"Fernando throws the best parties. He owns a bunch of bars in TJ, and he has many friends."
  • "Fernando throws the best parties. He owns a bunch of bars in TJ, and he has many friends."
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I found my notes on parties I went to in December that I forgot to write about. I figured when I wrote about New Year's I was done with 2004. But this night of partying was interesting, since it brought me from the College Area to Tijuana. Robert, who invited me to his company's holiday get-together (he works for Sprint), couldn't have been nicer. Parking was horrible, and he told me to park in his spot at the apartment complex. When I walked in, he gave me a cigar. He had read that I enjoyed them and was nice enough to get me one. When I looked at the band around it, I laughed. It said "Amish cigar." Robert said, "We went to Pennsylvania and it was weird. My mom was freaked out by the Amish people. They sell all these things. We bought a lot of their peanut brittle. We also bought a bottle of this wine."

He handed it to me, and it said "Intercourse Wines." He said, "Isn't that a weird name for a wine? It should be called 'shit wine' because that's what it tastes like." I had a glass and thought it was okay. But I'm not a connoisseur.

I asked Robert if there were any other weird things about the Amish, since I knew it would be the one group I could offend without getting complaints. He said, "Yeah. They are addicted to Mountain Dew. You should see how much of that they drink."

The music playing was from Sirius, which is a satellite radio service. It's where Howard Stern will broadcast from when he leaves traditional radio next year. Someone at the party said, "It's a great deal for only $12 a month. There are over 200 channels, and at work, sometimes the reception for the local radio stations doesn't come in clear." I said, "The idea of paying for music is weird. I don't care about commercials locally, because I can just switch the station." Another person added, "People thought it was crazy to pay for TV when cable first came onto the scene, now everyone does."

There was an Asian guy at this party and he had chopsticks in his pocket. I thought that was odd. I don't show up at parties with a fork in my pocket. I found out later, though, that the party had an Asian theme, with Chinese food and sushi served.

A football game was just ending, so the Asian guy and I ended up talking about fantasy football. We were comparing the players we had while his wife sat next to him. I asked her if she got sick of all the sports talk. She said she was used to it.

When I asked her what she did for a living, she told me she worked for a company that does research at a university. She had a few great stories but told me I couldn't print them. I was reminded of a woman who told me she worked for an antidefamation league, and she requested the same thing. I can't remember the Journalism 101 class where they discussed a source telling you a story at a party when they're drunk on 50 ounces of gin. They never utter the phrase "This is off the record." They usually say something like "You better not print this, or I'll kick your ass." Sometimes it's "Dude, I'll get so fired if you write that story." I usually honor those requests -- and who really wants an ass-kicking?

I had to leave this party early because I was invited to a giant party in Tijuana. The guy who invited me, Genaro Valladolid, works in National City but lives in Tijuana. His brother lives in a giant house there and throws some elaborate parties.

When I talked to his brother Fernando, I told him I was apprehensive. During my last trip to TJ the month before, my friend and I were pulled over and basically had to give the cops some money or they'd take him in, even though he passed their field sobriety test. I wasn't eager to drive down again. He said, "I'll send a car for you. It will pick you up at the border."

That was an offer I couldn't refuse.

We agreed to meet at the border at 10:00 p.m. I got there a few minutes late, hoping he wouldn't be pissed. I waited for half an hour until my cell phone rang. He told me he would be another 15 minutes. So I looked at the crappy things for sale by the vendors and waited patiently.

Fernando showed up with three of his buddies. I hopped into his car. He said, "Welcome to Tijuana, the home of sex and marijuana." And we sped off. He told his friends, "This man will make me famous in his San Diego magazine." They laughed. We drove through alleys and streets, sometimes at speeds that scared me. But they were nice guys and very friendly.

We pulled into a section of TJ that had some beautiful, enormous houses. When I commented on that, Fernando said, "There are some nice areas here. It's not all bad." I asked what the area was called, and he said, "Colonia Chapultepec."

I was told the party had an African theme, since Fernando recently got back from Morocco. When he travels, he always comes back and throws a theme party. There was a projector showing slides of his trip in one room. One guy was fixing drinks. The most popular drink seemed to be a "Ticket to Fly." It was served in a 32-ounce cup and tasted fruity.

I was surprised by two things immediately. First, everyone was dressed up. There were some guys in jeans and some girls who tried too hard to look like Britney Spears, but most had nicer clothes. Also, half the crowd was smoking inside. You never see this in America. Even at the craziest parties I've been to, the smokers are in the back yard.

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