Guerras fronterizas: Como yo lo veo (Border Wars: As I See It)

Phoenix looks like a sleepy town.


I don’t mean Phoenix is sleepy like Mayberry, I just mean it looks sleepy.  But then every city, village, town and wide spot in the road where I’ve been in America looks sleepy after a 24+ hour bus ride and it’s seen through eyes that haven’t had fifteen minutes of straight snoozing.


For me it’s hard to sleep soundly when I travel.  My sleep comes in bits and pieces like the starter on an old truck that just won’t engage fully.  But the little sleep I had was welcome.


I’m glad my client brought me to the border on a Greyhound.  I needed the time to sit back watch my reflection in the window as we moved from mountains to hills to desert and mentally review the friends and places in Idaho that I have come to love in a way that cannot be explained.


And sleep and to dream.


My dreams, like my sleep, wasn’t steady and consecutive like the music on an iPod.  My dreams were more like the sound tracks on an old record that jumped and skipped forward and backward with each bump in the road.


Craters of the Moon.  Trish and Adrienne. Twin Falls.  Ayran Nation.  Ale.  Evel Kenievel. Potatoes.  Goats.  Auggie. And more.


Each bump the bus hit would skip the video track in my mind to another memory.  I needed the time to make the mental shift.


Climbing down out of the bus I thought about all the busses and towns I’ve arrived in since I started this journey so long ago.  I lit a cigarette as I reached for the phone to call George my host while in Phoenix for a few days.  He said he’d be right over – and he was.


I was glad to see George pull up at the station in his battered 1982 Silverado.  Although it was rough looking on the outside, the a/c made the weather inside his truck much more welcoming than the hundred-plus degree oven that is called the desert.


As we headed down the street George started to fill me in on the situation I’d walked into.  My head swirled as he talked about AO, ROE, UDA** and a thousand other acronyms – some I remembered from my service in the military, but many others were new.


We also agreed on some rules.  No photos that could be used to identify people, places or things that I might see or meet.  No names.  No areas.  No directions.  Nothing.  I am the very first photojournalist to be allowed to be embedded with them and I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize them or their friends and families long after I’ve moved on to the next gig.


As I settled into the spare bedroom in George’s house, he handed me an M14 and asked if I knew how to use it.  Nodding yes, I told him that it had been awhile but I knew.  I handed him back the gun and he said this was going to be mine to use while I’m at the border.


After dinner I stretched out on the bed in the spare room that will be my home for the next few days.  To sleep – and perhaps to dream.


*These stories will truly become “Guerras Fronterizas: Como yo lo veo” or “Border Wars: As I See It”.
** Area of Operation, Rules of Engagement, Undocumented Alien





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