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, April 17, 2005


"You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics."

- Charles Bukowski, 1967.

* * * *

Living so close to boulevard Díaz Órdaz, one would think that the proximity to the noisy major thoroughfare would make for some sort of earsplitting living conditions, but this is not so. In fact, the noise level that we lived with in Infonavít Latinos, from whence we recently came, has dropped dramatically. In fact, all is quiet here most of the time. In fact, most of the time, it is so quiet that it is difficult to comprehend that the noisy main artery running east to west or west to east that feeds hundreds of Tijuana capillaries lies only about one block away.

In fact.

The birds are loud in the morning, every morning; but no music or screaming or barking dogs. Our aguador has made it a point to still sell to us all of the way down here, I have yet to see any another truck with those heavy glass bottles rolling slowly by while the driver yells, "Agua!". Of course, the propane trucks still honk loudly at seven-thirty in the morning, and a tamale hawker merely supplants the elote vendor, and so on.

"Hay tamal de verde y rojo y dulce, bien rico!"

I have DSL now, a much faster connection to the internet than the dial-up connection that I have had to live with for all of these years. DSL is an acronym for digital subscriber line (or digital subscriber loop, as you wish). I have a feeling that, in fact, I actually have something more along the lines of ADSL (the 'A' standing for 'Asymmetric', which describes the difference between the speed of the signal sent and received). This is just a hunch based upon how my browser reacts while loading a web page, and also based on how carefully the sales-monkeys at TELNOR (yet another acronym, for Telephonos del Norte de Mexico) described what my connection would be like when we signed the contract. This high-speed connection is nifty, regardless.

Hunches aside, it beats what I had.

Rocio certainly seems happier here. She comments on this fact occasionally, stressing the tranquility and closeness to Díaz Órdaz, as if she can see some sort of longing in my eyes for something else. And she is not wrong about that, she sees longing in my eyes, but not for what I miss about Infonavít Latinos; the magnificent view of Cerro Colorado, the proximity of the Sobre Ruedas, and so on. What she sees in my eyes is Popotla, and how much that I would rather be building there than living here.

I am not enough of an emotionally evolved human being to put any of Rocio's sound wisdom to use, so she imparts none of it. It would be as, to borrow a Jesus-phrase, casting pearls before swine; so, she says nothing, and I say nothing, and we go on with what we have here at the bottom of the hill. She keeps her pearls of wisdom to herself and I can't trample what hasn’t been pitched in front of me.

* * * *

Jack and Jill went up the hill
to rent a small casita
in Infonavít Latinos.

Many years later
Jill took a cab down
and found a place to rent
for a few dollars more.

And Jack followed.

What does that say about Jack?!?

* * * *

This house, actually more of an apartment, is much nicer than the house we came from. There is an Oxxo, one of a large chain of convenience stores, about one block away. They far too frequently run out of Pacificos but seem to have an endless supply of Tecate. Across the street from the Oxxo is a Calimax, one of a large chain of supermarkets, where I can be instantly disappointed by the lack of canned tomatoes, dry kidney beans, and Crisco shortening.

Calimax does, however, carry no fewer than six brands of canned jalapeño peppers and twenty-five different types of chorizo.

At the tiny neighborhood store in Infonavít Latinos, they all saw me coming up the road, I was entirely predictable. They could have had everything ready for me, bagged and on the counter. Two six-packs of tall-can Tecates, four packages of filterless Pacificos, one avacado, fourteen fresh jalapeño peppers, an ice cream bar for Anna (who almost never fails to accompany me on such excursions), two large tomatoes, one onion, one clove of garlic, and a copy of El Mexicano, one of the daily newspapers in Baja. Sometimes it was yesterday's copy, which didn't matter much to me. Sometimes, yesterday’s news is better than today's news.

Then, it was a short trip over to the carnicería, the local butcher, for some beef or chicken or whatever. Then, a short walk over to the tortillaría for some fresh tortillas. And so on.

So, I have traded away the comfort of familiarity for the glamour of convenience, sort of like trading an old brassiere for some silicone breast implants.

* * * *

One thing that never seems to change here is the seemingly unlimited supply of Jehovah's Witnesses. The first two visits did not get me to the door, but the latest one irritated me enough to have some fun. I had a tall can of Tecate in one hand and a cigarette in the other, so I gently kicked the door open in my black robe and bare feet.

"Buenos días, señor, estamos aquí platicando con personas de Dios y de Jehovah..."

They had religion for sale. I waved my hand, stopping their pitch mid-sentence. I would have rather they sold tamales.

"We would be a waste of your time," I told them in Spanish. "Everyone here is a good-for-nothing Catholic, except me, and my God is a woman who bears a striking, if only coincidental resemblance to Athena."

They couldn't move on to the next house fast enough. Anna has yet to study Greek mythology and so has no idea who Athena could possibly be, but she giggled with embarrassment at my crack on pinche catolicos from the sofa out of view.

Still, it was nice of the hermanos to want to save me. Too bad they didn't happen to be offering up bags of cement and pallets of cinderblock and two-by-fours as incentive to convert over to their way of thinking. Any way to get to Popotla faster than our current route is a temptation that I would find difficult to ignore.

* * * *

I am waiting for some hot water so I can shower. The mighty Maytag seems to run endlessly, sucking all of the hot water out of the tiny water heater out on the front porch. We have no back yard (or front yard for that matter), so we had to purchase a gas dryer for our little laundry room. I can remember the last time that I had a gas dryer, but I have to think pretty hard to recall using it. I miss the clothesline, I got used to hanging out wet clothing on the lines out back.

I got used to a lot of things that are only now so obvious as a clothesline.

In a while, Anna will accompany me to Calimax, since Sunday is my day to cook. She has decided that she wants to be at the scholastic summit of her peer group, so she has been bringing home certificates every semester, congratulating her on being the best student in her school. This summer, we will be taking French classes together (Est-ce que ce n'est pas grand?), assuming that I can find a school that is easy for us to get to. The French classes were her idea, me attending with her was mine.

Someday, on one of our trips to the store, we will be making fun of people in French.

This is a dream I have.

* * * *

Monday, I am taking the day off. Rocio is going in for some minor outpatient surgery, and her mother would like to accompany her. I will go up the hill and pick Anna up from school, and we'll take a long stroll through the Monday Sobre Ruedas and get a taste of what we have been missing since we moved down the hill, a taste of the comfort of familiarity that we left behind. Sometimes I can find avocados up there for ten cents each, a share of bounty from some long haul in Southern Mexico, the driver sells what they let him rake off. And we'll eat tacos de birria or maybe some pizza from the portable ovens on paper plates, and maybe we'll drink some agua de arroz.

And maybe we'll quietly make fun of people in English.

We usually always wind up talking about Popotla. Anna wants a dog, and once that we get to Popotla I have given her permission to get one. She begs me for a puppy and she laughs, knowing that I will only bring up Popotla. Popotla must seem like forever to Anna, it certainly seems like forever to me. Can she see how desperate I am to get to what seems like forever?

And if it takes such a forever to save one man, how long should a take a young girl to get a puppy?

How many forevers will it take, then, should Anna grow up and decide to save the world?


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