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Archive for February, 2009

Greetings from Artesia, folk art on the roadside in
southeastern NM town of Artesia,  November 2008,
photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.












folks in artesia
so friendly they’ll fall over
to lend you a hand















Postscript: Artesia, NM, a town named for the Artesian wells found at the turn of the 20th century, is, oddly enough, an oil and gas town today. Driving in from the north, you’re greeted by the sight of a huge blackened oil refinery, its tall stacks discharging clouds of steam. The air has a headache-inducing odor of natural gas, and if you ask locals how they manage to live with it, they’re likely to say, “Oh that? That’s the smell of money.”

But there is also a part of Artesia that looks and feels like 1950 small-town America. Brick department stores whose signs remind you of driving to Fedways downtown with your mom (before Fedways became Dillards), and a sense that time stopped.

One of my dearest friends is from Artesia, and I can tell you that there’s a lot of goodness in this place. Generosity is produced here.


-related to posts PRACTICE: Roadside Attractions – 15min, WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

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What I remember is the large sombrero, South of the Border. The scraggly pines, sweaty heat. A few hundred people get married there every year, the border between South and North Carolina. You can drive through his shoes, lanky legs that stretch up 100 feet.

What I remember is Garnet, a western ghost town. Abandoned. There was no one there. We walked among the ghosts, took 3 rolls of photographs, before digital film, cell phones, or text messages. We were utterly alone. We drove miles outside of Missoula. The direction was up, the air thin. The pines, Ponderosa. I am a woman destined to be near pines. Unlike Bill Holm, I love trees. I feel safer nested between oaks, ash, or elms, than exposed on the lonesome prairie.

What I remember are the echoes of the past. Miners and the women who serviced them. Saloons, creaking hotels, flat-faced and aged pine. What about the Annie Oakley’s of the boom town? Were there women who mined the precious ore?

And on NPR, Libby, Montana goes to court against Grace. Libby is just outside of Missoula. People are dying. Vermiculite settlement floats down the airstream, the rivers, seeps into the ground. It laces Grandpa’s clothes. He hugs his children and grandchildren. Grandmothers wash the clothes; hang them on the outdoor line to dry. First one lung goes, then the other. The mining company denies it is a problem.

It’s true. In the days of Garnet, the late 1800’s, we did not know the dangers. Now we do. When does a company become accountable. Shouldn’t a 21st century company admit wrongdoing? Libby is dying.

What I remember is how much I love the smell of the ocean, the Georgia Gold Coast, Yamassee, South Carolina where my Granddaddy went to fish and carouse. We visited the Cherokee Nation. I see us standing in a faded Polaroid next to a man in feather headdress, long before I knew about the Trail of Tears. I was just a child.

When I write by hand like this, barely able to read my own writing, I am still a child. Chicken scratch. The sun streams in over my shoulder. The air 10 degrees. Snow covers the cedars in an angel dusting of flakes. I come home from a grueling week of work to see 3 pileated woodpeckers playing in the oaks behind the house. I hear them first, like nails hammering into a hollow coffin. I raise hand to brow, cup the sun away from the pupils — there they are, in stripes of red, white, and black. The female is black.

I stand there silently for a long time. Suddenly a laughing call, swift jagged flight between trunks, a burst of white under wing. I am certain they put on their show just for me. My own roadside attraction — 3 pileated Woody Woodpeckers frolicking in branches of snow.



-15 minute handwrite, posted on red Ravine, Friday, February 27th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

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It’s warm outside, the kind of day I can imagine getting into a car, our bags packed in the back, and setting out on the road. A bit of a breeze in the air, wind is never fun when you’re driving the highway, but the temperature’s just right.

Jim and I get into air-conditioner fights on the road. He’ll turn the fan on high, and I’ll point all my vents toward him, close the one on the far right, so that even he gets chilled enough to turn the thing down. I can withstand heat in a car, will in the winter sometimes sit in the driveway listening to the radio and absorbing the sun trapped inside.

Last road trip we went on was to Carlsbad, Thanksgiving weekend. We stopped at the UFO Museum in Roswell, walked up and down Main Street, pointed out all the big-headed, big-eyed creatures that adorned almost every storefront, except for the Mexican panadería where we bought pan dulce for the last leg of the trip.

At the bottom of the road winding up to Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, there’s the completely abandoned White City. That was once one giant Roadside Attraction, an Old West movie-set-looking place. It had a saloon made of wooden slats, complete with swinging doors, and a series of white adobe casitas, which is where workers used to live.

White City went on the market last July, I think, and I’m trying to remember if we found out who’d bought the place or whether it was still for sale. It must have been a popular destination decades ago, or so the series of weathered billboards on the highway wanted you to believe. Best food around! Cheap gifts!

I can’t imagine anything thriving there now, especially not a junky souvenir shop. Seems the gift shop and restaurant at the National Monument visitor center satisfy most tourist needs, and once you finish winding through those gentle Guadalupe Mountains and finally hit the bland highway back to Carlsbad, you’re kind of happy to be back in the privacy of your own car.

On the drive back to Albuquerque Jim noticed a piece of art, if you can call it that, parked on the shoulder of the road outside Artesia. There was an old RV, on its roof a male mannequin, falling head over heels as he helped a female mannequin up the RV’s metal ladder. We pulled over, snapped a shot, then sped away before the owners of the house came out to see what we were up to.

It seems people still get into the act of entertaining road weary travelers. Some don’t even try to make a dime from it, although I think the main reason Dad never stopped at Roadside Attractions was because we’d all end up wanting to buy something like tumbled rocks in a little fake suede pouch or Mexican jumping beans. I don’t think we ever stopped at the teepees outside of Holbrook, Arizona, the old Wigwam Motel. They had rattlesnake eggs, you can still turn ’round and see ‘em, I remember passing the last sign and feeling like we’d lost our chance forever.

We did stop at Stuckey’s, got a box of peanut brittle with the purchase of a tank of gas. My whole family loved peanut brittle. It was long gone by the time we got to California.




-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

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Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







tombstone in winter;
knowing Mabel’s ghost lingers,
we write for our lives







I’ve felt the ghost of Mabel Dodge Luhan. She walks the adobe halls of the house at night, creaking on the steps leading down into her bedroom. It was pitch black the night of her visit. The dogs of Taos were howling in the distance. I didn’t look up from the hand-carved bed frame. The frame that I once read Dennis Hopper wanted to chainsaw into pieces and remove from the room. Someone must have stopped him.

Mabel would have turned 130 years old on this day. Those who benefit from her artistic vision sit on black cushions in silence; it’s the first week of what will be a year of study with Natalie. Whatever you think of Mabel or Tony (and you can hear an earful from the locals around Taos), together they created a pulsing creative space at the foot of Taos Mountain. One large enough to hold them both — and the rest of us, too.

Mabel’s grave is in a lonely corner of Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery. I visit there every time I am in Taos. Below is an excerpt from an article by Henry Shukman when he was hot on the trail of the ghost of D. H. Lawrence. It’s a fitting tribute to Mabel. Sometimes people are remembered most for the things they leave behind. Happy Birthday, Mabel. I hope you didn’t think we’d forgotten.



It was from the foot of Taos mountain that Mabel Dodge Luhan — heiress, patroness, columnist, early proponent (and victim) of psychoanalysis, memoirist and hostess — planned the rebirth of Western civilization. She moved to Taos from the East Coast in 1917 and fell in love not only with the place but also with Tony Lujan (later anglicized to Luhan), a chief in the nearby pueblo. She promptly left her second husband, married Tony and expanded a house on the edge of town, turning it into an adobe fantasy castle (what Dennis Hopper, who owned it in the 1970’s, would later call the Mud Palace), and began to invite scores of cultural luminaries. The idea was to expose them to the Indian culture she believed held the cure for anomic, dissociated modern humanity. After dinner, drummers and dancers from the pueblo would entertain the household.

Today her house is a museum, guesthouse and literary shrine all in one. For anyone on the trail of Lawrence, it’s the first of three essential ports of call. As I make my way up the groaning narrow stairs, the sense not just of history but of peace hits me: no TVs, no telephones. Instead, the deep quiet of an old, applianceless home. There are a bathroom with windows that Lawrence painted in colorful geometric and animal designs in 1922 to protect Mabel Luhan’s modesty, and floorboards across which Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Wolfe creaked. (In fact Wolfe stayed only one night. He arrived late and drunk, decided he didn’t like it and fled the next morning.)

- D.H. Lawrence’s New Mexico: The Ghosts That Grip the Soul of Bohemian Taos by Henry Shukman, from the NY Times, Cultured Traveler, October 22, 2006



Winter In Taos, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Winter In Taos, grave of Mabel Dodge Luhan, born February 26th, 1879, died August 13th, 1962, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print taken at my first Taos Writing Retreat at Mabel’s House, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In a cold like this, the stars snap like distant coyotes, beyond the moon. And you’ll see the shadows of actual coyotes, going across the alfalfa field. And the pine-trees make little noises, sudden and stealthy, as if they were walking about. And the place heaves with ghosts. But when one has got used to one’s own home-ghosts, be they never so many, they are like one’s own family, but nearer than the blood. It is the ghosts one misses most, the ghosts there, of the Rocky Mountains. …because it is cold, I should have moonshine …

— D.H. Lawrence from Mornings In Mexico


-posted on red Ravine for the 130th birthday of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Thursday, February 26th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day)WRITING TOPIC — HAUNTED, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home” (with photos of Mabel & Tony and links to many of their contemporaries)

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Chickens at Market, three chickens for sale in the open air market of Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

Chickens at Market, four chickens for sale in the open air market of Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





It just dawned on me that Jim thawed a whole chicken to roast for dinner tonight, which means we’ll being eating meat on Ash Wednesday.

Not that I observe Ash Wednesday. I didn’t go receive ashes today at mass, and I usually don’t give up anything for Lent. Yet, a little voice inside my head did admonish me for not having saved the fresh cod I bought last week so that we might eat fish tacos tonight instead of roasted chicken.

Growing up we always ate fish on Ash Wednesday and other holy days. Usually in our house that meant we ate fish sticks that Mom pulled out of the freezer and cooked on a baking sheet in the oven. We ate our fish sticks with tartar sauce and maybe a salad and potatoes. Being as how fish sticks were one of my favorite foods, I always looked forward to holy days. (I even kind of liked getting the little black cross of ashes on my forehead.)

And why fish but not chicken? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church, or other Chrisitian religions that observe the law of abstinence, interpret the law in the same way that Jim and I interpret our own meat rule?—which is that when we say meat, we really mean red meat.

According to website ZENIT, which is a news agency that covers the Catholic Church,


The law of abstinence prohibits eating the flesh, marrow and blood products of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat.

In earlier times the law of abstinence also forbade such foods that originated from such animals, such as milk, butter, cheese, eggs, lard and sauces made from animal fat. This restriction is no longer in force in the Roman rite.

Vegetables as well as fish and similar cold-blooded animals (frogs, clams, turtles, etc.) may be eaten. Amphibians are relegated to the category to which they bear most striking resemblance.

This distinction between cold- and warm-blooded animals is probably why chicken may not replace fish on days of abstinence.



Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which I understand now is a season of reflection and repentance, although during my childhood it just meant it was a time to give up chocolate or fighting with my brother. Lent is observed for forty days—from Ash Wednesday to Easter, not including Sundays—and the reason we give up so-called bad things (per my layperson’s understanding) is that we try to emulate Jesus and the time He spent in the wilderness for forty days. 

In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the sacrifice and solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.

The tradition of Catholics eating fish originated in the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church prescribed “no meat” on at least one day a week. Of course, the eating of fish was allowed. Another explanation for the sacredness of fish as opposed to chicken (besides the fact that one is cold-blooded and the other is warm) is that during the Biblical Flood, which some Christians interpret as a punishment to mankind for its sins, fish survived; hence, fish were free of all sin. (Hello00, they also had gills.)

Anyhoo, I’ll probably be the only person in my family who eats chicken tonight. Well, me and my oldest sister, who happens to be married to a Muslim.

Let’s just hope that if this fish thing is really important to God, He will remember that I have strong associations with folks who will be dining with some cold-blooded, sin-free creatures.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe Tree, carving of the Virgen de Guadalupe in a
cottonwood in Albuquerque, taken with my mother-in-law’s iPhone,
October 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










healing from inside
the heart of a cottonwood
nuestra señora













The story goes that in 1970 a parishioner of the 300-year-old San Felipe de Neri, Albuquerque’s oldest Catholic parish, carved the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe into the open wound of an ancient dying cottonwood. The Virgen saved the tree’s life.

Hundreds of people, many tourists, pass the cottonwood each day—it stands behind the church, which is in Old Town—without ever knowing that Nuestra Señora is hidden inside.

I took my mother-in-law, Celia, to see the tree one day in October of last year. We had just visited another sacred spot, a hidden chapel, also dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe, to pray for Celia’s recovery. She is a private woman, and this is the first time I’ve divulged on red Ravine that for the past four years she has been fighting a deadly form of lung cancer called Small Cell Carcinoma. 

Celia completed the latest round of chemotherapy in November, and last week she got a clean bill of health. I’ve been holding on to this photo since our visit last year; I wanted to post it today as a way of thanking the saints and the universe for Celia’s remission.

Today many people I know confront challenges. Illness, job loss, matters of the heart and spirit. For all of you and all of us, may the Virgen de Guadalupe bring solace and healing.

The cottonwood’s scar is closing, and soon the carving will be locked inside. I’ve been told that the carver’s son is seeking a way to remove the carving without harming the tree. I wonder if the best course would be to allow the Virgen to become the tree, as she is already.


-related to posts haiku 2 (one-a-day), Mary In Minnesota (haiku for yb), Virgin Mary Sightings, and The Virgin Mary Appears On A Bug.

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The Oscars Official Ballot, found at www.oscar.com




 
I have to admit, I’m not a hard-core fan of the annual Academy Awards ceremony. Usually I haven’t had a chance to see most of the nominated films, plus I’m not into the Hollywood red carpet nor whose gown is the most stunning or the most sorry. And frankly, I get nervous watching an actor blubber about what that little golden statuette means to him or her. Remember Sally Field’s 1985 heartfelt speech, …you like me, right now, you like me!?

Yet, I love a good movie. I love the entire experience. The popcorn (with butter). The turn-off-your-cell-phone reminder. Previews of more films I probably won’t get to see on the big screen. And especially that quiet moment right before the feature presentation starts and sweeps me into two or so hours of a reality other than my own.

Yes, everyone who’s had a hand in creating the best films of the year—from the sound mixers to the make-up artists to the cinematographers, directors, and actors—deserves to be recognized.

 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was created in 1927, over dinner held at the home of MGM Studio chief Louis B. Mayer. Actor Douglas Fairbanks became the first president when the Academy was granted its non-profit status in May of that same year, and MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed the trophy of a knight holding a sword and standing on reel of film. (One popular story goes that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Academy officially adopted the nickname “Oscar” in 1939.)

On May 16, 1929, the Academy held its first awards banquet, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, honoring achievements in 12 categories (later reduced to seven then over time increased to the current 25). Two hundred seventy people attended the  black-tie dinner, which was filled with long speeches. Tickets cost $5 per guest.

Award recipients were announced three months before the banquet that first year. In subsequent years the Academy decided to keep the results secret, providing in advance to newspapers a list of award winners to be published after the event. However, in 1940, the Los Angeles Times published the names of the winners in its evening edition, which was available to guests arriving at the ceremony, thus prompting the sealed-envelope system still in use today.

By 1942 interest in the ceremony had grown so much that the event was moved from a hotel venue—generally the Ambassador or Biltmore Hotels—to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The event has been held in a theater ever since.

The first televised Oscar ceremony took place in 1953, and the first full color broadcast three years later, in 1956. About 40 million viewers are expected to tune in to tonight’s event.

 

Every year it seems critics are perplexed by who gets nominated for an Oscar and who doesn’t. The 81st Annual Academy Awards, held tonight at 5p Pacific/8p Eastern on ABC and hosted by non-comedian Hugh Jackman, is no different.

The film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, showed up in a whopping 13 categories—Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Makeup, Music (Score), Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay)—and yet, I’ve not heard nor read one great thing about the movie. That, coupled with the fact that I don’t much care for Brad Pitt means I probably won’t see it, unless I run out of picks to add to my Netflix queue some day in the future.

Slumdog Millionaire, a movie I thought was fabulous for its imagery and the fact that it contained so many layers beyond the story of two kids from the slums for whom love conquers all, is nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture. I hope it wins, although I might have preferred Milk or The Reader had I seen either one of them.

Of the other nominated movies I’ve seen, and I’m almost embarrassed to say it’s a paltry four, here are the ones I’m rooting for:

  • I loved Michael Shannon—Actor in a Supporting Role—in Revolutionary Road. He was brilliant as Frank Givings, the mentally ill son of the realtor-cum-nosy-neighbor who sold April and Frank Wheeler their suburban home and subsequent hellhole. (Revolutionary Road was also nominated in the category of Art Direction, which I’m hoping it wins as well.)
  • Anne Hathaway—Actress in a Leading Role—in Rachel Getting Married was so deep, I couldn’t believe this was the same person who’d played assistant to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Plus, I was thrilled to see that Rachel Getting Married showed up with a nomination in anything at all; although it was an especially fulfilling escape, it was not by any means a blockbuster.
  • Wall-E for Animated Feature Film was a touching look at what might happen to our beloved Mother Earth should we continue to trash her and treat her with disrespect. And who would have thought a person could fall for an animated character? Also in this category is Kungfu Panda, which I enjoyed and which also sent a valuable message to viewers: You can be anything you want if you have the courage to go after your dreams.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on tonight’s Oscars awards. Who do think should win? Who were you surprised that did win? Any embarrassing speech moments that you squirmed through?

I’d also like to invite you to return to this post throughout the rest of 2009 to share your thoughts on movies you’ve seen. Any you would recommend? Let us know. I’m much more swayed by word of mouth than I am by that golden statuette.

 

A Few Good Links

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