Sunday, April 30, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Backstage Flamenco Dancers

NOB HILL--One of the last remnants of Earth Day is the Festival behind La Montanita Co-op. Here, under a tent pitched in the middle of Silver Ave., musicians and dancers help us celebrate our lives together here in New Mexico. These girls wait their turn behind the stage.Click on picture to enlarge, then right-click to set as wallpaper.

Richard Newman: Coins (You'll empty your pocket and take a look).

American Life in Poetry: Column 057


Midwestern poet Richard Newman traces the imaginary life of coins as a connection between people. The coins—seemingly of little value—become a ceremonial and communal currency.


My change: a nickel caked with finger grime;
two nicked quarters not long for this life, worth
more for keeping dead eyes shut than bus fare;
a dime, shining in sunshine like a new dime;
grubby pennies, one stamped the year of my birth,
no brighter than I from 40 years of wear.

What purses, piggy banks, and window sills
have these coins known, their presidential heads
pinched into what beggar's chalky palm—
they circulate like tarnished red blood cells,
all of us exchanging the merest film
of our lives, and the lives of those long dead.

And now my turn in the convenience store,
I hand over my fist of change, still warm,
to the bored, lip-pierced check-out girl, once more
to be spun down cigarette machines, hurled
in fountains, flipped for luck—these dirty charms
chiming in the dark pockets of the world.

Reprinted from "Borrowed Towns," Word Press, 2005, by permission of the author. First printed in "Crab Orchard Review," Volume 10, No. 1, 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Richard Newman. 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, April 26, 2006

The Best 15 Minute Train Ride I Ever Had!

ALVARADO CENTER, DOWNTOWN ABQ--I have often wondered what it would be like to sit in a railcar pulling out of Alvarado Station in downtown Albuquerque. There are historical pictures showing movie stars and Presidents doing the same thing. And now NewMexiKen and I were sitting in the brand-new cars of the Rail Runner...starring at the activity on the platform as politicians made one more phone call and vendors set up their tables for the 12:30 arrival of the eastbound Amtrak.

Oh I had seen these cars before...sneaked in the railyard and took pictures, followed the train on a bicycle down the tracks in the south valley, been to a Rail Runner open house, and even interviewed roadgrader drivers working on the north valley station. And I have been to Belen checking on the location of the station down there. I have talked to the planning office in Bernalillo to get the exact location of that station and scouted it out for possible commercial opportunities. I watched as the number of Bombardier engines stored in the Albuquerque railyard went from zero to 2 to 5, plus about a dozen passenger cars. But today...well today we're riding!

  • This train runs quiet and smooth! Even as we passed cars while doing a top speed of 79 mph, there was no noise and very little sway.
  • The view from the train in Albuquerque is of a part of the north valley few people see: alleys, salvage dumps, appliance graveyards.
  • Further north, artifacts of the pre-1937 Route 66 are still visible near Sandia Pueblo and Bernalillo. In fact I think I remember seeing a Fred Harvey railroad poster showing the grade crossing at Sandia Pueblo. Abandoned gas stations and small roadside stores are also along the way.
  • The total trip time from downtown Albuquerque to NM 550 north of Bernalillo was 15 minutes! That's smokin'.
  • ABQ transportation director Greg Payne had not been on the Rail Runner train until today. Even today he was too busy to ride up to Bernalillo.
  • The seeds of the Rail Runner car logo came from an idea by MRCOG Executive Director Lawrence Rael, who suggested something with "flying feathers coming out of a tunnel." Well, I knew what he meant.
  • The logo itself was actually designed by the same firm that did the Flying Star logo: Vaughn Wedeen Creative.
There Is Always a Downside...
  • The Rail Runner is FREE for only 3 months!
  • Then the price climbs all the way up to 2 bucks for the rest of the year!
  • Augusta Meyers is probably not going to be there when you get on it.
  • It is very difficult to find anything to complain about.
The Train Starts in Late July...

At least the section between Albuquerque and Bernalillo will be operating. The train will start service to Belen in September. Not all stations will be open by then. This includes the Rio Bravo and Sandia Pueblo stops. Apparently there is a delay with some of the switching equipment, according to Chris Blewett, Director of Transportation for the MRCOG. For a good account of today's ride make sure you read NewMexiKen's post.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Bite Me

NOB HILL--This week the Duke City Fix celebrated its first anniversary. About one year ago Chantal Foster asked me to attend a meeting with several other local bloggers in the Nob Hill Flying Star. It was a strange meeting by my standards. To start with nobody would let me take their picture. For another, everybody seemed to know everybody...and I didn't know any of them. Also, there was the age thing. And "no," I was not on the young side.

But I was so proud to be asked to write for the Fix. I still am. In honor of that, today's wallpaper is a photo of the cookies Chantal and I took around to several MSM locations. These cookies embody one of the delightful things about Chantal: her sense of humor.

Also, in a more serious vein, the 2nd piece I ever wrote for the Fix was a very personal piece about the motorhome in my backyard. Why I put it up on the DCF I don't know. It seems like it would be better placed my personal space. Maybe I thought it might help somebody. In any case, I am reprinting it here in partly to honor my parents and partly to honor Chantal and the Fix for never saying, "Don't go there."

The Apollo Has Left the Yard
by Johnny_Mango
Category: Around Town
Posted on: 04/05/05

NOB HILL--The last few days and weeks, with Terri Schiavo and the Pope in the news, have made this a time of introspection for many of us.

We are all between generations.

Many of us have been bookmarked between our kids and parents. All together, MaryAnn and I have 5 children; they have all left home. Our folks have all passed on. So, I guess, we are what are called "empty nesters." But that doesn't mean we are done with any of them.

For one thing our basement and garage are crammed with stuff belonging to my kids, her kids, my folks, and her folks -- like the Apollo motorhome that belonged to my parents. The one that has lived in my backyard, unused, for the past 15 years.

Letting go of what was our folks is the most difficult of all.

Somewhat like the Terri Schiavo situation, my father ended up on a ventilator, alive but, the doctor told me, brain-dead. I was left to make the decision. My mom had dementia. The doctor looked to me.

I let him go.

I can't begin to talk about it. Let me just say I didn't cut my hair for over 2 years and wore the same old orange camoflage hunting jacket for a similar length of time. Call it The Catcher in the Rye syndrome. I had tried to catch my dad...but I couldn't. I just couldn't help him.

Well, the Apollo motorhome is part of that. It belonged to my folks. I only used it once in 15 years, but I couldn't get rid of it. Oh, I could rationalize why it was still there, taking up a sizable portion of my back yard. How it ruled over a kingdom of backyards. How no one loved it except the backyard dreamer. But deep inside, I knew that someday I had to let it go.

John Henning, a friend, saw it...and wanted it. I gave it to him. I am so happy to see them go down the alley together. Go in peace...finally...and from the bottom of my heart...go in peace.

The Sunday Poem: Don Welch AT THE EDGE OF TOWN

American Life in Poetry: Column 056


When I complained about some of the tedious jobs I had as a boy, my mother would tell me, Ted, all work is honorable. In this poem, Don Welch gives us a man who's been fixing barbed wire fences all his life.

At the Edge of Town

Hard to know which is more gnarled,
the posts he hammers staples into
or the blue hummocks which run
across his hands like molehills.

Work has reduced his wrists
to bones, cut out of him
the easy flesh and brought him
down to this, the crowbar's teeth

caught just behind a barb.
Again this morning
the crowbar's neck will make
its blue slip into wood,

there will be that moment
when too much strength
will cause the wire to break.
But even at 70, he says,

he has to have it right,
and more than right.
This morning, in the pewter light,
he has the scars to prove it.

From "Gutter Flowers," Logan House, 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Don Welch and reprinted by permission of Logan House and 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.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

City Council...LIVE!

COUNCIL CHAMBERS, DOWNTOWN ALBUQUERQUE--A comromise was reached before the council meeting started. Martin Heinrich, broker of the minimum wage compromise, talked to me right before the meeting about how the deal came down. In the final analysis, it was necessary to include health care as a part of the total minimum wage package. He said this wouldn't affect too many people, that nobody wanted to push anybody off health care, and that workers would actually get more for their money with that part of the bill than without it.

Conroy Chino, from the Governor's office, is now speaking in support of the proposed legislation. I just saw him at the Nob Hill Flying Star a couple of days ago talking to a table full of people. I sure wish I had a picture of that bacause I believe I see some of them here tonight.

Terri Cole is speaking her two minutes worth. CEO of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, she didn't even get to her main point...but questions from Councilor Winter gave her a chance to explain herself. One of the points the Chamber of Commerce is putting forward is that they would rather see a federal or state law rather than a city minimum wage law.

NewMexiKen, who is sitting behind me, whispered, "Is she saying the Chamber of Commerce supports a raise in the national minimum wage?"

Well, that seems to be what she said, but maybe she is hoping nobody checks with the national office. Maybe I'll email them ASAP.

Update! It is impossible to email any of the national officers without being a member of the least from their website.

Just heard from "Mr. Schiff" owner of a massage parlor...a legit massage parlor that is: "One of the hallmarks of a good compromise is that no one is completely happy."

There are more speakers in the queue than I have listening power.

Hold the phone! A speaker named Emil Shaw just spoke. What attracted my attention was that he announced himself as the President of the New Mexico Educational Retirees Association. Now I am a retired teacher, so I listened carefully. Briefly, the NMERA supports the minimum wage hike. Shaw stated that cost increases that affect retirees have more to do with war spending and increasing health care costs than fallout from any minimum wage bill.

I called him outside and he said another interesting thing: this Thursday at the AFT Hall there will be a speaker on the education of the immigrant population. What really stokes me is that retired teachers still care!

I told him he made me proud. He shook my hand.

Here comes State Senator Kent Cravens. "It's like playing 'chicken' with ACORN." That's what he said. He was talking about forcing an election. That is what he wants. He represents CRAVE...I mean PAVE. Don't ask what it stands for. I can't remember.

And now we have the two we knew would be here: Bob "I'm the reason Heather is in Congress" Anderson and Geraldine Amato. Geraldine mentions the world SEDUCTION...a perfect word for 3rd party candidate Bob Anderson. He sounds so good...but what a sucking sound in mainstream politics.

And who can say enough about Geraldine Amato. She has made a career of speaking at City Council meetings. What did she say? Can't remember. I must have been eyeing her outfit.

NewMexiKen: The price of gas has gone up 60 cents in 3 weeks...and we're arguing a dollar an hour. Councillor Cadigan has just introduced his amendment to give a reduced minimum wage to workers who get health and/or childcare benefits. The employees get one dollar less per hour if those benefits are part of the wage benefit. Sounds like an acceptable deal to me. Certainly both childcare and healthcare cost more than that. I'm signing off. Good night and good luck.

Tonight: The Blog-In! Be There (or be here)!

DOWNTOWN--In less than an hour and a half we will take up the minimum wage debate in the chambers of the City Council. You can read all about it right here (as well as on the other blogs listed at the Duke City Fix.

I'm taking my laptop, power supply, camera, cables, notebook, and a power strip (for sharing). I hope you can make it...either in person or right here. I wrote about the first minimum wage debate last May. I suspect tonight's meeting will be just as intense!

This is democracy in action. The people speaking tonight may not change anybody's mind, but they will definitely be heard. We will see to that!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Go to a Tea

NOB HILL--I had never been to a Tea in my life, but this much I was sure of...I was going to have to change out of my shorts and that yellow "Coffee: Still Legal in Utah" tee-shirt. A peek in the closet, a glance in the mirror, and I was ready to see what MaryAnn had going on.

That was an education. She looked gorgeous. Not only that, the small bouquet of lillies made me think that she was decades ahead of me in this one.

"At least I changed my shirt," I muttered. In my heart I was expecting a long afternoon...even though the invitation said 3:00 to 5:00. I ate a burrito just in case the food was dainty.

Driving up Central we passed a guy on a motorcycle. He had all kinds of camping gear with him, and hanging off the back of all that stuff was a cast-iron frying pan. Boy, did I start daydreaming. Nothing seems to say "FREEDOM" like a cast-iron frying pan hanging off the back of a motorcycle!

Now I was born a Democrat. We don't go to Teas. We go to corn boils, chile cook-offs, barbeques, and matanzas. Stuff like that. We drink out of paper cups and don't use saucers except for collecting paperclips. I have to say this: a Tea, even one given by good friends, makes me more than a little uncomfortable.

I must also say that Kate and Wayne are wonderful hosts. They had lemonade as well as tea. Not only that there was a table with little sandwiches on it. I took one and sat down. It looked delicious, but had a big cucumber in it. My first thought was, "The dog isn't going to help me out with this one if I spill it." I don't think dogs like cukes. Luckily I managed to eat it without messing up their newly refinished floor.

There were maybe 10 of us sitting in chairs in the livingroom...mostly women. The conversation turned to cats. Then bunny rabbits. Somehow one guy that I didn't know started talking about freezing his ass off in a blizzard on Wolf Creek Pass. Next we talked about that dead Texan who had lost his boots in a blizzard on Wheeler Peak. I looked around. The women were gone.

Five o'clock came soon enough. When we left I saw what had to be the most startling sight of the afternoon: an enormous creeper climbing a light pole. Hey, this is worth the trip. What a lovely afternoon, all things considered.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Central Avenue: The Anti-Mall (on the Duke City Fix)

NOB HILL--My regular Tuesday post on the DCF celebrates Central Ave. along with a mind-stroll up a dangerous alley near the Elsa Ross store.

Just to let you know...nothing in this post reflects negatively on the total happiness of my relationship with the Beautiful MaryAnn.

I checked.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Salute to the Young

DOWNTOWN--They get it. They are not ashamed of who they are.

Their parents have cleaned our toilets, mowed our lawns, cleared away our dirty dishes, roofed our houses, picked our vegetables, and served in our privatized army. They have never asked for something for nothing.

And although these young people may be citizens, their parents may not be. House Republicans threatened 12 million people living in America with felony arrest. Their parents. They don't deserve that.

What they do deserve is respect...whatever the outcome. Respect!

The Sunday Poem: Kansas Poet Jo McDougall

American Life in Poetry: Column 055


A circus is an assemblage of illusions, and here Jo McDougall, a Kansas poet, shows us a couple of performers, drab and weary in their ordinary lives, away from the lights at the center of the ring.

What We Need

It is just as well we do not see,
in the shadows behind the hasty tent
of the Allen Brothers Greatest Show,
Lola the Lion Tamer and the Great Valdini
in Nikes and jeans
sharing a tired cigarette
before she girds her wrists with glistening amulets
and snaps the tigers into rage,
before he adjusts the glimmering cummerbund
and makes from air
the white and trembling doves, the pair.

From "Dirt," Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Jo McDougall, whose most recent book is "Satisfied With Havoc," Autumn House Press, 2004. Reprinted by permission of the author and Autumn House Press. 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, April 13, 2006

Tim Prythero's "Used Cars:" The Organic Beauty of a Caught Moment

NOB HILL--If you have ever seen Tim Prythero's work you will remember it. It captures your attention. It draws you inside its Lilliputian world and makes your eyes open with wonder. Finally, after all the questions of "how did he do that?" and all the amazement at the incredible detail of each diorama...finally you ask, "Why?"

Not why did he spend so much time painstakingly recreating the mess in his neighbor's yard, but why is every detail important here. Is the artist telling a story? Is there something being said about life itself? How is this different from other miniaturizations of our model railroads?

Eventually I think I came to feel that all these objects were opaque. That is, they are what they are...period. And like a lot of things in life, you can look at that old trailer, call it an eyesore, and call county zoning...or you can say, "Yes, all that is true. It is an eyesore. But interesting nonetheless. It has the organic beauty of a caught moment: a guess at history, a hint of the future, but ultimately a nod to the present."

Well...probably you wouldn't ever say THAT, but you could. His pieces are artifacts that certainly remind one of the constant pressure of time. As Whitehead once said (somewhere), "Time is in fact a son of a bitch!" It is impossible to view these pieces without thinking about the past and present. As for the future...these items look as if the future is now.

I first saw one of his trailers in the wonderful Roswell Museum and Art Center. I saw another of his trailers in the Albuquerque Museum. That is how I was introduced to his work. Once you have seen one close up, you never forget it.

Prythero lives up in the north valley on 4th St., but shows mostly in New York City, so getting to see an exhibit like this is pretty special.

Exhibit/208 (208 Dartmouth SE) is showing several of Prythero's pieces in an exhibit entitled, "Used Cars." Go. You will not forget what his scuptures look like. The difficult thing about going is the gallery hours: 10 - 4 Saturdays or by appointment. The exhibit lasts until April 29th.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper...State Road 12 near Torrey, Utah

STATE ROAD 12 SOUTH OF TORREY, UTAH--This stretch of highway leading south between Torrey and Bryce National Park has been called "The Most Beautiful Highway in America." It may be. Much of the scenery was masked by swirling snow when we drove through it last week. But the piece of roadway in the picture follows a knife-edged hogback and drops away on both sides of the highway. We did see that.
To set as a desktop background, first click to enlarge, then right-click...and "set as wallpaper."

The Sunday Poem: Ruth L. Schwartz... Tangerine

American Life in Poetry: Column 054


Poet Ruth L. Schwartz writes of the glimpse of possibility, of something sweeter than we already have that comes to us, grows in us. The unrealizable part of it causes bitterness; the other opens outward, the cycle complete. This is both a poem about a tangerine and about more than that.


It was a flower once, it was one of a billion flowers
whose perfume broke through closed car windows,
forced a blessing on their drivers.
Then what stayed behind grew swollen, as we do;
grew juice instead of tears, and small hard sour seeds,
each one bitter, as we are, and filled with possibility.
Now a hole opens up in its skin, where it was torn from the
branch; ripeness can't stop itself, breathes out;
we can't stop it either. We breathe in.

From "Dear Good Naked Morning," © 2005 by Ruth L. Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of the author and Autumn House Press. First printed in "Crab Orchard Review," Vol. 8, No. 2. 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, April 05, 2006

Goats Gnawing Bush in the Bosque

NORTH VALLEY--"Wait!" Bob said, pointing across the river. I put down my bike and walked back to where we had a clear view of the west bank of the Rio Grande. Oh yeah. Goats.

I had heard they were advertising for goats to control the "alien" vegetation along the river. But somehow I never thought that it would ever happen. It seemed to be a little too rustic a solution for the 21st century.

Think again Johnny_Mango! There they were...probably about 2 dozen of them. You'll have to click on the second picture to really get a look at them. Also visible:
  1. A trailer. Must be for the goatherd.
  2. A fence between the goats and the river.
  3. Just a hint of another fence in back of the goats but in front of the jetty-jacks.

It looks like the plan is to fence off an area, let the goats eat it up under the supervision of a goatherd, then move the fence to another area. On the surface of it, a brilliant idea.

Let's turn our attention to the trailer and truck. The trailer looks to be a new Airstream complete with a rolled-up awning. The truck seems to be new or near cab. All I can say is that is a pretty fancy outfit for a goatherd!

I would have to guess that the MRGCD owns the trailer and maybe even the truck. I bet all told that rig costs around $100,000. Not bad for a goatherd with a couple dozen goats. Maybe use of these items is part of the contract. I'll try to find out.
Update: I have a call in to Sterling Grogan...well, I guess he was word yet.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Bryce Canyon in the Snow

NOB HILL--MaryAnn and I visited Bryce last week. It was too snowy to hike. In fact, two thirds of the road was closed. What we did see, however, was just beautiful.
To set as wallpaper, click on picture to enlarge...then right-click...choose "Set as Wallpaper."

The Sunday Poem: Peter Pereira...A Pot of Red Lentils

American Life in Poetry: Column 053


Writing poetry, reading poetry, we are invited to join with others in celebrating life, even the ordinary, daily pleasures. Here the Seattle poet and physician, Peter Pereira, offer us a simple meal.

A Pot of Red Lentils

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.

Reprinted from "Saying the World," 2003, by permission of Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2003 by Peter Pereira. 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.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mokee Dugway? Never Heard of Him!

TUBA CITY, AZ--We have been gone a week. I haven't had a chance to post since Day One. But what a trip! We went through Monument Valley, which I am sure you all have seen so many times in those John Ford movies that I am not going to put up a picture of it myself. Let me just say that of all the wonderous things we saw on this adventure, this is my personal favorite.

But what about Mokee Dugway? Sounds like a point guard from the Atlanta Hawks. But no...the Mokee Dugway is a road...sort of. You can see Monument Valley from the top of Mokee Dugway. There was a curious little white spot on one

of our maps right where Utah 261 goes. That is Mokee Dugway. It is a gravel thrill show all by itself. Let me quote another traveler:

Moki Dugway (Mokee Dugway)

About 6 miles north of Mexican Hat on Hwy 261, there is a 1100 ft drop, the top 2/3rds of the switch back road is unpaved, recommended speed is 5 mph, if you go faster the car starts juddering and you lose control, RV's not recommended. From the top of Moki Dugway you can see Valley of the gods and you can see Monument Valley in the distance this makes it worthwhile. I have done this three times now in a hire car, best to keep to the 5 mph speed limit.

Actually I thought the biggest danger was from drivers coming the opposite way. They absolutely refused to get on their own side of the road...although they did generally come to a complete stop to let you pass.

We are currently in Tuba City. We spent the night here at the Quality Inn for about $70 (AARP, off-season). There is a restaurant that is part of this complex: The Tuba City Trading Post. When we get back I am going to eat healthier. Meanwhile, I am going to decide between fry bread and biscuits and gravy.