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Magical Mexico

(Photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

A day removed from a pit of Mexican fire in my stomach, which burned bright with tequila and salt, I comfortably reflect on Zona Polanco in Distrito Federal of Mexico.

Polanco, in effect the Beverly Hills of Mexico, from Burberry to Gucci to my favorite, the eclectic Common People where we bought beautiful soaps and bath salts and a brightly-colored magnet of the Lady of Guadalupe, radiant against a red background. That’s Mexico for you these days: radiant and resiliently shining, yet against a red background of worsening drug violence. We didn’t see many other Americans during the trip but always felt fairly safe.

Mexico City boasts more density than New York City while it is vaster than North American land giant Los Angeles, with a total population roughly equal to both of those biggest of United States cities combined. Thirty million people hived around us seeing about their day, while the affluence of Zona Polanco was perhaps most striking. The pedigreed pooches in sweaters and bows, with well-coiffed and attired owners in tow, themselves with expensive sweaters tied around their necks, so Euro. The rolling tree-canopied park and the finest shopping, the restaurants where I found so many friendly tables.

Past the biggest flag I’ve ever seen, one Zona over is the giant park, the public lake where families and couples cruise on peddled boats, the museums and street food vendors. On a Sunday afternoon, we strolled amongst thousands, one street vendor saying, “Wow,” at the significant beauty of my lady, as the sugar of the churros stuck to our hands.

We stopped in for a margarita at a swank spot playing NFL games and then were given a free ride back to our hotel in their comfy courtesy van…the big city night still awaiting us.

Fitting that I’d just bought a souvenir folk art miniature Mexican Cantina in Cuernavaca, I thought later, as we explored the nightlife in Mexico City, with somewhat mixed results. Our credit card stopped working and required a phone call to rev back up at what could have been an inopportune moment, and the tequila eventually hit me too hard.

Before all this was the mansion once owned by the lovely Hollywood actress Brigitte Bardot in Cuernavaca, Land of Eternal Spring, where we stayed in the guest quarters. Cuernavaca is a city of around one million, an escape from Mexico City, a city behind gated walls which opened to reveal large homes with majestic gardens and outdoor spaces.

The place we stayed was cobalt and white and flowing and as majestic in taste and decoration as any I’ve seen below the border, a shrine to all that is good about Mexico, and there really is so much.

The smell of steaming tamales removed from foil and banana leaves, for breakfast. The memory of Texas relatives whom loved the culture. The feel of being seated outside under a temperate sky and consuming cold Mexican beer with limes sliced sideways, with the woman I truly love. The thronging Zocalo and the reverence and spectacle of Mexico’s churches. The taste of piquant salsa verde and wholesome handmade tortillas. The art and color – yellow, cobalt blue, galaxy blue, Aztec blue, pink, hot pink, red, orange, all popping against the expected browns and tans. My single favorite art piece I saw was the Diego Rivera mural depicting the history of the state of Morelos, which filled the largest walls in the main public building in Cuernavaca’s downtown.

To-and-fro Cuernavaca, we traveled by luxury bus, from the airport in D.F., where we shared our first Mexican meal, a delicious bistec torta (sandwich). The city is mammoth from the air and feels enormous while navigated by auto. Housing packed on top of shallow stores and restaurants selling food and goods to the multitudinous masses. Soccer facilities and parks along the graffitied Metro train line, as we bounced in the bus through the crush of traffic.

Followed by the rurality of mountains and fields of hay that is most of the land in the nation of Mexico. Coming into Cuernavaca, we felt the energy rise again. And life did pulse there, with the same Mexican fire that we felt of the biggest city in the world, 100 years after the revolution, 200 years after declaring independence from Spain.

Students flock to Cuernavaca to study Spanish; while Capitalinos (as residents of D.F. are known) retreat the short distance to Cuernavaca for cleaner air and relative calm. Mariachi players wait near the Zocalo in full uniform ready to be rented to play. And a raucous mid-day celebration once swept us up, a tipsy local painted as an Indian for the festivities putting his arm around me and introducing himself and his less than pleased date, as we charged down the street with them. He told me I should have been out there at 10 a.m.

The silver town of Taxco that we visited on a day trip was brimming with humanity – flooding narrow city streets, full of pedestrians and vehicles and thousands of shops, every structure white with only black-lettered signage. There, I prayed in the most ornate church I’ve ever seen and then had a drink at the rooftop bar across the plaza. Next, dinner included chicken enchiladas and a hilltop view of the entire village from a large restaurant/hotel.

Our last night in Cuernavaca, fireworks bombastically filled the air from the club next door, as we finished with fine dining in a gorgeous open air restaurant. The Mexican night felt so perfect to us, under the candle and lamplight. And we anticipated the frenetic energy of the megalopolis of D.F., which was again on our agenda.

Back inside the mansion that night, we settled in to fall asleep and then were at one point suddenly awakened to noises on the tiled ceiling. We moved to the kitchen, and two curious Coatis glanced at us through a window from atop the property’s wall, before one bounded over the other as they exited our view. The magic of Mexico evident to us.

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Brand New (York) – T-Shirts

Brand New (York) is my homage to NYC street fashion and transit. These are printed on high-quality cotton Alternative Apparel T-shirts and are currently available in men’s size S-XXL.

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Brand New (York) is trademark and copyright Han Vance (C) 2011-2013

One of my favorite spots

(Hanish inside Anish Kapoor piece at High Museum of Art in Atlanta)

Atop The 17th Bridge

Facing South On

A Rush Hour Friday

Urbanism-Urbanism

And I Just Counted

Twenty Lanes Of Traffic

Below Me

I’m Up Above It

Walking In Rockports

With Sneaker Inserts

Never Tell Me This

City Can’t Or Ain’t

Because I Will And Do

And So Does This

Butterfly Becoming

More Than A Rap Song

About Getting Money

More Than A Punchline

For Soft-Thought Yankees

To Spew

This Town Has As Much

Energy, Almost As Much

Energy…As Me

My Last Hipster Run

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My hair was overgrown, so I took out my peanut and shaved the sides up – way up. I looked a bit like Crispin Glover as I made a deposit in my bank and quickly walked the rest of the way down Ponce to get my haircut. I wanted to make sure the sides were right, and the line was perfect. I trusted only myself. I had the rest done relatively short and usually left it product-mussed. I broke out my dad’s old cover sunglasses, as huge as any they wore in Manchester and Miami. I started wearing bright tight shirts everyday, which almost fit me, as I’d recently lost ten pounds. I longboarded as much as I could and strutted to the transit station or took cabs everywhere else, except on the weekend mornings when my curvy fiancee’ drove me to work at the Euro-cafe’ in Midtown. Those mornings, I would finish a can of Coors Light in the bath to rally. Then we would sit in her car and make out while I swayed about to the space age Athens weirdness of Of Montreal. Then I would walk inside and make myself a double espresso. I was drunk in bars with thirty-somethings, with twenty-somethings to the point of belligerent incoherence and laughed and talked too loudly. I proudly peacocked amongst fellow urbanists whom would never have my flair for extravagantly varied fashions or my honed way with words. I worked a final lunch shift, had a huge late lunch, walked back to the cafe’ and had my free birthday shot, a Strega. Shared a toast with the definitely-old-enough-to-know-how-to-live-way-better-but-still-clinging-to-it-for-some-reason bartender, had a drink with the actor Paul Walker as we discussed Hawaii and my California book and my afternoon pool party planned for the next day. Walked away and had a few drinks in various haunts with a career student. Met my love in our suite. Went out by taxi for sushi and for wine by candlelight. The city glowed around and for me, as we stumbled to the disco lounge without panic or pretense. An off night in the Southern sprawl of summer ATL, but an on one for me, I suppose. My last as a hipster. As she and I had done so many times in the old loft where we deeply fell, we sat perched atop our city as midnight neared. I counted it down like it was New Year’s Eve. Five-four-three-two-one. Suddenly, I was 40. And I went to bed.

Vance

(Photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

Jade Lemons and the Crimson Lust at 529

Tommy the Tomcat is back. Jade Lemons, the mastermind behind the Underrated Records label and studio, debuted his new act at 529 in the East Atlanta Village. A few spots around EAV had decent crowds, as a weekend summer night down South buzz was in the air. My sister, Anna and photog friend, Marc were on the scene with me as we stopped in for a quick one at the newly-reopened Glenwood. Then Mr. Lemons appeared crossing the street in Captain’s hat and his signature skinny jeans, blonde beauty in tow all dolled up. He was headlining, and his mom was on hand. His friends and fans were on hand. His new material was ready for its first public consumption. He delivered to the full venue with the help of a band totaling five pieces, counting Jade, and you should because the dude rocks. Sallow, gauntly thin, tall and intensely transposed on guitar and lead vocal against a punk-looking black girl playing bass, a classic-in-delivery accompanying singer, also of color, white dudes wailing on sax and pounding on drums – this is real now Atlanta music. Yet, Ziggy Stardust meets T-Rex’s Marc Bolan again is what I most hear in obvious classic influence. Familiar and good songs, the first time heard. Though this group is worthy of a bigger venue soon and Jade clearly couldn’t hear his monitors well on stage, the short performance came off as well-rehearsed and of crystal clear quality. This band is only a key hit song away from being at least a minor household name, as this new formula for Jade works. I predict a big future for them.

(Photo by: Wizard Smoke)