Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rootless Relocation: Consuming the Remains

Like many people, I enjoy making lists of things to do and crossing off the items as I do them.

In the context of moving, a subset of list-making pleasure is to consume the remains of commodities on hand before packing up and leaving. Doing this feels good on two levels:
  1. Represents micro-closing rituals on life here; and
  2. Keeps me portable.

So with about four weeks left in New Mexico, I'm consuming the remains of: 
  • Oatmeal  (7 September)
  • Tea bags   (4 September)
  • Coffee (packed and brought with me)
  • Olive oil (gave away)
  • Spices (packed and brought with me)
  • Canned goods (packed and brought with me)
  • Bottle of body wash (27 September)
  • Bird seed (to be more clear, the birds are consuming it) (19 September)
  • Paper towels (packed and brought with me)
  • Toilet paper (timing is important on this one)(22 September)(good thing there are paper towels)
  • Scented epsom salts (packed and brought with me)
  • Pickle relish (13 September)
  • Salad dressing (packed unopened one and brought with me)
  • Rice vinegar (gave away)

What should I do with the two containers in the freezer that hold chicken carcasses and the drippings of same? Will I make chicken soup before I go? Haven't figured this out yet. Update: Tossed.

I had some flour and sugar in the freezer. A half bag of white beans. Gave them away a few days ago.

I've got two pairs of trousers that are about ready for disposal. I'll wear 'em and toss 'em during my emigration from New Mexico. Update October 2: Tossed as planned. Ditto for a blouse.

I'll discard a well-used-up kitchen sponge before I go. Done.

This process is so very satisfying.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bernalillo, New Mexico: The 300-Year-Old Promise

Matchines, San Lorenzo Fiesta, Bernalillo, New Mexico


I was taken by the matachines and their history as soon as I saw them in Tortugas at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta in December 2012.

Matachines are religious dancers. ... I hesitate to call them sacred dancers, as I don't know if their regalia is designed to transform the dancers into spiritual representatives, as is the regalia of, say, Apache crown dancers.

The matachine dances, with regional and ethnic variations, are an admixture of Moorish, Spanish, Mexican/Aztec, Pueblo, American, political, historical, social, and natural elements. The dance is a story of victory and loss, blood, divine intervention, respect for the dead, devotion, and promises to be kept.

Matchine headdresses, San Lorenzo Fiesta, Bernalillo, New Mexico

San Lorenzo Fiesta

When I read that Bernalillo is the home of a commemoration of a community's promise made to God after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 (go here** for another perspective on the revolt), I knew I had to be there. 

Matchines shotguns, San Lorenzo Fiesta, Bernalillo, New Mexico

The commemoration occurs on San Lorenzo's feast day, and it is called the San Lorenzo Fiesta. A history
Los Matachines de Bernalillo is an integral part of Bernalillo's identity. Our story begins with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Because of intermarriage and strong ties between the Hispanos of Bernalillo and the Native Americans from Sandia, it is believed that Bernalillo residents were told of the impending revolt. Bernalillo residents were able to flee to "El Realito de San Lorenzo" (present-day El Paso). The Pueblo Revolt occurred on August 10, 1680. As a result of being spared and allowed to flee the area, Bernalillo residents thanked San Lorenzo. By learning the Matachines dance in El Realito, they brought the dance back with them in 1693, they expressed thanks to God and to San Lorenzo.

Diego de Vargas re-settled New Mexico in 1693. He vowed that anyone returning to New Mexico was to commemorate August 10 annually through celebration. The Matachines dance was now one of the central celebrations in Bernalillo and local residents take great pride in the dance being performed continuously since 1693.

Although the dance has changed throughout time, the Bernalillo mindset of the promesa remains true to the very first celebration in 1693. The promesa connects Bernalillo residents and danzantes to their past by worshiping God and honoring San Lorenzo for his intercession by performing the Matachines Dance.

Traditionally only men (as far as I know) danced as matachines. The Bernalillo matachines include men, women, boys, and girls. Where the matachines in Tortugas wore conservative sports coats and long-sleeved shirts, the Bernalillo matachines wear a white polo shirt and black trousers as the base of their regalia.

One long-time Bernalillo resident told me that he thinks some of the traditional gravitas of the matachine tradition has been lost in recent years, and that kids too young are now involved, mostly for their parents' bragging rights.

I can tell you the whip-carrying matachine members still pack a lot of gravitas, serving as walking sergeants-at-arms to keep tourists from getting out of line. On Saturday, I became a part of the fiesta when I walked with community members behind the saints and the matachines. Tourists with cameras who walked ahead of the saints, especially with their cameras out, were told firmly to stay behind the saints. One whip-carrying sergeant-at-arms threatened to take away one man's camera if he didn't get back behind the saints. (He was from New York. You know how they are.)

There're also the two men in red shirts, red flowery hat, bull horns, and two decorated canes. I think they, too, serve to intimidate wayward photographers a bit.

Note: There are explanations about the men with whips and the bulls in the essays here.

Matchines, San Lorenzo Fiesta, Bernalillo, New Mexico

The matachines walk before the saints, but regularly turn and bow to the saints, as they progress up or down the street to or from the church or the mayordomos' house. (The mayordomos are usually a husband and wife team.) In Bernalillo, there are two matachine groups that take turns turning and bowing to the saints.

Once upon a time, I read an article by a man who liked to travel to places where history was occurring in the moment. For example, when people started tearing down the Berlin Wall, he and his kids jumped on a plane and went to Berlin to be an eyewitness. (This idea has been taken to extremes in sci-fi literature, by Douglas Adams and Robert Heinlein, where time travelers book tours to see the end of a world. Quite a lucrative business.)

During one of the processions of the San Lorenzo Fiesta, I walked with community members behind the saints. It felt like walking in history, like being part of the history.

A slide show of photos from Bernalillo on this commemorative weekend, which included music, food booths, and a classic auto (and low-rider bicycle) show:

Bernalillo, NM

** The current link for the alternative historic view is via the Wayback Machine, as the original site domain is now for sale, as of July 2023.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Montezuma, New Mexico: A Faerie Flower

That's not the name of this plant, but it fits, living alongside natural hot springs in Montezuma, within sight of the Montezema Castle, now a private school.  

Ethereal but with a sturdy skeleton.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Mexico Lit: The Devil's Butcher Shop: The Story of the 1980 Prison Revolt

Credit: Book Depository


In a political science class, I learned the origin of the word amok. The professor said it is an Indonesian word and it referred to an intermittent craziness that erupts  - to run amok - resulting in slaughter and other violent mayhem. From wikipedia:
Amok originated from the Indonesian word mengamuk, which when roughly defined means “to make a furious and desperate charge”.[5] According to Indonesian culture, amok was rooted in a deep spiritual belief.[6] They believed that amok was caused by the hantu belian,[7] which was an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused the heinous act. As a result of the belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated amok and dealt with the after effects with no ill will towards the assailant.

I thought of this term when I read The Devil's Butcher Shop by Roger Morris.

What the book is about:

1980 New Mexico Penitentiary prison revolt, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The legal, moral and ethical crimes committed before, during, and after the riot by: 
  • Inmates, 
  • Prison guards, 
  • Contractors and vendors, 
  • Corrections officials at all levels of authority, 
  • the governor of New Mexico, 
  • New Mexico legislators, 
  • the New Mexico judiciary, 
  • the legal community, 
  • Penitentiary doctors and other medical staff, and 
  • All the rest of us for our passive or active participation in the systemic brutalization of our fellow man's bodies, spirits, and minds.

In abundance:

Despair, disgust, contempt, anger, fear.

Horror, gruesomeness, murder, rape, torture, rage, terror.

Corruption, nepotism, theft.


Mercy, kindness, heroism.


Accountability, responsibility.


Thirty years later

Here's a 2010 account from Mary Racicot, who was a 28-year old National Guard medic who arrived on the scene during the revolt.

August 2013: New Mexico considers making the 1980 prison site a tourist attraction.

Have there been substantive changes to the New Mexico prison system? I really don't know. But I'd be surprised if the New Mexico system is substantially better than that of others in the country.

Could the 1980 prison revolt happen again? Yes, in a prison where similar conditions apply, including prolonged inhumane conditions, over-crowding, dormitory-style housing of inmates, co-habitation of violent and non-violent inmates, shoddy prison construction and security processes, corrupt law enforcement officials, and lack of effective oversight by people who should be monitoring the prison goings-on, but who are not. 

I know that when you've got a law enforcement official such as that man in Arizona who boasts of how he humiliates the people in his charge (some of whom have not yet been to trial), that's a red flag that abuse is happening. Indeed, under his leadership, the citizens of Maricopa County have paid $24 million in lost or settled lawsuits as a consequence of in-jail abuse or negligence that runs the gamut from inadequate health care to murder. The good people of Maricopa County who keep this man in office year after year know what happens in the jail and are thus accomplices to the abuse.  The local news media even show videos of negligence and deaths, such as here and here and here and here. So there are no viable protestations of ignorance, just as there were none in New Mexico. Eventually, the Maricopa County sheriff will be vilified by all, but among the people vilifying him will be those who have actively or passively kept him in power as long as it was expedient to do so.

In 2006, California's Secretary of State issued this emergency proclamation about the dangerous and expensive (to taxpayers, people!) over-crowding in the the state prisons. Cowardly legislators who fear  being viewed as soft on crime ignore this situation just as the New Mexico legislators did before the 1980 prison revolt. But that emergency proclamation is from 2006. Whoops, still a problem in 2013. Currently, there's a hunger strike among Californian prisoners. The inmates in the New Mexico prison also tried non-violent methods to effect change before the 1980 revolt. (And neither this statement nor any other in this post is a justification for the behavior of the inmates who tortured and killed during the revolt.)

Mother Jones offers America's 10 Worst Prisons (and 7 unsavory honorable mentions). Is it good news that New Mexico isn't one of them? Or is it that the 10 Worst are just worst than the really bad of so many others?

A quibble about the book

I couldn't keep all of the people in the book straight.

I would have loved for there to have been at least three org charts that covered various periods, not only to keep track of individuals, but to have a visual reference for how they were able to leverage their power because of - or in some cases - out of proportion with - their titles.

Another help would have been if Mr. Morris had used the individuals' titles throughout.

The BBC produced a documentary about the prison revolt, which you can find below:

But only by reading the book do you know what a heroic effort that inmate Dwight Duran (and two others) made year after year after year in their attempts to document what went on in the prison, to get their  information out, and to persevere through all of the obstacles in the path of the final Duran Decree. Or of the scandalous waste of taxpayer monies that the state of New Mexico spent to avoid the need to provide the basics of humane treatment.

Only by reading the book do you learn about the endemic corruption practiced by state officials from the highest to the lowest ranks, which also contributed to the 1980 revolt, and which robbed New Mexican taxpayers of millions upon millions of dollars.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Ethical Question: A Bug on its Back

I encountered a plump, and likely juicy, beetle outside a building at the Santa Rosa Lake State Park. It was on its back, possibly helpless.

I wondered what was the ethical thing to do in this situation.

  1. To intervene: Flip it over so it could go about its business? 
  2. To not intervene: Leave it as it was?

Of course, a third option would be to squash it, but I discarded that option.   
Full disclosure: When such an insect enters my castle, then I kill it as swiftly as I can, both in execution and method. Moths and butterflies, different story. I will do what I can to get them safely out of the house. Yes, it is insect bias. 

More disclosure: I have a bird feeder. I don't feed the feral cats in my neighborhood. Except possibly indirectly, as an unintended consequence of hosting a bird feeder. 
While I considered the choices, I took its photo.

What would you have done about the bug? What would The Ethicist say? The Prime Directive?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Building at the Bend in a Road

Block building, NM 434 near NM 518, outside Mora, New Mexico

On State Road 434, almost to State Road 518, where one enters Mora, I saw this building. It seems to be cracking open like an egg, slowly.

Block building, NM 434 near NM 518, outside Mora, New Mexico

I had to turn around and come back for a longer look.

Block building, NM 434 near NM 518, outside Mora, New Mexico

Will it be here in 10 years?

Block building, NM 434 near NM 518, outside Mora, New Mexico

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico: A Little Gem

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

Not very imaginative, calling Morphy Lake State Park a little gem, but that's what it is.

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

 I took a swing into this park jewel on late Friday afternoon and I saw .... very few people. Remarkable.

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

The park evokes travel-brochure cliches.

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

Romantic hide-away. Relaxing get-away. Idyllic woods. Secret lake. Wooded glens. Moss-covered rocks. Mmmm.

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

Add to that the small adventure of a precipitous incline one must drive to get to the park - it's the kind of angle where you find yourself hunched over your steering wheel as if it will help your car climb better.

On road to Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

I didn't notice evidence of drinking water at the park, but there are vault toilets.

Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

 All this for $10 per night for a campsite? Crazy wonderful. 

On road to Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

I got lost on my way to the park, which is near the town of Mora, but I was compensated with this scene on the wrong road:

On wrong road to Morphy Lake State Park, New Mexico

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Highway 82: Stone Faces

Stone head, Highway 82, near Artesia, New Mexico

Not far from Artesia, New Mexico, is a house with stone faces at the end of its driveway.

Stone head, Highway 82, near Artesia, New Mexico

Damned if I know what it's about.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Las Cruces, New Mexico: Arthropod Museum

Beetle, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Joshua, a Living Rootless reader, recommended that I visit the Arthropod Museum on the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces.

I did and it exceeded my expectations.

When I walked in, I expected the museum to be museum-ish, with display cases and museum lighting, but in reality, it is a room with wooden cabinets, and when you open the cabinet doors there are wooden drawers with glass tops, and inside these are the insects.

There are also some live specimens, which are kept variously in small aquaria or plastic Gladware containers.

Giant African millipede, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Graeme is the curator of the museum. Also present on the day I visited were staffers Ryan and Randall. All three educated and entertained me.

Madagascar roach

There were a couple of live Madagascar hissing roaches and Graeme was willing for me to hold one in my hands. I wanted to be willing, but I couldn't guarantee that once it was placed in my hand, I wouldn't immediately fling it across the room in squealy fear. Ryan had the good idea for me to place my hand on the table and let the roach creep crawl walk on it. I did do this, all the while giggling in the way one does when one is actually scared and not amused.

Madagascar hissing roach, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

I also touched the roach's back while Grame held it, even though it took a few tries for me to get my finger to actually make contact.

Giant African millipede

I could have done Ryan's trick again with the giant African millipede, but I couldn't abide the thought of those hundreds of tiny feet crawling on my skin. I am grimacing now just writing about it.  Ew.

Giant African millipede, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Graeme telling me that millipedes excrete a toxic ooze didn't encourage me, either. But I did feel OK about touching the back of the millipede while he held it.

 Red ants

It happens that Ryan is an ant expert, and I asked him about fire ants in New Mexico and about the tiny red ants that manage a super-highway of traffic in front of my apartment. I don't remember which ant I have, but it's not fire ants. Ryan told me that if I were to squash some of the ants, and then smell them, I'd detect a lemon-lime aroma.

There are fire ants in New Mexico, but they're different than the more aggressive and invasive fire ants (RIFA - red invasive fire ants) we hear about in the media, which are migrating north from South America.

Scariest arthropods

I asked the guys what they thought were the scariest arthropods.

Graeme put forth the bot fly, which, through various vectors, implants eggs just beneath a host's skin, and they grow and .... you can actually see these things moving just under your skin and .... ewwwwwww. Graeme actually experienced being infected by a bot fly.

Randall noted that he was creeped out by a long-ago donation from an unknown person who had pubic lice. Yes, said pubic lice are at the museum. He showed me some really scary disgusting long worm things floating in formaldehyde from the sea that are kind of in the shrimp family, but aren't shrimp like we think of shrimp.

Ryan noted that "mosquitoes have killed more humans than any other animal." And then he later modified that to say, "It's not even the mosquito, it's what's in the mosquito" [that kills us]. That is, the parasites that have hijacked the mosquitoes. Parasites carried by mosquitoes cause, among other things:

Dengue fever
Yellow fever
Japanese encephalitis

If you want to be freaked out some more, check this out: The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs in the World.

Hummingbird-like moth with very long tongue, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Insects in war

Randall's first area of study was history, and when I asked him for any connection between history and insects, he mentioned that in the Civil War, the north used insects to destroy crops in the South. In looking into this further, it seems this story may be apocryphal, but nevertheless, it opened up our conversation into a whole new avenue re: insects.

The Japanese, in the 1930s and 1940s, waged an egregious "study" of entomological warfare, and used their Holocaust-like research to kill an estimated half million Chinese via the deposit of cholera-infected fleas.  This was the doing of  Unit 731, which executed a monstrous project.   

Indeed, insects (in addition to parasites, viruses, et al) have been used for millennia as a tool against enemies. This doesn't count the myriad ways insects have plagued soldiers as a byproduct of war. (Getting back to the Civil War, there is a thought that insect-borne disease killed more soldiers than battle wounds.) In addition to the aforementioned mosquitoes as death carriers, flies and fleas also wreaked havoc on soldiers' health.    

There's a book the three gentlemen referred me to - Bugs in the System: Insects and Their Impact on Human Affairs, by May Berenbaum (who has a connection with the X Files). Unfortunately, this isn't in my current or future local library, so I've bought it online and await its surprises.

Vinegaroon, Arthropod Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Can insects make us zombies?

Maybe, kind of, and we kicked that around for awhile, conjecturing (well, I was) on whether or not we humans might be susceptible to such zombification by tiny critters. .... Last year, I had read this provocative article, about how some of us are infected with a parasite found in cat feces, which can affect our mental processes and behaviors.   

Here's how one parasite takes over the brains of ants to ensure its propagation.

And there's more!

...well, there was more interesting stuff we talked about, and I could have stayed at the Arthropod Museum all day just picking these guys' brains like a parasite, but I tore myself away.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico: Sleeping Beauty

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

Somehow, Eagle Nest Lake State Park park was hiding in plain sight of my do list and my travel plans. It's right there on my list, it's on the maps, yet inexplicably my eyes rolled right over it numerous times without seeing it. Crazy.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

So when I made a whirlwind park loop last weekend, I had left Cimarron Canyon State Park and was headed to the Viet Nam Memorial State Park when I saw signage for Eagle Nest Lake State Park. Such was the blindness in my mind that I struggled to reconcile the existence of this park right before my eyes.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

The nearby village of Eagle Nest, which overlooks the lake, is touristy to be sure, but its visual congestion is well-contained, and makes a convenient destination for those staying in the park, without being too close.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

The lake, surrounded by mountains, is placid and lovely.  While I visited, there were geese and pelicans in residence. Summer flowers abounded, bordering part of the lake.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

The clean lines and openness of the visitor center maximizes lake views with large windows and a welcoming patio overlooking the lake.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

There are campsites here.  If I were going to be in New Mexico longer, I would definitely come back and put up my tent so I could contemplate the lake and the Moreno Valley for days.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

The docent at the visitor center was informative and proactive in telling me about where I might find good wildlife watching at the park (the Cieneguilla Day Use Area), in addition to sharing some of her favorite parks around the state.

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

Eagle Nest Lake State Park, New Mexico

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Mexico Lit: Jajedeh

Credit: Amazon

Jajadeh, written by Harry Hoge, is a work of fiction based on the facts of Apache interactions with the Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans who laid claim to the same lands as the Apache.

The story begins in the early 1600s with the Apache-Spanish era, and ends circa 1865 with the death of Mangas Coloradas in the Apache-Mexican-American era.

Overall, Jajadeh is successful as a means of delivering historical information in story form. It kept my interest throughout. It is also further evidence that the very things you would believe to be fabricated because they sound so outlandish, are the things that are true. Examples include the abominations delivered upon men, women, and children of all sides. 

I do have some quibbles, however.

For example, I felt a little exasperated with the stereotypical "hands on hips, feet apart" for at least two of the women in the story, like "spitfire" Maureen O'Hara in a movie with John Wayne. I also didn't get the sudden marital turn-off between one of the early protagonists and his wife. Where'd that come from?

I thought I would learn the story behind the crown dancers (one of which is featured prominently on the book jacket), but the dance was only barely alluded to. I also didn't understand why Mr. Hoge chose to use the (apparently archaic) term "jajadeh" instead of the modern-day term "ga'an" or "gan" or "ga he" to refer to the  Mountain Spirit.

But overall, again, Jajadeh is an educational, enlightening, and interesting read.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vietnam Memorial State Park, New Mexico

Don't know how this state park ended up where it did, but it's in a lovely, out-of-the-way part of the state.

Atop a hill. Beautiful vistas. The wind. 

Shimmering aspens whispering in the perpetual hilltop breeze. They must look spectacular in the fall.  

It's a place of beauty.

There are places for reflection. 

There are places for sharing.

A gift shop.

There's also a museum, larger than one would suppose from the outside. It seems to pay especial attention to the veterans.

The memorial invites one to slow down, to be quiet for awhile. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Highway 54, New Mexico: Summer Party

Sunflowers, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Near mile marker 157, sunflowers and some friends making a lot of noise. 

Sunflowers and descanso, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Flowers, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Sunflowers, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Sunflowers and friends, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Sunflowers and descanso, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Sunflowers, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico

Sunflowers, Highway 54 near mile marker 157, New Mexico