31 DECEMBER 2009

Once Upon a Time in Tijuana

Saturday — a wonderful day (if I say so myself) to take a quiet drive down the state of California to San Diego, home of the renowned San Diego Zoo. The zoo is typically an institution that I have very little interest in, but having somewhat of an addictive personality, I decided that the trip would be worth my time for the simple reason that San Diego borders the wonderfully lawless town of Tijuana, Mexico.

I love Xanax, Valium, Klonopin — pretty much any chemical with “benzo” tagged to the front of a fancy word that translates to me as “get fucked up”. My plan this wonderful Saturday was to go to a Mexican “farmacia” where I could easily purchase any quantity of any drug that I wished; anything from oxycontin to Viagra was fair game in Mexico, and Valium just happened to be the treat of my heart’s desire. But I had to be patient, I had to put in my time at the zoo — not to say the company of my friends in a zoo wasn’t enjoyable, but I typically find zoos to be disgusting, barbaric reminders of the cruelty that mankind chooses to inflict on their brothers and sisters of the wild.

The first exhibit we saw was the Koala spread — roughly 10 miserable Koalas all designated a wonderful pole to sit on all day while white trash Californians and clueless tourists from all over this deeply cultural land “oooed and awed” which was accompanied by the never ceasing “shutter-click” sounds of digital cameras, all of which were being deployed like the monkey army from The Wizard of Oz. Among these deranged beasts prowling around the zoo disguised as actual human beings was a very tall man in a purple polo shirt, some sort of baseball hat that appeared to be purchased from a hotel gift shop, sandals with socks (one of my favorite American fashion faux pas), and a backpack that resembled a Koala that had clearly been purchased at the zoo gift shop. First of all, it takes a certain kind of person to get suckered into gift shop splurging to begin with, but to showcase this backpack at the zoo is simply retarded. We are all at the zoo; we all know that you bought that cheap piece of shit 100 yards from Elephant Mesa for $45. What is this man saying to me? Is it: I chose to showcase my economic strength in the current recession by wasting $45 on a dumb-ass backpack? Why is this so confusing?

People do not always realize that there are other people who live in this world alongside them — well actually I think everyone is pretty aware of that; I guess people don’t realize that there exists a colorful world of intellect, pride, and judgment that constantly breathes around the hallow, fake, piece of shit world that was sold to them by the Disney Corporation. So I guess what the moron with the “cute little” Koala backpack just told me that he chooses to exist in a fantasy land, where cheap backpacks made at the hands of 5 year old Chinese sweat shop workers are the items he will cherish, the items that he needs to remind him of the wonderful day at the zoo, because in reality he won’t ever be able to admit to himself that the day fucking sucked. Why can’t we admit it? The zoo isn’t that interesting. For some reason we are supposed to be excited by looking into the miserable lives of caged wild animals, and somehow that counts as our appreciation for nature. Go take a fucking hike.

We meander around the zoo a little while longer, stop to get a $12 bowl of chili that ripped my insides apart, and then it was time to head to Mexico. We were still about thirty minutes from the border, but it was a small time sacrifice to make for the rewards that were in store for me. My heart began to beat a little faster, and I imagined the drive back — high on Valium…delicious. We finally arrive at the border and park the car. The decision to walk across was unanimous, because on the off chance that I got caught at the border, I would be the one to take the heat.

We cross. Click-clack, click clack, click clack filled the heavy air as hundreds of people passed through the revolving metal doors to enter the great country of Mexico. Mexico actually is a horrible country from a global standpoint — sorry Mexicans it’s true. Clean up your shit, and stop destroying every environmentally wonderful aspect of your country — oh yeah one more thing, get a government. But I digress. I walked out onto the street in this mystical Xanadu and headed for the first farmacia that I saw, which subsequently was a mere 50 yards from where I was standing. “Xanax?” I ask the pharmacist in a Mexican accent (I don’t know why I do that when I speak English words to Mexican people). “No! no! no!” he hastily replied. Well fuck…I thought this was going to be an easy endeavor.

Discouraged, and slightly nervous, we walked outside passing by a line of cab drivers.

“Whatchyou need?” Oxy, Percacets?” This particular cab driver was speaking my languange.

“Can you get some Xanax or Valium?” I cautiously asked.

“Hop in” he says as he motions towards his small yellow taxi. Once inside, he introduces himself as Sergio.

“You know your shit.” I jokingly mention as a way to compliment my new friend and break the tension that at the time was palpable.

“You have to get by down here man, driving a cab just doesn’t cut it.” His English was extremely polished, perhaps due to the seasoning of American drug tourists (such as myself) that he paraded around the streets of Tijuana like JFK in Dallas, just moments before his head was blown off.

After some more friendly banter, Sergio stopped the cab in front of a low-key farmacia that lay secluded from the tourist strip of Revolution Street, and was nestled nicely in the local sector of Tijuana. “Wait in here, you’ll be safe.” These words were comforting because the level of fear that was shared among my friends and myself had combined to reach a critical limit. Currently the drug wars between rival cartels had taken the toll of thousands of innocent Mexican lives, and all it really took was for my dumbass to catch a bullet to the brain was to be caught on the wrong street at the wrong time. We waited.

Silence filled the car like a balloon as we waited for Sergio to return with my coveted prize. A few minutes pass and good ‘ol Sergio comes back to his small yellow taxi. “Ok man, I got what you want.”

“What are these?” I asked, referring to the strange blue pills that kind of resembled Valium.

“These are good. They are like Valium. You want to get high? These are good.”

“Good enough for me. Hey we wanted to go to a safe place to grab a beer before we head back to the border.”

“I’ll take you to Caliente. It’s a sports bar about five minutes from the border. You will be fine there. When you are finished just take a cab back — it will cost three dollars for all of you to get back to the border.”

“Sounds good.” I sat back and began viewing my purchase with 10-year old eyes, admiring the little pills inside their plastic wrapper.

As I continue to write this childish glorification of a drug that has in some ways damaged my life beyond the realm of repair, I want to take the time to say this: What was about to happen to me in Mexico should have been some sort of awakening, a moment in life where one can reexamine his actions and remedy them. Unfortunately this was not the case.

The antics regarding my benzo usage have transformed themselves from mildly amusing to ridiculous and out of hand. So much so, that I can say with absolute certainty that I do not have more than 10 lucid memories from the entire month of May (4 or 5 of which are from an amazing weekend spent at the Sheraton Hotel near LAX airport — but once more, I digress).

Pills in my shoe, I headed to customs. My whole life I have had shaky hands. I’ve thought that I may be high strung, but maybe I really can’t help it.

I reach the customs officer who asks for my passport.

To put my nervousness in some sort of perspective I will share this: not too long ago, I went for a pleasant motorcycle ride through the Texas country-side and was stopped by a police officer for “failing to signal” on a butt fuck Texas road. My hands began to shake as I reached for my wallet, which prompted Johnny Law to conduct a search of my pockets and the saddlebags on my motorcycle. Luckily, I had nothing on me, but as I remember all too well, this was not the first time my shaky hands have led an officer of the law to bend me over and cop a feel.

“Can I see your passport” Customs Agent Padillo asks me with an icy tone that flamed my already fluttering hands. He looked at the passport, and then looked at me, then back at the passport. This charade lasted for about half a minute by the time Padillo dick face calmly asked, “Do you have another form of ID?”

I fumble for my wallet, and attempt to take out my Texas driver’s license. My hands were shaking even more ferociously. “Are you all right?” Padillo suspiciously asks as he begins writing something on an orange form that had the word “search” written in big black letters.

“Fuck” was my only thought.

“Fuck” was an accurate thought as I reminisce on this event, because after this thought, I was escorted to a table behind which were three other customs officers.

“You have one more chance: is there anything you would like to declare?”

“Ummmm” I uttered nervously…

“One more chance and then we are going to conduct a search.”

“Ok Ok…I have some Valium that I am bringing back.”

“Where is it located?”

“In my shoe.”

A random officer from behind the table chimed in with, “why are you keeping medicine in your shoe?”

Padillio-fuck’s turn, “put your hands behind your back.”

I knew then that my trip to Tijuana was going to be slightly extended. There is a point that you reach in situations when you realize that the worst thing that could have happened has happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change your circumstances. I had reached this point, and much to my surprise, I was calm. I had nothing to fear anymore — I had already been caught, and no drug that I could smuggle could ever replicate the peace that I had found while sitting in the U.S Border Protection holding area on the U.S/Mexican border.

Luckily for me, Valium is the last thing that custom officers really care about crossing their boarders. I was released with a stern lecture, and I was allowed to re-lace my shoes (something other arrestees may know something about) and walk to the car to be reunited with my anxious friends.

In an attempt to wrap up this debacle of a story with some sort of moral tortilla, I guess there is one bottom line. Drugs have nearly destroyed my life, and all my meaningful relationships. Now a survivor of two overdoses that landed my foamy mouthed ass in the hospital (both times), I can confidently say that there is no glory in drugs. Did I have great times smoking weed, taking a little ecstasy, blowing a little cocaine, smoking a little cocaine, tripping on mushrooms, binge drinking, and the occasional to not so occasional black outs from prescription pills? Sometimes. What I have realized however is that my life outside of an altered state was one of complete disarray; in fact it didn’t really exist at all. From school to family, all seemed lost, and it took an arrest and two dances with death to figure it all out. Or at least I hope that’s what it took.

My journey in Tijuana will last the rest of my life, and every day has the potential to be better than the last or worse than my worst day on record. I keep this in mind when I am tempted to pop that pill, or drink that beer that always seems to be calling to me in the back of my mind. I will not call myself a drug addict; I will not reduce myself to someone lower than any other person walking this earth. I am a person who made some horrible choices, and I am someone who has learned that doing well means feeling well. To all those who still think it’s fun to pop a Xanax bar and drink a few beers, I’ll ask this: why do you feel the need to exit life? That’s all it is. I remember what I want. I remember who I am. I remember that I actually want to live.

More at my blog:

http://blog.hack.cd

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Cameron Banowsky’s story.