Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another one will bite the dust, but not by fire

Sadly, it will take a few of these to disappear and become a blot on downtown and elsewhere in town before people finally become aware of just who and for whom council serves...because it sure doesn't serve historic buildings that's for sure. Note the following blog entry, on the El Paso Development News site. Dated in October after the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) denied approval for the demolition of the Trost building, the entry provides a good backgrounder on the location of the now fated Muir building (ironic in what the name of another John Muir evokes) and images of its original façade and what it looks like today.

According to the entry on the El Paso Development News site:
The application for demolition was submitted by the Borderplex Community Trust, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) originally created to facilitate the City's original Downtown 2015 Plan which was announced in 2006. Since then, the REIT has focused on purchasing properties, such as the Wells Fargo and Chase buildings downtown, but has made few moves in terms of revitalization. If approved by the City Council, this would be the first major construction project put forward by Borderplex in El Paso's downtown.
However, today we know the result. And, given the history in this town of developer influence (and their cronies on council, ad nauseum), of REITs, Razing, and Resurfacing for flat parking lots, be on the look out for just that on this space soon. Now be sure to thank the Borderplex Community Trust, et al. for this bright spot on the horizon. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Then and now: Zanis Travels Again to Colorado Bearing Crosses

As near to the site of death(s) as possible, descanso creation and installation will erupt within an hour or so of any sudden tragedy--especially when the dead are young. Especially when the tragedy was senseless. What happened on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado in terms of the amounts of public mourning and outcry was no exception. Here, the Boston Globe ( documents the labor of love created by Greg Zanis of Aurora. This was the second time that Mr. Zanis traveled to Colorado to place crosses for the dead.
Greg Zanis of Aurora, Ill., carried two of the 12 crosses he made for a makeshift memorial to the victims of the mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo. A carpenter by trade, Zanis made the 12 white crosses that were placed near Columbine High School after a mass shooting there in 1999. Zanis said he made these crosses as fast as possible and drove all night across the country to place them across the street from the theater.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Greg Zanis, of Aurora, Ill., writes a name on one of 12 crosses, one for each victim, across the street from the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
From a file photograph. Zanis constructed the crosses near Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In 1999, the St. Anthony Messenger credited Zanis with creating a touchstone upon which mourners could focus their grief.
This April 28, 1999 file photo shows an unidentified woman with 15 crosses posted on a hill above Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. on April 28, 1999 in remembrance of the 15 people who died during a school shooting on April 20.

While such events probably won't cease, some solace arrives and places of contemplation are created because of the selfless work of people like Greg Zanis. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

old las vegas highway near old pecos trail

Last weekend, we drove to Santa Fe by way of Highway 54N. We entered Santa Fe from the south along the old Route 66, the Old Las Vegas Highway. It was a beautiful and rainy cool weekend, which was fun to have experienced.

We approached Santa Fe after 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Ever on the lookout for descansos (roadside memorials spontaneously built by the bereaved), MJ spotted beautifully painted crosses and a star of David on the right-hand side of Old Las Vegas Highway. About this point, we were quickly approaching  the Bobcat Cafe on Old Pecos Trail.

Originally, the first image posted was meant to capture the geo-locator code near the descanso site; however, I have been unable to find retrieve the code. I did however, capture several images of the arrangement, which like so many in New Mexico and across the country are situated along narrow, two-lane roads. Many appear on either the I25 median between its north and south-bound traffic between Albuquerque and Soccoro, or along the southern end of Highway 54 between Northeast El Paso, Texas and Alamogordo, New Mexico. The latter has many poignantly elaborate and permanent memorials.

Whenever I get out of the car to photograph these installations, I'm never scared of the traffic. Then again, I don't stand in the middle of the road to take my images even though I would like to do so.

Descanso on the Old Las Vegas Highway commemorate the location where
lives of four friends were cut short one night in June 2009.
Returning to El Paso on Sunday, I traced the names of those killed and connected this memorial with another descanso arrangement I photographed in February 2010. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican articles, the horrific accident killed four teens and critically injured a fifth. Santa Fe New Mexican articles published on June 28 and July 1, 2009 described the site's accident. In addition to this descanso, another was constructed when memorial sersvices were held near Santa Fe Prep and Cathedral Park. At the present time (7/7/2012), the June 28 article still presents the Cathedral Park memorial service slide show.

The newspaper details how the oncoming driver (who was under the influence with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit, and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle), was tried for the critical injury and the four deaths. However, after many delays and various theories as to what happened that night, the jury found him nonguilty on all counts. Because he was originally charged with the deaths and grievous injury only, he was not even found guilty of the DUI and possession of the drug paraphernalia and alcohol found in his vehicle.

Santa Fe Descanso :: February 2010
Quite frankly, it was a shocking resolution to such a senseless tragedy. Evidently, theories were allowed entry that convinced the jury the driver, though clearly breaking DUI laws, was not responsible for the deaths, and let him off scott free.

However, in some kind of cosmic karmic realignment, the man was arrested for another DUI this past March. Perhaps he will get the help he needs, and have his license forever revoked.

While I must admit that descansos have fascinated me since grade school, it is in researching the tragedies that help me connect with those who loved the missing and pause to think on how quickly our lives can change because of the actions of another. My interest in such beautiful and material essences of love for friends and family was seared into my psyche when two sisters were killed in a bridge underpass near Crockett Grade School in the mid-1960s.

Back in the day, such information was communicated only by radio and one friend calling another. The day of that accident, there was a lot of confusion as to where my cousins were and my aunt was frantically awaiting their arrival--she had already heard of the accident happening near their home. Although terribly worried and saddened about the accident, she deep down knew that my cousins would not have been under that bridge at that time--it was in the opposite direction of their home. Yet as with many other occurrences and frights, you just never know what is happening until all is revealed later. My cousins eventually returned home safe. But because I knew about the accident, had listened to my mother describe the phone call she had with my aunt during her tearful vigil, I immediately understood the reason for the crosses, the flowers, the teddy bears, the valentines left beneath the railroad bridge--a daylight drunk driver had killed two little girls who walked home from school one afternoon--results that were the same then as now.

Please, don't drink and drive, don't text and drive, don't drive under the influence.

Parking lot discipline redux

This is a revised version of this previous post.

Parking lot discipline

U.S. Parking lot pay box on San Antonio Street, El Paso TX
Discipline and Punish and the U.S. Parking
pay box (Source: crdrapes,
Texas license-plated cars displaying expired state inspection stickers will receive a ticket from police officers. Such law enforcement officials stake out places where they believe they can readily see, detain, and punish. They do this by issuing a ticket for infractions of the law. As a result, the driver goes to court to prove their car can display a valid sticker. However, the court does not see the car, but only a receipt for the sticker; this method of substitution shows that the car passed the state inspection; it is in a state of being mechanically and environmentally safe. 

If the vehicle owner needs to reschedule their court date, a form obtained from an attorney, will defer the court appearance and allow the driver to receive another court date. In order to reschedule, however, the driver must go first, with form in hand, to the Municipal Courts building on Overland Street. There, they pay the clerk 10¢ for a stamped-dated copy (she’ll give you a receipt for the money), and will file your request to reschedule accordingly.

After first arriving in front of the building, however, a driver must park their car. A lack of free or metered parking on the street in front of the building results from the many reserved spaces marked for police and consulate cars (note that the Mexican Consulate is around the corner on the not so ironically named San Antonio Street.) Therefore, if a member of the public has business to conduct in the courts building, a driver must park their car inside the U.S. Parking lot across the street.  It was inside this space that I first noticed the punitive connection between  said ticketed vehicles, the vehicle owners, the government, the enclosed parking lot space, the company owning the lot, and the transparent outcome as defined by Foucault.

In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault argued that spaces, particularly those created by the state, use various rhetorical devices such as work orders, building codes, permits, inspections, and even parking tickets. Together, they form areas of “enclosure” common to all, which Foucault explained is “a “protected place of disciplinary monotony” (pg. 141). Such monotony encloses places that will transparently discipline and punish, which serve to control public behavior. While such spaces change and shift over time and location, those controlled include all who utilize the parking lot, whether vehicle owner, attorney, or consulate worker. 

In this public space on San Antonio Street, the state coordinates with a corporation to publicly corral those entering the lot; it calls attention to all, no matter guilt (ticketed driver) or innocence, such as a consulate worker, lawyer, or someone requesting any copy of a government document.

While a community designs their towns by applying codes, permits, and laws, over time, such collections of rhetorical formations, whether paper, asphalt, paint, or brick create enclosures. Generally, the public never sees or feels enclosure because such accumulated visual statements present a normal, familiar, and therefore, neutrally silent space. Over time, layers within larger spaces, such as buildings, streets, and sidewalks are torn down, and reconstructed as required for safety and redevelopment. This results in widened street lanes, sidewalks disappearing or appearing with new ramps installed for those with special needs (ADA compliance), or even side streets disappearing altogether to enlarge nearby buildings (such as seen in developments recently built by First Baptist Church on Montana Street). By decree, many street level details will change (and those systems residing underground, too, such as drainage pipes and cable lines). Each change results in outcomes never planned originally. In this somewhat painless yet effective (re)formation, changes have the potential to punish and discipline due to the order and powers ordering the changes. On the other hand, pre-determined and publicly approved designs and spaces such as prisons and schools control behaviors overtly.  In terms of the San Antonio Street parking lot, I located an enclosed space that shocked and enlightened when I briefly applied Foucault’s notion of distributing individuals where I, and others stood.

Street side

U.S. Parking lot pay box on San Antonio Street (detail), El Paso TX
U. S. Parking pay box detail (Source: crdrapes,
U.S. Parking constructs simple facilities, and at this location present a simple asphalt-covered ground with yellow or white diagonal painted lines and numbers that denote spaces to rent for short-term vehicle parking. A simple metal box pained red, soldered to a pole stands at the parking lot entrance. Atop the box a flat trapezoidal-shaped metal sign explains the terms for parking, the cost, who to call in case the vehicle violates the terms and gets towed, and the length of time for which you paid (four dollars). Painted in patriotic red, white, and blue upon a white field, the first line in the largest, upper case text shouts, “PAY HERE / (IN ADVANCE).” Blue text explains the fee and hours, and a red band with white text instructs the driver to “park in numbered space / pay corresponding number on meter (the box). The box accepts coins and bills; according to a pink paper taped to the sign, you may not pay with a check. At this location, U. S. Parking exchanges money for the privilege of parking from 0—12 hours. On a slow day, this means I paid for about 15 minutes of space rental time.

Based on the configuration of a space within a space, the parking lot conforms to Foucault’s definition of partitioning, a “disciplinary space tends to be divided into as many sections as there are bodies or elements to be distributed” (pg. 143). Within partitioning lies the discipline, although Foucault further explains that such spaces are free-floating and having no order; this means that the spaces and the lot are both elements of the same larger space. For Foucault, the more important idea here is to know that it is the hierarchy that determines the power exerted over the vehicles, drivers, and spaces, while the city (and the parking lot company) ranks higher than the renters, walkers, and workers. However, the parking lot ritual becomes further Byzantine due to the method by which renters pay their fee. It is not merely the amount you must pay, but how you pay the rent. 

To pay for a parking space, a driver puts money into the box by cramming the bills into the corresponding slot, which is a narrow slit in the red metal box attached to a pole. This is further complicated by a small pink piece of paper taped to the sign that reads, “cash, no checks please.” Therefore, it is not just the price of the parking lot space ($4 for 15 minutes in my case), because this is America. Instead, it was the way a person must “feed,” stuff, or cram the money into the red box.

While the rent is four dollars, I believe the company hopes you will pay the rent using a $5 bill because you were late, rushed, or did not have the exact change. The box has extremely narrow slots, which works together, along with the location of the lot and its spaces. The manner of how to pay the money and why you must pay illustrates how the location can punish and discipline a second time. The box disciplines by making you cram the money into the red box, which you would not have had to do if you had had your car inspected on time, if you had taken the bus and walked to the building, if you had someone drop you off, or if you had taken a cab. The slot punishes because you must stand and roll your dollar bills so tight. For me, the action of rolling made me think about my grandfather who rolled his own cigarettes with Bugler Tobacco. It punished me because it made me remember that I still miss him even though he died many years ago. It punishes because I must stand in line with others, who will watch my money rolling procedure. It punishes others because I watched them, as well—in fact, I took their picture for this essay. Further, before I left the lot I had to make sure the money dropped to the bottom of the box. So I had to cram the bills into the box with a metal shiv attached by a chain to the red U.S. Parking box. This then reminded me of all those television police procedurals with detectives inspecting dead bodies of prisoners killed with prison-made shivs.

Geography disciplines and punishes through place, the parking spaces, the other renters, the corporation, and the box that stands across from the courts that represent the state—the place where no one can park on the street. In the end, the hierarchy of space, place, and occasion add up to what Foucault describes as “the space of … perpetual movement in which individuals replace one another in a space marked off by aligned intervals” (147). In the end, our “docile bodies” engage with the cycle, which began with a specific time and place because of my expired inspection sticker, and the police officer that issued the ticket, which later resulted in my having to reschedule my court appearance (for which I did attend). The sticker, the ticket, the court date, the dollar bills, the sign, the narrow slots, the metal shive, the street, the courts, and the red box all align to discipline and punish those wanting the privilege of driving and relocating bodies within spaces created by and for a hierarchy of power.

Reference: Foucault, M. (1995). Docile bodies. In A. Sheridan (Trans.), Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (2nd ed., pp. 135-169). New York, NY: Vintage. (Original work published 1975)

This essay was originally published by Drapes, C. R. (2009, December 19). Discipline and punish and the US Parking slotted pay box [Web log post]. Retrieved from el paso daily photo blog:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Preserving the Trans Mountain Scenic Corridor and redesigning theWestside Master Plan under Smart Codes

Update: January 19, 2012
Below, view the embedded (hosted on Scribd) and linked document forward by Charlie that was originally sent by:

Shamori Rose Whitt, CNU-A (email)
Smart Growth Planner
Planning and Economic Development
City of El Paso
(915) 541-4477

Charlie Wakeem, President of the Coronado Neighborhood Association and Jim Tolbert (producer of the wonderful blog, elpasonaturally©), are great sources of information concerning El Paso and land development, especially about sustainable living with sensitivity to the environment and open spaces remaining near Transmountain and the Frankin Mountains State Park. Whether through a neighborhood association update, or social media,  each man communicates information. Recently, Charlie sent out an email promoting a new round of charrettes, which seek to gather citizen feedback on the proposed TxDoT Transmountain Scenic Corridor project. Charlie writes:

Preserving the Trans Mountain Scenic Corridor and redesigning the Westside Master Plan under Smart Codes.

Please commit to attending and participating in one or both of the Public Meetings. You may also personally interact with the Dover Kohl and City staff teams at the Design Studio.

Get the word out to anyone you know! Please ask them to commit to participating personally as well.

Northwest Masterplan Charrette:

1. Hands-On Session:
Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 5PM to 9PM,

Canutillo HS Auditorium;
6675 S. Desert Boulevard, 79932

2. Northwest Masterplan Work in Progress:

Saturday, January 28, 2012, 9AM to Noon,

Canutillo HS Auditorium;
6675 S. Desert Boulevard, 79932

3. Design Studio: (Open to the Public)

Monday, January 23 to Friday, January 27, 2012

Canutillo Independent School District--Board Room
7965 Artcraft Road, 79932

Hours of Design Studio:
Monday-Friday, 9AM to 7PM
El Paso Plan: Northwest Date Card

Monday, January 02, 2012

2012: the way

Perhaps it will be a banner (red) year. Or, perhaps this post represents the new year's resolution to create and publish blog posts on a regular basis. In any case, this post supports those working at the old El Paso Saddleblanket Building urbanart project. To view it, take the I-10 West Downtown exit and drive towards Oregon and West Wyoming Streets (google maps view).

There on the corner you can see this brief public arts project. If you cannot get there, I invite you to check out my Flickr set with images captured on December 26. Note that the building (as noted on the Flickr set page) was purchased by the City of El Paso in 2011, which will demolish it in February 2012. Currently, the city is considering various uses for this highly visible and rather important piece of land (as it sits atop I-10, at the NW edge of downtown proper) and on the edge of the museum/library complex and near to the historic San Francisco district. As for me, I'm just hoping it can again become a venue for outsider and emerging artists as it does today.

Pax in 2012 from Foxes Arroyo!

Sometimes you need to get away from it all.

And sometimes, it's time to return and be part of the larger world.  Between the first of 2023 and February 14, I painted many watercolo...