Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A professional photographer and "Cormac McCarthy"

Last month we hired a professional photographer to take some pictures of Michele and me for publicity photos and a media page. What do you think?

Minesh, the photographer, says this one makes me look like Cormac McCarthy. I see a lot of Gram and Dad.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas through the innocent eyes of children

It seems that we adults try hard to recapture the feeling of excitement and anticipation of Christmases long ago. I find that the more I try to experience those feelings of childhood, the slipperier and more muddled they become, so I am thankful to be in retail during the holiday season, when I can see the season through the innocent eyes of children. Here are some conversations I've had with some of our wide-eyed, apple-cheeked little customers.

A 10-year-old customer: "I have enough money to buy 70 grams of liquid mercury."
Me: "That's pretty dangerous stuff. Did you talk to your parents about asking Santa for it?"
Kid: "Yeah. They won't let me get it." [expectant pause]
Me: "I won't get it for you either."
Kid: "That's what my parents said you'd say."

A 4-year-old customer: "How come you have wrinkles?"
Me: "Because I'm a crusty old fart."
Kid: "AH-hahahahahahahah! You're a grownup, and you said fart!"

A 6-year-old customer making a pin-back button: "This is fun!"
Me: "You have a really good design!"
Kid: "If I make the designs, you can put the buttons together and then we can have . . . what do you call it when you have jobs?"
Me: "A business."
Kid: "Yeah! You and me can have a business!"

A 6-year-old customer: "How do you make a Kleenex dance?"
Me: "I don't know. How do you make a Kleenex dance?"
Kid: "You put a boogie in it!"
Me: [on the floor cracking up]
Kid (pretending to pick his nose): "Here. I picked this just for you."

Another 10-year-old customer: "Do you sell ammonium nitrate?"
Me: "I don't really want to know why you're asking, do I, Patrick."
Kid: "Probably not.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lookin' out my front door

We had a good rain last night. Here's what I saw this morning from our living room windows--snow in the higher elevations.

A little bit later, the regular visitors to the neighborhood came by to nibble on Mr. Mac's trees.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Imported straight out of a Texas Applebee's

You know how you develop a sixth sense about people, particularly about folks who may be Trouble? Everyone in the store seems to have that sense, so when they see such a customer coming in the door, they vault over the counter and dive into the workroom, where they may be found deep inside cartons, locked in the bathroom, crouched under the microwave, or announcing loudly that they're going to the bank and does anybody need anything.

And so it was today. The entire staff suddenly disappeared, and I found myself alone on the floor. In the door came a woman. She was the very spit of Anna Nicole Smith—may she rest in peace—from her dinners hangin' out like a whore's to the collagen-plumped lips that looked like a sectional sofa.
Our customer: a reasonable facsimile

The perfume in which she had marinated herself was without nuance; if it were music, it would be like Lawrence Welk's "Baby Elephant Walk" played at 16 rpm so it sounds like Soviet disco. She spoke with a whine but ver-rrr-rrry slowwww-wwwly, as if she were a Mormon on Xanax.

"Do yew have a T-shirt that says 'Atomic City'?" she asked.

"We do indeed," I said. "Come this way." She rooted through the T-shirts and whined, "They said yew'd have T-shirts that say 'Atomic City' and yew don't! Why don't yew have T-shirts that say 'Atomic City'? I need an atomic city T-shirt! And I don't have much time, because I have to go to the dog park!"

I held up a shirt featuring a mushroom cloud and bearing the legend "Atomic City." "How about this?" I asked.

"No! I need one for a tall, skinny girl. My granddaughter is tall and skinny, and that would not work at all." She regarded it thoughtfully for a moment. "This might work for my grandson, though. But yew don't have any mediums!"

I tried to soften her disappointment. "But maybe you could get a large, and your grandson could use it for jammies (heh heh heh)."

Her eyes lit up. "This is a set of jammies? A complete set of jammies?"

"No, I'm sorry. I was trying to make a joke. I said that he could use the shirt to sleep in."

"Well, where could I get atomic city jammies? And I need some more gifts for my grandchildren. Do yew have anything about space?" I showed her the telescope cards, planispheres, books, models, and activity kits. "Oh, I don't know anything about space. I just know that my grandson likes it." She rooted through all the stuff about space and finally decided on a telescope card.

"Now I need something for myself. Do yew have anything about the history of this place? My husband has been coming here for years and never told me that this is the place where they built the atomic bomb."

So we moved to the atomic history section. Now I could hear the moist, muffled sounds of unsuccessfully stifled nose laughs coming from the workroom. Arlene, who is quiet and unflappable, was making pom-poms at the counter. Her shoulders were shaking, her eyes watering. Alan must have been really tickled, because I could hear his quacking laugh: "Henk henk henk!" Ellen came out to shelve some kids' books. "Oy," she murmured as she passed.

"Now what is this book?" She hefted Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb. I told her that it was the seminal work on the history of the Manhattan Project. "Now they dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, and"—she picked up Dark Sun: the Making of the Hydrogen Bomb—"then they dropped the hydrogen bomb on Japan a few days later?"

"No. We haven't used the hydrogen bomb as a weapon."

"Well, will this book be too hard for me?"

"No," I said. "You don't need to be a scientist to appreciate it. Both books are accessible to an educated lay reader like you."


She brought her purchases, including some T-shirts to the counter. "Now where can I get some more atomic city T-shirts?"

I told her that CB Fox was half a block up the street.

"Up which street?"

"Up this street. Central Avenue. The street you're on now."

"Can I drive there?"

"It's half a block. You can walk there."

"But I have my dog! Can I park in front of the store?"

"Probably not. But you can park behind it."

"Well, where is it?"

I said, "Come outside and I'll show you." So we went outside, and I pointed out CB Fox.

"And they have atomic city T-shirts?"

"And socks. And underwear. And sweatshirts." We came back into the store, and I rang up her purchases.

"What's the name of that store where the atomic city T-shirts are? Where is it again?"

I really need to practice vaulting over the counter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not mental, despite what a fear of cornflakes, the color orange, and potato eyes might indicate

I've written previously about the loonies, lovable eccentrics, and assorted nutjobs that have come to the store. Two recent interactions may not be the nuttiest ones I've had, but they're certainly on the charts.

Last week a woman was browsing in the science section. "May I help you find something?" I asked. She said that she was interested in the work of Erwin Schrödinger and in quantum mechanics, specifically the science of perception.

Wow! I thought to myself, that's tough stuff. So I showed her the books by and about Schrödinger and the books on quantum mechanics, and she said, "Oh, I know all about Schrödinger and that cat. I'm more interested in observation and perception, and how observation of a thing can change that thing." I told her that our books about the topics were highly technical but that she might enjoy browsing through them; I figured if she knew "all about" quantum mechanics, the books would be just pie for her. But no. She wanted a book only on perception. Was there such a thing? I told her we'd probably have to do a special order.

I asked her whether she worked at the national laboratory here. She said she didn't have a job; she just moved here. I asked what she had done before she moved to Los Alamos. She said that she operated a gymnastics school for the children of the rich and famous in Hollywood. Well, I thought, she could certainly be a polymath, a Renaissance woman as it were, with an interest in both front pike somersaults and wave function. But then she said, "Yes, perception and the higher consciousness. That's what I'm interested in. How can I co-create reality?"

Co-create reality? I was about to direct her to the New Age shelf when she asked, "Do you know what your store needs? You need to sell Kindles!"

I said that Kindles were proprietary to the Great Satan, a company that is working diligently to put us and other brick-and-mortar independent businesses out of business. "Well, maybe you could just talk to Amazon and see if they'd let you sell Kindles."

Before I could even inhale to respond, she said, "You know what Los Alamos needs? I have this great idea, and you're the first person I've told. This is such a great idea and would bring people to Los Alamos from all over the county! Have you ever been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium? Well, about 2 million people a year visit it! Think of what 2 million people a year in Los Alamos would do for the economy. Los Alamos needs an aquarium just like the one in Monterey!"

Well, except for the fact that we're a thousand miles inland and in the high desert, and have no space to build anything, I guess we could have an aquarium.


I've never laid eyes on the writer of this email. We carry his book, which is his proof of the Grand Unified Theory as it relates to spirituality, because he's local, and we support our local authors, regardless of their race, gender, religion, veteran's status, political affiliation, or psychological state.
I mentioned to you that I never had a book signing but I didn't mention that I've sent people into your store only to have your staff turn them away empty handed. Amazon did help them. From the viewpoint of a local author, my local bookstore has done about as bad a job as possible in helping me promote my book. But the past can't be changed and now the movie about my work is finally progressing. We have secured over $5,000 of the $10,000 we need with a substantial contribution coming from my Muslim friend in Iran. Obviously if we win big at Sundance or one of the other film festivals, I will sell a lot of local books. Even though I make much more by selling them myself, I would prefer to send everyone to you. To make up for all past "sins" please make at least a $10 or more pledge at [website] to help finish the film, help us actively to promote our film and book by displaying a poster and keeping the book in stock as we move to a release of the film next spring. I know I'm the worst writer in Los Alamos but I'm the best philosopher as I've offered concepts yet considered by humanity.
I forwarded the email to the cops—just in case.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First completed oil painting

I completed my first painting today. I could noodle around with it forever, I guess, but sometimes it's good to quit while I'm ahead.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Indian Market 2011

Michele and I went to Indian Market 2011 on Saturday. We got to Tia Sophia's just as it opened and enjoyed breakfast burritos by the window. With our engines stoked, we hit the Plaza, not necessarily to buy anything but to visit with some of our favorite vendors and to observe the passing scene. Walk along with us, won't you?

"I'm in the middle of the square in Santa Fe! There seems to be some sort of fair going on. I wonder if I can find one of them dawgs lookin' up."

A sash is always a nice accessory in the Southwest.

The early morning was overcast, and if you don't have an umbrella, a hat will protect you and most of the crowd from rain or sun.

Let's talk about the scale of the jewelry in proportion to your size.

This woman was sitting by the Institute of American Indian Arts. She was reading. She was snacking. In the middle of Indian Market. I do not get it.

Here are some colorful folks.

And the winner in the Best Boots, Nontraditional Overlay Subcategory, is . . . .

A beribboned shirt is de rigueur for the man about town.

And a fringed skirt is always appropriate for the ladies.

"F*ck me" shoes are great if you can spend only a few comfortable minutes at the market.

Hey, that bird has a woman on its ass!

We were on Old Santa Fe Trail when Michele gave me an elbow in the ribs and said, "Check out the woman with her dinners hangin' out like a whore's." By the time I got the lens cap off, she had turned around.

So we went to the middle of the street in front of Packard's and, in a diversionary maneuver, Michele pointed at the top of a building down the street. But she moved out of the way of the picture and a person with a hat blocked the area of interest.

We continued the quest. She was turned away from us again. Dash it, woman, will you just stand still? We gave it up as a bad job.

But then we saw her again later in the morning. Success!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oil painting without happy trees

In the oil painting class I continued to build up the masses of color in the landscape and add some detail. Here is what I did this weekend. I used a fan brush to add some yellow highlights. Big mistake. I got "happy trees," so I reworked them.

Today I started on the water in the stream and continued with adding detail.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Painting a landscape

Last week in the oil-painting class we worked on a landscape based on a photograph. I chose a river scene near San Jose, New Mexico, that I photographed in August 2008.

Using pigment thinned with Turpenoid, an odorless paint thinner, I first sketched in the basic shapes. I didn't have a camera with me, but you can see below part of the sketch of the river.

Then we blocked in the masses of color.

The next part is to work on building the masses of shapes and adding detail.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

P-doobie takes oil painting

I am taking an 8-week oil painting class for three hours every Tuesday. In the first session we painted a lemon. I was happy because it was recognizable as one of the edibilia. We also made a color chart. Last week we did a still life with geraniums, and the less said about that, the better.

This week we did a value study, a study of the lightness and darkness of a color independent of its hue and colorfulness.

Our first step was to do a thumbnail sketch with charcoal to show the areas of light, dark, and in between. Here is my thumbnail sketch of the still life with three plums, teapot, and vase.

Then we used the thumbnail and transferred it to the canvas with charcoal. When you make a mistake, it's easy to rub it out. Do not blow away the crumbs, because the whole drawing will disappear; I learned that the hard way. When the drawing was on the canvas, I sprayed it with fixative.

Next I used burnt umber: pure pigment and mixed with white in several tints. Then, working from the thumbnail and the still life itself, I worked on a monochromatic value study. It's a work in progress, and I haven't finished it.

I have also discovered that I paint like dad used to eat red chile. "Dad, you have chile on your neck." Even wearing gloves and an apron, I manage to get paint on my elbows.

Oil painting is hard work.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Please stay on the line. Your call is very important. I'll be back in three weeks.

After we were "repopulated" from the Las Conchas Fire, we learned that we could get short-term, interest-free loans from our local banks (well, there's interest, but the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation will pick it up). I went to our local bank this morning to find out how to get my paws on some cash, because in any retail operation, and particularly in the bookselling biz, an 8-day closure and a crummy economy are a dangerous cocktail.

I went to the customer service desk at the bank and was directed to the second floor. A sweet young thing on the second floor asked if she could help me, and I asked about the loans. She said, "Yes, I'm going to give you the phone number and email of Ernie Feckless [not his real name], who is the loan officer for the short-term loans. Let me get his phone number for you." She pecked away at her keyboard and stared intently at the monitor. She fished a card out of her desk and carefully copied what was on the screen to the card, looking back and forth from the screen to the card between each character. I wondered whether there was a psychotropic reason for her ability to go for more than five minutes without blinking. Her eyes were red, after all. Of course everyone's eyes are red from the smoke. But still.

"Now this is his phone number at the downtown office."

"Is this not the downtown office?" I asked.

"No," she explained. "This is the Los Alamos office. The downtown office is in Santa Fe." Oh. The bank has the words "Los Alamos" in its name, so I guess that's why I was confused.

I asked, "Is there someone here in the Los Alamos office who could help me?"

She said, "No, Ernie Feckless is the only one who is authorized to handle these loans. You'll have to call him at the downtown office and make an appointment."

I said, "You have only one person who is taking care of all these special loans for business losses in Los Alamos, and he's in Santa Fe? That doesn't make a great deal of sense."

She gave me the card and an I-just-work-here look. Fortunately, I was not heavily armed, and in possession of superior impulse control.

So I went back to the bookstore and called Ernie. I got his voicemail. "This is Ernie Feckless. I will be out of the office for two weeks, from July 11 through July 25." At that point I was ready to get a two-by-four, find the bank president, and commence to beatin'.

But I hung up, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and tried again. "If you need help, leave a message or send me an email. I'll check both occasionally." The word occasionally did not bode well for me. I hung up again. A brisk walk around the building and I was ready to call again. "If you need help right away, call my assistant Vangie Hapless at the following number."

So I called Vangie. She was out of the office or on another line, but my call was very important to her. I left her a message.

Trying to salvage the morning, I decided to call our insurance agent, who is handling the claim for losses from a business interruption. I got her voicemail.

Some days it's best just to cut your losses and go to lunch.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why the bookseller drinketh

1 Now it came to pass in those days that there were no men of sense in all the land, but everyone walked to the imagination of his own heart.

2 And the people said to one another, “We will get our learning from the merchant who taketh its name from the mighty river of South America and who hath a presence, like the LORD, from the borders of the Great Lakes northward, till it cometh to the plains and swamplands of the South, which abound with oranges, pomegranates, and figs. And from that merchant we will purchase Bibles enough for the children at the preschool, from whence they will graduate.”

3 And, lo, the mighty merchant told the people that the Bible which they desired was out of print. And they waxed exceedingly wroth. And yea, some acted as if they were lunatick, and others suffered the palsy and other divers torments, and they could not be healed.

4 And it came to pass that they went to the merchant named for a travelers’ place of sojourn, and talked there with the owner.

5 Now P-Doobie was the daughter of Margaret, who was the daughter of Nora Belle, who was the daughter of E. Lucy. And the years of P-Doobie were three score and one. And she greeted the people, saying, “How mayest I help you?”

6 And the people said, “We have gone to the great merchant who taketh its name from the mighty river of South America, and it telleth us that the Bible which we desire is out of print. The school needeth the Bibles for the children at the preschool by Tuesday, and it is six days before the Festival of Graduation. We are sore afraid, for we should have come to you ere now; nay, we should have come unto you first.”

7 And P-Doobie thought unto herself, “You haveth that right, Barney. Good LORD.”

8 And the people continued, “The school needeth Bibles for the children. They must be illustrated and have a presentation page and have a zipper closure and be bound in Leatherflex of many colors and must have the words of the LORD written in red letters.”

9 And P-Doobie asked, “What version?”

10 And the people asked, “What versions dost thou have available?”

11 To which P-Doobie replied, “Our distributor provideth the 20th Century Bible, Alba House Gospels, American Standard Version, American Translation, Amplified Bible, Basic English Bible, Biblia de las Americas, Contemporary English Version, Douay-Rheims, Emphasized Bible, English Standard Version, English Version for the Deaf, Geneva Bible New Testament, God's Word, Good News Version, Hebrew Names Version of World English Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, J. B. Phillips New Testament, Jerusalem Bible, Jewish New Testament, King James Version, Lamsa Bible, Living Bible, Modern King James Version, Modern Language Bible, Moffatt Bible, Montgomery New Testament, New American Bible, New American Standard, New Century Version, New English Bible, New International Readers Editions, New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, Plain English Bible, Revised Standard Version, Richmond Lattimore Translation of the New Testament, The Living Bible, The Message, The Message, Translator's NT, World English Bible, Young's Literal Translation, New International Readers' Version, New Jerusalem Bible, New Jewish Translation, New King James Version, New Life Bible, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, J. B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English, Reina Valera, Revised English Bible, Revised Standard Version, Simple English Bible, The Schocken Bible Volume 1: The Five Books of Moses, Twenty-first Century King James Version, Tyndale New Testament, Weymouth New Testament, Worrell New Testament, Wuest Expanded Translation New Testament, Young's Literal Translation.”

12 And the people asked, “Canst thou repeat that list again?”

13 And P-Doobie thought unto herself yet again, “Good LORD on a bicycle.”

14 Now the people conferred among themselves and, lo, they agreed to order a children’s Bible that was illustrated and had a presentation page and had a zipper closure and was bound in Leatherflex of many colors and had the words of the LORD written in red letters.

15 “Will the Bibles arrive before the Festival of Graduation?” the people asked, and P-Doobie replied, “It will be close.”

16 And the people asked, “Canst request expedited shipping so that they will arrive tomorrow?” and P-Doobie replied, “If thou wouldst pay five shekels of silver per book, we can do that.”

17 And the people said, “Forgetteth that. Go with regular shipping, for we have but two mites.”

18 And so it came to pass that P-Doobie ordered the Bibles, and they arrived the morning of the festival, and she called the pre-school and said, “Thy Bibles are here. Wouldst thou pick them up?”

19 And the representative of the people said, “Nay, for the Festival of Graduation hath started, and the children look so comely in their raiment of crepe paper. Thy service unto us has been lacking, and we are sore annoyed.”

20 And P-Doobie began weeping and wailing and rending her garments and taking the name of the LORD in vain and calling down curses upon the people and their offspring, even unto the seventh generation. But she opened the vessel that shewed the Maker’s Mark and gave herself drink, and it was good upon her tongue.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Erin graduates, world put on alert

We were so happy to drive out to Santa Barbara for Erin's high school graduation. As usual, Shoe had planned everything so that the festivities would go smoothly.

On Wednesday night after dinner, we went back to the house for cake. Trish arrived just in time for dinner.

We toasted the graduate with champagne and sparkling cider. Grammie enjoyed her drink and the company.

Thursday afternoon, the last, for which the first was made: Erin and the other students march into the stadium for their last event as DP Chargers.

Proud parents of a proud graduate!

And here we have the youngest child (center) of the youngest child (right) of the youngest child (left).

I'm looking forward to following Erin's career. Will she be the successor to Annie Leibovitz? Will she apprentice as a techie at the Santa Fe Opera and then succeed Raymond Menard at the Metropolitan Opera? Become the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada? Whatever she sets her hand to, she'll be a success!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oh, deer!

Our flowering crabapple tree in the back yard put on a beautiful display of color this spring. The blossoms drew lots of bees, and Michele liked to stand under the boughs and listen to the "murmuring of innumerable bees."

Bees weren't the only ones who favored the tree. A band of six deer hangs out in our neighborhood, and one guy came into the yard to have a little nosh.

"Who you lookin' at?"

"I can't eat when I'm under this kind of scrutiny!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Busman's Holiday, Part 4: Mesa Verde

When I was a kid, it seemed that all the kids in my class got to a) eat enchiladas every Wednesday at the S-Site cafeteria and b) go to Mesa Verde National Park. The Hansons seemed to go regularly, and the kids at school would say, "Oh, we went to Mesa Verde for the weekend." "We camped at Mesa Verde." "We always go to Mesa Verde."

I never ate at the S-Site Cafeteria until I a team leader at the lab, and I had never been to Mesa Verde. But on our way back home from Salt Lake City, we stopped and visited Mesa Verde National Park. Woo-HOO!

The Spruce Tree House is visible from the visitors' center, and you can tour the ruins without a guide.

The Cliff Palace, on the other hand, is off limits unless you have a ticket for a guided tour with a ranger.

People tossed coins onto a ledge by the Cliff Palace. Maybe they were making wishes.

"I wish I will stay on solid ground and not fall into the canyon."

It was hard to bring in the groceries at the Cliff Palace.

You can see the results of two lightning-caused fires from 2000.

I just liked this.

Nature bats last.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Busman's Holiday, Part 3: Southern Utah

John Steinbeck, in Travels with Charley, said that Yellowstone National Park is "a wonderland of nature gone nuts." So is southern Utah. Click on an image to enlarge it.

Church Rock, north of Monticello, Utah, features three divisions of Entrada sandstone: the uppermost Moab tongue caps a thick Slickrock member, with the Dewey Bridge member as the base.

We spent a day at Arches National Park. According to an "artist in the park," whom Michele characterized as "a bumptious lass," a photograph of the Three Gossips is a requirement of all who enter. We did not want to be arrested or sent home, so we took a picture.

Michele and Frankey enjoyed the scenery.

Here's an arch in the making.

A balanced rock.

Sandstone formations with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

A Shoe and Kev Special.

One of more than 2000 arches in the park.

More arches. Click to enlarge and see the people.

Delicate Arch is the most famous formation in the park. We couldn't go on the trail to it with Frankey, so we just enjoyed the view from below.

A cliff wall and desert varnish at Park Avenue.