Someone at the party told me, "Fernando throws the best parties. He owns a bunch of bars in TJ, and he has many friends. And his workers are all so loyal to him because he's a great boss. So they sometimes work the parties. They serve drinks or sometimes park cars."
Fernando had recently shaved his head. He looked like actor Colin Farrell. And every woman who came in was rubbing his head. They would greet him with kisses and say things in Spanish I didn't understand.
I asked his brother Genaro about all the ladies. He said, "My brother is single and good-looking. I'm settled down now." He had his pretty wife and two cute kids with him. I asked if any old girlfriends had ever caused a scene at these parties. He laughed and said, "They know what they are in for when they date him. They know he doesn't want a serious commitment."
I went out back to smoke my Amish cigar. It was horrible. But the view of all the lights of TJ was amazing. Lights everywhere. I noticed these large homes had enough space between them that the neighbors probably wouldn't complain about the noise. The back yard went all around the house with different sets of steps.
Fernando did a great job of talking to everyone, and he seemed to relish this scene. He would periodically come over and say, "You are enjoying yourself, aren't you?" Another time he said, "I will be your ambassador to parties in TJ."
A six-piece band was playing in the middle of the house. You could walk up spiral staircases and watch the band that way. Most of the large rooms gave you a view of the musicians. I didn't recognize the songs they were playing, aside from a cover of a song by the Buena Vista Social Club.
When Fernando's mom showed up, she brought some food. It was set down by the fireplace. I asked him if he felt weird partying it up in front of his mom. He just laughed.
She didn't stay long. I found out she would be selling this house, which only Fernando lives in. They told me they wanted $650,000 for it. The same house in San Diego would sell for $3 million easy.
One guy at the party said something to me in Spanish. I said, "No hablo español." He said, "Oh. I can speak English, too." We laughed. I asked him about these parties, and he said, "You think this is a lot of people? Last year there were five times as many people. And the party went until 5:00 a.m. Oftentimes, people end up sleeping here on the floors and don't leave until late the next day. I heard that one party actually lasted two straight days."
Another guy asked me something in Spanish. I didn't know what he was saying, but since he had a cigarette dangling from his lips, I gave him a light.
I asked another man about the legendary parties here. He said, "This has been going on for 15 years. The best is when there's an election. There is no alcohol served in Mexico during elections. We do have alcohol here on those days. And a great party."
At one point, while the band (which had the usual instruments, along with conga drums, flutes, and a few instruments I've never seen before) played, Genaro's two children were carried around like kings on a carpeted thing. (I have no idea what those are called. I'm a party writer, not an interior designer.)
A few minutes later, belly dancers showed up. Fernando was in the front row, with many of them rubbing scarves in his face and winking at him. One woman said to her husband, "Why do men think belly dancers are sexy?" It was funny listening to him say, "The way they move, you think of sex and how good they must be. I don't think that, but other men do."
Other girls watching the dancers would imitate their moves and laugh. I wondered if the dancers noticed and whether they were insulted by it.
With the three Bs at this party (band, booze, belly dancers), I figured it was expensive to put on. Fernando said, "I probably spent $2000. That's not a problem." I asked about cleanup, since I saw a few people flicking their ashes on the floor. I also saw about 50 cigarette butts on the ground. He said, "I have my cleaning people do it in the morning."
I could never talk to Fernando for long. There was always someone else walking in and saying hello to him.
I was trying to take pictures of the belly dancers. One had a sword while one was doing fancy moves with a white sheet. It was hard with so many people packed around watching them.
The next time I saw Fernando, it was close to 3:00 a.m. I asked if I should take a cab back to the border. He first tried to talk me into staying. I told him so many people were speaking Spanish and I had already talked to all the English-speaking folks. He laughed, grabbed two girls and a guy, and we hopped into an SUV. As we were driving back, we got delayed by the police chasing a man through the streets. Fernando said, "That's TJ for you. Run, man, run!"
The two girls in the car sounded drunk, and I think they were flirting with Fernando. One kept changing the radio station and giggling. The other would rub Fernando's head and say things to him. He'd only smile.
I was thinking about how, since I started this column, I've been to parties in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and now Mexico. What would be the chance of having my boss spring for a series of parties in various countries? I could report on the party scene in France, Australia...I'll have to think of a way to submit the idea.