Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tijuana Travesty Follow-Up #3

As I wrote Tijuana Travesty, I nearly included a part about a final stop we made on the way back to the border. The problem was that I could not remember if that happened on the night of our initial bender or on a subsequent trip with Ritch and Matt into Mexico. Since my memory of that stop was so vivid, I concluded that it must have happened some other time and left it out. Then I received an e-mail from Matt this morning that read:

What, you forgot events of that night Ritch? And Jim did too??? I can't imagine why you guys would have that problem. Oh wait, you were sauced out of your gourds. Honestly, it is kind of nice knowing that your memories of that night are so dim. Did you guys forget about stopping by Chuteys House of Beer on the way back to the border and you getting friendly with a couple of the "ladies of the night" otherwise known as hoors (said in your best Sopranos accent). All I can say is that if the next time we go to TJ and you guys see some 15 yr olds selling chicklets while drinking gallons of tequila and eating bacon wrapped hot dogs, RUN ! ! !

So it has been confirmed. I left out our stop at Chutey’s House of Beer. Not wanting to keep the whole story, as best as I can relay it, from Ritch and Matt’s friends and family, here is the omitted section (the original article has been updated accordingly). By the way, the way I remember it, Matt was the only one getting friendly with the working girls though admittedly, completely and utterly against his will.

We were on our way back to the side of the US - Mexico border that had sanitary public transportation when Matt and myself finally gave up. We had been carrying Ritch for several blocks and had finally just worn ourselves out. We desperately needed a break. As we were approaching the intersection where the Tijuana’s Revolution strip began the number of restaurants and nightclubs started to dwindle, replaced by merchant businesses selling counterfeit handbags, leather goods, native crafts, t-shirts and switchblade knives. As far as we could tell, there were only two options available to us for a little respite. The first was the Hard Rock Café, an establishment that probably would not be receptive to three obviously intoxicated patrons with a high potential for public projectile puking. The second option was located right next door within a dingy yellow windowless building that boasted a hulking Hispanic enforcer positioned just outside the front door and horrid Latino rock and roll music blaring out from within. It looked like a nasty place, a place full of woe and depravity where the bottom tier of Tijuana’s underclass could gather to plan acts of violence, rapine and thievery against hapless American tourists who lacked the sense, street smarts or sobriety to resist. In other words, it looked like a place that would make us feel right at home. The establishment was named Chutey’s House of Beer.

I felt an impending sense of doom as we passed through the doorway into the dank darkness that was Chutey’s and tried to prepare myself accordingly. I put the best scowl I could muster on my face and was a bit relieved to see that Matt had done the same. We needed to project to whatever dangers that lurked inside that we were not men to be trifled with. We needed to broadcast to any potential threats that we were extremely dangerous and capable of unleashing dramatic acts of unspeakable violence at the mere hint of trouble. We needed to ensure that every being within the confines of that decrepit little bar knew that we were men on the edge and the slightest provocation was certain invite nothing more than certain doom. At the time I thought we did a fairly good job at this but looking back, I do not see how we possibly could have. In 1990, though I stood three inches over six feet, I barely weighed 150 pounds. Matt was six inches shorter than I was and possessed a similar build. Ritch, who was by far the most naturally menacing of the three of us, was completely unable to move under his own power and with his incessant giggling sounded like a mildly retarded hyena in the process of a nitrous oxide overdose. He could not have been less intimidating had he stepped into Chutey’s with his hair in pigtails, tarted up in “Hello Kitty” underoos and carrying a Care Bear backpack.

My first act upon entering Chutey’s was to size up the crowd, a task that proved fairly difficult with eyes that were still accustomed to squinting in the Mexican sun after having consumed enough tequila to kill a Kennedy. Matt and myself poured Ritch into a booth against the wall and I scanned the tables that surrounded us. Based upon all of the long, straggly unkempt hair, tattered clothes, tattoos, glass eyes and missing teeth among the establishment’s other patrons, I came to the only conclusion I possibly could have under the severely compromised intellectual capacity that I had to work with. I concluded that we were surrounded by pirates and immediately panicked. Upon realizing our predicament, I suddenly saw what lay in store for us. I suspected that we would soon be set upon, being severely beaten, mugged and sexually ravaged before being sold to a band of sociopath white slavers operating from some remote base in Southeast Asia. I felt myself starting to melt down as my paranoia started bubbling to the surface and I felt sure that Matt would become similarly distressed if I relayed my suspicions about what I felt was imminent to him. Ritch, on the other hand, would have been fine. At this point, he was so bombed he probably would have been up for anything.

Aggressive attacks of anxiety, though more often associated with delusional hysteria, can also induce a moment of rationality in a person not usually prone to logical thought in the middle of a tequila bender. No sooner had I sat down than I realized that the Caribbean, and thus the Spanish Main, were off of Mexico’s other coast a continent away and this fact, coupled with the advances in the enforcement of maritime law that have taken place over the past five hundred years, suggested that a sizable buccaneer contingent hanging out in Tijuana’s tourist district was highly unlikely. I decided to give the crowd a second look.

My second glance, enhanced by eyes that had finally adjusted to the darkness and the brief emergence of some semblance of intellectual lucidity, produced slightly different results. I still saw an overabundance of people with unkempt hair, tattered clothes, tattoos, glass (or rather, lazy) eyes and missing teeth but I also noticed that we were, with the exception of the bartender and the doorman, the only men in the place. It then dawned on me, once I noticed that nearly every single woman around was seductively staring us down, that we had stumbled into a house of ill repute, a very bad house of ill-repute where the women looked uncannily similar to Caribbean privateers. Much more at ease now, I got up and walked to the bar to get us another round of beer.

As I told the bar’s proprietor that I wanted “tres Tecates”, I glanced back at my drinking buddies. Matt looked absolutely mortified and rather unable to pry his eyes off of the table in front of him for fear of initiating an unwelcome business proposition. Ritch looked like a newborn in Disney World, knowing that he was surrounded by articles of amusement but not yet quite able to control the movement of his head to look at any of them. As I looked at them, I heard a raspy voice from behind me ask, “How you doin’, mayn?” It almost sounded as if I was being propositioned by Louis Armstrong after a successful sex change operation. I spun around and was face to face with a woman who, though she was probably one of the most attractive ladies in the place from the waist up, was cursed with backside so incredibly large that it was an unusual find on a human animal. It would have looked much more appropriate on something that got around on four legs.

“Just fine.” I answered as I wished the bartender would quit taking his time with our drinks. She then asked me if I wanted to do something that, even though I was a sailor, I had never before thought imaginable. I was half tempted to take her up on the offer just out of morbid curiosity when good judgment got the best of me and I politely turned her down.

No sooner had my refusal passed my lips when I was confronted by another voice on the other side of me. “Whats-a-matta-mayn?” I had to look down to make eye contact with this one. Way down. I was being addressed by what I assumed to be the madam of the house who stood, maybe, four and a half feet tall. If I had to guess her age, based upon her white hair, gin blossoms, liver spots and raisin-esque skin texture, I would bet that she was old enough to have started her professional career as one of Pancho Villa’s consorts. She appeared to be a feisty little troll and once I looked down at her, she started laying into me. “Wha? You no like me guuurrrlz?”

“Oh, they’re fine ladies, but I’m not here for myself.”

“Who you here for dhen?” She pointed a thumb over towards Ritch, whose head was still drowsily bouncing all over place while his insane giggling never skipped a beat. “Heem?”

I pointed over at Matt, who had no idea how much more uncomfortable his first visit to a brothel was about to become. “No, him. He’s never been with a woman before. I think it’s high time someone went over there and showed him a good time.”

I could barely contain myself as I watched the midget geriatric stroll across the bar and slip into the seat next to Matt. Shortly afterwards, the bartender brought me my beer and, for one last time before I returned to my drinking companions, I stole a glance to my left to check out the grotesquely deformed derriere on the woman who occupied the five or six seats next to me. She caught me looking and asked, “Do you lahk wha you see?”

“It’s amusing,” I answered as I wondered if she was capable of facing south without sending that massive thing through immigration control. In 1990, NAFTA was nothing more than a rallying cry for Ross Perot so I could see how an unauthorized backside border breech could cause some mighty incredible inconveniences for a working girl plying her trade that close to the US.

Now, though it would be as unfair as it would be untrue to describe Matt as being “uptight”, it would not be misleading if I said that he is among one of the most straight-laced people that I knew at that time. Though capable of enjoying himself, cracking an occasional off-color joke and mistreating his grey matter as well as the rest of us, when push came to shove, he was on firm moral footing and was steadfast enough to resist any peer pressure prodding him towards doing something he was outright opposed to. Still, it was always fun to try and I can honestly say that there are few things funnier than watching Matt squirm his way through a situation that he is thoroughly uncomfortable with, such as being profoundly felt up a four foot tall geriatric whose vintage suggests that, in addition to working in the world’s oldest profession, may very well have started it herself. As a fairly naïve seventeen-year-old, Matt was WAY out of his element in Chutey’s House of Beer and I would not have been able to live with myself had I not exploited him in some way.

The last memory I have of that particular pit stop was of Matt writhing under the hands of a woman who displayed amazing dexterity for someone her age. His eyes were opened as large dinner plates and his laughter, though loud, had very little humor to it. He played it off well but the look on his face was absolutely priceless. It was kind of a combination of amusement, disbelief, irritation, discomfort and fear all rolled into one. There is no way that a written description could possibly do it justice but tragically, digital cameras were barely even thought of in 1990 and Al Gore had not yet gotten around to inventing the World Wide Web. Trust me, if this excursion taken place five years later I have little doubt that Matt would have enjoyed more than his fair share of internet celebrity. It was definitely a Kodak moment and to this day I have that expression indelibly etched upon on brain. Unfortunately, most of what happened immediately after that was permanently erased.

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