Toluca Gringa

8,700 feet does more than simply turn you into a cheap date

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


100% Pure Polyester

There’s a curious love for polyester in this place. The women especially adore it. They slither into their synthetic fibers like snakes returning to their skins. Polyester hotpants are everywhere. Women rock them as they walk down the street in curiously pointed shoes. They wear their hotpants to work with a matching blazer. From a distance, it’s nice, but the closer you get the more you realize you might as well be looking at the gal’s naked nalgas. Yet, somehow they still scamper about at full pace, moving freely in their double-knit and high heels. And I admire them for that.

I was recently in Mexico City with my friend Paula, a girl from Toluca. She suggested we go shopping, which was fine because I really was in need of a pair of pants for work. I hoped that Mexico City would have a large selection of natural fibers. She took me to a shop and bee lined for a wall of polyester hotpants, displayed from floor to ceiling on mannequins with only the bottom half of their bodies. (Their torsos and heads had obviously popped off from the pressure and lack of circulation.)

“Try these,” Paula beamed, giving my cargo pants and T-shirt a disapproving once-over.

I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t prepared to be caught off guard in a shopping situation with a girl I barely knew.

“Um, ok,” I squeamed. And I retreated slowly to the dressing room with a pair of black polyester pants with red pinstripes.

I could have easily gotten away with saying they didn’t fit, but the door to the dressing room was rather low and Paula’s eyes were suddenly peering in at me.

“They look great!” she said, in a tone that might as well have been: They look much better than that comfortable thrift store crap you like to wear.

I was anxious to slither out of the things so my skin could respire.

“I think they’re too tight,” I said.

“Nooooo! They’re perfect!” Paula insisted, and by now she had called the salesgirl over, who was in full agreement.

I couldn’t get out of it. And the next thing I knew I was paying about ten bucks for my very own pair of hotpants.

The pants found a nice spot in my closet. I’ll confess I tried to wear them twice, but couldn’t face the world with such a thin scrap of fabric separating my junk for the rest of society. Back to the closet they went, where’ they’d serve as a fine souvenir of Mexico City. (Black smog-packed snot was also a nice souvenir.

Last week I was sick. Sicker than I’d been in ages. I suffered from what can only be described as an alien in my gut trying to break free through my bellybutton. I ate nothing but oatmeal for several days. On Friday, I started to feel like myself again. I had that post-sickness stir-crazy feeling and really wanted to get myself out of bed, shower, and actually brush my hair. During my stomach funk, I naturally neglected all my household chores, including laundry. So, when it came time to get dressed for work there was only one clean garment waiting for me in my closet. Yes, the hotpants. There they were. Clean. Brand new. No need for ironing – ever. It was time.

I pulled the things out and expected to paint them on, but, to my surprise, they were nice and (somewhat) loose and surprisingly cozy, despite the fact that they had no pockets. I guess a girl drops a few pounds after barfing and eating oatmeal all week. Ah, hotpants – my new little friend, I can spill food on you and just wipe it off with a damp rag. I’m beginning to understand now!

With a new attitude, I showered, got ready, found a nice sweater to match the hotpants, slipped into my slightly high shoes (the pants legs are too long for normal shoes), and finally, the pants. I opened the front door to face the world for the first time in days. Sunshine warmed my face and added just the right amount of insulation in conjunction with the polyester. I was feeling fantastic!

So fantastic that I began to strut my way to work, reveling in the honking horns and catcalls that the pants demanded. I smiled and said hello to the leering old men, the same ones who usually annoy me. I was a new woman. I had just bought a fresh pineapple juice and began to suck the pulpy nectar through a straw when I reached a congested intersection. I imagined that the pants would be a big hit on this street, so I straightened my posture and went for it. I don’t know if it was the shoes or the long hem of the pants, or maybe trying to drink and walk at the same time. Whatever. I lost it – I tripped and wobbled toward the pavement, tossing my pineapple juice in order to brace myself for the fall. At that moment, it seemed as if they entire town of Toluca fell quiet. There were no honking horns, no catcalls. Just a wave of silence, a calm of pity over me and my pants.

And the moral of the story? I don’t know. But the pants are there in the closet again. At night, I can hear them snickering at me. I think they’re saying, “Silly gringa, you just stick to your cargo pants and you’ll do just fine!”

Photo: Me back in my cargo pants. Lovin’ life and the freedom of movement.


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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The water knows. I've learned my lesson.
I went to Tlaxcala this weekend. Up there in the hills there's a spot where the Virgin Mary appeared a few hundred years ago. In the trunk of a tree. Everyone was really excited about it and built a church there. Then, they decided that the water there must be sacred, so they built this little chapel to house the spring water. Anyway, many people hike up the hill with their cups and other vessels to collect water to cure their ailments. I happened to have a sore throat that day and thought, "what the hell!" I took a drink from the spring and a few hours later was doubled up in bed, where I've been ever since. My stomach is in such turmoil that I can't move and can't drink anything without puking. It's as if the water knows that I'm an AWOL Catholic. It knows that I was a smartass to the Deacon in CCD class. And it knows that I frequently made fun of Father Albert's Hungarian accent, giggling every time he said, "And on the TERD day he rose again..." Now it's in my gut trying to prove a point. Anyway, here's a nice foto of the place. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day of the Dead is Nov. 1.
I'll get 3 days off from work. The market is filled with stalls selling candied skulls and grim reapers on a stick. They've also got miniature funerals affixed to popcicle sticks (I bought one of those). The bad news is that these sweets look much better than they taste. The chocolate is about one step above brown wax.
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Sunday, October 15, 2006


Can't we blame Germany for this?


There was an international food fair at the university recently. The U.S. table featured these lovely hot dogs ("winnies" as my high school history teacher called them. context: "If you young people only knew what they put in them winnies.")

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Here's just a small sampling of the mariachis hanging out at Los Portales. Please be aware that hair gel is available here in gallon tubs for about $30 pesos (less than 3 bucks).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ah, yes, I've always been a sucker for a cute little old man in a hat. This is the village of Tenango, which is known as the pineapple capital. They grow lots of 'em and have bars with nothing but pineapple drinks.  Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lucha Libre masks. I bought one for Halloween -- it's blue and white and I'm told it represents some famous fighter who's dead. Anyway, I popped in on a lucha the other night. He was a wee man dressed in a skeleton body suit.
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