Sunday, April 30, 2017

El Paso: Bowie Bakery: Sweet Insanity

Bowie Bakery, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

Don't you just want to stick out your tongue and lick the photo?

Bowie Bakery, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

Bowie Bakery is an El Paso icon.

It's in Segundo Barrio.

Bowie Bakery, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

I bought a biscuit. Its massive size and handsome, golden-brown flakiness hooked me. Alas, it was a little dry, but even now, thinking back, I'm willing to forgive the lack of moisture in memory of its hunky good looks.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Flashback: Georgia: Sighnaghi: City of Love and Crunch

Can't believe it's been more than six years since I was in Caucasus Georgia! Here's the original account of a visit to Georgia's (the country not the state) City of Love.

It amuses me no end how much I amuse myself when I re-read some of my posts. An important quality for an introvert to have, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sighnaghi: City of Love 'n Crunch

"Oh, whoops, budishi! Are you, like, getting married right now? I'll just take this little snap and be on my way, then."

Mission: Visit Georgia's City of Love and eat Mexican food. If necessary, look at a church.

Sandy came in to Rustavi from Gori yesterday to spend the night so we could get an early start from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi. We were to meet Marie and Eberle at the Samgori metro/marshrutka station, where we'd take the 9:00 a.m. marshrutka to Sighnaghi. This was a 1.5 hour trip. Six lari.

I'd learned already that there's a marshrutka from Rustavi to the Samgori station in Tbilisi, and Nely had cautioned me, when we flagged down a driver, to ask, "Tbilisi metro Samgori?" and not just "Samgori?" because there is also a village named Samgori.

So in the dark and rainy dawn of our departure, Sandy and I pulled out some lari from the ATM on the square, then walked toward Rustavi Bazari for the right marshrutka. There's one! It has #15 on it.

We hailed it to a stop, and opened the door. "Tbilisi metro Samgori?" I asked the driver.

"Ki, ki." was the reply. "Yes, yes."

As we got on, I asked again, "Tbilisi metro Samgori?"

"Ki, ki!" was the reply from both the driver and a passenger.

Sandy wondered aloud at my purpose in repeating my question when the answer was so obviously answered affirmatively the first time.

Sidebar: It is a blessing/curse that my brain is a factoid-attractant. Some of my family members, both nuclear and extended, enjoy/suffer the same gift/affliction. (And, as you can see, there is also a need to be precise in one's language.  I happen to think the two are connected as part of a syndrome, perhaps Asperger's Lite.) 

I replied that it had been my observation in life that people's brains operate similarly to the auto-complete computer application. (Which has been confirmed by research.) That is, we think we hear what we expect to hear. So if the driver hears my accented voice, his brain is going to struggle a bit, but catch up in time to hear the last word I say, "Samgori," and maybe conclude, erroneously, that we're looking for the village and not the metro station in Tbilisi. So I just ask twice to give him time to process the entire phrase. And save myself stress.

Sidebar: Another blessing/curse that runs in my family is to give tediously detailed thorough explanations in response to questions. Sometimes, though, based on prior negative thoughtful feedback from more normal people, we catch ourselves in time, and just say, "Umm, I dunno." Which creates other problems, but ... 

So while I'm responding to Sandy's question, I'm not noticing where our marshrutka is heading until I realize, "Hmm, this is a different route than usual through Rustavi .... uh, oh, .....this is feeling like a ride on Marshrutka #22 or, God forbid, #4. ... why are we turning here ... and wait ... are we going over that bridge there?"

And out of my mouth to the driver: "Budishi [excuse me], Tbilisi metro Samgori, yes?"

"Ki, ki." [Yes, yes.] said the driver and two passengers.

OK, then. And I see that we're back on familiar territory, albeit a new route for me via marshrutka. ... and then, we take a turn, heading for not-Tbilisi and not-Rustavi .... whoa. And then we go by the cemetery ... now I'm really getting tense ... and now we've passed the cemetery into new lands that are decidedly rural and going-to-the-village-and-not-Tbilisi-metro-Sambori-lke, and....

"Budishi," I say to the driver, "Tbilisi metro Samgori?"

"Ki, ki!," responded the driver and several passengers.

And then we turned left and entered the Azebaijani-Georgian village, whereupon the mashrutka slowed to granny gear to pick up villagers. By this time, I've resigned myself to accept wherever the marshrutka takes us.

I tamped down my concern about getting to Tbilisi by 8:30, using Sandy as my cue. After all, she was calm and apparently unconcerned. .. and then she asked, "What time is it?"

When we looked at the time, we saw we only had 15-20 minutes to not only get to Tbilisi, but get to the metro station. No way was that going to happen; we were still out in the hinterland. And I told Marie that very thing when she called a second later.

But miraculously, the universe tilted in a certain way and we spilled out from the village onto this highway and into Tbilisi and into the metro station only 5 minutes late. Wow.

Fast forward ... Sandy, Marie, Eberle and I are on the marshrutka to Sighnaghi. Six lari one way. The Sighnaghi marshrutka leaves Samgori station every two hours on the odd hour.

En route to Sighnaghi, we whizzed past the monument to the First Tractor in Kakheti, which I only knew about because Nely had pointed it out to me when we went to Kardanakhi a few weeks before. The monument is the actual tractor, ensconced upon a pedestal.

We also, thank God, whipped briefly down and to Bodbe Monastery where St. Nino is buried, thereby technically speaking, complying with Nely's wish that we visit that sacred site. My protestations of church overload had fallen on deaf ears.

A hot chocolade

Yes, -lade. Hot, thick, chocolate-y to the max. A pudding, really. A demitasse-sized, sensory experience for the delicious warmth of the cup and the intense chocolate taste. We consumed this in a restaurant/hotel in a courtyard adjacent to Sighnaghi's cultural museum.

Mexican food

Homemade chips, maybe even fried with lard. In a country with very good food, but a shocking lack of crunch, this was the highlight of the meal. Crunch.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Wait, the second highlight was the spiced coffee - cinnamon, cloves, orange peel. Fabulous.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Beautiful view of the mountainside and faraway valley, framed by a happy orangey wall.

The museum

The museum was nice. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I'm just not a museum person. You'd think I'd learn that by now, and just go have a cup of coffee while companions take all the time they wish looking at important historical stuff in glass cases. Yes, I know this is sacrilegious, but I'm not getting any younger, and I think from now on, I'm going to take a pass on such things. I can count on one hand the museums that made an impression on me.

Terrific, postcard views from one of the windows, though.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Sighnaghi, Georgia


The church

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Even though all of us were pretty done with churches, Sighnaghi's old church was compelling. So much so, we walked up the stone steps to check it out. And then, damn, we heard singing emanating from within.
And walked into a wedding.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

As we left the church, another wedding party was arriving.

Sighnaghi, Georgia
The wall

One of the things Sighnaghi is known for is the remains of the 8th century wall that originally surrounded it completely. The photo below is poor quality, but you can make out the wall.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Pheasant's Tears

I'm not going to talk about the taxi ride that ultimately was for a distance about 500 feet but which cost 4 lari. I've released that incident. Pretty much.

Pheasant's Tears winery is brimming with the ambiance of living a good life. Good food, good wine, good friends and family. Traditions held dear. Fire in the fireplace. Brick and stone work. Lovely blue baticky (but not) tablecloths.

Menu read beautifully on the chalkboard on the wall. Still sated from our Mexican (chip) feast, we had coffee and tea. It was a great way to enjoy the pleasing environment without putting too much of a dent in our wallets.

I was hoping to get a photo of the co-founder, John Wurdeman, to take back to Nely, but he was not in town.  

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Pheasant's tears kitchen. Sighnaghi, Georgia

Pheasant's Tears pantry. Sighnaghi, Georgia

Sighnaghi, Georgia

So, summarizing Sighnaghi. Certainly it's a tourist town, and one could argue that it's been a town Disneyfied. It's also an expensive place to visit, with most eateries and lodging being upscale. Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I saw that still felt "authentic," whatever the heck that means.  It was definitely worth a day.

Sighnaghi, Georgia

Friday, April 28, 2017

Road Trip Past: Out West - September 2007, Part 2

Owl decoy for hawk count, Yaki Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

Part 2: On a 2007 solo road trip out west from Missouri, I kept a journal of sorts. Mostly random notes that included both the mundane and the glorious. Part 2 spans September 26 through 29. Sadly, it appears the 29th was the last day I journaled. Damn, there were some good stories to follow; hard to believe I didn't capture them. Maybe I've stashed the notebook somewhere.

Go here for Part 1, Sept 23 through 25.

Campsite, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2017.

Sept 26

Sedona to Grand Canyon via Jerome.

Did not even go to rim to see the GC today! Devoted my afternoon to laundry, a shower, and making a comfortable camp.

Snug and warm in tent.

  • Shower: 2.00
  • Laundry: 3.00
  • Gas: 15.00
  • Groceries: 32.00
  • Park pass: 25.00
  • Chips: 2.00
  • Total = $79.00

Campground flowers, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

Sept 27

First full day @ GC.
Postcards to several people.
Saw a tarantula on the rim. It moved out of the way before I could get a photo.

  • Stocking cap: 6.00
  • Coffee: 2.00
  • Nuts: 3.00
  • Ice cream cone: 3.00
  • Postcards: 6.00
  • Total = $20.00

Deer at campsite, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

Sept 28

Today I took a vacation from my vacation, staying "at home" all day til attending an AA meeting in the evening. [I am a member of a couple of 12-step fellowships, neither of which is AA. But open AA meetings are helpful to members of any fellowship.]

Oh, I did drive up to the market plaza for ice, propane, and a nail file.

In the afternoon, deer started coming through the campground. Here, there were three bucks. Later, as I left to attend meeting (and see sunset), I saw many more deer, mostly does.

When I left the AA meeting (Kachina Lodge), the coyotes were loudly announcing that their time for activity had come.

It was windy all day!

I got out the charcoal about noon and grilled burgers + red peppers/potatoes/onions. Also roasted some marshmallows.

Another lone woman camper arrived today. She's from Colorado; has a nice pick-up with a camper top. We only talked briefly. She said she'd been here two years ago. Looks to be in her 60s.

It was remarkable today that the campground seems so empty - so quiet - given the millions of people who come here every year. I thought perhaps the campground would fill up this evening as people rolled in for the weekend, but that hasn't been the case. I have no neighbors on either side of me since the bird/cat-owners left early this morning.

My thrift store sweatshirts are serving me well.

  • Market Plaza: ice, propane, mirror, nail file, popcorn: $14.00

Sunrise gathering, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

Sept 29

Got up before 5:00 a.m. to prepare to see sunrise over the canyon.

While in the bathroom, I encountered a woman who, in 5 minutes, shared with me that she and her husband .... were going down to the canyon floor today, that they live in ...... ; she is [from another country] and her husband is American. They met during [a] war when she served as a nurse and he was fighting.

She's lost two babies. They're trying to get pregnant - have been for a long while - in vitro has failed. They visited Sedona, fell in love with some property, will move there next year, in the hopes that a Native American woman on the reservation will help them become pregnant. The [woman] is 37, so time is slipping away from her. I wished her well. [Note: Even though the woman chose to tell a complete stranger - me - this story, it's so intimate I have chosen not to disclose some identifying details.]

So I went to the sunrise. Not as spectacular as I'd thought it would be, according to the hype. And cold. And windy. Same holds true for last night's sunset. But perhaps I chose the wrong sites.

Grand Canyon, between Yaki and Desert View. Arizona. September 2007.

Today I'll go out to Yaki Point where Hawk Watch International is in the process of counting hawks. Then I'll take the shuttle to another point and walk the rim to Mather Point. Then lunch, which I'll pack.

Hawk count at Yaki Point, Grand Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

For sunset, I'll go to Yavapei Point.

Almost all the car plates are from Arizona, Nevada, and California. I assume many are rentals.

I just felt a featherweight touch on my socked foot under the table. I looked underneath: a small bird was sitting on my foot. These small birds check out my table regularly for scraps.

Thus far, I have 'released' two pairs of jeans and two shirts 'to the wild.' I've also handed off four magazines. Threw away one pair of hole-y socks.


GC Association Shop: postcards/notecards: $14.00

A slide show of my 2007 Grand Canyon visit below

Grand Canyon 2007

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Road Trip Past: Out West - September 2007, Part 1

Texas rest area. September 2007.

On a 2007 solo road trip out west from Missouri, I kept a journal of sorts. Mostly random notes that included both the mundane and the glorious.

Sept 22

  • Left house at 6:35 a.m.
  • Arrived Shamrock, TX, about 6:00 p.m.
  • Stopped at Oklahoma City Memorial.
  • Miles today = 596.

  • Gas (Joplin): $35.12 @ $2.79
  • Postcard: 0.27
  • Postcards: 1.00
  • Tolls: 7.00 total in OK
  • Soda: 0.70
  • Dinner + tip: 10.00
  • Pretzels: 1.08
  • Hotel: 54.00
  • Breakfast sandwich: 1.70
  • Total ~ $114.00

Western Hotel, large room with desk, table/chairs, refrigerator/microwave, neatly kept

Bridge between Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, AZ. September 2007.

Sept 23

  • First day of autumn.
  • Left Shamrock at ~ 7:00 a.m.
  • Arrived in Holbrook, AZ ~ 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time (7:30 Missouri time)
  • ~ 600 miles today

  • Hotel = $50
  • Gas @ Holbrook: 13.00 @ 2.66
  • Gas @ Grants NM: 39.00 @ 2.84
  • Dinner + tip @ El Rancho: 15.89
  • Lunch + tip @ Silver Moon in Santa Rosa NM: 9.00
  • Coffee + snack bar @ Grants NM: 2.50
  • Gas @ Alanreed Travel Center NM: 40.00
  • Total = ~ 170

Long slog through NM to Z
High winds!
Sporadic rain
Road construction
Unloaded first of my clothing last night in Holbrook: green capris and tie-dyed shirt
Sent some postcards from Holbrook

Campsite, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. September 2007.

Sept 24

  • Pleasant drive from Holbrook to Oak Creek Canyon Campground
  • Site 9 - beautiful view of creek; next to camp hosts

  • Campsite: $18.00 per night
  • Art book: 20.00
  • Breakfast: 3.00
  • Postcards: 1.00
  • Ice + chips: 4.00
  • Coffee: 6.00
  • Total = 51.00

Reminds me a little of camping in Colorado two ways - sound of creek reminds me of when [sister] K and I camped (partial meltdown by K when tent site she picked out wasn't good) + other campground (time un-remembered) when could look up the side of canyon.

Sedona, AZ. September 2007.

Sept 25
  • Spent day in Sedona.
  • On one hand, complete tourist trap. On other hand, when you remember to look up, you see magnificent scenery.
  • The city does good job of caring for visitors - quite a bit of free parking - at least this time of year + during work week. Might be complete madness during high season and on weekends.
  • They also have a good # of public restrooms + free trolley through the most popular business districts.
  • I neglected to pack enough warm clothing. Yesterday I noticed there was a thrift store, so I visited there today and bought three sweatshirts for a total of $6! Wow. No reason to pay big bucks for a souvenir sweatshirt that I don't really want, anyway

  • Ice: 2.00
  • Pink jeep tour + tip: 92.00
  • Salsa: 8.00
  • Coffee: 3.00
  • More coffee: 3.00
  • Lunch: 11.00
  • Campsite: 18.00
  • Sweatshirts: 6.00
  • Total = $143.0

    Made a stupid mistake today and let my car battery drain down. Had to call AAA for a jump start. Stoooopid.

    Had a ho-hum lunch at Sally's Mesquite Grill. So far, meals have been forgettable except for the green chile stew I had in Santa Rosa, NM, @ Silver Moon.

    I imagine the campground's resident skunks will visit this evening on their daily rounds.

    The Pink Jeep tour was pricey, but worth it. Some of the $ goes to the NPS - the guide was very good at explaining expenses (cost + upkeep of the jeeps, for instance). He was solicitous, knowledgeable and friendly. His wife is right, though - he lacks a filter between his brain and his mouth (as he shared with us his wife's thoughts on some of the things he says). He is a volunteer archeological site steward for state, tasked with protecting ancient Hopi remains from vandals or poachers.

    Pink Jeep tour, Sedona, AZ. September 2007.

    Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    El Paso: The Very Uncomfortable Bench

    My El Paso apartment is furnished. It has less furniture in it now than when I moved in, as I asked the landlords to remove some of the pieces, both to give me more space and to weed out non-useful items.

    See that red bench in the picture below? That is what my landlady used as her 'couch' for many years, even to watch television. It is uncomfortable. Its only utility for me was to put stuff on it, and that didn't justify the valuable real estate it occupied in my tiny living space.

    Wood bench, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.

    I asked that it be taken away, which it was.

    Imagine my surprise when I visited El Paso's International Museum of Art and saw the  representation of a typical salon of an upscale El Paso-Juarez family in the early 20th century.

    Wood bench, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    Perhaps the benches discouraged guests from staying too long.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    El Paso: Another Gosh Darn Beautiful Full Moon

    Full moon over El Paso and Juarez from Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    Full moon over El Paso and Juarez from Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    Full moon over El Paso and Juarez from Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    There's obviously something going on between El Paso, Juarez, and the moon. Love, maybe.

    Monday, April 24, 2017

    El Paso: A Princess, Knights, and Baseball Players

    Medieval sword fight in El Paso. March 2017.

    A sunshine-y March day. Perfect to walk downtown.

    Where I encountered the unexpected.

    A beautiful princess.

    An El Paso princess. March 2017.

    Knights engaged in sword play.

    Youth on the baseball field.

    Youth baseball. El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    Sunday, April 23, 2017

    El Paso: April Evening in Upper Tom Lea Park

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    El Paso's Upper Tom Lea Park, which overlooks El Paso and Juarez, is a petite emerald in the city.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Whether by day, dusk, or night, it is soothing to look out over the sister cities, onto the plains, the foothills, and to the mountains from the park's mountainside ledge.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Parks belong to all of us. They contribute to one of our unalienable rights, stated explicitly in our Declaration of Independence, which our government is created to protect: the pursuit of happiness.

    A slide show of my accumulated photos of Upper Tom Lea Park:

    Upper Tom Lea Park, El Paso

    Saturday, April 22, 2017

    El Paso: Zapatista Woman

    Zapatista Libertad. El Paso, Texas. March 2017.

    While on a visit to a community garden in El Paso, I saw this poster laying on a couch in a building that adjoined the garden.

    As I've noted before, there are many striking images of strong women in El Paso. Like here and here. These images depict women as full actors in movements for human rights.

    The poster above relates to modern-day Zapatistas, a movement that is global in its championship of indigenous group rights, but which has its epicenter in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

    I don't know the original artist of this and similar posters, but Just Seeds is at least one producer of same for purchase.

    Although when I think of Chiapas, I think of traditional societies with traditional (read: limiting) roles for women, there is a women's rights platform in the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation). It is called the Women's Revolutionary Law, with this bill of rights:
    1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
    2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
    3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
    4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
    5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
    6. Women have the right to an education.
    7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
    8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers. 
    9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
    10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

     The poster references the EZLN flag, which looks like this:

    EZLN flag. Source: wikicommons

    On a superficial level, I love the artistic imagery of the poster and the flag.

    On a deeper, philosophical level, the Chiapas-centered bill of rights for women seems more progressive than what we've got going on in the USA.

    Assuming there's substance behind the words.

    Friday, April 21, 2017

    El Paso: UTEP: Dainty Ladies in April

    For such a small garden, UTEP's Chihuahua Desert Garden regularly offers such sweet delicacies.

    It revealed these dainties one afternoon in April:

    Flower dainties, UTEP, Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Flower dainties, UTEP, Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Flower dainties, UTEP, Chihuahua Desert Garden, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    Flower dainties, UTEP, Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, Texas. April 2017.

    In the video below, the tiny movements in response to a baby breeze encourages one to take calm breaths while thinking of sweet nothing: