Sunday, September 14, 2014

just passing through

recently i've recalled one of the most bizarre events that happened to me while i was hitchhiking. it scared me pretty strongly at the time, and i wasn't easily scared, but i'd forgotten about it, more or less, until recently.

the situation was set up when a truck driver gave me a ride going across northern iowa; we were passing through small towns on a two-lane road. i had agreed to go this way, west to east, even though my ultimate destination was some other direction, based on his advice maybe, or someone's advice. for this reason i was somewhat disoriented, when, at a gas station, he got into his truck and left without me. he had not taken any of my stuff, but his leaving, without telling me, still disoriented me. maybe i had said something political to him; it happened that virtually whenever i opened my mouth about politics, i'd offend someone. but nevertheless i was on my own, and didn't really know where i was. iowa was not too complicated, so in that sense, i knew it would all work out. i continued on that same road going east.

but now it had become dark, and it was harder for people to see me; furthermore, i continued walking, instead of waiting under a light where i'd be better off, and that made it even harder yet for people to see me. within minutes i was way out in the country, though only a mile or two from town. to my right, off the road, was a decrepit house, and i could see it clearly from the roadway. run-down houses, also, are not too unusual in iowa. people abandon them; they're a hassle to tear down; they sit there returning to the earth from whence they came.

but a sudden crack of lightning lit up the entire night, quite suddenly, and quite close to where i was. now the house had a completely different image, because it was all lit up. i had the feeling, suddenly, that i wasn't entirely alone in this wide, sweeping field on a lonely highway in the early evening.

ah, but i don't push too hard on such things. in other words, though it's easy enough to sense the presence of unearthly spirits, it's a little harder to define them, or take the liberty of imagining who they might be. i had no idea, and still don't. presuming that it was a viable farmhouse for years, and had all kinds of people attached to it as a symbol of their family, their hopes, their accomplishments etc., i'm sure one could do research and learn a thing or two. but instead, i've chosen to let such things go, since my feeling is that if it was meant to be our business, we would have been told. chasing after the information puts you in the position of intentionally disrupting whatever is going on there, and that wasn't my intention. i was just passing through.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

so what gets me about this ISIS deal is this: here we are again, bombing the heck out of somebody, and presumably we're pretty good at this killing, and we can find the bad guys and get them. they are the guys over there, that we just gave all those guns and bombs to, because we thought they were going to fight assad in syria. we were so surprised, when they turned around, and gathered up part of iraq with the guns we'd given them. and then, WTH, all those shiite guards who were representing the nation of iraq, dropped their guns and fled, couldn't even fight for that country that we'd help them set up.

so now, we're bombing these ISIS guys, and, we're hoping somebody will go in there and clean up after us? maybe those shiite iraqis will go into that sunni territory and pick up all the dead bodies? and rule the place? or maybe some moderate iraqis will appear out of the woodwork, to run the place, and have a democratic government?

it seems, all we know for sure is, we hate ISIS and they cut off people's heads. so we have to bomb them no matter what. we don't really have a plan for what to do after that. maybe the shiite iraqis will come back and this time they'll try to defend the place. maybe iran will move in, after we're done bombing, and just take over. or maybe even assad will come down, and say hey, you wiped out the opposition, so i'm all that's left. or maybe israel will move in.

the problem is, none of those are good options. and it's a territory occupied mostly by sunnis, so the ideal government would be sunni-supported and iraqi. the only sunnis who are willing to fight for iraq are in ISIS. so we have now set ourselves up as a conquering nation, manipulated into trying to find people who will rule over iraqi sunnis who are not sunni, find anyone, give them guns, hope they stay on our side, and turn those guns on ISIS if it should ever pop its head back up.

to me it sounds like throwing a pile of armaments into a gang fight. here, boys, have all the guns you want, hopefully enough of you will die that there won't be any permanent ill effects for the rest of us.

the US is the world's biggest armament-maker. somebody is making lots of money in this deal. it's all borrowed money, borrowed off our future, and the future of our children, but it's money nevertheless. you want drones, you gotta pay for drones. you want to kill these guys, you got to get what it takes.

after that, we'll worry about cleaning it up.

you may have gathered right: i'm against the bombing. i would like to see a plan. i would like to see how this could possibly work out. the only good thing i can see out of the whole mess so far, is the independence of kurdistan. my solution would be, start with that. let the sunnis have whoever they want. make kurdistan free and secure. let religious minorities live in kurdistan. let go of the rest of it, and let people fight their own civil war, including the syrians.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

we fight the ever-encroaching, terminal obsession with screens by having no screens on sunday morning, which is actually pitiful, if it means constant screens every free minute of the rest of the week. we also have no screens if homework isn't done, though, and no screens if for some reason someone is touchy or violent or things are out of kilter. we sometimes say that screens can cause meanness, so if they are mean to each other (and there are three little ones, so this is likely), we hold that over them, as if we'd take them away if they got too mean to each other, which we might.

but, the ironic thing is, they actually enjoy their sunday mornings, in the sense that they actually get on their scooters and go down the block, screeching and yelling and doing all the stuff little kids should do. or they start horsing around in the living room and then go down in the basement where they're free to run and throw the ball and do gymnastics. or they go tearing through the house with some imaginary game, dressed up or yelling at each other or hiding in the rooms. the reason i call it ironic is that, since it's sunday morning, you'd think it would be reserved for quiet contemplation of religious things, and in fact, that is why we have a general prohibition against calling our neighbors on sunday mornings, or making too much noise too early. for me, i'm religious, but can't just take them to church, where they could make as much racket as they wanted, as there isn't really the right church that would suit all of us. for our neighbors, however, sunday morning is the only time they even know for sure that we have kids, because they're making such a racket out there that you can't not hear it, and it's actually pretty easy for me to keep track of them, because their voices bounce off each other and they stay aware of where their brother and sister are, so nobody even wants to get too far away. to me it's kind of the joy of old-time childhood, with lots of kids around, having fun, and the neighbors all kind of watching out for their flower gardens but still generally familiar with them and watchful. they know these kids, they live down in the corner house.

when fresh air is involved, you know they'll sleep better at night, but the main point really is that they get a lot of muscle development in different directions. hopefully each kid will fall off the scooter several times, but not land too hard on the sidewalk, but rather someone's grass and preferably someone who doesn't put nerve gas on theirs, or vole poison, or whatever they use. some lawns here are actually astroturf, but more common is the person who just puts rocks all over their yard so they can save on the massive watering that's required to have anything green. another value i've picked up is that it's really the city's job to provide real grass, and water the parks, so that any citizen can go walk on real grass for a few minutes, even if, as in my case, one is likely to hit stickers and dog poop or do a little caveat emptor or whatever that was that meant buyer beware...though we recognize that anything can happen, we also know that we can get some real grass if we just go to the local park and walk around a little.

football so thoroughly permeates the culture that one can hardly not be aware of when the local football games are happening, even when, as in this last weekend, the raider game was at ten at night. thousands of fans tuned in to watch it; it ruled the televisions and the social life, the raiders and the cowboys, anyway, the cowboys going today. it's ironic, given the intensity of their passion, that the teams are as weak as they are; our university just gave the coach a whopping $3 million/year long-term contract making him easily the richest man in west texas, more even than the oil barons, yet the team floundered around on the field and barely beat el paso. ah, but this isn't about the fumbles, the penalties, the missed opportunities. it's more about how, even at the local grocery store, everyone is wearing red and black, even people who aren't going to the game. the place loves its raiders, or, if you're a little more on the city side, the silver-star on blues.

the sky here is an infinite, ever-changing light show; it's so clear that you can see all the way up through these clouds, so the clouds become multi-dimensional moving bodies that would, well, remind you of tripping, if that were possible. it reminds me of pilots, because those are the guys who get to go up through them regularly, and really experience the different dimensions that we can only get hints of down here, and besides, we're in the city, and one can guess that probably it gets lots more interesting once you really get out over the open plain. and we know, from the few times we fly, that it does. but imagine doing that for a living, going up and through all those intense clouds, diagonally or through these transient storms or turbulent winds that rake the plains. it would be really fun, i think, and i'm really jealous. the best i can do is drive on the roads, and look up occasionally...

and in fact, even the storms are quite geographical in nature, the hail can be damaging out past the loop, but almost nothing in town where we are, or, it can destroy our house and do almost nothing to most of the rest of town. you can note the perimeter of the damage or document the path of the rain, where they got over an inch on a swatch of the city running diagonal through this way, whereas over on the edge, or on the south side, they may have got squat. each little square foot has its own rainfall total, and that's why if you are inclined to go out and stand in it, like a lot of people are, you shouldn't always stand in the same place. you'll rob the ground beneath you of its annual supply.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

new story:
Ferris Wheel
enjoy! comments welcome as usual!
firefighters are having a busy night tonight, since it was a football game evening, and since i went out for a walk, i pretty much heard them all, and experienced the post-game activity. the game is everything here. people were happy that the season started again. People were happy that they won. People were wrapped up in the details: whether they won by enough, whether things went well or what might be changed before the next game.

at the grocery store, right around game time (what they call "kickoff") most people, most people, were wearing red and black. and these were the people who weren't going to the game. it was a lot of red and black, out there in the world, in favor of the home team. the cashier, however, wasn't impressed. maybe it made the place too busy for her taste.

been writing stories (see below) and working on language as a self-organized system. i should be working on my class, which will be studying social media, but it's the labor day holiday, and i'm trying to take some holiday time. soon enough, i'll get to what we're studying. i wrote a poem, in the style of the master, dr. seuss, about my day. it came out of me so easily, so freely, that i considered devoting part of my life to making more like it. the world needs another dr. seuss, a modern-day bard. a friend of mine does a little bit of it, somewhat like dr. seuss, but there aren't many.

went to new mexico one more time, last weekend, to go camping once before the fall set in, and pulled it off. took the tent, pitched it in the mountains, had a window of time where it didn't rain too much up there, and took in some nice mountain breaths of cool wet air. down in the valley beyond, we saw my parents briefly, and turned around and came back, skipping the white sands this time. the camping, the smores, and the dew on the green grass were a big hit. millions of stars dotted the sky, along with the milky way itself, high above the tall pines that we camped in. i woke up several times each night, perhaps because i was sleeping on the hard ground, but each time i looked up through the little tent window, saw those millions of stars, and went right back to sleep. i dream well on nights like that. but then i come back, and life on the high, flat sunny plain - well, i guess i'm doing ok. i'm not in the high rockies, but at least i'm 3300 feet above the rising seas. and the skies are beautiful way up here.
new story:
Burger, fries and a coke
Comments welcome, as usual!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

new story:
enjoy! comments welcome, as usual

Thursday, August 14, 2014

war in palestine, war in ferguson

not to mention ukraine, and the high mountains of northern iraq, and dozens of other places...syria? azerbaijan? south china sea?

st. louis is close to home, my previous home being carbondale, two hours south, and we used to go through ferguson regularly on our way to lambert airport, or anywhere really, since we were usually going north. it's got a history. it's one of these little enclaves that dropped out of st. louis intentionally. why wouldn't a neighborhood like this just go on being part of st. louis? because it's easier to have your own police and fire, have your own utilities, set up a whole new city hall and administration, etc.? no, so far, those are not plausible reasons. i suspect that at one time ferguson was all white, whereas st. louis was more multi-racial, higher taxes, etc. the white folks of ferguson thought they could do it better than the city. dozens of other enclaves made the same decision. all put together, the number of towns that dropped out of st. louis itself, and into st. louis county, made st. louis city simply a carved up piece of what's left, what used to be the city. and then, with its city population so low, it started winning the crime statistics prize. high crime, low population, high percentage, st. louis won it all a few times.

the airport itself, i'm not sure whether it was in the city or whether it too dropped out. but soon it too was engulfed by city problems moving westward from the ferguson area. city problems we could take for a euphemism, for which people often use words like ghetto, inner-city, etc. motels had bars on their office windows. people looked at you funny if you were in the streets after dark, like trying to get to the rent-a-car lot from the airport. this was the st. louis i knew. i dropped my son off at the airport (he was going to france) - when he found out his international flight had been delayed by an entire day. he stayed holed up in a cheap airport hotel (i didn't find out until well after i'd driven two hours home) - and did nothing but study french. after looking around, he was almost too nervous to step out for a hamburger, although he eventually did. you could feel trouble in the air. the hotel was the kind of place that, cheap enough, had all kinds of activity outside the usual airport variety.

in saint louis the word beach is not so much a euphemism, as an ironic word; the city has no beaches and certainly none on the river, which you'd have to be a fool to swim in. but there are two, times beach and pontoon beach, both near the river, that are two of the worst toxic waste dumps in the history of the u.s. dumping toxic waste is an old tradition; it's an industrial city, and it's had a number of steel mills and other industrial plants that have been at it for years. one of the worst is called mallinckrodt, which apparently dumped toxic wastes in creeks in north saint louis way back in the forties, and now history is catching up to them, because people are coming up with brain cancers and they are so heavily localized that there's no doubt there's a connection. my father worked for mallinckrodt for a couple of years in the fifties; as a chemical engineer who had an environmental conscience, he probably wasn't happy there, but i have no idea what he actually did. one thing that was true was that very few of those chemical companies had any conscience at all, when it came to putting toxic things in the area. much of it ended up in the mississippi, where it became new orleans' problem.

from lambert airport in the northwest part of town, you can take seventy, the main interstate from kansas city all the way back east through indianapolis, and it will drop you at the arch where you can take the main bridges over to illinois except when there's heavy traffic, in which case you might take the ring roads and avoid both the ferguson area, and the main bridges which tend to get bottled up. to those of us who don't know the city well it's a huge temptation to just go around, but usually i didn't do it, mostly because it didn't save much time unless the conditions were really extreme downtown. but on the way into town, you pass through the north side, and i'd often stop at exits like lucas-hunt, jennings road or hanley. i didn't really know where i was; i have very little idea of true saint louis geography. even now it's news to me that ferguson is actually north of this road; that the north side, which seventy bisects, includes so much territory. it's an old city; the ozarks sneak up on it from the west, so it's hilly and very green, and the roads turn around a lot and there are florissant avenues everywhere. there are old french names like laclede and soulard, and a history of the french making it an outpost in the fur trade, and trading up and down the river.

the french era, though, was in the seventeen hundreds, and around the time of the great earthquakes, which were in 1811 and 1812. the french had their heyday, and left a pretty and charming character in the river towns that they liked, such as saint louis, cape girardeau, and new orleans. but by the civil war missouri was as embroiled in racial division as any place. black folks were free across the river in illinois, and alton, illinois was an abolitionist center, but missourians would cross the river and capture freed slaves, and bring them back. a huge race riot in east saint louis, illinois in 1917 was the worst in the nation, and its effects i think are still being felt today, though the facts were, even at that time, it was mostly a massacre of black folks at the hands of violent, very afraid white folks - there could be a pattern here. in the modern era, we have mostly a story of the established white families fleeing to the outer edges of the county, or, in illinois, up on the ridge, and the inner city being increasingly boarded up, though still pretty, older houses that are vacant. the city has lost population dramatically; people go elsewhere looking for work. the budweiser empire distinctly abandoned the city, when it sold out to a belgian company that had no loyalty to the area. the lack of jobs made for continual, and worsening, hardship for everyone.

my friends keep coming up with articles about the militarization of police forces; all of a sudden these police have major weapons and look more and more like the army invading its own people. that, and they tell about how black men live in an entirely different world than the rest of us, and are constantly targets, suspected, blamed, beaten. this is true not only in saint louis, or ferguson, i'm sure, but ferguson is quickly coming to represent the problem. saint louis friends of mine are horrified at how it's come to just be a 'war zone'...

a friend of mine, world traveler, american but raised in the middle east, passed through saint louis the other day based on curiosity about the arch as an architectural marvel. i told him, yes, it's a marvel, but you get way up there, and all you see is saint louis, which as i said is pretty but mostly only at the brick street-level, and of course the river, which is wide and dramatic in its own way. watch out for the airport, everyone said, but if you just go straight downtown, it's not really dangerous. that, of course, is easy to say, i don't guarantee anything. i told him about cahokia mounds, which is near east saint louis. it was a city, biggest in north america for a thousand years, but totally abandoned by the time the first french arrived, and the cahokia indians, who it was named for, freely admitted that the mounds were already there, when they arrived. so, we call them cahokia, but really they are the center of an empire that was huge, in its time, and is better named as the mound people. there's a little confusion, in other words; nobody really knows that much about the mound people. we only discovered that it was a city, when we were making interstates, back in the fifties, and so many of them had to go right down there by east saint louis.

saint louis people have an unusual accent; for example, they pronounce the vowel of their own city name, immediately following the l, as the vowel in bush rather than the vowel in toot; it took me years to hear it. but by far the most unusual thing they do is refer to what we would call dumb hicks, as hoosiers. now to the rest of us, hoosiers refers only to people from indiana, and isn't necessarily derogatory, since there's nothing unusual about indiana unless you have some reason to find it there. but to saint louisians, it's a much older story, and those hoosiers where white, mean, poor, and maybe some other stuff, though i never quite got how they really meant it. after all, it was the people who weren't hoosiers who were using it, and for the most part, i count them as mostly white, i never heard any black folks using the word. in fact the whole time i was around the city, i had nothing but polite, and normal, interactions with the black folks, who for the most part were always working the lower-paying jobs, airport shuttle, hotel bellboy, mcdonald's server, etc.

some conflicts, you can say, come from vast, deep historical hatreds, like that between israel and the palestinians; because people won't compromise, or try to understand each other, they are doomed to hatred forever. but i don't see the racial situation in saint louis that way. in ferguson you have white folks, sure, who dominate the police by a 50 to 3 margin, and who don't want to give up a good job. you have the black folks who live there, who by and large are working people, i'm sure. you have people, the media and the world, who tend to see these things racially. everything is an excuse to use racial categories, the white folks, or the israelis as the case may be, have all these guns and just kill people indiscriminately. i think the majority of them want to just live there, be left to go their own way, not suspected, tortured or killed just for their color, and they have no problem with folks of a different race; they'd do a better job at managing peace, if people weren't carrying around these huge weapons, and shouting at them. the wartime environment tends to be hard on the ones who are just trying to work things out.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

stickers and dog poop

a storm is passing over, but it's not really dropping anything yet; it's kind of hanging over the town, rumbling with its thunder, but not a drop from the sky yet. yesterday and the day before, it rained but only for a second; each drop hit with a psst and evaporated into steam immediately.

but the effects of the cloud cover are considerable anyway. it's ten degrees cooler if a big honkin' cloud will simply cover the sun for a while, and these clouds are enormous. they seem to be many-dimensional, and one can just imagine that being a pilot around here must be some interesting gig, going up through these things that are just so huge, colorful, snd constantly moving. nobody bothers guessing if and when they'll spit though; it's a kind of random geography, rather than a situation where you can actually say that some people are more likely to get it than others. it's all so flat that for us, it's a pure gamble every time.

when i go walking late at night, stickers and dog poop are my main enemies. i do three miles, around the park five times, barefoot, on the edge of where the little gravel path is around the park. but this edge gets its share of stickers and dog poop. the stickers are tiny little burrs that poke so hard they stick right in your foot and make it impossible to take another step. they are small and not to be mistaken for goat's heads which are larger, sharper, and less common. you can't see those stickers coming but after a while you know the dry spots where they have a lot of them; constant watering and thick grass tends to get rid of them. so i alter my path a little to avoid them. but the dog poop, it's squishy and disgusting, and i fail to see it every once in a while, and, much as i wipe my foot afterward, it seems to have a way of finding the spots on my foot that don't wipe easily. it's disgusting. and, it's totally opposite of stickers, in the way it's disgusting.

when i was a young guy, i did anything i had to to be independent, and pick up a few bucks to spend on beans and whatever to keep it all going. after i dropped out of school i worked in a restaurant, and a bakery, and as a newspaper bundle-dropper, house painter, and as a school-bus driver, and as a janitor at a mall. i was good and sick of the dead-end street that having no education offered me, so eventually i decided to go back to school. but even then, i got accepted into a school, and got started, and what did i find, i still had a couple of years to go where i was basically at the lowest level, uneducated, and had to do those low-level jobs a few years past the point where i'd decided they were pointless. i even considered becoming a carpenter at one point, because i figured if i was going to be outside working with my hands, i might as well move up and get a decent salary for it. but no matter what, i was at the mercy of the economy. there were jobs for unskilled people, and, as a white guy, i was as likely to get them as anyone. but times are different now, everybody has to figure out what they can do and get to work doing it.

i'd go about collecting tools as if i could ever become a truly independent, country landholder with a small plot of whatever, corn, being as i was in iowa, but when i finally got my chance, way out in the country there, i didn't have the money to license my car legally, and i couldn't even take care of the muscovy ducks that somebody had left on the property. they were characters, somewhat mean and opinionated, but i liked them, and would have kept them on if i had any brains. or cooked them. but instead i'd spend days in town, or i'd try to find work, and when i found work it was on the railroad way in the other direction, and i'd come home exhausted, barely able to cook. the ducks wandered off, got hit by cars on the gravel roads where people would fly by at about ninety. how was i supposed to prevent that? maybe clip their wings, or keep them better fed, i never quite knew. same thing happened later when i was given some goats. what do you do with goats? try to get milk out of them, i guess. but i was lacking skills and tools, i didn't have a chance. the country was nice, especially at night, lots of stars out there, and people watched out for each other. but people could see by the overgrown weeds that i wasn't going to make it.

the other day i was walking across nineteenth street, which i do four times a day, and the sun was beating down and making a huge glare on the road which makes visibility bad and increases the danger. lots of folks stop for a little too long at the light and stare vacantly as this old-timer hobbles across nine lanes taking my good old time. people do occasionally miss the light or come barreling at you but in general, it's too much time for them standing around, and running doesn't help. this day though i saw a screwdriver in the road, sun glancing off its rusty shank. shamelessly i picked it up and put it in my swim bag, right in front of everybody. it felt a bit like a weapon, but it's not; it reminded me for a moment of a shiv, a homemade blade, that i found one time on a gary on-ramp in the winter. over the years i collected a lot of tools, and many of them walked away, one time some workers who were working on our house must have picked up a few, maybe there was a drug issue there. the old ones, already run over, beat up a little, they're less likely to go. so i have an affinity for them right away, even if they have that day-glo color, common these last twenty years, possibility of being made abroad i'm sure. anyway, coming back across nineteenth, after my swim, i found the phillips-head; those, as it turns out, are even more useful than the plain ones, easier to misplace. this one also was a day-glo color, and found right near where the other one was, surely they were partners, and i'm surprised i didn't see it the first time. probably was under some poor guy's tires, but that's no place for a screwdriver.

but, driving out on the levelland road, got a small rock hit my windshield and make a hole; it was sudden and sharp, and i knew right away i was in for it. i'll have to take it into the shop, fork over a few hundred, etcetera, but fortunately it's not like the old days, when i'd simply live with it indefinitely, as an unfixable nuisance. i have one tool now, and that's a paycheck, so, i'll support those windshield-repair folks i suppose, and then i'll be on my way. the wide open texas plain stretches out for miles in every direction, that's why they call it levelland i suppose, the sun beats down, relentless, and the wind occasionally picks up whatever's not heavily seeded and watered down. then this rain, which is probably a teaser like all the others, either it'll come or it won't, but either way, i'll water if i have to, or just hold onto what i can get. it's been a good year for cherry toms (see below), not to mention sweet jalapenos, green bell peppers, second-generation sunflowers, and a kind of wild squash-gourd that was a volunteer and really went to town. where i'm from, any squash in its second year was doomed, because the bugs had already found it. here, it's too sunny for bugs, unless they're the below-ground variety. they just can't make it on no water for as long as they have to, here. unlike us, they don't have air-conditioning.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

summer in lazy river


in the art building

in the hood

lazy river blooms

trains at the ranch museum

kerrville memorial

friend in ruidoso

thistle, ruidoso's foe

white sands, old friend

mission accomplished

cherry toms

back on campus

Saturday, July 19, 2014

family vacation - took the kids southwest of lubbock, through brownfield & plains, up through roswell new mexico, and up to ruidoso, a mountain resort area, for about ten days. high up in the mountains, the pines smelled so good, and it was cool, and it rained, and i thought, it's nice to be only four hours from the rockies - but, it would be nicer to just be there all the time. high up there, we rested, walked around in the mountains, swam a lot, put our feet in the mountain river (ruidoso means noisy as in rio ruidoso), went to white sands & las cruces to visit the folks, and attended a country-western music performance which was of course the high point of my trip.

i was aware that roswell was a town famous for an alien event in the 1940's, so i peered out the window as we drove through; it was sunny, and it looked like san angelo, very well taken-care-of, not ashamed of its high-plains sunny bright character, prosperous, concerned about its appearance. we saw a few aliens on the billboards and saw a museum devoted to aliens. it was near the pecos river so i noticed that whereas artesia, also on the pecos, is only halfway to the mountains, roswell was actually much closer, and in fact the mountain swimming pool got a roswell radio station. the town was surrounded by that vast plain, where it looks like it goes a hundred miles, and once you get out of the city, there's nothing. and city? it's only got 40,000 or so; there aren't many cities in new mexico.

as a faithful license plate watcher, i was happy to catch a few right away, but noticed that, on these backroads, you don't see much besides NM & TX - after we got to ruidoso, it was pretty easy to pick up OK, AZ, UT (life elevated) and CA. Before the trip was over I'd got most of the west - WA, OR, ID, MT, even AK, which is the triple-word-score of license plate watching. but way out here, in the folds of the sacramento mountains, south of the main rockies and not on any cross-country interstates, it was hard to pick up any of the new england or southern states, and i only ended up with about 28. got TN, OH, NY, CT, FL & LA, but there were tons i never got. they just don't come out here all that much.

high up in the pines my wife got a lot of anxiety about coming back to work, but we had to roll off the mountain and down the hill anyway. i'd looked up a little about the roswell incident - how five different books were written about it - how there was no controversy that some aircraft fell from the sky and landed out there in the middle of nowhere - about controversy over the 'alien autopsies' and about all the secrecy surrounding the case, etc. - it was impressive. the car dealerships had alien statues out there - i saw them this time more clearly, even though i was driving. we stopped at a dairy queen in roswell, and dairy queens, it seems to me, are always somewhat otherworldly, no matter where they are.

sometimes, it seemed like the bleakest, emptiest environment a person could possibly drive through, brick streets in a town that turn into dirt less than two blocks from the courthouse, little more than a dairy queen in some towns, miles of flat red-clay soil in every direction. i thought sadly of coming down out of the beautiful mountains into a flat, dry, hot, sunny, arid plain and i got a little depressed. but i did run into one character, in a convenience store, who had moved from ruidoso to lubbock and was glad of it, because he had access to more stuff he needed and didn't feel as isolated; obviously he didn't care so much for the high mountain beautiful air.

right on the intersection of main street in roswell i saw it: the true triple-word-score of all license plates, hawaii. it had a rainbow on it. i always wonder about those - what did they do, ship the truck over here somehow? seemed like it came from outer space or something. i have no idea.

back at home now, and i promise you pictures, of the mountains, of white sands, whatever. i notice that i've completely failed to get them on here, and must rectify that situation. the sooner the better. chou

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

the hippies in this town look vaguely familiar. of course the hippie era is what, forty or fifty years past, and back then, i didn't even pass through here, really, though it was all the same people, and some were bound to end up down here, in a remote mountain outpost, the southern part of the rockies, the sacramentos of south-eastern new mexico where we happen to be vacationing for ten days. we are yuppies now, to some degree, with a new car, a "chalet" with wrap-around porch looking out at the mountains, enough money to eat at the restaurants. and they, fifty years on, have houses, or businesses, or some kind of gig, if not retirement and way to hang around, living in the high mountain pines and shopping at the same places i do.

to us new mexico is a welcome break from the flat hot sunny lubbock that we left behind. i'm dying to advertise it all over facebook but i consider it unwise to tell 700 friends that i'm out of town, somebody is bound to tell the wrong person. my friends are all over the world, following the holande-argentina match, traveling themselves, sending in pictures from whatever outpost they've chosen to spend july in. but i just figure, with my fiddle locked up in lubbock, even though most of our computers are here in new mexico with us, oh well, it's just time to spend some private time, not even share what the family is doing, resting and breathing in high mountain pine air.

riudoso is a kind of tourist town, but, four days into vacation, and i've only got about sixteen license plates, the vast majority that i've seen were texas with a handful of oklahoma, arizona, colorado. people don't know about ruidoso unless they ski, in which case they come here from places like lubbock a lot. the high mountain dryness makes a good kind of snow, but most people don't know about it, and that makes it a good place. in the summer it's best for just getting out of a hot flat dry place like west texas, and getting some perspective on the world, at about sixty-six hundred feet.

life slows to a crawl as i get my wife to watch the kids half the time and i actually get to read, rest, keep up on the world cup; it's a vacation, and the last one i'll get for a while probably. the holande-argentina match was a good example. so many of my facebook friends who are from latin america got wrapped up in the cup, particularly colombian friends, that i couldn't help but get wrapped up in the results and see it from their point of view. i didn't really have a dog in the fight - though i knew people from argentina, and know people in the netherlands as well, in the end i wanted argentina only because i thought all of south america should have someone in there, once brazil was so dramatically ousted. but really i kept track of the match mostly because the moon was rising on a high mountain valley, and i was out on the porch outside breathing high mountain pines, and i'd scrolled pretty much completely through my facebook, having read virtually everything of interest.

i have two books, one about the dust bowl in the depression and another a murder mystery, and i'm almost done with the dust-bowl one, but the other one was kind of disturbing so i shied away from it a little. rather read about dust coming in the cracks, in the windows, piled up at the fencerows, and six years of drought corresponding to economic hardship that meant there was no money, no jobs, no where to go. it gives a person something to compare the modern high plains to - where there's plenty of work in some places, but whole swaths of the country are hurting for work or meaningful economic activity, and everyone slipping further and further into the quicksand of slow economy. i can't imagine sitting around a dust-surrounded mud hut, for six years, waiting for it to rain, but, since we've found a way to tap the aquifer dry and we've hit our own six years, we'll soon be left with no aquifer, and a somewhat similar situation. except that a whole plains full of cotton fields is surely different from a whole plains full of tilled grassland, where wheat was supposed to be planted but in fact never was. that plains blew away, millions of square feet of topsoil, but the one we've got now, well, it's got tenuous soil but at least cotton is growing on it. not that i'd know a dustbowl, it could probably hit me in the face before i'd even know what i was looking at.

i've put much more of my spirit into music today, what's left of my writing is right here. my novel, almost done but put aside. e pluribus haiku - published, but not even advertised on my template here. my other books - shelved for the moment. writing doesn't go with the intensive childcare i've been doing, nearly as well as crazy-making fiddle. i'm trying to learn the fiddler's role of calling the songs, and knowing how they start - maybe even singing a few, and i will get started on this though it may take a while. meanwhile, i sit on the mountain porch - a moment in time, a deer placidly watching me, this deer lives nearby i'm sure, and is somehow convinced i'll feed it. i will not feed is not supposed to do that, i believe. they've declared thistle illegal in town, but i found some of it and even took its picture. why is it so bad? i'm not sure, i know very little about it, i don't even know if i found the kind that's illegal. it was quite bright in the morning sunlight though, so, i got it. whatever it symbolizes, i'll figure it out, as soon as possible. and maybe learn that song about wildflowers being free, and not having to care about our cultivating efforts.

in two days, off to white sands, and las cruces, to visit my parents. the license plates, they'll pick up down there at white sands, as it's a national monument visited widely by many tourists. this on the other hand is a remote, isolated outpost, and i like it that way.