Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

THE STREETS OF LAREDO

Post by Alana Cash

I have loved Laredo since I was 14 years old, a high-school sophomore, and I drove down there with three seniors.  All I knew of Laredo was the Marty Robbins version of the song, “Streets of Laredo,” so I sort of half-expected to see gunslingers in the street and a horse-drawn hearse at the corner.  I was studying Spanish in high school – making a D- only because my Spanish teacher was also my homeroom teacher and she was being kind – so if there was any trouble across the border, my language skills weren’t going to help us.

Ricky, Joe, Donna, and I left San Antonio early on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, driving down old Highway 81 which was originally a “feeder trail” for the Chisholm Trail.  Highway 81 – now overcome by NAFTA’s superhighway I-35 – passed through small towns where the local sheriffs set up speed traps.  If you were stopped for speeding, you went to see the Justice of the Peace right away to pay your fine.  If you didn’t have enough cash, you stayed with the JP until while you sent for it.  Lytle, Texas was particularly known for that.


We reached in Laredo four hours, parked in a public lot, and walked on the International Bridge over the Rio Grande into Nuevo Laredo, which I always call Laredo anyway.  The Rio Grande, the natural border between Texas and Mexico, is 100-200 feet wide and about 3 feet deep depending on rainfall, and I’ve never been on the bridge that I haven’t seen people wading across it downriver. 

That first visit, there were multitudes of children on the bridge, begging for nickels and we gave away all we had.  Adults on the bridge sold Chiclets, puppets, and wildly painted donkeys made of plaster of Paris, hawking to impulse or last-minute buyers.

Mexican culture permeates Texas and stepping through the border terminal that contribution is distilled, making clear what Mexico adds to the Texas mix – language, of course, but also food, music, designs in clothing and furniture, religion, superstition and more.  Nuevo Laredo was very animated compared Laredo and the rest of Texas on that hot, dusty Sunday where retail stores were shut down in accordance with the Texas Blue Laws. 

We strolled down Avenida Guerrero looking at silver jewelry, peasant dresses (I still wear them), baskets, masks, hand-tooled leather purses and wallets, elaborate cigarette lighters, switchblade knives, leather whips, and paintings of Elvis and bullfights on velvet.  I bought a leather coin purse, and afterward we had our picture taken on a little cart behind a sad-looking donkey.

Ricky and Joe got tired of shopping pretty quickly, and since we were all hungry, we headed for the Cadillac Bar.   The Cadillac Bar was famous by the time of my first visit, and it wouldn’t last much longer.  Originally opened by a family from New Orleans during Prohibition, it had a distinct air of old Mexico and the old West.  It was located on a side street in an adobe building without air conditioning. A long mahogany bar with a brass foot-rail ran along the south wall at the entry and there were columns down the middle of the room.  The tables had white cloths and the heavy wooden chairs were padded.  The waiters wore black pants, white shirts, and ties.   The windows were wide open and we spent some time shooing flies.   

The Cadillac Bar was filled with tourists and classy locals.  It offered good food, clean restrooms, and a filet mignon meal was $2.  When we finished eating, we sat and talked at the table for a long time and nobody tried to rush us out. 


That was my introduction to Laredo, and I’ve been back many times.  I once drove down from San Antonio with a fellow who grew up in Nuevo Laredo and saw different side of town.  Every visit, I stopped by the Cadillac Bar – which became the El Dorado – for a meal and their famous Ramos Gin Fizz (aka New Orleans Gin Fizz).  The best recipe I found on the Internet for this light drink is ironically from a bartender in Canada who also gives its history 

http://www.artofdrink.com/archive/popular-cocktails/ramos-gin-fizz-cocktail/

When I lived in Austin, I had a ritual of driving down with friends (once alone) on New Year’s Day to shop and have lunch.  I always brought back a piggybank.  

The Cadillac Bar aka El Dorado closed in 2010 forever. 

Now for a music interlude:

There are over 21,000 versions of the song “Streets of Laredo” on YouTube.  I think I listened to about 50 of them and suddenly thought, this sounds like Irish music.  I did some research and found out that the melody of "The Streets of Laredo" does come from a 17th century Irish ballad.  I chose 3 for your listening pleasure.  My favorite is the Michael Martin Murphy version.  What’s your favorite?  

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKTj5tAp1mo  Tom Roush

COMMENTS

Ron Forester...
I too have been to the Cadillac Bar many times in the old days. I heard that the long mahogany bar was purchased and moved to a bar in Dallas, but I'm not sure where in Dallas it is...;-)...Ron

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too have been to the Cadillac Bar many times in the old days. I heard that the long mahogany bar was purchased and moved to a bar in Dallas, but I'm not sure where in Dallas it is...;-)...Ron