The Hundredth Meridian

The Land of Oil and Water

A sign above the cafe adjacent to the motel across the highway from the railroad tracks in Lordsburg, New Mexico, proclaimed the good news in faded red letters on a flaking white background. "Whiskey and water," I told the waitress when she came with her pencil and pad. "No bar," she explained. "But there's a sign." "The bar is cerrito." She brought a Tecate and a water glass rimmed with salt, and I tried her again. "I'll have the filet tampiqueño, medium rare." "Sorry. No tampiqueño left for toniiight please." "Then I want liver and onions with hash browns." "No liver agaiiin tonight sorry." So I ordered chicken fried steak and ate while a group of old people were taken from a senior citizens' bus and fed fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, peas from a can, and Jell-0. Southern New Mexico—where even sane people and grownups see UFOs and rumors of space aliens are common, bicyclists vanish from lonely stretches of road into thin air, and weird anomalies present themselves unexpectedly in the vast deserts—has a surreal quality that is more palpable still in the area of the Mexican border which exists as a kind of no-man's land where the various human elements seem never to merge; to achieve a common form, identity, or understanding.

Around Animas the desert...

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