If you live in southern California chances are you’ve crossed over the border into Tijuana, Mexico. I’ve crossed a handful of times, always a crazy story with each. Once your over there it’s a completely unique world; different laws, smell, taste, way of life, etc. I even played basketball there once having to stay overnight. Not a fun experience. Nonetheless, I know my way around the city. The drinking age is only 18 and there’s no where else you can order an authentic and tasty A.M.F. (Adios Mother Fucker for those who haven’t experienced). While I usually don’t remember my trips down south, I’m glad I remembered this one. Getting pestered by the Federalies, getting money stolen and having a friend not make it through the border back to America. This was a trip we all will never forget!
When you are 18 years old in California your boredom is quite limited; Go to the movies, miniature golf, hang with friends at In & Out, chase girls. Every teenager can’t wait until they 21. Why is that? The magic words: Alcohol, Liquor, Bars, discos, VEGAS BABY. Well, what do you do before then? Some were ballsy enough to buy a fake ID or even steal one at a house party. After watching my white friend A-Rob use an asian’s fake ID and get turned down at every 7-11 in town, I ruled out stealing an ID. Yet, it wasn’t just about drinking or buying alcohol. It was entering places only 21+ year old adults were allowed. Just to smell the drunk folk, listen to others sob about their day at work or watch others karaoke Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” after a few happy-hour cocktails. That’s what it was all about. It was easy to get alcohol from the parents liquor cabinet or ask an older brother, but there was no substitute for being able to enter a local hole in the wall bar or fancy Vegas club. Or was there? Only a few hours drive down south was a place where the under 21 year old crowd travelled to have a taste of that adult life. The wild and dirty border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
A handful of friends and I decided that before college came our way, we should have one of those drunken Summer weekends down south. The plan was to go to San Diego for a few nights. Being poker fanatics, the main purpose of the trip was to gamble at the Indian Casinos (Gambling is legal at 18 years old on the reservation). The trip would be concluded with a night in Tijuana. Once the last of us turned 18 it was time to rock out and head to San Diego, which in German means “Whale’s Vagina,” according to Rob Burgundy. While only half of us experienced what Tijuana had to offer, some were beyond curious and even frightened. It was just a place you had to see for yourself.
One San Diego hotel room for six guys, plenty of beer and excitement all around us. After a few lackluster days at the Indian Casino the time had come to cross over to the other side. Everyone put on their best outfit, pounded a few beers and off we went to the border. A few of our virgin friend crossers had plenty of questions. I didn’t blame them for there were many myths told about Tijuana; Being arrested for public urination, “Federalies” (Mexican Police) stealing money from Americans, Donkey Shows, etc. Maybe some of them held water, but I hadn’t experienced any of this in the past visits. I offered them full protection as I was the biggest of the group and was expected to help out. I just didn’t show them my own fear as I was scared every time I went to Mexico.
Some of us hopped on the train that took us to the border, while the others packed a car and drove. Being a bit intoxicated and chatty we happened to meet a couple girls on the train going our way. They seemed like the type that did this every weekend. One was a skinny white blonde, looked more like a junkie. The other was black with a huge weave and definitely had a chip on her shoulder. Always a smart idea to travel in a big group in Mexico, you just never know what could happen. We chatted and waited for our other friends to arrive and the walk began into Tijuana.
Funny thing about Mexico was anybody could cross without question, but coming back…that was a different story. So we walked and walked and walked. It must be a quarter mile hike up and down zig-zagged walkways until we reach the dirty pearly gates. The dirty pearly gates are one-way huge steel, circular swinging bars that make it impossible to return once you’ve crossed. In the blink of an eye we were in Mexico. It was about nine o’clock and we were headed to the only strip of clubs we knew, Avenida Revolucion. Getting there wasn’t that difficult, but there were many paths to choose from.We decided to let the veteran junkie girls take the lead. We first crossed over a huge wash that was so pungent I could feel the acid in my stomach churn and slowly approach my throat. We could see some families living down there and somebody asked, “How can they live down there?” A few of us replied in unison, “Welcome, this is Mexico dude!” We approached a familiar town center where I once bargained for a marble chess set ($70 down to $25) and some handmade necklaces. Being nighttime, all the daytime shops were closed making the hustle and bustle of the usually overcrowded center seem like a ghost town. As this walk was never-ending, someone mentioned they had to take a leak. Before I could tell him to hold it he found a mysterious set of stairs in the middle of this ghostly center leading down to a locked door. With no one around but us, he willingly took a few steps down and relieved himself. We carried on and before we knew it we could hear someone yelling Spanish behind us, “Parada, Parada!!” (Spanish for Stop). While I told everyone to keep looking forward, the man was quickly onto my friend Ryano who had just urinated all over Tijuana. As Ryano stopped in his tracks, we noticed the man happened to be a Federalie (Mexican Policeman). Who would’ve thought! The Federalie gathered us up while he went to the crime scene with his flash light to investigate. After seeing the damage, the Federalie approached Ryano and asked for his ID. Ryano handed him his CA drivers license and the Federalie checked it out, obviously knowing we’re all Americanos. Not knowing what to do we started to develop a contingency plan. I knew one thing and one thing only, NEVER let your friends go to jail in Mexico. Those jail stories told by my older friends who visited here in the past always haunted me. Yet, it’s amazing how quick a plan could be developed in such a hostile and sticky situation. We daringly spoke out loud in English thinking the Federalie wouldn’t understand. These were the quick options we came up with; Plan A: Beat the living shit out of the Federalie, as there was only one of him and ten of us, and run as fast as possible out of that area. Plan B: Somehow pay him off and plead to let us go on our way. With two votes for Plan A and the rest for Plan B, the girls took it upon themselves to help us out. The Federalie got on his walkie-talkie and as it sounded as if he was asking for backup, the junkies hesitantly threw money in his face. In America, bribing cops is a no-no, but things changed once over the border in another country. As he denied this offer very quickly, the junkie girls turned on their magic junkie charm and we were somehow let go. The license was handed back and he told us to leave the area. Being a fast walker, I’ve never seen people walk so fast in my life. From danger to safety in a matter of minutes, we slowly made it out of the center and blended in with the other party-goers on Avenida Revolucion. We all couldn’t believe what had just transpired. I guess the myth about urination was right, but for now it remained a myth as we were free to party. What would the rest of this night have in store?
Avenida Revolucion was lit up with drunk teenagers wanting to enjoy the under-aged adult club life like us. Everywhere we looked was a Mexican bartender blowing a whistle offering a mouth full of tequila. Bright neon signs seemed to go on for an eternity, all of them some kind of bar or club. Starting somewhere in the middle we just randomly made our way into where we saw the most girls; the Sahara Club. This club was as hot and sweaty as the Sahara Desert itself. Yet, with a $25 cover charge and unlimited drinks how could you go wrong. We were sure any other club was the same way and proceeded directly to the bar. Hundreds of blue drinks were aligning the bar. “What is this?” Someone asked. “An Adidos Mother Fucker!” The bartender replied. Before we could figure out why it was called that, I think we were better to find out the hard way. Plenty of dancing, drinks and drunk fun ensued. A few friends grabbed me and said, “Let’s go to the titty bar across the street.” Already bludgeoned with A.M.F. after A.M.F. a change of scenery was needed.
Leaving the others partying in club, a few of us ventured off across the street to see some quick boob action. One of my friends was beyond excited, already talking of the $5 hand-jobs his other friends told him these strip clubs offered. The Tijuana strip clubs offered a little bit more then your average California strip club. You named it, you pretty much got it. We walked up a long stairway to a bodyguard and Federalie checking ID. Checking ID’s was rare in Mexico, even in the Sahara club we paid $25 and walked right in. I was a little suspicious. As the first of my friends got stamped and entered, I was left with my friend Farzi. Farzi was an American but born in Afghanistan, so he obviously looked the part. He showed them his California Drivers License and they immediately pestered him for more than the stated cover charge. I don’t even think my friends paid a peso to enter. Wondering what was going on, I tried to interfere as they were searching him for his wallet. Being denied by the security guard, Farzi was left helpless. A type of racial profiling was happening and I wasn’t liking it. While I offered my protection, there was nothing I could do. Farzi not knowing what to do handed over what he had and they let us enter. Crushed by what had just happened I tried to brighten his spirits by telling him I’d sponsor him for one of those $5 hand-jobs our friend was talking about. A curtain was opened and smelly body odor, loud whistling and hundreds of boobs struck us. We were escorted by the same men who stole money from my friend to a round table with half broken chairs. While we were already ready to leave because of the incident, we decided to let this play out and enjoy our time staring at naked women. The private dance rooms were fully visible cubicles lining the wall, some with a curtain and some without. Bodily fluids were visible everywhere. Not my type of joint. We could see strippers riding patrons and doing every sexual favor possible. My friend quickly felt that this wasn’t the place to get a cheap hand-job in full view of his closest friends. Disappointed, we finished up our free drinks, enjoyed some of the free titties that were bounced in each of our faces and we were out of there. Not the highlight of the trip, but definitely a vivid memory in our minds.
A few friends had already given up on the night and retreated back to the hotel. I think not getting a $5 hand-job pissed off a few of us. The rest of us drank and danced for as long as we could stand upright. Knowing we had to make it back before the train system shut down for the night, we gathered the drunken troops and made the struggling walk back to America. Friends carrying other friends in their arms, people puking on the sides of roads, I guess Tijuana and A.M.F.’s took it out of all of us. Nobody would be left here alone though. The walk sobered a few of us up and before we knew it we were at the border checkpoint. Unlike the free walk into Tijuana, the walk back to America required photo ID checks by American border patrol and random body searches. You handed the officer your ID, it was scanned and checked for outstanding warrants or any other red flags and into America you went. That easy right? Once again, all my friends went through without problems and Farzi and I were left behind. I handed the man my ID first, he asked if I had any contraband on me, I replied, “No, sir” and he wished me a good night. Once you were scanned you were to immediately exit and wait outside. There was no waiting for others inside. I came out to a line of high-fives by my few friends still standing in the wee hours of the morning. “We made it back!” We then waited for the last man, Farzi. Knowing he was next in line behind me, I expected to see him within a few minutes.
Twenty minutes passed by and there was no sign of him. With only one exit, there was no where else he could’ve gone. We remained calm, patient and drunk. Twenty more minutes passed by and we started to worry. There was only a few more minutes left to catch the last train. A few of our friends decided to escape the situation and headed back before there was no way to get back. Only three of us were there standing with no place to sit except the concrete floor. We stood and watched all the wasted teens we saw in the club that night crawl back into America. One hour passed. My friend finally decided to ask the officer standing outside the exit where our friend was. Before he could say a word the officer aggressively pointed and told him to get away from the exit and wait with the others. No help there. We are now completely lost to what could’ve happened. Knowing little about our friends background, we wondered if he needed papers since he was born in Afghanistan. He had a California drivers license and lived in the same city we had since we were kids. I was ignorant to think he was American enough for me. Border patrol wasn’t that ignorant, but if that was the issue how would we know and help him. Four hours passed. We still stood looming in and out of consciousness. We tried to amuse each other with stories from the night. The constant wave of teenagers coming back to America had slowed down to a halt. There was no way we could just leave
Farzi and hope he got out and made it back to the hotel safe. It was now six in the morning, the sun was coming up and as we were half asleep. We awoke to witnessing a Mexican man get almost beaten to death by two black guys right in front of us. We weren’t dreaming at all. Some argument occurred and ended with these men beating another man with a sweater full of rocks. Just more drama for the night/morning. We expected that sort of thing at the border. There was nothing we could do but watch. We knew we needed to get our friend and get out of that hell hole. As the man lay there bloody and sirens ringing in the background an officer yelled one of our names. We looked at each other in relief. Our friend, Champ, walked over and spoke with the officer. He told us that Farzi needed his papers to cross the border and that he is stuck in secondary (The drunk tank/Illegal immigrant room). If he paid $200 they’d release him. A man that was stolen from and taken into custody in secondary. I would guess Farzi was never coming back to Tijuana ever again, unless we couldn’t get him out and he was stuck there forever. Our troubles were far from over as none of us could collectively come up with the money. We called our friends who we assumed were sound asleep in the comfortable hotel bed. No answer from anyone. Us three were still at square one. After numerous attempts and a phone whose battery was about to die, someone finally picked up. We told them of the situation and all they could say was, “I’m not paying $200!” Obviously the Indian Casinos stole everyone’s hard earned cash and we were all broke. After word got around to the others who made it safely back to the hotel, they were on their way back to the border. As they parked their truck and came to save the day, I could only think about laying down. I proceeded to the bed of his truck for a quick nap knowing the situation was going to be handled. Almost two hours later I awoke to Farzi’s voice. They finally let him out. I guess many papers had to be filed and he still had to wait his turn to get out of secondary. Poor guy!
As we originally crossed the border around one in the morning, it was now nine. Eight hours later we were excited to have our friend back alive. We followed this late late night with a trip to Denny’s to hear what happened. The few of us who managed to stand at the border for eight hours could barely keep our eyes open listening to Farzi tell his story. The border patrol was ready to let Farzi go through when they asked him where he was born, Farzi answered, “Afghanistan” and they immediately asked for his green card. When he replied, “I don’t have it” and he didn’t think he needed it, they threw him into secondary, no questions asked. Tough ride for a first time in Tijuana. I guess we all learned a big lesson here, wait until we’re of age to party in our own country!