Oscar Wilde once famously said, “When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” Of course this was as much of a comment on Americans as it was on Paris. But I’m going to make my own witticism: When good gays retire, they go to Mexico City. And if they’re anything like me, they are going to eat the lotus and experience a new form of bliss.
Since my arrival last week, I’ve been busily getting myself into trouble. Oh, the beginning was innocent enough. Tuesday I ate an iffy taco or something, which slowed me down for a couple days. Nothing serious. On Wednesday, I had a lovely dinner with my friend Julio, owner of Mexico City’s most fabulous mid-century furniture store. Julio has found love, a retired gringo, and is as happy as I’ve seen him. Hopefully I can have the same effect on another, equally eligible bachelor.
On Thursday, I had errands to run. Got a new Mexican cell phone, after my old Samsung Blackjack was declared unfit to mix with modern networks. The new phone cost me a mere $80 USD and does everything my US iPhone does, including maps, WhatsApp (which everyone in Mexico uses), wordreference.com (in case I find myself tongue-tied), and heck, I can even make phone calls. God only knows why I didn’t do this at the start of my road trip nearly two years ago; it’d have made the trip *much* easier. Though the phone was a bit of a pain to set up — particularly as I’m new to Android — it now rocks, with a battery of death, and a nice, large screen.
Also while dining in a sidewalk café in short sleeves that same afternoon, my housemate sent this photo of the back yard and congratulated me on the timing of my trip. Yes!!! It’s already paying off!!! If I weren’t here, I’d be shoveling snow. Mexico City 1, Boston 0.
Friday is when the trouble began in earnest. After lunch at Casa de Toño and wandering around the Zona Rosa, I decided to stroll over to the Glorieta Insurgentes, an enormous plaza inside an elevated traffic circle, just to see what might happen. Aside from being one of the busier plazas in Mexico, due to the metro station there and the Metrobús station, it’s also “Gay Central.” Since it was Friday the 15th, the “Quincena,” or payday, it was especially crowded with people trying to get a jump on the weekend, wallets full of cash and hearts as full of anticipation as mine.
As I stood next to one of the tunnels leading to the plaza, watching the crowd pouring by, a handsome man caught my eye. He was tall by Mexican standards about 5’6”, slim, with beautiful “moreno claro” skin, and a nicely trimmed beard. Dressed in black levis, a black button-down shirt, untucked, with a brown, polka-dot bowtie he cut quite a figure. I smiled at him, and he smiled back and continued walking, deep in conversation on his phone. But when he got into the plaza, he sort of started milling about, still chatting on his cell phone, but glancing back at me from time to time. Since he was the handsomest guy by far, I kept glancing back and smiling too. After about fifteen minutes of this, he headed back in my direction. As he passed me, I said “Hola.” And he stopped and replied “Hola” back. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then he suggested I walk along with him.
It turns out Roberto is a “pharmaceutical engineer,” working on drug approvals for companies wishing to sell new drugs in the Mexican market. In his spare time he’s developed a treatment for psoriasis that’s herbally based, and is apparently working wonders on his sister who is a sufferer. We chat some more and the conversation really flows, but since he’s basically just taking a coffee break, we swap cell numbers and agree to meet on Saturday night at the Monumento a la Revolución. As we part, there’s definite chemistry between us and I practically float back to my hotel, desperately wishing the next 27 hours could somehow pass in a flash.
That evening after dinner, I decide to wander around the Zona Rosa and check out some bars. The streets are flowing with oceans of partiers, from twinkie boys dressed up like Boy George, to bears in leather and everything in between. I’m feeling exultant. There’s really nothing like this in Boston, and even San Francisco’s Castro District can’t match the sheer number of people, places, bars, clubs and discos, not to mention the level of flirtatiousness. Though I’ve been in the Zona Rosa many, many times, outside of Gay Pride I’ve never seen it this crowded. As I’m swept along by the tide of humanity, I reach some calm spots, and I’m waiting for a light. It turns green and I cross Florencia, heading Southwest on Calle Londres.
This is where I hear “¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?” An attractive young man, albeit wearing lipstick but otherwise masculine-looking, greets me. The lipstick immediately turns me off. Though it’s not garish, it’s definitely not manly. “Sheesh, if I want a woman, there are plenty of real ones out there,” I think. But he has a beard, and aside from the lipstick is quite handsome with beautiful dark hair, perfect skin, and beautiful eyes. Still, I’m not won over, but he’s persistent. “Where are you going?” he asks. “I’m heading over to check out this bar I saw the other afternoon,” I reply. “Can I come with you?” he asks. “Sure,” I say.
We arrive at the bar. It has a stainless steel door, a “bear pride” flag, and a couple of husky bouncers dressed in black leather. They pat us down, looking for weapons or whatever. “Harder!” I tell the one who’s patting me down and the other one chuckles. He finds something in my pocket and asks to see it. I pull out the contents — a chap stick, my wallet and some eye drops for my contacts. “You’ll have to put the eye drops into your backpack and leave it with the coat-check. Drugs aren’t allowed into this club.” We have a brief discussion about whether eye drops are drugs or not, but they’re adamant. So we decide to leave. Sometimes I just have zero tolerance for bullshit and there are plenty of other places to go.
It turns out the young man’s name is Emilio, and we walk along the avenue chatting. Emilio seems quite taken with me, and I’m starting to overcome my aversion to the lipstick. We decide to go for a drink, so we find a quiet restaurant. We chat. Turns out Emilio is a roving Clinque expert. He goes from posh department store to posh department store doing makeovers, consulting on skin problems, and generally serving as a brand ambassador for Clinique. I ask him how the plummeting exchange rate is impacting him. He tells me Clinique has had to raise prices several times, and while the customers grumble, they keep spending. I file this away in the back of my mind under “international business anecdotes.” As we talk, he keeps smiling at me. Now that the lipstick has literally worn off, I tell him he’s much more handsome without it. He takes my hand and tells me how handsome I am, but I’m overcome with a mixture of unease, pleasure, and desire. Now, sans lipstick he’s quite striking. Though I’m tempted, I’ve already got a date with Roberto for the next evening, and though I don’t owe anyone anything at this point, I’m thinking I don’t really want things to get out of hand with Emilio, either. The evening winds down. It’s clear he wants more than dinner and a bottle of wine, but I’m firm and bid him good night. But before we part, we swap phone numbers. If nothing else, I’m highly flattered by the attention.
Saturday night rolls around. I’m supposed to meet Roberto at 6:30 at the Monumento a la Revolución. That afternoon Roberto and I had been exchanging flirty texts until about 3:00. I head over to the Monumento and get there at about 6:15. I had made a point of telling Roberto that I’m a man of my word, and if I say I’ll meet him somewhere, he can count on it. He tells me he’s the same way. So I’m partly expecting him to be a bit early, but he’s not there. So I wander around, play with my new cell phone, and take some photos in the golden light of sunset.
Six thirty arrives like clockwork, but no Roberto. Nothing. I text him and say I’m at the door to the museum. Six forty-five. Still nothing. At seven, I phone his cell phone, but get a prerecorded message. “We’re sorry but this cell phone number has been temporarily suspended. Message G-47.” “What the heck?” I think, “What does ‘temporarily suspended’ mean?” “Why am I still subjecting myself to this kind of nonsense here in my mid-50’s?” At some level this isn’t surprising. The lower-esteem side of myself says, “Seriously, did you really think you’d have a date with a guy as hot as Roberto? C’mon, get real.” “But he was flirting with you up until 3:00 PM,” my more self-assured side reminds me. I try to call a couple more times, but to no avail.
So I walk back toward my hotel, somewhat despondent. Emilio had mentioned that he was free that night and even wanted to know when I’d be done with Roberto, though I told him it was open-ended. I’m torn as to what to do. I have very mixed feelings about Emilio, but his attraction has grown on me, though I wonder whether I’ll really be able to connect at a deeper level with a lipstick-wearing Clinique representative. I did, after all, partly work my way through college as an auto mechanic. But the alternative is to spend Saturday night alone, or, worse, get myself into more trouble. So I text Emilio and tell him I’ve been stood up, and is he still free?
As it turns out, he has headed into the Zona Rosa anyway, and is delighted to meet me. We go for dinner at a combination bookstore/music venue, El Pendulo. We have a light supper while listening to an absolutely fantastic jazz trio, and while we’re eating, my phone goes off several times indicating text messages. Since the only other person who has my number at this point is Roberto, I know it’s him. But I’m kind of pissed off that he stood me up, so I ignore it.
Later, Emilio and I browse books and while we’re separated, I read the text from Roberto. “I’m SOOOOOO sorry. I was mugged and my cell phone was stolen. I had to go to the police, and then to Telcel to cut off my old phone. Please forgive me.” Suddenly I feel intensely guilty for having ignored his text and worried about him at the same time, so I text him back. “Oh my god! Are you OK? Don’t worry about standing me up, really. That’s about as good an excuse as one could muster. I’m SO sorry that happened to you. You sure you’re ok?” He says he’s OK, but I worry anyway.
Later, Emilio has to go because his last train leaves shortly after midnight and then he has to catch a bus. I bid him goodbye and head back to the hotel, my head reeling from the events of the past couple of days. In less than a week, I’ve met two eligible men, one of whom really intrigues me. And my lower-esteem side was wrong. He really does want to see me! I may not have died, but I’ve definitely gone to heaven. I think I’ll be in DF for a good, long while. The rest of Mexico can wait.