79 Versions of Popcorn

Ugh, I have been back from Mexico for over a week now but haven’t been able to get my shit together (seriously, I have been close to crapping myself all week). I woke up with some random severe stomach illness on Wednesday, my joints wouldn’t stop hurting and I alternated between shivering under blankets to sweating while sitting still. I spent most of Saturday (when I was supposed to be having a dinner party) in bed. While my stomach is jumping around, the sharp pains began dissipating yesterday. However, this morning I woke up with a headache and stiff neck. This better not be meningitis or whatever it was that Ken Ober had because that shit will kill you overnight.

If this is my last night on earth, I should be focusing on more important things but I feel remiss in never having properly summed up Oaxaca. I posted a photo gallery on Goodies First and I’m going to do it again here because why not, and I suspect there’s not much crossover traffic.

And one of the best parts of Project Me Part 2 is that I don’t have to form complete thoughts or sentences if I don’t feel so inclined. Fragments and lists are my friends in sickness and in health.

No Sabia que Estaba Embarazada. I was astonished to see an ad for my new favorite TV show, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant during the one hour of TV I watched the entire week I was in Oaxaca. The only show I caught was like a Mexican Degrassi with some goths, skaters and even a Down syndrome teen. Gossip Girl could use a dash of Downs.

No TV was odd for a vacation. My internet also barely worked (I’m not even going to go into that long boring story about three hotels in three days again) and I didn’t get any reading or writing done like I thought I would. I actually have no idea how I filled my days now that I think about it. Especially since I never went to Monte Alban, the most famous archaeological site, any archaeological sites or to any craftsy villages or any tours outside the city. I did read all of The Adderall Diaries, mostly in the airport and on the plane home. It’s not at all what I thought it would be, in the best of ways. Stephen Elliott, the author runs The Rumpus. Now, I have to add a Read subject header to my rss feeds and find at least two more literary blogs to add so that it seems well rounded. I will never be able to not watch TV but instead of going to bed at 1am and mindlessly skimming the internet until the last minute, I will start going to bed at 12:30pm and reading every night like I used to do in the old pre-online days.

I’m starting to think Mexicans have a real thing for Hot Butter’s,"Popcorn.” I certainly do and I’m only half-Mexican. It’s been my ringtone ever since I got a cell phone (I briefly switched to the Little House on the Prairie theme in September and it just didn’t work, too slow of a buildup). One of my favorite moments ever, not just favorite Mexico moments, was on my trip to Mexico City in 2007. We were at the enormous open zocalo and spied a rooftop bar a few stories up and determined it was the top of the Best Western. We took the elevator up maybe six floors (this isn’t Hong Kong or Bangkok with their 70-story restaurants) and were deposited into a brunch buffet wrapping up, juices being put away, floors being swept. As we were led through the generic windowed room to the sunny open patio, the bouncy mercilessly upbeat mechanical strains of "Popcorn” blasted us like they knew I was coming, right to the best seat an umbrella'd table for four closet to the corner with the grandest view of the zocalo. No reserved signs dotting the tables, no parties of two crammed into tight rows butted up against other parties of two. This was not New York, it was a Mexican Best Western and perfectly suited for me.

Oh my god, 79 versions of "Popcorn."

I took a cab out to Plaza del Valle, the centro commercial, a.k.a. mall of Oaxaca. And just as I liked to keep mum on the topic of never visiting Monte Alban (a sacrilege to tourists and residents) I didn’t exactly brag about my not-so-suburban excursion either. The mall was very small, the anchor store being Sears. The food court contained Subway, Domino’s and McDonald’s (Pizza Hut was in the parking lot and Burger King was across the street). There was a small child riding one of those coin-operated toys that moves around. I couldn’t tell you whether it was a horse, car or what but it was emitting a slowed down tinny version of ”Popcorn.”

You couldn’t flush toilet paper anywhere except the Holiday Inn Express, my third hotel where you also could drink the tap water, they had air conditioning (very unusual and not that necessary in November despite temps in the 80s) and a coffee maker in the room (though they forgot to provide the coffee packet the one morning I had to get up early). Plumbing issues. Even at nice restaurants. I couldn’t help but peek in the basket next to the toilet for any grossly soiled paper and never spied any. Do you not go #2 in public? I became very concerned, especially since by day three I was popping Immodiums regularly. This same week a coworker Twittered this thinking it was an ESL joke. No, it was all too true.

My first morning I was awoken to loud children from the school across the street from my hotel, just like in Brooklyn. There were also occasional booms, more like M 80s than typical firecrackers being set off at all hours for no particular reason. At least here the fireworks tend to stay close to the week of July 4.

I was prepared for daytime 70s, evening 50s, temperate west coast weather. My jacket and two light sweaters ended up being suitcase filler. Celsius eludes me but I heard someone say it 88 my first full day there and I believe it. Whenever I get a an unfortunate sunburn I seem to be wearing a v-neck so that I have to cover up my red, peeling swatch of skin the rest of the vacation. The rest of my extremities including my face just turned the shade of a normal healthy hued human instead of the moderate pallor I normally wear. I had no idea how white I was until I saw the contrast at the end of the week on my feet caused by shoes that covered my toes and had an ankle strap.

”Nice” clothing wasn’t really necessary for anything I did but I still wasn’t going to look like a frump or a tourist. Well, there’s no not looking like a tourist if you’re 5’8” female (or male for that matter). This isn’t Mexico City and the people are tiny and dark, indigenous, not meztizo. I was a giant. But at least I wasn’t wearing a tank top, cropped cargo pants (seriously, why not just wear shorts or full lengthy pants?) a ponytail, sunglasses and either rugged sport-sandals or Crocs. No joke, 97% of American females wore this exact uniform. The other 3%, the older crowd, wore flowy embroidered blouses and skirts bought from local markets and had natural gray-streaked hair, usually cropped short.

For one of the brief spells when my internet worked I started reading that week’s Habitat column and began wishing my internet hadn’t functioned at all because it was about two New Yorker cartoonists who lived together. I can’t think of anything worse than maybe an article about cohabitating staff members of A Prairie Home Companion. But the couple was actually kind of charming and I didn’t end up hating them at all. Then I began wondering how someone could be of half-European ancestry and half-Ecuadorean and get so much of the distinctive Hispanic looks when some people just end up totally looking white like myself. Then again, Wonder Woman, Daisy Duke and the mom from Growing Pains are also half-Mexican.

The raw chicken in Oaxaca was really yellow, bright yellow. Apparently from marigolds in the chicken feed put their intentionally to make them yellow.

I’m still not sure if the alcohol acting faster in higher elevations thing is true or an urban myth. But I felt drunk after two drinks in Oaxaca. And by contrast, no matter how much I drank at the Oregon Coast (presumably sea level) over Labor Day I could not get tipsy.

I expected to take lots of food photos (I’m actually surprised I ended up with 186 photos, normally on one-week vacations I take much fewer) and I guess I did but one of my favorite unexpected things to shoot were illustrations for medical offices. Odd graphics like a spinal column floating untethered. Quiropráctico.

Ok, photos.

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3 thoughts on “79 Versions of Popcorn

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