Monday, September 30, 2013

New Mexico: The Sonic Boom Count

Being based in Alamogordo for my year in New Mexico, I heard a number of sonic booms.

Some were more exciting than others, the exciting ones making me jump and exclaim, "Holy shit!"

In all, I heard 46 sonic booms between September 25, 2012, and September 29, 2013, my last day in New Mexico.

The booms tended to come in spurts, thus I might hear a few one day and then none for several weeks. Then maybe one boom on one day and another on the following day.

Here is a re-post of what I wrote in October 2012:


It startled the heck out of me, and then I remembered where I was, Alamogordo, which is only 10 miles from the Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range (Army). Right. Sonic boom. Cool.


And a few moments later, again.

A video on sonic booms:  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Three Years Ago Today: I went rootless


September 28, 2010, the first blog entry.

I went rootless then, and that's when the speed of time changed.

Two years ago today, I was in Tsalaskuri, Georgia.

Tsalaskuri, Caucasus Georgia

A year ago today, I was just settling in to Alamogordo.

Today, I am en route from New Mexico to a sojourn in Missouri before settling into my new one-year home in Louisiana.

I'm a very lucky person.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Louisiana: The Sea Below

I'm not in Louisiana yet - won't be til November, but this grabbed my attention

From the New York Times article, Ground Gives Way, and a Louisiana Town Struggles to Find Its Footing:

Much of Louisiana sits atop an ancient ocean whose salty remains, extruded upward by the merciless pressure of countless tons of rock, have formed at least 127 colossal underground pillars. Seven hundred feet beneath Bayou Corne, the Napoleonville salt dome stretches three miles long and a mile wide — and plunges perhaps 30,000 feet to the old ocean floor. 

A bevy of companies has long regarded the dome as more or less a gigantic piece of Tupperware, a handy place to store propane, butane and natural gas, and to make salt water for the area’s many chemical factories. Over the years, they have repeatedly punched into the dome, hollowing out 53 enormous caverns.

View Larger Map

More here and here and here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rootless Relocation: Departure Day Minus Two


  1. I am relieved - sold both of my beds just this morning! And just as importantly, they have been picked up. 
  2. Did laundry. 
  3. Put on the khaki trousers that I'll toss at the end of the day Friday. 
  4. Counted the eggs in the refrigerator and saw that I have precisely the quantity I need between now and my departure on Friday. 
  5. Combined my hand-wash laundry soap and my machine-wash laundry soap into one container. I'd hoped I would be emptying the contents of the larger bottle into the smaller bottle, instead of the reverse, but no.
  6. I think by the end of the day, I'll be able to empty the contents of my refill-size bottle of liquid hand soap into the smaller hand-soap dispenser. 
  7. Put items for donation into my car so I can deliver same tomorrow. 


I'm liking the return to empty space in my apartment. Feeling it's the right decision that, next time, no "real" beds. (Wouldn't it be funny if I found a furnished place in Louisiana? I could live with that.)

Whenever I think about the perfect space for me, I think about the large square room in the Hotel Taitu in Addis Ababa. An Italian teacher lived in this room. There was no bathroom in his room, but there was a sink with running water. There was also a large wooden balcony, covered, where he had a big table with chairs. From the balcony, he overlooked the little cafe beneath mature trees, behind the hotel. High ceilings. Every day, he was able to descend a grand, wide, dark wood staircase to the elegant, albeit a little tired, lobby.

It turns out I still have my poster from the Yukon, a relic of the road trip my daughter and I took to Alaska one summer. Only now it is in a different frame; I removed it from the orange frame that had lost its glass, and discarded the frame. So where I arrived in New Mexico with three frames, I leave only with one, having sold the first some months ago.

Will everything fit in the car?

It's still a mystery.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Long Journeys: The River .... and a Sidebar on Journeywomen

Love Your Big Muddy

I love that this river adventurer is a woman, she's of a certain age, and she's a fellow Missourian. She lives 30 miles from my hometown.

Her precís (I've added the links):
My name is Janet Moreland. I am a Missouri River paddler from Columbia, MO, most often found at or near Cooper's Landing. I recently graduated from college with a degree in Education, and am now certified to teach middle school social studies and/or science. Currently, I am in the midst of a 3700-mile Source-to-Sea solo kayak expedition from the Missouri River source at Brower's Spring, Montana, to the Gulf of Mexico. I left Columbia on April 14, 2013, and anticipate a November completion. My mission includes elements of education, environmental stewardship, and empowering youth, women, and men to confidently pursue their dreams.

Here is a podcast interview with Ms. Moreland at The Pursuit Zone.


In her post here, Ms. Moreland talks about times recently when she felt fear. It was good to see how she felt it and what she did about it. [The bold and underlining are mine.] 

On a treacherous lake crossing that she'd received numerous warnings about, she wrote in her journal: “I need to stop wondering if I’m making the right decision and just trust my judgment. I can SO do this!”

At one campsite where she worried about mountain lions, she reported: " .... That very night, after I was zipped up in my tent, some animal made a loud noise right around dusk just outside my tent. Holy mackerel! It was a honk, cough, yell, growl, screech, or something, I don’t know what.  “Stay calm,” I told myself. “What do you need to do to survive?”  I took the safety off of my bear spray, got my buck knife out, grabbed my machete, and put my whistle around my neck.  I was hoping it was not a mountain lion. ..... "

During a nasty electrical storm: " .... I couldn’t help but think I had just inserted into the ground a lighting rod, which seemed to be the high point on shore, and right outside my shelter.  Oh well, there was nothing more I could do.  I had to wait out the storm, and I did it squatting with only my feet touching ground and my hand on my SPOT “SOS” button.  I thought if lightning struck me, my reflex would press the button....." 

How Ms. Moreland's handled her fear reminded me of two other women who undertook long journeys:

This hilarious telling of Molly Langmuir's four-day solo hike in the Tetons, where she was terrified of encountering a bear. My favorite bit:
On a scale of one to 10, how much fun did you have?
I'm actually not sure I had any fun. The trip was challenging, which I always like, and now that I'm through it, something I'm glad I did, but I basically spent the entire time in a state of sheer terror, so there wasn't much room for fun. I guess a one?

And the book, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. She told herself that she did not fear mountain lions, bears, or rattlesnakes. That this was necessary for her to be able to embark on the hike. If she'd allowed herself to consider fear, then she couldn't have gone.

But here's the sidebar on journeywomen

There's a lot of debate in the news right now about banning the niqab in some places or not banning, and about imperialist countries imposing their cultural shoulds on other cultures, that a culture will stick up for itself, thank you very much, and so on.

The other day, when I went to the Alamogordo Balloon Invitational by myself, without asking the permission of a brother or father or uncle or husband or son, having driven to the event by myself, in a car that I alone own, and walked around the event unescorted, I appreciated - yet again - how lucky I am that I have the choice to do all of the things I just listed.

When I think about Ms. Moreland, or Ms. Strayed, or Ms. Longmuir's journeys, it is with appreciation that these women have the choice to do such things.

"Such things" including the fundamental human right to use our intelligence and talents to their fullest, without religious, cultural, or other restriction imposed on us because we are women.

This right is called self-determination: the determination of one's own fate or course of action without compulsion; free will.

So while the debate goes on, I'd like this basic tenet not to be lost.

When I'm feeling exasperated about the latest indignity done to women somewhere - control dressed up in the guise of culture - I like to play this video.

Some might consider it a metaphorical middle finger. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Alamogordo: Balloon Invitational

Alamogordo Balloon Invitational 2013, New Mexico

The Alamogordo Balloon Invitational was a good almost-last hurrah for my time in New Mexico.

Alamogordo Balloon Invitational 2013, New Mexico

It was as if the balloons were being hatched and delivered unto the sky like a flock of tropical birds.

Alamogordo Balloon Invitational 2013, New Mexico

I like when we humans create beauty.

Fly away pretty bird:

A slide show:

Alamogordo Balloon Invitational 2013 



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Highways 54 & 3, New Mexico: Duran Green Eyes

Highways 54 and 3, Duran, New Mexico

I have passed this building so many times in my lopes up and around New Mexico this year.  These eyes. One of the most striking features of the village of Duran.

I didn't know the history of the building or the town until I read this: The Last Hanging Crime: Duran, New Mexico. Well told.

Yet another reminder of how we sometimes pass by a spot in the universe that practically shimmers with the ectoplasmic echoes of personal histories - dramas that were so cataclysmic for those involved - but of which we are unaware. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Columbus, New Mexico, Part 11: School Kids

On the left, Mexico. On the right, U.S. Look at that --> same sky is over both.

I didn't envision a Part 11 for Columbus, New Mexico. Hell, I didn't think there'd be a Part 2 when I first arrived at this dusty little town.

But the Washington Post published a thoughtful article today about the kids from across the border who attend school in Columbus: Children Cross Mexican Border to Receive a US Education.

In my view, this is a good investment for the local, regional, state(s), and our bi-national futures. The children grow up to be adults and likely will live in the U.S. - we need adults who are well-educated and who will be self-sufficient, productive members of our society.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Highway 3, New Mexico: Thump, Thump

Highway 3, New Mexico

I was driving down Highway 3 from Interstate 25 toward Duran.

I wasn't all that far from Villanueva when I heard a soft thump on my car's underbelly. Noted it and didn't think too much about it. But then there it was again. .

I glanced in my rearview mirror for a clue, but saw nothing.

But then as I looked more closely on the road ahead, I saw it. Saw them.

Grasshoppers, lots of 'em.


Reminded me of that year when my daughter was in a play in Arrow Rock, Missouri. We spent a lot of time on the road between Jefferson City and Arrow Rock. There was a lot of rain that year, and as rehearsals and then performances proceeded, we began to see long stretches of road with squashed frogs on them. Turtle refugees crawling across the asphalt. Streams rising. All of which were omens of the 1993 flood that followed. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Mexico: Prisons Revisited

Back here, I talked about the book, The Devil's Butcher Shop: The Story of the 1980 Prison Revolt.

The old prison

When I found myself in Santa Fe recently, I drove out to see the old prison.

I had mixed feelings about doing this, as I do generally about the practice of visiting sites where extreme violence occurred. Like elephants that pick up and handle the bones of their fallen comrades, are we human animals instinctively drawn to such places? Do we cover morbid fascination with stuff about "learning" or "never again" or "honoring the victims"? I don't know. Perhaps it depends on the visitor's perspective: Do I have a familial connection with this violent locale or am I - pretty it up as much as you like - a death tourist? 

At any rate, I went out there. Entrance is through a guarded gate, because the entrance to the old prison is also the entrance to a new prison. So I didn't get up close, but I did have a congenial conversation with the pleasant corrections officer at the gate.

He hasn't read the book, but he regularly sees would-be visitors to the old prison who have. Can't remember - was it four per week or four per day?

The officer noted that New Mexico learned from its mistakes back then and that such a revolt couldn't happen today, and he provided some examples of how carefully inmates are separated from each other and from the ability to harm guards. He also noted that the officers receive extensive training these days, something which didn't occur in the past.

My first impression of the officer is that he likes his job and feels proud of what he does. From an organizational development perspective, these qualities suggest a healthy organization (or at least a healthy team within the larger system).

Also, he did not engage in any macho bullshit a la the sheriff in Arizona, which suggests to me that perhaps there have been substantive improvements. I also liked how he didn't get even the slightest bit defensive during our conversation. In fact, he was curious about why I thought this way or that.

Don't know if this corrections officer is a jerk at home or in other places, but with the public, i.e. me, he is a positive representative of New Mexico's prison system. Kudos.  

Prisons in New Mexico today

In that original post about the 1980 revolt, I wondered how the prison system in New Mexico today had improved from back then.

Notwithstanding the opinion of the corrections officer I talked to in Santa Fe, it seems that not all lessons have been learned.

Today, news about a lawsuit settlement: New Mexico Settles With Prisoners Made to Straddle Each Other.  This settlement will cost New Mexico taxpayers $750,000. The article refers to another lawsuit in which Dona Ana County agreed to pay $15.5 MILLION for its treatment of an inmate in the county jail.

I'm hopeful that at some point we will realize that good prison management -which includes humane treatment of inmates (and corrections officers) - is economical in the long run:
  • Save taxpayers money lost to corruption (diversion of products/services intended for the prisons); 
  • Save taxpayers money lost to lawsuits for negligence and mistreatment of inmates; 
  • After serving their terms, return to society inmates who haven't been stripped of their humanity or ability to be self-supporting contributors to society; and
  • Prevent the ill effects on corrections officers (and their families) of systemic abuses that they witness - or participate in - toward inmates. 

And I think there is a separate hell for those good citizens who fervently beseech inmates to rape sex-crime convicts within prison. For one, the implicit tolerance for prison rape as a norm deserves reflection. Second, it is beyond me why someone would want to inflict that kind of karma on another human being - unless someone believes his proxy-rapist isn't really human anyway. Third, this kind of exhortation gives tacit approval to corrections officers for abusive treatment toward prisoners in general.


I don't necessarily agree with all of the points that these sources espouse, but I offer them for thought:

Partners for Safety and Justice

A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management

American Bar Association: Standards on Treatment of Prisoners

A Christian ministry: Justice & Mercy: Shedding Light on the Issues

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rootless Relocation: Lessons Learned About Furnishing Temporary Home

Most of the stuff I brought with me to Alamogordo
Most of the stuff I brought with me to Alamogordo

I'll be moving again at the end of this month and all my stuff has to fit in my car.

I've got to dispose of some things:
  • I accumulated while in New Mexico; 
  • I brought with me from Missouri that I no longer need; and
  • That I could still use, but have to unload because there are two large items from NM that I will take with me. 

Lessons learned

Now that the process of furnishing and un-furnishing my temporary home is almost complete, I've learned some things.


Although I think my nursing-home beds are cool, they're kind of a pain to sell. Remember that airbed I liked so much? It lasted me six months of almost-daily use and it only cost about $35. It takes standard-size sheets and it is almost as tall as a real bed. And it's comfortable. In my new place, I believe I'll buy another one. If it goes kablooey in six months, then I'll just replace it. Taking into account price, portability, and labor to hunt/find/discard a real bed, the air bed is the more economical choice.

For a guest bed, a local friend gave me this very cool, dark red, accordion-like chair that makes into a twin bed. Somehow I will fit this into my car and I'll use it in my new place for a living room chair and guest bed.

At the point I have two guests at once, I'll get a second air bed. Ta da.

Table and chairs

These are easy to find, cheap to buy, and easy to re-sell.  No problems here.


I liked having my tiny herb garden and flowers in three pots. These were easy to sell, and I will likely have another little container garden again if I've got outdoor space in my new home.

Bird feeder and shepherd's crook

I bought these here in Alamogordo. I won't do this again. Although I loved watching the visiting birds while I worked, birdseed is damned expensive. I've discovered that the after-market for bird feeders and shepherd's crooks is very poor, taking too long to sell them for an abysmal price. Also, feeding the birds is really all about my entertainment; it doesn't necessarily do any good for the birds. I might as well be feeding feral cats.

The volume of space

As my apartment empties, I appreciate again the volume of space, the lack of stuff. I was very circumspect about the visual bulk I added to my apartment here, so there's not a whole lot I can do to better that in my new place. The beds are one, and if I have a breakfast counter, I won't need a table.

I'm not much of an in-home entertainer, so I don't worry about guest seating - that's what cafés are for.

Relocation cost

This is what it cost me to relocate from Missouri to New Mexico last year. The total was ~ $2070, of which $950 was for the first and last month's rent. So now that I've consumed those two months as the cost of living, the net relocation cost $1120.

I don't know yet how much I'll recoup in the resale of stuff before I go. I'll factor that in when I calculate my next relocation costs.

There'll be some economy of scale, as I will bring the vacuum cleaner I bought in Alamogordo with me, along with the accordion chair-bed, and a desk lamp. Plus the printer and scanner.

(In regard to doing things differently for the actual moving process, I think my process was as tight a ship as it could have been.)

On buying new versus second-hand

I thought I'd buy more things second-hand in Alamogordo than I did. And certainly there is no dearth of second-hand stores in Alamogordo. However, I hate to shop, and I found it to be not-fun to schlep from one second-hand shop to another in search of what I needed. The opportunity costs in time, gas, and things I could have been doing that were more fun became too high for some items. 

My preference is still to buy second-hand, so maybe before I go to Lafayette, I'll try to identify the largest and best second-hand place for household goods in that area.

On apartment choices

This is a little outside the focus on furnishing a place, but:

Upstairs or downstairs. Boy, am I glad I listened to the apartment manager when he steered me to a ground-floor apartment instead of the second-floor place I said I preferred. Ch-ching. He told me it would cost less to cool my place in the summer if I were on the ground floor. And this has proven to be the case, as my upstairs neighbors and I have compared our energy bills.

This will be doubly true in Louisiana, where it's got the double whammy of heat and humidity. (On the other hand, I've got a hankering for a place in the midst of the city, so in that case, I'd prefer something above street level. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Amount of space. At 832 square feet, I have more space than I need. I've had visitors, but most of my time here, I haven't. A dedicated space for guests, i.e. a 2nd bedroom (or the den I have here), isn't essential.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rootless Relocation: Where I'm Going Next

Back here, I noted that my original plan was to relocate to Mexico, but then changed my mind after working the numbers. Gosh, that was only two months ago! Seems like forever.

So where am I going?

My criteria
  • Reasonable access to family and friends
  • Cultural layers
  • Music 
  • Mild winters
  • Beauty
  • Sense of place
  • Affordable cost of living

And you know what's funny, it turned out I had already auditioned my new place here and here without really knowing it. Which is exactly what I had done with New Mexico a few years ago. 

My choices boiled down to
  • Mississippi Delta; or 
  • Louisiana cajun country

Speaking of boiling:

Bring on the crawfish!

I chose Louisiana! And not only Louisiana - the center of the Cajun universe, Lafayette!

Where New Mexico's official question is "Red or green"? Lafayette's unofficial question is: "What are you doing Friday night"?


Bayou Segnette State Park cabin, pre-Katrina, Louisiana

Where the Lafayette Library has story hour in French once a month.

Lake Martin, Louisiana

As much as I will miss New Mexico, I am so excited about a year in Louisiana! 

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana



Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Mexico: This is Where I Came In

Fiesta de la Familia 2013, Immaculate Conception Church, Alamogordo, New Mexico

I was driving down First Street the other day when I saw it.

The big sign advertising the Fiesta de la Familia, the first weekend in October, hosted by the Immaculate Conception Church in Alamogordo.

First thought: Flash back to when I arrived in Alamogordo last September. What a happy feeling.

Second thought: I won't be in New Mexico the first weekend in October. What a bittersweet feeling.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Las Vegas, New Mexico: Longmire Backfire

Longmire. Credit: IMDB

I visited Las Vegas, New Mexico, a few weeks ago. Learned that a TV show was being filmed there, which I'd never seen.


When I returned home, I pulled it up on Netflix.

Holy mother of God, it's a bad show.

You've got a sheriff who carries no cell phone (and evidently not even a police radio in his truck?!) Yes, I get that the writers need for their injured lone wolf to be defiantly retro, but Jesus, it's just irresponsible not to have any means of communication between himself and his posse. He doesn't have to have a smart phone. Hell, a CB radio, at least.

Said sheriff also queries a so-called friend of something like 30 years if he's involved in prostitution or kidnapping - based on the comment of a stranger?

Aforementioned sheriff doesn't even know there's another Indian working at the place where his long-time friend works (who, because he is Indian, is presumed to be the Indian alluded to by the previously-mentioned stranger).

Not to mention the RV bordello that everyone in town seems to know about except for law enforcement....

Longmire should lose in the upcoming elections for sheriff. But then I guess there'd be no show. 

Beautiful scenery, though.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Mexico: Invaded by Ants


When I moved to Alamogordo last September, I noted the superhighway of tiny red ants marching incessantly in an organized, two-way swath on the sidewalk in front of my apartment.

Diplomatic policy

I've kept my eye on them throughout the year, but my insect policy is: You don't bother me and I won't bother you. And. Stay out of my house.

They didn't come to my house and I left them alone.

But last Thursday, I noticed a tiny red ant in my bathroom. Hm, I thought. A few hours later, I saw another tiny red ant in my bathroom. Hmmmmm, I thought.

Unprovoked invasion

On Friday morning, I went into my kitchen and discovered I'd been invaded overnight by tiny red ants. They were all over the place, "place" being my kitchen counter.

What happened to our deal, you tiny red ants? You, you scoundrels!


Yes, I annoyed the ants with vinegar and Lysol (and someone later suggested cut cucumbers would drive them away), but both were only stopgaps until the exterminator arrived.

I was impressed with the exterminator's judicious application of his fluid weapons. I also liked when he said he leaves a certain kind of spider (I forget the name), vinegaroons, and geckos alone - as they eat other insects.

It turned out that many people have called him recently and it's because of the rain. The rain pushes some of the insects inside. He's had an uptick in calls related to ants and scorpions.

And big surprise: He said the ants in my house might not be the ants out on the sidewalk. A different kind of tiny red ant.  

That was an interesting revelation and it reminded me of this story:

Watch out for superficial affinities

In Georgia, my cultural interpretor and hostess, Neli, told me that back in the day, when Georgia was at risk from yet another invasion from one force or another, they had a choice: ally with the Russians or the Azerbaijani?

The Georgians chose the Russians because they shared Orthodox Christianity, whereas the Azerbaijani were mostly Muslim. The Georgians thought this affinity with the Russians predicted a good alliance. Of course, they were wrong, and Russia later turned on them. A good lesson: Sometimes we have more interests in common with groups that we think are very different from us, than with groups we think are like us.

So these ants that invaded me might not have been my guys out on the sidewalk after all. Mea culpa.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico: A Couple of Really Cool Things

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

When my daughter was three or so, I took her to the St. Louis Zoo for the first time. I was pretty excited about this, envisioning how enchanted she'd be by the petting zoo, the exotic animals, the intoxicating smells and sounds. But no, none of that fascinated her nearly as much as the tiny pebbles on the ground of the petting zoo, which she picked up and placed in the pockets of her green trousers.

I've had experiences like that myself, and one of them was Bandelier National Monument. There are many who wax poetic about this national treasure, and I completely support them in their rhapsodies.

But when I visited Bandelier recently, my head was turned by two things I never heard mentioned. 

Pleasing fungus beetle

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

It didn't matter that I never saw the actual thing. The sign was sufficient.  It is just too good to be true that there is a living creature with these three words in its name. Even when I play with only two of the three words, I experience cognitive dissonance: pleasing fungus? fungus beetle? pleasing beetle? But putting all three together is just over the top.

In the picture, it does look kind of cute. Kind of .... pleasing.

Hummingbird moths

As I walked on the path to the Pueblo ruins where the petroglyphs are, movement on the side of the path drew my eye. Looked like hummingbirds at first, but too small. There were the prettiest pink bands on their bodies. Hummingbird moths.

I took a couple of movies, but this one below from loreecew is much better:

I did get a still photo - can you see the moth?

Hummingbird moth, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

These hummingbird moths are the coolest things. Of course, when they're in their caterpillar stage, they freak me out completely. Too big, too green, too, too, too.

One of my friends, upon learning I was going to Bandelier, asked me to send her some photos because she really loves the place. I'm not sure I've got the photos she had in mind. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Montezuma, New Mexico, Part 2: Water

Path between springs and stream, Montezuma, New Mexico

I visited Montezuma a few years ago, then again a few weekends ago, this time with one of my sisters. Albeit tiny, Montezuma is kinda famous for three discrete attractions:
There is also, incredibly, an abandoned ice rink that people use now as an ersatz swimming hole. A guy in an RV seems to live alongside this spot.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico


The hot springs don't fool around - they are hot. Different pools have different temperatures. For some people, this fact is a no brainer, but for newbies - like I was some years ago - this is helpful information. A long time ago, my daughter and I went to some springs in British Columbia and we had no idea that the water at one end would boil you like a lobstor, whereas over at the other hand, the temp was just pleasantly warm.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

The springs in Montezuma are near a cold stream.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico


When my sister and I visited a few weekends ago, there were people soaking in the hot spring baths and people swimming in the stream and there were people going back and forth to enjoy both.

Stream near springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

The vibe around the springs and water is like what you'd expect it was back in the 'old days' regardless of what constitutes the 'old days' for you - whatever decade it was when you were a kid and you went to the swimming hole in the summer.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

In Montezuma, you can enjoy the hot springs year-round, of course. The Las Vegas natives we talked to, who were taking in the waters while we were there, affirmed that it is just as delicious to soak in the hot water while there's snow around you as you might imagine it to be. 

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

The holes above were dark and deep. I swear I saw something slow and heavy at the bottom slide under the divider, and into the other hole. Kind of Stephen-Kingish. This water was very, very hot, and I wondered what living thing could live down there in the depths. .... but maybe I just imagined it.

Stream near springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

Unknown artistic folks created a Japanesque river design by placing stones atop stones.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

An elegant collection of white flowers stood near the spring structures.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

We talked to one couple who had been the whole day, soaking. They had selected a small spring bath with just enough room for the two of them. It was sunny out, a warm day.

Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico

A good day to indulge in such simple pleasure.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Montezuma, New Mexico, Part 1: Light

Come, sit, join us. Dwan Light Sanctuary,  New Mexico.

I visited Montezuma a few years ago, then again a few weekends ago, this time with one of my sisters. Albeit tiny, Montezuma is kinda famous for three discrete attractions:
There is also, incredibly, an abandoned ice rink that people use now as an ersatz swimming hole. A guy in an RV seems to live alongside this spot.

The Dwan Light Sanctuary

In pictures.

Dwan Light Sanctuary,  New Mexico.

Dwan Light Sanctuary,  New Mexico.

Dwan Light Sanctuary,  New Mexico.

And a slide show that shows both 2013 and 2007 photos below:

Dwan Light Sanctuary

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Seven Seasons of New Mexico

Many places on Earth have four seasons. Some have only two - rainy and wet. Or hot and hotter. Or cold and colder. Some have only one: rainy or wet.

New Mexico has seven seasons

  1. Winter
  2. Spring
  3. Wind and Dust
  4. Summer
  5. Monsoon
  6. Chile Roasting
  7. Fall

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Mayor of Golden, New Mexico

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

Leroy Gonzales is the mayor of Golden, New Mexico, by default, as no one ran against him. I don't know if there was an actual election, so maybe he's the mayor because he says he's the mayor, at least until someone comes along to dispute this.

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

He has a love for the nearby Catholic Church, San Francisco.

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

Mr. Gonzales says he "lives for photos" and mail he receives from others. If you feel so inclined, you might sent a postcard to him at: Leroy Gonzales, 1720 Highway 14 North, Golden, New Mexico, 87047.


Mr. Gonzales served in Vietnam.

He is an artist with a sense of humor. His dogs below.

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

Sometimes he collaborates with the universe in his artistic endeavors, as depicted in this tableau. I asked about the three wine bottles lined up - I don't remember what he said about that, but the pick lies at an angle across the bottle line exactly as it fell some time ago from its previous position in the fence. Mr. Gonzales felt a rightness to its fallen state, and decided to leave it as it lay.

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

And he could be making that shit up. Because I think Mr. Gonzales has more than a little talent for showmanship.

Leroy Gonzales, Golden, New Mexico

I'm glad I stopped. And, for that, he's a good mayor for Golden, New Mexico. He helps put it on the map.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Ultimate Quirk Town, New Mexico

Outside Madrid, New Mexico

Madrid, New Mexico.

The ultimate in quirkiness.

Perhaps we can retire this word now.

I liked the metal shop in the photo. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cimarron Canyon State Park, New Mexico: Just Passin' Through, Ma'am

Cimarron Canyon State Park, New Mexico

You may or may not recall that one of my afflictions is that once I'm moving forward, it's awfully hard for me to  reverse course, even when lost (except for carcasses, such as here and here).

One of my recent weekend goals was to check out Cimarron Canyon State Park. I approached it from the east. That is, I was moving west when I entered the park. I figured I'd stop at the visitor's center and decide on a trail I might walk, and generally see what was what at this park. 

I kept driving and driving, passing by little pull-outs for day use areas, sometimes going by one with a cluster of people looking up at the bluffs that formed the canyon wall.

I was getting really hungry for lunch, so I postponed my arrival at the visitor's center (where the hell was it, anyway?), and turned into a creekside spot.

Lunch spot and Cimarron Canyon State Park, New Mexico

The view above is what I looked at while eating my lunch. The small area has several picnic tables and a vault toilet.

Lunch complete, I got back in the car to continue my way to the visitor's center. Mile after mile I drove, thinking soon I'd run out of park, wondering if the visitor's center had been at the east end of the park and I'd somehow missed it. Finally I saw a sign for a campground on the right, along with a sign that said "park office."


1. The park office could tell me where the visitor's center was; or
2. The park office was the visitor's center.

It was closed.

So I just kept on going.

I did later get the answer to my question, though. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What's the News? for the Rootless

I'm in the process of overhauling my news sources after several years of electronic custom to a handful of papers. 

Lost loves

It used to be that I could rely on my long-time loves, The Atlantic, or The Christian Science Monitor, to sustain me with thoughtful, comprehensive, interesting information, from diverse points of view, on a constellation of topics.

I can remember even now specific pieces from The Atlantic that were written 10 or more years ago, they were that revelatory, and touched on, for example: new ways to look at some diseases (1999) the difference between genetic code that drives our morals versus that which drives our religiosity (1998), public security  (2002), dogs as parasites (1999), the "unbuilding" of the World Trade Center after 9/11 (2002) and a true story of a group of people (1997) who gathered in a particular library on a particular day of a particular year to see what might happen.

As the 2000s matured, however, we grew apart. The Atlantic seemed to enter into a strange union with Vanity Fair, the upscale version of National Enquirer; the pompous and dull Christopher Hitchens, a Vanity Fair crossover, chewed journalistic scenery; the stable of Atlantic contributors seemed to contract to a small clique of favorites; and there came a time when every magazine cover was some dark illustration of pestilence occurring or about to occur in the world. I think the final straw for me was when Britney Spears appeared on the cover (in a break from cover grimness) by dint of some pseudo-intellectual rationalization.

The Christian Science Monitor, I don't know, seemed to lose its way in the digital age. There's no specialness there anymore, a point really brought home by the fact it exercises no judgment on the subject matter of its website ads.

Until recently

My usual rotation included:
Also, the online Atlantic had bounded into my house like a dog who's had a roll in dead fish, wanting to give me a slurpy kiss.

Over time, all of the above, except for the Washington Post, have dissatisfied me for various reasons that I'm not going to bore you with.

It was time to become more intentional

First: I've sworn off celebrity-centered news organs. They used to be harmless brain candy, but now I'm allergic. 

Second: I'm really uneducated about some things going on in the world right now, and it's time to get up to speed.

A few years back, I reformed my book slut ways, and with a similar approach, I set about finding good news sources. Criteria:
  • Yes to thoughtful, considered articles on timely issues
  • Yes to evidence-based information
  • Yes to diverse topics
  • Yes to reporting on good things going on in the world
  • No to overt party- or liberal/conservative-point of view, i.e. no to Huffington Post or Fox
  • No to focus on political strategies instead of issues

I did a little checking around the web for ideas. Ruled out some, and have some on spec.

On trial

These are the online news sources I'm auditioning:

The Guardian
American Prospect
The Economist
Mother Jones
Schneier on Security

I've still got Washington Post on tap, and continue to dip into the New York Times.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Highway 104, New Mexico: The Cliffhanger

Highway 104 between Las Vegas and Tucumcari, New Mexico. 2007.

I've been down this road before - Highway 104 between Las Vegas and Tucumcari.

Surprised me the first time in 2007 and again the second time, August 2013.

From Las Vegas, you're tooling along a flat, not-unpleasant track, then bang, there it is, one of those vast scenic New Mexican panoramas.

Highway 104 between Las Vegas and Tucumcari, New Mexico. 2013.

A 1985 story about this road, by Jon Mark: New Mexico Highway 104: 110 Lovely, Lonely Miles. An excerpt:
Heading west from Conchas, the landscape is virtually unmarked by man's presence. You'll find traffic so light that only one car every 20 or 30 minutes may pass a given spot. This part of New Mexico is a high, vast, rocky, sagebrush-covered plain at the foot of the Rockies' eastern slope. Here, Highway 104, a shoulderless two-lane strip of asphalt, traverses hills and red rock mesas.

The land rolls up and down. A car rides the slopes as a ship rides the waves in the sea. The sea changes constantly as the sun moves in the sky and the car moves on the ground.

Here's a 2012 paean to Highway 104 from Ramblings From a Road-a-Holic: New Mexico 104: A Delightful Excursion.

And another 2012 entry: Of New Mexico 104, Josh Beckett and Six-Game Lead.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Sacrifice One Makes for One's Art

Dilemma --> Turn around and get the photo? Or keep going so I can get to a toilet faster?

Get a pic of vultures feeding on a dead deer while a cow watched? Or relieve my bladder?

Cow and vulture

Vultures on fence after I interrupted their meal

Cow watching me watching deer

Vulture waiting for me to leave so it can recommence eating deer

Deer with vulture off to the right on fence

There really wasn't much doubt about what I'd do.

As I left, the cow scared one of the vultures off and walked away herself.

Highway 104 between Las Vegas and Conchas Lake State Park.