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c 1.41 e a *v; Horse Inn r 1\\11\( 11\(211\(..11Cs, \( dill,. I \\ !lc ,It ck I /c\( \\id\(‘ Ill\( \(;\(1/1 \(II 1/c 1 is on 11101\(1111; I\\IIIII\(I \\\\ dI1 \\ ,iIc 111\(111\( 111/1111 A . 11///\(Nph\( \( K \\ Pets Welcome o a k AFTERWORD Living Al Chuco AS Not the El Paso You Read About in the Papers BY DAGOBERTO GILB IAM NOT GOING TO TELL you about the Rio Grande. I realize it’s what most of you think of when you think of El Paso. You think of the Border Patrol cruising, dust trailing their off-road vehicles, as they chase indocumentados who are looking for work framing houses or cleaning them once they’ve been moved into. I’m not going to tell you about Juarez in the day or in the night, about its danger or lack of, or which mercado is best for what, or which bar mixes the strongest margaritas. I’m not going to tell you where to find Rosa’s Cantina. I’m not going to tell you about ostrich or snake or alligator skin boots. Though boots are cool. I like boots. I wear boots. But I ain’t gonna talk about them. First off, it’s not the river at all. Those of us who live here rarely acknowledge the river you know and see in romanticized movie clips and glossy photos. We talk about the Mountains. The Franklins, the bottom vertebrae of the Rockies, are what we see everyday, what we drive around and over on work days and days off. As imposing as the sky, they’re outside with us, and the barbeque, on dia de las madres and Memorial Day and all the others we pay attention to here. They’re there when we pull the weedsgotta have gloves because of nasty espinas. The mountains are here when we pull the car over the curb, tires across the rough topography of our dirt yards, and we’ve dragged the hose and soapy bucket over, or new parts and old wrenches…. Which reminds methe police, on the complaint of some old bag neighbor who thinks parked cars are a major problem with the neighborhood, have been nagging me about having my ’62 Chevy next to my house. “Does it run?” a lawyer friend asks me. “What’s that got to do with it?” I tell her. “It’s a ’62 Chevy! A ’62 Chevy is art!”which reminds me of other things that piss me off about El Paso. Like the newspapers. .They really do suck. You feel Dagoberto Gilb is a novelist living in El Paso. A version of this essay aired on National Public Radio’s “Latino USA.” like reading, you buy a paper from Juarez. No offense, El Paso newspapers, but face it, you guys are drinking the water too much \(I forever hear this story about some huge quantity of natural lithium in our water supabout music around here in Chuco. This station where I’m recording, no offense, but it’s made me hate jazz. Jazz reminds me of, well, like Newt Gingrich. It’s that bad for me now. This is a university station in El Paso, Texas! Radio is supposed to inspire the imagination! Whenever I go out of town, drive at least 300 miles, other newspapers all read like heavy the New York Times and contentedness for me has become hours listening to the radio. I’ve lived here in Chuco for so long that I’ve become a cheap date. IT AIN’T ABOUT GANGS HERE, either. You know what? I’m tired of hearing about cholos. It’s about quincealieras and weddings and birthday parties. It’s about Frank Castillo who’s pitching for the Cubs and Butch Henry who’s pitching for the Expos, about Antonio Davis blocking a shot for the Pacers, and everybody wants Tim Hardaway back on the all-star team. It’s about little league diamonds, Ponder Park, where my boy hit a grand slam last night and struck out ten. “Echela al guante, mijo, al guante!…Don’t swing at the piriatas!… ;Se van los elotes, calientitos, se van los elotes!” Okay, so that last line’s is about the man who sells the corn getting ready to leave. He sells them on the cob, or in a cup, both with butter and chile. So let me tell you a couple of other things I love about living in El Paso. Like when Jonathan Herrera and Daniel Pantoja come over to play Nintendo with my son Ricardo, and they got cokes, and flaming hot Cheetos. Or hearing my son Tony laughing on the phone with his partner Alex Gavina. Or just the other day when I went to the hospital where my compa, el mero poeta loco don Ricardo Sanchez lay, 100 pounds less in body only, fighting off cancer. His voice is a whisper. His wife Teresa has been by his bed for him since they came home to El Paso, and she asks him if he wouldn’t want his feet rubbed. He nods. She peels off the socks. When I tell him that I saw a book of his in the window of a Taos bookstore, his eyes swagger like nothing’s wrong, everything’s right for him and toda la raza. Staring into death, they are El Paso’s simplicity. Or the light when the blurry sun looks balanced at the last edge of the day. Everything is so sharp, like you hadn’t even realized you were nearsighted, or clear, like you’ve washed off the bug-splats from the windshield from a long desert drive. It’s white, almost blue it’s so white, white like a just washed and bleached cotton shirt, and a warm wind blows puffing it out just so as you’re crossing an empty street, the streets of El Paso so serene in the sensuous breeze and magic light, the city so quiet, as peaceful as the pregnant young mami, in cut-offs and sandals, long black hair, holding the hand of her firstborn as she walks, slow, along a sidewalk of Copia Street that looks the same as it did when, not so long ago, she held her own mom’s hand. 1423 llth Street .110 0′ Port Aransas, TX 78373 O S call . RL.,,c1’1’drim1 ,, 0,f rritc. …orwilm s , A titl’% -4411.. ituip c’ Noioloohlb THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23