I’ve been a big fan of the Oscars for a long time, for all the right and wrong reasons. Staying up way past bed time on that Sunday night in February, trying to illegally access a bunch of online livestreams that were constantly taken offline or overloaded, was a challenge I took on gladly for the opportunity to sneak a peek into this most glamorous of award shows. Everything from the red carpet arrivals and the comedic opening monologue, to the dramatic acceptance speeches and impressive musical intermezzos seemed out of a different world. Which of course it was. A very powerful, wealthy and elite one at that. Being able to briefly be a part of it, albeit only through a shitty 240p low-res corner of an LCD monitor, was rewarding enough at the time. This year, for the first and probably only time, I actually attended the Oscars.
I wasn’t in the theater of course. Or on the red carpet. I wasn’t even on the street surrounding the red carpet leading up to the theater. Being an ordinary citizen I was permitted only to glance from behind an array of fences and road blocks patrolled by hundreds of LAPD’s finest (and rudest), at a safe (read tele-lens requiring) distance. The security measures were immense, yet I still managed to climb onto a windowsill of a nearby hotel to get a vantage point for my paparazzo moment on this trip. As huge black SUV’s and stretched limousines started driving up to the entrance, the other world briefly made itself visible, before hurrying on to the warmth of the waiting press’ flash bulbs. With a combination of patient resolve, a 30x optical zoom lens and some impeccable timing I managed to snap my way into believing I’d make a good celebrity photographer someday. Terence Howard, Jackie Chan, Chris Evans, Vince Vaughn, got them all. And the back of The Rock’s neck, which is equally as unmistakable as his front. Standing there I overheard a guy comment on the fact that we might as well have been at the zoo. And he was completely right. All these people waiting for hours and hours, standing in line with camera’s ready just to catch a glimpse of a very rare species of animal: the movie star. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard as I left the circus, passing scores of homeless people and beggars in the street I felt simultaneously happy to have witnessed this extravagance at least once, and disgusted at the wealth and power so openly and shamelessly on display just half a block away.
I did little else in Los Angeles except visiting the iconic Santa Monica Pier, strolling down Venice Beach and enjoying American night life one last time. My flight for Mexico City left early on Monday morning, and by the afternoon the world around me had once again completely changed.
Arriving in Mexico City was a breath of fresh air, though a decidedly thinner one. At nearly 2500m altitude, it is one of the highest capitals in the world. It’s also one of the most populated, with an urban area comprising over 20 million people. Twice the size of Belgium in one city. Its vastness was apparent even before landing, as the rolling landscape unfolded itself, covered all the way to the horizon with urban sprawls. And yet, diving into this overwhelming madness of a place was a relief for me. I felt like I was back in a more comfortable environment, akin to the likes of South East Asia. I checked into a most homely hostel in a more hip neighborhood, went out to have my first taco’s, had a Sol beer and decided to have a nice and calm week right there and then.
And I have to say I really tried. Visiting the absolutely stunning pyramids of Teotihuacan, majestic and superbly tranquil, taking long walks through peaceful streets lined with green and purple trees, enjoying simply sitting and reading in one spot for a couple of hours. But then I met Juan and his friends, a super-lively and friendly bunch of MC locals who I ended up spending quite some evenings with. They introduced me to Mezcal, henceforth known as the drink of death, a 50% strong concoction of delicious evil. Alongside tequila it’s the national drink of Mexico, and it blows vodka straight out of the water. Sorry Poland. They invited me along to Xochimilco, a local weekend boat ride activity on a river in the city, where you simply spend some hours on a barge sitting, drinking, eating and enjoying the moment. They included me in their lives for a short (and a crazy) while. I could not have wished for nicer folks to spend time with during my time there, and I won’t soon forget them.
I traded Mexico City and surroundings for the east the week after, arriving to Cancun on a sunny afternoon. I wasn’t here as much for the culture – it’s pretty much like the Vegas of Mexico in that regard – but rather to enjoy the fabulous beaches and just laze away for a while. And to see what American Spring Break was all about. All throughout March American college students flock to Cancun to spend their week off school partying in luxury resorts located in the Hotel zone of the city, basically a 5km stretch of land in the sea overgrown with massive hotels, bars and western night clubs. Entry into the most popular ones costs upwards of $70USD, an almost obscene amount of money that is justified only by the willingness of spring breakers to spend their parents’ money to get inside. The same goes for spending a day in the all-inclusive resorts where one can have the ultimate spring break experience. Do I sound resentful? Perhaps, after all I couldn’t afford all that. To me it mostly demonstrated once again that the value of something is mostly a function of its desirability, and not its true worth. I never ended up attending any of the events, instead spending most of my time with locals in the downtown area that was actually Mexican.
Overall though, the Yucatán coastline was absolutely stunning, with Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen being welcome stops on my way down south. And onward south I go, to at last arrive in Central America.
March 12th, 2017