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, 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.


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