Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mud Up. Pack Up. Wheels Down.

NOB HILL--The Mango_Mansion continues to be a playground for Jim Jones and his buddies, Charlie and Doug. See those sacks of drywall mud? They used every single one of them in one room. This was taken 2 days ago. Their part of the fun is almost over.

By this morning they were finishing up the mud and the painter starts tomorrow. Still to come, more work by the electrician, the window installer, the flooring guy, cabinet people, counter installers. Glad to be biking starting later today. Mike and I are driving up to Steamboat Springs, then to the Wyoming border tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Here Is the Wyoming Route

Mike and I will be standing on the Wyoming border north of Walden, Colorado by Friday. We are using the routes of Adventure Cycling, which has excellent maps featuring all services along the way. Also, their routes are a little safer than some of the situations Mike and I encountered going across country on our own. This particular trip through Wyoming is part of their famous Transamerica Route which starts in Yorktown, Virginia and ends in Astoria, Oregon.

The route is marked in black. Last year we rode through Colorado from Durango and joined the Transamerica Route in Fairplay, after going through Pagosa Springs and over Wolf Creek Pass.

The one thing about the Adventure Cycling maps is that north is seldom at the top of the map. This is done because the routes go every which way and it saves carrying so much extra paper. You can see we exit Wyoming at West Yellowstone, which is actually in Montana. I have heard one big word about Wyoming: WIND. We'll see.

Also, my knee is really bothering me and this has cut into my training. Again, we'll see. Our days aren't too hard, and the scenery will be just outstanding. I can't stay home.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Geese Move In...Golfers Get Another Water Hazard

KIT CARSON PARK--Several dozen Canada Geese have become permanent residents of the Tingley Beach area, hanging out near the drain and the Albuquerque Country Club golf course. I have heard of this in other towns...mostly around airports where they become a flight hazard. I wonder if the country club will get the city to boot them out? Maybe if it were in the Heights. I can't imagine a valley organization objecting to the extra wildlife.

Tour of Wyoming Start Date Draws Near

NOB HILL--Biking partner Mike Moye and I have ridden somewhere around 2000 miles together in the last three years. You get to know each other pretty well when you are only travelling 50 miles or so per day. Still, I was surprised when Mike showed up at the Flying Star this morning with his bike and trailer ALL PACKED. I mean, we don't leave until Thursday. Mike always likes to get an early start.

Actually it isn't a bad idea to get used to the trailer before the trip. The first time you ride with a trailer you feel real unstable. And it has certain you can't stand up and pump. Also, you go downhill faster...a lot faster. Did I say you go uphill slower? Notice the water bottles Mike has strapped to the back. That idea came out of our ride to Tucson. Water...blessed water.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

NOB HILL--Maybe you do have an ice cream truck whose melody makes you smile. Maybe not. But do you have a 2-wheeled drummer pounding out a jungle beat? Chris Stevens tries out his rolling drumset Saturday down Tulane SE as he rehearses for a wedding. I bet it was quite an unusual affair.

The maker of the rolling drum platform and his supervisor watch as the drummer walks/rolls down the street. Hills would be bad, I think.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Fast Friday Look Down the Street

NOB HILL--Husayn Bin-Bilal, a UNM student and red-shirt freshman defensive lineman for the Lobos, plays an early evening game of chess with his father, Hassan. The two had just finished eating at Il Vicino. What a great way to spend some time with your dad. Unfortunately for Husayn, Dad won.

Now I am no judge of football talent, but anytime Rocky Long recruits a chess-playing lineman I am all for it. By the way, Husayn has a little brother playing chess for the Taos Elementary School Nighthawks under coaching legend Dennis Hedges.

I know you're smiling as you read this...but I'm telling you this stuff is important! Chess has more "life lessons" to teach than most of traditional school curriculum. Chess generalizes to life so easily: like, What do you do when you don't know what to do? Or how about this skill: What are my strengths in this position and what are my weaknesses? Young chess players seldom worry about winning. The passion is in the effort. Well, you get the picture.

As far as football is concerned, TheRedMenace had this to say about Husayn's spring practice with the Lobos in April:
#99 Husayn Bin-Bilal I have Husayn down for at least 1 sack perhaps 2 and just some tough run defense in the middle. Sure he was knocked down a couple of times, but he keeps coming full steam ahead.
American Life in Poetry: Column 013


Birthdays, especially those which mark the passage of a decade, are occasions not only for celebration, but for reflection. In "Turning Forty," Ohio poet Kevin Griffith conveys a confusion of sentiments. The speaker feels a sense of peace at forty, but recalls a more powerful, more confident time in his life.

Turning Forty

At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries--mind and heart--have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator--
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.

Reprinted from "Cooweescoowee, A Journal of Arts and Letters," by permission of the author, whose most recent book is "Paradise Refunded" (Backwaters Press, 1998). Poem copyright 2004 by Kevin Griffith. 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.

I Turned Forty As Well...Once

I also wrote a poem when I turned 40. Here it is.

The Birthday Party

Tonight I am handed
a bigger piece of cake
than usual, and a fork

I remember as a child.
A bolloon inscribed
"Forty" pops up

and is lightly
batted about the room.
The punch has a jocular

ring. The cake and fork
are still on my lap.
It's time, they say,

to unwrap the present.
Now the double-headed
candle is trotted out.

Here is the card from
the humor section. Hey,
a bottle of prune wine.

And why not? The year
passes; the dog barks.
The moon grins

in the twigs of an elm.
That sound is my fork
smacking the plate.

--Jon Knudsen, 1983

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Johnny_Mango Learns What Demo Means

NOB HILL--By the time I got back from drinking coffee yesterday morning, Jim Jones and Robert were already at work. MaryAnn was still emptying the dishwasher but was almost finished. Well, there wasn't much for Johnny_Mango to do, so I said, "Adios!" and went for a bike ride in the north valley. I have to get ready for my trip on the 1st across Wyoming. My plan was to ride from Kit Carson Park up to the Alameda bridge to check up on what John Fleck has been saying (and I predicted in May)...that the high water combined with the flying cotton from the cottonwood trees would lead to new stands of trees this year.

I did stop in the middle of the Alameda bridge, got off the bike, and unlimbered my Nikon. By god there were lots of small cottonwoods growing on the sand/mud bars near the bridge...hundreds of them.

Look at this little beauty. Wait a cotton-pickin' minute! Looking closely I could see that this year's growth was actually coming out of last year's growth. You can see the different color bark. I went and looked at the other hundreds of cottonwoods; it was the same story. Somehow, these trees got started last year or even earlier. I guess I'll have to look elsewhere to see this years seedlings. Maybe I should wait a month or so.

On the other hand, I might be wrong...these could be brand new trees. But, still, they look pretty big.

When I ended up back at our house after the ride, I was in for another surprise: the kitchen was gone. I mean, the kitchen was gone! The cabinets, appliances, lights, doors, walls, even the floor...everything was gone! Demolished!

So this is how it begins...there is no way to put it back together...we have to go forward. The past is demolished every instant. Nothing binds us to the present but hope and memory. And what of love? How it changes everything! Just click on this picture and see what a difference MaryAnn's being here makes.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I, Rock

LEAD AVE., SE--Every neighborhood seems to be famous for something. Oh the North Valley has its individualistic mailboxes...and the South Valley is famous for its mix of industro-agripolitical neighborhoods. The NE Heights has the heaviest concentration of strip centers in the state. And the West Side has a million side streets and no arterials. And the Southeast Heights is the absolute King of Wry when it comes to political statements.

You are probably familiar with the Leon Trotsky Croquet Field over near the Ernie Pyle Library. And you might have seen the hand-painted signs that stick up over the bushes on Coal SE that proclaim something about stopping the Bush Gulags. But the newest one has me a little stumped.

What in the world is this about? Is this meant to say "I Rock?" Or is it in the mode of the old PBS show "I, Claudius?" In that case it would be "I, Rock." Maybe it means "I Wreck." And I bet these boulders would do a bit of damage to your vehicle. Whatever it means, it sure has me thinking...just like a good poem does...or a good piece of art.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dinner and Dancing: Right Here in Nob Hill

NOB HILL--In the end to a perfect "66" day, we went to the Town House for supper Thursday night. The band Curio Cowboys, billed as Albuqueruqe's only western swing band, was playing. Somehow I had never paid attention to the sign out front. Or maybe my preconception of the Town House got in the way of my eyeballs: cavern-like booths, bloody prime rib, and smoke...lots of smoke.

Well, I was wrong on every count. The band was playing in the newly built dining room near the street. There was no smoke. And no booths. In fact they had glass tables...certainly not a feature in most western drinking establishments. And the food: MaryAnn had moussaka; I had blackened catfish. The cost was less than $20 plus drinks. No cover. And we could have danced all night.

The whole evening got me thinking...about radio actually. How when I was a boy the same radio station would go seamlessly from Frank Sinatra, to rock n roll, to Patsy Cline. Nobody talked about "crossover" hits. There was only one top 40 chart, no matter what the genre. Today all stations stay in their niche. We are really the ones who have been niched. And I guess what I am saying is, "Break out!" Try something different. Don't dismiss half the U.S. with a comment like, "I don't like country music." First of all, there is a difference between country and western. But never mind...break out...enjoy it all.

Speaking of that...I know some of you are a little scared of old people. There were quite of few of the Shriner generation. But don't worry. They didn't start anything.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Canyon

TIJERAS CANYON--2 weeks from now Mike Moye and I will be standing on the Colorado/Wyoming border south of Rawlins. We'll have our bikes with us...and all our camping gear...loaded, as they say. We'll be riding across Wyoming heading northwest to the Montana border at West Yellowstone. It will take about 9 days. I gotta get in better shape!

So I road out to Tijeras this morning. I like this ride because there is a reward at the end of it: The Village Coffee House in Tijeras. Also, the part through the canyon has nice wide shoulders. Here are the pertinent details: distance to the Coffee House from the Nob Hill Starbucks is 14 miles. Distance from the 4-Hills Starbucks is 6.6 miles. Overall elevation gain is about 1000 feet from Nob Hill. This gets hot, start early.

Road bikers call this an easy ride. Well, okay. Maybe for them. But personally I am glad it is downhill all the way home.

The ride is a celebration of old Route 66. In fact, it IS old Route 66. This sign, visible on the way back to ABQ remains in its beautiful, slowly deteriorating glory. The motel itself has been converted to apartments.

By the way, don't try riding out Central from Nob Hill unless it is very early on a Sunday morning. The "best" route goes up Ridgecrest to Idlewilde to Southern, Utah, Trumbull, past the Costco, through the Trailer Park, then Singing Arrow to 4-Hills and out the Canyon. It sounds complicated but if you think you are lost, just head uphill.
American Life in Poetry: Column 012

Perhaps your family passes on the names of loved ones to subsequent generations. This poem by Andrei Guruianu speaks to the loving and humbling nature of sharing another's name.


Dead before I came into this world, grandfather,
I carry your name, yet I've never met you.
I hear my name, and know
that somehow they refer to you.
When I scribble those six letters
fast, to sign some document
or print them neatly in a box,
I feel your presence flow with the ink
stain and burn through the paper,
forever imprinted in my mind.
Late summer nights
gathered around the dinner table,
leftovers being cleared away,
faces clouded in cigarette smoke,
I hear voices pass the word
back and forth in reverence.
Somehow I know it's not me
the little one grabbing for attention.
They speak of you, Andrei,
the one I've never met,
whose name I carry.

Reprinted from "Paterson Literary Review" by permission of the author. Andrei Guruianu is a reporter for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. Poem copyright 2003 by Andrei Guruianu. 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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Speculations on the Manly Psyche of Xeriscaping

TULANE & SILVER SE, NOB HILL--Man will impose order on a seemingly chaotic universe. And here students of manliness have noted there are only two basic types of order: stripes and polka dots. These may be seen as the male and female elements of life itself. (Or as alternating themes on the necktie of life, so to speak). Even here, standing on the corner of Tulane and Silver, it becomes ever clearer. On the west side of the street, home to the psycho-office of Dr. Sam Roll, we see the polka dot theme expressed in those short, spiney juniper bushes everybody hates.

Now what does this mean? Is Sam trying to make a statement? Is he saying, "Yes, I have a feminine side, but it is small and prickly?" Who knows. Maybe he was just cheap when it came to bushes.

Sam's neighbor across the street is definitely showing a more masculine touch. Stripes of big rocks form a bold statement about the aggressive nature of McCreary Real Estate, the owner of the property.

What about those bushes, you say? I bet his wife made him do it.

Curio Cowboys Swing Through Ridgecrest

RIDGECREST--When Molly turned 50 last weekend, Stan Burg threw a party featuring a live band: The Curio Cowboys. Of course, it helped that Stan plays guitar in the group. And what a treat for the whole neighborhood, which echoed with the sound of western swing.

This is a large band: eight players and a vocalist. And the sound is so sweet. Curio Curious? They are playing this Thursday night at the Town House Restaurant in eastern Nob Hill. That's the restaurant with the cow on top.

Yours Truly, Johnny_Mango will be there with MaryAnn. Drop by the table and say, "Hello!" The music starts at 7:00. By the way, it was a GREAT party and the whole neighborhood knew it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 011

Here David Wagoner, a distinguished poet living in Washington state, vividly describes a peacock courtship, and though it's a poem about birds, haven't you seen the males of other species, including ours, look every bit as puffed up, and observed the females' hilarious indifference?

Peacock Display

He approaches her, trailing his whole fortune,
Perfectly cocksure, and suddenly spreads
The huge fan of his tail for her amazement.

Each turquoise and purple, black-horned, walleyed quill
Comes quivering forward, an amphitheatric shell
For his most fortunate audience: her alone.

He plumes himself. He shakes his brassily gold
Wings and rump in a dance, lifting his claws
Stiff-legged under the great bulge of his breast.

And she strolls calmly away, pecking and pausing,
Not watching him, astonished to discover
All these seeds spread just for her in the dirt.

Reprinted from "Best of Prairie Schooner: Fiction and Poetry," University of Nebraska Press, 2001, by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Good Morning and Good Night, University of Illinois Press, 2005. 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, June 09, 2005

Same Town...Same Sunset...Same Name

LEAD AVE.--Is it just me? Or is there really something offensive about the similarity between this "Your Bond Funds at Work" sign paid for by the City of ABQ, and the Mayor's own campaign signs...the "Little Phoenix" signs to be exact?

In yesterday's post I made fun of the Mayor's "ownership" of the City of Albuquerque as displayed in this "Little Phoenix" sign. (Please read the following post for an explanation of the term). However it seems I underestimated the audacity of the man. He seems to have actually copied enough of the salient features of the city-sponsored signs that it would lead one to merge the city, the Lead Ave. project, and the Mayor into one big theme: Martin Chavez for Mayor. By the way, that IS Skippy LaCombe standing in front of "Little Phoenix."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Skippy LaCombe...The Last Candidate For Mayor

NOB HILL--There he was: Matthew "Skippy" LaCombe, eating macaroni and cheese in the Flying Star with his handler, Jim Scarantino. It is not easy for a mayoral candidate to eat undisturbed, and such was the case today. The first thing that strikes most people about Skippy is his sophistication: his "Yes, I'm jaded" stare. The way he can sit at a table and take over the whole room. His aura of command is awesome...even for a 20 year old. And most of all, the hallmark of his campaign, the principle he will never abandon: FLEXIBILITY!

  • Proof of flexibility #1: He changed his mind twice about Rapid-Ride buses between mouthfuls of noodles.

Scarantino excused himself and headed for the can leaving his protegee to fend for himself. Before I could ask him a question Skippy got a call on his cell phone. It must have been the Governor because he kept saying things like, "If I were you, Bill" and "Just leave Hillary to me." I was getting the impression that the Mayor's office might only be a stepping stone. Jim came back and we left. Scarantino was starting to remind me of Frank Sinatra in "Come Blow Your Horn."

We crossed the street and walked towards Marty Chavez headquarters. Skippy hopped on ahead and found a car to lean on...a nice red Thunderbird parked under a tree. Sure, I took his picture. Was it his car? No. Did he state that it was his car? No.

Hold the phone! I see a campaign moment approaching. Skippy, always one to welcome questions and a chance to press the flesh, saw an opportunity to check off one more item on his young man "To Do" list. He stopped to chat.

I can't remember a darn thing she said. I believe it had something to do with wharf rats. At any rate Skippy gazed deep into her eyes...but, owing to his dark sunglasses, she managed to escape from those tractor-beam peepers.

  • Proof of flexibility #2: The wharf rat issue will be put before the voters in a Skippy LaCombe administration.

We stopped to take in the infamous Mayor Martin Chavez signs. These are the so-called "Little Phoenix" posters. They were named not just for the picture of Phoenix-like urban sprawl, but in honor of the Edward G. Robinson character in the movie Little Caesar.

It seems they had to put poles and cables on the signs because they were against the law...too big and too early. Scarantino says you can't put up campaign signs until 60 days before the election. I guess raising them at night makes them portable. It also stops those nightly visits from taggers.

Finally Skippy posed in front of the front of the part that shows the city at night. Did he say it was his city? Did he say it was his poster? No, I guess he didn't.

His campaign slogan is, "What would it hurt?" His look is snappy. And he is boning up on all the issues...especially wharf rats.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How Baby Got Her Name

NOB HILL--"Baby" has returned to the Mango_Mansion. The painting, not the dog, was hanging downtown in a one-woman show for the last 2 weeks. We were so proud! Denise Kunz had 20 paintings on display, the subject of an earlier blog.

Baby the dog, however, has not left the house without a leash since the time she got herself trapped in the airlock of the Hollywood Video. It took us 3 days to find her and get her back. Now she won't leave the porch without her leash even if the door is left open.

I am sure many people think Baby got her name as a term of endearment. Not the case. When I first got her she was so frightened of everything that she wouldn't leave the kitchen for 3 weeks. I got her from the Humane Association, and I had to carry her out the door because she was afraid to walk past the other dogs. The man at the desk asked, "What do you want her for?"

She is such a great dog. She grew into greatness slowly, however. A friend offered me another, older dog to show Baby the ropes...and I actually accepted. "Ubu" taught Baby all she needed to know: how to drink out of the toilet, how to go down the trail first rather than last, how to find water in the wilderness, how to sleep at the door of the tent. Ubu has passed on...she is still eating both bowls of dog chow up in heaven I assume. And Baby...well, maybe her name is a term of endearment.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Free Market Says No Fast-Track for Sainthood

NOB HILL--Certainly a fixture if not an icon, Thomas usually parks himself right outside the door of the Flying Star. Thomas is CEO of an experimental free market laboratory headquartered right there on that tiled bench in front of the windows of the FS. His is a niche business...researching the impulse buying habits of boulevardiers, shoppers, and the moneyed hungry.

In the past he has tried out such items as horns (Texas longhorns, this is), Mexican plaster statues, arrowheads, and assorted 20 passenger busses. For the past month he has been trying to unload Pope John Paul II medals. "At first people were snapping them up," he said. "But for the last couple of weeks nobody will even look at one." It looks like the popularity of John Paul II is fading rather quickly.

I asked him about "fast-track" sainthood for the dead pope. He shook his head and chuckled. He picked up the case of 9 Pope JPII medals he has been trying to sell since the middle of May. "The free market says it won't happen. The old boy has run out of steam."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Missed the Ceremony...Great Poster Though

NOB HILL--Well, it looks like I missed the opening ceremony by about 6 weeks, but man what a great poster! Unfortunately, a hard copy is pretty expensive on the tricentennial store website ($40). But it is 24" by 36" and in a limited edition of 1000. It was done by Albuquerque artist Ted Slampyak.
Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, Ted's early work included album covers for Warner Brothers Records and comic book illustration for DC Comics and Tekno Comix.

Now an Albuquerque resident, Ted's still involved in comics - he's the artist for the long-running comic strip Little Orphan Annie, and also does his own weekly comic strip, JazzAge, which can be seen on the web at and which was voted one of the Best Web Comics of 2004 by Webcomics Examiner, a leading journal of online comics. He's also contunuing his impressive career as a freelance illustrator, designing the creative material for the 2002 New Mexico Advertising Federation Association awards. He was recently commissioned to illustrate a series of posters for Albuquerque's Tricentennial Committee, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city.

Ted lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Jennifer, and their dog, Marty.

Marty? He has a dog named Marty?
American Life in Poetry: Column 010

The poet and novelist Marge Piercy has a gift for writing about nature. In this poem, springtime has a nearly overwhelming and contagious energy, capturing the action-filled drama of spring.

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Marge Piercy's latest book of poetry is "Colors Passing Through Us" (Knopf, 2003); her new novel "Sex Wars" (Morrow/Harper Collins) will be out in December. Poem copyright 2003 by Marge Piercy and reprinted from The Paterson Literary Review with 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, June 01, 2005

49 Patches of Irony

ALBUQUERQUE SUNPORT--At 6:30 this morning I dropped off The Artist Ken Saville at the Sunport so he could catch a plane to Seattle. I knew what was ahead of him in terms of security. One of the most inconvenient aspects of boarding a plane is taking off your shoes so they can be scanned. This is especially true for Ken. A survivor of childhood polio, he wears tall "combat" boots for ankle support even in the summer heat. Now I am not against airport security...not at all. But there is a certain amount of irony in the concern for security here.

While Ken is sitting down somewhere wrestling with those boots, badges of the Albuquerque Police Department are being sold on eBay every day...All kinds of police badges: FBI badges, Secret Service badges, APD badges and patches of every kind. In fact, Ebay currently has 49 ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT badges/patches listed for sale. Isn't this something of a security risk?

Now I don't want to stop any hobby-oriented savers of police gear from enjoying themselves, but isn't there something awry in the system when we are searching Ken's boots and selling police badges and patches to the highest bidder? By the way, this DOES include Aviation Police. Is there any legitimate reason why this should go on? I can think of several situations where this could be harmful.