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"We're still in Arizona."
She was right. Just below Yuma, a series of right-angle corrugated farm roads led one slowly and painfully toward the border. "I knew that!" I said. "What I meant was these roads are just like Mexico!"
"Sure you did," my wife said. "So let's give the Mexicans one more chance."
We had deferred breakfast and lunch in favor of an authentic Mexican meal, and now we were both weakened with hunger. Visions of hot tamales ("Are there any cold tamales?" my wise-guy friend had asked) and chiles rellenos and guacamole salad danced before our eyes. "Frijoles," I said. "My kingdom for a dish of frijoles." My wife has always said that my idea of heaven would be a pool hall that served frijoles, Mexico's refried beans.
Crossing the border into the dusty little town of San Luis was a snap; it took 10 minutes from start to finish, and the Mexican officials that everybody had told us would have to be bribed didn't have to be bribed at all, just smiled at by my wife. We entered the first restaurant in sight at a trot and grabbed up a pair of heavy menus. "Familiar dinner No. 1" consisted of "wonton soup, barbecued pork, pork chop suey, spareribs" and assorted other Oriental delicacies. "Familiar dinner No. 2" was "sguabs (sic) featured with pineapple," etc. The restaurant also served "fried fresk shrimp," "Filete mignon," "Nueva York cut steak" and "tenderlin steak," as well as "breaded tenderlin steak." We ate Chinese style, at $4.50 each, and thanked our stars that we were in an inexpensive country.
We headed southeast across a countryside so dry that you could almost hear it crackle. Tall and stately saguaro cacti dominated the landscape of basic brown. The saguaros near the road (Mexican National Highway No. 2) were brown and lifeless and bulletholed, like the ones near the roads in Arizona. White poppies and purple unidentifiables covered the desert floor, and here and there were specimens of a strange half-cactus half-tree, lacking bark and leaves, with gnarled and twisted branches reaching toward the sky like the fingers of the dead. Nothing changed for 200 miles. The man at the quarantine station said, "You spik Sponnish?"
"No." I said.
"�Donde va?" he said. "Where do you go?"
" Mexico City."
"Ooooooh bonito," he said. "Beautiful. Why do you go there?"