|Rest in peace, good buddy.|
I'd don my darkest sunglasses*, queue up something juicy on Audible and watch the rich tapestry of Mexican street life weave itself around my surprisingly soundproof SUV.
There is only one ride and I don't recall any glitter-encrusted statuettes of Betty Boop as a sexed-up Virgen of Guadalupe the last time I visited Big Tex, but there are animals and hustlers and hundreds of vendors selling food custom designed to kill.
Crossing from Tijuana to California can take upwards of three hours if you hit it just wrong, which I invariably did.
I am a risk-taking girl, but I've always drawn the line well before dodging into one of those poorly-illuminated alleys featuring handpainted signs promising "Baños Limpios: 5 Pesos".
That means I've always avoided eating street food at the border despite the throngs of dented old carritos --little carts that are often no more than old ice chests on wheels-- where you can get anything your hungry heart desires with a heaping side of e. coli, no extra charge.
|photo from howardcc.edu|
The exotic allure waned,
It wasn't until we returned from two months of travel that my heart leapt at the prospect of spending time at the busiest land border crossing in the world.
Call it cultural assimilation, call it Stockholm Syndrome, I don't care. I was thrilled to be back.
It takes a special sort of tired to be glad to see the Tijuana central bus terminal with its crumbling pastel walls and their five peso bathrooms where there's only one central roll of toilet paper and each stall gets hosed down in its entirety, successfully wetting yet without cleaning every available surface.
I was that special sort of tired.
I beamed at the taxi driver.
I even beamed at the toothless man wearing half a 1970's leisure suit holding what was surely his prized fighting rooster in loosely woven basket, and we invited him to play a round of Siete Loco --a variation on the card game Crazy Eights-- with us until our bus arrived.
He took a proffered Coke, but didn't want to leave his chicken.
That joy expired shortly after we boarded the bus for the long haul down to our part of the peninsula. The combined aroma of anchovies and stale urine has the power to dampen even the highest of spirits and although I dearly wished the bathroom hadn't required the remainder of my travel-size antibacterial spray, I was --in a strange and possibly demented way-- glad to be home.
*Pro Tip: I'm loyal to Ray-Ban for my sunglasses and although Clubmasters are my signature specs, the lenses are usually too transparent to avoid eye contact with vendors desperate to catch you looking. Stick with Wayfarers or Aviators if you can.