Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Map of my roadtrip

Here is a map of my roadtrip.

Here are some more pictures.

A fence of many materials.

A piece of pressed tin used as part of the side of a shed.

A stone building in the ghost town of La Manga, south of Las Vegas.

A cat in the window.

365 miles at 33 mpg and gas at $3.90/gal. = 1 day of fun

I'm on vacation this week, and yesterday I went on a roadtrip to Las Vegas, Watrous, Wagon Mound, and points west. I took the frontage roads off I-25 whenever I could and stopped to take pictures, mostly of old buildings and doorways.

Rock outcropping on US 84, south of Las Vegas. Mind your head.

For the first time since I can remember, I stopped in Tecolote. I was admiring the church, and an old gentleman hove up in his pickup and said proudly, "It was built in 1840!"

Tecolote, New Mexico; church built in 1840

In Las Vegas I poked around Old Town, visited one of my favorite independent bookstores, Tome on the Range, and ate at Estella's Cafe. Estella's and I started our lives in the same year. Up the street on the Plaza is JB's, "your chicharrone headquarters."

I went up to Watrous and took a side trip to Valmora. I didn't see anything of the sanatorium there; a lot of buildings all looking pretty much the same were there, and I figured it was a housing development or I was trespassing on somebody's property.

I went to Wagon Mound, which, despite the optimistic tone of the article from Wikipedia, seems to be dying a slow death. Many buildings are boarded up and overgrown, and the school seems to be the only thriving concern. The Wagon Mound Mercantile, a supply store for blacksmiths, moved to Solano years ago. The village has two service stations right off the highway, but if you need groceries, you have to go to Las Vegas, 40 miles south, or Springer, 25 miles north.

Wagon Mound, north toward Springer

Here are some more pictures of Wagon Mound.

Closed cafe on the main street.

Green door

Yellow doorway


I headed west toward Ocate. Back in the 1970's some men robbed the bank in Wagon Mound. They were apprehended a short time later when they were setting 'em up for all the boys in the bar at Ocate. The drive is beautiful: high plains grasslands and the mountains beyond. I saw antelope, and somebody is raising buffalo.

I turned left at Ocate and headed south to La Cueva, where I hoped to lay in a supply of raspberry jam from the Salman Ranch. The store is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Too bad for them. I was prepared to spend big bucks.

I debated briefly about whether I should head home through Mora or go back to Las Vegas. I decided to take a desultory trip back to Las Vegas, so I turned east at Buena Vista and passed through Golondrinas, which, true to its name, is full of swallows. I also saw a big! honkin'! bullsnake in the middle of the road. I drove carefully around it and hoped that he made it safely across. The traffic (me) was pretty light. I saw a lot of raptors along the way, including a huge red-tailed hawk.

At Watrous I got on the interstate and headed home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Famous men born on May 23

Here's Jack.

Here's Chuckbert, Mr. Spiff.

We can't go forth and multiply! We're adders!

We had a snake demonstration at the store last month. Here are some pictures.

Kiss anything that shines

On Wednesday morning I took Ike to the groomer for an early morning appointment. When I got to the store, armed guards were in front of the Bradbury Science Museum. They were wearing sunglasses, so you couldn't see whom they were watching, and sidearms, so you wouldn't feel tempted to ask. I figured they were there for a training exercise or something.

But then a busload of suits hove up, and the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Great Man Himself, stepped smartly out of the museum, marched over to the bus, and shook hands with each of the suits as they stepped off. Then everyone swept into the museum like the chorus of Aida vanishing into the Egyptian wings.

I went outside and asked a woman, "Distinguished visitors?"

She replied, "Maybe. Are you with the museum?"

"I'm with the bookstore," I replied. "Are you with the museum?"

"I'm with the police force," she said. Nuance is not lost on me in such situations, and I took that as my cue to leave.

So I walked up the street to get a breakfast burrito, and behind me in line was my friend JR, who is in public affairs at LANL. I asked him if he knew who the suits were. He thought a minute and said, "This is Wednesday, right? They'd be from the Department of Homeland Security." Cool! I thought.

I cantered back to the store with my burrito and the news. I told the staff to put away any liquids or gels in containers holding more than three ounces and to keep their hands where the DHS boys could see them.

The staff of Otowi Station kept their hands in view while DHS visited.

But the DHS folks didn't come into the store to enjoy some shopping for souvenirs. They all boarded the bus as an armed guard checked their badges. I had hoped that The Great Man Himself would have raised his hat with a flourish as the bus drove away. I had hoped that someone would have shouted loyally, "God bless the young squires!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Русские идут! Русские идут!

Yesterday we had a busload of Russian tourists in the store. I asked one gentleman if he needed some help or would like a suggestion. "I want gift for son in Moscow. Must be interesting," he said. I showed him the T-shirts. "Mmmmph!" he said.

"How about a baseball cap?" I asked. "Mmmmph!" he said.

"A shirt with the logo of Los Alamos National Laboratory?"

"How much is?"

"It's $28.98."


Souvenir stuff was obviously out of the question. So we went over to the books on atomic history. "The book Los Alamos: the Beginning of an Era is very interesting. It has a lot of pictures, and it will pack easily in your suitcase."

"How much is?"

"It's $10.00."

"For little book! With easy pictures! Why so many dollars?"

"Well, you're paying for the knowledge in the book."

"Mmmmmmph!" He sighed heavily. "Well, I take." He went up to the counter, where Michele was waiting on the customers. "Too many dollars for little book with easy pictures!" he said.

"You're paying for the knowledge in the book," Michele explained.

"Mmmmmph! You give change for hundred dollars?" Michele broke the bill for him. He paid with a credit card.

Russian visitor: "Mmmmmph!"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Volunteers on parade!

The front yard is full of volunteers that have started from wind-blown seeds. Here is a member of the family Lonicera, the honeysuckles. It took root near the mailbox.

This lilac apparently grew from a seed that lodged between the wall of the carport and the front step. This is the first year it has bloomed.

Although this iris is not a volunteer, it fights valiantly through the climbing rose next to the carport.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mixed feelings

Today is our father's birthday. I don't have a decent photo online, so this will have to do.

Dad: And take your fingers out of your noses! Smile, dammit!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Moms and birthday girls on parade

Two happy moms and today's birthday girl.

The best mom in the whole worldwide world.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nazi book burning

Seventy five years ago on May 10, 1933, the Nazis staged what is probably the most infamous of all book burnings. The burnings were a very public, very threatening public relations stunt organized by two Nazi student associations anxious to prove their allegiance to the government. The Nazi’s Purification Committee deemed more than 2,500 authors fuel for the fires, and thousands of books banned by the Nazi regime were tossed into the pyres. The Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, gave official approval to the event.

Your bookshelves marked whether you were a friend of Aryan Germany or an enemy of the state.

People have burnt books for almost as long as they have printed them. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are regularly torched for promoting witchcraft; even here in the Land of Enchantment, Harry Potter books were destroyed in Alamogordo alongside other works considered to be “the work of the devil,” including horror books by Stephen King, CDs by Eminem and AC/DC, and copies of Disney's Snow White.

Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” This weekend, please pause a minute to reflect on your freedom to read what you like. Read a magazine, read a newspaper, read a new book, read a new blog. Read. Read.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No returns on tires, appliances, or items from the deli

Although Otowi Station Bookstore has been in Los Alamos since 1990 and in our present location since 1993, some people are still unclear on what we are and why we're in business. Today I offer some examples of recent interactions with our customers.

“May I take a couple of these books home with me, read them, and decide which one I want to buy?”

Returns are always fun. "LeeLee the Serial Returner" buys expensive technical books, keeps them for several months, tries to returns them with the pages all crimped and biscuity, and wants a refund. "Concetta" is another serial returner, who came in yesterday with a book that she said she bought in December; the book has never been in our inventory. She had no receipt and wanted a refund. Another guy told Michele he bought his book somewhere else but wanted to know whether he could exchange it at our store.

We had a customer who bought a science toy, ripped open the package with such force that the product described a parabola in the air and then smashed to atoms on the floor of the store, and then wanted his money back because the toy broke.

And then there are the people who are unclear on the concept of bookstore.

“Do you sell XBox games and Blu-Ray players?”

“No, ma’am, we’re an independent bookstore.”

“Well, how about digital cameras?”

“No, ma’am, we’re a bookstore.”

“Okay, do you carry laptop computers?”

“We don't carry computers. We're bookstore.”

“Oh, a bookstore! Well, then, can you get me the complete set of Harry Potter books autographed by J. K. Rowling?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s about $80,000 and must be shipped from England.”

“Will it get here in time for Mother's Day?”

“Probably not.”

“Okay, well, I’ll just take this rubber ducky. How much is it?”

“98 cents plus 6 cents for the Governor.”

“Too much.”

“Make me an offer.”

Customer: "May I exchange these books I bought at Buns and Noodle for store credit at Otowi Station?"

Manager: "Yes, of course. We'll give you twice what you paid for them and throw in some potato salad.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

It's another important person!

It looks like they missed the most important person born on May 4. Sheesh! When are people going to get things right?

Blossom, dearie

Michele and I love our flowering crabapple tree. We sit at the garden table under it in the summer when we have breakfast or dinner, and the little crabapples are a treat for the birds all winter long. We also hang a birdfeeder from one of its branches. Last spring the winds blew all the petals off, so we didn't get to enjoy the bright pink display. This spring, however, the petals survived. We're looking forward to summer and, in the fall, a bumper crop of crabapples.

Friday, May 2, 2008

May 2: a very good day

May 2 is the birthdate of many famous people, but I don't see the most important person who was born on this day. Oh, wait! Here she is!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Feel free to drop me a line c/o the Algonquin

Yesterday was one for the charts at the store. My thoughts ranged from the exigent but really dangerous (chopping up all the broken down cardboard cartons to make a fire in the workroom so we could stay warm) to the illegal (whacking a customer upside the head with The New Variorum Edition Of Shakespeare, all 86 pounds worth, which would certainly redefine the expression "giving her the Works"). My nobility of mind and fear of arrest stayed my hand.

One of the hot sellers at the store is mood rings, which change color according to your mood or body temperature. Kids like them a lot, and adults who were kids in the seventies get all nostalgic and weepy when they see the rings.

Because our landlord figures it's more cost effective to cool the place when it's cold outside and to heat it in the middle of summer, the air conditioning was going full blast yesterday because it was 37 degrees with winds gusting to 40 mph. Becky came into the office with the tray of mood rings and said, "Call the landlord. It's so cold in here that all the mood rings are black."

Black: stressed, tense, harried, freezing your ears off.

The day was slow but steady. When I left for a while at 2:00, about a dozen guys on vintage Indian motorcycles were in the parking lot. Although they looked gnarly on their bikes, I bet they were all accountants and insurance actuaries. I wish I had asked them to line up nicely for a picture.

I went back in at 6:00 to help Perry. A woman and her two children came in shortly after I arrived. The two girls were about 8 and 10 years old, and they and their mother were grubby in a long-standing, sticky way. The mother seemed vague and abstracted as she wandered around. The girls, on the other hand, were having a good old time in the toy section, where they examined everything and commented loudly on all the products. The older girl asked if we had a public bathroom, and I said no and directed her to the museum next door, which was having an event and was open late. We don't usually let people use the bathroom in the store because we store household chemicals in there, and they have to pass through the workroom, which houses box cutters, tools, the paper cutter, sensitive information, and the staff's personal stuff.

The kids didn't go to the museum, and continued their loud discussion. The older girl read selections from various books to the younger one. They kept racing back and forth between their mother and the toys to tell their mom what they had found.

The older girl came back to the counter and showed me some magnetic earrings. "If these are half price," she asked, "how much are they?" I said, "They're regularly $2.50." I showed her the price tag and asked, "How much is half of $2.50?" She knitted her brow and was silent for a few moments. I tried to help by breaking the problem down. "How much is half of two?" She knitted her brow. I held up two fingers. "If the earrings cost two dollars, how much is half of two?" "One?" she asked. I figured if she had trouble dividing two by two, dividing 50 by two would be impossible, so I said, "These are $1.25." "Sweet!" she said, and went to show her mom. The younger one found a bird call.

Bird call: Here, birdy, birdy, birdy.

Finally, after an hour, they all hove up to the counter. They had found the bird call and the earrings. The mother handed me the laminated easy-fold roadmap of New Mexico and said she didn't want it after all. They paid for their purchase and left. As they walked to the door, I saw that the pants of the younger girl were sopping wet. I thought, you don't suppose she . . . .

I went around to the front of the counter, and there it was: a puddle of urine. I was really steamed because the kid had peed her pants on our carpet; the mother was apparently so oblivious that she didn't notice the wet pants, and if she did notice them, she didn't wonder how they got that way; and if she did know how they got that way, why she didn't offer to clean up the puddle.

I got out the Lysol disinfectant and carpet cleaner and started mopping up the puddle. Perry, who had been training a new employee, asked, "Do we have a biohazard?"

After a while my anger at the mother abated. Now I just feel sad for them.