2006-07-29-2045Z


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Let's see, where do I start? Today is Saturday, so it must have been Thursday morning I set out for El Paso. My friend Alima came along and gave me a ride as far as the Dollar General, so I only had to walk about a quarter mile to the MX$25 bus to Entronque, AKA Crucero Palomas. The Juarez bus came along in about an hour, and on arrival in that city I rushed to the West exit and caught the next bus downtown (MX$4.50). Walked to the bridge, about a mile, paid 35 cents to get through, and by early afternoon was in El Paso, after the obligatory harrassment by the border pricks.

First stop up Mesa Street was for lunch, at The Sushi Place. I'd gone to Yamato a previous time and was unimpressed, so this one, a block further north, was the obvious choice. The meseras were cute, but I think they objected to my vagabond appearance because it took about 10 minutes before I was served, and while the place had a good crowd it was fairly obvious I was being ignored. The green tea was lukewarm, and the leaves were ground up into the tea instead of sinking to the bottom. Not saying it's bad that way, just different. And I sank over $19 including a tip into the sashimi combination, and it didn't really fill me up all that well.

Next stop was the Butterflies of Wisdom cafe, where for $2.50 I could use their internet for half an hour. If I'd brought my laptop, it would have been free to use the wifi, but I didn't. Checked my email, looked at Google Maps to find a park where I could maybe rest, drank some coffee and I was on my way.

Arroyo Park, a few blocks northeast on Cincinnati and then south a block, turned out to be an unmaintained wildlife preserve with little provision for a nomad to lay his head down. I did find an arroyo, but the comfort level was low, I expected some snooty yuppie from the tennis club to call the cops on me at any moment, and I didn't get any sleep. After a half hour or so I abandoned the idea and headed back to Cincinnati Ave. and disappeared into Hemingway's for a cold pint of Guinness, served by the lovely bartender Andrea, and after pumping a couple or 3 dollars into the jukebox and trying a pint of New Belgium Brewery's 1554, left for something to fill my already-growling stomach. On the next block North was Sinbad's, and it looked inviting, so that's where I went.

Tried the Arabic coffee, muddy like Turkish coffee and smelling like some kind of solvent, and ordered the Shawarma Lamb sandwich, spicy meat which may or may not have been lamb rolled up in pita bread with a yogurt sauce. Very tasty, but not enough, so I asked how much would the Shish Kebab plate be without the rice or salad; the waiter, a young guy who, probably due to the current tension between Lebanon and Israel seemed to deny any Arabic ethnicity, came back shortly and told me $6.00. Good deal. Turns out to have been about the same as ordering two more of the sandwiches, though. In any case, I drank a cup of regular coffee and got out of there only spending $13 and change, and if indeed it was lamb it was probably a healthy as well as delicious meal. I highly recommend it for a nice atmosphere and good, inexpensive food.

When I got out, the hills east of Mesa were bathed in the blood of a dying sunset. I kept walking North; though the buses were still running at least until 8 PM, I didn't want to buy a ticket that day. My next stop wasn't for another 3.5 miles, Erin's at 6306 N. Mesa. I first went to the far entrance because it looked like the first door was a different establishment; then when I found out they didn't have Guinness on tap went through that first door again and found it was another part of Erin's! Anyway they had $1.50 drafts, probably 12 ounces each in plastic mugs which kept the beer surprisingly cold. The only decent brew they had on tap was Shiner Bock, so that was what I drank. The appetizers were very affordable too, at $2 each, but I wasn't really hungry so just ordered the popcorn for 25 cents. I sat there and watched almost a full episode of South Park, which I had never seen before except for little snippets here and there. I thought the kids sounded quite tame compared to other 6-year-olds I've known. Then started the Stereotype Olympics, where they made fun of black, Mexican, and asian stereotypes but not, as far as I could see, whites. Glad I don't watch TV except in circumstances like this.

Not long after I got out of there, it started raining. And rain it did; all night long. At first I found a place under a closed insurance agency where I was fairly hidden from the street and could lie down out of the rain; but I couldn't sleep, and eventually I just decided to keep walking, even took off my hat to let my filthy hair get an impromptu shampoo. At one point, while the water was flowing madly through sluiceways, I found one place in which I could immerse my head in the flowing water and washed it out pretty well. I then walked all the way to the Walgreens north of the Hudson's bar and grill before turning around and heading back. That was about 3:45 in the morning; I spent maybe an hour at Wal-Mart looking for thermal underwear or anything dry with which I could replace my soaked shirt which by that time was making me shiver badly, but no luck. I was also almost out of money except for my bus fare home, and had to be careful how much I spent. I bought two $1 sausage McMuffin's at Mickey D's, drank some coffee and caught a few Z's at Starbucks, and finally went to Home Depot where I found the spacers I was looking for, on behalf of a friend in Columbus who needed to do something about the outlets in his house which were mounted badly -- the installer forgot to take into account the width of the sheetrock when he installed the handy boxes -- and since that was the only real reason I was in El Paso, after that I caught the next bus downtown, gave my day pass to the first person smart enough to grab it from me, and headed back across the border to Cd. Juarez.

I don't think people who live in a place necessarily know much about their town. I got in line for the Ruta A1 bus, but just before boarding asked if this went to the Central Camionera and two or 3 people said "no". Shortly thereafter the Permisionario bus came along, and since I knew it went that way, got on it. Turns out we followed the A1 all the way south along the exact same route. That day, due to the all-night rain and poor drainage, Ave. 5 de Mayo was flooded practically end-to-end with water up to maybe 8 inches deep. Disabled cars here and there... a real mess. Kids were playing in the water, oblivious to the threat of death in a country where electrical lines are haphazard at best. Anyway, once at the Camionera, I got on the next bus to C. Palomas, and was in Palomas proper by early afternoon. I walked across the border and after less than a mile, and having been passed by several SUVs and big-assed shiny pickup trucks, got a ride in the back of a rather beat-up pickup driven by Mexican-Americans. My friend reimbursed me the price of the spacers and gave me a little extra for my trouble, which I promptly spent on burritos and beer at the San Jose Deli. I was home! I slept like a log most of the rest of Friday, and through the night as well. I'm lucky I didn't get pneumonia from my "night on the town", which would have thrown a major crimp in my Burning Man plans. Laterz... I'm feeling sleepy again already.

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