Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Border: After 43 years selling snacks, no customers
What can Tomás López do with his border snack business, when they change the border?
Spare a thought for Tomás López.
We're just inside Mexico, about 9:30 at night, at the western side, near the pedestrian entrance.
Or what used to be. It's why Tomás has had his coffee, tea, and soup stall here for 43 years. Sells lots of cookies and candies and cacahuates, peanuts.
"You see what they've done?" he says. "Three months ago they closed the pedestrian gates into Mexico on this side of the freeway. Changed it to the other. That's where our business comes from! Visitors, and Mexicans coming home after work. Now they all come through on the east side. Nobody consulted us. Look at all the Yellow Cabs. They're stuck here too. This is where their parking is. They just strangled our businesses overnight."
I put down a dollar and get a coffee. It's Nescafe and hot water. Thought about a soup (same deal, $1) or one of his snacks, but I’ve already been eating downtown, near Revolución.
Senovio López Carrellon comes up with his guitar. He nods in agreement with Tomás. "Times are hard. They never tell us what's happening."
I bring out a buck for a coffee for him, and another for a tune. He starts playing a haunting version of "Caminos de Michoacan."
“Even though I come from Guadalajara, Sinaloa,” he says apologetically.
Honestly, his guitar work ain’t nothing to write home about, but his singing kinda gets to you. Specially because he looks as though his eyes are pretty shot.
“Cataratas,” he says.
Oh man. Cataracts.
Jesús Gil comes up.
He’s a bolero, shoeshine guy. Nothing to shine on my shoes. Pseudo-suede.
“You find your spot, and then they do this,” he says. Turns out he’s one of the returnees. Sent back across the border.
Soon, we’re all talking about the hard times. Jesús had been at city college in San Francisco when he was picked up.
“That’s where I left my heart,” he says. “And $100 in my locker there.”
Senovio starts singing Tony Bennett.
I hate to leave. But at least I can.
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