Monday, May 30, 2005

Remnants of POW Camp Still Visible in South Valley

JUST OFF THE SOUTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--If you want to track down history you better be prepared to get off the trail once in a while. Here the Beautiful MaryAnn peers through an old chain-link fence at the ground that once housed prisoners-of-war during WWII. Toby Smith, in a wonderful article that appeared in Sunday's ABQ Journal, stated that POW's were held just north of Schwartzman's farm. These were German soldiers, veterans of Rommel's African campaign.

MaryAnn and I rode the ditchbanks between 2nd St. and the bikepath looking for the site. We found Schwarztman's farm. We found what we took to be the camp. And we found an 8-foot high chain-link and barbed wire fence surrounding everything. Kind of a heavy duty fence for just a farm...but surely an appropriate fence for a POW camp.

This trailer positively identifies the site of the farm and processing plant, but you can't see it from the bike trail itself. The camp is on private property, but the ditchbank is MRGCD land. You can ride or hike on it.

This rusting fence surrounds the old Schwartzman property and a portion of it is visible from the bikepath near the 3 radio towers between Bridge St. and Rio Bravo. The leaning smokestack in the background is on the processing plant. Cement foundations and street outlines can be seen in the weeds beyond the fence.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Out the Window & On the Street: This Weekend on 66

NOB HILL--You can't escape it. Life on Central Ave. overtakes even the most jaded among us. The enthusiasm of these two belly dancers, the boom box on her shoulder, the swords on their can you beat it?

You know that they can move their whole body without losing the swords? That is not to say that they aren't something of a hazard. It is prudent to give them a wide berth. Also...don't pay so much attention to their undulating stomachs that you forget about their headgear.

NOB HILL--With the City Council considering one minimum wage proposal to be forwarded to the voters this fall raising the m.w. to $7.15, now we have another. ACORN has organizers out getting signatures to put another minimum wage initiative, an even stronger one, before the voters.

Sandra Han was out getting registered voters to sign her petitition in Nob Hill. Over 13,000 signatures are needed to get it on the ballot. By the way, if you are interested in soliciting signers, I have heard that ACORN is hiring at the rate of a $1.50 per valid signature.
Speaking of minimum wage, I was SHOCKED to hear Dana Goldberg on her new radio show this weekend on 1350-AM (Progressive Talk Radio). She was bashing raising the minimum wage non-stop. She seemed totally unfamiliar with the issues and people involved. To start off she mispronounced City Councilman Heinrich's name. He happens to be the bill's sponsor. But that was only the first of many factual goofs. It sounded like she was reading a script provided to her by somebody else. In fact at one point she admitted as much.

She stated that Santa Fe will raise its minimum wage to $10.50 in a few years, and that this means that these workers will be making $70,000.00 per year. When a caller said this is faulty math, she blamed it on what she was given to read. If your head is in the game at all, you realize that her figure is over three times the actual amount ($21,840). Nor did she address the real point in Santa Fe...that if you have to work there, you can't afford to live there.

Then she went on to say that our favorite local restaurants would go out of business! Now I realize that there are two sides to this issue, but Ms. Goldberg didn't really seem to understand either side of this one. I had to turn her off. It was so much less than I had hoped for.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Rapid After Dark? You Bet!

NOB HILL--The Rapid Ride fleet will now be running until 3:00AM on Friday and Saturday nights starting tonight and continuing throughout the summer. The city calls the program "Rapid After Dark." The complete route with all stops is available on their website.

What a brilliant concept. Not only that, there will be a security guard on every single bus. The only thing to remember is that after 8:00PM the Rapid Ride buses will run every 20 minutes instead of the usual ten.

This brings up many possibilities:
  • Tour ABQ's neon lights on Route 66 without having to stop every other block to pick up passengers
  • Get dinner downtown and ride back for only $1. Using a transfer you can ride in any direction for approximately 3 hours.
  • Do a dinner and show and not worry about what time the last bus leaves.
  • And for God's sake, if you party downtown, leave your car at home.
This is great for both tourists and residents alike. It is a "world class" concept, on a par with the other great cities in the west.

Mythic Route Leads Biker Through Nob Hill

THE SATELLITE, NOB HILL--Any time I see a loaded bicycle I go looking for the owner. He was inside drinking something cold. Pat Clements is a schoolteacher from New Jersey. He has been on the road for 59 days...many roads actually. His route is mythic.

16th c. Old York Road (white)

17th c. The Great Phildelphia Wagon Road (yellow)

18th c. The Wilderness Road (blue)

19th c. The Trail of Tears (red)

20th c. Route 66 ; Steinbeck’s “Mother Road” (green)

Pat has his own website where you can read more about him and his trip. He also has an online journal for day by day postings. Notice the incredibly small outfit he is using to post to his journal. It features a folding keyboard and some kind of Bluetooth PDA deal. Whoa.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 009

In eighteen lines--one long sentence--James Doyle evokes two settings: an actual parade and a remembered one. By dissolving time and contrasting the scenes, the poet helps us recognize the power of memory and the subtle ways it can move us.

The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side,
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through a skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century,
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

James Doyle is the author of "The Silk at Her Throat," Cedar Hill, 1999. Poem copyright James Doyle and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Armijo Breaks Some News in the Albuquerque Mayor Race

NOB HILL--Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo was busy reading the paper this morning in the Flying Star. But I saw a break as he turned the page and I got a quick interview.
He stated that although his campaign committee is still exploring the possibilities, and he personally thinks the race is wide open, he is leaning toward not running at this time. For one thing, it would take so much money to compete against the huge warchest of incumbent mayor Martin Chavez. But Armijo is delaying making any definitive announcement at this time.

I asked him about Brad Winter entering the race. He said Ken Zangara, the head of the Bernalillo Co. Republican party, is currently doing some polling between Winter and Bern. Co. Sheriff Darren White. I hadn't heard of the Darren White twist to the story. Armijo went on to say that White had better name recognition, but Winter would appeal more to moderates. Actually the Republicans continue to think Chavez in unbeatable in this election. They will, however, back White or Winter...depending on how their polling comes out. At least that is the prediction from this window table in Nob Hill.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Battle of the Overpass

NOB HILL--68 years ago tomorrow Walter Reuther (in vest) and 3 other United Auto Worker organizers got the shit kicked out of them by company goons in front of Ford Motor Co.'s Gate No. 4, in what became known as The Battle of the Overpass. My father was also an organizer for the UAW, but in Rockford, Illinois. He was also President of Local 449 of the UAW in the 1950's.

I was walking a picket line with Local 449 in front of the National Lock Co. in Rockford before I was old enough to go to kindergarten. It was around Christmas. It must have been 1947. There was quite a bit of snow falling and I was huddled around a fire in an oil drum in front of the plant. My dad was wearing an old army jacket.

I grew up in the C.I.O. hall. This was before the C.I.O. (The Congress of Industrial Organizations) merged with the A.F.L. (The American Federation of Labor). Every night after supper my dad would take me down to the hall where I would play around, sometimes do homework, but mostly listen to the union men and women from all the factories in Rockford. They would tell stories of bargaining campaigns, the awful Kohler strike in Wisconson, and sometimes whisper about paint-filled eggs, scabs, and goons. I was also there passing out boxes of groceries to families when they came to pick them up at the hall during strikes.

My dad worked at National Lock for 38 years. My mom worked there for almost 30. When they retired they received a pension until the day they died. It was fully funded. The union made sure of that. They also got medical and prescription benefits until the day they died. The union made sure of that as well.

I belonged to the union as a teacher for 31 years. Even retired, I am a member of the Albuquerque Teacher Federation, American Federation of Teachers, A.F.L.-C.I.O. New Mexico teachers make at least $10,000/year more that can be directly traced to the efforts of NM teacher unions. We have a good retirement system. We have good health and prescription benefits. As the song goes, "Oh, you can't scare me I'm stickin' to the Union!"

Thanks to Democracy for New Mexico for turning me on to a wonderful calendar featuring peace and social justice issues that is emailed to me every week. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to sign up.

Monday, May 23, 2005

There Is More Than One Screwball Carrying a Camera Around Nob Hill

NOB HILL--Once sometime around 1967 or 68 a guy took a whole roll of film of me while I was picketing the Chicago draft board. I sort of stood out on that occasion, being the only person picketing that day. A friend was being inducted and had asked me to picket while he was inside. When we got back to DeKalb, home of Northern Illinois University where we were going to school, I stopped at a bar full of local boys. They were watching TV. They turned and looked at me and back to the TV. It turned out that at that very moment I was ON the TV carrying a sign by myself down at that Chicago draft board. Small world. Maybe too small, I thought...and went on down the road.

This fellow taking the picture last night in Nob Hill is definitely NOT the guy who took my picture that day in Chicago. The night was sure beautiful, and I had my camera out too.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Too Short To Sort

  • Candidate for ABQ mayor Judy Espinosa has been getting quite a few individuals endorsing her for mayor. Some have been leaving personal comments here on an old post.
  • Would somebody please make it against the law to name a building, park, or airport after a living politician...especially one still active in politics.
  • Most popular mayoral search ending up at Albloggerque? Alan Armijo. He needs his own site.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Fast Friday on Rt. 66...Life with an 8.3 Zoom

NOB HILL--Author John Nichols was in the Flying Star about supper time. He did not eat. This was the 2nd time today his name had come up. Earlier on TV, former NM governor "Lonesome Dave" Cargo was discussing bringing Nichols' The Milagro Beanfield War to Truchas for filming. Even though it was directed by Robert Redford, I think most New Mexicans liked the book better than the movie.

Also in the Flying Star was artist Anne Sandry. A contemporary French impressionist, her work is showing at the Hanging Tree Gallery in Old Town. According to her website, "she was born and raised in France among painters, musicians, poets, and writers." She was meeting with 3 friends, possibly getting ready for an Artscrawl Friday night. She was quite striking.

Street schticker and magician Jacko rode his trike up from the North Valley. It took him 3 hours. "I'm not like those spandex guys," he said. "I look around." And yes, that is a magic wand strapped to the top of his basket.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Evaporative Cooler As An Alter Of Manhood

NOB HILL--The swamp cooler is the last bastion of twentieth century manhood. I say this for several reasons.
  1. It is up on the roof. Take your tools, sun hat, beer cooler...go up that rickety ladder and say adios to civilization until you feel like coming down. It is like disappearing under the car in a "Gasoline Alley" cartoon. For kicks, yell down the opening, "Turn on the fan!" once in a while. Then, "Okay...turn it off."
  2. The guts of the cooler are straight out of a 6th grade science book. Nothing hi-tech here: just pulleys, tubes, pads, and pumps. This is basically a nostalgic visit to the science of Mr. Wizard.
  3. A cooler is so mechanical...a car is not. Guys used to work on the car or truck all the time. Change the points, plugs...maybe the condenser. You need gapping gauges, sockets, screwdrivers. Nowdays cars have no points, no condenser, and plugs last forever. Open the hood and you're lost. Coolers, on the other hand, still require the occasional wrench and screwdriver. And it feels so good...pockets full of a crescent wrench, a 1/2 inch open end wrench, pliers, and a brush.
  4. It has its own secret vocabulary. You get to sit around with other cooler-techs and throw out words like: pillow bearings, octopus, brass ferrels, 3 quarter horse motor, squirrel cage, and fan belt.
  5. The job can last as long as it needs to. I swear you can be out of there in 20 minutes...or it can last a day and a half. It all depends on how much you replace and how much beer was in your toolbox. (And how much you like being on the roof. A shady tree usually adds a couple of hours to the job).

Religious Zealots & the Very Rich: The Mother Goose Coalition

NOB HILL--Since the last election liberals keep asking, "How did the Republicans get people to vote against their own best interests?" And there are lots of issues by way of illustration: social security, stem cell research, gutting most democratic institutions, tax cuts for the rich, etc. Well, chalk it up to the Mother Goose Coalition. Do you remember the nursery rhyme?

Jack Spratt could eat no fat;
His wife could eat no lean.
So between the pair of them,
They licked the platter clean.

You see, the very rich care nothing about religion and the very religious care nothing about money. It is the best of all alliances. As long as the rich don't interfere with the religious zealotry of right-wing Christianity, the rich have the blessing of the church. And as long as the religious people let the rich get richer, the Christian absolutists have the backing of the monied class. And so we are assaulted on both the social and financial realms by two groups that have no real interest in what the other one does. It is indeed the perfect Jack Spratt situation.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 008

Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of poems have been written to express the grief of losing a parent. Many of the most telling of these attach the sense of loss to some object, some personal thing left behind, as in this elegy to her mother by a Nebraskan, Karma Larsen:

Milly Sorensen, January 16, 1922 - February 19, 2004

It was the moonflowers that surprised us.
Early summer we noticed the soft gray foliage.
She asked for seedpods every year but I never saw them in her garden.
Never knew what she did with them.
Exotic and tropical, not like her other flowers.
I expected her to throw them in the pasture maybe,
a gift to the coyotes. Huge, platterlike white flowers
shining in the night to soften their plaintive howling.
A sound I love; a reminder, even on the darkest night,
that manicured lawns don't surround me.

Midsummer they shot up, filled the small place by the back door,
sprawled over sidewalks, refused to be ignored.
Gaudy and awkward by day,
by night they were huge, soft, luminous.
Only this year, this year of her death
did they break free of their huge, prickly husks
and brighten the darkness she left.

Poem copyright by Karma Larsen, and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Will All These Lofts Stop the Party?

DOWNTOWN--Albuquerque is facing a contradiction that maybe only more lofts will solve. That contradiction is the mayor's hard stand on individual drunk drivers and the downtown drunken jamboree that closes down the main street of town 2 nights a week. How can Albuquerque endure both at the same time?

On the one hand Mayor Chavez wants the right to seize vehicles of "drunk" drivers before they are even convicted, and on the other hand Central Avenue is host to a "spring break" type gathering that shuts down the major thoroughfare 104 nights a year. That sounds like it is bound to lead to more than a few drunk driving arrests.

Incredibly, a metro court judge told me that even though taxis were supplied one weekend, they were not allowed beyond the most drunks found it easier to just drive away, rather than look for a cab a few blocks down the street.

I can't see our mayor angering all those partiers before an election...especially since nobody is pressuring him to do anything about it. So he won't. And he will still act like he is tough on drunk drivers. Maybe he is, but he doesn't seem very smart.

Which brings us to the lofts. Maybe the only thing that will cause the city to stop this downtown insanity is the influx of people living downtown. These new lofts aren't cheap. And the new downtown residents have money. They aren't going to stand for this cowtown crap every weekend.

And that brings up another peeve. There is a weekly independent "newspaper" in this town: The Weekly Alibi. It had a reputation in the past of not caring whether its readers lived or witnessed by all the tobacco advertising it used to carry. Now it has moved from Nob Hill to downtown: party central.

One would hope that an independent paper would say something about the idiocy of the 52 weekends of hell-raising bar scenes and barricades...but no. This rag has found a niche, and it will probably bemoan lofts and "yuppies" if they threaten to sanitize the chaos. "Alibi" is right.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Art Is a Bargain! Upgrade to the Real Thing!

NOB HILL--Looking for something to perk up your life? This acryllic by Denise Kunz is almost 4 feet high. Imagine that in your livingroom! I'm not even joking! And the price is less than a sofa: $1000. God, what a powerful piece. A bargain. Haven't got that much? Look at the painting below...called Night Rider, I believe. This wonderful acryllic is $600! It will change the aura of your whole house!

This piece is also about 4 feet tall. It is painted on backed masonite cut out in flames. These works and about 20 more are on display at the Downtown Contemporary Art Center right above Nick's Crossroads Cafe and 4th and Central, downtown.

So if you have been thinking of checking out the Artscrawl this weekend as featured on The Duke City Fix, don't forget to look at Denise's work. The prices are reasonable and you will enjoy the show.

The Biggest Bargain in Town

NOB HILL--Probably the biggest bargain in Albuquerque is the bus system. Regular fare is only one dollar. (Age 62 and over only pay 35 cents). Make sure you get a transfer. This entitles the rider to ride the bus system anywhere in town, in any direction, getting on and off anywhere for about 3 hours. I went downtown, ate lunch, visited the art gallery, and back to Nob Hill on the same ticket. I don't think you can beat it.

The RapidRide buses are really clean. They sometimes have security patrols on board. And there are only 2 stops between Nob Hill and Downtown, so they are as fast as driving (faster if you have nowhere to park).

There are a thousand reasons to NOT ride the bus. But try it once. And tell your tourist friends the Rapid Ride is absolutely the best way to tour Route 66 end to end in Albuquerque. It even runs at night, if neon is important to you. And the total cost: $1.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Johnny_Mango Tries To Buy the Farm

NOB HILL--I have to thank ALL my neighbors today, including Sean, the guy across the street. Yesterday I was eating barbeque pork on our front porch when a big piece got stuck in my throat. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't cough it up. I ran into the front yard trying to attract some attention. Several neighbors ran over, called 911, and tried to help. I managed to breathe somewhat by bending over. The stuff was still in my throat, but I could breathe. Thanks everyone for being there. The ambulance came and was going to take me to Presbyterian Hospital, but they were full! So we went to Anna Kaseman. And then back to Pres. by car since the specialist was there. They did some kind of "procedure" on me in the emergency room which involved sticking a TV camera down my throat as well as a pair of vice-grips, a trained duck, and two Navy Seals in a mini-sub.

The food was stuck in my esophagus. They managed to pull some of it out and poke the rest down through. I don't remember too much after the initial dive into my throat. But "THANKS" everybody. While I was running around in the front yard, I thought I was going to die.

Ben Gets Degree...Ruminates Over Eggplant

NOB HILL--Proud of his new degree from UNM, bul also somewhat embarrassed by the attention, Ben Baragiola, son of Ed and Claudia Baragiola, points to his healthly eggplant as if that were more interesting. Well Ben, maybe they are both important...but your folks will remember the degree longer than the eggplant. Best wishes from all of us.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Old Town at Night...and La Capilla

OLD TOWN--Last night I took MaryAnn to Old Town just because it is so romantic in the evening. We had already eaten, but there are at least 8 restaurants that are open at Old Town has that to offer as well as the ambience. One of the little-known features of the area is La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe on San Felipe St.. The small chapel is at the end of a little can hardly see it from the street.

This tiny chapel has a special meaning for MaryAnn and me. On one of our first dates we ended up here with a couple of votive candles we had just bought at K-Mart. We lit them for our young relationship and sat down in the shadows for a very long time. We are not religious, but this place, like El Santuario de Chimayo, transcends religion. It gives hope to the fragile. It comforts the weary. In this warm glow I believe we made that leap of faith that brought us so close together.

I don't understand anything about love...but somehow the candles gave us a light that lasted. It may only be a metaphor, but those candles gave two skeptical people something they could actually see. It is hard to explain.

We walked south and across the plaza. Have you ever fooled around in The Covered Wagon? This is more than a curio store, but there is a whole lot of fun stuff there as well. We actually bought something: an Albuquerque tricentennial tote bag. Nice...and only $16.

What a great night!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mayor Chavez Plants His Flag On Nob Hill

NOB HILL--There is no doubt that Marty Chavez is the Big Cheese of this mayoral election. You just can't ignore him. His headquarters opens this Saturday in the old Kerry headquarters building on Central here in Nob Hill. I imagine that he will announce his candidacy then and there.

There is a lot of work going on in the meantime. The parking lot has been graded. There were at least 20 cars there last night getting the HQ into shape. And dynamic go-getter Bridget Cusick is running the front office. This all says one thing to me: the Big Cheese has some Big Money.

It is hard to know what to think about Mayor Chavez. Sometimes, like when he worked with UNM activists to reach an agreement on rights and guidelines for demonstrations, he seems to be great. Then he is apt to turn around and champion the opposite side of a civil rights issue. Like yesterday, he called the ACLU to task for filing for an injunction to prevent the seizure of vehicles from those arrested for DWI for the first time. (This is arrested for DWI, not convicted). The other policy concerns the use of remote or "spy" cameras to catch "red light runners."

"I've had it. I'm sick of it," Mayor Martin Chavez said Wednesday after ACLU attorneys filed a motion for an injunction. "On my watch, we are going to have these laws." And the response of his Republican ally, City Councilor Craig Loy, did not help his standing in the liberal community: "To the ACLU, no laws are good laws."

Well, like I said, I don't quite know what to think about the man. In the past I have made fun of his claiming credit for every last nice thing in the city...including this spring's surprising snow storm. And the above statements show plenty of ego. Still...there is a lot that is right with Albuquerque, and he is the Mayor.
American Life in Poetry: Column 007

Leonard Nathan is a master of short poems in which two or three figures are placed on what can be seen to be a stage, as in a drama. Here, as in other poems like it, the speaker's sentences are rich with implications. This is the title work from Nathan's book from Orchises Press (1999):

The Potato Eaters

Sometimes, the naked taste of potato
reminds me of being poor.

The first bites are gratitude,
the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers
like a candle-lit room in a folktale.

Never again was my father so angry,
my mother so still as she set the table,

or I so much at home.

Reprinted by permission of the author, whose most recent book is "Tears of the Old Magician," Orchises Press, 2003. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Today We Rode from Porter Landing to Schoolhouse Mesa and Back

GILMAN TUNNELS--Bob and I are trying to get in shape for our 4-day tour of the Gila later this month. That trip basically traces a circuit around Elk Mountain, beginning and ending at Snow Lake. Today Bob and I decided to see how we would do on gravel roads. So we went through the tunnels and up to Porter Landing in Guadalupe Canyon. There is a heck of a lot of water running at the tunnels. I have never seen this much water here.

As I turned from the rushing water, something caught my eye. There on a wooden block behind the guardrail, someone had pounded nails in the shape of a lizard! I love this state. Art everywhere!

GUADALUPE CANYON--If you have never been to the tunnels, let me give you a little background. During the depression loggers built a railroad into the Jemez Mtns. to bring out the logs. The tunnels were originally built for that railroad. About 8 miles up the canyon from the tunnels a gathering place for stacking logs and loading them on railcars was established where 2 streams and 2 rail lines came together. This was Porter Landing. It had about 300 residents. Most of the tracks were torn up in 1938 and a fire destroyed most of the town in 1941. It was never rebuilt. A forest road leads north from the landing and about 12 miles later runs into the Fenton Lake Rd. at the San Antonio Springs crossroads.

SCHOOLHOUSE MESA--We didn't ride all the way to Fenton Rd., we turned off at Schoolhouse Mesa and rode to the top. It overlooks La Cueva and some tent rocks as well. We had ridden about 11 miles at this point--all of it uphill and in gravel...well I guess I should also mention the loose rocks and sand. Oh...and washboard. It was uncomfortable riding uphill...riding downhill I did my best to keep my speed below 15mph, but the bone-jarring washboard, the loose sand and rocks, the rutted gravel...well, frankly, I thought it was kinda dangerous.

GUADALUPE CANYON--It took only about an hour to ride back to the 4Runner. But let me say this: Bob and I felt like the two luckiest guys in New Mexico today. It was spectacular.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Night With Parrots

NOB HILL--The bloggers at the Duke City Fix were in love with it. The Beautiful MaryAnn was dying to see it. It was only a block and a half from the house. And so we went to see The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill tonight at the Guild Cinema. It affected me on several levels. Not that the film is a puzzle (It is a straight-forward report of a man and his "hobby."). Rather, it's simplicity allows one to look deeper into small pleasures...and wonder how they fit into the fabric of one's own life. Maybe I need to try to organize this:
  1. The Caffe Trieste in North Beach appears prominently in the film. MaryAnn and I spent quite a bit of time there on our visit to SF last fall. Sitting there, one is aware of the hundreds of stories centered in that coffee house. I sometimes feel that way about the Flying tonight...David Stuart intently rewriting a manuscript at that little round table in the front room.
  2. In the film, Mark Bittner observed and documented the individual lives comprising a flock of urban birds. Aren't some of us doing the same thing? Don't we observe and document? I think I do at any rate. What's more, Mark in searching for something fulfilling to do, found himself fulfilled almost by accident. He was looking for a vocation, and settled for a hobby-too-big-to-be-a-hobby. I feel that the same thing sort of happened to me. While waiting for a direction to go in during my retirement, I started blogging.
  3. Life has meaning. Life itself has meaning.
  4. The characters include everybody...even the storyteller and the producer/director. How true.
  5. And attention. In a good way, pay attention.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Lot of Action on the South Valley Bike Trail This Morning

SOUTH VALLEY--The President of El Salvador was speaking this morning at the Hispanic Cultural Center about the Central America Free Trade Agreement. There were about 40 protestors there to greet him. For an excellent summary of the economic problems of El Salvador and how CAFTA fits into the picture I recommend the following article on the Global Exchange website reprinted from the Chicago Tribune.

Let me point out a few isolated factoids from the article:
  • El Salvador is the only other country in this hemisphere with troops still in Iraq.
  • More money is made from immigrants to the U.S. sending money back to El Salvador than anything else, including coffee.
  • The top 20 percent of the population controls 58 percent of the wealth; the bottom 20 percent controls 2.4 percent.

Paper chains can be as real as iron ones...this is the fear expressed by this young lady. Profits leaving El Salvador through international corporations is a big problem.

Half an hour later Bob Evans and I came upon an abandoned Kawasaki in the diversion channel. We did find a couple of county employees in a truck and told them. We figure it was stolen. It looked like it was pretty new.

We went over to the river to see if we could locate those spawning carp from a couple of weeks ago. They weren't there. But we did see zillions of big and small ones swimming in the discharge channel next to the solid waste treatment project. By the way, there is a LOT of water in the river right now.

Bob and I rode the levee back up to Bridge St. Quite a bit of standing water exists in the drain that runs in the bosque. With the tetones ready to burst open, we could have a lot of new cottonwoods this year. They germinate in water.

Another Story from Route 66

NOB HILL--I caught a glimpse of it yesterday, just as it disappeared down the street: an ambulance with a bicycle on the back. "That's interesting," I thought. Well, I saw it again early this morning, parked on Silver in that area where a lot of out-of-state vehicles seem to spend the night. You can make up your own story for this one. The license plate says, "Louisiana."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

We Motor to Seward for the Halibut

SEWARD, AK--We drove from Homer to Seward on Wednesday. We were meeting Mike's brother-in-law Robert and Robert's son-in-law Sean for a charter halibut fishing trip. The package price included a night in the Edgewater Hotel, so we forsook our tiltin' Hilton for a hotel room complete with hot shower and clean sheets. Seward itself is nestled against the bay with mountains coming down right in back of it. In fact, this is fjord country. It is also a lot colder than Anchorage.

The cost of the charter and hotel room combined was $200 each. The halibut charter lasted all day--from 7:00 to 5:00. I lasted until about 2:00...when the Dramamine wore off. was just as cold as it looks. But beautiful too...very beautiful. This sort of rugged beauty is never easy. Nor should it be. By the way, that plastic bag is full of herring...for bait.

The morning went real well. The waters were fairly calm, and although I did not catch anything I could keep, I did catch a cod (which was cut up for bait) and a large skate (which we released). The skate was extremely tough to bring up to the boat. It swam under the boat and bringing it up wore me out. It was about 2 feet across and 3 feet long.

As the day wore on the water got rougher and rougher. It was real choppy, with 3 or 4 foot high waves. I know that doesn't sound like much but in a 40 ft. boat that is pretty rough. Also, the wind kept switching directions and we swung around on the anchor, so we ended up parallel to the waves at times which really made the boat move. It also started raining. I went in the cabin to get a drink...and that is when everything went bad in a hurry. I got back outside and held on to something. The wind and rain felt good on my face. They had to hose off the deck near where I stood more than once. I'd be damned if I was going to lean over the side and risk going overboard in that rough water. The boat was bobbing about like a cork. It was a long three hours until the trip was over. But once on terra firma I did feel better.

A Last Stop: The Double Musky

GIRDWOOD, AK--We had promised ourselves that we would stop at the world famous Double Musky Inn on the way back to Anchorage. It is located in Girdwood, but you will never find it unless you know it is there. First you have to turn off the highway onto the road marked: New Girdwood Townsite. Then you have to turn up a gravel road named Crow Creek Road. After about a quarter of a mile you come to a building on the left with the sign "Double Musky Inn."

Mike looks out the window as he savors his salad. The Double Musky was not named after a fish. Apparently local miners used to drop in for a double shot of muscatel...and the name stuck. This restaurant is said by the Food Network in their "best of..." series to have the "BEST STEAK IN AMERICA." It is served encrusted with black peppers.

Of course, I did not order the steak...still feeling more than a little unsettled from the fishing adventure. I had chicken. Mike had a beef kabob. He got three meals out of it.

Friday, May 06, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 006

Rhyme has a way of lightening the spirit of a poem, and in this instance, the plural, spirits, is the appropriate word choice. Lots of readers can relate to "Sober Song," which originally appeared in North Dakota Quarterly. Barton Sutter is a Minnesota poet, essayist, and fiction writer who has won awards in all three genres.

Sober Song

Farewell to the starlight in whiskey,
So long to the sunshine in beer.
The booze made me cocky and frisky
But worried the man in the mirror.
Goodnight to the moonlight in brandy,
Adieu to the warmth of the wine.
I think I can finally stand me
Without a glass or a stein.
Bye-bye to the balm in the vodka,
Ta-ta to the menthol in gin.
I'm trying to do what I ought to,
Rejecting that snake medicine.
I won't miss the blackouts and vomit,
The accidents and regret.
If I can stay off the rotgut,
There might be a chance for me yet.
So so long to God in a bottle,
To the lies of rum and vermouth.
Let me slake my thirst with water
And the sweet, transparent truth.

Reprinted from "Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey," Rochester: BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The End of the Road: Homer

HOMER SPIT, AK--The end of the road on the Kenai Peninsula is the town of Homer...and the end of the road in Homer is a gravel spit that sticks out in the water for about 3 miles. This is Homer spit, home of the Salty Dawg Saloon, the harbor, and some shops and restaurants. The main "road" along the coast of Alaska is actually the ferry system. We were going to take the ferry to Kodiak Island for $171, including the motorhome. We would have used it as our cabin. But the boat didn't return for a week. I guess it was going all the way down the Aleutian chain and wouldn't return to Homer until it did so. Homer is truly a great little town. The people are friendly and there are a number of inexpensive public campgrounds The town motto is: "Homer...a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem."