All my life, I’ve heard negative things about Mexico City, but both of my trips here have been really enjoyable. I’m sure it helps a lot that I visit a law firm in a very nice area of the city. I sit in the back of the taxi or the Uber and enjoy the sights, the narrow streets full of greenery and the architecture, the old and the shabby and the bright mixed with wrought-iron and warm brick. We saw dogwalkers leading huge packs of happy pooches of all sizes and shapes, and the traffic crawled in ill-tempered snarls.
Signs of Christmas were everywhere and we arrived on the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, so the churches were ready with their fireworks. There are poinsettia everywhere, called “Nochebuena” flower, or roughly translated, Christmas Eve flower. Our hotel lobby played Christmas music and sported an enormous Christmas tree made of green glass wine bottles filled with twinkling lights.
We work with two attorneys, a partner who is just beginning to make the transition into comfortable, secure middle-aged sprawl and his young apprentice, who reminds me of a sweet-tempered and more angelic Max Fischer from “Rushmore”. “Max Fischer” looks like a young boy dressing up to play the role of responsible attorney – he wears impeccably tailored suits, expensive shoes and watch, and lovely Hermes ties. However, his eyes behind his horn-rimmed glasses are bright and full of wry humor, his hair is a little too long in the back, smooth as a birds’ wing, and he is the first to twinkle with amusement when I make a joke or a frank observation.
Max and the partner took us to lunch at a place I’d noticed from the taxi on the way over. A brick archway off the street gave a glimpse of a roundabout and a historic-looking mansion decorated with Christmas lights and baubles; a rounded tower with a cross atop it rose above and musicians in turquoise suits trailed up the sidewalk carrying their brass instruments and smoking their last cigarettes. It was, the partner told us when he guided us into the entry, a sixteenth-century hacienda. Haciendas, he explained,were an important part of the economy in Mexico, used for raising cattle or horses, or, as in the case of this particular Hacienda, growing mulberry trees to breed silkworms. He compared them to plantations in our deep South, and we advised him that this was not a particularly flattering comparison, but he knew, and advised that hacienda owners were not always kind to the indigenous labor that they utilized.
The hacienda was now used for parties and weddings and events; there was a small chapel filled to the brim with fresh flowers. We had lunch under smooth, worn red brick ceilings; everything was done table-side and the food was spectacular. I had homemade mole sauce, which is a go-to when I am in Mexico, and tres leches cake for afters. There was the requisite solemn talk about Donald Trump and what we can expect relative to NAFTA, and how it will impact our friends and our businesses. Then, Max turned to me and inquired solicitously if I’d enjoyed my lunch. I had, I told him, and laughed that I would have taken a picture of it if I hadn’t felt embarrassed. I told him that I am an avid Instagrammer and follow a lot of food blogs, and commented that it was very difficult to take appetizing pictures of food, even the best food.
Max brightened immediately and pulled out his phone. He shyly showed me a special app that he had loaded which was full of filters specifically for food photography! He shared that he is a food blogger and let me page through his Instagram account, full of beautiful photos of meals, drinks, ice creams, and treats. I marvel, always, at the people I find when I travel, and how so many of them are secret artists, dreamers, and followers of beauty.
The altitude was difficult for me (~7,000 feet above sea level as opposed to Detroit’s 600) and I had a terrible headache by the time we made our leisurely way back to the office. Mexico City business starts late and ends late, and I was ready for bed by the time our meeting finished. The partner said a dignified farewell to us, kissing me on both cheeks, and sent Max scurrying to acquire us a taxi (30 minute wait) or an Uber (15 minute wait). Max solicitously hovered until our driver appeared, and there were hugs all around; my last view of him was flashing the peace sign with an impish grin. We disappeared into the slow moving river of red taillights and traffic, horns and curses and music sounding around us.