Friday, May 24, 2024

Revisiting the Subject of Coffee


Nescafe Gold Espresso. Jefferson City, Missouri. Photo: Mzuriana.
Nescafe Gold Espresso. Jefferson City, Missouri. Photo: Mzuriana.


I have a new instant coffee love. Its tagline is velvety crema. And it is velvety, in flavor, mouthfeel, and visual presentation in the jar.  Nescafe Gold Espresso. Subtitle: Intense. 

I typically only drink instant coffee when I'm on the road, especially camping. But my coffee maker expired one day, and while I dithered over whether and how to replace it, I pulled out my instant coffee cache pending my eventual decision.

As it happened, a friend was moving, and he didn't intend to take his coffee maker with him. I asked if I might adopt it, and he generously agreed.

So I'm back with my usual brew routine, but with summer here, I've also taken a liking to iced coffee made with instant.

These recent developments have me reminiscing on past coffee-related posts: 


A coffee slide show below



Thursday, May 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Rootless: Goodbye, Friend

You wouldn't think a minimalist like me would get attached to mere ... things, would you? 

But I do, and I think wistfully of items that have fallen by the wayside because they've plumb worn out or been (no!) lost. 

Just last month I had to "transition" a much-loved blouse because it seemed to have begun to, er, actually disintegrate along the placket.

And my jean jacket, oh my jean jacket, is doing the same along the cuff line of my right sleeve.

I bought both of these beloveds in second-hand stores some years ago.


My worn, beloved jean jacket. March 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.
My worn, beloved jean jacket. March 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.


I sighed when I revisited this post from 2014. I've still not found a worthy replacement.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rootless: Goodbye, Friend

Time to say good-bye, friend.

You went with me to innumerable festivals, and to Ethiopia, to Mexico, to Caucasus Georgia, to Dubai, to Istanbul, to Armenia, to New Mexico, and finally, to Louisiana.

We were such a perfect fit. I liked resting my hand on your shoulder, and to have your arm draped across mine. You protected my valuables. You carried my books. My water. My camera. You never complained.

Who could have predicted all of the adventures we'd share when we first met at that second-hand store? 

I'll never forget you. 

Yes, even though I must replace you, know that you will always be my true love.

Goodbye, bag.


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Louisiana: Broussard's Happenin' Goodwill


Wikihow proposes 3 Ways to Urinate When On An Automobile Trip. I'm guessing the author(s) giggled while writing this primer because it is so straight-facedly basic. And also, the sample woman always seems to drink out of a plastic bottle immediately after peeing. Which, if I were a preteen (not now, of course, because I am an adult), I would, of course, wonder what exactly was in the bottle? Really? 

The assurance that all of the information in the instructional was fact-checked makes it all the more amusing.

Ah, you're wondering why I'm talking about pee when the title is about Goodwill. Well, read on.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Louisiana: Broussard's Happenin' Goodwill

Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia - Mineral Spring Park - Wilderpee calling. April 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.
Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia - Mineral Spring Park - Wilderpee calling. April 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

The need to empty one's bladder can lead to unexpected encounters.

Sometimes it's a dead animal.

Disintegrating dog encountered on a wilderpee. Highway 152, New Mexico. March 2010. Credit: Mzuriana.
If I didn't already have to go, this disintegrating dog would have scared the pee out of me! Credit: Mzuriana.

Or a descanso.

Altar, Carson National Forest, New Mexico. November 2008. Credit: Mzuriana.
An altar on the other side of a wilderpee, Carson National Forest, New Mexico. November 2008. Credit: Mzuriana.

Yesterday, on my way to the Dragon Races in New Iberia, on Highway 182 in Broussard, I noted that I had to go to the bathroom. Hmm, wait til I get to New Iberia - find a McDonald's - or ..... oh, look there's a Goodwill Store, and I need a skillet.

I pulled into the parking spot in front of the entrance and saw a woman taking a photo of a man there. Then a photo of the man and a woman. Then I think the 2nd woman clicked a photo of the man with the 1st woman and the man. Cognitive dissonance. Taking pics in front of a Goodwill? Why? New marketing campaign? Some famous person who shops at Goodwill? Both seemed unlikely.

Walked into the store and asked a man within, "Who is that guy?" - referring to the subject of the 1st woman's photos. He said: "Oh, that's a guy on .... what's that pawn show?"

I suggested, "Swamp Pawn?"

"No, that other one ...."

I suggested, "Oh! Pawn Stars?"

"No .... " 

And a woman shopper offered, helpfully, "Cajun Swamp Pawn."

"Yeah, that's the one," the man said. "He's the guy who comes in with crazy stuff to sell. He's the one who makes that show fun."

This man with the answers is no slouch himself - he's a five-time winner of a local pepper-eating contest. He also plays fiddle at a weekend jam in Breaux Bridge.

I love my job as a tourist-in-residence.

I even found a skillet, and used the restroom, of course.  



Monday, April 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration: The Warmth of Other Suns


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "A negro family just arrived in Chicago from the rural South." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1922. 


The post I wrote back in 2011 fits perfectly in this year's word of the year series. I haven't yet read Ms. Wilkerson's newer book, Caste, but it rests beside me as I type.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rootless Lit: The Warmth of Other Suns

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Rootless lit book review: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.

Summary from Publisher's Weekly: "... Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's ... study of the     "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest."

Credit: Amazon

I thought I "knew" what it was like to be black in the American South before institutionalized segregation ended. I "knew" it was bad.

But as I moved through the book, I realized:

  • Even though I had never articulated it to myself, I must have held the untested belief that black Americans had somehow acclimated to the reality of Jim Crow repression in the South.   
  • As much as I thought I "knew" of atrocities such as lynching, mortal beatings, and being dragged behind vehicles til dead, there were even worse monstrosities.
  • I knew nothing about the aggressive actions southern states took to keep black Americans from leaving.

Ms. Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration through the voices of three people who migrated north in three separate decades. Reading their stories, it really hit home that one never gets acclimated to daily humiliations, whether petty or grand. There is anger, bitterness, frustration, fear, despair - most of which could not be expressed during the Jim Crow years because the consequences of doing so might mean terrorism, brutalization, or death, for even the slightest infraction of the "rules."

I like how Ms. Wilkerson framed the Great Migration in the context of other migrations, such as the Eastern Europeans to the U.S. She made a good case for identifying the South as the Old Country and the North as the New World, noting differences in speech, customs, food, education, etc.

The author made the matter-of-fact and consistent choice of the word "escape" to describe what motivated, in full or in part, the immigrants' journey from the South. This kept the profundity of the Great Migration in front of me throughout the book.

She also used the phrase "caste system" to describe the realities in the South (and the North, as well). I found this helpful, too, because it made the point that even though the Great Migration was a story about black Americans, it wasn't "just" about race. The Great Migration was a universal story of people who fled from oppression and caste assignment and who sought better lives for themselves and their children.

I liked, too, that Ms. Wilkerson didn't sanctify or otherwise glamorize the three people she chose to tell their stories. They were ordinary, flawed individuals.

The Great Migration ended circa 1970. That is only yesterday, sociologically, and its effects continue to unfold.

Friday, March 8, 2024

A Long Trek Revival?


Road to Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. Credit: Mzuriana.
Road to Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. Credit: Mzuriana.

So back in a day, I made plans to walk from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. The trek would mark an important birthday. I gobbled up all of the online long-walk journals I could find. However, other interests interrupted, and I pushed the plan onto the shelf.

Now I've revived said plan, in a way. This time not to walk its length, but to traverse it via various methods, including walking, cycling, or on motorized wheels, whether mine or a public bus or tourist van, or all of 'em. And maybe I'll start at the bottom and go up instead of move from top to bottom. Too soon to tell as yet. Or maybe I'll do as some hikers do on the Appalachian Trail: by sections over non-continuous times, and maybe not even in a sequential order.

So I'll be gathering up long-trek sagas again. 

I already gathered some here.

I guess I'm still not ready to put down roots yet, after all. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Louisiana: "Kaw, That's a Big One!"

Kaw, those were some big ass frogs! 


Some other frogs, living and dead and indirect: 


Three Creeks dead frog in water. Boone County, Missouri. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.
Three Creeks dead frog in water. Boone County, Missouri. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.


Blue poison dart frog. Kansas City, Missouri. September 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.
Blue poison dart frog. Kansas City, Missouri. September 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Louisiana: "Kaw, that's a big one!"


     "Kaw, that’s a big one!” said 59-year-old Danny “Eagle” Edgar.

    “That’s a man,” agreed 56-year-old Clay Switzer.

    “Boy, he really is big,” hissed Harry “Hop” Dugas, who at 47 is the baby of the group.

    “It’s got eyes like an alligator,” murmured Edgar in wonderment.

Tense excitement bled through the three men’s Cajun accents. What could have had them, with nearly 150 combined years of life in the woods and on the water, so excited? Were they perched on a rickety bamboo machan, hunting a man-eating tiger? Were they perched in the flying bridge of an offshore boat, gawking at the massive bulk of a great white shark? 



Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

A friend and I went to the Acadian Memorial Heritage Festival in St. Martinville today.

Some kick-ass music, good food, gorgeous day along the river, and, and, and ..... holy swamp gas! Gigantic bullfrogs!

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

Who knew frogs got so big?!

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

I was so fascinated by these creatures, I had to go back a second time during the course of the festival, just to gawk some more.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

I understand about the frog legs for eating, but what happens to the rest of the bullfrog's body? Returned to the water for recycling? Used as bait for fishing? Given the popularity of frog legs in southern Louisiana, we're talking about a lot of skin and guts here.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

Interesting articles about bullfrogs and frog hunting: 

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana.  Credit: Mzuriana.

 My mother and a brother are coming to visit next week. Maybe we'll try some frog legs.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.


Friday, March 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration: The Devil's Highway

Below is a reprise of my 2011 post on Luis Alberto Urrea's book, which impacted me deeply. 

The book affected me so much, I uploaded the stories of the volunteers who delivered water to the desert into my brain's cloud storage, knowing that some day - some day - I would be one of those volunteers. And so I was, when I took up my tourist-in-residency in Tucson in 2019-2020.

Rootless Lit: The Devil's Highway: A True Story

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Rootless lit book review: The Devil's Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea

Credit: Amazon

This is the story of the desert passage undocumented immigrants make between Mexico and the U.S. Many die en route because of lack of water and the heat. More specifically, it is the story of the Yuma 14, when fourteen men from one group died in 2001.

There were parts of this book, especially at the end, where it was painful to read. Mr. Urrea described the final hours of the dead in vivid, personal detail. One description particularly stands out for its horrific sadness. A survivor reported: "One of the boys went crazy and started jumping up and down. He started screaming, 'Mama! Mama! I don't want to die!' He ran up to a big cactus and started smashing his face against it. I don't know what his name was." The boy was 16 years old.

About another who died, Mr. Urrea wrote: "Nobody knows the name of the man who took off all his clothes. It was madness, surely. He removed his slacks, folded them, and put them on the ground. Then he took off his underwear, laid it neatly on the pants. He removed his shirt and undershirt and squared them away with the pants. As if he didn't want to leave a mess. ...He lay on his back and stared into the sun until he died."

I like how Mr. Urrea spoke for the dead as they rode in their body bags in the air-conditioned hearses.

Mr. Urrea's description of the Border Patrol's activities seemed nuanced and even-handed to me. He offers thoughtful notes in the last chapter regarding the financial costs and benefits of undocumented immigrants, of other violences perpetrated in and around the desert border.

It's difficult to describe Mr. Urrea's writing style other than to say it is personal, often in second person narrative. His portrayal of almost all of the players in the undocumented migrant universe is empathetic. Exceptions are the drug gangsters and the coyotes they run, plus certain aspects of the Mexican government machine.

Whatever one's position on migration, this book forces the reader to acknowledge the immigrants' humanity. At least for a day or two.




Friday, February 16, 2024

Jefferson City, Missouri: At Least I'm Not Camping

Although my apartment offers charm in views, design, and location, it is as breezy inside as a log cabin that has lost its chinking. 

For some reason, this state of affairs reminds me of the so-called bozi flower in Caucasus Georgia, aka prostitute flower. My apartment windows are as loose as a bozi's legs. 

And the walls are cold. Because there ain't no insulation in this 100-year old building. 

Sometimes I'll feel an actual push of cold air that flows by me, but when I get up to investigate where the hell it's coming from, it's untraceable. A frosty spirit? 

During a recent two-week arctic blast, when temperatures sank into the single digits, my first thought upon awakening each morning was: "At least I'm not camping."  

Cold comfort, as my living space was frigid.

I wore (and still wear) a hat to bed and for most of the day inside my place. I'm wearing it as I write this. During the day, I typically wear three layers of clothing.

Oh, sure, I could crank up the thermostat, but with the super-high ceilings, the billowy blasts of cold air coming through the windows and walls, with the registers affixed to the high ceilings, and electric heat pushed up such a long way through vents that are quite possibly lined with a thick layer of dust plaque - from a furnace of unknown age - which is way down in the basement of this old building, to which I have no access, thus I can't check the filter ("We change the filters twice a year!" say the property managers, as if that's a generous amenity) - and a bill that could easily hit $250 for just one month, I started out with a 65-degree thermostat setting before frugalizing even further by dropping it to 63 degrees.

Since the leaden cold has descended, I don't see my charming outside views because I've covered my windows with two cold-air barriers in addition to the blinds already installed: Plastic sheeting and fabric curtains, and for some windows, Reflectix, too. Against the walls below the windows, I've pushed bulwarks of boxes and pillows to block the cold air swooshing in through the frames.

My charmless winter decor to repel the cold invasion. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.
My charmless winter decor to repel the cold. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.


Other cold tales:

Rustavi [Caucasus Georgia]: Warmth Strategies

[Caucasus] Georgia: Cold

[Caucasus] Georgia: Warmth

Birmingham, Alabama: An Annoyance of Facts 

My winter in Birmingham was the very same that hit Houston so hard in 20/21. My winter in Birmingham is when I bought both an electric mattress pad and an electric throw to put on my bed.

The year I wintered in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2018, I said this: "No, no, no, no. I am finished with winters in cold lands." I made this proclamation after it snowed on Easter. In April

Yeah, and now look what I've gone and done again. 

At least I'm not camping.


Friday, February 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Worst Travel Advice



Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.
Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.

Ten years ago, I posted the article below. 

In searching for fresh pieces of bad travel advice, I'm not seeing anything that adds much value to the 2013 Lonely Planet list - or mine. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worst Travel Advice

The Lonely Planet has a list of the worst travel advice ever here. It's not bad. 

Here's my list of worst tips: 


1. "Let's ask if they can help us buy some coke." 

Yes, a temporary travel companion did propose this to me in Ecuador.

Don't do this.

2.  Bring candy, pencils, and small coins to give to the children in the streets.

This tip is offered to those visiting a country such as Ethiopia.

Do not do this. Do not do this. Do not do this.

It promotes begging in lieu of school (for those who have access to school). It causes a plague upon the tourists who follow you, as you set up the expectation that foreigners are walking Santas.

Besides, you will never have enough stuff to distribute. Never.

Finally, it is at best, a gesture of noblesse oblige. At worst, it is akin to feeding bread crumbs to pigeons - dehumanizing. 

If you want to contribute in some way to a country you're visiting, to offset in some way the terrible disparity of resources between you and most of the country's population -  identify an in-country organization that you admire and give it a donation.

3. Take traveler's checks. 

Travelers checks have gone the way of rotary phones. ("Rotary phones" - look it up.)

No matter how remote the country you're visiting, trust me, travelers checks are over.

Instead, take some cash (dollars or euros) + cash (local currency, upon arrival) + two cards that you can use as debit for ATMs. Stash the second card in a place that's separate from the other card.

And remember to inform your financial institution that you'll be traveling - you don't want to be abroad and find your card is locked.

4. From locals, about an area in their country - "Don't go there, it's too dangerous." 

This can be superb advice that you'd do well to heed. 


I've discovered that locals in all countries suffer from the same malady as the locals in my country. How many times do we hear compatriots caution against going to a particular U.S. location, be it an entire city or a part of a city, or a certain rural location? Again, sometimes the advice has merit, but more often than not, it's a generalized and unsubstantiated fear that has little connection with reality.

So if a local cautions me about going to a particular place, I'm going to listen to her, but I'm also going to ask more questions, do some independent research, and then make a decision.

5. Wait for the official instructions ... 

Like #4, this is sometimes the exact right thing to do. I learned in Ethiopia to be patient and let staff, such as those at a bus terminal, help me. They knew what they were doing and it was in their best interest for the maintenance of efficient operations to get me through the process smoothly.

But in an unusual situation, look at what the locals are doing. Are they waiting for instructions or are they moving?

In Ecuador long ago, a trio of us (all Americans) were on a train from Ibarra to San Lorenzo. En route, we encountered a landslide that had obliterated a section of track.We passengers disembarked and milled about for a bit. The train maestro said we should wait for instructions about what to do next.  While we waited, we noticed that all of the other passengers began streaming on foot through the compromised pathway.

By the time we decided to follow, our fate was sealed: On the other side was a waiting train - older, smaller -  in which all of the seats were taken.

This experience was a laugh-about-it-later one.

But on a much more serious level, there were people who died in the World Trade Center when they complied with instructions to "stay put."

6. Go here - the food is AMAZING!!! 

Yeah, OK, maybe.

But I invite you to redefine the term amazing!!!  to mean:

It is the ultimate experience in mediocrity! Nowhere else will you spend more money for such a stupendously average experience than this! 

I promise: If you redefine the word amazing as I suggest, you will never be disappointed. In fact, your expectations may be exceeded. Win-win.

What's your worst travel advice? 


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration

The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico
The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico


So, yes, it came to me that I do have a word for this year: Migration. 

There is a massive human migration on our planet today. 

Millions of women, men, and children are leaving their homes, their families, their friends and neighbors, their rose gardens, their languages, their neighborhood sounds and smells, their food, their favorite shops, their local houses of worship - all that they know, moving toward a future they hope is worthy of this outrageous price they pay. Knowing, too, that the people at the endpoint of their journeys may greet them, not with welcoming arms, but stony resentment. 

Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.
Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.

Some migration is forced, in the sense that oppressors intentionally push people out, escorting them out, even, with arms or threat of arms. 

  • The Alhambra Decree of 1492, which expelled all Jews from Spain unless they denounced their faith, for example. 
  • The 18th century Acadian Expulsion in Canada, for example. 
  • The 19th century forced removal of American indigenous to reservations, for example. 
  • The Long Walk, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps, mostly but not exclusively for Jewish people, in 15+ European countries, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps ("relocation centers") in the United States for Japanese-Americans, for example. 
  • The "Negro Removal" in St. Louis in the 1950s (and since), for example. 
  • The Israeli threats to Gaza residents to abandon their homes or suffer the consequences for imminent Israeli military attacks, for example. 
  • Rwanda. Burundi. Bosnia. Brazil. Guatemala. The list seems endless. 

Since mass migration is, if one looks at history, inevitable, it would seem wise if nations through which the tides of humans passed: 

  • Recognized such movement as an inevitability - as inevitable as the seasons that come and go - and did not treat each migration as a crime to be quashed or a one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster ... 
  • Built flexible systems that expand and contract as the forces ebb and flow, like the rise and fall and rise of seasonal floods, to work with the migration instead of constructing river channels that may control a stream in typical seasons, albeit with constant vigilance for cracks in the walls, but which will collapse like a child's little pile of stones when the inevitable 50-year or 100-year or 300-year flood comes. 
  • Accepted that the mighty weight of human desperation to rescue ourselves and our children from the drowning waters rushing behind us will break through walls of wire, steel, stone, concrete; of desert heat, and killing thirst.

There is migration within our country today, a domestic demographic rearrangement as the pandemic and lack of affordable housing and "trauma tax" pushes or pulls Americans away or toward new home bases. 

The pandemic and the resulting bloom of remote work has expanded the choices of where to live, possibly breathing fresh life into small cities and towns in areas that are/were moribund as a consequence of decades-long brain drain to larger urban areas.

There is migration occurring in my internal map, as well. Will I redefine rootlessness for myself? Or en-root myself again?

 This is the year of migration, both literal and figurative. Both macro and micro.

La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.
La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Rootless: On Living in Small Spaces


My apartment living room, bedroom, dining room, office in Mobile, Alabama. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
My apartment living room, bedroom, dining room, office in Mobile, Alabama. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


When I met a long-ago, longtime love, back in my rooted life, he lived in a small space above a bicycle shop. His space seems larger when I visualize it now, but at the time, it was so petite in comparison to my house (a modest baby ranch). 

He had a tiny bedroom that pretty much just fit a double bed, a tiny bathroom off the bedroom, a tiny kitchen, a largish living area, and best of all, a kind of enclosed balcony that, back in olden times, might have been called a sleeping porch. Windows surrounded this bonus lounging space. 

A cozy space; intimate. 

I remember thinking all those years ago: I could live in a space like this. 

Later, I met Jessica Terrell, who introduced me to tiny houses. She aspired to live in a tiny house. 

On long, meditative drives on road trips, my mind often travels to my perfect house: A one-room space that has, along one wall, a:

  • Scandinavian-inspired, built-in "closet bed" (or "bed nook") with doors I can close during the day;
  • Toilet room; and a
  • Separate shower room.

Along a perpendicular wall are the sinks, refrigerator, and stove/oven. 

Universal design. Gosh, I love the premise, the promise, of universal design. It doesn't zero in on humans with disabilities. It includes everyone; it makes accessing the space easier for all. A description: 

The term universal design was coined by the architect Ronald Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.

 I like its aim to be both aesthetic and usable. 

My El Paso kitchen. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
My El Paso kitchen. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

My El Paso bedroom, office, and so-called living room. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
My El Paso bedroom, office, and so-called living room. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

It has happened not-infrequently in my life that when I imagine something, it eventually comes to pass. Maybe my imaginary house will, too.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Missouri: The Seven Shades of Winter


Icy serviceberry, Jefferson City, Missouri. January 2007. Credit: Mzuriana.
                    Icy serviceberry, Jefferson City, Missouri. January 2007. Credit: Mzuriana.



So I'm back in the Land of Winter. 

To manage this, I've got to break it into segments: 

  1. The time change that summons the darkness, oh, too early, and too cold.
  2. The winter solstice, the shortest day.
  3. January 1 - at least we're now in the calendar year when will come spring! 
  4. The entire month of February - the coldest and the bleakest and the longest month of winter, notwithstanding its actual number of days
  5. The time change, bringing incremental daylight minutes in the afternoon
  6. March 21: The first day of spring! 
  7. Yeah! And every day in March that is without snow or ice or arctic temperatures is a day stolen from that bitch winter. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Grant, NM: A Revolution in the Middle of Nowhere

I have nothing to add to this story except to just step back and contemplate how much courage, perseverance, hardship, and risk it requires to effect meaningful change.

And to know - to know - that it's not just risk of what might happen to you, it's actual harm that rains down on you from those who wish to maintain the status quo. Physical, financial, educational, emotional, familial harm.

And to know that throughout the process of inviting, provoking, inciting change, there is no guarantee that your sacrifices and vulnerability will achieve the desired result. 

When I think in this moment of so many women, men, and children who seek to self-rescue themselves from untenable situations at home in Central and South America, who are daily dehumanized by the sere name of "migrant," I think of desperation - yet there is also hope, right? Because to leave the status quo for something else implies the hope that there is something better elsewhere. 

As had these revolutionaries in Grant County, New Mexico: We are men and women. We deserve better, and we claim what we deserve.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Grant County, New Mexico: A Revolution in the Middle of Nowhere


Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico


You're driving down a road. You pass through a small, rather despondent town by the name of Bayard. The only thing of interest that catches your eye is a mural on the side of a long, low building. You turn around, go back. Get out of the car, take the pics, get back in the car and zoom off. Nice artwork.

But when you get home and go through the pics, get ready to post them, you do a little due diligence on the ol' "Local 890" cited in the mural. Maybe there's a little blurb in a local paper about the mural, its artist, and a bit of history of a union group that used to be, and that probably is no more.

You google on "Hurley, NM" and "local 890." Nothing of interest comes up. So you broaden the search to "local 890" and "new mexico." (Update 11Feb2013: Note comment below from Anonymous. I had the town wrong, which explains why nothing much came up in my original search. Doh!

Goddamn. What a story!

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The primary story

Back in the early 1950s, a lot of folks in Grant County worked at the Empire Zinc Mine in Hanover, New Mexico. Americans of Mexican descent were paid less than other Americans working in the mine - there was a two-tiered wage structure to ensure that. Furthermore, regardless of ethnicity, the company didn't pay for the time getting down into or up out of the mine - the clock didn't start until the miners were in place. Mining families living in company housing suffered poor living conditions - no hot water, for example. The company was not responsive to the miners' complaints about any of these issues, and they and the miners reached an impasse.

The miners' union, the Local 890, decided to go on strike. They kept the mine closed for eight months, with neither side budging from their positions. Finally, the company obtained a court injunction forbidding the miners to strike.

In a creative twist, some of the wives of the miners, affiliated with the Ladies' Auxiliary 209, suggested that they form the picket lines instead of the miners. The miners agreed.

The women stood fast against arrests, threats, and intimidation by union scabs, local law, and community members. In one narrative:
"The women’s picket was carefully organized, militant, and successful. Not only did wives of Empire strikers, such as Henrietta Williams and Virginia Chac√≥n, walk the line; many women from other towns in Grant County also participated. When County Sheriff Leslie Goforth ordered 53 women arrested on June 16, another 300 women took their places!"

Furthermore, in response to intimidation:
"Not only did women push cars, drag men out of them, and maintain their lines; they also jumped on cars, threw rocks at strikebreakers, and deployed various “domestic” items as weapons: knitting needles, pins, (rotten) eggs and chili peppers."

So who was back home taking care of the kids and house? The jobless miners, who had eye-opening experiences at home.
"For the next seven months, the women held the line in the face of violence from strikebreakers, mass arrests by the sheriff, and opposition from many of their own husbands, who were suddenly faced with the responsibilities of caring for children, washing clothes, and doing the dishes. In January 1952, the strikers returned to work with a new contract. They had failed to win their major demands, but did obtain significant pay increases that, in effect, undermined the Mexican wage. Several weeks later, Empire Zinc installed hot water plumbing in Mexican American workers’ houses--a major issue pushed by the women of these households."

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The secondary story

Three filmmakers who were members of the Communist Party made a movie about the miners' strike. They were Herbert Biberman (director), Michael Wilson (screenwriter), and Paul Jarrico (producer).

Mr. Wilson wrote or collaborated on screenplays for, among others: Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes, Bridge Over the River Kwai, It's A Wonderful Life, A Place in the Sun, and Border Patrol. In some, such as Lawrence of Arabia, he was uncredited because he had been blacklisted during (and after) the McCarthy Era.

The movie was Salt of the Earth, and it included experienced actors and individuals who actually participated in the strike. Filmed on site, the movie production was beset with harassing actions by politicos fraught with commie fever.
"On February 24, 1953, as filming proceeded in Grant County, U.S. Representative Donald L. Jackson (Rep-Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), delivered a speech on the floor of Congress that portrayed Salt as a dire threat to the nation. 'This picture,' Jackson charged, 'is deliberately designed to inflame racial hatreds and to depict the United States of America as the enemy of all colored peoples.' 'If this picture is shown in Latin America, Asia, and India,' he warned, 'it will do incalculable harm not only to the United States but to the cause of free people everywhere.' 'In effect,' he concluded, 'this picture is a new weapon for Russia.'”

To harass the making of the movie,

"The Grant County American Legion post distributed printed copies of Jackson’s speech to local residents. Anti-Mine-Mill residents formed a vigilante committee that carried out physical attacks on the film crew and cast. And the day after Jackson’s speech, Rosaura Revueltas [one of the professional actresses] was arrested on immigration charges, based on the technicality that she had failed to get her passport stamped when entering the U.S., and was deported before filming ended. (The last shots of her in the film were done in Mexico and the film had to be smuggled back into the U.S.). Finally, due to collaboration between Jackson, studio executives such as Howard Hughes, the American Legion, as well as the conservative Hollywood technicians’ union--the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)--few Americans saw Salt of the Earth in the year of its release. In 1954, there were 13,000 movie theaters in the U.S. Only thirteen of them showed the film."
In addition, shots were fired nearby and planes buzzed the production in order to interrupt film making.

"Grandpa Walton," Will Geer, played the town sheriff in the movie. Mr. Geer was also on the blacklist for his alleged un-American activities.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The tertiary stories

Women's rights. Carl R. Weinberg, a historian and the author of this article, which as served as my main resource on the Local 890 strike, proposes that the women's role in this strike was one of a series of events that informed the modern-day women's movement.

Communism as scapegoat. The socio-political environment in which the strike and movie occurred used communism as a handy shield to maintain the status quo for the mining company and its employees.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico. 

So here's to the mural artist(s) in little Bayard, New Mexico, whose work compelled me to pause for a moment on my way home from Silver City. And to the people of the Local 890 and the 209, whose story is still so moving, more than 50 years later. 


Monday, January 1, 2024

2024: Word of the Year?


Captive words in Armenia. March 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

Captive words in Armenia. March 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.



Some years back, I instituted a Word of the Year thing. 

Not sure I will continue. 

Maybe I'm just over it. Maybe it feels is too contrived. Maybe it was just a way to add content in a lazy-ass way, albeit with sincerity.

While I think about whether to continue the pattern, below are past words of the year: 

2018: Courage

2019: Action

 2020: Build

  1. Build 1: After the Floods
  2. Build 2: Fronterista
  3. Build 3: "House"
  4. Build 4: Chosens
  5. Build 5: It Takes a Village
  6. Build 6: Elevation
  7. Build 7: Trail Building
  8. Build 8: Money
  9. Build 9: Health 
  10. Build 10: Service and Activism
  11. Build 11: Relationships
  12. Build 12: Creative Life
  13. Lagniappe 13: My Rootless Goals

2021: Joy


2022: Disciplines

 2023: Fear