Baja California, Mexico, circa June 1999, 3:45ish p.m. So there we were, three of us standing against the Dodge, surrounded by the heavily armed Mexican Army, with El Capitán pointing at the bag of weed he found in the trunk, yelling, "Drogas! Drogas!" in wild-eyed, angry Spanish at me, Brother and The Mother.
Hell yeah I was scared. Brother was, too. But to truly appreciate that look of terror and confusion on The Mother's face, one must understand how alien she is to the insane world of drugs and guns and the Mexican Army.
Yes, you could say The Mother is square. She can't distinguish a bong from an unplugged lava lamp. Forget illicit drugs, she has had three alcoholic beverages in her whole life long. I was 18 the first time I saw her take a drink. We went out for a family dinner and she ordered one glass of Chablis. One tiny glass of glorified grape juice and the next thing you know she's waving her arms and telling fuck jokes in drunk-speak.
The Mother does not tell fuck jokes.
Then there was the last time. That was the time of times. That was the tequila time, the time when the universe groaned. It happened on an earlier trip to Mexico, around July of '95.
The Back Story: Whenever The Mother visits Brother and I (from New York State) she demands that we take her to Mexico. The Mother loves Mexico because she loves mariachi bands. To her, they are the same. She doesn't even call it "Mexico." She calls it "Mariachi."
When the Sons greet the Mother at the airport, the first thing she says is, "When will we go to Mariachi?" Then, all week long it's, "Take me to mariachi, take me to mariachi," until we finally concede and unleash her upon Baja California's poor defenseless street mariachis. We watch in horror as she races across the busy boulevard howling, "Mariachi, mariachi!" dodging cars and knocking down fruit carts like Harrison Ford. Then she will pump them with fivers and make them play "Guantanamera" until their voices split and blood springs from the fingertips.
On the night in question, after a fine authentic Mexican supper (during which the entire dining room witnessed The Mother joyously clapping to the dinner mariachis like a retard at a clown conference), we took her barhopping to find more mariachi.
But it was Sunday evening. There is no mariachi after the dinner rush. After many hours of roaming silent streets and clubs for the ever-elusive one-ton tomato, we decided the next bar we visited would be our last.
Inside Renee's sat about seven ragged Mexicans who, I presume, were drinking off the discontent of the gringo tourist weekend. We ordered two beers and a diet soda and took a seat at a cocktail table. Brother and I were chatting about the decline of the dollar while The Mother gazed at the front door, futilely praying for her mariachi knights to gallop into the room and whisk her away. When Brother and I decided to have a final shot of tequila, the Mother announced-as if suddenly possessed by Lemmy-that she would have tequila with us.
And the girders of the universe twisted and groaned.
"Oh no, Mom," we said. "You can't have tequila."
"That's not for you to decide," replied The Mother.
"But Mom," we protested. "You don't understand. Tequila will make you do unspeakable things."
"Who do you think you are, you little snots?" she snapped. "I am in Mexico and I will have tequila with my sons!"
Fifteen minutes and two tequilas later, the Mother is telling fuck jokes in drunk-speak and clapping to a mariachi band that doesn't exist. "Mariachi? Mariachi?" she sputters at the haggard locals, who have been glaring in our direction.
Receiving the message clearly, Brother and I grab the arms of The Mother and drag her unwilling, drunken ass outside. Once outside, The Mother stops in her tracks and says, "No Mariachi?"
"No mariachi, mom. Sleepy time now."
"Yes mariachi!" she retorts, ripping herself free of our grasp and heading off into the Rosarito night. Except, Rosarito is empty now; all who remain on the streets are the bandits and the rapists-and here comes Mama Gringo, stumbling and muttering like a blinking neon sign that reads, "Mug me, stab me, kill me now."
Any attempts to reel her in were met with angry, "I brought-you-into-this-world" scowls or vicious empty swats to the face, and all that remained for us was to trail her in the shadows like the dirty scalawags we hoped to protect her from.
The ending that night was anti-climactic. The tequila eventually dissipated and The mother returned to the hotel. But the point of the story was made: The Mother does not drink or smoke or do drugs or tell fuck jokes. She is certainly oblivious to my sordid lifestyle, which I had inadvertently dragged her into. Because that's my stash El Capitán is angrily pointing at. And it's killing me to know I'm the reason her face is frozen with terror; I'm the reason the bottom is about to fall out of this poor woman's heart; I'm the reason the dozen or so soldiers of the Mexican Army are simultaneously raising their AK-47s and pointing them in our direction....
Next week: the exciting conclusion of "Baja Marijuana."