Thursday, August 25, 2016

sometimes the high altitude gets to you. it's usually at the end of my walk back up to the house, which is on a ridge, slightly above the center of town. the center of town is 8700, i think, and our little drive is 8707, according to a car we drove in that told the altitude. tomorrow a football team comes to town. i wonder if it will matter. matters to me...

published my book of quaker plays, and it was kind of a mini-hit on facebook, with two friends saying they'd actually bought it. i saw no record of that, though, in the createspace place where it should record sales. i think maybe they wait until they actually print and send it, and it can take days. i'm a little aggrieved that i've been putting out books for years and get maybe a buck here, a buck there, if i'm lucky. i have to admit, though, i've enjoyed the luxury of not having to worry about it. what do you do when you actually need sales? i have no idea. keep cranking out books, maybe. turn to novels, maybe, which might have a higher price tag. i don't know.

then there's the banjo; i've picked it up again. it's harmonic ringing goes well with a 8707-foot, piney wet cloudy clime, and my back porch kind of has a little alleyway pathway to the center of town, so that i feel like i'm playing, sometimes, to a main street that hears the echo, maybe, better than the music itself. it's a kind of scottish place, cloudcroft, with the clouds sometimes coming down and literally hugging the place. or, from the back porch, we watch them roll in and collide with each other. it's a late-summer thing that some of them actually have water in them, and dump it on us quick while they're in the high mountains; surely they're the only raining clouds in the entire southwest. we go down to el paso, alamo, or maybe las cruces, and they've had none, none at all. we dry out for a while then turn back around, go back up the hill to our little aerie in the clouds.

in such an environment, i try to turn myself into a writer, or perhaps a musician, but mostly i make lots of cups of navajo tea and sit on that back porch and just watch the white sands go through their various different glows as the sun hits them differently. tonight i swear, i saw rain way out there, or i thought i did, though it's hard to tell how far away the rain is, and it's possible it was just an illusion. it does actually rain out there occasionally, especially this time of year, when anything can happen, and all the neon newts and gilas go scurrying around trying to catch their one opportunity of the year, or one of the few, at least. i think, probably, there are places drier than the tularosa basin, but not many of them. in alamo i'm sure they feel like they can climb the hill any time and catch some water, some rain, maybe a mountain hike or a cloud or two, but they very rarely do; more often, the hikers we meet are from germany, or the netherlands maybe, and speak with a european lilt but who knows where they live.

there's a steady display of hummingbirds right off the front porch, and they occasionally come right up to me, even when i'm playing the banjo. they especially like pink stuff, i think, so when the girlies bring a barbie out to the porch they're likely to fly right up and see what the pink is all about. they like to hover. in fact, i'm kind of fascinated by that idea of hovering - it's an advantage, i'm sure, that they use in many ways but i'm not sure they can actually escape danger with it. it's great to watch though. they just kind of hang in the air, moving slightly one direction or the other, or back and forth, their wings flapping furiously. seems they have big wings and not much body, so that's possible. and also that neon desert-kind of glow, that doesn't hurt either. it's their social life - hovering over our garden, white sands behind them, checking out the exotic bushes and the barbies.

and one other thing - they're living in the high mountains. they could have it sunny, warm, dry, like everyone else, but they don't. they're like us - they like it here - though who knows, when the snow packs in, they might be long gone. i'll try to get some pictures, but, they're pretty hard to catch with the phone i've got.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quaker Plays for First Days



$7.28 + shipping at Amazon
All profits go to Quaker organizations

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

on the mountain

little movie i made
about our first days in new mexico

Friday, August 19, 2016

new story: Hunger
comments welcome; enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016





Tuesday, August 16, 2016

almost forty years in the central time zone, and now i've moved over to the mountain, where the sun sets peacefully on the white sands in the evening, with a pink and blue sky, and a purplish range of mountains beyond them. the sun is wiser now, having passed over texas, and chicago, and all that pain back in the east, and it's moving through the enormous skies of southern new mexico and on to arizona and california beyond. as far as the time itself goes, that's rather arbitrary. i try to keep the cars current to whatever zone we happen to be in, but only the phones are good at it; they change by themselves, and spare us the trouble. as we cross the line, between lovington new mexico and plains texas, we check the phones to see how long it takes them to figure it out. but it takes us longer, because we don't always change the car clocks right away, and they sometimes lag in the other state's time zone.

a couple of days moving vans full of junk to a house where we don't really need it, and i've become resistant to even going back and getting more. and yet, there is still some stuff in the shed, and i'm sure some of it was intended to come here. the garden tools? the navajo tea? it all went out to the shed, with the intention of being brought here. not everything made it here. what's left is locked up in this tiny-house shed, behind our house in lubbock, while we try to lease the house for the semester or the school year. i'm here, in new mexico, planning my classes so that i return to lubbock once a week and show my face, all the while following the regulations and living under the strict oversight that they provide to online classes. it so happens that they are very sensitive as to what goes up there, how it's done, how much contact the teacher actually has, etc. i am learning the ropes. i now want to be in lubbock as little as possible; my wife wants to avoid it altogether.

the cabin up here is packed to the gills. i started out with the idea of bringing everything we had deliberately saved, or had not thrown out. but we kept finding more junk in the house, and bringing it out. pretty soon it seemed like i'd filled the van with a shed-full of stuff, only to have a shed-full remaining, that i was leaving behind. and the stuff that came out of the house (and the garage, which is kind of junk squared) kind of covered up what i had originally set out to bring. so, the garden tools, the navajo tea, some of that stuff didn't make it.

new mexico is overall calmer than texas. texas i find highly political, as if everybody plans to vote twice in different shades of red. they even drive like they're political. i'd like to say they're fun-loving football fans, and by and large that's true, but whereas they'll always talk football with you, they won't start up with you if they sense you're liberal, and it doesn't take them long to figure that out. but it seems, around every corner, people are talking about it. nowhere does anyone hate hillary more, but they're not idiots, and they can see that trump doesn't have a clue, and is a destructive psychopath. so that makes everyone hot under the collar, in a nutshell. driving is no fun anymore.

then there are the students. they are always checking tinder or pokemon, and swiping their phones, so there are car wrecks everywhere. i sense that they aren't destructively hostile, like trump, they're just kids, doing what they want to, and doing it at any old red light in the middle of the city. several times i saw people just clop each other in ridiculous kinds of wrecks. you'd think they'd at least be watching the road in front of them. but apparently it's hard to swipe and hold onto the wheel, or something. and the real world adds a twist, at least in the case of pokemon. certain places are more likely to have people swiping randomly, instead of paying attention, and i think people there have a right to be a little aggrieved that some game has singled them out to be a place where people don't pay attention on the roads.

out on the wide, flat rangelands, where you can see for hundreds of miles, and it's all skies, or in some cases oilfields, you could do just about anything and still drive straight, but out there, i'm finding, life is so sharp, so colorful, so intense, i just want to see it. three quarters of the jobs out here in new mexico are truck driving jobs, and i want to stay home, besides being a bad driver, but, it's tempting, i'll tell you. it's much better than driving around lubbock, where all the new cars cut you off or at least make you look bad. my new goal is to stay up on the mountain, where it's fall already, and the air smells like pines and an occasional campfire.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

spent part of the summer making this little cabin more habitable - making a little space for our boisterous family, getting stuff we needed to live better. sometimes i think it's foolish to fill social media with stuff about how you're not home, but, it's almost over - we're going back tomorrow - and, by the time it was almost over, we'd pretty much decided to make this our home. for what it's worth, we're laying out the intention to move to a small town in the high mountains of south-central new mexico.

i spend the rest of the time on the front porch, with my navajo tea - cup after cup, so that, basically, i pee all night. i have about six or seven large cups of coffee in the day - those are also out on the porch - and at night, i wash them right through with all this tea. navajo tea is herbal tea, made from greenthread, which i have not figured out how to grow successfully yet, but it's quite delicious, and i'd be happy to be a navajo tea distributor as it can only be found in a limited number of places, but is really really good.

i also play banjo on the porch, this because i have nobody to play fiddle with yet, and the porch is a good place for banjo. clouds come by and dump rain on us sometimes - this is actually quite unusual for the southwest - and the rainy, mountain feel of the place makes the banjo sound bounce off the pine trees and the cabins just so - i think, downtown, they can hear it, but perhaps not too clearly. downtown is only a block or two away - i can actually see a little corner of it from the porch, if i try - and our view is mostly the very peaceful back side of the downtown. that and a ridge, and beyond that, another ridge, and beyond that, the white sands. the sun rises and sets on the white sands every day, and the mountains beyond and in front of it kind of frame its brilliant white-sand glow. nothing better than looking out at the white sands - though i know some people look directly at the forest, or the bears. i'm fine with the white sands.

so there are a few dogs in the neighborhood, and those dogs and our dogs sometimes go at it, vocally that is, and we have to run ours back into the house. i like a peaceful porch, sun going down on the white sands, and sometimes it's disrupted, by either ours or theirs, but that's ok, i'm sure some people feel that way about the banjo.

so why are we staying? main reason is, kids and school. the sooner the better for them; if there's switching over to be done, let it be now, when they can adjust and get themselves a new, smaller, hometown. this one will have only ten or twelve kids in a class; they'll be mountain kids, with lots of different perspectives, sure, but we think it will be better for ours. our immediate problem is 1) we just decided to do this, and 2) we don't have other jobs; we still have to work back in the city. so we'll work. this time next year, we'll be ready to spring.

i have a lot of good friends back in texas, and i'll miss them. i defend texas when people knock it, mostly because i love my friends. they've been good to me. i'll especially miss the music, and the general friendliness of everyone. but the same doesn't go for my wife. she's in a dicier position and a more stressful job, and the prevalence of guns has pushed her over the edge. she has the same feelings about this place being better for the kids - we agree on the small town thing, at least for the moment - but it's more urgent for her as a health thing, to get out of an unhealthy thing, no matter what the cost. and this is a thing she's worked a lifetime to build up. the question is, exactly how is she going to get out of it? i don't know. my inclination is to work at the skating rink and let the world go by, balanced or unbalanced, whatever the case may be. and get me my own pair of skates, so i can go off ice skating into the sunset. ciao

Friday, July 15, 2016

the village of timberon is about forty miles south of cloudcroft, but it takes over an hour, because the roads are windy and you can't go too fast without endangering yourself. there are other ways to get there, but those roads are even worse, so people very rarely go from timberon to any other town, like pinon, or alamogordo, or perhaps down to el paso. but these are the towns that surround timberon in their own kind of way. in the region, but virtually inaccessible.

they created timberon in the 70's with plans that it would catch on as a retirement-resort area. it had lots of sun, beautiful views (down to the valley with el paso in it), and they put in an airstrip, a lodge, a pool, and a golf course; then, they got a post office outpost. at that time, some of the other roads, to el paso, or to pinon, were still open. now, apparently, they're not.

people did move there, and they set up mobile homes, and built second homes. there was a huge network of roads and hundreds if not thousands of property lots were angled off into this kind of remote, cactus-filled scrub mountain valley. from a sun-belt, snow-bird perspective, it should have caught on. it had lots of sun, and it had amenities. many of the people who sought out such a place didn't care if it was remote, as long as they could get motor homes in there. some people bought property and let it sit there, unable to sell it, or unwilling, since lots always had potential in an expanding world.

the area had a crippling drought - maybe ten years with no rain - and then a wind came through and knocked over a lot of trees. when we saw it about a year and a half ago, our first reaction was that it was a tinderbox, dry sticks hanging around the hillsides. but a worse problem was that we never actually found the lot that was for sale. there were hundreds of gravel roads curving around going every which way, and although they were marked, it wasn't always clear how to get from one to the other. we drove around roads and curved back around, and every once in a while, we'd see a motor home or a van tucked back into the dry brush. lots of times the roads were steep or in bad condition.

down at the lodge/swimming pool/post office, there was a kind of center of town. you had to know it was there, then you could walk or drive down there and look around. some people were clearly taking care of the place. i had to imagine what it was like being surrounded by scrubby, dead brush on very sunny mountainsides. they didn't seem to mind. they were ever hopeful that someday people would come and occupy the place.

so the other day a fire caught in the place, and quickly, burned a firetruck that was sitting outside the community center. as far as i can tell, it didn't burn down the whole area, but it quickly spread from the center of town to the west, toward the golf course, and burned 30 structures and 300 acres fairly quickly. they talk about 'containment' but admit that they don't really have containment; it has too much territory to burn, and it's a slightly windy day. different fire fighters were mobilized and sent down there. the cloudcroft high school was turned over as a shelter for people who'd lost their homes.

the questions i have are: does a massive fire in the dry brush 40 miles south of here post a threat to us? (doesn't seem like it)...did everyone lose everything or was just a section of the "town" wiped out? (far as i can tell, just a section)....is this the end for this 'town' experiment, which, after all, never quite caught on?....is this now going to become a ghost town?

guess we'll have to see.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

pokies in the meta

only one of the four kids remaining at home is totally obsessed with the new pokemon game, and fortunately, he's the white one, because they say it can be deadly for colored kids to go around latched onto their phones and walking into places like police stations not paying attention. in this small town, where we are, the two main pokey places are the library and the post office, besides the convenience store, but we see kids walking up to each. at the library they're trying to get pokey balls, apparently, which they can use to catch pokemon once they're out there. at the post office, that's a pokey gym, apparently. my son doesn't need to go there, yet, he says. he's not an expert but he's caught a few pokeys here and there.

so we took a walk out to the meadow (pronounced 'meta') this morning and he checked his phone at the trailhead signs. you find pokeys at the signs sometimes, he said. they try not to make the pokeys fly way out in the woods, but if it's a well-worn trail, a common place, they might have them there, he said. so what do i know, it just looks like mountain path to me, i wouldn't know if it has pokeys or not, and, though i carry my phone, i haven't started in on this pokey game yet so wouldn't even know what value a pokey would be, if i would happen to encounter one.

but, way out in the mountains, there are other concerns. there could be bear out there, or elk, or even deer - one day we saw about five deer, and the black lab about had a cow. on this particular walk, we took a chih-weenie, who being part chihuahua is totally fearless and would easily attack a bear if he even saw one. this would not actually be a wise move, but wise is not part of his vocabulary. he's a faithful dog, and very alert, so i felt that whatever we'd encounter, he'd be right on it. with the exception of pokemon, of course. he's not much for augmented reality. it's all he can do to manage the reality he's got.

the other dogs are pretty much the same way. you could tell them about the pokeys, but they wouldn't believe you, unless they had an actual smell, or made some kind of noise that wasn't clearly born in the phone itself. you'd think you could train them to discriminate - the good pokeys from the bad ones, for example, or to alert you if there's a pokemon anywhere....my son says that he leaves his phone on, and the dog is with him, and no pokeys will come around for hours at a time, then other times, they'll come stomping in, right in his little basement room there, all at once, no reason whatsoever.

which bring me to the intent of the gamesmaker. it could be that they're going after my son - they want him to take a walk down to the meta - or, they want him to know where the library is....if so, that's a kind of cruel humor, to make him go, and stand in front of the library, and play with his phone, when all the pedophiles and armed robbers know he'll be coming around and not paying attention. i could alert the librarian, but she's already a little down on these phones, and the lack of general awareness they cause among the populace of kids under twenty. no, instead i alert him, because he knows what a pedophile is, and he knows what's happening to people, and he actually reads quite a bit too, and under better circumstances, might even go into the library, if they would carry the certain books that he always devours. no, he doesn't really want me interfering, and he admits the game is addicting, but, he willingly goes along on mountain hikes now, and says that the pokey game has probably done more to alleviate child obesity than eight years of michelle obama's programs. there you have it. kids are walking around, in the fresh mountain air, and every once in a while they stop and swipe their phones, and even teens and pre-teens can get involved, though hopefully his younger brother and sisters will shoot right past it to some other ridiculous game. and pokemon go is definitely the story of july. this town, 9000 feet, tucked away in the high sacramento mountains of south-central new mexico, is just as full of this pokey-chasing as any other. it's what they're doing. and if they walk right through a weather-caster's television production, not noticing because they're glued to their phones, perhaps catching a pokey, well, i guess that's part of the weather. weather or not there are any pokeys around.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

a fourth of july report, more or less, from the entire weekend, is forthcoming. gratefully i am in a place with very few fireworks - the high mountain communities strictly forbid them as these are the dry high mountain communities, and even an errant cigarette or bolt of lightning can wipe out an entire valley. down below, about six thousand feet down, a local desert town is so dry that they also fear any errant firecracker and strictly forbid most of them, though as you get out to white sands and the far desert, you could catch a bush on fire, but it wouldn't go very far. they do have them, people sell them, but things were pretty quiet on the fourth.

i did however run out of navajo tea, and had to go to white sands anyway, as that's the only place that has it besides ruidoso. now it so happens that white sands is a federal government outpost, and federal government has mixed reviews in the far mountain west, although i must say it seems they employ almost everyone, from the forest service to the air force, and even probably the missile range and all the cars with out-of-state and military license plates. but i like them out there at white sands, and they seem to care about the vast gypsum fields and the little neon lizards that live in them, and nature with the sun beating down and the moon coming out so wide and beautiful, with purple mountain ranges way on either side. and sure enough, when i got there, this was actually sunday, day before the fourth, there was a fantastic display of native american pottery.

one painted ceramic bunny rabbit stood out to me. he was bright red and had a fantastic painted design on him. the reason he stood out was that, a few days back, coming from a hike in desert country, an enormous jackrabbit had jumped out in front of my car, and i missed him fortunately, but didn't quite get a good enough look at his coloring. the coloring, of course, would not have been bright red, but it was black and gray, and brownish and light tan all at the same time, and i thought, well that bright red represents those colors pretty well. and, stands out, so people know how you feel when they enter your house.

it was actually my quaker principle, against investing in ornate symbolism, that got me to leave it there. my sister is down on kokopelli and all appropriation of native american symbols, and i'm not so opposed to simple appropriation, a kokopelli or a zia or whatever seems ok to me, but it's drawing myself into have things represent stuff that i have a problem with - crosses, flags, etc. i just don't. so my fourth of july contribution was to leave it there.

but then, today, another trip way through the desert, starting with the steep decline into the desert town first, and an unusually long time trying to find glass recycling. the two missions of this trip were meds and car registration, but they were in el paso, eighty or ninety miles of harsh sunny arid and empty desert. and right away i picked up a hitchhiker. he was going to dog canyon, about ten miles down the road, a cutoff right there in the desert. he was already sunburned from standing out there, but claimed to be in the air force, a doctor, trying to get home to visit his mother, who was dying slowly of cancer out there in dog canyon.

when we got to dog canyon it occurred to me that he could have told me about anything, and i would have believed it, and perhaps wanted to get me off the main road where anything could happen, out there in dog canyon. on the other hand, i probably could have given him a ride way out there on the assumption that all that would be true, and i wouldn't get lost, but alas, i was already nervous about time and just let him off at that desolate corner, with the road to dog canyon shooting out from that desert road, and the mountains ahead maybe two, three miles off the road. he may have had a walk, but also, there were plenty of people living out that way, and i though it was likely someone would give him a hand.

the whole road is border-patrol patrolled, with several guys staring at me at various places, and big white unmarked sedans passing me every once in a while. it goes straight to juarez, once you get down there, and in fact the entire city of el paso seems to sit there and look out at juarez, which is also on a hill. it's like, right there, we look across at each other a lot. and i'm not sure if that's good or bad, given where this country is going. if some dumb rapist comes along and tries to build a wall, who knows. but for the time being, this is the usa, i'm proud of it, and at some point, i got my meds and car registration, and turned around again for the mountains. in the barrios people fire their guns a lot, and i saw two honkin firewarks barns, so obviously they sold quite a bit, but up in the mountains, it was quiet, and that's where i plan to spend the rest of my fourths. a happy independence day to everyone!