Our house is one block as the crow flies from the Paseo de Montejo remate, the southern end. It’s where the carnaval parades finish their southern lope and hang a right toward 60th. They pause in front of the review stand, a long stone’s throw from our palapa lookout, and hang out there for long minutes. Singing. Yelling. Lots of trumpets and drums. The music is so unimaginative that although loud, it sounds prerecorded but isn’t. Well, that’s something, I suppose. Employing musicians.
I think Carnaval is a testing site for music amp manufacturers to check the upper volume capacity of their equipment.
Every year we say we are going away for Carnaval, but we have this 14-year-old malamute who has trouble getting into the car now. So here we are. Can’t sleep, can’t read, can’t hear the TV, nothing to do but laugh and blog and talk loudly to each other. Well, I suppose we could walk around the corner and be IN it, but, well, it doesn’t appeal to me.
I went to Carnaval for years – over 20 years. I watched it move from a fun, spontaneous, locally inspired event, to an extended commercial for beer. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with beer. I guess. Foul smelling, foul tasting crap that it is. Carnaval has devolved into a highly mechanized spectacle, pretty much done away with audience participation, and is performed by professionals from other places in Mexico. Dancers, musicians, all on the edge of bored, glancing at watches, going through the motions.
I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I have been to Mardi Gras in Seattle which is a serious drunk-fest in downtown Pioneer Square. It’s noisy and violent with a lot of good music. It’s intense. Hard liquor is widely available and widely consumed. People get seriously drunk and act the way you’re supposed to act at such a revelry. They rob and kill each other and raise all kinds of hell. That’s a good gin high. Or coke high. An edgy big-city high.
But here it’s a beer high. Messy and smelly, food detritus everywhere. No participatory dancing on the parade route. No romance. Lots of vomiting and tuneless singing. Lost children. Men collapsing on the shoulders of their whacked out friends. Different from what I’m used to.
You can’t keep the racket out of a Merida house. Everything is made of stone, and windows are always open somewhere. If you hear the sound of a car crash, you can’t tell what street it’s on or what direction it is. And now, with the bands shrieking, and the man with the mike screaming on the next corner, the noise is in every corner of our house.
The parade has to end sometime, doesn’t it? But afterwards, we have the fireworks to look forward to. Our poor old dog.
Do I sound like a cranky old retired person? Well, yes. Carnaval can be a real pain in the ass when you aren’t in the mood, but by contrast, the rest of the year is so wonderful.
Last night the speakers blared until 2 a.m. It was just awful. After midnight, it sounded like even the DJs were drunk, as the sound and “music” was way out of control and it was mostly people shouting. When the sound when off at 2, there were police sirens for another hour. I opened the front door briefly and saw a police car chasing a motorcycle down the street at high speeds.
This morning we took a walk up to the Rosas and Xocolate hotel for breakfast. Everything on the Paseo de Montejo is fenced in with substantial cyclone fencing, and R and X has the fencing and a security guard to control who comes in the temporary gate. The owner of the place, Carol (a man who looks like a James Bond actor), was disgusted with the whole carnaval thing. He’s from New York and Mexico City, big towns, used to noise.
His place actually makes bagels the right way. They boil and bake them. Jim had an egg-white omelet with lots of stuff in it that came with excellent frijoles, seeded rye toast and tomatoes, for 60 pesos. I had a toasted bagel, that came with a chocolate croissant (also made there), plus a sweet roll – 30 pesos. We have a reservation there with some other people for Valentine’s Day, when they have a special menu that includes lots of things I never heard of, like steak with cacao sauce and lavender. I looked at a room so I could include them in a travel article I’m doing.
On the way home at about 10:30 a.m., the hundreds of food and beer stands were starting to set up. No doubt tonight will be another brawl. No way we will be here for this next year.
February 14 2010 Sunday
Today I was back at the Rosas Y Xocolate for breakfast, this time with my friend Deb. We sat outside on the front terrace and watched the audience for the noon parade gathering. Lots of families being dropped off by impossibly broken down trucks – kids, grandmothers in wheelchairs, big groups carrying thermoses and food for the duration. And the duration it is. That was at 8:30 a.m., the music started at about 11 a.m., the parade a bit after noon and now it’s 7:30 p.m.and the music from the bandstands is still going full blast. We can hear two of them from our house. It’s not often I get to use the word, Cacophony.
I spent the entire morning at the hotel. After Deb left, I read the new Barbara Kingsolver book. It’s called the Lacuna, and it’s about Mexico. Pretty good. I met several cool people at the hotel, including a young man named Phil, a personal trainer who works there in the gym. You can pay a monthly fee and use the gym, work with the trainer, take a shower with chocolate soap, and they throw in a massage once a month.
When I left the hotel, about half an hour into the parade, I threaded my way through the crowd and went home. Took photos along the way.
Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of grousing about Carnaval and it is a gigantic annoyance, but thousands of people love it and look forward to it all year. They have such a good time. I can leave town if I want, or take medication, or just not get any sleep for six days. Next year we’re headed for Jack and Ulla’s new guest cottage in Garcia Gineres, or maybe somewhere on the beach.
I understand that a group of Very Important People, many of whom have businesses on the Paseo, want Carnaval moved out of town, perhaps to Xmatquil. That should generate some heavy politics. Meanwhile, I am appealing to the Higher Powers of Carnaval to shut it down tonight well before 2 a.m. Please guys, it’s Sunday. But on the other hand, they have some excellent salsa bands going…
Jim was walking the dog and a tall young man was passed out halfway into the street and halfway on our sidewalk. His woman friend was yelling at him, pounding on him with her fists and simultaneously talking on her cell phone. Oh, and crying. Jim and the albenil down the block thought this was funny. Finally, the guy stood up and staggered off after his friend, who had abandoned him.
Carnaval Pictures, mostly from the R and C hotel balcony.
She gave me a red lollipop. I gave it to a kid. I hope there wasn’t anything on it.
Heartstoppingly creative hot dog design
The name of the green guy above is Alan Luna. Pretty cool.