The day started well, with clouds lower than the mountain tops out back of the house,
though that soon becomes boring, when it is all you see all the way down to the border.
The omens were mixed. We saw a road runner running across the road. Followed by a coyote running across the road. However, there were about ten minutes and ten miles in between these incidents, and the coyote was ill-equipped for the task of meep-meep! pursuit. On the other hand, there was a radio call-in show asking the vital festive question: ‘Are gingerbread men really cursed? Y’know, like a kinda voodoo thing?’ Sadly, we lost the station before a definitive conclusion was reached.
Odd moments of cognitive dissonance en route do not prepare you for the sheer ugliness and stupidity of the border wall – a rusty brown fence – stretching through the middle of Nogales. To cross over, you go down a narrow backstreet with a cardboard sign saying ‘To Mexico’, and then just walk through a turnstile and you are there; on the way back, you queue on foot for an hour and a half to snake through a too-small yet still undermanned border post, where there is not even a pretence of questioning, or examining the papers of, white folks. (Later, we drive through a checkpoint some miles into the US, where the same rules seem to apply.)
Most of the people crossing over live on the Mexican side, but some groceries are cheaper on the US side, where parts of their families also live. It is maddening, on all sorts of levels. The yanquis crossing into Nogales are there for one thing – affordable prescription drugs (and dentistry). On the Mexican side, Nogales is a lot like a seedy old English seaside resort, but for the first couple of blocks, every other store is a pharmacy selling drugs at a fraction of the price they cost in the US.
And the place is full of middle-aged white men you recognise from the TV, buying meds to combat their jaundice – and viagra.
To everyone’s surprise, we got back to Tucson without me spending any time in a Mexican jail or a Homeland Security holding pen…