Zinged with warm sunshine

"The train pulled into Albuquerque in front of the famous old Alvarado Hotel. In contrast with the rain and cold of Kansas City, the air fairly zinged with warm sunshine. Both girls felt an instant lift of their spirits. To this day Millie maintains this was the most beautiful sight of her life.”
The arrival of 14 year old Mildred Clark Cusey in 1926.

Max Evans, Madam Millie – Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan, UNM Press, 2002.

Bronson's Niece Iris

Bronson Cutting had a niece named Iris.* She visited New Mexico occasionally while the Cutting siblings were in Santa Fe between 1910 and Bronson's death in 1935.  She became a respected author. Origo_war_val_dorecia

In classic Downton-esque - Age of Innocence style her parents, Bronson's older brother Bayard and Lady Sybil Cuffe, paired money and royalty with their marriage in 1901. They had traveled the world seeking treatment for Bayard's tuberculosis when he died in Egypt on a Nile houseboat in 1910. Lady Sybil and Iris moved to Italy.

Bronson and his sister Justine had visited Santa Fe on their return from an extended California vacation and made the choice to live here that same year. Like his brother, Bronson suffered from TB and the high desert climate figured largely in their choice. They were hugely wealthy and could have lived nearly anywhere. It is a strong testament to the place's appeal that they chose Santa Fe.

Sister-in-law, Lady Sybil, daughter of an Irish peer, purchased and renovated Villa Medici in Fiesole near Florence. In between their continued world travels, this is where Iris grew up. At 22 she married the son of a Marchese and together they bought and restored another large Italian estate called La Foce. A summer music festival is held there to this day in her honor.

In 1924 the property was bought by Antonio Origo and his Anglo-American wife Iris, the daughter of Lady Sybil Cutting, the owner of Villa Medici at Fiesole where Iris Origo spent much or her early life. They dedicated their lives to bringing prosperity and cultural and social changes to this formerly poverty-stricken area of the Val d'Orcia. Years of work were devoted to preparing the difficult terrain for modern agriculture. The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. ..

*Her grandparents suggested 'Iris' sounded too botanical - thus her middle name.

One Time After a Long Lunch

One time after a long lunch meeting on a golf course when he was feeling pretty tired and toasted, Chocky was asked to lead the Pledge Of Allegiance. It was customary before the commission meeting for the Chair to ask someone to do it after the moment of silence.  So everyone was standing and waiting and there is this way too long of a silence before Chocky starts in, "Our Father who art in heaven…."  Maybe he was feeling guilty.

He didn't get very far before the horror of his mistake overcame him and he turned bright red and stuttered into "I mean I Pledge Allegiance ..."  By then most everyone was laughing, including the members - into their microphones. No one could hear anything until the "under God" part and when it was over the Chair had to bang his gavel to quiet everyone down - from the pledge. That was a first.

For awhile after that, if someone wanted a laugh they would start a staff meeting with some improbable recitation, like the AA serenity prayer. It got old before the lawyer said to quit in case it offended someone.

Thinking of Writing

You can get very good at finding excellent places to write but never actually sit down and do it. Trust me. The writing perches I've found are nearly perfect. Multiple comfortable quiet spots for work and concentration. Too perfect.  When time comes to write, time never comes. The more time available to write, the more time  goes toward unprecedented acts of neighborhood involvement, previously unheard of demonstrations of familial outreach, long postponed property stewardship tasks involving the hiring of multiple handymen, and reading.  But mostly reading, reading, reading.

Jerry's pondWriting is like breaking a lock with a hammer - banging away at some draft believing there may be a good story within the words but getting annoyed with the trouble and effort.  So many other things need doing.  And there sits a stack of books by writers who've already opened the locks for you.   

The latest: Jonathan Franzen's novel, Freedom. It was most enjoyable and not as time consuming as it might have been if it were any less wonderful.  

The Seven Burros of Bronson Cutting

Cutting bust About my favorite sculpture at the Roundhouse is the bust of Bronson M. Cutting. His big chubby face greets those approaching the capitol from the east where he faces Atalaya Hill, the direction of his beautiful home, Los Siete Burros, located on Old Santa Fe Trail. (Historic Santa Fe Foundation)

The bronze was commissioned by his friends and admirers and dedicated at a ceremony in 1939 on the anniversary of his death in a plane crash four years earlier.

Bronson Cutting fell in love with New Mexico and its people upon his arrival in 1910 and devoted the rest of his relatively short life to improving their lot.  His "rare combination of moral courage, modesty and marked ability" was directed at fighting injustice and advancing progressive policies.

Although nominally a Republican, he shunned party regularity to champion progressive reform in state and local government. After his service in World War I, Cutting organized the Hispanic veterans through American Legion chapters and forced the Republican and Democratic parties to adopt progressive planks and candidates and to include qualified Hispanics in their administrations. Once elected to the United States Senate in 1928, Cutting criticized the weak efforts of Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the Great Depression. (Bronson M. Cutting: Progressive Republican, by Richard Lowitt.)

Stephen Fox describes the political scene in Desert Exposure

In the north they danced to the tune called by the Maxwell Land Grant Company, coal mines and the Santa Fe Railroad; in the south it was the Phelps-Dodge and Chino mining companies and the El Paso Railroad. The Republicans also made mutually profitable alliances, blatantly exchanging bribes for votes, with the old Spanish land-grant ranchers and stockmen who controlled the Hispanic counties in the north.

The Democrats were clustered in "Little Texas," the southeastern part of New Mexico that was settled in the late 1800s by former slaveholders from the neighboring state. The Democrats were virulently racist, even by the minimal standards of 1912. (...)  

Cutting declared a plague on both their houses: Republicans were too crooked, he decided, and Democrats were too anti-Hispanic. Instead he became a party unto himself. His main allies, it turned out, were Hispanics, who then numbered about 60% of all New Mexicans.

The Gas Valve At Otowi Bridge

John Fleck has an excellent account of the Gas Company's response to the crisis Upfront in the Albuquerque Journal.  The company official presented the timeline to the HENRC committee yesterday and described the chilling choice to shut off the gas value valve at Otowi, Bernalillo and Placitas in an effort to keep the entire system from crashing. 

It was clear from the presentation that the company's decision to close the value to the coldest communities in New Mexico was not made lightly.  But it had to be made very fast. 

One interesting factoid presented was not questioned.  The decision to shut the Otowi value valve was made before the company contacted PNM to request that the Cobisa power plant, south of Rio Bravo, be switched to oil.  They needed to get blocks of 10,000 decatherms shut off quickly. The gas company official said the Otowi value supplies 20,000 decatherms and services the northern communities of Espanola, Taos, Questa, Angel Fire and Red River.  He said the Cobisa demand is 17-20,000 decatherms. The Cobisa plant produces electricity exported to California. 

It was also noted at HENRC that a lot of gas was still flowing out of the San Juan Basin westward while northern New Mexicans shivered.  Contracted consumers out of state come first legal-wise.


Otowi holds a special little place in history.  It is the site of the official gaging station for water on the upper Rio Grande and was once the location of a railroad stop and early post office on the "Chili line."  There is an important pueblo ruin nearby.  Several well-known books have been written about the place and a woman named Edith Warner who served scientists dinner and tea there.  Peggy Pond Church's book begins: 

This is the story of a house, a house that stood for many years beside a bridge between two worlds. It stood, too, in the shadow of Los Alamos, the mushrooming shadow of violent change.

More than the story of a house, it is the story of a woman who made an oasis of serenity and beauty in a world that seemed to grow more threatening.

Round and Round House

There is little to be added to Claus's excellent summary in NMFBIHOP of week two in the Roundhouse.

Incoming New Mexico legislators undoubtedly undergo a rapid wake-up call in these first two weeks.  They may start out like Tiger moms, with how dad wore the same shoes 8 years and so should government.  But most are discovering it's not that simple. 

David Roybal's biography of Fabian Chavez Jr.. Taking On Giants, describes Fabian's fights for civil rights, judicial reform and with the liquor industry. Among his clear insights:

It had become apparent that we had no clear leadership from the top of the party so we had to become progressives in the legislature.  I had served one term In the house and was in my first term in the senate, but I had already realized it was extremely important to know how the legislative process works so you can make it work for you.  If you didn't do it, you were eaten up by the guys who did understand the process.

What feels new is just the old going around and around since before there was a Roundhouse. 

Girl with the Larsson Book

This Charlie Rose interview with Noomi Rapace is a perfect topper to my non-stop-can't-put-it-down-to-blog reading of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  Laura Miller in Salon calls the novels cliche and misses the point entirely about the popularity of the strong female character, played by Rapace.  And how author Stieg Larsson flouted conventions of the crime novel genre.