Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Times have indeed changed

The day before yesterday, I had to cross the border into Cd. Juarez, to see my dentist.  Crossing back into El Paso, via the Downtown Bridge, we were pleasantly surprised to encounter a decent human being working as a CBP Agent.  Unfortunately, I did not get his name.  However, after determining that we had nothing to declare, and assuring himself that we were not terrorists, he asked how long our wait had been, and he encouraged us to get the passport card that allows a quicker inspection upon entering the U. S.

It is my understanding that the City of El Paso has entered into some sort of agreement with CBP to strive to have more lanes open at local border crossings.  We, the taxpayers of El Paso, are paying the federal government money to hire more agents, supposedly.  I do not recall the specifics of this agreement, but I have to say that I do not think the federal government is holding up its end of the bargain.  Here is a link to a news report that announced a renewal of this agreement, just last June:

Unfortunately, the report does not provide any specifics as to who is to do what, or how many additional agents are supposed to be available, so I can only speculate as to just how bad it would be to cross the border without these "additional" positions.  Yesterday, only eight of the twelve lanes were open, and half of those were dedicated to what the feds call "Fast Lane" traffic, the people who have undergone the additional expense of obtaining passport cards, evidently.

We noticed a similar situation last week when we went across via a different bridge to buy some planters (brightly painted clay pots).  Only about half of the lanes at the Ysleta Bridge were open on that occasion.

Needless to say, the fewer lanes open, the longer the lines, and the longer the time spent in line.  For those not familiar with our border, let me remind you that this is Holy Week, and that means that many Mexican citizens are on vacation, so traditionally more people are trying to enter the U. S. at this time.  The line for the downtown bridge yesterday was the longest I can remember seeing there for a good long while.

Meanwhile, while lining up, way back on Avenida Juarez, we had plenty of time to cogitate on some of the changes along that once busy street.  For one thing, it used to be very busy, because it was a tourist magnet.  Bars and shops and restaurants used to line the street, along with a couple of pharmacies, at least one OTB/bar/restaurant, and various hawkers.  Now, most of the buildings are shuttered, and the only pedestrian traffic is local.  Not one tourist visible, in other words.  The signage on the store fronts was obviously changed some years ago, in an effort to make it all look the same, perhaps in an effort to modernize, but those signs, identifying mostly dead and gone businesses, are showing their age.

This above photo is what Avenida Juarez looked like many years ago, around 1963.  Note the trolley, which passed from the scene way back in the 70's.  That trolley used to go from El Paso, across the international border into Cd. Juarez, and it carried many tourists and shoppers for many years.  Today, that street is hardly recognizable.

This view is taken from very close to the end of the street, just at the toll booths on the Mexican side of the border, looking north.  This is a much more recent view, but at least two years old.  Yesterday, there was solid traffic from way behind (four or five blocks) this camera location, all the way across the bridge, where there were four lanes going into El Paso.

Close to the toll booths on the Mexican side, still exists the Kentucky Club, a long time Juarez landmark.  This is a very special place, and I recall that it was one of the very few places in Juarez where I could get draft beer.  They had a large trough up on the bar, full of ice, and they kept these very heavy, thick mugs in the ice so that your fresh poured brew would be super cold.  Now, they even have some tables outside, near where you see the person standing in this photo.  I suppose the inside is all modernized, as well.

We were saddened to think of the life this once busy street once saw.  It was busy yesterday, but that was because of the vehicular traffic lined up to cross into El Paso. I did not notice much business taking place at any of the few places that remain open. I know that this is likely a very blasphemous thought, but I have long since come to the conclusion that not all change is necessarily good.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Greedy Bastards at EPEC strike again!

Today's mail has brought a "Notice of El Paso Electric Company's Petition to Change Rates."  This notice tells us that they filed their petition on Feb. 13, and that customers have 45 days from that date to seek intervention or further information.  That's right.  Even though we had 45 days, we now have only six until the March 30 deadline!

I have written a letter to the Public Utility Commission, requesting that they turn down this ridiculous request, based on pure and simple greed.  Here is what I wrote:

Public Utility Commission of Texas
P. O. Box 13326
Austin, Texas 78711-3326

Ref:  Docket No. 46831

               I have today received a "NOTICE OF EL PASO ELECTRIC COMPANY'S PETITION TO CHANGE RATES."  According to this notice, El Paso Electric (EPE or Company) filed this petition some six weeks ago, and finally has seen fit to advise me of the fact that I now have only six days in which to request intervention or further information.  This action, in and of itself, is - to say the least - somewhat disengenuous.

               I hereby object most strenuously to this seriously delayed action, and the petition itself.  As I understand the petition, EPE is telling us that they decided to invest their money in two new power generation facilities and other capital investment additions from 2015 and 2016.  Forgive this non-business person's obvious ignorance, but I thought that business investments were just that -  investments.  Why should the consumer, who was certainly not consulted prior to the new power generating facilities or other capital investment additions, now be called upon to hasten the return on EPE's investment?  I was not aware that investments work that way.  Beyond that question, I would like to know if it is EPE's intention to lower their new higher rates for the consumer once they have collected their accelerated return on investment?

               Frankly, the explanation provided by EPE in their notice fails to persuade me that this is an honest or even reasonable effort on their part.  I urgently request the Commission to reject this rate increase request.  I would remind the Commission that EPE enjoys a veritable monopoly here in West Texas, as the consumers here have no other options when it comes to obtaining electrical power.

I don't really expect much to come of my little effort, but I do think this local monopoly has had it their greedy way for way too long.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Monopoly 'R Us?

I am calling out one Eddie Gutierrez, supposedly an El Paso native, and shill for El Paso Electric.  In a television ad that you can see here - Shilling for EPEC , young Mr. Gutierrez talks about how EPEC has invested billions in developing their grid, and then tries to make us believe that the only way EPEC can get their investment back is via a rate increase!

Do you understand that?  Hey, Eddie!  Tell your homies over there at EPEC that investments do not work that way!  You want to make money by investing?  Then, by all means, invest!  But, you don't get to increase your rates to speed up the process!  That isn't a return on investment!  That's a plain, out-and-out ripoff!  Stop.  Just.  Stop!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Some More Fading El Paso History

Manuel Hornedo, MD, a 1933 graduate of UTMB, Galveston, was a sort of pioneer, from a family of pioneers, right here in El Paso.  Early in my Nursing career I had the pleasure to work with him.  In the late 1970's, Dr. Hornedo was still working part time for the local City/County Health Department, performing physical examinations on well babies.  He had been the first medical director of our Health Department, way back in the early 1930's when he was a brand new doctor.

He was a great story teller, and he would tell us stories about his childhood, how and where he became a doctor, and how he came to be the director of the Health Department.  He was also an excellent diagnostician, and demonstrated his abilities to Nursing staff in the clinics.  He still maintained a little office inside a drug store, on Magoffin Avenue, just about a block before it runs into Alameda Ave.  I think that it was called the San Pedro Drug Store at one time.  I don't remember.  A lot of people who lived in that area still trusted him for their urgent needs (these were not people who had a "Primary Care" physician).

                                       (You can still see the words, San Pedro)

He told us how his father had a dairy, and he used to ride the wagon around town delivering milk with his father, as a child.  The area he remembered was what we have long called the Second Ward, or El Segundo Barrio.  He went to school at what is now El Paso High School, I believe, but I think he had a different name for it.  He told us how he went to Tulane for medical school, but an online search for him, just the other day says he went to UTMB Galveston.  Perhaps UTMB was post graduate studies for his specialty of Internal Medicine, but I can't say.  He caught our attention by telling us, however, that when he graduated from medical school, during the Great Depression, he could not afford to pay for transportation to get back home to El Paso.  So, he "rode the rails," or so he told us.

When he came home as a new doctor, he could not afford to open up a practice, and the only thing available to him was to become the Director of the local health department.  He showed us photographs that depicted some of the things that he did in the 1930's, and one memory I have of that is him posting a quarantine sign on a little house in the barrio, warning of Measles.  By the time I started working in Public Health, some forty years had gone by for him, and he was now the former Medical Director, and very well respected.

I do recall more than one occasion when he would look at one of the people who came in with babies for their examinations (These exams often included grandmothers and aunts, in addition to the mothers of the babies who were being seen), and from across the room be able to tell us (the nursing staff) about medical conditions that those parents or grandparents had.  He was also notorious for predicting the sex of unborn babies, by looking closely at the mothers.  He would have them come over to him (and, by the way, this was just as often a friend or relative who had accompanied the mother of a child being seen, as it was anyone else), and look deeply into their eyes, and make motions like any physician who is doing a cursory, visual evaluation or examination.

Finally, after a time, he would give his prediction, and everyone would take note.  Based on the feedback we received from the community, he was right much more often than wrong, so he pretty much had us all believing in his special power.  We asked him every time how it was that he could make his prediction, and he gave us many different answers.  He'd say, for instance, "I look just next to the pupil, and if you see a black spot, then it will be a boy."  Or, he'd say, "Deep inside the pupil, I look for a tiny gold speck, and if that is there, it will be a boy (or, a girl, depending on what he wanted us to believe that particular day).  Finally, after more than a year of working with him, he confessed.  When asked yet again how he did it, he said, "Well, I figure I have a 50-50 chance of getting it right, so I just go with whatever feels right."  Thus, we learned the secret, or one of the secrets, of a very good physician.

Dr. Hornedo was also constantly working on some kind of experiment to prove a pet theory of his, aimed at providing a cure for some condition or other.  I am afraid that I do not recall what, exactly, he was doing, but he had notebooks full of notes, and items pertinent to his research in his little office there at Magoffin and Raynor.  He never completed his research, and whatever he was after has been lost forever, but he did persevere until his death at an advanced age.

I also recall briefly touching a bit more local history, back when I was a young nurse.  I met Saul Kleinfeld in the late 1970's when I cared for his wife, who was stricken with cancer.  I don't recall what his distinction was, but he must have been important, since he got a street named after him.  I also provided home care to Henry Brennan, who was a retired engineer, from the local Street Department, I believe.

My point here is to show that there is lot of history here that is being lost forever in our rush to tear down what is old and replace with mostly large things, that will never return much to us for all our tax dollars.  Oh, and, Dr. Hornedo is not completely forgotten, since there is a middle school on the west side which bears his name.  I wonder if any of the kids or faculty there know anything about the man, though.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Just A Taste Of El Paso History.

The constant push from City Council to revitalize Downtown El Paso seems to have turned into a move to simply tear down the old, and build something new.  I suppose that would be OK if the something new was going to either provide shelter for human beings, or in some way be useful all the time for all the people.  Unfortunately, we appear to be building more and more structures that only receive part time use by a relatively low percentage of the city's population.

You'll forgive me for saying that this makes little sense.  On the one hand, it is almost as if they do not realize - or, at least, remember - that downtown El Paso just happens to be where most El Pasoans actually lived before the city got so big!  To make things worse, it is as if now Council thinks that downtown just is not worthy of actually being inhabited.

As a reminder of some of our history, I would like to relate part of one historical event from El Paso's past that is verifiable.  I think that I read about this in a book by our own Leon Metz, mostly because his is the only name that comes to mind when thinking about El Paso historians (Although the last name, Mangan, might be involved).  To make this a longer story, though, let me begin with a little personal history.

I graduated from El Paso Community College with an Associate Degree in Nursing, in August of 1976.  I had been working part time at El Paso's only Catholic hospital, as a student Nurse, up until that time.  As soon as I passed my State Boards, and received my Nursing License, in March of 1977, I moved to what was then a relatively new Sierra Medical Center.  I worked on what was called a Medical floor, and most of our patients were non-surgical and/or non-orthopedic.  We also took care of people whose surgical procedures had been complicated, raising their risk of infection, and making their care more intense, and prolonged.

In the late spring of 1977, we received a patient from surgery, whose routine gall bladder surgery had proven to be very complicated, and whose chance of recovery was not considered to be very good.  This lady, whose name was Nettie Manigold, was at the time about 79 years old.  Nettie quickly proved her doctors wrong, and earned the respect and admiration of all who came into contact with her.  She was the most compliant patient I ever personally worked with, and she did everything we ever asked her to do, which of course helped her to not only recover, when it had been thought she might not, but to recover rather quickly.

For some strange reason, as she got better and better, she got it fixed in her mind that I had done something extraordinary to "save her life," when in fact the single most contributing factor in her rapid improvement had to be her single minded purpose in working so hard to do all the things that we, her caregivers, asked of her.

Well, I was getting ready to change jobs about the same time that Nettie came up for her discharge, and we exchanged contact information.  From the moment that she left the hospital, and I left that same hospital's employ, Nettie, and later, her husband, Jesse, became my personal patients.  No, no, no.  Nothing formal, but since I went into Public Health Nursing, and I was working out of a clinic not too far from where they lived, they started by coming to the clinic once a month or so, to have their blood pressure checked, and to talk about how they were doing healthwise.

I know this may be hard to believe, but El Paso once had a Public Health Department that was formally known as the El Paso City/County Health Department, and the City and the County shared the budget for the operations, which delivered services to the entire county.  There were clinics from the Upper Valley, out to Fabens.  Plus, of course, different sections of the Department delivered services like Animal Control (that's right; animal control was under the purview of the Health Department), Vector Control (mosquitoes and various pests), Food Handlers' classes and cards and inspections of restaurants and businesses involved in food preparation.  Out of the neighborhood clinics we provided newborn visits (yes, we actually visited people in their homes), well baby examinations, immunizations (free of charge, if you can believe it), and general educational services about public health.

But, to get back to my story, I began to go visit Nettie and Jessie, in their little home in the heart of Tigua, so as to save them the trips to the clinics where I worked.  You see, Jesse had retired in 1950, after working for first, the Police Department, and then, the Fire Department.  They owned a very old Chevy, about a 1949 or 50, two door model.  They were on a fixed income that was already 27 years old, so obviously, they did not have disposable income.

Their little house?  It was located on a plot of land that Jesse had purchased in the depths of the depression.  He had built the house himself, as I recall.  This was on a short, little street known as West Drive.  I think the house is gone now, because nothing looks familiar when I drive by.  The house had been built of adobe and, by 1977, was in pretty sad condition. 

Well, over time I learned a bit about Jesse's history, as well as Nettie's.  He was usually not around on my visits, except to get his blood pressure checked, and then he would go off to a back room.  But, Nettie told me that he had been one of the first motorcycle cops in El Paso, and that he changed from being a cop to being a fireman because it was considered to be safer work.  She did not tell me that he must have been an awesome policeman, but I learned that from the book I mentioned, by Leon Metz.

At one time, long ago, likely in the 1920's or 30's, there was an entire area of town to which certain enterprises were confined.  The police allowed prostitution, gambling, and lots of drinking in an area that ran roughly from Chihuahuita, to La Bowie (the original Bowie).  Recent reports about tearing down one old building for the new arena reminded me of this particular incident.  One of those old buildings was once a house of ill repute, I believe?

Not necessarily at that same location, but somehow I think over closer to South 4th, 5th, or maybe 6th, and likely near Mesa, there occurred an incident in which my friend, Jesse Manigold, figured very prominently.  It seems that one of the ladies of the evening betook overmuch of whatever was usually served to the paying customers, and got crazy drunk.  She was waving a gun around, threatening all and sundry.  The cops moved folks out of the way, and tried to figure out what to do to control the situation.  Somebody, perhaps the lady herself, mentioned that "Jess" Manigold was needed because she either liked him, or responded to him in a positive way.  So, he was sent for, and in true Western style, he "went in alone," and persuaded her to give up the gun, and the entire incident ended without harm coming to anyone.

The report of this incident was told in a rather humorous fashion, and Jesse came out of it as the hero that he evidently was.  My point is that history of this nature is indeed getting lost, and the quicker those old buildings are torn down, the quicker everyone will have forgotten that El Paso's past is colorful and exciting.  Personally, I find it very sad.

I think that present City Council somehow believes that history is so insignificant, that it can be best ignored and should be thrown out like the baby with the bath water.  Tear this down, revitalize downtown, renew, and build things, not for dwellings, but for purposes that will leave large structures mostly empty and unused for most of the time.  Downtown is not really for people to live in, you know.  It's like they do not realize that downtown is actually where El Paso's people used to live.