Stiff fingers on the walk Downtown
by Sito Negron
Posted on December 19, 2008
When I stepped outside I could tell the temperature by the stiffness in my hands. That's the thing about walking. Hands are the first thing to feel it in the winter.
A few steps from my apartment and I already was warming up. What a feeling -- the cool air on your face and neck, fingers starting to numb, but your body is a furnace, burning as long as you keep moving.
I can see Downtown right away, the Plaza sign, lit red at night. It doesn't take long to get the full view, as I pass familiar landmarks on Prospect: Henry's house on the corner of Los Angeles; a friend's home for sale; John Karr's home, where his widow lives; the Palmore, the former monastery or seminary, something like that; the politician's house on the corner right before the empty lot where the Holocaust museum isn't (the sign advertising "For Sale by Owner" is gone from the home).
Once across the Prospect Bridge, I'm Downtown again. The history museum then the library is on one side of me and the International Hotel, now officially the DoubleTree (according to the sign) on the other.
The soundtrack is Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Brubeck, Manu Chao, the Roots, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, System of a Down, Circle Jerks, DJ Shadow (heavy on the heavy this morning). I have time for about 10 songs, depending what route I take to the office.
There is construction -- the International Hotel, Mills Building. Through gaps in buildings I can see the new federal courthouse being built. A healthy Downtown always has some construction going. It takes constant maintenance and churn to keep things alive. The alternative is decay. That doesn't mean displacement and demolition for its own sake. Go specifically political on that if you want. I'm just walking here.
My favorite moment was stopping in Percolator. I already felt the ferment of walking, thinking, listening, burning. It came together in the Percolator, first with a brief conversation with some Downtowners about the basements of various buildings. The Center (I think, I wasn't taking notes, wasn't planning to write anything) apparently had or has a gym in the basement, which is in the process of being filled in. Across the street I could see the Bassett Tower, where I once worked, and in the basement there is an old pool.
Then, while waiting for my coffee (with a shot of espresso, just to top it off), I checked out the bulletin board. El Paso once again is in the midst of an artistic bubbling up. It excites me and also makes me feel a bit old, because I've been through about two cycles of happening.
Anyway, I borrowed a pen and scribbled down a few events. There was much more on the board -- manifestos, entreaties, schedules. Sal is asking for help with a project: "If you think a cool idea is selling snow cones and giving free reading material from graffiti ice cream trucks playing a variety of music" call 564-9329. UTEP students demanding the school have a true environmental policy are looking for signatures. The Rio Grande Review (firstname.lastname@example.org) is looking for submissions. The Tumblewords Project, Villescas and Sandoval, EpFilm.org ... and many many more.
I missed last nights film and performances at Percolator. But tonight at the Rock House, live painting and DJs with Daniel Barragan and Vanessa Michel. Tomorrow at Café Mayapan, a concert against the Border Wall with Mexicans at Night and others. Also tomorrow, from 1-4 p.m. at the library, the children's party for the release of "La Concha de la Tortuga: A Creation Myth," a CD put out by poet/musician Nancy Green and others; and Marisa Montoya has the grand opening of her portrait and art gallery and studio, Pixy, featuring Abrahama Muller and Soraya Mariscal starting at 6 p.m. at 305 E. Franklin. Dec. 27, another year-end show at the Rock House.
How many names of people and places did I just throw out in the previous paragraphs? Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 100 -- bands, artists, solo musicians, poets, intellectuals -- and that's the stirrings of a critical mass.
I had to write something. I'm not even sure if this all makes sense. But when I got to the office, I shut the door and started typing, because my hands weren't stiff any more.
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