Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coast to Coast

What do these photos have in common?

("The Fence")

(A plaza/restaurant area)

(A desert; hope I didn't really have to tell you that!)

(Yes, Spiderman!)

These were all taken during my coast to coast adventures in November!

I started out the month travelling to San Diego (plaza/restaurant) for a conference. I'm still not sure WHY I got sent to the conference, as I wasn't speaking, was not part of the working group, but there was some good networking, which is how I got to "The Fence". I have been to SD a couple of times, most notably a few years ago with a friend on my first trip. We got to SD about 11PM, got our car and started driving to Laguna Beach, where we were staying a my friend Lauren's uncle's house. As we're driving along "the 5" (Interstate 5; I have no idea why in California, all the roads are said with definite articles: the 5, the 1, the whatever), I started getting nervous. It was dark, I couldn;t see that well, but I could definitely, at times, see the ocean. Finally, after about 15 minutes I said to Lauren "Are we going the wrong way?" "Why?" she says. In my infinite wisdom (regretted at times to this day), I say: "The ocean's on the wrong side; it's on the left." Lauren, wiser than I, says "You're on the other coast!" Of course!! Heck I grew up on the East Coast, if you are going north, the ocean is on your right. But it's the opposite in California, and while my head knew that, my instincts just weren't going with it. It took me the best part of 3 or 4 days to finally accept that, on the West Coast, if you are going north, the ocean is on the left!

At the conference, I met someone who could give me a border tour. I have been going to Tucson for a couple of months and thought it might be educational and assist me in my work if I knew what went on at the border. Sure, I've crossed the SW border--one time, on foot, to Tijuana (never again; the poverty is heartbreaking, nothing like you've ever seen in the US). So, when I was in Tucson mid-November, I contacted him and got a border tour. Went to the Port of Nogales, where the Port Director personally gave me a tour, including inspections, secondary inspections (you know, when the border agent waives you over and your heart starts pounding because you put all your vitamins in one container and what if they think they are drugs and you are going to get locked up until the get the chemical analysis back which takes months and in the meantime you are rotting in a cell!), lock-up, outbound inspections (where they inspect the vehicles going to Mexico). Then we went up on "the line", the area where the Border Patrol is posted about every half mile, only a hundred yards or so away from The Fence, awaiting people illegally coming across. Yes, The Fence really exists:

It simply goes on and on and on. If a panoramic were taken here, you would see the Border Patrol vehicles on the right of the photo sitting on hills looking down on the fence. On the other side of those vehicles are canyons with cactus and not much else, except maybe nasty critters.

Driving from Tucson to Nogales is complete desert. It is the most unforgiving, brutal country I have ever seen: dry as a bone, full of cactus (tall cactus, short cactus, tree-like cactus, ground-cover cactus), stunted trees that do not invite shade because they don;t have leaves, only needles. Jagged mountains jut from desert floor. Dirt roads, full of dust, crawl down into the canyons and up into the mountains. You & I wouldn't last 2 hours without proper hiking boots, long pants, and a gallon of water. Yet thousands of immigrants a year cross on foot with little or no protection, sometimes no shoes, no water. How harsh must their lives in their home countries be that they would endure these conditions just for a chance to live in America?

My final stop in November was NYC, where my daughter lives. I went up there for Thanksgiving and, of course, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. My sister came and we stayed in Times Square, a constant moving mass of people. Except, T'Giving morning, once you got off the parade route. The streets on the parade route, however, are just jammed!

Amazingly, with that many people, everyone is well behaved, talking to each other, making room for the kids to get to the front. Just watching the faces of the children as they see their favortite cartoon character or Nickelodeon personality is priceless! There were many "celebrities" in the parade that we did not recognize. Fortunately, there was a 9 or 10 year old boy near us who filled us in on the Nickelodeon or Disney actors. Of course, when Carly Simon came along he was "Who's that?" (ditto with Gloria Gaynor, Iggy Marley, and Andrea Bocelli). My daughter made a wonderful dinner in her tiny, but cozy, Brooklyn apartment. And, of course, on Black Friday--shopping!

There were bargains to be had, and I had a few. But, the most fun was at the DKNY shop. I tried on a dress and the sales associate had a field day accessorizing me-- a belt, then a "cozy", which is sort of like a sweater and sort of like a shawl that you can wrap different ways. She had 3 of us lined up in the middle of the store showing us different ways to wrap it! My sister, who I don;t think was going to buy anything, ended up buying one, too! I hope Helen, the sales associate, got a good commission for everything she sold us!

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