Something I didn’t know until recently: Mexico City, which has more autonomy than it used to, is no longer in the Distrito Federal, which it had been since 1824. Two years ago, the federal government of Mexico signed off on a name change, which the city’s government had wanted, to simply Ciudad de México, abbreviated CDMX.

On Wednesday, December 27, Lilly and I flew to Mexico City, returning on New Year’s Day 2018 — or actually early January 2, since the return flight was late. We stayed at a hotel in the Zona Rosa, just south of Paseo de la Reforma, a major thoroughfare, but also within walking distance of the Roma neighborhood.

We spent our time as dyed-in-the-wool, first-time tourists, seeing impressive places and structures, visiting grand museums, walking along interesting streets, eating a variety of food, taking in as much detail as possible.

Considering that Mexico City is a vast megalopolis — all too apparent from the air as we arrived in the daylight and left at night — we experienced only the slimmest sliver. But an endlessly fascinating sliver.

Adding immeasurably to the trip was the fact that my old friend Tom Jones — known him nearly 45 years — was in Mexico City at the same time. In fact, I’d suggested the trip to him on the phone last summer, when I called him to hear about his experience in seeing the eclipse. He’d been a fair number of other places in Mexico over the years, more than I have, but not Mexico City, so he was open to the suggestion.

So the three of us went a lot of places together in the city. Tom has an impulse for photobombing.
The first place Lilly and I went, not long after we had arrived, was the enormous Zocalo (formally the Plaza de la Constitution), which was packed with holiday revelers enjoying a temporary ice-skating rink and amusement-park slides. We circumambulated the square, said to be the second largest in the world after Red Square, and spent some time inside the vaulting Catedral Metropolitana, which opens onto one side of the Zocalo.

The second day, with Tom joining us, was for large museums in the even larger Bosque de Chapultepec, the city’s equivalent of Central Park: the Castillo de Chapultepec, a grand palace along European lines and now a history museum; and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, an epic museum devoted to the many and varied cultures of pre-Columbian Mexico (or more precisely, pre-Cortez).

All that makes for tired feet, so the third day was less intense. Even so, we got a good look at a small part of the charming Coyoacan neighborhood, which includes the Museo Frida Kahlo. The lines were too long to visit Frida, but not to get into the Museo Casa Leon Trotsky a few blocks away.

The next day, December 30, was exhausting, but completely worth all the energy and money we spent, because we got to visit the renowned Teotihuacan, which is to the northeast of the city, in the State of Mexico, and climb its pyramids. From there, we went back into the city to see the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe — the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe — a pilgrimage site I’ve been curious about since I encountered The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines.

And as if that wasn’t enough for a day, we returned to Castillo de Chapultepec on the evening of the 30th, along with four of Tom’s friends from Austin who were also visiting Mexico City, for an outdoor performance by the astonishingly talented dancers, singers and musicians of the Ballet Folklórico de México.

On the last day of 2017, we slept fairly late, but were out and about after noon, for a visit to the Palacio de Belles Artes, a striking building with art exhibits and some astonishing murals, especially the Diego Riveras. More Rivera murals were in the offing at the Palacio National, the last large site we visited.

We were tired on the evening of the 31st, but not too tired to walk a few blocks from our hotel to the Paseo de la Reforma. One of the city’s two main New Year’s celebrations was being held around the Angel de la Independencia, a famed gold-colored statue atop a tall column in the center of a Paseo de la Reforma traffic circle. The event featured live music by well-known (I was told) Mexican bands, a countdown just like at Times Square, except in Spanish, and then fireworks: a bang-up way, literally and figuratively, to start 2018.

First Night Parade 92/93

Back on the last day of 1992, Yuriko and I found ourselves in Boston. I don’t remember exactly where the First Night parade was – along one of the streets next to the Common, probably – but we were there, ahead of dinner with friends and a gathering in Cambridge to see ’93 in.

Like the Greenwich Village Halloween parade, First Night featured rod puppets of various kinds. Figures of people:

firstnightboston92-2The camera had an annoying feature that we forgot to turn off for that picture. It would time stamp the images at the bottom. The camera had been set to do so in Japan, so remarkably it stamped 93 1 1, which would have been correct had the camera still been in Japan. (We used it, and film, until 2007).

firstnightboston92-3Costumed participants paraded by as well.

firstnightboston92-1Not sure what this was supposed to have been, but it was colorful.

firstnightboston92-4My urge to go out on New Year’s Eve has flagged over the years (though usually it was to a gathering of friends, not a public event). This year, Lilly was out. In a few more years, Ann will be out.

Item From Past: Crystal Pepsi Girl

Twenty years ago for the 92/93 New Year’s, Yuriko and I were in Boston. We spent some of New Year’s Eve downtown, including a short visit to the Massachusetts State House. Out in front of the building, PepsiCo was busy marketing a new drink, Crystal Pepsi.

Even then, the detachable pop-top was a thing of the past, but the costume wouldn’t have worked without it. I returned to Japan shortly afterward and thought little about Crystal Pepsi. Years later I learned that it was a famed new-product flop.

Reading about that flop now, I found an interview with Yum! Brands CEO David Novak in Fast Company in 2007. He’s credited with creating Crystal Pepsi, and when asked about the flop, his money quote is: “People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I’d made sure the product tasted good.”

Vain Bibble Babble

Back on a work schedule. Full schedule, that is, because work didn’t quite stop, even between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Yuriko’s back at work, too, even though her employer is Japanese and were this Japan, the New Year’s holiday would last through the third.

The Christmas tree still lingers, but oddly enough the dry tree-removal schedule this year has the tree out on the curb on the morning of January 7, so the last day of the tree being up coincides with Twelfth Night. Not that I’m particular about that, but Epiphany does seem like a good time to clear away the last of Christmas.

I saw the following on a sign at a grocery store today: Miss Your Twinkies? It was advertising a house-brand cream-filled sponge cake. Judging by the box, at least, they looked very much like the product of the defunct Hostess. But I decided I didn’t miss Twinkies all that much. And besides, they won’t be gone all that long.

Here We Go Again

The New Year came in here with the noise of minor fireworks set off in the neighborhood. Technically illegal in Illinois, but it’s a ban than no one cares about twice a year. I insisted that we turn down the TV so we could hear actual noisemaking, rather than the televised noisemaking, at least for a few minutes.

I watched about 20 minutes — the circa 11 p.m. CST minutes — of the Ghost of Dick Clark Rockin’ from the Beyond New Year’s Eve Special, or whatever they call it now. The presence on the show of dimwit Jenny McCarthy, who’s a hazard to public health, was off-putting.

Got up late this morning. I had work to do prepare to file stories for tomorrow, but I tried to go slow. The day was sunny but very cold. At one point I went out driving with Lilly so she could drive along some more low-traffic streets. I watched a couple of episodes of I, Claudius on my computer, which I haven’t seen in 20 years or so; it’s not just for PBS anymore, and boy is it still excellent TV. We had a fine New Year’s dinner after dark. All in all, it was a good way to start a year.

From Two Thousand to Twenty

The New Year holiday, as it’s done in Japan, means cleaning up the day before (today), eating certain things, and hanging out at home (tomorrow). That and visiting the temple or shrine of one’s choice. Japanese religious establishments are a little thin on the ground here in the northeast suburbs, but we’ll do all the other things.

The last day of 2012 will be notable for Lilly as the day she took a test at the Illinois DMV and got her learner’s permit. That was in the morning. In the afternoon, I let her drive the older of our cars – with me in the passenger’s side, as specified by the permit — around her high school’s parking lot, and then for a short drive on some lightly trafficked neighborhood streets. She seemed to take to it.

Now is also the time when the year goes from “Two Thousand” to “Twenty.” Mostly. The change will be complete by 2020, but it’s well on its way.