Man Uno and I were at a corporate lunch last year and were asked to share with the table a childhood memory. A memory from Tijuana entered my mind immediately. Man Uno went first and his memory was about being in Tijuana too. I realized at that moment we all have Mexico memories to share.
Here’s one of mine: Canicas
I grew up in San Diego, South Bay to be exact, 2 exits away from the border. When I was about 4 years old my abuelita still owned apartments in Tijuana and we’d go down a few times a week. They were more like shacks that she rented with dusty wood floors, some with out houses and those with indoor toilets had to pour a bucket of water in them to make them flush.
I was friends with all the tenants and one of my buddies was Don Chuey. He lived underneath one row of apartments. LIke under the foundation in the dirt. Looking back now this doesn’t sound safe, a 4 year old chilling alone with an old dude that lives underneath apartments but it was. He was totally my homie and would give me canicas(marbles) every time I’d come to visit. I never entered his area mostly because he never invited me in but I stayed at the entrance and could see his set up. A matress , a drawer, some clothes and shoes and the entire dirt floor was covered with canicas. I never felt uncomfortable and at the time thought his set up was cool, like a club house, but not too private since he didn’t have a door.
In elementary school , playing canicas was all the rage. I had my little suede bag with rabbits feet hanging from it. My canicas were dope and no one was the wiser that some dude living under a building gave them to me.
Every time I see canicas I remember Don Chuey. I recently asked my Tia if Don Chuey was real and not a figment of my imagination. She confirmed my memories were correct. I asked why he lived there in first place. Turns out Don Chuey was having issues with his family. He needed a place to stay and all the spaces were rented. He asked if he could chill for a bit under the building and my abuelita said sure. She’d make him breakfast, lunch and dinner. He eventually patched things up with his family and his kids asked him to come home but he decided to stay. He said he liked having his own space where he could come and go as he pleased.
You were real Don Chuey! Though it will remain a mystery as to why you had so many canicas in your space, gracias for sharing them with me.