Happy Birthday!

7 Dec

Since Coco doesn’t drink, it falls to me to drink for both of us. This has been the topic of more than one discussion between us, as you might imagine. Nevertheless, I recognize my duty, and will spare no effort…

Usually, we make a big deal of birthdays in our family. Whether it be a brother-in-law, a daughter, or a spouse, it’s always a good reason to gather together and enjoy lots of good food, and some drinks. When I turned 49, Coco invited her sister and her family in northern L.A. county to join us in Tijuana, Mexico, as well as another sister and her family, that also live in Tijuana. I had some friends drive down from L.A., as well, and we soon had a gathering of 30-some folks on our balcony. We hired a “taquero” or taco caterer, to provide a “taquiza” (tä kee sä), so we wouldn’t have to hassle with food. This, I find, frees up the hands, for carrying one’s drink!

Everyone ate, drank, and was generally merry, for several hours, and then my L.A. friends decided they had better hit the road. Others made their goodbyes shortly thereafter, and soon, just family were left. At some point, probably around nine or ten o’clock, my brother in law, Carlos, said, “Come on, let’s go to the store.”

I told Coco we’d be back shortly, that Carlos wanted to go to the store.

“For what?” she asked.

“’Sabe?” I answered. “Maybe he wants to buy some cigars.”

My other brother in law, Gerardo, jumped in the truck with us, too, and Carlos headed out.

“Where are you heading, compadre?” I asked, as Carlos headed into the freeway.

“Depends,” he answered. “Let’s see what we find.”

After a dozen or so drinks, I was beyond complaining. Besides, most everybody had already left the party, except us and our wives, and they were too busy visiting with each other to pay any attention to us, anyway.

Carlos pulled off, and into a parking lot, down in the Coahuila district. The Coahuila (ko a whee la) is partly a strip of bars, and partly red-light district. We paid the parking lot attendant, and took off on foot, following our ears to the loudest music. The first bar had no seating available, and the music was too loud. The second had seating, but no music at all. The third place we tried was jammed full, but we got lucky, and arrived just as a group was vacating a booth. The music was decent, and the service was quick. We ordered beers, and shot the breeze through two or three more.

Suddenly, Carlos got up, and went over to the next booth, where there were four guys seated, nursing their beers. He talked to them for a couple of minutes, then came back and sat down again, without saying anything to us. After a bit, Gerardo saw a friend and went over to say hi. Then Carlos got up and went to the restroom.

I was waiting for them to get back, when I noticed a guy in the next booth eyeing me. I looked back at him, and he snorted derisively. Ahah! There’s a guy that, for no good reason,  doesn’t like Gringos, I told myself.

So, I decided to give him a reason.

I got out of the booth, went around to the front of his table, and softly said, “You have a problem?”

He couldn’t possibly hear me, over the music, so he quickly leaned forward, and said, “Mande?”

So I grabbed him by the throat, and slid him halfway up the wall. That seemed to get the point across, and as he started flailing around, with his eyes bugging out, I said, “You…got…a…prob…lem?” punctuating each syllable with a right jab to his nose. About the second one, something gave, and we were both showered in blood.

Now I have to give this guy credit. Most fellows, finding themselves backed halfway up a wall, unable to breathe, with some idiot tapping out a Steppenwolf drum solo on their face, don’t have the presence of mind to land a decent punch. This guy was different. I suspect he’d found himself  in a similar position before, because he managed to land two or three very meaningful punches to my right eye, before a bouncer snapped my head back with a blow to my jaw.

About that time, I noticed a couple of things that I really should have taken in before. First, this place was absolutely crawling with bouncers. Not good.

Second, the one that had just hit me, had a city police badge on his belt, right in front of his 9mm pistol. Also not good.

Third, my fist had just connected with his nose. Definitely not good. Reflexes can get a guy into real trouble sometimes.

Last, but not least, Gerardo was barreling down on my bouncer friend, who had dropped to his hands and knees. I saw him cock back one leg like a NFL kicker going for a field goal, and catch the guy full in the face, flipping him all the way over onto his back.

About then, Carlos arrived, and rushed us both out the front door, as the whole place exploded into a full-scale brawl. We immediately turned left, and headed down the street toward Carlos’ truck. Halfway down the block, two cops were walking a prisoner toward us, and as they passed us, one of them was staring at me like I had a TV set growing out of my forehead. When they passed, I looked down, and noticed that my white shirt was covered in my new “friend’s” blood.

Well, that explained the stares.

We got to the corner, and were waiting for the light to change, when one of the cops came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and invited me back up the block, to “talk”. I dutifully followed him, and Carlos and Gerardo tagged along, until we got back in front of the bar we had just left in such a hurry.

The cops had the guy I had started the fight with in cuffs, and one of them gestured to him, and asked me if that was the guy that had hit me. I realized they didn’t know I had started it, so I decided the thing to do, was to get the hell out of there, before the bouncer came out and recognized me.

“Hell, I don’t know!” I said. “The whole thing started so fast, I don’t know WHO hit me! I can’t tell you if it was him or not…I never saw!”

“Okay. You can go,” frowned the cop, clearly disappointed at not being able to identify the guy as the attacker. From the look of me, I imagine they saw me as the clear victim, and were eager to see me gone, before I made a stink about it.

“Thanks!” I said, as we turned and headed back to the corner. This time, the light was with us, and we wasted no time getting into the truck, and back on the road.

We laughed all the way home, about that poor schmuck, probably stuck in the back of the paddy wagon already, that hadn’t done a damned thing but try to defend himself. Yeah, I know….mean! But he’d have been laughing at us, if the tables were turned! When Carlos explained that he had originally gone over to the table because they were mouthing off about a “pinche gringo”, I didn’t feel so sorry for him.

Aw, who am I kidding? I didn’t feel sorry for him to begin with!

Feeling pretty good about having kicked up our heels a little, and getting away with it, we forgot all about our wives, who had long since decided that we had gone further than the corner liquor store. When we trotted up the stairs to the balcony, we realized that what we had left behind us in the Coahuila wasn’t a fight at all. THIS was going  to be a fight!

That’s nearly ten years ago, and I STILL hear about it from my wife, now and then. WOMEN! No sense of humor, at all.

And none of the blood on me was even mine!

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