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.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


"There it was. The unbearable thing was not the fear that the Great Spirit had forsaken man, nor even that in granting awareness of death, He had made man’s hope ridiculous, but that from the beginning He had made no real distinction between the mindless animals and mankind."

- Peter Matthiessen, from At Play In The Fields Of The Lord, 1965.

* * * *

"Quien va ganar para su presidente, pues?" he asked, his accent smacked of that connection with old-school Mexican politics. A PRISTA perhaps. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, the old party of Mexico that once ruled as a monarchy; every six years there was no question of who would win, only by how much.

The taxi shook, rattled by uneven concrete and pavement, augmented by a bad suspension and velocity that was very unsafe for the condition of the road. The road, the via rapida, was one of the best in all of Tijuana, but by standards of the United States of America we were exceeding the point of a secure passage by some thirty miles per hour or so. My driver, like most, was surely aware of this and could have cared less. Most taxi drivers could care less.

And he wanted to know who I thought would win the election in the United States of America this November, this was important to him for some reason.

Until Colossio was murdered in nineteen hundred and ninety-four, and Zedillo became the president by accident, each successor to the Mexican presidency was handpicked. Zedillo served his six years and refused to name his preference to succeed him in his own party, opening the door to a two and a half party system, not unlike that which is reeking from the other side of border, a no-win situation for the people of the United States of America.

And a no-win situation for the people of Mexico. And maybe the whole world.

The dim light of the exit sign was barely visible from one hundred feet, and he almost missed it in spite of my instructions from the back seat. The cab lurched and yawed, finally straightening and slowing with the traffic ahead. I told him that I didn’t know who would win the election, and that I no longer cared much for politics. I told him that I no longer believed that any politician, political party, or very much of anything would change the course of humankind for the better.

The driver rattled a toothpick around in his mouth, eyes straight ahead, and then he silently inserted a cassette tape into his player in the dash, abruptly replacing the radio’s discussion of Mexican politics with the sound of Norteño banda music.

He had had enough of me.

* * * *

I was living here in Tijuana in nineteen hundred and ninety-four. I worked near Oceanside, California, during the swing-shift, and one night I came home and wondered if I was the only person still alive in Mexico.

It started out like every other evening commute, I left at eleven in the evening and started the two-hour journey South toward Mexico. I entered into Mexico and there was no traffic; no cars: no pedestrians; nothing. I turned the radio dial to a news station in English and learned that Luis Donaldo Colossio had been shot dead, and then I turned the dial to a Mexican station and learned that all efforts to save him in Clinica Viente had failed. I learned that all of Tijuana was afraid, what would the rest of Mexico think of the Tijuanenses? Their reputation was already rotten, a city of spoiled gimmicks and grotesque sin, where the prostitutes and drug addicts had not even the sense of shame to stay off of the main streets.

Any Mexicana who lived in Tijuana was a whore, this is what the old women in Southern Mexico would say to their children.

And while this is only the stuff of reputation and sordid legend, the assassination of the President-pre-elect of Mexico was real and dangerous and poisonous. Colossio’s assassination to this day is even more suspicious, comparatively speaking, than that of John F. Kennedy; and there are far more tangled conspiracy theories of the former than of the latter.

What do I think? I think that Kennedy was assassinated by the Mafia. I think that Colossio was murdered by a young man with a bad mix of brain-chemicals.

Tijuana, like Dallas, recovered quite nicely. Until September eleventh, two thousand and one. Until the mask of religious ideology once again appeared in order to hide humankind’s contemptuous fear of humankind, that they were somehow suddenly mortal and forgotten by their Gods; and that righteousness and desperation could possibly mix to form a volatile virus that would infect the entire human race. Every death in the name of a God is an opportunity for a survivor to gain power. Every sacrifice made in the name of a God elevates another bad mix of brain-chemicals closer to the top of the food chain.

The big metal fence that separates the United States of America and Mexico grew like never before. Tijuana has never been the same since that happened. Tijuana will never be the same since that happened.

* * * *

It takes money to make money, that’s another gimmick that works on the streets of any country, any financial institution, religious organization, and so on.

As I walked down Calle Madera toward Calle Sexta, he approached with his hands in plain view.

"Excuse me, do you speak English?"

In one hand he held a ten-dollar bill and a few one-dollar bills, in the other he held a fifty-peso bill, it was the first thing that I saw, the thing that he made sure that I saw. In an instant I knew what this was, a gimmick, a scam of micro-epic proportions. I wanted to tell him that I did not speak English, and then I wanted to tell him that he should give his money to the first crack-addict that he runs into, but I kept walking and ignored him.

He would have told me that his friend or brother or cousin was in jail in the stinking hellish bowels of Tijuana and he was, as a good Christian and a shining example of American citizenship, attempting to raise money to bail him out. The proof that this was not just another bum begging for a living was that he actually had some money, certainly enough for drugs or booze if that was really what he was after.

In fact, that really is what he is after. He is just smart enough to leave himself the initial stake. He is a good enough gold-miner to not sell his pan and his mule when he goes into town to exchange his dust for dollars.

Squirrels will not eat their hoarded nuts until they can no longer forage in their environment.

I reached the Dandy del Sur shortly after that and I told Charlie that if any stranger on the streets of Tijuana asks him if he speaks English, just tell them no. We became entertained by the television, and the tight-fitting top that the large-breasted Angie wears in order to get bigger tips, and the football point-spreads and so on.

We drank fermented fruit and vegetable matter like sometimes the monkeys do in the rain forests in other parts of the world where humankind’s gimmicks do not interfere with such natural provisions. Except that the monkeys can’t order up some tacos de adobada on the way home.

Except for that.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Baja California and the surrounding areas close to latitude thirty-two experience the season known as autumn on December eleventh, at four twenty-six in the afternoon. The next day it is wintertime. Here in deep September through early October we are smack in the middle of summer, sometimes even ninety degrees with a coastal breeze. Through November we will experience much of the same, and then the single day of autumn, and then into mid-December toward wintertime.

Happy Holidays.

The only hurricane that threatened the Eastern Pacific this year passed harmlessly into the largely unpopulated middle-Baja California peninsula and wasn’t anything more than a small disturbance by the time it arrived in Arizona. My friends in Florida were not so lucky. Baja California is blessed in many ways. And cursed in others.

At least we don’t have to deal with many hurricanes.

* * *

Nothing is a big deal these days, I just throw a jacket into my pack (just in case), and a couple of packages of cigarettes, and head out the door. When I have money and am running late, I catch a Taxi Libre to the border - or else I cram in to a Collectivo when I have to. At work, ten o’clock brings me to a truck that comes and sells, among other things, bean and cheese burritos for two-and-a-half dollars. We spend all day pumping digitally reproduced art out the door, and some flags and so on, and somehow by sheer will of human bodies, these things mostly get done on time.

Which is a goddamned miracle.

After over thirteen months, I received my first review and an adequate raise this afternoon. We went out to lunch, my boss and myself, and I spent more on that lunch than I would spend on a week’s worth of dinners here in Mexico.

The funny thing to me, and obviously only to me, is that I found myself saying this out loud: The crab-cakes are outstanding.

And they were.

A fictional character from a short story I wrote not too long ago said the same thing.

And then he died a few days later.

* * *

Among the bad parts of my review was the fact that I do not always play well with the other kids. I expected that. It is true, I have absolutely no patience for morons who pretend that they know what they are doing, and I show it.

I can correct my behavior rather easily by simply pretending that such people have learning disabilities and that illegal drugs make them think that they know what in the hell they are doing.

"I’ll work on that," I said.

I ate another piece of shrimp. Yum.

Another area of improvement: Too scruffy-looking.

I like scruffy. And I’d grow my hair back down to my waist if they let me.

"Sure, I can improve on that."

Note to self: Closer shaves a plus. Also, look into that beard-dyeing stuff that Rocio gets all giddy over whenever the commercial comes on and I am sitting close by. And get a fucking haircut, ok?

And on and on.

* * *

There were plusses. For example:

"Works very hard and gets jobs out in a timely fashion. Training was minimal, David learns very quickly. Asset to the company with his well-rounded background he is good with numbers and excellent with spreadsheets."

I am a goddamned fiend in Excel. My wonderful, bookkeeping mother would be proud, she has no idea about any of this; or else she would have insisted that I become an accountant. Respectfully, no thanks, mom.

But here is the funny thing, during my review, I often find myself silently reviewing my boss.

"Barbara is very adept at understanding the problems that here employees face, which makes her an excellent manager. She also has more balls than any man that I have ever worked for. She is honest and easy to take direction from. Whatever small negatives might exist in her performance are certainly outweighed by her strengths."

So, the raise was enough to know that they like me. Scruffy or not.

And maybe this year, on December eleventh and beyond, I won’t need a winter coat.

* * *

So, my hurricane has passed, and no real damage to speak of. While there is, and probably always will be this voice inside of me that says I don’t want to work on Maggie’s Farm no more, there is another voice that says that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to help harvest the cotton crop this year, and maybe the next.

And I really like my boss.

And the crab-cakes really were excellent.