Essay: Tijuana, Mexico from The Top of the World
By Adam Gnade
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Last night Thad and I crossed the border at San Ysidro and went into Mexico. The time before it was the bullfight and a heavy day. This time we walked past the lights and stripclubs and barkers on Revolución and went for the hills.

Along the ridge above town is a line of mansions and palaces, great steel and glass haciendas, alabaster bell towers and arches, big spires and stone walls looking down on the cardboard box shanties and ruined shacks.

We got where we wanted to go but it took a while. A good, hard walk. Tense moments along the dark turns where rattling jalopy cars barreled down on us and raced around the corners. Shaky parts of town like war-time Bosnia. Rubble, graffiti, and cars parts.

“You ever get that feeling like you’re suddenly in a bad place?” asked Thad. “Like you’ve gone from the place where it’s acceptable for you to be to a place where you’re not welcome? Where people might not be out for your best interests?”

“Sure, yeah. France especially. Anywhere me and Jamey went.”

“I don’t. I never have,” he said as the road up the hill wound around another bombed out, yellow-lit turn. “All through Bahrain and Guatemala, Europe, all those places, I never felt it. I never felt like my life was at stake.”

“Do you feel it here?”

“No, but I think a lot of people wouldn’t feel safe where we are. Do you?”

“Safe? Yeah, I feel good here.”

At the top of the ridge we saw both cities—both countries—sprawling out below us. San Diego, safe and sleeping, the dark patch of San Miguel Mountain to the east with its radio towers blinking red in the mist, the Coronado Bridge, the border, then Tijuana, all lights and traffic and neons.

On the way down the hill we finished the pint of tequila we brought and then stopped at a corner store and got some beer. It was late but the neighborhood was still up. Rangy dog gangs loping under the street lights. Hipster Mexican kids out on dates in the park.

We drank the beer on a park bench across from a baseball field and watched a family play slow-pitch softball.

Sitting on the bench we said the abstract and open-ended things you say when you’ve just done something big and real and physical. We talked about direction and purpose and whether to go with the money or follow your heart.

I wish the photos I took could show you what Tijuana looks like at night from a top the big hill. They don’t, but here they are…

mex

BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com

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