"Fernando throws the best parties. He owns a bunch of bars in TJ, and he has many friends."
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.
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.
As I drove my car home from the border, I was surprised by the amount of traffic. It wasn't moving. I was stuck for 20 minutes before cars were all directed into one right lane. I saw there had been an accident. One car was ripped in half. It was bizarre seeing the front section of the car in one area and the back section in another lane. There was glass everywhere, a car seat in the middle lane, and what looked like blood all over. I could smell gasoline.
I was just glad to make it out of this party alive -- and with all the money still in my wallet.
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.