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.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Elizabeth is home here and resting comfortably in bed, and her boyfriend has just left so that means that her father can now come over and see her. Elizabeth is twenty-two years old. Elizabeth's father has no interest in seeing her boyfriend, so he opted to wait until now to see his daughter. Welcome to a Mexican family.

My suspicions were correct, she lost an ovary to what I believe to be advanced Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The doctor only told Rocio that it was probably caused by hormones. Elizabeth has been having problems since her teens, missing months at a time of menstruation, and she didn't wish to deal with it. My advice, however silly this sounds coming from a man who never visits a doctor unless a limb somehow becomes detached, is that any young lady having any irregularities relating to her reproductive system - however seemingly minor or insignificant - should get to a doctor and have it checked out.

With only one tube left to drop eggs from, the best odds of Elizabeth ever conceiving are, at the most, 50/50. For those who play the combined points, that would be an over/under of one-half.

In my odds-book, one-half is the exact definition of maybe.

I have nothing more to say about that.

* * * *

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it."

- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

* * * *

I was just sitting here and remembering over a week ago, a week ago Friday. I dreamed about an ex-lover from well over a decade past, it was an intimate and sensual scene that went bad in the end, like when some dragster's parachute fails to deploy and the hot rod goes airborne, breaking up into flaming chunks of twisted disaster. Carnage littered the drag strip of my subconscious at two o'clock in the morning one week ago Saturday. I woke up in that familiar cold sweat, startled and shaken, and I sucked down the last of the can of Tecate I had left opened at midnight, it was just enough to put out the flames of the spilled rocket fuel that was burning away like memories sometimes do.

Burning, like memories sometimes do.

I slept horribly after that and finally rose and dressed and headed out at six that morning to get a newspaper and a cup of good coffee. I came back to room number three at the Hotel Colonial and quickly finished both, and I showered and shaved and cleaned my room. At seven in the morning I had no idea what to do with myself.

I walked out onto Calle Sexta, most of Centro was still asleep. Scattered along the broken sidewalks, storekeepers swept last night into the street, it made me want a broom to clean up the mess that my mind was in from the night before. I crossed Revolucion without even having to worry about crossing against the light, there were no cars. I walked toward Calle Madera, there are two bars down there that are open all day and all night. At seven-thirty in the morning, I could book bets as to how many drunks were sound asleep at the bars and tables, I could safely set the over/under at six.

One week ago Saturday, there were exactly six drunks sleeping in the Dandy del Sur. And maybe fifty other people, mostly porteros and bailarinas from the strip joints, getting their groove back after a long night of working their gimmicks. I found the one unoccupied stool at the bar and ordered a beer and a whiskey.

Breakfast of Champions.

Ten o'clock in the morning is when the other bars open in Tijuana, the less crowded ones where not one single drunk will likely be asleep yet. I bid my time until then, or until I could go out and get a Racing Form and do something else to forget about other things for a while. I broke even that day, the late pick-three and a trifecta bailed me out in the last race at Santa Anita. I celebrated with some more late breakfast, then with some crappy Chinese food that I took back to the Hotel Colonial, and I slept fearlessly.

I went home, back to here, the very next day.

* * * *

Even now, as I enjoy a last tequila here in Infonavit Latinos, I know that no amount of booze will enable me to know what the over/under is on how many more times that I am going to dream that same train wreck, waking up drenched and frightened and wondering why.

But the tequila will still always taste like so much good medicine, blissfully burning ever so slightly as it goes down my throat.

Burning, like memories sometimes do.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

From Here To Popotla

It seems like forever ago that we moved into this house, that we had rearranged the layout the best that we could to accommodate the way that we wanted to live here. I wanted this place to be the last place that we lived before building a house in Popotla; I pictured a bumpy and exciting transition from the noisy and crowded Infonavit into the loving and serene arms of the sparsely populated bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Even a couple of weeks ago from the temporary marital pitfall in room number three of the Hotel Colonial, I imagined that from here to Popotla was linear and certain, that by riding on time's back we would find ourselves directly from here to there at some point.

I didn't count on having to make a pit stop along the way.

The owner of this cold cement dwelling wants to sell it, and we don't want to buy it. Rocio has found two possible alternatives; one is another crappy, cold cement dwelling in this same colonia, and the other is a nicer place down the hill near Boulevard Diaz Ordaz. The nicer place even has an office, a larger office than the one I built here. There are drawbacks. We would have to purchase a clothes dryer, there is no room in the back to hang a clothes line. The precious view of Cerro Colorado would be gone. Anna would have to take a cab or a calafia to school. And so on.

The advantages are numerous. There would be one less taxi or calafia to take, reducing our commute by twenty minutes. That house is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. There is access to DSL nearby. Best of all, our television reception would be awful!

* * * *

Rocio just hung up the phone with the landlord of the house down the hill. We will know for sure on Monday, but we are planning to move next Saturday. How’s that for some fast progress?

And they say that everything moves slowly in Mexico.

* * * *

When you get a phone line in Mexico, you own that line, you have the option of taking it with you wherever you go. So long as there is a telephone pole nearby, for a small transfer fee, the line can be carried from one place to another, figuratively speaking. We have two phone lines, or I should say, we own two telephone lines, and they'll need to be transferred down the hill. Figuratively speaking.

Rocio is currently on the telephone with the folks from Telnor, an obese and tyrannical organization that practically rules the entire communications network of Northern Mexico. Overhearing her conversation is much like watching an expert kayaker deftly navigate some dangerous series of rapids, it is a thing a beauty and grace, power and cunning, style and approach. Rocio takes no prisoners in any business negotiation, but she has an exacting amount of patience that I lack entirely. She is dangerously formidable in any situation involving bargaining.

I am glad that she's on my side.

In exchange for two or three weeks without a telephone line, we will have at least 256 kbps of speed on up to six computers down the hill. Not that we need six computers, but still. If we have to make a pit stop, this isn't a bad place to do it. And yet another plus: We'll be within two minutes walk to the best bakery in all of Tijuana, Panaderia Santa Cruz. They bake four times daily. If you wanted to spend five dollars in there, you'd have to make two trips just to get the goods home.

A lot of bread for, well, not a lot of bread.

* * * *

In a flash, Rocio just took Anna and Sharon and left for the Clinica, Clinica 27, her sister Elizabeth has just undergone emergency surgery. Elizabeth is fine, she will be released tomorrow and spend the next few days here, we have no stairs for her to navigate. Rocio will stay down there at the Clinica with Elizabeth tonight, and Anna and Sharon have gone to spend the night with Rocio's mother, and I am alone here and at a complete loss as to why we have not one single saltine cracker in the house. I have a can full of cheez-whiz and not one fucking cracker to spew it onto.

Elizabeth's surgery was performed in order to remove a large and bleeding ovarian cyst. I have a feeling that they removed one whole side of her plumbing, just call it a Mexican hunch. I'll find out tomorrow, when I find out what happened to all of the crackers.

Sometimes Anna, when confronted by some seemingly insurmountable obstacle, grins sheepishly and mockingly says, "But it's not fair!"

Oh, yes it is, Anna. It's always fair.

From here to Popotla it is bound to be journey filled with detours and potholes, no one ever promised that any of this would be even remotely something considered as easy.

But it will always be fair. That is how life has been designed, after all.

After all.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Paris, Tijuana

After two days, non-stop precipitation completely loses any romantic charm that it might have held during the first forty-eight hours. After three days, people begin peeking over their neighbors' fence for any sign of ark-building; after how many days of solid rain did Noah's brothers and sisters suspiciously wonder what in the hell their drunkard sibling was up to? As for Northern Baja California, we aren't supposed to see the sun until Wednesday. Were I an optimist, I would say this: At least it isn't snowing.

"Agua!" yelled the aguador, the water-seller, and I stopped admiring my fog-breath here in front of the computer and went out to unlock the gate.

The rain fell, "Pit-pit-pitpit-pit-pitpit-pit."

There are several things that I can count on in life, other than death and taxes, even here in Tijuana: I will not catch a cab home after midnight on Good Friday, there will not be any cabs to catch until Saturday morning; every Tuesday my favorite taco stand will not be there, and quite likely neither will anyone else's, as most taqueros take Tuesday off; and except on Sunday, no matter the weather, our aguador will gladly deliver a five-gallon glass bottle of very drinkable water for thirteen pesos.

Needless to say, I tip him generously.

I am currently drinking my last Noche Buena, the annual holiday microbrew from the thoughtful folks at Cuauhtemoc Moctzuma, S. A. de C. V., the same nice people who offer Tecate, Dos Equis, Carta Blanca, and Bohemia year-round. Thus, the holiday season is officially over, and the post-Epiphanical hangover invades our humble household. The rain isn't helping; as I watch Rocio pace the livingroom floor, I know that she is thinking about going shopping. If only it wasn't raining. And as if to make it official, she just stored the heavy jackets.

As if right before Mighty Casey came to bat, the game was called on account of rain.


* * * *

I was discussing literature last night in the Dandy Del Sur with another gringo, a man I had met a couple of times before in that same bar, another one head-over-heels in love with Tijuana. Literature. In English. Here, in Tijuana. Imagine that.

"Tijuana is the Paris of North America," he said.

Never having been to Paris, I had no other choice but to take his word for it. He aspires, as I do, to become a writer some day. His is a dream that includes schemes for making money, he told me that he'd as likely write romance novels under a feminine pen-name as anything else, because that's where the money is. I couldn’t argue with him, even if I couldn't agree with him.

Outside, the ever-present rain was again pit-pit-pitpit-pit-pitting onto the broken sidewalk. Maybe even in France.

"It feels similar to me," he clarified. "Paris and Tijuana have the same feel, from the prostitutes to the food to the people."

Again, feeling a complete lack of experience by which to weigh such a comparison (not even Juan's description of Paris, thankfully, included a prostitutional review), I hesitated to comment and he finally changed the subject. We began talking about literature, American literature mostly, about Vonnegut and Twain and Bukowski and so on. And then, about writing.

"The only stuff I ever had published was pornography," he told me. "I remember back in the sixties, Playboy Magazine would pay incredible amounts of money for that sort of thing. I submitted stuff to them and then to any other pornographic magazine I could. One day, I got an acceptance letter from one of those magazines, and I instantly dreamed about thousands of dollars for each story. Then I read the letter. One hundred and fifty dollars."

"Pit-pitpit-pit-pit-pitpitpit-pitpit-pit-pitpit-pit," went the rain.

"Hey, there's something that you have in common with Twain!" I offered consolingly. "Twain visited and loved Paris, and he wrote some pornography in his early years."

So did Benjamin Franklin, but I left that out of the conversation.

"Hey, look," he laughed. "I had a blast. You wouldn't believe the crap that I wrote, I mean, I had to laugh like hell at it, and they ate it up, at between one-hundred and one-hundred and fifty dollars a story."

I bought him a beer, he bought me one back.

"What do you think it is, the main thing that makes a writer good?" he asked me.

"Heart. Every word, fiction or non-fiction, has to come from the heart; if it doesn't, the reader will know it, you'll know it, and then it isn't art, it's nothing more than a crafty arrangement of words," I told him.

We toasted one last toast, and I left. It rained all of the way home.


* * * *

I think about his comparison between Paris and Tijuana, and then I wonder about the rain here and there and about other possible similarities. The Big Giant Jesus, the one-hundred foot tall fiberglass statue of Jesus on the plateau of colonia Los Alamos that overlooks all of delegacion La Mesa, may very well be the defining monument that signifies Tijuana, the thing that sets Tijuana apart from all of Mexico. And of Paris, would it be the Eiffel Tower? Could some old steel structure possibly be the true icon of Paris?

"Pit-pit-pitpitpit-pit-pitpit-pitpit-pit-pit," the rain goes on and on. Even in Paris, I imagine.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Human Nature

"Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff."

- Frank Zappa

* * * *

If I were forced to choose the one single attribute that I admire most in my children, an attribute in the common thread of our family vine, irrespective of any DNA that we might or might not share, it would be their stubborn individualism. For example, Anna is convinced that aliens from distant galaxies continue to visit and inhabit this planet, regardless of my belief that no alien in their right mind would care anything about a planet such as ours, that to them we would be less exciting than a snail race. Juan cares nothing for literature, philosophy, or anything serious enough to require skepticism, he believes that the human race can fix itself if they just lighten up and have some fun; I am pretty sure at this point that our purpose on this planet it to destroy it. Sharon believes in the supernatural, ghosts and what not, while I am far too cynical to seriously think that the spirits of the dead enjoy roaming the planet and scaring the crap out of the living.

Even Joshua, in the course of only a couple of days, has managed to convince me that my kids have done a good job of forming their own unique opinions about the nature of everything. We were talking last night between other diversions, including the rain and the loud fireworks, and arrived at the topic of capitalism, socialism, and communism.

"Communism can only work on a global scale," he told me.

"How’s that?" I asked, surprised by the statement more than anything else.

"Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in communism or anything, but if the entire world embraced communism, then it could work, but only if everyone would commit themselves. Otherwise, it would fail as it always has," he said.

"I completely disagree," I told him.

I began too specifically, and abruptly stopped, opting for a more simple explanation that could work up to specifics.

"Communism goes completely against human nature," I said.

"How so?"

Joshua wasn’t interested in having his mind changed, rather than understanding my statement. I told him that in communism, the individual has no place in society, that there is no uniqueness. People are not truly equal, and while communism might acknowledge and account for the ways and means by which people are not equal, it contradicts itself by demanding that unique individuals must take a back seat to the collective entity. Even Bob the Communist, however Marxist he claims to be, isn’t likely to give up his brand new Yugo just because the State has told him that some beet farmer from Georgia needs a way to get from his collective farm to his State issued apartment in a distant city. Eventually, enough people get pissed off and start hiding their eggs from the State tax collector, and before you know it, you’re right back somewhere in-between the dark ages and the renaissance. Corruption is the only way to save your Yugo, and the truly poor can’t even afford toilet paper.

The black market is the only place where anyone can purchase items other than what the State wishes them to have. And the black market is capitalism at it’s finest, supply and demand set the prices and the Government has no say in how any of it runs. If communism on any level is supposed to be an alternative to capitalism, then it defeats its own purpose because eventually communism will spawn capitalism to fill the voids that are caused by human nature. I went on and on.

"Capitalism can be ugly," I said. "So can human nature."

"Sure," he nodded. "So what about socialism?"

* * * *

Everyone is still asleep. I woke up at seven and turned on the radio, made some coffee, and turned on this machine. The rain has stopped, and the crisp of the morning makes its way into my robe if I turn the wrong way from the space heater at my feet. I’m thinking about yesterday, when I took Joshua and Juan up to eat some tacos de birria, at one point while we were enjoying our tacos, the taquero turned to me as he pointed to my sons.

"Hermanos?" he asked.

They look nothing alike, these two, and even as I nodded to affirm that they were indeed brothers while not bothering to mention that Juan and Joshua have two entirely different sets of parents by blood, it occurred to me that they act like brothers. The long lost kind of brothers.

Even now, from this keyboard I peer into a bedroom and can see Joshua’s sleeping face on the bottom bunk and Juan’s feet on the top bunk, and I wonder if they are dreaming the same dream. How can two young men be separated since childhood and within two days become the brothers that I had always hoped that they would become? How is it possible that my sons could have come from such different circumstances and reunite ten years later, only to discover that their difference is reason to celebrate and their past distance can be made up over something as simple as a beer and a taco?

Maybe Sharon has a point about the supernatural. Maybe Anna’s aliens have something to do with this.

Or maybe I am just one lucky bastard.

* * * *

Juan is going out tonight, to the Tijuana nightclubs with his friends. He wants to take Joshua.

"Dad, it’ll be okay, I can get him in," Juan pleaded last night.

"I know," I said. "But look, he’s seventeen. Next leave, you two can go clubbing every night if you want to. He’ll be eighteen by then, I’d rather it be entirely legal."

"Actually, he can go if I go with them," Rocio chimed in, in English.

Everyone laughed. Juan conceded defeat, Joshua will stay here with us.

While Juan is out, me and Joshua can use the time to discuss the drawbacks of socialism in the twenty-first century.

Or else, maybe we’ll play Monopoly.