Shopping at ” 99″ Chinese shopping

    If it crawls, slides, slips, flips,slithers, climbs, it is not safe. At “99”, in Albuquerque, there are selections to fit Chinese tastes. Today, Ruby  has a taste for seafood, and, lifting up a black cloth, she goes after blue and white colored crabs that try to escape the small plastic tub that holds them for display. The crabs that run from her the fastest are the ones she grabs in her prongs and puts, with help, into her open plastic bag. For meat and poultry she likes Sprouts. The meats at “99”, she says in basic English, are old and not good. I don’t care for tree fungus, but find noodles tolerable. Worms are offensive. The most difficult skill is to eat soup with chopsticks. Americans eat meat, potatoes, bread, hamburgers, french fries, sugar, salt. Chinese eat seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts and rice. The crabs try to hurt us with their scissor hands but they are no match for Ruby’s prongs.  

McDonalds Washing Windows

    Sitting in this Albuquerque McDonalds feels like sitting inside the Diner in the 1942 Edward Hopper oil painting – ” Nighthawks. ” Early this morning, Javier is busy cleaning this fast food franchise made of glass, plastic, tile, low voltage lights, lightweight chairs and tables, all under the ubiquitous corporate  logo – M. Javier works diligently, methodically, pulling tools out of his maintenance closet by the soft drink machines where homeless fill up yesterday’s paper cups with today’s free soda. He greets us in Spanish and opens the door at five when we queue for coffee. Javier soaps his windows,then carefully uses a squeegee to remove the soap from the glass. He cleans his squeegee with a rag he pulls out of his back pocket.  He looks for imperfections as he goes and his windows are a work of art. Big business, some say, is good for America. Big business, others say, has turned us into a plutocracy.. Edward Hopper’s painting seems comforting this morning, less stark than our present situation. Clean windows in a dirty world are a thing of beauty.  

Moriarty Pinto Bean Festival Local Color

    Moriarty is a small town thirty minutes east of Albuquerque on Route 66. Annually, the city hosts a Pinto Bean Festival to honor the lowly pinto bean and those rural folk that live in this area in manufactured homes on subdivided one acre plots that get more sparse the farther you move from I-40. Pinto beans get their name from their mottled brown and beige color, like a pinto horse. Take pinto beans, a flour tortilla, some green chili and a little meat, if you have it, and you have a burrito that has been New Mexico survival food since settlers moved here hundreds of years ago. This Festival is a collection of booths. In one are two women gunslingers wearing revolvers and shooting up business for a local indoor shooting range. There is a group who want to restore an old Whiting Brothers gas station sign as a relic of the loved Route 66 that held states and communities along its route together like crazy glue. There are games where you toss a bag into a box, spin a wheel for free food at a local Denny’s, try to toss a ring around a soft drink can for a free drink. There is a station to get blood pressure checked and another to meet Jesus. Roberto sells hats made from palm fronds from Ecuador and kids play on swings with recycled automobile tires providing a soft landing for their falls. One of the more moving installations is at the entrance to the Fair where two men are taking donations to support the Moving Wall coming to Moriarty. The Moving Wall is a scaled down version of the Vietnam Wall in Washington. It has the names of all the men and women who died in that hapless conflict in a far away place. Vietnam casualties reached small towns across America and on the walls of VFW’s in hundreds of communities are pictures and names and military rank and rate of young people who lost their lives in foreign jungles. Pinto beans help you survive when chips fall on the table and society begins to crack like a dropped ice cube. I pick up two bags on my way out of town.  

Fossil Hunt NM - South 14

    New Mexico was once at the bottom of a great sea. Over millions of years, carbon creatures died and drifted to the bottom of that sea and became preserved in silt. Layer upon layer of silt turned to stone and the fragile bodies of once living creatures became captured and preserved. My Geologist brother Neal likes nothing better than hiking mountains, looking for geological treasure chests and opening them to find fossil pieces of eight. This morning we return to a quarry he was introduced to in junior high school.  A teacher brought he and a friend here to scrape away layers of shale and discover ferns, brachiapods, and other marine life. These days a teacher wouldn’t risk the field trip but that trip set two kids into lifelong careers. As I look up at the quarry walls this morning i can easily see geological epochs as they were deposited in layers. Even a foot thick layer took thousands of years to form.. Neal knows the layers we are looking for on this dig and finds us a promising hunting spot in the side of a crumbling bank in mountains that used to be under water. Hawks fly over us on a clear cool fall morning and we have brought our small cardboard boxes for specimens, rock hammers, scrapers, newspapers for wrapping what we find, bottles of water, a few apples and sunflower seeds, and lots of hope. Any day you can poke into pre- history and find something only you are seeing for the first time in 250 million years, it is a good day.  

Railway Market Sax Therapy

    On Sundays, during warmer months in Albuquerque, an old train barn opens its huge metal doors to the public. Vendors set up inside to sell their produce, art, clothes, soaps and lotions, health food, get signatures for green projects and alternative lifestyles, listen to music and enjoy the scene. This Sunday, we come down to hear Chadd’s saxophone quartet – Sax Therapy.  It is quaint inside the train barn, good to see an old dilapidated unused piece of functional architecture used for better than a roosting place for pigeons. Running across, and embedded in the concrete floor of this large open area, are rails that used to bring trains inside to be repaired, outfitted, cleaned, and re-conditioned. Now, the only Albuquerque train is Amtrak that has ticket sales in what remains of the original Alvarado Hotel. The real Alvarado Harvey House was demolished in the 60’s to make room for buildings that never followed, part of the 1960’s short sighted urban renewal dreams of government elected officials.  Seated at the south end of the train barn, Ruby and I watch dancers twirl to forties style big band music.  A college singer croons Rosemary Clooney. Following them is Sax Therapy featuring two alto saxes, one tenor sax and one baritone sax.  They do a Monk tune, a twenties style ragtime classic, and a Texas blues wail to start, then move to a show tune and Be-Bop.  Chadd negotiates his bari with ease, his eyebrows going up when he moves into the upper register and eyes looking to the ground when he goes real real low. I’m not sure but think I hear a train whistle moving towards us in straight four four time. When you get four saxes playing together you can almost feel your teeth vibrating on the crescendos.  

Gran Quivera Salinas Pueblo Missions

    Between Roswell and Mountainair, in New Mexico, there is enough open space to house millions of people, plus livestock. Land stretches from the road as far as you can see. Whether the planet is running out of space or just resources needed to support seven billion people is a topic for early morning radio talk shows. The horizon is distant and telephone poles and barbed wire fences, ancient technology, crowd this rural highway along with an occasional grouping of cattle, old crumbling farmhouses, windmills with blades missing like a kid’s front tooth. We wave at the few drivers that pass us going towards Roswell.. A road marker advertises Gran Quivera National Monument and Richard takes an exit to get us a look at the historical site.  People lived here long before Pilgrims, long before Columbus. When the Conquistadors came, in the fifteen hundreds, to search for gold, to claim land for their King, to convert Indians to Catholicism, there was conflict. In 1680, a Pueblo Revolt sent the new invaders packing until they returned with even more deadly force. What is left of this Pueblo are the walls of an old Spanish church, without its roof, and numerous fallen rock walls of homes on the hillsides around the church.  It would have been strange for the Indians to learn a new religion, kneel at a cross, drink wine, eat wafers. Their Gods were of nature and their vision of creation and man’s place in it was different than those of their conquerors. Stacking rocks and building walls in an open paradise would have been intolerable. New Mexico is about open space. You can’t live here without realizing land survives. Conquerors are, in good time, conquered.

Roswell UFO Museum Little Green Men

    When local rancher Mack Brazell found extraterrestrial debris on his ranch and reported it to the local Sheriff a Pandora’s box was opened. The local Sheriff called the local Air Force Base and a whirlwind of misinformation, disinformation, cover up was begun. The Roswell Incident is known around the world, and, at its epicenter, Roswell has a museum dedicated to UFO’s and alien visits from that summer of 1947. On Sunday, when people should be in church, inquisitive souls browse this museum, watch a Hollywood movie on ” Roswell “, snap pictures to post to their Facebook page. The story, as told, is one of an alien crash and dead alien bodies. Mack reported strange metal scraps strewn over the desert with strange inscriptions that were impervious to destruction and, when squeezed, returned to their original shape. A mortician reported small  bodies with four fingers and large eyes. There were sworn deathbed statements that documented unearthly events. Official reports promoted weather balloons. It is a question of faith in the absence of facts. Participants in the event have died, committed suicide, or told survivors what they saw, or did, or knew. I wrestle with thinking versus intuition. The explosion of technology, after 1947, is significant. The automobile was still a youngster on the block.. Television was barely into living rooms of the most wealthy. Then, after 1947, you get exponential scientific breakthroughs. What our government is working on, in secret, is beyond this planet. Did Einstein sit up nights discussing the universe with green men?

Roswell Football New Mexico Military Institute

    Saturday night football has pulled into the station. Leaves are turning, temps dip into the forties at night, football practice consumes players, and especially coaches. This Saturdays game matches the Arizona Western Matadors and the New Mexico Military Institute Broncos. Richard’s son, Drew, coaches offense for the Broncos and Richard supports his sons. I rode shotgun down and watch this evening’s game from the bleachers as a visiting nationally ranked team in their division meets Drew’s team, close and personal. Football is one of America’s popular spectator sports. All the details are here: bright lights, a grass field with two goalposts and freshly marked yard lines, grandstands, a bright scoreboard, friends and family following action, teams moving onto and off the field of dreams, halftime activities, sounds of hard contact, the execution and non execution of carefully designed plays practiced all week on this same field by the home team. Football is a team sport with individual stars. It is a combination of planning and chance. The best team doesn’t always win. These two teams are evenly matched with only a few key plays making the difference. There is an opening game run by the Matadors that puts the Broncos behind early. At the end of the first half the Broncos leave the field with the ball on the Matadors seven yard line. When the game is over the Broncos lose with the final score 28 to 26. After the game we go down on the field. Cadets, released to return to their barracks, cross the field around us. Drew’s next week will be a study of this game and a preparation for the next. There will be high fives for some players and thumbs down for others. For spectators, a football game is over when it is over. For coaches, the games play like film loops in their brain all season, and, sometimes, many seasons. Drew is disappointed with the outcome, but pleased with his players.  

Russell’s Travel Center Blast to the Past

    Russell’s Travel Center sits on a New Mexico hill just before the Texas/ New Mexico State Line. It is close to Endee, one of those almost vanished New Mexico towns that shrink smaller and smaller as time barrels forwards. At Russell’s you can gas up, have something to eat, buy food, use restrooms, draw cash from an ATM, and, most importantly, take a trip down memory lane. There is a car and culture exhibit in the Travel Center that is a blast to the past. While the 1920’s roared, danced around the edges of a champagne glass, the 1930’s were filled with clouds of dust and long faces. The 1940’s were filled with World War 2. The 1950’s were a return to consumerism, family, stability and hard work chasing your dreams in a country that encouraged you to look to make bigger and better things, have bigger and better ideas, and hitch your coat-tails to the best of capitalism. The 60’s were a crack in the Liberty Bell with dissent and revulsion by kids against morals and tradition.  This exhibit in the travel center holds icons of my 1950’S generation. Roy Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Betty Boop, Elvis Presley are some of the 1950’s icons.  Big chrome laden cars, soft drink machines, rock and roll music and parking meters were playing cards in our deck. To nieces and nephews it is hard to describe rotary phones, push lawn mowers, Dewey decimal card catalogs, the KKK, life without pizza and hamburgers, black and white TV’s. As old waves go out, new ones pile over the top of them. Being on the bottom is rough tumbling, and, not much fun.  

Courtyard Texas Oasis

    One can see joy when Bedouin travelers top a mountain of sand and wind their way down to an oasis with date trees, water, and a flat place to set up tents, unroll hand woven rugs, and build small fires in the enormous desert night. This courtyard is the same, a quiet place to retreat from hot summers, a place where summer winds are deflected by brick walls and critters can’t get inside to eat the roses. The courtyard has been a work in progress and it changes, like those deserts where yesterday’s path is covered up by last night’s windstorm.  This courtyard has a fountain, flowers, yard decorations, lounge chairs, a Texas state flag, and privacy. It is reminiscent of Cartegena or Cuenca where, behind great wooden doors reinforced with iron bars, there are luxurious compounds where children ride bikes, women hang up clothes on the line, and old men smoke cigars in mid afternoon under the porch when it is too hot to be watching girls in neighborhood cafes. When I visit Alan’s place, we sit on the front porch and listen to the fountain and recall when we used to visit here during vacation summers and drive a beat up jeep on rutted dirt roads across cattle pasture to fish in stocked cattle tanks. We would try to hit cow patties in the road and laugh as we hit them. Our grandparent’s farm, a mile due east, has been neglected and was recently buried into the prairie by a bulldozer. Uninhabited, for years, mice took over the living quarters and it was decided by the new owner that the old homestead couldn’t be rehabbed and wasn’t worth saving. Alan likes Texas so much he made it his own oasis. Peace and quiet are to be sought and fought for.  
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