Editor's Note: Not long ago, we shared our story of a recent run-in with the Mexican police not happy with our foul habit of public urination. Here, writer Charles Clayton ups the ante with his story of a rough night in Tijuana. Be sure to read all the way to the end for some invaluable tips on talking your way out of a night in a Mexican jail.
My girlfriend and I walk through the revolving gate and into a foreign world: TIJUANA. Cross the river that smells like urine. Ignore the stalls of knockoff sunglasses and jeans. Deny eye contact with the throngs of homeless kids selling gum, strumming one-stringed guitars, begging, tugging at our sleeves and heartstrings while we saunter towards Revolucion Blvd.
We start out in a cavernous bar with a view of the street. The place is empty, but the techno is on full blast, echoing off the whitewashed walls. Two guys in Hawaiian print shirts walk up to us, pour tequila down our throats, wrap our heads in towels and shake them vigorously for a moment, then charge us 10 bucks and walk away.
Into another bar to shoot pool and down shots. Then back out to the rollicking street, past red-carpeted stairwells descending to rumors of donkey shows
and into another bar, and on and on until everything is a stumbling blur of beer and hot dogs wrapped in bacon and packs of feral dogs and $5 switchblades and beer and booming bass and flashing sirens and tequila and rows of piñatas and drunken sailors and the smell of leather jackets and tequila and giant red cockroaches and broken glass and cheap sombreros and a midget in a tuxedo.
Getting late, time to head for the border. Pounding the broken pavement, arm in arm, howling at the proverbial Mexican moon, past one last bar and we are hustled straightaway to a table.
The place seems distinguished, and there is a knockout in a sequined blue gown on stage singing "These Boots Are Made for Walking" -- but wait, that's not a woman, it's a Tijuana transvestite
, one of many it turns out. Which, in our sloshy state, kind of turns us both on, so I ask one about a threesome and he/she tells me to buy him/her a drink. I hand the bartender a twenty and when I inquire about the change I don't get back we are mercifully booted out of the place.
Drunk and crazy now, nothing left to do but try to get stoned! We wander into an area of abandoned cinder block shacks and are accosted by a pack of 20 children who keep saying "Bob Marley! Bob Marley! Bob Marley!" as they usher us into the blackness of an almost collapsed building.
Rats scurry about the rubble and a man sits behind a desk where a lone candle flickers atop a dog or coyote skull. He smokes a joint with us then tells me he's lonely. He offers to buy my girlfriend for a hundred, two hundred, five hundred bucks then tells us to get the hell out, so we do.
We argue about which way to the border and then I get the spins and puke in the middle of the street, just as the cops roll up. My pockets are emptied. I'm handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car. The cops get in and we drive away, leaving my girlfriend alone and shrieking hysterically on a dark and desolate Tijuana street corner.
Panic sets in, but so does the broken semi-bilingualism I gleaned from three years of high school Spanish. Flattery first, slurred yet surprisingly rapid fire -- "esta es un carro muy excelente" and "la policia aqui son muy honesto."
Bribery next, offering them money they've already taken from me -- "tengo dolares americanos si necessario," and finally, heartfelt remorse for being such a disrespectful gringo -- "lo siento para vomitando, pero yo bebo muchas cervezas."
Nothing is working. I'm bound for the Tijuana jail. Not to mention the fate of my girlfriend. Desperate now, I lick my lips, get a momentary handle on my cottonmouth, and blurt out clearly and calmly -- "la mujer es mi esposa y nosotros tenemos un niño tiene dos anos" -- she's not my wife, and we certainly don't have a 2-year old son, but I keep going -- "el nino es con su abuela y es necesario por nosotros returnar a la casa esta noche."
Our mythical child is not with grandma, so we don't really need to get back home tonight, but this vision of family softens their hearts and, miraculously, they turn around. We turn a corner and our headlights shine upon my girlfriend, who is sitting on the curb sobbing. The cops let me out, uncuff me, and return my wallet and all of my money, then drive off.
We get our bearings and make a beeline for la linea, el norteno, the First World that lay just beyond the floodlights and razor wire and helicopters. And we don't stop at any more bars.
Charles Clayton is a writer based in Taos, New Mexico. These days he actually does have a wife and a 2-year-old.