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Friday, August 08, 2003
'Como Mira el Mundo de Pete' presents...


Recently, my friend, The Artist Known As Jake Martinez, got it into his head that he needed a wife – and needed one right now.

The next thing I knew, he’d made plans to visit his relatives in Juarez, Mexico, as part of a sketchy “arranged marriage” scheme the family had concocted.

Personally, I didn’t get it, but then, I’m a white boy, so what the hell do I know? “It must be a cultural thing,” I thought, and who am I to question another man’s culture.

A few days before he left, The Artist Known As Jake Martinez invited me to tag along at, as it turns out, the urging of his mom.

“Uh-oh,” I thought, “I think I’m about the be hoodwinked,” figuring they had found a bride for Jake but that she had a sister, and this was some sort of “2-for-1” deal – if one sister got married, the other had to get married too.

I was about to become marital collateral damage.

But I didn’t question it – another man’s culture and all that – and, anyway, I had been rather uninspired lately, so decided nothing said “inspiration” like going to another country, especially one in which I don’t speak the language.

So off we went – The Artist Known As Jake Martinez, his 67-year old mom, and myself. During the seven-hour drive, I asked his mom why she never remarried after her husband had died.

Jake’s mom – or, as I call her, The Mom Known As Widow Martinez – replied, “Too many problems with being married.”

Insert ironic pause here, as we continued on our way to find her son a wife.

After a long drive, we reached the border and drove into Juarez. It was nighttime, and the first thing we saw roaming the streets was a pack of wild dogs.

The second thing we saw roaming the streets: A pack of wild prostitutes.

After dropping The Mom Known As Widow Martinez off at the relatives, Jake and I got a room at Hotel Manport (which is quite different from the similarly named, but much classier, Hotel Villa Manport.)

Sometimes hotels go that extra mile with customer service, offering things like a free continental breakfast. It soon became apparent that this hotel, too, took customer service very seriously, when the desk clerk asked, “Quieres chicas?” Not so much with the food here, but if you’re hungry for a little lovin’… yowza! Or, as they say in Mexico, “La Yowza!”

Unlike those breakfasts, the girls were not free. It was $50 a pop for a “massage”. The sounded fair to The Artist Known As Jake Martinez, until I patiently explained a few things. See, you can’t pull one over on a guy who once had a girlfriend that ran the old “motel massage” con. Yeah, sure, its $50 for the massage, but it’ll cost extra if you want any specific part of your body “massaged”, if you know what I mean. Then there’s the fact, at least with my ex-, that she’d collect the flat rate and any extra money and, then, before getting started, tell the ‘mark’ she had to go tell her driver how long she’d be. Once she came out to the parking lot that was the point at which we’d drive off. Another job well done. Like who was the poor sap going to file a complaint with? You know, stupidity isn’t a crime. Maybe it should be but, thank god, it hasn’t been outlawed yet.

Needless to say, we passed on the massages.

Instead, we decided to go out and get a bite to eat.

“What do you want to eat?” Jake asked me.

“Mexican food,” I replied, “or, as they call it here, ‘food’.”

Upon our return to the hotel, we got ready to crash and, right before I went to bed, I filled my courtesy water cup from the tap.

“I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.” Jake warned.

He filled his cup at the bottled water cooler down the hall.

But me, I had to prove a point. Always with the points, I am.

And besides, I thought the “don’t drink the water” bit was just an urban legend. Kind of like the pet alligators flushed down the toilets in New York City; now fully grown and living in the sewers.

The next morning, during one of my many contemplative moments on the porcelain altar, I realized that some urban legends might have a basis in fact.

Note to Self: If ever in New York City, stay out of the sewers if you know what’s good for you.

As dawn broke over Juarez, I could see the largest mountain on the outskirts of the city from the hotel balcony.

People had piled big white rocks on its side, which read: “Juarez – Biblia es la verdad. Lealo.”

Translation: “Juarez – The Bible is the Truth. Read it.”

Like I want a mountain giving me spiritual advice.

That mountain should mind its own goddamn business!

Later in the day, we had lunch with the family at a storefront restaurant located in an open market cum swap meet. It was a motley collection of shacks selling a little bit of everything, but mostly name-brand sneakers, Levis, and televisions.

When ordering, I asked for a Coca-Cola and had a quintessential Tarantinoesque moment when the waiter asked, “Coca normal (regular coke) or Coca Light (diet coke)?”

I guess what they say is true: It IS the little differences.

Other little differences: Street vendors sold cigarettes out of modified suitcases - by the carton, pack, or individually. Shoeshine booths dotted the urban landscape. People were lined up outside more than a few of the small storefronts selling lottery tickets because, after all, the National Lottery jackpot was up to a cool 9 million pesos. The public bus system consisted of a fleet of old school buses repainted blue or green. Also, in addition to regular combustible-engine cabs, there were horse-drawn carts to get around town in. I can't emphasize the horses enough. This is what they call "foreshadowing" in writers' workshops.

After parting with the family a few hours later, we returned to the hotel and rested until the sun went down. That evening, we started walking back toward the border, looking for a bar to frequent. As we approached the border, the sidewalks became more broken and the prostitutes more plentiful.

“How about that bar?” Jake asked repeatedly, pointing here and there, until I finally said, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Finally, I saw it: Club Delicias. By far the seediest bar on the strip.

When I suggested going in, Jake said, “I don’t know, dude. I have a bad feeling about that place.”

“Don’t you like ‘dangerous and intense’?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, “but not THAT dangerous and intense.”

So we headed back in the other direction and, eventually, found a nice bar. We had a drink. Back outside, I met a nice girl on the streets of Juarez.

She was dressed rather provocatively for a Tuesday night, and just happened to be standing on the corner when I walked by.

She looked a little lonely, so I chatted her up. I’m not too good with introductions, so I said the first thing that came to mind.

“So, what do you do for a living?” I asked.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

I got to know that nice girl rather well and quickly, at least in part.

Mostly the mouth part.

She had a $30 smile, but I talked her into going down to $20.

Soon we were both smiling.

Oh, yeah… baby!

That night I slept like a baby. I wasn’t just exhausted – I literally felt drained.

During my nocturnal slumber, I dreamt of horses. This is the part of the story where all that previous foreshadowing really pays off. So pay attention.

I dreamt I was sitting on the couch in a living room of a house. In a chair, directly across the room, was a brown-haired girl.

Standing between us was a horse. It was a talking horse, just like TV’s Mr. Ed, and he was saying, “I know you two plan to send me out to pasture. We won’t be having any of that.”

The horse was highly agitated, stomping his hooves as if to make a point, his mane whipped to and fro and he galloped slowly about the room.

Looking at the girl, and then at the horse, I said, “I think we could all use a drink.”

“I’ll have a scotch,” the girl said.

“Me too,” the horse added, “and make mine a double.”

I got up to get the drinks and motioned to the girl to follow. On the way to the kitchen, I whispered to her, “Get the gun.”

While I was pouring the drinks, the girl started looking for the gun in the bottom cabinet drawer.

Just as she began to pull it out, I heard the all too familiar “clomp, clomp, clomp” of the horse, as it raced into the kitchen.

Before the girl could turn and shoot the horse was on her. It raised its front end and brought its front legs down on her back.

The horse trampled the girl to death within seconds. Then, he turned to me and said; “Now we’ve got a problem…Wil-bur!”

I woke up, with a start, back in the Juarez hotel room. It was already high noon at that point.

Walking the dilapidated streets of Juarez once again, The Artist Known As Jake Martinez and I found ourselves at the entrance of ‘Illusion Tattoo’. The tattoo shop was owned by a rather friendly Mexican biker who, as it turned out, had spent his formative years in Juarez before relocating to El Paso, Texas, for a period.

He had recently moved back to Juarez, and opened this business, after – as he put it – “getting into a bit of trouble” in the States and being deported.

I didn’t ask for details. Some things are better left unsaid.

So I got a tattoo. Everybody had warned me how painful it would be, but it wasn’t. It stung a bit but was nowhere near hurt. Mostly it made me kind of sleepy. But that might’ve had more to do with having to sit stationary in a chair for over an hour than getting the tattoo itself.

Afterwards, The Artist Known As Jake Martinez and I drove over to his aunt’s house for dinner. Much of the family was there when we arrived.

Shortly after our arrival, Jake’s mom took me aside and asked what we had done the night before. “You two didn’t pick up any girls, did you?” she asked. No. No, ma’am. Not exactly.

A fine meal of ‘chicken mole’, pink rice and tortillas was soon served. When eating, I held the tortilla in my hand and filled it with the chicken mole and rice. Then I rolled it up and ate it.

The Mom Known As Widow Martinez watched me, beaming, and commented, “You eat like a Mexican!”

She seemed quite pleased by this.

Then, all eyes turned to Jake. He was really shoveling the grub in – eating like a no-good Ugly American!

Late that night, we left the beautiful city of Juarez.

At the border crossing, the guard nonchalantly asked, “Any fruit or vegetables to declare?” and when we answered in the negative, he waved us through. No interrogation. No vehicle search. Nada.

As we passed back onto U.S. soil, the 67-year old Mom Known as Widow Martinez jokingly said, “We could’ve brought 30 pounds of cocaine back with us!”

Old people are often very wise.

In the end, The Artist Known As Jake Martinez didn’t find a bride. His family had a girl all picked out for him about a year ago, but he wasn’t ready then. She evidently got tired of waiting and found herself another sucker… whoops, I mean groom. An American boy who then brought her to the States. Now that Jake is ready, as his thirtieth birthday approaches, it seems it’s slim pickings in Juarez as far as suitable brides go.

We never got out much further than a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but had a nice time in Juarez all the same.

Saw the sights.

Drank the water.

Got the tattoo.

In other words, the usual things one does when in Mexico.

posted by Pete 12:43 AM
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