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ti U ‘ *Itkr *Fie ; = I{ Until the sixties and seventies the low-down dirty avenue was a must stop for African-American musicians on tour. Blues guitarist Long John Hunter played at the Lobby for years before one agent from some important city “discovered” him. A jam session regular would sit in a corner booth and play with himself while listening to the moans and screams of Long John’s instrument. In the seventies, Oscar Zeta Acosta, who wrote The Revolt of the Cockroach People, got arrested here. The whole street was a gas. But now the Avenida Juarez enclave for Drunk American Kiddies is only about two blocks deep. Most of the high schoolers seeking to escape El Paso curfew laws and drinking ages don’t venture farther than Shooters, an American sports bar. There are lots of pharmacies in this zone with bright posters advertising specials on Viagra and over-thecounter antibiotic cures for sexually transmitted diseases. If you take a right to La Mariscal, or La Calle del Diablo, as it was called back when the major battle of the Madero Revolution was fought in Juarez in 1911, you’ll notice a different crowd. This is the Hard Core Zone. El Paso photographer Richard Baron used to hang out here working on his seriesWhorehouse Self-Portraits. Photography can be dangerous here. While walking around with my digital camera one evening I snapped a couple of pictures of Norterio musicians in front of a bar. Two thugs wearing large gold Virgin Mary medallions around their necks who had been sitting next to the bar ran up to me. Why did you take a picture of us man? I apologized profusely, explained I was shooting the musicians not them, deleted a picture where one of the thug’s back showed up, and they let me go. Orale pues, don’t take any more pictures, alright? Further down the street at the Queens night club, a Step-Right-Up guy comes up to me. “Entrele, compita. If you don’t like the place, you don’t have to stay.” ‘ I walk in. There are moving pictures on a giant video screen while a woman does a pole dance. \(The first moving pictures ever shown in El Paso were projected from an Edison vitascope on October 16, 1896, at the Myar’s Opera house in downtown. The crowd got a huge laugh when they saw scenes of a black man enjoying his watermelon. They also got to see a bathing scene, a Queens a video is running of a man trapped inside a burning building. The firemen who’ can’t get to him douse him with water to keep him from burning. All the while a flesh and blood’ woman wriggles down to her G-string. It’s a slow night. There are only three men in the whole joint and abOut 20 working women, bored out of their wits, waiting for non-existent customers. All business in Juarez, including the maquiladora industry, has been slow since ‘Osama blew up the Twin Towers. One of the guys looks like a young Mexican pimp with lots of brillantina on his hair. Another tooks like the El Paso poet Gene Kelleran ‘ ex-hippie with long, albino-white hair, Bermuda &1 I shorts, and white tennis shoes, with a Santa Fe air to him. He goes from table to table trying to strike up heavily accented conversations. The previously bored women break into an instant smile, like Taco Bell employees taking an order. ‘ I was the third guy. I don’t tell anyone I was there to do research.When no one was looking I jotted down notes on my two-inch notepad. What I need is an informant, I thought. Maybe I’ll ask the Step-Right-Up-Guy.’ Or maybe the waiter who brings me a Tecate should be ‘my Dante’s Virgil. He’s about 60 and seems like an articulate man despite his deep silence. \(As if he hasn’t talked in20 . He has gravitas. He could have been a television news ‘anchorman, a Walter Cronkite or ‘Peter Jennings of the Juarez night -But.I’m not Rite what I would ask him. No questions that would get me in trouble of course, nothing that would get me confused with the DEA or anything. I would explain that I’m ‘an Mu -a-urban explor BIENVENIDOS A CIUDAD JUAREZ 1117103 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 37