I staggered out of my cousin’s car, the sun beating down on my skin, and proceeded to vomit all over the Mexican-American border. A victim of another severe migraine that I had grown accustom to as a teen, I dropped to my knees in a dirt car park. This was my first and so far last visit to Tijuana, Mexico.
In 2001, I was 19-years-old and along with my best friend Johny, was visiting cousins I’d never meet before in San Diego and Anaheim, California. A few months before, I had pestered my mother into convincing her cousins to let me come stay with them. They relented and Johny and I flew to Southern California.
Nearly 15 year later, I’m quite embarrassed about imposing on them. Two hillbillies from Missouri travelling to California to sleep, eat and unsettle their lives. It’s now easy to look back and realise you should have done things differently, but at 19 I was still a big child dependent on my parents. I was influenced by MTV-friendly punk rock and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in my late-teens. Of course I had to go to Southern California and see what all the hype was about.
Picking myself off the ground, wiping the sweat from my brow and spitting the taste from my mouth, I proceeded to walk to the entrance to Mexico. Dazed, both Johny and my cousin led me to the Mexican border and we were waved through.
I remember feeling very nervous as we walked into Mexico and on to the streets of Tijuana. The city obviously has a reputation both good and bad; like a Mexican Amsterdam. Prior to arriving I had been told about the bent cops and the pickpockets all around. When I saw the police walking down the street I remember being very apprehensive, wondering if they were going to rob us because we were American.
We wandered the streets of Tijuana taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Bouncers at strip clubs tried to entice us to go inside, Johny was offered steroids on the street by a drugs peddler. Obviously, he thought Johny needed to add mass. Johny relented, but did buy several luch libre (Mexican wrestling) masks, however.
Much of our time was just spent wandering. If I had to do it again, I’d obviously do it differently. See a donkey show, seek out some lucha libre, drinking in the bars… something different.
In all, we were only in Mexico for a few hours, strolling here and there and eating lunch. We walked back to the border and easily through to the other side, back on American soil. This was before 9/11, so I assume the procedures are different. At the time we didn’t need passports to move from one side to the other, only a driver’s licence.
Waved through with no fuss, we passed the dried pool of vomit I produced earlier, climbed back into my cousin’s car and proceeded back to his house in Anaheim. My first trip outside of the US was complete. It would be six years before I would do it again.