I haven't celebrated Thanksgiving since a trio of 'commie pinko profs' permanently ruined me in college and made a much better man out of me in the process. For me it's just another day off to spend on house and yard projects. Exactly what I'm doing this wednesday before.
"Three hundred and fifteen pesos for an eight pound sledge hammer!" I blurted out, to absolutely no one. That was because I was standing all alone in an aisle of Tijuana's newest Home Depot.
If you have driven the Via Rapida Highway heading east out of Tijuana's centro area, then you've passed Tijuana's first Home Depot. It's right across the street from the big Costco store. As far as I know, that was the only Home Depot in Tijuana for the longest time. Now there is a second (that I know of). It is located on the Corridor 2000 and it's approximately a fifteen minute drive from my once isolated Palatial Wooden Shack (PWS).
As much as I enjoy strolling thru stores like Home Depot or Lowes, I never much liked going to the first HD in TJ. That's because traffic congestion around the area is a pain in the butt. Once you were inside though, it was laid out like any Home Depot I've walked through in Southern California. Albeit lacking in certain items like extensive selections of Dewault and Milwaukee products.
"Three hundred and fifteen pesos for an eight pound sledge hammer!" I repeated. "And it has a wooden handle!" I added. 'How can you bust rocks with a wooden handled sledge? Yeah, I know. Very carefully, chuckle-chuckle.' At best it's good for pounding stakes or demo work. Ideally, you want a sledge with a hard rubber handle if you're fixing to make little ones out of big ones.
I tried to remember how much an eight pound sledge with a hard rubber handle will cost me at the HD in Imperial Beach. After two years of washing dishes at The French Gourmet in Pacific Beach I couldn't recall. 'Dang it,' I mentally kicked myself. I used to know the prices of everything in my trade section (HVAC) and my hobby section (gardening).
"Aw, what the heck," 'I need a sledge hammer and I need it now.
I've got a lot of big rocks that need to be made into little ones so that I can hand carry them down the slope in my backyard, across the street, and toss them into the ditch located there. It was a job I'd been putting off for months. Now in a week I would be pouring cement and around a half dozen, good sized rocks needed to go.The hard way.
So there I was, early in the morning, holding a just purchased three hundred and fifteen peso, eight pound sledge hammer from the new Home Depot in Tijuana in my dish scrubbing weary arms. I glared at the big rocks in my tiny backyard. I didn't like the way one of them stared back at me.
"What are you looking at, rock?" Was my challenge. I got tired of waiting for an answer and swung mightily. "CLANG! Ouch, aw crap!" I cried out. If you've ever hit a baseball with the 'wrong part' of a wooden baseball bat you'll know what I'm talking about. 
"This sucks," I said to the sledge and swung it again. After about ten minutes of having at it, my girlfriend's son came to the backyard from the front and my neighbor from next door. It must have been the non stop ten minutes of clanging and cursing that brought them. Between the three of us, we broke up the five biggest rocks by midday. Eventually, I'm going to have to break up a lot more but for now I'm ok. The cement can be poured.
Right next to the new Home Depot on the Corridor 2ooo is a brand new Wal Mart. The entire shopping complex being built there is actually rather impressive if you're into that 'capitalist-anthill-temple' style of architecture. The first Wal Mart that I knew of in Tijuana is also located near the first Home Depot along the Via Rapida. But on the westbound side across from Parque Morelos.
The reason I moved into my Palatial Wooden Shack in Lomas del Encinal  is because I wanted to get away from the urban sprawl, with its rat race of commuters. I used to despise crawling down the I-15 from my condo in Temecula to my job site in El Cajon. My world seemed like an endless series of off ramps sprouting McDonalds, SHELL stations and AM/PM's. It was all so bland, monotonous and depressing. Sadly, I never got my wish. I now have a six hour commute and there's a Wal Mart and Home Depot fifteen minutes from my place. My property values have gone up even as my comfort space has gone down. Mixed blessings indeed.
The changes that I've seen taking place along the Corridor 2000 appear to be positive ones and there happening fast. Residential and commercial growth is proceeding up and down the 2000. I remember when the section nearest my PWC was barren and unlit. A dumping ground for victims of cartel hit men. Now it's landscaped and well lighted. Crime continues in Tijuana, but these days traffic accident fatalities (many alcohol related) seem to outnumber murder victims on the Corridor 2000. Once again, mixed blessings indeed.
I guess you can't stop progress. When I bought my Palatial Wooden Shack, the corridor 2000 was like an imaginary moat, that separated Tijuana's urban chaos from the country tranquility of these rural foothills. Now that sprawl is knocking on my door.
At the moment, there are no street lights between my PWS and the new Home Depot. There aren't enough people in automobile's to warrant one. Not yet. But on the day that changes I have a contingency plan.  You see, there's this longe range of hills near my PWS. On the other side are a few widely scattered ranches and not much else. A good place for me and my three hundred and fifteen peso, eight pound sledge hammer with the wooden handle from the new Home Depot in Tijuana to start PWS II. I can here that blessed solitude calling me now. It's saying...

                                           COFFEE'S READY, GOTTA GO!!!

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SDaniels Nov. 27, 2009 @ 12:46 a.m.

"My world seemed like an endless series of off ramps sprouting McDonalds, SHELL stations and AM/PM's. It was all so bland, monotonous and depressing."

Ahh, I know what you mean, Rangel (good to see you back, btw). Used to spend summers here in SD growing up, but the rest of the year in OC (Orange County), many 'communities' of which might be described exactly this way.

"If you've ever hit a baseball with the 'wrong part' of a wooden baseball bat you'll know what I'm talking about."

Yep, very painful vibes.

Lovely description in the last part--sorry to hear about the sprawl. Maybe you can build a real moat around the PWS :)


David Dodd Nov. 27, 2009 @ 3:02 a.m.

I really appreciate your posts, John. Obviously, what with living here, they are close to me, but you bring a wonderful and familiar voice to it all - my own. I'm like you. I write about living in a crowded suburban place, but I long for the secluded one. And one piece of advice: Buy tools at you local Sobre Ruedas. Cheaper, and battle-tested ;)


realtijuana_blogspot Dec. 1, 2009 @ 1:08 p.m.

The city has big plans for your suburb, señor Rangel. One million new inhabitants by the year 2030. (¡!) Outfits like URBI and Geo have been tossing around phrases like "ecological homes" and "sustainable growth" like there's no tomorrow. And what market have they asked the state to help them attract? Retired gringos. This is your chance to make a fortune – just open a branch of Dandy del Sur.


Ponzi Dec. 1, 2009 @ 9:24 p.m.

Are there white American illegals hanging out looking for trabajo at this Home Depot?


David Dodd Dec. 1, 2009 @ 11:32 p.m.

4 Nope, and there aren't Mexican one's either. Our Home Depot's here in Mexico are truly "do-it-youself" hardware centers.

Actually, here in Baja anyway, someone knows someone who will work doing whatever sort of thing needs to be done. My wife and I have a Mexican friend we've know all of our time here. She and he worked together in a factory when I met her, then he obtained permission to work across the border in the U.S. Then, they took his permission away, so now he's a handyman/construction guy/carpenter/plummer...


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