Date: Sun, Oct 15, 1995 1:46 AM EDT
Subj: A Yeoman in El Paso
El Paso, Texas — I recently bought a pocket-sized version of the Wife of Bath by Chaucer. Actually, it was the text from the Nevill Coghill translation. Somehow, as I crisscross Texas, I figured that one of the original pilgrimage pieces would be an appropriate addition to my baggage of laptop, palmtop, and all the other high-tech gear. Something needs to balance it out.
I’d developed back pain from lugging around the Complete Works of Chaucer; this little book, not much bigger than a wallet, sure beats that monster book on the shelf at home. Pilgrimage to El Paso, for the quarterly show. Its different out here, almost as if it isnt Texas. There’s the mythical Jackolope herd that you can see when landing at the El Paso airport. Coming from the East, as the plane dips below ten thousand feet, you can look out the window and see the big buck Jackolopes with their eight- and ten-point racks loping along the high desert.
El Paso is like the lobby of a motel: forever ephemeral. It’s transient because it’s a gateway and portal — from one world, West Texas, to the old world charm of Mexico.
The speech here is a delicious mix of border patois of half Spanish, half English. You’ll find words like “bueno,” “que bueno,” and “como?” more than their English counterparts; English is a second language here, and the natives do not share the High West Texas drawl found in other parts. A rich feeling of heritage pervades this part of the state, more so than other parts of Texas. The depth of the language is evidence of that.
I did readings today for some people who had been born in various parts of Mexico and were over only for the day. One reading today touched me, tugged at my heartstrings. A little old Mexican lady came to me for information. We danced through her chart, but what really got me was that she paid me $20 in crumpled one-dollar bills. I almost felt guilty for taking them, except that I knew from our conversation that she was well-cared for in retirement. Still, I felt a little like I was robbing her, but the feeling was momentary. She left with a smile and a spring in her step. Besides, the planets have fallen out of their evil disarray, and life should be on track and on course for normalcy again.
I love the El Paso airport people. A guy let me in line ahead of him because he liked my boots. “Made in Texas” I pointed out.
That plane I was on went on to LA, a different land for a different kind of pilgrim. I’m glad I got off in El Paso.