Aug '08 - Jun '10
So the semester's been up for a couple weeks now. I've been in Orange County visiting in-laws (sounds so grown-up, doesn't it?) and friends, trying to catch up with life and get ready for more of it. I haven't had a chance to put up my final sound art project for you all to check out, and now the fellowship year is pretty much upon me. In fact, it has already begun.
Went down to Tijuana two days ago as a test-run for traveling. On the train from Irvine, I got this sudden feeling of "oh shit. this is day one." I was unprepared, intentionally so. My goal was simply to go down and experience the border crossing. I didn't have any maps, anyone to meet, any time to be any specific place. It was a great feeling, to be really traveling again.
The blue line trolley from downtown San Diego gets you right to the pedestrian bridge over to Mexico. I hadn't been to Mexico, but I have been to a few third world countries. I have taken the ferry from Morocco to Spain, but the prolonged boat crossing made the transition not so dramatic. Pretty smooth, actually.
Nothing is like the experience of stepping from a first world country into the third world. Where else but in Tijuana would dentists be hustling you on the street?
First though, let me explain that getting into Mexico was incredibly smooth... in not necessarily a good way... you walk up this ramp which switches back on itself in this angular psuedo-panoptic path that allows the security cameras to take multiple shots of you. The architecture is very brutal here; it is militarized. Then you walk across a channel and you get some views of the austere, desolate border space.
Across another overpass, you eventually come down to the Mexico side though technically you are in the United States until you pass through a turn-style. (There is this eerie clanging sound which I recorded and will hopefully have a site up in the next couple of days).
There is a series of public plazas which by a piecemeal urbanism, deliver you onto the Avenue de la Revolucion, the main tourist drag. I really wanted to like TJ, to know it as something other than this horrible tourist glut--so I took a few long walks down side streets. The street vendors were everywhere, little pockets of people gathered around the good ones, people sitting in plastic chairs eating tacos al carbon. The carnivore inside this pescatarian/vegetarian was tempted, but I held off. (Not sure how long this will last, especially in pork-loving Cuba next month where a fish meal is hard to come by)
The return to San Diego by foot is pretty simple. You just keep following the line of rug and silver vendors over a bunch of overpasses until you see the welcoming and modest "United States of America." It can take many hours for cars to get back in--hence the vendors walking around between them selling stuff. It's a pretty interesting view, kind of a farce, actually. It would be fun to do a time-lapse shot of the sluggish cars dripping like molasses to the border while the vendors zip around them.
It was fascinating to just poke my head out and look back at the giant that we all live inside. That's basically what this whole year will be about for me. Every military base and every embassy that I will see next year will give me more opportunities to see how the face of America is presented. It's a study of thresholds, really.