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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 11. CDMX • XI

A day after returning from Tulum, CJ and Owen sat on their balcony enjoying the early evening breeze and CJ’s first attempt at replicating the Jalapeño Margaritas they had sampled over the weekend. A skewered pepper and a few drops of the tequila they had soaked in overnight gave the cocktail an extra kick.

Owen smacked his lips. “That’s good, mate. If you flake out as a diplomat, you have a career as a mixologist.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

The year CJ spent at State Department headquarters in Washington was designed to augment the knowledge he acquired while a student in college. Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service churned out graduates who pursued careers in not only the diplomatic service. Lawyers, lobbyists, and literati all benefited from the outstanding education.

A glimmer of the latter could be found in the countless blogs published by those working at embassies and consulates in foreign countries. CJ and Owen devoured many of them, particularly the ones dealing with challenges faced by families with young children. Language, a common impediment to a quick adjustment would at least not be an issue. CJ was fully bilingual, Owen knew enough of the language not to ever need a translator, and their kid spoke Spanish, primarily thanks to living in a multi-generational home where her Cuban-born great-grandmother took care of her, and her fathers consistently using the language around her.

“I hate the idea of her going to a private school full of diplobrats, but I guess public ones in Mexico may not be great.” Owen tickled their daughter, making her squirm on his lap. “You ready to go to school, Liebe?”

“She’s not even two, Oz. I very much doubt we’ll still be here when she’s ready to start first grade.”

CJ had bid on the embassy in Havana, hoping to explore his Cuban heritage while working in the island nation. Most likely due to the small delegation sent once the mission was reopened, he was not awarded his first choice. Something else to blame on Agent Orange. Mexico City was an acceptable substitute. He had considered the possibility it was given to him as sort of a consolation prize. For someone as green as he was, the Mexican capital was a plum job.

His time at Foggy Bottom also helped CJ and fellow rookies learn how to navigate the State Department’s bureaucracy; something he realized everyone had difficulty with. In addition, the mix of long-time foreign service officers and political appointees could at times be volatile. Even after crash courses in diplomacy, many of the politicos had no idea what they were doing.

President Biden’s appointment of Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State sparked hope among remaining career diplomats disillusioned by the previous administration. Morale improved as the ship’s course was righted, and America worked to resume its leadership of the free world.

 

“Crap, what a mind-numbing day. I needed this. Thanks for coming with, Linc.” CJ sipped from the Tecate bottle and sighed. Owen had texted earlier, suggesting he not rush home. The Aussie had worked from home in the morning, dismissed Infanta after lunch, and headed to the Nature Conservancy offices with their daughter in tow so his associates could meet Liebe.

“My pleasure. What time you getting together with Ozzie?” Lincoln had agreed to join him for a beer at Xaman Bar across Paseo de la Reforma from the embassy.

CJ turned his wrist to check the time. Unlike so many who relied on their phones to do the same thing, he liked wearing a wristwatch. Maybe it was because he had done so from an early age when his father had given him one as a birthday present. “Not for a bit. He’s supposed to text me when he’s ready to leave.” Wanting to try 25DOS, he and Owen had agreed to meet at the W Hotel for dinner. The restaurant was rumored to explore Mexican contemporary gastronomy, with locally sourced, organic ingredients from the floating city of Xochimilco.

“So, why was the day so rough?”

“You know? I wanted to work in consular operations to get my feet wet and help others.” CJ again sipped his beer. “The job’s at its best when we assist people with things like getting emergency travel documents or solving complicated issues around obtaining U.S. visas or citizenship.”

“You’re a people person, CJ. I can see you being good at it.”

“Yeah, but then there are days like today. It’s a downer when you interview nearly a hundred people and have to tell most of them they don’t qualify for an immigration visa and aren't going to the United States any time soon. Like most days, I spent the morning talking to applicants and the afternoon feeling shitty while reviewing and closing out applications. It sucks.”

“Not much you can do about it, man. You’re following American law. I bet you do a better job of it than that boss of yours. The man’s a tool. I figured that out early, and avoided interacting with him as much as possible since I did.”

“He’s one of the reasons I’m so frustrated. The fucker has no heart. He objects to us spending time trying to make anyone feel better. Since I’m on his shit list, I try to follow his instructions to a T. I’m gonna be a model employee.”

“He’ll still complain about other stuff.”

“Yeah, like our project with Amazon and the family foundation. But since the ambassador’s on board with what we’re trying to do…”

“You could always ask Ambassador Cox to transfer you. Another department might be a better fit.”

“Nah… Not an option. Yet. I don’t want to run to mommy for help, so for now, I’ll just embrace the suck.”

 

 

Quiero mas.” The toddler emphasized her demand with a pout.

“One more spoonful and that’s it, Liebe. It’s too much sugar.” Owen offered her another bite of the dulce de leche concoction he and CJ had ordered to share. The girl had a sweet tooth and never turned down dessert.

“She keeps it up, she’s gonna be a fat, pimply bitch when she’s a teenager.”

“You call her that again, I’m gonna hurt you.” Owen did not look amused or share his husband’s chuckle. “Speaking of getting hurt, what’s with the bandage?”

Glancing at his middle finger, CJ raised it. “Paper cut.”

“Put that finger down. You realize a paper cut’s a tree’s final act of revenge for getting chopped down, right?”

CJ rolled his eyes. “You’re such a tree hugger. And I can’t believe you’re making dad jokes.”

“One of the reasons you love me.” Owen changed the subject. It was common for their conversations to meander through multiple subjects. “Any news from Luca?” Luca Biaggi was the Amazon Mexico executive supervising the construction of the CBC Technology Center at Lupe Romero’s school.

“He sent me a short message. All contracts are signed and construction starts the beginning of next month.”

“Did he say how long it’ll take?”

“He claims three to four weeks. Amazon and Lujambo want to have a ribbon cutting ceremony the first week in December.”

“We should definitely invite the dads to come down for it.” Although it was something that had been discussed, they had not approached Brett and César with the proposal yet.

CJ liked the idea. “Yeah, we have to. I’ve been missing those two. And even though we’ll see ’em over Christmas, we’ll have to share them then. It’d be nice if they visited and checked out our digs.”

“Let’s call them when we get home.”

 

“Kia ora. You must be CJ.” The woman squatted, deposited the toddler in her arms on the ground, smiled, and turned her attention to the girl. “And that means you’re Liebe. Way cuter than the picture your dad showed me. This is Nigel.”

“You have me at a disadvantage.” CJ offered a hand to help her rise. “You know my daughter’s name and mine but I have no idea who you are.”

“Natalie Sinclair. I met Owen a couple of weeks ago at a practice. My husband plays with him.” Natalie tilted her head towards the pitch, tossing her strawberry-blonde hair around. “He showed me pictures of the two of you and your girl.”

“Yeah, Owen mentioned meeting someone, but I’d forgotten the name. Nice to meet you. Which one’s your husband?” CJ glanced at the players on the field.

“He’s the bearded one with the dad bod.” She pointed in the action’s general direction.

CJ cracked up. “You just described most of the players on both teams. I thought a dad bod was a requirement for these weekend warriors.” Owen’s team, Oceania, was matched against a contingent from South America.

“Hey! I’m not complaining, just stating facts.” The conspiratorial wink was quick. “You’ll meet him when they’re done out there.”

“You guys from New Zealand? I know you don’t sound Australian. The initial greeting and accent scream Kiwi.”

“You got it. Figures you’d know what an Aussie sounds like. Anyway, I usually don’t show up when he plays; I figure this is Jah’s boy time, and I’m not a fan of the post-match pub drinking.”

“Jah?”

“Short for Elijah. I came out today so I could meet you and your girl.”

CJ cocked an eyebrow. “I’m flattered.”

Her laughter vibrated her entire body. “Don’t be. I have ulterior motives. When Owen mentioned your daughter’s age, I decided I’d come out, meet you, and try to set up our kids on playdates. Nigel’s a year older than Liebe.”

“That would be fantastic.” CJ was happy Liebe would have at least one playmate close to her age. He glanced at the toddlers at their feet. “I think they like each other already.”

In a display of parenthood multi-tasking, Natalie had unshouldered her backpack after placing her son on the ground, and retrieved two plastic trucks. Without interrupting the conversation, she had bent over, and handed each kid a toy. The delight in both was evident as they pushed the vehicles across the ground.

“Are you guys on social media?” Natalie retrieved and raised her phone. “Can I take a picture of them and share it?”

“Sure. Tag me. I’m CJinDC everywhere.”

She squatted and called to the toddlers so they would look at the phone. “Have you guys made plans for next weekend?” Natalie turned the screen towards CJ. Once he nodded, she tapped at it for a moment. “All done. Twitter, Insta, and Facebook.”

“What’s next weekend?”

“Although Dia de los Muertos falls on Monday, a lot of stuff’s going on Saturday and Sunday.”

“That’s right! I don’t know. We talked about walking around to see some of the decorations, but haven’t made any real plans.”

“Good. Jah and I plan to take Nigel to the parade and then the Zocalo to see the altars. Why don’t we all go together?”

“Let’s check with Ozzie after the match, but I like the idea. So which one of you’s attached to the embassy?”

Natalie tilted her head and stared at her companion. “I’m impressed, CJ. You didn’t automatically assume it’d be Jah because he’s a man.”

“Yeah well, although Ozzie calls me a misogynist and a chauvinist frequently, I know better.” CJ shrugged. “The fact it’s 2021 and y’all have a kick-ass female prime minister tells me not to make assumptions about New Zealand women.”

“Smart man. Neither one of us’ a government employee. I work for Bayer S.A., the local subsidiary of the German company.

“When I was offered the position, Jah quit his job to move. He ended up finding a better one with the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Council. He travels a lot, but we’re making decent money, and we like the idea of Nigel being exposed to a different culture.”

“See? I was right about New Zealand women. You got the job and your husband followed. Kick-ass to no end.”

“Oh, I like you!” Natalie looked and sounded pleased. “I most definitely like you.”

 

The Plaza de la Constitución, colloquially known as El Zócalo, was the center of government for both the city and the country. The expanse, capable of holding over 100,000 individuals, was popular with protesters and political rally organizers.

A ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan in pre-colonial times, Mexico’s Palacio Nacional and Mexico City’s City Hall occupied two of the square’s sides.

The name derived from Nahuatl, the Aztecs’ language. It meant base, referencing the foundation of a planned but never erected column. The abandoned project’s stones had been removed and replaced with a giant flagpole and oversized national standard. The name, however, remained.

Thanks to internet surfing, CJ had learned the moniker had gone extraterrestrial when it was used for the station’s marketplace and main gathering area in the science fiction series Babylon 5.

 

“Did you know UNESCO included Dia de los Muertos festivities in their intangibles list of humanity’s cultural heritage?” Elijah Sinclair, with his son, Nigel, riding his shoulders, and CJ, with Liebe atop his, walked behind their spouses.

“That’s a new one for me. You mean like the parade and other events?” CJ and the New Zealander had hit it off as well as their kids had.

“Yeah… although the parade’s a recent addition to the festivities.”

“I know. Thanks to double O seven.”

Producers of James Bond’s 2015 film, Spectre, created the event for the movie’s opening scene. The year after it hit theatres, Mexico City’s officials duplicated the effort, and the parade had become an annual event.

“I think it proves the holiday’s connection to indigenous celebrations’ tenuous at best. I mean, I’ve read a bunch of stuff speculating on how it ties to Aztecs’ honoring their dead, but I think it’s really a Catholic celebration, once again adapting to be palatable to the masses.” Jah smirked. “And the government encouraging anything that brings in tourist money.”

CJ chuckled. “You sounds as much of a heathen as Ozzie accuses me of.”

“Nope. I’m pretty religious, but I’m also a realist. Just like All Hallows Eve became Halloween, a pretty secular event, this has turned into a party. Even though it does display some of its church roots.”

The celebrations, in Mexico and elsewhere, straddled the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, annually held on November 1 and 2. Although the country’s population was mostly Catholic, following the Mexican Revolution, government officials diligently tried to separate church and state. It did not work as intended and Mexican citizens remained faithful to the church introduced by the conquistadors.

The parade began at the Angel de la Independencia obelisk, near the northeast corner of Bosque de Chapultepec, close to CJ and Owen’s apartment. Instead of standing still, the two couples meandered through the route, eventually detouring through side streets to catch an Uber. Mexico’s population was nearly twenty-two million, and CJ swore half of them were out and about that Saturday morning. The streets were jammed with people, and roads were just as congested with vehicles and pedestrian overflow. Reaching their destination, they encountered a sea of humanity strolling through the Plaza.

“Bloody crowded, ain’t it?” Owen glanced at CJ and Elijah. “If either one of you gets tired, let me know. I can carry either of the kids for a while.”

The common practice of erecting home altars to honor the dead was extrapolated into large displays in public spaces. Photographs and personal items of the deceased, religious iconography, candles, and flowersprimarily Mexican marigoldswere recurring items in the displays. The color riot helped punctuate the celebration of life was not a sad occasion.

“Oh, look at that.” Natalie pointed at a small cluster of individuals surrounded by smoke. “They’re doing cleansings. We should try it.”

Owen shrugged. “I’m game. And CJ’s the type to try anything.”

“Almost anything. But yeah, let’s do it.” CJ took the lead, bouncing Liebe around, much to her delight.

However, her demeanor changed when they reached the periphery of the smoky gathering. “Bad smell.” The wrinkled face was a good hint it bothered her.

“Come on, Liebe. It’ll be alright.”

“NO! Don’t wanna.” Grabbing CJ’s hair, she tried to steer him away from the woman with the burning bundle of sticks.

“Ouch! Dammit, Liebe. Stop pulling my hair.”

Tears accompanied her wailing. It was rare CJ spoke to her harshly, and it definitely bothered her. Owen came to his rescue while Elijah and Natalie looked on nodding. Having one of their own, her little temper tantrum was probably something they had experience with.

Trying to distract her, CJ pointed a few feet away where someone was painting faces. Owen lowered Liebe to the ground and she took CJ’s hand. “How about we get someone to paint your face, Munchkin?” He pointed at the kid with a black and white skull matching so many others in the crowd.

She vigorously shook her head, let go of CJ’s hand, and stumbled towards Owen. “NO! Scary.”

He lifted her and held her head against his chest. “It’s okay. No cleansing and no face painting for you.”

“She’s probably tired, guys.” Natalie had stepped next to Elijah and retrieved Nigel from his shoulders. “This one looks exhausted. Maybe we should call it a day?”

Owen nodded. “You tired, Liebe? Wanna go home?”

The girl stuck a thumb in her mouth and mirrored her father’s nodding.

“I think that’s it for today.” CJ shrugged. “Let’s get out of this mob. It’ll be easier to find a taxi on one of the smaller side streets.”

 

Liebe regained her cheerful disposition after a nap. She was talkative and smiling the remainder of the day, and did not fuss when put to bed that evening. Although their excursion had been truncated, CJ and Owen deemed it a successful day.

“I really like Natjah, Oz.”

Owen turned and glanced at CJ over his reading glasses. “Natjah?”

“Yeah, Natalie and Elijah. Sort of like Brangelina or Bennifer, you know?” CJ chuckled.

“Spare me the tabloid lingo. But I agree. Those two seem like good people.”

“What are we up to for the wine tasting?” The following Sunday, they were having people over to the apartment to sample Liston wines.

“I think like fifteen. It may get a bit crowded in here.”

“We should be fine. Suggesting they bring Nigel was a stroke of genius. You did good.”

“I figured he and Liebe could play in her room. Trixie seems to enjoy being around Liebe, and she may get a babysitting gig from the Sinclairs in the process.”

“I’m happy with the people we’ve met so far. What about you?” CJ closed the book he was reading and turned off his lamp.

“Yeah. That was my biggest fear moving. I mean, I still miss having the family and The Squad around, but I’m happy with who we’ve fallen in with. At least we have Lincoln. He’s like a piece of home.”

“A very large piece. We’ll see the fam over Christmas. Some of the others I hope will come visit while we’re here. I figure we have two or three years in Mexico. Plenty of time to have everyone drop in for at least a weekend.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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1 hour ago, Defiance19 said:

So translated; we’re going wine tasting.. Got it! 

The sacrifices we make in the interest of art... Oy vey!

CDMX doesn't have a lot of 'real' wines mentioned but I know one's coming up next chapter. However, I'm working on the wine list for a future book and will be sampling vintages to include. The cheap ones. I think I want to have them sample a Vega Sicilia bottle or two, but if I recall correctly, it was pricey. I'm hitting a liquor store sometime this week.

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1 hour ago, Defiance19 said:

🖐👋Me, me, I know!! I know!! 😝

I was going to wait until after I roped you into reading Coral Castles to spring this one on you, but since the cat's out of the bag... Interested? It won't be for a bit, still working on it.

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2 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

The sacrifices we make in the interest of art... Oy vey!

CDMX doesn't have a lot of 'real' wines mentioned but I know one's coming up next chapter. However, I'm working on the wine list for a future book and will be sampling vintages to include. The cheap ones. I think I want to have them sample a Vega Sicilia bottle or two, but if I recall correctly, it was pricey. I'm hitting a liquor store sometime this week.

Let me know what you find. 

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1 hour ago, chris191070 said:

I've checked and I know which story, you've recently changed it's title. Part one was July 2020 and featured Thiago.

"Black Lives Matter," the opening chapter of Thiago's story took place in June 2020. The new one picks up the story a year later as he arrives in Atlanta.

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2 minutes ago, Defiance19 said:

Let me know what you find. 

I'm turning my attention to Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian vinos for that story. The French will be represented by Veuve Clicquot which will be consumed by the gallon that week. And I'm thinking of having daily, sunset happy hours with a different martini each day. Not that I'm turning the boys into lushes or anything. :)

 

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1 hour ago, Carlos Hazday said:

The sacrifices we make in the interest of art... Oy vey!

CDMX doesn't have a lot of 'real' wines mentioned but I know one's coming up next chapter. However, I'm working on the wine list for a future book and will be sampling vintages to include. The cheap ones. I think I want to have them sample a Vega Sicilia bottle or two, but if I recall correctly, it was pricey. I'm hitting a liquor store sometime this week.

What dedication! What a great work ethic! Going above and beyond to ensure the accuracy of what you write! What you endure for the benefit of your readers! 

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2 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

"Black Lives Matter," the opening chapter of Thiago's story took place in June 2020. The new one picks up the story a year later as he arrives in Atlanta.

Hooray! Thiago's story. Next June. I can hardly wait!

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11 hours ago, frosenblum said:

What dedication! What a great work ethic! Going above and beyond to ensure the accuracy of what you write! What you endure for the benefit of your readers! 

I'm willing to suffer for my art!

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10 hours ago, frosenblum said:

Hooray! Thiago's story. Next June. I can hardly wait!

I better write faster. Problem is I'm also juggling a couple of other stories. Maybe I should avoid the wine tastings...

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Quote

“NO! Don’t wanna.” Grabbing CJ’s hair, she tried to steer him away from the woman with the burning bundle of sticks.

:rofl: 

This does not get old. :D 

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On 1/11/2022 at 8:35 PM, Reader1810 said:

:rofl: 

This does not get old. :D 

She knows how to manage her parents.

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