When I was in high school, I had an unquenchable thirst for the road. I had read books by Jack London, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson that had romanticized life on the road, with your thumb in your air and a constant hunger for adventure in your stomach. I wanted to be like my literary heroes – but at 17, the only roads I knew led to and from the airport to my grandmother’s house in Mexico.
At 16, I had been to Puerto Vallarta, but instead of running around with lustful angels and experiences lapses in sobriety, all I had done was taken a dollar from an American tourist who thought I was a cabana boy and adhered to my mother’s curfew. Needless to say, I was inexperienced.
During my senior year in high school the opportunity I had been waiting for arrived. A couple of friends and I decided that we were going to take our money from Grad Night and spend it in Tijuana instead. The plan was to go and chase women around and participate in alcohol-fueled debauchery. We thought it would be easy based on all those news reports of Spring Break gone awry, they inspired our impressionable young minds. We were too young to respect the fact that it was tourists like these who were using our parents’ homeland as a disposable party depot, meant to be used once and thrown away like a napkin – and we wanted to do the same.
The night finally came. My friend Mr. Castro was the driver and Mr. Campos was supposed to be our guide, since he claimed to be the expert in all things Mexican. He knew all the places that offered the cheapest drinks and the spots with all the right women willing to do all the wrong things with you for a reasonable price. We were supposed to use part of the pooled money in order to deflower young Mr. Castro.
But then nothing happened.
Mr. Castro got cold feet, so we just ended up going to the record store; turned out that Mr. Castro was afraid of what might happen. That was then when I realized that the love I had for the road was an individual phenomenon; unlike me, others were afraid of the unknown and what could possibly happen. Mr. Castro gave too much thought of being stabbed and being found in a hole in a wall without his kidneys or his wallet. He wanted to play it safe and stay indoors and listen to the music he would one day outgrow.
Looking back now, I could never be as pragmatic. I have always had an addictive personality, and a constant craving to see what I can see on the other side of the mountain – even if it is on the other side of the mountain. I learned a lot that night. I learned that although Los Angeles is not a small town, it can breed that small town mentality where you never go anywhere because everything is so close. I cannot accept such a faceless fate. That night showed me that there are different kinds of courage. Some people can hold off tanks with a stance. Other people can right the wrongs that oppress others. I have the type of courage that puts me in a bus or plane and brave the challenges of the road. Come to think of it, that is not really courage, it is a mere sense of insanity disguised as grit. Whatever it is, I am filled with it, and I am going to continue riding it for as long as it will carry me.
It has gotten me here this far, so why not go a little further?
[Photo By esyckr]