Monday, July 22, 2019

the summer has flown by and it is now late july, with everyone's eye on the impending opening of school. we are trying to finish doctor's appointments, etc., before we start clothes shopping, but basically, we'll be relieved when the new year starts. our kids have way too much time on their hands, and are way out here with the deer and elk, with basically nothing to do but electronics. Sure, they have basketball, hiking, etc., but they reject all that, leaving us a little miffed on what to do with them.

i have become a volunteer fireman, and that adds a dimension to my life. first is the radio, which intermittently brings me whatever crisis is happening down on the highway. it's a pretty busy highway, only two lane, snaking through gorgeous mountains, and lots happens on it. it's the road from alamogordo to artesia, or las cruces to lubbock, or la to wichita falls, if you look at it that way, but in any case, it gets plenty of action, and we hear the EMS people responding to various kinds of accidents and events. i don't have to respond; i'm too new. but if a call is in sixteen springs, that's what i'm there for.

i have not received all the training yet, but i got a really nice hat that i wear a lot and hope to, someday, deserve. now that it's the rainy season, maybe it's less likely; maybe there will be fewer pure fire calls. it rains almost every day right now, and when it's not raining, it looks like it's going to, but there's still lightning danger, and this steady stream of calls from down on the highway. plenty going on - i'm sure i'll stay busy.

the other new thing in my life is carpentry. i inherited a shed - so full of junk that my wife scorns it - but we put a washer and dryer in it, and all the tools, and all the junk we couldn't throw away, and now, i've noticed, lots of wood and insulation hanging around, as if someone was still putting walls and ceiling on the thing. so i've taken that up - now, i'm putting walls and insulation on this shed - but to do that, i have to move junk around a lot. and in the process of doing that, i'm sorting a lot. lots of old books and papers - i'll do that last. first build the walls, so that i have a place to put all this wood and insulation.

this, and my usual jobs, teaching as an online writing tutor, and teaching chinese children. school is out for the moment, and i'm not a sub, and may not even go back. during the rainy season, these storms pass by, and make everything green, and make the wildflowers come out - i could just sit here for most of the season, but the flies bug me. so i get up, and work on the land - i dig out the sticky thistle, or pick up the rocks strewn around - there's plenty to do, besides carpentry, and i enjoy the fresh air. it's kind of a new life. one that involves a little break, before the next thing comes along.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

ok i protest. i protest the tanks. i protest the kids in cages. i protest the pretense of glory for our country. i protest the undermining of democracy and civility.

many years, we go out and watch public fireworks displays. people who supposedly know what they're doing set off firecrackers and hopefully nobody gets hurt. some years they make mistakes. often people go on their own, and make all kinds of mistakes. animals get spooked. people lose fingers.

this year, i'm way out on the edge of the country, where the civilized world turns into the dry canyons of south central new mexico, not far from the apache mescalero reservation. i want no part of fireworks. i am not into celebrating.

it is the end of the driest season here - from february to july fourth, sometimes no rain at all, and a hot dry wind evaporates any water you even apply to your ground. on the fourth it turns, to what they call the "monsoon," and this season, july and august, provide us with most of the few inches we get every year - an average of twelve, actually - by raining regularly. this year the rains came just a couple days early, as it's a kind of wet year, thank god. it may not be as treacherous as it usually is.

but generally, people are out there blowing these crackers off, and the locals are getting angry. everything is so dry. the forests are dry, the yards are dry, the grasslands are dry. it's like seeing someone drive up the hill with a lit cigarette in his mouth. you feel like cutting him off, getting out of your car screaming. what the living f--- do you think you're doing, trying to set our world on fire. one year hundreds of thousands of acres burned. the area went up in smoke and there wasn't much people could do. it's a dry place, and also windy.

the bone spur brings his tanks into washington like this is russia or something. might as well bring russian tanks. he's all proud of being in a military parade like he has to show firepower, and how he's in charge of it. it makes me angry. he has kids in cages. he's stolen billions and redistributed it to his friends.

out by the reservation, the woods goes up a long steady hill, with a dry canyon down in the middle of it, mountains up each side. i followed the path this morning, and it curved me around so i wouldn't come to the reservation fence; i stayed in the national forest, where dry trees waited for the monsoon season. occasional piles of deer turds would be in the path. down at the bottom, toward where the people are, there were some bones; people had been hunting here. the new mexico sky, clear blue as always, beat down. it was hot already, even in morning, on a cloudy day.

it gets cloudy, but then it doesn't rain. this also, i find characteristic of this season. they are like teaser clouds. it appears that it might rain, and that the dry season might be ending, but it doesn't. it's like "june is the cruelest month." it's cruelest, if you care about rain most of all, and if it teases you, and if it never rains. june is dry, yes. grasslands turn to brown. dry sticks sit around on the forest floor like matches on a stove. everyone watches the sky hoping that the clouds will bring the real thing.

so close to the apache reservation, i feel almost like i'm at the edge of the u.s. i know the apache have a different view of the fourth of july, but they actually have moved in and taken it over, and started to have their big apache welcome celebration on the fourth weekend. i'm not sure, this year, which weekend that would be, or if it is today. i rarely talk to the apache, although i see them sometimes, and a kid that my son befriended was apache. this may be more than most of us, who live in this kind of white mountain enclave where people fly the american flag on the back of their trucks. they have their opinion. i have mine. i am way back, beyond their homesteads, where they'll have to come way out here to see if i fly that flag or not.

my dogs, i feel, fall down on the side of animals who are spooked by your average firecracker. they get spooked if i clap above a fly, or if i come down on the table with a newspaper, trying to swat one. they are not big fans of violence, and i don't blame them. one year i was hit in the temple with a firecracker, and i was lucky that it didn't go off until it landed on the ground, because i was deaf for about an hour afterward. if it had gone off when it hit my temple, i might not be telling this story. it was the bicentennial year.

in this area, there are two places where they set off fireworks legally. one is on the mescalero reservation, at the inn of the mountain gods, where they have a lake, and set them off over the lake. the other is the town of alamogordo, only eighteen miles down from cloudcroft but almost forty miles from here. at those, they set them off over some dry mountains and a parking lot, and keep plenty of firetrucks on hand in case they miss. i'm passing on those too.

we did, however, have a fourth of july parade in our town, and it was last saturday, at four in the afternoon, on a day much like this. not too many people went, in spite of the fact that it's a busy season in a small tourist town, and there isn't a whole lot to do. they said the congresswoman, who is a democrat, was coming, but i didn't see her, and neither did i see a few people who said basically that they'd come just in order to boo her. perhaps one of them said a little too much, or it sounded like a threat, and she got wind of it. it could also be, she being busy and all, that she had something else to do. for whatever reason, she didn't show up, and it was an uneventful parade. i saw two of my students from down the hill, two very different ones, who had the luxury of riding in cars at the parade. i was in the audience, my little daughter darting out into the parade to grab the candy they'd throw out at us. the firetrucks made their sirens go, just to show that they worked, and that this was their presence in the parade.

a little while ago, we had a controlled burn on our property. the whole neighborhood knew it, and lots of people came to see; they wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing. one mistake, and you lose the whole valley. it's just the way it is, and they've seen it before. things are growing back, yes, even down in the burn scar, but, it takes years to recover a forest, and it's often not in our lifetime. you lose it, you see it burn, it'll take forever to see it come back. a delicate thing, a garden, an elm grove, a democracy, these things are gone in a flash, and then you wonder why you didn't do more to keep it hanging around.

Monday, July 01, 2019

i'm in el paso for a short vacation. to be blunt, one kid was having a hard time at home, always needing stuff, and my wife thought it would be good if we got away. she was right. we went to a baseball game, and stayed overnight in a hotel. by we: me, and both sons who are still at home. a short trip away from home. a cool motel room, a pool, a fitness center.

i don't feel like the kind of yuppie who is out to enjoy all his money quickly, and traveling around just dropping the cash at will. on the contrary, i'm scared. i went to the hearing aid place and found my hearing way down. my son, i feel, is on the edge. the bill goes on a credit card i'm afraid we can't pay. the car's oil light shone and i filled it; that was a success; but it has over a hundred thirty thousand, and the trip back is over hundred-degree desert wasteland; i don't look forward to it, especially since it will be early in the afternoon.

last night, in the evening, we parked in a fashionable rehabbed part of the city and walked to the baseball game. the game was between the el paso chihuahuas and the fresno grizzlies. for some reason the chihuahuas were wearing neon greenish yellow uniforms that said "margaritas" and the scoreboard made it appear the game was between the tacos and the margaritas. it was some sort of promotion, no doubt, but the people in the stands were mostly wearing red and black, with hats with insignias of a fierce chihuahua. the team's normal colors were clearly red, black and white and there was some red, black and white pride going on. the game was pleasant, but it was over ninety in the shade (a "dry heat," they like to say around here) - and the evening was clearly a better time to be out than the daytime. in the daytime people rush around in newish cars, shut up against the heat, going up and down this one road we've come to know, with lots of businesses and restaurants on it. it's a conservative city: people work hard, make money, protect themselves against the heat.

so the stadium was about half full, and the chihuahuas were going around in these neon uniforms. it was a good game; the grizzlies got out to a big lead but the hometown boys closed it up and made a game of it. the people around us were almost all mexican-american families. my son bought a water for $4. i was mad as that's kind of amtrak prices, but, what are you going to do? we bided our time. the families near us had these kind of taco constructions that looked huge, and, given the price of water, were probably $20. at one point the margarita guy came around and stood in front of me as he served a margarita to the woman next to me, for $13. he had three in his tub; they were carved out pineapples, full of fruit, and soaked to the top with margarita, apparently. she gave him a $20 and he reached into his pocket with his wet hands to get change. one of them tipped over. margarita fell all over the tub. he was embarrassed, but, that's the price of business. one way or the other, they were going to enjoy their evening.

the chihuahuas lost, but it was a fun evening. our car was still there when we got back to it. the lights of mexico glowed from across the river. i consider taking the boys to mexico, something i've always wanted to do for all my kids, and have done for some. we may or may not. one side of me wants to take the advice of every shuttle driver: stay away from juarez. another says, this may be your last chance. we would walk. we would stand on a bridge across the two countries.

the car has oil; the long desert is in front of us. right out of the city, you get into new mexico, and it gets pretty empty. i've come to not feel threatened by that, though. there are people around. it's like getting stranded in the middle of illinois.

you can't make a kid happy, though, if he's suffering inside. i have a couple like that, and i'm at a loss. here i am, losing my hearing, yet what i want, more than anything, is a little peace, kids who are ok with who they are and what's going on around them. television and xbox will only go so far. mexico may not change things; they barely know what they're getting into, and besides, we'd barely step over the border, even if we had plenty of time. we do have plenty of time.

that sopping wet fruit is an image that stays in my mind. it was like cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, not sure what all was in there. i'm sure they soaked it up pretty good. it was an evening in the borderlands, with signs like "paso del norte" around. everyone's bilingual; that's not an issue. maybe what's happening in clint or tornillo is an issue. you don't hear about it, though. everyone's polite, and ready to take your money. if i could get used to the 100 degree days, it would be easier.