Monday, December 31, 2012

New Mexico: "Dark Skies"

Moon over Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico


Dark Skies ... sounds ominous, especially for New Mexico, famous for its sunrises, sunsets, and bowls of stars

If you google on "dark skies," the first thing that comes up is info on a past sci-fi, UFO-conspiracy theory TV series.

But "dark skies" also refers to a movement to prevent and reduce light pollution so we can enjoy the starry nights, no matter where we are.

I was aware of the concern about light pollution and some strategies to mitigate it, but I was unfamiliar with the term "dark skies" until I went to the astronomy event at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park earlier this month, hosted by Alamogordo's Amateur Astronomers Group.

Luminary attack

Before I go on, I'd like to tell the story of a luminary attack, permitted by, I can only assume: ignorance, negligent regard for one's neighbors, and lack of quality-of-life zoning.

I used to live in Jefferson City, Missouri, which is right on the Missouri River. On one side of the river, the city perches, for the most part, on a high bluff. On the other side of the river is a large flood plain, intersected by two highways, 54 and 63, that merge for a time as they cross the river into the city. The city airport is in the flood plain. The Katy Trail is also there, on the far fringe of the plain, along with a scattering of houses that have been there for many years. There is also a new-ish soccer-field complex. And there are farm fields. And a town that used to hug the river, but was mostly drowned in the Great Flood of 1993.  And a golf driving range.    

I lived on a street in Jefferson City that described a circle, part of which was on one of the bluffs overlooking the river and the flood plain. 

It used to be you could look out onto the plain and see a beautiful night sky. Or walk the Katy Trail at dusk, enjoying how the light dimmed as night fell.

After the Turkey Creek Golf Center went in, though, it was as if part of the plain had been taken over by land-grabbers who flooded the conquered territory with prison klieg lights. I think I first noticed it when I was walking or driving in the plain itself, and I saw that a house on the east side of the Katy Trail was bombarded by these lights. I use the word "bombard" deliberately. It must be akin to a psychological torture to be attacked by this remorseless light every night, with no escape. If I were the victim of such an assault, I think it would drive me mad.

Credit: Florida Atlantic University Astronomical Observatory

A crazy thing is that these business owners who invade their neighbors' houses and yards with impunity are paying for all of the wasted light that isn't shining on their driving range. This is called "unshielded" light.
There is lighting ("shielded") out there that would permit business users to enjoy their golfing activities without making neighbors' lives miserable. (I can only wonder about wildlife that had to relocate their lairs and nests to avoid the light.)

Credit: Grist

Back to Alamogordo

At the event, I mentioned to the astronomy group how lucky I felt to live in a city where I could see so many stars at night. I'd chalked it up to Alamogordo's low-rise profile and, other than that, hadn't put much thought into it.

One of the astronomy group members explained that this was no happy accident. Alamogordo promulgated the first (one of the first?) "light pollution" ordinances in the U.S. in 1990. This was in response to pressure from the nearby Apache Point Observatory outside Cloudcroft. (Flagstaff, AZ, is proud of its honor as the world's first "international dark skies city" in 2001.)

Credit: Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition

Since 1990, when Alamogordo passed its dark-skies ordinance, new technology (e.g. LED lighting) has rendered it outdated. Also, the folks at nearby Holleman Air Force Base have not seen fit to respect dark skies.

The Amateur Astronomers Group of Alamogordo has a reader-friendly explanation of light pollution and its effects here. (Interestingly, Alamogordo, despite its relatively small population of 30k, has two astronomy clubs. The other is the Alamogordo Astronomy Club.)

New Mexico

With its historic, scientific, and touristic relationship to space, New Mexico has a reputational and financial stake in dark skies.

Chaco Observatory, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Credit: NPS

Travel & Leisure counted New Mexico among the Top 10 Stargazing Spots in the World in 2008, specifically mentioning New Mexico Skies, a private observatory complex near Cloudcroft, in the Sacramento Mountains.  (New Mexico Skies is in the process of creating an astronomers' community, selling 2-acre lots for home-building.)

Whirlpool Galaxy, photo taken at New Mexican Skies. Credit: New Mexico Southern Skies has a series on "dark sky astronomy" travel with a detailed article on New Mexico's dark-sky destinations.

New Mexico's Night Sky Protection Act has been on the books since 1999, but it had no enforcement teeth and it exempted one of the biggest light monsters, athletic fields. In 2009, the legislature tightened the law up and gave it more bite. In the meantime, some communities in New Mexico have created laws more restrictive than the state law to protect "dark skies." 

(Note: Missouri  has no statewide light pollution law.)

International perspective

International Dark Skies is based on Tucson, Arizona. Too bad the videos on its site tend toward the pedantic and preachy. But this one isn't bad, made by the "Dark Ranger:"

I'm very lucky, I think. I can step outside my door in Alamogordo and see quite a few stars. My place is on the very east side of town, up against the Sacramento Mountains, and there are no lights on the mountain faces.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mescalero, New Mexico: St. Joseph Apache Mission Church

St. Joseph Apache Mission Church, Mescalero, New Mexico

The St. Joseph Apache Mission Church is a stunning construction, inside and out. It has a majestic presence that draws one's eye from Highway 70, as you drive through the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

St. Joseph Apache Mission Church, Mescalero, New Mexico

The church has been undergoing a long restoration project, which is almost complete. A slide show of the church below.

St. Joseph Apache Mission Church

About 350 families are members of the church.

My mother and I attended Mass today .... (I've attended Mass three times in two months in New Mexico, which is about the same number of times I've attended Mass in the last 15 years) .... the service was in English, but there were two songs in Apache.

After the service, the congregation typically repairs to the parish hall for refreshments. Today there was actually a full lunch comprised of tortillas, Indian bread, beans, cake, and various stews that congregants brought in. Delicious, and the church members welcoming.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alamogordo, New Mexico: Beehive Burner

Beehive burner, Alamogordo, New Mexico

A beehive burner is also called a teepee burner, but the latter seems in such poor taste (all I can think of are horrible events such as Sand Creek), so I don't like to use it.

Beehive burner, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Alamogordo's beehive burner is a source of frustration for me because I can't get close enough to it for good shots. Private property with multiple "no trespassing" signs.

Beehive burner, Alamogordo, New Mexico

The wikipedia description of a beehive burner is short and sweet:

A wood waste burner, known as a teepee burner or wigwam burner in the United States and a beehive burner in Canada, is a free-standing conical steel structure ranging from 30 to 60 feet in height. They are named for their resemblance to beehives, teepees or wigwams. A sawdust burner is cylindrical.
They have an opening at the top that is covered with a steel grill or mesh to keep sparks and glowing embers from escaping. Sawdust and wood scraps are delivered to an opening near the top of the cone by means of a conveyor belt or Archimedes' screw, whereupon they fall onto the fire near the center of the structure.
Teepee or beehive burners are used to dispose of waste wood in logging yards and sawdust from sawmills by burning. As a result they produce a large quantity of smoke and ash, which is vented directly into the atmosphere without any sort of scrubbing or cleaning, contributing to poor air conditions wherever they are used. The burners are considered to be a major source of air pollution and are being phased out in most areas.

Teepee burners went out of general use in the Northwestern United States in the early 1970s, ...

Beehive burner, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Alamogordo's beehive burner has a name given to it by the EPA, No 1343.

I've heard the Mescalero Apache own the defunct waste-wood burner, but I don't know if this is accurate.

By the photos, you'd think the burner was in the middle of nowhere, but it's not. It is right on the edge of downtown Alamogordo, very close to Alameda Park, the zoo, and the visitor center.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Movies: Famous American Trails

Grand Canyon Rim Trail bench

Moving on from journeys, long or icy .... to the "triple crown:"  Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide.

If you can only watch one, go straight for the last one - the Walkumentary. 

Chubb Trail along Current River, Missouri

National Geographic: Appalachian Trail. What a nice movie. Gorgeous vistas - as much as I love the New Mexico terrain, the vision of all of the green-lapped mountains along the AT were like a sweet glass of water. There are so many stories, direct and indirect, related to the Appalachian Trail, and the director really had to make some tough decisions on what to focus on for a one-hour film. I think there was a good balance between the scenery, history, cameos by hikers/volunteers/scientists, and wildlife. It was a real pleasure to watch. Go here to get a start on the 2013 through-hiker journals.

Rojo Grande Trail, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Pacific Crest Trail. You can watch it the free way (like I did), at the cost of video sharpness, in two parts on youtube. Decent documentary. Not as polished or as comprehensive as the professional job done by NG for the Appalachian Trail. Morbid and understandable focus on the condition of the hikers' feet. Watching them cut at their blisters, not for the squeamish. I turned away a few times. Yecch.Get a start on the 2013 through-hiker journals here.

Sandia Crest Trail, outside Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Walkumentary: Continental Divide Trail. Another video (series) you can watch for free.  Dammit, this is an entertaining movie! Populated by good-natured hikers, the extraordinary adventures of P.O.D.'s tortured feet, artistic shots of poo, good music, funny stories, the poor guy who had a moth trapped in his ear. The best of the three documentaries. 

Trail to ruins, near Tlaxcala, Mexico

And here's a shout out to Missouri's own Ozark Trail, a long trail in progress, which will someday connect with the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas:

John Roth, who founded the Ozark Trail Association, died suddenly - and prematurely - in 2009. Like Jessica Terrell, he was a champion of that part of our Declaration of Independence that says we have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, and for them, that pursuit included sustainable recreation in nature.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Mexico Do List

Before I move to my next place in fall 2013, I want to have checked out these New Mexico locations:

All of the state parks

Bluewater Lake State Park
Bottomless Lakes State Park  Done (20 April 2013)
Brantley Lake State Park  Done (3 August 2013) Post here.
Caballo Lake State Park  Done
Cerrillos Hills State Park  Done (6 September 2013)
Cimarron Canyon State Park   Done (16 August 2013)
City of Rocks State Park   Done   Post here.
Clayton Lake State Park
Conchas Lake State Park  Done (18 August 2013)
Coyote Creek State Park   Done (16 August 2013)
Eagle Nest Lake State Park   Done  (16 August 2013)
Elephant Butte Lake State Park   Done (5 May 2013)  
El Vado Lake State Park
Fenton Lake State Park  Done (11 August 2013) Post here.
Heron Lake State Park
Hyde Memorial State Park
Leasburg Dam State Park  Done (3 May 2013)
Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park  Done (March 2010 on a Travels with Carol road trip). Post here)
Manzano Mountains State Park  Park closed
Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park  Done
Morphy Lake State Park   Done (16 August 2013)
Navajo Lake State Park  Done  (6 April 2013) Posts begin here.
Oasis State Park   Done (28 September 2013)
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park  Done
Pancho Villa State Park  Done  (13 April 2013)
Percha Dam State Park  Done
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park  Done (28 April 2013)
Rockhound State Park  Done
Santa Rosa Lake State Park   Done (18 August 2013)
Storrie Lake State Park   Done (17 August 2013)
Sugarite Canyon State Park  Done (13 July 2013) Post here.
Sumner Lake State Park   Done (28 September 2013)
Ute Lake State Park   Done (29 September 2013)
Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park   Done (16 August 2013)
Villanueva State Park   Done (18 August 2013)

The federal public lands

Aztec Ruins  Done  (6 April 2013) Post here.
Bandelier National Monument Done (7 September 2013)
Capulin Volcano National Monument  Done (14 July 2013) Post here.
Carlsbad Caverns  Done  (March 2010 on a Travels with Carol road trip) Post here
Chaco Canyon
El Malpais  Done
El Morro   Done
Gila Cliff Dwellings Done  Post here.
Pecos National Historical Park
White Sands National Monument   Done
Carson National Forest
Cibola National Forest
Gila National Forest
Kiowa National Grassland
Black Kettle & McClellan Creek National Grasslands
Lincoln National Forest  Done. Posts here and ....
Rita Blanca National Grassland
Santa Fe National Forest
Aguirre Spring Campground  Done
Angel Peak Scenic Area   Done  (7 April 2013) Post here.
Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness  Done  Post here
Black River Recreation Area
Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area
Casamero Chacoan Outlier Community
Cebolla Wilderness
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
Datil Well Recreation Area Campground
Dripping Springs Natural Area   Done (19 April 2013) Post here.
Ignacio Chavez Special Management Area
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Lake Valley Townsite
Ojito Wilderness
San Lorenzo Canyon Recreation Area
Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site   Done
Valley of Fires Recreation Area   Done  Post here.
Wild Rivers Recreation Area

All of the border crossings between Old and New Mexicos

I also want to see the crazy fence between the U.S. and Mexico.


  • Red Paint Powwow in Silver City (January) Done. Post here.
  • Poppies Festival in El Paso (March)  Missed
  • Winston Spring Fiesta (March) Don't think this happened in 2013
  • Truth or Consequences Fiesta (May) Done. (3-5 May 2013)
  • Gathering of Nations (April)  Done (27 April 2013) Posts begin here.
  • Cactus Carnival (May) Went to Columbus, NM, in April instead.
  • Bluegrass Festival in Deming (May)
  • Blues Festival in Silver City (May)
  • Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival (June) Done. Post here.
  • Gallup InterTribal Indian Ceremonial (August) Didn't go.
  • Hatch Chile Festival (September) Whoops! Got my weekends mixed up, so missed this.

Other stuff

I better get crack-a-lackin'!  I've barely got 9 months left!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Who Owns New Mexico?

My mother, Carol, visiting me from Missouri, asked a similar question of the staffer at the Northwest New Mexico Visitors Center, who responded that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "owned" the most land in New Mexico. 

I've been thinking about this question ever since.

New Mexico has 121,589 square miles or ~ 77.8 million acres or so.

This 1997 article listed the 40 largest private owners of New Mexico land. (Ted Turner was 3rd at more than 1 million acres.)  The authors claimed that 56% of New Mexican land was in government hands (including Indian reservation lands, which makes me wonder - do the Indians own it or not - if the writers lumped same with government land?).

In federal hands

The BLM says it manages 13.4 million acres of public lands in New Mexico. 

The USDA Forest Service manages 9.1 million acres of New Mexico land.

The National Park Service manages some 574k acres in New Mexico (though I'm really squishy about these figures).

So where are we so far?
  • BLM: 13.4m
  • USFS: 9.1m
  • NPS: 574k

Subtotal = 23 million acres owned by the federal government, non-military
Balance = 54.8 million acres

Oh, wait, this 2012 federal document (look on page 4) gives me a total: the feds have 27 million acres of New Mexico land in its hands, or 34.7%.

Largest private owners of NM land: 2008

Credit: Santa Fe Real

 We'll go with a million acres in New Mexico owned by the Singleton family.

The Big 13 Landowners own ~ 3.446 million acres of New Mexico.

Running total:

Feds -->  27 million acres
The Big 13 --> 3.446 million acres

Subtotal = 30.446 million acres/77.8 million acres

New Mexico state parks:

New Mexico's state parks comprise about 91,000 acres.

Subtotal = 30.537 million acres/77.8 million acres

I'm bored now. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Bent, New Mexico: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

On Highway 70, between Tularosa and Mescalero, in Bent, New Mexico.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bent, New Mexico

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movies: Icy Journeys

Rustavi - A snowy day

Am still on a journey movie thing.

Here's a spate of movies about journeys into really cold places.

Arctic Extreme: 118 Days in the Captivity of Ice. This was one hour of scary tension. A polar bear shoving his head into your tent! Not knowing if or when the ice was going to break and plunge you into the depths of frigid water! Hearing the omnipresent rending and grinding of ice all around you! Carrying supremely heavy loads over craggy, unforgiving shards of hard snow. It's stressful just writing about it. Story: A group of Slovakian and Russian men cross the North Pole by walking from Russia to Canada without any external support en route. I liked how the narrator and photographer were able to illuminate the hardship and chronic fear experienced by the team in an understated manner. If there was ever conflict among the team members, that went unmentioned.  I contrast this with the prima donna behavior exhibited by one of the principals in another long-journey movie, Running the Sahara.  

The Greely Expedition. PBS summarizes the movie right nicely: "In 1881, 25 men led by Adolphus Greely set sail from Newfoundland to Lady Franklin Bay in the high Arctic, where they planned to collect a wealth of scientific data from a vast area of the world’s surface that had been described as a "sheer blank." Three years later, only six survivors returned, with a daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism. The film reveals how poor planning, personality clashes, questionable decisions and pure bad luck conspired to turn a noble scientific mission into a human tragedy." A subtext of this documentary was how the adversity "made" some of the men and brought out the worst in others. It was also the story of how low the leader sank in his behavior, becoming an object of his men's contempt, only to have the opportunity to rehabilitate himself later, earning their utmost respect.

Everest: IMAX. Stunning photography. Overwrought music. A Disneyfied view of Kathmandu.  An oddly detached accounting of the tragedy that occurred during the filming of this documentary, which told the story of a group of people climbing Mt. Everest. (Jon Krakauer's book on this event is excellent: Into Thin Air.) Overall impression of the documentary: Dull.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Trouble with Tumbleweeds

Russian thistle, in its pre-tumbleweed life. Credit: Jim Pisarowicz

You may recall I killed a tumbleweed on my way to Alamogordo.

Russian thistle, aka tumbleweed. Credit: Fred Bauder.

They're kind of engaging, tumbleweeds, like bouncy lab pups always on the wrong side of trouble, or prickly tribbles, and it's difficult not to anthropomorphize them into young'ns, teen-agers, and adults, depending on size.  I like how the Quantum Biologist describes them:

"Tumbleweeds: ... out here in the day-to-day life of the American West, they’re practically an animal of their own. You swerve to avoid hitting them on the highway. They nuzzle the barbed-wire fences, sniffing out an opening. They show up mysteriously like stray cats in your yard overnight. Though native Westerners give them scant notice, transplants like me still have a starstruck fondness for them, as if they were some B-list actor from a John Ford movie that we’d discovered, lost and drunk, making a cameo in the alley behind our house...."

The Columbus Museum of Art commissioned this cinematic study of tumbleweeds:

Tumbleweeds are not always endearing. Here is the account of a member of the Chihuahua Desert Wildlife Rescue organization:
"You have not really experienced life until you have been attacked by one of these monsters as you drive along our local roadways. This can be especially frightening at night when, under cover of darkness, they sneak up on you and devour your car. I remember a cold, windy night a good many years back. A good friend and I were driving along a narrow, rocky road in the mountains near Bingham, New Mexico, in my friend's VW bug. Suddenly we were am-BUSHED by a huge tumbleweed flying off the mountainside. I do believe we both wet our pants."

I thought tumbleweeds were indigenous Southwestern plants, but they're not - they're Asian exports, thought to have insinuated their seed into grain brought by immigrants to South Dakota in the 1870s. New Mexico considers them noxious weeds. Most tumbleweeds in New Mexico are the Russian thistle.

As early as 1895, the Russian thistle had proven so prolific that one alarmed academic had this to say
"Kill it first, if possible, whatever it may be, and find out its name afterward... There is but one treatment to recommend for (it), utter extermination from New Mexico, and let me emphasize this statement: Now, if ever, is the time to exterminate it!" 

When driving down a New Mexican road, it is fascinating to see tumbleweeds caught up against fences, trapped there by prevailing winds and wire. Eventually, a pile-up against the fence gets tall enough so that the tumbleweeds at the top can get over to the other side.

En route to Santa Fe last week, I was enthralled by the tumbleweeds on the fence along Highway 285 south of Cline's Corners. Look on the left side of the road.

Here is a good photo of tumbleweeds piled up along a fence.

Tumbleweeds against fence, New Mexico. Credit: Sarah at Adobe Nido.

In reading the text to describe Sarah's photo above, you can see how hard it is to write about tumbleweeds without imbuing them with thoughts and feelings!

So, is Russian thistle good for anything?

According to Utah State University
"Russian-thistle hay saved the beef cattle industry during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, when no other feed was available for starving animals."

"Cattle and sheep eat Russian-thistle, and it is a minor component in mule deer and elk diets until it flowers and becomes spiny. It is an important prairie dog food, and pronghorn eat it readily. Russian-thistle seeds are eaten by birds, including scaled and Gambel's quail, as well as small mammals."

Well, other than nocturnal ambushes of innocent people, why are tumbleweeds a problem?  

Again, Utah State University offers the best description:
"Livestock ranges, deteriorated from drought or overgrazing, are frequently invaded and dominated by Russian-thistle. After seeds mature in late fall, the plant stem separates from the root and the plant is then blown by wind. Seeds fall to the ground as the plant tumbles. The tendency of dead plants to collect along fence lines and buildings creates a fire hazard. During a fire, ignited plants can blow across fire lines and make fighting fire more difficult."

How to best manage Russian thistle? 

I like Utah State University's emphasis that Russian thistle thrives in disturbed land (see my post re: salt cedars), thus recommends solutions related to this core cause: 
"Prescribed burning will not control Russian-thistle since it thrives on disturbed sites, and seeds are easily spread from unburned areas by tumbling weeds. Some herbicides are effective against Russian thistle, and current herbicide information can be found in the Weed Management Handbook on the University of Wyoming Extension website. Revegetation of infested areas, along with the removal of disturbing factors like overgrazing and fire, is the best way to repair lands infested with this weed." [Emphasis mine.]

I leave you with the Tumbleweed Invasion. (You may wish to hit the mute button for maximum enjoyment.)


Saturday, December 22, 2012

"We Stop for Carcasses."

My mother, Carol, who is visiting me from Missouri, and I were driving at a speedy clip down Highway 117, I think, when I saw chicken-sized ravens making merry on the remains of a large mammal. I wondered if I should stop to take a look, but passed on.

I commented to Carol, "Did you see that animal the ravens were eating"?
"No," she said. 
I asked, "Do you want me to turn around"? 
"Yes. We stop for carcasses," she replied.

So I turned around.

Dead elk, Highway 117, New Mexico

Earlier in Carol's visit, we'd stopped for this fallen elk on Highway 70 between Tularosa and Mescalero.

Dead elk, Highway 70, New Mexico

As Carol was framing her shot, a car pulled up behind us. A man emerged and walked toward us. What? Ah, he was a tourist from Nebraska. He had his camera out, too.

A few years ago, on another trip to New Mexico with my mother, I stopped for a wilderpee along Highway 152, only to almost stumble on this dead dog.

Dead dog, Highway 152, New Mexico

Speaking of almost stumbling on carrion while finding a good place to relieve oneself, here's a shot of a dead deer in Carson National Forest, also in New Mexico, on yet another past trip.  I got all artistic on this shot.  

Dead deer, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

 There has been no lack of carrion in Missouri, either:

Dead armadillo, Highway 21, Missouri

Dead frog, Missouri

Dead snake, Missouri

Dead something, Highway 21, Missouri

Then there was the horse in Nazret, Ethiopia:

Dead horse, Nazret, Ethiopia

... and the one in Monument Valley:

Dead horse, Monument Valley

This poor bird got caught in some branches in Arkansas:

Dead duck, Arkansas

Remains of dove killed by hawk, which later return for leftovers. Alamogordo, NM

 We stop for carcasses.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gallup, New Mexico: Gallup Cultural Center

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

Sadly, the Gallup Cultural Center seems to get short shrift in the review universe. I'm not sure why - perhaps it's the lack of a firm identity online as a cultural center rather than just a building that happens to house a cafe, museum, gift shop, art gallery, railway station. Some would say it has no strong "brand."

I'd like to meet the people responsible for the interior's design to express my appreciation.

There is a plainness evocative of, in my midwestern/eastern experience, the Shakers. But perhaps it's a function of a Navajo artistic sensibility. I don't know about that.

In the cultural center, particularly upstairs in the museum and gallery, there is a rightness of space, the filling of space, and light.

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

The cafe on the street level maintains a historical vibe, with interesting vintage photos of people who have lived or visited around Gallup.

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

The building's exterior is a handsome structure and it sits alongside the multiple railroad tracks, which is fitting, as Gallup exists because of the railroad. The story is that Gallup got its name from the railroad paymaster, whose name was Gallup, and workers got in the habit of saying, "let's go up to Gallup to get paid." Or something like that.  Here is a transcript of an interview with a native Gallup man, Tom Woodard, who was (still is?) an arts and crafts trader. He was a member of the UITA, the United Indian Traders Association

Gallup Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

 My favorite quote of his about trading is this:

It's been a very interesting life to me. And I have just started learning. I don't know it yet. An expert's somebody's that been in this for less than two weeks. Then you find out how much you don't know, and you get quieter and quieter as the years go by, because you realize how much you don't know. But it's really been fun for me.

Go here to read or listen to other members - or artists who traded with - the UITA.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where I Will Not Be Living Next Year

Cultural Center, Gallup, New Mexico

Not long ago, I had the thought that if I were to spend a second year in New Mexico, I might spend it on the western side of New Mexico, such as in Grants, Gallup, or Farmington.

Now that I've visited Grants and Gallup in December (posts to come), I know that while both have a number of qualities to commend them, I'll not be living in either place (or Farmington). 

Too bloody cold.