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Mexico is a Lover (But Tijuana is Violence)

Habeas Mentem

In which our hero meets Saiku, a fellow traveler with a harrowing tale to tell...

Saiku is a Japanese exchange student from a well-off family who has been in the States for just four months studying "Ingrish" at some artsy private school in Los Angeles. Not having traveled much, he decides a one day trip to México might be fun. He looks at his enormous bank account, then the peso exchange rate, and decides, Hi! Hi! Hi!, a short jaunt to Tijuana would suit him fine.

Exultant, he sets about buying flashy travel gear: a bright purple Gortex wind-breaker, bright shiny expensive Lowe backpack, Nike jogging shoes with fluorescent stripes, big fluffy exuberantly-colored knit cap. In other words he becomes the perfect mark. The eternal Have, parading amidst the salivating fangs of the Have-Nots. Clueless, Saiku gets on a Greyhound (known by the lumpenproletariat as The Dirty Dog) and heads south.

Later that night...

He gets back on an empty Greyhound and sits behind me, a broken wreck. A few minutes later he asks politely, but urgently, if I have a cell phone. I say No. Since we're practically the only people on the bus, I ask him where he's from. Kyoto, he says. Then I tell him (he didn't understand a word) my tale of being left behind by the bus driver from the last Greyhound leaving customs. But my tale of tribulation pales considerably next to his.

Saiku prefaced his story by holding up a bloody, gouged-out hand, a large puncture-wound that will require stitches, made by a deadly hoodlum butterfly knife. Copious blood dried around the edges of his hand. Saiku spoke the worst Ingrish I have ever heard. He constantly perplexed me with the incessant repeating of totally unintelligible words. Nevertheless, I manage to piece together the harrowing experience that Saiku underwent one unlucky night just fifteen minutes south of the U.S. border.

Arriving in TJ all hale and hearty, our son of the Rising Sun alights from the Greyhound in an expansive mood. It is night on the Avenida Revolucion, the streets are riotous with testosterone-fueled revelers and giggling co-eds in college sweatshirts, young merry-makers sloshed on free tequila shots provided by unscrupulous club owners.

So Saiku saunters about, just grooving on the abject abandon in the streets and bars, so uncommon in his own homeland of staid office workers, nervous students, self-effacing Geisha girls and quietly murderous Yukuza mobsters. He finds himself before an ornate hotel: four stars, perfectly well-kept and dating from another epoch. He is about to check in when he is accosted by a suspicious-looking male with a wide grin and brown teeth. Said suspicious-looking male easily hornswaggles the over-privileged Japanese rube into coming to his, the hornswaggler's, hotel. This would be Saiku's most serious mistake, one which would soon cost him six-hundred U.S. dollars and possibly thousands more.

Saiku goes into the new hotel, a shabby heap of ferroconcrete and asbestos, is greeted effusively by a manager who does not seem to acknowledge the hoodlum's presence at all. But never mind, thinks Saiku. All is well and this hotel costs a pittance, a mere fraction of that rather established-looking one he almost went to.

Now ensconced in his decrepit room, an hour passes by, and although the room's window gives a view only of an alley, an alley where an indigent Mestizo mother is instructing one of her several small children to defecate, he settles in.

Suddenly, he hears a fervent knock on the door. Saiku asks who it is.

"Let me in, Saiku. It is I, the hoodlum who escorted you here. I have news; yes, important news for you..."

Saiku opens the door and in walks said hoodlum, brandishing a large butterfly knife, blade exposed and pointed at Saiku's face.

"I'll take all of your money now, thanks," says the hood. "All of it."

Saiku finds the situation not to his liking. Being the fearless son of the Rising Sun, and with quite a lot of cash to lose, Saiku tries to wrestle the knife away. Hoodlum then stabs Saiku in the hand and blood starts to spew out everywhere. The fight soon moves to the closet-sized bathroom where the toilet is quickly destroyed. Water is shooting up from pipes, flooding the entire room.

Saiku calls out for anyone to hear, "Please to help me! Please to help me!" After many repeats of this, the manager begrudgingly appears. He calmly surveys the situation and then informs Saiku that he must now pay to have the toilet repaired, a reasonable sum of $300 U.S. dollars. Saiku refuses, and being a solid middle-class gent, demands the police.

Oddly enough, the hoodlum simply strolls out. Not even recognized by the manager. Saiku demands justice! The manager nonchalantly calls the police, and looks aghast as Saiku proceeds to desecrate the hotel towels, soaking several of them with blood while staunching his enormous puncture wound.

A Federale soon arrives, looking suspiciously at Saiku, barely acknowledging the manager. Saiku says, (how I cannot begin to fathom, since I could barely understand a single word he ever said), that he's not paying a dime to the hotel manager because he, the manager, was clearly in cahoots with this hoodlum who just robbed him of six hundred dollars cash, and allowed him to just disappear like vapor, like mist!

The manager gets a dumb look, a sheepish look of mild curiosity crossing his face.

The Federale asks, "No eespeak Eenglesh, Senor?"

"Yesh I speak! I demand Jushtish! I not pay! I llobbed! I llobbed in this hotel lloom!"

The Federale, surveying the demolished, flooded room, gently gets out his handcuffs and puts them on the bloody, stunned Saiku. He leads him out of the room, no doubt passing a meaningful look at the manager, a look intimating something like, I'll be back for my cut in an hour, you asshole.

So, in the squad car, Saiku, criminal Nipponese that he is, is requested by this tireless Mexican public servant to pay a fee for both the toilet and any filing expenses this case may incur. Saiku, breaking out in one more penultimate sweat, his body long since kicked into maximum adrenaline-release mode, looks down at himself, bloody and in handcuffs, and asks the heroic Mexican constable how he is to give over his cash since a) it was all stolen by a hoodlum, a hoodlum whose existence no one but himself has yet to acknowledge and b) how to reach his wallet (which still contains credit cards) since he is confined in manacles? The cop says no problemo. I'll take your ATM card, and you give me your PIN number, and I will withdraw the necessary funds for you.

Now this is the part in the story that makes one wonder about the Haves vs. the Have-Nots, because Saiku, trusting Nipponese rube that he was, actually did this with nary a tremor for his bank account. It was only several hours later, while talking to me, that I informed him that Mexican cops are not like the Japanese cops, whose legs you, Saiku, no doubt ran laughingly under and through as a child. Japanese cops actually make a living wage and are less likely to rob the populace at large. Mexican cops are all on the take and have been since the mushroom cults were outlawed, since Polk's war, at least since the McKinley administration...

When I made this clear to him, Saiku let out a loud groan and hit his head with his one undamaged hand.

"How much money did you have in your account?" I asked.

"Six thousand dollars."

"What you'll have to do is call your bank tomorrow and let them know. It should be okay. They'll just close your account or something..."

Seems doubtful Saiku would ever go back to TJ. No, I'm sure he'll never go back to TJ.


Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2004-05-03 00:00:00