I drive by the new (as of this writing) Coliseo every day. I marvel at it’s size and the potential of having world-class entertainment come to Merida at last, and not have to play on a baseball field or a sports stadium. Until last night, however, I had not been inside the building. Marc Anthony came to town and of course the Better Half wanted to go so we got some decent tickets in the tiered section, three rows up right in the middle. Fantastic seats with a perfect view of the stage.
But let’s step back for a moment and start at the beginning of the experience, from when you approach the Coliseo on the highway. If you are coming from Progreso, you must take the Dzibilchaltun exit on your right, but of course that is not marked so you will unwittingly reach the Maseca exit only to find it blocked off – at which point you will have to continue on to the Xcanatun exit and come back and find yourself in the same predicament as the people coming from Merida! From Merida, you need to be in your left lane practically from Liverpool on as the process of getting to the Coliseo is not exactly a streamlined process, to say the least. On the highway to Progreso, in your left lane with your emergency flashers a-flashing like a good Mexican driver, you advance slowly but hopefully patiently.
Bring an audiobook for this part of your trip as it may take a while. I suggest something calming as your nerves are about to be tested. You notice that many people pass on the lane to your right but pay them little heed until you come to a point where you notice that all these people, who had far less patience than you and were NOT going to wait in line, are now trying to force their way into your lane. You will notice cars behind you and in front of you closing in on their neighbors, moving to literal bumper-to-bumper status so as not to let ANYONE in.
When you come to the Dzibilchaltun roundabout, you will notice that there are other cars, probably from the Ceiba or Country golf residential areas, trying to merge into the roundabout which is now a solid line of vehicles with only a henequen fiber’s space between the front of one car and the back of the other. Then suddenly someone from the the golf lineup will just drive into the line of cars and force someone in your line to apply the brakes, causing much horn-honking and high beam flashing, but nothing more serious. (Yes, that was me) If this were Los Angeles…
Now you have come around the roundabout and are going again in a Progreso to Merida direction. You will notice that there are two lanes to choose from, so you pick the right lane, which is moving slower than the left, but it is the one that will take you into the Coliseo, you figure. A third lane appears as impatient drivers move to take over any available asphalt in their quest to reach the Coliseo.
The show starts at 9 and it is 8:30 when you finally reach the entrance to the Coliseo and that one lane that became two and then three? They are all turning into the Coliseo parking lot. You are merging almost bumper car style from three to two lanes and then are met with – surprise – a guy that tells you you need to pay $30 pesos for parking. Never mind that you already forked over $100 – $400 USD or more for your ticket, this is extra*. And it’s not like you have a choice either, the highway across the street and any available parking in the area has been blocked off by the state police.
So you pay and get a very official looking little ticket (insert chuckle or snort here) and proceed along the 3 yards of pavement to what is now a Xmatkuil parking lot, complete with a few rocks lining the route and plenty of dusty dirt. In fact, the Xmatkuil parking lot may be better, as they at least left some trees in the parking lot as a nod to Mother Nature; but in the modern Coliseo world, Mother Nature probably didn’t pay her 30 pesos ticket and so was kicked to the curb by a bulldozer. Note to self – don’t wash car to impress anyone if coming to the Coliseo. It will be covered in dust (as will you) at the end of the night.
After parking almost in Sisal, you then embark on a leisurely 15 minute stroll to the building, breathing in the gritty dust of the hot night air and enjoying the blinding bright white glaring in your face as you stumble behind the people in front of you.
At the door your ticket is checked and you are relieved of your cigarettes. Not your lighter, but your cigarettes. What the hell? I save two for later in a shirt pocket and hand over my pack and this seems satisfactory to the person doing the cigarette collecting.
At last, we are inside.
The place looks like it is not yet finished, but the spaces for concessions and so on are full; it appears many companies have paid big pesos to be there and have even brought their sound systems and skimpily clad edecanes (models whose purpose it is to draw your attention to whatever the company that hired them is trying to promote, which they do by flaunting skin tight lycra clothing, as much cleavage as they can push up and exposed navels) The sound systems create the kind of cacophony that would rival Xmatkuil on opening day, which seems to be what the Coliseo is all about.
There is a lineup for the elevator (yes, elevator) to take us to the seats and section where we are supposed to be, but I don’t want to stand in line and also want to see the place, so I suggest we take the stairs. The semi-open building is still pretty hot as we hike up several flights of concrete stairs in a never-ending spiral.
Somewhat out of breath, we arrive at our level and a random young lady takes the tickets out of my hands and starts walking so we follow. If she had had a uniform it would have been a little less adrenaline-producing to have those tickets snatched out of my hand like that. But, it turns out she is one of many ushers, none of whom are wearing anything remotely resembling a uniform and we are shown to our seat, such as it is. The seats are the plastic kind you would find at a sports arena and quite close together both on the sides and in front and back. Walking out from your seat to the stairs to say, go to the bathroom, would require some care and in the high heels some of these ladies were wearing, it would be downright dangerous and the chance of falling into the seats and onto the heads of those seated directly in front would be pretty high.
Immediately we notice the heat. It is unbearably hot and everyone of the female persuasion and the occasional male is fanning themselves. We all acquire a healthy “glow” as we wait for the show to begin.
As I mentioned the seats were great. I felt sorry for the folks in the front row, where there is a balcony looking down on the sorry-ass VIP’s below, because this front row is also where the vendors are passing by selling everything from beer, pop and water to snacks to junk food to whatever else they can, out of elegant 5 gallon paint buckets. There are at least 1,000 of them in the entire place and they DO NOT STOP the entire evening and so, those people who thought they had an unobstructed view of the stage, spend much of their evening peering around the sweaty bodies of vendors looking forlornly and expectantly into the bleachers.
Did I mention the heat? As I said before, if you are a woman, don’t bother putting on makeup or dressing in any light colors as the dust outside will dirty your clothing and the heat inside will smudge the Sephora garage sale on your face. It is really hot. Reading up on the Coliseo’s Facebook page, someone complained about the fact that the air conditioners weren’t turned on until half way through the concert, and the Coliseo answer was that yes they were, but there were so many people that “affected the air flow”. Um, OK. That makes perfect sense.
Oh yes, the sorry-ass VIP comment. The people on the floor had paid top peso to be there in their little seats and all. As soon as the lights dimmed and the music started, however, the seats were abandoned as was all sense of decorum and it became a large mosh pit filled with an over-dressed mob that jostled to get as close to the stage as possible. Aisles? Forget about it; those filled up as well.
An MC announced a welcome to the disinterested crowd, and informed us all where the emergency exits were, should an emergency arise. The immediate concern to me was suffocation and heat stroke as my shirt stuck to my back in spite of Better Half’s vigorous fanning.
Marc started his show more or less on time and people continued drifting in until about 10 AM and by then, the show was 1/3 over and the Coliseo was finally full. The powers that be at this point started thinking about turning on the air conditioning.
Perhaps in another post I will write about the concert itself, but for now, this report has gone on for far too long.
Ahh, what the hell; a few lines about the concert. Short show, awful, muddled acoustics due to all that concrete, and he stops singing during almost all the songs and asks the audience if “they know this one” and then holds the microphone out to the audience and they all scream along in their charming tone-deaf but enthusiastic way like autistic children at a birthday party. I know this is how concerts at Xmatkuil and other palenque events work, but I was hoping for a more enlightened experience at this new and supposedly more sophisticated venue. Alas, it was not to be. Marc by the way was also sporting a healthy glow that quickly metamorphosed into a full blown flow of sweat and he laughingly mentioned on more than one occasion that it sure was cold here tonight which got a laugh out of the audience every time.
So what about after the show you ask. Well, I could write for another 12 minutes about the absolute MESS that is all those people leaving the Coliseo parking lot at the same time with no direction, no courtesy and driving like a herd of horny hippos that have been let loose from the zoo to find a mate after 2 years in captivity. I could, but I won’t. Have you been to Costco and seen how the charming mothers from the catholic Merida school across the street, who use it as their personal parking lot, will commit vehicular homicide against anyone who is in their way? It’s like that, but on a larger, unmarked, chaotic and of course dustier scale.
The Coliseo has potential, but I don’t see anyone working on it these days so perhaps the half-finished look and feel is what they were going for. One day perhaps, the plastic-looking facade will be redone with something more striking and the parking lot will be landscaped (insert another snort here) or at least paved and there will be some adequate lighting outside and the air conditioners will be turned on (or they will let less people in to enable more “air flow”) but for now, I will avoid it and retain my sanity thank you very much.
* The parking fee, from what I have learned extra-officially is the Coliseo’s payment to the state police for “helping” them “organize” the parking situation. Apparently the money goes to some sort of fund for policeman’s families.