Mexico City

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the pyramid of the sun

Tourists like insects ascending and descending.

This isn't a real pyramid, I say. A real pyramid is stepped. This is just a rock mound.
Yeah, says Brutus. Yucatan wipe the ass of this.
We're here, says Ajo. Let's climb it.
Can't beat a pyramid in the jungle, says Brutus.
Must've been a jungle here one time, says Ajo. You think?
Too dry, says Brutus. Maybe a pine forest. This is a clear cut.
I'll stay here, watch your stuff, I say. How does that sound?
Cowardly, says Ajo.
I get vertigo, I say.
See that guy up there with his wife, little kid? says Ajo. Bout half-way?
They're Japanese, I say. They're crazy.
You can make it, says Brutus. It only looks big.
It's the biggest fucking pyramid in the world, I say.
Bigger than Cheops? says Ajo. I don't think so.
Bigger than El Castillo in the Yucatan, I say. Couldn't climb it.
Suit yourself, says Ajo.
Even von Daniken couldn't climb it, I say. Anyway, get up there and what do you think you'll see?
Something that will finally make sense, says Ajo.

About midway and I'm taking a breather. A couple of old ladies wearing shorts and money belts burn past, heading for the top.

What if you had a heart attack? I say. Think they'd bring in a chopper?
Nah, just roll you down the side, says Brutus.
Wonder how many people have died up here, I say.
Lots, says Brutus. Easy to fall.
Or be pushed, I say.
Or get your heart ripped out, offered to the sun god, says Brutus.
This isn't a heart-ripper, I say. No temple at the top.
Yeah, says Brutus. This pyramid is completely non-functional.
Like a model, I say. A practice run.
Too big for that, says Brutus.
Unless it's a tomb, I say.
That's what the Aztecs thought, says Brutus. They figured it was a city of tombs.

We're looking down at the long avenue. Few people about, almost deserted.

They made a movie here once, I say. A Western.
Haven't seen it, says Brutus.
I know you haven't, I say. Well before your time.
What's it called? says Brutus.
Vera Cruz, I say. A Western.
Any good? says Brutus.
Escapist bullshit, I say. Starring Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Couple of good shots of the Avenue, that's about it.
They empty a few rounds into the pyramids? says Brutus. Must've, eh.
Shoot lottsa people, I say. But not the pyramids. They just ride on by, pay no heed. Just part of the scenery on the road to Vera Cruz.

I close my eyes, try to imagine the City at night.

It's aligned with well-known constellations, isn't it? I say.
The Equinoxes, says Brutus. And, uh, the Pleiades.
Well that's standard stone-temple city astro-geometry, I say. Ergo, it's a cargo cult.
Doesn't have to be, says Brutus. Most people start out worshipping the sun and the moon.
So why the alignments? I say.
To be cool with the gods, says Brutus.
Maybe it is a graveyard, I say.
I prefer to think of it as a launch pad, says Brutus.
Sure, I say. The place where the gods were born.

Ajo is at the next level, filming the panorama, the mysterious vectors of the city. It's high noon, the sun vertical.

This is the place where the sun is transformed into a jaguar in order to pass nightly through death, says Brutus. No shit.
How do you know this? I say.
I read it, says Brutus.
Where? I say. The Chariots of the Gods?
I know these things, says Brutus. I was a History major.

how big is your Ballard collection

At the top we sit down again, allow the vertigo to subside.

Climb this, climb Everest, says Ajo.
You know the slopes of Everest are littered with the frozen bodies of dead climbers? I say. Think about that.
Yeah, says Ajo. They just found that British climber Mallory, the guy they figure might've been the first to the top.
1924, I say. Last seen close to the summit.
Well they found him, says Ajo. A frozen mummy.
How they know it's him? I say.
Went through his pockets, says Ajo.
Did he fall from the summit, I say. That's the question.
Big, big news in the U.K., says Ajo. The Ballard web-circle been goin' nuts.
J.G. Ballard? I say. What's the connection?
They figure Mallory is the archetype of the Ballard hero, says Ajo.
I can see that, I say. All his heroes do the dumb thing, head the wrong direction.
Well it's the right direction, tho, isn't it? says Ajo. The existential direction.
You figure Mallory's climb was existential? I say. Pure egotism -- he just wanted to be the first to the top of Everest.
I'm talking about the Ballard hero, says Ajo.
Guy in The Drowned World heads south into the burning jungle, says Brutus.
Kerans, I say.
Right, says Ajo. Kerans. Whenever everybody else is headin' north.
They're all like that, I say. What is Ballard? The imprinting of a British schoolboy... Mallory, Scott, Franklin... all these lost adventurers.
Lost Imperialists, says Brutus.

Anyway they went nuts with the discovery of Mallory's body, says Ajo. What's that play by Auden?
The Ascent of F 6, I say. Co-authored with Isherwood.
They figure it's the big influence on Ballard, says Ajo.
Right, I say. More literary fundamentalism... let us trace the scriptures.
Still big on Ballard, Ajo? says Brutus.
Why not? says Ajo. Who's any better?
Carlos Castanada? says Brutus.
Get real, says Ajo. Castanada talks visions, Ballard gives visions.

So how big is your Ballard collection? says Brutus.
Big, says Ajo. Very... big.
Complete? says Brutus.
Have I got everything? says Ajo. I think so.
Gotta be something, says Brutus.
The original manuscripts, says Ajo. Those I don't have.
Mallory's body, I say. You don't have that.
Might find Ballard lying on the pyramid somewhere, says Brutus.
In this heat? I say. He'd be bug powder.
Where would I keep 'em? says Ajo. That's the thing.
Better get them, says Brutus. They're essential I'd say.
Hey smart guy, says Ajo. How you like to roll back down to the bottom?
I'm just saying, says Brutus, if you're such a completionist...

the theory of ruin value

Ajo takes a tour of the summit. When he comes back, I film him proudly surveying the Valley of Mexico.

You have to wonder why they built here, says Ajo.
Obsidian mines, I say.
Can't eat obsidian, says Ajo.
Obsidian is sacred, I say.
Yeah? says Ajo. So they sit around making spook masks?
This is where the aliens landed, says Brutus.
I get it, says Ajo. Mask Brutus bought is an alien.
That's obviously why I bought it, says Brutus. Up you, Ajo.
Start an alien mask collection, says Ajo. Be the first in your school.
Just jealous, man, says Brutus. It was the best one.
Old guy messed with your head, says Ajo. Two hundred bucks, Jeez. Have another shot of pulque why don't you....
You know, maybe that's why the city was built here, I say. Pulque.
Pulque? says Ajo.
It's sacred, right? I say. Essential mystic fluid.
You really want to know why they built here guys? says Brutus. Because the whole valley here was a lake.
So city was abandoned when the water dried up, says Ajo.
No, I say. It was abandoned years before that.
Yeah, says Brutus. Lake was filled in by the Spaniards.
The city is a model, an outline... an idea, I say.
You mean, like a resort for the mind? says Brutus.
Aliens, says Ajo.
Like a first attempt at flight, I say. It's crude.
Crude and doomed to failure, says Ajo. But the view is great.
It was never meant to be anything more than it is, I say.
A ruin? says Ajo.
Why not? I say. Are you familiar with the theory of ruin value?
Can't say I am, says Ajo.
Bet you don't know it, Brutus, I say.
It's a Nazi thing, says Brutus.
Very good, I say. Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. Hitler wanted to anticipate the mythical possibilities. All the new public buildings in Germany were designed as ruins... a neo-classical conceit... how they would look in a thousand years when the Third Reich was done.
Madness, says Brutus. Got done sooner than that.

too fast for fiction

J.G. Ballard, says Ajo. He specializes in ruined landscapes.
That story of his, I say. The Time-Tombs...
One of his few SF pieces that's actually set on another planet, says Ajo. Very mondo.
A desert planet with submerged tombs in the sand containing computer encryptions of dead people, I say. Not unlike this place, maybe...
Very cool idea, says Ajo. Classic J.G.
Entire personalities and physiologies encoded in the hope of some future resurrection, I say. All on big main-frame tape reels... already old tech. I mean, we're moving into the post-silicon memory era... molecular computers and so on.
That's the problem with science fiction, says Brutus. Always facing fast obsolescence.
It's a problem for all fiction, I say. Gets marginalized by the reality of history.
Unless it is history, says Ajo.
Well fiction exists in the margins of mystery, says Brutus.
Sure, says Ajo, but where's the mystery in the world of the 24 hour News Channel, CNN?
You saying fiction is synonymous with loneliness? I say.
Am I? says Ajo. Sure. We live way too fast for fiction.
Too fast for loneliness? I say.
Loneliness in the classic sense, says Brutus.
The fugg is that? says Ajo. Loneliness is eternal.

About ten, twelve other people on the summit of the pyramid, standing, sitting, photographing. Multi-national. Some sit, stunned with exhaustion, as others joke and laugh, circle, cavort. Students. Mexican bourgeoisie. Asians. Gringos... and maybe three aliens.

Old gringo with silver hair edges up, says, you seen the Temple of the Plumed Serpent?

We allow ourselves to look towards the ruins at the south end of the calzada. Already a mirage in the heavy heat.

I recommend it, says the Old Gringo. Has some very interesting pictures.
A long way, says Brutus. In this heat.
True, says the Old Gringo. But it's worth it. Met an old Indian fella in one of the rooms, explained everything.
His name Don Juan by any chance? says Ajo.
He didn't say, says the Old Gringo.

He continues on, edging around the perimeter.

Isn't the so-called postmodern condition the fact that we don't know what fiction is? I say.
The big impact books are like that, says Ajo. Lookit Castanada.
Same with von Daniken, says Brutus.
The act of writing is always a fictional act, I say.
Fiction is just a means of cleaning up a personal reality, says Ajo.
Ergo, an action is a fiction, I say.
Who said that? says Brutus. Aristotle?
I said it, I say.
Sounds like Aristotle, says Brutus.
Mescalito, says Ajo.
Isn't Mescalito the God of Peyote? I say.
Nah, says Ajo. Mescalito's an old guy who sells rock masks and pussy on the Avenue of the Dead.

sleeping policemen »»»

© Lawrence Russell

Culture Court 2000