Monday, March 30, 2009


When I was a girl, my father did business in Kenya and so my family often visited there. You'd be out in the bush, driving and driving, and someone would say 'MMBA' which means 'millions of miles of bloody Africa.' I thought of this today as we left El Paso and headed East, toward home.

The highlight of the day began before we even left El Paso. In fact, we had to back-track to get to El Paso Saddleblanket Factory Store, your basic TT with two acres of merchandise and three acres of parking. Because I am wild for a store in San Antonio called Garden Ridge (another 5 acre sort of place), I wanted to see this store to compare the two. They are total opposites.

Saddleblanket claims to be a wholesaler, which is hard to verify. They are certainly one of the retail wonders of the world. Few have ever seen so much merchandise in one place. (

Located on Gateway East, which is what locals call the frontage road in El Paso, this store sells Mexican souvenirs, blankets, rustic furniture and all sorts of things in between-- dried piranha fish, rattlesnake heads made into paperweights, etc. There was a very interesting jewelry section but the piece I was seriou about seemed too much like something I'd seen in Bangkok for $6. I thought $38 was a fair enough price, but the necklace wasn't quite right. So I went to the carpet department.

There I spent about an hour touching, unfurling and questioning the staff about the variety of carpets from kilims to new weaves. Pets are welcomed at the store, so the Doxie Boys ran around with glee. When I chose a kilim for my office, I questioned the type of dye.
"What will happen if the dog pee's on the carpet?" I asked.

My salesman didn't even blink. When we volunteered to test, he never even blanched. He seemed a ver good salesman and the kilim would add a lot of zip to my house in San Antonio. We bargained a little on price and then added in the cost of shipping. There's simply too much stuff in the car to consider cramming in a carpet.

We got out of Dodge around 11AM and headed east. There is nothing between El Paso and San Antonio, nothing at all. About an hour and a half out of El Paso,we turned our clocks ahead and stopped at a patrol station where big guys with big guns and a very big dog were thoroughly inspecting the cars ahead of us.
"We have two dogs in the car!" I told the officer, terrified there would be a dogfight.
"U.S. citizens?" he asked.
We had to be quick on that one. Sarah and I both nodded, hoping he was referring to the two of us.
After all, Toffee carries a French passport.

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