Imperial is my least favorite destination thus far but I hereby reserve the right to change my opinion in the future. Greenwood, Mississippi (awful hotel, food choices), Stockton, California (work experience, twice) and McAllen, Texas (everything) ran a close race but Imperial is #1, if you count from the bottom.
I didn't take any pictures during this trip and I always take pictures. The pictures still in my head are bad enough, I didn't need to bring physical proof home. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Imperial is 2 hours east of San Diego and 1 hour north of Mexicali, Mexico. Ugly country. Hot, dry, dusty, cactusy. I remember a LOT of chain link fence.
Really, it is Jake Gyllenhaal's fault. Him or Jamie Foxx. Or Universal Pictures. I was trying to locate a hotel room for my stay but wasn't having any luck. Everywhere I tried...booked, booked, booked. Finally, I did the old fashioned thing and CALLED a hotel on the phone. Like the others, they were booked so I asked what was up with that. Jarhead, she said. Huh? The movie Jarhead is being filmed in the area so all of the hotel space is full with cast and crew. When you look at the trivia information for Jarhead on IMDB.com you will find this, "Filmed in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, which features conditions very similar to Iraq. Marines did use one of the local towns, Brawley, for training purposes due to similarities to Iraq."
Not that I have anything against Iraq per se but I am not planning to vacation there anytime (ever). I am not a big fan of sand. Or excessive amounts of sun. I finally found a room at a nasty roadside motel. Second floor in the back, no elevator, exterior entrance. Not my favorite setup as a female traveling alone. There was a single macramé swag lamp straight out of the 70's to light my horribly depressing little room. The "refrigerator" (that was their word, I don't know what it was) made a ton of noise, slightly more than the barely functional window unit air conditioner. No internet of any kind. I think I got 3 very staticy TV stations, not that I could hear the TV over the refrigerator or window unit. I can't even begin to describe the smell - in the room, in the halls, in the parking lot. I ended up spending a total of $8 on food the entire week I was there, all at Taco Bell which happened to be next door.
My clients weren't engaged in my training. More than one made it clear that they did not want to be there and had better, more important things to do. (Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon comment.) One woman openly complained about her coworkers and neighbors going so far as to say, "I think they moved the border and forgot to tell us". Ultimately, this customer moved on and I have had no further contact with them.
The only bright spot was a quick genealogy side trip to the aforementioned Brawley. My grandfather was born in Brawley in 1922, a twin. No one could really answer questions about his twin sister Alberta, who had died "at a young age". No information was known such as when or how she died. I requested a copy of Alberta's death certificate at the county courthouse and they produced a copy while I waited. I had one of my customers with me and when I said the cemetery was Riverside in Brawley she said, "I know where that is", and off we went. We arrived as they prepared to close the gates for the night but they were kind enough to try and look up her location . They found she was in an unmarked grave near the front of the property. I left without finding her exact spot but, as my mother pointed out, I was the first person to visit the cemetery in well over 50 years.
A visit to a cemetery might not seem like a "bright spot" but for someone interested in their family history, it was. Rest in peace, Alberta. Even if you are resting in the closest thing America has to Iraq.