Sunday, January 22, 2017

El Paso: The [Insert Corporate Sponsor Here] Parade, Part 1

Thanksgiving Parade 2016, El Paso, Texas. November 2016.

El Paso has a huge parade on Thanksgiving. Under normal circumstances, I would call it El Paso's Thanksgiving Parade, but that's not what it is. Although, to be fair, it's not what it's not, either.

The official name is the First Light Federal Credit Union Sun Bowl Parade [Brought to You on Thanksgiving Day, oh right, and in El Paso].  Sometimes called the Sun Bowl Parade for short, even though the Sun Bowl is a month after the parade.

The above caused me no end of consternation when I arrived, trying to find the connection between the Sun Bowl (which actually occurs in December), and the Parade Not Called Thanksgiving But Which Happens on Thanksgiving. Because I intended to go, I wanted to be sure to go on the right date and the right place.

Once I got things sorted, I was ready to go! And it was a marvel to be within walking distance of such a huge event (some sources say a quarter of a million people attend the parade), so no parking logistics to worry about.

Thanksgiving Parade 2016, El Paso, Texas. November 2016.

It was a big parade, so I'm going to roll it out over several posts.

Below a video of one of the opening units:

Henceforward, I'll refer to it as the El Paso Thanksgiving Parade, as it should be. 

Thanksgiving Parade 2016, El Paso, Texas. November 2016.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mexico: Juárez: First Date: Horses

I've been to locations that featured art themes with:

With Juárez, I add horses.

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

The artsy fiberglass herd stood in the promenade in front of the Museum of the Revolution of the Border (neé Aduana Fronteriza when first the building was constructed).

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

If I were a more museum-y kinda gal, I would have scrutinized the provenance of each horse and been able to share same with you. But I'm not, so all I've got are the photos.

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

But there's this for information seekers.

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

According to the article linked above, the horses are stallions. Please. Normally, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about this specificity, but I'm writing this post after my experience at the Fountain Theater and during the early days of an era in which my head of state can boast about how he grasps women's groins without their prior consent, with impunity. This is why I don't read the fine print of exhibits. I had been happy just thinking "horses."

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

Horse art, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

Friday, January 20, 2017

El Paso: Art Museum: Beautiful Bones - Hermosos Huesos

El Paso Museum of Art, November 2016.

November 2016

Wayne Hilton's Hermosos Huesos was a special exhibit during my first visit to the El Paso Museum of Art.

Hello, baby. Is that a bone in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Hermosos Huesos piece. El Paso Museum of Art. November 2016.

(Bad joke mine and not the artist's.)

In this 2012 video, Mr. Hilton introduces the exhibit, which debuted in 2013:

There is an understandable fascination with the overlapping worlds of death and life that Mexico and the American Southwest recognize circa the Day of the Dead - El Día de los Muertos. Artwork, songs, poems, books - so much devoted to the dead-just-over-the-other-side.

In El Paso and Juarez, there is also the malignant shadow cast by the slaughter of hundreds (more?) of women in the state of Chihuahua, many buried near the border Wall. So many wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, neighbors, friends butchered - their endings like frayed hems, in an unraveling cloth that one can't cut cleanly.

Hermosos Huesos piece. El Paso Museum of Art. November 2016.

Below are a few other pieces in the museum that drew me in :

El Paso Museum of Art, November 2016.

I really like the giant poster above. It's in the main foyer of the museum. It is like a declaration of Who We Are in El Paso. We are standing up and looking you straight in the eye.

El Paso Museum of Art, November 2016.

I like the work above because it is an example of how alive the Revolution still is in El Paso and Juarez. It also depicts for me the sameness of terror. I think Dostoevsky got it all wrong when he said all happy families are the same; all unhappy families are different. Nope. You can find many ways to happiness. What works for you might not work for me. But when it comes to hurting others, it's pretty much the same tools and techniques for centuries present and past.

A slide show of Hermosos Huesos:

Hermosos Huesos

Thursday, January 19, 2017

El Paso: Don't You Hate When People Post Pics of Food?

Me, too.

So here I am going to post a couple. I don't even know why I took this pictures, but I did, and I sure don't want them to go to waste.

Not because of any lessons to expound upon, but like Sally Fields said once, sort of, "Gosh darn, I just love the fuck out of these things." Well, she said the word "like" that one time. Oh wait, I see that I didn't use the word "like" at all. Let's just say Sally Field's speech inspired what I said.

So, roasted zucchini. I don't coddle these vegs. I just slice 'em rather haphazardly, spray some spray on them, and drop salt, pepper, and whatever other spices I want on them. No parmesan cheese or other fancy stuff. No olive oil, chaste or otherwise. I roast them in the oven for about an hour at about 425 degrees. All of the sugary sweetness comes out. On this particular day in November, I probably threw some Cajun/Creole spice on them, hence the orange color you see.

In the cooler months of the year, I eat probably a pound of zucchini a day. On some days, two pounds.

Then here's my new El Paso go-to --> jícama:

The above is not a particularly fine specimen of jícama (no disrespect to Melissa), now that I know a thing or two about what I like in this root vegetable. But it's the picture I have on hand.

On the jícama, I sprinkle Tajín promiscuously. Tajín is a brand of dried chiles and lime juice and salt. I eat about two pounds of jícama a day.

Below is a sexy picture of Tajín

And now, to complement my soft-porn food pics, here's a picture of a cat, specifically the Holy Cat of Opelousas:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mexico: Juárez: First Date: Kentucky Club

The Kentucky Club, Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

It has become my custom to seek cultural interpretations from authors whose writing has a sense of the place where I live.

In South Louisiana, these writers were James Lee Burke and Ernest J. Gaines.

For El Paso, I identified a long list of literary cultural guides. I've started with Benjamin Alire Saenz.

The very first book of Mr. Saenz's that I read was a collection of stories called Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

The Kentucky Club, Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

I read the first story, He Has Gone to be With the Women, while I reclined on my "couch," which is also my bed, in my studio-plus apartment.

All of a sudden, I gasped, then sat up straighter against the headboard. Wha?

Below is the passage I read, and I include some delicious wrap-around to the cause of my gasp because it is also so rich with cultural illumination in the short exchange. A bit of background: The story protagonist, Juan Carlos, has just met the story's other principal at the Kentucky Club. They are introducing themselves.
We found ourselves sitting outside. The morning was cold. The wind was back, the wind that was in love with El Paso, the wind that refused to leave us to enjoy the sun.  .... 

"Juan Carlos."
"Juan Carlos," he repeated "Where do you live?"
"Sunset Heights."

[And here is when I gaped - thinking, "that's where I live!!!!"]

He tapped his paper cup. "Interesting neighborhood." 
.... "It's a beautiful place," he said.
"It was built in 1900."
"Ten years before the Revolution."
"More than a hundred years ago."
"And here we are. One real Mexican and one Mexican who's American.""My grandfather was born here," I said."My grandfather was born in Israel," he said. 
"So I'm more Mexican than you are."
.... "Do you like to fight?" [he asked.]
"No, I don't like to fight," [I said.]
"Certainly you are not a Mexican," he said.

In The Art of Translation, another story of the book's collection, the protagonist and a woman walk over to the Kentucky Club from El Paso, via the same route I took in my first foray:
She held my hand as we walked over the Santa Fe Bridge. I found myself sitting at a booth in the Kentucky Club. It was strange. I should have felt drunker than I felt. She asked me questions. I answered them and I smiled to myself because I knew the answers weren't true. Men lied to women all the time. Normal

When I read the book, I kind of wondered if the Kentucky Club was a real or an imagined locale of Mr. Saenz's.

Not long after I finished the book, my landlords had a man come to ready my room's radiator for the coming winter. Somehow I learned that he lived in Juárez, and I asked him if there was a Kentucky Club there.

Not only was there a Kentucky Club, but he used to live in one of the rooms above the club many years ago! He told me that back in the day, women weren't allowed in the club, and that along the foot of the bar was a trough in which men would pee so they wouldn't have to leave their spots at the bar. Eucalyptus leaves were placed in the trough to dampen the odor, and as I think about it, probably to squelch some of the splashing that would likely occur. This story sounded apocryphal but he swore it was true. (But then see Mr. Saenz's story excerpt above.)

Of course, it became a destination goal to visit the Kentucky Club if for no other reason but to see this trough with my very own eyes. Because I'm lowbrow like that.


The Kentucky Club, Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

The Kentucky Club, Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

So on my first date with Juárez, I visited the Kentucky Club. I sat at the bar. Placed my lady foot atop the trough. Asked the bartender about the trough; he confirmed the story. (But again, see the story excerpt above.)

By the time I went to Juárez, I'd learned that the Kentucky Club was actually damn famous. For one, it (allegedly) invented the margarita. Therefore, that's what I ordered when I visited.

The Kentucky Club, Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. November 2016.

Thousands of El Pasoan adolescents also patronized the Kentucky Club in decades past, as Mexican drinking laws were much more lax and what the hey, the club was so close to home for El Pasoans.

Cultural luminaries from both sides of the border visited the Kentucky Club.

But it's not all margaritas and sunshine at the Kentucky Club - the place got into trouble recently for discrimination.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

El Paso: A Movie With a Blast of Sexism

At the Fountain Theater, Mesilla, New Mexico. November 2016.

Actually, the movie happened in The Fountain Theater in Mesilla, New Mexico. But because I came up to see the movie from El Paso and my movie seat neighbors also lived in El Paso, I'm claiming this post for El Paso.

The movie, The Lamb, took me back to Ethiopia. I can't look at the trailer without sighing. In nostalgia at my time there; in sadness for the movie's protagonist, the beauty of the country, the tenderness of the boy toward his lamb, the little shepherdess; the pathos of the young woman.

I didn't think about it til just now re-watching the trailer and considering the blast of sexism that blew my way in the theater, that the movie's themes include sexism contra women and men. Not to mention the interconnectedness of Ethiopia's Orthodox Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations.

So about the movie: I recommend it.

Fountain Theater, Mesilla, New Mexico. November 2016.

The theater is an historic one, lovingly tended to by volunteers, screening films that the mainstream movie theaters might not offer.

Fountain Theater, Mesilla, New Mexico. November 2016.

My seat neighbors were a husband and wife who live in El Paso. Congenial, engaging to chat with. The husband is an attorney. Not relevant under normal circumstances, but ....

I shared with them my recent visit to the Kentucky Club in Juárez, how back in the day, only men (per my understanding) were allowed in.

Mr. Husband allowed as how Mexican law now requires that women be admitted to bars, even to private clubs that used to be the sacrosanct dens for those with affluence and influence of the male persuasion.

The Mrs and I chuckled mildly about the bad old days when women were shut out of back-room and golf-course business deals, and then Mr. Husband said something like: "Oh, but we made sure that women who came to our club wouldn't stay long. We would say things and do things that would intimidate them into leaving. We showed them what was what." Hohohohoho.

The Mrs. allowed as how men needed their space and how there was never anything interesting going on in those men's clubs anyway.

I'd like to say that I whipped out my

bumper sticker ... but I didn't. I took the easy way out and just smiled weakly.

And wrote about it here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mexico: Juarez: First Date: Introduction

The El Paso-Juárez Bus mural outside the El Paso History Museum, El Paso, Texas. November 2016.

One of the reasons I chose El Paso as my year's home was its proximity to Mexico, and more specifically, its proximity to Juárez.

It is a continuing source of wonder to me that I live in a conjoined city, with each sister in a different country. Severed but still attached, still sisters.

You strike at one of the sisters and the other sister feels the pain, too. Through money or blood or both. You love one sister, and both bloom.

Some El Pasoans have never been to Juárez. Some used to go, especially as adolescents, to party, but haven't been in years. Some grew up in Juárez, but haven't been back since the high killing times. Some live in El Paso, but work in Juárez. Some live in Juárez, but work in El Paso. There are fabulously wealthy Juarenses, astoundingly poor Juarenses, and everyone in between.

My first date with Juarez was a Friday afternoon in November.

I didn't think about November being among the busiest months for the border crossing, as so many Juarenses come to El Paso to buy Christmas gifts. In other words, it's pretty fast work to walk into Juárez, but slow, slow, slow at times to walk back into El Paso. Plus I happened to choose Veteran's Day for my first foray into Juárez. Doh. LOTS of traffic going in to El Paso. Not only Christmas shopping season, but good sales happening in El Paso.  (Oh, you didn't realize that Mexico brings money TO the United States economy?)

Long vehicle line to get from Juárez to El Paso. November 2016.

I'm going to go into more detail about my first date with Juárez in separate posts, but below is a video and a slide show about that day.

To come:
  • The Kentucky Club
  • Horses
  • Murals
  • Coming and going

Video below, Friday Afternoon in Juarez:

And a slide show of my first date with Juarez here:

November 11 in Juarez