After unpacking and taking a long time to figure out how to operate all the appliances in our house, we decide to venture out and get a few groceries. Not that we have any idea how to get where we need to go, but with trusty cellphone in hand, we strike out like Lewis and Clarke for the closest market. But judging from the looks of the rounded stones that make up the street in front of our house and all the other streets in our neighborhood, I realize we are going to have to learn a whole new way of walking. To call these streets cobblestone is a euphemism, compared to any old image I had of cobblestones. before we moved here These are actually rounded or chipped stones stuck together hundreds of years ago that are embedded into cement. There is nothing easy about walking on them. Luckily I had packed only thick soled walking shoes, leaving all high-heels and cute slim leather-soled sandals in storage in Rockville. Thank God my several months' old leg injury is getting better, I thought. This is no city for the infirm!
I glance over at the sidewalks thinking they are a better option for walking, but they are not. They are merely skinny slivers of slate set in cement, with telephone and electrical wires anchored to poles in the middle of the sidewalk, leaving only a narrow space for going around them, one person at a time. Short narrow stretches of sidewalk abruptly end forcing us to step off a high curb down onto the cobblestone streets and then up again with another giant step onto the sidewalk that continues several feet later, and so the sidewalks go. It is like Irish step dancing, only I'm not Irish. My short legs are a pain in the ass for vaulting these high curbs. I put my hand out for Jack to help me up one curb and down. I have never felt so off balance and I haven't had even one margarita yet. What a good business orthopedic surgeons must have with all the retirees and visitors to the city. Falls and broken bones must be more common here than on a mountain in ski season. Car mechanics must rake the money in too, replacing shock absorbers and tires more often than dentists do root canals. I will not take my eyes off my feet.
Around the corner, an enormous ancient tree sprouts up like broccoli in the middle of the narrow street leaving a path just wide enough for a car to squeeze by on one side. It is evidence of the respect Mexicans have for nature that a tree is left to grow undisturbed in the middle of the street, even if it means inconveniencing the drivers who have to zigzag their way around it, bumping over the roots to get anywhere. The tree stops me too and forces me to look around. Ancient carved wooden doors of houses line the street. Magnificent purple, orange or yellow bougainvillea blossom in full profusion against colorful painted adobe walls. Through an open window come strains of happy Mexican music and laughter. I am struck by the mixture of old and new, broken and whole around me, beautiful and earthy sights and sounds that make up this city.
A Mexican man carrying a bunch of flowers walks towards me. It's a slow game of chicken on foot. Am I going to step into the street to allow him to pass or will he go first? He turns sideways to let me go by. Adelante, he says kindly. Go ahead. And so I will.