Thursday, July 10, 2008

On the road home with Dada Kuralt this last Sunday.

Sunday we went to dinner on the other side of the mountain with friends. Afterwards, on our way back home over the mountain, we were so impressed with the atmosphere and resulting clarity of the landscape that we pulled over to take a few pictures.

Mrs. Dada and I tried to live in Oregon for a couple years when first married. I was born there. Had lived there for a year during my internment in 8th grade. Other times, I spent much of each summer when school was out, as California refugee, on the farm of my sister and brother-in-law and their three children (very close to my own age).

So I was very familiar with Oregon, a place I dearly love. But I wasn't nearly as familiar with its winters. As I learned from my first one after moving back, they can weigh dismally on someone who is a natural born pessimist. (Well, politically, at least.)

And so it was, when the Oregon winters rolled in as they coincidentally do each year just after fall, I would get laid off from my seasonal job. That's when I noticed a strong correlation between that and the seasonal affective disorder that would start to ravage my mind. It may have been, without work to occupy my thoughts, I had more time to attend to the politics of the nation which, at that time, were under the thumb of another despot, Richard M. Nixon. But I digress.

Overlooking Northwest El Paso (green, here in foreground), Mount Cristo Rey
(middle ground) and the mountains of Mexico in the background. Click to enlarge.

Oregon was new to Mrs. Dada. But she, too, thought it incredibly beautiful. We would take drives during which her only complaint would be, "What a great view this must be, if only you could see it for the trees." I often shared her frustration. I guess even back in the early 70's, I was more of a desert rat than I would admit to myself.

So one of the several things we enjoy about the desert is, when being on a rise in the desert floor, the vistas can be incredible. I swear you can see for 370 miles. (Hell, you could probably see all the way to Phoenix if those damn mountains didn't get in the way! Well, maybe the mountains are a blessing in some ways after all?)

Zoomed out -- a wider view.

If you zoom in on this photo, you can see (on extreme left in the middle ground) the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) smoke stack rising 828 feet above the valley floor. The reopening of ASARCO is a strong point of contention for many, many El Pasoans that I have blogged about here at Dada's Dally in the past.

Continuing further right from the ASARCO landmark, one ascends Mount Cristo Rey. Staying in this middle ground area, further to the right of that is northwestern Juarez, site of the very hotly contested struggle for the land between Mexican homesteaders of Lomas del Poleo and the Zaragoza family which has recently surfaced claiming they own this disputed land. Maybe the fact Lomas is targeted to become a very busy border crossing between Juarez and Santa Teresa, New Mexico, has something to do with their sudden interest in a land nobody but homesteaders wanted 30 years ago; settlers who are now being intimidated, driven from their homes and, in some cases, murdered by hired terrorist thugs.

Having never been there, I'm sorry I can't pinpoint more specifically the exact location of Lomas del Poleo in that photo, but it's there. I have mentioned it on occasion here at Dada's. Border Explorer, a frequent visitor and commenter here has been to "Lomas" and has blogged about it far more extensibly.

Turning the opposite direction (to the northwest), we could see hints of the
upcoming beginning of our monsoon season we had no idea was about to hit us.

As I looked to the northwest, I could see a preview of the monsoon rains that would begin the next day, dropping high temperatures into the upper 70s to mid-80s ever since. On Tuesday afternoon over three inches of rain would fall on us in a matter of a few hours! Next day on the news, among those whose homes were flooded were families in a brand new housing development just a mile or two from us. The story highlighted a couple who had moved in just a month ago. It showed three and 1/2 feet of water had invaded their brand new dream home as well the homes of their neighbors. Some developers should be shot!

But I thought Mrs. Dada taking pictures just a 100 feet away with the forboding background was nice. Being so close I thought, "How can I miss her?" So, while she was totally engrossed in snapping pictures, I shot her!



D.K. Raed said...

Love those wide open views -- incredible! And now, you've kind of confirmed a fear we have when we consider and reconsider moving back to the Pacific NW. Loved the green, hated the gloom. My fantasy is a summer cottage up there & winters in, hmmmm, Baja California maybe?

Re ASARCO: what is the purpose of those big tall smokestacks when it looks like the city sits in a valley (meaning the smoke will go up & come right back down on the city)? Unless they can build a 'stack that reaches up into the jetstream, I don't see the purpose. And if they penetrated the j-stream, it wouldn't be only E.P. that'd be screaming.

Aaah yes, developers of new projects that cut corners by not properly grading for water drainage (among other things). Assuming they were in compliance, it is really the city land use commission you should be threatening to figuratively shoot. Even if it is a good-old-boy network, they are the ones who set the standards & they are accountable to the whole local population (not just the new homeowners). This is one reason homes in Calif cost so much more. The bldg standards there are very tough. And if a new home you bought fails in any way during the first 10-yrs you own it, there is automatic redress in court. Well, I'll just leave it on a positive note!

dada said...

DK: Yes, I'd love to live in Oregon, 6 or 7 mos. of the year. And I've often wondered what Baja might be like.

Re ASARCO, I've been neglectful in updating the developments there re their possible opening. A couple of points: After a plant like that is closed more than 3 years (if I remember correctly), it's supposed to under much, much more thorough scrutiny. This plant didn't. But the TX commission on Environmental Qualit that reapproved ASARCO's app this past Valentine's Day did so w/o adhering with that law. As I've hinted re that agency's corruption in previous blogs by its three members headed by "Buddy" Garcia, it also seems they had illegal meetings (before granting permission to reissue a permit) with ASARCO lawyers they refuse to reveal the records or purposes of. This is also illegal. And now, I'm not sure how many of the three commissioners on this panel are still on TCEQ. Seems they've deserted the ship. (But be assured, I'm pretty certain they will be rewarded handsomely.)

Finally, in blaming the developers for the flooding of new homes, thank you for pointing out the real source of the blame here. I knew this, but was wearying when I wrote of it and thought it impeded the flow of the prose, hence, I was neglectful. So, I appreciate you pointing this out.

The tremendous height of the stacks are supposed to throw the garbage further 'down range' I believe, but speaking personally from walking the UTEP campus in the 70's, it didn't work. The air was horribly foul some days. As a result, 1097 homes and businesses in the immediate area were contaminated with lead, arsenic, and old lace. (Feeble attempt at levity.)

In today's paper, the flooded out owners said they were assured no flood insurance was necessary, they did not live in a flood plain. And two buyers due to close on their new homes yesterday, suddenly backed out leaving one builder saying he had $750,000 invested in those (flooded) homes and it could break his business.

D.K. Raed said...

Below TJ, Baja CA is like an island of desert surrounded by ocean/coastal scrub. Maybe like E.P. would be if you removed most of the people, picked it up & floated it out into the Gulf. Lots of little fishing villages & ex-pat 'mericats. The tip (Cabo) is touristy, like a deserty Acapulco, if you're into that.

Thanks for the ASARCo update. I don't know which way the terrain runs, but the way you describe the smokestacks, throwing the shit downrange, makes me think it is Mexico that lies in that direction. I just cynically assume anytime we are funneling anything bad away from a border city, it is toward Mexico.

Those flooded homes (sans flood insurance) may not have been in a flood plain, but that does not absolve strict bldg codes (which developers must follow) regarding grading techniques & storm channels & catch-basins for water drainage. Once again, see new development in Calif for superb examples. Such control comes with a high price tag & resulted in many court cases wherein bldrs were almost sued to extinction before they realized the law was serious.

enigma4ever said...

I love these travelogue posts, I can sit here all cozy on my bed sipping iced tea and go SomePlace- lovely....

hmmm, about ASARCO...I am floored that they will be able to reopen...unreal...but I guess in this Era of Responsibility ( cough cough) was to be expected and perdicted....

On another note...I loved Oregon too...still's funny all the years that we lived in the NW- that Oregon is where I would take my son to vacation....sigh....( hmm, another Beach I need to add to my Beach list this summer....I have been trying to blog great beachs...since I am not traveling this summer)

great post....sigh...
( where are we going next?)

( Seasonal Affective Disorder...I used to call it Rainitis when I lived there...)

Border Explorer said...

These are splendid photographs! I love them all. The portrait of Mrs.D is remarkable. I was visualizing how she'd wave me off and change the subject if I told her that I thought she looked glamorous. But that's what I thought.

OK, I think Lomas is behind Mt. Cristo Rey in the landscape and maybe more toward the east. (I'll get Mr. B. E to look at it. He's not home currently.)

So glad you stopped the car and created these photos. Thanks for sharing.

dada said...

enigma asked, "Where we going next?" and I'm not sure. With the price of gas as it is, shorter trips are more attractive certainly. But there's a day trip to the green mountains of New Mexico -- Ruidoso or Cloudcroft (I just LOVE that name.) Or in September, after the chile harvest, a trip to Hatch, NM might be nice (where the dominant color is bright red.)

dada said...

d.k. - in that the prevailing wind is from the west, downrange for the ASARCO stacks would be west just east of 'em (West El Paso).

B.E. and I have a friend that lives in the shadow of the valley of death, she and her husband are strong, strong anti-ASARCO campaigners. They have threatened they will sell out and leave it smoke ever again issues from those stacks. I wouldn't blame them.

Thanks for your 'notes' on Baja. (I wouldn't want to be around ex-pat americats (but what exactly would I be???!!! [grin])

dada said...

B.E. Thanks for your impression of where Lomas might be here in this photo. Once we get this solved, maybe I won't be a fwy gawker every time I go past there. (I was thinking it might be up on the mesa about equi-distant to the right of Cristo Rey as the ASARCO stack is to the left of Cristo Rey.

I keep wanting to connect the white bldg. showing there to Lomas because there was mention of a little white school or church or something the people had established there. But if Mr. BE should confirm where the devil it is, I'd instantly become a better driver thru that stretch.

enigma4ever said... this point dada, just take us around the block or to the back yard- it is still Anywhere but here....sigh...

and your photos are always great...

Border Explorer said...

OK, I'm back and I'm embarrassed. You had it exactly right, Dada, according to my own GPS-minded husband. He also thinks that Lomas is on the mesa you think it is. I'm embarrassed because I said I thought it was "east" in my previous comment, when in fact I meant "west." This is why I let Mr. B.E. handle maps and directions. The only close call we had driving back to IA this spring from TX was when I looked at an exit sign that said if we wanted to go to the left on the upcoming road that the exit would be on our right, and I instructed the driver (you-know-who) that we'd be exiting "left." Ayeeeee! Stupid human tricks.

So maybe sometime can I use your photo in one of my Lomas del Poleo rants?

dada said...

enigma: Editor Sam happened to oversee your most recent comment when I made the mistake of leaving that page up while busy with other things. He liked your idea of ...."take the backyard," as Sam has his own corner out there.

(We can now expect something from Sam's Corner in the near future as a result, I suppose.)

dada said...

B.E. - funny, funny story. Luckily for you, Mr. B.E. probably got a real kick out of it. Good thing he has a great sense of humor.

By the way, in response to your earlier comment re Mrs. Dada looking glamorous, when I mentioned what you'd said she just waved me off and changed the subject.

OK, thanks for resolving the location of Lomas for us all (by consulting someone who KNOWS which direction east is in). I'll be a much safer driver now when passing by it as I approach Sunland Park Mall on the freeway from now on.

Re the picture, feel free to use any of these. (p.s. if you put one in photoshop or some such and hit the "flip horizontal" button, you can resolve your east west confusion!)

Border Explorer said...

Help! Where do I go to surrender?