..First Glyph

March 17
10:30 p.m.

The bed of this Tijuana hotel room is too soft. Cloying. I sink at its edge. A square night stand, drink- ringed, is my desk. I lean over it. I slump really onto my bent left arm over it. The hand of my left arm props up my face. The hand of my right arm scribbles these words. To enter the bathroom you have to tiptoe around this drink- ringed nightstand. The bathroom has no door. The door to the hotel room itself sags, too heavy for its frame. Only a rusty chain secures that door. And of dark wood paneling are the walls. And there is no window. And a bare light bulb swings. And there is no window. And I am reminded of that San Luís Potosí hotel of eight years ago, of that seediest room I ever rented.

The floor of this Tijuana hotel room throbs with a bass rhythm booming from some nearby cantina. The cantina is placed beneath and behind the hotel, I think. Just outside this room a Ranchero band oompahs loudly into the hotel's awkwardly shaped courtyard. Earlier I paused on the second floor landing and watched the band for a few seconds. A birthday party, it seems. The man at the desk warned me of the Ranchero band. He promised the band would not play all night. I guess he did not feel obliged to warn me of the cantina. I'm sure that music will play all night. I may sleep anyway. I'm exhausted. I didn't even try to get to sleep last night until well into the wee hours. A high wind was rushing across Hermosillo and some piece of metal on the hotel's rooftop was not firmly secured. About 2 a.m. I gave up waiting for its random banging to stop. I turned out the light and tried to sleep anyway. About 3:30 a.m. I gave up trying to sleep anyway. The banging sounded like a man with a baseball bat ravaging a tin storage shed. I sat up in bed. I turned on the light. I climbed out of bed. I paced my room. At length, even as weary as I felt, I sat down to scribble. I drafted that scene for The Sandra Texts. I drafted it even as the baseball bat psychotically ravaged the tin. But I drafted it. Afterward I slumped over the pages of looseleaf. I dozed there maybe thirty minutes. And no rest on the bus today either. For the landscape between Hermosillo and Tijuana is stunning. Awestruck, I sat, roused. So desolate a stretch of earth! And so beautiful in its desolation! Never such barrenness, have I beheld. A moonscape, it recalls. Anyway, here again I slump over these sheets of looseleaf. Even through the cantina's revels I will probably sleep tonight. I will sleep for sheer exhaustion tonight. Maybe between the sets of the cantina band I will sleep tonight. Or maybe through them.

I have the energy to scribble these words only because of Tijuana itself. I have visited Tijuana many times before. But never have I visited Tijuana after dark. Walking Avenida Revolución just now was quite novel. The dance clubs and the booze bars lining it bathe Revolución in pulsing rhythms and beer breath and young women provocatively dressed and barkers and neon light. I was signally out of place shouldering my green bag along this gauntlet--haggard, unkempt. One of the barkers coached me toward his club, nevertheless. "This way, amigo," he called in a wheedling accented English. And, "Me burlas?" I answered in my equally accented Spanish. The riposte, spoken by a gringo, at that time of night, on a Thursday, was so unexpected that the unctuous barker stood speechless, wide-eyed. He had no well-rehearsed reply for the Mexican equivalent of "You're kidding me, right?" I strode on. And strode on. Finally I arrived at my hotel. Or, I didn't. For my hotel was not there. It was reported to be at the corner of Calle Primero and Revolución. I looked again. Still it was not there. And none of the buildings about were numbered. And no sign about said hotel. I began to shuffle down Calle Primero. In just steps I was awash in the clangor of Mexican bars, in the hissing of hookers angling for my eye. I kept shuffling. A short woman scuttered up alongside. Well-coifed, was she. She told me I was in a very dangerous area. She told me I should leave immediately. I had already recognized the byway as seamy. I didn't care. Invulnerable, I felt. Exhaustion was the source of this invulnerability. I was too tired to be afraid. And elation, too. So near the end of this journey! I thanked the woman, but, "I can't find my hotel," I told her. "Hotel Palácios, it is named. Do you know where it is?" She shook her head. "It is not this direction, joven," she told me. "There is a small hotel back near where the Mariachis stand. Maybe that is it." I thanked the woman again. "Turn around and go the other direction, joven," she ordered. And I stopped walking. And she continued on. And I thanked the well-coifed woman yet again. But she did not hear me this time. I turned to retrace my steps.

The mariachis group themselves on a circular concrete island near the corner of Calle Primero and Revolución. They loiter there waiting to be hired. In that vicinity my hotel should be. The guide book said so. The well-coifed woman said so. But... Still I could not locate it. Still it was not there. Across a narrow lane from the concrete island a long dark corridor led away from the street. Along that corridor a row of video games stood. I saw a mariachi there, his great blond sombrero atop one of the video games. He beat at the buttons of the machine quite feverishly. The image of his brightly bedecked charro twitching before the animated screen caught my attention. Then a sliding window just behind the twitching mariachi caught my attention. Then a faded placard above that sliding window caught my attention. The placard read "Hotel Palácios." I sighed. I approached the sliding window. I edged around the excited mariachi. I paid at the window. The clerk directed me along the dark corridor of video games. The end of the corridor opened onto an awkwardly shaped courtyard. In that courtyard plays the Ranchero band. Ten or so rooms encircle the courtyard. My room is a floor above the Ranchero party. The novelty of my journey to this room energized me enough to scribble these words. But still I feel like I'm about to collapse.

Tijuana is an expensive city compared to Mexico's others. Taxi fare from the bus station to Revolución was three times what I expected. I hopped a local bus to the border crossing instead. From there I would take a taxi to Revolución, I schemed. But even from the border crossing it was too expensive. I told the taxista I had just toured Mexico. I told him I would not pay so much for a ride so short. He cut his fare thirty percent. Still it was too much. He told me, "The area is dangerous." Still I had to refuse. I told him, "I think I will walk." The taxista shook his head. The taxista whistled warningly. But once my intent became clear he gave me the "muy amable" gesture with his hand. He wished me well. I thanked him. I felt no fear treading to Revolución. Too tired to feel fear, I was, too elated. I came upon the many clubs with their moods of the carnal. I came upon the many hookers with their erotic hissings. I found my room.

Just ten minutes by foot from this drink-ringed nightstand lies the border crossing from Tijuana to San Ysidro, Calilfornia. There a red trolley hums that will shuttle me tomorrow to downtown San Diego. From there it is an easy bus ride to the beach. I'm not sure what day it is. I will have to look at yesterday's scribblings to date these scribblings. My walls vibrate with cantina bass. I will sleep now. This bed is deliciously soft.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers