Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do you see what I see?

Every year the folks down at the corner of Diamond Drive and Sandia Drive have a holiday display of inflatable figures. In the evening, the display is quite festive.

Santa is stuck in an igloo.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, had a very shiny crotch.
What's the bear sitting on?

Nothing says New Mexico Christmas like a saguaro cactus.
In the shadowless light of day, the display is of Christmas in Jonestown.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cañada Bonita

The Las Conchas Fire in 2011 reached the ski hill above Los Alamos and came close to one of my favorite trails, the Cañada Bonita Trail, which goes from the ski area to the Cañada Bonita meadow and thence to the Valle Grande to the west or to Guaje Ridge and Guaje Canyon to the north. I take the gentle hike through the forest to the meadow and then return to the ski area. (See also a previous post about the wildflowers along the trail.) But after the fire, I didn't go up there for fear of what I'd see.

Thursday I took Frankey up for a walk to see what the fire had done and to play with my new camera, which I'm still getting used to. The trailhead still looks pretty normal.

The middle third of the trail to the meadow, however, shows the effects of the fire. Although the aspens and mixed conifers were burned, the aspens, grasses, and wildflowers are returning in abundance.

In some places the grasses and weeds almost covered the trail. The wildflowers were growning in profusion on the slopes.

The forest used to be so thick that I don't recall ever noticing these rocks.


The final third of the trail to the meadow looks much as it used to.


And Cañada Bonita was gorgeous, as usual.

Here are some flowers and berries we saw along the trail.

Baneberry. Do not eat them unless you enjoy the feel of battery acid or hellfire.

 Horsemint is common.

Paintbrushes tell me that summer is almost over.

The wild raspberries are getting ripe. Frankey ate one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Indian Market 2013

Bobbie and I went to Indian Market 2013 last Saturday. We walked right into Tia Sophia's for breakfast, then hit the streets. Naturally, the point is to visit favorite artists and observe the passing scene. Walk along with us (and click on an image for a larger view)!

For the finest in footwear, nothing beats the traditional cowboy boot worn without socks for that perfectly chafed look.

Pleated, ruffledy-puffledy fiesta raiment is a great look if you can carry it off.

This young woman was handling everything, from fragile baskets to fragile pottery. We had to avert our gaze.

Nothing says "Indian Market" like loungewear.

For the couple-about-town, contrast a colorful hat, skirt, and boots with the elegant simplicity of turquoise and a man-purse.

Southwestern Goth is a new look this year. Heads will turn when you stroll along the Plaza in 90-degree heat.

And speaking of 90-degree heat, you'll love adding to the luxury of skin like fine Corinthian leather.

Lengthy hat plumes are sure to get the attention of your fellow shoppers when the feathers whap them in the face.

A traditional ribbon shirt teams with a retro fanny pack to create the Southwest Nerd.

Dress up in your most outrageous regalia and then become annoyed when someone looks at you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

And don't put your lips on John the Baptist's head!

I've been going to the Santa Fe Opera for 45 years. I've seen 98 different operas and attended 160 performances. I've seen The Magic Flute 12 times (they haven't gotten it right since 1968).

Yesterday morning I took the backstage tour at SFO for the first time. I was with a nice couple, Keith and Laura, from Shawnee, OK, who are staying at the Glorieta Baptist Assembly. He teaches at Oklahoma Baptist University. They're Baptists.

There were Rules. No photography. Don't even think about eating. If you need to pee, go now, because we are not stopping. Do not speak at all in the costume shop, because the stitchers needed to concentrate. And no drinking anything anywhere, even though it's 98º and the relative humidity is 4%.

The tour was interesting but not very detailed. The docent would point out stuff—"This, of course, is the fledamora plankstaff, complete with state-of-the-art street elbows and bell-top flow flanges"—but wouldn't elaborate on what exactly it was, what it did, and why no self-respecting opera house should be without one. She made much of the fact that there's no curtain, and all the set changes are made in full view of the audience. Keith and Laura were not impressed.

She also pointed out that there's no back wall to the stage, but didn't give examples of why not having a wall would occasionally be a good thing; so I told Keith and Laura about using the lights of Los Alamos as the lights of the harbor at Nagasaki, the Flying Dutchman's ship rising out of the sea during a lightning storm in the Jemez, and the Queen of the Night's entrance in the 1968 production of The Magic Flute.

We went to the Stieren Orchestral Hall; the docent said it was used for rehearsals. I added that the preview lectures are also held there. Keith and Laura seemed to appreciate my annotations, but the docent may have thought I was a know-it-all.

I asked whether it was true that the opera had the prop head of every singer who had sung Jochanaan in Salome, and the docent said they did, but we couldn't see them. Ratz. That was the main reason I went.
Aubrey Beardley's illustration for Oscar Wilde's play

We had only a couple interactions with the workers. We talked briefly with a wigmaker, and I learned enough that I never want to take up that job. The opera uses real human hair, and all the wigs for the principals are handmade. The process requires meticulousness and patience. We also got to talk with a journeyman who was painting a piece for The Marriage of Figaro.

We saw one of the costumes from Lucio Silla, and the docent said that they always use "muslim" when making the first pattern for the costume. That's one way to bring peace to the Middle East, I guess.

Architectural costume designed by Paul Brown. Photo by Beatuy by Noel.
She also showed us some swatches for this year's production of "Don del Lago," an opera apparently based on Mafia activity in the Scottish Highlands (Prendete l'haggis. Lasciare la sciabola. "Take the haggis. Leave the broadsword.").

It was fun, and I got my $10 worth. Maybe next season I can volunteer as a docent. I bet I'd be boffo.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Keeping the world safe for democracy from crusty old broads

Not all was beer and skittles when Mombert and I went to Memphis, because to get to and from Memphis, you have to go to airports. The TSA folks are so meticulous, so stately, so dilatory that they'd try the patience of a tree sloth.

First up: Albuquerque. Thanks to one failed attempt at shoe-bombing 12 years ago, all of us lined up with our shoes untied and flapping. But it wasn't shoes they were after: they busted Mombert for having a plastic bottle of pump hairspray.

I didn't take my bonefish bottle opener on the trip.

Nor did I carry my Officina 365 pen, because there's no way in the world that the TSA folks would believe it's a pen.

The real fun began in Memphis when we were leaving. Before we even got in line, a TSA woman said to me, "You've been selected for special screening," as if I had won a prize or something. She looked at Mombert. "You may go ahead, ma'am. You're not being screened." I explained that Mombert was my mom and needed to stay right where she was. The TSA woman swabbed my hands with some solvent, put the pad in a container, and said I was free to get in line, which was stretching back to Little Rock, because only two guys were scrutinizing the boarding passes with all the intensity of somebody just stumbling on Yeats.

In line I had my glasses on the cord, not wearing them. I assumed the position in the scanner. There was metal on my chest! So I was pulled out for a pat-down. The nice woman asked if those were my glasses. Nothing gets by them.

Then Mombert went through. She was pulled over, and the nice woman used the metal-detecting wand on Mombert's lower legs (must have been her steely resolve—AH-hahahahahaha!).

The airport at Minneapolis/St. Paul sprawls from hell to breakfast, and naturally our connecting flight to ABQ was in some concourse in Iowa. Fortunately, one of those guys in an electric cart came by, and we joined a nice bearded young man with a turban and made it to the gate in time.

Next time we drive.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"No child should die in the dawn of life."—Danny Thomas

Years ago Mombert and I both set up charitable gift annuities with  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and every year St. Jude invites us and other donors to the annual Donor Appreciation Event. This year we went! (And our flights were uneventful. We did not weep.)

Our regional representative, Marianna, was on the flight from Atlanta to Memphis, and she was our constant companion during our short time in Memphis. On Tuesday evening we went to a reception, where we met two other donors from the Southwest region, and to dinner. The CEO of the fundraising arm of St. Jude, Richard C. Shadyac, jr., was our host at the dinner. (All the photos are from my phone, so the quality is not as good as with the Nikon. Click on an image to enlarge it.)

He interviewed Katelyn, who had had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After almost three years of mostly outpatient treatment at St. Jude, she is now kickin' butt and takin' names in third grade. When the hospital opened in 1962, the survival rate for  acute lymphoblastic leukemia was 4%; today it is 96%. Her sister Amanda also spoke about her experiences visiting Katelyn at the hospital. They both said they liked going there. One of the donors told them afterward, "You two look like Barbie dolls." Amanda replied, "Yeah, we get that a lot."

Wednesday was devoted to a tour of the hospital and Target House, which is set up for the families of the patients. Walk along with us.

Everything in the hospital is geared toward kids. Here, for example, is the first reception desk the kids see; the counter is at kid height. The kids aren't wheeled around in wheelchairs;their kickin' wheels are Radio Flyers (to respect the privacy of the patients and their families, we weren't allowed to take pictures of them).

Artwork and writing by the patients are featured on the walls.

The researchers at St. Jude have saved tissue from every patient. Their work includes mapping and studying the genome. A sculpture in one of the gardens commemorates the work.

The researchers work in the Research Tower, which has six floors, each the area of a football field, for all the laboratories. The flags represent the home countries of the scientists. St. Jude researchers and physicians share their work free of charge with other hospitals.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, has pride of place in the center of the tower. He has a shiny nose, because it's good luck for you and for the patients to rub it.

We're going to have good luck!

The Kay (as in jewelers) Kafe is the only place to eat at St. Jude, so the patients, their families, the doctors, and the scientists eat together. The chef prepares nutritious meals for the kids, which is tricky because many of those tummies are wombly from chemotherapy or radiation therapy. One little kid couldn't eat anything in the Kay Kafe and wanted only the mac-n-cheese his grandmother made for him. So the chef called the grammie, got the recipe, and made the kid his favorite dish.

At Target House, a long-term housing facility and home-away from home, families can stay in comfy apartments free of charge. They get vouchers for groceries, also free. The complex has game rooms, a playground, a teens-only room, playrooms, an arts-and-crafts center, and many other amenities to keep the kids and families happy. Members of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team support St. Jude and often come to play with the kids.

Here is Mombert in the play kitchen, which, as you can see, is kid-sized. The refrigerator is stocked with plenty of play food, too.

The playground is colorful and inviting. Rubberized material helps prevent injuries.

Karaoke, anyone? How about a talent show? St. Jude makes any kid a star.

St. Jude provides care at no cost to the patient or family. Although many large organizations (Target, Chili's, Kmart, among others) and celebrities (Tiger Woods, Brad Paisley, the Jonas Brothers, the Grizzlies) provide amazing financial support to St. Jude, Marianna said that Danny Thomas wanted everyone to be able to make a difference, so the donations from thousands and thousands of regular folks average about $29. 

Needless to say, the event had a profound effect on me. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital rules all!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Synopsis of the opera Non puoi arrivarci da qui

Non puoi arrivarci da qui (You Can’t Get There from Here)

Atto I

Peggerina enters with her mother, La Signora Margarita. They discuss the possibility of going to Memphis, Tennessee, to attend the annual Donor Appreciation Event sponsored by the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Spero che servono torta. “I hope they serve pie.”) Margarita encourages her daughter to go online and book airline tickets. (Non si preoccupi. Pagherò per tutto. “Don’t worry. I’ll pay for everything.”) Peggerina says she can’t do anything, for a problem has arisen. (La connessione internet è giù; il gatto è stato a giocare con il cavo. “There’s no internet connection; Flicker’s been playing with the cable again.”) They weep.

Atto II

The internet connection restored and Flicker sent to play outside, the two continue their search for flights from Albuquerque to Memphis. (Vogliono quanto? “They want how much?”) Peggerina says that Southwest does not fly to Memphis, and their partner, AirTran, flies to Memphis but doesn’t serve Albuquerque. (Si tratta di un sistema? “Is this a system?”)

They find an inexpensive flight that lasts nineteen hours, taking them from Albuquerque at 5:30 a.m. to Chicago O’Hare to Charleston, South Carolina, to Little Rock, and arriving in Memphis at 12:45 a.m. Peggerina is distraught. (Porca puttana su un biscotto. “Holy crap on a cracker!”) Margarita tries to comfort her sobbing daughter. (Calmati. Troveremo un modo. “Oh, calm down. We’ll find a way to get there.”) Peggerina is doubtful. (Io non sto prendendo un autobus che è certo. “I’m not taking the bus, that’s for sure.”) Margarita encourages Peggerina to seek an alternate route, perhaps through a different airport. (Possiamo andare per la città con un altezza di 1,609.344 metri? “Maybe we could go through Denver?”) Peggerina demurs. (Ogni volta che vado attraverso Denver perdono il mio bagaglio. “Every time I go through Denver, they lose my luggage.”) While Peggerina sobs, Margarita gets another cup of tea.

Atto III

Peggerina offers an alternate plan. (Siamo in grado di guidare. Interstate 40 ci porta direttamente a Memphis. “We can drive. It’s a straight shot on I-40.”). This time it is Margarita’s turn to object. (Non c’è niente da vedere lungo la strada. Mi piace scenario. “Are you kidding? There’s nothing to see. I like scenery!”) Peggerina says they can take the side roads. Margarita says that Delta flies to Memphis and urges Peggerina to continue the research. She finds a flight leaving Albuquerque at zero dark thirty and, after a brief layover in Atlanta, arriving in Memphis well before the reception and dinner. Margarita is ecstatic. (Prenota esso, Danno. Qui è la mia carta di credito. Fare con quello che volete. “Book it, Danno! Here’s my credit card. Do with it what you will.”)

The two rejoice and practice an aria to sing during the flight. (Novanta nove bottiglie di birra sul muro. “99 bottles of beer on the wall.”)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So what if the Higgs Boson endows everything with mass. My cellphone makes me invisible!

(First, Family o' Mine, we upgraded our cellphones to Droid Razr M, so you can stop laughing.)
First cellphone

Second cellphone

Current cellphone

From working in the store, walking on the streets, and generally being in the world, I know that lots of people think being on a cellphone somehow makes them invisible and unhearable, and nowhere was that brought home more than yesterday.

I was working in the library at one of the tables. A woman was set up at the table in front of me, her back to me. Then she made the call. The conversation started off softly enough, but it grew increasingly louder. She was calling a man named Chris, who may have been her lawyer, and, from the one-sided conversation I heard, I pieced together the following information (hey, I was writing; it's my job to snoop; however, I am not writing the names of the principals):

  • she is a massage therapist;
  • the case involves botched surgery on her hand in the late 1990s by a practice in the southern part of the state;
  • she had surgery again in 2004, and there were post-surgical problems;
  • fraud is involved in her case;
  • she has no physical evidence of an injury;
  • everyone at the courthouse knows about her case because it's so high-profile;
  • she has reported the case to the FBI;
  • a person who was going to testify on her behalf at a trial was paid off and did not testify;
  • the judge is in "her own psychotic world";
  • the judge has ruled that the caller presented no admissible evidence; 
  • the female judge has a female lover [her partner of 30 years], whose name she spelled out to Chris;
  • her lawyer is not willing to go into the bank account of the surgical practice and take money from them;
  • every judgment by a Santa Fe judge has been against her; the judge's law firm has had a bias against her from the beginning;
  • she spends her time at the law library in Santa Fe, where an intern paralegal told her to watch her back.
Holy moly. Even though I know that being on a cellphone endows the caller with invisibility and inaudibility, if I were involved in a legal case, I wouldn't say nothin' to nobody nowhere, much less in a peaceful, public place like a library.

I'm going back this afternoon to find out more.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Speaking of Ina . . . .

Friday I had a delightful lunch with my friends Judy and Nikki, and the talk turned to the eccentric folks in Los Alamos. Naturally, Judy and I had to tell Nikki about Ina, who is the first one we associate with eccentricity. Some time ago I wrote a "news story" about Ina and the logical conclusion of her hiking adventures.

Woman and friends hike length of Oregon Trail
“Our long nightmare is over,” says companion

by P-Doobie
special to Quotidiana
© 2013

OREGON CITY, OR (AP)—It took 20 years—15 of them in prison—but Ina Smith has walked the entire length of Oregon Trail from St. Louis, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. Her trek crossed seven states and more than 2000 miles with her hiking companions, Lou Effie Bodell of Austin, Patience W. Littbaum of Chicago, and Anneliese Grandpré of Toulouse, France.

Smith's imprisonment came because of her commitment to historical accuracy. After hiking from St. Louis across Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, and California, the four were looking forward to a triumphant entry into Oregon City, Oregon. At Mrs.Smith's insistence, however, Mrs. Smith and her companions reenacted the tragedy of the Donner Party by attempting to cross the Sierra Nevadas in a November blizzard.

“It was colder’n a well-digger’s butt, and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face in that storm,” Mrs. Littbaum said. “We wanted to stay at a bed and breakfast in Tahoe that even had a hot tub, but Ina said the Donner Party didn’t have hot tubs and made us push on. I wanted to at least ride up to the mountains in the Explorer because my knee replacements were killing me in that snow, but she said nobody in the Donner Party had four-wheel drive or knee replacements either and called me a big sissy. So we pushed on and finally made camp in an abandoned trapper’s cabin up on some pass in the Sierras.”

The women, said Mrs. Littbaum, were grateful to be in a shelter, however primitive, but Ms. Smith had other ideas. To remain faithful to history, Ms. Smith removed the remaining caulking from the cabin to allow the snow and frigid gales to blow in.

“[Ms. Smith] planned the whole miserable thing,” explained Mrs. Littbaum. “We didn’t know it when we set out, but she planned to be in the mountains in the winter. She brought along a couple of untanned cowhides and kept telling us they were covers for our sleeping bags. I wasn’t about to have a cowhide over me; have you ever smelled one of them? But when we got to the cabin, she hid our sleeping bags. Said the Donner party didn’t have Slumberjacks.”

She also did not allow the women to cook and eat the food they carried, the women said. “We brought all kinds of good things,” Mrs. Bodell said. “Shrimp, dried fruit, nuts, filets of beef, fresh fish, freeze-dried ice cream, and fine wines, including a 1961 Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild Grand Cru Classe. She made us turn over all our food to her, and she cached it somewhere in the mountains. We still haven’t found it. And that wine cost $800 a bottle; I had to dip into my pension fund to buy it.”

Referring frequently to Virginia E. B. Reed’s diary account of the Donner Party, Ms. Smith herself prepared the food, which consisted solely of the cowhide.

“Boiled cowhide was the only sustenance she afforded us,” Mrs. Littbaum explained. “Have you ever eaten that stuff? When you boil it, it makes its own glue. Ina tried to say that the stuff in the pot was gravy, but my eyes and my mouth know the difference between boeuf de rôtis au jus and mucilage.”

“We’re pretty sure Ina sneaked out at night to get into the food cache,” interjected Mrs. Bodell, “but we were never able to prove it. She never ate the cowhide as far as we know, and the wind would have covered any tracks in the snow. How else could she survive but by eating our food she had hidden?”

Mrs. Bodell added, “I wasn’t about to put my lips on that cowhide. And Anneliese didn’t speak much English, so her contribution mainly amounted to ‘I will not eat zis merde.’” Miss Grandpré’s refusal to eat boiled cowhide eventually became her undoing, as she was the only one in the party to die.

“Patience and I have some extra padding, you might call it, so we were able to survive those several weeks with only moderate discomfort, but Annaliese was no bigger than a minute,” Mrs. Bodell explained. “Little Annaliese didn’t have an ounce to spare, and she starved.”

“After her death things really started to go to hell,” Mrs. Littbaum said. “Ina demanded historical accuracy, so she divided up Annaliese’s remains neat as a pie and cooked her. Lou Effie and I refused to even think about eating our friend, but Ina polished her off in about three weeks. Said she tasted just like chicken and made all kinds of horrible jokes about the joy of French cooking and eating a French—fried. She even acted out scenes from The Gold Rush and wanted us to join in.”

“The woman’s nuts,” Mrs. Bodell said.

After the party did not appear in Oregon City as scheduled, Tom Ed Bodell, Mrs. Bodell’s husband, organized a search party. Using snowmobiles and tracking dogs, the party found the trio in the cabin.  
“Ina was singing her entire, almost encyclopedic repertoire of campfire tunes in an effort to cheer up Patience and Lou Effie,” he said, “but they were crouched in a corner begging for mercy. They said it was like listening to Die Ring des Nibelungen performed by a Brownie troop.”

When the party, dehydrated and hungry but generally fit, got to Oregon City, Mrs. Bodell and Mrs. Littbaum informed the law enforcement agencies about Ms. Smith's consumption of Miss Grandpré. Local officials arrested Ms. Smith and filed charges of negligent homicide, false imprisonment, tampering with evidence, and destruction of evidence. A jury in Clackamas County found Ms. Smith guilty on all counts and sentenced her to 15 years in the maximum security wing of the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Ms. Smith was unavailable for comment. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Street funds and books, 2012

Here's the annual summary of the books I read in 2012 and my street fund, money that I've found on the streets, parking lots, floors, and highways and byways of this great land of ours.

Street fund
In 2012 I found 106 pennies, 49 nickels, 47 dimes, 22 quarters, 3 dollar bills, and 1 20-dollar bill for a grand total of $36.71. I also found a Canadian loonie, which I will give to my friend Marion the next time I see her. Since 1996, the year I began the street fund, I have found $336.47.

I read 104 books in 2012. Many of those were "production reading" associated with the store: I'd read the new and noteworthy titles so that I could give our customers informed recommendations, or read kids' books to the little folks during story time. I read only two novels in translation (Spanish) and one biography, so I'd like to read more biography and more literature in translation in 2013. When we went to Las Vegas and Wagon Mound on Saturday, I got Marmee and Louisa: the Untold History of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother at Tome on the Range, so that will be my first book to read this year.

Here are my faves for 2012.
  • Pogo: Into the Wild Blue Wonder, Walt Kelley
  • The Handmaid's Tale (aka The tea party's America), Margaret Atwood
  • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  • We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider
  • In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick
Now that we no longer own a bookstore, I get to read whatever I want for my own pleasure. Woo-HOO!