Hanging Out in Rockford: The death of a friend—part two

Then, we headed for Laredo, where we were going to cross over into Mexico. About a half an hour outside of Laredo, my bike died. I had no electricity. I finally figured out that if I turned off my running lights and head light, I could produce enough juice to keep the engine running. We limped into Laredo, and found our way to Gregorio’s BMW. The service man put my bike on a stand, and declared the alternator rotor to be bad. A new one would have to come from New York state. Gregorio, the owner, offered to install a used one off another R75 that was sitting on the floor, and reinstall the new one in his bike when it arrived. I went for it.

While the technician was working on my motorcycle, he asked if we were going to be staying in Laredo. What choice did we have? He said we should go to “boys’ town.” We had no idea what he was talking about. He was talking about the whorehouses in Nueva Laredo, on the Mexican side, just over the border. We walked out the front door of the BMW shop, and a cab driver yelled at us, “You boys want to go to boys’ town?” We got in the cab.

We rode in the cab to Nueva Laredo. We rode on tiny asphalt roads. We dove down into deep gullies. We emerged tenuously on the other side. Finally, we arrived in boys’ town. Federales stood guard with M16s. We emerged from the cab and made our way down the main street. There were perhaps 20 or 25 buildings. Armed federales were everywhere. As we walked, a man came out of one of the saloons offering us what seemed like an interesting proposition. We entered the bar. Dozens of Mexican women swarmed over us. We had one beer and left.

We made our way around the compound, first going to this place and then that place. We were attracted and repelled by this slice of life, totally new to three boys conservatively brought up in the Midwest. That sort of thing didn’t happen at Harlem High, not in the ’60s. But our curiosity dragged us on. We sat in a building that was like a palace with water streaming down the walls. The women were some of the most beautiful we had ever seen in our young lives.

We finished up the night in a place that was like a cattle call, where all the men sat in the middle, and the women walked around them on a track. Occasionally, a woman would break from the pack to attempt to entice one of the customers. One such woman sat with us for a while. She spoke English. We asked her about her working as a prostitute. One of the bosses came over and yelled at us because we weren’t buying. We exited into the warm night air and caught a cab back to the States.

The next day, we crossed over into Mexico again. The next day, we headed for Monterey. The next day, we saw the giant Carta Blanca brewery and rode around the traffic circle, where I dropped my bike in an oil slick and Mexican drivers barely missed me—not even slowing down. Then, we drove through country—country so beautiful. We were on our way to Victoria, Ciudad Victoria, and we were trying to get there by nightfall. Ron had been reading a guide book. The book said not to drive after nightfall. It was prophetic.

About 7 or 8 at night, the sun falling behind beautiful mountains, it started to rain. We entered a long valley. You could see for miles. The big Pemix trucks zoomed by us in the opposite direction. The tour buses did the same, pulling over barely enough to miss us. It grew darker and darker. Way up ahead of us, there was a pickup truck traveling in the same direction as we were. Suddenly, as we approached it, it stopped inexplicably. It stopped right in our path. I was leading, and I held my arm out to signal that I was slowing.

More next week.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Jan. 24-30, 2007, issue

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