Salinas National Monument

On another day journey with Jerry at year's end we loaded lunch into the old two-wheel civic sleigh and headed out from Albuquerque through Tijeras Canyon and then south toward the first, northernmost of three mission sites in Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Quarai Mission Church doorway
As usual we over-prepared. Both of us being veterans of remote New Mexico travel we know to bring water and food. There was hot cider in the thermos, tea in cups, water, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, avocado and vegan cheese on bread, apple slices in lemon juice and cinnamon, and some incredibly sweet little cookies that Jerry insisted on eating to the near exclusion of the rest of it.

JerryWiddison at Quarai
We set ourselves up on a sunny picnic table next to the visitor center at Quarai which was closed "for lunch" when we arrived.   I wondered where the Park person might go to eat before seeing several lively looking restaurants in Mountainair. No doubt they rely on visitors to this and the other Park properties for much of their business. 

Well-fortified, we set out to explore the Quarai ruins with the guidebook. It was a very fair day and there were quite a few others, including several German speakers marveling at the place.

We spent too much time in the visitor center, which was open when we finished the walk. We stared at the scale model of the pueblo, itself an antique, and flipped through books and maps. Jerry will often find himself or his work mentioned in an index or bibliography - such is his vitae.

It was a bit late too late in the day to travel to the most distant of the ruin sites, Gran Quivera. So we left that for another picnic and spent more time at Abo instead. There were quite a few visitors there too, it being the least remote of the three places.

Abo Mission Ruins

 The warmth of the day belied its short length. We wanted to return to Albuquerque before dark and just made it, stopping again only to wait for a long freight train to cross 47. We'll go again soon.  I'll also chronicle other Journeys with Jerry here in future.


Turkeys, Turnips and Trout

How was the Ozark vacation?
Picture “Winter’s Bone” with Flooding.

You’d be wrong. People are proud to be from the Ozarks. It's a place of great natural beauty. It’s got big trees, big springs and it’s thick with wildlife. It’s full of remote rolling roads, cattle pastures, creeks and old mills. For someone who inhabits the high-desert, it’s a fabulous break from moisturizing.

It was the annual family deer hunt. Twelve days. The new baby boy grew a lot in that time.  I sang to him my made-up tunes that, like him, I can’t get out of my head now, a week later. I brought back more frozen venison than the TSA guy had ever seen before. And a new word.

A guy had a huge frozen ham with him last week. That weighed a ton. Frozen solid.

A real thooster huh?


The two year old caught her first trout - and then another and another. We ate them at the restaurant above the huge spring that feeds the trout ponds and creek at The Trout Ranch at Rockbridge, Missouri.  The epic flooding that week had damaged that old mill and others.

Aldo Leopold’s son did ground-breaking work on game management near here - reestablishing the population of native turkeys. There are a lot of turkeys in the Ozarks but I didn’t see any. The wild ones are around. The domestic ones are in big thooster barns.

The local turkey farm is run by family. But it is a turkey factory. So it’s a factory family farm. A family runs the farm for a corporation under contract. The line between factory farms and family farms is blurry. Really blurry.

We tried not to talk politics but things came up. Like the straightforward view of how it’s generally easier to trust the corporation that pays you than the government that taxes you. People align with who they believe gives, not who takes. Trust who pays, not who taxes.

Years of misinformation and fear spread by television is taking a toll on general civics. But I kept that to myself.

The 4,000 acre Caney Mountain Conservation Area is where Leopold did his work. The Ozark hills stretch as far as you can see in any direction from view spots up there. They plant food plots for the deer and turkeys. Among them, turnips. Gorgeous fields of beautiful turnip greens and perfect firm round roots peeking from under them. You can smell their freshness driving slow up the narrow road. I grabbed several for dinner - Poached turnips! (Braised in butter, actually. With greens cooked in bacon grease.)

Best Christmas present: big Bald Eagle Christmas day. The woods are also thick with bright red Cardinals,  blue Jays, yellow finches, falcons and everything else. Bird feeders were always full outside the cozy sun room with an old fashioned rocker for baby rocking and remotes for the cable TV and gas fireplace. But that was later in the week.

At church on Christmas Eve the preacher took the children aside and told them red stripes in candy canes represent the blood of Christ. Our two-year old turned from him and farted, a real loud thooster. Then she smiled and ate the candy.

About the longest night of the year I spent alone and terrified deep in the woods. The charming tiny log cabin in a hollow by a pond is always reserved for me - the aunt - in part because no one else wants to brave the outhouse. Who can blame them? The pack rats that shred the toilet paper for their nests and watch you when you sit down on that dark hole. But they never really scared me. Neither did multiple mammals that danced and squealed in the eaves above the bouncy loft bed. Ear plugs.

But when the weather boomeranged from balmy to biting and storm “Goliath” hit I was huddled in bed like the kid from Poltergeist, watching looming trees out the window and counting seconds between lightening and thunder. The storm got closer and closer until wind shook the cabin and inches of rain hit that tiny tin roof all at once.  It moved off more quickly than it arrived. I waited, wide awake, for dawn then packed up and moved to the big house. They called it Goliath. I call it Thooster.

My nephew shot a young buck that had been previously shot with an arrow through the head. A scar ran down his back and the arrow was sticking out of the roof of his mouth. It had missed his brain and he’d lived like that long enough for the wound along his back to heal. Ouch.

There is a thing called “noodling.” I thought they were kidding but it’s a kind of fishing where they make feeding nests for cat fish in shallow ledges along the banks of lakes then swim under the ledges and grab whatever they can grab … or whatever grabs them. Thooster catfish will latch onto your arm. Noodling is nuts.

There seemed to be more lights visible from the big house at night and I suggested more people might have moved into the county. I was corrected: it’s the same people, just more fear.

Other things I learned on my winter vacation.  You can’t tell a bacon eater not to eat bacon. Similarly, you can’t tell a coffee drinker they won’t know the difference when it’s “half-decaf” in the pot.  Yes I’ll know the difference. I’ll have a thooster headache that’s hard to miss.

Turtleback Mountain Diary Vol.1 Dam Walking

I dreamed Governor Susana Martinez was on a broomstick flying above all the little people on Elephant Butte Dam. 

The Albuquerque Journal was at the Elephant Butte Dam Walk and so was I. Their thoroughly unsnarky and factual account begs amendment.

Dam walk dam
The weather was wonderful which is a big reason there are a lot of people in this part of Sierra County, if you can call 7,500 a lot.  Turn out for the event was tremendous. Possibly all 7,500 people were there. Paranoia Security meant restricting access to the dam after 9/11 and restricting access to anything makes it more desirable. 

Volunteers did a great job but there were shuttle buses involved.  The first shuttle for non-VIPs was from parking to the restaurant and recreation area for ceremonies, including a stirring rendition of all thirty three verses of Oh Fair New Mexico. The second was a shuttle to the dam itself.  Again, for all but VIPs and invalids, there was a long disorganized wait.  A meaner crowd might have mutinied. But this is New Mexico and mostly everyone was relaxed. Many, including those for whom the buses invoked painful childhood memories of bullying, walked to the dam.

It was one shuttle too many for at least a couple of impatient yankees disappointed they didn't get to see the Governor  - not that she was expected, but whatever.  They didn't want to walk or wait and didn't make it to the dam.  Instead they drove to the overlook to burn one and watch people, like tiny ants, moving back and forth across the top of the giant structure. Dam walk balloons


Train Brain

Some are worried about the fate of high speed rail with the new R's in Congress.  Light rail is unpopular with R's as well, like in Tampa, Florida where a route in Hillsborough County is being cussed and discussed. 

I love Portland's light rail for cheap, simple, clean and pretty-fast travel.  People say they'll "take Max" like it's one of their cars they've named (like, say, "Sven" the Volvo and "Sensei" the Subaru).

Max comes in four different colors which is nice for the number challenged like me. I liked the Blue line that runs to Hillsboro and also took the Red to the airport. Max2 The lines intersect at two main stations but they don't make other colors, like purple.  

I was also on Amtrak to LA and enjoyed the sleeper amenities - like the sleeping.  The roomette and the dining service was good and the view of the moonlit desert out the cozy private window was incomparable. 

Senator John McCain is evidently not a fan of the train.  From wiki:

Before a congressional hearing, Gunn answered a demand by leading Amtrak critic Arizona Senator John McCain to eliminate all operating subsidies by asking the Senator if he would also demand the same of the commuter airlines, upon which the citizens of Arizona are dependent. McCain, usually not at a loss for words when debating Amtrak funding, did not reply. Packs a punch





Pub Dogs and Castle Cats

The canine species is welcome and commonly seen on trains and in places of business in the UK.  This terrier guy was enjoying the crowd and treats at a London pub.   Without exception, the dogs I saw were well-behaved and cleaned-up after. 

I watched a cat in a jewel-studded collar go after a dog in Tenby that had apparently gotten too close to her territory along a castle wall.

On hearing of it, Big now insists he wants to go pub hopping and Domina has reopened a spirited debate regarding pecking order in the household. 

Dog pub

Welsh Horizons Sing


In spite the limited time imposed on us by a cab driver who insisted he had to get home in time for World Cup play, we found the house, cemetery and the chapel of our parent's parent's parent's parents.  Wales tanyfan

Among the most impressive buildings, aside from this little house and all the castles, was the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. 

The facade is giant poetry - literally.  The Welsh version is by poet Gwyneth Lewis and reads:

Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration.  The English reads: In These Stones Horizons Sing.

The poet explained:

I wanted the words to reflect the architecture of the building. Its copper dome reminded me of the furnaces from Wales's industrial heritage and also Ceridwen's cauldron, from which the early poet Taliesin received his inspiration ('awen'). Awen suggests both poetic inspiration and the general creative vision by which people and societies form their aspirations.

Wales WMC_at_night

Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage

Wagon train1
The Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage to Pennsylvania was a big life event for those who participated.  The recent fierce winds reminded me of the few unpleasant days that year between February 9th and March 22nd when we rode across New Mexico from Rodeo to Trinidad, Colorado. 

 I continue to get comments and inquiries from those who remember the 1976 event and found my previous post.

Wagon train2

Monsters of Perugia

There is always more to the story.  There is more to the story about the conviction of Amanda Knox for murder.  Sadly, it spotlights my beloved Perugia and the profound weirdness of the Italian judicial system.  Reader comments in the NYTs advocate wholesale knee-jerk dissing of Italy as a vacation destination to punish the country for the trial's outcome.  That's a bit extreme.  Here's the Perugia University for Foreigners (Università per Stranieri di Perugia) popular with young language students.  Language school perugia

The connection with the true crime novel, Monster of Florence, is significant.  This summer the Daily Beast covered the abuse of power charges against the prosecutor in both cases, Giuliano Mignini.  He's the mesmerizing heavy in Douglas Preston's book who has fantasical theories and ends up targeting Preston himself and an Italian investigative journalist for the Florence murders.

Daily Beast gives insight ::shivers:: that makes you glad to be an American - who can still travel to Italy once in a while without being involved in a murder trial, please.   

In Knox’s hometown of Seattle, there has been a steady drumbeat of outrage about Mignini—how, Knox's supporters asked, could a prosecutor under investigation for misconduct be allowed to lead one of the country’s most notorious murder trials?

But the Mignini case is not necessarily anomalous. In reality, active prosecutors are often under investigation in Italy. Unlike in the United States, even the most banal accusations against anyone in power usually leads to trial here, clogging the country’s courtrooms with tedious disputes that cast a negative light on the entire judicial system.

Italian prosecutors and investigators have less leeway than their American counterparts, so bending the rules is often part of criminal investigations. Earlier this year, Mignini was cleared of other charges against him, including wiretapping journalists.

Coco Loco

Cocoloco That's what they call a chocolate martini at The Parkside Rotisserie and Bar in Providence.  It was a bit too Bailey's but the Long Island rotisserie duck special was exceptional. 

The Chef is a 1983 graduate of the culinary program at Rhode Island School of Design and he opened this Manhattan-style bistro in 1997.  It's in a nice old part of the center city full of 18th century buildings and renovated waterfronts (thus the name of another popular restaurant in the vicinity - New Rivers.)*  

Now I'm all loco about rotisserie.   I turned on the TV last night  and there was young Julia Childs trussing up a chicken with twine for the rotisserie.  The constant turning distributes the juice through the meat evenly, you see. 

Historian Marc Simmons says Indians trained their dogs to turn meat over open fires.  Big Dog could do it I'm certain.  Bon Appetit! 

*This may be the good part of former Mayor Buddy Cianci's legacy or it might have happened in spite of him. He got out of prison in 2007 and now has a radio show on WPRO Newstalk 630.  You can listen online, but I haven't yet.

Newport Suffragist

Newport - not so new.  Old houses and old roads and old fences and old mansions.  We toured "Marble House" - a Vanderbuilt mansion in which Alva Vanderbilt staged a "Votes For Women" campaign in 1909.  In 1910 she attempted to broaden the movement.   

The-marble-house-frontAlva embraced the idea that white suffragist groups should affiliate with 'colored' female suffrage, and encouraged black women to join her PEA [Political Equality Association] albeit in a separate grouping.  This brought calumny down upon her head from all sides, with some calling her 'an evil influence '.

'With characteristic feminine disregard for logic, the social leader ...would confer the ballot on Negro women at a period in American history when public opinion in the North has begin to doubt the wisdom of the Fifteenth Amendment,' expostulated one newspaper.

From Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt;  The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age, Amanda MacKenzie Stewart.