How to read maps…in El Paso

Church of the Immaculate Conception, El Paso

Church of the Immaculate Conception

This is the Catholic Church I was looking for, however, if you look at a map upside down you end up at the other end of town… I traipsed across an Interstate, train-tracks and found myself in a pawn shop area. There was a beautiful Anglican church below – which I would have gone into, if it was open. Eventually, I did the sensible thing and went into the pawn shop and asked where the church was. Even with that, I had to go into the police station, closer to the Immaculate Conception to check where I was. Usually, I am a good navigator but I guess God was leading me on a different path.

'Not the Catholic Church' St Clement Anglican Church

‘Not the Catholic Church’
St Clement Anglican Church

Both churches were really beautiful but the sky around the Immaculate Conception church was breathtaking. It was a small church within the downtown area and there were some parishioners praying. Suddenly I was back 40 years because one of the ladies had a long scarf over her head. Back in the day, women couldn’t enter a Catholic church without a head covering. A scarf was sufficient, occasionally a Mantilla, but today I was wearing a $3 Fedora.

This is just the sort of church I love. Small, intimate, beautifully decorated by those who care for it.

stained-glass-el-paso

Station of the Cross Christ consoling the women

Station of the Cross
Christ consoling the women

St Anthony and stained glass

St Anthony and stained glass

One of the comments on my previous church post referred, with astonishment, that there could be intact stained glass windows all over Texas. I am astonished that anyone could break a stained glass church window but perhaps that’s my naivety. My rose tinted illusions about the USA are getting shattered daily. Doesn’t everyone have friends of different ethnicity, religion and color? What’s wrong with the world?

Catholic Masons.

Catholic Masons.

I think I could get smitten for that… For those who don’t know, the Knights of Columbus are not dissimilar to the Masons. At one time Catholics could not join the Masons, so they had their own society. I don’t approve of Masons, Knights or Sororities but I was one of the Drama Group Geeks who always felt on the outside. I was so shocked when I discovered my paternal great grandparents were both Masons. WHAT! I didn’t even know they were Protestant… 👿

Masonic Sphinx

Masonic Sphinx

I loved this Sphinx in front of the Masonic Hall – just trying to balance things. 😇

El Segundo Barrio, El Paso

Sombreros!

Sombreros!

I was so excited after I saw my room, that I immediately changed into one of my shorts outfits. I think they are glamorous and chic; perhaps a little young… Anyway, I particularly wanted to visit the area close to the border with Mexican shops. At one time you would just have crossed the border. An attractive young lady was leaving the hotel at the same time and I asked her if she could tell me how to get there. Not only did she take me there by foot but gave me her telephone number in case I wanted to cross the border with her. Then she emailed me during my visit. This was typical of the friendliness of the residents and she represented both El Paso and her ancestors who were Syrian. A Syrian community had settled there many generations ago. I just have to make a small point – American Arabs have been here for hundreds of years.

Fancy dress shop for weddings and events.

Fancy dress shop for weddings and events.

Mexico or Texas?

Mexico or Texas?

We said goodbye and as you can see from the header photograph, I quickly felt I was in Mexico even though it was Texas. When the violence and cartels came to Cuidad Juarez, many of the residents sought refuge in El Paso and set up similar shops. I had arrived after a cold snap and most people were wearing trousers or leggings. Not only did I stand out with bright blonde hair but I was wearing less than everyone else. Then I noticed a Hispanic Ranchero walking alongside me, crossing at each traffic light. He was about my age, well dressed with white hair and a Stetson. When we stopped at the lights he would very deliberately look me up and down as though I were a prime heifer (at my age, I would made into cat food).

I was getting anxious about whether I was dressed appropriately when he finally went ahead of me but just waited… As I passed him, he whispered something to me in Spanish. It was too low for me to make out with my bad Spanish but I suspect it was –

• An invitation to join him somewhere for love, sweet love
• An inquiry as to how much I charged for the hour
• Or a simple compliment

I dashed off in horror (that my Nana was right about Women who wear outfits so skimpy you ‘can see their breakfast’) and immediately shopped for an appropriate outfit to buy. There was a real mix of Hoochie Mama style and basic stuff. Eventually I choose a long tunic and some leggings and was brave enough to ask the shopkeeper, a lady with ample assets on show, if I was dressed appropriately. She poo-pooed my concerns and said that it was just the cold weather front. Perhaps she wasn’t the right person to ask? Eventually I got the balance right, modest for church and barrio; cougar style at the hotel.

There are murals all over downtown El Segundo Barrio. This is Pancho Villa.

There are murals all over downtown El Segundo Barrio. This is Pancho Villa.

This a link to the history of El Segundo Barrio (The Second Ward)

Despite my encounter, I felt no fear in the shops or the area which was, in parts, a little down at heel. Downtown is so small that you quickly go from Wells Fargo headquarters (hiss, boo), fancy hotels and restaurants to the Barrio. I eventually bought a $3 fedora because the sun was hot on my head. The first shopkeeper went to great lengths to send me to another shop because he didn’t have what I wanted. When I arrived at said shop, I noticed that not everything was new (to me). I am not really very fussy but I would like my hat to be brand new – fortunately, they were. Some of the other shops also had a mix of new and secondhand clothes. Wonderfully fascinating unless you have airs and graces like my Teddy who turned his nose up at the thrift shop shirt I got him (dry-cleaned and in perfect condition). He will wear it (by royal thrift decree)!!

anson-ii-flowers
This an example of a fancy new restaurant with a beautiful flower display, just 2 minutes from the Mexican shops. Below is the sidewalk clock.
sidewalk-clocksidewalk-sign

More adventures to come…

Bunny and the dungarees

bunny-dungarees

I wish I had a photograph to illustrate this little tale. My childhood soft toys lived with me until I was about 40 years old (then they went to the dump toy heaven). I was particularly fond of Bunny who was given to me by my aunt Gretta. It must have been very expensive, plush white fur bunny with pink silk lined ears and the topper was that she was wearing blue striped dungarees! Bunny even held a little plastic bouquet of carrots. The stuffing seemed to be like fine sawdust and over the years it went down to her feet. Every so often I would give her a really good shake to distribute her stuffing properly.

I married young and the toys came to bed with us. My husband (aka Teddy) bought me endless new soft toys and his first gift to me was a human sized stuffed Panda as a late 21st birthday present. Then we got cats, so the poor old toys had to sit in Nana’s rocking chair. During the ’80s we lived in an old bank in the North of Scotland and the proportions weren’t quite right for a regular house. The upstairs hallway was as big as a bedroom with a huge window. I loved to see Bunny, Teddy (the toy) and all the others basking in the sunshine as I went up the stairs.

Bear in mind, I was in my ’20s so my hormones were raging with really bad PMT AND a mental illness… The first batch of cats was young and very, very naughty. They chased each other up and down those stairs like fairy elephants and also loved to bask in the sunshine. One day they had just pushed me to my limit – fighting and playing noisily all day, throwing up on the stairs, a stray poop on the carpet and general mayhem.

It must have been close to dinner time and I went upstairs only to see the upstairs hallway in disarray. Worst of all, poor Bunny had been taken off the rocking chair and somehow those bad cats had taken off her dungarees. Teddy (the husband) came home to find me sobbing inconsolably holding my poor naked Bunny in my arms. Through choking sobs, I said, “They took Bunny’s dungarees off”. He looked perplexed and said, “Who did it?” “Those bad cats!” was my snot filled response. I could see so many emotions passing over his face. “WTF?” “Oh Lord, she has her period!” “The cats??” He was struggling so hard not to laugh while kneeling down comforting me.

We both ended up laughing, of course. Bunny had her stuffing redistributed and the dungarees put back on. Order was restored to the upstairs hallway and the cats were forgiven…eventually.

Kerry for Queen

I even have a crown...

I even have a crown…

CAUTION – this post might make you laugh.

It’s pretty obvious that the USA is no longer able to deal with a democracy. Fifty percent of the populace thinks the other half is bonkers/loco/crazy and now they are rioting over a legal democratic process that the President Elect assured us previously would be rigged/illegal/fraudulent (or words to that effect). If we believed him then perhaps he would be kind enough to stand down and let us vote again? He seems to be creating a family business at the White House so if you are prepared to put up with nepotism and demagoguery, why not try something new? Kerry for Queen of America!!

To reassure you, I have absolutely no intention of being the titular head of a broken democracy. No, no – this will be a benevolent monarchy with Teddy as Prince Consort. I have plenty of evidence to prove that I am qualified to be Queen. I have Native American, Hispanic and European genetics. My ancestors were Kings, Queens and Emperors so there is the blue blood (strangely it looks red in a syringe…)

If you think the Vikings settled in the USA first, then I have that covered as a descendant of Ragnar Lothbrok, King of Uppsala. For those people who believe the Irish got here in coracles first (I will pray for you) but can tick that box too (in spades). For the normal people who think the Native Americans were our first settlers – snap! My European ancestors arrived around the 1600s, pilgrims to the east, conquistadors to the west. Let’s face it, I am as royal an American as you can get and I am even related to Princess Diana (distantly). That will satisfy People Magazine, the National Enquirer and our other fine newspapers. Why would you be obsessed with the Kardashians – they are Armenian?? (I am hoping I don’t have any Armenian followers…)

So, this is what I am going to do –

1. Tell the truth. I know, it’s shocking and you will find it hard to believe that a business major has the capacity to sniff out corruption and expose it.

2. Uphold the legal system and fix the loopholes. Can you cope with all this sensible stuff?

3. Diplomacy not war will be my mantra. I have the utmost confidence in that because I can talk the hind legs of a donkey and make grown men whimper with delight at my Scottish accent. I speak bad Arabic, French and Spanish but beautifully accented with the rolling rrrrr! Anyone who mocks my Scottish accent will disappear.

4. I was born in the USA (San Francisco, 1970 1960) but the Birthers will be delighted to know that I don’t have the long form certificate. That is of little consequence to me as Queen. There is a very large mental health section of Houston’s largest prison and they will go there forthwith.

Despite my fabulousness, I can’t do this alone and will rely on trusted advisers.

Royal Physician Not only does the Queen need to keep in tip-top condition but I will need some help with our health service. All health insurance companies will be non-profit and AUDITED! No-one will ever charge $200 for a bag of saline again. Big Pharma – watch out. We still own Guantanamo…

Sir Nicholas will help write my speeches. They need to be witty, droll with a touch of cynicism to balance my cuddliness.

Ser Patrick will help find my dragons – no need for riot control anymore or KKK.

Sir Terry will help balance my need to use the dragons with his general niceness.

Lady Osyth is married to 2Brains. King Teddy has one in his head and one in his ass but that might not be enough.

General Cox will be my military advisor. He knows the need for strong military and the folly of war.

• King Teddy will be in charge of Energy. He produces enough gas to power Texas…

WordPress has provided me with so many excellent advisors. Lady Stephanie can make sure I don’t wear my ‘cleaning the house castle with bleach’ clothes too often. Lady Lynne and Lady Gail will make sure that all children have a healthy meal each day and that no one should live in a food desert. Gas stations are not grocery stores – gourmet food trucks will accept food stamps in the short term until we can turn the richest country in the world into one with no poverty.

Sorry, I started to show my real feelings there and this is a funny post… Lady Aquileana and Sir Peter, Greek and Latin scholars, will make sure that we learn from history’s mistakes. I may have missed some critical advisers but worry not, heads may roll. Out with the old, in with the new.

Long live Queen Kerry! As a final unctuous note, none of my advisers have been asked to participate in this new kingdom. It is unnecessary as this is a monarchy…remember the dragons!

Thank you for voting!

Red, white and blue

Red, white and blue

I don’t know what the result will be but I will be glad when we can see some real news on the TV. It seems like more people have voted than ever before and having lived in a dictatorship, it is a wonderful gift to be able choose your government.

I have a funny story to take the some of the sting out of the lack of etiquette this year. A few months ago, we had a local election in our city. Many people who live here are naturalized Americans who were born elsewhere, so there are dozens of accents including mine. One British friend has lived in the States for over 30 years but has a pronounced English accent. At the election site, one of the volunteers noticed the accent and asked to see her papers…!!! Well… she swiftly told the volunteer that in 30 years of being an American, nobody has asked to see her paperwork. (The volunteer has no reason to do that as your election card or driving licence will come up on the computerized system). The lady behind her was a naturalized American from Russia and she flipped too, “This is like Stalin in Soviet Republic, asking to see papers!! (imagine a thick Russian accent)”

This is Kerry’s moral tale for today. 😇 Never make assumptions about someone’s ethnicity, nobility or nationality based on looks or accent.👸

PS: This blog may shortly be posted from Mexico, depending on the result…😉😎🌴

All Hallow’s Eve!

Mouse eatin!g grin

Mouse eating grin

When I first moved back to the States, I couldn’t figure out what Renaissance Festivals were all about. Twelve years later, I got it – you wear something as funny, provocative or revealing as you can in the general theme of the weekend. This weekend at our local Renfest, it was All Hallow’s Eve so I decided to go as a black cat(ish). Teddy said that I was getting plenty of attention from children and young men. I guess they both wanted a cuddle, of sorts…

pensive-ted
Teddy made a minimum effort with his outfit, as usual. He looks pensive but he is really just overwhelmed by the amount of cleavage and ass on view. This is one of his shots.

Barbarian Wench

Barbarian Wench

It is a disability friendly venue and I just loved Death – both the concept and the effort

death

These ladies made it feel medieval…

choir

I really liked the big black bunny rabbit…

Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny

I loved this giant fairy (on stilts)

giant-fairy

I thought I misheard when someone called out, ‘watch out for the llama!” but no…

llama

It was as hot as hell, so I have no idea how this knight in shining armor coped.

knight-shining

There was an arial Hawk show and I love this shot of a King Vulture getting ready to fly. All the birds were disabled or unable to be released into the wild.

King Vulture

King Vulture

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

A perpetrator caught on camera!

Patsy Sue

Patsy Sue

After the Vandals in the Suburbs, we put the infrared camera out at night to see who our visitors were. This time it was Patsy Sue, the Possum! I am certain that the previous marauders on the porch were raccoons because Possums are gentle little critters – the only marsupial in America. Possums eat very slowly and noisily, with their mouths open (see the video at the bottom). In my mind, they are southern folks, so Patsy’s Mama was Betsy Sue and she was a big girl! Last year we caught her on camera, walloping the baby raccoons who were too boisterous. Was Mama Raccoon a Hoochie-Mama, out on the town meeting new guys?

The squirrels are all Hispanic because they are fast and talk very quickly. We had a Mario for a while until we realized it was a Marisol with swollen teats. Possums carry their little babies on their body, clinging onto the fur. My friend came across one at night and a Mama Possum covered in babies gratefully accepted some dog treats that she had in her pocket. You can’t really see Patsy that well because of the Infrared film but this is another one that was on the rooftop opposite Teddy’s work.

Teddy's Possum

Teddy’s Possum

This one is also a juvenile and look at that little face. Soooo cute, holding her stick! We sent my cousin in Canada a toy,stuffed Possum for a Christmas present and they wondered why we had sent a rat… They just have ratty tails but the funniest little feet.

Possum toes

Possum toes

Click on this red link to see Patsy Sue eating very slowly and noisily.

Brigham Young’s Lion House

The Lion House

The Lion House

lion-house-sign2

This is the original house of Brigham Young and his many wives.  I went on a short tour of the inside of the house which was remarkably small but quite beautifully appointed.  Not all of the decoration was the original, which is to be expected.  I was fascinated by the red chandeliers and eventually had to ask if they were original.  They weren’t and I laughingly mentioned that a red light, where I come from, usually indicated a house of ill repute.  In Salt Lake City, the red light indicated that the household had extra food for the early pioneers who struggled to grow enough food.  Although Brigham Young was a polygamist, there was pressure from the United States for polygamy to be outlawed as it threatened the status of the Latter Day Saint’s as a legal church and the practice was officially ended in 1890. Researching Polygamy was quite fascinating…

Brigham Young Cottage Garden

Brigham Young Cottage Garden

You probably have seen a variety of documentaries and reality shows about current day polygamists.  Despite the law against it, many groups of families carried on the practice.  Some of it is weird but harmless but a few of the larger family groups behave more like cults or cartels.  It is very much frowned upon by current LDS members.  Polygamy is a reasonable practice in times of stress.  It regularly occurred in historical times were men were often killed in battle and the survivor’s would marry their brother’s wife, for example, to protect them and to increase the population.  It is legal in Egypt to have 4 wives but they must be treated equally.  As a result, it is very rare.  Who the heck would want more than one spouse? 😚 😍 😒 😟

Red and Blue flowerbed

Red and Blue flowerbed

Everywhere I went in the Temple Complex, I was mistaken for a Mormon woman.  That was probably because I was dressed more respectfully than some red neck Mormons who were visiting.  There was very subtle missionary work but it was water off a duck’s back (I lived in Egypt…).   As you can see from the photographs, the flowers beds were just so vibrant.  It was a very hot, sunny day and I was surprised that the flowers looked so good – they wilt in Houston.  I guess the blossoms enjoy the respite of a cooler evening with some dew?

Bee in blossom

Bee in blossom

A penultimate post to come, with more flowers.

Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City

Altar, Cathedral of the Madeleine

Altar, Cathedral of the Madeleine

Given the somber appearance of the outside of this Catholic cathedral, I was astonished when I walked inside and saw the wonderfully colorful interior. The Cathedral was built between 1900 and 1909 under the leadership of Bishop Scanlan. Whenever I visit Catholic Churches in the States, I expect either an Irish name, as in this case, or a Spanish name. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family and it was common in the old days for the oldest boy of a family to go into the priesthood, whether he wanted to or not. Our Parish Priest was a wonderfully arrogant example of this…😇 (When you read to the end of this post, I think you will agree that I am headed to Purgatory for bloggers…) As I looked at the engraving of Bishop Scanlan below, I wondered about his long journey to the alien landscape of Utah.

bishop-scanlan

When I researched The Cathedral of the Madeleine, I noted that the interior was inspired by the Spanish Gothic style of the late middle ages. Although I visited Madrid years ago, I don’t think I have ever seen a Cathedral that looked quite like this one. It was magnificent. I could imagine a Lenten Mass with the incensor or thurible burning with that evocative smell of the Middle East.

Stages of the Cross

Stages of the Cross

All Roman Catholic churches have a set of pictures called the steps of the cross which depict the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. This one was unique and slightly surreal. Before Easter we traditionally prayed at each stage. Our church, in Scotland, was very modern, created by some fancy architect but not really appealing to the majority of the parishioners. I looked at current images online and I couldn’t recognize it – all the colors had been changed to white which really emphasized the beautiful stained glass. There must be so few parishioners that there were just some chairs – no rows of kneeling benches. It was so busy when I was growing up that it was standing room only. How sad and yet reflective of our times.

Epistle Altar

Epistle Altar

I loved this epistle altar to the right of the main alter. The colors are so rich – imagine how lovely it would be on a cold Utah Christmas Day? There is always a funny story to every travelogue and this one happened as I was trying to cross the road to enter the church. There were some roadworks and it made it difficult to see where the pedestrian crossing was. I noted that all the locals religiously crossed when they should, so I followed the herd. At the Cathedral, I just couldn’t figure out where it was so just decided to cross the road – jay walking, I guess. I was obviously a tourist lady who was lost trying to get to her church but a truck slowed down, when I was in the middle, and shouted, “Use the Crosswalk!” My first thought was to shout, ‘F*****g Asshole’ but I was inhibited by being in Salt Lake City and in front of a cathedral. Instead I yelled, “Shut Up” which seemed to surprise him. I was so mad that I had to stay outside the Cathedral for a while because I couldn’t go inside with all the thoughts of what I would do to that trucker if I saw him again… 😈 I guess he didn’t like Catholics – join the club!

Anyway, once the devil hopped off my shoulder, I went in and lit some candles for all my friends, family and bloggers who are struggling just now. 😇

The strange man at the bar…

State Liquor Store #1 Salt Lake City

State Liquor Store #1
Salt Lake City

This is the beginning of my series of travelogues about Salt Lake City. I bet you weren’t expecting that title or the headline photograph! I have many beautiful photographs of the city and temple so worry not. I thought I would give you a funny story for the Sabbath.

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC


So, I arrived in Salt Lake City and took my hotel shuttle from the airport. Joining me were a flight crew (my hotel was full of them) and the lady pilot told me I had a lucky escape from the airline that wanted to interview me for a flight attendant job. It is always nice to start a vacation with a bit of gossip! My hotel was across the road from the Sheraton (President Obama stayed there on a state visit) but it was also right next to State Liquor Store No. 1, along with most of the other hotels. I have been to State Liquor Store No. 4, in Moab and they look like stores from the Soviet era. Barely functional with many bottles of alcohol; they stock many shelves of quarter bottles which gives you an indication that it is a illicit pleasure.

For anyone that doesn’t know, Salt Lake City is the capital city of Utah and the majority religion is Latter Day Saints or Mormonism (they don’t like that term so much). Additionally, my family is half Catholic and half Mormon with a few atheists and ‘lapsed’ thrown in for fun. I went into State Liquor Store No. 1 and as in Moab, felt like a very bad girl leaving with my brown bag and quarter bottle of vodka! It’s slightly ironic that I couldn’t find caffeine free coke given that caffeine and alcohol are forbidden in the Mormon Church. Now that I think about it, the State Liquor store in Egypt was just the same but you had to get a permit to use it.

On my first afternoon, I went straight to the Temple and Catholic Cathedral – much more about that later. I walked everywhere and noticed there were both panhandlers and mentally ill people who were obviously homeless. As I walked the short distance from the Convention Center to my hotel, I was approached by many of them. They were very polite, “You are beautiful. Can I have some money?” One young black man, who was not homeless, approached me and asked me if he could ‘show me around the city’… Despite having visited many dangerous places (and lived in them), I had a feeling of unease in one of the safest cities in the US.

With slight trepidation, I walked a couple of blocks from my hotel to a Vegan bar to eat dinner and have an (illicit) drink. The place seemed funky and modern and at the hostess’s suggestion I sat at the bar. It didn’t have the friendly feel of a place in Texas nor were they unfriendly. I had just started my meal when a very well dressed man came in, stood directly behind my bar stool and ordered a shot of bourbon. The barman urged him to take a seat and I said “hello” since he was in my personal space. He threw back the shot, put cash on the counter and left. Shortly afterwards two young men and a woman came in, I moved along one seat so that they could sit together but like the first man, they just stood and started ordering shots of Jagermeister and tequila.

I couldn’t help but stare in fascination at them tossing these shots back while still standing. The young man closest to me thanked me for moving along. I said, “You know, even in Texas, we don’t drink like that”. He started laughing and said that they were at a Mormon wedding just around the corner where no alcohol was served. Then I started laughing because I have been to a family wedding with no alcohol. For some reason, he asked me if he looked Mormon because he had left the church. In my head, I was thinking, ‘You couldn’t look more Mormon if you had a big M tattooed on your forehead’ but slightly more tactfully said, “You look very clean cut and wholesome”. Then he said to me, “Did you see a man in a brown suit, earlier?” I said, “Yes, he was drinking like you”. It turned out that he was the Minister at that wedding. How bad can a wedding be if even the Minister has to sneak out for a shot of bourbon?? At least I had the good grace to wait until my Mormon family wedding was over before heading to a wine bar…😇

More Salt Lake City stories to follow.

Eagle Gate Monument Salt Lake City

Eagle Gate Monument
Salt Lake City