Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welcome Back to Teizcali

We've begun our third year at Colegio Teizcali, so you would think we'd start to feel like old pros, but there is still the first day of school nervousness and confusion. The principal, maestro Daniel, sets up a path of flowers for children to follow as they enter school. I was pleased to see Geni chose not to throw herself down on the flowers and succumb to sobbing like she did last year. Instead, she just hid her head in my shoulder.

I was prepared for this year to feel different, like maybe I'd lose a little bit of the wide-eyed newcomer's wonder in things, but nothing beats having the kids at school all day to bring back some of that everything-is-new-again excitement. My walk home, past the bright concrete buildings, hidden gardens, rusty metal signs and women cooking on comals in doorways, was like meeting old friends. I stopped by my juice lady for a cactus smoothie but, due to my slow meanderings, got there only after she had run out. She promised me, "I'll set aside a green one for you tomorrow." Which she did.

I set to spending the day writing like a demon, finishing up an article on telenovelas--soap operas--for Aishti, and a bunch of web writing that wasn't nearly as interesting, all the while kicking myself: never plan a packed work day on the first day the kids are back in school. The first week, really, because you need to be flaky.

Geni's teacher at Colegio Teizcali is Maestra Alma, a teacher so wonderful that Steve was inspired to say, "She just might be as good a teacher as you are." I think she might be better...a bit more patient than I ever was. Max has Maestra Clara, a teacher who earned fame for transforming her classroom into a haunted house last year. We can only hope for such grand permutations this year.

But I believe the highlight of all the changes and the returns this week has to be what happened today. We discovered another neighborhood street market. Nothing pleases me more than a tianguis, an open-air Mexican market that extends for blocks upon blocks.

This market, in the Infonavit neighborhood, had many of the standards--a couple ladies ladling tejate, my favorite drink; booths of piratas or bootleg DVDs and CDs; the newly-popular Indian clothing puestos; croc knockoffs; and Tokidoki-like purses of Japanese cartoon characters. There were a few surprises as well, such as a crepe stand, a manicure booth, a waxing booth, modern paintings, a guy selling exotic leafy plants out of the back of his pickup truck, and a practical joke and magic trick stand.

It was a Fellini movie moment as the man at the magic stand did trick after sleight of hand to advertise his wares. We oohed and aahed and purchased three for Camillo's birthday present, and then Max got a container of moisturizing cream with a fake snake coiled inside, ready to spring up at any sucker who took up Max on his offer of hand cream.

The magician puffed on fake cigarettes packed with talcum powder and I felt the market watching us watch him. Who gets to be this lucky?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Boolean Operators & Pippi Longstocking vs. Ikea

Sometimes I forget how interesting and odd that sister of mine was. Luckily, I have the Barnard Zine Library and Jenna the librarian to remind me. She has just posted Jenny's graphic organizer, "Boolean Operators & Pippi Longstocking vs. Ikea," from an old issue of "Have You Seen the Dog Latley?".

We've both always been very big on Venn.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You Know You're a Sister When

My friend Carole introduced me to a website called The Sister Project. There' a writing exercise on there, where you finish the phrase, "You know you're a sister when..." I like this exercise, because it reminds me that I still get to be a sister, even though Jenny's gone.

when you appropriate her memories, not being able to distinguish if something happened to you or to her.

when you have someone to fill in the blanks of your random associations. I called Jenny once and said, "What is the word I'm trying to remember? The one that the book Me and the Terrible Two was all about?" She didn't have to skip a beat. "Nepotism."

when you don't have to think about what you're saying.

when half your clothes are actually hers, and vice versa.

when you dream about her and all the world of having her comes back to you like it is just there waiting for you, if you could just summon it up at will.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

So you think you can dance?

I cannot pay adequate tribute to our 8-day journey from California to Oaxaca, especially since, after we returned home, we all came down with the stomach flu. I blame the bootleg Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlor and arcade off the highway in Puebla.

Puebla, in general, was not good to us. We found ourselves in Friday's late rush hour, stuck at an OXXO (sorta Circle K) essentially giving up. We could not wrangle our way through the mess and the gnarl, so we decided to make the 4-hour drive to Oaxaca on the almost-done tire over the rocky road. And then, like a beacon, the City Xpress hotel popped in front of us. A strip mall. A generic trying-to-be boutique hotel, flanked by a bowling alley and a aforementioned Chuck E. Cheese. Max said, "This is the nicest place we've stayed the whole time." You can take the boy out of the suburbs, but...

Why lead with the low points, though? I could mention the Mazatlan mini-vacay, with a 10pm visit to a quickly disappearing Olas Altas beach as the tide came in. I kept yelling to Max, "Only five more minutes!" but it was truly beautiful. On the way out of Mazatlan, I leaned out the car window and asked a roadside vendor for a bottle of fresh, cold coconut water, which is sold at many busy intersections. Mexican road trip food has it all over U.S. road trip food (except for Poblano pizza).

The definite high point caught me by surprise. We were all cranky over the recent loss of Snuggles, Max's favorite stuffed gorilla that he left in the hotel room in Los Mochis. I suggested we take a half-day vacation from our road trip, and veer off to Guanajuato, a place Steve, Jenny and I used to hang.

It worked. GTO is a city of subterranean streets, tunnels, bridges and cobblestone alleyways, all of which appealed to Max's "I'm lost in a labyrinth" and Geni's "I'm Velma from Scooby Doo" fantasy mentalities. I dragged my kids along to see all the old favorite haunts, and they did not complain. They loved the gardens and crumbling remains of the ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barerra. Max willingly discussed the artwork and its symbolism at the all-Don Quixote museum, one of my little strange treasured places. And they even hung for a 9pm visit to Truco 7, the funky kinda bohemian cafe where we scored blacky purply mole enchiladas. It reminded me why Guanajuato was always our second choice, after Oaxaca.

Coming home to Oaxaca, we're caught in this strange time warp of waiting for school to start but also trying to get better from the stomach bug. I can tell I'm starting to improve, though, because I was researching an article and came across a mention of Bollywood Booty dance fitness, and I got excited, thinking, "I will have a Bollywood Booty." Now that I'm two years into this Oaxaca lifestyle, and perhaps have this freelance for a living thing figured out (knock wood), it's time to focus the year on dancing, I think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jenny Makofsky's cartoon "The Beats" on view

One of Jenny's standout ongoing contributions to our old zine 'Have You Seen the Dog Lately?" was her comic "The Beats". The strip followed Bart and Beulah Beat, two beatnik best friends who made observations about philosophy, pop culture and pop tarts, all in beat-speak. Anyway, one of Jenny's best strips, "Post-Monsterism", is now posted on the website of the Barnard Zine Library. Get your "Beats" fix on: