Baja California

Tijuana: One Year After Anthony Bourdain

Before, during and after his visit

Why would they ask me to host such a well known man in the city of sin ( Tijuana ) ? People may or may not know this, but for the last six years I have played a part ( unknowingly) in somehow helping to destroy certain stereotypes about the notoriously raunchy Tijuana nightlife scene. I am a party promoter. I have booked and done shows with hundreds of internet relevant dj's and music acts from dozens of countries.

It's been known around town that I am fun to drink with and know the spots to do it right at. Apparently those credentials and my reputation around town are enough to host a world class Gringo, writer and chef like Bourdain, lucky me.

The producers of the show told me to meet Bourdain on the last Friday of January 2012, 7pm at the legendary downtown Tijuana dive bar, Dandy del Sur. At first he seemed rigid and uninterested but after downing Tequila shot after shot we got into the chat zone perfectly. He is as cool as he seems to be on the show, maybe cooler. Right away he was curious to know about the uniqueness of being smashed up between two cultures and countries and I was eager to tell him about it. We spoke about Tijuana past, present, future, drug trade, tourism and other subjects for about ninety minutes, 6 shots and 4 beers each. We made our way across the street to the Tijuana Hipster Mecca known as La Mezcalera, downed the Mezcal sampler and made our way to what was probably the funniest/coolest part of the whole damn show, the pink limo incident. By this time we were pretty drunk and

I surprised him with a 1987 pink Lincoln Continental limousine and to quote the man himself " the effing thing didn't start". The limo battery was dead and a huge crowd gathered to see the freaks inside of it, we finally got a jump start and went to Las Ahumaderas to eat some tacos. The next day we hung out at the Caliente race track. Bourdain was hung over, we lost our bets, they did not come through on providing monkeys riding greyhound dogs as promised and the Caliente rep kept bugging us to wear hats with the brand on them on camera. It's easy to see why this segment never aired on TV and only made it to the travel channel website.

One year later Tijuana is at best the same as it always has been. It's very hard to gauge any measurable results from having No Reservations or positive stories about Tijuana from other huge media outlets ( NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal ) like we have had since the airing of the episode. Strong stereotypes and horror stories still exist and will continue to exist about violence, drugs and cheap hookers. Let's face it, the city finds itself in a geographical location that will always allow those stereotypes to exist. We can't hide where we are and why certain kinds of people find it easy to take advantage of the situation and promote or indulge in drugs and prostitution. If anything, maybe we can have learned to embrace it and laugh about it. The show did help kick start a food trend that had already existed and will continue to thrive. The Baja Med cuisine was heavily featured on the episode. Aside from a local soccer team winning it all in Mexico ( something that people from other than this region simply don't care about it ) the food scene is the only thing that has really benefited from the show.

On a personal level, the show has gotten me recognized every single day. A Las Vegas elevator on the strip, a karaoke bar full of American tourists, the super market, restaurants, the street and a whole bunch of bars are only the some of the places I have been recognized.

I will live on in reruns of the show on the travel channel (only reason worth watching travel channel). The taco place I took Bourdain to in Tijuana has immortalized me forever with a huge five foot poster of me and the chef during our visit. Tacos de Swaggdero for life.

tonyley2@gmail.com

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