blog: Chris Randall
subject: Dope, guns and fucking in the street.
Posted on June 16, 2004 at 1:16 AM
Let me just state for the record that my official tally of Places That Are Actually Cool As Fuck In North America has been permanently altered by plus one. To the list, which has thus far consisted of Toronto, Vancouver B.C., and New Orleans, I have now added Tijuana. I had been to T.J. before, but not really, as my visit consisted of walking across the pedestrian bridge, buying cigarettes and tequila, and walking back over to the good ol' USA.
On Sunday night, we played our San Diego show at Brick By Brick. Max, the owner, is probably the single coolest guy I've ever met on tour any time, any where. Before the show, I did an interview with a Mexican television station. The two guys conducting the interview, Jorge and David, invited myself and anyone who wanted to come with to T.J. after the show. The show went well enough, but I didn't drink enough water on stage (my normal intake is about a liter and a half during the hour performance, but for some reason I only drank about a third of that here) and after we were done I felt like I was having a stroke or something. So I passed on the trip over, and went back to the hotel for some much-needed rest instead.
The following day, 6 of the 10 people on tour went in to L.A. to spend the day off with friends. Brian, Wade, Miguel and I stayed in San Diego, because we felt no particular need to spend any more time in L.A. than necessary. I spent the day catching up on paperwork and lounging by the hotel pool. In the early evening, David called me from T.J. asking if I still wanted to come over and see what there was to see. When David got there to pick us up, Wade and Miguel were sound asleep, so Brian and I hopped in and were treated to a high-speed car tour through all the neighborhoods of T.J. That complete, David took us to what he said was the most famous taco stand in Tijuana. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this claim. As we were leaving, I turned to Brian and said that it was kind of sad in a way, because I knew I would never in my life have another taco as good as that one. After that, we met up with Jorge and some of their friends, and after a quick tour of some of the various evening attractions of Tijuana, we ended up at this bar that beggars description.
Most of the larger clubs in T.J. are oriented towards separating young American men from their money, via the judicious application of various vices. Like all border towns, there is a relatively large section of real estate devoted to this endeavor. While there are a few traditional nightclubs and bars, most of the businesses could be lumped under the general term "whorehouse." In Tijuana, this consists of a strip club on the ground floor of the building, with the balance of the structure consisting of what would, in other circumstances, be called a hotel. The strip club will be full to the rafters with young Mexican girls trying to earn enough money to go to "The Other Side," the USA. When an American sailor/soldier/redneck walks in the door of the strip club, he is immediately swarmed by the most predatory business people that capitalism could possibly conceive of, asking him in various semi-sultry and not-so-sultry ways if he'd like a "honeymoon," which is a half-hour stay in the hotel above.
Out on the street, there are hustlers of every possible stripe, from your basic beggar on up to full-blown con artists trying to lure Americans down dark alleys, purportedly to see various sexual acts of the most depraved nature, but more likely to get the shit kicked out of them, and their wallet stolen. Thrown in with this mix are a generous dose of hookers that, as far as I could tell, never did earn enough to go to The Other Side, and are now past their prime, and thus unable to get a job in a more reputable establishment. They're now stuck giving 50 Peso hand jobs to drunk sailors in order to earn enough money for their next 20-bag of meth.
After Jorge and David took Brian and I on a quick walking tour of this scene (one memorable image is of a beautiful whitewashed Spanish Mission church from the mid-1800s, with a gigantic neon-encrusted brothel on either side) they took us to this bar. I wish I could remember the name of this place, because, like, fuck. It was a tiny little place, but it had the loudest jukebox I've ever heard in my life. About half the contents of the jukebox was Mexican rock of the last several decades, with the rest being glamish (T-Rex, Bowie, et al.) The bar served two things, alcohol and marijuana. I spent the next six-odd hours swimming through a very nearly halucigenic haze of pot smoke and Corona Familar beer (8% alcohol in Mexico!), all the while engrossed in conversation with all my new Mexican friends, which was about a third Spanish and two thirds English, but entirely at a full-throated yell in order to be heard over the lilting strains of "20th Century Boy" at 125db.
I couldn't begin to relate all the bizarre happenings of the evening, but suffice to say that Brian and I made three very good friends, had an excellent meal, and got an expert on-the-ground tour of a very strange place. I have to say, and I think Mr. McDaniel would agree, that it was the best day of the tour so far. I will add the following two tidbits of information, and let you make your own conclusions:
1. Tijuana is by no means entirely described by the above. The district I described is a rather small slice of a _very_ large city. Like all big cities, it has neighborhoods of abject poverty, neighborhoods of incredible wealth, but largely consists of those in between, just like in the good 'ol USA. During our car tour, we saw all of these and then some. It is actually a very nice city, as cities go. It just has a lot more freedom than your average American city.
2. While I'm not a big fan of Bukowski, I now fully understand why he wrote the way he did, now that I've spent an evening in one of the very places from which he drew his inspiration. I felt like I was living inside a Tom Waits album for the entire duration of the visit.
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