The only proper way to enjoy a hot, brothy bowl of pho is to do it hungover. So, when a wayward prepackaged bowl of instant cannabis pho made it’s way to my desk, I knew the respective thing would be to review the edible on the morning of a hangover of epic proportions. So, Wednesday morning it was.
I wake up to the sound of people actually doing things with their lives and blindly reach for the pho I’d left next to my bed the night before. The bowl feels light in my hand and the label says “HempCon Official Entry #109” with the amount (140 mg of potent THC) and ingredients (seaweed, ginger, and a meatless broth – vegetarians rejoice!) listed. The only instructions are to add boiling water, stir, and enjoy. All right, I got this.
After ripping open the package, I realize that whatever I’m about to consume is a far cry from the comforting bowls of pho I was dreaming of the day before. Gray-brown noodles poke up like mini javelins from a pile of spice dust at the bottom of the bowl. I douse the whole thing in hot water and there’s a faint aroma of onions and garlic. I take a bite, the noodles are soft and easy to swallow. The broth is briney with a strong THC flavor. I quickly drink the broth down, chasing it with water and Pedialyte to combat the amount of salt my body just ingested. I wait for the magic noodles to do their job.
My original plan was simple, get drunk, wake up hungover, use the pho to see if I can shake the feeling of carrying a liquor baby in my stomach all day and try not to look like an idiot while regaling you with the details.
But now I’m starting to feel the effects of this potent little wonder bowl and I’m hit with a craving for something a little more south of the border to curb my appetite. That’s when it hit me.. good Mexican food is just 4 hours away by train from Orange County. Maybe it was my childlike sense of adventure or just the noodles talking, but either way I rolled some joints and made my way to the station to set out on my solo pho-infused walkathon through the glorious town of Tijuana, Mexico.
The train picks me from Santa Ana to the gas lamp quarter of downtown San Diego where yet another Uber takes me to the border. Remember earlier when I said I rolled some joints? I realize I have six un-smoked joints in my pocket that I either have to blaze through or toss out before reaching the border.
As soon as I get in the car my driver tells me I smell “really good, like a forest.” I take that as a cue and ask him if he wouldn’t mind letting me smoke the joints before we got to the border. He’s more than happy to oblige. Chill. I think that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Raymond.
I exit the car and make my way into the promised land. I check my pockets one last time, and wave goodbye to the United States as the last symptoms of my hangover slip away and are replaced with anxiety, hunger, and excitement.
As I make my way across the border and through the last door of democracy I find myself in a building I’ve never been inside in the ten years of my southern travels. I’m waved over to a small cubicle by a man sporting a super Mario mustache that barely makes eye contact while finishing his conversation with a man holding a rifle. Finally, the man looks up at me from my drivers license and asks “Why you no have passport?” Fuck.
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I stare blankly at the man holding my day in his hand and he closes my wallet and puts it in his pocket. He escorts me into a room that has one chair facing a wall of posters you’d see in an elementary school nurse’s office. Except the vital information about covering your mouth while coughing is replaced with charts showing why hiding things in your butt is frowned upon.
Slumped into a chair and thinking back to every locked up abroad episode I’ve watched and wondering if everyone got raped or just the white guys, a woman opens the door and puts my wallet on a desk, then starts typing furiously into a computer. So there I was, stoned, hungry, tired, and nervous as a woman I’d never met before judged whatever resume the government had on file.
After taking photos of me and fingerprints, all my info was photocopied and I was told next time I’d need my passport. Then, as I was about three inches from the door I get called back. Fuck. Did something new pop up? The butthole poster flashes through my brain. Oh, I just forgot my wallet.
Making my way into the heart of Tijuana after negotiating a cab ride (no ubers) I had them drop me off at around ninth street and I began to have one drink at every foul-smelling tourist trap that beckoned me in. “Aye gringo! ¡beber aquí!” Walk in. Shot. Beer. Pee. Leave. Repeat. After three of these Groundhogs Day capers I ran into the Mayer of TJ. I don’t know much about Mexico’s government but I don’t think this man standing next to me held any official titles. Still, he seems pretty nice, so when he introduces himself as Flaco, the Mayor of Tijuana, I can’t help but want to believe him.
Flaco and I are sitting on the patio drinking beer and talking futbol when the exact thing that I wanted to have happen did, “You wanna smoke weed at look at titties bro?” And ladies and gentlemen the answer is always, yes, yes I do.
We make our way upstairs in a building that’s filled with a terrible smell lingering around every turn of a lopsided, decaying stairwell. As we approach the roof Flaco turns to me and with a toothy grin I’d already grown to love, he says that this is his “smoke spot.” We light up a blunt I’d imagine a kid in the eighties living in the middle of nowhere would get his hands on. I hit it twice and cough up a taste resembling a mixture of pine-sol and Fabuloso.
After what seems like an eternity, Flaco finishes his dirt joint and tells me to follow him as we make our way passed Calle Sexta and into TJ’s red light district. We bob through the crowd like excited teenagers and Flaco introduces me to the largest Mexican man I’ve ever met standing guard in front of a red curtain. As he pushes aside the curtain, I start feeling apprehensive about what could be happening in the dimly lit, neon room I’m about to enter. But the sign next to this giant man’s head promises that all the girls are 100 percent virgin and that was good enough for me so I rolled the dice. “It’s for the article” I tell myself as I let my eyes adjust to the sad, sad, world I’d just entered.
Flaco has disappeared at this point, leaving me alone, with a man with tattoos all over his head eating a woman in her late thirties out on the bubble covered platform that doubled as a podium of nightmares. I made my way to the bar to grab a drink and watch the end of a futbol match that resembled rugby more than anything else. After about thirty seconds, I feel a clammy hand on my shoulder and before I look I pray that it’s not Tammy (the lady who was getting eaten out when I walked in). When I turn and lock eyes with clammy hands it is indeed Tammy and she looks very calm (she did just get taken care of). When Tammy turns around for a brief moment, I notice her wonderful Japanese tramp stamp along her spine.
I wonder if she got it during “one of those nights” and come up with elaborate stories on what it translates to. For all I know it could be something about creepy roads and Robert Frost.
Waiting in the longest line ever (we’re talking Disneyland in the summer long) becomes more of a challenge when you choose the express line without the proper paperwork and are sent to the back of the line. But it becomes way better when you meet a bunch of rowdy futbol fans and start brown bagging tequila on a school night. After another hour of moving an inch every ten minutes I finally cross the border and from there it’s a blur of ubers and train stops before I finally land back in bed.
I’m not sure what happened to Flaco or Tammy or the Mario mustache man that almost ruined my day, but thank you briney weed pho for making it happen. Oh, and here’s a photo of the meal I ate with Flaco after smoking that joint.
Shoutout to Weedmaps for the southern inspiration.