Saturday, August 20, 2005

data dump

020905 01:45am

What do you get when you take a 39-year-old gay man from Tennessee who has $400 cash to his name and speaks or understands no Spanish and put him in the middle of downtown Tijuana? Probably a very boring reality show, but hopefully something more interesting to read. Hopefully. I guess I’ll call this the Tijuana Monologues.

I’m really too fucking tired to be writing this now, but I figure if I don’t start it now, it won’t ever get done. I’m in Tijuana, Mexico. It is my second night in my apartment here. In the past two days I’ve walked back and forth across the border four times, twice with rather heavy bags. Yesterday was spent haggling for a bed and getting it delivered. I also went with my neighbor Felipe, a disenfranchised heir to a Peruvian alpaca ranching dynasty, who introduced me to Frijole (yes, his name means bean. I find that less extraordinary than the fact that I have a first cousin named Carne, which means meat, and we aren’t even Latino) who brought me two cylinders of propane and hooked them up to my hot water heater. This morning I spent my time reattaching the tank to the heater and patching the leaky seals around the regulator, but not before about half of one of my tanks leaked away. Damn you, sneaky Frijole, did you not think I’d notice the smell? I have to get up at 10am tomorrow to let the water man in with my giant container of water. The initial price is about 85 pesos, or $8.00 American, but that includes the price of the bottle itself. The price from then on will be about $1.50 a month to refill it.

My first impressions. The city is very alive, crawling with people. And everyone seems to be selling something. Americans may think they have the market cornered when it comes to capitalism, but they have nothing on the citizens of Tijuana. Gum, socks, radios, all kinds of delicious smelling food, all on the streets, in carts, dollies, kid’s wagons, or out of bags on their backs. All these people very earnest in their desire to sell their product and make some cash. On the main tourist drag, Revolucion, it is at it’s best (or worst). My first day here I made the mistake of strolling down that street in all my gringo glory. The hawkers from the clubs, bars, and restaurants are very aggressive. They all seem to have the same offerings in the same order . . . ”Hey, Amigo! Cervesa! Margarita? Cuban cigars? Burrito?” and then many times, at the end of the pitch as I’m almost out of earshot . . . ”Massage?”

This is much harder (the writing of it) than I had anticipated. I think I’m just too tired. So many things have popped into my head that I want to tell, and now I can’t remember them. I’m going to start carrying a notebook with me at all times. I also need to get some film for my camera. Things I wish I’d photographed today . . . A Cathedral that was built in 1452, a pack of what appeared to be feral white poodles running around loose on my street, the guy whom I’ve seen two nights in a row one block down, sitting on the curb, slumped against the fender of a parked car, as perfectly still as death itself, with a hypodermic needle hanging from his arm. He was there when I got home last night, but gone when I went out 30 minutes later.

021005 01:01am

Tonight I walked all the way home from across the border. I walked over the river, and through the various plazas to Revolcion, under the huge aluminum arch there with its many thick support cables twanging ominously, and down 1st street. I strode with what I hoped was an air of supreme confidence. No one paid me any mind, except of course for the prostitutes. I did take off my necktie when I left work, but I am still a gringo in a suite. “CHHHH! CHHHH!” is the sound they made as I walked by. None seemed to take much offense at the fact that I ignored them. The last three blocks before my street were deserted, which made me uneasy. I kept my hand in my right pocket with my keys locked in my fist in a makeshift set of brass knuckles, like a hysterical housewife who has wandered into the barrio by accident. By the time I reached my gate the keys were pretty sweaty. I made it home at exactly 12:30a.m. I didn’t see the junkie with the hypo hanging out of his arm tonight. I hope he found somewhere warm to shoot up. It’s very cold out there.

021105 01:16am

It was raining when I woke up this morning. It was raining when I walked across the border to go to work this afternoon, and it was raining my whole trip home. My palms were sweaty again at one point during the trip home this evening but that was in the U.S. leg of the trip. My bus driver has a lady friend who rides the route with him and chats the entire way. It was pouring down rain tonight and we were zipping down the silver strand at a very nice clip. For some reason the bus was swaying from side to side the whole way. Water was bubbling up around the seams of all the windows and the driver’s lady friend was practically in his lap. They were laughing, and giggling, and talking a mile a minute as the bus, swaying wildly like a ship in dangerously heavy swells, hurtled through the darkness. I was relieved when we turned off of the highway onto Palm Avenue and more sane speed limits applied. In spite of the bus driver’s hasty driving, I just missed the southbound trolley. It was 12:30 when we finally pulled into San Ysidro. I had planned on walking home again, but finding footing that wasn’t underwater was such an impossibility that I decided to bite the bullet and hire a cab. I asked the driver to take me to a store where I could get some beer and cigarettes and he took me to a place that was no longer open. I told him I wanted a bottle of tequila and he took me to the only liquor store “in all of Tijuana that is open after midnight.” He said that since it was the only one allowed to stay open that it was “of course, more expensive.” “Of course.”, I replied, which earned me a chuckle from the driver. I ended up paying $12 for a bottle of tequila and $2 for a pack of Marlboro menthol “cigarros con filtro.” The fare was $5 which was a fair fare, considering the side stop, so I tipped him $3 dollars. I now have about $30 left until I get paid in seven days. But I have tequila and cigarettes, and most of tomorrow off. It is supposed to rain all day. Of course.

021505 01:01am

Sweaty keys again.

021805 1225am

Little bit drunk and stoned. Listening to “Freak on a Leash.” Payday! Still got to pay the deposit and ain’t that a bitch cuz he already said I ain’t gettin it back so what the fuck. No matter, I”m still getting a space heater, a refrigerator (free), some new zapatos de trabajos and phone and internet, a half month bus pass and some motherfucking minutes for my everfucked prepaid goddamn cell phone. Let me see about a Mexican cell phone manana. Fuck this ten cents a minute Verizon rape.

022305 1225am

It is still raining. The Tijuana river is once again a river, and not just the narrow open sewer it usually is. If it wasn’t cold and wet I would have to advise guests at the hotel to avoid the beaches for a bit.

Dear God! The rain is coming down in waves. If I was still in Tennessee I’d be climbing a tree. We don’t have any trees, and the wall out back has broken glass embedded in it. I figure I can almost walk from my roof to the border along the rooftops. I’m afraid a hillside in the city will collapse tonight. How many people would die, in houses on the hillside and houses along and perpendicular streets along the slide. Did I just feel a tremor. I saw lightning as I crossed the border tonight. There were tornado watches in San Diego county and a tornado warning in Orange County. Life imitates art.

As it is I have been leaping across the city of Tijuana rather than simply walking in a so far futile attempt to keep my sneaks dry. It is all in vain as my shoes and socks are invariably wet when it’s all done anyway. I try anyway and it’s kind of fun. Hits an entirely different set of muscles. I’m at least able to dry my socks and shoes in front of my new space heater that I got at MAS, which is like a Rite-Aid, for about $30. It has a voltage setting and a rheostat/thermostat knob you can turn from low to high. It is made of some type of raw unfinished metal. It looks like an old army radio or a piece of the “Frankenstein” set. The fan is loud but it warms the room up and gets rid of the damp. I shudder to think of what it’s doing to my light bill. I also unintentionally purchased the largest knife I have ever wielded. It is a professional grade kitchen knife with a blade that is about 21 inches long. After almost certainly mangling the word “cuchillo” I didn’t want to waste the cashier’s time. She had already walked the 3 feet from the register to unlock the case with cuchillos in it. I grabbed a knife by the white plastic handle and pulled a couple inches of blade out. I guess from the wieght and the width of the base that the knife was about 12 inches long, although the cardboard sleeve was longer. How much longer the sleeve was in printed on in in centimeters somewhere, I’m sure. Of course, I threw that away. So now I have a 21 inch machette with no scabbard. I can’t wait to show it to my old, OLD friend (and former roommate) Sybil, the notorious drag queen and chicken rancher. She is famous for sleeping with a butcher knife under her bed that she used to run off any tricks (hers and those of her various roommates) whom she found objectionable or unruly. It’s truly a wonder no one ever lost an eye. Anyway, she’s gonna love my new knife. It is a bit more than I need to slice the tiny, tart, green limes that I buy by the handful any time I see them. My scurvy is almost gone. I’ve lost about ten pounds and a couple of inches around the waist. I’m pretty sure I’m down to one chin.

Why does this always devolve into how much money I’ve spent and what I look like?

031605 0210am
I sat in El Ranchero bar tonite after work. The bartender knew me, but no one else did. I drank my Corona and smoked my cigarettes and thought about the reasons that I have for living here.

071505 0213am

I am so completely alone.

That isn’t true. I have Elvis, the tijuaneese roof kitty. Aside from Elvis, or as I’ve been calling him lately, El Diablo Negro, I am completely alone. Granted, that is one of the eventualities for which I’ve always been prepared. Married with a flock of grandchildren was another eventuality. Crazy old man with thousands of cats was another possibility. Somehow, alone on the fringe of Tijuana’s red-light district sort of snuck up on me. This can’t be a mid-life crisis, since no man that I’ve ever heard of in my family has made it to seventy. At 39 years old (let’s write and say that as much as possible until September) I’m well past the middle of my life. What will cure this funk I’m in? Maybe a house with a garden, and maybe one more ‘bout a dog? Will I still feel alone? Only if I am.


Post a Comment

<< Home