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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   dreadful restaurant service in Mexico City
Saturday, February 24 2024

location: suite 301, Hotel Parque Mexico Boutique, La Condesa, Mexico City

I woke up before Gretchen this morning and had some room-temperature leftover Aztec soup. It was weird to the point of mildly gross, but something had me come back for more several times. I also made myself a pot of coffee from the room's coffee machine. Later, after Gretchen had awaken and done her DuoLingo, we went over to the dog park to again watch the dogs being delightful. We didn't bother trying to take advantage of our hotel's complimentary continental breakfast.
Eventually we walked north through the Parque Mexico and then up to the Fuente de Cibeles, a gloriously bad-ass bronze depiction of a heroic woman (technicall, the goddess Cybele) standing on a four-wheeled cart drawn by two male lions. The fountains weren't running at the time, perhaps as a water-saving measure during the heat of the day. (The lions are supposed to be a male/female couple, mythological humans who have been supernaturally turned into beasts, but I suppose lions look more awesome when they have impressive manes.)
Our meals yesterday had been disappointing in different ways to both of us, so at around noon today, we tried to get back on the right gastronomic track by going to Por Siempre Vegana II, the vegan taco place Gretchen had gone to the evening of our arrival in Mexico City. I'd been impressed with those tacos and thought doubling down on their tacos would be better than risking another weird or mediocre food experience at another of Mexico City's many vegan restaurants. Unfortunately, though, we happened to be waited on by what Gretchen reckoned to be the worst server she'd ever had the misfortune of interacting with. She was extremely slow and often ignored us entirely for long periods only to immediately forgot to get us things we'd asked for multiple times. Also, at this meal at least, we continued to find the food to be, well, weird. The conventional tacos were pretty good (though not as good as they'd been the other night), but the enchiladas tasted so bizarre, with their blue-cheese-flavored faux cheese, that I ended up having to eat them all (though I wasn't crazy about them either). As for the coffee that eventually arrived in a rusty, imperfectly-cleaned mug, it tasted like hot sugar water with almost no coffee flavor. That might've been the worst cup of coffee I've ever had. Furthering our misery were a couple street musicians who showed up, played for a bit, and the walked around asking us for money. The first played a very loud accordian, and we gave him nothing. The second played a quieter guitar, and after first refusing him anything, Gretchen had a change of heart, running after him and giving him a few coins. (I hadn't brought a wallet, so I didn't have any money of my own. But I wouldn't've given them money even if I had.)
One block away was the Mercado Medellin, an indoor bazaar that reminded me of a Turkish souq. It was an explosive riot of bright colors that by itself was enough to visually stun. Once you're stunned, the people staffing the various businesses try to catch your attention, which you spend your remaining brainpower trying to ignore. On top of all that, Gretchen wanted to make sure we didn't stumble into a business selling recognizable parts of a butchered animal. It was all a bit much, and I'm glad we weren't there very long.
From there, we walked westward to a huge urban park called Bosque de Chapultepec. (I told Gretchen that I once had a chicken named Chepultepec, whom I'd named after an Ordovician limestone/dolomite formation underlying a corner of my parents' property in the Shenandoah Valley. I figured the formation had been named after whatever the park had been named after, though the two are spelled slightly differently.) The walk there was a long one, and traversed a series of upscale neighborhoods that looked to me like West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and the denser parts of Beverly Hills. It was here that I saw my first Mexican Tesla. I also noticed that the people on the street tended to be whiter, though, unlike nearly all the white people near our hotel, they were speaking Spanish instead of American English. These are the people used for casting telanovelas and lifestyle advertising.
We entered Chapultepec near its southeast corner. After passing a mixed-gender group of young scouts doing some sort of ceremony, we found out way to the Audiorama, a place where music (it was similar to elevator music, though perhaps less objectionable) played softly from speakers while people sat around on benches. From there, we walked along the base of the Chapultepec Castle, a real castle on a hill above the trees. Gretchen initially wanted to join the line of people walkng up to the castle. But the line kept stopping and it was unclear how long we'd have to wait in it. So we continued northward, under occasionally massive old trees. Most of the trees I'd been seeing in Mexico City reminded me of Los Angeles (palm trees, eucalyptus), though there were also trees familiar from the American East Coast (particularly sweet gum and a species of ash). I thought initially these ashes were actually white ashes, but later I learned that Mexico has its own species of ash. This one didn't seem to be suffering from the emerald ash borer, which has killed all the mature ashes near our house in the Catskill and has begun killing them around our cabin in the Adirondacks as well.
Our ultimate destination in Chapultepec was the Museo de Arte Moderno, since Gretchen loves a good art museum. (I can appreciate them too, though in the mid afternoon after a long walk is not an ideal time for me.) The museum had at least one painting by Frida Kahlo but few from artists I recognized. Eventually I wandered into an exhibit focused entirely on Mezxican brutalist architecture, of which I am not much of a fan (Mexican or otherwise). When I think of brutalist architecture, the main thing that comes to mind is the beautiful 19th Century architecture that was inevitably torn down to make way for it (think Emperor Plaza in Albany or whatever red sandstone Victorian masterpiece was ripped down to clear the site for Oberlin's Mudd Library). I also have another criticism of brutalism when I'm not in a talkative mood: "their roofs leak." That was how I summed up my feelings about Brutalismo today when Gretchen asked. As for her, she genuinely finds some it lovely. She even likes parts of Emperor Plaza, particularly the whimsical retro-futurist design of The Egg, though she's careful to add that the leveling of African American neighborhoods to clear the land it stands on was an injustice.
The museum has an outdoor caf´, and it was there that Gretchen ordered me a double espresso. I probably should've had that before we went into the museum, because all it did for me today was make me wide awake for an overpriced cab ride back to the hotel. (The problem with hailing a cab in a place like Mexico City is that the cabbie can just make up a price based on how you look. This cabbie acted like the price he quoted was something he couldn't control, but he was probably lying. Due to Mexico's notororious congesion, getting back to the hotel took awhile, but there were some interesting sights along the way, such a tiny sun-bronzed woman who wandered out into stopped traffic, and had her daughter climb up on her back and juggle while her younger daughter fumbled with balls in front of her (eventually dropping them). People finding unlikely and nearly impossible economic niches to exploit is one of Mexico City's major themes.

After another shower and a sleepless siesta, Gretchen and I walked to El Mundo, a fancy vegan restaurant we'd passed yesterday evening. A skinny youngish man was working the bar and he also became our waiter after first arguing with Gretchen about the reservation she'd made. El Mundo has a very pleasant ambience and looks like the sort of place where one might have a cozy romantic dinner. Unfortunately, our waiter quickly began ruining it for us. First he insisted on us drawing from what seemed to be a Mexican tarot deck. The card we picked was supposed to be the drink we ordered, but Gretchen's ("the devil") had a flavor profile (absinthe for one thing) more suited to me. So I ordered that and Gretchen ordered a glass of rosé. When the waiter poured Gretchen's wine, he did it in front of her, and it was such a small pour that she initially thought it was just a taste. But no, that was the pour. I ordered the one sandwich on the menu, and it ended up being kind of meh. It came with a couple large salad leaves, one of which was chard, and though they appeared to be mostly decorative, I put them in my sandwich to make it more interesting. Meanwhile Gretchen had ordered a pate appetizer. It was a tiny portion that, even so, came with too few pieces of toast to eat it all. So Gretchen asked for more toast. At the end of the meal, she was alarmed to see that we'd been charged for those additional pieces of toast. That did it. The culture in Mexico is to tip 10% at restaurants, but tonight we'd be leaving no tip at all. This was the first time Gretchen could remember not leaving a tip in places where tips are expected. She'd even tipped our abysmal waitress after lunch today.

Gretchen with a dog that decided he loved us at the dog park this morning. Click to enlarge.

Fuente de Cibeles with its skyscraper backdrop. Click to enlarge.

A glimpse of the Chapultepec Castle. Click to enlarge.

The Frida Kahlo painting at the Museo de Arte Moderno. Click to enlarge.

A painting at the Museo de Arte Moderno. Click to enlarge.

A sculpture made of parts of a Volkswagen Beetle at the Museo de Arte Moderno. Click to enlarge.

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