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Diario de Ciudad de México IV

If I had to describe the difference between Mexico City and other cities as succinctly as possible, I would say this: when a space in Mexico City can become a store, it does become a store. This goes for parks, sidewalks, rickety bridges, and subway stations alike. (We´ve also exited several stations directly into sprawling complexes of tent markets. One of those complexes deposited us into an amusement park.) In subway trains, you see (and hear) not just a louder variety of the candy sellers on the L.A. metro, but  also blind people wearing backbacks with boom box components grafted into them. They blast clips of as many songs as possible between stops in order to hawk CDs of the greatest hits of las setenta, las ochenta, y las noventa, la musica mas bonita del mundo. Or so I’m told.

Cargo pants never went out of style in el D.F. They just became… more cargo-panty. Many Mexican men dress very well indeed — this could turn into the men’s style city to beat in a few years, once the suits lose their synthetic shine — but others wear a style of pant I’ve never seen anywhere else: cargo jeans that appear asymmetrically sewn together out of dozens of jagged panels. Yesterday I spotted a pair of these pants with cargo pockets on their cargo pockets, which felt like insanity.

In El Monstruo, which I brought to read in the D.F. even as I experience it, the late John Ross writes about the used book stores of Donceles Street. When David Lida mentioned them as well, I knew I had to get out there. Businesses cluster geographically in Mexico City in a way I haven´t seen them do elsewhere, and damn, does Donceles have a lot of used book stores. Some of them seem to have endured floods, resulting in stock that’s perhaps less pristine than I´d like, but I´ve nevertheless managed to pick up a few Carlos Fuentes books in cool old paperback editions.

Mexico City’s reading culture interests me. Books cost slightly less here than they do in the States, but as a percentage of the average wage, they might qualify as mild luxury items. When defeños read, they seem to do it with good taste: bookstores often dedicate sections to curation-inclined publishers with a solid aesthetic sense (Sexto Piso comes to mind), and I’ve seen 1Q84 in even the shiniest, mainstreamiest department-store book shelves — though right alongside Nicholas Sparks in translation.

A couple blocks from where we´re staying stands parked a gleaming fleet of eighteen motorcycles tricked out with pizza-warming boxes. They deliver for the local Domino’s, which suprised me by being not a take-your-shit-and-get-out type of establishment but, as we say in the States, a genuine ¨sit-down restaurant.¨ No word if actual Domino’s pizza tastes better in el D.F., and I´m not about to investigate.

Some food carts here sell cigarettes indvidually. If you want to buy a pack instead, be apprised that, by some sort of fiat, they all come emblazoned with stickers of various troubling images. It seems like manufacturers can choose between ¨gross teeth,¨¨gray fetus,¨and ¨girl weeping over open coffin.¨ Madelaine offered to buy me a birthday cigar at a pretty swank store, but all this visual drama distracted me. Which I guess is the point. But still.

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