Wednesday, April 16, 2008

sugar shock

Rufino Loya told his wife he was going to make something beautiful for her.  And proceeded to do just that in and all around the yard of his small frame house near a Highway 54 off ramp in El Paso.  Mr. Loya grew up in Mexico, saw churches and shrines that fired his imagination, and even though he was working at the Levi Strauss factory (he's retired now), would come back and spend countless nights and weekends on his "Wedding Cake House" or Casa de Azucar. That's what the neighbors started calling the ribbons of shockingly white columns and spires that began to dance around the property.  "The whole house is like a prayer" he explained, and  admits he's done it partly in hopes that others would be inspired to beautify El Paso in ways of their own.   

We know some of this because of our guest translator, Adair Margo, a local gallery owner who treasures the magical world that's been created out here.  While we struggle to say things in Spanish beyond eating, drinking and other basic functions, she helped us talk art and aesthetics with the man himself.  Kudos to her, and to Mr. Loya for opening the gates to his very sweet monument. 

Did I mention the wind?  Blowing the dust.  Like crazy.  Good thing we could run over to H&H Coffee Shop & Car Wash for a scrubbing and a great meal.  For us, not the vehicle.  H&H is an institution like no other we've encountered, run by two brothers right across the street from the house where they grew up.  Maynard, the outgoing bro who showed us around, says they don't make much on the food because the quality's so high.  Chile rellenos, which Mike ordered, are their best known dish, but whatever I had (the waitress' pick) was first rate as well.  We talked Jayhawk basketball with several Texans at the counter, and watched the van get the royal treatment, including a Big Ball buffing from Shorty himself.

Then, wind or no, we headed to a small plaza in the heart of downtown.  The one they call Alligator Park.  Named for the actual gators that lived in it from the 1800s to the 1960s. There's tales of them being taken to nearby  to stay warm at night, but now they're only found in fiberglass, in a massive fountain (no water actually) in the middle of the grounds.  Grounds where, according to a very detailed sign, no projectiles can be thrown!

That's not really why we left town, but leave then we did.  Bye bye Texas, hello Land of Enchantment.  Some Roadside America tips on scrap metal cars and a welded dinosaur along the highway were pretty underwhelming, but then we latched onto Ham.  Ham the Astrochimp, who is buried in the front lawn of the Space Museum--a hall of fame worthy monkey.  Except we were just in Independence, Kansas, which claims their Miss Able was actually the first space ape some two years earlier.  Did Ham have a better agent?   Or was it the fact that he survived his ride and Miss A didn't?  An asterisk on this one, perhaps?

Anyway, Roswell's  our destination.  Who's gonna be Scully tonight?

Music In the Van--EmmyLou Harris Starbucks Compilation, Loose Fur, Finnigan & Wood "Crazed Hipsters", Neil Young "American Chrome"
Highest Gas Cost Seen--$4.29 (diesel)
Also notable--First 2008 penny found by Don in 2008

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