Christmas From an Alternate Reality — Douglas AZ
by Mark Hahn
The Gadsden Hotel in downtown Douglas AZ is like nowhere else on Earth. Situated just a few blocks away from the US/Mexican border and behind the fortified wall that was built by George Bush to keep the illegals out, it’s hard to know if you’re the prisoner or the free person. Somehow, we all feel illegal here in someway. We’re all at risk. We’re all expatriates from somewhere. Home is a convenient construction to help us feel secure. I doubt Douglas could truly feel like home to anyone though. Nothing feels secure here. Borders and the economies that drive them change with time.
A young man wearing a Border Patrol uniform and paramilitary boots steps out onto the street. He’s followed by his little blond daughter. Just a loving dad and his kid walking through the edges of a war zone. Being on the wrong side of a payoff or drug deal will get you killed. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time will get you killed. No one is safe or innocent when the whole system is unethical and corrupt. The only thing that is real is how this little girl looks up at her father and feels love for him. She feels safe in his presence. The youths attempting to jump the steel fence a few blocks away have no guarantees.
It was getting late when we saw the Gadsden Hotel. We were looking for tacos. We weren’t sure if it was really a hotel or just a hotel turned into residency apartments — you know, no kitchens and week by week leases. You pay or you get kicked out. Turnover is incredible, but some of the tenants seem to stay forever.
Surprisingly, when we walked inside to see what it was like, it turned out that the Gadsden was an actual working historic hotel. It has a beauty salon, a quaint little tavern and a full restaurant. We asked how busy it got. The clerk said they had maybe six visitors a week. Doesn’t seem you need a reservation. We smiled at each other knowing that we have to come back. We took a couple quick handheld photos before we left.
With all the Christmas decorations up, it made me wish that we could just ditch everything and spend a quiet romantic Christmas alone here together in the Gadsden. Just me and Kim. It would just be us and the ghosts walking the dark hallways. There is one empty room after another. There’s a beautiful view of a brick wall outside the window.
The most notorious ghost in the hotel is said to be Pancho Villa — the famous Mexican revolutionary. Villa was supposed to have had a map to his hidden treasure tattooed on his head. The ghost seen walking the halls of the Gadsden is said to be that of a headless man dressed in black.
Now that the stress of Christmas has passed, I really need this getaway more than ever. I don’t care about the decorations or the celebrations. I don’t care about the guns, the ghosts or the border guards. I just need to get away from everything and spend time with my love.