Photos from Mexico City

This was outside of Insurgentes Metro Station, two stops west of my hotel. It provides easy access to tourist area Zona Rosa.

This was outside of Insurgentes Metro Station, two stops west of my hotel. It provides easy access to tourist area Zona Rosa.

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Metropolitan Cathedral on the north side of the Zocalo. Tours for 13 pesos allow you to climb to the top and take photos from the roof.

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She was taking a walk through the park with her friends, looking for a boyfriend. I couldn’t resist.

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This was taken from the top of the castle in a large park that anchors a portion of the western edge of Mexico City. The main artery heading northeast is Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s effort at a Champs Elysees.

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Adventurin, or tourist trappin’ as my brother in law calls it, at Teotihuacan. It’s about a half hour drive northeast of the city.

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Glass curtain at Palacio de Bella Artes.

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Ivonne and Ivan drove us to Xochimilco with help from a hitchhiker, who provided directions. I’ve never been over so many speed bumps, they are everywhere on snaky roads through the southern portion of the city. Here we are at a cafe in Ivonne’s delegacion, Chalco. It’s about a 70 minute collectivo ride to the city from here. Apparently she uses them frequently, and just prefers to live way outside the city.

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The Mendoza sisters were a huge help showing me museums in the park. We’re taking a little train ride up the hill to the castle which was once called home by Maxmilian and Carlota, who seem to be somewhat still revered in the annals of Mexican history.

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I tried some premium mezcal at a trap restaurant outside Teotihuacan. Yes it had the worm on the bottom and it was very delicious (the booze not the worm). It tasted like extra-aged with smoke and charcoal tequila. Pip Hanson take note.

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These stores are like a cooler Express, and are everywhere in Mexico City. The cool kids go here to shop. Somewhat inexpensive Euro-style.

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The morning in Chalco. This is a little public square with stray dogs and morning walkers. I was about to embark on my harrowing collectivo ride, not just because of the aggressive driving and traffic with no seat belts, but a… let’s say unstable stomach… to boot.

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Clowning at El Castillo.

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Video from Mexico

With high temperatures in Minnesota not expected to crack zero degrees today, here are two videos from my recent trip to Mexico City I hope will warm you up. The first was took on my first night after arriving, when I stumbled upon “El Angel.” The second was my first time walking around El Zocalo, the city’s main square, one of the largest in the world.

No First Friday? Well I’ll make my own ‘Fun Friday,’ then.

It seems Lowertown First Friday skips over January (too cold?), but a buddy dragged me from the sixth-floor to street level (and skyway level) last Friday anyway.

Made it in time to happy hour at the new Bullpen Saloon. It was Capital River Council night there, so mover and shakers abounded. I got a chance to meet Councilman Dave Thune in person for the first time. He seems authentic and says what he means. He might also done politicking after announcing this will be his last term. A potential protege of his was there too, who lives sort of by Thune’s Irvine Park neighborhood, but more across the way in West Seventh near Mancini’s. She had a few stories from hanging out there on Friday and Saturdays, where the band plays rock, covers and rat pack stuff to a crowded room.

Anyways, Bullpen Saloon was crowded this night. There was some kind of raffle before I arrived, and Thune was clutching this faded yellow board game box from 1982. I think it was a St. Paul themed game of Life, or maybe Monopoly. But it was good to see the place full, not even a seat when I arrived around 5:30. They have local Flat Earth brews on tap, and the Mummy Train (a pumpkin-y ale that Fred thought too sweet) was $4 on happy hour. On a side note, nice to see Flat Earth penetrating St. Paul stores and bars almost to second fiddle status to ubiquitous Summit.

We were looking for other stuff to do after HH, so we headed to Lowertown proper, and Black Dog Cafe, which was also unpredictably packed because of an art show that awarded some good cash ($750) to the top voter getter in a people’s choice contest. Black Dog’s trying to schlep the last of Bell’s Christmas Ale bottles for $2.75, which I was happy to take advantage of.

Got to be standing room only for a tick at Black Dog last Friday too.

Got to be standing room only for a tick at Black Dog last Friday too.

It was after here that we discovered no First Friday was happening, and the doors to Jax Building were locked, yet, a small flyer was posted to the door announcing a jam session at Sendora studios upstairs. Fred called the number and we were let up to a nice space with four friendly people chatting and eating homemade cheddar cheese with crackers. The studio’s owner, Tara, teachers flamenco, and the strange newcomers (us), were treated to a demo performance. Sorry for the fat fingers for about 10 seconds at the start, I was also trying to pound on the floor to help keep time:

Afterwards, called in a nightcap downstairs at Camp with new-to-Twitter-awesome-sustainability wunderkind Mim Cheng. Give her a follow!

Golden’s Deli comedy

Went to a comedy “battle royale” last week at Golden’s Deli in Lowertown. It was a ton of fun, and there were about 10-15 comics who did rapid fire three minute sets, but I can’t believe how woefully under-promoted the event is.

I Googled “Golden Deli comedy battle royale,” and the first two hits were tweets I sent before going to the event (two Tuesdays ago). At least create a Facebook event. The service was super friendly and the beer and food were great. It really is a fun little Lowertown spot and I hope it sticks around. Great atmosphere akin to Black Dog Cafe across the way, like a coffee shop, study up or read, but with the philosophy that some function better sipping a beer over an espresso.

Anyway this show was on a Tuesday, and I’m curious if they do it every week, or once a month or what. If anyone knows feel free to comment. Too many sleepy places down here need a good social media person/promoter.

Here are a couple of unrelated pictures for you:

Here's Rice Park if you haven't seen it yet this time of year.

Here’s Rice Park if you haven’t seen it yet this time of year.

Newly-opened Bullpen Saloon has opened at the old Buttery Building, and has skyway access.

Newly-opened Bullpen Saloon has opened at the old Buttery Building, and has skyway access.

Suiting saga

This post might come off half informational and half rant. But here goes.

As recently as two months ago, I couldn’t give a crud about what I looked like in a suit. I paged through GQ and figured everything was too expensive, too unattainable. And then I came into some money, well, at least, a credit of some amount at a local Men’s Warehouse.

I’ll just start out by saying this: Probably don’t go to Men’s Warehouse in any suburb if you’re looking for a fitted, modern look. The sales people are seemingly pulled off the street. If I sound vindictive it’s because I was mostly belittled by a elvish little woman who not only rolled her eyes at my requests, but actually had the audacity to poke fun at me, the customer. Anyway in hindsight, I learned what I wanted in a suit. It was one, long, joyless learning experience.

It’s funny because Men’s Warehouse claims to have tailors on staff, yet they won’t narrow jacket sleeves and suit pants at the location I visited (Roseville). These are two essential elements to making a suit fit. Most traditional brands cut sleeves overly large, same with pants. I had some adjustments done, and they were mostly good upon completion, but even that was a battle. My requests might as well have been in a foreign language to the MW tailor.

It’s a fine line between requesting what you want forcefully, and not coming off as a dick. This is how this tailor came off: “OK, so you really want this, even though I’m thinking it looks ridiculous. OK I will purposely screw it up to make you realize how stupid you’ll look.” I wouldn’t put it beyond the amateurs at this MW location believe it or not. The kids that work there even feel each other up, right in front of customers. That’s when I was like, ehhh…

Enough ripping MW. The bottom line is I knew more about what I wanted to look like than they did. Despite these trials, I was invigorated. I wanted to get old and sloppy suits and coats I have tailored to fit. Before I go any further, don’t do this. If you have old sloppy suits, probably just go on Gilt and buy a new one more your size. I spent about the same amount as a new suit cleaning up this old Calvin Klein I have at Tom’s Tailors on Grand Avenue.  Thankfully it looks great now, and I’m happy with the adjustments, but not every tailor is going to get it right. They’re humans, you know.

Tom and I last Friday. It’s here where I felt most understood.

My experience at Tom’s was where I felt most understood. Tom (the tailor) listened, and generally agreed with what I requested (“You see! Looks nice!”) I would have had him do my other two, newer suits from MW that still needed narrowing, but his operation is a bit cramped, busy and disorganized (he didn’t have my pants ready after two weeks).

So I have my old suit done (i.e. pants hemmed and cuffed, narrowed, jacket sleeves narrowed, shortened, nipped at the sides, shoulders fitted, etc), and I still have these two other suits, and I was a bit frustrated with Tom’s lack of organization. So that same night, I thought to give Heimies Haberdashery’s tailors a try. It’s in walking distance through the skyways, and open till 7 on weeknights.

The place is like the dapper man’s dream world. I could spend too much money in the place. I didn’t bother being tempted by merchandise, just got the suits done. Anyway, the place comes off a little more traditional, and the folks there were nice enough but still gave me a little bit of eye roll. “The garment fits you fine.” Yes that may be true, but not in the way I want it to fit.

Moral of the story, it can seem like an uphill battle finding a good tailor. I’m sure there are many places in the Twin Cities that would be more conducive to my tastes, but this is a mini-review of the three places I visited. For the record, my three suits turned out great. My insistence of how I wanted it them to fit, no matter how feeble, paid off in the end. The tailoring handiwork was good, not cheap, and should not have been questioned. Why act so surprised? I want to pay you.

Metz @ 7th Street Entry

I don’t see many hardcore shows, but I’ll more actively seek them out after attending a pulverizing set by Toronto group Metz last night. It was another Entry showcase of an ascending band to a sparse crowd. Opener Buildings were just as loud, and looked to be hard to top, but somehow Metz came out tighter, stronger and more compelling. From what I’ve read they’ve been honing their craft in Toronto bars for some time, and the power of practice was evident. I shot this video stage right in front of the equipment box where everyone throws their coats:

Cossetta outdoor patio (so far)

Took a stroll through the skyways all the way across downtown to the Xcel and ultimately Cossetta, that West Seventh Italian food institution undergoing seemingly endless expansion.

Last summer, it was reported that a separate fine-dining restaurant, Louis, would open with spectacular rooftop views of the Cathedral of St. Paul by August. Well that isn’t done yet, but plans are still in place to finish it this winter or early next spring, I believe (an employee was filling us in about this but I was not paying close attention).

Not stunning, but could be fun on a Saturday night watching people stumble in and out of McGovern’s.

However, some of the second-floor outdoor seating is indeed finished, and it’s pretty cool. Nothing too fancy, but a patio wraps around the West Seventh and Chestnut Street side of the upstairs dining area. Heat vents are installed, so I’m wondering how long the restaurant will keep the seating open as the weather cools. The day we went was about 65 degrees, balmy, so they weren’t really necessary. On West Seventh, the rumbling truck traffic is almost unbearably loud, so we moved down along Chestnut, where the auditory experience isn’t much better because the restaurant pipes in blaring kitschy pizza-pie tunes all along the patio.

Those black overhanging contraptions are outdoor heating vents.

The second-floor eating space, which I thought adequately large in Cossetta’s previous rendition, is now massively expanded to cafeteria-sized proportions. Downstairs, the food lines are longer and more numerous, but no less confusing. If you’re a first timer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choices and make a rash decision (wait I wanted that!).

Food was great as usual, gorgonzola salad had tasty ingredients covered in homemade blue cheese. Pasta was masterfully cooked. I’m looking forward to see what Louis can offer, hopefully a great wine list and maybe a late night happy hour, or am I asking to much?