This has seriously been one of the more bizarre nights of my life. I've been hosting Nima at my house since his return from Baja, and it has been nothing short of amazing. I mean besides his healthy lifestyle and making breakfast smoothies and generally being fun to have around, he's certainly ignited some sense of adventure in me that has made me want to do more and be more. It's really gonna suck when he's gone after SXSW.
When I was invited by Nacional Records to Nortec Collective's homecoming show in Tijuana, I would have never otherwise considered it, but with an adventurer on my side, I asked Nima if he wanted to make the trek, even knowing that I would likely experience issues attempting to return to the states because I don't have a passport, and he was game. Little did we know what the night had in store for us. To read our full adventure, click 'keep on reading' at the bottom of this post.
When we Googled our quickest route, we were both on board to walk to El Cajon, catch the 15 downtown, and trolley to the border. We hit El Cajon Blvd and knowing I needed a fiver for the bus, we stopped into a liquor store. As we exited, we heard the most horrendous noise, ran onto the street to discover a three car accident half a block away, with an SUV on it's side as we saw a guy jump out of the passenger window. Nima ran across the street to help as I called 911. He pulled the driver from the vehicle and I remained on the phone, frantic, adrenaline rushing. When the first of the cops arrived, we left to find our busstop across the street.
At this point I was kinda in shock from it all, Nima was completely unfazed, so we decided to carry on our adventure. Was the universe trying to tell us something?
The bus eventually came, we took it downtown and transferred at Smart Corner to catch the trolley to the border. In National City, the conductor was talking way too long over the PA and I realized he was announcing that the trolley line was being worked on, so we had to depart and catch a bus to the border.
Still undeterred, we carried on, crossed the pedestrian bridge into Mexico, and I convinced Nima that we could walk through the rio plaza and over the river bridge and get to Revolucion. He was a bit uneasy, saying it would be my fault if we were jumped or if he had to use his knife. We weren't, but if we had been, he would've been right. There are crazy dark corners everywhere. Incidentally, as we were walking, he was a couple paces back. I realized this was a defensive maneuver so nobody could come from behind me. The boy is a sweetheart and always looking out.
Walking through the plaza was an experience in and of itself. What was once a popular bumpin tourist area with clubs and doorguys yelling for pretty American girls to come in for no cover or whistling for two for one shots was now full of shuttered bars and pharmacies.
We pushed on and arrived on Revo, where we saw the end of TJ's version of Critical Mass, which a gringo explained was called Paseo De Todos or Toros, I can't be sure, though I suppose both names would work.
We arrived at Black Box after passing spots I once frequented...Cave, Safari, Mr Crown's... one with a different name, tonight all closed. On a Friday.
We saw Black Box. People were out front trying to gain entry to the sold out show. We didn't have any problems with the list and getting in the club, though I have to admit I was a bit disappointed we weren't VIP (which included balcony seating and all you can drink). In my high school days, Black Box was called Vibe, taking the name from the first two letters of the owners, Vicente and Benito. I had many good times with those guys in my younger days and other than the name, the club hasn't changed much, though the club, once filled by American high schoolers and coeds was now filled with locals, with no gringos to be found (besides us, of course).
We arrived a little after 10pm, got a couple of beers, which were actually two 12-ounce bottles poured into large paper cups. Two 24 ouncers were $9 US.
The club was packed to the gills, so we maneuvered to the side toward the DJs who were selecting lazy electro and techno on their macbooks. And then we waited. And waited. A couple refills on the beers, a few trips to the bathroom, knocking elbows and asses with people trying to space invade and we still waited.
At 12:15, Nima's patience had been tested and he told me he was gonna give it another half hour max. He was over it. The crowd was growing impatient (and intoxicated), and four rounds of "CULERO" still didn't summon the band. Perhaps they had planned on coming out at 12:30 all along, perhaps the final chant of "Puta" over and over was the necessary nudge.
The curtain dropped, fog machine and lights in full effect, and the crowd was treated to the full collective..Bostich + Fussible on their iPads and knobs joined by a guitarist, tuba, accordion, and trumpet. It seemed they kicked off with songs from Tijuana Sound Machine and eventually worked into Bulevar, playing a little over two hours which seemed to keep most of the crowd.
Nima went to the restroom and upon his return, had moved behind me a few feet and after seeing him once, I turned around again and he was gone. I thought he'd be back so I just continued dancing and taking photos, but something didn't feel right, so I left my spot, circling the bar a few times, returning to the original spot, and when I still couldn't find him, considered that maybe he had actually left. Without phone service, I just stuck it out, figuring I'd either find him when the club emptied, or if he had left, stay through the end, hang out till close, wander Tijuana, and eventually head back to the border closer to the first trolley departure (or bus, in this case) of 4:59 am.
After the set I hung out for a bit, said hi to Pepe and their tour manager, Jacques, and thanked him for a fun time, and with the club clearing, decided to drift out. There outside the club door was Nima sitting on a bench. He explained that he'd been kicked out. He thinks maybe security saw his pocket knife, I suspect they saw his dreads and assumed he was the one smoking the blunt in the club (a really lame stereotype, by the way. Nima doesn't smoke pot). This is when it got awkward and the worst part of the night. I needed to get over the hurt feelings I'd experienced thinking that maybe I was ditched in Mexico, and Nima needed to get over the fact that it even crossed my mind that he would abandon me there. It's a new friendship and I am going to do everything I can to mend those feelings, especially since we'll be travelling to Texas together in just about a week from now. Live and learn. Love and forgive. Trust fully and risk reward or destruction.
As we sat silently on the bench, not really knowing what to say to each other, the streets around us got intense. People running, yelling, sirens blaring, and we saw some guys chasing each other, resulting in a fight with about 5 guys kicking the shit outta one dude before quickly scattering as two patrol cars pulled up from each side of the street. It was 3:15, and I had officially had enough of Tijuana.
We walked back the same way we'd come. Somehow after the night, the rio walk seemed less sketchy, and I stopped to take some photos along the way. I pointed out places I used to go, the bar where I think my parents met nearly 43 years ago (The Aloha for many years now, I believe it was The Bronco Club back then), the path my BFF and I would walk in junior high when she lived by the Tijuana skate park, before the craziness, before the war, before the beheadings, when the crazy cartel, terrible as they were, seemed to maintain some order in the city. That was also before the recession, before the passport requirement to cross the border. The only sketchiness at this point was a pack of dogs running around.
I've always had a soft spot for Tijuana, and though tonight was good and certainly an adventure, it also made me kinda sad.
We stopped at a taco stand on the walk back to kill time. I washed down 2 street tacos with a Mexican Coke. After Nima's Baja bike adventure, compounded by being vegan, he wasn't interested in eating but we chatted. Was it worth it? Are you glad you went? I am, and I hope he meant it that he was, too. I certainly can't think of anyone else who would've been a trooper through everything we experienced.
We walked the final pedestrian bridge, waited through customs where I was scolded for not having a passport but let through anyway, and we sat in McDonald's for nearly and hour until the shuttle picked us up. We're on the shuttle now as I listen to Slacker on my phone and finish this post on my phone. The shuttle is packed with middle aged men in workboots, young guys with mechanic shirts, older ladies with big bags, and us. And someone farted so everyone is looking around suspiciously. I see these people going to work at 5 am on a Saturday morning and I am grateful everyday for the life I get to live. Just don't call me or email today. I'll be sleeping until it's time to do it all over again at Carnivale.
A final note, had we driven to the border, Nima might not have pulled people from car wrecks or put out fires, but waiting until 5 am for the shuttle, then the trolley and then the bus, we didn't get home until after 7 a.m. I can't blame Nima if he wants to kill me.
These are pics where the car accident occurred about 11 hours earlier:
Here's the full slideshow from the night: