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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Tijuana

Thu, July 15, 2004 | 10:40pm | San Jose, CA

Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Who the hell are all these people anyway? Jeebus, why the crap isn't she finished packing already? I thought she was doing this yesterday. Man, I really want to get through LA before rush hour, can we get on the road already? Come on. Come on. Come on. Come ON.

Try to make the best of this. Try to make the best of this. Try to make the best of this. Oh, man...

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I haven't been looking forward to this trip to Tijuana at all. I can think of about 50 good reasons to go to Mexico, and this is not one of them.

I've had a baseball-sized knot in my neck all week.

What has it been, something like 24 years they've been married? He's been crying wolf about going to Mexico for so many years that it's ridiculous. But now he doesn't have a choice. He's stuck there, whether he likes it or not.

The marriage, as it once was, is over. Her words. She will have to tell him this, and this may be the biggest blow. But he has to see it coming.

Can't imagine why I'm not looking forward to this.

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Fri, July 16 | 4 something am | City of Commerce, CA

We're right smack dab in the center of LA. If you look at the map of Los Angeles, the words "Los Angeles" are really big. But L.A. is surrounded by about several billion little nothing cities that make up what people really think of as Los Angeles. And right there, in the middle, where the words "Los Angeles" are really big on the map, there's a tiny little word a little to the lower-right: "Commerce". That's where we are.

I took the first turn driving. San Jose to Los Angeles in under 5 hours, I'm a little impressed with myself.

But right now I'm too tired to do anything other than wolf down my omelette and the driest toast I've ever eaten. The omelette sure is good. I'm pretty damn hungry, though.

Trains roll by in the dark, behind the Denny's parking lot. City of Commerce, USA.

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Fri, July 16 | 5:26am | Somewhere on Highway 5

Typing in the back of a van blazing down the highway is not easy. Neither is sleeping. Dammit.

Is there a single mile of highway in Southern California that isn't incredibly bumpy? Pavement is uneven. I'm jostling around so bad in the back I can hardly stand it. I'm so glad it's my turn to lay in the back and try to sleep. Fuck.

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Fri, July 16 | 7:13am | Chula Vista, CA

What a dump.

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Thank bog for friends. Velma and Jenny, you helped make the excessively stressful days leading up to this trip tolerable. Jenny, I appreciate that you went out of your way to go by the library and bring me audio books for the trip. Velma, coming by to wish me luck and give me a big hug was incredibly supportive. I'm so glad I have friends like you two.

The simplest gestures, yet they meant so much to me.

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Fri, July 16 | 7:58am | Chula Vista, CA

I just spent half an hour standing in an Enterprise rental agency parking lot, cutting my cuticles. Yes, I am bored.

I think I got an hour and a half of sleep on the road, from which I was awakened numerous bumpy times.



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Fri, July 16 | 9:37am | Placio Azteca Hotel, Tijuana, Mexico

Uneasy arrival. Is this the right hotel? Is he here? The doorman knows him, he'll call up to his room.

Wait for him to come down. What will he look like? How long's it been since I saw him? Almost two years?

Will the rental car be safe? Is there a garage? The rental company made a big deal about how safe it had to be in Mexico. SUVs are on the most wanted list for car thieves south of the border. A brand new one, like our rental, poses quite a prize.

Wow, he's so thin. His hair is completely white now. Was it that white the last time I saw him? But he's still got the flat-top crew cut. He shuffles a bit, but he's walking pretty good. Maybe a little stooped, but I expected him to be using walking sticks.

His eyesight is terrible. He doesn't even recognize us as he comes out the hotel doors, until he hears our voices. All he can see is blurry shapes and colors.

All this time I haven't been sure how to greet him. At the last moment, I let it be normal. As normal as possible. But at the same time, everything inside me is acutely aware that these circumstances are not normal.

It's strange how normal it seems.

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Nice hotel. Recently remodeled. Pretty upscale.

Should we have breakfast? The hotel has a very nice restaurant. How awkward will this be?

The restaurant's muzak of choice is poppy country and western. In English. The clientele appears to be upper middle class, almost all Mexicans. The one incredibly blond guy looks so out of place. A large family at a long table in the corner and a pretty girl taking care of a cute little baby girl, two attractive stewardesses, lots of other handsome people around, probably all on there way from the States or to the States.

We're about 5 minutes from the border.

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Chit chat over breakfast is very copacetic. Almost too normal. I'm not hungry. I thought I would be. I was still hungry after the omelette 5 hours ago. But now that I'm here, I'm not hungry. Nerves.

As more and more people enter the restaurant, I realize that there are some incredibly chic and hot women here. Like about one-quarter of the restaurant.

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Fri, July 16 | 3:53pm | Room 217, Palacio Azteca Hotel

I must be tired. I've been napping by the pool, even though there's a dozen screaming and splashing kids ten feet away. And one baby wearing pink water wings, who hasn't stopped crying for the past hour her mom has had her in the water. Why doesn't she take her out?

The sun has hit the deck chairs directly. It was nice earlier, warm but a steady breeze in the courtroom that contains the pool. But now it's too hot. I finally have to go up to me and Tom's room to crash. I'm exhausted. I've got to sleep.

She's up in his room. They were just going to lay down and rest. Not talk about anything heavy. That keeps going through my head.

------------------------------

I awake to the honking of horns. Wait, that's Tom blowing his nose. And belching extremely loud in the bathroom. And making as much noise as humanly possible, apparently.

What did I get, another hour and a half of sleep?

Ignore it. Maybe he'll go away.

The door clicks shut. He went away.

My head clears a bit, laying there as the air conditioning rattles quietly. I can hear some sort of music from an adjoining room's TV. I realize that, while sleeping, I actually had nightmares about what's to come. Isn't the mind a wonderful thing?

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Hmm. The light switch in the bathroom doesn't seem to work. None of the three switches work. That's weird. Wait, Tom was in here earlier, wasn't he? Ugh, stepped in something wet. Did he take a shower?

Okay, the light switches by the room door activate the power in the bathroom. That's weird. Jeebus, is that puddle on the floor yellow? Oh bog, this is going to be fun.



------------------------------

Tom's back. He turns on the TV, even though I was trying to go back to sleep. He sucks his gums when he's awake. And snores sometimes. When he's asleep.

I wonder what annoying habits I have?

Typing on a laptop in public, probably.

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I like it when people hold the remote control and stretch their arm out as close to the TV as possible, as if that's the only way to make it work.

------------------------------

I have three words for you: Buffy with subtitles.

I really need to go down and sit in the lobby or by the pool or something.

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Fri, July 16 | 4:55pm | the lobby

Thank bog for cushy couches, iTunes, and headphones.

I may take a walk around Tijuana, or at least the nearby part, later. I've got a good sense of direction, luckily, but I'm still going to have to be careful to not get lost.

One of those really cute women just walked by. It would be nice if this trip actually brought me some good luck. Nice. And a miracle.

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Tom joins me in the lobby. And obsessively picks his teeth with toothpicks for 15 minutes straight.

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Burning CDs for the drive back. This is why iTunes rules the universe.

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Fri, July 16 | 11:08pm | Room 217

We had dinner at a cantina a half-block away from the hotel. Not very good, but I've never been a fan of mol�.



Afterward, we called the taxi driver who the hotel arranged to have on call for George, to get around to the hospital, to the airport to buy his tickets, whatever. He took us about 15 minutes away, to the playa (that's beach, for the Espa�ol impaired). He was incredibly helpful and kind all night, helping George down steps, walking with us on the beachfront, going to buy mom a churro. He deserved a huge tip at the end of this.

I'm especially amused that his radio station of choice is a San Diego hard rock station that plays lots of Metallica and Ozzy.

It was just after sunset at the beach, and still warm and mild. People playing soccer in the dusk. A campfire or two, and a dozen or so small circles of college-age Americans huddled here and there on the beach. A cult? Religious outing? A group of volunteers on a summer trip? I dunno, but they were standing in circles and seemed to be, um, praying in the twilight. A little strange.



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Tom snores. Loudly. I really hope I'm tired enough to fall asleep and not care.

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They had their discussion in his room in the afternoon. It went well, she reports later, although he was disappointed that he wasn't getting his truck and $10,000 right away. She clued him in to the financial picture and he took it better than we had anticipated. At least, better than most of the ways I had envisioned it.

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Sat, July 17 | 4:47am | Room 217

Tom snores. Incredibly loudly. He may not survive the night.

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Sat, July 17 | 11:12am | Room 217

Jeebus, Tom snores like a fucking windstorm. But I didn't kill him.

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Sat, July 17 | 12:10pm | Hotel restaurant

There's another large family gathering in the restaurant for breakfast. I guess this is the place to celebrate the occasions of your older relatives, because the large party yesterday and the one today both got serenaded by waiters. They were singing en espa�ol, of course, so I have no idea what the occasions were, but I think it was birthdays.

There is an incredibly cute girl in glasses at the table.

We have to go to the airport today to settle his ticket to inner Mexico. I still don't know if he's leaving tomorrow or if he's going to get his first eye operation here in Tijuana. He went to the general hospital yesterday and they told him it'll cost $100 per eye. That seems awfully low for cataract surgery, so we have to wonder. But one of his brothers is a retired doctor in inner Mexico, so it makes sense to mom and I that he go there before he gets the operation, where his brother can hook him up with a reputable surgeon, and he can recuperate with his family who are already waiting for him.

Planning is an artform for Mexicans. A lost art.



------------------------------

Before we leave the hotel I corner him alone in the lobby. I tell her to keep everyone away, I want to talk to him.

I tell him to get on the plane tomorrow. To take care of his eyes. To go do it there, where his family can take care of him. I tell him he has to recuperate and not to expect to be up and around in a week, trying to get his plans going right away to set up an alfalfa farming business.

I want to be hard on him, but I can't. Even I am affected by his condition now. I tell him how hard it's been on all of us, not just him, but that's about all I can say about it. I wanted to rake him over the coals. But I urge him to go and take care of himself instead. Get well. There's time.

He cries.

He tells me to take care of my mom because I'm all she has, and tells me how much he cares about her and how he wants to get his business going so he can make money to send her. I know he profoundly means it. But it never turns out that way. His business schemes never work out the way he plans. But you can't tell him that.

We talk about the money issues a bit. I remind him that selling the ranch won't happen overnight. It'll take time. There's a lot of shit to sort out, figuratively and literally, before it can be sold. He's got to be realistic.

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Sat, July 17 | 4:08pm | Revalucion

This is the tourist shopping district, but I fully expect it to be the only remotely interesting or fun part of the trip for me. At least I can take some photos. If I can find one or two good deals, that'd be even better.

I shook everyone after a half-hour. Thank god. Alone finally, I feel more normal. I don't have to put up a front of glazed interest or happiness.

I walk 15 or so blocks, zig-zagging around a bit to see the streets off the main drag, where all the Americanos are getting hustled. Two blocks further up the road from the tourist area I find a rock shop and browse the T-shirts and stickers and stuff. I want to but a T-shirt but the one I want has a stain on it. Oh well. I get a patch for Jenny.

I'm looking for: Converse All-Stars in blue, a new messenger bag, and T-shirts. I find rip-off All-Stars, which I consider buying, for about $13. At another store, I find every conceivable color or All-Stars (the real thing, this time), even colors I've never seen in the States, but they're the same price I'd pay in the States. Maybe I'll keep looking...

No messenger bags. Apparently backpacks, butt-bags, and all kinds of ugly leather saddlebags are still all the rage for American touristas in Mexico, but the messenger bag style hasn't quite caught on yet. The only three I see, at one of the 20 billion sidewalk kiosk shops, are pretty good, except they don't have a padded shoulder strap.

When I get back to the caf�/smoke shop where they've been camped out waiting for me, Tom has been sent out to look for me. They got worried because I was gone more than the hour I said I'd be gone. Brilliant. Tom would never find me in a million years. Duh. Another wave of consternation comes over me at being perpetually treated like a 10-year-old. Yeah, it's Tijuana, but please. I'm not 10.



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Sat, July 17 | 6:31pm | Palacio Azteca restaurant

Dinner back at the hotel. Last dinner. We're leaving tonight.

The chitchat moves to stories of the various California prisons. The nice ones, the bad ones. The corruption. How to get along. He "went to school," as he puts it, before his eyes went bad. High school equivalency and small engine certification. I'm actually impressed.

I think of Rick Springer, who was imprisoned in the early '90s for smashing an award then-former President Reagan was accepting at a convention, and being tackled by Secret Service. I met Rick years later, after he got out, when I attended a book-reading he did. I was enthralled by the story of what it's really like inside. Later, when I got to know Rick, I learned he was the gentlest, kindest man I've possibly ever known.

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We're leaving. Thank bog.

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Sun, July 18 | 2:58am | middle of nowhere, Highway 5

Pitch black. Nothing but blank, black highway lanes stretched out in the pools of headlight illumination. A tiny, far-off smear of yellow and white lights off in the distance to the right. Must be a town a few miles off that way. Or another prison.

I handed over the driving duties about an hour and a half ago. Tom took over. I tried to get comfortable in the passenger seat. Apparently this vehicle is built specifically to inhibit passenger comfort. I try about 29 different positions to no avail. I will have another crick in my neck when I awake.

Tom likes to randomly say a word or two out loud when the other people are trying to sleep.

...

We pass one of those roadway signs with all kinds of gas station and fast food logos.

Tom [in heavy Polish accent]: "We have about quarter-tank. We not make it to San Jose."

We pass a sign that tells us the next exit is the last opportunity for gas for 16 miles.

me: "Well, maybe we should stop at that next exit."

We pass the next exit.

me: "Or not."

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Later...

Tom: "What is da lights."

me, looking up: "Huh?"

Tom: "There is lights. What is dey doing?"

I look up. Whoa. I hope that's a plane.

me: "Spraying?"

Tom: "Huh?"

me: "Spraying?"

Tom: "Huh?"

me: "A plane. Spraying. I don't know why they'd do it at night..." At least, I hope it's a plane. Could be a UFO I guess. The three white lights sure moved in a way that planes don't normally. Pretty weird.

...

Tom: "I think is plane spraying. What is spraying I don't know."

...

About a mile later, we pass a landing strip with its light ablaze. Not a UFO.

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Sun, July 18 | 4 something am | Passing Lemore, CA

I think of Julie, who used to live in Lemore. I really need to call her.

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Sun, July 18 | Dawn, too tired to look at clock | San Jose, CA

Almost home. Breakfast? No. Hungry, yes, but too smegging tired. I just want to drop off Tom, get my car, and go home to bed. My bed. My pillow. My sheets. No snoring.

When we pull in at mom's, her car is gone. Leticia's car is blocking mine in the driveway. Leticia's supposed to be the only one there, taking care of the dogs.

me: "They better have the keys inside."

I'm at the end of a lifetime's supply of patience.

Mom goes in to wake them up to move the car. Leticia's not there. Her obnoxious little boy is asleep inside, but she's MIA. The other woman's there, with her boyfriend. Yet another massive random person whose name I instantly forget each time I hear it. I don't want to remember these people.

Leticia took random woman's car home for some reason. Of course, she didn't leave her keys, so we could get her smegging car out of the driveway.

I lose it. I cannot contain myself.

I throw all my stuff back in the rental. Now I have to take it home, leave my car, and waste yet another hour of my life coming back here later tonight to retrieve my car.

I leave regretting that I lost my temper in front of my mom. But this was a hot poker on the last nerve.

I just want to go home and sleep.

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Sun, July 18 | 9:04pm | Mountain View

Now I have to go take the damn rental back and pick up my car.

My neck is still killing me. I feel like every hour of this ordeal has taken a day off my life. Fuck, I need Advil. And wine. Advil and wine.

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1 Comments

Blogger ynnej said...

...So what about the skeezy Mexican hookers?

7/19/2004 09:06:00 AM

 

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