These two questionable birds remind me of cartoon characters us kids watched on black and white television in the 1950’s, most often perched on a tree limb talking about crazy humans. They were, as they appear here, angular, opinionated, and had New York voices that were like a piece of coarse sandpaper rubbed over my cheek, and not gently.
Perched on a tiny end table in front of the Madrid, New Mexico Mine Shaft Museum, they, for the moment, aren’t gossiping loud enough that I can hear who they are roasting.
The Madrid mining museum is full of old rusted mining implements piled into one large open room, under a tin roof. Through an open doorway, I see old corroded machines that kept town mines operating in the 1800’s when lots of young men and painted women came out west to make their fortunes moving lots of dirt.
The curator of the museum, a gray haired volunteer woman standing by a manual cash register, talks in a mellifluous voice and explains, to an equally old couple listening attentively, how the town prospered in its heyday.
Not interested in paying to go inside the museum, I peek through the door for free, and hear Heckle and Jeckle laughing again.
For some odd reason, I want to buy the fountain and the two metal birds and place them all on a little table on my back porch in Albuquerque.
These two could really tell me funny, but true, stories about mining in Madrid, Mew Mexico, before the hippies came.
Watching humans all day must be about as funny as it gets.
Lonesome George is a famous tortoise from the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, many hundreds of miles off the Ecuador coast. He was the last of his species and died in 2012 at the ripe old age of 100, one of many species of living things to become extinct throughout the history of this planet Earth.
According to a recent television documentary, dedicated to George,there were efforts to find him a mate to continue his species, but it was a losing effort. Either George was too old, liked his own company too much, or just had those problems men get past the age of fifty.
How is it to live to a hundred years and be the last of your kind alive?
If George had had a video camera he would have been able to show his changing world. In his younger days, there would have been men in wood boats rowing to the island to collect his relatives for the soup pot. In later years there would have been processions of scientists with recording instruments taping wires on his back to follow his movements and record his vitals. These last days there were mostly noisy tourists with cameras and sunscreen, sunglasses and notebooks packed with observations..
George passed in 2012, and, in this local park, a local artist has donated a sculpture to his memory.
Lonesome George lived long enough to outlast his entire generation.
Whether he was really lonesome is something he never talked much about.
Where country begins is ” when you start to see cows. ”
We are not in prime cow country in this high desert Arizona.There is much better grazing in Texas, and, even better, in Uruguay.The grass here is sparse amid cactus, junipers, washes, arroyos, ditches, and dirt roads. This land we are driving through, to reach Chip’s little piece of paradise, is open range and these cows have the right of way over both automobiles and humans.
These two critters give me the evil eye when I stop to take their portrait.
If they could talk they would be asking me what I was doing here, how long I intended to stay, and what my real intentions are.
They grow tired of me quickly and peacefully amble off.
When you get out of the city you see clearly the things you are getting away from and the things you left behind that you miss.
When I start trying to make friends with cows, who don’t even have watches to give me the time of day, I figure I have already been out here too long.
I love the country but miss my city.
Living a simple life, after all is said and done, isn’t very simple.
Most smoking in America has been banned from public buildings. All tobacco packaging has to contain scientific warnings that tobacco products are not good for your health. Tobacco is taxed at an exorbitant rate. Television advertising of tobacco products has been curtailed drastically. Multi-million dollar lawsuits have awarded money to smoking victims in large class action health related lawsuits. Doctors advise all their clients to quit. Smoking in movies and on television by actors and actresses has trickled to a few puffs each season.
Camel cigarettes are one of the last surviving brands from the 1950’s.
As kids, we thought it funny to see the Camels on cigarette packs and wondered who would smoke them instead of Philip Morris, Lucky Strikes or Marlboro’s. The fifties were a smoking heyday with millions of vets acquiring the habit in the war and continuing when they got home. Our Dad smoked, but quit, once we were born, by eating tons of lifesavers he kept on a closet shelf where we couldn’t reach them. The Camels always made us think of the French Foreign Legion, men wearing funny hats fighting other men wearing funny hats.
In this Santo Domingo airport, on my way home, I find a plastic Camel lounging in a smoking room. It is a cool place to hang out while waiting for my plane to board and there are only a few people here this morning, a cleaning woman and a smoking man looking out the lounge window puffing intently on his Camel cigarette, the smoke making clouds in room thick enough to walk on.
Camels, might truly be cool, but I hear, from people who have lived with them, that they are nasty, have body order, and spit at people they don’t like.
Advertising always gets us to ignore product negatives,
I’m in this smoking room, hanging with a camel, and I don’t even smoke.
The materials making these mobiles are exquisitely simple – wire, fishing line, paper mache, paint.
One touch of one hummingbird and all of them are flying, fearless in space, reminding me of hummingbirds in the Costa Rican Monteverde Rain Forest, reminding me of a hummingbird in South Fork, Colorado, reminding me of hummingbird’s gravitating to a feeder on brother Alan’s front porch in Palo Duro Canyon.
The hummingbird’s all dance in the air, in a circle, set in motion by a little tap by my right hand forefinger.
Setting things in motion is what us humans do, instinctively.
My right forefinger, on my laptop mouse, starts this video in motion too, with a slight gentle tap.
There is art everywhere on Calle Conti, leaning against walls in the pedestrian walkways, stacked deep in little shops along with Dominican Republic baseball caps and knick knacks. The canvases are small, medium, and large, but all seem to have been painted by the same pair of hands.
Bolo’s, on a different street,catches my eye, which is a good sign for a business that deals in tantalizing the eyes and tweaking the spirit. Outside, by the gallery’s front door are three colorful masks and I can see quickly that there is space inside the gallery to stand back and look at the art and crafts sold inside.
The galleries featured artist this month, Almanzar from Haiti, has displayed a series of self portraits done in a pointillist like style, with subtle girl colors.To counterbalance her glowing transcendence there are colorful fish hung on an opposing wall, a hummingbird construction towards the back of the shop that draws me, and an entire bookcase full of quaint, colorful wood figures sitting on the edge of each book shelf.
The black sales woman has music on, a glowing smile, and is gracious enough to let me take my time and just browse on a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week.
I do wonder about an artist that does a show of self portraits.
Why would someone you don’t know want to buy your self portrait?
Wouldn’t they really just want to buy one of themselves?
Pat reminds me to dig deeper into amber, highly valued by Kings and royalty way way back when we had Kings and royalty.
Tunneling deeper, I start walking to the Museum of Ambar at 454 Calle Arzobismo Merino Street in the Zona Colonia. It is roughly four blocks from the Plaza Colon.
I keep watching street numbers increase, as I walk, and the numbers tell me I am getting closer to the museum. There is a 452 Merino street and 454 is just after 452, on a corner on my side of the street. Odd numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the other seems to have some kind of universal mojo.
Brunilda, standing inside, at the front door, opens the front door and welcomes me, and soon gives me a fifteen minute personal tour of the museo and retail shop.
In my tour, I discover amber facts.
Amber is tree sap preserved in the Earth, as old as 360 million years.
Amber, under heat, turns into its original gummy state.
Jurassic Park popularized amber with its premise of bringing dinosaurs back to life by extracting DNA from insects caught inside it, then using the DNA to create dinosaurs.
Amber can contain bark, roots, leaves, vegetables, ants, termites, lizards, and most anything that crawled into it and couldn’t get out.
The older a piece of amber is, the darker it becomes.
“Blue Amber ” is found only in the Dominican Republic. If you hold ” Blue Amber ” up to light you see tints of blue.
Amber,dropped into a saline solution, floats.
Amber comes in many colors and shades.
Brunilda finishes our tour with a stop in the retail store.
Even though I’m sold on ambar, i don’t buy today.
I didn’t bring money with me on this trip, on purpose.
Not taking money when you go someplace is not always a bad travel precaution.
There is always a plaza in these old historical centers, full of people and things to see and do.
People who run the country work inside offices that surround the plaza, eat in restaurants on the corner, attend civic functions in the square, make business and romantic deals on these same benches we tourists use to take a breather.
This plaza is jumping today with a sound stage, live music, speeches, booths with information on stopping domestic violence and helping police help the public more effectively. There is a news crew moving about and men with big cameras are getting big pictures for the evening news. The female news anchor is properly curvy and young and we will like watching the news tonight even if we don’t like what is being said.
Pigeons in the square look for handouts and aren’t disappointed. They remind me of Sebastian Park in Cuenca and the street pigeons in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.
When the kids run at them, the birds take flight, but soon, they drop back to the ground and fight for whatever has been offered to them.
The plaza has been here since the 1500’s, when the first Cathedral in the New World was finished and Christianity was brought to pagans who were subdued by swords and better technology.
I imagine kids were chasing pigeons, even in the 1500’s, and these benches were still occupied by tourists come to listen to Sunday Mass from the courtyard as Cathedral hymns flowed out the heavy iron doors like melodic waves.