Toluca Gringa

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

Friday, June 08, 2007


They're saying this is an odd rainy season in Toluca. Usually the season sees a daily shower at about 4 every afternoon. Just enough of a delay to enjoy a warm afternoon with sun that sneaks up on your skin amid the decent temperatures. The only place where you can get burned without getting hot, literally. I guess the figurative equivalent would be being busted for some hedonistic act you didn't have the pleasure to enjoy. But this is the weather I'm talking about, so let's get back to it. The idea of rain has always steered me away from places like the Pacific Northwest, but I think I'm changing my opinion. I've also changed my opinion about using metal utinsils to cook (stir soup, scramble eggs, flip a little pancake in the shape of a teddy bear -- when I want to remember my grandpa). I'm all wood now. You can stir soup for hours with a wooden spoon and never feel a drop of heat against your fingers. My utinsils are a hodge-podge collection of handcarved cheapies on the street. Ten pesos here and there from every bootstrap skinned grandpa I pass.
But back to the weather. It's hasn't been raining much this season. Several days at a time with nothing, which (they say) just isn't normal right now. Normally, the rain is a game here. You have to beat it -- plan your day so you can get your shit done and be nestled in somewhere while the buckets come down for a good 45 minutes. When you emerge, if you've played the game right, you'll enjoy a cool dusk and the aroma of a freshly washed city.

A friend of mine died on Sunday. I received the news the morning of my birthday, not long after his parents got the call from the police. He had been walking home from a bar after we were all out together on Saturday night. He was hit by a car and left on the side of the road. The police found him early Sunday morning-- they're saying around 5ish -- and finally got around to calling his parents on Monday. Tuesday was the burial. It hadn't rained in days.
Friends and family met at the grave site and Leo's friends dug away at the stubborn dirt, oblivous to the heat in their black shirts and jeans reserved for special occasions. The sun was ruthless on Tuesday. Friends brought their guitars and sang. His parents were stoic. When the last song began, the tiniest dark cloud scooted itself in and released a delicate sprinkle. Various interpretations of whose tears were raining down on Leo's grave cut the silence, offering a welcome option to "he's in a better place now." When the song ended, the man looked to the sky and raised his arms as if he were at a rock show. "Gracias, hermano," he yelled, thanking Leo for the rain. This was something he had to believe. And the rain continued until everyone went home. No one flinched. No one stepped under the awning. As if the rain in the afternoon made everything normal again.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

In addition to giant hogs, I've found myself fascinated by pollution these days. And things that I find on the ground. I keep crossing paths with plastic spoons and unforntunate-looking babydolls. No, I'm not drunk. A local journalist told me that the Lerma river near Toluca is officially the most polluted river in the world. I'd smelled it before, every time I pass to go to Mexico City. It's especially foul at night, when the factories dump their deshechos into the water without blinking an eye. Thanks, Nestle. Powdered chocolate is criminal enough. Now this? I went there in the light of day recently. Within 10 minutes I felt a curious burning in the back of my throat. No joke. My eyes stung for a couple hours after I left. There's nothing in the water. Nothing alive, at least, with the exception of some mutant strain of something that can manage to survive the puss-bubble water whose surface reminded me of the last time I had a 3rd degree burn on my skin. When I got home, I looked on the internet and discovered that the Rio Lerma isn't THE most polluted river in the world. Most of those are in China, depending on whose list you believe. Still, the locals want to believe that their river is the worst. I guess would give them comfort to know that it's not just a hideous body of water, but it's THE most hideous body of water on the planet. Everyone wants to be number one.
Posted by Picasa