Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Desert wedding -- El Paso and Las Cruces

I can honestly say that I never thought I'd go to El Paso, Texas.  Especially not for a wedding.  Double especially not for a Jewish wedding.  But I did!  And it was wonderful and fun.
I went for the bride, Kristin, who is one of my good friends from law school.  She's originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico (about an hour from El Paso), and went back after graduation to clerk for a judge -- and now, five years later, she's got a life and career and brand-new husband all set up there. 
I flew out with Amy and Judy, also friends from law school, and part of Kristin's circle of friends.  We coordinated so that we'd be on the same flights, and then we shared a car and hotel rooms.  It was tons of fun to travel with them and to see Kristin again and meet her family.  None of us had gone to our five-year class reunion at NYU last month -- this was so much better!

Moi, Judy, Kristin, Amy
I was particularly excited to be part of a Jewish wedding.  Kristin wasn't raised Jewish, but she converted after she started dating David.  The ceremony resembled Christian weddings in some ways (the rings, the vows) and differed in others (the huppah, the Hebrew chanting, the bride walking around the groom, the smashed glass).  It was beautiful and I loved it.
I particularly enjoyed having to wear a yarmulke in the synagogue. The last time I wore a yarmulke was in high school when I played Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof. This felt so much more authentic (and yet, the depiction of the Jewish wedding in Fiddler is not far off at all).
Next time I want one of those neat woven yarmulkes with all the colors.
I have a video on my phone of the Hava Nagila dance, where the bride and groom are carried aloft on chairs in a wild and exuberant dance -- but I can't figure out how to get it off my phone and into this blog post (Flickr has clearly changed something since the last time I posted video). Oh well.

The wedding festivities were only part of the weekend. When we weren't celebrating, Amy, Judy and I went exploring. We decided to focus on Las Cruces, New Mexico, since it had a better reputation than El Paso (which really is kind of an armpit). We started with nature -- and by "nature" I mean the brown, parched, sun-drenched desert spreading in every direction as far as the eye can see.


The hills near Las Cruces are particularly rugged and had an appealingly named "Dripping Springs" hike that offered a ruined sanatorium and a mysteriously murdered hermit.  Turns out there are neither drips nor springs at Dripping Springs, but the rest was all true -- and we met a very enthusiastic volunteer in the visitors center who gave us the whole history. She also warned us about rattlesnakes ("Just walk away") and mountain lions ("Scream like a girl! But DON'T run -- they're like big housecats and will think you're a mousie!"). When she heard where we were from and saw that we had no water with us, she rolled her eyes and went into the back room, emerging a few minutes later with bottles of deliciously cold water for each of us. She clearly had no intention of letting a bunch of idiot city slickers hike to their death by dehydration on her watch.

The hike was hot, dusty and short. And despite our best efforts we had no occasion to scream like girls and not run away.  Quel dommage.

The alleged Dripping Springs
The murdered hermit's cave is out there.
Cacti amidst the ruins

Nature wasn't the only thing worth exploring. What these cities lack in charm and culture and beauty, they make up with delicious food. Tex-Mex cuisine isn't famous for nothin' -- and with the border just a stone's throw away, it doesn't get much better than this. Especially the green chile sauce. As you can imagine, we basically spent the rest of our non-wedding time eating.

Lunch at La Nueva Casita Cafe in Las Cruces
Pork chimichanga with red chili sauce, guacamole and sour cream

Brunch at La Posta in old-town Mesila
Posole (gosh I love that stuff)
Chilis rellenos, with green sauce and refried beans
Sopapillas (because everyone knows you can't go wrong with fried dough)
Breakfast at the hotel -- because of course waffles in Texas are shaped like the state...
Second breakfast at D'Lox:  Migas (scrambled eggs on crispy tortilla strips with refried beans, rice and cheese

The craziest -- and neatest -- thing about the weekend was just how exotic and familiar the place felt.  I've spent the past few years traveling the globe to visit places that are equally hot and dusty.  There were times when I felt like I could have been in Turkey or Peru or Morocco -- and in those moments I had that same feeling of vacation get-away that I love in those places.  At the same time, it also felt very similar to Las Vegas, where Lady and Dad have been living for the past five years.  All those baking strip malls and parking lots, the earth-colored houses, the improbable tenacity of civilization in an inhospitable environment.  So in that sense I felt at home, or at least in a familiar land. 

Of course, we wouldn't have had to go far to be in a foreign land.  Mexico was just across the railing.  But we didn't go there.  Getting murdered and kidnapped by drug lords would have been kind of a downer in an otherwise delightful weekend.

There's Mexico!


The Atomic Mom said...

"Getting murdered and kidnapped by drug lords would have been kind of a downer in an otherwise delightful weekend."


Jason, you crack me up! You pretty much hit New Mexico on the head. Next time come up to where we are in Santa Fe. We'll take you hippie watching and eat equally good green chile. Our food is the only thing we have to offer the nation.

Anonymous said...

Always love your descriptions of your travels. We've been through El Passo a couple of times and it's nothing to shout about. The food pics on this one are to die for (as I made carnitas for dinner last night and now I think I have to go eat the leftovers). I can't believe the Boy Scout in you went out for a hike, in the blasted desert no less, with no water! Honestly... Lady

Anonymous said...

AND...only in Texas is EVERYTHING in the shape of the state and/or contains a representation of the state flag. A lot of state pride there! It's kinda cool. Lady