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?