My visual, audio and literary stuff is free here, but my hold-in-your-hands books, prints, and CDs cost real money. If you want to buy something tactile from me, contact me at stujenks at gmail dot com, or message me on Facebook. If you simply want to look and read for free, that's fine too, but don't hesitate to send me your sofa change. My snail mail address is P.O. Box 161, Tucson, Arizona 85702. Keep those cards and letters coming. And sofa change too. Love and light, Stu.
"...Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros, pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte...," prayed the five women at the church this afternoon.
I wept as they said their Hail Marys over and over, around and around, a chant of my hemisphere and desert.
"God, where do I got from here?" I thought, not saying my prayers aloud. "I need your help. Guide me with intuitive thoughts, and by the actions and words of people," as the five women said again and again, "...Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros, pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte..."
Images: "Consecraged Ribbons, Magdalena de Kino Pueblo Magico, Sonora, Mexico", "Chevy & Boy, Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico", and "Nannie's Mirror, Highway 15, North of Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico" (c) 2014 Stu Jenks.
"Tijuana River Surf, United States/Mexico Border" (c) 2010 Stu Jenks
The breaks are just too gnarly here, with the strong rips and all. Plus I’m just a beginner, a grom, surfing mostly wave scraps. But it hasn’t rained recently so there shouldn’t be much sewage in the water, and it is a beautiful day; but there might be a dead cow or two, bobbing in the sea. That doesn’t bother me. It’s the rips that scare the hell out of me. I’ll just walk along the shore, take in the crashing sound of the beach breaks, and feel the warm sand between my toes. I'll surf another day.
[Note: The above image and story are from earlier this year. Today, August 17th, I'm in Southern Mississippi, soon to drive to Vicksburg. And last night, I drove through what I found out this morning was a tropical storm. Makes senses. I pulled over into the little town of Tickfaw, Lousiana after large parts of trees flew in front of my car. Talked with a trucker named James at the Shell station there while we waited for the storm to pass. I'll tell that story later. Hell of a nice man though. Oh. I'm same and sound but it was quite the frog strangler last night. I've seen rain like that, but I've never driven through a storm like that before. But you know me. It was fun, and I got some videotape of it all while driving over Lake Ponchartrain. Soon to be on a YouTube near you.]
"New Fence & The Live Oak Tree-Gate, Coronado National Monument, Arizona/Mexico" (c) 2009 Stu Jenks
With the incoming Obama administration looking toward more important issues, and with ex-Governor Janet Napolitano at the helm of Homeland Security,
perhaps they will let the New Fence go unfinished. It's a colossal waste of
money. Guess how most bad guys get in the USA? Do you think they hike
across hundred of miles of hot desert, sharing water and food with the
poor, who are making the trek to wash our dishes and process our pork? Nope.
The criminals/terrorists/creepoids have papers. Real or fake papers. And they cross at Juarez, Nogales, Douglas, and Tijuana 'legally'. This fence just hinders those unfortunates who are trying to come to America to make a little money, at jobs most Americans don't want to do anymore.
So stupid. So wasteful. And if you ask me, so racist. To paraphrase my friend Rocco, "If the illegals walking across the border were Swedish, the first thing we'd do is ask them out for a date."
So here's a pic of the fence from a few miles away, from a hill high in the Monument. And another photo of
a natural gateway made by two Live Oak trees. Has a bit of 'Alice in
Wonderland' feel to it.
Anyway. May we all enjoy the new year 2009, in spite of
the lagging ecomony. Kiss your loved ones. Forgive those who have hurt
you. Forgive yourself most of all. Make a little Art and Music. See a
good movie. And hugs and kisses all around.
"The Road to Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico" (c) 2007 Stu Jenks
[Images: "Cabullona Sofa", "Rio Nacozari at Cabullona", & "Crossing the Nacozari"]
hasn’t been over-grazed, and over-developed like up North. Not enough
cattle, not enough money, I suppose. I’d be hard pressed to even try
walking through that thick emerald-green jumble of Mesquite, Creosote
and those bushes I don’t know the names of. But I’m not walking here,
not like the bushwhack through the bramble south of St. David a couple
hours ago, to watch a flash flood rise. No, this afternoon, I’m driving
to Fronteras, to see the ancient village where Cochise used to steal
cattle from, and to maybe take a picture or two for “The Apache Wars”
book. Not raining here now. Can tell it did, not long ago,
from the fresh puddles in the road. Can’t tell if that black cloud is
moving away from me or coming toward me. Already had to take one detour
today when they closed the route to Bisbee due to water on the road.
Went only a few miles on Davis Road, east of Tombstone, when the water
stopped me. A fire engine was there, with two firemen and one
firewoman. I got out of my truck and as I walked toward the fireman
with the handlebar moustache, he looked at me, then looked at my four
by four, then without speaking gave me this look. The look said “Ah,
don’t worry. You can easily make it through this. Go on through, my
good man.” I smiled and said only “OK”. Two minutes later, I’m plowing
through two feet of water, passing a stalled Mercedes, and having a
hell of a time pushing hundreds of pounds of water out of my way. But
lo and behold, he was right. Got through just fine. Only harm was that
my pulse was up to about 120 or,and that's good for me. At least in spurts it is. Anxiety-produced Cardio workout. Crossed into Mexico at Agua Prieta. Easy to get into
Mexico, hard to get out. Just had three Federales in uniform look at my
truck and then looked away as I drove by. No more need for a visa to
enter this part of Mexico but I’ll need a passport to get out, when the
new law goes in effect in a few months. Don’t need it today, but I have
it with me anyways. Got lost almost immediately. Well, not lost
really. I knew if I kept going south I would eventually hit Mexico
Route Two. More worried that I’m miss the road to Fronteras. Not many
traffic signs in Mexico. Everyone who lives there knows where they are
and where they're going. Not a whole lot of gringo traffic here. Couple young
men smiled and waved at me just a while ago, as I slowly drove down a
steep muddy street in a poor Agua Prieta neighborhood. I smiled and
waved back. It was as if they were saying, “Cool. An American who isn’t
scared to come down and see us!” or they could have been smiling out of
a fearful respect for a White Man in the Black SUV. May be a man from
the Juarez cartel heading west. I prefer to think the former. Found the road to Fronteras after all. There was a sign. I’ve been on
Route 17 about twenty minutes now. According to my map, I cross the Rio
Nacozari at Cabullona, and then just another half hour to Fronteras. I
crest a hill and see traffic stopped up ahead. A sign say ‘Construction
Ahead” in Spanish. Maybe they are working on the road, but on a
Saturday? I stop just shy of a railroad crossing, get out of my truck
and casually light a smoke. I can’t see much except that cars, buses and
trucks are stopped and that there is a little town that is on either side of
the road. Maybe it is just construction. But time passes and nothing is
moving and people have that relaxed look, as they lean on their cars,
like we are going to be in for a while. I finish my smoke, grab my
Canon, leave the bag and begin to walk into the village of Cabullona. Now I’m a
little nervous being in Mexico, not for the usual paranoid false
reasons that most Americans have (I’ll get robbed, I’ll get mugged,
I’ll be shunned). Sure, there is some intrinsic danger just being a very
poor country, but mostly the white northerners are simply projecting
their dislike of the Other onto the natives, figuring they hate me as
much as I hate them. No, for me, I’m anxious because I can’t speak the
language. I’ve tried to learn Spanish but I have no gene for foreign
language. I misprounce words horrible, due to taking French in High
School, and I can’t remember anything these days. But I do know how to
be polite in Spanish and I just pray my vehicle doesn’t break down and
I have to pantomime my way in and out of car repair. I quickly see
that I stick out like a sore thumb. I’m the only American within fifty
miles, and people are looking at me, but then, after seeing me smile,
they smile. We all smile. “Buenos Tardes,” I say to a couple of guys getting out of a truck. “Tardes,” say the shorter of the two. All is well. Within minutes I see why we are stopped. The Rio Nacozari is
flooded and there is no bridge. Well, there is the beginning of a
bridge; the concrete supports have been poured, looking like tall gray
megaliths of cement, walking across the stream. Looks like they were
constructed a while ago. Takes a while to build a bridge, a road, in
Frontier Mexico. I look toward the river and its banks
and it’s a party of sorts. The tan-brown muddy water is rushing fast,
looks to be about four or five feet of water. Standing waves appear and
disappear, and along both banks, a good fifty to hundred people, are out of
their cars and trucks, staring at the river, like it was a TV showing a
movie. Kids play here and there. Folks wander over to a cantina to get
a taco and a beer. Teenagers flirt with each other, like they do
everywhere on a Saturday afternoon. No hurry. No worries. The river
will subside when it does and there is nothing I can do about. Might as
well stretch my legs and get something to drink.
I have my
camera but I don’t take a lot of pics, even though the faces and the
clothes are wondrous. But the Mexicans aren’t here to be my
entertainment. There are just waiting for the waters to recede. I take
a couple of shots of the river and try and get some people in the shot
without them knowing. If space aliens came down from Andromeda and
started taking pictures of me, walking down Congress Street on my way to The Cup, I
would find it irritating. I don’t want to piss off the locals. I’m standing on a tall hill look at the river, mesmerized like
everyone else. Then I hear and see a pickup, on the other side,
inching his way toward the rushing water. Everyone, man, woman and
child on both sides of the river, watches this unfold. It just a Ford
pickup, nothing special, might be a four by four, might not. No big
lift package on it. He reaches the water's edge, puts two wheels in,
revs the engine, and pops the clutch. He explodes into the
water but rather than going straight across to the other side, he take a
hard right and hugs the east bank. Muddy water flies up from either
side of the truck. The water is easily up to his doors, but he isn’t
bogging down. He’s making progress. The engine sounds like a dozen
angry dogs growling loud. He continues downstream, then disappears behind some
trees and none of us know where he is, but we still hear the engine,
those dogs. He hasn’t stalled. The growl continues for a while and then the
engine is quieter but not dead and then we see him coming down a
one-line dirt path on our side of the river. The driver’s trying to act
cool, like he does this everyday, but his wide eyes and big smile
betray his enthusiasm. He hits the pavement, doesn’t even stop and head
north toward Agua Prieta. No one applauds, even though I
felt like it. But many men did do the slow-nod-of-the-head, denoting
respect for what the man did. Then men start getting in
their trucks, trucks of similar size and bigger. I know what they are
thinking. ‘If he can get across, so can I.’ I look and yea-boy, another
truck is going for it, from the other side of the river. I head down the hill I’ve
been standing on, and then walk down the dirt track where the first truck
materialized. I hear someone else pushing their truck into the high rpms.
I take the lens cap off my Canon and process quickly toward the river.
By the time I get there, Truck # 2 has already crossed and Truck
# 3 is make the trek. God, I wish I had a longer lens. # 4 is poised on
the bank. Only one truck at a time. Only one underwater track to drive on. Too much one way or the other and you are in deep. #3 makes
it. #4 is in the water. Now, we have a #5 on my side of the river,
going to school on what he can see from the path that #4 is taking. #5
hits the surf. This is the easy part, this side of the river. He's doing
good, shooting across the channel, then hugging the bank, then into the
hellhole of swirling riverwater near the end. He almost stalls. He hits the accelerator hard.
No water flies now. He’s barely moving. But then it pops like a cork
and out he comes, onto dry land. A few minutes and a half a
dozen trucks later, I see a Chevy with Arizona tags coming across
the river toward me. Vanity plates read “Cienega”. Spanish for marsh.
Probably the name of his company. He sees me taking his picture. He looks Hispanic. I lower my camera. I’m grinning from ear to
ear. He powers out of the water, is on the dirt track now, but he slows
and through his open window, he yells to me, in perfect English. “Now that was a lot of fun, eh?” “Yes it is,” I yell back.
After a half hour, and a few dozen shots, I head back to my
truck. Still sitting by the tracks, a few more cars behind me now. I stow the camera, take a pull off my soda and start the
truck. Not going to Fronteras today. I'm not going to try fording this
river, even though I bet I could. I couldn't have asked for this much fun, even if I had prayed specifically for it. Watching stock trucks challenging a
roaring river? Yea, man. And not your spare truck but your work truck, your only truck. Not that's courage. Talledega has
nothing on these guys. I do a three-point turn and head back toward the U. S. of A.
An old sofa sits under the shade of a Mesquite tree. This is the
image of my feelings of Mexico: Poor yet relaxed; desperate at a slow
pace; religious, yet on the verge of a loss of faith; accepting of
death, but wishing there was less of it. All I need is a roadside cross
next to the couch and the symbolism would be complete. The Cross is implied, in my mind only. I take the shot, and know I have gold in my camera.
An hour and a half later, I’m at the border, two cars back from
talking to Mr. Border Patrol Man. Been in line for a half hour. No
hurry, no worries. A tan mutt, not dirty, not clean, walks between the
cars. He looks toward the north, toward America, thinks about and then
turns back toward Mexico. If dogs run free, why can we?, as Dylan once
said. My time comes and I pull up to the officer. White guy,
short, pudgy. I open my door and hand him my driver’s license and my
passport. “Do you have anything to declare?” “Nope.” “What is your purpose in Mexico?” “I went down to take some photographs for a project I’m working on.” “Photographs?” say Mr. Border Patrol Man, with puzzled look on his face. “Yea, I was heading down to Fronteras but the river was too
high, so I couldn't get across, so I just came back,” I say, with a little
grin on my face. Mr. Border Patrol Man lets out a big laugh. “You are one brave man,” he says. I shrug. I don’t think so. Nothing to be afraid of, if you ask me. “Well, I guess if you ain’t looking for trouble, you won’t get into trouble,” say Mr. Border Patrol Man. “That’s the way I see,” I say.
He goes back in his booth, looks at his screens. Probably looking
to see if the license plate registration he’s got on his screens, from
the images taken by the four cameras that surround me, matches my
passport. It should. He walks back over to me and hand me my passport and my license. “I tell you, those better be some award winning photographs, that’s all I’ve got to say.”
He laughs again. I reach over to my wallet, put my license back
in it and pull out one of my business card. I hand it to Mr. Border Patrol Man. “If you’re interested, check out my website.” We both laugh now.
It looks like a small family dwelling, except for the concrete driveway that runs by the front door and the small official government signs bolted to the side of the house. I saw a commercial recently saying that I didn’t need a permit for my car anymore to drive into Sonora [‘Sonora gets it’ was the catchy phrase it used], but I’m still wary. I’ll go inside and find out for sure. I lock the truck and head in. It’s a small ranch house, one central hallway, with four rooms off the hall. Two doors are shut, two are open. The house is filled with strong delicious smoke. I smell Carne Asada, chiles, tortillas. I walk toward the origin of the smoke. An older woman is in the kitchen cooking, a younger man is with her. No one is in any kind of uniform, nor do I see an credentials. “Habla Ingles?” I say. “No,” they both say in unison. The man comes out of the kitchen and points toward the other open door. “Habla con el hombre alli,” he says. “Gracia,” I say. Something about a man. I walk into what looks to be an office of sorts. Old desk. Papers around. A couple of filling cabinets. An official looking man sits at the desk. “Buenos Tardes, Senor,” I say “Buenos Tardes,” say “Excusa. Habla Ingles?” I say. “No, no,” he say. He seems a little irritated with me. Well, It would be good if I could speak just a little bit of Spanish myself. “Hmm,” I say. I begin a bit of pantomime. “Altar?” I say pointing south, “Permit?” I point to me. The official doesn’t understand. I try again. “Altar. Permit? Automobile?” “No, no, no,” he says. I can see he understands now. He waves his hands wildly, shooing me away. “No permit?” I say. “No, no,” he says. He just wants me to leave. “Gracias,” I say. He goes back to whatever was on his desk.
I get back in the Pathfinder and open a Coke Zero. Start the truck and drive south through Sasabe, Sonora. Sasabe on this side of the border is quite different from Sasabe on my side of the border. Sasabe, Arizona isn’t even really a town. Just a few ranch houses, and a very white, very modern, steel and concrete building that is the port for entry for the United States. Without seeing a soul, I slowly drove over the border, stopped at that Mexican government house and now I’m winding through town on a badly paved street. Young men with black tee shirts and teenager’s school backpacks slung over one shoulder slowly stroll here to there, waiting for it to get dark, waiting to make the jump. My Mexican roadmap shows only one road through town but it’s hard to tell which of these narrow streets is the road to Altar. Sort of like when I’m hiking in unknown parts of the desert and I just look for the trail with the most wear. Same here. I smell Carne Asada grilling somewhere, chiles again. Delicious. Suddenly the pavement ends, the town of Sasebe ends. Small rocky hills on either side. The road’s more a single lane than a double, pretending to be a two-lane road. Dust, fine like face powder. An old Chevy pickup comes from the other direction, blanketing my truck in fine white dust. All my windows up. A/C is on. I check the map. Looks like about 50 to 60 miles of this dirt road. Forks in a few miles. Looks like the right fork is the way to go. I’m out of the hills now and on a relatively flat playa. Creosotes, an occasional Mesquite. Not much else. Mountain ranges east and west, each about 20 miles away. Organ Pipe cactus every so often. Organ Pipes are somewhat rare in The States. Not here though. And this road. This god-forsaken road. I’ve been on many of a wash board dirt road in my day but this road rivals the worst of Navajo paths I’ve driven on, roads that require you to drive with two wheels in the desert and two on the shoulder. Here, I have all four tires in the roadway, for I can occasionally find a smooth spot but driving on the shoulder is a No Go, for I would be driving through a foot-high, miles-long ridge of powdery fine sand. Like driving through wet snow. No, I’ll just go slow and stay in the roadbed, rattling my way down the track. I look westward and measure the sun with my hand. Looks like about two and a half hours of light. Hope I’m not out here after dark. No traffic behind me. Can’t say the same coming at me. Since I left Sasabe, a half hour ago, I’ve seen a parade of old beat-to-shit Ford Econoline Vans heading north, about one every couple of minutes. No windows, heavy springs, shadowy figures moving in the back. Friendly drivers though. When then come toward me, I do the single-index-finger-wave off the top of my steering wheel. All have waved back, with much gusto I might add. The minutes march slowly on, focused on the road in front of me, like it was the reclining belly of a lover. Not much changing. Mountains to the distant East and West. Dust hanging in the air. An endless piece of shit road. Then I see, appearing through the dust, something you only see in poor countries. Just ahead is an old red Nissan pickup truck, not unlike the ’84 King Cab I used to own. It’s loaded with furniture. Nothing unusual there. It’s loaded with furniture, fifteen feet high in the air. Now we’re talking. Chairs, tables, boxes, more boxes, piled incredibly high and kept secure with a web of clothesline rope. Driving at about 10 miles an hour, leaning about 20 degrees off center, then straight, then 20 degrees the other way. If the truck hits a big rock on a poorly-banked curve, it’s going over. I follow it for a while, running scenarios through my head. Yep, when it tips over, I’ll stop and help them right the truck. It’s the least I can do.
Few more minutes later, I see a straight spot and pass the old Nissan. I say a prayer for them as I drive by. Another half-hour later. Map says only about 15 miles until I hit pavement. I ain’t driving slow anymore. Nope. Going at a fast 30 mile an hour clip, skimming the washboard ripples like everyone else. More Econolines. More dust. Jesus, give me some pavement. Another half hour. I should be close now. Yes. I think I see a road, …and an old wooden shack right in the middle of the road. Like a guard shack. No, it’s a tollbooth of some kind. I slow as I get closer. I stop and open my door to talk with the man inside. “Treinta Peso, Sir,” he says, with a little grin on his face. I return the grin and give him a Twenty U.S. “Pesos in change is fine,” I say. He doesn’t understand me, but he keeps smiling. He hands me 170 pesos in change. “Gracias,” I say. “Viajes Segura,” he says. “Same to ya,” I say. I close my door, put it into first and drive forward. Up a little rise and then I’m on pavement again. Blessed pavement. I take a left. Within a hundred yards, I can feel this is the wrong way. I do a three-point turn and head the other way. I pass the tollbooth. Then, just up ahead, I see a Petrol station. I don’t need gas, but I sure could use a cold soda. I park the truck and head inside. Five minutes later, I’m standing beside my Pathfinder, drinking the Mexican version of a Diet Coke. Icy, extra saccharin, bitter aftertaste, my kind of soda. Sun’s almost down. Grab the map. Looks like Altar is just over the hill. Then it’s east to Santa Ana on Route 2, then north on Route 15 to Magdalena and the border crossing at Nogales. And best of all, it’s all paved. I take another long pull of the soda when suddenly I see a miracle. “Yes!” I say, “You made it!,’ pumping my right fist in the air. Driving past me, on the paved road to Altar is the red Nissan pickup, with its entire teetering fifteen-foot-tall load of belongings, firmly in place. Hay un Dios, y el es fuerte (There is a God and he is strong.)