TJ afternoon

by Joel Siegfried

Last Wednesday, I made another foray to Tijuana with my friend Joel. We stopped by a wholesale produce market to have a look around. There were seeds and dried spices of all sorts, melons, veggies, peppers, and candies. By a few of the stalls there were even some caged parrots, cockatoos and other chirpers who looked quite interested in all the activity. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant that we had been passing on the street for months. There was a counter with a chef in a tall white cap behind it, but we sat at a table off to one side, away from the two televisions that were constantly on, each to a different station. I just hate that in restaurants. We both had hot dishes, me a fish sukiyaki served on a sizzling platter that wouldn't stop hissing for 5 minutes. It had a few veggies on it, and a tiny bowl of rice alongside and tasted very sweet. My friend had something with chicken, served in a small bowl. The food was good, but the portions were small. This scarcity carried over to the size of the Margaritas and iced teas. Lunch came to about $8. Afterwards I did something extremely daring. I got a haircut. In fact, I stumbled upon a beauty college and got up the nerve to entrust my locks to them. The price was a whopping 88 cents! My stylist was a guy, and he first showed me a picture book of various hair styles. I wanted to try something different like an Afro or a Mohawk, but my conservative nature took hold, aided by the meagerness of the Margaritas at lunch, so I just pantomimed what I wanted him to cut, where and how much. This fellow did a methodical job, hair by hair. I thought it would never end. An instructor even stopped by to survey the carnage, and make suggestions on technique. He even shaved my neck and ears with a straight razor. A nice finishing touch was the barber holding up a broken mirror shard so I could admire his handiwork. It turned out to be one of the best haircuts that I've ever gotten. Perhaps not as good as the one in Macau, which I got after winning $100 at the Lisboa Casino, but good nonetheless. My friend missed it all, as he was reading one of the local newspapers while I got sheared in the back.

After the haircut, we bused to the part of town we wanted to explore. That was an adventure in itself. Instead of taking one of the red jitneys that cruised the streets, we opted for a mini-bus as we thought it would be more comfortable. You know the little circus Volkswagen, that pulls up and disgorges 50 clowns. Well, that was nothing compared to this mini van. Maybe it held six rows of seats, 20 places in all, but people kept on boarding at different stops, and NOBODY got off. How could they, being wedged in against one another, with packages, lollipops, everything but goats and roosters. I couldn't believe it. I get sort of claustrophobic is such situations. The crowds combined with the heat and lurching made me start to feel ill. But before I could work up a good vomiting scenario, we managed to get off within a block of our intended destination. What a ride.

On the way to a new shopping complex that had ten cinemas, I decided that I needed to find an ice-cream. We happened to pass a new MacDonalds, a chain that I never frequent stateside, but seeing all the happy faces coming out licking on these treats convinced me to give it a shot. A "Cono" only cost 2 pesos, 25 cents. So I scored another economic coup.

We browsed the mall, then headed back towards the border, managing to find a jitney that only had six other passengers. It seemed spacious compared to the minibus. We did stop for beers. It was towards sunset, and I wanted to try and find a garden restaurant with a fountain, but such an image is impossible to locate in Tijuana. We settled on Tapas Espagnol, a sidewalk cafe in a little courtyard with Flamenco music coming from within. The dark beers tasted so great, that we decided to order some tapas with it. I got a Spanish tortilla, which is actually a peasant's omelette made with potatoes, onions, and green peppers, and my friend had an asparagus vinaigrette salad. We traded portions of each. With it they always bring baskets of bread, and plates of sliced limes, salt, and various bottles of hot sauces. As they say, it hit the spot. Then a short walk across the border, and we took the trolley to our cars, having cheated death yet again.

copyright by
Joel Siegfried
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