Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The General Election of 2016 Explained 51 Years Ago.

Many, many years ago, about a year after I graduated from high school, a very wise man wrote these words:

We are doing something wrong. We haven't found out what it is yet. But somehow we have turned all these big glossy universities into places which the thinking young ones, the mavericks, the ones we need the most, cannot endure. So all the campuses are in the hands of the unaware, the incurably, unconsciously second class kids with second class minds and that ineffably second class goal of reasonable competence,reasonable security, reasonable happiness.

Perhaps this is the proper end product to people a second class world. All mavericks ever do, anyway, is make the sane, normal, industrious people feel uncomfortable. They ask the wrong questions. Such as-What is the meaning of all this. So weed them out. They are cultural mistakes. Leave the world to the heroes and the semi-heroes, and their rumpy little soft-eyed girls, racing like lemmings toward the warm sea of the Totally Adjusted Community.

(From "A Deadly Shade Of Gold"  (Travis McGee #5), by John D. MacDonald, 1965).

I doubt that very many people today have a clue about who Travis McGee was, or, for that matter, who his creator, John D. MacDonald, was.  Short version:  Travis McGee was the hero of a series of books in the mystery-thriller genre, and a sort of mid-century Robin Hood, trying to right wrongs, while paying his expenses, and a bit more, along the way.  He was widely admired, often copied, but never, ever duplicated.

This particular quote appears part way into a thriller wherein Mr. McGee was seeking information about some rare golden objects, and his musings were about the then state of higher learning in the United States.  He was visiting a university campus in Florida, about to meet and pick the mind of a highly educated expert (not coincidentally a professor) on rare artifacts.

I think what is so significant here is that Mr. MacDonald had these thoughts more than fifty years ago, and today we have seen the end results of what he saw way back then.  We just went through one of the saddest presidential elections in the history of this once great nation, and the products of that world described by him had a lot to do with the outcome of this election.

Our nation today is dominated by undereducated, unread, functional illiterates, who are too lazy to ever form an opinion on their own, and/or ill equipped to perform any basic research to check facts.  They are ignorant of history, which easily explains why we see the same mistakes being repeated over and over.  They are passionate about what they've been told to believe, without really knowing why they are passionate.  They, like the censors of days gone by, may not be able to articulate what it is, but they damn well know it when they see it!

It is indeed a sad day that got here all too quickly.  Fortunately, for me, I am now at an age where whatever bad things are about to happen will likely have little impact on me, since I will shuffle off this mortal coil soon enough.  I fear greatly for my now adult children and their children.  Please God someone, somewhere will interest the world in learning again, and maybe this soon to be new dark age will be avoided, or at least, short lived.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Maybe it IS just me

My wife had to go see her dentist in Cd. Juarez this morning, so I took her.  We have done this many times before, and several times since we came back to Texas from Costa Rica, so no big deal, right?

After her cleaning, and the replacement of one filling, we got in line at the downtown El Paso bridge.  We were happy to see that the line, while slow, was not as long as we've sometimes seen in the past.

When we finally got to the CBP Agent, I opened her window, and she handed him our passports.  He accepted the passports, which were open at the main page already, looked at us, greeted us, and then asked her for her name.  She gave it to him, and then he looked at me.

Now, I'll be honest here.  I bristled the moment he asked her for her name.  I mean, he was holding her passport, and it was open to the page where her name and pertinent information is written!  He asked me for my name, and I said, "John," but with disgust in my voice.  I will not deny it.  He said, "your full name."  So, I said my last name, too, with even more disgust in my voice.

He then told me to remove my cap, and he asked me why I was addressing him in such a manner, and I said, "Well, you're holding my passport in your hand, and there's my name right there, so why in the world do I have to tell you?"  His response was that he was just checking to see if I knew the information on the document, so he could know it is not fake.  Come on!  Doesn't he have a scanning device that will tell him if he has a fake passport?!

This only served to piss me off further.  I mean, come on!  I am 70 years old!  We're driving a relatively clean car, in good shape, and he thinks we might have a forged passport?  Well, then he decided that he had to make me go through all the hoops, and cross all of his anal retentive t's and dot his little i's.

"What were you doing in Mexico?"  My wife answered him, and he snapped at her, "I'm not asking you.  I'm addressing your husband."  
"How often do you go to Mexico?" 
"Where do you usually cross the border?"
"When was the last time you went to Mexico?"
"What kind of work do you do?"
"What kind of work did you do before you retired?"
"What were you doing in Blaine?"
"When were you in Blaine?"  (We crossed into Canada on a family trip up to the Pacific Northwest last June, remember)?
"Do you have any fruits?"
"Open the trunk."
"Open the rear window."
"Do you have any vegetables?"
"Do you have any meat?"
"Do you have any drugs or medicines?"

I mean, this power mad Nazi went through every thing he could think of just to get back at me for being unhappy with his questions!  I understand that he and his ilk think they are protecting us from terrorists, but come on!  We really need to rescind the truly awful Patriot Act!  And, border crossing agents need to be educated as to who they are supposed to be serving!  And, it would not hurt if they learned some manners!  I think that my years have earned me the right to be addressed with just a smidgen of common courtesy, with a please, a thank you, and maybe a sir, once in a while.

What do you think?  Am I over reacting?  Am I supposed to be subservient to a public servant?  Does he not owe me any respect at all?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Another of Life's little Mysteries.

Here is the mystery, in one question:
How the hell does Carl's Jr. stay in business?!
We recently saw a television ad for their new Beer Cheese Bacon Burger, and my wife said, "We should try that!  It looks good!"

I should have pointed out to her that it could not be very good if the beer in question had anything to do with Budweiser, but alas, I held my tongue.  Big mistake.  Yuuuuuge.

Well, Sunday, we decided to go for it.  I only wish I had taken photos, but it looked so bad, I just did not have the heart.  The bun looks great, much like we saw on TV. But, the patty looked like it had been cooked at least two hours prior to our order.  The color was very dark, almost black, and it looked like it had specks of something, maybe onions in it.  There was a single slice of tomato, and some pieces of lettuce in there, but it was not exactly appetizing.  It was, at best, lukewarm.

We also got regular fries, and regular size drinks.  This was only because we had to insist that we did not want or need medium or large sizes.  My Coke was flat.

They also declined our requests for mustard, mayo, or even ketchup, saying that it "has cheese."  We still do not understand that, but it did, indeed have both something white that looked like cheese, and the yellow cheese saucy looking thing we saw on TV.

And, now, for the worst part:  The cost for this really bad food was Nine Bucks!  And, wouldn't you know it, their receipt has no link for a customer survey, and the plastic box on the wall where you exit, says this is for customer response cards, but I saw no blank cards anywhere inside!

So, here's the thing.  This cannot count as being part of that pursuit of the best burger in town that I was doing last year, and it certainly would not get a mention from any real critic.  My best advice is to not bother going to Carl's Jr., ever.  Way over priced and really bad food.  Too bad we don't have a Red Robin in El Paso.  At these prices, at least I could have gotten something good to eat.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Old Man's Definition Of A Great America

At 70 years old, I have to say that I have been disappointed with election results more times than I have been pleased with them.  This is going back to when I was about ten, and the election of 1956.  Upon reflection, I'd have to say that of all those disappointments, the smallest disappointment turned out to be Eisenhower, and the other disappointments pretty much lived up to my expectations.
               In my opinion, my disappointments were for very good reason, as we were very poorly served by first, Nixon, then Reagan, George H. W., and his son, W.  But, I have to say that am not so much disappointed by the outcome of the election of 2016, as I am downright terrified.
               The happy supporters of one Donald Trump today celebrate this man's promise to make "America Great Again."  When asked, during the campaign, about when was America so great, he said something about the late 1950's.  I will readily agree that he has a point.
               But, I am terrified because not only have we elected him, but we have also handed him a Congress and a SCOTUS that is stacked in his favor.  My fear is based on the simple fact that it is my distinct recollection that historically, those elections that disappointed me were the ones that put into office the very people whose political party is responsible for the destruction of that 1950's' way of life.
               What I remember about the 1950's is that doctors and lawyers drove Buicks, or Lincolns, or Chryslers, not Mercedes Benz's or BMW's.
               What I remember about the 1950's is that it cost a nickel to buy a Coke or a Baby Ruth, or a Hershey Bar. 
               What I remember about the 1950's was that a home could be purchased for less than $10,000.00. 
               What I remember about the 1950's was that it did not take two people working full time to be able to afford that home.
               What I remember about the 1950's is that I received a pretty damn good education that emphasized basic things, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. 
               What I remember about the 1950's is that even the Chairman of the Board of whatever company, or public entity (School District Superintendents, County Commissioners, Bank Managers and Presidents, and so forth) did not make millions and millions of dollars, when the people who actually did the work only made pennies.  Don't get me wrong, the workers did make pennies, but the difference between what they made and what the bosses made was not as disproportionate as it is today.
               What I remember about the 1950's was that competition was like a holy word.  "Competition is the very lifeblood of success,"  we were told, and we were encouraged to compete at every level, in every endeavor.  And, I also remember that one had to compete with others just to make the team, and (horrors!) trophies were only presented to winners, or to those who did something special.
               What I remember about the 1950's is that kids who got in trouble at school, got into more trouble at home.
               What I remember about the 1950's was that Democrats and Republicans worked together for the good of the country, so that important legislation did get passed through non-partisan politics.
               What I remember about the 1950's was that the majority ruled!
               What I remember about the 1950's was that we had a daily newspaper, that was read from cover to cover.  We actually trusted that newspaper to provide us with accurate news of what was going on in the world.  In my case I remember the "Oregon Journal," "The Portland Oregonian," "The Tacoma News Tribune," "The Seattle Post Intelligencer,"  "The Seattle Times."  When we wanted to read opinion, we knew that we could turn to the editorial pages of whatever newspaper, and find not only the opinions of the publisher, but of our fellow citizens.
               What I remember about the 1950's was radio programming that included comedy, drama, news, and the music of the day.  Television programming provided little music of the day, but the news coverage was pretty close to the necessary who, what, where, when of standard journalism.

               I remember a lot more about the 1950's beyond these things.  I remember that while we always had enough to eat, we never ate fancy (I could provide a long, long list of things that I never ate until after I left home).  While we always had clothes to wear, we wore a lot of hand-me-downs, and they were as clean as a wringer washer could get them.  I remember that we bathed once a week (whether we needed it or not), and I never saw a shower outside of school, and I never took a real shower (like with soap) until I was drafted, and that was 1965!  I remember that we did not own a television until 1959, and it was used!  I remember that we only had one car, and it was always at least ten years old.  I remember that my mother never learned to drive, and she never left the house unless my father took her.  I remember that we never had a real home of our own, because we moved so often, and always lived in rented houses.  I remember living on ranches so far from town that we only went to town once a month.  I remember attending a three room school, where grades 1 through 8 were all taught together.
               Now, I wonder how many of these things does Mr. Trump remember.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2000 Redux

I am nearly speechless this morning, as I woke to the news that the dumbing of America is finally complete.  We have elected the very worst of the worst, and I greatly fear for my children and grandchildren.

I anticipate that it will not be long before people like me, who dare to say anything negative about this cretin will be labeled as unpatriotic, traitors, or worse.  I fear the threat of violence to all about me, as we do not own gunz, as we live on the border, and as we have Mexican roots.

I know that things will be even worse than my worst nightmares, since this nation also no longer has anything resembling what used to be called the Fourth Estate, and our education system has failed us.

God save us, because we have failed to do so for our selves.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Is Anybody There? Or, you know what? The VA really sucks!

I am convinced that no live human beings are employed at the VA.  I have been attempting to pursue an application for benefits with them for nearly three years now, and have yet to interact with a live person.  Their rules require that a veteran go through a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) just to initiate an application.  The employees of that VSO do not interact with the VA, either.  All of the paper correspondence that I have received from the VA during this very long and drawn out process is either computer-generated or simply a form letter.  Never once have I received any written document with a signature on it.

The most recent document I received from them has this closing:

Sincerely Yours,

            Regional Office Director

Regional Office Director

Really!  That is just the way it is printed!  No real human name, but perhaps the person's name is Regional Office Director, and he/she actually writes in a Brush Script font!  After all, why would they need to put the same "name" below in a more conventional font?

Now, one reason they have me upset again is that this latest communication that I received includes some 22 pages of additional documentation, which is mostly a quoting of the applicable laws to apparently justify why they continue to deny me.  There is a recap of the case's activity to date, and it represents their idea of evidence and "adjudicative actions."  According to their chronology, my application began with my application, via the Texas Veterans Commission, dated Feb. 9, 2015 (they apparently did not receive this until 02/26/2015).  They then took five months to "consider" my claim, and six additional days to notify me that they were denying the claim.

They then received my formal "Notice of Disagreement" [with their decision] on 07/28/2015.  This was followed by them sending me a Appeal Election Letter, and my De Novo Review election back on 08/06/2015 & 08/18/2015.  They then took fourteen months to "review" my less than two page disagreement, before informing me as of 10/26/2016, that they have again denied my application.

Now, without going into too much detail, I will share that my application to the VA is based on two different things.  One, I do have marked hearing loss, and the Audiologist who performed my first hearing evaluation referred me to the VA, saying that she suspected my hearing loss began when I was in the Army all those years ago, and that made me like many other men she had seen.  The VA sent me to another local Audiologist, who told me that she saw no reason why they should deny my claim, but then wrote in her report to them that she could not say whether or not my hearing loss is due to anything service related.  Her point to me was that the records show no hearing evaluation prior to discharge, so they cannot prove that my hearing loss is NOT service connected.  Unfortunately, they took the opposite position, and concluded that there is no proof of anything service connected.

I also thought that I would try to bring to the attention of the VA something else that I have thought about over the years having to do with my teeth and the dental care I received in the Army.  I was drafted in November of 1965, and the only time I saw a dentist between that time and January of 1968 was an initial evaluation.  There is no documentation of me seeing any dentist, or complaining of any dental problems from that point until I began a series of visits in January of 1968.  I distinctly recall being told at that time that the crowns of my teeth were too small, and that if nothing was done about that, I would develop problems later in life.  I went to the dentist in January of 1968 because I was ordered to go there.  I do not recall complaining of any problems prior to that date.  I have researched as best I can since I began this application process, trying to find anything anywhere that would confirm or deny the possibility that there might exist such a real dental diagnosis as "crowns too small," but have found nothing.

At any rate, I wrote on 07/13/2015, that an Army Dentist had told me that the crowns on 13 of my teeth were too small, and that I needed to have them all drilled out, and fillings put in.  I did point out that I had already been in the Army for more than two years at that time, with no dental problems.  And, I stated, in my own words, that this was unnecessary work.

I did my best to explain this to the VA in that Notice of Disagreement in July of last year, with a bit less detail, and after fourteen months, their Statement of Claim summarized my statement as saying, "You contend that you had several flilings[sic] in service, that you were told that you might need additional work, and that the fillings may have been unnecessary."

Fourteen months?!  To totally misconstrue my words?!  How can that be?  To add insult to injury, the VA's letter to me on that same date, informing me that my claim had been denied was addressed to a Ms. Dungan.

Now, it appears that my only option is to request either a televised hearing, or a hearing in person.  Supposedly, a hearing with a live person will take longer to arrange, since their "judge" must travel from Washington, D. C.  I have decided to request the televised hearing, just so that I can finally tell someone just what I think of them.  I think it is simply unconscionable that they cannot provide any face to face contact with any of their employees, and that they have reduced their process to such a degrading and belittling experience for veterans.