Wingo is happy. Wingo is singing as we drive south down the I25 heading toward the Mexican border and our overnight stay in El Paso. Wingo is singing Deep in the Heart of Texas with such gusto and enthusiasm that I don’t want to prick his bubble by telling him that El Paso is less than 10 miles from the border with New Mexico, and certainly does not constitute “Deep in the Heart” by any calculation. But hang on, I hear you say, what are we doing in Texas? So I need to wind back a bit.
From a fabulous two-night stay in Durango we sallied south, stopping at Bandolier National Monument, one of the ruins of the Anasazi. Here we learned that the Anasazi are not called Anasazi anymore, they are now called the Ancient Pueblo people, and that ruins are not called ruins, as the modern-day Pueblo people find this offensive, so they are now called some other non-offensive PC bullshit thing that I can’t remember.
Our motel in Santa Fe, although modest, was perfectly located with a short walk to the shops in the historic district, a shorter walk to Whole Foods, (which has become our spiritual home), and an even shorter walk to the Railyard precinct, a piece of recent urbanisation which includes a cinema called Violet Crown, a Farmers Market and two fabulous brew bars. (Oh, did I mention the cinema has 30 beers on tap . Going to the movies here would be like reading Playboy for the articles, if you get my drift.) We breakfasted at the Farmers Market, drove the high road to Taos, visited Los Alamos to learn more about big-bang theory, and at night, slipped down to the Railyard and knocked back a few. We sat at the bar (which here is a called the countertop – the bar is the space), and watched the ice hockey on the screen behind the “bar”. And the American football. And the baseball and a trivia comp and other stuff as there were 13 giant screens behind the bar. My cousin Martyn and friend Ikey are both fans of the giant screen, but guys – these were really gargantuan. All thirteen of them.
We chatted to people but came no closer to understanding the political situation than we had before except that young people seem to be losing heart and are saying they won’t bother to vote. One night in Boxcar, Chicago was playing St Louis in the Ice Hockey semis on the big screen, and the bar was voraciously supporting Chicago. We squeezed in with a couple about our age to wet our necks and found the guy was the El Supremo of El Paso Transit. He convinced us that El Paso was a great place to visit and we could include a side trip to Mexico.
So after breakfast at Whole Foods we drove south out of Santa Fe. Wingo insisted on a small stop for a Chicago Dog, but we call these little indulgences “treats” and they don’t affect the overall calorie intake. We overnighted in Truth or Consequences, NM, a little town with a cute name, a darker past and a brighter future. The dark past is that at the end of the 90s a serial killer named David Parker Ray killed around 60 people just outside the town, with not one of the bodies ever being discovered. The brighter future is that just 20 miles outside of T or C (as the locals refer to it), is Spaceport America, the home to Virgin Galactic and Space X (who are promising a Mars landing by 2018, I notice today), to name but a few. T or C was a spa town, but now it’s just a dry, dusty stop on the freeway, with boarded up buildings, failed businesses and more than 20% of it’s population living below the poverty line. One thing is certain, Richard Branston doesn’t stay here. At least not in Motel 6!
Wingo is singing again – propped up in a darkened bar in the little border town of Ciudad Juarez just inside Mexico, Wingo is doing his best impression of South of the Border while the barmaid Illa looks on in a bemused way. We had crossed the Rio Grande like two characters in a Cormac McCarthy novel to try to find the Kentucky Club, the bar where Marilyn Monroe drank, as did Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as Jack Dempsey and Steve McQueen – though not obviously at the same time. We couldn’t find it, but we found Illa and we are her only customers as she works her way through her repertoire of cocktails and we help her improve both her profitability and her English.
And now we are on to Tucson, where we will do cultural things, like visit the Desert Museum and Biosphere 2. We will do boy outings to the Pima Air & Space Museum and to the aircraft boneyard, and we will drive down to the spooky little town of Bisbee, to meet a friend of a friend who’s idea of a working day is, by his own admission, “to show up at his downtown office, a Mexican restaurant called “Contessa’s Cantina,” between 11 and noon and stay there until they close”.
Well, there just might be a story in that…