, which was kinda a bummer since you couldn’t exactly flip through anything (an act I never considered a luxury until I realized the freedom to peruse a book’s contents in its place of merchandise is not a universal right). We decided to partake in their tableside cafe service, and while I sipped a chocolate malt (not the best I’ve ever had, but Fred’s Irish coffee more than made up for my lackluster order) and listened to my favorite Franz Ferdinand song play softly in the background, I was reminded of all the great coffee shops/bookstores that I’ve known and that have helped shape my life:
- Barnes & Noble – after spending years living among their shelves, I was finally hired. It was my first job. I held it for seven years. It is also, to date, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Really opened the world of business and book vending up to me.
- Spiderhouse – any trip to Austin can only be completed upon visiting one of the original Southern Houses of Hip
- Book People
- Forbidden Planet – Mecca to geeks, dweebs, nerds, and dorks everywhere
- And, of course, the reverential holy temple of all bookstores, The Strand. To summarize the splendour that is The Strand would be to denigrate it into blasphemy.
5 Jan 2013
What I had to look forward to back home
Our last day in Mexico. In a few hours, we will leave for the frozen tundra that is our home. I will be sad to leave (though I won’t miss the constant indigestion and perma-headache). I’ve gotten more than used to the temperate weather, beautiful parks, crazy hustle and bustle of life. Fred’s parents proposed that while he is in deployment, I come live and work with them in Mexico. I will be giving some definite thought to that idea. I could contribute to a wire service like Reuter’s or AP, or work at the Nylon Mexico office!
But I dream. If I want them to hire me, I need to get my rear in gear. Have something to show for all this time. Give them a reason.
You know, for all the poverty I saw in Mexico, I also saw a lot of kindness and empathy for their fellow man. I saw a guy emerge from a grocery store and hand a bag of crisps each to the three small children begging for change out front. Another stooped to hand a big bag of oranges to these very old, crippled-looking native women with barely enough energy to lift their empty cups for change from their place on the pavement of a bridge crossing a busy street into Polanco.. It was really heartwarming and a pleasant reminder of the good in all of us. For despite the fact that Mexico City is the third largest city IN THE WORLD, in the heart of such chaos and industry, the less fortunate do not go completely unnoticed among its roughly 21 MILLION inhabitants.
For anyone who wants to see the full album of pictures I took, just check out my Facebook album “Vacacion de los Muertos Gringos.”