By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
It is simple to secure them if you know the right pharmacies. You tell them what you want, they retrieve it and place it into baggies, and you stuff them into your pants right there.
After scoring, I sometimes patronize a sports bookie and pick up betting slips to make it appear to the border patrollers that I've been gambling. I soon realized this was an incredible waste of time and energy; instead, I simply joined the pedestrian line re-crossing the border into the United States. On occasion, I've stopped in a fetid pay toilet and snorted OxyContin, a powerful time-released painkiller that provides a heroin-like high when crushed and sniffed. That's always such a bitch, though, smashing the hard pink pills between two quarters, rolling up a dollar bill and pulling hard with my nose, creating a unmistakable sound any of the other miscreants in that smelly hole could easily recognize.
Depending on day, time and other circumstances, the line leading back into the United States from Mexico requires anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes to traverse. You can also rent a bike for $5 and cross the border more quickly. Normally—because I've spent every penny on drugs—I avoid the bikes and walk over.
The line stretches and bends, stops and moves again. If you've ever spent an hour in an amusement park line, that's what it's like returning on foot from Mexico. On sidewalks and through a small corridor, you pass private security guards, INS agents, American soldiers and a metal detector before reaching a final counter manned by some kind of border patrol agent. He may ask a few questions or just one, and he'll typically send you on your way, provided you say the right thing. I've used numerous excuses: partying, gambling, shopping, whoring. I'm returning from the dentist or eye doctor. Once, I told the guard I was going back to get my dad's wallet. The old man's so paranoid he didn't bring it with him into Mexico. I told the guard my dad was crazy; he needed his ID to get back into the country. (My dad lives in Florida, 3,000 miles and eons of wisdom away.) I've feigned illness, complaining to the agent I ate something bad. I came to Mexico for the $15-per-carton cigarettes. I had the Diamondbacks or the Patriots. I was cashing my winning Lakers' parlay. I had money on War Emblem in the Preakness.
If you think all of this has changed post-Sept. 11, I can tell you this: I've noticed no change whatsoever. A few months ago, I was behind a Jordanian, an Egyptian and an Israeli, apparently all friends on holiday. All I could think was how long it was going to take to process these guys, but the Customs people issued them right through like everyone else—including me.
"What are you bringing back from Mexico, today, sir?" the border functionary typically asks, sometimes also inquiring into your citizenship or place of birth.
"Nothing this time," I say. "Just doing a little gambling at Caliente."
He replies, "Have a nice day," and I do.
I've had trouble crossing the border just twice. Once, I foolishly admitted to an agent I was returning to the U.S. with legitimately purchased Prozac, neglecting to mention the 90 Percodan stuffed in my pants.
"Where's your prescription?" she asked.
"I left it at the pharmacy, of course," I replied.
"Sir, I am confiscating these pills," she said. "It's illegal to bring Schedule I drugs across the border without a prescription."
"But it's Prozac, and I have a prescription," I said. "I left it with the pharmacist, like you're supposed to."
"You're welcome to go back to the pharmacy, get a copy of the prescription and return for your pills," she said.
That was the last time I claimed anything at the border. Another time, an agent took note of my bulging pockets and asked what I had in them. "My medication," I replied, plopping down nine flats of Percodan in front of him. He closed his terminal and issued me into a backroom. Busted. I saw handcuffs and bars in my future. But, strangely, several officers simply interviewed me, then returned all 90 Percodan and released me, cautioning me always to retain a copy of my prescription.
Since then, I have brought everything back stuffed in my drawers.
I usually make the 90-mile trek to Tijuana fearlessly. Motoring south on Interstate 5 past San Juan Capistrano, I'm thinking about the Mexican drugs. San Clemente, San Onofre, the immigration checkpoint, Mexican drugs. Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Cardiff by the Sea, Del Mar, Sea World, downtown San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Mexican drugs. I'm consumed now and totally in the groove when I reach the last U.S. exit—Camino de la Plaza. I park and walk the pedestrian bridge to the revolving barred gate allowing me into Mexico. Now, I simply use a pharmacy not 100 yards from the border and expect the same quick, efficient service.
But something changed a few weeks back, the last time I went to Mexico. That time, I arrived to find Mexican police and health inspectors raiding drug stores. I learned later that three pharmacies had been shut down for illegally dispensing veterinary medicines, tranquilizers and "date rape" drugs. Dozens of drug shipments were seized, and irregularities were detected at 26 of the 55 drug stores raided.