Sunday, December 31, 2017

Missouri: Springfield: WOW Aquarium and Wildlife Museum, Part 1

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

December 2017

My two sisters, one of their friends, and I visited the new Wonders of Wildlife (WOW) Museums, the aquarium and the Wildlife National Museum.

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

The visit ain't cheap. And, really, visiting both exhibits in one day is a challenge, especially for minors and for the most senior among us. Not just because it might be tiring, but because of the sensory overload, exacerbated by the hum and movement of the other visitors.

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

If I lived close by, then I'd just buy the ticket for one of the two exhibits and return another day for the second exhibit. If I'm staying overnight, then I'd forego the savings of buying both tickets together and buy the tickets separately so I can go to one exhibit the first day and the second exhibit the next day.

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

In this article, I'll focus on the Aquarium, and tomorrow, the Wildlife Museum. 

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

At first, I was pretty underwhelmed by the Aquarium. In the beginning, the traffic path isn't clear and I thought perhaps there were only two floors of the museum, one of which was consumed by award-winning fisherfolk. Which I didn't care about one whit. But one of my sisters noted there was a third floor, which I went to and that's when I began the long journey through the quite large Aquarium.

Three standouts for me:
  • Two jellyfish tanks
  • The darling, charming, personable sea snakes (who knew?!)
  • The flirting or fighting Caribbean spiny lobsters

I had fun putting music to the jellyfish videos I took here and here (with one embedded below).

And here's a slide show of my jellyfish photos:

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

The sea snakes reminded me of the gladness of watching prairie dogs and meerkats.

WOW Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri. December 2017.

And below is a video. Enjoy:


And here's a video of two Caribbean spiny lobsters conducting a dance or a battle.

If you'd like some gentle moments of serenity, I invite you to sink softly into a cloud of Pachelbel in blue below:

A deep breath.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ferguson: Our Lady of Guadalupe and One of Her Stolen Sons

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

December 2017

Beauty, sadness, membership, anger, quiet, fear, song, powerlessness, power.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

All of these wavelets lapped around me at the Spanish Mass I attended at Ferguson's Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

Forefront in my mind was the St. Louis Public Radio story I'd read the day before about a parishioner, Jose Garcia. In November, the United States of America deported him to Mexico, yanking him from the arms of his wife, Ana, and his three little girls - Amanda, Julissa, and Dana.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

Who benefited from this action?

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

No one, other than a pyramid scheme of ICE operatives to whom a man is a commodity for meeting quotas and adding ticks to a quarterly report.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

A tiny little stat thrown into a virtual mass grave of thousands of other data blips, all denuded of their names, ties to families and communities - their very humanity.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

Marks on a report that will be covered by a fresh sediment layer when government operatives dump new nameless, faceless expendables into the ditch.

'tis the season.

Monday, December 11, 2017

St. Louis: Art Museum: Cell

Cell, by Louise Bourgeois, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. December 2017.

December 2017

I met an acquaintance for coffee at the St. Louis Art Museum. 

Cell, by Louise Bourgeois, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. December 2017.

It's probably a sin, but I didn't look at much except for this exhibit, practically at the entrance.

Cell, by Louise Bourgeois, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. December 2017.

  I figure I'll make up for it later.

Cell, by Louise Bourgeois, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri. December 2017.

 And the gods will forgive me.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ferguson: The Christmas Home Tour

A house on Ferguson's Christmas Home Tour, Ferguson, Missouri. December 2017.

December 2017

Ferguson's annual Christmas Home Tour is a fundraiser for the Caring League.

I've never been much excited about home tours.

"Home tour" at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. June 2012.

But my mother likes them, and I martyred myself for her by buying tickets to the Ferguson event.

But what was this?! At the very first house, I saw what I may have been missing all of my adult years: Vodka, wine, schnapps, and many sweets. And a repeat at the second house.

If this is the norm, no wonder such tours are so popular!

Disclosure: My mom is 88 years old, and schlepping into two houses maxed her limit, so we spent the next hour just driving around Ferguson neighborhoods and admiring the town's charming architecture and the yellow, green, and gold beauty of its mature trees.

In one of the neighborhoods, we stopped the car to watch a dancing blanket of sparrows swirling up and over and around a house and tree.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Flashback: Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM

As was so often the case, New Mexico surprised me when I visited Bottomless Lakes State Park in April 2013.

Below is my post from back then:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bottomless Lakes State Park: Another New Mexican Surprise

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico 

I didn't have high expectations for Bottomless Lakes State Park. The photos on the New Mexico state parks page are a bit shoulder-shrugging, but since visiting all of New Mexico's state parks is one of my goals, I made my plans and went.

(A note to the state of New Mexico: I like your "find a state park page," but once you click through, the information for each of the state parks is inadequate in presentation and content. There aren't even directions to get to the parks. And wouldn't a link on each park page to your parks events calendar be nice? And because New Mexico is so rich in federal public lands, perhaps a link in that direction, as well?)

One of the coolest things about New Mexico's geography is that in one spot, you can look out over the horizon and see an uninterrupted plain of scrabbly flora and sandy soil. But take a few steps forward and a new world opens at your feet.

Thus Exhibit A at Bottomless Lakes State Park:

Exhibit A, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

 And Exhibit B, just a few steps into the frame, so to speak:

Exhibit B, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Thanks to the very pleasant volunteer at the park's visitor center, I learned how deep are the sinkholes - or cenotes - that dot the park, and how salty the water.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Visitors can swim in one of the sinkholes. At that lake are a couple of pretty stone buildings and shade structures with picnic tables.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

On the day I visited, there was lots of activity at the swimming hole.

Just across the street from this large sinkhole was a quiet boardwalk trail (the Wetlands Trail) with intermittent stick-built structures, I'm guessing birdwatching blinds, but also the perfect cool, shady places to lug your folding chair to and have a cool lunch, with only the sounds of birds, bubbling water, and sweet breezes to keep you company. I had this pleasant boardwalk trail entirely to myself.

On the surface, the wetlands soil is a mass of white or off-white crystalline crusts, some flat against the surface; others clustered around twigs, plants, or objects. If you push your finger into the surface just a little bit, you'll bring up water.

Do you see the perfect little paw print below?

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

I placed an earring close by for a size perspective.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

It's funny how there's a thin, red layer of silt over the white gypsum at the park.

The tamarisk, aka the Water-Sucking Soldiers, were in bloom the weekend I visited. 

A slide show:

Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM

And a video below, which wasn't in the original post:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

St. Louis: A Sister of Selma Dies

Sister Antona Ebo. Source: Franciscan Media.

"[A friend told me:] 'Now, you know you don't know the Deep South. Go down there, stay with your group, and keep your mouth shut.' .... Well, I couldn't imagine that."
Source: 2014 interview with Mike Bush

St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

Shortly after I moved to Ferguson, Sister Antona Ebo died.

I heard about Sister Ebo's death at my first meeting of the Ferguson Readings on Race Book Club.

I didn't know who she was, but I soon learned she was famous.

2014 interview with Mike Bush, a KSDK news anchor below

I take issue with the reporter's statement: "They weren't activists; they were nuns." So many nuns are and have been activists. I recall today the nuns slaughtered in El Salvador. I follow the Global Sisters Report for inspiration from activist sisters, and as a counter-weight against the dark side of Catholicism: its reactionary, anti-woman side.

But anyhoo.

Article about Sister Ebo in the St. Anthony Messenger: Antona Ebo, FSM: Brave Sister of Selma

Sister Antona Ebo's rosary. St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

 "If we don't get involved when we know that it's happening, and we know that injustice is happening, then we are failing also." Sister Ebo in the 2014 KSDK interview

Sister Ebo had things to say about Ferguson, almost 50 years after her walk in Selma. From The Passionists
Sister Ebo’s advocacy did not stop at Selma. Throughout her life she continued to advocate for social justice issues, particularly to end the injustice of racism, and even at age 90 she led a prayer vigil for peace [at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church] after the events in Ferguson.  In an interview with the Missouri History Museum she said, “The one thing that I didn’t want to do was to become a sweet little old nun that was passing out holy cards and telling people, ‘I’ll pray for you.

St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

I attended Sister Ebo's funeral at the St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church. One of my maternal aunts attended high school here back in the 1940s.

Sister Antona Ebo's funeral. St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

I invite you to pause for a few minutes to share in this passing of history, which took the form of a tiny, but not quiet, woman.

Below is the procession of clergy, as they accompany Sister Ebo's casket to the altar:

A praise song:

And a couple more segments here and here (the latter I include for my mom, as Ave Maria is so dear to her for both weddings and funerals).

And a slide show:

Funeral of Sister Antona Ebo, St. Louis, MO

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ferguson: My Shower

Oh, my shower.

The water pressure.
The space.
The light of the sun that cascades through the window.
The window.
The Greek-Isle tile, the white walls.

The hot of the hot water, its arrival so prompt.

I am in the Mediterranean.

Shower, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.

After a year in the tiny capsule shower of El Paso, I am in luxury here.

Others may see just a typical bathtub and shower with a 1970s kinda vinyl liner surround.

Nay, 'tis a spa.

Shower, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.

My shower in Opelousas, not bad. But no window; dark. Scars and stains of many years in the tub.

My shower in Lafayette, also not bad. But also dark, dreary.

My shower in Alamogordo - no window, but fresh off of my time in Caucasus Georgia, it, too, filled me with grateful awe at its expanse.

My Ferguson shower.

It makes me sigh.

Monday, November 20, 2017

St. Louis: Early Days Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

November 2017.

Connect brunch and early-days jazz and pizazz and you've got a guaranteed good time on a Sunday afternoon.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers have a standing date with brunchers at Evangeline's Bistro on the corner of Washington/Olive and Euclid.

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

For your judicial review, I present my evidence below:

You can even get a personalized "dancake" at Evangeline's. Free!

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

I don't know how they taste. As my aunt June once replied to the offer of a sugary delectable: "No thank you, the visual feast is enough." I could enjoy the prettiness of others' dancakes without paying the penalty for the indulgence.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

The little scrub board held by the percussionist, put together with Evangeline's New Orleanic persona, gave me a tug toward South Louisiana.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

No dance floor, alas.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Missouri: Silver Dollar City: Roller Coasters, the Swamp, and the People I Didn't See

Spring flower, Missouri. April 2007.

October 2017

Roller coasters

On my way to Missouri from El Paso via Big Bend National Park via Louisiana via Arkansas, I had some time to kill, and what better way to kill time than to ride roller coasters at Silver Dollar City?

When I say ride roller coasters, I mean just do that and nothing else. I was by myself, so I could choose to ride only the rides I wanted to ride. All day. ALL.DAY.

And a bag of kettle corn for lunch.

Jesus, it was fine.

The swamp

I noticed there were other solo visitors moving from roller coaster to roller coaster and then making the rounds again. So I guess I was part of a thing.

I chatted with one gentleman doing the coasters, and we exchanged the usual introductory questions, the almost-first of which: Where are you from?

He replied, "Washington."

I said, "Oh, the state of or D.C.?

He sniffed in contempt, "The state - not the swamp!"

I asked, "Oh, have you been to D.C.?"

He said, "No!"

I said, "Oh, it's a great place to visit. Once you get your travel and accommodations squared away, the museums and monuments and parks are free! The history, the art, the culture! It's a wonderful place to visit!"

But, of course, that's not what he was talking about.

Which brings me to:

The people I didn't see

This falls into the peculiar blindness category. Well, for those of us who are white folks, anyway.

The time is over in America when we can be blind to what we don't see. When it comes to Silver Dollar City, here's what I didn't see:
  • Employees of color. Of course, out of 1700+ full-time and part time employees, there are those of color, but I did not observe any measurable presence. 
  • Activities, exhibits, or stations that represent or include African-American participation in history or cultural traditions. Silver Dollar City purports to demonstrate traditional Missouri or Ozarkian - let's say rural Missouri - traditions and values. It needs to step up to share our comprehensive history in Missouri. Some historical stuff Silver Dollar City might look at here and here and here and here

I don't have any stats to support my perception of what I didn't see. .... Maybe Silver Dollar City is more inclusive in its hiring and exhibits than what appeared to be the case on the day I went.

All I've got is what I didn't see.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Arkansas: Racist Harrison Again

En route from Lake Catherine State Park to Branson, Missouri, I passed through Harrison, Arkansas, again.

Again, the same loathsome billboard from my last drive-through struck me. As did another one new to me, which proclaimed the local "white pride radio."

As I begrudgingly passed through Harrison's busy commercial section, and I saw all of the familiar signs for chain restaurants, retail stores, etc., I wondered how - or if - they ensure legal compliance for nondiscrimination in recruiting, hiring, and workplace practices. Does the composition of the local judicial system, including law enforcement, reflect the demographic composition of the town's population? Do any government-unit organizations tacitly approve Harrison's white supremacist influences by holding county, regional, or state meetings here, infusing this rotted-core dominion with cash? Do any religious groups do the same, staining the cloth of their espoused faiths? What about service organizations - Rotary, Lions, and the like, betraying their missions?

When I stopped at a red-lighted intersection, I wondered about the occupants of the vehicles next to me. White supremacists?

Next time I do a north-south run, I will re-route my trip to avoid Harrison. The sight of such blatant inhumanity to man brings up too much disgust.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 6: Coda

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri
Lake Catherine State Park

After the rain

I survived the previous evening's rain issues just fine, and got up early to watch the sun rise. Another camper was up even earlier, and he'd set up his chair at the end of the pier to watch the dawning of this good day.

The fellow nomad

On my Monday afternoon guided hike, I met another nomad of a certain age. I'll call her Susan. From a lifetime up in Maine or some other ungodly cold place, Susan retired two years ago. After a year or so of meeting friends frequently for coffee mid-day, she wondered, "Is this what the rest of my life is going to be? Meeting for coffee every day?"  And (I'm paraphrasing here): "It's fucking cold in Maine. I don't want to be cold anymore."

There came a time when Susan hatched a plan, and she delved into research about living and moving about in an RV. Friends of hers had bought a new Class B Pleasure-Way van. Eventually, she decided on the same.

When I met Susan at Lake Catherine State Park, she was slowly wending her way to a warm wintering place. California, perhaps.

Susan graciously allowed me to visit her van so she could give me a home tour. We'd noticed that my next door neighbors (who'd lent me the shovel the evening before) also had a Pleasure-Way, so we ambled over there to see if we could invite ourselves for a tour of their van.

My neighbors' van was a vintage one, I don't remember from what decade, but at least 20 years old. Although I'm not a fan of house tours, I do like to poke around RVs because ... you never know, I may end up in a tiny home space, whether on wheels or not.

It's fun to look at which amenities people choose, the utility of the various layouts, and imagine which amenities I'd choose and which layout I'd like.

My neighbors were delighted to give us a tour.

Susan is barely in her first year as a nomad. How long will she do this? Who knows? I hope she has a grand experience.

Neighbor exchange

When I walked over to return my neighbors' shovel, they said, "No, no! Keep it, please! We bought it awhile back and we've never used it!"

What a kindness.

I realized I might be able to reciprocate: I'd been lugging around two canisters of propane for a camp stove or lantern, and hadn't used them in ages. I asked if they might have a use for them, and if so, they'd be doing me a favor to take them. This is because I worried slightly about the safety of carrying around the canisters in a car in variable temperatures and in the enclosed space of my camp box.

They said, yes, the could use them.


A slide show of my stay at Lake Catherine State Park below:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas

.... back on the road to Missouri.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 5: Engineering

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri
Lake Catherine State Park

Tuesday evening brought a couple of challenges to my little campsite kingdom.

First there was the rain.

I'd chosen a level site for my tent construction.

What I discovered, however, was the lack of drainage for when the rain fell, and fell, and fell.

I found myself digging storm trenches around and away from my tent.

Water diversion, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

On one hand, this exercise caused no little consternation. Sleeping in a sodden tent is no fun, even though, fortunately, I could sleep off the floor, atop the springy cot my nonagenarian aunt gave me a few years ago. Because I would be leaving the next morning, it probably meant I'd have to pack a muddy, damp tent.

On the other hand, there was something satisfying about having to eyeball a problem, analyze how to fix it, and then execute on the plan, with adjustments on the fly. It reminds me of what an algebra-loving acquaintance told me once: "Every day is solving for x."

To divert the water from the tent, I had to dig trenches and clear debris from the corners of the railroad-tie-built platform so the water had a place to drain into, down, and away from the platform altogether.

Not having a shovel, I used the sturdy cap/cup to my large coffee thermos for the digging, and a knife and stick for the debris removal.

My next door neighbors, RVing it in a vintage Class B Pleasure Way, brought over a camp shovel for me to use in my excavations! They'd bought it awhile back and never used it. This helped a lot.

Water diversion, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

 Second, the uninvited guest. 

A goddamn wood roach or some such invaded my tent right before I went to bed. I tried to trap it so I could, if possible, scoot it out of my tent, and if not possible, kill it, but the damn thing eluded me. I do not like unpredictable strangers crawling about in my bedroom at night.

Eventually, I just had to live with the situation and hope it didn't surprise me by flying into my face or ear or start crawling up my arm or something while I slept. **Shudders.**

It didn't.