I was taking a bubble bath when my dad rst told me about sex. Without warning, he hunkered down on thetoilet across from the tub and began hurling words like “vagina” and “smulaon” my way, as my bubble coverquickly evaporated, leaving me naked and pruny in the tepid water. The awkwardness of this sex talk set thestage for our relaonship on that subject.Like nearly every other teenager since the dawn of me, I did not talk sex with my dad much. Not that hedidn’t want to. It was he who tossed a box of condoms in my lap one rainy aernoon aer picking me up fromschool. “I can teach you how to get those on,” he told me as I quickly shoved the golden box into the glovecompartment and changed the subject. Though my dad was open to the subject, we rarely discussed sex—Iwas busy with other things, like not being creeped out. Over me, I think my father began to see his dramaclub son as a prude, and so set out to do something about it. That is how we ended up in Tijuana.To my dad, who loves his family and unchecked debauchery in near equal amounts, a family vacaon to Ti
juana, Mexico, was a natural. You may not think binge drinking and family fun go well together, but my dad cansqueeze them into one happy snapshot. Tijuana, for those planning a trip with the kids, is the place revelersgo when they want to shake the puritanical shackles of Bangkok and Rio. If whatever happens in Vegas stays inVegas, whatever happens in Tijuana makes unicorns cry. The city has always held a special power over my dad,its gravitaonal pull drawing him southward with the promise of discount tequila and illegally obtained penicil
lin. And of course, fun for the whole family.On this trip, my dad seemed parcularly interested in geng some guy me in with me—a lile father-and-son bonding before I went to college that fall. So once we crossed the border, my stepmother immediatelyshanghaied my brother and sister away to sasfy their back-to-school needs with knock-o products like Ree
bork shoes and Gnucci handbags. My dad put a hand on my shoulder and held me back. “Cole, why don’t youand I head up the road and grab a beer.”I followed, and soon, spread out ahead of us, was an avenue of nothing but unpretenous strip clubs as far asthe eye could see—brown and ashy tenement buildings, slumping forward with no intenon of overselling theeroc wares contained within. In front of every unassuming club gathered groups of men leaning on woodenposts, carnies barking at us. Insinuaons of the coldest beer and hoest chicks smacked from every direcon.The pitchmen stretched far out over their posts, braying, berang, and shaming us to “come see somethingsexy!”“Hey, mister!” one of them howled to Dad. “Why don’t you come in and make your boy a man!” I had to shrinkaway from the remark, being a freshly minted 18-year-old. Dad tossed back, ”Oh yeah? What does your placehave that the others don’t?”“Mmmm,” the barker moaned, rolling his eyes back in his head and rubbing his stomach as though he’d justnished a meal. “We got the best ladies in the world right here.” My dad had to appreciate the plucky bravuraof this man’s pitch, the sheer hyperbole. He steered me toward the entrance. A rickety staircase meandered itsway up to the club. This sudden detour in the vacaon inerary made me anxious.
A coming-of-age tale featuring beer, strip-pers, and a transvestite pickpocket.