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Earlier this evening, Bishop David Foley, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham (Third bishop of the diocese, as well as former auxiliary of Richmond), passed away after final bout of cancer. He was 88, tiny (under five feet tall) but astonishingly energetic up until the end. Last weekend, parishes in the diocese published this handwritten letter from him in their bulletins.

Bishop Foley

Bishop Foley remained very active in the diocese after his retirement. He said Mass everywhere, whenever needed, including in the Extraordinary Form. I last heard him preach perhaps a year ago or so, and his preaching was focused, on point and deeply well-prepared. One of the most striking elements of the way he celebrated Mass was perhaps related to his celebration of the Extraordinary Form – he prayed the Consecration almost sotto voce.  This might surprise some of you whose knowledge of Bishop Foley derives primarily from his interactions with EWTN leadership – including Mother Angelica – back in the day. But there it was.

One more note: My 17-year old works at a local grocery store, and just last fall, Bishop Foley came in. He recognized my son – we are assuming because my son has served at Casa Maria Convent and Retreat Center, where the Bishop would sometimes celebrate Mass – but their paths did not cross that often – perhaps two or three times over the course of three years – but Bishop Foley recognized him – if not by name, but definitely by sight – and chatted with him.

Requiescat in Pace. 

Bishop Foley’s obituary.

 

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— 1 —

Went to the movies, saw A Quiet Place. If you can handle a bit of a scare and some earned sadness based on themes of love and sacrifice – go see it, too. I wrote about it here. 

— 2 —

Various activities this week:

  • A Piano Honors Ensemble Recital on Sunday
  • Went and watched our young mayor whom I don’t think anyone hates yet jump out of a plane on Monday afternoon – story here. It was a fun community moment out there in our lovely Railroad Park.
  • Monday evening, we attended a recital of organ students, including the daughter of a friend of ours. Here’s hoping that our keyboardist will be performing in it next year…
  • Homeschool trip/activity at the Birmingham Museum of Art. I always like going to our fine, free museum, but I think we might have aged out of activities like this…even if it was geared towards teens.
  • Two music lessons this week – one classical, one jazz.
  • Friday promises good weather, so M and will probably go check out what’s blooming in the Botanical Gardens and try out our finally reopened Vulcan Trail. Fascinating updates will probably be posted on Instagram. I thought I had recorded the plane-jumping, but got home and discovered that my phone video wasn’t recording for some reason. A restart fixed it.

 

—3–

And here you go, Friday: A morning with math (getting through that Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra – we’ll finish by mid-May!), some Spanish, some history reading. IMG_20180413_131338.jpgThen we set out to visit our just re-opened Vulcan Trail. It’s been closed for probably close to a year as they did something that’s been needed for a while – joining the Vulcan park to the trail below.

If you want to read about who this Vulcan fellow is, go here. He made his first formal appearance at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, representing the city.

Then to the (also free) wonderful Birmingham Botanical Gardens to see what’s in bloom. Not anything at the Zen spot, obviously – except enlightenment. 

 

–4–

 

This weekend:

  • Mass serving
  • District piano competition (to qualify to play at state in May)
  • 17-year old taking the ACT
  • 17-year old working
  • 17-year old prepping for a college visit to Auburn Sunday night and Monday.
  • Oh, and someone looking at a car he’s hankering to buy with his hard-earned grocery bagging cash. My philosophy is: you have use of a car you don’t have to pay for. Why buy one? His philosophy is different. The whole things make me nervous, but the car he wants has excellent reviews and is by a carmaker I trust, so….
  • You’d think I’d be used to this by now. But I’m not. Parents of potty-training kids who think it can’t get worse? Oh, yes, it can. Everything about parenting older kids is great and fantastic except the driving part. That’s awful. And it’s awful because it’s not a joke. You don’t want your child to be hurt or killed. You don’t want them hurting or, God forbid being responsible for the death of another person. Over-dramatic? Nope. My prayer life gets a daily revival twice a day – once from 7:15-7:30 and then again from 3:15-3:45. Double revival when I hear sirens during that half-hour.

 

–5 —

I somehow missed this earlier in the year, but…you know those podcast series centered on a mysterious crime? Like Serial and S-Town (which was centered not too far from here – closer to Tuscaloosa)? I listened to part of Serial, then got impatient with it and fed up with the centrality of the podcaster to the story.

Very dependably, The Onion has come through with its own version: A Very Fatal Murder. It’s in six parts, which total about an hour. It’s pretty funny and absolutely -spot on in the satire of the self-important podcaster, the subtext of contempt for “ordinary” people and the ultimate sense you get of human lives being valuable only insofar as they serve a narrative.

It’s the kind of school where the football field is bigger than the chemistry lab, and kids learn to throw a baseball before they take the SAT’s.

After all, most of the people who lived here had never met a podcast host. Let alone a podcast host from New York City. They weren’t used to stuff like this.

 

–6–

Speaking of contempt for The Rest of Us, let’s turn to the pages of The New Yorker and “Chick-Fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” 

 

Defenders of Chick-fil-A point out that the company donates thousands of pounds of food to New York Common Pantry, and that its expansion creates jobs. The more fatalistic will add that hypocrisy is baked, or fried, into every consumer experience—that unbridled corporate power makes it impossible to bring your wallet in line with your morals. Still, there’s something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A, which has sought to portray itself as better than other fast food: cleaner, gentler, and more ethical, with its poultry slightly healthier than the mystery meat of burgers. Its politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety. A representative of the Richards Group once told Adweek, “People root for the low-status character, and the Cows are low status. They’re the underdog.” That may have been true in 1995, when Chick-fil-A was a lowly mall brand struggling to find its footing against the burger juggernauts. Today, the Cows’ “guerrilla insurgency” is more of a carpet bombing. New Yorkers are under no obligation to repeat what they say. Enough, we can tell them. NO MOR.

My pleasure. 

As someone on Twitter said, I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be tough. So why are they so scared of a chicken sandwich?

And let’s imagine the outcry if the Nashville Tenessean or Knoxville News-Sentinel had run a piece fretting about the infiltration of halal or kosher food on the local menu.

Save yourself time – don’t read the article. Just scroll through “chick-fil-a New Yorker” on Twitter and enjoy yourself on this Friday afternoon, maybe with a side order of waffle fries.

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–7–

 

Next Monday, April 16, is the memorial of St. Bernadette.

Today  (April 16)  is her memorial.  Loyola has the entry I wrote on St. Bernadette for The Loyola Kids Book of Saints up on their website – you can read the whole thing here. 

Bernadette’s life wasn’t easy to begin with. She and her family lived in terrible poverty in a village in France called Lourdes. By the time she was 14, Bernadette had been sick so often that she hadn’t grown properly. She was the size of a much younger girl. She, her parents, and her younger brothers and sisters all lived in a tiny room at the back of someone else’s house, a building that had actually been a prison many years before.

They slept on three beds: one for the parents, one for the boys, and one for the girls. Every night they battled mice and rats. Every morning, they woke up, put their feet on cold stone floors, and dressed in clothes that had been mended more times than anyone could count. 12912673_1739425146300211_1906595173_nEach day they hoped the work they could find would bring them enough bread to live on that day.

Bernadette’s life was terribly difficult, but she wasn’t a miserable girl. She had a deep, simple faith in God. She didn’t mind any of the work she had to do, whether it was helping her mother cook or taking care of her younger brothers and sisters. There was, though, one thing that bothered her. She hadn’t been able to attend school very often, and she didn’t know how to read. Because of that, she had never learned enough about her faith to be able to receive her first Communion. Bernadette wanted to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but her days, which were full of hard work, left little time for learning

Like other girls, Bernadette had many friends. She spent time with them in the countryside, playing and gathering wood for their families’ fireplaces and stoves. One cold February day, Bernadette was out with her sister and a friend, doing just that. They wandered along the river until they came to a spot where a large, shallow cave called a grotto had formed in the hilly bank. Bernadette’s sister and friend decided to take off their shoes and cross the stream.

Because she was so sickly, Bernadette knew her mother would be angry if she plunged her thin legs into the icy water, so she stayed behind. But after a few minutes, she grew tired of waiting for her companions to return. She took off her stockings and crossed the stream herself.

What happened then was very strange. The bushes that grew out of the grotto walls started blowing around as if they were being blown by a strong wind. Bernadette looked up. High above her in the grotto stood a gi

 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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We are home now – first stop Chick-fil-A, second stop washing machine, third stop Zaxby’s.

Home.

It’s still a miracle, really. Will I ever stop feeling the wonder at being in Mexico City at breakfast time, then home in time for lunch? I doubt it, and I don’t want to. It is a wonder, I’m grateful for it even as I feel a sense of unease at the sense of obligation it brings. Previous generations had it so hard and produced such beautiful, truthful things. I have it so easy, I have so much more time…what am I doing with it?

A question that weighs especially heavily after experiencing the highs – and in a more limited way – the lows – of a country like Mexico.

So, back to Saturday morning.

It did not begin well. Montezuma got me, and I can’t figure out where we met. Nothing but bottled water touched my lips. I didn’t have any fruits or vegetables that might have been washed in the preceding days. The only thing I can figure out is that Friday morning, we had breakfast and I had juevos awash in mole – I didn’t eat it all (they just drown things in mole sauce (why???), and to my palate it’s definitely overkill) – but I think that the little bit I did consume might have been it. Perhaps the mole had been reconstituted with local water and not heated at a high enough temperature to Kill Things. I don’t know. I do know it was miserable for a few hours there.

It took the morning for me to (mostly) recover. I sent the boys out a couple of times to wander, buy churros – whatever – just go. And they kept coming back like fifteen minutes later. Why are you here?

I took solace in the fact that if I, indeed, couldn’t get going at all that the Puebla centro is safe and interesting enough that they could, if seriously threatened, spend the whole day out there themselves, without me. (they’re almost 17 and 13, remember). There was a movie theater, too, if things got desperate.

But by about 11:30, I was confident enough of my system that I decided that our original Saturday plan could happen, albeit later than planned: Cholula.

Cholula is a neighboring town, but really, driving there, it seems more like a suburb. It’s six or seven miles away, but there’s no empty space between the two. The reason for going is this: what they think is probably the biggest pyramid, by volume, in the world.

Except you can’t see it!

For it’s under a hill and on top of the hill sits a church.

You can read about the pyramid here – in case you don’t know the reasons the MesoAmericans, particularly in central Mexico, could build their pyramids to such a great size is that they periodically enlarged them by building over them every few decades.

So, we Ubered it over there, startled by the immensity of the church-topped hill right there, with the town spread out around it. The driver let us out at a plaza lined with food and gift stalls, filled with visitors (it was Saturday, remember!) and in the middle of which were voladores, ready to take flight.

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What are voladores?

 The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. During the ceremony, four young men climb a wooden pole eighteen to forty metres high, freshly cut from the forest with the forgiveness of the mountain god. A fifth man, the Caporal, stands on a platform atop the pole, takes up his flute and small drum and plays songs dedicated to the sun, the four winds and each of the cardinal directions. After this invocation, the others fling themselves off the platform ‘into the void’. Tied to the platform with long ropes, they hang from it as it spins, twirling to mimic the motions of flight and gradually lowering themselves to the ground.

It was interesting to see, although I don’t think “fling” describes the actions I saw. More like, “sit suspended and slowly start spinning while your hat-holding companions work the crowd below.”

I’m not going to recreate the next hour or so of activity step by step. Just know it involved: Seeing a huge line to enter the tunnel that’s been excavated through the pyramid. Getting the very clever idea that since we knew there was a museum associated with the pyramid, we’d avoid the line, get tickets for the experience at the museum and do that first. Getting ice cream. Going to the wrong museum. Going to the right museum, but being told we had to buy tickets at the tunnel entrance. Senora. Gracias. Waiting in line for thirty minutes (me sitting on a bench next to a rotating series of old Mexican men and women) to buy said tickets. Going through the tunnel.  Coming out the other side. Climbing up the hill to Our Lady of Remedies. Praying for just that. Very convenient. Climbing down and, knowing that we were on the complete opposite of the museum, saying, “forget it,” and heading into town instead.

With Mom fighting cramps every time her body changed position, it seemed. Which, you know, when you’re walking around, happens a lot.  Which explains why “forget it” is not exactly what she said in her head when understanding where the museum was in relation to where she ended up.

In all seriousness, it is an amazing sight, even though it’s a hill – for you know that under the hill lies an enormous pyramid and there you are on top of it with Our Lady of Remedies. The church is a lovely bright yellow, and it really does dominate the landscape of the town. In fact, as we left Puebla on Sunday, our bus drove on the highway several kilometers north – and I could see it from there.

Incidentally, Our Lady of Remedies, along with many other churches in the Puebla state, especially in and around Cholula, were heavily damaged in last fall’s earthquake. We saw a great deal of evidence of that – turrets and other features piled beside walls and so on.

 

What absorbed me most, though, was  the families. It’s not as if it were the first time  – in Mexico, that’s what you see most of – families, and most of the time, it’s multi-generational. Grandparents, parents, and children climbing the hill up to the church, waiting in line to enter the church, sharing a picnic, gathered at the top of the pyramid, under the shadow of Our Lady of Remedies. Little ones slung their buzzing, clacking toys around and wept at their dropped paletas, parents bounced babies in slings and grandparents, their stature usually about halfway between their children’s and grandchildren’s,  pointed out the features in the town spread out below and the volcanoes in the distance.

Deciding that our time in the two Archeology museums in Mexico City had probably been enough, we wandered into Cholula – as is the case with all Mexican towns, blocks of brightly painted buildings lined the streets and this being Holy Saturday, it was hopping. We did a bit of souvenir shopping, then found the Zocalo where we settled in for some lunch at a stand, then shopped a bit more – there was an extensive book section under the tent, and I bought several easy versions of classics in Spanish – probably 3rd-5th grade – the Iliad, The Invisible Man and a collection of Poe stories. We’ll see how serious our burgeoning MesoAmerican naturalist/scholar really is about learning Spanish, won’t we?

I then followed the lead of this blogger, found a taxi, and asked him if he would take us to two churches on the outskirts off Cholula and then back to Puebla – he agreed ($300 pesos was his price – about $15).

The churches?

First, St. María Tonantzintla. I got up at 4:30 am, and I’m tired, so I’ll let the other blogger fill you in:

Santa María Tonantzintla was constructed in the 17th century as a church for the local indigenous people. As was typical in Mexico, the local people incorporated many of their own beliefs into their religious symbols. This fusion produces a style which some refer to as “indigenous baroque”.

The church has a yellow body, but is nicely set off with red tile. The front ornamentation is rather simple, with figures of St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Virgin Mary enclosed in niches along the front. The overall look is very pleasant.

It’s the inside where things get more interesting. A riot of figures cover every surface. The impact is stunning, your eyes are drawn over and over the surfaces, examining the many details. You can see children, birds, angels, flowers, and many other symbols. All are painstakingly crafted from plaster, then carefully painted or gilded.

I’ll go further than he does about the exterior – it’s not just “pleasant” – it’s distinctive and singular. The interior is as he describes it, and, as he continues – you aren’t allowed to take photographs inside. The people sell photographs and postcards and even a small book, and really, why not support them in their dedication to their own parish?

 

Our Cathedral rector traveled to this church a few years ago and snapped some interior photos after celebrating Mass – enjoy! 

Just a mile away is San Francisco Apatapec, fascinating and even startling because it’s so different than the first church – yes, the commonalities in structure indicate a proximity in construction, but instead of red tile, the second church is adorned with Talavera tile. I was a little restricted in photography because they had set up a tent that reached from the front door to the courtyard opening – I couldn’t get a good long view but I think you get the sense of it. Click on photos to get a larger version.

 

 

Aren’t they amazing?

And note – these are not located in the midst of grand cities or wealthy neighborhoods. What surrounds them may not be squalor, but it’s not a gated community either. It’s hardscrabble small town Mexico.

And of course, we were popping in on Holy Saturday afternoon, remember. Both churches were busy with preparation – people were dusting, scouring, trimming and arranging flowers. So here you have it: Beautiful – no, stunning – churches that are not imposed on or extracted from the sufferings of the poor by authoritarian hierarchs, but stand tall, rather, as expressions of the people’s love and worship of God, exploding with hope and trust in the Beauty that waits for them.

As I said…flight was at 7 am, which meant a 4:30 am wake-up. Thank goodness we were in an airport hotel. I might still be in Mexico City if it were otherwise. I’ll post on the rest of Saturday tomorrow. On Tuesday. Got it?

I’ll violate my general aversion to putting video on the blog (because you can’t resize them)  by sticking this one of the voladeros here:

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Today, we took Monday’s lessons inside to a cooler place – the really superb National Museum of Anthropology.

 

 

The museum is located, along with many other sites, in the massive Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s Central Park, but with more museums, a bigger zoo and…vendors. Dozens and dozens, lining the paths to both the zoo and the museum (and perhaps further – we didn’t venture beyond that area). This week is school holiday week in Mexico, so the park was thronged with families, and I’m guessing that the vendor scene is a feature of weekends and holidays – it was amazing. It was standard stuff, with not a lot of variety: candy stalls, taco stalls, toy stalls, spicy snack stalls, and face painting and temporary tattoos. The vendor yelling was impressive and constant.

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So, not really like Central Park after all. One of the boys said as much: “This is sort of like Central Park, but different…”  Teachable Moment Mom asks why. They look at me. I say, “Because people in New York City don’t have kids. Mexicans still do….”

First, let me backtrack. The day began with an actual breakfast. I am not a breakfast person, but I know from experience that with travel, you never know when your next meal is going to be possible, so it’s best to fuel up if and when you can. I went out before the boys woke up, and walked around scoping out possibilities. Turns out there were two busy breakfast places right next to our apartment. I took photos of the menus outside, and returned to translate. I thought this would save time and possible disasters. It was very good, and per usual, very cheap. One kid had pancakes (came with scrambled eggs, sausages – more like hot dogs – refried beans and that tortilla salad I need to figure out), the other had mollette – which is basically toast (in this case half a sub-shaped roll) slathered with beans and cheese and a few other things – along with scrambled eggs, those hot-dog type sausages and that salad. I had an omelette with ham and cheese..with beans and that salad. What is it?! Included were drinks – the juice of the day which seemed to be mostly strawberry, coffee and tea, as well as a little dish of jello placed in front of us before we ordered. Price: 120 Pesos, or about $6.50.

I’m telling you…..I now understand why American retirees flock to this part of the world and why money transfer from Mexicans working in the US is so important. Those dollars go a long way.

Then we walked to the park (about two blocks from the apartment). Encountered the throngs of families out for the day, as well as the vendors starting to hawk their wares. Made our way to the museum  – admission , 70 pesos, about $3. It’s a stunning museum – world class, and, not surprisingly, the finest collection of MesoAmerican artifacts we’ve ever seen.

 

 

The first floor is organized around a plaza, chronologically covering the history of MesoAmerica, beginning with the earliest migrations  – we skipped that room and went straight to the pre-Classic/Teotihuacan room. The most impressive was, not surprisingly, the Aztec (or Mexica) room – I feel as if I finally have a good sense of the Aztecs.

A couple of notes on the museum:

First, the main placard in every room was in both Spanish and English, but the signage on individual pieces was in Spanish only. If I had known about that, I might have IMG_20180327_121512.jpgsearched online for some sort of guide before coming.

Secondly, while some interests in the United States might shy away from addressing the issue of human sacrifice, or downplay or even outright deny it, the Mexicans themselves don’t. The descriptions didn’t hesitate to say, “This has a cavity for collecting blood of human sacrifices” and so on.

It was fairly overwhelming and even Maya Guy was experiencing Museum Fatigue, so we skipped the second floor which is dedicated, I think, to the traditional and living crafts of indigenous peoples.

A charming scene: A man with two children about eight and ten years old, had employed a guide – an older, fellow, huge, with a big beard and a voice to match. They were Spanish-speaking, but the dynamic was still clear and quite wonderful – the children were absolutely engaged, asking all sorts of questions about each artifact, which the guide patiently – and loudly – answered.

 

I had not intended to go to the zoo but it didn’t seem as if it were that far away on foot, we were done earlier at the museum than I’d expected, so why not?

Eh. We shouldn’t have wasted our time. The zoo is free, and it shows. It seems as if the animals are mostly in the deer family – antelopes of one sort or another – and given the fact that it was mid-afternoon, of course, most of the animals were sleeping. Including this tapir, which is not dead.

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We spent about 45 minutes walking through – that was enough. We then headed up to Chapultepec Castle – you can read about it here. Short version: it was built in the 18th century for the Spanish Viceroy, then used as a military academy. It was the site of an important battle during the Mexican-American War in which the very famous and deeply revered Niños Héroes gave their lives – one leaping from the roof wrapped in the Mexican flag in order to prevent the US forces from claiming it. (modern historians say that there’s probably a lot of mythology that’s grown up around this incident, if it ever actually occurred.)   The castle is the only one in the Western Hemisphere actually ever inhabited by a real monarch – Maximilian I for those few years before he was shot.

It wasn’t fascinating, but it was a good walk up, and a good thing to experience as a part of the history of Mexico and one more thread in the very complicated weave of Mexican identity.

 

 

(Photos is of a ceiling mural depicting the boy leaping from the roof. View is from the hill, looking down Reforma towards the center. Our apartment is just on the other side of the skyscraper with the colored staircases on the right.)

We then walked to a grocery story about half a mile away – the only one even near our apartment. It was a Superama, where the search was on for 1) Pomade – Hair Guy is fully aware of the Mexican male’s mastery of his hair and was confident that if he was going to find quality hair product anywhere, this was the place  and 2) That precious commodity which is contraband in the US:  Kinder Eggs. Both were acquired.

Fun feature, seen in this photo: “Dog parking.”

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(Most interesting to me – why is it in English?)

Then we ubered back to the apartment – it would have been a mile walk, but we’d been walking all day, we needed to save time, and it was maybe two bucks.

Back for a bit of a rest, then about six, we went back out and got AMAZING tacos and the first truck we saw around the corner – bistek, pollo and el pastor. I don’t need to eat anything else while I’m here. You can just feed me those one dollar tacos loaded with quality meat, that stringy cheese and nopales and I’d be good.

Then grab an uber to….ARENA MEXICO!

Yup, we did Lucha Libre.

Nacho Libre has been playing on a loop in our house for months, with probably 50% of the conversation being made up of quotes (You are the be-est. It’s all political. I don’t believe in God – I believe in science.).

So of course when I saw that Lucha Libre happens, not only on the weekends, but on Tuesday night, I put it forward, and of course they wanted to go.

I only have twenty minutes before I need to get them up for the day (Our Lady of Guadalupe, here we come!) so I’m going to make this as fast as I can – first a rant and instructions on how to do Lucha Libre.

In prepping, I read so many blog posts and discussion board posts that said essentially: Lucha Libre is great fun but OOOOOOH be careful! It’s in a dangerous part of town, there’s scalpers and scam artists and you probably want to go with a tour, and not venture to accomplish on your own.

Balderdash. Stupid. Ridiculous.

Here’s what we did: We got an Uber, rode the mile to the Arena Mexico, got out, stood at the box office in a line that was to my eyes and ears, about 75% non-Mexican tourists, got our tickets (140 pesos apiece – about $7), walked around the block looking at the vendors, went to the gate where we were lightly searched (women by female security gaurds), then escorted to our seats. Watched the show, left two hours later – hopped in one of the many waiting taxis outside, and rode home.

Honestly, so much that’s out there about going to Lucha Libre makes it sound like you’re taking your life into your own hands and venturing to an underground cockfighting match. If you are arriving at this blog post wondering, in fear, “Can I do this without a guide or tour?” Of course you can. And you won’t be alone. It’s a very, very popular tourist thing to do – Joseph recognized a group that had been right ahead of us climbing the Pyramid of the Sun yesterday at Teotihuacan.

One more note about process: Sometimes when venturing into entertainment events in other countries, we might indeed get confused – what do I do? Where do I sit? No worries about that here. After you are searched, your ticket is scanned by one man. Then you take two steps, and another man tears your ticket in half. Then you take two more steps and another man – and usher – grabs your tickets and takes you to your seat (you tip him a minimum of 5 pesos a seat – it’s how they make their money). You are immediately approached by vendors who bring you whatever – there seems to be one guy who is assigned to take care of a certain section, and then there are other roving vendors constantly coming by – drinks, popcorn, tacos and then, in weird collection – one big tray containing nachos, fruit cups and…ramen cups.

(One more suggestion – because of the constant presence of food and drink vendors, try to avoid an aisle seat. They’re just doing their job, true, but in doing so, they’ve got to block your view.)

 

 

 

It’s…fake professional wrestling. That’s it. But with masks (mostly – there were a few who didn’t have masks). There were, I think…six rounds of wrestling. Five of them were tag team and one was just between two. The wrestlers: Mephisto, Inquisidor, Terrible and the like. It was insanely fake. I don’t get the appeal, but the appeal is, indeed strong, and wow were people getting into it. The group in front of us was a middle aged married couple who both looked as if they could be on university faculties, and I’m thinking a child and spouse – a thirty-ish woman and man – the man was full-on hipster with beard and man-bun and everything and he was ALL IN, intensely watching, yelling, booing and cheering, as were the screaming young women behind us.

I wouldn’t take time to go again, but I’m very glad we did (as were the boys – they had a good time and were amazed at the spectacle, the comedy – for it is funny – and the crowd.) The whole day was simply fantastic people watching and a great immersion into Mexico City life…

For some video from Lucha Libre, go to Instagram. We’ll be at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for part of today, so follow me on Instagram Stories for that. 

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Teotihuacan is a solid hour away from Mexico City. There are a few options for getting out there, if you’re not driving yourself: Take a tour; take public transportation (bus) or do a taxi or Uber (or some other similar service).

I decided that it made the most sense to let this be our first ever Uber experience – and it was the right decision.  Uber has its problems, true, but it really is a tremendous innovation to a) be able to let the driver know your destination ahead of time, so he can decide whether or not to take the job  b)pay via the app  c) see ratings. It takes so much stress out of the experience. In this case, I know that the weird path I’m being driven through the back streets of a town was on purpose and not an attempt to run up the fare….

Agustin was our driver. An older man, he has almost 4,000 rides to his credit, was polite, but since he really didn’t speak any English, there was no conversation, which didn’t bother the Introvert at all. We just rode out of town, seeing the sights and listening the American oldies on the radio.

We left later than it’s recommended for Teotihuacan. The site is large and mostly unshaded, and does get crowded, so the optimal experience would be a very early arrival. But…I had tired boys who I really didn’t feel like awakening at the crack of dawn again, so we ended up getting there around 11:15.

Most people, to the extent that they know about Teotihuacan at all, assume it’s an Aztec site. Mexico City=Aztecs, so that’s right, isn’t it? No – by the Aztecs rose to power, this site was largely uninhabited. No one knows much about who they were, what they were about, or why the community collapsed.

It was hot, but not unbearably so – but then I have a high tolerance for heat. It’s cold that I run from. The site was pretty crowded, with visitors from all over. Mexicans, of course, but also Germans (of course – they and the Brits  are the most enthusiastic European travelers), Japanese swathed in scarves, and a lot of Americans (Look. I know that in this hemisphere, we are all Americans and I am always aware of that and try to write accordingly. But there is just not succinct shorthand for speaking of inhabitants of the United States other than “American” – so it will have to do.) – family groups, but mostly groups of young people. Students, I’m assuming.

(Admission: 70 pesos apiece – about 3.85 USD.)

It’s an impressive site for its size and the act of imagination it takes to visualize a thriving community and the work it took to construct it.  I assume that a society that constructs such huge temples matches the effort with elaborate ritual and a complex way of life, and since we don’t know much about it – is an intriguing mystery to contemplate.

 

 

But… Michael and I both agreed that we prefer the Mayan sites in Guatemala that we visited: Tikal, Yaxha, Aguateca and the other one I can never remember the name of. There’s more known about them, the landscape is more to our liking – having howler monkeys leap and, well, howl right above your head is hard to beat –  and there’s just more there. As I said, Teotihuacan has the sight of the site itself, which is worth experiencing, the massive pyramids, and some very interesting murals that have survived – but that’s it, really, that’s on site and not in the museum.

It’s definitely worth seeing, but Michael and I are sticking with the Maya for now.

 

 

A couple more notes from that part of the day:

  • The major goal people have in Teotihuacan is climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. I was game, but I was dreading it, mostly because a)it’s a lot of steps up, and that is, you know, tiring and b) coming down these things is far more nerve-racking to me than going up. I think I’m going to die from exhaustion climbing up, but I know I’m going to die from crashing down those steps on the descent. But hey! I didn’t die! First, there were so many people there, there was a line to ascend, and it was a slow moving line, which meant that in the steepest part, you’d take three steps, wait a minute and then take three more, so I didn’t even feel close to dying. Secondly they had rope handrails, so I could join the other old ladies and hang on to that for dear life on the descent.
  • (I think this was another reason that my younger son, although he liked the day, was not as keen on it as he has been on the Maya sites – there were just so many people, it wasn’t as meditative as experience as he’s had in the other sites, most of which, with the exception of Tikal, we’ve had mostly to ourselves (and Marlon, our guide on this most recent trip). But even Tikal, while certainly more touristed, has many more different areas, and is shrouded in jungle, so you don’t feel part of a crowd.
  • There are many vendors, even on the site. They each sell exactly the same items (annoying jaguar whistles and obsidian knives), and they say the exact same thing the many vendors at Chichen Itza said: Almost free! Almost free!

 

So…how do we get back??

I had read that getting an Uber car was iffy on the way back. First, there aren’t that many Uber drivers hanging around the site, waiting, and secondly, cell service can be a problem. Both seemed to be an issue for me when I started trying..the app wasn’t cooperating, and there didn’t seem to be any cars nearby. So I walked up to the ticket guy and asked where the bus stop was and he said, “Across the road – it comes every fifteen minutes.”

And so it did. Cost: 52 pesos apiece (about 2.85). It wasn’t one of those luxury Mexican buses, but it was fine and very comfortable, although the ride did take a while. We stopped in the town before hitting the highway, but not just to take on new riders. Two law enforcement agents boarded at the stop, one with a video camera in hand. They walked through the bus (smiling, I might add – the one fellow fist-bumped both my sons), one observing and counting empty seats, and the other videoing the face of each person on the bus. Someone I know had had this experience, so I wasn’t taken completely by surprise – but it was still…interesting.

The bus goes to the big Norte station, which was still a ways from our apartment, so since we now do Uber…we did that.

Now I should note that at this point, no one had had anything to eat since a couple of sweet rolls around 9:30 am. Yes, we’d been hydrated (there’s no water available in the site, which we knew about,  so we had a backpack with water bottles that we carried), but still…it was 4, and time to eat. I thought we needed more than street tacos, but we were too messy and worn out for anything even vaguely formal, so as we neared the apartment, I peaked into a homey-looking place and made an executive decision – and so in we went.

It might not have been the best decision, but you know what? People were nourished and had a new experience. And that’s the most important thing of all! New! Experiences!

It was small, but busy – I was kind of surprised that at 4, every table was taken with people eating full meals. Were people still eating lunch? I’m thinking they were. Anyway, our waitress didn’t speak any English and the menu was all in Spanish, and things were moving pretty quickly, so I did my best. I mean, I do know “pollo” and “sopa” and a lot of other food-related words, but some mysteries remained.

It was a menu de dia – so three courses, plus flan at the end. First course: soup, fruit or salad. The boys got fruit (lesson one: “fruit” in Mexico is always going to be spiced. I should have anticipated that.) I got the soup which was just okay, tasting mostly of raw onion more than anything else.  Second course: rice, spaghetti or salad. We all got rice, which was…a small plate of rice. Third: about twelve choices of all types. We ended up with two chicken dishes – one grilled and one breaded and fried – and flautas. The chicken came with refried beans and something I could not figure out…but I think it was a sort of tortilla salad? Is that a thing? The flautas were good, my son said, although he really could not figure out how to eat them until he observed a woman doing so – she just stabbed her knife through the end of it and ate it from the other end on down.

The only drink we could discern was what was in pitchers already on the table: coconut water.

So, as I said, it wasn’t Instagrammable food, it wasn’t the best – certainly not up to the standards of the simple, fresh but really good food I had in Guatemala – but it got the job done and..oh…here’s how much I paid. 170 pesos.

Do you know how much that is?

$9.70.

For three complete dinners.

So…now it’s about 5:30. What to do with the evening, especially for tired people who really don’t feel like wandering about the city – we walked enough today, thanks.

There’s a movie theater just a couple of blocks away, so I looked up what was showing, not really thinking it would be worth it to go, considering we don’t speak Spanish. But then I noticed that in the listings, films were labeled with either ESP or SUB – and all the US films had SUB. I did a bit of research, and then, while the boys were chilling out, walked over to the theater to make sure, asking the girl in the ticket office if a film is labeled “SUB” that means the dialogue is in the film’s original language – in this case, English. Si, that’s what it means. Which surprises me – I thought they’d be dubbed. But apparently not (I think animated films are). So….

TITANES DEL PACIFICO

Was the evening’s entertainment.

(I never saw the first one. I survived this one. It was silly and loud but not offensive and IMG_20180326_191844.jpghad just enough emotionally-rooted character motivation and just enough interesting character actors to not bore me.)

Observations from the Mexico City movie-going experience at this theater, part of the Cinepolis chain:

  • Tickets are purchased for reserved seats.
  • They provide nifty, very substantial plastic trays for concessions.
  • Attendants were at the door of the theater after the showing, taking trays, dumping trash and emptying unconsumed drink into buckets.
  • Cost of tickets: about $3/USD apiece.

This is going to be one of the cheapest vacations I’ve ever had….

Videos can be found on Instagram. I don’t put videos here because I don’t know how to resize them and they always post in titanic form. 

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Perhaps"amy welborn" you remember at the beginning of Lent, I posted a section from a late 19th-century book called The Correct Thing for Catholics.  Somewhat dated, of course, but still, if you think about it, useful.

Well, here’s the author’s advice for these days in particular. Other sites are offering you deep thoughts. I simply offer the correct thing. 

The focus is on Holy Thursday, and in particular the tradition of visiting the altars of repose in various churches – “throngs” of people did this….

 

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

 

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The first and last page of my retelling of the narrative, the Gospel for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, in the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. 

Jesus had just demonstrated that he had more power than anything, even death. No person has that kind of power. Only God does. Only God can conquer death, and in Bethany that day, Jesus revealed that power.
Death has no power over Jesus, and when we are friends with him, death and sin have no power over us, either. Jesus’ power over evil and darkness doesn’t begin at our tombs, though. When we sin, even a little bit, we choose death over life. Refusing to love or give or show kindness to others gives darkness a bit more power in our lives.

We were not made for this. We were made for light and love!

We can think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the moment when we, like Lazarus, are brought back to life by Jesus. Jesus stands outside the little tombs we live in—the tombs made out of selfishness, anger, sadness, and pain. He knows we are not lost forever, even if it seems like that to us. The worst sins and bad habits? Jesus has power over them. Jesus doesn’t want us to live in darkness. He wants us in the light with him, unbound—free and full of joy.

The book is structured around the liturgical year. In planning it, I asked myself, “When do most Catholic children and families encounter Scripture?” The answer is – in a liturgical context. This context is, in addition, expressive of the more general context in which all Catholics – and most Christians since apostolic times – have encountered, learned about, understood and embraced Scripture – in the context of liturgy, which is, in the most general terms, the context of the Church.

So the stories in the book are organized according to the liturgical season in which they would generally be heard, and the stories are retold with that liturgical context in view, as well as any specific and age-appropriate theological and spiritual themes – so, for example, here, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For more about the book from the Loyola Press site.

amy_welborn2

 

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There’s a substantial excerpt here. 

 

Signed copies available here (only through 3/24 if you are thinking Easter giving).

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