Thursday, September 4, 2008

Border Patrol

I went to El Paso for a hearing last week. It turned out to be the forty-eight hours from hell, including mistaking the "arrival" and "departure" time from El Paso to Phoenix and wandering from one end of Sky Harbor Airport to the other wondering why: a.) it smelled like urine and b.) everything was closed at 8:45 at night.

I tend to travel a lot for work. I travel far more now than I did a year ago which is fine Either way - I had time to play before I headed back. Normally I'd just sit in the airport - or in Vegas at a Roulette table, but Att'y H made me an itinerary of things to do in El Paso.

1.) Visit a giant Christian store. Apparently, this store was in an old Walmart. That's a lot of judgment, bigotry, sanctimony and "love" in one place.
2.) Visit the greyhound race track -unique but boring unless I could bet.
3.) Visit the Unites States Border Patrol Museum (and Gift Shop).
4.) Visit a Wild West Shootout and Wedding Reception Hall

I chose option 3.


I didn't know what to expect. Actually, I knew exactly what to expect, but the fact that my imagination of this place was identical to WHAT this place was like was priceless. It was like getting an X-Wing Fighter AND the Millennium Falcon PLUS a Nintendo on Christmas Day. It was like peeing-in-your-wetsuit good. Truly beautiful.

There are signs directing you to the museum EVERYWHERE in El Paso. It's about 15 miles north of downtown and you actually travel through a QueenCreek-esque (Draper-esque) suburb just to get there. You get off the freeway and go up a little hill and THERE IT IS. Sitting gloriously in the El Paso hills in the middle of an Army Gunnery Range (signs say everywhere NOT to go off a path due to unexploded ordinance). The parking lot is laid out to accompany tour buses and vans and RVs. Entire football teams could each park an individual car there and there would be space. I parked my rented Subaru Impreza about halfway back in the deserted parking lot and entered the building.

The first thing you notice is that every sign is both in English and in Spanish. This is rather odd considering I don't foresee a lot of Mexican nationals going to the border patrol museum. I could very well be wrong.

I then met "Louisiana", my tour guide for the afternoon. I can't remember her name, but she told me that she's from northern Louisiana. She's a "web foot"; not to be confused apparently with someone who isn't.

She was bored. She followed me around. This is where I got in trouble.

I was very enthusiastic about the museum. Too enthusiastic. In fact, I'm pretty sure she's never seen someone so enthusiastic about the border patrol museum. So, she asked why.

And I told her.

T'was a harmless little lie.

But it grew. And grew. And grew and grew and grew.

I told her my grandpa wanted me to go to the border patrol museum. I told her he was very excited that I was going to El Paso because "that's where the border patrol museum is."

That satisfied her for a bit.

Then she said something else. I can't remember what, I just know that the next thing out of my mouth was. "Oh, well, my grandpa's brother was in the Border Patrol in the '30s."

Bigger oops.


"Oh, near Niagara, New York." (thinking, hell...we're in Texas, New York is far from Texas).

"Well then - what was his name? We have rosters from the field offices and that field office was a big one!"

So, we went over to a large, locked cabinet and she pulled out a bunch of books. Names, pictures, years in service. "What was your uncle's name?" she asked as she was flipping back to the appropriate time period.

"Uh, well...he's not really my uncle, he's my grandpa's half-brother, because my great grandmother was married to a guy that died before she met my great grandfather and I can't remember his last name." (bigger and bigger and bigger).

"Any idea?"

"Pandano, Pandanowski...something like that." Again, no idea where any of this shit is coming from.

She looked through the P section. Nothing. "Are you sure?"

"Well, no, but I think that's his name. I never actually met him, he died in Mexico in 1955." Yeah - now I'm bringing nearly ALL of North America in to this. "But, I'm pretty sure that's his name, maybe he just worked for the police or something?" I said. At this point I'm wondering if I've broken any sort of federal statute by claiming relationship to a member of a federal agency.

"Oh, that's ok, this happens all the time. These records are woefully inadequate." The lady said "woefully" which, up until now, was something I'd never heard said with a northern-Louisiana accent. If she only knew how adequate they were.

She put the books away and walked with me around the exhibits. For the most part they looked like something that a bunch of Eagle Scouts or High School students had put together over a weekend. The posterboard still had stains of the Little Ceaser's pizza and Kiwi-Strawberry Shasta.

Then we got to the mannequins. Two mannequins. One dressed in the uniform of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent and one in the uniform of a RCMP. That's Royal Canadian Mounted Police for those of you who didn't have a snowback roommate.

"Oh, here, take a look at this. I bet your grandpa would be interested in this because his brother probably dealt with the mounties a lot being near Niagara."

I dutifully snapped pictures. A lot of pictures. But, none of Louisiana. She didn't want her pic taken. Too bad.

Then came the shopping. Att'y H, you see, had demanded proof I went to the BPM. So, I bought Att'y H the following.

An Official U.S. Border Patrol Museum and Gift Shop COLORING BOOK (sans coloring utensils)
Two (2) official calendars of the U.S. Border Patrol Museum and Gift Shop years 1994 and 2005. (the years 2001-04 and 2006-07 "went like hotcakes, especially 2001, you know, because of Osama")
An Official U.S. Border Patrol Museum and Gift Shop BOOKMARK

I bought me an Official U.S. Border Patrol Museum and Gift Shop SHOT GLASS.

Pics will follow shortly. ENJOY!

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