It isn’t here yet but Halloween is galloping down the road and the headless horseman will soon be here.
New Mexico and Mexico have much in common this time of year as our town celebrates both Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos or ” Day of the Dead. ”
There is no border between the countries of Mexico and the United States and buses run regular from Juarez to Albuquerque. Everyone here knows border talk is just talk and the cultures of North, South and Central America are merging like shoppers at a great flea market.
Brother Mark, visiting for a few days from Denver, wants a photo in front of the Breaking Bad Bus that takes visitors on a tour of Albuquerque locations featured on the popular TV series of the same name.
Shopping, we find pinon incense for his wife Leigh in one of the shops off the main plaza. There are also flashy ceramic tiles, polished rocks, pinon coffee, chili socks, wooden Indians, serapes, Day of the Dead skulls and statues, turquoise jewelry. One shop has Breaking Bad posters on the wall, and, in another, Sheldon looks at the world with his Big Bang Theory.
When you say the words Halloween and Albuquerque, over and over again, you start to lose your mind.
On the way out of Old Town, I scratch my head to make sure it is still up there, and, thankfully,it is.
I’m on my way soon for Belize and Ecuador.
I don’t, like this headless horseman, want to go anywhere without having something between my two ears.
There aren’t many rides on this Midway but those that are here give kids a thrill.
Precious children are flung through space, turned upside down, and hold on screaming for dear life.
This circus has an old time Ferris Wheel. There is the Hammer and the Swinger, the Fun Slide, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, a Spinning Wheel, and a Fun House. Families buy ride coupons at small booths and hand them to scruffy men or tall lean teenagers wearing John Deere ball caps. They wait in lines for a ride to finish and then are loaded into seats, baskets, or capsules like bullets into a chamber.
The amusement area at the Punkin Chunkin Festival is a maze of pipes, high voltage electric cables, gears, pulleys, wheels, wire cages and seats, sounds of straining engines, lights, chain link fences to keep people going the correct direction. Machinery is always looking to grab hands in the wrong places.
Parents take pictures of their offspring spinning through the air, rushing down a long slide sitting on burlap bags, spinning in tea cups, or locked inside a metal cage that keeps them from falling when they are upside down twenty feet in the air twisting like a dust devil.
In old days the circus had elephants, animal acts, bearded ladies, carnie games, clowns and dancing girls. The circus has shrunk, almost vanished.
You don’t need a tattooed lady when women in the crowd have tattoos of their own inked in public and private places.
In the distance, ATV’s and pickup trucks wait for this year’s contest to begin, looking themselves like small tin cans hung on a fence post for target practice. They scurry around after each shot, mark where pumpkins come back to Earth and send back GPS co-ordinates that help calculate the distance of each shot.
On the firing line there is activity as half a dozen cannons are lined up and crews are checking mechanisms, counting pumpkins, and figuring how to beat competitors. The King and Queen of the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival has been crowned. Winners of raffles have been announced. Lunch is winding down and stragglers hurry to grandstands from full parking lots.
There are a few issues, but, by one in the afternoon, pumpkins are being launched, one after another. There is a siren to warn us of a firing, then, a few seconds later, an explosion.
Pumpkins shoot out of the barrels hot. If you are sitting just right, you can track the pumpkin as it leaves the barrel, follow it in its arc till it plummets into the field and splatters into harmless slices of pumpkin pie. No one gets injured, maimed or killed in this war. It is country fun for country folks.
The distances are announced over a simple public address system and the crowd cheers for a good shot.
The winning shot, this year, travels 3185 feet. Competition is fierce and people enjoy the annual event.
Trying to do it better is what keeps this country alive, even if it is chunkin’ punkin’s, spitting sunflower seeds, or tossing cow chips.
Granite boulders are common along this foothill trail.
They are spread like giant marbles dumped out of a cloth bag onto the school playground at recess. Some of the boulders are clumped together, others stand alone in a patch of cactus or in the shade of a stubborn juniper with gnarled branches.
Along this trail, lichen cling to the granite.
Lichen comes in shades of green and consists of two symbiotic organisms. The fungi part sinks roots into resisting rock, extracts nutrients, holds on for dear life. The algae part piggybacks on fungi and uses photosynthesis and nutrients to make food for both of them.
Winding up the trail on a morning hike, through a planet in transition, all looks stable, but nature is far from stable.
Googling- lichen on granite- brings you life’s variety, delicacy, and will to survive.
Symbiosis describes human relationships, as well as natures.
You can be wearing a tuxedo and tails, coveralls, golf shorts, uniforms, diapers, or your birthday suit, and it sounds great. You can be wearing a wedding dress, a pearl necklace, spiked heels, a flimsy cocktail party dress, cowboy boots, turquoise earrings or a bikini and it sounds great. You can be white haired, bald, or a long hair and enjoy. You do not need to know how to read or write to get the rhythm right.
This afternoon a little girl stands in front of the Band with her father’s approving look and does an impromptu dance.
She can do worse than hang out with serious musicians wearing suits and swinging with intent.
There is her future ahead.
Possibly she will fall in love with a man who fits her and walk down the aisle with her father holding her arm to be given, with her father’s blessing, to a lucky guy? Possibly she will have happy children and a family? Maybe she will fall into a career that fits her abilities and interests?
This afternoon the band plays and people move into and out of the picture. Some tarry. Some show appreciation. Others barrel through the moment like ordnance in World War 1. Some try to avoid the camera.
Music speaks across place, time, people and ideology – in its own voice.
In the saxophone family you have a number of siblings.
The shortest boys, who sing the highest, are the C Melody and Soprano saxes. Then you move to Alto and Tenor Saxes who are the most common kids on jazz bandstands. At the back of the parade you have Baritone Sax. The lowest voiced saxophone, and biggest of all – the Contra-bass saxophone- seldom gets out of its case because it is an elephant at the tea party.
This afternoon Sax Therapy performs in Old Town during the annual Albuquerque balloon festival.
Dressed for this performance in suits, the quys move through their songbook with style.
A few listeners take photos, engage the musicians in conversation, and dance, especially when the ensemble launches into a spirited version of ” When the Saints Come Marching in. ”
The guys play like a family, and, on this song, a happy family.
Everyone knows their part and they play well together.
Once the sun drops below the Albuquerque city limits, street lights switch on, programmed by computers.
The man made lights aren’t strong enough to make everything visible so, at night, you move from one pocket of light to another and guess what is down that alley, or behind that fence, or on that roof.
Tonight, brother Neal and I run into downtown’s neon’s, flashing signs, street lights cycling from green to yellow to red to green. Car headlights appear like gigantic bug eyes as gawker’s cruise. Earlier, street food vendors were parked in the middle of closed fourth and sixth streets selling their specialties but most of them have since closed up and driven home.
At Sadie’s, Neal and I have our right hands stamped with a black owl that lets us re-enter the bar if we decide to leave and want to return. My jazz teacher, Chadd, plays with a Latin band playing tonight and we came down to hear him play.. The opening act Cuban band is just setting up on stage and we realize quickly we will have a wait before Chadd’s group finally gets on stage.
Compensating, we take our black owls outside to fly old Route 66, admire the beautiful renovated Kimo Theater and grab a burger at Lindy’s, a downtown eatery dating back to the 1940’s. This Downtown area has been trying to rehabilitate itself in the last decade and has made some progress though families and sane people don’t often come down here after dark.
When Chadd’s band, Barrutanga, finally marches on stage in a crazy Latin band homage to New Orleans, it is after eleven.
Neal tells his wife, later, that it was an experience.
Experience, I have been told, is what happens when you make the same mistake twice.
The only mistake we made was arriving at nine instead of eleven.