Wednesday, April 26, 2017

the road from here to work is steep - almost 6000 feet straight down for about ten miles, but then, i get to the town, alamogordo, and turn south and follow the edge of the mountains around the back side of town. that little road goes just up on the ridge enough so that i can see the mountains tower up against me on the left, and see the whole wide tularosa valley, white sands and all, to the right. and the town itself looks very low-slung, adobe-like, shining in the morning sun. usually in the morning the sun hasn't quite gotten totally over the mountains yet, but it's made daylight in the valley, and it's definitely one of the nicest times of day down there - cool, a little shady, sometimes even the tiniest bit of dew on what generally is the harshest of deserts.

alamogordo is my new town, so i always take that back road so as to have a better view of it, and ease into living here. i actually live up on the mountain, but i work in alamo, and by virtue of that have seen, if not know, almost every kid in town. sure some of them get segregated off into the special school, because they got into fights or got arrested or whatever. most of them though are right there in the high school, a big cross section of a town of about 30,000 - which includes a major air force base by the way - everybody 15-18, roughly.

i try to adjust to the town in my own way - "embrace tiger, return to mountain" is my motto. as a sub i see lots of the trouble. it's disheartening to see whole classes refuse to work, refuse to think, and then flunk all the tests. this is not how it's supposed to work. i tell myself, actually, it's "refuse to work for the sub," not just "refuse to work." but talking to the teachers, i know that sometimes it's "refuse to work." the nation is getting steadily dumber. we sometimes blame it on the middle schools - but down there, really, it's the same problem. i don't know the solution yet. in fact, i have no idea. but i can tell you, a sub probably isn't going to solve it.

it's a small town that, like many of them, is somewhat self-absorbed. in other words, you're more likely to hear people argue about the local cat shelter, than about trump. but i kind of like that. people in lubbock had strong opinions about lubbock, but i never heard them. they were too busy working, keeping up a busy lifestyle, driving around town. here, the drive never takes you more than five or ten minutes, unless you live up the hill, and people hang around talking a lot. they know each other too well. the teachers know the kids too well, and even know their parents too well. i'm the only one, really, that doesn't know anyone.

it's actually somewhat isolated geographically, more by desert than by distance itself. las cruces is fifty or sixty miles straight west, across the tularosa basin and the white sands; it's mostly white sands missile range, and it's very dry. the road is four-lane all the way, and people go eighty, ninety, whatever they want. but it's still a long haul, very hot in the summer, and i find it takes all day to go to "cruces" and back. el paso is even worse. it's maybe eighty or ninety miles, straight south, across desert as well (this time it's called the otero shelf, but still is mostly missile range) - and el paso has the advantage of being much larger, a major city, and you can walk to mexico from there. el paso has 6 or 700,000 people, to las cruces' 100,000, but las cruces is a college town, which makes it slightly more desirable in some people's eyes; las cruces is also in new mexico. always an advantage.

el paso is built on steep hills that come right down into the river; no matter where you are in el paso, you can see mexico. this is interesting, and has an effect, definitely. it's a bustling place, good economy, people are busy. traffic is especially busy. i've taken to avoiding it, but it has minor league baseball and a good waterpark. so they say.

back on the mountain, here it is april 26, and we're still talking about a frost. it's cold up here. i planted peppers and they might die. in fact, there may even still be snow in places. we are the only place in the whole southwest where this is possible; but, what did i know? i planted them anyway. i got them for my birthday. first time in my life, i got past my birthday, and there was still frost. but unlike most north country environments, we still enjoy the long days. the sun is still slowly setting; cold as it is, it's still sunny. and clear, and fresh. we're doing our best to adjust.

Friday, April 14, 2017

the latest trip was to ruidoso; this one goes through the mountains, the mescalero reservation, and it's still a bit cold up here with a little snow, wild horses and elk all over the place. most of the elk were in the ruidoso high school parking lot when we got there. they looked a little scruffy from a long winter but they ambled out of our way and were gone when we got back out of the high school.

the thing i like best about ruidoso is this river that runs right down through the center of town, rushing and gurgling; it's very small, but makes a lot of noise and is wonderful to play in. we passed over it somewhat quickly and followed the canyon up to the high school because we had to go to the doctor's; he was at the high school, and it was friday morning, but good friday, so the students were gone. a number of cars were in the parking lot, and when we came out from the doctor, we noticed that someone had marked on all the cars. not ours, just the rest of them; perhaps they had been marked the night before. in fact, perhaps the band had left town, or maybe the baseball team, and everyone marked up their cars as a gesture of school spirit. it was very nice, actually. i wouldn't mind driving around town with a marked up car like that.

the woman at the doctor's said that the elk pretty much had the run of the place, and had, for a couple of years; before that it might have been deer. the elk started out in the elementary school, she said, then went over to the soccer fields, then came down to the high school, and pretty much did it whenever they could. they were safer in town, she said, than they were out in the country, and they knew it.

on the reservation they have wild horses, too, but the people on the reservation own them, you could say, even though as far as anyone can tell they just run wild all over the place. they're gorgeous. a lot of times you see them out at the edge of the field, where the trees and the mountains start, and it seems like maybe you could just go over there and befriend them, but then again, probably not. the people themselves, on the reservation, are pretty nice, they wave at you like most country folk. they seem to take care of their land. some guy at the doctor claimed that the mescalero had actually introduced the elk as a money-making venture, hoping to get hunters up there on the reservation, many years ago. i know the state introduced ibex and oryx for the same reason, hoping to bring in some revenue from hunters, and they have all taken their place in the food pyramid with human hunters at the top, what there are of them. people here hunt a lot of elk, and when they seem to be overrunning the place, they loosen up the hunting restrictions, and they hunt even more of them. they actually prefer elk meat to deer meat; i wouldn't know, myself. maybe they just prefer hunting animals that are slightly bigger, more powerful, more contemptuous.

this one road, elk canyon road, runs right down through the reservation and had hundreds of elk on it, especially at certain times, like sundown, in the summer, when they want to be out on the road for some reason, perhaps to like up the salts that the roads collect. one night my son-in-law was driving back from ruidoso and i forgot to warn him. he tends to want to go sixty or seventy even on a mountain road, but i'd never do that, at sundown, in the summer. i think the elk kind of got to him that night, though he didn't hit any of them. they gave him a scare. they're kind of surly, and don't get off the road too quickly. they're kind of like moose that way. perhaps they find the apples, late in the summer, and get a little drunk before they go out to the road. in any case, i wouldn't mess with them. they're too big, and i don't have a gun.

i often joke about maybe getting the elk to jump in my van, and come home with me. and then, maybe i'll talk them into just laying down in the fire and being my dinner. but i don't have a fire that big, and i don't think they'll do it. i think i have to go the gun route like everyone else. hunting permit, truck, meat bag, major knife, camos, i guess you need the whole outfit. not sure i'm ready yet.

but we do occasionally see them in town, on the roads, all over the place, even coming up behind our house. elk and deer both. i think people are right, the elk are somewhat dominant; the deer jump more lively but stay out of the elk's way. both of them like the apples, and the local fruit. i think only the elk get drunk, being a little more like the moose.

you talk about wide shoulders, colorful bi-color jacket - they're really impressive. and they drop their antlers, this time of year. some people go out to where they are, and just pick up the antlers. others, like this one guy i met, do taxidermy and just mount the heads. like at the propane store; they have three of them. largest racks i've ever seen; they dominate the propane store. the guy hunts the biggest ones, and stuffs them, and mounts them, and if you walk in there an pay your propane bill, there they are.

the taxidermist said he did a cougar, too, which is at the barbecue joint - it had been hit by a car in the winter, and he went back around and got it and stuffed it and mounted it. impressive, i say, that you can do that kind of stuff. guess somebody has to. he says he learned the trade from some guy who was about to leave the area, and now he, after thirty years or more, is getting restless. maybe he needs somebody to learn how to do taxidermy. interesting.

Monday, April 10, 2017

spent part of the day in tularosa, which is called tulie around here, because my wife was gone, and i had to take my daughters out to a horse barn, on what i would call the subway sign road, just this side of tulie. had to go out, go back, go into tulie, go back, that kind of stuff. and we went into alamo a time or two, and up and down the hill. lots of new mexico's dry desert washes, pistachio farms, pecan farms, dry ranches, and litter by the side of the road. it's busy down there; that's a main highway. some policeman was out there patrolling but people were still going about eighty. that was a kind of new mexico thing.

the truck stop had a kind of pistachio-store annex along with a restaurant; it was independent, but very tied in to pistachios and pecans in the region. this little stretch is all about pistachios and pecans; what do they have water? i'm not sure. but that's kind of what they do around here. it's all pistachios, pecans, and military, with military being maybe two thirds, or three quarters, of the economy. military people come here with their fat pensions, and they notice: it's livable, you don't have to take care of your yard, the sun shines all the time, and, as a medium-sized small town, it has two wal-marts and at least three subway (fast-food) outlets. all a person could ask for.

the fact is, at night, it's downright pleasant. you can get on a hill on the outside of town, and look out over the valley, and sometimes you see the moon over the white sands; it's quite dramatic. actually, even in the day, if your window is open, and the sun is not directly on you, that's pleasant too. the air is dry. you don't sweat. you can sit out, and enjoy the breeze - so, in fact, it's pretty pleasant year-round, even in the desert. but our car's air-con is broken, and this leaves us in a bad position on long trips across the basin, either across white sands to las cruces, or down across the otero plain on the way to el paso, to the airport, as my wife just did.

it's kind of a stark environment. even tulie has mountains on both sides - on the one, the highway up to ruidoso, that goes through the mescalero reservation, covered with trees, elk all over the place. tulie sits in the tularosa basin though - that wide, flat dry desert that holds the white sands, on the one hand, and just about nothing else but desert scrub. this desert scrub is some kind of very hardy plant, green at this time of year, but mostly a lot of hardy, and not much beauty. it's tough. and there are washes, very dry, that hold the water when it rains - apparently it does, maybe once or twice a year. i know there are rabbits out there, and there are probably other things too - the horses could tell you - but mostly there are these spactacular views of mountains in every direction. alamo itself is tucked up right against them. the sun hits them sometimes, and makes an incredible view. it's a dinky town, alamo, and tulie even more so, but they are spectacular towns. and there's this wild sunset, every night.

the sunset, as i often tell my friends, is nothing, compared to the sunrise. with the sunrise, the sun comes up in the mountains behind us, and daylight shows up before the sun itself. then, with a spectacular turn, it inches over the highest mountains and casts a pink glow on the white sands and the mountains beyond them. the white sands, the purest of white, become pink, when the sun glows on them. but the contrast between the white sands and the rest of the tularosa valley, is what you want. it's like there's this huge gypsum field, glowing white like toothpaste, and there's a pink ribbon as the sun starts to glow on the purple mountain.

and all of this happens generally, while i'm shooting down the hill, one foot on the brakes, at about seven a m on my way to work. i sometimes have people tailgating me, or even passing me, in a hurry as they are, and not apparently concerned about "safety corridor" signs marking double the fine, or whatever. i think you have a lot of people in the army, or army retired, or police retired, or whatever, who just think they can talk their way out of anything, and maybe they can. but i'm always worried about the speed limit. and the winding roads, which, if you take your eye of them for a minute, will send you hurtling over the cliff. i literally can't watch this pink-glow business unless i pull over, and if i do that, i lose precious time, and risk getting tailgated again, as i can't pull back into the road without doing it gradually.

so i stick to the speed limits, tear around the curves, watch out for falling rocks, and mountain animals, and i'm aware of all this pink stuff happening, but in general, i figure, well, i live here, and i'll probably see it again.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

april rocks!

happy birthday!

april rocks!


Saturday, April 01, 2017

new story:
Spring Forward, Fall Back
enjoy! comments welcome

Friday, March 31, 2017

a whole week as a permanent roving sub at alamogordo high school. this means i know where i'm going every morning, and they place me wherever they want. in return for the security of a job in a single place, for the rest of the year, i agree to be a sub in any or many classes during the day or week; whereas some teachers get a prep break or hour off, they can just put me anywhere, and i do it.

one other benefit is that the middle schools are behind me. in one of the middle schools, some kid brought a bottle of xanax and distributed them among middle schools; thirteen ended up in the hospital and one was still not awake according to one of the students. i was relieved to be nowhere near that middle school, even though it was my favorite of the two middle schools. high school students, in contrast, are more mature. just as bad, just as irresponsible, sometimes, but more mature.

i say that 'embrace the tiger, return to mountain,' to the chinese, probably means live life to the fullest, keep your spiritual center. to me it means shoot down the mile-high mountain to alamo high school (home of the tigers) in the morning, climb the big long hill when the day is over, back up into the clouds, where there's still snow, and it's always at least twenty degrees cooler. i saw baker the policeman this afternoon, conferring with somebody about their speed of ascension. i myself was going barely over the speed limit but enjoying every minute; i was returning to mountain.

nobody respects a sub, and they certainly don't want to do any work in what they consider a freak but well-deserved vacation from any serious thinking, but they don't mind talking about life, or about whatever you bring up. i asked my students today about bluegrass bands in alamo and they didn't know. they knew the difference between football xanax and schoolbus xanax, but they didn't know from bluegrass. one claimed it was her cousin who had distributed the pills, and she was furious that such a thing could happen. but i've taken to engaging them more. for one thing, i know them a little better now; i know who's trouble and i can spot right away who's not going to do the work. fortunately, it's not so much my concern if they don't do the work. it's more my concern if they're truly disruptive to those who do do the work. it's also my concern if teachers stop in from nearby classrooms concerned about the noise level, or the destruction of furniture. they tend to watch out for subs, having seen this kind of stuff before.

it's actually not so great being the "cool" sub who lets them use cell phones or doesn't really care whether they finish the work or not; actually you kind of undermine the system if you're too loose, or if you let them do stuff that other subs or teachers don't. it's pointless having a battle with them, or letting the class be a confrontation, when so little is at stake. i'm a one-time visitor; i hate sending people to the office, and don't want "he-said" "she-said" to define my experience. on the contrary, i reward people who finish the work, also people who say they've been sober for a while, or that they gave up smoking. i think they deserve some recognition for being a teenager in a complex and difficult world, and, of all the times they are supposed to be focused on learning, their time with a sub is not truly one of them. one reason they resist learning anything from a sub is that they instinctively know that it could be different from the way the main teacher teaches it - and if so, that's a problem for everyone.

early in the week i got into new mexico history, and read about the lincoln county war (pat garrett and billy the kid) and the pueblos. i was hot on the trail of the claim that some of the pueblo people came from the caribbean. today i had no access to computer, so i simply read camus' "the stranger" which had been left in the room. i got about half through it and will probably finish this weekend. my mind is relatively free, yet i should pay attention to students, what they do, whether they work, etc. "babysitting," some people call it, yet i know my teaching time will start soon enough, and that will involve grading, and testing, and everything else, so i might as well enjoy a little break myself. thirty years of hard teaching, and now i get to sit around, look at tiger posters, and watch kids make movies of each other on their phones. they are my sub, because suddenly, i don't really have to teach them. i was in a spanish class, and i started to teach them about diminuitives, which are used differently in spanish than english. they were impressed, a little, that any old duffer would know any spanish at all. but they still didn't want to learn it. i might as well have been talking about the movies.

everybody's a little traumatized by the thought of thirteen kids in the hospital, but it's spring break, and we've all gone home now to relax for a week and get over it. those parents might just yank those kids and put them in to some private school, but the lone private school in town is about to close, and that might not be an option. actually i have no idea what those parents will do or think. i can't even imagine what their experience is like. i try to take seriously the idea that above all, i am a protector of young souls, who often don't have very well-developed judgment. for that, i'm hoping the city of alamogordo will respect me, and make it possible for me to keep embracing the tiger.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

on monday i was a sub at a new mexico history class. now that's a little frustrating for me, because i love new mexico history, and basically kids refuse to learn anything from a sub, until i figure out how to get through to them. they see a sub, and they figure, it's vay-cay time. in this particular class, though, there were lots of books, and the teacher had left a lot of stuff for them to do. it was like they had some huge worksheet to finish, and all i had to do was sit there.

so i opened this book, which was called nuevo mexico, though when i wrote this i'd lost the details, like the author's name. seems to me the author was joe sando, or something like that. well, deep in that book was a story of the language families, and specifically, the language families of the occupants of the pueblos.

now when i asked the students, they all knew about the pueblos. there are nineteen of them today. they were there when the spaniards arrived, in the late 1500's. there was a rebellion against the spaniards (the first american revolution, one book called it) where they actually removed the spanish control over their lives. but this book made a claim about the language families of the pueblo people. it claimed that there were three basic families. the first was the tiwa/tewa/towa, the biggest one, responsible for maybe ten or eleven of the modern pueblos, and distantly related to navajo and other well known families of languages. the second was keresan, the language of about five or six of the pueblos, and the last one, zuni (i think?), residents of a single pueblo, unrelated to the others and possibly from mexico. but of the keresan, he (the author) said that he personally felt they were from the caribbean - he had proof based on their words for north, east, south and west, and he had spent considerable time trying to prove it. he further said that these people had stopped in florida on their way out, whereupon they had picked up the habit of naming the leader's (shell-covered) abode as the "white house."

i was astounded by this, and the following day, i was a sub at another new mexico history class, this one in the middle school. once again students were resistant to learning anything from a sub. but hey, i told them, pay attention. they were studying the period of time when our part of new mexico was an independent nation (the republic of texas) and the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo, in which the usa, which badly wanted to expand westward and increase its land, promised the spanish settlers of albuquerque (who had been there, speaking spanish, for about 250 years) that they could continue to speak spanish and live in spanish, vote and be full citizens, if they chose to join the us. the spanish wanted to - they didn't care much for mexican rule, and didn't see that the anglos changed much about their lives, so they agreed. little did they know of course that trump would come along and claim that they were all rapists, but that's another story. at this time, the time of guadalupe hidalgo, everyone thought it was a win-win, and there was fifteen million bucks involved too, if i'm not mistaken. or maybe it was a hundred fifty.

well anyway i told this class about this book that claimed the keresan people were from the caribbean. as far as i'm concerned the author of that book was a genuine historian, though he may have been wrong about the keresan, who knows about the ancient people? but i find his theory fascinating for several reasons.

first is that if the ancient people crossed from the caribbean islands to new mexico, then my guess is that they followed the river, namely the rio grande. but the question is whether they knew where they were going or not. and, did they know there were people where they were going? had they had visitors that told them, that at the end of the rio grande, was a high valley where people could settle and grow stuff? or did they just take off in river boats not knowing what they would find? and did they have enough to live on, up through big bend, el paso, las cruces, t or c, the long haul up to the new pueblo?

all good questions worthy of further research. just now i was forced to get up out of my chair, whereupon i found the little scrap of paper i'd written some of this stuff on. so i now know the following: this came from the book nuevo mexico, p. 28; the kerasan pueblos were acoma, laguna, santa ana, san felipe, santo domingo, zia and cochiti (notice that zia is the one with the north-east-south-west symbol on the new mexico license plate; it's also featured in the new mexico pledge, perfect friendship among all peoples, that my students recite every morning). also, here are some of the keresan expressions: hane (east), pune (west), crowa (south), tipani (north). hana ha'i (when we were in the east)...

at the end of the chapter, there were three references. one was by sando himself, sando and agoyo (2005), but was about popay, the leader of the first american revolution, by the residents of the pueblos against the spanish. another was marder (2005) - indians of the americas. and the last was graham (1981), ancient mesoamerica. so begins my research. he could have been speaking off the cuff - but this was a textbook, and my guess is that if he had done all this research he had put it somewhere. not necessarily in the book about popay - the others had articles by other experts as well. such books are golden and are available at local libraries.

the ancient people, if they didn't like one continent, they just set out for another.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

embrace tiger, return to mountain

Sunday, March 12, 2017

so, as a substitute teacher in middle schools and high schools, i've taken to reading the signs that teachers put in their classrooms to inspire students. of course i also read their directions (agenda) - what students are supposed to do - and anything else there is to read. i look at their family pictures sometimes, and imagine what their life is like as a teacher. i try to imagine how happy they are.

but the directions for the students, i try to figure out. i'm probably the only one who reads them, or rather, students who have been in the class since august have some idea what they intended, whereas i, a one-time visitor, have to surmise or assume.

got to an esl class the other day, eight students only, who all knew each other very well. one of the signs in their room said, "always raise your hand." we can guess what that one means, you need something, that's how you make it clear. but, if you read the sign, the sign says to always raise your hand. excuse me?

same day, i'm in a math class. it had one that said, "reason abstractly and quantitatively." i thought that was interesting. i couldn't quite figure out how to do it though. I mean, i can use both kinds of skills, abstract and quantitative, to figure out a geometry problem. i can't quite reason quantitatively though. and i'm still stuck on why you can't divide by zero. it seems to me, if you reason abstractly, that you can divide by zero.

ok, so i'm subbing in cloudcroft, where everyone's bears, rather than tigers, and they want the students to think like championship bears and be fierce, loyal, smart, and everything like that. so theirs say, "bear in mind" to do most important things first, "bear in mind" to syncretize, etcetera. and they all make sense to some degree, although you don't always bear this stuff in mind. but my favorite is the last one, "bear in mind" to sharpen your saw.

now we can assume that they want their students to think sharply, incisively, and all that. and i'm sure that your mind has tools for doing this kind of thinking. well, if you think about it, we must have some tools for thinking incisively and sharply, though i'm not sure, and i have no idea what they would look like. but if i don't even know what they look like, how can i sharpen them? i have saws, and i can sharpen them, though i don't, and i can recognize that my work would be easier if i did. but the kinds of tools that middle school kids use to solve science problems (that was in a science class by the way, and all the students knew those bear habits) - well, i'm still guessing about that. i just don't know.

there was one cooking class where they let the students make the signs. one said "alway's wash your hands"....i was horrified. if i was a teacher, i'd have simply made that student draw the entire poster again. no way i'd hang it on the wall. except maybe to say, there are apostrophe errors, then there are classic stupid apostrophe errors, which nobody on earth should allow anyone they know to produce under any circumstances. but i tend to be a little judgmental about such things. it's partly because my entire life is discipline now, and i don't even really get to teach much. i was in an english class, and they were doing metaphor and allusion, and the allusion (which was to eden) went way over their heads, because kids don't know from eden these days. but when they were doing metaphor, i said metaphor was like "love is like a flower," and then i brought out my "bear in mind to sharpen your saw" metaphor. in some ways, love is like a flower, i suppose, and in some ways it is not; and, your mind, we could say, is like a saw, to some degree, maybe. i hope mine isn't rusting out, out in the back where it rains and the fog rolls in and sits on us, up high in the mountains where we are. bear in mind, to sharpen your saw. it's my new motto. that, and embrace the tiger, return to mountain.

Monday, March 06, 2017

new story:
Mannequin Challenge
comments welcome! enjoy!