Viva El Mexico! A Gringo's Guide to Tijuana

If any country has an image problem, it's Mexico. American gringos portray Mexico as slimy, dirty, backwards and disgusting. But they also go there by the oil-tankerload. Tijuana boasts that it is the "most visited city in the world". Why? Could it be the exotic culture, the rich tradition, the promise of adventure... or the opportunity to buy colorful blankets and high-octane Tequila?

In preparation for this "International" issue, the gringo editors of Ooze decided to go South of the Border for a quick expedition. None of us had been in another country for a long time, and Tijuana is only two hours away from Los Angeles by car. Besides, Editor Matt's Friend Who Requested To Remain Nameless needed some cheap Prozac. Fast. So, off we went. Our objective was simple: get cheap drinks, cheap trinkets, cheap drugs, and find out if Mexico is really the dump everyone says it is.


As we climbed the long, maze-like stairways bringing us over the border, we saw a big sign on the highway below that read, "U TURN TO USA". Somehow that seemed to scream out: "YOU SURE YOU WANT TO LEAVE AMERICA? THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE, PAL! DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU." The urgency of our decision to cross was hammered in by the long, huge walls preventing anyone from "escaping" to the United States. Hey, welcome to Mexico!

After pushing through a subway-like turnstile, we were out of the reach of Big Brother and in the helpful hands of Hermano Pequeno. Just over the border sat an American-style pedestrian mall hawking "prescriptive" drugs, beer, and over-priced velvet tapestries of Stevie Wonder. Sensing not much of a story if we just stuck around there, we made the trek across the bridge into downtown.

Imagine the sleazier aspects of Times Square, crossed with old-style Las Vegas set inside a poor community with no zoning laws. Tijuana is no out-of-the way Mexican village. It's a booming metropolis, with over a million people with high-tech businesses moving in faster than a bad case of Montezuma's Revenge. Attracted by the city's riches, many jobless recent arrivals are drawn to fleecing naive tourists like ourselves. People shout and pester you to come and spend money in a store. Tiny children pull on your shirt trying to sell you "chicle". One enterprising woman stood on a street corner with a styrofoam cup in one hand and her baby in the other. The baby was nestled in a sling at the woman's bosom wearing a winter ski hat even though it was over 80°F. Upon closer inspection, the "baby" was revealed to be a small dog. Perhaps the child was on a mandatory lunch break.

The tone of the trip was set early on when a man aggressively tried to shine Editor Ed's Doc Martens. He politely said no thanks, but the man insisted. Ed, no ordinary Gringo, stood firm: "No, thanks, I don't want my shoes shined." "But WHY?" the shine-man replied, "they look like SHIT!" So does your city, buddy. Of course in the interests of peace, Yankee Imperialism, and naked fear, we didn't say anything. It was time for some sightseeing:

ATTRACTION: Tijuana Historical Wax Museum
COST: Only one dollar (US)!
FEATURING: Wax figures from Mexican History AND Hollywood!

Learn about the Mexican Revolution and how Laurel and Hardy translates literally into Spanish as "el Flaco" (the Skinny Guy) and "el Gordo" (the Fat Guy). Figure out why they are separated by a figure of Whoopi Goldberg ("el Whoopi") serving them tea. (It baffled us). Other notable wax statues include a vampire that looks exactly like Grampa Al Lewis from "The Munsters", and a headless Elvis statue that, despite this obvious handicap, still sings from his booth. Well worth the money.

mexitlan.jpg ATTRACTION: Mexitlan- The World of Mexico!
COST: $1.50 (US)
FEATURING: Miniature Mexican architecture from past and present.

Picture a miniature train set the size of a football field, without the trains, on the roof of a shopping mall. You are Godzilla, or "Godzillio", if you will. A lumbering giant among tiny, quivering Mexicans, frozen with fear under their ancient step pyramids!

But even stranger than the human-to-model size ratio, is that for all of Mexitlan's splendor, it's empty. Totally void of life. Stalls which once sold trinkets and refreshments are now filled with dirt and garbage. Wind whistles through the barren corridors. See this tourist "wonder" quickly, because it's two knocks away from death's door.

After so much native culture, it was clearly time for lunch. "HEY SKINNY," a man in a doorway yelled at our Junior Editor Kathy, "COME IN HERE AND EAT A BURRITO!" A few doors down, another man addressed Editor Matt, a vision in his rather large prescription glasses. "PROFESSOR! PROFESSOR! COME EAT HERE!" Now fully christened with our Mexican names (Skinny, The Professor, and Shitty Shoes), we caved in to the badgering of waiters stationed in front of Margarita Village.

green.jpg It soon became apparent why these waiters had to hustle so much. Other than a few Navy guys drinking beer, no one was there. We stuck it out though, and ordered a round of margaritas. Very good, our waiter said, only to return a few minutes later apologizing that the restaurant was "out" of margaritas. Huh? Was Mexico going through some sort of catastrophic shortage? Should we call the UN to airlift mixing supplies to the impoverished Margarita Villagers? Rather than question this odd twist of fate, we instead ordered "Blue Hawaiians" which turned out to be neither Hawaiian nor blue.

fly.jpg When the food arrived, it looked edible. Even tasty. But after a few bites, Editor Ed noticed a solid black thing ladled with cream sauce on top of his burrito. It was a large, dead, crispy fly. Mmm! We mostly stuck to the chips and salsa after that.

On the street after our "meal", one particularly ratty boy suckered Junior Editor Kathy into forking over a buck for a five-cent bracelet. As she opened her wallet and lifted the dollar, other kids banded together, eyes glowing, and descended upon her like a scene out of "Village Of The Dammed".

Luckily, we dragged Kathy to safety off the main drag where we soon discovered a host of more authentic shops where people didn't yell so much. Kathy bought some clay pots, Ed sniffed the aromas of a tiny panaderia, and we visited a candy store where they sold big chunks of guava that looked like rotting sides of raw beef.

It was time for our final errand.

You can't walk ten feet from the border without tripping over a well-stocked Farmacia. Filled with five foot high displays of popular prescription medications like Retin-A, these steeply discounted drug stores serve a booming border-hopping clientele. People there simply can't afford premium prices for Valium, so it's cheaper. But how much cheaper?

Unless you have access to a nice health plan, a lot cheaper. Drugs are typically retail 70-300 percent less than US prices, haggling (a practice met with open hostility in an American pharmacy) not included. The real savings however, is that you don't need to see a doctor to get a prescription.


Well, really you do, but only sort of. When you buy a drug like Prozac, the pharmacist doubles as your "doctor"- for no extra charge! This makes buying many drugs in Tijuana as convenient as getting an espresso in Seattle. Harder drugs like Valium require a proper prescription, but these are easily obtained from nearby doctor's offices for around $30- no questions asked.

After some very poor haggling, Editor Matt walked away with a bottle of 100 Nuzac (Prozac in Spanish) for $75. Compared to $85 for 30 (plus $50/mo. for a cheapo psychiatrist) in the US, this is 377% savings (600% including doctor's fees) for a drug you take every day until you die (or miraculously become sane).

After shelling out vast sums of cash for mood enhancers, we couldn't afford any of the prurient pleasures Tijuana is known for. And since there were no bullfights that day, and neither Ed nor Kathy wanted to eat another meal in Mexico, we decided to head back to LA. We then joined the mass exodus through an underground corridor to the USA, waved on by anxious border guards protecting the "freest country in the world". Everyone was all smiles. Aren't we lucky to live in the US, we thought as our bags were scanned by X-ray machines and rifled through by hand, where we are truly free?

The next time your trusted OOZE Editors go down to TJ, rest assured we'll get much drunker and watch some bulls die. If you're going South of the Border, you should, too. and

Seamy Stripper Story    Fun With Phones!
Ooze #9 ----- International Issue

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Ooze Magazine
The Journal of Substance, Wit,and Dangerous Masturbatory Habits