Monday, May 02, 2005

A la Frontera

number twenty-four

I finally reunited with Sunshine in the border town of Laredo. Here I changed cars and was ferried on over the Border and south to Monterrey. 813 words.

[NL]—Laredo, Texas, may be a less-than-charming place. From the highway, it looked to me like a very little town very bloated down its arteries by the business that is to be boomed from nestling up against another country. It seemed as if the city planners had drawn a T in the Texas dust: where the east-west pole was the border, and then populated the post with Wal-Marts, strip malls, and brightly painted bunkers with yards full of tin souvenirs. When I entered Mexico almost a decade ago, it had been through El Paso, and while dustier—and equally hell bent on its border identity—it had seemed like a fairly merry place, complete with a bon-homey sort of “welcome or adios” to the peregrinating masses it was built to serve. In contrast, Laredo seemed far more utilitarian, like it was there to register in the rearview mirrors of the no-nonsense shoppers it was built to convey.

Much of my sense of Laredo, to be fair, is gathered from looking at it from the highway like that; or the hotel windows. I found the Pizza Hut friendly enough, and the Best Buy was filled with helpful staff. By the time we were visiting our last USA gas station heading south, I was still ready to hit the road and miss Laredo very little for the rest of my life. This said, I was sort of happy to discover, after leaving the highway and nearing the actual border, that some faint pulse does beat beneath Laredo’s conduit.

Most traffic pumps on down the Wal-Mart highway, toward Puente Internacional 2. The bridge shunts traffic to the east sides of both Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, her Mexican sister city. This is the fastest way for commuters, because Texas highway 35 becomes Boulevard Luis Colosio at a two-dollar toll booth, and then becomes the bypass straight through to Monterrey. We assumed that this was going to be the higher traffic route, and less charming to boot, so we exited the highway to delve into the dense cluster of downtown Laredo. This route turns into the wider cluster of Nuevo Laredo’s main drag after the two-dollar toll at Puente Internacional 1.

This possibly far more scenic route did wonders for my recollections of entering Mexico in the nineties. Here were all of the signs and tourist information postings. Here were all of the street dudes selling newspapers and hearty food from oily paper bags. The traffic was slow, making it easy to appreciate all the two-story, brightly-painted square buildings with ten foot tall, brightly-painted bilingual advertisements (present in either of los dos Laredos). People swarmed everywhere, music blasted, and the tempo seemed to quicken with the temp. It was all somehow a little terrifying because it was something that I wasn’t actually navigating myself, and also because it happened so fast. In recollection, it happened too fast, like it always does. I still remember longing to hang out in Ciudad Juarez ten years ago, but afraid to actually do it with little preparation and a lot of luggage. Today was the same, over too fast and not fast enough, and I look forward to the time when I can go back, a little less jumpy because it will be a destination and not a hurdle.

Entering Mexico, Sunshine tried to spot the bullet holes from last week’s newest narco-altercation, which she said might be evident all over the toll bridge. We didn’t see anything. Maybe the shots were fired on bridge number two. Leaving Nuevo Laredo, we stopped to get a newspaper at one intersection because Sunshine and her coworker Matt were hoping that they were actually in it, but they weren’t. Matt assured me that they would be in the other paper, that we could pick up in Monterrey. Then we drove on and on thought northern Mexico, and my heart calmed as the border receded.

Northern Mexico is nice: the landscape is filled with crops which give way to low scrub; which, in turn, gives way to blue succulents and the intermittent really tall cactus. Beside the road, we saw an occasional stock animal tied near a well. The roads were creepy, potholed disasters for a while (Sunshine had killed a tire coming through here almost three months ago—she showed me the spot), but the traffic moved us along at a nice clip, and the conversation in the car was fun and interesting. Occasionally we’d pass though a narco- or immigration checkpoint, but we’d always get the wave-through. Eventually we hit a toll bridge signifying that we’d moved from freeway to expressway. This was a far nicer road, and Matt got the van up to a far nicer clip than before. We reached Monterrey, and then San Pedro, in a little over two hours.

Maybe we were all hurrying to get away from the border.

Home in San Pedro taken by Matt before I'd even gone inside.

Quiet Reading Room

This is a quiet reading room. Often, I find it is uncomfortable to digest long tubes of columned text directly off a computer screen. This journal is dedicated to the collection, percolation, and ultimate integration of my personal experiences. Subjects that I want to examine and then talk about--sometimes talk a lot about--€”are presented here. This central content can tend to thousands of words, maybe millions. I was afraid that readers were leaving the presentation boggled, spinning, googly-eyed. Or perhaps when confronted with twenty-four inches, or yards, of monitor sprawl they were just giving up. I am not even certain that I have necessarily solved this inevitable content problem of modern information enjoyment, but here is what I have done.

After long and highly scientific routines manipulating double-blind control- and test-subjects, peer reviewed journal publications, and hours and hours of hands-on experimentation, I have crafted this quiet reading room. There is no scientific way to control the length of the articles I write, but careful handling can somewhat soothe the contextual presentation. In other words: I have dropped the traditional speculation about lexicon, and attacked the question of the matrix itself instead. Brilliant. After years of diligence what I eventually crafted is this reading room.

The walls are contoured to relax instead of constrain; the paper is made to soften instead of reflect. The light is dimmed--just so--€”to prevent strain, angled to prevent umbra, and color-coded to soften harsh red lights and deepen wimpy light reds. There is nothing I can do to control aural environment, but my recommendation is that it should be kept quiet. About ambient sound: these entries are probably best read as far as possible from emergency vehicles, preferably from beneath the muffler of a vintage fire fighter pilot's scarf, puffy old duvet, or snow that is still falling.

My theory is that the wide web world is filled with potent and material opportunities that are just too difficult to digest for many people to take part. Enjoyment of this stuff is regulated to the routines of crawlers and robots at the peril of humankind's peaceful future survival. In an attempt to delay this likely outcome: welcome to this quiet reading room. It is for people like you to relax, kick back, and hate my content for better reasons than the dizzying vertiginous specter of its lousy dpi presentation.

Return to Previously

About Mr. Cavin