4 mins

How to avoid being taken down by a taco

Wander Woman, Marie Javins, dodges a midget Iron Man in Mexico City and battles the effects of a dodgy taco in San Miguel de Allende

Mexican Taco Vendor (Marie Javins)

From the canals of Xochimilco, I headed by metro back into the centre of Mexico City. I’d failed in my quest to visit the island of decaying dolls, but something more exciting awaited me at a small convention center off the main boulevard of Reforma.

It was a small comic book convention.

I’m a comic book editor/writer/colourist by trade, so I’d jumped at the chance to see what a Mexican comic book convention was like. I was spending the summer a few hours away in San Miguel de Allende.

I laughed as I saw the cosplayers and professionals signing autographs. A comic book convention in Mexico turned out to be quite a bit like a comic book convention in the States. I stepped around a ten-year-old Iron Man and dodged a Wonder Woman, then passed a Batgirl, and finally, an out-of-place Captain Caveman.

I found a friend who was a guest of the con, and sat down behind his table. We caught up for a few hours, as it had been a while. I missed San Diego Comic Con this year and he had missed the New York Con before that. I even signed a few Marvel comics once people worked out that my name was in them.

Eventually, it was time to walk back to Hotel New York to pick up my tiny overnight bag (well, cloth supermarket bag, really) and head to the bus station.

After going through a metal detector, being patted down, videotaped, and having someone look in my bag, I was allowed on the bus, the last express coach back to San Miguel. This was less comfy than the outgoing coach had been. The coach was sold out.

I got in too late for the local buses to still be running in San Miguel de Allende, so after standing cluelessly at the bus stop for a minute, I hailed a taxi.

"Hidalgo y Insugentes, por favor."

He dropped me at the taco stand.

I had two tacos, then headed back up the cobblestone streets to my apartment, where I fell fast asleep until being startled awake.

"Six in the morning," I thought, "seems like a perfectly reasonable time to set off fireworks."

Fireworks were always going off around me in San Miguel. I didn’t quite understand why, but it seems fireworks are used in certain cultural rituals. Or maybe people just like fireworks.

These went on all day long, and well into the night. I took my laptop to a cute little café at one point, just to avoid the noise. Then, around three in the morning, I woke up to fireworks of a different kind.

The kind in my gut.

The cute little café seemed suddenly less cute as I sat flopped down on the tile of the bathroom floor in the middle of the night.

I spend the next day unpleasantly prone or in the bathroom. I wondered about my snack at the cafe. Had the cook used the same uncleaned hands for lettuce and avocado as he'd just used on a raw chicken? Or was it the hand I'd shaken of the guy whose MacBook I'd kept an eye on while he went into the men's room? Or the cut fruit I'd gotten at the market? Bacteria are easy to come by.

On the bright side, this was nothing – NOTHING – like the time I was dramatically ill in Uganda. This was about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 in gut distress.

So I guessed I'd live.

A few days later, I decided my innards were feeling safe enough to make an excursion to the nail salon. In San Miguel, a lot of the nail techs come to your house to "do" your nails. Well, that just sounded unpleasant to me. I was already spending enough time in my flat, working on my computer. I'd rather go to them.

I'd spotted a nail salon at the little outdoor mall by the Soriana supermarket, so I took the bus up the hill to check it out.

The salon looked every bit the upscale, traditional nail salon, and the prices were only a little more than in New York – which is the home of the cheap mani-pedi.

One fun thing about nail salons is the random conversations you get into with other customers. Today, a woman sat on either side of me. To my left was a heavily made-up woman with false eyelashes who lived half-time in Santa Fe and had bought a house here in the country.

When the nail tech asked in Spanish if I wanted my cuticles cut, she jumped in to "interpret," telling me the question was "round or square".

I firmly told her it obviously wasn't – the tech was waving the cutters at me and using words new to me.

On the other side was a more relaxed Austinite who'd lived here more than a decade. She spoke fluent Spanish and interrupted to corroborate my interpretation. She then said she had to go home for a while and this was her last chance at a pedicure for weeks or months since she didn't know how long she'd be in the hospital.

"Oh no," I said. She nodded. "They just found out I have MS. That doesn't bother me – I've been in and out of hospitals for a decade over a spine problem already. What bothers me is the tumour they found in my brain. That's going to take a while to sort out. I need to get my legs waxed too. We drive up on Friday, so I need to hurry up."

She was tough, and I was impressed. She’d been through so much medical care, she was past worrying about more than her manicure and her legs.

She knew to get her legs waxed, while she still had all her mobility. 

After all, it lasts for weeks.

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