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, September 22, 2005

Charity And Rape

"A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."
— Jack London

* * * *

They all drank up due to the generosity of one man, maybe it made him feel important or else maybe he is rich. Who can say? A couple of weeks ago the other night I found myself saddled up to the north end of the bar in the Dandy Del Sur, wondering how one man kept pulling five-hundred peso notes from his pocket, time after time after time. And the girls that came and went were nice - not prostitutes and maybe even not the every-day generic brand of Mexican barfly. The girls that sat with the Rey Midas were attractive and intelligent and modest and street-wise in a way that grace wants for such an appropriate carriage. There was some guy named Carlos there, all of the girls in the bar swooned over him, he was fun and spoke some English, just enough English to be brutally charming. With his long black hair, that baby-faced smile recited Beatles lyrics with halting accuracy.

We toasted any damned thing we could think of, me and Carlos and Rey Midas.

Rey Midas was quiet and unassuming, his cell phone chimed too often and he looked lost trying to figure out how to control it. He was soft-spoken and a gentleman; the girls that he bought the drinks for were mostly ogling Carlos while respectfully taunting me with winks and toasts.

Charity and rape.

Money for the booze for the time. Life is full of this and Tijuana is nice magnifying glass in which to examine it.

And, for the record, King Midas never bought me a drink, I think that he had me figured out from the start. And to be fair to Carlos, I have seen him plenty of times in the Dandy Del Sur purchasing his own poison. And to be fair to the girls, if it wasn’t King Midas, or Carlos, it would have been someone else. And there’s no telling who is raping who in the end, and charity is handcuffed to those who feel compelled to tally up a score sheet at the end of the evening.

My best guess is that no one will complain on either side.

And so, in Jack London’s world anyway, I shared a bone with Becca the other night. I am assuming that she spells her name that way, it could be like my daughter decided to spell her’s (Bekka), but I suppose that it doesn’t matter much beyond a trivial stab at coincidence. She took along Zack (small world, this one, Bekka’s boyfriend’s name is Zack) and Molly.

We spent most of the evening enjoying the Zack and Molly show.

What we didn’t see: The Big Giant Jesus. Rosarito Beach. Cerro Colorado.

I’d have gotten drunk with Becca on top of Cerro Colorado, otherwise. Hell, I’d of got drunk with Becca just about anywhere. And Molly and Zack, too. We instead chose to get drunk at the sacred site of the most ironic painting in the world. On a Sunday night. We seemed to have a great time.

I was hung over most of Monday. And it was good.

And I ultimately understood Rey Midas a lot better after that.

* * * *

I have often said this: Tijuana is the last bastion of the homeless and the misfits. Those who simply cannot fit into whatever shape that societies’ hole offers a peg for, are sometimes ultimately stuck in Tijuana, Mexico. At least, it is a nice fit for them; or a nice mis-fit if you will.

Listen: One can purchase some fairly crappy yet entirely edible tacos here for about thirty cents each. One can procure liters of good Mexican beer for about two United States dollars apiece. For any bum willing to work the streets enough to make about twenty dollars a day, a hotel can be had for ten bucks, although the hot water isn’t so hot and there’s a line that forms against the cockroach-infested wall in the dank hallway with a half-dozen other bums who are travelling a parallel path. And if it seems that a Hamilton is a bit much some dive lacking in hospitality and comfort, then consider the alternative. Consider sleeping in the streets. Many people do.

My guess is that ten dollars is a nice trade for a locking door, shower facilities aside.

Charity? Rape? It’s all about the going rate.

* * * *

The Dandy Del Sur could connect all thin lines that separate the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, the moral and the immoral, the drunkard and the teetotaler. In the Dandy Del Sur I have seen married couples share stares with adulterers, robbers scheming with coppers, writers observing painters, sinners with saints, machos buying drinks for transvestites.

I have seen fights in there that would make all of Armageddon blush.

I have seen tears of common tragedies and shouts of mass exhalation, all in the Dandy Del Sur. I have witnessed the gamut of human emotion in the Dandy Del Sur, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

As for my own emotions, I remain forever guarded. I take great care to mask my own idea of what is charity and what is rape. For example, I can buy all of the drinks in the world when I feel rich, and then turn around and brood insolently, denying sufficient funds. But, I am like a child when it comes to show and tell. This is my Tijuana, my floorshow, table-dance, or whatever.

And so, the charity is mine, along with the rape. Once again. The rape, and I would do it again and again, is to buy Becca drink after drink in order to share that bone, her photographs and paragraphs and so on. And the charity is all Becca’s.

She could be anywhere that she wanted to be. Thankfully, for me and for all of Tijuana, she was here for a while.

For a while.

* * * *

And as for Rey Midas, I have summed it up accordingly:

Winks, as a charitable gift to some fucking gringo or Mexicano who feels older than he is; and rape, in stripping some fucking gringo or Mexicano of his dignity through the guise of an empty salutation with a raised glass. Or, perhaps, when toasting, I should feel lucky to have been there in the first place. As should Rey Midas.

Yet, last Sunday, there I was, no winks and all of my dignity. And I don’t think that it would have mattered at all who bought the tequila.

And either way, there is no charity without rape.

I learned that – lock, stock, and barrel - over the weekend.

Come back soon, Becca, and teach me more. You could live anywhere you wanted to, visit anywhere you wanted to, but you are always welcome here.