i have been to Tijuana. Been going there for the last several weeks, or at least, i felt like i was making virtual visits close to home.
Actually, it is more likely i was virtually in the Philippines like Maureen was earlier in the week when she dealt with the pest control, aka termite control corporation which bought the corporation which bought the local company and then moved the call center to the Philippines because the customer service rep revealed her location to Maureen, and i immediately suspected she was in Olongapo on Luzon because all of those bar girls had to find a different line of work when the U.S. Navy closed the base and the closest version to “Fiddlers Green” died.
And i don’t think “Erik’s” accent was Mexican. It was reminiscent of many folks i know who have the native language of Tagalog and speak English as a second language. But even though it was a long distance call from Luzan to Baja, i felt like i was back South of the Border down Mexico way.
Years ago, my first couple of visits across the border were pretty much that of a wandering child. i did not know where to go, what to do, or how to act. Since then, there have been many, many trips South of the Border down Mexico way, as Gene Autry once intoned. Yeh, yeh, i know, but even though Shep Fields sang it first and Patsy Cline did a great job, this is Gene’s song from Gene’s 1939 movie “South of the Border,” and re-sung in Gene’s 1942 movie “Down Mexico Way,” and Willie did a good job too, and i wonder if Chris Isaak has ever been to Tijuana, but it’s still Gene’s song: after all he caught the bad guys fairly and squarely although they didn’t fight fairly and Gene did have the help of Frog…er, Smiley Burnett) — now, i gotta watch those two movies again: the plots alone makes me smile.
After those first sojourns across that line in the sand, which is becoming a wall only about eight miles from our house as the crow flies, trips to Tijuana were still along the lines of the image as portrayed in “Lucky Lady,” as well as further south to Califia, Puerto Nuevo, Rosarita, and Ensenada, the stuff of legends (which you will undoubtedly get wind of if i last long enough).
The majority of the trips were bargain hunting, and hence, why i connected Erik to Tijuana.
i first went down for bargain hunting with a wise old chief petty officer when i was on Amphibious Five Squadron staff. i was amazed as he hemmed and hawed and got mad and insulting and made fun of the sellers and threatened to walk out of store after store until he got goods of all sorts for what couldn’t have made a profit for the store. And they all loved it! When i commented on a stone chess set with matching stone board, he walked me through the game they played South of the Border down Mexico way until i walked away with the set, a couple of rugs, and a tequila decanter for about three bucks.
And damn if i didn’t enjoy it as well.
Then, my parents came to visit at the beginning of their annual treks to the Southwest corner, and my mother mentioned she wanted to go to Tijuana for she had heard they had those little glass animals and the glass cases used to show of the little animals. She did not need to prod me, and we were off to the border.
We walked through the gate and there was a sight to behold. Somewhere around three million, seven thousand, two hundred, and sixty-six paintings on black velvet with about three million, six thousand, one hundred and forty-two being paintings of Elvis in cheap wood frames lining the road into the shopping area. There were other bangles of all sorts, and gum, gum, gum being sold everywhere, ceramic pots, straw sombreros, felt sombreros, and serapes, serapes. Mother, Daddy, Maureen, and i worked our way through to the small shops, and we found one with the little animals and the cases. Soon we left with about a half-dozen of the little figurines for a couple of dollars with my mother and father startled by their son’s great talent — After she and my father learned the tricks, they would go each year and buy some things for family and friends as well as a couple of those glass cases for her and my Aunt Bettye Kate — when Mother saw some rugs she liked in the shop next to the glass shop. i began my wheeling and dealing in earnest again. Mother and Daddy had about a dozen rugs for folks back in Tennessee and i wheedled down. the salesman to less than ten dollars. As we were closing the deal, Maureen who had been wandering around the shop changed her mind and called me with the news she wanted two rugs she had found.
Blew the deal, the package of her and mother’s goods went for just less than twenty bucks.
While on this track, i should point out my favorite moment on these family outings was later when we had wandered down toward the end of the shopping area to a large open-air shop with mostly ceramic pots for plants and chimineas. At the bitter end of this place was a bigger than life-sized Creature from the Black Lagoon, if the real creature stood or swam at about eight-feet tall. My father and i went into plotting mode. We figured we could buy the thing for about twenty bucks. We decided it would be the perfect thing to ship to my brother Joe in Vermont with no labels noting who had sent it. We were reeling and rocking laughing all over that shop lot thinking of Joe when he opened the box.
However, Maureen and Mother pointed out the magnificent statue might not cost much but getting it across the border and shipping it to Vermont would likely run more than a brand new Porsche.
So it didn’t happen. But every year afterwards and just about anytime we were together, Jimmy Jewell and i would revisit that story and laugh all over again.
There was a special poignant moment on one bargaining trip. When leaving and crossing back over the border crossing before the walking bridge, a long line of folks lined the road up to the small gate that was a demarcation of sorts before the checkpoint. These folks were making a last ditch effort to sell you something worthless for anything they could get. Sometimes. they would get right up in your face, trying to convince you to buy. The most tragic were toddlers hawking small goodies as their mothers sat nearby.
On one trip coming back, i had warned my parents about how giving in and buying something would only encourage such activity and not really help anyone. As we neared the small gate, a small Mexican lass who couldn’t have been more than three walked up to my father as she held out a piece of gum. She was pretty. Her face was streaked with dirt and there were traces of tears down her cheeks. She had on a white taffeta dress and was barefooted. The dress, her legs, and feet were equally soiled.
i was going to say something to my father, but as he looked down at the little girl, i realized my saying anything would do no good. He reached down into his pocket, gave her a quarter, and gently tousled her hair.
He didn’t give a damn about the rules, about the games being played on the border. He loved that little girl. i could tell he was hurting for her and, if allowed, would have taken her home with him. This deal was just between him and that little child just like all of his relationships with children.
i admit i did get choked up a bit, but i didn’t cry and didn’t show i was choked up.
But sometimes when i remember that crossing, a tear does escape.
We don’t go South of the Border down Mexico way anymore. We have neighbors and friends who do go. Many frequently travel there. Many have relatives living there and some even live there and cross over to this side for work, shopping, or entertainment.
But not us. i told my cousin Nancy who was visiting from Florida a number of years ago when she inquired about how to go South of the Border, that she and husband shouldn’t go. i told her she could get most of the things she would want to buy right here in the Southwest corner. They could find the same cuisine on this side. It might cost a bit more. The chance of something happening like robbery, kidnapping, or being killed by the gangs was low, but it still existed.
To me, it’s not worth it. Sad, so sad because Tijuana is a great place to go. Great food. Fun places, and i’ve bragged about the shopping. And the margaritas taste superb when looking over the cliffs to the Pacific in Califia. Rosarita is just simply beautiful and delightful. Ensenada is a wonderful big city further south, and the lobster, er, longusta, in Puerto Nuevo with fries and a Modelo on picnic tables can’t be beat for the price. And there are some wonderful people there, just like here. Yet folks have been killed and kidnapped. Just not worth it.
But i need to get back to Erik and the reason i began this tome.
You see, this game began a couple of months ago when we decided to quit getting our daily delivery of a newspaper, and i wrote a post about losing a part of me. Maureen, actually more the reader than i, thought i should reconsider. Well, i will never get this saga straight, but i’ll try. Our renewal fee for eight weeks of daily delivery and internet access had been $64 for eight weeks, crazy to me and what had already given me the pause in considering renewal.
Then they raised our eight-week fee to $124. i called to protest and was connected to someone with a foreign accent and more than likely in Olongapo or Nigeria or Tasmania or Uzbekistan. Each time i called the foreigner found a lower rate. The internet response offered a great. deal for a fee greater than the last two i got over the phone. i kept calling.
You see as i noted in a previous post, for me, losing a daily newspaper would be like losing an arm or a leg, maybe both. It’s been in my blood for almost three score years. We had decided to ditch the Union-Tribune. Even at the reduced prices, it’s really not worth it, but it is part of my life.
And finally, i connected to Erik, put on my South of the Border bargaining sombrero and got the price down to seven bucks a week, a reduction well less than half of what they tried to charge us at the renewal about two months ago.
i caved, at least for another 8 weeks.
It still bums me out. In fact, the way we do business in general now bums me out. Lost leaders aren’t losses anymore. Whoever attracts customers with bargains is still making money. Price gouging is now a way of life, not an exception looked upon as a scam. Almost no one sells a product or service for what it’s worth. They want to make more. Everybody seems to want something for nothing. It seems we have quit worrying about how useful, how effective a product or service is except in our marketing and advertising where good looking women and handsome men and cute children are doing wonderful things because they bought the product and i’m sorry but i don’t think buying a Chevrolet or a a Lexus or a drug for a malady is going to let me live in some lala land and live happily ever after with visits to enchanting places surrounded by happiness. And customer service is more than likely an eternal trip in a phone tree into lala land.
Maybe it’s the politics (both sides) that have me on a rant. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe because i’m old and perfecting my role as a curmudgeon. Maybe it’s because my golf sucks. Maybe it’s because i can’t go to sea anymore. Hell, i can’t go see my grandson in Texas or my family and friends in Tennessee and elsewhere. Maybe that’s it.
But i caved and we will get our newspaper to read tomorrow morning. The Padres are breaking records and for the first time i can remember the records are for doing good baseball things, not bad. Erik is alive and well in someplace a long way away but not likely Olongapo, and he made a sell. Tijuana is still there and maybe before i reach 90, it will be safe enough to go do some bargaining and having a margarita atop Califia’s cliffs and eating longusta on the beach of Puerto Nuevo.
i think i’ll see what i can get a little glass animal for, and i will buy some gum for a quarter from a poor little girl.