This trip I’ve blogged a lot less than usual. And truth be told, I’ve done a lot less wandering than I usually do when I travel. The last two weeks in Mexico City have fallen into a routine. I get up early and go for a run, grab a juice at a hip café/book store a block away, I write until 1pm, have beans and tortillas for lunch, write more until 5 or 6pm, then go for a walk to find something to cook up for dinner. Sounds like a monotonous life, but my intention this time around was to cave up and write my ass off. That, I assure you, I have done.
As for my novel, it seems that the more I write, the further away from the end I get. Fortunately, I had no plans to finish the thing this month. Shoot, I’m not even sure if I should plan to finish the thing ever, but I am confident that the work I am doing is paying off somehow. The process has not only been a test in perseverance, I’ve also experienced a trembling sort of self-awareness, too. The novel is a work of fiction, so I am unsure why this is happening. John Gardner said writing a novel is “a fierce psychological battle.” Maybe getting deep into the characters’ heads is somehow forcing me to go deeper into my own? One thing’s for sure, by 8 or 9pm, my brain is a slug. I go to bed when most folks are just sitting down for dinner. How do I know? There’s a restaurant right outside my bedroom window. My dreams are influenced by their laughter.
After a solid week of that schedule, I altered things a bit to force some social interaction. I was feeling **lonely, so I started what I’m calling “The Love Project.” Basically I wander around for a while with my camera and snap photos of folks who are obviously in love. I post the photos on my website. It’s fun. I’ve met some amazing people (one couple invited me out to dinner, another guy is a Mexican film director). And all in all it’s been a nice change of pace.
**I say I was “feeling lonely” when in actuality I am quite certain I was/am going through continuous external stimuli withdrawal. I am embarrassed to admit my strong dependence on the likes of Facebook, email, WordPress, Netflix, and other lifeless electronic things. I am also afraid to say that being alone with myself is foreign. Unless I have a “project” of sorts (The Love Project, as an example), I am unsure how to be alone. Past trips without internet access rank higher than those with it – which tells me a lot. Turns out my “loneliness” is actually an addict’s need for validation from other humans (even if it’s fleeting). I want to believe that I can balance my personal dysfunction with technology, but turns out I’m not so good at it…
I also started visiting specialty coffee joints. During my last trip here I made a thing out of this and wrote reviews for nine cafés. During my February trip to Cardinal, the barista, a fellow named Shak, told me that if I were to return, his café (and the neighborhood) should be my home. So that’s what I’ve done. My flat is in Roma Norte and I’ve been to Cardinal probably 4 times already. I’ve explored some other cafés, too, but none have the ambience, level of customer service, or quality of product like Cardinal. Actually, none come even close.
Today, for the first time in two weeks, I didn’t write at all. (Not except this blog post, anyhow.) I was getting too caught up in the pressure of something like achievement. Of getting shit done. This behavior is nothing new. I tend to be pretty hard on myself. At times it’s probably not a bad thing, but in this case it was taking the fun out of the writing work. For a solid ten straight days I would open my computer and time would pass in a flash. I’d come up for air at 6pm and still be in my underwear, my hair in a terrific state of bed head. And I’d be fucking ecstatic. Like totally high from a day of writing. Wasn’t long before I hit a wall and realized I was forcing words on the page. Maybe that’s part of the process, maybe not. Whatever though, I needed a break. Today I took one.
I ran 9 miles this morning, then packed up for a walk to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Google maps clocked it at 6.5 miles from my apartment, my when I got home my GPS read my overall walk at just over 8 miles. Traversing afoot was so much more fun than a 5 peso Metro ride. It was sunny and hot and I saw parts of town I would otherwise never have seen. In fact, I found myself wondering why any tourist would walk the route. Still, I found it glorious.
Why I was drawn to the Basílica is a mystery. I grew up as a Catholic but no longer practice. There is still, however, something magnetic about Catholicism’s strange saints and its colorful stained-glass, something about beaming Madonna statues (especially in Mexico where they are often neon), the mindful kneeling in the pews, something about genuflecting and crossing myself and feeling a general respect (or fear) for something far bigger than me. Today I needed to get out of my head. To take a breath and remember that most of what I worry about is irrelevant. I needed to feel the effects of physical exertion to remind me that I am real. That I am OK, as-is.
When I got home, I kicked off my boots, applauded my throbbing feet, and started cracking open some beers. The first went down like I was dehydrated (I probably was). The second made me feel all tingly (so I busted open my computer to write this). The third, if I finish it, will likely finish me for the night – and hours before anyone else has even considered sitting down for dinner. I’ll tuck into my heavy covers, feel the breeze through my open window, and fade away listening to the clinking of hundreds of forks on as many plates.