Well hold on there, just a cotton-picking minute Sheriff. Now that I think about it, a lot of people who live here in southern California are just like me. They can speak a little bit of the Spanish language, or at least enough to crudely communicate with, and unfortunately, that is how it really is. Besides the normal little phrases and simple words most of us know, like "como se ama", and "muchas gracias" there are still a lot of people, who live here in southern California on a year round basis, who don't have any ambitions to even try to learn the language, or at least a sentence or two. Most of these Neanderthal minded individuals still think that the entire state of Mexico is just like Ti Juana. But you know what, most of them are just plain ignorant and they don't realize that the more you know in this short life that we live, the further you will definitely go. And that's the plain facts my friends, do you comprende?
For the past several years now, one of my fellow co-workers who has grown into a very good friend of mine, has been telling me about all of the beautiful things that Mexico has to offer, and a lot of it he says is just across the border, believe it or not. He reminisces with a well preserved memory that seems to be able to clearly remember many years ago, like it was just yesterday. A boyish young grin comes over his face once in awhile, that really seems to miss his early days of crazed youth, when he was a much younger man, with less fear than most. Well, I told him that I have been to Ti Juana a couple of times, and personally I thought it was over rated, over crowded and a bit dirty. So I was not quite sure what all the hoopla was about. Perhaps it is true that lots of people still think that Mexico is similar to an old Clint Eastwood Movie, like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", where everyone walks around spitting tobacco and carries side arm pistols strapped to their hip and leg, taunting you on, begging for a shoot out. Well I guess that part of that statement could be misconstrued as partially true, because there still are some wild shoot outs that go on down there, but not like the good old days in the Western Movies for sure. When you think about it, how often do you hear about gun fire or crazed snipers erupting live rounds across the hardened streets of America on a daily basis in comparison?
The cream always rises to the top my mother once told me, and Mexico's new President Vicente Fox is the new Sheriff in town, who is making vast noticeable improvements south of the border. President Fox and his new anti-gang and anti-crime teams are rapidly cleaning up the borders and TJ, faster than you can say "reach for the sky mister". In my opinion, thing's seems a lot safer down here than they used to before 911.
Just a stones throw away from TJ is her sister city of San Diego, commonly known as "America' finest City". Although the two cities are closely situated, there are a few similarities, but mostly they are completely different worlds. There are desolate arid areas of Mexico that are poverty stricken and somewhat primitive, but there are certain underprivileged areas of the city of San Diego also, that are just as unfortunate. There are wealthy sections of the city and poor sections of the city, just like San Diego. We got beaches, they got beaches. They make salsa, we make salsa. They make Tequila, we drink Tequila. Well I guess you get the picture. The list of similarities and indifferences goes on and on, and stuck in the middle trying to make some sense of it all, is the mighty Border Patrol, still beefy in numbers from the Clinton administration. My friend Jose says that "there are riches beyond your wildest dreams in Mexico" if you are willing to turn over enough rocks too find some of it. I thought about what he said that day, and after a few weeks of capitulating indecision, I decided "hey it's time to toss some rocks around mister".
A hot July turned into a scorching August, and the first day of the month quickly became the eleventh, and today is the day that we are finally going to see what the other side of TJ is really like. It is yet another picture perfect Sunday afternoon in America's finest City, and today is the day that we are going to meet up with Senor Jose Rodriguez. We are going to go and have a little celebratory lunch at a very special place that he likes hanging out at in TJ. Then after a few Cervesas, "Ole" we are going to go watch the Matadors slay the brave Bulls, at the El Toreo De Tijuana. Over the passing years I have often felt that the Bull fights were cruel and unusual punishment, so perhaps my internal instincts for self preservation have kept me away for so many years. Maybe its right, maybe it's wrong. I can't make up my mind, so today is going to be the big day that I find out for sure if I can stomach this whole situation. A couple of local cellular phone calls were made to finalize the last minute details of the elusive tickets, and then we were off to see a man about a Bull.
I guess you have to be a brave sort of sole to witness the slaying of a beautiful animal. It is kind of the barbaric side of you that some how yearns for the red in blood, and pulses your veins as it electrifies the hair on the back of your neck, to stand up and salute. Perhaps it is just the self-preservation side of us that hopes some day it will not happen to us in the bloody ring. Could you imagine if someone strapped a set of horns on to your head and let a half dozen or so 1200 pound Bulls chase you around the ring, as you run for your life? Now that's a nightmare!
I rose out of bed early this morning in a damp sweat from that nightmare of a dream I had just awoken from. For some reason or another, I guess I was just preparing in advance from nervous subconscious thoughts of what lies in store for me later today. Today is like most other days around here at my home, for it begins with a struggle to get out from under the covers first of all. This morning, I am buried in a mountain of animals, because my two twin Chocolate Point Siamese Cats, my other 22 pound Cat "Action Jackson", "Scraps" the bed hog and "Samantha" the 110 lb bearded Collie have all sprawled out across our California King sized bed. My somewhat delirious cob webbed mind starts to slowly focus a bit and I realize this morning, that although I have always been a little bit leery of going to Ti Juana, Mexico in the past, I thought that meeting up with "Outlaw" Jose Rodriguez would be a safe bet, since he knows the city like the back of his hand. In addition to that, he was also a Bull fighter in his braver younger days of insanity. It seems funny to me how when you are half asleep sometimes, that you can rationalize things with the greatest of ease. It all seemed perfectly reasonable to me, so I kicked all of the animals off the bed and stumbled towards the phone. I fumbled to open my cell phone and aggressively shook my head to clear the cob webs out. I hit speed dial and called Horse Shoe Joe who in turn called Vanilla England, and we all decided to hook up and take Joe's giant lifted Suburban monster truck for a little ride. If you're gonna go, then go big... Horse Shoe Joe always say's, so why not take the big machine as our Earth shaking source of transportation to the dusty Border.
Eight a.m. and fresh brewed Star Bucks Coffee turned into Ten a.m. and back yard pool cleaning chores, which melted into high noon and eager anticipation to get out of dodge. Like a kid who wants to get out of school before the class bell rings, man I was ready to get out of Spring Valley. We took off in Joe's Suburban monster truck like a sling shot out of hell heading north bound on Highway number 5 as a killer Green Day CD blasted over his thumping stereo. We made a detour into Pacific Beach to pick up Vanilla England from her swanky hip hop cool apartment, and then we made a bee line south bound on Highway 5 again, destination TJ. Eventually after driving around a bit, we found parking near the border crossing in a small pay and park lot, so that we could simply walk across the border bridge. It's not going to be easy to park this big ass truck I thought to myself, as Horse Shoe Joe's giant tires climbed over an elevated curb or two to get to our final destination. "Shhwwiinngg" I said out loud, as I was bounced around in my seat like I was riding on a pissed off bucking Bronco for a few seconds. Oh what the hell, no one was looking any way, and what did you need those Hibiscus landscaping bushes there for anyway.
The 350 V8 engine was shut down and put to rest, and we jumped out of the lifted truck and eventually hit the ground like parachutists coming in on a hard landing, one foot at a time. All of a sudden, I noticed that there seemed to be an awkward uncomfortable feeling that began swirling around us in the still morning air. Perhaps this awkward feeling is similar to when someone tells you a nightmare bed time story when you are a kid, and you keep wondering all thru the rest of the night when the boogie man is going to come out from underneath your bed, and swallow you up whole. In the back of your mind you begin to quietly pray that nothing will go wrong as you enter across the dusty border, and for some odd reason or another our entrance kind of reminded me of the movie scene in "Casablanca" when the "Policia" came and got Humphrey Bogart's friend, and they dragged him away while he was kicking and screaming. All's he kept saying was "Rick, don't let them take me away", it is a scene of utmost futility.
I noticed, if you just keep your eyes focused on where you are going and walk fairly quickly in TJ people don't pay much attention to you anyway. As we were quickly walking down the cracked sidewalks together, wearing cool Southern California Maui Jim sun glasses, faded blue jeans and cowboy boots, we passed a bunch of people selling produce and Tamales that just seemed to be staring us down. It felt a little bit intimidating and unnerving at first, but then I realized that all of these characters are simply staring at Vanilla England, who is a gorgeous but petite Blonde who is accompanying us today, not Horse Shoe Joe and I. We blew by them like a stiff wind off the bay, and finally we reached the over pass border crossing bridge of Calgary gray concrete that was married to steel black metal bars and showed years of aged rust and a melded togetherness. My mind strangely enough envisioned hundreds of thousands of thirsty immigrants close by, who with their last dieing breath would love to be able to find new refuge in America the plentiful, if they only had the opportunity.
Speaking of being thirsty, my parched but creative sense of humor all of a sudden remembers a scene from the movie "Three Amigos" that popped in my head that reminded me of this delirious situation at hand. As the three riders in the movie ride back in to town on horse back from the scorching desert, one guy opens his canteen, looks inside, and finds nothing. The second dusty rider with sun blisters all over his face opens his canteen and empties a mouthful of sand into his already parched mouth from the weathered canteen. The third rider looks on with curiosity and opens up his canteen, he then rinses out his mouth with cool fresh water and tosses his half full canteen into the burning desert sand. He then opens a fresh lip balm and begins to apply it to his fresh looking lips. He then leans over to the other parched riders who look on in desperation and says in a semi sarcastic voice, "lip balm"? In my subconscious, perhaps the third rider reminds me of how America really is, with her over abundance of assets and money that seems to grow on trees. As I stand on top of the concrete border crossing over pass bridge looking back towards my home town of San Diego, I realize just how close and how far away, the wet taste of freedom really is.
The view from the top of the over pass bridge that guides you into Mexico offers Vista's all around the city of TJ also. It is an arid looking City that desperately needs a good drowning of rain water to help the sun beaten trees and dried up shrubs grow, and the city could use a couple million gallons of fresh paint and a dedicated graffiti removing team. The Border Patrol agents watch on with an Argus eye as you pass thru the spinning carrousel black steel revolving entrance gates that lead you into the plaza of TJ, into the belly of the beast. At first glance around the city entrance area, I notice that there is a very busy hustle bustle frantic pace that everyone is in. "Hey stop it everybody", just grab another Beer and a shot of Tequila, and let's slow down a minute mister, and hey "everybody lay off the espresso coffee, ok"! As my boot heels click on the concrete walk ways, with each and every step that I take, I notice that the women of Mexico are very beautiful with their shiny moist dark skin, amber brown colored hair, and deep burnt sienna colored eyes. Many of them pull their shiny hair back tightly and put in into a pony tail for some reason or another, perhaps it is just another way to stay cool in the blistering heat. A deranged thought pops into my over heating mind, and I realize that if they planted some more trees here, perhaps it wouldn't be so frickin hot!
Little shops filled with all kinds of stuff that you don't need line the streets, like a free for all swap meet of someone else's left over old garage things, as street hecklers tempt you to come and look over their gear with grandiose gestures. This year the summer so far has been a scorcher from the El Nino weather patterns bombarding us, and we just keep on walking thru this heat wave, towards the Yellow Taxi's, past the graffiti covered walls and busy littered streets. Our carefully calculated steps, guided by a higher source from up above, take us past a giant al fresco mural painting, completed by a famous Mexican artist that has captivated my eye, as I silently walk along side the lengthy horizontal masterpiece that seems to go on forever.
A bead of hot sweat begins to roll down my forehead, and I take off my viridian green baseball cap that has a large G monogrammed on the front of it to scratch my forehead for a second as we approach the serpentine rows of Yellow Taxi's. The pace of the taxi drivers is a bit frantic also, like Mexican jumping beans, as they jockey their cars around, similar to a magician who hides the nut under a cup, and then all of them just keep switching their cars around trying to get us to guess which Taxi that we are going to get. I don't get it, "are we supposed to be the nuts"?
Horse shoe Joe who speaks better Spanish than Vanilla England and I said "we want to go the Casa Placensia restaurant by the Twin Towers" to one of the drivers. Surprisingly refreshing like a cold shower, the taxi driver smiled and spoke back to us in perfect English, as he said "yes, I know the place, you can ask for my friend who works there". Well, things were starting to shape up around here mister, as my mind quietly drifted back for a second or two, to last years disasters of 911 in New York, that rippled thru my head, when I heard the words, Twin Towers
Well here we go...The Yellow Taxi Cab with rubberized Sylvester the Gun slinger floor mats took off like a bat out of hell as we flew through the city, with the greatest of ease. We ripped thru the back streets like riding on the roller coaster ride at Mission Beach, and eventually we arrived at the Casa Placensia Restaurant, which is immortalized by the bull fighters who have their signed pictures plastered all over the walls. The fuzzy dice on the Taxi cab's rear view mirror eventually stopped swaying as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot which is well maintained, clean and neat. We shell out a couple of bucks to the courteous cab driver and grab our cameras and gear then head into the restaurant in hopes of finding our friend Jose.
I made up his nick-name "Out Law" many years ago after I viewed a Clint Eastwood movie called Out Law Josie Wales. I crossed the name Josie with Jose and there you have it, he became Out Law to me, for some reason or another. "Adios, and Muchas Gracias" I exclaimed to the driver, as he hopped back into his freedom machine and peeled out down the road, leaving me with a partial view of the Twin Towers, and a little bit of apprehensive anxiety.
We entered the dimly lit restaurant that was apparently dim because the lights were off and we found a wooden table to sit at on the first level. The cordial staff began to hover around the table that we decided to sit at and the restaurant manager suggested that we go upstairs to the bar for cocktails, and besides that, the upstairs was air conditioned also. Holy Cow, electricity and AC, well you don't have to twist our arms to do that mister. So we scampered up those wooden steps like kangaroos heading for higher ground during a flood. The twisty stair case led us to our new second floor destination, where low and behold the lights were definitely on and the cozy little place reminded me of a second story club house, for the bandito elite of the city.
Now this is Mexico I think to myself! The view thru the second story French Doors is breath taking and offered vistas all the way across a portion of the city that runs way up into the surrounding hills. As usual my keen senses pick up on many odd things real quickly, and the first thing that I noticed about the upstairs dining room today is that the stereo is playing Mariachi music, and several televisions are blasting completely different Bull fights from a bye gone era at the same exact time. "How cool" I say to myself as we begin to wonder which table we should sit at, as hundreds of pictures of Bull fighters stare at us from silent walls beneath clear glass frames. The Placensia family has owned this marvelous little gathering hot spot for many years I was told by Out Law. It pays homage to the Spanish Mediterranean influenced concept menu that offers a variety of delicious appetizers, lunch and dinner entrees, and most importantly it offers a teeth cracking assortment of Ice cold International beers to quench your thirst with. It also offers many people a rare opportunity to occasionally meet some of the best bull fighters in the world. Located just off Agua Caliente Boulevard by the Fiesta Americana Hotel, otherwise known as the Twin Towers, it is worth the trip to find this secretive two-story hide out that has so much culture, and ultra fine hospitality to offer.
Out Law finally came busting thru the front doors with his trusty side kick Tony the "Burrito Guy" and they were welcomed like long lost sons by everyone who worked there, including us. I had just finished my first "Tecate" Beer as they sat down with us and we all decided to put two tables together, for one table was surely not enough. As usual, we caused quite a bit of commotion and the waiters came scurrying around to help us, as silver ware fell everywhere off of the tables, like silver dollars raining down from Heaven. We jockeyed those tables around until we got them just right, as the onlookers stared at us in comical disbelief. We ordered a couple more rounds of Ice cold Beers and eventually we ordered some fantastic Caesar Salads which were actually originally invented in TJ many years ago.
The original recipe states that the crisp romaine lettuce is to be left in the whole form after trimming the very tops and bottoms off. Then the whole salad leafs are coated and still prepared the old fashioned way, by mixing the Caesar ingredients in a wooden bowl one item at a time along with fresh anchovies, egg yolks, olive oil, lemon, garlic, parmesan cheese and a few nifty other spices and secret ingredients. We also sampled some tiny stuffed pasta delicacies topped with a freshly prepared Basil and Pine Nut Pesto sauce. What we all liked the most for lunch that day on this memorable afternoon was the flambÈ cheese flamed in brandy, served the traditional old fashion Mexican way. It is an old school style preparation and presentation served in a wickedly impressive flaming alcohol style. The Casa Placensia offers a superb quality taste of all that is good about Mexico, and it reminds me that there are definitely a lot of good things to be found down here, if you are willing to throw some rocks around.
One thing I found out about Mexico for sure is that it is advisable to not drive an expensive looking vehicle around in TJ that draws attention to your self. It's kind of like you shouldn't be stupid enough to wearing a spandex Diamond studded Elvis outfit to play a game of tackle rugby football in, especially since you don't have a helmet on, you know what I mean? After a few quick photos from the staff, and a very special picture of Vanilla England, who they thought was Brittany Spears we stumbled down the twisting stair case of the Casa Placensia Restaurant and headed towards the bright light shining thru the front door windows. As we slid our Maui Jim sunglasses back on one more time, I noticed directly in front of us was our low key transportation escape chariot. Tony the Burrito Guy and his neon Red Hawaiian Shirt had his 1989 Plymouth Voyager Van idling out front in anticipation of our quick departure. So off we flew in our chariot of fire to see a man about a Bull at our new destination, El Toro De TiJuana. But first we made a quick pit stop to get some new Energizer batteries for my digital Camera, and Horse Shoe Joe got the brilliant idea that Vanilla England needed to have a pair of nifty Cow Girl boots for the shin dig. I was in shock about just how affordable the massive selection of hand stitched boots are down here, I know where to get my next pair for sure, and I have discovered yet another great thing about TJ today, just from throwing some more rocks around.
Zig zag, zig zag went the crunched Yellow Van with missing interior roof liner as we winded thru the crumbly back streets of TJ, that led into the mouth of the down town Bull fighting ring parking lot, owned by the City of TJ. Once again the street heckler sales people were out front in full force once again, selling all kinds of things, including the ever important ugly seat cushions. My mind began to wonder once again like it usually does, "why the hell are these seat cushions sown out of the most hideous fabrics that I have ever laid my eyes upon"?
Arriving at the Bull fighters ring for the first time is a bit unsettling upon your nerves at first, so I decided to just walk quickly thru the crowds like I owned the joint. Outlaw the energetic narrative tour guide gave us a quick tour of the outdoor facility and quickly pointed out some of the famous Bull fighters who were entertaining the crowds in grandiose fashion dressed in silk from head to toe. He also mentioned that many centuries ago the original bull fights were first held in Spain, and now a day's they have become a historical dedication to the Matador's bravery and to the Bulls muscular strength.
The Matador's legendary silk outfits are completely hand stitched in Madrid, Spain with painstaking quality control and dedication to the profession. After all it could be the last suit that they wear, so it might as well be a bitching looking one right? Outlaw tells me that each hand stitched outfit cost three to five thousand American dollars and they are hand sown to the Matador's exact height and weight measurements. The outfits fit snug to the Matador's body so that there is a minimal chance of a Bulls horns snagging or piercing thru their clothes. Old world customs are what the Bull fights are all about he tells me, and as I take my seat on the blazing hot concrete slab in the circular arena, I start to realize that these old world customs are worth keeping, even in this modern era of rapidly changing times. I look down towards the ground where all of our boots are lined up next to each others and I realize that my hand is almost frozen from holding my Ice cold Cervesa, and my Ass is also on fire from the scorching concrete I am sitting upon. Thank God for these hideous seat cushions, they really were a good idea!
Outlaw and Grego, with renowned Bull Fighter, Rafael Ortega
The monumental band El Toreo got things started with some soul inspiring Mexican bravado music that screamed of tradition, as the mighty band of Trumpets, Saxophones, Tubas, Flutes, Percussion and Drums pounded some energetic bull fighting music into our eagerly anticipating ear drums. My eyes turn skyward towards the top of the arena where I notice that there is a large clock that says it is now two thirty. It strikes me as funny and lopsidedly peculiar because my "Rado" watch says that it is four thirty. "I guess things really are a bit slower in Mexico" I whisper to Vanilla England.
The historical Bull fighting ring has been here since 1938 and is currently managed by Jose Luis Cervantes who is also an ex Bull fighter like Outlaw used to be many a moon ago when their Matador's outfits used to actually fit. Some how, Outlaw's family and the Cervantes family are connected thru a family marriage. It is a tangled up story of youth and tender love at first sight for sure I guess. Now Outlaw trained as a brave Bull fighter from the fearless mad man age of 15 to 25, and he proudly acknowledged that he had fought in over twenty five bull fights with Bulls that were well in excess of over one thousand pounds. He was fortunate enough to have only had some serious scrapes and minor lacerations to his body, but no punctures wounds, broken bones or head to head contact. He is a lucky man for having had the opportunity to fulfill his dreams at such a tender young age, he is also fortunate enough to still be walking around to tell the tales of his past summers of bravery, so fondly remembered. He is one of the last of a dieing breed, steeped in old world Mexican tradition, like Tea bags releasing their intense flavor in hot water, as Animal rights activists continue to stir the pot around the globe.
One by one the Matador's march into the arena, like prophesized Gladiators of a bye gone era, as the appreciative crowd rises to their feet and offers up a blistering round of applause. The neon Orange, Yellow, Blue and Red colored interior of the arena is like a rainbow of colors to my bleary eyes as Alizarin Crimson Red puddles of blood that have dried in the sun from a past performance are carefully raked into the sand, by dedicated groomsmen. The circular arena is like an Amphitheater of old Roman origin, where by in which every seat in the house is a good one, and the art of Bull fighting is still intact, for admirers to enjoy. Like a scene out of the "Wizard of Oz" movie when the protective guards come riding in on their horses to protect the city, so do the Picador's today, in bold outfits of bravado, atop giant horses. The horses are dressed with thick padded side protection and blind folders on, so as to not see the charging maddened bulls, and the hated Picador's with metal boot protectors, march in on these horseback carrying long "Vara" poles with pointed tips on the end, to jab the Bulls muscular neck with.
This old world technique of blood letting helps the Bull bleed during the fight. The reason they bleed the Bull during the fight, is so that they do not over heat or have a heart attack from going crazy during the event. Outlaw tells me "it is the way that it has always been done". As I finish my first of many beers, he also tells me that the Matador's do not kill the Bulls in Portugal or France, only in Spain and in Mexico.
Hey, "why is that Matador wearing those pink socks and carrying that pink cape called "capote" around I said to Outlaw, as the first Matador started his "faena" crowd alluring tactics, and the Bull passed thru the cape? The reason for the Pink coloring is very simple he said. The pure silk Pink socks were originally worn by the former Kings of Spain as part of their colorful silk outfits of the medieval era, and only the Nobles could perform the Bull fights from the Kingdom. If you were of loyalty privilege to the elite families, then you could take part in the Bull fight. If you weren't, than you could be killed if you got caught mimicking the Kings Bull fighting sport and outfit. Hence forth they still wear the pink socks and use pink capes as a memorial from the glamorous past. But what's up with the pink color socks babe?
"Ole" vocalized the crowd as the Bull charged once again thru the pink cape held by the Matador, as his body molded around the Bull to barely let it pass bye. "Oh we Oh, Oh Wo" goes the sounds in my head that reminds me of the guards singing voices in deep baritone from the "Wizard of Oz" movie once again. But this time, in come marching the grim reaper Picador's with their long javelin "Vara" sticks on their giant intimidating horses. The enraged Bull charges and rams into the giant horse at full speed! Wham... right into the side of the horse completely lifting the huge 15 hand horse and the Picador rider into the air in a grandiose showing of crazed courage and insane strength. The Picador struggles to gain control of his horse with blinders on and begins to spear the neck muscles just enough to slow the Bull down a bit, and it forces the Bull to bleed a little, and not be able to lift his head completely up. You can see the rage and anger in the eyes of the Bull at this point as his breathing is loud with snorts of anger, saliva drips profuse from his mouth as blood flows down his sides from his back area wounds, trickling out like tomato juice that spills out of a freshly opened can. As the Bull continues to madly run around the arena, the blood from his back wounds becomes more profuse, occasionally squirting and spitting out of his back wounds from his rapid and strong heart beats. A few minutes later, in walks the brave Matador once again, this time with a red cape and a sword concealed inside of the cape called the "muleta". The Bull makes a few more passes at the "muleta" red cape, as the crowd screams rounds of "Ole" and the Matador shows off his flexibility and poetically balanced movements around the distraught Bull. Eventually the Matador puts the cape and sword away for a minute while he then grabs the next weapon of significance passed down thru generations of past Bull slayers. As the enraged Bull charges at him again, he quickly dodges out of his way and throws down from up above his head onto the Bulls back two pins called "banderilla's". The banderilla pin colors can be of the Matador's color choosing and can vary in size from small to large. A second set of banderilla's are speared into the Bulls back by the Matador once again as the Bull charges at him in a delirious state, totally slowing down his adrenaline strength and anger. As the banderilla's dangle from his bloody back, the Bull continues to run around the arena, but now in a trot, rather than a full burst sprint. It is at this point as the Bull is almost exhausted, the Matador once again grabs his trusty sword called the "espada" from out of the capote and taunts the crowd on by raising his sword in the air to get a visual response. Well after about a half dozen Beers by this time in the blazing hot sun, I stood up with Outlaw and screamed with the rest of the crowd, lets get it on! It was right at that moment when I noticed that my thoughts of animal cruelty had diminished, and my lust for the red blood overcame me, like a sickness that had taken over my sun baked mind. Deep plunged the sharp "espada" sword in between the shoulder blades of the 1200 pound Bull as it charged past the Matador, and the crowd rose to their feet and went completely berserk. It is an Art form of entertainment at its most brutal form, it is wicked and it is wild. The Bull can only make it a few more steps because of the inserted sword and then drops to the ground, in a dusty thud. As the blood begins to trickle to a stop, eventually after the Bull has died a brave death, the Matador clips off the ears and tail tip as proud souvenirs to show the lathered crowd. The brave Matador then marches around the arena perimeter, as hundreds of fresh cut flowers cascade down upon him like sweet colorful rainfall from a forgiving sky, and the applause is deafening.
The Bull fights are repeated five more times that day and we were fortunate enough to witness Rogelio Leduc slay a Bull, who was finally retiring from the ring after some thirty years of bravery. Rogelio Leduc is a nephew to the very famous world renowned Mexican writer and portrait painter "Renato Leduc" who is of French and Mexican descent Outlaw told me, and that to me was another great thing about Mexico that I learned that day, simply from throwing a few more rocks around. Also fighting the Bulls that day was a powerfully small and magnetically charismatic young and handsome Bull fighter named Ismael Gomez. He appears to only be a teenage boy but in fact he is well into his thirties, you can only guess this by observing his overall size. His nick-name around the world is Mayito. He captivated the audience with charismatic stage presence as he was almost crushed by a large Bull at one point. He magically escaped the 1200 pound Bulls attack, delivering a spell binding backwards stabbing banderilla's pins demonstration as the enraged Bull passed him bye in a close miss. Mayito went on to slay the Bull that gave him such a close call, and in adoring admiration from the fans, he too was showered with a rainbow of fresh cut flowers, and a blessing from a higher source above.
Eventually the sun beat us into a crisp and we began to leave the arena after the last Bull fight had ended. We carefully began to exit the arena with precise guided steps down the steep concrete stairs, as Outlaw directed us onto the Bull fighting arena floor that was saturated with splatters of red blood in the dry sand that caked up on my boot heels, as we posed together for another group photograph. Seat cushion scavengers appeared from everywhere out of the wood work, like termites to collect the hideous colored seat cushions that were thrown onto the Bull fighting arena floor, to be resold the following week for another upcoming Bull fight I am sure. All of us seemed to find new meaning and understanding of this crazed sport of Bull fighting today; in one way or another. It seemed to make sense to all of us why the Mexican culture ritualistically finds great pleasure in such a grandiose sport once enjoyed only by the Kings of a bye gone era. As we were leaving, I looked skyward once again, and the giant clock at the top of the arena was still stuck at two thirty, frozen in time, like the disappearing sport of Bull fighting has almost become. Outlaw then escorted us to the back side of the arena where oddly enough he showed us where all of the Bull meat had already been professionally butchered. The meat was then quickly loaded onto a refrigerated truck and taken to a distribution facility, where it would be distributed to local Ti Juana needy charity houses, penitentiaries, and homeless shelters to feed the aged, the sick and the decrepit poor. So as you can see, it is a neat and orderly process designed to help everyone in the city. Outlaw finished the tour by saying "you know the meat is delicious barbecued, but it is a little tough from all of the muscles". For some reason or another we weren't very hungry at that particular moment.
The day was coming to a close as we dragged our blood spattered boot heels out of the arena where we met the managers of the Bull fighting arena that have secured its right of pilgrimage for many generations now. I notice that the golden fiery sun is beginning to drop out of the big blue sky, as it begins to sink into the mighty Pacific Ocean. We load our tired asses back into the low key smashed Yellow Plymouth Van owned by Tony the Burrito Guy, and he carefully steers us back to the border crossing where we need to be dropped off. "Vio con did os" he exclaimed, as we climbed out of the van that could probably tell us some really good stories of past passengers.
As time marched on that day I started to think about the experiences we enjoyed so much today, thanks to Outlaw and Tony the Burrito Guy. It sure does make things go a lot smoother if you know someone who knows what the hell is going on down here in TJ, especially if it is someone who speaks fluent Spanish. As we passed thru the immigration inspection station at the Border crossing, surprisingly the lines were not so backed up after all today. The Border Patrol Agent takes a good hard look at us, and say's "Liscensia por favor". As we pull our California Licenses out of our pockets to show him, and I say "Americano's Senor". He looks back at me with a puzzled look that comes from "mucho flavajo un poquito dinero", which means too much work for not enough pay. I look back at him with eyes of understanding and sympathy as we crossed the border at twilight.
I realize that today was a really good day for all of us to share something good together, as we climbed back into Horse Shoe Joe's lifted Monster truck. He cranks the growling mighty engine and once again he backs over the shrubs that were in our way the last time, one more time. He punches it and the custom throaty exhaust shows no mercy as we blaze down the back streets, heading towards the freeway and Highway 5. The evening is coming to an early close as we start to make our way back to Spring Valley under San Diego's twinkling summer Stars. You know it sure does pay to know a little bit of Spanish I think to myself in a quiet moment as we begin to hammer it to the east on Highway 54, destination Spring Valley. I look over at Horse Shoe Joe and say "Bamanos Muchacho". He mashes the truck gas-peddle to the floor, and I think to myself, today has been a really bitchin day for sure. As the mean machine continues to scream down the freeway, Horseshoe Joe looks over at me with a boyish grin and say's lets roll, like a big wheel in a Georgia cotton field! I quietly chuckle about his whacked out commentary and reply, sounds good to me. Let's just rock and roll on down the road my friend. It is another day in paradise, back in America's finest city once again. Thank God we made it back to our home sweet homes tonight, and that to me is mui bueno indeedo, Amigo!
Outlaw, Grego, Wally and Jr. at the “Casa Placencia Restaurant”, a.k.a. the bull fighters club.
WRITTEN BY GREGORY MICHAEL MANESS D.B.A. GREGOART 2003/2004
DEDICATED TO OUTLAW, HORSE SHOE JOE, TONY THE
BURRITO GUY, WALLY, JR AND VANILLA ENGLAND, (alias Brittany Spears). Copyright 2004
Rorschach El Toro © 2004. 24 x 36. 3D Oils
Grego's new painting completed in August 2004 is entitled
“Rorschach's El Toro, it's all in what you see”