Musicos, El Paso – April 2009
Everyone’s wary, in El Paso/Juarez, these days. The border is at war, with itself, with it’s two yin/yang sides, with the Interiors of each of the two sides.
Everyone’s wondering where it’ll end, where they will fall on the have and have not scale, what’ll be left of this little rough Shangri La (not a Shangri La of paradise but a refuge for those who have fallen from paradise. Sort of a suburb of Shangri La).
Most of the city on the north bank of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is hoping to join up with the America of the Good Times, even as that country falls into worrying that it’s over for them. The city on the south bank of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande is just hoping the Cartel War ends soon. They say it’s lightening up but there’s still a lot of black bags being carried into the city morque every day and night. The latest insanity, the Swine Flu, is pumping its way north from DF, the latest outrage that has people wondering, what the hell kind of curse is this? We’re the land of the sun and the laugh. Paso, vato?
What’s going on here?
Even the musicians are wondering, Que Miras man, what’re ya lookin’ at?
Even musicians…everyone. Todo.
The Border 2009: one side sees only murder and upheaval. There’s murder, for sure, and Swine Flu, and corruption, and “deals” left and right.
That’s on one side of the physical landscape.
On another side is a whole different world marked by SUVs and expensive and mammoth trucks, youth, mall clothes, franchises and youth. There’s an enormous influx of new military in massive proportions. Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) is here. Tens of thousands of new soldiers and their families and everything that comes with it. For the city of El Paso this means cash flow and how! This trumps a bad Economy. Recession. What stinkin’ Recession? Not here. Thank you American taxpayer. We appreciate the boost. It’s not bad because it’s the military, it’s just unsettling (literally) because it is massive and unconnected to the culture, sort of like a colony dropped in by the tens of thousands, right into the middle of a little out-of-the-way border town community that has always, in the past, self exalted in its obscurity and intense layed backness. The two sides of this place could not be more different: a valley of schizophrenia.
What’s happening here?
In a word, todo, everything. As an old time-looking third world turf war rages on one side of the river, the other side is experiencing what many, here, always hoped it would: An Americanized suburbia.
And then, given all that, there’s more. A transformation is coming to the city north of the river, a virus of its own kind, the kind that has come to most city’s this size in the Western World: Equity Virus. That’s the virus that hits those who don’t have it and chases them off. If you do have it, hey, you’re living the “good life.” No texture, sun-tanned, ease-full, premium. You know the virus. The one where sweat comes after a workout at a gym and is quickly eradicated by a shower in a twenty thousand dollar bathroom, not the kind that is sticky and dirty and long lasting and that comes from working in the sun, for others, at a wage that pays crap.
What’s happening? What’s happening here is, as Zorba the Greek said, “the full catastrophe.”
For others, it’s a Deliverance.
To maul poor Abe Lincoln: A house Schizted against itself probably is probably going to hell.
So the musician frowns. This guy ain’t going to be cruising any franchises. Been to Phoenix? Been to San Diego? What else is there? Where is there room for this cat? He’s not going to be playing for any 22 year old from Ohio who’s on leave from his “job,” at Fort Bliss, on the prowl at a dance bar with long stem cocktail glasses. This guy, the accordionista, is on the blackboard and the eraser is coming in, every day, by the thousands. He can read the writing.
Got to stop, I’m just this side of a rant. Let’s just call it a narrative update and musing and leave it at that.
Oh man, bad attitude today. Shoot your arrows. I deserve it.
Worse, it’s bad journalism.
I’m wide open.
That’s what happens when, even, the joy-givers, the happy-makers, the voices of the saints, the musicians, look afraid and cautious, their eyes wondering what’s next, sneering, looking hard into that lens, blinking into it and asking, what’re ya lookin’ at, man? Que miras?
The answer is obvious for both of us: Change.