Don Bauder 2:33 p.m., Dec. 11
On the far edge of eastern Tijuana, the little white bus idled roughly, as I waited sleepily to board. Just a mere block from my Palatial Wooden Shack, my exhausting six hour commute to and from work, was just beginning. I dig these little buses. They were made in the USA and when new, were used to carry schoolchildren. Many of the buses still bare stickers in English warning the young passengers to behave properly. My favorite sign is the one that says 'Maximum Seated Capacity 20,' followed by 'No Standees.' During rush hour, if you're not pregnant or in you tercer edad (sixty plus), then you are a standee. Usually one of about fifteen in the awkward looking, top heavy machines. The other day I was talking to a gal in a Tijuana bar. She was telling me that she did the hair and faces for many of the girls at the club. "I have a cream," she said to me. "It will take away the wrinkles around your eyes. And your greying sideburns and mustache, I can make them black like when you were young." Now I'm pushing fifty but on a bad morning, after a rough night of tequila and tobacco, I can pass for sixty (tecer edad). And that's ok with this constantly tired person. I've seen guys who dye their hair and rub cream on their wrinkles. They're the guys standing in the middle of the aisle of the little white bus. Twenty minutes later, the already overcrowded bus had trundled down from the hills where I live and was approaching the Highway 2000 underpass that connects us to the rest of Tijuana. Without warning, the bus driver slammed on the brakes, shifted gears into park pushed the handle to fling open the passenger door and leaped outside. He ran around the front of the bus, stepped off of the dirt road and hands on his knees, began scanning the roadside vegetation. I reached for my cell phone and activated the camera. Murder, had instantly entered my mind. We were about to drop into what I called the Basin of Evil. On both sides of the Highway 2000, at this particular junction, two dirt roads meet up with the on ramps and exits on either side of the Highway 2000. They converge to form a small, irregular shaped bowl or basin that is essentially an underpass. This one in particular was where the body of a murdered cheerleader for Tijuana's soccer team was found nearby. It was also the site where two male corpses in a pick up truck had been dumped. Other crimes of cruelty and violence had occurred there in the past. An ex neighbor of mine had his bicycle stolen at gunpoint from there a couple of years ago. I myself heard a gunshot and watched two men with flashlights (and I believe pistols) apparently looking for their victim (who'd escaped his would be executioners). This had taken place at about 3:30 am as I walked to the nearest taxi stop, an hour's trudge from my PWS. I was on the eastside of the 2000. Which looks down onto part of the westside. This magnet of pain isn't only a Tijuana problem. Every big city has spots like this. Growing up in East Los Angeles I knew of a bunch. Places where sadness and sorrow exist in unatural amounts. The stories pile up over time like corpses after a massacre in a slowly unwinding newsreel. Here before this rickety ex yellow school bus now painted white with red trim. Full of men in their drab work clothes and mothers sheperding flocks of identically dressed children to class, was where humans had treated other humans very inhumanely - The spot where humans have lost their humanity (Or maybe shown that they never had any to begin with). The bus driver stuck one arm down into a patch of weeds and pulled out an empty cahuama of Tecate beer. He held up the brown glass, liter bottle and beamed triumphantly. His smile was so large you would have thought the guy had just won a gold medal in the Olympics. You have to pay an embase (redemption fee) when you buy a cahuama of Tecate (unless you already have an empty to trade). If you are a drinker, then finding one is like finding money on the ground. I smile every time I find one too. And I smiled now. I should have been snapping photos of the happy bus driver, or the indifferent passengers but I was to busy being happy myself. Sometimes you experience joy in the oddest situations. Not that longed for epiphany but rather that regularly needed resupplying of faith in oneself and one's fellow man. Because of the history of this location I had immediately assumed the worst. I was wrong. And glad to be. COFFEE'S READY, GOTTA GO!!!