Sunday, December 29, 2002

Desperately Searching for Jesus Herrera

Pronounced "Eh-zeus Eh-reh-rah," and feel free to roll your "R's."

Jesus was my childhood friend. Together, we must have walked hundreds of miles, getting up at the crack of dawn and setting out for gosh knows where. One time I remember - we set out at around six in the morning and walked down to the old Pabst brewery in El Paso, Texas. It was next to the train tracks and quite a way away from our neighborhood. Jesus knew a Mexican lady living near the brewery who fenced rare animals for illegal trade and we visited her that morning. While Jesus spoke to her in Spanish, I played with a tiny monkey on her kitchen table. I'll never forget that place, nor the stench she lived in, with all the animals stuck in cages, walking around in their own excrement.

After our visit we began walking the train tracks when a slow moving train came along. It took the two of us about ten seconds to make our decision to hop the train and ride all the way to downtown El Paso, a good thirty miles, give or take. We easily hopped onto a flat car and sat there, feeling our oats and enjoying the scenery as we headed to the downtown train yards. Passing through intersections, the cars waiting behind candy-cane colored barricades, we waved to the people, happy as larks. Later that evening, while in trouble for being late getting home, I was surprised to find my mother knew I had hopped a train. It seems that one of her customers was in the traffic while we passed an intersection and recognized me. Foiled again. I got the stuffing knocked out of me that evening and ended up enduring yet another in a string of groundings.

That was just one of our many exploits while walking miles and miles about El Paso. In high school, we didn't see each other as often as Jesus was a grade ahead of me and our school was massive. We still got together after school some days and on weekends the two of us eventually entered into a business venture of sorts, fixing aquarium pumps for a local wholesaler. Jesus and I raised tropical fish, bred them, repaired tanks and brought air pumps back to life. The salary was small but enough to keep two teenagers in candy, taco's from Chico's Taco's and tropical fish.

Jesus eventually met a woman. Linda was a product of a local Mexican family whom I would generously describe as, "TROUBLE." Her brother was a local hoodlum and drug dealer and her father was a severe alcoholic and drug addict. My other good friend Steve Willis and I tried to reason with Jesus, telling him to get away from her, but a bad case of hormones got the best of him and weeks later Linda was pregnant. The rest is a sad and sordid tale.

Jesus and Linda lived in the welfare section of town, having little money and a child on the way. Knowing he would not be looked upon favorably for getting her pregnant, Jesus managed to avoid Linda's family for the most part, until one day when he took her home so she could pick up some clothes. Jesus waited in the car while Linda was inside, knowing it wouldn't be a good idea to go inside with her. He eventually told me the last thing he remembers seeing was the glint off of a blued shotgun barrel and the flash as the gun went off. He had been shot by Linda's father, whom after that incident, fled to Mexico somewhere, never to be seen again.

Jesus was blinded by the incident. Shot directly in the face at fairly close range with birdshot. He was flown to an eye specialist in Dallas, Texas, and underwent surgery for several hours to no avail. When I found out, I suffered that typical fear of the unknown, avoiding Jesus at all cost out of my own fear of not knowing what to say or do. Months later we finally reunited. He was home recuperating from the accident and his spirits were remarkably intact. I always admired him for that and was amazed that he was so positive about the whole thing. I had more of a problem with it than he ever did.

In the months following our reunion, we would set out to cause trouble. We operated as a team. Jesus would have me point out some unsuspecting people at a local shopping center and he would hit them with his blind cane, pretending to be searching the area for obstacles. We'd enter stores and he'd knock stuff down, always getting away with it naturally, because he was blind. Afterward, we would get into my car and howl with laughter at our sick little exploits.

Surprisingly, Jesus ended up eventually living with Linda. Steve and I visited one sunny afternoon and were greeted by a sour miasma of rotten garbage and filth. Linda never greeted us, choosing instead to lay on her bed in the middle of the afternoon in evening wear. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink and garbage was overflowing the trashcan. Steve and I changed the baby's diaper and before leaving, pulled Jesus aside and informed him of the conditions we had seen, including the baby's diaper rash. Once again, Jesus was a pillar of strength and told us he knew something was amiss but did not know of the extent. He thanked us and that was the last time I saw Jesus for many years. I heard through the grapevine that he divorced Linda and actually acquired custody of his child, but our paths never crossed because I was heavy into the drugs and bent on leaving El Paso for more fertile ground.

Much later, while in the Navy, stationed in Philadelphia, I received a call from Jesus. He wanted me to send a plane ticket so he could come visit. "On whose salary?" I exclaimed and he laughed. We had a nice conversation and caught up with the years. He was working as a minister of a church and had met and married a wonderful woman whom he met through the Lighthouse for the Blind.

My last venture home, was when my mother died in February of 1989. I called Jesus from the motel I was staying at and he sounded happy and very busy. Again, our paths would not cross as I was leaving for New Hampshire within days and he had too many appointments he could not break. Since that day I have made at least a dozen attempts to find Jesus, all to no avail. I sent e-mail and letters to every agency for the blind I could find in El Paso and a couple of people remembered Jesus, leading me to two different ends of the earth, Tennessee and Mexico.

My ploy here is simple.

I recently have seen his brother listed in Raul Herrera and I were never as close as Jesus and I, but we still traveled in the same circles. Raul was known in our circle as, "Camel," due to his height and stooped posture. Last I had heard Raul was either in Japan or China. I also have seen a listing for Steve Willis, another of my close friends during that era and another story in-and-of-itself.

Not being a paying member of I am looking for someone who is a member to send these guys an e-mail, giving them my e-mail address and telling them to contact me. I am in hopes that Raul knows the whereabouts or has at least heard from his brother. At any length I'd just like to say hello to these guys. asks way too much to become a member, for the few people I would ever care about contacting. Many people I already have contact with have either never joined or have let their membership expire because has become yet another cyber-capitalist.

Personally, I think they are shooting themselves in the foot, as many people would probably join if their membership was more affordable. Anywho, if you are a member and are willing to help me out, please drop me a line and we'll go from there.



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