Another Wonderful Day

Sitting on the plaza, sun to my back. Morning air was just beginning to get warm. The day started chilly, as usual, but by ten it was absolutely perfect sitting outside listening to clusters of conversation and children laughing. From across the plaza came pan pipe music. Could any morning be better?

Cinda and I have walked almost every road in Alamos. Many have concrete pavers, but the cobblestone ones are killer. I’ve done them and even climbed through rocky washes. We’ve seen more of the town than most locals.

a beautiful doorway to . . . what?

Days have drifted into a beautiful pattern. Coffee, light breakfast, lots of walking. Stop for coffee and/or lunch. Walk. Listen to street music or watch street events or head to the cathedral for a concert. Walk. Dinner or snacks followed by street music or simply returning to the house we’re staying in.

Today was different, though, because we went on a tour of mansions.

The houses were huge. Massive. One had 7,000 square feet of house and another 3,000 feet under roof outdoors. The outdoor living room was approximately 42 feet by 28 feet. Each room had a fireplace, the only heat. Pool. Views.

One house had a staff of seven to keep the place functioning. I figured that the others needed a minimum of four but likely had more.

My favorite bathroom was quite large. A wall split the room into two parts. Each side had a closet about ten feet long. Against the common wall were back-to-back toilets and large showers with views out onto a private patio. The broad counters and backsplashes of the sinks were tiled, as were the curved, walk-in showers. In addition, one side held a lady’s soaking tub, tiled, again with views into the patio.

The house with the fabulous bath had four other full baths and one half bath that I saw. And an outdoor shower by the pool. Who knows? I suppose there could have been more. No photos allowed, so I can’t pass them on.

The kitchens in each of the four houses were large enough to accommodate a staff of three or four to prepare a meal for thirty. The dining rooms had formal seating for ten to twelve, and of course the huge patio spaces could be set up to accommodate dinner for the aforementioned thirty.

One home had a large entry topped by a dome with a brick ceiling. The patio had all the appropriate arches draped in bougainvillea with views of the mountains beyond. It was stunning.

I loved this tour. I have never been in such homes, seen such furnishings. But as much as I loved it, I have to say one thing: some people have entirely too much money.

Am I jealous? Envious? No. There is no way I want to have all of that. I don’t want to be responsible for maintaining such a size nor employing a staff of seven. I wondered, too, what the staff salaries were. Wages for such work in Mexico is often about $15 a day. I certainly couldn’t ask someone to work in luxury like I saw and then offer such wages. And on the other side, what would it feel like to work in such a place and then go home with wages so minimal?

Now, I don’t know if that’s the case for these households and these workers. These workers may receive a very fair wage. But that whole idea of the poor working to care for the very rich and their belongings is abhorrent to me.

When we left the last house, just like the help, we walked back into town. Cinda and others headed to the cathedral for music while I went to the tourism area for a painting class. When the instructor finally arrived (late) and pulled out the paints and easels, I realized it was a class for children. I asked if I could join, but he had limited supplies and wanted the kids to have access to what they wanted, which I understood.

Barred from painting, I dashed back across the street and slid into a seat near Cinda just a little while before the program began. Violin and piano. Yum.

More walking, beer and guacamole, more walking, a cup of elote. Elote in a cup is corn off the cob with butter, cheese, and lime. Then we wandered the market area a bit and walked home.

Could I live here? You bet. In a heartbeat (except for summer!). Lots of good people, lots of good food, lots of wonderful places to walk. One woman told me about someone who came to town and complained that there was no theater, there was no gym, and there was no whatever else she wanted. They suggested she move to Tucson.

I am quite accustomed to no gym and no theater. The only gym necessary is the out-of-doors, and there’s plenty of that. Theater? Who needs it with birds galore including a variety of hummers and falcons, the trogon, and the jay magpie. We saw the magpies daily around 7 AM except for the last morning. Cinda figured they didn’t like to say goodbyes.

Alamos: Day Two

Cinda and I were up again before dawn and outside with the roosters. Today we headed west. We passed by the home of the Urrea family. Tomas was the father of Teresita, a famous healer and known now in the US because of books written about her by Luis Urrea (Hummingbird’s Daughter and Teresita). A modest home. I had hoped for some kind of plaque, but there was none.

Our morning walks have yielded many surprises. One is that here, roses bloom in January. This is in addition to the bougainvillea and the jamaica, or hibiscus. We wandered until we found ourselves back at the sweet cafe we’d been to yesterday, where we sat, had breakfast, and lounged for hours talking with friends. Then, more walking.

The heat was on. I can see why people leave in summer. The houses with their thick walls are cool, but the January sun baked us us we wandered town.

In early afternoon, a musical treat. Baroque music inside the main church on the plaza, the Templo de la Purisma Concepcion. Violins, viola, cello, keyboard. The music soared up into the dome, slid down, and reverberated off the walls and arches.

But then the soprano began. I can’t stand sopranos, especially classical or operatic. But I have to say this young woman’s voice was clear and rich. Even I could listen. I slid to the back of the church, and eventually out the door. But while I was inside, for more than half the concert, I actually enjoyed it. The music, even the voice, so perfectly fit the cathedral. For a moment I could almost believe I was in Alamos in the 1700s.

While friends stayed in the church for the last twenty minutes or so of baroque, I stayed outside and listened to street music. This was followed by a walk. It was supposed to be a short one, but the twisty roads conspired against us and we turned down many a wrong street on our way to El Pedregal. Pedregal means rocky terrain, and it certainly was. Not so much at El Pedregal itself, but on the way there. After numerous wrong roads and about an hour of wandering, we made it.

What a place! Twenty or so acres of countryside, trails, and views. The whole property has five little casitas, a main house, and a straw bale building now used for yoga and massage. We had a lovely tour and then followed the correct road back to town, getting there in about fifteen minutes.

We hit downtown just as the kids’ program was getting underway with the same festive characters playing music and dancing on stilts. Like the adults with the burro and wine, there would be music and festivities followed by a walk through town, musicians in the lead and about half a block of children trailing along behind. The party/parade went on for over ninety minutes.

The parade begins!

Dinner of papas – baked potato topped with cheese and grilled beef and salsa and guacamole and . . . and whatever else you want. A margarita on the patio overlooking the plaza. Musicians, young folks twirling batons of fire, and more. An excellent ending to the second day.

First Day in Alamos


It’s been on my “go-to” list for more than thirty years, and what do you know, I finally made it. And during the annual music festival, no less!

My friend Cinda and I arrived late Tuesday and though she went to an evening performance, I just settled in.

Then in the morning, we were both up early, dined on bean burritos, and headed out the door just after dawn. Distant roosters and one burro called up the sun. Policemen, and women, clustered around small fires in an attempt to keep the chill away.

Cobblestone streets, sun glancing off the church tower, bougainvillea spilling over fourteen-foot adobe walls. Houses of tan, buff, and screaming pink. We peeked around corners, into shattered windows of empty buildings, and through fences. Every sight was a potential photograph. I felt memories of Antigua, Guatemala, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. All three places are old colonial cities. Houses share side walls. There are no front yards. Beautiful doorway abound.

The oldest houses have wide double doors, large enough for carriages and horse-drawn wagons to enter. In some of the wide doors there are smaller entry doors. Doors within doors, leading to courtyards of fountains, flowers, and benches under ancient trees. All the old (or restored) doors are wood, often carved, while newer ones are wrought iron. It seems no two are the same.

Near the end of our long walk, we passed by a little orange juice stand. For fifteen pesos, a little over a dollar, I god a good sized glass of freshly squeezed juice.

Calle de la Paz

We got back to the house we were staying in, sat down to relax, and found it was time to head to a cafe to meet friends for coffee. And of course the cafe was across town.

Delicious coffee, muffins, baguette. Good conversation. Beautiful setting.  Teresita’s is a fairly new cafe with outdoor seating clustered around a small pond and water spilling over a rock wall. Then it was time to walk to a different area of town, wander some shops, and learn about birding walks. By this time, the streets we filled with residents, visitors, and musicians. Tubas and accordions. Drums and flutes. Guitars and trumpets. Mexican hippies in dreadlocks. Music spilling across the plaza and down alleyways. We wormed our way back to the house.

After a rest, it was time to hit the streets again and head to a cafe for dinner. We left for the house after dinner but were immediately sidetracked by the beginning of a small parade heading toward a crowd of young children. Time for the kids’ program.

Musicians in costumes were led by three people on stilts and a young man on a unicycle. Juggling, singing, and dancing. One of the people on stilts actually skipped across the road, and remember, it’s a cobblestone road! The musicians wandered on down the road after a bit, trailed by a crowd of children and parents. We headed back to the house for a rest.

I again skipped the evening concert but headed out a little after nine for some of the evening festivities. Four men were gathered around a little donkey who had been nicely groomed with trimmed hair except for little furry tufts around his knees. He carried two crates. Originally, years ago, I suppose he would have carried handwoven baskets, but this night he carried plastic storage boxes. Each box held several gallons of wine.

The street near the Palacio where the evening concert was being held was swarming with people. Most were musicians, men. They were dressed in black, with short pants gathered just below the knee and tall white socks. They all wore either a cape or jacket, the backs of which were decorated with ribbons of all colors, some with writing on them. I believe the ribbons represent music festivals, competitions, and other performances along with ribbons for prizes won at different events.

When the doors of the concert hall finally opened, the street burst into song. The musicians started and soon the crowd joined in. The men with the donkey began passing out little cups of wine.

After a few numbers, the musicians wandered down the street followed by the donkey, the wine, and a crowd of revelers.

I followed a short while then cut over to another street to watch a program called Tango en Mexico. A good tenor and a couple dancing a variety of tangos. Wow!! They could glide and she could kick! I was envious.

Back home around 11:00. Now, those who know me well must be amazed. I’m the one who hates crowds and settles in early, refusing to leave the house after dark. And there I was, swarming with the masses, following musicians and a little donkey, and staying out hours past my bedtime.

It was delightful.

Kino: A Different Trip

We left, not at dawn, but at 8:30, while Doug was gazing at the sea.
We drove not through the mountains of Sonora, a foot deep in snow, but through Nogales. From clear skies to gray, then to drizzle and on into moderate rain. Doug’s eyes remained glued to the sea.
We crossed the border in the rain, moved into the wrong lane, and had a lengthy drive through the fringes of Nogales, avoiding potholes the size of small ponds, past rivulets spilling down the mountains.
Doug’s eyes stayed firm.
What we didn’t yet know, and what others were beginning to learn, was that Doug was dead.
He wasn’t in good health when he and his wife left the north country for the seaside Mexican village. But Doug wanted one more winter there, on the beach, their rig parked in the space behind our trailer.
On the morning we rose early to finish packing for our trip south, Doug got up, stepped outside to watch the dawn, sat down, and died.
The officials were called. The coroner pronounced him dead an hour or so after his wife discovered him, and the mortuary, thirty-five miles away, got there hours later. Doug’s last look at the sea was over five hours long.
Meanwhile, we sloshed our way south, got stuck in traffic jams, were held up by inspection points, and moved in and out of at least six different rains, some only a minute long and one over two hours long.
In that early morning, another RV park resident found her dog wasn’t going to make it through surgery and she had to have him put down. She fled her trailer in tears, ran to her friend, Doug’s wife, and well, you know what she found there.
Not a good morning in Kino.
We arrived late afternoon after over eight hours on the road – it’s usually a six hour trip. We arrived tired and hungry. I’d been looking forward to seeing Doug: he’d been kind and helpful to me, had watched our trailer vigilantly when we weren’t there. But when we arrived tired and hungry, there was a note on the door from another neighbor, warped by the day’s rain, blue ink ribbons streaking the page. Doug was dead.
The rest of the week, fortunately, was better. For all of us. Every day, though, something went wrong. Some little plan was skewed, one small scheme went awry.
Mornings colder than they should be this time of year, one so cold it took me hours to get warm. Sunshine that drew me outside combined with winds that drove me indoors. The chile relleno place, closed. The grilled chicken place, ditto. Twice. The backup chicken place, out of chicken.
The gas station that pumped more than the car needed, by at least a gallon.
The dead sea turtle on the beach.

This trip was the other side of Kino. To be sure, there were some grand reunions with people I hadn’t seen since last winter and there were fun times with others that I see regularly. Met new friends. Attended a craft fair. gave some gifts, donated to the local food pantry.
But the other side, the side of loss, of plans scrambled, of things gone wrong, this side was here too. Doug is gone. His wife will leave with his ashes and not return.

Parties in Kino

It was one of those Kino things.
The police Secretario, head of the western part of the state of Sonora, lives here at Islandia. Word came to me one day that I was invited to a party that night: Señor Secretario and his wife were celebrating forty years of marriage with shrimp and crab cakes, and Islandia was invited.
I tried in vain to find an anniversary card for them and ended up going to the event empty handed, but at least I was fashionably (and appropriately, in Mexico) late. The party was just beginning.
Grilled shrimp and grilled crab cakes. Barbacoa. Potatoes. A salad of papaya and jicama. Toasted bread, the Mexican kind, made of white flour and too much sugar. And Indio beer.
Just as we all dived into our food, Xavier arrived: musica romantica! He began with a standard love song, serenading la señora with a song that had a refrain about still being in love with my beautiful wife after all these years.
He strolled the area, strumming his guitar and singing of love, love love. There was even a song I’d heard before, about love, but set to the refrain of “Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home.” Great singing, but the party in the street provided some competition, with its oompa beat and accordion riffs.
Soon the honored couple was out on the dance floor (the grass). She snuggled close to him for a slow dance, her cell phone pressed to one ear. They were quickly joined by the French couple that lives in the park. Eventually almost everyone was dancing to a Mexican vision of “Hang on Sloopy” and more.
The Frenchman, probably about seventy, treated the crowd to some serious ass shaking and even a brief pole dance. Why is it a ma that age can pull this off but a woman of the same age can’t?
In the midst of all this, the cake arrived. “Felicidades!” it announced. Delicious, the frosting made with real cream, and the whole thing topped with strawberries.
I stayed a bit longer and then left with hugs and air kisses around. I was reminded by the Secretario that his house is my house, and he wished me safe travels tomorrow (I was headed north), assuring me he awaited my return in a few weeks.
This is the Mexico I love. Friendly, polite, generous. If I come here often enough and become known through the park, I will throw a party of my own. In my nine nights here, this was the third party I’ve been invited to. The first was hosted by a couple who threw a batch of flounder and shrimp on the grill. The second was held by the French couple who made pizzas from scratch and baked them in their wonderful little outdoor horno, or wood-fired oven. And then, the anniversary party.
If I stay here, I fear I’ll gain twenty pounds.

A Typical Kino Day

Here’s my typical Kino day.
Up at six to make my decaf coffee and get ready for a walk. At six-thirty, walk through town with a friend or two. Stop at La Ramada for coffee (in my case, chamomile tea – te de manzanilla). Depending on who comes in, the stop lasts from twenty to maybe thirty minutes.
Continue walking and pop into a little market to buy whatever I am lacking: limes (limones), potatoes (papas), or onion (cebolla). Finish the walk back to Islandia.
Now it’s time to have that second cup of wowie-zowie decaf and make some breakfast. Typically, that’s a toasted corn tortilla topped with beans, cheese, salsa, and avocado. Two of those guys!
Sweep the floor, wash the dishes, and settle down to a little Sudoku. Then it’s time to pull my chair into the shade of a palapa and spend some time with email and Facebook. Ay!!! Then it’s time for a break. I read or do something else relaxing.
Soon, I change into cooler clothes and walk the few blocks to the water place to get a gallon of water. On the way, though, I have to stop and kibitz with a group clustered in the shade, watching the day’s entertainment: a big truck is attempting to tow a HUGE trailer out of a tight spot. Several people are offering advice while the rest of us, the smart ones, merely watch, shake our heads, and stay out of the way.
Get the water, then head back. Stop in the office to see Marta, but she’s not there. The office is wide open, though, so I go in and browse the book shelves, nabbing a few mysteries to read later on.
Head back to the trailer. I see that the monster trailer has finally been jockeyed out of its space and is ready to move. Chairs, a barbecue grill, and a washing machine are piled into the back of a truck. I kindly offer to let them put the washer in my bodega. You know. Me trying to help. It would lighten their load. No go. Oh, well.
To the trailer. Drink some water. Time for a break!
After a bit, I head out to the patio in a vain attempt to draw a flower. I have found any number of things I cannot seem to draw. Back inside.
Out the door awhile later to take a photo of the waves, then it’s time to sit in the shade and read. Soon it’s too hot, so book and I move inside.
Car rumbles up. Company!! It’s the guy who is going to build the metal roof over the trailer, a little roof to shade it and keep it dry when it rains once a year. We talk, we measure, we take notes. He is going to do all he work for an absurdly small price, but there’s a catch: I have to get to Hermosillo, or at least Calle Doce and pick up the materials. AARGH! I will do it.
Oh, after all that thinking and planning, it’s time for a break.
Read, Sudoku, Scrabble. Then it’s time to make supper. Today I sautéed onion, garlic, chiles, tomato and hot salsa, then tossed in some shrimp. WOW!
Clean the kitchen, sweep the floor, time for a break.
Read, Sudoku, Scrabble. Out the door for some more wave photos. Then it’s time for evening cocktails with friends.
Evening cocktails come in several forms. Often, people gather in the patio area by someone’s trailer. We bring our own beer or wine or whatever, and often take snacks to share. Sometimes, someone has gone fishing and returned for enough fish for all, so a grill is fired up and we all get as much fresh fish as we can eat.
But for me, the best evening consists of tossing some beer into a cooler and heading out to the estuary. We park our chairs in the sand and sip cerveza while the sun slips behind a distant mountain island.

It is a hard life in Kino. Yesterday I had to interrupt a break to ride into Kino Nuevo with a friend. We visited another friend, saw his adorable little house and yard, then sat at Jorge’s drinking michiladas and watching for the ever elusive dolphins.
Yeah, it’s a hard life.

Fall is here!

Fall is here. Finally. She meandered in like a gooseneck stream, cutting back the other direction a few times.
Summer was long. Heat started early and stayed late. I checked my electric bill, and we were averaged four degrees warmer this September compared to last year. The rains started late, but they’ve stayed longer than usual. Our monsoons are usually gone by mid-September, but we’ve had spot storms here recently and more are due this week. This is not typical weather. Thankfully this is a fluke, because of course, of course! There is no such thing as climate change.
But finally, the heat is gone. Some hot may gooseneck back a bit, but comfortable is here, and cool is on the horizon.
Sunday’s rain was a shocker. We’d had two very brief sprinkles, and I thought that was all we’d get. Hopped into the shower to begin getting ready for a four-string concert I’d planned to see. Right when my hair was full of shampoo, a monstrous storm broke. Rain poured, lightning flashed, and thunder roared. Chloe the dog was whining and scratching on the bathroom door, terrified by it all.
I hurried my shower along, not wanting to linger in water during the storm. Suddenly the sound of the storm changed. I looked out the window to see hail bouncing off my car. That’s when I remembered the car windows were down.
The storm was letting up by the time I got out of the shower and had dried. We’d gotten .62” in under fifteen minutes.
My car was thoroughly soaked. No trip to town for the concert for me! I supposed I could have covered the seat with plastic bags and gone on, but I decided not to. I felt bad, but soon I felt worse. Sure enough, the hail had chipped the paint job on my car. Nothing major, but on the hood are maybe seven or eight tiny chips. They barely show, but they’ll rust for sure. I can’t see the roof, but I’ll bet there are another dozen or so there. With my $500 deductible, my guess is I’ll be stuck with the repair.
But, at least fall is here. Days are glorious, in the low 80s, with the next few days expected to be in the 70s. Nights are dipping into the upper 50s – perfect for leaving windows open and snuggling under a blanket.
Roadside grasses have gone the color of straw, their tasseled heads dancing in the wind. The ocotillo are pale green and yellow. Because of the late rains and lingering heat, they’ve held their leaves and some have even flowered a second time.
Mesquite beans have gone dry and have been gathered for grinding. Soon the giant cottonwoods along the San Pedro will change, and that stripe of shimmering gold will be visible from the foothills of the Mules.
I hope fall stretches on and on. Right through February would be fine with me.

Best Laid Plans

I had been warned. If ever there was a time for plans to go awry, this was it.
My plans were simple. I’d leave Tucson around 6:30, heading north, and take the road to bypass Phoenix. Cut over to Wickenburg, have a picnic in the park. North to I-40, zip a bit west past Kingman, then take the road to Vegas. I was off to have a visit with my 96-year-old godmother, and as a bonus would be able to see my oldest niece.
But awry came into the plans, all the while reminding me that I was not really the one in charge of my life.
I actually got out of Tucson at 6:30, but I missed the bypass and had the thrill of driving through Phoenix. Luckily it was early on a Sunday, or I might still be stuck in traffic.
Picnic in the park in Wickenburg? New highway interchanges had been added, and the park was lost on the other side. And I wasn’t hungry yet. So I amended the plan – a picnic in Wikieup, on the reservation. 
I drove through the Joshua trees and got to Wikieup, and there was no shade to be found. High noon casts few shadows. Besides, it was over 100. No picnic for me. Restaurant, here I come.
I bypassed the Wikieup Trading Post, opting for the only other restaurant in town, Luchita’s, which billboards promised would offer a wonderful meal.
Stepping inside, I saw Navajo rugs. And Hopi jewelry. And pottery from Mata Ortiz, in Mexico. What??? What reservation was this? My blonde waitress soon confirmed that Wikieup is not, in fact, on any reservation, nor even very close to one. 
For years, based on its name and the Trading Post, I’d figured Wikieup was the “big town” on some reservation. So much for figuring. Looks like “awry” has a way with all manner of things.
Since I wasn’t on the Rez, there was no Indian fry bread. But lunch was good. Then I braved the heat and wandered the garden. Mexican sunflowers and cosmos were sprinkled under mesquite, palms, and palo verde. And there was a huge free-formed pond, at least sixty feet across at its broadest point. I walked up the hill to the pond to sit on its side and gaze at the lilly pads, and right before I got there I saw this wave ripple across the pond, heading toward me. What??!?
It was a small herd of koi. A covey of koi? In any event, about twenty koi, and they clung to the edge of the pond, mouths agape. Begging. They left, frustrated, when I ignored them.
Back on the highway, then to I-40, where I drove less than two miles before traffic ground to a halt. Hundreds of cars baked in the 100+ degree sun, inching, inching ever so slowly west. The traffic finally cleared up, and right past Kingman I cut north on the last leg to Vegas.
Awry struck again! Within a few miles I was confronted with a huge flashing sign: overturned semi ahead – highway closed in 18 miles.
West to Laughlin, and finally, north to Vegas. The seven hour drive had turned into over ten hours. I arrived exhausted, but so glad to see my godmother. I settled in a bit and we decided to sit and have a glass of wine. Of course when I opened the wine, the cork broke . . . .

The Sewing Project

Humanitarian Border Solutions is involved in an exciting project in Naco, Sonora. We’re helping start a women’s sewing cooperative that will assist unemployed women – mostly women with children – to begin working and earning a living. We’re doing this with the local Naco, Sonora, government and the state of Sonora government, both of which have donated industrial machines or given funds for the machines.
We’d thought the two-month sewing training program would begin in January, but it’s been moved up to October. To receive the training, the women must pay $350 pesos (about $32) and purchase all of their own supplies – scissors, tape measure, pins, needles, and more.
We believe it’s important for people to make an investment in their training, but because these women are so poor, they simply do not have the money to pay for the entire training program and all of the supplies. So we need your help.
For $35, you can sponsor a woman, like Edit, whose picture is above. This will pay for half of her training (about $16.50) and most of her supplies. The women will pay for the other half of their training and the rest of their supplies. We have twenty women who need to be sponsored so they can begin their training in October.
Please, if you can, send us a check today and in the memo line, put “sponsorship.” If we receive more than enough to help these women begin training, with your permission, we’ll use any surplus to pay for utilities in the workshop (which they’re responsible for in addition to their training and supplies). The more we can assist, the more likely it is they’ll successfully complete the training and begin to earn a living.
Please, if you can, send a check today to Humanitarian Border Solutions and note that it is for sponsorship. Make your check to Humanitarian Border Solutions and send it to us at PO Box 1433, Bisbee AZ 85603. Remember, we are a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, so your donation is tax-deductible.
Thank you so much!

A Visit with the Border Patrol

It’s all Alison’s fault.
She shot a video a week or so ago that showed some border patrol agents who had just captured a migrant. She noticed it because there was a helicopter in the air, numerous agents on the ground, horses, and a few vehicles, all on her property.
She questioned, and rightly so I believe, what the cost was to the taxpayer for capturing that one man. She also questioned, and again I believe rightly so, why the captured man had a bloody nose.
She captured all this video and put it on youtube. That’s when the fun began.
There was a flurry of comments, mostly negative, and some even questioning her patriotism or threatening her. Let me say she was a bit sarcastic a few times, but she didn’t degrade the border patrol, the agents, or their work. In one small part, she merely questioned, briefly, the cost. And the bloody nose.
Well, the next day an agent appeared at her door and invited her for a tour of the station. She accepted the invitation and I tagged along.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been at the station here. I used to have a very good working relationship with the man in charge and a number of the agents. But it has grown so much since I was there last.
The station, built in the 80’s to accommodate about 25 agents, is now surrounded by portable buildings, and the whole mess of buildings accommodates about 350 agents, and stores about a zillion vehicles (including ATVs), a dozen or so horses, and a few working dogs. It also has a mini-prison where migrants are detained until deportation. It is way overcrowded and must be terribly inefficient and difficult to run an operation that is spread out over so many buildings.
The agent, male, a senior agent at the station, was accompanied by a younger female agent, and together they toured us around the site, even driving us out to the horse stalls. Alison and I rode in the back of an official Blazer that was separated from the front by grillwork, just in case we wanted to reach forward and strangle them or something, which we didn’t. Didn’t do. Didn’t want to do. They were really nice folks.
Then, they took us on a border tour, down the border road heading west toward the river. For me this was a bittersweet trip. It was comfortable even though we were locked in the back of a Blazer like prisoners. We weren’t at all treated that way, but still, the feeling was odd.
The drive was bittersweet because I used to drive the border road regularly, all the way to the river, where I’d walk around and occasionally have a picnic. It’s a beautiful drive through Arizona/Sonora grasslands. Cattle grazing, quail dashing about attempting to run five directions at once, blue skies and gently waving grass. The river in the distance.
I can no longer drive that road because the border patrol has put up a secondary wall, about thirty feet north of the border wall, and there is no access to the border road except along a private road, usable only by agents.
So it was good to ride that road again. We passed places I used to stop, and cruised past the area where for years we had the bi-national fiesta: tables of food on both sides of the border; a stage where US folks simply hopped the low wall into Mexico to take their turns singing, dancing, or whatever; and the volleyball net, strung atop the barrier wall so we could play boisterous rounds of the game. Those days are gone now, because the low barricade has been replaced by a twelve-foot steel wall. And, of course, we can’t use the road.
The agents drove us all the way to the river – which was dry, by the way – and we all got out for a few minutes. I almost cried. It is such a beautiful spot, and it’s a place I can’t get to any more because we’re not allowed access to the road. I hadn’t been there in years.
During the tour and on the drive, I got in my three big gripes with the border patrol. First, of course, is the new wall which denies me access to the border road. Second, I got to complain about the helicopter that flies w-a-y too low and sometimes seems about to hit the ground. And third, I got to tell them how many of us were upset that agents drive so fast down residential streets, often blasting down the roads at 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. We were able to talk about each of these issues, and I think they sort of understand about my missing the border road and fears that I’ll have that a helicopter fall into my living room one day. They absolutely agreed about the agents who speed.
In all, I think it was a good tour. We heard them, they heard us. There is still a gulf. But communication is good. At the end of the tour, the agent told us he was at our service. So, smartass that I am, I said I’d like to be driven weekly to the river, and that he should pack a picnic.
He laughed and said I’d have to do with pizza.