Sunday, September 27, 2009

Please Hold Thumbs: Down Mexico Way

In honor of the publication of my latest book, PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: A NOT-SO-ROUND TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA, the next three postings will be devoted to excerpts of said tome, just for you, the curious buying (hopefully) public.

This first clip will serve as an intro to the saga and also involves a fabled trip to Tijuana my folks and I took way back in the late 1960s. Please enjoy DOWN MEXICO WAY.

At no time of my life have I ever expressed a desire to visit the continent of Africa. Never once when I read Tarzan comics or watched Jungle Jim movies as a kid had I ever said, “B’wana, that’s where I wanna be!” That also goes for all the other TV shows I had seen like Daktari, Wild Kingdom, any National Geographic special or even George of the Jungle.
Don’t think I was ever opposed to the idea. It just never crossed my mind. Therefore, no desire had ever manifested itself inside of me, begging to be fulfilled. So, at this stage of my life, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Africa was completely out of the picture, mainly because it was never part of the picture in the first place. Maybe I could get to it in the next reincarnation, but this particular form of existence, I wouldn’t ever be in North, Central, East, West or even South Africa. Nope. You wouldn’t find me there.
The only time I ventured out of the country entirely was back in my early teens. That surprise excursion I mentioned involved a contest my folks had won through a car dealership in Stockton. First prize was a brand new Dodge Dart Swinger 340, a model that was on and off the market in the blink of an eye, and a weekend trip to their choice of three different locations where the Oakland Raiders were playing. The selections were Oakland (not a big deal since it was an hour away from Stockton), Cincinnati, Ohio, even less than a big deal though it did have the distinction of being out of state and San Diego, the city my folks picked. No contest, really. What would we have done in Cincinnati-visit Dr. Johnny Fever at WKRP?
I, being the youngest of three kids, was allowed to travel with them, leaving my brother and sister behind. The folks probably didn’t think it would be a good idea to leave me with my siblings who didn’t want me around either. Both factions knew what debauchery would be in store once Mom and Dad set foot out of town. I probably would have ended up duct-taped in a closet while Sis and Bro engaged in nefarious activities with all their friends which included sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll 24 hours a day for the next 72. My parents thought it best to spare me from potential torture, so they brought me along.
Once in San Diego, it became my mission-and my duty as a thirteen-year old male-to convince Ma and Pa that we go to Tijuana as soon as we possibly could. Why wouldn’t I? The lure of purchasing illegal fireworks alone was enough to spark my desire for this fantastic voyage. My mom wanted to go to the San Diego Zoo instead, but I managed to convince her to reconsider, enough though she had been the one who officially won the contest. My pop wasn’t too keen on the idea at all but, after much griping, we hit the road for Ye Olde Border Town, Tijuana, Mexico, famed in song, story and donkey show. Pop’s mood worsened after a California Highway Patrolman ticketed him for an illegal lane change before we hit the border checkpoint.
When we hit downtown TJ, which wasn’t dissimilar to certain sections of Stockton, the search began for a suitable place to park the car. We drove all about this chaotic city with my dad, getting more frustrated by the second. He more or less successfully navigated his way through the heavy traffic without plowing into any of the locals or tourists, though I know it would have made the trip worthwhile for him. Finally, we found a parking lot that appeared fairly acceptable.
The attendant tried to direct my dad into an open spot, signaling with his arms and yelling, “Aqui! Aqui!”
Pop groused, “I ain’t gonna give him the goddamn keys.”
We basically got a solid afternoon out of Tijuana. I came away M.O.F (mit out fireworks), but I did manage to score an authentic Mexican poncho so that I could impersonate a pubescent Clint Eastwood when I got back home. We found a restaurant off the main drag in an area that at least looked like Mexico and not Every Podunk Town, USA. When the folks ventured off to the bathroom, the waitress plopped a bowl in front of me that I mistook for some kind of cold tomato soup, so I had a couple of spoonfuls. This was my first experience with authentic Mexican salsa. It wasn’t very common back then. Neither was common sense. My mouth became a fiery pit of hell and I chugged my soda, ice and all. I said nothing to my parents when they returned. When they wondered why my eyes were so red and teary, I just told them I was just so glad to be there. Sniff.
Later my parents and I posed for a souvenir photograph for a street vendor who used his burro-drawn cart for a backdrop. The folks sat in the driver’s seat with my pop wearing an unbelievably goofy sombrero. I climbed on top of the donkey, who was none too thrilled to have this particular adolescent on his back. The photographer, sensing danger, quickly snapped the picture, then pulled me off the jackass immediately because he started to buck. Though the image of burro’s head is blurred by its angry swaying, the existing photograph shows the crazed look in his eyes with three smiling tourists oblivious to the fact that Senor Donkey wants to stomp their gringo asses to death.

So much for my world travels.

To purchase PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: A NOT-SO-ROUND TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA in either paperback or e-book editions, visit my storefront at: and on Amazon

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