Monday, November 01, 2004

12/10/04, San Diego and Tijuana

Running through some of the poorer areas of San Diego is a train line. It’s called a trolley and is more like a metro train or a tram than a train. One line goes all the way down to the border with Mexico. It is this line we took. Partly for the experience and partly because the border to Mexico is not the place to park your car. And driving over there isn’t the thing to do, either.

But as it happens Tijuana is so much on then border, that you can calk over there into the centre of town. The walkway over the border is a horrible ugly concrete affair in the style of 1960s shopping centres. It takes you zig-zaggingly up and over the border and then down again in the same style. No photography is allowed in the walkway, which is a pity as it is an area of outstanding national ugliness.

Tijuana has two sides. There is the sleazy tourist-trap area where every shop sells souvenirs from classy sculptures by local artists (rare) to tacky sombrero ash trays (very common). There are so many of these shops all selling pretty much the same thing, that after a while it becomes impossible to know what to by.
The other side of town is the sleazy part where drink and prostitutes are cheap. It’s a popular Batchelor party destination for Californian men, the same way Amsterdam is for British men.

We only went to the tourist part of town. Walked past and into the shops selling various grades of objects emblazoned with Tijuana. Sometimes people tried to entice us in with everything from lies (“Everything today one Dollar”) to humour (“Please come in and let me rip you off”). Maybe as much as a fistful of dollars changed hands to get a few little gifts and to have lunch serenaded by a junior mariachi band, but that was it. There really isn’t so much to see in Tijuana itself. It’s a place to go to say I’ve been to Mexico and to buy the sombrero ashtrays to back it up. You don’t go there to get a taste of Mexican life - this is a border town, it ain’t typical.

Getting back was quite straight forward. There was a worry about my status. But my password was already stamped; it’s not uncommon for tourists to pop into Mexico for the day, or even a few hours as in our case.

That evening we dined at Ruby’s Diner. It’s an old-style diner set in the 50’s or 60’s (I’m a bit vague because they are). It’s the kind of place you don’t get cutlery because everything comes in a bun. But it’s better quality than stuff that usually comes in a bun. Ruby was represented by a 20ft waitress suspended over the bar. The so-called ‘Skirt of Damocles.’

To appear useful, I went along to mein hostesses acting workshop in the evening. As it happened they were short of one actor and I helped by reading his role. Fortunately the role was of a tough, American, action-film hero, so it was a clear case of type-casting.

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