Saturday, March 15, 2008

Guess who's coming to dinner!

Road to remoteness - Marfa, Texas. (photo by Thomas Mundt)

Last evening was an interesting experience. Invited to an old girlfriend's of Mrs. Dada's from the late 60's for dinner, we were told to expect to meet "Peter," a friend of our host. Having heard a little about Peter, I was looking forward to the evening.

You see, Peter was described to us as a kind of Ted Kaczynski -- without the violence. Kaczynski, as you may remember, was better known as the Unabomber for targeting universities and airlines with his homemade explosives in a kind of rant against technology and the world it had created.

(What follows is the obligatory disclaimer. Anyone familiar with the early anti-Iraq-war advocates will remember the incessant need they felt to say, "Of course, we all know what a horrific person Sadam Hussein was" as they proceeded to denounce the war against him and his nation.)

Disclaimer: While I've never advocated wreaking harm against people and destruction of property to exclaim one's philosophy, one has to wonder if the Unabomber wasn't perhaps just more awake, more lucid, than most Americans, and it manifested in some sort of perverse way. End of disclaimer.

That aside, I was curious to meet this Peter fellow who had been presented to us in this vein--sans the violence, of course.

As it turned out, Peter is an American originally from the upper midwest. Peter reminded me a lot of Tom Hanks, the way Hanks would have turned out were he more handsome. Peter teaches college here in El Paso. But he lives over the border in Juarez, Mexico. The reasons are multi-faceted we were told: The $100/mo. rent he pays saves him several hundreds of dollars he would otherwise pay on this side of the border; being submerged in the culture of Mexico, it's much easier for him to maintain his Spanish language skills; and without a car he gets much exercise walking across the border while dodging crossfires in the ongoing Juarez drug war gun battles.

Peter doesn't own a car. Doesn't want one. As a result, his day begins very early as he crosses the international bridge on foot where he catches often unreliable El Paso buses known to break down regularly. His commute allows for such disruptions in his daily itinerary.

It was an interesting evening. We talked of many things. One of those things being movies. Having no cable or satellite connections in Juarez, Peter was surprisingly up on the most current of movies. That's because he can buy pirated copies of them from street vendors there for a buck something.

It turned out we enjoy many of the same type movies, especially those filmed in the area depicting border life and issues. Among them, "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" were discussed, without much of the fanfare of the critics. Other notable movies from the area mentioned included "Giant" (1956) and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (2005).

And so, with spring break coming up in a week, where does a person who had been compared to the technological society hating Unabomber want to go? Not Palm Springs or Fort Lauderdale. Not even Padre Island, TX. No, Peter is heading out for ten days to the U.S. - Mexico border area of Big Bend, Texas. To get away. To recharge his sanity. It's right on the border with Mexico where the aforementioned movies were made.

Any seasoned reader of Dada's Dally is familiar with my repeated claim El Paso is as far east as I wish to go in Texas. Whenever getting out of town for a few days, my inclination has always been to go north (to New Mexico) or west (as in the Pacific Northwest). But now I'm having second thoughts. I thinking far west Texas might be an area worthy of exploration.

It's probably about as remote as one can get from everything in the state of Texas. And you never know, as isolated as it is, while walking the streets of Marfa you might run into Tommy Lee Jones, Daniel Day-Lewis or James Dean. Or perhaps, even more exciting, a Unabomber type character on spring break from university. "Without the violence, of course."


eProf2 said...


Great photo. I noticed the "rest area" just down the road a bit. Probably well used out in the middle of nowhere.

What does Peter teach? Like Kacznski, is Peter a mathematician? Interesting life style to live in Juarez without having a car. Buses are great in Mexico, but as you point out not so hot in USA.

Did you see Cowboy Del Amor yet? I'm sure you'll add it to your borderlands film festival once you see this quirky film about a matchmaker for Gringos and Mexicanas.

Have a great week.

D.K. Raed said...

I've always thought the Big Bend area looks interesting -- it's been on my list for future travel (delayed too many years now). The whole county was a bright spot in your recent primary (ok, sorry to inflict politics). BB Natl Park looks like a perfect place in which to lose oneself (for awhile). If old Ted had figured out how to live in a desert arroyo (like his brother actually did for awhile at one point), he might not have had to beg his family for money to make it through those rough MT winters & still be "out there". Good? Bad? I used to know for sure, but these recent yrs have torn away those preconceptions.

dada said...

First of all, my apologies. There have been a couple of comments posted several days ago under other blogs of different topics that I have failed to respond to. I will try to take a moment to acknowledge those here, even though they be outside the thread of this particular entry. (I figure the odds are better people commenting earlier might be more likely to see them here than scouring old blog entries.)

First, eprof: About the Rod Sterling Twilight Zone episode, "Constructing the future" -- yes, I remember that one well! (Who having seen it would be prone to forget it?) Excellent show and I love the way it causes us to ponder possibilities perhaps never before considered. Likewise, I find your wife's theory that everything happening to us has happened before. (Kinda like a big "Yo-yo" theory?) I, too, have a theory (no doubt it's from something I saw years and years ago that I've co-opted as my own? I call it the Gnab Gib (opposite of the Big Bang) and it has to do with what transpires when the Universe reaches the apex of its expansion and begins to constrict due to the previously unknown dark matters. perhaps repeating
everything again - like a Yo-yo.

As for the Dish satellite problem. We have now had Dish 2X and Direct 2X. (I prefer the latter for more reasons than I prefer the former, albeit I think I like Dish's channels just a bit better.) On all previous installations save for this last one with DISH, I did them myself. I installed them on a mast sans drilling holes in the roof. This last install with DISH, one of the first questions the install guy asked me was:
"What's an upside down American flag signify?" Having one on my front door, I asked, "Why, where did you see one of those?" He claimed he had seen it at another house he had worked earlier in the day.

We he had a lot of fun jousting verbally but with his rejection at using the already pre-existing mast for his dish, I couldn't help be a little suspicious, especially when he grounded the system to assure, if struck by lightning it would probably burn the house to the ground. I began to suspect he was one of those Bush loving pro-war extremists. But to answer your question, "Yes!" it could have been installed on a mast (like the three previous satellite dishes had been.

Now, to your questions here. Cowboy Del Amor is at the top of our NetFlix list and should be arriving this coming week. I'm looking forward to it. As for Peter, unlike Kacznski, his specialty is linguistics. Oh, and one final note. I learned they're starting a White Sands Film Festival this spring. This is exciting.

dada said...

D.K. I've not been particularly enamored of the Big Bend idea. Probably the shootings from the Mexican side of the border at people who were lazily drifting down the Rio Grande cured me for awhile? But I confess, the area is gaining more interest as time passes.

As to your, "Good? Bad? I used to know for sure, but these recent yrs have torn away those preconceptions," definitely registers with me. Our leadership in the WH, congress, and supreme court of the land have become blatant abusers of the system, turning on its head every charade we'd grown up believing "America" to be and its offer of the "American Dream" to any and everyone is revealed to be some jingle straight out of a McDonald's commercial while the hogs slop the trough to the exclusion of us, the sucklings just seeking a teat.

dada said...

Fran: As you commented earlier elsewhere, a number of alternative plans are being considered re counter recruitment plans if EPISD proves to be immovable. As suggested by others, it's possibly an issue of freedom of speech, equal access, or discrimination with potential involvement of the ACLU and/or LULAC (what with minorities most targeted). A demonstration outside school district Hqs has also been suggested. We shall see what transpires.

Anonymous said...

There are LOTS of anti recruitment support groups you can find on the net too. Medea Benjamin said recruitment is one of the huge pillars that must be addressed. They will tell anyone anything they want to hear in order to get them to sign the dotted line. Once they do section 9 lingo comes into play... it says regardless of what is stated in this contract, the military can do whatever it wants whenever.
Who in their right minds would ever sign such a contract? If they could just make that clause billboard size, they would have a heckova time getting people to sign.


horsedooty said...

as someone who has been to the Big Bend many times I am tempted to say not to go you won't like it. But, for what you want out of it, it will do just fine for letting you get your head straight.

I have seen all those movies with the exception of "There Will Be Blood". I think "All The Pretty Horses" was shot in the same areas. Several of the McMurtry books made into movies were shot in the area also. I know one site location person that has worked on several of the movies. She also worked on that Public TV faux-documentary about a ranch operation in the 1880s. It was shot on a ranch called the O-2 just off Hwy 118 south of Alpine, TX.

Hi eprof, long time no see.

Yo soy un demócrata amarillo del perro.

yo soy Horsedooty!

Border Explorer said...

eprof2, dada and all readers,
Last night I watched "Cowboy del Amor" and LOVED it. I enjoyed it more than any movie I've seen in 2008. It really captures the quirky character of the Border area of Columbus NM and Palomas, MX--even includes a few shots filmed right in El Paso. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

dada said...

border explorer, eprof2 and all readers,

Last night I watched "Cowboy del Amor" as well. Quirky, yet loaded with glimpses of this part of the country I love so much to see on screen. I appreciate your recommendation of this film, eprof, and border explorer, with firsthand experience in Columbus and Palomas, validates the movie's depiction of those areas. This was a refreshing break from the likes of "No Country for Old Men" and I confess, I was totally taken off guard by it. Thanks.

dada said...

horsedooty: Welcome and thanks for dropping by. It's always nice to hear first hand impressions of a place I write about to which I've never been.

Also, while you may never see this response because of the great lag between it and your original comment, I wanted to let you know eprof2 responded to this in a comment on a future blog
here at Dada's.

In the meantime, please know I appreciate your insights on the Big Bend area I hope to visit one day.