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 339 Peregrinating D.F. to London (do not pass Go ... ) to Travel Notes & The Peregrine

Roma wall

wall in Roma (D.F.) neighborhood

Dear Internet,

After shifting from el Centro to the Zona Rosa in Mexico, D.F., we went to the saturday bazaar in San Angel ... a quaint provincial suburb that feels more like a village than big city. Lots of art & artisan stuff. Lunched in the sunny patio of San Angel Inn (chicken mole & siete misterios mezcal w/ sangrita chasers).

wall in san angel

wall in San Angel


wedding procession

wedding procession happened upon

Diego Rivera's casa was across the street so went to check it out ... not as impressive as Frida Kahlo's (see last post). Rivera had a standalone guesthouse built for Kahlo next to his, w/ a rooftop catwalk connecting the 2 ...

diego rivera's house

Riviera's house (red, front) & Kahlo's house (blue, rear)

Then we went back to the Anthropology Museum, which i'd been to plenty before in my youth but wanted to show j. Still spectacular as ever & it was free.

anthropology museum

anthropology museum (no longer is there a waterfall around the center column)


Osuna Codex

Osuna Codex (in anthropology museum)

In the gift shop got a copy of the Codex Borgia, in book form.

After we went to the Zona Rosa to try to get dinner, but it was hardly like what i remember in the 80s (last time i was in D.F.). It's now all seedy & run-down, more like Daytona or Ft. Lauderdale at spring break now ... crappy bars, fast food, karaoke, gimmicky plastic drinks, kids yelling & getting wasted. Nothing to eat really unless u want junk food from Circle K. Never have i witnessed a neighborhood go thru such decline ... not even an interesting 'shabby chic.'

Sunday, December 1, 2013—Mexico, D.F. 

Woken up at 5 a.m. by some loud New Yorker complaining about a loud party somewhere in the hotel (indeed there is, people yelling & hollering, stomping around). Guy keeps repeating himself, classic Brooklyn accent (makes no attempt to speak Spanish of course). Went to Chapultepec park, to the zoo, which was also free. And it was fairly early so we had the place almost to ourselves. As always, mixed conflicted feelings about zoos, Mexico City's is okay i guess (as far as quality of life of the captive animals), not as bad as developing countries or Rome.




black jaguar

black jaguar


mexican jaguar

Mexican jaguar



lemur striking a sun-worshipping pose

Went to the Rufino Tamayo museum, also free entry.

rufino tamayo

entrance to Rufino Tamayo


int tamayo


They had a big exhibit on the American artist Matt Mullican .. who is sort of obsessed w/ visual representations of quotidian information (fiction or reality) ... very architectural in an informatic way ... like an OCD data miner w/ a good sense of design.

matt mulican

one of many rooms of Matt Mullican


more mullican

more Mullican


yet more

obsessive detail

And also the permanent collection ...

Rufino Tamayo

Rufino Tamayo

Walked along the ultra-wide avenida Reforma, which was nice cuz domingos they close it off to vehicle traffic ... just people on bikes, running, walking, etc. Jess has one of those bracelet pedometer things & informs me that in the past 4 days we've walked 46 miles ... almost a half-marathon a day. Not that D.F. is great for walking— things are pretty spread out & most of the city is not so aesthetically pleasing to look at if you don't know where to look.

roma street art

street art in Roma district

Peregrinated back to the Roma/Condessa hoods, which we went to the other day & weren't so impressed ... so we revisited it on a sunday to see what we were missing ... & indeed perhaps we were too quick to judge ... u just have to know where to look ... things are spread out & suburban, but has a sort of Brooklyn feel to it, w/ some California chilled out vibe thrown in for good measure. Some hipster dude w/ braces gave us a free paleta & we asked why everything was free & he said basically cuz everyone in Mexico has enough money (plata) & why not ... ends up he was half-Italian so we switched to speaking in Italian ... compared to life in Italy or Europe he said life in Mexico was facile. And just the idea of New York was overwhelming to him. Maybe it's high time we high-tailed it down to Mexico ... if only we could find an excuse ...


street art (Tellaeche)

Lunched at Contramar ... amazing ceviche, raw tuna tostadas (bearing a striking resemblance to our cevicherashi concoction we made some 7 years ago, when we speculated Mex-Jap fusion would be the new big thing & now it is, at least in D.F.), octopus salad, shrimp cocktail, etc. Washed down w/ negra modelo & mezcal (Amor Mio Blanco). Quite the well-dressed lunch-time scene. So basically what was the chic elite of Zona Rosa has shifted down to Roma/Condessa, w/ a bit of hipster vibe thrown in.

raw tuna tostada

raw tuna & sea urchin tostada at Contramar

Happened across some party w/ a live band & free open bar, sponsored by some tequila company (1800) ... free mezcal & tequila, free food, music, Mexican & international hipsters hanging out ...

roma street sculpture

street sculpture, Roma


hanging out Condessa

brohemians hanging out in Condessa


Condessa graffiti

graffiti, Condessa


condessa market

Condessa market

Peregrinated thru a food market & some indidge-looking woman let us try all her native fruits ... one strange pod like a mix between baobab & tamarindo which unfortunately we don't member the name of & some passion-fruit-like granada (we got a few of these to eat the next morning for breakfast). Then to some pulque bar, which is also uber populare now in D.F. (that & mezcal & the already mentioned raw tuna tostadas). Pulque (the precursor to mezcal) has a weird mucusy texture to it ... not sure what we think of it ... reminded us some of the millet home brew we had once in Ethiopia ... tried some raw & some flavored w/ guayaba, with some tacos. Then stumbled across some live band playing from a balcony above an ice cream shop ... until the police came & shut it down.

December 2 ... dreamt instead of showering each morning we just peeled off our skin, and each day it was different, of various colors & shade, or sometimes even fur or scales. Drank some coffee & ate those granadas & taxied to the airport ... only problem was the driver (rocking the Sonora Mantancera) dropped us at the wrong terminal, so had to get a bus to the proper international terminal, which was not a straight-forward nor free affair.

Since we were using a free ticket (rather than lose the mileage—the excuse really for this trip), i couldn't get on the direct flight that j was on. But our gates weren't too far apart & our flights departed only a few minutes apart from each other. After hanging out together in the lounge we parted ways & now i'm on a plane bound for Toronto.

We're reading—line-editing—Travel Notes, the long since out of print book by Stanley Crawford that Calamari is soon to re-issue. The 3rd or 4th time we've read it ... we've lost count. It's a good travel read ... a tromping romp du monde. In fact, speaking of art driven by foreign languages & that fish-out-of-water feeling (which we went into in the post), Crawford said he wrote Travel Notes while living in Greece & reading French poetry which he totally didn't understand ... so was capturing that surreal sort of alienation.

JFK to London— December 3-4 

Mayhem in Toronto. Air Canada people told me i needed to go through Canadian immigration & customs, even tho i was just in transit, which seemed ridiculous. Immigration hall was so backed up they weren't letting people in & travellers were pretty much lined up outside as they were coming off the planes. And we had less than an hour before our next flight. Managed to plow thru the camped out pilgrims ... having to argue w/ the airport workers at the ludicrousness of it all ... finally was routed past, but still had to go through US immigration preclearance, which had a half-hour queue & then thru security again. Oh & we tried to get the global entry status on the way to D.F., but we're denied becuz—altho we've been living in NYC some 13 years—we still don't have a NY Driver's license (why should we if we don't have a car?).

Made my Toronto to NYC connection w/ like 10 minutes to spare. Seated next to some guy who stunk to high hell & refused to put his computer away during take-off & landing even tho we could see he wasn't doing much of anything in particular. The upside to preclearance is no immigration at Newark. Train to subway, got home after midnight, a few hours after j ... reunited again. Slept a few hours then spent the morning swapping out dirty clothes for clean ones, sending out books (apologies to those for the delay) & recalibrating before heading back out, this time east to JFK & beyond. And my schedule is not nearly as frenetic as j's ... she had to wake up & go teach all day. And the minute we land in London she has to rush straight to some meeting where she is speaking first thing. Talk about hitting the ground running ...

Meanwhile on the homefront ... the metro north train—that passes right under our window, that derailed a few miles north of our place while we were in Mexico—was found to be going 3x the allowable speed around that corner.

Met j up at 168th w/ her bag ... she had to duck out of a class she was teaching .... hailed a gypsy-gone-green cab to JFK. Virgin Atlantic ... not sure what the hype is, same as any other airline, if not worse. Now matter how u slice it flying is pretty much the lowest form of human experience.

Started reading The Peregrine by J.A. Baker ... a testament to Baker's obsession with peregrine falcons. Over the course of 10 or more years, Baker trailed some pairs of peregrines in Essex country, 50 miles or so east of London. So the book hits at a good time, being that the pair of peregrines we've been watching out our window—that roost up in the belltower of Riverside Church—have recently returned after a summer absence.

The Peregrine by J.A. Baker

Baker's The Peregrine as seen out our London hotel room

Baker's surveillance is more literary than scientific & the language he uses is sheer & sharp. His observations are his own. Rather than reel of known statistics about the speed of peregrines, he describes it in his own well-crafted words, his own rough measurements distilled to concise poetic impression. He neglects even to mention that they are the fastest animal, clocked at 389 km/h (242 mph) ... tho this might not have been known at the time he wrote the book (1967 ... coincidentally around the same time Crawford wrote Travel Notes).

Baker also neglects to mention the etymology of the name peregrine ... that it derives from the latin peregrinus ... «coming from foreign parts»  ... & it's relation to peregrination or pilgrim.

He does however at times make keen quantitative observations. For example, he tallies all the kills he'd witnessed (in 10 winters he observed 619 kills) by species, calculating the various percentages as they varied over the course of season. And it isn't all just about the peregrine, but he observes the entire ecosystem, with a focus on all that is avian (the peregrine after all preys mostly on other birds). We've heard people say before that starlings murmurate the way they do cuz of peregrines, but Baker says he rarely saw a peregirine kill a starling & in our own Roman observations of starlings (which we published in their own words) not once did we witness a nearby peregrine inducing murmurations. And according to Baker's description of how a peregrine kills & eats its prey (most often resulting in decapitation ... something we also have observed more than a number of times in our own immediate environs) the dead starling on the cover of under the auspices is not the work of a peregrine.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk in Trafalgar Square (jumping ahead)

Baker's motives are beyond just observational ... it's not so much about observing the peregrines as becoming one of them ... the hunter becomes the prey it hunts as Baker puts it ... as if seeking some sort of purification or absolution ... the peregrine seeking absolution for killing his prey & Baker seeking absolution for the consequences of being human.

As the book progresses, Baker shifts pronouns from I to we ... identifying more & more with the peregrine.

When The Peregrine was written in 1967, the peregrine was in death-spiraling decline, feared to be on the verge of extinction. Since then it has made a comeback ... or it seems we member reading somewhere ... mostly in part to its urban adaptability ... living in skyscrapers & taking advantage of the abundance of pigeons.

blue jay way

Hawk & blue cock

The way Baker speaks of peregrines, it's as if they are ephemeral ghosts that can be located only by the disturbances they create w/ other birds, like an invisible force field .... a violent warp in the avian space-time continuum. He chronicles their hunting behavior as ritual recapitulation—thru the course of the day (according to Baker) an adult peregrine re-enacts it's entire adolescent development in becoming a hunter, starting first with play-hunting, light-hearted messing around, before finishing with a serious, full-blown «real» hunt ... taking «ontogeny recapitulates» to a new level, or your life flashing before your eyes—this happens in the epiphany of each kill ... «True hunting may be a comparatively brief process at the end of this long re-enactment of the hawk's adolescence.»

Of course who's to say Baker isn't being anthropomorphic ... he chronicles his own projections (tho little is known about Baker himself & in the book he gives no personal details of his own life, it is speculated that at the time he wrote The Peregrine he was going thru a serious illness, giving the writing a cathartic weight).

Our own admiration for peregrines started some 20 years ago in our climbing days in Southeast Arizona when often we'd share the same cliff-face with these regal falcons. It was my poet/climber friend Bruce McKenzie who first brought them to my attention ... he even titled a chapbook of poems after them (which we still have). We've since lost touch with him as we've peregrinated in separate ways ...

Anyway. Now we are in London. Landed Heathrow ... train to Paddington & grabbed a taxi since j was under a time crunch. The first thing we saw when we stepped out of the cab was this typically Londonish scene:

Westminster Gate

Westminster annex

J went to speak at her meeting somewhere in the Westminster Annex & i went to check us into our hotel ... except it was still too early to check in so i wandered around in the drizzle ... peregrinating ... past Buckingham palace ... thru St. James park ...

st james park

birds galore in St James park



stretching goose

Ducked out of the rain into the National Gallery ... loads of art ... a special exhibit even on the Austrians of the 1900s ... the likes of Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele (perhaps our all-time favorite painter & Schiele was also a favorite of our brother).

Egon Schiele self-portrait

Egon Schiele—self-portrait with raised shoulder


Schiele last

the last drawing Egon Schiele ever made ... 3 days before his early death
of Spanish flu ... of his 6-month pregnant wife who also had the flu

And as fate would have it, outside of the National gallery was a falconer with two Harris Hawks that were flying amok around Trafalgar square. Their presence alone is evidently enough to keep the pigeons away. Unfortunately back in our hometown, attempts at introducing trained hawks & falcons have been scrapped becuz a hawk attacked someone's Chihuahua. That's about all we have to say for now ...


in flight


blue rooster


mounted guard

mounted guard


harris hawk

up close & personal





hawk swoop


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