Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


One of the most interesting things about when I cooked at the little grill inside of the Nuevo Perico, was the complete and almost horrifying way in which the cantineras treated me after I started working there. For so many years I was just another patron, some other gringo who drank on the weekdays, although my Spanish was much better than most. I watched them come and go and come back sometimes, and they showed me the respect and kindness of a paying customer who tipped and chatted occasionally, but mostly I kept to myself and watched.

All that they had to do to get a tip from me was to serve me in a timely manner.

My contract with the owner of the bar was not unusual other than the fact that I was a gringo, I paid him rent and cooked both for patrons and for passers-by out of the small window facing Calle Sexta. It was an enlightening experience, and just as humbling as I expected it to be, for I knew that the relationships that I had with my fellow drinkers would and did change into a completely different dynamic.

And it did.

They were now customers and were free to reprimand me without reprise, for a burger not quite cooked right, or a small portion that deserved more, and especially for the price of my food. I expected that, and accepted the change.

But the cantineras immediately started referring to me as, "Don David."

‘Don’ is a title, something that is supposedly earned by age and wisdom. I never considered myself to be abundant in either attribute. And their endowment was immediate, no coronation required.

Imagine Cervantes’ Quixote becoming a Don by simply operating a grill out of a bar, having never taken a sword to a windmill!

* * * *

Chapis, my cantinera at La Fuente Cantina, has started to call me, "Don David." I’m not sure how I feel about that, but unlike in the Perico, it has been a gradual thing. Maybe it’s all of the gray hair in my beard, who can say?

It isn’t as horrifying as it was back in the Perico, because it wasn’t so sudden. It’s like aging I suppose - little by little. Or it could be something else.

Maybe I fought a few windmills in recent times.

* * * *

I saw Don Chuy the other day, his wrinkled face - wizened by so many patient years of waiting - smiled as he left the Perico and he noticed me walking up Sixth Street. We shook hands as we always have, on the not so rare occasion that we cross paths. He would certainly be getting Social Security if he lived in the United States of America, well into his sixties, but up until a week ago, he worked in a hardware store here in Tijuana. For many years he toiled for his patrón, and now his term of indentured servitude was over.

He told me that he finally received his papers from the United States of America that would allow him to travel to Northern California and spend time with his many children scattered across the cities that start with San or Santa something. San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San José, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and so on. This magnificent human being needs some sort of permission to visit cities with names that half of the population of the United States of America struggles to pronounce correctly.

More windmills, I suppose.

He was simply grateful for the opportunity to see his children again. He also assured me that he would be back, and that perhaps we would be lucky enough to toast to a future championship celebrated by our favorite futból team in the Mexican leagues. Atlas.

We have that in common, among other things.

Certainly, there are the windmills.

But I am surely not ready to be called, "Don David".

Saturday, July 10, 2004


It was a going-away party for an employee, that is where last night’s journey began. Or perhaps not. Maybe it began on Tuesday, the boss on vacation and myself plunged neck deep into the works, in charge of maintaining a happy customer base and trying to get orders out on time along with everything else that I have to do. Basically, the entire company. Then again, it could all go back to when my original boss quit and I found myself with even more responsibilities and pressures, and everything began to break my back like Atlas must have felt like under the weight of the planet Earth. I would like to think that all of it is a large exaggeration, a grotesque and distorted view of my own reality, this situation that is sometimes called employment. Rocio once told me that I do it to myself, that I accept responsibilities with reckless innocence and pile them onto my back like a mountain climber, hell bent for leather, driving toward the summit.

I denied it at the time, and I still do to some extent. After all, some mountain climber I am.

But last night I was lost. I am sure that I toured the greater San Diego area and have little recollection of it. The party was wonderful, I drank Coronas and Canadian whiskey on ice, relaxed and even took some pictures. The ocean breeze cooled the small back yard in Chula Vista quite well, a backyard that was often blasted by fighter-jets approaching North Island Naval Air Station, I will never not look up at the F-18’s and remember what I used to do for a paycheck. And oddly enough, it was a job that applied less pressure on me than the one that I currently have.

Imagine this: The war machine that supplies the United States Government has more patience than the company that provides banners to the Major League Baseball all-star game.

I remember one time when a Navy Admiral called me and informed me that, "Son, we have a grounded fighter underneath the flight deck, you’d better send that part right now so I can get her airborne. Your country is depending on it."

I told him that we were a week away from finishing the part, and even though it didn’t make him happy, he conceded that everything would be fine. He left me with the feeling that, somehow, the planet Earth would still spin on its axis, and that communism and child labor and random evilness would eventually still be destroyed by the war machine of the United States of America.

Admiral Whatshisname hung up and I went about my business without repercussion or admonishment. I can only assume that the jet has flown many successful missions ever since, or perhaps, bombed the living hell out of the communists and so on, making the world a safer place to execute its existence. At the very least, I can only assume that the world did not come to an end, because after all, here we are.

The same conclusion cannot be drawn when it comes to flags and banners. There is hell to pay if someone doesn’t receive their banner on time. For some reason, the perpetual evolution of humankind depends on banners. Event banners take precedence over donated organs, firefighters, and any vehicle with the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon toward its intended target.

Flags and banners are some serious stuff.

* * * *

I don’t remember the end of the party. I had a few whiskies, but not even close to the amount of scotch that normally consume on a Friday night. I am, therefore, going to blame the whole mess on a concoction known as a “Jello Shooter.” My advice to anyone seeking advice is to stay away from them, they are pure evil.

I do remember, somewhat, of Patricia giving me a ride to the trolley station, but after that I lost a few hours. My best guess is that I either got onto a trolley moving in the wrong direction or I fell asleep and took the correct trolley to the border and then back North into San Diego.

Somewhere in San Diego, I have no idea exactly where, I momentarily regained my sanity. It was two-thirty in the morning.

After that I vaguely remember getting on and off of various trolleys and the feeling of disappointment when I discovered that not one of them had delivered me to my intended destination, which was the border of the United States of America and the United States of Mexico.

I remember being rousted from a stone bench by someone in a uniform with a gun at his side, and somehow I hailed a cab and made it to the border, the trolleys no longer running. The miracle continued when I somehow staggered into Mexico and got a cab home, managed to open the gate and the front door, and drop into bed. At five o’clock in the morning.

This isn’t the worse hangover I have ever had, but it certainly ranks in the top ten.

A lingering reminder of how lost I was last night. And, perhaps, I still am.

And I probably needed that.