Published Aug 6, 2003

Last weekend I accompanied my Wonderful Girlfriend to one of her cousins’ weddings in Tijuana. I’ll admit, I was pretty intimidated thinking about it — she’s got about, oh, twelve dozen cousins (no I will not say a gross of cousins) and I anticipated meeting 90-some percent of them at this fête. Now, I’m not good with names at all (it’s inherited), and speaking to a bunch of people who’s names I can’t keep straight in a language that I, well, often can’t keep straight either, that caused me a bit of worry.

But, on the other hand, I’ve gotten along great with every family member I’ve met so far. So the Wonderful Girlfriend seems to have good taste in relations.

Plus there was the whole thing about my first trip to Tijuana. Due to the fact that I was 100% sure that all of my friends would try to smuggle drugs back, I never volunteered to drive us down to TJ in college. So I’d never seen a donkey show and otherwise had no idea what to expect.

The day began with, naturally, the trip down to TJ. Crossing the border was so simple as to almost entirely escape notice, except that the road changed from California grade to, well, Baltimore grade. So it wasn’t that unfamiliar.

Tijuana itself really reminded me of Houston, which lacks zoning entirely and thus is a jumble of houses, apartments, stores and restaurants. The drivers didn’t seem that crazy, again, more aggressive like easterners but limited in their use of the oncoming lane for passing.

La boda (that’s “the wedding” for y’all English speakers out there) was actually one of the better weddings I’d been to. The bridesmaids’ dresses were non-awful and the church was quite beautiful. I only understood about a third of the sermon, and it was quite long, but the priest seemed quite sincere and approachable. There were mariachis rather than an organ playing all the usual tunes, plus some other traditional Mexican tunes, and while that was distinctly odd it was nonetheless appropriate. Everybody complained how hot it was but I think that just tells you how Southern Californian the TJ weather is, because I found it distinctly non-miserable. I think someday I’ll take the Wonderful Girlfriend on a trip to Baltimore in August to show her some real heat.

After the wedding there were several hours to kill, so the Wonderful Girlfriend’s family took me to an Authentic Mexican Taco Stand. I ended up with simple carne asada tacos but boy were they great! I greedily ate four; her mother was probably appalled at my inhalation of the comestibles.

The reception took place in a lovely spot with a beautiful multicolored view of the Pacific at sunset. The food, sadly, was quite tardy in coming. First we waited more than an hour, then we found the tables on the groom’s side of the room were being served. Finally we got rolls, not heated but cold; then the tables around us were served. One of my tablemates grabbed a passing waiter and ensured we got fed. Chicken in a cream sauce was ordinary, what you would expect for reception food (and yes I was wishing for more of those tacos!).

Drinks were quite watered down and the selection from the bar was quite limited. Fortunately, one of my Wonderful Girlfriend’s cousins found the secret — shot after shot of strong and reasonably smooth tequila. Apparently I was being initiated into the family! They are a partying and hard-drinking bunch, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I somehow ended up drinking 10 shots.

Throughout the evening I benefitted from the TJ TQ, carrying on fun conversations in both English and Spanish with various cousins. I’ve known for years that my Bawlimer accent comes out when I’ve had a few too many, but apparently I sound Spanish when I’ve drunk; of the four semesters of Spanish I took in college, three were with a Spaniard, so this is little surprise. I’m just sorry that I didn’t, instead, pick up my college friend Gabi’s Argentine accent; we spoke Spanish together from time to time, and the Wonderful Girlfriend finds Argentine accents so sexy.

Of course, I paid for the tequila in the morning. I woke up with the world spinning about me, but the cousins and uncles about me immediately set to fixing me up. A bunch of cousins all headed to a restaurant where I was sat down and fed a diabolical concoction of Peñafiel mineral water, a shockingly large amount of lime, salt and just a little bit of chile. Too sour to start out with, after a quick Coke this drink settled my stomach right down. Too much credit also cannot be given to the menudo, which I’ve often heard pitched as a hangover remedy and which lived up to its reputation. Okay, so it smells like intestines; I don’t care if it tastes like armadillo foot, I just know how my stomach felt after breakfast.

Fortified with traditonal curaciones, I joined the immediate family in a visit to Tijuana’s incredible equivalent to the standard American mall. It was a charming place filled with dozens of tiny stores, all of which were miraculously selling the same things but at different prices. These things ranged from various kinds of dried fruits and vegetables to ceramic pigs to plates and baskets of all sizes to little plastic Mexican wrestler figurines. I could’ve shopped there for hours, looking at the various equipment for taco and tortilla carts, the two different kinds of jamaica and five different quesos frescos and various different salsa bowls. I even got to experience an authentic Mexican public toilet - I paid 20 cents to get in and was given a handful of toilet paper by the restroom attendant. But I showed her — I flushed it down the toilet!

Sadly, it was then time to go home. And I say sadly because of the long, hot wait on the south side of the border. There’s gotta be some better way than that. Heck, I seriously considered running for it and braving the Border Patrol with their fence and cameras and motion detectors.

That was my big fun time in Tijuana. By Wade age 8.


Mariachi is from Jalisco…sorry, i wish it were from Michoacan, but that’s where all the pretty girls come from, oh and TJ too.

Ché! Voz me tiene que introducir a tu amigo Gabi, La de Argentina! Es bonita?

Dude I found out what menudo was only until I got to college and its never been the same. I remember I use to enjoy it. I wish I had never found out.

Anyway, your trip sounded fun. Was that Brazilian garota at the wedding?

Sadly, Gabi’s now married and living in Pasadena. I did get to hang out with Brenda’s Brazilian cousin at the wedding! Except she’s not from Brazil but I won’t burst yer bubble on that.

Sounds like a fun time was had by all. I’ve only made it to TJ once, where my friend Robyn ‘freaked out’ at every possible moment, thus coining the phrase of Robyn getting ‘TJ’ on people when she is cranky & angry.

I wish I could add something smart & witty in Spanish but alas I am black thus all I can add is:

“Yo Man, you be buggin crazy like phat niggaz wit da drinkin’.”

Ah, an addendum: I was told at the birthday party that I actually drank 15 shots of tequila. Whoa nelly!