2023.45 : Mexico City Unmasked

Mexico City, Mexico Circa 2022

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

My New York friend worked for a multinational company with an office in Tokyo, where she came to work for six months. It wasn’t long before the women in the office, no men—the women, called my friend into the conference room for an important meeting. My friend was perplexed as to why; she thought she was doing a good job, and the meeting wasn’t on the calendar. The woman in charge instructed my friend, “The face you wake up with is not the face you come to work with.” In one sentence, my friend understood that henceforth she’d be wearing makeup to work. Meeting adjourned. Yep, that happened.

So for nearly fifteen years, I saw healthy women wearing face masks on the trains and in the streets, and I knew their secret. On their day off, the last thing they wanted to do was put on their public face just to run errands. Practical.

The cedar tree isn’t indigenous to Japan. One-third of the Japanese population is allergic to its pollen, a large percentage of whom are severely affected, costing their employers a great deal in unproductive workdays. They say it takes non-Japanese four years of living in Japan to develop symptoms—they were right. So why then are there so many trees that cause so much suffering? The lumber industry in bed with politicians. Modern business 101—private profits with losses being socialized.

When it’s pollen season, the face masks come out in full force. Practical.

Flu season comes around. Face masks come out. Practical.

Face masks became a practical new normal for me. You can imagine my dismay when the recent pandemic came to the United States, and the face mask became a symbol for freedom fighters. Highly impractical.

To this day, I hear reports from my friends in Japan about how the country lost its mind and went mask crazy. How crazy? My favorite were the public service announcements telling the citizenry to wear a mask between sips of their beer, bites of their food, and drags on their cigarettes at the pub. Highly impractical.

I began losing the ability to function attempting to hold these two opposed ideas in my mind at the same time. That calls for yet another return trip to one of the most unique places in the world, Mexico City.

The mask mandates were nearly all lifted when I arrived. A friend of a friend, now my friend too, had a shop that was really struggling to stay afloat because of the pandemic. I had a heart that needed mending and a camera that needed to be put to good use. My new friend said he could arrange a studio and nearly a dozen models for a reasonable fee that would get him to next month. He asked me what would be the theme. With no thought, I blurted out, wear whatever they want for with and without mask photos. The without mask photos to capture their feelings about the mask that, as quickly as it entered their lives, was exiting their lives. Deal!

The photos below are really late. Why? Well, as the saying goes, “life is what happens when making plans.”

And now… know the photographs.

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