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Down Mexico Way…

Posted on Friday, March 7th, 2008

Hola Amigos. OK, where did I leave you? Oh, yes I was in Mexico City with a strangely familiar absence of my luggage, no pants or toothbrush, and a healthy dose of the flu, which had been lingering since Italy. The problem is, for these other small calamities have become the norm, is that Mexico City is about 2500m above sea level and the small parts of my lungs which are still functioning after having the flu, are just about to give up. I feel miserable but so excited to be in there for the first time.
I’m here to play a show as part of FICCO (Festival Internacional de Cine Contemporáneo a la ciudad de México) and also to see 3:19, the movie that I’ve been involved in scoring recently. I had just arrived after a 12hr flight from Paris stuck, as is my habit, in between a rather large gentlemen at each side, a woman with a broken seat in front (stuck in recline) and several loud and irritating media types overusing the French version of the term ‘daaahhhling’ and ‘luvvie’. My guess is that they’re on their way to FICCO as well. Whatever. After 2 hours at immigration I was met by someone from the festival who gave me a lift to my friend Dany’s place in Tecamachalco where I met his friend Jorge who I’d be staying with. Jorge’s grandmother was out of town and we had her house at our disposal, which after the indignities of my recent trip to Italy, seemed surreal. Surreal developed into plain bizarre when I realized that grandma’s maid was still there and seemed really happy to feed me and, at every opportunity walk into my bedroom while I was in a state of undress. Tecamachalco, indecently, seemed like many parts of California that I’ve been to except it’s a little cleaner and people drive to kill.

First let’s cover the real underlying reason for my visit, the first hand experience of Mexican Cuisine. The first night I arrived, after travelling for 16hrs, my friends took me to a local taco stand called El Farolito. I couldn’t have been happier than a pig rolling about in its own shite. The next morning, way too early if you asked me, my FICCO ‘volunteer’ arrived. I didn’t know what a FICCO ‘volunteer’ was; in fact I hadn’t a clue as I’ve recently taken to only reading things I have been given with view to remembering the things that it may be necessary to remember in future.
Like a long time from now.
Quite clearly this doesn’t work so well as I can never work out what may be important, however there is only so much room in my head and most of it is filled with useless facts from National Geographic magazine and other such non vital bollocks, how to name old bits of musical equipment and how to get to the dressing room in at a show I did in 1983 in Hannover. Other things, like people’s names, hotel room numbers and which order to put my clothes on in the morning, I have to write down.
It’s a coping skill, before you ask.
Anyway, as I was saying, my FICCO volunteer turned out to be an ususpecting young lady called Haydee. She quickly took control and gave my life some structure and ensured that I was in the right place at the right time, which as far as I could work out, was one rather shabby interview in 5 days. Apart from the fact that she drove her car like an insane person we enjoyed a steady flow of really good lunch spots and conversation.
The first was, well naturally, El Farolito but a different one, this time in the Condesa district, which had more of a small town vibe to it that part of a city of 30 million. I liked it. I would have been able to order from the menu with a certain panache, as I’d eaten the same food only the night before, but was happy to let Haydee chose for me. The best way to discover something new, I guessed. Over the next few days I certainly discovered a few more Mexican delights, including one which would have Mitsuo Tate roll in his grave, well, if he were dead at least, namely Mexican Sushi at Sushi Ito in Polanko. Now before you say wtf?, hear me out. Always hear a fat person out when it comes to food. … … It’s a really good fusion, I have to say, the fish wasn’t outstanding but the treatment with chipotle and habanera was unforgettable. I visited another Sushi Ito in Alta Vista a few days later and it didn’t disappoint. No sir. Apart from that, the other high point, from a culinary point of view was hanging out at Coyoacán on a Saturday and visiting the food market there. Um, the closest experience I can compare to the food market is eating at Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech, after the sun goes down. It was lots of home cooking, lots of grease and lots of happy looking folks. The real deal. Didn’t manage the tamales or flautas, but made up with excessive amounts of gorditas and quesadillas. I have yet to learn the Spanish word for my new fave, but it is fried pork skin in tomato if anyone can give me a name. Or a European supplier, come to think of it.

me in mexico city

The concert I was invited to play at a museum, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, was near the big square at Zócalo in the Centro Historico. The fact that I had been asked to play in a museum hadn’t gone unnoticed, as I couldn’t help but think that a museum is where one puts old things. I had to process that thought a little, bounce it around and turn it into ‘precious things’.
Now, I’ll go a bit into uncharted territory here as I try to tell you about the show.
First of all, the people who met me and helped me set up were fantastic. The venue itself was a beautiful choice and absolutely perfect for presenting Lumiere. The way that the venue had been set out with chairs and carpets for people to lie on was just right. The sound seemed pretty good and the atmosphere was intimate, even though it was quite a large space. Um, OK this is how it reads when I like something, just in case you’re confused. As I said, uncharted territory. So with all of those things in my favour, I felt that my equipment would blow up or my fingers would fall off but, no, I really enjoyed the performance, felt relaxed, especially by the audience being close and, by the look of things, very comfortable. It was, I remember thinking, as good a performance of Lumiere as I have even given. For me, it’s very rare that the planets line up and allow me the right condition but this concert showed me that it can happen, especially if the people arranging the event read the stuff I send them about how to present it beforehand.

As for the film festival, well seeing 3:19 on a large screen and watching people react to it was a marvelous experience only marred by the lack of profile that the film was given. I was invited to a big glitzy end of festival party but it was kinda plasticky and I didn’t care for it much. But of course, as I couldn’t have imagined, FICCO had ambitions which went way beyond the nurturing of independent cinema, using sponsors like pepsi and cinemex to propel their little festival into the realms of Hollywood and judging from the closing ceremony this was a big mistake as it was quite simply the most tacky event that I’ve ever had the need to attend. And remember, I’ve lived in London and attended Sundance. Simply, the bullshit seems the same no matter what branch of the arts that you explore with any vigour. Not that I explore with vigour, I just attend, but the odour is unmistakable It’s a shame really, as most of the people from the festival were really cool, but I guess that the lower echelon soldiers didn’t have to suck Pepsi dick as much. It goes saying that 3:19 didn’t get a mention but it did receive a lot of praise from the more independent element, and critics seemed happy with it. My favourite interview, of course, was during a FICCO press conference when someone asked me if I could play any musical instruments. No, I said, as everyone smiled and quietly agreed with me.
One thing also that I enjoyed, apart from the happy experience of surviving Haydee’s driving, was being able to spend a little time with the friends and colleagues that I’ve made in Mexico since becoming involved in that movie. It’s nice to put faces to those who’s work I’ve seen but who’s names, up until now, were just movie credits.
I’m hooked. I’ll be sitting by the phone waiting for another opportunity to go back. I’ll be taking an oxygen bottle with me next time though.

7 Responses to “Down Mexico Way…”

  1. joss

    Hey Robin,
    I am one of the “friends and colleagues” that you mention at the end of your post.
    Let me tell you that meeting you and eating tacos with you has been an incredible experience but after that concert at the museum, I think meeting you is one of the most influential experiences that has happened to me in my life, why?
    When we were at Dany’s office (3:19’s director) you were telling me about the video you made, and how simple it was, then, you were helping me writing back to that guy that was talking shit about the intro credits, you were telling jokes, etc. then later that day, at the concert at the museum, seeing you playing that amazing music, watching the great video that you did (and the one you said was simple) made me realize that I just spent 3 days with a genius musician, a genius writer and an amazing and beautiful person.

    Thank you Robin


  2. Ted

    Jour heureux de Patricks de saint ! Ah, et moi avons juste acheté une vieille tondeuse intéressante de gretsch qui est vieille et smelly mais avons un bon nombre de personnalité.
    (If this reads like a retarded frenchman….I blame the online translation!)

  3. Dan Mudford

    Good to see things all working out for once (like once a series of Curb Your Enthusiasm, things turn out well and it makes the world feel that much better after so many mishaps). Very jealous of the food experience, mmm fried pork skinnnn.

  4. Ernie

    Fabulous report, Mr. Guthrie. The pork skins you enjoyed are called “chicharrones.” I love how you like Mexican food so much!

  5. Héctor

    Robin, for your blog I know you was in México, what a shame, I love your work and was wandering with the idea to see you in live, the presentation in the Museum sound very very exciting, now I have two clear options: to cry or use philosophy, for respect to the greeks grandfathers I’m going to take the second.

    If I undestand the description of your new fave the name in spanish is “Chicharron de cerdo en salsa verde o roja (green or red)”, could be nice to hear your pronunciation. For the receip http://www.recipeland.com/recipe/9577/ or the easier way, visit us in Guadalajara (Mexico) for a culinary trip, in your free time, if you want, you can play the guitar, we’ll be glad. The gourmand.

  6. Dany Saadia

    Mon cher Robin,

    Among other things, you forgot to mention the “La Zona” party on the Hotel W balcony where tequila flowed and the tacos at “The Califa” where Joss and yourself ate a whole cow (with cheese)!
    It was such a pleasure to have you down here! You are a great guest and looking forward to see you in Paris!

  7. Laurent

    Salut à toi ! Le Breton !
    Je suis assez fière de t’avoir trouvé sur la toîle !
    Excellent t’on univers ! je kiff!

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