Helen Villines 12:30 p.m., Dec. 12
The other side of the street feels more like a motel is supposed to feel, or a hotel, which is actually what this is for us, functionally. The other side of the street sports a swimming pool which is adequately maintained, and an ice machine, and the office is over there. This side of the street has only a soda machine, but it does have a laundry room. It used to have a pool, evident only by a thick cement cap over what was once probably sparkling water with bikini-babes sunning themselves and frozen daiquiris within arm-reach, brown skin glistening in the Southern California heat.
We were moved to this side, with no ice machine and no bikinis, because the management decided to renovate the original room we were in. This room is smaller and there is no door separating the bedroom from the living room, so I took three thumb tacks and hung a sheet over the entry way. That's a Mexico solution to a door issue. Mornings where I don't have to be anywhere, I walk across the street and get ice, bring it back, and make myself a nutritious breakfast of vodka and Clamato with the ice.
We were paying $416.17 per week in the original room, and in this room I talked them down to $385.00 per week because that's how much a door is worth to me. It's still far too much. For this price, I get free toilet paper and use of a very poor electric stove with an oven that has only two temperatures, which are off and 700 degrees. There is a tiny refrigerator in here, with a small freezer that ices over so you have to work hard at getting the plastic door to open.
The living room is Munchkin's domain, the television is almost constantly tuned into some sort of reality television. As if life wasn't reality enough, there are shows that are supposed to portray real life situations, such as rummaging through a defaulted storage unit or people attempting to pawn ridiculous items. Munchkin is Elaine's daughter. She's 27 and has the mind of a 12-year old. This is the target audience of reality television, apparently, a 27-year old mentally disabled person.
Elaine is on her way to work this morning, two trolleys and a bus and then a 20-minute walk. Elaine's eldest daughter is here with her husband, and they are sleeping in a room across from ours. The eldest daughter didn't spend more than ten minutes total with her mother since yesterday evening, which is sort of tragic, but these relationships are not for me to interpret. They are here to take Munchkin up North for the holidays, and maybe until March. Up North, Munchkin will still watch 15 solid hours of reality television but she will also be entertained by a sister and brother and nieces and nephews along the way.
I've just completed my second season covering the San Diego Padres, a franchise of Major League Baseball. People call me a sports writer, but I know that isn't exactly the case. I could cover art exhibits or burlesque shows just as easily as I cover baseball and probably put less time into it and get better and more satisfying results. But there are intangibles about covering a Major League Baseball team that are appealing, beyond the free hot dogs and nachos in the press box after the third inning. There is the grass and the dirt and the fans and the elevator operators and the relationships you forge with the players and coaches and even some of your fellow sports writers. These are the things I miss once the boys of summer are done entertaining everyone.
So, with baseball mostly over for a while (there are always occasional pieces to write in the off-season what with trades and changes in personnel), it doesn't make sense to stay in the United States of America and pay for one week more than we would pay for one month in Baja. So, with Munchkin tucked neatly away in the loving arms of family in suburban Bakersfield, me and Elaine will be wintering in Baja starting on Monday. We will rent a room in a sketchy part of Tijuana, in Zona Norte, in the same place where Scott and Jody rent rooms. The room we will rent will have a stove and a refrigerator and so on, just like here, but for a fraction of the cost. We will be able to gain some traction financially and save to get a proper apartment and furniture in the United States of America next spring.
That way, when Munchkin comes back she won't have to holler through the sheet hung over the entryway to the bedroom every time she has to pee.
I took Elaine down on Thursday to scope out the new digs, and we had a blast. Typically, the Tijuana locals try to spark up a conversation with the Mexican lady who speaks no Spanish and the Gringo interprets for her. And there were fish tacos for lunch. And lots of lovely dark beer. And a line at the border to come back into the United States of America that turned our mood sour. Between that line and Munchkin's need of a program that keeps her too busy to absorb too much of that reality television she is so fond of, we would never have left otherwise.
We had Munchkin in a wonderful program sponsored by the folks at Goodwill Industries through San Diego County Health. They would put her and her fellow disabled to work in various locations, and she would even earn some money doing it. She saved enough money to buy herself an inexpensive tablet, so now she can watch her favorite videos and look stuff up on the internet. Although, I don't know which is worse in the long run, the internet or reality television.
If Munchkin can keep up North until March, that would be ideal. I'll spend a week in Peoria covering spring training for the Padres while Elaine takes a few days to go up and visit her kids. She'll take Munchkin back with her and we can rendezvous in San Diego in an apartment with our own beds and stove and refrigerator and so on. Up to now, everything has felt like some sort of a camp out, more like we are Gypsies traveling to wherever we can afford to be at the moment. But the Gypsy life has its rewards.
There is a guy in downtown Tijuana that makes custom sandals, and I think I'm going to buy a pair. My flip-flops - formerly owned by my father who passed away last year - have holes in the heels. But I like the tan lines on my feet and my hair is long again, and I still have jeans that fit me. Tank tops and t-shirts complete my ensemble, and I walk with the laptop case slung low against my waist, like maybe a cowboy might have carried a six-shooter 150 years ago. Gypsy gear.
Mark Twain once claimed that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. The hottest summer I've ever spent was a winter in Baja. Except that the hot Baja winters don't bother me one bit. So then, neither does the gypsy move bother me, whether it's just to cross to the other side of the street or to cross to the other side of the big metal fence, over and over again.