Unhinged

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As you read this, I am somewhere overhead winging my way to the Great State of New Mexico. This is not so much a vacation as taking care of some personal business.

It’s a bit hard to leave seventy degree California for thirty degree New Mexico, you know? That said, as the weather works in my home state, by the end of my trip, it’s expected to be almost seventy in Las Cruces.

As a kid, I always did love that phenomenon of snow today, sixty eight and sunny tomorrow.

But right now, the day before my flight, all I can think about is…what am I going to eat?

I mean seriously, the green chile level in my blood stream is so low as to be critical.

This needs fixing the second I leap off the airplane.

I keep thinking of ALL the places and ALL the menu items I want to eat all in one big Cookie Monster-esque “ahm nom nom nom.”

If only I could unhinge my jaw the way my favorite blue monster does, then sweep in all the rellenos, enchiladas, carne adovada, and tacos al carbon I can get my arms around.

That would be great.

Of course, I’d qualify for extra baggage on my flight home.

Hoping to fit in reports from the road. Stay tuned!




Your Definition and My Definition Differ Greatly

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So every once in a while, I’ll read something in the daily news that grabs my attention.

Occasionally, something really makes my eyes open wide.

And then every once in a while, I’ll read something that makes my eyes open wide, leap out of my head, fall down on the floor and roll around a while.

The following headline in yesterday’s news had just this effect on me.

El Paso named safest US city

Uhhh.

Errr.

“…El Paso has taken the top spot for having the lowest crime rate among cities of more than 500,000 population in the annual rankings by CQ Press, a publishing firm based in Washington, D.C.”

So, yeah, I’m gonna guess that those people at CQ Press haven’t paid a personal visit to El Paso lately.

Look, I’m not going to bag on El Paso. It is the birth place of my best friend, and that itself recommends it highly.

It’s also the birthplace of Sam Donaldson and Gene Roddenbury. So ok. Some decent talent comes from the town that Texas forgot.

Having spent a lot of time in El Paso, I could use a lot of adjectives to describe the city. I’m not sure that the word “safe” would burble up to the top ten.

I’ll be fair here. I’ll even take out the obvious concerns about El Paso sharing a border with arguably the most dangerous city in Mexico.

In the past year, approximately 50,000 additional troops were located to Fort Bliss, an army installation in El Paso. Those 50,000 include both returning troops and soldiers left after bases closed in other states. That 50,000 is soldiers only. Add in spouses, kids, other family and the number of new residents rises.

Then add in the high number of people who are fleeing the violence in Juarez and the numbers climb even higher.

Put it together and you’ll find a city bursting at the seams. You can feel it when you visit, the town is growing so fast that infrastructure is having a hard time keeping pace.

That means busy police, fire and emt forces are being overextended during a period of economic downturn and government cost cutting. Sure, all of the new city residents will pay taxes into the economy which will help shore up infrastructure, but that kind of growth takes time.

And then let’s talk about the ongoing immigration flow through a border town like El Paso. My best friend’s folks live within visual distance of the border highway’s Zaragoza bridge. They have bars on their windows. In their some forty years of living there, they’ve found desperate illegals hiding in their yard. Neighbors have been robbed. Violence occurs (but isn’t often reported). I’ve been sitting in the back yard and heard shots fired.

El Paso is a fine town with a rich history. There is a lot to offer the residents who live in that city. Reasonable real estate costs. The Franklin Mountains are beautiful. UTEP is a fine university. Great weather. Even lots of job opportunities. It may even be a relatively safe city. But safest in the US? I have to question that assertion.

Evidently, I’m not the only one.

Some Call El Paso’s Safest City Ranking ‘Bogus’

I Left My Heart….

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Wait. Where did I leave my heart?

If you are a Twitter type of person and you follow my tweets, you may have gotten some of-the-moment tweeting about what I’m about to describe.

There was an “incident” upon my departure from New Mexico about three weeks ago. I’ve tried to brush it off, but I find I cannot. I’m rather shaken to my core.

The executive summary is this: I got my heart broke by an eight year old girl.

And I may never recover properly.

I flew out to New Mexico for one of the annual “Chick’s Trips” that my best friend and I love to put together.

I came in on a Thursday afternoon and my friend picked me up at the airport. Earlier that day, her husband had taken their two daughters, my goddaughters, on a camping trip. He was out spotting elk for an upcoming hunt His girls are avid outdoors women, so they are able to help.

Fabulous. That meant some one-on-one girl time with my best friend in the world.

There was cussing. There was discussing. There was a trip to the Ruidoso Downs.

Big fun!

We all got back my friend’s house in Las Cruces on Sunday afternoon. I had to fly out Monday.

So Sunday evening I got to have some quality time with my little girls (who are not so little anymore).

I had a chance to chat with the older of the two, she’s ten, and has had some troubles with another girl at school. I wanted to make sure that going into fifth grade, she was holding up ok.

I got to sit next to the younger of the two, she’s eight, at dinner.

The next morning, the eight year old asked me to go on a walk with her out to look at her flowers in her yard. I told her I would be happy to.

As time will do, it went all slippery and got away from us. Nina Karen didn’t get her walk in with the younger goddaughter.

This all came to a head at the El Paso airport. We arrived a bit early and my kids wanted to come inside the airport to see me off.

Without delay, my younger goddaughter began insisting to her mom that she needed to come with me on the plane.

Her mom told her that she couldn’t come with me.

“But why!?!?” was the inevitable reply.

What followed was a long and persistent debate between mom and child about, logically, why she couldn’t just get on the plane and come home with me.

Then the tears began in earnest. My younger goddaughter began sobbing.

And that’s when the truth started pouring out….

“You and Nina Karen always go off somewhere and we never get to go!”

Early on, my friend laid down some age requirements for chick’s trips. Plus, sometimes Mama just needs a break.

“We always have to go with dad and you get to go have fun!”

Which isn’t very nice to the dad who is lots of fun. But he’s a boy and boy fun is different.

“Nina Karen always comes out here and we never get to go to California.”

Well, sure. Since I don’t have little ones, and I get awful homesick, I do tend to fly that way a bit more often.

“Other than her name, I don’t even know Nina Karen!”

Ok, that one hurt. That’s so not true, and she later apologized for having said it. But in that moment, she broke my heart.

She wasn’t done by a long shot.

I held my baby girl in my arms as she cried and cried, her tiny body racked with sobs. Of course, I started crying too. Then her mom was bawling. And her big sister was crying from the get go.

Four weepy girls all clutched together at the El Paso Airport.

I apologized to my girl and through tears she said she forgave me.

After a while, her sobs began to slow down. Then, time went and got us again. The long hand moved too quickly on the clock face, and it was time for me to leave.

I had to go home. But which home? My California home because The Good Man waited for me there. He is my heart.

But that little crying girl is also my heart.

I’ve never felt so torn between two places in all my life. It literally felt like being ripped in two.

I cried all the way through the security line, and the TSA man shooed me along.

Then I cried all the way through the terminal.

I used my phone to call my husband to tell him what happened, and started sobbing even harder.

With every tear, my heart broke a little bit more. Ground glass under a bootheel.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to try to make this right.

My best friend is working on a road trip out here, maybe, to cut costs and make it easier for them all to come out here to California.

I’m working over in my mind a plan to go back to New Mexico. But when? Our weekends are booked through Labor Day.

I just know that I am as heartbroke today as I was three weeks ago.

The Hispanic culture embraces a concept called “Comadres”. Co-Mothers. Best friends are like mothers to each others children.

I don’t have kids of my own, but actually, I do. Those two girls are as dear to me as if I’d birthed them from my own body. I feel their pain, I revel in their joy. I would sacrifice for them with nary a thought.

Nina Karen has got to make things right.

I’ll tell you this, I’ll never again miss the chance to take a walk with my girls just to look at the flowers.

“Las Comadres,” a painting by Juana Alicia.

Use ’em or lose ’em

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Everyone has certain skills that exist within them like muscle memory. You know how to do a thing like the back of your hand, or more appropriately, like riding a bike.

You know, executed perfectly, without thinking.

And then there are some skills that you gotta keep using or your abilities will diminish.

Last week in New Mexico, I was faced with this problem.

Yes, I was disheartened to see my dexterity and skill in one particular area has deteriorated.

Here’s the story:

I had occasion to be down in Las Cruces to visit my best friend and my two goddaughters (and goddog and godcat too…I love those fuzzies!).

So Friday, we decided to go stay at the home of my best friend’s parents in El Paso. They are my adopted folks, and I love them like crazy, so I was thrilled to get to spend some time.

I had a rental car, and my best friend loaded her own car with her two kids and we caravanned along I-25 to I-10 and then, because it’s so much easier and quicker, we took the Anthony Gap to get over into El Paso.

Sure, easy peasy. Taken it a bunch of times. No problem. So off I went, following my best friend off the interstate and onto two-lane state road.

Two lanes. Just two. Yes.

Living in New Mexico, it’s not terribly hard to find two-lane roads. And on two lane roads, it’s not terribly hard to find someone driving slower than you’d like to go.

Which means you gotta either give up, or you gotta zip over into the oncoming lane and pass that other car.

And this is where I met my Californian laziness square in the eye.

As we approached a slow moving work truck, my friend, just ahead of me, drifted over slightly, assessed the scene, changed lanes, hit the gas and passed with ease.

You know, back in the day, I was *really* good at passing on two-lane roads. It was like an art and a challenge to me. I LOVED it because I was so g’darn good at it.

But on Friday…I balked. Yes, it’s true. I hesitated.

And then, mad at my hesitation, I just went for it, clumsily changing lanes, not stepping on the gas smoothly enough. The automatic transmission in my rental car scrambled to find an appropriate gear. It finally kicked in, gave me some speed and I made it, but not before I was staring down the headlights on an oncoming vehicle, trying to calculate how long until impact.

Ok, fine I made it safely, but passing didn’t feel as smooth and easy as it used to. I overthought it. I felt like a scaredy cat.

This is not me! I’m the girl who would careen down the two-lane road between El Paso and Carlsbad in a beat up ’79 Bobcat, passing people like they were standing still!

Ok, to be fair, the manual transmission in the Bobcat did help in that whole passing thang, but still.

Is it that I’ve been living in the Bay Area too long? Or that I’m getting old and tentative?

I don’t know. But it makes me wanna take the Jeep out on Highway 1 and pass every car I see, just because I can!

Musings from airport security

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Do you ever wonder, as you stand in your socks or bare feet with your jacket off and your personal toiletries in a baggie, that the terrorists might just have won a little?

Also, matter how many times I fly through the El Paso airport (about twice a year) I am still unnerved by the intense scrutiny every person receives from Border Patrol.

They don’t just look at you. They scan you like they know you got something and they damn sure are going to find it.

Gotta be tough work, I imagine, looking that close at every traveller….

Anyhow.

My New Mexico visit has been great!! Now I am ready to go home. I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!!! Yay!!