Saturday, September 29, 2012

so i was asking people about why, when it rains, whole corners are taken up by flooding that seems capable of swallowing up whole cars. the big one for me of course is flint and nineteenth, one of the worst, only a block from our house; sometimes it rains only a few inches, but this corner will have several feet of water all afternoon, with police cars standing by making sure that any car that ventures in gets towed out successfully. these are "playas" says one guy wryly. but i didn't get the reference. seemed to me a 'playa' was a beach.

turns out a 'playa' is a lake, a kind of plains lake, where water sits indefinitely, and eventually evaporates out leaving a little of whatever is left; these are called "alkaline" lakes and there are quite a few of them. turns out burning man in nevada is on a playa also. it reminds me of a geologists' rant, way back when i was researching the great texas drought of 2011, wherein he said that our problem started way back when we killed all the buffalo, because the buffalo would wallow in the low spots and make muddy areas where literally the water could enter the hard red earth, and go on down toward the water table. reason we've lost so much water from the water table, is that we've lost all the wallows, he said. i couldn't prove him wrong but i can tell you, if this water is evaporating, which is quite likely, it is definitely not going back into the water table.

but then here's another surprise. it's well known that we are on the llano estacado, the so-called escarpmented plain, the southern plain or high table that literally goes from 3000 feet in the southeast to about 5000 feet up in the northwest but at a steady incline so gentle everyone thinks it's flat as a pancake. lubbock, they say, is the biggest city on the entire plains which of course stretches all the way up to the dakotas, but that, i assume, does not take in denver which in fact is on flat ground right in front of the mountains. well anyway, there is some controversy about this word estacado, which is sometimes referred to as "staked" as if there were stakes out in the plain, but no, nobody seriously thinks there are stakes out there, or ever was. no, the more interesting theory is that it was, at one time, estancado, or stagnant, referring to the water in these shallow lakes that just gets more and more, i guess that, in derision, one could call it the llano estancado.

now there is a high school out here called estacado, so my guess is that all these variants, these insults and derisive reference, has been thought of long ago. but it's all new to me. i'm kind of into this high plains stuff, i had ancestors who came out onto the plain long ago, ended up in northeastern kansas, southeastern nebraska, council bluffs, places like that, and the plain feels ok to me, the hard wind, the dusty air, the winter chill coming on. and i can understand this flood business too, it's part of life, it's just hard to get used to, how, when it rains, everyone thinks it's glorious but you have to hold still for a few days while they sweep some of the water away.

thought maybe i'd do a thing on the playas on what i call my mirror site where i've been putting pictures that i take from our rearview mirror. one problem is that this site speaks directly to lubbock and the lines are getting blurred, that is, my personal ramble (here) and the stuff i want to say to lubbock, all somewhat similar. but the real problem here is that i'm not so much criticizing the city's drainage problem (carbondale had that too, and, i'm sure, i would be criticizing them if they tore up the whole city trying to fix it)'s more that i have a fascination with water that basically falls, and then just sits there for so long. what's up with that?

did some research on the texas pledge also. turns out they originally had everyone pledge to the flag of 1838, and nobody caught the mistake for many years; although texas had changed to its red-white-and-blue lodestar flag, here they had school kids pledging to the wrong one. and then they slipped god in there a few years back, over some protests of course, but nevertheless this texas pledge remains and has its own webpage. i guess my questions about it are these: if it's true that every school in the state of texas has its kids say this pledge, then can it be considered a representative of the general idea that the state in general asserts a lot of control over education here? how many other states have state pledges? and, finally, is there any relationship between a texas pledge and a general tendency to fly a texas flag later on, or put texas paraphernalia around, or put "secede" bumper stickers on one's car? what relationship does sanctioned state patriotism have to the state-pride movement in general?

1836-1848, was roughly the era when texas was a republic, had its own flag, flags really, since it changed, and this era started on my birthday, as it turns out, san jacinto day, when the texans won a huge battle over santa anna at san jacinto. they call them, in this kind of history, texians, but the difference or the reasons behind it are still a mystery to me. those texians apparently lost the alamo, lost it big, but remembered the alamo big when it came time to wipe out the mexicans at san jacinto and capture santa anna. santa anna was apparently weak because not only did he have a huge army, but he had a sweetheart, the yellow rose of texas, who seduced him and kept him off his guard. so, they write a song about her and this song gets a lot of play. it's a new song to me though, relatively. i hear it sometimes in a kind of confederate genre but other times as a kind of folk song.

got a bit of rain for a while there, soccer games were cancelled, i had a chance to do some research, work on a floor, hang around and drink some coffee. this rain business throws a wrench into my week, as we live on bicycles and four-foot puddles are especially bad for bicycles particularly when the trucks choose to fly through them. but, we can survive, as others do, and even enjoy the playas, maybe take some pictures. also i've found myself blatantly hypocritical about the football situation, the men's general football enthusiasm is so contagious and besides, having a big iowa state game reminds me of iowa, and their schedule in general is full of the plains boys, kansas and k-state, oklahoma, etcetera. sure basketball is safer and more fun in some ways but their basketball team is apparently at a very down time, whereas the football team seems to be riding high and the whole town with it. we'll see; some say that oklahoma, texas, and especially west virginia (????????) will kill them; we'll see. getting up for a west virginia game is another thing that unites me with my past. i can handle it; it's just football.

the other day it was busy and they sent me out for chinese food which happened to be way over by the old walmart downtown in the cool section of town where they have some ancient houses, brick streets, a bit of rebuilding. turns out they have some playas over there too, so wide i couldn't see if i could even make it through them. but, after i got the food, a huge rainbow opened up over this one building downtown. it's the building, i think, that was moved or twisted by the tornado, but they decided to leave it, because it was still stable and functional, so now it's got a bit of a twist yet it's still the highest, maybe the only high building in town. so there's this enormous rainbow and i wanted to take a picture but i had to watch where i was going and i realized, sure, they've torn down a bit of this town, they have some wide fields and red clay everywhere you go, but it really is kind of cool looking. lots of cool old houses. and then a plain, a llano, stretching out in every direction.

the grass grows a bit wild around the edges of our house; the rain has seeped in and helped things live. we hauled an old carpet out of here and treated for bugs. we think of our dog, out there somewhere, but i really miss old friends, especially music partner, religious community, work mates. not sure i can replace all these very easily. we have friends, sure, but this kind of stuff takes time. it makes me sad. i rest, listen to the traffic out our window, the ambulances in the distance. it's a city; things happen, and they keep happening. the wind brings a new cloud by, and you have to keep an eye on it; you never know what might happen.


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