chapter  9
21 Pages

Thirsty Urban Nomads

The family continues to disintegrate. The mother takes more and more antidepressants, and the fath er continues to frequent fourthrate cabarets [cabarets de mala muerte], making friends with the teenaged proletarians

who go to those places , buying them drinks and prostitutes because he likes group fornication. He gets drunk every day…. Today he is not as drunk as other days, he is neither happy nor sad, but incredibly depressed [sic], intensely pensive as he evokes his image as a 25 year old Frank Sinatra joyfully singing at parties, crazy with desires to conquer the world. Pausing at Insurgentes he as ks, “What the fuck has happ ened to me?” [“¿Qué chingados me ha pasado?”]. (82)

Should the fellow sitting on the next barstool ask such a q uestion, buy him a drink, hum a gay S inatra tune, and coax him back to a more pleasant quasifictional state of mind. This would be the role of any decent cuate, of course, helping drinking buddies stabilize their preferred selves or at least enjoy the exquisite feeling of being failures despite their best efforts. More to the point: if the social theorist describing Mexico City has an excessively windowless concept of alienation, replace him with one of the Marxist urbanists recently studied by Andy Merrifield (2002), the ones who open up conceptual sites for spontaneity, celebration, drinking orgies, jouissance, laughter, mockery, passion, and euphoria (Merrifield 2002, 83-84). Imprisoned by a do ur, agency-eradicating notion of alienation, Careaga overlooked daily ritual resistance inside the capitalist megacity, not to mention the creative self-construction inside the selfpity. “The mind is a problem-solving agency even if it stages the representations of self traumatizing ideas and feelings” (Bollas 1992, 241). Note how alienation did not keep a Careaga drunkard from reaching intense degrees of introspection; unhappiness was one of their raw materials, one of their foods for thought, the sand of trauma that produced the pearl of identity. It is as if each were saying “I suffer, therefore I exist.” But above all, as seen in the passage above, he is saying “Me acuerdo” —(“I remember”). The total recall that Careaga found again and again in his drin kers is exactly what cracks op en the o therwise implacable, deceitful megalopolis, and this disalienating rupture should not be missed. Practical memory is a tactical resou rce that “co unts on an accumulated time, which is in its favor, to overcome a hostile composition of place” (Certeau 1988, 82). “Far from being the reliquary or trash can of the past, it sustains itself by believing in the existence of possibilities and by vigilantly awaiting them” (87, emphasis in original). From Ixtepeji to the Distrito Federal, Mexico’s temporally opportunistic drinkers not only believe but know from experience that sooner or later “something alien to the present will or must occur” (87). I stress that Certeau never mentions the word alcohol, but his ideas restore agency to popular cultural time-warping and shed much light on the intentional worlds constructed by Mexican binge drinking.