Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chicago: Day 3: Red Coat About Town

In December 2009, my mother and I went to Chicago. Here is Day 3 of the trip report.  

Chicago Field Museum, Plants of the World


On Wednesday morning, we took the bus to the Field Museum. This was kind of funny. We walked to the first corner and saw a bus. We asked the driver if he went by the Field Museum, and he said no, but we could pick that bus up on Michigan. I asked how far that was, and he said about three blocks. I thought, "Oh, OK, not far," being ever-mindful of a nearby whiner in a red coat. Then I thought to ask the driver: "Do you go by that corner?" And he said, "yes," and I knew then that, verily, God was great, and Carol and I got on that bus. I inserted my bus pass and went to a seat. Carol inserted her credit card and, lo, the bus god did spit it out. She then inserted her room key, and lo, the bus spit that out, too. Finally, she inserted a bus pass, and the bus god eateth that right up.

Approximately 20 feet later, the driver informed us that we had arrived at our desired intersection. We then went up some stairs, amidst some grumbling from Red Coat, and then picked up the #145 bus, which carried us to the Field Museum. En route, Red Coat wondered aloud, "Why do these Chicagoans wear only drab things? Why do they not wear colorful coats like me"? No one replied.

Field Museum. Today was a free admission day. The museum is vast. Could easily spend a day here.
Chicago Field Museum, Plants of the World
Carol and I split up pretty early on so we could each follow our own interests at our own speed. We met after one hour and then split again for another hour. The sense I had of the place was of an immense library, not of books, but of specimens. For example, there was a huge wing called "Plants of the World." On one hand, this library sense was good, of course, as it offered a visual catalog of the world's contents. On the other hand, it was so very static. The still figures of American Indians, for instance, showcased for their clothing, felt a little off-putting.  As beautiful as the stuffed animals were, how interestingly posed they were - they, too, were a bit off-putting. On the other other hand, the exhibits on Tahiti and parts of Africa made a real effort to bring the inhabitants to life, as if you were visiting their towns.

After the Field Museum, we took a cab ($13 including tip) to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. Had lunch there with the city of Chicago surrounding us - below. Far below.  We enjoyed the buffet lunch (@ $18 each) which was good, but we were primarily paying for the view. Which was very cool. 

After lunch, we went up to the top floor (the 96th) to the Signature Lounge, where the restroom was. I could - literally - stand in the bathroom stall with the door open and look at the city laid out before me. And so I did, and I have the photos to prove it. 

We took the bus and then the subway back to our neighborhood. We came upon a new/used book store, called the After Words bookstore. We checked this out, spending possibly a good hour there. I found some vintage Robert Heinlein books that I snapped up, along with an old Frederick Pohl book. Carol found two books, one of which she's been reading ever since. Thank goodness, because she was getting a little vicious about taking mine away from me, as she had run through all of  her others. 

Carol sees something shocking in the After Words bookstore.

For dinner, I walked down to the corner dive and picked up some carryout for us.


To any still reading:  The little thing I did with my room key and credit card on the bus was simply an effort on my part to break the over confidence my guide displays with her important contacts with bus drivers, docents, and the man on the street.  I almost think the more difficult the trek the better.  Subways and venues seem to be entered and exited by multiple tiers of steps either up or down.  The city is beautiful, everyone seems to be rushing and yes, the attire is drab except for my red coat which I only wore because it was less heavy than my black coat.  The temp is much like it is at home and with a long scarf  I'm comfortable.  Many of the men wear very narrow legged jeans - impressive.  This has been a fine time of the year to come...no long lines at any of the venues.

Chicago Field Museum, totem

You both should have a travel show on TV.  It would be an intellectual version of West Coast Choppers or similar genre.

I think we all have read every word of every report. It is a wonderful escape to follow your adventures.  I'm shocked that Carol has the effect on bus drivers that they will actually talk to her.  I usually only get a grunt from my local bus drivers if I ask them a question.  She also moved a bus driver in San Antonio to drop her off at our hotel which was not on his route. 


I can just imagine Carol (or as she is known to Mzuri, Red Coat) getting a driver in San Antonio to drop her off at the hotel!

My favorite Chicago memory is when I went up with Older Son to check out a school. It was January and cold, windy, snowy. Everyone we saw went about with aplomb, bundled up as any normal person would be. We were still walking about after 2 am, went to Jackson Park to see the frozen statues, maybe get hustled, whatever. It was great. All big cities are like my small town, taken bite by bite, a word, a person, a block at a time. Life, indeed, is great and I will be looking for my own red coat soon.

Whoa. Too personal. I thought I hit reply. I would have hit spell check, syntax, emoticon and delete.

you wax poetic.

Chicago Field Museum

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chicago: Day 2: Newbies at Large

In December 2009, my mother and I went to Chicago. Here is Day 2 of the trip report. 


Yesterday, we each bought a 3-day transit pass good for both the bus and the el. We were able to do this at the grocery store a block from the hotel, which is about 500 feet from the el station.

So we took the el from Grand Street to Roosevelt, then the 146 bus to the museum area. It dropped us off in front of the planetarium. We experienced the kind of newbie mistake all virgin visitors make the first days, which was to be at the bus stop on the "wrong" side of the street. So we watched two 146 buses go by across the street before one finally came to *our* stop. And the driver instructed us to go across the street for the opposite-going 146 bus. Of course, now that we'd seen two 146s go by in quick succession, we had to wait for what seemed forever (but which was probably 10 minutes) for the next arrival.

Anyway, once at the planetarium, I watched a movie - Cosmic Collision - in the Infiniti Theater while Carol enjoyed coffee and a bite n the well-lit cafe along the lake. The movie was cool; sometimes you had the effect of a huge asteroid about to descend on your head. Lots of kids there, so lots of oohs and ahhs accompanied in short order by their teachers' ssshhhes. This was a free day, by the way, to enter the planetarium.

We then walked over to the Shedd Aquarium. Admission was $22 each. We went immediately to the cafe for lunch. The hostess there was personable and friendly, a trait we've noticed with all of our Chicagoan encounters thus far. Once Carol and I settled on a salad we, at the hostess' suggestion, shared it rather than each buy our own. This was the perfect choice. We found a table by the window, which overlooked the lake.

Carol and I saw two live shows. The "big" show featured beluga whales, dolphins, a sea lion, a couple of hawks, and penguins. There were some memorable moments, but because the focus seemed to be very young children, it palled pretty quickly. This would have been good information to have beforehand, as we might have given it a pass. The aquarium is organized into distinct aquatic habitats, such as ocean, amazon river, lakes and streams, etc. It does a good job of looking at the water habitats from different angles. For example it focuses on an area in the Philippines to tell the coral reef story. In the Amazon River area, the exhibits give you a look at the aquatic habitats during flood stages and during dry stages. In both cases, the exhibits also tell a bit of the stories of the cultures that depend on these aquatic resources. Interestingly, the aquarium participates in a program to cultivate coral.

On one occasion, while Carol sat on a bench reading a book, I inquired of an employee about where to get an elevator for my mother. A few minutes later, when I went to retrieve Carol and we walked toward the elevator, the woman called out "She's not your mother!" I looked back, as Carol did, and I said "What"? The woman said, "She can't be your mother." Carol and I walked to her, and the woman reiterated her statement, adding that we could be sisters. Carol beamed, of course, saying it was something about the youthfulness of her clothing. I said something along the lines of what a nice compliment to my mother and a not-so-nice commentary on me. The woman matter-of-factly acknowledged both of my remarks, then noted she'd had the same experience just the day before. I remarked that that mother and that daughter must have been just as pleased and just as nonplussed, respectively, as we. To which she again matter-of-factly agreed.

Carol and I took a cab back to the hotel, where we were in for the day at about 4:00-ish. We each had an unsatisfying dinner, about which neither deserves further mention.

The weather hasn't been a factor for us.  The buses and els run regardless, and we haven't spent all that much time outside. I will say: Cold, gray weather experienced in Chicago is far different than cold, gray weather experienced at a condo at the Lake of the Ozarks. I'll leave it to your imagination which is less likely to provoke suicidal thoughts after two days.


Hi all: the 500 feet referred yesterday about the grocery store came out to about a block and a half which was my maiden voyage into yesterday's saga. The Collision movie description by Mzuri confirms my decision to "sit it out" with my book, coffee, a sugary treat and a striking view of the blue choppy water.  Agree with the description of the show...heavy on the Beluga Whales which waned after the first ten minutes.  The Aquarium was located about four or five blocks from the Planetarium and up forty steps.  I am glad to have this new and active life style - the juice of life is once again moving thru my veins and words fail me what a treat it is to have such a guide leading me thru the mysteries of the local transportation system and museums.  The grocery store is as huge as a Dierburgs or Schnucks and loaded with exotic frozen entrees.  Mzuri sixed it.  At least I was able to eat my Lean Cuisine Spaghetti which was surely worth the $1.99 it cost but no more.  This afternoon we are being whisked to the Hancock Tower for a buffet luncheon and view of four or more states.  And tomorrow Harry Carey's restaurant across and down a bit from our hotel...last nights meals were an aberration not to be repeated in this lifetime.  Adieu. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicago: Day 1: Getting There

In December 2009, my mother and I went to Chicago. Here is Day 1 of the trip report. 


Pleasant train ride. I got on the train in Jefferson City; Carol got on at Washington, MO. A few hours' layover in St. Louis, then on to Chicago. 

I'd bought two sandwiches at Hy-Vee this morning + pretzel sticks + celery/peanut butter + diet soda for us to enjoy for lunch and dinner on the train. I also made a thermos of coffee. This worked out well. Carol drank a beer on the train.

We arrived in Chicago a bit early; about 8:20 p.m.

After a quick trip to restroom at Union Station in Chicago, we grabbed a cab and for $6.75 made it to the hotel. We're at the Hampton Inn and Suites on W. Illinois in River North. Great room: bedroom with king bed and large flat screen TV + kitchenette (full size fridge, 2-burner stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink, and breakfast bar) + living room with very large flat screen TV. Nice couch + chair/ottoman + coffee table + work desk. Free wireless.

Grocery store just a block away, which we've already checked out. Got soda stash.

Carol reading a book in bed.

Tomorrow's itinerary:

Adler Planetarium
The Art Institute of Chicago
Hancock Observatory

There's a little twist re: the Hancock Building that Carol doesn't know about yet ...


So how's the weather up there?  Sounds like it's going from bad to worse.  You know it's cold when the car creaks.

Creaking car.  Right.  Oh and by the way, the door was frozen shut on my truck this morning.  Gotta clean out the garage.

Younger Daughter told me it was her goal to clear a space in the garage for the 4runner over Christmas. I spared her the genetics lesson. She'll learn soon enough.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rootless Lit: The Warmth of Other Suns

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Rootless lit book review: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.

Summary from Publisher's Weekly: "... Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's ... study of the     "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest."

Credit: Amazon

I thought I "knew" what it was like to be black in the American South before institutionalized segregation ended. I "knew" it was bad.

But as I moved through the book, I realized:

  • Even though I had never articulated it to myself, I must have held the untested belief that black Americans had somehow acclimated to the reality of Jim Crow repression in the South.   
  • As much as I thought I "knew" of atrocities such as lynching, mortal beatings, and being dragged behind vehicles til dead, there were even worse monstrosities.
  • I knew nothing about the aggressive actions southern states took to keep black Americans from leaving.

Ms. Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration through the voices of three people who migrated north in three separate decades. Reading their stories, it really hit home that one never gets acclimated to daily humiliations, whether petty or grand. There is anger, bitterness, frustration, fear, despair - most of which could not be expressed during the Jim Crow years because the consequences of doing so might mean terrorism, brutalization, or death, for even the slightest infraction of the "rules."

I like how Ms. Wilkerson framed the Great Migration in the context of other migrations, such as the Eastern Europeans to the U.S. She made a good case for identifying the South as the Old Country and the North as the New World, noting differences in speech, customs, food, education, etc.

The author made the matter-of-fact and consistent choice of the word "escape" to describe what motivated, in full or in part, the immigrants' journey from the South. This kept the profundity of the Great Migration in front of me throughout the book.

She also used the phrase "caste system" to describe the realities in the South (and the North, as well). I found this helpful, too, because it made the point that even though the Great Migration was a story about black Americans, it wasn't "just" about race. The Great Migration was a universal story of people who fled from oppression and caste assignment and who sought better lives for themselves and their children.

I liked, too, that Ms. Wilkerson didn't sanctify or otherwise glamorize the three people she chose to tell their stories. They were ordinary, flawed individuals.

The Great Migration ended circa 1970. That is only yesterday, sociologically, and its effects continue to unfold.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ethiopia: Traditional Dance - Afar

Friday - dance time!

Last time, we had dance from the Oromo. Today, it's traditional dance from another ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Afar.

I like the video below because, in addition to Afar dance and music, it has cool swords and demonstrations of good dental hygiene. 

This video takes special care to spotlight Afar dance:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EFL --> Putting in For Georgia

I'm working on an application to teach English in Georgia.

Not that Georgia.

This Georgia.

This video is a great intro to Georgia - including the Wow! dancing by the kids - especially at 1:19! 

Georgians have a tradition similar to that of the Oromo in Ethiopia - bride kidnapping. In theory, these things don't happen so much anymore. As with Ethiopia, Georgia was among the first countries (however you choose to define "country") to embrace Christianity. Most Georgians are members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. And, as with Amharinga in Ethiopia, the Georgian language uses a unique alphabet. 

When I think of Georgia, I always think of gorgeous scenery and high adventure - swashbuckling soldiers, valiant steeds, and dramatic mountains in the distance. 

No guarantees I'll end up in Georgia, but it is an exciting possibility.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alton, IL: Fast Eddie's, the Golden Bridge, and the Great Mississippi River

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

Carol and I took an overnight trip to Alton, Illinois last week.

To get there, we took I-70, then got off the highway in St. Charles so we could ride through the river bottom lands on Highway 94. We saw a vast field of yellow flowers beneath giant electrical constructs.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

The Clark Bridge into Alton gleams like high-karat gold. It is simple and graceful; beautiful. 

Matt told me that Nova did a show on the building of this bridge.

Fast Eddie's, Alton, IL

First, we went to Fast Eddie's for lunch. My mother, Carol, remembers going to Fast Eddie's some 50 years ago. It serves pretty much the same menu: burgers, kebobs, shrimp, and brats. Plus fries. The food is pretty good, and it's ridiculously cheap. Carol's burger was only a buck, and it was a big damn burger. The business recoups with its drinks. It is common for there to be a line of people out into the street, waiting to get into Fast Eddie's. If I were to visit again, I'd like to go when there's music; otherwise, it's a rather tame place.

The Melvin Price Locks and Dam is the penultimate locks-and-dam going down the Mississippi River.

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

I took a walking tour of same and saw American pelicans there, taking a break from their migration.

Melvin Price Locks and Dam, Alton, Illinois

There were interesting shapes and shadows and angles in the locks and dam.


A turtle floated down the river on a dead log. The tour guide said that a barge regularly pushes accumulated debris downriver from the locks and dam.


There's a cool museum by the locks and dam - the National Great Rivers Museum.  The coolest thing is the simulator that lets you try to guide a barge through the locks.

National Great Rivers Museum, Alton, Illinois

Both the locks and dam and the museum are alongside the Great Rivers Scenic Byway.

We had dinner at the Riviera Maya restaurant out on Homer Adams Parkway. Surprisingly good Mexican restaurant. It offered the standard Americanized, "authentic," Mexican menu, but the restaurant did it well, taking the trouble to raise the usual rice and beans sides above the plate-filler level of quality. Good service.

The next day, we lunched at Just Desserts in downtown Alton. Loved being able to watch the river rolling by outside the windows. The place had received a heartfelt reference from a local, who waxed poetic on the pies. Neither Carol nor I tried the pie. I had a so-so salad. Carol had a quiche that was good, but not as good as what she makes herself. The potato soup, however, prompted a big thumbs-up.

We poked into a used book store in downtown Alton.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

On the way home, we saw a family fishing on the Missouri side of the Clark Bridge. They said they'd be happy with anything, but were especially hopeful for catfish.

Clark Bridge, Alton, IL

The bridge looks just as pretty underneath as it does on top.

I sure like Alton. It's got the elements I like in a small town --> strong and interesting city core; lots of trees in old neighborhoods; diverse architectural styles in the well-cared-for historic housing stock;  a vibrant artistic community; a nearby body of water. Best of all, you get the best of two worlds in Alton - you're really close to a large city (St. Louis), with all of its attractions, but far enough way to get the advantage of a quieter, more serene space. Alton's got the bonus of having a scenic byway running through it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Socorro: San Miguel Church, the Fires of Hell, and then Home

[2010 Out West Road Trip.  Travels with Carol.]

In March 2010, my mother, Carol, and I took a road trip from Missouri to New Mexico, in search of sun and warmth. Here is Day 16 of our road trip. 

Thursday, 18 march 10 

We booked out of that sorry Socorro room fairly early, then stopped by the San Miguel Church, built in the late 1500s. Very pretty adobe church. We were able to go inside; the statues are all draped in purple cloth for Lent. 

We subsequently left for today's destination, which was Roswell, where we intended to visit a museum, then spend the night. We already knew we were going to lop off a day from our trip because of incoming bad weather. But after wending our way through some very beautiful mountain vistas, and making a surprise stop at the unexpected Valley of Fires, we suddenly came upon the junction of 380 and 54. Carol said, "54 goes into Missouri, doesn't it?" I said, "yes, do you want to take this instead of going to Roswell?" Carol said, "Sure." And I said, "Why the hell not?"
Thus in the space of a very few seconds, not only did we change our route, but made the almost-simultaneous decision to simply deadhead home. So we stopped for lunch at Santa Rosa, NM, and have now stopped for the night here in Shamrock, TX, which is very close to the Oklahoma border. 
Note: En route between Santa Rosa and the TX border, we drove through smoke. Unlike Oklahoma, NM doesn't care if people drive through smoke, as long as you roll up your windows.
We passed what looked like a very nasty crash site just east of McLean, TX. Multiple police cars.  
We've got about an 11-hour trip to Warrenton on Friday, and hopefully, we'll arrive soon enough that I'll be able to jump into my car and get home to Jefferson City by dark. We'll see.
The days have really zipped by on this trip, but I think we'll both be glad to be home. Of course, when I get home, it will be sans satellite TV, which means no TV, period, since I don't have the special box that allows local channels. I cancelled the satellite effective end of February. Culture change! I'll rely on Netflix movies for my visual stimulation or lack thereof.
Also on this trip, I said a final goodbye to a 9 or 10 year-old nightshirt. It was disintegrating in front of my eyes, and I left it in that sorry Socorro hotel room.
Our long drive today offered yet another example of how ever-changing the NM geography, etc. are: mountains, plains, foothills, fat rolling hills, you name it, it's here. It is endlessly fascinating to me. Carol is a bit less enamored.
Yes, I agree it is time to come home.  If only to get some control of my food choices.  Am embarrassed to say for a late lunch at Joseph's Restaurant (a national shrine to the Mother Road Route 66) I ordered their primero dish called Chicken Fried Steak that came with mashed potatoes and two shades of gravy.  It was delicious and unfortunately memorable.  Look forward tomorrow to real life but this trip has been unforgettable.  Mzuri has made it possible for me and we did get along every day.  We are foregoing dinner tonight and I'm only having Cheddar Pringles with French Onion dip and a Bloody Mary. 


Carol, will you be at coffee on Sunday?

There is a chance of snow here for Saturday!  Tomorrow should be close to 70 and then drop throughout the night.  Jaz will be so excited to see you, she misses her Anenie. 

Thanks for the heads-up ... that's exactly what we wanted to avoid by coming home early. 
I look forward to seeing Jaz and Tim also. I'm pretty sure on Sat., I'm going to be majorly in cave mode, so beware!

Glad to hear that you made it through the smoke!  Also, I'm sorry to hear about your nightshirt...I've done the long stare at a good shirt before ditching it in the past, and the only word I can think of to describe the emotion is "deflated."  If this shirt can fail, what can I depend on?  Anyway, drive safely on the way home, and enjoy the gravy for me.  There is none worth eating in NYC.  On biscuits or otherwise.  Lastly, I'm trying to find someone who remembers the glory days of the New York Yankees from 1950-1967, because I met their 6-time World Series champ and Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford in Florida this week.  He's 81 years old, but still had the pipes and energy to sing Frank Sinatra's "New York" with me.  Then we went to a strip club.

Have a nice drive.

P.S.  I was just kidding about the strip club...but I've found that it's a great way to end a story when I didn't take the time to develop the climactic arc essential to worthwhile narrative...forgive me. 

Welcome home travelers.

Yeah, bummer about the nightshirt. I have another shirt - a pullover, actually - that is overdue for the trash also, but I haven't had the heart to throw it out. Yet.

Personally, I'm not a gravy fan, but I did have a bite of Carol's chicken-fried steak and it was, in a word, decadently delicious.

We're glad to be home and very glad to have missed what turned out to be a spring blizzard in OK and AR. 

Too hilarious.  I have a night shirt that is so thin and will rend while innocently sleeping.  At the latest gaping tear I thought..well its time.  But I will wash it and maybe use as a dust cloth once or twice.  I think it is folded neatly in a pile of laundry.
Loved this bit "I didn't take the time to develop the climactic arc essential to worthwhile narrative...forgive me."  I simply will have to use this in the future!  I have no intention of asking for permission to use and I will deny the source if questioned.  I also have no compunction in using it at my caprice.  but thanks NYC!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Socorro: Camino Real and the Unreal Fort Craig

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
[2010 Out West Road Trip.  Travels with Carol.]

In March 2010, my mother, Carol, and I took a road trip from Missouri to New Mexico, in search of sun and warmth. Here is Day 15 of our road trip. 

Wednesday, 17 march 10

We're both pretty tired out this evening. And alas, we're in a kind of ... disappointing ... hotel room. We could have moved, but we just didn't have it in us to pick everything up and carry it to another room.  
Craftsman at Camino Real Center
We left T or C about 9:30 after a good breakfast at the Happy Belly Deli. Drove up I-25 toward Socorro, when we saw signs for the Camino Real Center, and we stopped. Wow, what a surprise! This place is pretty much in the middle of nowhere - and it is intended to be such, to give people an idea of what it was like to travel on the Camino Real (the royal road) during the 400 years in which it was active between Mexico and New Mexico. Beautifully designed, the exhibits are presented in interesting ways, and you are led in a natural progression through the exhibit rooms. 

Camino Real Center
There is a pretty outdoor area that includes a desert garden. The property abuts Ted Turner's Armendaris Ranch. In re: the location -- a historian who helped get the center off the ground walked 30 miles in the area to find just the right spot.  as our destination.
We subsequently went to another unplanned stop: Fort Craig. I'll let Carol share that story. 
From Fort Craig, we proceeded to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Fascinating place, even when the bird population is not as huge as it is other times of the year. In addition to lots of ducks and geese, we saw white egrets, HUGE herons - a HERD of heron - plus roadrunners, pelicans, and a sort of brown egret or heron we were unable to identify. Additionally, Carol saw an animal on her wish list - mule deer. Evidently, bobcats have been seen frequently lately. We were advised as well that mountain lions had been sighted and that we should not walk alone. 
Along the way from some point A to point B today, we saw a longhorn chew on something plastic. 
The motel is a Howard Johnson and apparently we got the last available room in Socorro as there is some sort of Christian Revival or Meeting in town.  Just because the showerhead (one of those kind that have tubes leading from the faucets to the working end) is tied with string, microwave but no refrig, a phone that doesn't seem to work right, no working light over sink and very early we got someone else's wake up call (M's side of the bed), the place doesn't seem too bad to me.  The situation on Fort Craig in a few words -- didn't exist except for placards at intervals describing what we were not seeing i.e. one indicating "this was the parade ground located behind the enlisted mens' quarters".  The brochure showed what I expected to be seeing...the fort.  The parking area was distant and high flora prevented the eye from seeing the nothing it was.  St Patrick's Day yesterday.  We ate at a K-Bar and I ordered a baked potato with all kindsof good stuff on it and when it came I saw the biggest potato ever seen - about 10 inches long spilling forth butter, sour cream, scallions, bacon bits and broccoli.  Ate most of it to my shame and can only say it was in honor of the special day and the fact I was tired of rice.  Today we will tour the active Church San Miguel featured in Bishop Lamy's sojourn in the 1600s, as New Mexico was his diocese.  The main character in Willa Cather's Death Comes For the Archbishop is patterned after his remarkable history. 

Very little of the original interior remains of course.  Am hearing some ominous clunks from the transmission and the nice proprietor at this motel checked the fluid for me which was full.  M not as concerned but I would hate to breakdown in the desolate mountain roads.


...am hearing some ominous clunks from the hallway, will send Mzuri to take a look...oh noooo it's Georgia O'Keefe and she wants to show us some awful paintings.

...am hearing some ominous clunks and squeaks at home, coming from the basement....too scared to go look.  will stay close to the unlocked back door while watch the stairs.  ready to run out of the house at the first sight of the top of someone's head!  will run with or without Shiloh!  I will leave the door open for her.  its every man for himself! 
I watch way too many scary things on tv!
heard a little rumble from the kitchen.  Shiloh and I just looked at each other then settled back down. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Truth or Consequences: True Grit

[2010 Out West Road Trip.  Travels with Carol.]

In March 2010, my mother, Carol, and I took a road trip from Missouri to New Mexico, in search of sun and warmth. Here is Day 14 of our road trip. 

Tuesday, 16 march 10 

Another sunny day in the hot springs in T or C. As I write this, Carol and I just returned from a night-time soak under the stars in a private pool. We both feel tres relaxed. The two glasses of New Mexico wine I had at dinner probably helped in that regard, too. 
Speaking of dinner, we had same at Pacific Grill, an Asian and seafood restaurant. Carol had the shrimp scampi; I had a Thai peanut chicken dish. Didn't live up to the glowing reviews, but it was fine.
Earlier in the day, we drove out to Elephant Butte, home of a state park, a dam, and a big rock that looks like an elephant. We then, for the heck of it, turned a direction on a road to see where it would take us. A sign said Engle, so that's where we headed. The road ended at so-called Engle, which seemed to be a very small cluster of buildings. We could choose to go back the way we came, turn left onto a gravel road, or turn right onto a road that ran parallel to the RR tracks to ... somewhere.  

We turned right. We passed many cattle ranches. We saw a number of big trucks go by us in the opposite direction. We kept on til the road ended. To our immediate left was .....  ah, the Spaceport. We turned left into the spaceport entrance, pulling up to the guard shack with a big STOP sign on its front. There was a color photo of a newborn on the window. A guy without any teeth slid open the window and allowed as how we couldn't go any further. It was all very X Files.

So we turned around and went back whence we came, and we were rewarded with cattle crossing the road. Carol was agog with excitement. At one point she wanted to get out of the car, but the three cows who'd stopped to stare at her looked like they were contemplating something vicious, so I said no way, Jose.  
We returned to T or C and drove around some neighborhoods. We took a nap upon arriving home.  

T or C has a different vibe than Silver City. Where SC has a large complement of boomers, all seemingly fit and youthful and either creating art or hiking something (did we mention we breakfasted with archaeologists from the Center for Desert Archeology in Silver City?), and concentrating on being laid-back, the T or C inhabitants appear more life-worn. While they, too, have a laid-back air, it seems to have been hard-won through difficult life paths. We see more families here than in Silver City. Here is a telling excerpt about T or C from "pantylion," a restaurant reviewer:
 Epicureans intent on shaved truffles over rennet-free eggs Florentine stay home; T or C is a place where locals go slit-eyed with hostility at the mere mention of calamari.
OK, this may be a little over the top, but you get the idea. T or C is a small town with a large potential for tourism and as a place to live. Maybe it's always been on the brink of its potential. Whatever, I feel attracted to its grittiness.  

It feels as if we have been here a week and as the days go by I become more irritated by the name Truth or Consequences.  The story is that Ralph Edwards offered any town in the country willing to change their name to his show would qualify for some monetary gain or something.  Every year the people here voted on whether to continue the name or not and each of the fifty years thereafter they voted to do so.  They don't bother to vote any more and Mzuri said she heard some pilgrim ask a native why they kept it and something of a snub was elicited.  The high school has the original name cut in stone over the door - Hot Springs High School.

We are closing the door on this fine and friendly place, stopping first for breakfast at the Happy Belly Deli then off to Socorro.