Karma: A Writing Exercise

Sometimes small talk becomes bigger talk. Settling onto the bench in the yoga studio lobby, I asked Claire, “How are you?”

She sighed before answering, “This morning I woke up late, and my boyfriend wasn’t there. I found him on the couch. I wanted to grab my purse and go, but there was a huge spider on it. I just stared at it, and while I was trying to figure out what to do, the spider raised its front paws, I mean legs, and moved them around like time didn’t apply to him.

“I had to wake my boyfriend up, and I was like, ‘Help,’ and he just killed it. I think part of it’s still on my book. But I was so glad that I could just grab my purse and go, because I was running late, and today was the last day for that public-speaking class that I teach to the middle-school students.”

“And how was that?” I asked.

“It was tough! I had to be a little hard on the students. One of them kept taking out his tablet. I told him twice to put it away. I was going to take it away from him, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to confiscate things. Anyway, I just had him come sit next to me.

“Then this other boy, he’s really smart, but he doesn’t do the work. They were all supposed to give their final speeches today, and he wasn’t ready, but I told him he had to do it anyway. He was going to have to improvise, and he did it, and he nailed it. It was so good.

“I explained to the class that it’s better to be prepared, but sometimes in life that’s just not possible, so you just do the best you can, and sometimes it works out like it did today. So, I made it through the end of the class, and I was happy for that boy, and still kind of stressed from the other one who kept playing with his tablet. When class ended, they were the first two out, and I was holding the door open for all the other students, and then those two boys, one at a time, both came back and wanted to give me a hug. So, now I’m here on kind of a high, ready to lead your yoga session.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “I had something like that happen in a middle-school writing class that I taught…”

Then I stopped – it was Claire’s moment—and pivoted. “It’s great when stuff like that happens. That’s why as a writing coach, I was happy to get your email last night with your blog ideas. Two of them intrigued me a lot: the one about what yoga instructors can learn from the dog whisperer, and the one about the real meaning of karma.”

By then, I’d removed my shoes and socks, and finished some stretches. Claire started toward the studio, and said over her shoulder, “Let’s talk about that after class.”

I followed her and unrolled my mat. She brought blocks and bolsters and resistance bands. Once she started instruction, all the spider and speech-class excitement drained from her voice. Her ability to calm herself helped me trust that she could lead me to calm myself. I fell into the easy rhythm of breath she prescribed.

Most yoga instructors encourage us to remain present. Claire says to “let go of anything that will not be of use in your practice.” That phrasing resonates, along with how she says it. But, in this lesson, mid-Happy Baby, my mind wandered to writing instruction, and after “namaste” I told Claire my thoughts.

“What you said about the spider was eloquent. You tell me you struggle with writing, but you have tremendous access to language. The way you described the spider – ‘raising its front paws,’ you said, and then you corrected yourself, ‘I mean legs, and moved them around like time didn’t apply to him’ – that’s incredible description. You have the words, and it’s just a matter of writing them down.

“So, based on what you told me about your morning, and given your list of blog ideas, this week’s homework is to write about karma. I see some connection between karma and the way your day has gone.”

“What kind of connection?” she asked, and I said, “If I answer that, I think you will benefit less from this exercise. But, I’ll tell you what. I’ll do the same exercise, writing about this last hour, and next week we’ll compare notes.”

Fit Kids on the Last Day of School

Remember the last day of elementary school before summer vacation? Your weather may have been spectacular, tantalizing you outside the classroom window, promising the freedom to run, jump, skip, throw, catch, and finally, comfortably collapse into sleep as your pent-up energy dwindles with the daylight.

There is nothing better than that mad dash out the door to the sound of the school year’s last bell. Unless you’re an East Palo Alto public school student participating in Fit Kids. Then, it does get better.

You board a bus headed to Levi’s Stadium. There, you get a t-shirt and run out the same tunnel as your football heroes, all courtesy of investment firm HGGC, the Forever Young Foundation, and the San Francisco 49ers, and then you meet Steve Young, who has led all three organizations.  

There are lessons in football and life from 49ers Youth Football head Jared Muela.

There are football drills, agility tests, music and dancing.

There are flying touchdown flops into foam endzones.

There is food and beverage and a gift bag. The ride home is much quieter. Many of the Fit Kids are fast asleep…and dreaming.

Collaborative Storytelling

Two great joys — collaboration and storytelling — recently came together on an Inkflow Communications project for Fit Kids, a non-profit client that provides structured fitness programs to underserved elementary school students. The challenge was to humanize Fit Kids’ impact, telling the story of one child to illustrate the organization’s broader value to the communities it serves.

Dramatizing a problem and its solution through the story of an archetypal individual is a go-to approach for many brands. This is especially true for non-profits that need compelling content to raise funds.

In theory, focus on a single face instead of mind-numbing numbers is the surer way to change hearts and minds. The story of one identifiable person is more moving than statistical statements about anonymous millions, which can overwhelm audiences to the point of turn-off and tune-out.

So, why doesn’t every brand take the individual storytelling approach? First, not everyone got the memo. Business leaders focused on the bottom line may fixate on figures. Also, telling an individual story in support of a brand is not an easy execution. That’s where the joy of collaboration comes in.

Telling the story of Briana in the video above took Fit Kids Founder Ashley Hunter’s commitment to this form of communications, Fit Kids Program Director Navita Wilson’s keen ear to the ground to identify Briana and her family as subjects, Inkflow’s work to bridge brand and journalism, and the extraordinary skill, emotional intelligence, storytelling instincts, and production chops of award-winning sports broadcaster Mindi Bach.

The video was a hit when it debuted at The Fit Kids Lunch fundraiser on April 30. Of course, collaboration also fueled that event’s success. But that’s a different story.

Sports Philanthropy Network Podcast with Roy Kessel

In addition to the joy of kickin’ it with Roy Kessel on his Sports Philanthropy Network podcast, we shared insights and examples that can help any non-profit or other social entrepreneurship do well by doing good. Just press play on the player embedded below, and see the timecodes for highlights by scrolling just below the player.

Start-1:55, the Inkflow Communications story

2:28, how Lesa Ukman and International Events Group set the stage for social impact in our industry

4:55, why non-profits should view sponsorships through sponsors’ eyes

7:35, how non-profits attract sponsors with story-telling and other content opportunities

10:31, the futility of playing the eyeball game

14:29, identifying sponsor prospects — Fit Kids example of protecting brand integrity

20:15, Wolf Pack Ninjas example of delivering value beyond cash

24:45, working with Saint Thomas Academy on content

26:03, how WeXL creates economic opportunity through content from diverse voices

28:39, helping entrepreneurial clients get out of their own way when it comes to marketing

31:40, clients viewing marketing communications as a long-term investment in the brand

33:37, story-telling lengthens attention span of target audiences…including executives.

Learn more about Sports Philanthropy Network and its upcoming
Sports Philanthropy World Congress!

Spring Break

At the time of this post, I would ordinarily be in class. But it’s Spring Break, so I am writing instead of teaching, and my students are even more scattered than usual.

In childhood, I loved Spring Break or any other break from school. An aspiring journalist even then, I also secretly enjoyed writing the ritual essay on “What I Did Over Spring Break.” But now, as a volunteer for Citizen Schools, teaching a weekly creative writing class for middle school students at McKinley Institute of Technology, any break is too long.

Nothing is more rewarding than teaching young people, especially those in the underserved communities that Citizen Schools reach. Inside the classroom, students’ energy levels vary depending on whether they’ve had enough to eat and how much rest they could get the previous night in chaotic, overcrowded homes. Their expressions during class range from slack-jawed “a-ha!” to open-mouthed sleep.

Their potential is immense, yet still sometimes no match for the forces arrayed against them: systemic racism, under-resourced public schools, frequent reminders of the inhumanity at the borders their families crossed, and renewed threats to their own safety and sanctity no matter the number of years since those crossings.

The students’ resilience is remarkable. One has lived in the U.S. for less than a year. His stated goal on the self-assessment index card he turned in was “to learn more words.” Another writes beautifully and brutally of being forced at age 10 to choose between living with her mother or her father.

“That sounds very difficult,” I observed.

“It wasn’t,” she answered. “I don’t like my mother.”

Despite some gut-wrenching circumstances, there are no outbursts, no behavior any worse than that smattering of scattering mentioned earlier or a typical middle school giggle. The students want to learn. They help each other find words, whether to answer a question out loud or to complete a sentence on paper. When it’s time for pens and pencils to keep moving, they do.

The students treat guests with great respect. One week we hosted Dania Denise, whose creative talents include comics and graphic novels, because several students showed interest in those forms. In a future class, Rudy Ramirez, an ethnic studies professor at College of San Mateo, will share the songs he has written in Spanish and English.

It’s critical that these students see people who look like them and hear people who sound like them show and tell them the way toward personal fulfillment and professional achievement. Too many in this class too often are subject to discouraging depictions of themselves from too many of the too-few people in power.

Much of the students’ writing shows the angst that typifies their age under any circumstances. The best of it shows signs of imminent rage against their specific circumstances.

Last week, students wrote descriptions of the final projects they are committed to deliver when the Citizen Schools term ends in May. One will write about finding respite in nature, another plans poems about a poor family, and another outlined a super-heroic quest for a cure to save her mother’s life.

As much as I used to love Spring Break, now I can’t wait for it to end.

Grown-up writing students may register here for my May 4 class at The Writing Salon,
On Point: Crafting a Short-Form Point of View Piece

Confirmation that Content Is King

Participating in a class last weekend with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (better known as d.school) and the NHL’s San Jose Sharks confirmed once again that content is king. The three-day class, Testing at Scale: The Sports Fan Experience, sought insights into what Sharks fans want.

The 10 of us in the class – including d.school instructor and sports marketing maven Ward Bullard and Sharks marketers Whitney Hallock and Stacy McGranor – fanned out to meet fans in and around SAP Center. Armed with little more than Sharks trivia quiz cards, we engaged hundreds of fans, whose opinions varied widely:

“Of course, ticket prices matter.”

“Not so much. Bottom line is I need to be in the arena.”

 “More interactive TV would be great to help me understand the rules of hockey.”

“Nah, I’d rather just have my friend explain it to me.”

“Organized tailgating would be cool!”

“Maybe, as long as I am in my seat when the players skate out of the Shark’s mouth.”

Regardless of the opinions they shared on their cards and in conversation, fan behavior revealed an underlying, near-universal truth about what Sharks fans want: touch-points with Sharks content.

For example, before Friday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, some classmates set up shop at a table in the concourse. In less time than it takes to serve a cross-checking penalty, visitors could enter a drawing for a Sharks-logoed drink cooler/barbecue toolkit ($100 value) by filling out a trivia quiz card, complete with contact info and answers to market research questions.

We tried a few different hooks with passersby:

“Would you be willing to take a survey?” incited many departures at slapshot speed.

“Enter to win this Sharks cooler!” slowed some folks long enough to accept a card.

“Test your Sharks trivia skills” earned instant interest, cards grabbed, filled out on the spot, and conversations that could have continued until now.

Groups of Sharks bro’s launched into competition mode, while female fans collaborated with each other on the quiz. Seeing a past player’s name listed as a multiple-choice answer, complete strangers reminisced about whatever memory that name elicited and got people talking about the Sharks’ Cow Palace days.

To speed through-put and increase card completion, we reminded people that this was a random drawing and the accuracy of their answers would not affect their chance to win the prize. Nevertheless  they persisted pursuing the right answers, searching online and even using their phone for “lifeline” calls to their friends. Clearly, the chance to talk Sharks hockey mattered more than the $100 prize.

With all cards filled a half hour before puck drop, our class reconvened in our suite. We kept an eye on the game and the rest of our attention on outstanding presentations and conversations with Sharks President Jonathan Becher, VP Sales and Service John Castro, and Douglas Murray, a former Sharks player and co-founder of the Sharks Alumni Foundation. (Pro tip: In a Sharks suite, order the ice cream and churro dessert.)

All left the suite happy after a 4-3 Sharks win, and our class met on Saturday afternoon for a four-hour debrief of Friday’s work and to brainstorm ideas for “Testing at Scale” around Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

We decided to split into two squads. One studied the in-arena behavior and preferences of fans attending their first-ever Sharks game. The other, which blessedly included me, hit the neighborhood bars to assess appetites and attitudes around the out-of-arena pre-game experience. Questions concerned tailgating, interactive TV, where they liked to hang out in and around SAP Center…anything that could enhance their game-day engagement.

My bar was The Brit, where I was supposed to remain stationed through the first period so I could compare answers between patrons who left for the game and those who remained behind. This time, the ticket for admission to personal space was either the trivia card or a set of Sharks stickers and temporary tattoos. Again, the intangible of interacting with content proved more enticing than an actual gift.

Hustling among hundreds of fans to distribute and collect cards while also conversing, I had the sudden sensation of swimming in a sea of teal. But a half hour before puck drop, the crowd thinned out, and I was just about to do the same.

When the game started, four people, none in teal, remained at The Brit. Where I could not hear myself think 15 minutes earlier, now I could practically hear other people thinking. That sudden silence resounded with the reminder that for all the experiences available to a fan, the game is still the thing.

Back in the suite midway through the first period, I met up with Doug Bentz, the Sharks’ VP, Marketing and Digital, and summarized my observations: there is only minor interest in relatively major enhancements the Sharks could offer, but it may be better not to distract fans from consuming content.

Moments in Mexico

The air in Mexico City looked gray. It’s possible the sky was just overcast and hazy, but through the window of a taxi, still waking from a red-eye flight, the air itself was visibly gray. Gritty streets, graffiti, and construction dust led to the cleaner, hipsterish Roma neighborhood, where we would stay for the few days that I spent with my daughter, Eleni, before she left for solo travel adventure in Peru.

Home-base was Hotel MX Roma, a small building with welcoming staff…

…eclectic lobby furnishings, and vibrantly painted walls. Our room might not have been all of 200 square feet, but comfortably held a queen-sized bed, TV, breakfast nook, a jury-rigged place to hang clothes, a large, modern shower and gleaming fixtures, for about $60 per night.

Advice from my friend, Shelley, brought us to the neighborhood, and we were quick to follow the rest of her advice: “just eat good food and drink good mezcal!” Research revealed that the well-reviewed mezcaleria called El Palenquito was just a few blocks away. The bustling sidewalks felt safe and comfortable at all hours of the day and night. Other than language differences, we were just as much at ease as in any upscale neighborhood in the U.S. That bears mention here because of recent aspersions cast on Mexico by certain U.S. politicians.

Even the language differences disappeared inside El Palenquito, which played blues music on the speakers hidden in its low, dark, wooden ceiling, and whose English-speaking waitress educated us on the 50 or so mezcals on the menu and explained that the huge phallic symbol rising from the adjacent stone table was a tahona, a device hitched to a horse to aid in crushing agave as part of the mezcal manufacturing process.

Small glasses of Enmascarado 54 and Madrecuixe sent us into the warm night. We wandered to Jardin Pushkin and played with the locals’ dogs and children, all running around loose and fearless in the dark. This was where we saw the first of several kids throughout our visit face-plant into concrete and quickly raise themselves laughing instead of crying as so many American children would.

On our walk, we noted potential future bar and restaurant stops in our neighborhood and settled on the aromatic, frighteningly-open-air-but-crowded-enough-with-locals-to-convince-us Tacos Frontera. It was delicious and turned out to be a safe buffer for our mezcal nightcap, 400 Conejos, at Gin Gin.

The next day, January 6, was Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), a major local holiday that celebrates the Three Wise Men’s visit to the baby Jesus. Throughout the day and night, wherever we went, hundreds of people hustled through the streets carrying large boxes of Rosca de Reyes, a cake in which one slice contains a figurine of the baby Jesus as a traditional prize.

We started our day walking from the heart of Roma to Chapultepec, a park roughly twice the size of New York’s Central Park. First stop was for street soccer.

A couple miles from our hotel, the streets widened to contain cobblestone boulevards beneath cooling canopies of trees and leaves. It was urban beauty that equaled anything I’d seen in Paris and led straight into the park. Its first major feature was the Monumento a los Niños Heroes, recognizing child military cadets who died while defending Chapultepec Castle, the last major resistance to U.S. troops who had invaded Mexico in 1846.

From there, the architecture of the Museum of Modern Art drew us in. The free museum kept us there for an hour, entranced by the interior design and the quality of its collection. One exhibit covered the oppression of women in Mexico, and even beyond that exhibit, themes of oppression, violence and sensory distortion were vivid and pronounced.

Back outside, we aimed for Castillo de Chapultepec. We navigated streets closed to traffic but crowded with tents, booths and their resident hawkers of T-shirts, candy, umbrellas, blankets, dolls, keychains, sunglasses, wrestling masks, etc. The walk uphill to the castle at altitude on our first day in town tired us, so we stopped occasionally for long views of greenery unfolding before us for miles and then multiple tall-towered skylines in the distance.

The cost of the castle tour in pesos and time that we wanted to spend outside chased us. We decided to rent bikes from a roadside kiosk. Suspiciously, the rental agent required us to surrender our passports, but we were feeling bold after surviving Tacos Frontera.

The ride through the Bosque section of the park was especially beautiful. We stopped at various water features and statuary, rode past families pick-nicking on the grass and wound through a military base, all within the confines of Chapultepec.

The bikes were due back by 3. We rested and phoned my former colleague and Mexico City native Raul Escalante, who suggested how to spend the hours before he could meet us at the hotel at 8:30 to give us a night-time driving tour. On Raul’s advice, we Ubered to Palacio de Bellas Artes. Entering the Centro Historico district, traffic slowed to the typical congested pace of New York or Chicago. We felt compelled to explore more widely than deeply, so we spent just a few minutes admiring Bellas Artes.

We walked a mile or so on Av Francisco I. Madero, leading from Bellas Artes to Zocalo, the city’s historical central plaza. First stop was Antiguo Palacio de Iturbide, which Raul had recommended for its interior architecture.

On our way, we saw this sad scene in the middle of the street.

Where the street dead-ends into Zocalo, we saw Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México, the largest cathedral in North America.

And these flags flapped above the square.

Raul also recommended Salon Corona, a legendary taco joint, which in Chicago terms, is a marriage between Manny’s and the Wiener’s Circle as far as both food quality and crowd energy.

Raul met us that night to cover more ground in his car than we could on foot. He drove us past his haunts in Roma, the neighboring La Condesa district, and then back down to Zocalo. He explained the significance of certain historic buildings in socio-political terms, revealing his proud leftist leanings.

We learned a lot, including the fact that Mexico City is beautiful at night with bustle and lights to match any other large international city. Back at the hotel, Raul helped us negotiate with the desk to arrange for our next day’s tour of Teotihuacan.

The next morning, anticipating a vigorous hike around and up and down the famous pyramids of those pre-Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan, we filled up on breakfast at Belmondo, a hearty bowl of scrambled eggs, beans, tortillas and nopales (cactus leaves). Some mariachi stopped by. After one song, the leader grabbed his cell phone, perhaps to take an order for his next appearance, and I wondered if there was some sort of mariachi dispatch service.

We met our shuttle to Teotihuacan at the hotel and picked up another dozen or so guests at various hotels. The shuttle wound through some now-familiar streets down to Zocalo before heading north through the poorest-looking streets we’d seen yet and then onto a wide highway that passed through miles of industrial ugly followed by more miles of piles of rubble disguised as houses, stacked improbably into hillsides, the brilliant pastels of their exteriors at odds with whatever pains of poverty lurked inside.

About an hour outside Mexico City, we hit the outskirts of the pyramids and rumbled down an unpaved path past cottage-industry shops that had sprung up around the attraction. Rafael, the guide who explained the history and scenery on our bus ride, gave a tutorial in avoiding eye contact with the vendors who would accost us soon after we left the bus.

In the dusty parking lot, a couple of our bus-mates from Los Angeles complained so loudly about having only three hours to explore and about needing “el bano” that Rafael could not finish his speech. He pointed them across the Avenue of the Dead, the main drag through ancient Teotihuacan, and we would never see them again.

Rafael told us about the pyramids mirroring the surrounding mountains and which astronomical phenomena could be experienced atop the pyramids during the vernal equinox. He told us what time to re-convene, to follow the rules on the printed signs, and otherwise have the run of the place, walking and climbing as we saw fit.

As predicted, the vendors descended, but they understood body language well enough. Because we were closer to the Pyramid of the Moon, we chose to climb it first, saving the imposing Pyramid of the Sun for our finale. It is hard to know what sense of spirituality in such a place is real vs. imagined or even implanted by what we read and hear. But I have long felt in tune with beliefs of indigenous people, especially when walking in their footsteps, and I felt that at Teotihuacan.

The steepness of the stones was imposing. My normal workout involves sprinting on steps cut into hillsides, but this would be a slow slog, due to narrow space for footfalls, the creakiness of my knees and the altitude. I kept hold of the wire that ran up the spine of the steps, and I kept my head down for fear of dizziness or disorientation sending me tumbling back down the jagged corners of the stones. Looking down also let me study the stone patterns and narrow my focus to what it might have meant to a guy climbing this structure when it was built in about 100 A.D.

Between heartbeat, breath and where my mind went, that minute of climbing moved me. At the top, I felt elevated, literally, but more importantly, spiritually, by how far I could see and the strange, fleeting impressions of unprecedented shapes, angles and shadows.

I was cautious near the edges of the pyramid, but pushed myself as far as I dared in order to experience the place as fully as possible.

Eleni had stopped to check out some other ruins, so she climbed after me, and we lingered atop the absolutely mystifying Pyramid of the Moon until we remembered there was much more of the Avenue of the Dead to explore.

We still faced the harder climb up the much taller Pyramid of the Sun.

By the time we reached the top of that one, the crowd there and the deadline for the bus soon sent us scrambling back down.

The bus departed Teotihuacan proper and took us to an appointed nearby shop, where we enjoyed an outstanding English-language demonstration of the uses of the maguey plant (juice for fermenting into pulque and mezcal, string, needle and thread, paper, etc.). Then we learned about obsidian, a stone used for tools, weapons and art. For example, looking through a quarter-inch slab of obsidian straight at the late-afternoon sun was almost exactly the same experience as seeing the sun through eclipse glasses.

Inside, I bought an obsidian figurine that spoke to me. Because of the intrigue it holds for me visually, and as a reminder of the spiritual powers I felt at Teotihuacan, I have given it a place of honor as the only object atop my writing desk. The impetus to remove the other clutter testifies to the power of this talisman as a force toward clearer mental and emotional paths to better writing. The life-death motif of the figurine reminds me of the existential importance that writing plays in my life and of the nature of time — the balance of urgency and patience — that fuels my writing now that I am likely midway through my life.

The bus home arrived to a perfect sunset.

We hopped off at the stop nearest Zocalo so we could spend early evening there. Our walk took us past this stunning monument to Benito Juarez.

When we reached Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México, only Spanish-language tours were available. Eleni decided she would understand well enough, and though Teotihuacan maxed me out spiritually, I could still take in more art and history.

Conventional wisdom is that not much good happens in Zocalo after about 8 p.m., so we caught an Uber back to Roma and enjoyed the outdoor seating at El Palenquito, followed by a nightcap of Bocanegra beer at Soul La Roma, yet another hipster bar, this one marked by the recent vintage motorcycles on display.

We built our last full day in Mexico City around a visit to Frida Kahlo’s childhood home, La Casa Azul. Research for food in that neighborhood led us to Tostadas de Coyoacan, another better-than-fast-food-and-most-fancy-food meal, along the lines of Tacos Frontera and Salon Corona. We sat at a counter with mounds of tostada toppings, maybe 20-30 styles of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, ceviche, octopus, and cow’s foot (“Tostadas de pata res”), which made both Eleni and me gag.

We had 1:30 tickets for Frida, so we walked off the tostadas in the block-long, block-deep Coyoacan marketplace. It was a compressed version of the carnival-barkers at Chapultepec, but these stalls were crowded on top of each other, two or three times our height, and crammed around narrow aisles, plied by singers and dancers. It was an overwhelm of color, raw and cooked food, textiles, clothes, accessories, toys, and household goods.

In need of sensory relief, we left the marketplace for a trot to Trotsky’s house.

Then we spent about an hour at Casa Azul.

We had planned to visit a nearby bar made famous by frequent visits from Frida and Diego, but we could not find it. We called Raul, who directed us to its unmarked location two doors down from where we’d looked. We decided to meet there, and I had the joy of texting him: “We are seated beneath a bull’s head, watching Man City v Lyon. Heaven.”

Over one Rey Zapoteco and one Siniestro, amid the historic bullfight posters and beneath the bull’s head, we talked politics and watched the waiters dance to mariachi. It was the kind of place you could imagine sitting all day, every day just to stay out of the heat.

Raul walked us through the plaza to his favorite ice cream shop and then drove us through the University neighborhood. We stopped to admire the Olympic stadium.

Then, Raul drove us through crooked, cobbled, narrow streets of San Angel, the quietest neighborhood we visited. As night fell, he led us to a church where one of his relatives had been married and then set us up with his friends at El Carmen Deli for a fancy dinner.

My mezcal came with a side of fried grasshoppers. Eleni’s gin and tonic was a tableside preparation that involved fresh-smoked rosemary infused inside the upside-down glass, plus a few citrus rubs and juniper. Dinner was beef tongue taquitos, fillet, sea bass, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus. We went home early, because the next morning, we were expected at 9 at the home of Guillermo “Billy” Grimm, who, after I had interviewed him by phone for a magazine article last year, invited me to visit if ever staying in his city.

Billy is an octogenarian, an extraordinarily accomplished businessman, former government minister, and was a primary mover in the development of Cancun. My article for the St. Thomas Academy alumni magazine covered his time at that school, which had served as a springboard for his success.

We Ubered to his home in Polanco, where his housekeeper, Rosario, and dog, Max, greeted us. We waited in his living room amid beautiful art and furniture, gazing at his garden courtyard. He descended his staircase dressed perfectly in tie, cuffed white shirt, tailored trousers, vest, herringbone jacket, gleaming loafers, and red and blue striped socks to match his tie.

Billy led us back upstairs to see his office and what he jokingly called his “ego wall” filled with about a hundred diplomas, certifications, citations and commemorative photos: Billy with the minister of this and the secretary of that, and most joyously for Billy, Billy with Melina Mercouri, the star of “Never on Sunday.” Among those wall hangings:

Breakfast was some of the freshest fruit I have ever tasted, juice, delicate cheese, chilaquiles and espresso. Between his dress, his taste, his age, his air of distinction, his inquisitiveness about Eleni’s upcoming trip to Peru, the warmth of his conversation and his wisdom, Billy reminded me of my father. It is a compliment to both of them.

Billy drove us aggressively in his Benz to Museo Nacional de Antropología. It’s a world-class museum, also in Chapultepec, that we had skipped in favor of the outdoors during our prior day in the park. Between hugs and long good-byes, Billy recommended we visit the outdoor statue of Tlaloc, the rain god, a 23-foot tall, 300,000-pound monolith that was moved, despite much controversy, from Coatlinchan to its current location, and upon installation in 1964 was blamed for historic rains in Mexico City.

There is much to recommend the museum. We spent four hours there, taking occasional breaks to stretch and relax in the sun-drenched courtyard or to enjoy a light misting from its water fixture.

One display explained the origin of “400 Conejos” as a phrase from the Aztecs that described the effects of alcohol rendering a person’s brain and behavior the equivalent of “400 rabbits.” Armed with that knowledge as we left the museum, we Ubered back to Roma, stopped in at Gin Gin, and ordered “a total of 800 rabbits” to brace us for that night’s flights to our next destinations.

In the cool jazz quiet of Gin Gin, revisiting our favorite memories of those five days in Mexico City, we realized that was not nearly enough time to see all we wanted. In fact, it might have been just enough to convince us to take a return trip.