Friday, October 22, 2010

Viva La Mexico

Bright and early Wednesday morning I picked up Howie for our Mexico adventure.  Both of us had listened to the NPR story that had ran on the radio early that morning about the murder of a jet skiing American tourist in a Texas/Mexico border city.  We agreed not to see it as an omen.  I was far more apprehensive over the idea that I had left it up to Conrad to fetch us at a McDonalds in T.J to worry about a murdered tourist.  Howie was blissfully oblivious to the risks involved when dealing with my father-in-law.
David, Eunice's youngest son

Luckily the pick-up went smoothly.  The idea was to head into San Antonio, where Conrad lives, to capture photos.  Conrad had other plans.  He took us into the heart of T.J so that Eunice could do some shopping.  We ended up in a fabric store for over an hour.   Afterward, Eunice drove us through T.J, driving past Zona Norte, where young prostitutes lined the streets. Some were in provocative outfits, others dressed up like school girls in pleated skirts and knee socks, and others dressed casually in jeans and sweaters.  The most striking thing about each of these women is that all of them carried themselves in the same sorrowful defeated way, each with the same look of desperation.  It made me feel powerless and angry all at once. 

We drove past Eunice's old place of employment. She beckoned an old friend out of the store and I was suprised to see a tall transgendered lady introduced to us as Christy walk over to the car. Eunice excitedly introduced Howie, telling Christy that he was here to take pictures for an American magazine.  Shortly after we stopped at a tortilla market, and next a key cutter so that Conrad could have a new house key made.


Nearly 2 1/2 hours after our arrival, we finally made it to Conrad's home. The photos that Howie was there to take were snapped.   Eunice gave Howie a tour, showing him all her sewing projects, the machines, fabric, and completed projects that filled the garage.  She showed us drawings of elegant dresses she had created on her computer and the digital photos of gowns she had handmade.  By this time it was well past noon.  I politely mentioned to Conrad that maybe it was time for us to leave.  Apparently we had one last adventure to go on.

The process

Before dropping us off at the border, we headed into Rosarito so that Stephanie, Eunice's oldest daughter, could be dropped off at school. From the freeway I viewed uxorious high-rises in which no one lived, half built roads left abandoned materials and all, a trash filled field in which two horses roamed free in, and shacks, upon shacks. We drove past the bridge that two headless bodies were hung from a week earlier (rumored to have been murdered by members of T.J’s drug cartel).

Cute shoeless kid in Rosarito

By the time we made it to the border it was nearly 3 o'clock and the line going into the U.S stretched for blocks and blocks. The great thing about Howie is that he is bursting with interesting stories. While we waited I heard about past Reader cover photo shoots, the story of how he ended up in San Diego, his plans for the following day that involved a weather balloon, a camera, and fishing wire, and the time he stayed on a strawberry farm. Howie is the kind of person that you don't mind waiting in a long line with. He is anything but boring. He's the kind of guy you want at dinner party.

My Mexico adventure has made me eager to write something else, something better. I'm not sure what just yet. Meeting Howie and hearing all the terrific stories and adventures his job takes him on has motivated me to push myself to do more of what I love.

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