IN the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Or so they say.
And if you’re one of the few – if not the only – places in Tijuana selling rolling papers, you seem to have a license to print money.
Yes in this blog first there was the search for the holy kettle, then came the hunt for the red sauce, and this last week has seen me go on a quest for Rizla.
Needle in a haystack? More like trying to find a Mexican named ‘Frank’.
Listen I’m not proud of it but hey, I smoke.
Not a lot, but enough to miss it if I don’t have it. A bit like missing out on the first cup of coffee in the morning, or finding out that the cinema has run out of popcorn shortly before the start of a much-anticipated film.
So a few weeks ago I discovered I was not only running out of Golden Virginia tobacco, but also Rizlas, or rolling papers.
I guess there are tobacconists here selling baccie – mainly for pipes – so that’s never been a huge issue. GV is replaceable until I can get back to the UK to buy some.
But without rolling papers you can’t roll a cigarette.
You can’t simply grab the nearest copy of El Mexicano and use the Chinese art of folding.
And I’m sure as hell not buying a pipe.
Sure, I could have ordered some papers online for delivery but I didn’t realise I was running out until I ran out. And besides, if I order now I probably won’t see a delivery before Christmas knowing the postal service.
And so began the hunt for papers.
“No biggie” I thought.
A couple of days after running out I popped into two general liquor stores to ask for ‘rolling papers’.
Well, I say ‘ask’ for rolling papers. I simply said ‘tienes?’ (you have?) and then did the universal finger and thumb rolling action.
The first shop owner shouted ‘no’ and pointed to the door. The second just said ‘out’ before looking over and nodding at a makeshift security guard to assist.
I just as well had been wearing a T-shirt saying ‘Mexi-can lick my b*lls’ for the reaction it got.
I tried a few North American-style corner shops but still nothing.
Even the tobacconists drew a blank, and a frown.
And then it dawned on me why I got the initial reaction.
People over here, and in the US, simply do not smoke roll ups.
So when people see me rolling a cigarette they immediately think I’m rolling a joint.
“Marijuana?!” has been shouted in my direction more than once.
Followed quickly by a look of disgust.
One of Jacky’s friends believes it’s only a matter of time before I actually get arrested.
I was beginning to give up on the search until someone half suggested some downtown tattoo parlour come jewellery shop.
We trekked across town and eventually found the place. I honestly didn’t know whether I was going to get lucky or emerge with a dodgy facial piercing and inappropriate spider web tattoo.
I asked the question again ‘tienes… um…’ cue finger and thumb roll.
‘No’ was the reply.
But then a kind of wink-wink nudge nudge action occurred and I was led through the back of the shop. The owner or manager took out a large set of keys and slowly and carefully unlocked a steel-barred door.
‘What the f*ck have I just asked for’ I thought as I was led into the dimly-lit back room.
And there in the back, displayed almost picture-perfectly on a glass shelf were a few packs of rolling papers.
“Amazing,” I said excitedly.
“30 pesos,” came the response.
Er… nearly £2 per pack?!
Oh what the hell. Money can buy me love.
On the way back home on the outskirts of TJ, it dawned on me the number of pharmacies dotted around the place similar in frequency to the number of Spar shops in the UK.
They are literally everywhere.
|Mas barata: 24-hour pharmacies for drugstore cowboys|
Of course the reason is that neither Mexico, or indeed the US, has a National Health Service.
Instead they have countless pharmacies, and doctor and dental practices battling it out for business.
Seriously, in the UK the average Boots shop is pretty large but over here they have like ‘mega’ pharmacies with daily deals on pills and potions.
It’s almost surreal to see some boasting ‘24-hour’ service. I mean, 24-hour kebab shops, 24-hour Tesco… 24-hour Superdrug?! Weird.
But I guess when you’re ill, you’re ill.
Jacks tells me that Mexico, specifically TJ, has something called ‘medical tourism’ which is a large part of the city’s economy.
Every day thousands of Americans cross the border into Mexico simply to buy medicine because it’s cheaper than the US.
Anyhow, I’m off for a smoke.