April 29/30: I’m speaking at a conference on nostalgia, hosted by Cabinet magazine in partnership with the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, in Mexico City. (Details here.) Luc Sante, Celeste Olalquiaga, and others, me among them, will be picking apart the notion of nostalgia. I’ll be lecturing and sitting on a panel about time machines (!) with Daniel Rosenberg (editor of Histories of the Future) and Simon Shaffer, the author of a history of time machines. (Rosenberg did the supercool history of timelines that appeared in a recent Cabinet. Have a look.)
May 4: Anne Coulter TreasonWatch™ Alert! Card-carrying Fifth Columnist Gives Aid and Comfort to the Enemy! I’ll be giving a talk (working title: “Fear Factor: The United States as Evil Empire—a de Tocquevillian meditation on America the myth, the monster, the geopolitical menace”) at The National University of Mexico’s Casa del Lago.
In conjunction with my visit, the University is bringing out a Spanish-language anthology of my writings, Ammonium Nitrate for the Soul: A Mark Dery Reader. It will include excerpts from Escape Velocity (already published in Spanish as Velocidad de Escape) and The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium, as well as essays on culture jamming, guerrilla semiotics, cultural resistance (such as Star Trek “slashing”), aesthetic philosophy (specifically, the New Grotesque), and the slippery politics of transgressive subcultures in a marketplace culture.
(If you’re a Spanish-language reader and would like to reserve a copy, ping me, and I’ll pass your e-mail on to the publisher.)
If you’re in the area, do drop by and say hello, especially if you’re a local. My fractured Spanish is strictly of the Ugly American party animal variety, more commonly associated with fratboys bellowing for another round of Jell-O tequila shooters. But our goodwill will bridge the language gap, I’m sure.
I’m tremendously excited about this, my first visit to Mexico City. Having grown up in the South Bay borderlands of San Diego, I’m fascinated by Mexico and all things Mexican, from the Eero Saarinen-esque architecture of Felix Candela (which I hope to see, when I’m there) to Frida Kahlo (hyped to the gills, yet well worthy of that hype, and then some) to the rasquache bricolage of the squatters’ colonies (colonias) around Tijuana, monuments to misery and official neglect that nonetheless manage to be inspiring and even vibrant, in spots. Like many bobo gringos, I’m blown away by the subversive wit, supersaturated garishness, telenovela melodrama, precolumbian melancholy, and postmodern ad-hocism of the culture that has given the world lucha libre, narcocorridos, Alarma! magazine, the fotonovela, and the street graphics collected in Sensacional!, to mention only its vernacular contributions.
So, if you know Mexico City, tell me: Where should I go, and what should I see? What unfrequented corners of the Hidden City, unknown even to Lonely Planet backpackers, should I search out? Where can I find barbequed iguana, fried grasshoppers, mummified monks, saints’ heads in vitrines, brutalist architecture, incense-scented cathedrals, the carnivalesque, the grotesque, or simply a nice place to savor a herradura tequila or an ice cream from La Michoacana, shaded from the noonday sun? I’m interested in places and things that will stimulate the intellect, dazzle the eye, or enchant the palate. (I’ll be in serious foodie mode when I’m in Mexico, on the prowl for Xtreme Cuisine of every sort, as long as it isn’t the sort of thing that will invite turista.)
Alternatively, suggest the one book I should read as my skeleton key to the deeper meanings of one of the world’s deepest cities.
Clue me, dear readers. Whoever leads me to the most extraordinary find—I’ll be the judge of that!—gets a copy of the “Sea” issue of Cabinet, with my essay, “Dead Seas.”
Mexico City offers a process, not a destination. It goes something like … hop on the metro, take the other line, get off when the prettiest girl does and follow her to a street that will eventually lead you to a sepia, smoke filled cantina. Drink what the bartender tells you to and bring a notebook to jot down any thoughts that might come along.
With that said:
Blogs to read: http://chilangabanda.com/ and http://www.mexicanwave.com/blog/index.html.
Nieve to eat: Tequila or Rompope flavored in Coyoacan.
Homes to see: Leon Trotsky’s and Frida Kahlo’s – both also in Coyoacan.
Mural to see: library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM.
Book to read: Labryinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz.
If you have already: The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes.
If you have lots and lots of time on your hands: Aztec by Gary Jennings is surprisingly insightful.
I would eat all my meals in markets.
Does the issue of Cabinet offer apply to residents of Mexico? As a fellow former San Diegan, I’m very curious about Dead Seas.
Awesome, Oso. Can’t thank you enough, especially for the blog links. Killer. I had planned to eat (judiciously) from street vendors and in the mercados, but was worried I’d be flirting with fate, in the form of Montezuma’s Revenge. Not so? And what’s this I hear about rampant kidnappings in Mexico City? Or is my baseless gringo paranoia, fanned by media hype, showing?
If your stomach can handle the Bronx, you should have no problem in Mexico City. I drink tap water and lots of it … still no problems.
Kidnappings: definitely media hype. I’m pretty sure Fargo has just as many kidnappings. This is a country with font size 1000 headlines that must include the words “narco,” “kidnapping,” and/or “corruption.” The NYTimes correspondents dutifully relay the messages.
Then again, if you wind up shitting your brains out in the musty basement of your narco-kidnappers, I claim no responsibility. ;)
Also, politically, this is a very interesting time to be in Mexico. Well worth reading up on the desafuero of Lopez Obrador (http://el-oso.net/blog/archives/2005/04/02/against-populism/).
I’ll give my ski mask-clad friends your cell number. But seriously, muchos gracias. Pure gold.
And the winner is…Oso! (The competition was fierce.)
I hear you, and the blog, are back from vacation, Mark. I look forward to more of your brain-tickling loquacity.