Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Tijuana images

I was going to say that Tijuana has completely changed from its old days as a "border town for wild times", but then I'd have to dishonestly omit the story about the woman who offered to make me a "deal" just after I crossed the border last Sunday at 9 a.m. with promises of new experiences at a massage parlor which she expressed as having a burger king philosophy (have it your way, with a by the hour price, for, apparently, anything flame broiled one might seek), my polite refusal of same, and my angst over whether I look like a man who needs financial propositions (and people outside of farmacias offering me Viagra) and so I'll omit the "new Tijuana" observation. But it is much more than a seedy border town as some believe. It's a rich, vibrant culture, troubled and not materially wealthy, but somehow dignified in its own way, not altogether of either country, but its own thing.

By the way, she was very polite, kept telling me to smile, and then directed me to cheaper folk art once it was clear I was not a "massage type", to be found at the mercado by the church. I could not find the church, though I've been there before, and instead settled for the shops. Would you join me for a morning of pure joy, unfettered by stereotypes?

Every time I come to Tijuana, it changes. Always it has farmacias, but this time they were EVERYWHERE.
I guess Viagra, paxil and the various other modern meds "essential" to modern life, all available cheaply there, really boost the local economy. Hawkers stood outside the nicest ones, in little lab coats, calling out drug names.

I come to shop in many little folk art stores and stands, though, for items costing 3 and 5 and 7 dollars each (after haggling). Usually, Tijuana haggling is trickier than elsewhere in Mexican markets, but this particular Sunday people saw my inner Monte Hall and were ready to make a deal. Only one man was uncooperative, quoting me an outrageous price on a lucha mask, when I told him my interest was desultory. I laughed and told him he was funny, that that this did not make the sale. I was amazed at how much good I could do bargaining,largely because I never really cared if I got any particular item or not, and yet never tried to gouge anyone. I always overpaid, but only somewhat, a nice compromise between "chump-ness" and "score points against poorer people".

Row upon row of stuff for tourists, hand-painted and from all over Mexico and not "art" in the "art" sense at all, some say, I suppose, but I find it all quite charming and it is all good to me. This picture is one dark window into my personal joy:

Wow, where is the flash?

I bought my first piece at a shop with nice people.
We bargained down nicely. Everyone wanted me to bargain this time. Maybe I looked like one of life's hagglers. I was casually dressed. When I had a few packages, the people realized I was a buyer and the bargains flew. None were "really" bargains, and I always slightly overpaid. My purpose was not "winning", but just entering into the spirit of the thing. The nice clerk directed me to the bakery in the Gigante grocery store, where the baked goods were new-made and Heavenly. Oh my goodness! I love baked goods sometimes.

No shopping trip is complete without a blanket or two:

I overpaid a bit for my kingsize horse blanket, but I was almost due to be back at the trolley.

Another man, for whom I bargained for a half moon with a face painted on it, saving a dollar here and there, told me that I was his first customer. I told him I was the "lucky customer" and that his day would be good.

I met a man with a charming tiny shop, who sold me two turtle ocarinas. They gave off a nice sound.
He showed me many things, all more than I wanted to spend, then sold me many small things. He told me I had a charisma about me, and seemed surprised and maybe disappointed when I answered his question that I worked as an "abogado". Still, we talked on, and he confided in me: "we are all God's children".
I spent my spare change pesos on trivial wonderful things from his shop.

These fellows were working on their music, and seemed flattered when I asked if I could snap them:

I love to see mariachi and ranchera musicians gathering in the squares, hunting for music listeners to hire them, guitars and string bass and
cool attire.

Shops were everywhere, waiting to cater to folks even as they departed.

I stopped at a stand on my way out, bargaining five dollar turtles down to 3 each, buying 6 for business acquaintances, because a gift need not be expensive if it is inspired. The turtles were worth 1 or 2, but the thrill of my sellers, two young girls, at "besting" me with a "major sale" was priceless.

As I stood in line to cross back to the USA, fellows kept trying to rent me bikes for 7 dollars, as bikes got into a shorter line. The salesguys said "5 minutes instead of an hour and a half", and I worried how long the crossing would be, but the whole crossing only took 20 minutes on foot.

Here's the charming Hotel del Coronado, where I stayed during my business trip, just off San Diego:

I love to walk the beach at six a.m.:

I love the sound of the sea, the look of the fog, and the rich view of skittering sea birds. I love the marine layers of fog, and knowing that Tijuana is a 5 dollar round trip train ride away.
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