Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Viva El Paso and Bryn Addison too!














I love El Paso!

That little Bryn Adddison has been born and will be raised

here is a gift all to itself.

If you have not visited El Paso you need to.

El Paso is an incredible city with the majestic Franklin mountains as a back drop.

From the top of them you can see two countries and three states.

Sounds like a Sarah P. comment, but this one is actually true.

There are three states; there's Texas, Chihuahua across the Rio Grnade in Mexico

and to the West is the state of New Mexico which are all visible from the top

of the tramway's top platform.

The United States on one side and across the muddy Rio Grande is ole Mexico.

From high a top the mountains (take the tramway for these vantage points) 

you will also be able to see Cristo Rey towards a southwest vista.

It a beautiful 30 foot tall limestone carved figure of Christ on the cross.

Dez and I actually hiked all the way to the top to see this structure when

he was about six years old.

Today there are many pilgrimages up the rugged trails to this grand statue.

El Paso also has a great four year university everyone calls UTEP,

Bryn Addison's Grandma attended and graduated with her first

counseling degree here. 

The University of Texas at El Paso, was established in 1914.

It was originally called the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy,

but later it became known as Texas Western College ( before it's current name ).

Their buildings have a very distinctive "dzong" Bhutanese style arcitecture.

Distinctive for its fortress like architecture that is found in the present day

Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas of Bhutan and Tibet.

(Google them) they are uniquely beautiful.

UTEP's Diana Natalicio who I met through her husband, has been at UTEP

for close to 24 years as their Dean.

Her husband psychologist Luis Natalicio, mentored me during a student

 internship at Vista Hills Hospital.

Dr. Natalicio was then a business partner of Dr. Ben Passmore, a psychiatrist

with over 44 years of medical experieince and who now practices

in Ruisoso, New Mexico. 

UTEP has a unique history, it was the first college in the American South

to integrate its intercollegiate sports programs.

In 1966, Don Haskins' Miners won the NCAA championship,

who defeated Kentucky in the final game.

Among some distinguished alumni is my friend and someone I admire

tremendously, Nolan Richardson, with his "If it is to Be, It's up to Me" saying.

He also called me "Tomatito" but that's another story.

He was an NCAA champion collegiate men's basketball head coach for the

University of Arkansas and he and Rose still live up in Arkansas.

Coach Richardson has roots in El Paso and grew up in the very poor section of

El Paso called el Segundo Barrio, and speaks Spanish fluently.

Today he continues to coach, is a motivational speaker and still is a very caring,

funny and boisterous giant of a man.

Coach has coached both the men's Panamanian and Mexican

National basketball teams.

And up until late last year was the head coach for the Tulsa Shock

woman's basketball team.

Among his many recognitions, he was elected to the National Collegiate

Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

He holds the record for having been the only coach to ever have winning teams

at the Division I, NIT, and Junior College National Championship levels

(he won 98 out of 112 games at the Junior College level).

He coached at the University of Tulsa and then went on to coach at the 

University of Arkansas, where he led the Razorbacks to the NCAA title in

1994 and President Clinton attended this final game, later coach Richadson would

relate how proud the President had said he was of his championship and how the

President had hugged him.

His Arkansas team would come in at a second place finish in the 1995 NCAA Tournament.

During his 22 seasons of coaching in NCAA Division I, his teams made post

season tournament appearances an amazing 20 times - 16 times

at the NCAA level and 4 times at NIT.

But UTEP has had many other gifted and talented alumni that have walked

to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance... across their graduation stage.

Among other outstanding alumni are astronaut John D. Olivas, a member

of the Space Shuttle Mission STS-117 crew aboard the Atlantis,

that launched back on June 8th of  2007.

Bob O'Rear one of the founders of Microsoft graduated from UTEP. 

The current governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez. is also an alum.

The actor and producer F. Murray Abraham an academy award Best Actor

winner in Amadeus, and also starred in Scarface, and Serpico..

and who most recently has played in Law and Order among other series

including the Good Wife is also is an alum. He is currently directing on broadway.

Other alums are Nate Archibald an NBA Hall of Famer,

who was chosen as one of the Top 50 Greatest NBA Players of all time.

News veteran Sam Donaldson went here.

The Pro Footbal Hall of Famer Don Maynard is an outstanding graduate too.

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, a U.S. Marine awarded the Medal of Honor

posthumously during World War II for his heoric action in the battle of Tarawa.

Another graduate was the first Iraq war female POW soldier and US Army

Specialist Shoshana Johnson.

Although across the border is the world's most dangerous city of Cd. Juarez,

in Mexico.

Take comfort though because El Paso continues to be ranked

as the safest city in the U.S. to live in.

It is a city with over 800,000 people and is the 6th largest in Texas,

and 19th largest in the US.

80% of the population is Hispanic or Latino. 

I love El Paso! I love the people, the culture, and it's cool desert weather.

I also love the renovated tramway, the new Wyler Tramway right

off Alabama Ave. and McKinley St.

You can't miss it just go North on Alabama and look for the signs.

Then set your car in low gear and take the winding drive up to the main parking lot.

But there's more to love about El Paso then all this.

I love Viva El Paso that plays each summer season in McKelligon Canyon.

I also love Chico's Tacos, anyone that knows me, knows that my first stop

is at the small dive on Alameda Dr.

This small square box of a restaurant (they have five of them), is family owned

since 1953 sits across from the Evergreen Cemetary.

Chico's Tacos' specialty dish comes on a small paper tray that contains

three small rolled flauta-like tacos that are submerged in bath of spicy tomato

juice and topped with melted shredded American Cheese.

You have to try them to really understand why they have been on the

Food Network's "Best thing I ever ate" segment.

I think that they are delicious, but don't take my word, if you are ever

in El Paso go try them. 

El Pasoans are great people, friendly with a strong sense

of community, and very patriotic.

The military Army base called Ft. Bliss is a stone's throw away from the

El Paso International Airport.

I visit the Fort every time I am back in town.

I was on a temporary duty assignment early in my military career, and actually

did a lot of playing out in the perfectly white desert sands of the

White Sands Missle Range.

Fort Bliss is also home to the 1st Armored Division, which came home in 2011,

after 40 years of having been based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

It is also home to the 32nd Army Air & Missile Defense Command,

along with its 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

They have had a large German contingency stationed here and so there are

a lot of German residents and a few great German restaurants. 

Recently due to the German government's defense cuts and reform act,

the German Air Force personnel that were stationed at Fort Bliss have

been asked to move back home.

Sadly, their departure began a few weeks ago on Feb. 20th.

The German Air Force Command Air Defense Center had been stationed

at Fort Bliss since 1956.

Another important resident ion Ft. Bliss is the EPIC or El Paso Intelligence Center,

a federal tactical operational intelligence center.

Its DoD (United States Department of Defense) counterpart,

Joint Task Force North, is also located at Biggs Army Airfield.

There is also the famous Rosa's Cantina made famous by Marty Robins

in the song by that name.

I have known the original owners and family for many years.

We are family, sort of...one of the sisters, Rosa was married to one of my

older brothers at one time.

Their oldest son Jr. is a popular radio DJ here.

I got to know Miguel, Betty, Juni, as well as her sister Anita and Beto Z.

(her husband) and their familia.

Anita and Beto were the original owners of Rosa's.

My brother and I played many games of billiards and drank one too many

Fallstaffs back in the day.

Coincidentally the new owners are also Lopez's, but they are not

related to the original owners.

If you ever visit El Paso you have to go pay them a visit!

There are also many historical sites like the Magoffin Homestead,

and special to my heart is the McCall Center, where after leaving the military,

Leona Washington was kind to offer us a place to live.

Can you imagine living in a museum?

I will have to write about that interesting experience soon.

Haunted, maybe?

It is a historic home on Wyoming St. and was once owned by the McCalls,

Marshall and Olalee.

We lived there for several months, and way before it became the historic

African American museum and community meeting center it now is.

As you enter the historic residence, the room ot the right was our bedroom. 

The center exists solely to honor and preserve El Paso's black heritage,

and is home to a historical Buffalo Soldiers exhibit.

It also has a Douglass School room in honor of Mrs. Olalee McCall,

and the only school that black children could attend back then in El Paso.

Another room is dedicated as a library, and is full of African-American history books,

and a variety of displays chronicling the history of the African-American community.

There are many treasured antiques and many important pictures on the walls.

One of the late UTEP basketball coach Don Haskins, who broke national racial

barriers in 1966 by starting five black players and winning the 1966 NCAA

Championship against Kentucky.

There is also a picture of Henry O. Flipper the first black graduate from 

West Point and a member of the historic Buffalo Soldiers military unit.

The McCall center is basically the only community center for the

African-American community in town.

The McCall Neighborhood Center was officially established in 1983.

As I mentioned it is the former home of Olalee and Marshall McCall.

Mrs. Olalee McCall came to El Paso in 1914 as an English teacher

at Douglass School, it was then the only school that black children

could attend, that is until it was integrated in 1956.

In 1937, Olalee became the first female high-school principal in the

El Paso Independent School District.

Her husband was Marshall McCall who was the first black mail carrier in El Paso.

Through some friendships with my adopted Grandma and now departed friend

Lilian Browder, a few of the other Young's, the Second Baptist Church family,

and Leona's masterful direction, my brother and I were part of the first neighborhood

Juneteenth celebration, (we provided the musical entertainment that one

hot June afternoon).

But I'll leave that story for another blog.

There is also the Tigua Indian culture and communities as well as it's own casino.

At Yselta del Sur you'll find the Tigua Indian Cultural Center and a lot of historic

artifacts and adobe buildings and scenic villages and the old mission.  

Then there is J.J. Arms (Julian Armas from the Ysleta area of El Paso) the world's

best known private investigator.

He lost both of his arms as a thirteen year old as he played with some

railroad demolition explosives.

He and a childhood friend had stolen from a railroad train one morning. 

He hit it with an ice pick the story goes and the explosion severely damaged

both of his arms and they had to be amputated.

A colorful man, with hooks for hands, JJ Arms has a home in the lower

valley complimented with a menagerie of animals on his fortress like compound.

He and his son run a private investigation firm called the Investigators,

which he established in 1978. 

El Paso has many great friends, and a younger brother that we love.

It's my home away from home.

Now Bryn Addison will also have a great stage to grow up in, and contribute to.

Life seems to happen always at its true pace and it's blessings provided

at just the perfect time.

One journeys across the miles challenged by the next moment, and we live our

lives in sync with the falling sand in our hour glass.

I was telling my boss recently how important it was to make "great"

or "positive" memories.

Thank God we have the divine ability to store them, for at the end of our day

it is all we end up taking with us.

We all go back in time to places in our memories; the ones that nurture special

remembrances, important moments or just the illusion of important moments,

are the ones that are spotlighted in the vast corners of our mind.

May God bless little Bryn Addison, Michelle and Desi.

May you gift her the very best as parent's, that you are capable of.

Bryn, Michelle and Dez, I will always be there for you.

We will all be praying for a blessed life. 

Make this and every day a truly special and Feliz Día!