So near and yet so far — growing up near the Mexican border is something that for a lot of folks automatically suggests ‘rite of passage.’ I wasn’t right ON the border but the whole idea of some other place just right nearby — same strip of coastline obviously, but politics and the weird machinations of history resulted in the artificial line being drawn after a war, and you know damn well that the US government was going to get the San Diego harbor for many obvious reasons — lends a certain weird…I don’t know if glamour is the right word, but definitely a feeling that there’s somewhere else to go.

And logically I never went.

For all that I’ve been a number of places in the world, travelling what would have been all of a few miles and crossing the border to Tijuana just never happened, it was the journey not taken. Part of it I’m sure was the fact that my parents never went, at least not that I can remember. I think they just weren’t interested, and more than once mentioned Tijuana as just a tourist trap, nothing more. So while I knew it was there — it was impossible NOT to know it was there — and while I might have asked once or twice when I was younger about going, it never quite panned out. I think if I had been a bit more forceful or insistent maybe something could have occurred but you can only go so far when you’re eight.

When I was ten there was another chance — the San Diego trolley system had just been finished, stretching from the city center north a little ways (I seem to recall) but otherwise south down to San Ysidro, which is as close to the border as anything that ain’t Imperial Beach, San Diego-wise at least. I remembered enjoying the journey a lot (and being bemused by the guy with the weird gold-paint rendition of the Last Supper one seat over), though we essentially just turned around and went back up the Bay after we arrived. There’s some smear of images in my brain about something, a walkway or some other connection, which then went to the border from there, or perhaps I am thinking of something else.

Later when I was in high school, having returned to Coronado from my New York state stay, the opportunities for going to Tijuana multiplied. The amount of people going down there with fake IDs to get drinks and all was pretty much, well, the vast majority of Coronado High, a small and well-off school that actually balanced off intelligence, jock mentality (but if you were in water polo, which we ruled at, and track, which always turned up good individual performers like my sister — football and basketball were the secondary cousins) and party-till-ya-puke attitudes pretty well. That said I was much more the first third of that combination (one of my nicknames: “Brain on a Stick”) and pretty much a garrulous but confused book reader that got along well with everyone but didn’t have any close friends beyond one or two people. Also I was extremely moralistic regarding drinking, I wasn’t interested in that myself — didn’t condemn anyone but it just seemed like something to avoid, and since I had no interest I had no need to get a fake ID and go to Tijuana.

Then I went to UCLA and then from there other things and, well, who needed to go to Tijuana anymore? So I never made the journey south, have never crossed the border there, still haven’t even visited Mexico at all — something I would like to correct one day if possible. It was of all the trips to other countries I could have made the one that would have been the easiest and simplest, and it never happened. For others — my sister being one — it did mean something in its own way. For me, a road not taken.