So far, the trip into Mexico has been great. I crossed the border on the morning of Friday the eleventh, and it frankly couldn’t have been easier. In fact, I probably could have easily gotten a shipment of AK-47s and plenty of ammunition into the country without any problem. (Of course, I wasn’t trying, LOL.) On the US side of the Laredo International Bridge, the Border Patrol station appeared to be unmanned. Moreover, there was almost no traffic. So I drove right to the toll booth, paid my $3.50 USD for the pleasure of leaving the country, and headed into Mexico. On the Mexican side, I got a green light at customs, and spent only a very few cursory minutes with the aduana folks on the other side before they were convinced that I really did have nothing to declare and should be set loose on the border zone.
At the cleverly-hidden Mexican Immigration office under the International Bridge, I also had zero problems. I even managed to find it the first time without getting lost. However, I feared some bureaucratic headache once I arrived. Upon leaving Mexico on the 30th of May, I had asked if I could keep my truck’s temporary importation permit so as to avoid the hassle of re-doing this particular bit of paperwork in July. The first person I asked said, “yes,” but knowing that these things can be a bit “unevenly enforced,” I asked another person far out of earshot of the first. There was concurrence of opinion. Still, I worried a bit upon reentry. It had seemed too easy. Would I have no hassles with the existing permit? I can now safely report that the answer to that question is “Yes, no problem!” The only thing different is that this time they gave me a 90-day visa instead of a 180 day visa, but it’s a kind of a moot point since the truck has to be out of the country by the 20th of September anyway, 70 days after I re-entered. So after about 10 minutes in this office, with my passport stamped, and a full tank of gas, I headed south to Monterrey.
Tino and I had planned to meet up that evening at 7:00, but given Monterrey’s famous traffic and the fact that it was a Friday, I decided that I wanted to be near our rendezvous point far in advance. The trip couldn’t have gone any more smoothly. With only one wrong turn after arriving in Monterrey which was swiftly fixed, I found our meeting point and parked the car. Though the tolls on the Mexican highways are frightening, (I spent about $430 USD on tolls during my last trip around the country), it is somewhat offset by the cheapness of parking. In Monterrey at a meter near downtown, you can get a whole two hours for a mere 5 pesos, about $0.38 USD. In Boston, that would buy you about fifteen minutes, maybe only ten.
We had arranged to meet at the Casa de Cultura, where Tino is on his way to becoming Mexico’s next singing idol as soon as he finishes his voice course. Set in an old railway station, the Casa is a charming piece of late-nineteenth century architecture with a yellow caboose outside. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the inside, but Tino assures me it’s worth a visit. Paneled with dark woods, it now houses a library and provides space for various cultural events, voice classes included.
At seven, Tino emerged. It was great to see him again, and we started talking like no time had passed since our last meet-up. After strolling around the neighborhood a spell, we went off to meet one of his old friends, Enrique, and from there we went to dinner in a restaurant in a mall that wouldn’t be out of place in Houston, Los Angeles, or any newer American city. Everything was clean, spiffy, and new, full of stylishly-dressed people having a good time. The food was quite good too, and the price was reasonable. Over dinner, the three of us had a great time, laughing and joking for hours on end. At the end of the day, we went for a nightcap at Enrique’s apartment which has a terrific view of Monterrey, with the dramatic mountains in the background. Overall, it was a great day, and I had only just arrived. The weekend with Tino, touring around Monterrey beckoned.