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Haven’t posted lately because I was in El Paso, Texas, and southern New Mexico for a few days.

Some thoughts and impressions, including a few from a pop-culture standpoint:

* While I was in El Paso, I did hum “El Paso” to myself a few times, but I did not see Felina. I did see a tourist map with a place called “Rose’s Cantina” on it, but I thought that sounded like a less-than-swingin’ time.

* I also did not do my scoutwork ahead of time, and did not consciously visit any place where the legendary “Manos: The Hands of Fate” was filmed. I will have to content myself with the knowledge that I was at least in the same city. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here.

* Attention, Elvis Costello fans: El Paso has a Hoover factory, visible from Interstate 10 near the New Mexico border. Must have been a wonder when it was brand new.

It's not a matter of life or death, but what is? What is?

* During a flight delay in O’Hare Airport, I was briefly entertained by a United Airlines captain who pulled out a ukulele and ran through some standards (“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” and “Don’t Get Around Much Any More”) for the pleasure of three flights’ worth of passengers stranded at Gate E-3.

(We’ve all heard “United Breaks Guitars,” but apparently they are kinder to ukuleles.)

The guy was pretty damn good — he had the chord changes down like a jazz guitarist.

Unfortunately, United moved my plane to another gate, so I didn’t get to stick around and request “Strutter.”

Captain Tom (I think that was his name) picks and grins.

* I saw what I’m pretty sure was my first rolling tumbleweed, on a frontage road alongside I-10 in New Mexico. Dude.

* Got pulled over by the Border Patrol en route to White Sands National Monument and asked my nationality.

(This was not a random traffic stop — they make every car going outbound toward the monument do the same thing. Or at least they were doing it that day. These things are probably not uncommon on roads that cut through missile ranges.)

There is a funny old anecdote in my family about one of my immigrant ancestors. She got asked where she was born as part of some official line of questioning. And she gave the implausible and heavily accented response: “Peetsboorg.”

I thought about telling the Border Patrolman I was from Peetsboorg, but decided I didn’t like body-cavity searches quite that much.

* I ate Mexican food until I grew five more chins.

The trip was capped off on Sunday night with a meal at Avila’s, a long-established local El Paso restaurant.

On my second bite of chicken fajitas with homemade guac, I literally (and quite randomly) thought to myself, “Merciful Lord, this is good food.”

Any food that can make an agnostic like myself invoke the Deity is well worth it.

Before. (Shot w/o flash, in a room lit predominantly in yellow.)


On that note, I will go prepare for the working week.


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