Saturday, December 31, 2005

On the Road Again...

EL PASO--The lure of the open road finally caught up with us. We headed south on I-25 without a real plan. MaryAnn is all the "hard-core" explorer a mate would ever want. I remember last New Year's Eve we were camping in the Chiracahua mountains in southeastern Arizona. It was 12 degrees overnight. We were warm inside our little tent, although the nights were 14 hours long. And the only thing she ever did complain about was that her cream bottle froze fast to the picnic table in under a second. I had a feeling that another one of THOSE trips would test her smiling demeanor.

So we stopped in Socorro for MaryAnn's beverage de rigeur, coffee. I have bad news here. Our favorite coffee stop is closed. Martha's Black Dog on Manzanares St. is shuttered. Dammit. According to a patron at El Camino, "Bottom line is that the bottom line wasn't big enough."

Well, we soldiered onward to Truth or Consequences. I had it in my mind to stop at one of those funky hot springs hotels. We just didn't want to spend a lot of money. We actually stopped at the first one we found: Marshall Hot Springs. It cost us $60 for unlimited soaks in their "free-flowing gravel bottom" pools and "the most unusual room in town." I guess it was called that because a stream ran under and through the room. It looked like someone had enclosed a deck...and enclosed it none too well I might add. But it was fantastic. After two soaks, we slept over 12 hours.

The next day we visited Fort Selden, just north of Las Cruces. The layers of history in this state are visible everywhere. The fort was built on top of part of an old Mimbres village, a village that runs all of 5 miles to the north. Mimbreno potsherds can be found in the mortar joints of the adobe walls of the fort, sticking out from the eroding structures. These walls won't last forever, a monument ranger said they would be gone in the next 70 years. So if you need a goal in life, sometime before 2075 visit Fort Selden. Btw, Douglas MacArthur lived here as a young boy. There is a picture of him wearing a "Little Lord Fauntleroy" outfit. I couldn't find that photo on the web.

Las Cruces had so much traffic I couldn't stand driving in it. We ate lunch at a place called Escondido or E2...both names were used...on the corner of Wyatt and El Paseo. HUGE portions of good New Mexican food. And cheap.

We got to El Paso by late afternoon. We had stopped at the visitor's center at the Texas border and had picked up a book with coupons in it. One of them was a $39 coupon at the Ramada Suites. So we went there. There was a fine print catch to everything, however. It was not good during "special events." Well, it is Sun Bowl weekend. Sigh... So it cost us about 60 bucks. But it is a suite...with a kitchenette...wi-fi. Hard to complain about that.

Today we are going to Juarez. More later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Global Warming: Is It Too Late For the Don Eno Solution?

NOB HILL--Don Eno came over to our open house on Christmas Eve. It got me thinking.

As I see it, the global warming problem stems basically from the amount of carbon we have dug out of the ground where it rested and put into the atmosphere where it is bound to change things. We explore the world over for more and more oil, coal, and natural gas. We have gone back millions and millions of years to unearth the fossilized remains of giant plants and put all that carbon back into play.

Think about what life on earth was like when those plants were alive...dinosaurs...giant lizards...steaming huge plants big enough to support those forms of animal life. Well, that is earth when we re-carbonize our atmosphere. We get giant plants to convert the carbon into leaves and stalks, and giant animals to breathe all the oxygen they give off.

So not only will the earth be warmer, we'll have those nasty dinosaurs shagging our hot and weary asses. Some future.

Then there is the Don Eno solution. You may remember that Don Eno is my neighbor who dug out a basment under his existing house and used the dirt to make adobes. He had to leave the state so he stored the adobes back in his basement. The point is, that if we give Haliburton a contract to extract the carbon from the ground, maybe we could give them a contract to put it back!

If I am wrong on any of this let me know. I am, after all, not a scientist. What about the following points:
  • Are we really changing the chemical makeup of our atmosphere? Has this been measured?
  • Are plants growing bigger or faster?
  • Has a computer model been done on a more carbonized planet?
  • Is there non-polluting way to extract the energy from atmospheric carbon?
  • Can we possibly put carbon back at the same incredible rate we are taking it out of the ground?
I don't think it matters whether carbon is taken out of the air and temporarily turned into plantlife. It will re-enter the atmosphere soon enough. And what exactly caused the coal and oil to be laid down in the earth all those eons ago? A cataclysm? A slow deadly atmospheric poisoning of huge portions of the a rotting stench that eventually even enormous jungles couldn't keep up with?

Oh, MaryAnn and I wish you all a happy New Year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Heads Up! "Jesus Without the Miracles" Will Crack Open the Pearly Gates Mindset

NOB HILL--I am not religious, but I have never denied the spiritual experience. That said, this short article in the December 1st Harper's Magazine is going to set Christianity on its ear. This is going to frame the battle within Christianity that has been so sorely lacking since Jesus was kidnapped in the service of the Republican Party. Actually, it re-frames my own thinking as well.

The article is called "Jesus Without the Miracles: Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas." It was written by Erik Reece. Don't miss this. This is going to be the most discussed article about the Bible in this decade. Finally, in understandable terms, someone explains what the hell happened to Christianity...and where it just might go.

Thanks to John Markuson of Everett, Washington for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper

NORTH 4TH STREET--Merry Christmas @ the pawn shop.

The Sunday Poem: Nancy McCleery


Many of us keep journals, but while doing so few of us pay much attention to selecting the most precise words, to determining their most effective order, to working with effective pauses and breath-like pacing, to presenting an engaging impression of a single, unique day. This poem by Nebraskan Nancy McCleery is a good example of one poet’s carefully recorded observations.

December Notes

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks

The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,

Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew

Low, then up and away, gone
To the woods but calling out

Clearly its bright epigrams.
More snow promised for tonight.

The postal van is stalled
In the road again, the mail

Will be late and any good news
Will reach us by hand.

Reprinted from “Girl Talk,” The Backwaters Press, 2002, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1994 by Nancy McCleery. 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.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Biking the Bosque del Apache

SAN ANTONIO, NM--Tuesday MaryAnn and I took our bikes down to the Bosque del Apache, figuring that there wouldn't be much traffic on a weekday. We were right...we saw maybe a dozen cars in two hours. The weather was warm, almost balmy.

I have to say that the Bosque del Apache is better on a bike than in a car. You feel a lot closer to nature. Also, in a car, there is something jarring about parking, getting out, and walking to a viewing area...then walking back, getting in, and driving off.

If you are in a mood to try biking it, the Bosque loop roads are laid out in a figure-8. This means that you can park in the middle section so if you get tired or whatever it is easy to do half the trip. The farm loop is nearly 8 miles, and the marsh loop is about 7. The gravel road is firmly packed and easy riding and looking around will still get you about 8 mph, plus stops. We do not have mountain bikes, but had no problems (our tires are not exceptionally skinny either).

In my limited experience, the big flocks are usually on the farm loop. We did see large flocks of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. In one area they were co-mingled. There were also a lot of ducks. We were watching one duck in the weeds near our observation deck. She blended into the marsh so well she was hard to even see. "A female pintail," said a man with binoculars. Click on the image (above right) to find her.

All in all, the area wasn't as heavily populated as I thought it would be. I think a lot of the geese and cranes were out shopping in outlying areas. They would be flying back to the refuge about dusk. The eagles were also not in evidence at this time. I thought I had heard that there was a Whooping Crane down orphan. Now that would have been a real treat, but we didn't see one.

It is so peaceful down here during the week. I am not sure about weekends.

Biking the Bosque is something you should do at least once in your life. It is not hard. You don't have to be "in shape" to do it. And it is SO rewarding.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

We Could Make a Fortune!

EDITH & EL PUEBLO, NORTH VALLEY--Let me skip 30 years of stories and just say that I built my own house once, an adobe, and that I no longer have it. But I get lonesome for those days and years I spent building her. So I went out to visit where it all began: Richard Levine at his adobe yard, New Mexico Earth. My friend photographer Steve Bromberg went with me. These are his pictures.

I actually met Richard before he started making adobes. It was 1971 and I was teaching kindergarten down at Valle Vista School in the south valley. Richard drove the county bookmobile and it used to stop right in front of my portable kindergarten classroom. It had new, shiny books...and those 5-year-olds loved every second we spent inside that special vehicle. I started building my house late that summer. When I went to buy the adobes it turned out that Richard Levine had quit the bookmobile for life in the mud.

"So Richard," I began, "how did a Jewish boy like you end up running the biggest adobe yard in Albuquerque?"

"I knew a guy named Simon who had just come here from New Jersey by way of Saudi Arabia. He said to me, 'Richard! Two shovels of dirt and we sell 'em for a quarter! We could make a fortune!' So we started. Eventually I bought him out."

I look at Richard's face and I know how hard he has worked for the last 35 years. He is currently working in the office due to emphysema. I am not trying to be overly personal here...just hoping it might help someone quit. He answers the phone, and I look around the room: adobe building magazines and code books, a shelf of pain relievers, a wood stove, a price schedule. What a time warp. Things really haven't changed much in this little corner of the world.

When I got ready to add on to my house in the early '80's I invited Richard over to eat dinner with us. We ended up trading a 1969 blue Dodge Pickup with a broken timing chain for roughly 1500 adobes...enough to finish this monster addition. We both smile thinking about that truck. The timing chain had broken in the yard of Alameda gravel. The truck was plumb full of sand and gravel mix. I had to borrow another pickup and shovel the load into it before I could even tow the Dodge home. It sat in my yard for a year before I talked Richard into the trade.

I asked him about Don Gaspar, Albert Parra, and Sister Giotto. "Sister Giotto came in here for adobes...for her place in San Ysidro. She didn't look too strong." I told Richard she was still working on the place. I asked him about his other customers...about whether there are differences between then and now.

"There are no 'new-timers'...just 'old-timers'. No modern Nat Kaplans. No one is vigorously pushing adobes."

"I know," I added. "Adobe was the medium of the very rich and the very poor. No one else has the money or the time. And today we punish the rich by making them live in houses fashioned from particle board."

And all this started making me feel better. Like building that house was a good thing even if it is gone. Like how nothing seemed impossible to us in those days. Like how good friends just get dearer as the years go by...even 13 million adobes later.

Mazeltov, Richard. Mazeltov.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why I Dropped The New York Times Headline Feed From My Blog

NOB HILL--It is hard to not regard The New York Times as the so-called "paper of record." I carried their headlines in my sidebar so Albloggerque readers could browse through them and click on stories as they wished. I always figured this would give readers a bigger view of the world than we get here in the local papers.

But a couple of things have caused me to remove their feed.
  1. The Judith Miller fiasco. She planted false "news" stories that promoted the build-up to war...resulting ultimately in the deaths of tens of thousands.
  2. Sitting on the eaves-dropping on Americans story for a year. The New York Times knew Bush was breaking the law a year ago. They sat on it. They sat on it during the election. They sat on it for a whole year. How could any newpaper that is the so-called "paper of record" do that? Frankly, I am disgusted. This is more than taking an editorial stance one way or another. This is the most important newspaper in the country withholding information vital to the public during an election and a war, as well as contributing to an attack on the very foundations of the USA.
So I gave up linking to them...not that they care...but I do.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Closer Look At the RailRunner From Saturday's Open House

BARELAS RAILYARD--Albuquerque was a railroad town for a hundred years, and Barelas was the heart of the railroad community. It is impossible to overestimate the passion that this new train is eliciting among certain members of the population. Here two older gentlemen, one wearing an engineer's cap, take close-up pictures of the nameplate of the new engine.

The back end of each car has a little cab from which the train can be driven backwards. I was told by someone that the trains would not be turned around at the end points, but rather would just run in reverse. This compartment is like what the motormen use in the Chicago subway.

The downstairs section of the cars also has a few small tables. They seem big enough for a laptop, drinks, or a card game. Whether the train will have internet access is another question.

Is that Eva Marie Saint sitting at that table? Does this train run North by Northwest?

The bathrooms are large...large enough for wheelchairs. And plenty roomy enough for those of you who need a quiet place to concentrate on your Sudoku puzzle.

Bicycle storage is right near the door. It looks like the wheels get attached with straps near the floor. The Cal-Train that runs from San Francisco to San Jose just uses bungie cords to hold the bikes to the wall. We will have to see how convenient this set-up is.

The best view of the surrounding countryside would have to be from the upstairs seating area. The seats face each other, but there is a lot of footroom.

The decor reminds me somewhat of the streamlined backroom of the 66 Diner. Well, they weren't called "Streamliners" for nothing.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper

BARELAS--I took this photo yesterday of my girlfriend MaryAnn White at the old railyard on 2nd St. SW....a personal moment, but a universal metaphor.

The Sunday Poem: Leslie Monsour

American Life in Poetry: Column 038


I'd guess that many women remember the risks and thrills of their first romantic encounters in much the same way California poet Leslie Monsour does in this poem.


The boys who fled my father's house in fear
Of what his wrath would cost them if he found
Them nibbling slowly at his daughter's ear,
Would vanish out the back without a sound,
And glide just like the shadow of a crow,
To wait beside the elm tree in the snow.
Something quite deadly rumbled in his voice.
He sniffed the air as if he knew the scent
Of teenage boys, and asked, "What was that noise?"
Then I'd pretend to not know what he meant,
Stand mutely by, my heart immense with dread,
As Father set the traps and went to bed.

Reprinted from "The Alarming Beauty of the Sky," published by Red Hen Press, 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1998 by Leslie Monsour. 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.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Can You Tour On Your Bicycle? What I Did To Mine.

NORTH VALLEY--Bob Evans and I were eating muffins at the picnic tables just north of Alameda Blvd. at the river. It was pretty cold, and my mind started wandering to those wonderful summer days that Mike Moye and I have bicycling towards Canada. We have done a state every year for the last 3 years, and last July reached West Yellowstone, Montana. Yes, it IS time for summer day-dreaming.

Bicycle touring is for almost anybody. I would suggest getting in shape before you go. You might also want to buy maps from Adventure Cycling. They have routes that are researched for safety, stores, camping facilities, etc. That said, you have to look out for your own safety and comfort. You might actually prefer going somewhere least in terms of bicycle touring. Mike and I have gone on three trips (about 1500 miles) with nothing more than an everyday road map. We loved it.

The biggest innovation in bicycle touring in the last few years has been the use of one-wheel trailers to carry all your stuff. B.O.B. trailers are the most popular. They are easy to use and more importantly easy on your bike. That means you probably don't have to buy a whole new bike to use for touring. My own bike is a relatively cheap model from Giant. It originally cost about $400. It is a hybrid, but people tour on all sorts of bikes. In fact, I have other bikes but use this for touring because it is so damn comfortable.

I did make a few modifications and additions to make it a little better for touring. I thought you might be interested.

  1. A Mirror. Ones that sit up on a little post are easier to see when your hands are on the handlebars. Real good in traffic.
  2. Cycling computer (speedometer). I like one with BIG numbers. Some even light up.
  3. Handlebar bag. This is the big one from Arkel. It's good for stuff that you want to get without stopping the bike, like snacks or a camera.
  4. Two bottle cages. I carry one bottle of water and one of Gator-Ade...even a Coke once in a while...or coffee. I also use a hydration pack.
  5. Fenders. These are by Planet Bike. They are tough and weigh nothing. Good if you are leaving the desert southwest.
  6. Dual-purpose pedals. Flat on one side, SPD pedals on the other. I used to have clips. Clipless is better.
  7. Extra spokes taped to the chainstay. There are a million different sizes. Go to your own bike guy and get the ones for your bike. Most bikes take a different size on the front and rear wheels.
  8. Spindle that fits your trailer. This comes with the trailer.
  9. Wide-range cassette. Pulling a trailer in the mountain west, you're going to want a real low gear. Mountain bikes may not need this, but hybrids and road bikes probably will.
  10. Touring tires. I used to use Armadillo type tires. They are virtually thorn-proof. The problem is that they take 110 pounds of pressure. I now use Continental Top Touring tires...38 mm. They take 70 pounds and are SO much more comfortable. They are also easier to inflate fully in roadside emergency situations.
  11. Trunk sack. Mine does not look waterproof. I am thinking of getting an Arkel. This is where I keep my jacket, sun screen, and chamois butter.
  12. Good seat. I am a big guy...about 200 pounds. I need a fairly hard seat or I will crush the padding in less than 1000 miles. I am currently using a Terry Liberator.

ABQ Journal Article on Johnny_Mango

NOB HILL--I guess I forgot to mention it, but Isabel Sanchez of the ABQ Journal did a nice article on this humble blogger yesterday. To read it go to this short Duke City Fix piece and click on the link at the bottom of the post. (Blush...)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


NOB HILL--MaryAnn's oldest son Ethan dropped by tonight with his friend Nicole. We all went out to eat at Il Vicino. It was a wonderful time. While we were there Ethan stated he had an extra refrigerator. He was trying to think of someone he could give it to.

I told him how I had given away a washer and dryer in a couple of hours after posting them on this blog. He said to see if anybody wanted it. Here is the deal:

It is a large, white refrigerator that is in good working order. Email me if you are interested.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Illustrator for John Muir's VW Manual, Peter Aschwanden, Dead At 63

NOB HILL--In the decade from about 1965 to 1975 America sorted itself out by generations and reshuffled the population. Everyone under 30 hit the road. Wandering from coast to coast, city to farm, midwest to anywhere else, thousands of us ended up in the Land of Enchantment.

We were a generation of slogans...(you can probably think of a few besides "Make Love, Not War"). One of them was, "Sneak In." This phrase was rooted in the belief that there were enough material goods and waste in this country to take care of everybody without working full-time to support your Spartan lifestyle. And at the center of this "Waste not, want not" philosophy stood the Volkswagen bus.

If you are over 55 you probably owned one or rode in one. It was economical, simple to fix, and was still big enough to sleep half a dozen friendly people. And fixing them was part of owning one, a big part of owning one.

The Bible of those times was John Muir's book "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot." The illustrator was Peter Aschwanden. He died last week in Santa Fe of cancer at the age of 63. John Muir died in 1978.

There was no "how-to" book that was more popular for that generation: almost 2,000,000 copies have been sold in 3 languages.

I was living on Canyon Road in Santa Fe in 1970, sharing a house with 3 women and another guy. One day he decided to rebuild the engine of his VW bus. He was sort of a small guy, maybe weighed 120 pounds...but this didn't stop him from taking the engine out of his bus by himself. The bus was backed up against a wall. He got in there behind the bus, undid 4 bolts, grabbed the engine with both hands, and pushed the bus away from the wall with his foot. He was left holding the engine, which he carried into the house and set on the kitchen table. He opened up his Muir book and rebuilt the engine right there.

You can read the Introduction to the book page for page on Amazon. The ABQ Journal Business Outlook ran an excellent article on Peter Aschwanden in 2001. Written by Emily Van Cleve, it is certainly worth reading.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper

WEST OF SAN ANTONIO, NM--That big beautiful sky is part of everything we do here.

The Sunday Poem: Shirley Buettner

American Life in Poetry: Column 037


Painful separations, through divorce, through death, through alienation, sometimes cause us to focus on the objects around us, often invested with sentiment. Here's Shirley Buettner, having packed up what's left of a relationship.

The Wind Chimes

Two wind chimes,
one brass and prone to anger,
one with the throat of an angel,
swing from my porch eave,
sing with the storm.
Last year I lived five months
under that shrill choir,
boxing your house, crowding books
into crates, from some pages
your own voice crying.
Some days the chimes raged.
Some days they hung still.
They fretted when I dug up
the lily I gave you in April,
blooming, strangely, in fall.
Together, they scolded me
when I counted pennies you left
in each can, cup, and drawer,
when I rechecked the closets
for remnants of you.
The last day, the house empty,
resonant with space, the two chimes
had nothing to toll for.
I walked out, took them down,
carried our mute spirits home.

From "Thorns," published by Juniper Press, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Shirley Buettner, and reprinted 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.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Starting an Albuquerque Urban Trail With Little More Than Enthusiasm and a Small Jar of Paint

BRIDGE & CENTRAL SW--I didn't know that Bridge and Central ever met...yet here I was at the "Wye" way out near 98th St. sitting across from Mike Smith in the Calf-A. He immediately started talking about the Albuquerque Urban Trail.

"It's a 200 mile long hiking trail that runs from the volcanoes on the west to Sandia Crest on the east. It's going to wind its way through town hitting every important landmark and neighborhood in Albuquerque. I figure you can hike it in about a week...urban camping and motels."

"Urban camping?" The waitress came over to take our order. "I didn't recognize the name "Calf-A," I said to her. Didn't this place used to be the Duke City Diner?"

"Still is," she replied. One side of the sign says "Calf-A" the other says "Duke City."

"I see."

"Yes...they did a Billy Bob Thornton film in here...called Astronaut Farmer. They never bothered to change the sign back. I know it looks old. It's supposed to. And No...I didn't get to meet Billy Bob."

After she left with our order, Mike spread a big Albuquerque map out on the table. It had a bright green line coming down Paseo del Volcan to Central, then heading east to Coors where it took a dive further south, returned to Central and began zig-zagging its way through the city. From the looks of it, maybe 150 miles of the route goes north and south and 50 goes east.

I had some thoughts about it, but decided to go with Mike's enthusiasm. He has a history in his young 24-year-old life of conquering difficult routes already. He, his brother, and some friends once hiked from southern Florida up to Canada using the Appalachian Trail and then some. It took 6 months. Oh...did I mention they had to push his brother in a wheelchair?

We headed out to Paseo del Volcan, a part of the route that he has blazed already. It is a magnificent view...distant vistas, uninterrupted horizons. This is totally different from the view anywhere else near the city.

Mike and his friends are modelling the AUT on their experience with the AT. They are marking the route with painted blue rectangles. The blue blazes are inter-visual, that is you can see the next one from the previous blaze. Every once in a while there is a painted blue "R." This means that nearby there is a container with a registry, a notebook where you can enter your name and any other info you might want.

We could easily see the blue rectangles. We stopped at a registry site. It consisted of a cairn behind a tree. Under a couple of rocks was a plastic container with the notebook and pencil. I wrote my name...after all, whose else would I write.

We went back to Central Ave. so he could continue with his painting. His girlfriend invented a paint jar with a paintbrush attached to the lid. He loves it. Mike stops and kneels down to paint a rectangle about every 60 or 70 feet. Descansos were coming in bunches on this part of West Central...another unique part of the New Mexico landscape.

He is just entering the city limits. I figure he will be doing this for a long time...what with painting rectangles every 60 feet for 200 miles. But it definitely sounds like another unique part of the New Mexico landscape.

There will be plenty of time for route suggestions. E-mail Mike at

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Art Bug

NOB HILL--I've been knocked down by some sort of stomach nastiness for the last couple of days. I'd like to blame it on art. After all, MaryAnn and I attended 3 art openings on Saturday and by Sunday night I was sick. I guess I would classify this situation as an intestinal eruption with aesthetic overtones.

At any rate, Saturday we started out at Claudia Baragiola's show which is entitled Still Life, Still Valid at Artspace 116 on the corner of 1st St. and Central. If there was ever an artist that could make you fall in love with still lifes all over again, she is the one. They are absolutely wonderous. Not only is she a brilliant painter, but her selection and arrangement of material constantly make the viewer aware that all art is a window. Her Kava, shown here to the left of MaryAnn and Claudia, grabs light and reflects it to where you find yourself wondering whether your own shadow is visible on the sides of those espresso makers. I love her work. These are paintings that never grow tiresome. She is not afraid of complexity of image, strong colors, intelligent viewers, or the sometimes truly personal quirks that make good art so satisfying.

If you have time, use the above links and view her paintings. The show runs until the end of the month.

Betsy Brown Townsend opened a show of her weavings at Johnson Gallery in Madrid. Several artists were featured and the event was crowded. She does such careful and intricate work, using cotton and other thin yarns. Typically her designs feature words, phrases, or sayings. Of course, her piece that makes me smile the most is one that incorporates the opening lines from a poem I did as a young man called Stinson Beach. There are to be two more panels that will complete the entire poem.

She also has a wonderfully gradiated piece with colors that just burst from the hanging. She really does wonderful work.

Later, after the sun had set, we wound up at Sam Pillsbury's reception over at Art is OK...right next to Cost Plus. Sam has 3 or 4 works in the current show (We couldn't find the 4th piece, but it was VERY crowded). Sam is another artist who plays with the incongruities of the built environment in a wild but not particularly unfriendly planet. He likes to juxtapose Roman buildings and pastoral landscapes. I suspect this is a metaphor that might appeal to many searching for a sense of order in a world "that is too much with us." Like the above two artists, Sam is very precise in his execution. His craftmanship is remarkable.

Well, I am sure I picked up that 36-hour bug at one of those places. But it didn't stop me from enjoying a really wonderful Saturday.