Tijuana being so close to the Control Culture of the United States, it is a great feeling when you enter Mexico - this timeless free uplifting feeling of noninterference once you cross over. In fact, the farther south you travel away from the border, the brighter it is - as though the influence of the United States hangs over the frontier like thick dark pendulating clouds.
The Central Zone of Tijuana proper is sprawled out in a bowl shaped valley of urban decay. Multicolored buildings, some new, some old, some never fully completed with iron scaffolding jutting into the smog-choked sky spread across the landscape. Chipped and graffitied buildings are dwarfed only by the blaring billboards announcing everything from cheap tequila to the cure for herpes. Surrounding hillsides are blanketed with the residential colonias. Vast multihued neighborhoods range from elegant haciendas to cardboard shacks - always one fire blazing day or night in the poorer quarters so that a choking grey haze hangs over the city.
Lug my butt over the line - Indian women in rags, arms always out hands grasping or barking their wares of fake jewelry that turn black in an hour or plaster statues of obscene materials - their plump dirty children wallow naked in pools of dust at their feet. Past the taco vendors - smell of seared meat and wilted vegetables mixed with beer and piss. Effervescent sounds are a cacophony of Latino Banda and hip-hop music mixed with car horns and grating primeval busses.
“Want pussy girl? Titty women?”
“See donkey show?”
I elbowed through the throng of taxi drivers all on the hustle and pick the most handsome I could find from that teeming mass of yellow shirts.
“Hotel Coliseo, rapido.” Snap fingers. Chop-chop.
Roar through streets dodging busses, kamikaze taxis and mad dashing pedestrians. We pass Avenida Revolucion - el Revo, to the locals - all is what you expect: petulant flabby tourists shuffle in the beating sun ignoring the barking of the pitchmen squinting under that bright blue Mexican sky. Young pacheco kids in their funky hip-hop clothes walk by arm in arm around a tired whore clop-clopping in her cha-cha heels brown eyes drooping and looking forever up at Guadalupe. The shop venders selling gold, silver, leather, liquor, sex - they scream unrelentlessly into the deaf ear of the sweaty tourist. Overpriced restaurants, massive discos, and farmacias vending Viagra with enough potency to kill an elephant, lost among fading whorehouses crumbling into time reflected in the sad eyes of the weary Zonky.
Blocks are splashed with the primary colors of restaurants and consumer store facades of any other Mexican metropolitan city - the dust rises, the trash burns, police patrol by with young cops hanging off the sides of white trucks - black rifles glistening, faces masked and the mothers sprinting across the traffic with young flailing and babies wailing. Cervezas and guacamole - no matter how diluted with sour cream - still bring in the Mexican culture of memory to the old and young. Culture is life. Life is change. Change is culture - and change is the beauty of Tijuana, no matter how desperate - no matter how congested and overflowing, omnipresent as a McDonald’s baño.
Spitting heat upon pale skin. Dust swirls, thick and ominous like mountainous fog, yet there is little silence among this thumping surge of sprawling land and sea convergence. It's bright and it’s hot, alighting the nonexistent patterns as people and their many motors crush upon humanity and culture - their culture.
It is their land; their noise and debris, the rising dust - clouds into the eternal heat, the rapturous signals, the stoplights and padding feet across cracked pavement before the next race of exhaust pipes flood the streets. The young boys standing in a 1950s truck bed and the workingmen folding leathery hands in deep cooling shadows. Coronas, Pacificos, Dos XX and Sol bottles crushed down dirt side-alleys. Pass peeling paints of white, green and orange. As I sat in the back of the taxi, heat and the accompanying dust drew into the interior through the open windows that sucked like a famished mule.
A dangling faded CD flashed in my eyes, as Jesus and Mother Mary spun from the driver's rear view mirror. Through the dirty window, I watched my beloved Mexico and its culture, passing high-walled penitentiaries and catching the drafts of burning trash and piles of rubber. I breathed in, deeper than the previous, and as rusted tin and red brick turned to unfinished concrete with spikes of rebar, the city-center approached.
Burnt paper and smoky chemicals infused into the sea air until the salt purified the wastes. Suddenly, it froze. A culture - historic in its patternless flow of work, family, tradition, rice, beans, corn tortillas and cerveza, with mother dodging traffic as she interlinks her arms throughout her five children, and the federales rolling in their crisp black '06 GMC pickup trucks and Ford Mustangs, fat signs and stripped lands of acres of sweating asphalt surrounded by cheap simplicities of blue and white swallows its environment.
Then the abominable. Things and their monsters. They let loose to dilute the beauty of this original style of living and culture. Gorging, the corporations find their way as Mexico expands with the born faces of Wal-Mart and Home Depot. My heart pinged. It skipped a beat. Nevertheless, I drew another inhale, observed the life around, and continued to witness an unburdened Mexico thrive. Dust tickled my nose. I sneezed. It reached my throat. I coughed. How unburdened can a culture remain? I was about to find out.
Taxi screeched to a halt in front of the Hotel Coliseo. Old man sat on wood chair by the door focused on me with cataract eyes and junky stoop as I paid the driver and enter the crumbling whitewashed building. The smell of sewage and feces filled the lobby. An obese transvestite sat on an overstuffed green velvet couch sucking a silver tooth as I paid the front desk cien pesos and made my way up to the third floor - old well-worn wooden stairs creaking.
My room was painted olive green, paint flaking. Bed sagged to one side with graffiti scratched above wooden headboard, the toilet ran, and I had roaches for roommates.
The distant moan of a whore earning her rent mixed with the banda music wafting through the pungent, dark halls.
I showered in tepid water, got dressed, and left my key with the front desk. Walking sideways through the group of six Amazonian transvestite hookers that guarded the lobby door; avoiding catcalls and grabbing at my crotch.
I strode through the choking night air, the klaxon of car horns and high decimal banda, the cries of cigarette vendors, the smell of scorched meat and sewage, vicious cops patrol and gave me a sour eye. Queers passed staring and giggling and pointed at every bulging groin. Dogs sifted through trash next to their masters.
A few blocks from my hotel was park Teniente Guerrero - by day an idyllic spot for lounging families amid the sounds of playing children among swaying palms and colorful flowers. You look around and see happy smiling faces, the absorbed cancerous faces of police officers, you hear cantina music from across the park of balloons and popsicles and shoeshine stands. In the middle of the park is a gazebo for concerts - generations of mariachi playing Mexican anthems to honor El Gobernador.
By night, the park takes on its sluttish reputation - a notorious hotbed of male prostitution and drug pedaling with sex being acted in the midst of darkened bushes and shadowy corners. When the day boils away and the shoe stands close-up, the boys come out. Every bench is occupied - the trees lining the sidewalk host someone leaning with hip hooked and hands in pockets. Silent shadows beckon and the smell of sex vibrates through the park mixed with the whispering lusty grunts and sighs under a baneful moon.
As the sun set and the stars emerged, I found the park and most importantly, I found Saul working. He sat on the cold iron bench like a lounging puma, awaiting prey. Dark curly hair cropped short, copper skin, and a pencil thin moustache lined full pouting lips. His lean body jumped up and ran to me all smiles. Short chitchat and with the heat rising we faded out of the park and materialized in my hotel room.
Tongues probed, fingers poked, and erections were exposed. Saul always was proud of his very long penis and had no qualms of using it. Clothes thrown around the room. The bed banged and squeaked as Saul screwed me hard and long and afterwards we shared a Lucky Strike. And then he did me again. Showered and went downstairs for dinner at a corner eatery - Café Mimi’s. Music blared as the scrumptious food was served by a plump laughing woman - who cooked it, too. The plastic chairs were packed with happy, talking, animated locals - the café was teeming with life. A life that had been squelched in the States and one that will never resurface again.
After tacos and agua limón, Saul and I decided to cruise around el centro; I needed to go shopping for some hygiene articles.
As we walked through the congested streets, I was approached by two Mexican hipsters and asked if I wanted to make $800 dollars, suspicious I asked why.
“All you hafta do is drive cross the border.” The short one smiled coyly.
“Nah.” I stated - a coyote I ain't.
Saul said he needed some mota - and why not, I feel like getting a little high myself. We strut down into the Old Mercado past the come-hither hookers and cop a bag of weed from some Aztecan tattooed kid and repair back to my room. Saul is one hella roller - fat he makes 'em. We sit on the bed listening to reggeaton and toking some blunt - it was tasty. Half a bottle of Cuervo - reefer by candle light.
Half an hour passes and we grunt out almost simultaneously. Beaten, bruised and covered in sweat and semen, sheets on the floor and soiled, Saul and I lay there entwined like two snakes.
My digital clock said 4:36am. As he lay beside me sleeping, I stroked his black curly hair, sighed and looked out the window at the shimmering yellow moon.