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Estás en tu casa

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We sleep late on Sunday after Saturday's marathon and wake up in our new D.F. "house," a Colonia Roma vacation rental that Angela turned up online.

Casa en la Roma

And what a house it is. Turn of the century (19th to 20th of course), a belle époque with cherubs in relief floating above us on the ceiling, French doors, arches between rooms. A veritable museum; it actually once housed un taller gráfico, a workshop for painters, and all available wallspace is hung with originals and prints produced here over the years. Mostly 1960s and 1970s postmodern, some whimsical figures, a lot of abstraction. The furniture is all antique, crazily eclectic, from several late 19th to mid-20th century periods, with a glancing Asian fetish. A strange and beautiful mess.

This was not the place where we planned to stay. We had reserved the apartment next door, a completely postmodern piece housed within the belle époque-era structure, a rehab designed by the late Luis Barragán.

But when we arrived at three AM from the airport and stepped inside we were confronted with a classic parents-of-toddlers nightmare--a narrow winding staircase between the den on the bottom floor and the living space on the second. There were huge gaps between handrail bars and a thousand ways for a toddler to fall to broken bones or worse.

So at three AM we made the quick decision to go for the beyond-our-budget Master Suite, and the effusion of a dozen periods in the histories of art, furniture and architecture.

Everything I've written of here is so classically chilango--the easy juxtaposition of signs of disparate origins, a kind of "radical mestizo" to invoke the term, en español, used by my old friend José Luis Paredes Pacho, director of La Casa del Lago, el D.F.'s premier literary center and former drummer of the foundational rock en español band Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio. (We'll be hanging out more Pacho in upcoming posts.)

So we awake in the House of Art on Sunday, the city eerily quiet after the quincena reventón.

(I remember the hangovers well from my days here in the 90s. Eating flautas--in the States we call them taquitos--for breakfast at four in the afternoon.)

Where else to go on a Sunday in Mexico City with the kids but to the parque? Two of the city's finest are just down the street from us, Parque España and Parque México.

I lived at the corner of Parque España and Avenida Veracruz for two years, so visiting brings a strong nostalgia. But it's been so long--I left 13 years ago--that many of the memories are vague, rendered now in my mind as abstract paintings, maybe as expressionist pieces when I think of my more troubled times here. Colors thick and dark, the oils swirled hastily this way and that, sudden departures and arrivals. That was my life back then, that of a twenty- and thirty-something on a vision quest. Mostly, I was just a lost kid. But I also think I was living the times.

1984-1998: a tumultuous period. Many walls were falling, and new ones rising. Mexicans referred to most of this time simply as "la crisis." I remember hearing the word "zozobra" a lot in Mexico City. Monetary devaluations, crime waves, and chilangos ever perfecting the artful escape of the reventón.

But here and now I am with my partner Angela, who is visiting only for the third time in her life (the other two were brief, touristy affairs) and our daughters Ruby and Lucía. I am part tour guide and part producer, handling the logistics but also wanting to produce meaning for my family, to introduce them to el...¡SUR!

I am aware of the pitfalls of the latter--coming across as overbearing or farcical to Angela and simply not fun to the girls. In a corner of my mind there is a whisper: It's a vacation, dude!

Which it is. Which it also is, I should say.

We are away from our daily lives on the other side, we are riding high on the encounter with difference--the rush produced by equal parts anxiety and the relief of letting go a bit of the burden of one's identity "back home."

And we are also visiting a place with profound meaning for our family, because I lived here and because my father and his parents lived here. (Calle de Zacatecas 89, Colonia Roma, about a mile from where we're staying.)

And I could get into the big historical binational continental colonial post-colonial neo-colonial meanings, go back 500 years to Contact and Conquest and Mission...

And it's a vacation, dude!

And on this vacation we went to Parque España on a Sunday, the rides jammed with kiddies, a clown on stilts handing out balloons, designer dogs prancing everywhere (la Condesa has become a hip high-rent district since I left; when I lived here it was middle class and mildly bohemian.)

Later in the day we went to the larger Parque México. We heard tango music playing from a small pavilion and walked over with the girls in arms. Mostly young couples were solemnly stepping in the old patterns, to the scratchy voice of Carlos Gardel.

Night had already fallen and there was no light under the tarp, so we saw the bodies only in chiaroscuro from the sparse light of the amber lamps of the parque.

Lucía especially was wide-eyed at the sight. A few minutes later, she was twirling about by herself in the shadow of the pylons at the famous Charles Lindbergh monument, just a few paces away from the tangueros. Completely un-self conscious, creating her own, and very ornate, toddler tango.

I can't think of a park back home where this could have happened.

This is why we came to México.

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