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Fear & Loathing in Tijuana

Habeas Mentem

The first installment of our new series, in which our hero finds himself in Tijuana, broke and hustling to survive...

When last we heard from Habeas Mentem, our globe-trotting correspondent, he had washed up on the beach in Maui, having just returned from L.A., Amsterdam, Thailand, and Nepal. Although the sand and tides had devoured his gear and recent interviews, he was able to recover a portion of his interview with Dan Forbes. Desperate to get out of the suffocating hole that was Hawaii, he has now resurfaced in Tijuana, destitute and hustling for his very survival, pounding out missives from a hole-in-the-wall cyber-cafe run by hackers, furiously working to finish an article on DXM (dextromethorphan) which was assigned to him by this very webzine.

We here at are doing what we can to keep Mr. Mentem from having to night-walk the filth-strewn streets of Tijuana, and have contracted him to write a series of articles and travelogues following his life on the road. What we present to you now is the first report filed in the series we quaintly refer to as Crack Babies on Acid. Enjoy...


Tijuana is a filthy hole but the people are remarkably polite and affable. I have not yet encountered (knock on simulated wood-grain finish) one snotty person or short remark. I'm guessing Mexicans have a much lower rate of Prozac consumption per capita than our beloved U.S. citizens. The other gringos I see down here are the typical flotsam from San Diego, which has always been known as redneck-ville par excellence.

I remember a few years ago meeting two civilized vacationing Swiss girls at a restaurant here. Our conversation kept getting interrupted by a U.S. truck driver, obese and opinionated, sputtering non-sequiturs and ordering the waiters around like they were congressional pages. Humiliating. But I've gotten over that hang up. Now it just amuses me. Just another day at a border town....

Funny to see lab-coated pharmacists standing in front of their stores, hustling gringos to buy muscle relaxants. I swear I saw three of them actually disco-dancing in full get up on the sidewalk outside their drug emporium. But that's merely the Latin flair, not much different than the behavior of a typical U.S. pharmaceutical sales rep, that notorious bimbo who invades doctors' offices and psychiatric dens, big hair and mini-skirt done up like a cheerleader. A smooth leather "samples" case and glossy brochures at her beck...

I met a former pharmaceutical sales rep on Molokai Island. She said the job was immoral and she almost committed suicide from the guilt. Then she took up yoga, pot, and astrology, got a butterfly tattoo over her ass and took a job as a barkeep. Her first encounter with Big Pharm was a total swindle. I met another pharm rep in Honolulu not too long ago and she didn't seem very perturbed by her job. Actually, she seemed cheerful and full of life. Or maybe she was dipping into her sample kit....

Speaking of pharmaceuticals, have you heard of RU-21? The English rave magazine, MixMag, has their drug issue out, and they devote an article to it. It was supposedly invented by the KGB to neutralize the effects of alcohol, so agents could drink with the enemy... the article claimed it works perfectly....The graphics of the magazine are better than the writing, which seems aimed toward the crowd that picks up People magazine or the English equivalent thereof, but the issue was good for a cheap thrill. I couldn't believe all the English slang words they've got. Whole pages devoted to, "Stamping out Mogs!" or something like that. Utterly weird like Clockwork Orange.

This morning's walk intersected the wicked clangor and bleating of four cop cars speeding in what appeared to be, but wasn't, hot pursuit. They parked about a hundred feet away from me, kept their lights flashing, slowly got out and joined an already-assembled calvalcade of four other cop cars in front of a middle-class apartment building.

I was amused to see them actually greet each other with elaborate handshakes, like the kind you see juvenile delinquents perfom when they first meet. All nine or ten of them actually did this. First they shook hands, then balled their hands into a fist and tapped the top of one fist with the bottom of someone else's, then opened the hand and tapped the backs of their hands against each other and then joined each other's index fingers in a ring and pulled it apart. Evidently this particular ceremony expesses cop happiness in Tijuana. And it seemed, despite the fact that the sirens were still blazing on several cop cars, the case had been all bagged up a long time before I even arrived on the scene.

In my substandard Spanish, I asked an older guy dressed in rags and leaning up against a light post what all the fuss was about. He shrugged and said something to the effect that some street bums broke into an apartment when the occupants had gone and raided the fridge.

Must be a common occurence in a country with no safety net for the destitute. There's probably even a slang name for it...

Don't let anyone convince you otherwise, Tijuana on a beautiful day is gorgeous! So fantastically alive and picturesque, like frames out of a '70s Scorsese film (this might be because most of the cars on the street are from the '70s). But really, walking through the dirty streets and all the hurly-burly of people living hand-to-mouth (like this writer) you get a sense of the primal human life force. Traipsing through all the sunlight, the dust, the blue-turquoise buildings, the faded pink buildings, stucco hanging loose... You can understand how Jim Morrison became The Lizard King down here, "Ensenada, The Dog Crucifix" he declaimed.

Just why there are so many enormous and well-stocked pharmacies all over TJ is a mystery to me; can there really be that many gringos who come down here for muscle relaxants and Viagra? Which reminds me, a restaurant here not far from the Greyhound bus depot actually has "Viagra Soup" on the menu, which I thought must be a foul-tasting concoction. Until the proprietor told me there's no Viagra in it. Seems to be full of raw oysters...

Last night I went into a pharmacy with an alluring name and asked them if they had DXM in pure form. They didn't, but the pharmacist told me off-handedly he had OxyContin in 30-80 mgs. I was surprised because I thought that stuff was illegal in Mexico.

"Si, illegales here in Mexico. United States, too," he said as if commenting on the weather. I was going to ask him if he had a joint he could sell me, but I remembered the pharmacy was not too far from the police station and beat it.


Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2004-04-26 00:00:00