Friday, December 29, 2006

Yuma Territorial Prison

NOB HILL--We're back...but here's Yuma! The Yuma prison only served as the Territory prison from 1876 to 1909, but its fame lives on. What a hell hole. I hate the suffering. The building itself is pretty interesting however.

It is built of adobe blocks with thick walls and roofs of boards covered with a thick layer of dirt. Inside each cell, a steel cage was constructed. This was then plastered. Six prisoners were kept in each cell.

The adobes were made from a huge hill of caliche located on the property. This stuff is hard as a rock. In fact, the sides of the hill were excavated and rooms carved into the verticle hillsides. Some housed prisoners. Others were offices. At any rate, the same cages built of strap steel were constructed inside the rooms.

The hillside rooms are still standing intact over 200 years from their date of construction. They are in a natural state without stucco or any other form of protection. This says a lot both for the Arizona climate and for the durability of caliche.

The "dark cell" was located within the hillside units. This was solitary confinement. It was totally dark. The room was about 15 feet on a side with a covered stove pipe in the ceiling for air. Inside the room was a strap steel cage about 8 feet on a side and 5 feet tall. The prisoners were put in there naked except for their underwear. As if the prisoner wasn't uncomfortable enough, guards were said to throw snakes, scorpions, etc. down the stove pipe and into the dark cage.

Women were also housed at the prison, though not in big numbers. For one thing, there were so few women in the territory. However, women could be sent to the prison for everything from murder to adultery. I don't believe any men were encarcerated for adulterous behavior!

One woman was sentenced to the Yuma prison along with her sister for running off with a pair of vaudeville jugglers. What a place.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Sunset at Rockhound

This is the view from our campsite at Rockhound State Park last Sunday. It has been one week on the road, but I still remember that sunset.
To set as wallpaper, click on image to enlarge then right-click "set as desktop background."

The Sunday Poem: Mark Vinz Drives through Town...Nice

American Life in Poetry: Column 091

How many of us, when passing through some small town, have felt that it seemed familiar though we've never been there before. And of course it seems familiar because much of the course of life is pretty much the same wherever we go, right down to the up-and-down fortunes of the football team and the unanswered love letters. Here's a poem by Mark Vinz.

Driving Through

This could be the town you're from,
marked only by what it's near.
The gas station man speaks of weather
and the high school football team
just as you knew he would—
kind to strangers, happy to live here.

Tell yourself it doesn't matter now,
you're only driving through.
Past the sagging, empty porches
locked up tight to travelers' stares,
toward the great dark of the fields,
your headlights startle a flock of
old love letters—still undelivered,
enroute for years.

Reprinted from "Red River Blues," published by College of the Mainland, Texas City, TX, 1977, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1977 by Mark Vinz, whose most recent book is "Long Distance," Midwestern Writers Publishing House, 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.

An Interlude of Cardinals

YUMA, AZ--Barb, in a comment below, asks the question, "How is the birding?"
MaryAnn and I are not exactly 'birders', but we do notice what is around us. So far we have seen cactus wrens, Gila woodpeckers, thrashers, hawks, Gambel's quails, and these wonderful cardinals.
We were eating lunch at the Desert Museum near Tucson, when they flew over to check us out. Oh where I grew up in Illinois I used to try to spot them, prowling through the neighborhood with my Little Golden Book of Birds...but in eighteen years I only saw two pairs. Now they were perched right next to me.

It is quite a sight, even if the bird isn't exactly rare.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Postcards Tossed from the Window of a Cruising 4Runner

ROCKHOUND STATE PARK...NEAR DEMING, NM--We had a warm first night (maybe 40 degrees) and took a hike in the morning. This park has heated restrooms with showers. Cost $10. This is a nice place to chill out for a few days. Gorgeous sunsets and views from our campsite.

PANCHO VILLA STATE PARK...COLUMBUS, NM--There is a new Pancho Villa museum right next to the campground. It includes several vehicles and artifacts from Pershing's Punitive Expedition into Mexico. One of the vehicles looked to be a cross between John Wayne's "War Wagon" and a tank. The expedition itself was unsuccessful. They never did find Pancho Villa (for many of the same reasons we haven't been able to find Osama bin Laden). This view of the water tower in Columbus shows the most famous landmark in the town. The smaller tower in front of it, however, is the tower that existed at the time of Villa's raid across the border in 1916.

Villa is both loved and hated around here...depending largely on ones heritage.

LORDSBURG, NM--We didn't spend the night in Lordsburg. We did stop for lunch. If you want to see how freeways create ghost towns, go to downtown Lordsburg.

SAGUARGO NATIONAL PARK...TUCSON, AZ--MaryAnn studied the literature while we relaxed in the Park. We are getting ready to heat up some Chinese food from the previous evening.
Speaking of that, Santa Claus seems to like Mandarin cuisine himself. He uses a fork rather than chopsticks, but getting rice through that beard would seem to be a problem. I guess he is on a pre-flight scouting operation in here in Tucson.

We drove out to Sabino Canyon at dusk. Then we went back to our campground next to the western half of the National Park. We spent two nights here...pretty cold nights.

Last week I would have pitched this tent in the bushes. This week, after MaryAnn read me the brochure, I am pitching it near:
  1. a saguaro
  2. creosote bush
  3. mesquite
  4. ironwood tree
  5. palo verde
Such is the power of education.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Happy Holidays!

NOB HILL--MaryAnn and I wish everyone the very best of holiday cheer. May your days be filled with happiness and love. May life bless you with its abundance.

The Sunday Poem: Bill Holm Makes Bread Soup

American Life in Poetry: Column 090

Anyone can write a poem that nobody can understand, but poetry is a means of communication, and this column specializes in poems that communicate. What comes more naturally to us than to instruct someone in how to do something? Here the Minnesota poet and essayist Bill Holm, who is of Icelandic parentage, shows us how to make something delicious to eat.

Bread Soup: An Old Icelandic Recipe

Start with the square heavy loaf
steamed a whole day in a hot spring
until the coarse rye, sugar, yeast
grow dense as a black hole of bread.
Let it age and dry a little,
then soak the old loaf for a day
in warm water flavored
with raisins and lemon slices.
Boil it until it is thick as molasses.
Pour it in a flat white bowl.
Ladle a good dollop of whipped cream
to melt in its brown belly.
This soup is alive as any animal,
and the yeast and cream and rye
will sing inside you after eating
for a long time.

Reprinted from "Playing the Black Piano," Milkweed Editions, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2004 by Bill Holm. 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.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: The Searchlight

NOB HILL--Last Thursday's Nob Hill Shop 'n' Stroll closed off Central Ave. for the evening. A searchlight on either end put a bright parenthesis in the snaking headlights of the rest of Route 66. The searchlight tender probably had a good reason to slump in front of the light like he was doing...maybe he was just keeping warm. At any rate, I took this picture.

The Sunday Poem: Sue Ellen Thompson Buries That Cat

American Life in Poetry: Column 089


Loss can defeat us or serve as the impetus for positive change. Here, Sue Ellen Thompson of Connecticut shows us how to mourn inevitable changes, tuck the memories away, then go on to see the possibility of a new and promising chapter in one's life. (Mark Justice Hinton featured her in March, 2005).

No Children, No Pets

I bring the cat's body home from the vet's
in a running-shoe box held shut
with elastic bands. Then I clean
the corners where she has eaten and
slept, scrubbing the hard bits of food
from the baseboard, dumping the litter
and blasting the pan with a hose. The plastic
dishes I hide in the basement, the pee-
soaked towel I put in the trash. I put
the catnip mouse in the box and I put
the box away, too, in a deep
dirt drawer in the earth.

When the death-energy leaves me,
I go to the room where my daughter slept
in nursery school, grammar school, high school,
I lie on her milky bedspread and think
of the day I left her at college, how nothing
could keep me from gouging the melted candle-wax
out from between her floorboards,
or taking a razor blade to the decal
that said to the firemen, "Break
this window first." I close my eyes now
and enter a place that's clearly
expecting me, swaddled in loss
and then losing that, too, as I move
from room to bone-white room
in the house of the rest of my life.

Reprinted from "Nimrod International Journal: The Healing Arts," Vol. 49, No. 2, Spring-Summer, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2006 by Sue Ellen Thompson, whose latest book is "The Golden Hour," Autumn House Press, 2006. 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, December 06, 2006

Big Truck...Many Questions

NOB HILL--The first topic at coffee this morning in the Flying Star was the big truck parked across the street. It had more chrome on it than paint. It was climate-controlled and air-cushioned. The rear wheels were widely spaced. Custom bins, doors, panels, and smoke-stacks gleamed in the early morning sun.

Most thought it had something to do with the movies. I thought the guy sitting at the next table had to be the driver. I couldn't get anybody to ask him about the truck. Finally I asked my alter-ego Johnny_Mango, who is not quite as shy as the rest of us.

I got up and walked over to the man.
"Is that your truck?"
So far so to ask a few probing questions.
"How...uh...where...uh...hmmm... Tell me about your truck."
Howard Elliott looked at me. He was eating breakfast, but was gracious enough talk with me even while the beans of his breakfast burrito got cold and glued themselves to the plate. He was an Art Mover. He moved art objects across the country...a lot of sculptures, glass pieces (including Dale Chihuly's), paintings, etc. He was on his way back to his home in the Denver area.
"Where are you coming from?"
"Well...I started out picking up some pieces at Navy Pier in Chicago." But before he got here he ended up going to New York City, Philly, Memphis, Oxford (Miss.), Houston, San Antonio, Denver (for a day), Vail, and Phoenix. He said he only got home a day or two each month.

He's been a truck driver for 26 years and started this art moving business about ten years ago. He said he taught himself how to drive a truck and that he really identified with Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi in terms of getting started in inter-state truck driving.

Once he delivered a statue of a big bear to Jack Nicklaus in Florida. Nicklaus had bought it in Vail. The golfer had a hard time figuring out exactly where he wanted that big bear to go. Howard Elliott and his two helpers tried this place and that. Finally Elliott looked at Nicklaus and said, "You know if this had been Arnold Palmer this wouldn't have been a problem." Nicklaus the Golden Bear stared at Elliott and said, "What?" Elliott added, "He only likes iced tea and lemonade." They both laughed. Arnold Palmer only lifted iced tea, not bears...his sponsor was Lipton's.

Finally Howard Elliott, a mover--but not a shaker, left to wash something off his truck. It seems that someone had thrown an egg at it during the night. And to an Art Mover, having a spotless truck fully equipped with all the freight-safety ammenities available, is the name of the game.

Lady Lobos, Those Hot Dogs, and Valerie Kast (posted on the DCF)

THE PIT--I posted this story on last Saturday's UNM-NMSU women's basketball game yesterday on the Duke City Fix. Since then, the Lobos beat Arizona in Tucson 76 - 63. Briody had another stunning performance, scoring 25 points. Valerie Kast did get into the game against Arizona's 6'6'' center.

Kast played 9 minutes in a so-so performance (2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 fouls, 1 assist, 3 turnovers) against Arizona's pressing defense. UNM center Angela Hartill had a good game despite being 3 or 4 inches shorter than her opponent. The box score and play by play account is here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: View Inside the Limousine

Last Thursday MaryAnn and I went to the "Best of the City" party thrown by Albuquerque the Magazine. It was out at Sandia Casino. The parking lot was quite a ways from the building so they had limousines take us from the lot to the door of the casino! This is what it looked like inside the limo.Btw, Chantal Foster, owner and publisher of the Duke City Fix, won "Best Local Blogger" that night. I ran into her at the party.

"Congratulations Chantal!"
"Same to you, Johnny_Mango!"
"What are you talking about?"
"You came in second. You beat out Joe Monahan."
"What are you talking about?"

Well, it seems I am indeed number 2...according to ABQ the MAG. Who knew? I gave Chantal a big congratumango hug...and a silent "thanks" for me being a part of the DCF.

The Sunday Poem: Christopher Chambers..."My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono"

American Life in Poetry: Column 088

This wistful poem by Christopher Chambers shows how the familiar and the odd, the real and imaginary, exist side by side. A Midwestern father transforms himself from a staid businessman into a rock-n-roll star, reclaiming a piece of his imaginary youth. In the end, it shows how fragile moments might be recovered to offer a glimpse into our inner lives.

My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono

In New York City for a conference
on weed control, leaving the hotel
in a cluster of horticulturalists,
he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,
narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,
holds the door for the Asian woman
in a miniskirt and thigh high
white leather boots. She nods
slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.
Neither smile, as if performing
a timeless ritual, as if anticipating
the loss of a son or a lover.

Years later, Christmas, inexplicably
he dons my mother's auburn wig,
my brother's wire-rimmed glasses,
and strikes a pose clowning
with my second hand acoustic guitar.
He is transformed, a working class hero
and a door whispers shut,
like cherry blossoms falling.

Reprinted from "Folio," Winter, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2004 by Christopher Chambers, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University New Orleans. 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, December 02, 2006

Friday Night at Los Equipales

NOB HILL--We are fortunate enough to live in Nob Hill, home to what is probably the best collection of neighborhood restaurants in the state of New Mexico. And hidden a block off Central Ave., on the corner of Silver and Jefferson SE, is one of our favorites...Los Equipales. Actually, Los Equipales feels like it's part neighborhood restaurant and part Mexican vacation.

Named for the comfortable pig-skinned furniture used thoughout the restaurant, Los Equipales features cuisine from coastal and central Mexico. It used to feature the food of a different province each month...although I am not sure if this is still their practice. In any case, the food is terrific and not the same as New Mexican fare, which is also a favorite of ours.

I ordered a special: chiles rellenos, made with poblano chiles. One of the two was stuffed with a mixture of carrots, raisins, potatoes, and almonds. The other was filled with jack cheese. Pomegranate seeds were sprinkled on top of both of them. God, it was delicious. MaryAnn had green chicken enchiladas. They were good as well.

The hostess Erica said that this is a good time to order the poblano rellenos because the chiles are really plump and beautiful. When they get smaller later in the year, the poblanos will be used for making sauces, but no more chiles rellenos with them. Her mom, who puts these together back in the kitchen, won't use any but the best ones for rellenos.

The presentation is done with such great care that it matches the extraordinarily romantic ambience of the dining area. The muebles equipales along with the tablecloths, candles, and gracious service make for a great special place to take one you love.

It would also make a wonderful place for a first date. And fellas, I have a feeling that your friends just might be calling you Mr. Lucky after you bring a date here...especially if you persuade los musicos to visit your table.

As far as cost goes, plan on spending around $15 per person, plus drinks and dessert. Our bill was $40. This included 2 dinners, 2 coffees, 1 rice pudding for dessert, and tip.

When you go, say "hi" to Erica for us. She is such a sweetie.