El Paso Memories

El Paso Memories

It’s such a strange place, halfway between nowhere and at the tail-end of oblivion. Starkly rich and beautiful, with heritage and cultures that transcend country borders, it’s a geological and geographical anomaly, blessed and cursed in the same breath.

The cordillera — the Rockies — almost disappear, getting lower until the mountains go under the desert sands, and arching in from the east, unseen, there’s another geological fold, with the Rio Grande dividing two worlds. El Paso is technically in Texas, and while I’ve seen snow there; however, it is the point furthest north where the East Coast and the Left Coast can connect — again, in theory — frost–free. A year–round passage in the north.

For years, I assumed that the name, “El Paseo del Norte,” in my limited border patois, that was “The pass to the north,” where one would ford a river and make passage into the frozen parts of the countryside, like Colorado. Landing in a little commercial airliner, in Colorado, late one August, there was the faintest dusting of new snow on the tops of the mountains, like a sugar–coating. August in El Paso is still full–on “summer,” with temperatures easily cresting the century mark.

Like university in Arizona, though, “It’s a dry heat,” and for me? Easily manageable.

El Paso Memories

El Paso’s little isolated corner of the world has long–been a part of my mystic whistle–stop tours, over and over, for more than two decades. Age, expense, and expected revenue — all business factors — cut back my trips. From as often as every other month, to just once this year, it is a change.

My fondest memories are two–fold. Breakfast at the old truck stop, no longer even there. I have a permanent digital image, as permanent as digital can be, as a symbol, and the place was razed years ago. Countless Sunday morning breakfasts there, with its worn Formica countertops, and ageless essence, like an insect in amber, all paved over with gleaming new building and fresh concrete parking lot, Western Refinery, still looming in the background.

The truck stop was particularly special with my small parade of West Texas beauties that sauntered through with me.

El Paso Memories

Most of the events I’be worked over my long career have been in hotel/motel convention center areas, and El Paso is not different. I long lost track of the individual hotels. One summer, I was regularly I swimming in Austin’s Barton Creek, me lean and dark with the summer sun, and the fair in El Paso was going slowly. At that one hotel ballroom, I paused, stepped out of my shirts, emptied my pockets, and took a quick dip in the pool. Best estimate puts that around ten, fifteen years ago, as my primary summer attire was river guide shorts, which doubled as acceptable swim wear.

While not quite as effective as showing up dripping wet from Barton Creek, with the faintest tang of urban wilderness, it was still acceptable, “He’s from Austin,” as if that pardoned all strange behaviors.

Another memory is more tragic, early in the 90’s, supper with my cop buddies, as the news broke about the first — that I heard about — gangland–style execution in Ciudad Juarez. It was that first time. El Paso, TX had a population of roughly three–quarters of a million people while the township across the border, Juarez held over three million. Fuzzy facts, not from dependable sources, but reasonable enough. Until that point, the violence and (illicit) drug–trade was low–profile.

El Paso Memories

Odd reflective thought, for years? I always considered El Paso as part of the more “liveable” places — high on my list of locations I could settle in, retire, something like that. Odd in its singularity. It’s the odd combination of Texas and Southern New Mexico, with a further influence being the essentially rich military history of the town, in the last 400 years.

El Paso Memories

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