I decided to take a Sunday excursion into Mexicali. Firstly, I simply wished to check it out and secondly to finally dig up a bowl of menudo and a pack of Luckies. Once in downtown Calexico, I sat momentarily to smoke, when a ragged hobo approached me and offered to buy a cigarette. With an extended hand, shiny over the dirt, he presented thirty something cents in nickels and pennies. Momentarily I glanced down and noticed he wasn’t wearing any shoes – blackened toes poked from ragged, sooty socks. I inquired were his shoes were and he simply shrugged, smiled, and stated they were stolen. I handed him a smoke free of charge and invited him to sit and chat.
At that moment, a shiny, black Lexus pulled up and some old codger obviously richer than fuck poked his head out the window and snarled, “Hey, buddy, I’ll give ya a dollar for a cigarette.”
I agreed and after the rich old fuck took off, I handed the dollar to the hobo and mumbled something to the extent on going to the 99cents store and at least picking up a pair of flip-flops.
As it were, I said goodbye to the kind gent and made my way toward the international border. I always liked the Mexicali crossing, a winding tunnel of decaying concrete running under the main street lined with farmacias and dusty curio shops. Once immerging onto the other side, I hit full turistas mode and shuffled around el centro snapping pictures. Mexicali seemed a vast expanse of crumbling, graffitied structures infested with a million chop suey joints.
Meandering over smashed sidewalks, I continued through the humid heat keeping one eye out for any sign of the elusive menudo. I do not know if it was either Sunday or too early or both, but many of the shops still had their steel shutters down. I did find some whores working the morning shift as I quickly bopped by, they languidly hissed psst-psst! grudgingly realizing I had no time for their shit.
I darted through the glass fronts of the Hotel del Norte and sat in the cooled air sipping hot coffee and attempted to down the biggest goddamn bowl of menudo I had ever been served in these long years. I ate it all, though. Trust me, you would’ve too. It was that good.
Afterwards, I purchased said Luckies from a corner Oxxo and relaxed in the shade of a nearby park, sitting and admiring the legion of weary campecinos lounging in the grass. Their faces, though ruggedly attractive, were sad and forlorn as they patiently anticipated to cross that great fence which separated the haves from the have-nots.
Becoming bored of this tripe and somewhat over heated mostly on account of the sun, I made my way back stateside – I even purchased a local newspaper in a half-assed attempt to perhaps rent an apartment. Fate, that old bitch, deemed it no as the classifieds only displayed one single add for rent.
As I was crossing, the custom agent – a rather handsome Asian with a shaved head, asked me the usual questions followed by: “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer.”
“What do you write?”
Apathetic shrug. “Stuff.”
“What do you mean stuff?”
“I write about my travels…the people I meet…”
“Are you one of those beat writers? Like Hunter Thompson or…uh…what’s his name? Kerouac?”
At that moment I realized I was conversing with not simply your average border patrol pit-bull, but actually someone who held a glimmer of intelligence. The skies opened and followed by a chorus, we were bathed in golden beams of light.
“Are you published?”
“Yes. Seven books…so far…”
He retrieves a pen and pocket notebook, scribbling, “I’ll take down your name and look you up. I like reading that stuff.” He smirks.
I left the border inspection station with a slightly higher regard for the human race. I am oft quoted as saying that there are still good people in this world, they are far and few between, but they’re there.