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.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Welcome Foreing Visitors

"Seventy-nine dollars," the desk clerk smugly repeated.

I had just left work and it was approaching ten o’clock, low clouds were blocking the moonshine as they usually do here in May. Up Palomar Street on the other side of the bridge over interstate five, I grabbed two corn dogs and a six-pack of beer in the gas station mini-market across the street from the Palomar Inn. I stared lividly into his dark, beady little eyes and thought about how my dinner and desert were getting cold and warm, respectively.

"All I have left are rooms with king-sized beds," he explained as he looked away.

"Dude," I said as I adjusted my pack and exchanged hands with the corn dogs and the Coronas, "this is the Palomar Inn. This is like a Motel 6 without the slick marketing campaign. I highly recommend that you kick that nasty crack habit."

I really said that. When I get pissed off, I say a lot of ridiculous things. I stormed out of the door, keeping my left hand steady, trying not to disturb the pile of mustard in the cardboard box next to the corn dogs. I hadn’t the forethought to ask for a plastic bag to put my dinner into as I left the mini-market.

Then again, on Thursday afternoon I had no idea that I would have to spend the night in the United States of America.

* * * *

Last week, all days were long – twelve to eighteen hours long. The weeks preceding this one were long too, and I suppose that next week will be long, and the week after that, and so on. My lead seamstress is on vacation, Rick’s knee has kept him out for a few days, and some jerk in sales hijacked two of my finishers for some underpaying promotional installation in Petco Park. Some weeks are like that.

Thursday afternoon, Pedro warned me that something was wrong at the border; that someone was shot and that the international border at San Ysidro was completely shut down. I wasn’t going anywhere until at least six or seven or later, so I wasn’t worried about it. At some point, around seven-thirty I think, I found myself at my desk in my office, and I decided that it would probably be wise to open a browser and check out what was going on.

One of the Border Patrol cowboys had emptied his clip into the head of some Mexican that was driving a Ford Explorer with three or four illegal aliens as passengers. Fifty yards from the border, going into Mexico, he opened fire because the driver was moving toward an officer. The driver was moving toward an officer because the officer was standing on Interstate Five, between the driver and his passengers and the freedom of Mexico.

The investigation into the shooting lasted for many hours. Meanwhile, I called Rocio and told her that I wouldn’t be coming home that night because the border had become temporarily insane, an insanity that will suddenly become normal again at some point, and only the next of kin of the dead driver will probably ever really know what happened and why.

I skipped the entire ordeal, the last thing that I wanted was for some asshole from Fox News to stick a microphone in my face and ask me what Mexico might think about the incident.

* * * *

I stood momentarily in the parking lot of the Palomar Inn, wondering what my next move should be. Black pack over shoulder, bagged six-pack of Corona in my right hand and a small open box containing two corn dogs and a now flattened mound of mustard in my left hand, I walked quickly back across Palomar Street. There was supposed to be a motel back on a side street, right behind Interstate Five, and I walked through the darkness and found it, a gem hidden behind non-native palm trees and shrouded by a busted up trailer park.

I entered a small cubicle-like office and rang an electronic bell, and shortly thereafter a man appeared, unfazed by my corn dogs and mustard and Coronas and so on.

"Forty-five dollars," he said, "plus a five-dollar deposit for the remote and another five for the key deposit."

Two corn dogs and three Coronas later, I fell asleep with my clothes on. I awoke again in the middle of the night and had another Corona and stripped naked, and I slept horribly but at least I slept. I dreamt of work and kept waking up, until finally I couldn’t sleep anymore and watched the very early news and they announced that the border was once again open.

The border will be open until the next government cowboy empties his clip.

* * * *

Ramiro gave me a ride to the border Friday night, we chatted all of the way to the last exit before Interstate Five turns into Mexican Highway One.

"That hotel that you stayed at last night used to have a bar," he told me.

"I used to go there because no one would find me there, not even my ex-wife. It was nice. They got rid of that bar a long time ago, I’m surprised that the hotel is still there."

"It’s every bit as average as the Palomar Inn," I said.

We took the last exit in the United States of America and he drove me down to the cul-de-sac and I told him that I would see him on Monday.

"It looks like all of the places where other people can’t find other people are disappearing," I told him.

He laughed and drove off, and I entered Mexico, walking through the heavy turnstiles and into where all pedestrians enter Tijuana near Centro.

There, just before reaching the seldom-used revision area, the Mexican government had erected a new sign. The metal, overhead sign is professional looking; spelled out on the right side of the wide sign there is a greeting in Spanish, welcoming home all paisanos, all countrymen. On the left side of the sign, there is a greeting for all entering Mexico in English, and this is what it said:

Welcome Foreing Visitors

I hope that the Mexican government never fixes that sign. I do no mind fancying myself as foreing rather than foreign. I know this place better than many Tijuanenses do, I give instructions to most of the cab drivers wherever I go, and they appreciate it. Thanks to me, some cab drivers here continue to go forward. As do I.

Foreing should be a word, it should encompass all human beings that move forward, that go somewhere. I am foreing, then! Forward, to somewhere I am familiar with. Like many of my Mexican friends here, friends that are now trapped on this side of the big metal fence, yet Mexican friends that could instruct any Greyhound bus driver in California on the best way to get to Salinas or Watsonville or Hollister.

Friends that once picked produce from such places, back before anyone took the big metal fence seriously, went there for eight months out of the year. No more. Maybe it’s just as well, maybe their feet are getting to be old and tired like mine are. And through the poverty and the dying and the killing, there is freedom here. Freedom and liberty. The Mexicans fought for that, too.

My arthritic foot is beginning to ache, we should get some rain tonight. Maybe the rain will wash the blood from the big metal fence.

Maybe the rain will wash the word foreign from all of the signs on this part of the planet.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's About Them

"If they're prepared to work to become American citizens in the long line traditionally of immigrants who have helped make this country, we can have both a nation of laws and a welcoming nation of workers who do some very, very important jobs for our economy."

- Arlen Spector, United States Senator

* * * *

If I interpret the honorable Senator correctly, he is saying that so long as Mexicans don’t mind being as mistreated as were the Polish, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian immigrants during the time in American history that spanned from the Industrial Revolution through the Eisenhower era; then the United States would certainly allow them to cook and clean and shovel horse-shit while they beg for a chance to pledge allegiance to the flag of a country that claims to have the greatest human rights record on the planet. A nation of laws and a welcoming nation of workers, says Spector, is what the United States wants to be.

The more laws, the better, I assume. After all, this was why the Department of Homeland Security was formed, to take more laws passed by angst-ridden legislators and to enforce them in the most neo-fascist method possible. Rather than to simply find a way to enforce existing laws – laws that have not been adequately enforced at any point in history – making illegal immigrants felons would give the Homeland Security people something else to do.

Building a wall would be a waste of time and money. The Great Wall of China, the only man-made object on Earth that can be seen from space (so they say), merely slowed the Mongol raids for a while, eventually they got over, too. That is how I view walls, between regions and legions. Walls are usually a big waste of time and money.


Unless you are a politician, in which case, walls could be your meal ticket to a quick and easy re-election.

* * * *

Monday was yesterday, it was the first day of May. In Tijuana, and all over Mexico, it was their version of Labor Day, which is, coincidentally enough, called Labor Day. The streets, that morning, were as vacant as a cantinera’s eyes during happy hour. It was overcast, like it always is in May, no sympathy from the sun or the rain. No sympathy for anything, and dead to the world.

Dead, like gray usually is. And like grey usually is!

I got lucky, caught a cab right away and the light traffic brought me to the border in no time. No one was there, save for the Mexican news crews, interviewing each other – no other interesting person was around. They looked at me as if I was a rain-storm in August. I passed quietly by, slid through the SENTRI line, and went out to buy my trolley pass.

No line, not one soul wanted any sort of a ticket, no one was going nowhere or anywhere.

Pass in hand, I walked the platform, American news crews in my peripheral vision. Suddenly, I was cut off by a camera and a man with a microphone, trapped, interviewed via a pedestrian hijacking on the platform at the San Ysidro Trolley station.

They had to have been desperate to have interviewed me. A white man. Clearly. Grey bearded, black backpack slung over one shoulder.

Desperate, they were.

Who else was there?

* * * *

Javier came into to Dandy Del Sur tonight, and he asked me for my autograph, mockingly.

"I heard that you saw it," I told him.

"How was it?"

"Let me tell you," he said, smacking his lips smugly, "You were one ugly motherfucker!"


"Ah," he continued. "Look, I was half asleep, and then, there you were. I said, ‘Hey, I know that guy’, and then twenty seconds later, they found something else to talk about."

"Did they get to the part that I told them how scary it was that no one else was on the trolley platform?"

"Nah," Javier said. "They cut that shit out."

"FOX news," I replied.

"Unfair and unbalanced."

* * * *

According to Andy Warhol, those motherfuckers still owe me four minutes and forty seconds of pure fame.

And I ain’t signing no autographs because, as they so succinctly edited out, it isn’t about me.

It’s about them.

And I love them so much.

And they edited that part out, too.