Radioactive Summer Part 1: 36 Hours in TJ
By: Doctor Slickbooty
It was the summer of 2009.
A group of five twenty-something-year-old dudes embarked on (what was supposed to be) a three-month tour spanning across all of North America. We referred to ourselves as The Rays of Electromagnetic Radiation; there were five of us: Gamma, X, Ultraviolet (UV), and Infrared (IR) with our good friend Radiowaves tagging along for support, free roadie work, and the experience to travel.
It was the first time I, Mr. Gamma, had ever left the confines of the United States border with a crisp new passport in hand and no international stamps on its pages. I was nervous but excited.
We crossed the border with only one carry-on bag and one instrument each along with a couple of miscellaneous suitcases used to store the merchandise that would help support our dream of making money while playing music.
The first vision I had when crossing the border that separated U.S. and Mexican cooperative bureaucracy was this big, majestic, Mexican flag waving in the wind as if that eagle was actually soaring in the sunset, ripping apart any myopic preconceived notions, trying to deny what beauty this country (and that powerful fucking bird ripping that snake) has to offer. The second of my senses to receive an influx of stimulation was the sounds of commerce, automobiles, and music coming from Revolution Road.
Following the initial shock my body was in solely based on what I was consciously experiencing for the first time in my life, as I had never traveled out of the bubble that is America, we dropped off our clothes, stickers, and gear at our gracious hosts’ house and headed out for the night next 36 hours.
We were guided to the second story of a building just a few blocks away in which the guys that we were staying with/the band that we were supposed to play a show following night with.
I bought a real Coca-Cola before walking upstairs at the store on the lower level of this two-story building.
The floor was an open concept with carpets covering the entire surface area of the level and musical equipment was scattered about the square footage. Brief eye-glances were exchanged between the other group and me as we did not know each other, but they were supposed to take me (along with the rest of the group) into their house and play tour guide to this band from “the Real OC.”
The guys who were hosting us were in a band and had a show that evening at a bar downtown. The band opening for them was hot with an energetic sound and a lead singer willing to deep throat the microphone and make crass gestures in the form of hand signals all while carrying a vocal melody.
Drinks were purchased, brief eye-glances were still being exchanged, and I was excited to see their group play.
More drinks were purchased.
Their band had a great set. Great live music and drinks are perfect social lubricants to tear down minor transgressions like language barriers. As conversation and drinks continued to flow amongst the once two dissonant groups, it was then found out that the guitarist and bassist of the band were twins and both on their ways to higher education following the summer’s conclusion.
It was time to unload their equipment back at their house and hit the night. For most of my young adulthood, hitting the night to me meant soberly hanging out in the parking lot of a Del Taco, being high on life as a naïve multi-colored hair 6’3” dude who proclaimed to be an artist and not yet jaded with the disenfranchising cycle of remunerated work. Hitting the night in Tijuana would turn out to mean something much different than tail-gating with a Double Del Burger, pontificating bullshit.
The first bar we went to after the show was a three-story dance party-DJs and bars on all three levels with so many people it was almost impossible to push back crowds to make room for intense dance battles or, science forbid, a safe fire exit route. Regardless, the atmosphere was intense and we all had a couple of drinks prior to moving on to the next bar.
Opposite to the milieu of the first club, the second club was dimly lit, playing Afro-Cuban and jazz-influenced music accompanied by driving beats and sinusoidal waves of sound forcing us to dance.
The cats in the other band bought me my first glass of mescal explaining that you have to sip it to truly enjoy it. I had only not been straight edge for two years and my lack of experience was visible as I tried to truly enjoy the spirit provided.
We had hoped to one more bar; a low-key dive bar with music at a reasonable volume in order for our two groups to get to know each other more and share some laughs. Then, a man walked up with numerous metallic batons and what looked like a car battery. We were all told to hold hands with each other, some more comfortable with the first step of this sideshow than others. We were told that there would be an electrical current run through all of us.
When and how powerful this shock would be: unknown. Whether or not the dude I was holding hands with washed his hands after the last time he pissed and/or shit: unknown. Where in the hell this night was going to take us after paying to exchange dead skin and get tased: unknown by Mr. UV, Mr. IR, Radiowaves, and me.
We stepped out and asked a guy selling weed for a joint prior to our walk to god-knows-where. He then looked around as if to tell a racist joke and not want to offend anyone of that race or to simply verify that there were no cops around.
“I got a joint, five bucks,” the man said as he reached his hand down/fisted the front of his baggie pants to dig for a toothpick of a joint I can only assume was nestled between his genitals and ass or just his genitals or maybe just his ass.
I did not put that shit anywhere near my lips.
During this exchange, we lost Infrared to the luring temptation of cocaine and an attractive woman along the way. Scrambling to stay together as a united tourist front, we haggled with him to join us on our next endeavor as he walked out of a one-stall bathroom with the two types of women he had just ingested.
Together again, we were off to our next stop. Mr. X had a withholding glimmer in his eye knowing where the next stop would be. We were first taken for a walk through the city with one particular alleyway oozing movie-surrealism with a hotdog vendor, transvestites, and a sly-talking drug dealer.
“Weed, cocaine, speed, crack, meth, acid, or heroine? I got it all,” the local merchant was able to offer at the time of the two strides it took me to walk past him for he had impeccable articulation.
We kept walking.
Soon, mutters of where we were walking to began to surface. The tone of the conversation became lascivious and foreign, yet familiar in an unsettling way.
We kept walking and I was finally informed that we were being taken to the brothel/hooker joint in which X-ray’s girlfriend resided
A couple of the members had significant others, including Ultraviolet and myself.
Mr. X also had a significant other. He had a girlfriend who lived there in Mexico whom he would go down to visit on a regular basis. Her profession: a prostitute.
He talked about her with great respect and compassion as if her profession was to not fuck other people for an agreed amount of money. This is not an ethical debate about prostitution nor is this any kind of stance of what the profession encapsulates. It just takes a lot of gumption to consider a prostitute your girlfriend.
It’s kind of like putting your drug dealer in your “top 5” when signing up for a new phone service or throwing a surprise birthday for yourself or commenting “first” on your own social media post. It’s kind of like buying a Disney annual pass and thinking that happiness is this tangible thing that can be sustained throughout a period as long as a year.
We walked through the door and were greeted by half-naked workers, cigar smoke, and dim lighting. X was gone immediately and not seen for the next 6-8 hours. I, on the other hand, was seeing a woman that did not live in Mexico nor did I have a girlfriend that worked as a prostitute at this particular by-the-hour hotel or any other by-the-hour hotel in any country.
And I was a hypochondriac.
Upon entering, a woman with gentle skin defeated eyes, and a soft voice backed me into a corner.
Her breasts exposed, “I like your hair,” she said as she stroked the different areas of differently covered hair I was rocking for the special international trip.
She was seeking my business but received a high-five instead.
I felt uncomfortable being in there as the male patrons were far less welcoming to my business, the assumption of me having money to spend and genitals capable of penetrating these objectified women, and me as a friend as they were there to not hand out high-fives.
Next door was a strip-bar that provided a more tranquil setting and solace away from the competitive male glances at the brothel and also boasted a more diverse group of customers that were there to enjoy drinks and the sensual aesthetic movements of attractive dancers.
One of the other members in the group, UV, and I took a seat at the bar to order a drink. We were greeted by a waitress in a mesh top who wrapped both of her arms on each side of her around our shoulders,
“What can I grab you?” she asked politely with her words slurred.
Before looking up to meet her eyes, I noticed her nipple, bursting out of her holey blouse, and gently laying on top of my shoulder like an astute parrot that some asshole would exploit and panhandle to tourist crowds in major city strip malls. Learn the guitar or something, or take your shirt off and pop a nipple on my shoulder before expecting a tip, right?
I was obliged to order a beer from the sweet-hearted nipple-exposing server and take in the ongoing stage show from a distance only to see a few other members of the group closer to the stage and enjoying the things most tend to extrapolate from strip clubs.
Prior to these now 12 hours in Tijuana being my first time out of the country, this was the first time I had ever been to a strip club. When I saw a couple who looked to be in their forties at the edge of the catwalk, enjoying a romantic night out, pay a dancer a dollar each to each stick their finger in the dancer’s asshole.
I knew I wasn’t in Kansas or any other fucking place I was comfortable being in anymore. And I was not uncomfortable because I was in Tijuana, or in Mexico, or was in the presence of ass play between a couple and a dancer, but uncomfortable with the monetary objectification these women were reduced to, as people felt entitled to grope, feel, and/or penetrate these dancers for an incredibly small nominal fee.
UV and I went back to the brothel to look for our X, he had paid for another hour or two as he was not in the lobby.
Then we went back to the strip club in which the main attraction was now a woman-on-woman erotic dance involving some kind of body lotion/milk/oil and strapons. It was a lucky guy’s birthday in the audience and instead of hooking homeboy up with a free drink or a hot fudge sundae, they pulled the guy on stage and proceeded to take off his clothes.
I stepped outside to get a breather before hearing of the events that transpired between the two female dancers and male participant. Apparently, the guy had stage fright. But, in his defense, fucking two random strippers in front of a group of random drunks throwing crumbled dollar bills at the ménage a trois transpiring feet in front of them is not super romantic. Call me old-fashioned.
I played this limbo between the strip club and brothel losing members of the group along the way for the next four hours until the sun came up with the climax of my night coming in the form of a random man walking up to me asking, “what the fuck are you doing here?”
The group somehow reconvened to grab some morning tacos at dusk before stumbling back to the house we were staying at and slept until 5:00 P.M.
Even though we woke up as a group, X was gone and had been gone for hours. He left for the day to take his girlfriend to Rosarito. The rest of us went to go get delicious Chinese food over a conversation debating the normal exchange rate vs. discounted exchange rate X’s girlfriend was giving him; there was no difference in rates, but X was still obliged to take homegirl out for shrimp and drinks on the beach that day.
He stayed out with his girlfriend to the point of us missing our show that night. He was indifferent about missing the show but jubilated with the fact he was able to finger bang his girlfriend without a condom.
Instead, we ended up getting burgers before boarding a plane to Guadalajara to play in Mexico City the next night.
I was/we were in Tijuana, Mexico for 36 hours and I have yet to return.