The Wood Gatherers, Juárez, 01/01/2001


The New Millennium


El Paso/Juárez has never been “flat.” It is a place of differences. Peeks and valleys. Yins and Yangs. The epicenter of this riddle is found at the river. Even the river has two names: El Rio Bravo/Rio Grande.

This is the early morning of the new millennium,  January 1, 2000, the first morning of who knows what.

It’s cold. The kids are hunting for wood for heat. They live in improvised sheds, mostly constructed from shipping pallets, some don’t have stoves, none are legal, if they have electricity or plumbing it is pirated. This colonia is a “first neighborhood.” People squat on land owned by distant political landlords. They are called parachadistas, parachuters, landing as if dropped in from the sky. Their parents came to the border from México’s interior to work in internationally-owned factories

These kids don’t know me or I, them. They are busy and they are wary. Their mission this day is not me, it’s wood, heat for the family. I walk with them in the fine sand of the riverbed. I find a few scraps of wood and they seem to feel better about me and allow me a few photographs.

I turn to leave and see El Paso, across the river, close, a million miles away, another world. I wave goodbye. They wave back, our barriers shattered. We are friends now. Wood Gatherers.

I’m about a hundred yards away now and turn around. They stand firm, watching me. I feel like I’ve left home, going back across the river, like a parachuter, falling from the sky.

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Juarez Ice truck, 1975

Ice truck, Juarez, 1975


Ice trucks up and down Avenida Juárez.

Same routine every day.

Go to the municipal ice plant, over by the railroad, buy ice, get it on the truck, head to your customers, mostly saloons.

Get the day’s orders.

A half block will usually do.

Get it inside, let the baristas chip it down to cooler-size.

The runoff gutters around the base of the bar take the ice melt away.

Good to go.

All the ice trucks eventually die from a fatal combination of age and rust.

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Relic #40: Hatch, New Mexico

Relic#39: Hatch, New MexicoRelic #40, Hatch, New Mexico

Commentary and photograph by Bruce Berman

What was is going.

What was the recent past is now becoming the debris of now, eroding into the dust or waiting for the two hour demolition wrecker to come and sweep it away, laying waste to the last of the industrial age, smoothing a pad or a field to a bald table upon which will be laid The Grid.

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Mad Men, the 50s and the Waiting
Text and photograph by Bruce Berman

Mad as in nutty mad…mad because they were delirious with the defiance of convention while simultaneously becoming the masters of the Establishment (and remain so, truly understanding what motivates consumers -and that became all of us- and then getting them to consume), mad because they were about to be jetting and tail-finning and mini-skirting and drinking and potting and pushing every moral convention ever taught and/or learned out the back door into what became the waste dump of the 60s. They were insane with the possibilities and not burdened by the weight of the previous two generations (The Great One of the Depression and the War). They were mad and intoxicated and wild, like their cars, huge, with unlimited horsepower, design that was plastic and chrome and sweeping, made with materials never heard of before. Theory knew no limits. Everyone felt a little “illegal,” yet, invited to the table. Being ecclectic was safe. Just keep consuming, it’ll all be all right. Yes, they were nutty mad and flew high, never thinking there could be a landing, mad with the waiting for the coming fall, the doubt, the emptiness, the great Genericide, ergo, The End Of The Innocence (Don Henley). They became us. Post Mad. The masters of data, overthink, and, compliance.

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