Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Inside a pyramid

While in Mexico, during the early 90’s, we were shooting a commercial for our GM client. The agency people and the production company would do anything they could to keep me and the head GM client off the shoot. They knew we would get super involved and break their balls (it’s good to be the boss).

At this shoot, we were in Mayan country, previously to keep us out of the way, we were sent on cruises, drives in the mountains, great restaurants, anything to keep us distracted, sometimes successfully sometimes not.

We were sent to Chichen itza, an amazing pyramid; I had been there before and was looking forward to it. We were going to go up a narrow interior stairway that led to a throne room.

Today this stairway is closed because of its narrowness and state of decay.

On the day we visited, the stairway was closed to the public and opened especially for us for a short time. We could go up without too much shoving and pressure. I am claustrophobic so this was a great help. Connections are always nice.

Clint and I started up this dark, narrow, steep staircase made of rough stone steps, dimly lit…very scary. We could imagine ancient kings going up this interior stairway, although God knows why since it led to a tiny interior throne room, no view, nothing.

We finally make it up this narrow tunnel, huffing and puffing all the way, we are not in the shape that the ancient Kings and priests must have been. We entered this small room with the jaguar throne, Clint thinks it looks like a sewing machine…thanks Clint; there goes the romance and the objective of the climb.

We start down and Clint makes a profound observation.

“ The Mayans were amazing people, they were great builders, scientists, advanced astronomers, great artists, they had a culture that lasted thousands of years…you would think that they could have invented the banister?” 

This is said at the top of this narrow, dark, steep staircase, obviously without a banister. I crack up and almost plunge down this preposterous stairway.

As we stagger down, we hear people coming up…they have opened the entrance to tourists. All we can think of, at least if we fall we will have a cushioned landing.

In all of Mexico, on the thousands of pyramids and temples there are no banisters. I wonder why? Perhaps they knew it would make life miserable and dangerous for future tourists, since they would all be mostly white and fat.

This could be the ultimate revenge of the indigenous peoples, no banisters!


  1. Good One! it reminds me of when I went to Chichen as we entered the site I saw an older women almost fall down the outer staircase of the pyramid. I asked our guide if this happened often and he answered gleefully " Yes! once or twice a year and their head makes a beautiful sound when it hits the bottom!" Thats when I understood the pyramid covered in carved skulls in front of the main one- you saw it on your way down.

    1. Paul, well observed...Scary stuff, they were tyrannical hierarchies and dominated through fear.

    2. What an amazing coincidence. I just had some chichen soup with noodles. I mayas well go to bed. Such amazing connections.

  2. I love Clint's comment,spontaneous and funny. Considering the Mayan's were smaller, slighter and certainly fleeter of foot they ran up those steps sideways,ha,lickety- split..the trick was never to have ones back to the sun out of respect to a powerful God, a banister of sorts would have been irrelevant.
    One of the many marvels of having lived in Mexico, these amazing cities. The Itzas were powerful feared impressive site!
    Still, I wonder if such a strange interior room ever was a throne room, ceremonial or otherwise, perhaps a more sinister judgement was passed upon some hapless victim in that place.

  3. I cannot stop laughing - this is the best, most narrative description! Ha ha!! And Clint was right - it DOES look like a sewing machine!!!!!