11 Things About Downtown El Paso I Dread MORE Than Stray Bullets from Juarez
The talk in El Paso this week is about the woman who was hit in the leg by a bullet shot from Juarez while she was walking in downtown El Paso. This is a huge topic because, 1.) This type of thing has historically been cause for war and 2.) There is a push underway to revitalize the downtown area, turning it into a destination for shopping, dining out and minor league sports.
Downtown El Paso: it's not just for transients and illegals anymore! Who knew?!
I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm not a big fan of downtown. But, getting hit by a stray bullet from Juarez isn't what keeps me away. In fact, it's not even on my top 10 list.
THINGS ABOUT DOWNTOWN I DREAD MORE THAN BULLETS FROM JUAREZ:
1.) Parking Part I (Parking Meters)
I used to get my hair cut downtown. The only thing I hated about it was that they only had metered parking. I always had to make sure I had some quarters before I headed downtown. The meter-maids (even though some of them were dudes, I still call them meter-maids because, let's face it, they must've come in at the bottom of their class at the Police Academy to get this crappy assignment) were constantly walking up and down the street, writing up tickets. So, you had to estimate how long your business was going to take. Put in too much money, and you've just spent money you didn't have to. Put in too little, and you'd get ticketed by Lovely Rita. More than one haircut was interrupted as I had to get up from the barber chair, run outside (with the barber's smock still on) and feed more coins into the meter. It's a pain in the ass you don't have to deal with anywhere else in town and, if I hadn't really, really liked the way they cut my hair, I would've gone someplace else.
This is an even worse inconvenience when dining out. Nothing ruins your digestion like keeping an eye on your watch and trying to get the waitress to break a bill into quarters so you can go back outside and feed the meter.
2.) Parking Part II: Lots that use those Payment Box Thingees
I hate, hate, hate these things. At least with a parking meter you know that it has accepted your money and that you're good to go. With these things, I never know where I stand. Did I put the money in far enough? What's to keep somebody from coming along and taking my money out of the slot?? Do I need to jam it in more with my car keys? Trust me, you don't want to get your car towed in El Paso.
3.) The Way the Streets are Laid Out
Two-way streets turn into one-way streets. A lane can end while you're stuck in it. You can be in a lane and suddenly realize, "Crap! People are parking in this lane!!"
I would never condone driving while intoxicated, but let's be honest: That's what a lot of the "revitalization" is geared toward -- bars, nightclubs, restaurants, the ballpark ... the message is clear: "We want you to come down here and drink. You're on your own getting home."
Since they are obviously trying to attract a drinking crowd, couldn't they at least lay out the streets in a way that you don't have to be a brilliant tactician and strategist to figure out?
4.) People Use it as a Giant Open-Air Bathroom
There exists in downtown El Paso, as I'm sure there does in every city, a homeless and transient population. The difference is that in El Paso, many of our homeless and transient are also of ..."questionable" citizenship status. Many of these folk, decent and hard-working, I have no doubt, do not wish to draw attention to themselves by going to shelters and missions. But they have to answer nature's call, just like the rest of us. This story has been covered widely in El Paso.
Many cities have homeless. We just happen to have homeless who , literally, have no place to go potty.
(BTW, please do not take this to be a criticism of the Homeless people themselves. This is only about the conditions that these poor people are forced to live in.)
5.) The Homeless
THIS is the entry where I complain about the homeless.
At some point, we decided there was "graffiti" which was bad. And there was "graffiti art," which was good.
It all looks like a crime has taken place to me. The nearest I can figure is "if it has a picture of Cesar Chavez or Che Guevera, it's 'art.' "
7.) It's Not The Crappiest, Most Violent, Most Dangerous City in the Western Hemisphere ...
But it's right next to it.
Pictured above is Geneva Loan and Pawn in downtown El Paso. In August of last year, it was raided by ICE for being a front for shipping weapons across the border for use in the Cartel War.
I, just as a personal choice, would like to do my pawning and payday-loaning in a place that's less likely to be directly involved in a narcotics war. I always have the feeling in downtown that you're never more than 1 or 2 feet away from somebody who, if ordered to, would have no problem beheading you and making a public display out of it. My fears are probably unreasonably inflated but, still ... I don't feel the same way in other parts of town.
8.) All the Other Stores Look like they Have an Southeast Asian Sweatshop Hidden in the Back.
Don't get me wrong ... these stores aren't without their charm. Who wouldn't want to buy a "Batmenn" action figure or a "SpongeBoy Squarepants" backpack?? I'm just afraid that one day I'll accidentally stumble upon the secret door leading to where the slave labor is being kept and I'll have a moral duty to help all the children escape like Indiana Jones did in the Temple of Doom.
9, 10, 11.) Mountain Lions, Ninjas and Mayors