Monday, August 19, 2019

If It's Not One Thing It's Another (OR We're Not in Connecticut Anymore)

When the ground squirrel showed up the bunny rabbits seemed to leave the garden to him/her. So it wasn't so bad that the ground squirrel was munching on my garden, helping him/her self to Swiss chard, green bean foliage and ripe tomatoes.

I thought I'd get around to somehow getting the squirrel to move out by covering in the squirrel hole or protecting the vegetables better, but so much to do and so little time.



Then of course the dentist decided that I needed a crown, no, actually two crowns, and not the kind Elizabeth wears. I got the "estimate" in the mail last week and that will blow one month's entire budget for food, utilities, gas, internet, auto loan and incidentals. OK, but dental health is important, so we'll "bite the bullet" and pay for it.

Then the kitchen sink drain backed up. Liquid plumber didn't work. A neighbor tried clearing it out with a 25-foot snake (remember this). I thought it was clear and did laundry...which backed up into the kitchen sink. Emailed (of course) one plumbing company on Saturday for an estimate. They called this morning, Monday, with an appointment time for today and mentioned that there was a "travel charge" of $135. I told them that was outrageous, that I could drive to Albuquerque and pick up the plumber and return him for a lot less than that, and to just forget it. I asked if this was RotoRooter calling and she said no, it was a plumbing company - the one I'd emailed for an estimate, but never made an actual appointment...my momentary confusion lifted and told her I had already made an appointment with Rotor-Rooter. So RotorRooter showed up as promised (a $50 travel charge) plus labor and tax it came to $430.  But at least the drain was clear.

So, after the guy left I said to Leon (his day off) I am going to make an omelet for a late breakfast. Let's see, eggs; ham; provolone cheese. Some veggie would be nice. I have Swiss chard in the garden. That will be good in an omelet. So I go out to the deck and down the stairs that lead into the back yard and I hear this hissing sound like a hose spouting water. The plumber just left, but he had cleared the drain, didn't touch the water pipes. Oh, Leon is washing the truck...but... he's using the hose from the front yard spigot...

I look back under the stairs where the hoses run from the house to the garden soaker, looking for a water spout. Dry.

But the hissing sound gets louder and different. And I see something moving....a tail, a rattle...a...oh, shit...


This is 15 minutes later when Snaky has calmed down
I got away from it and was totally freaked out. The snake to clear the drain pipe, I could handle. This not so much. The rattle was going at full throttle. Snaky was pissed.

I yelled (OK, so I yelled and used some expletives) for Leon to make sure the dog didn't come outside. I was in the backyard which is fenced in on all sides except for a gate out to the arroyo. Had to go through the arroyo and around to the road to walk back home. Called two of the town's "snake guys" but no answer. Called town hall and was told that Justin, the town maintenance guy, who is from Louisiana, would come and take care of it.
 
But by the time Justin got to the house - about half an hour after my first encounter and about 10 to 15 minutes after I took the pictures (from a safe distance up on the deck) the monster rattle snake had gone.
Where? We haven't a clue. Justin searched the entire yard and under the deck.

I had just been telling Leon the other day that I've been more comfortable this summer and not as paranoid about rattlesnakes. I've been letting Benni the dog run with the other dogs and I've not been in a constant state of anxiety when out walking with him. I was kind of feeling that our backyard was not rattler territory, that we had a pretty much safe haven. 

I let my guard down.

The big rattlesnake under the deck stairs was looking fat around the middle and even though pissed and rattling loudly, didn't move right away. Perhaps he was digesting breakfast. For some reason I think the ground squirrel is no longer a problem. 

But, as Rosanne Rosannadana would say, "If it ain't one thing, it's another."  

I'm not nearly as freaked out by coyotes, although there are warning signs (read the whole sign):




Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rollin' In The Grass...What a Gas...Can You Dig It?

Our big boy Benni loves the grass...and our town green has the only real grass for miles around..


Monday, August 5, 2019

Re-Post: In Celebration of Woodstock August 15-17, 1969 - An Excerpt From My Memoir

I am posting an unabridged chapter from my memoir in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival. I look back and in many ways do not recognize the person I was, the Frank before coming out, the Frank that returned from a year in Rome, the Frank that was thrust into a new sub-culture of hippies, mind-altering drugs and protests.

When Woodstock took place I had never even smoked pot, although later that year I discovered the weed and indulged frequently. Never did anything stronger (mainly out of fear that it would be a bad experience).

Now, by the standards of the 60s, I would be considered "conservative" although as my readers know, I am basically a progressive liberal, though I am not out marching in the streets. Now I am even leery of medicinal marijuana and CBD. Try not to take anything stronger than Alieve.

I hope you enjoy this little vignette. Feedback appreciated.

/8/ By the Time We Got to Woodstock (Unabridged Chapter)



WHEN I GOT OFF the American Airlines flight in Hartford in June of 1969, the last leg of my trip from Rome via Chicago, I was no hippie. I wasn’t even sure I knew what a hippie was. But I probably looked like one: one who was smuggling contraband to boot.

I had a scruffy beard and was wearing sunglasses. I wore the heaviest pants I owned, a pair of corduroys, a T-shirt, and over that, a long-sleeved shirt, two sweaters, a sport jacket, and a London Fog-type trench coat. The pockets of the coat were stuffed with socks, underwear, a Kodak Instamatic camera, several religious articles blessed by the Pope, a pair of sexy Greek sandals with the long laces that Valerie got for me on a trip to Greece, and whatever else I could manage to fit in. I had a large carry-on bag and an authentic Italian-made guitar in a leather case slung over my shoulder. I must have looked ridiculous, but at least I had been conscientious about keeping the weight of my checked luggage under the required fifty-pound limit.

Once back in New England, the initial culture shock I experienced and my nostalgia for sidewalk caf├ęs, Roman ruins, and honking Fiats quickly gave way to readjustment to McDonald’s, suburban neighborhoods, and Chevrolets. But a dormant, rebellious part of my personality began to emerge that was more in tune with the prevailing popular counter-culture that included protests, tattered jeans, and long hair.

Soon after my return, I got together with a couple of my college friends, Michael Buonanno and Wayne Chesney. Wayne, as I’ve mentioned before, was a bit effeminate despite his tales of womanizing, and Michael, a lanky bookworm-type with dark-rimmed glasses, was a self-proclaimed intellectual and free thinker. Both were interested in attending (but Michael was the more eager) a concert we’d heard about that was scheduled for later that summer in nearby New York State. I was elected to get us all tickets for the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, which was to be held from August 15 to 17, 1969.

Since I was the only one of us with a car, I also provided limo services. I picked up Michael in Springfield and Wayne just outside of Albany and we drove down to Bethel, New York, to join a half million or so other young people who were gathering to listen to Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and dozens of other performers who had become icons of the counterculture that was sweeping the country. 

We were hearing news reports on the radio about huge traffic backups on the New York Thruway and on rural roads leading to the music venue. Despite the reports about all roads being totally jammed, we decided we would try to get through. About twelve miles from the farm where the Woodstock Festival was taking place, we came to a dead stop. It was Friday afternoon.

Of course we were not the only ones. Cars lined the road and people, these so called hippies mostly, were sitting on lawn chairs or on the hoods of vehicles eating sandwiches, drinking Boone’s Farm, and smoking grass. Hoping that the line of cars and vans would start moving, we waited it out. Whenever we were able to move a car length, there were cheers and whoops from fellow pilgrims alongside the road and from cars ahead of us and behind. Soon enough Michael, Wayne, and I realized that each move forward was merely due to someone ahead giving up, turning around, and leaving. 

Many of the concertgoers began abandoning their Volkswagens, Chevy vans, and beat-up pickup trucks along the side of the road and walking. Some were saying it was a ten-mile walk to the gate, others were saying more like twelve or fifteen.

Michael, not one to think about practical matters or miss out on something he had his mind set on, said, “I think we should walk. Everyone else is.”

Wayne, more cautious and a little out of shape, said, “I don’t know. I suppose if it were a mile or two. But they’re all saying maybe ten miles or more. I don’t think I can walk that far. Besides, that means walking all the way back to our car later.”

“Yeah,” I said, “if we can even find the car again.”

I was quickly coming to the conclusion that we were not the free spirits we pretended to be. “Well,” I said. “I’m not really willing to leave the car here. I’m really not as laid-back as all these freaks and potheads. What if a bunch of these guys on LSD decides my car is a spaceship or something and break in so they can return to
the earth from whatever planet they’re on and save the universe?”

I had no clue what tripping might be like, but it was my car, and I had the last word. I convinced them it was prudent to return home.

“Yeah,” Michael said. “I guess you’ve got a point there.”

We dropped off Wayne in his upscale Albany suburb late that evening. Michael and I headed home. It rained hard overnight.

On Saturday evening we heard that the traffic jams around the concert had cleared and the roads leading to the festival were open. Michael and I decided to head back to Woodstock early on Sunday morning. We didn’t call Wayne because it would take too long to drive all the way up to Albany again. Even without picking
up Wayne it would take about four hours, including picking up Michael in Springfield.

We got within a mile or so of the festival and figured it would be OK to leave the car, barring any hippie space travelers on LSD. Abandoned cars still lined the road and people were walking in both directions. Some, looking tired and muddy, were leaving, but others were hanging around their vehicles, and many appeared to be just arriving. 

When we passed the gate, or should I say walked over the chain link fence, it was early Sunday afternoon. Most of the concert was over, but groups that had been delayed due to the rain and technical problems were still playing or waiting their turn.

What I remember most is the smell. The aroma of deep, dark, fermenting-hay-and-manure-enriched mud. And alternating whiffs of wood smoke from smoldering campfires and the unmistakable and ubiquitous aroma of cannabis sativa, pot. The combination created a sensory backdrop for the music of The Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosby, Stills ,Nash and Young, and the other groups that played on through the night as we sat on a piece of plastic that we had found left behind in the pile of trash, in the middle of what had recently been a cornfield.

Michael said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to try to find some grass; I want to get high for this music.” He knew I had never smoked pot and I declined his invitation to try it now, so he didn’t insist I join him. He wandered a few yards away and soon ended up talking to a group of guys and girls. He was laughing his odd, snorty laugh as he took a joint from some guy with long, unkempt hair and a barely discernible yellow bandana that, when he gestured, caught the glow of the campfire in front of him.

Michael took a deep drag and held his breath. “Thanks,” he must have said while trying not to breathe out too much of the potent smoke. Then I’m sure he followed with, “I’ll have another toke, if that’s OK.”

He was not shy about asking complete strangers for something he wanted. He sat down with his new friends until he was sufficiently high to enjoy the music and then wandered back to where I was sitting.

“After the joint, we did a bowl of hash. That’s some good shit,“ he said. “I’m really fucked up.”

We sat, Michael swaying his head to the sounds of Ten Years After. I was probably the only spectator at Woodstock who wasn’t stoned. We sat, me most uncomfortably, on our plastic real estate while others around us were so stoned or high or drunk that they didn’t care about mud or smells or being comfortable. 

I was the one who had suggested coming here, but, even though I may have looked like one of the crowd, it was not easy for me to go with the flow. It was never easy for me to go with the flow. I’m not even sure I knew what the phrase meant.

Here I was at Woodstock, in the midst of America’s youth subculture, trying again to fit in. Three months before, I’d been wearing an Italian fitted camicia and hip-hugging black velvet pants at the fancy farewell dinner dance, sipping Sambuca at a trattoria and hailing taxis with feigned European sophistication. Here on a smoky August night, I sat with Michael as shirtless hippies made love to their women in the open air on sleeping bags or in sagging orange tents that moved tellingly with their sexual tempo. Rock bands I’d never heard of serenaded all of us into the night.

We’d been mostly awake for more than a day. The sun was rising. It was Monday morning. If I had nodded off at all it was a half-sleep, not dreaming, not fully awake, the music hypnotic except when the microphone squealed every time an announcement was made from the stage; the campfire and marijuana smoke and people walking by, talking, laughing, asking things like, “Hey, man, anybody got some acid?” or “Where are the Porta-Johns?” all wove their way into my sleep/wake dream.

The Porta-Johns, just beyond the field of tents, had evidently been overflowing for days, and entering one was pretty disgusting, even to pee. I was glad that circumstances had shortened the time we had to spend there, the free music not quite making up for lack of creature comforts.

The misty light of sunrise revealed the debris of what had been, for a few days, a small city of half a million people. Empty wine bottles, soda and beer cans, paper bags, blankets, clothing, trampled nylon tents, and smoldering campfires dotted the pasture.

We were too tired to be very hungry. We had eaten the chips and sandwiches we brought along and made a breakfast of some grapes, a package of peanut butter crackers, and a couple of warm Cokes. We wandered around the field taking in the sights—lots of shirtless, barefoot young men caught my eye—as we headed toward the gate.

“You ready to leave?” I asked Michael. “Or do you want to hear more?”

Much of the crowd had already deserted the venue during the night as even hippies had responsibilities that came with Monday morning. Neither Michael nor I had anywhere to be.

“Yeah, I’m ready to go. I hope we can find the car,” Michael said. “I think we came in from over there.” He pointed to the left. 

We walked along the side of the road past a wooded area and a pond where people were swimming and washing up. There were a few naked guys and girls splashing around and I envied their freedom. I couldn’t see much from the road, so I also envied their up-close view of the activity.

*      *      *      *      *

In the months and years after Woodstock, although I may have looked the part, I was never a full-fledged, card-carrying, hallucinogenic drug-using, communal hippie—unless, of course, you count smoking marijuana and sharing an apartment with six other guys and the fact that I wore tattered bell-bottom jeans and let my hair grow into an Afro.

No, I was not a hippie, but I was gravitating toward not so much my own comfort level but the least uncomfortable of the available options. The most uncomfortable was the dorm environment created by the beer-swilling, macho campus-boys who got drunk on Friday evening, remained that way all day Saturday, and left the bathrooms in shambles. I would spend as much time away from them as possible; some weekends practically living in the student center, the snack bar, and the library.

Off-campus life suited me better, but required more planning and depended on friends actually wanting to share space. I hung around with two different circles of friends—one, a group of conscientious, more or less asexual, closeted, or in-denial gays; and the other, a group of academic, asexual, or closeted straights who experimented with mind-expanding drugs, believed in the cultural revolution, and called themselves freaks.

Mine was mostly a tangential role, where I and a few others occupied the space intersecting these two overlapping circles, like a Venn diagram. I drifted among the groups but never felt as if I really fit in anywhere. 

But they were the folks that were, in one way or another, my friends, my support system, and my social circle during my senior year and the year after when I returned to make up the few credits I needed to graduate.

My identity as a student was defined partly by my living situation—one that seemed to change each semester and with it, my lifestyle. One semester I’d be an intellectual recluse and live in a private room in the senior dorm; another semester, I’d be isolated in a small apartment with Michael; then I’d be in a large house with six other guys where I often felt like an interloper. I even lived for a time in the basement catacombs of a huge convent where Phil Swanson and I each had a room in exchange for kitchen cleaning duties. But even that was his gig; I felt like a homeless freeloader.

Nineteen sixty-nine and 1970 were depressing years, judging by most of the music we listened to, like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” or their Bookends album: music to slit wrists by. 

Around that time, a bunch of us got together to run a coffee house in an empty building on campus. I made espresso, hot chocolate, and mulled cider while the others played guitar, sang protest songs, and read poetry.

The guys I hung around with shared similar ideas about social justice and antiwar issues and apprehensions about getting drafted. I was more than worried about the military draft, especially with my college deferment about to run out. I couldn’t imagine how I’d survive the induction medical exam, let alone boot camp. After all, just being with a bunch of guys on a basketball court could precipitate an anxiety attack and make me feel thoroughly emasculated. The sustained anxiety I would experience in basic training and living in barracks was too frightening even to think about.

In December 1969, the United States Selective Service instituted a draft lottery. All of our male bodies were numbered by a chance drawing of birthdates to establish the order in which we would be called into military service and possibly go to war. Those with low numbers would be certain to be called soon after graduation when our academic deferments could no longer protect us. The lottery sorted us like goats and sheep ready for a June judgment day.

“Lucky me, I got 23,” Walt Hawley said with his usual sarcasm. “What’d you get?”

Walt was a journalism major. Back in sophomore year, Walt and I had written a regular column for the college newspaper, which we titled “Diogenes.” We were quite audacious in our choice of topics and commentary, at least for the times and the milieu of a small Catholic liberal arts college not used to boat-rocking. That was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and Walt and I along with a handful of sober and socially conscious students staged a sit-in to prevent a student-sponsored, Spring-Break-Keg-Party-and-Parade from moving off campus into the streets. We held hands and sat across the college access road. The drunks were pissed. It was my first protest.

“I’m 334,” I said, almost embarrassed to admit that I’d been spared a stint in the army by sheer luck, and knowing that Walt was sure to be called.


“Well, that calls for a couple of beers,” Walt said. I wasn’t sure if he intended to numb his own fears or to celebrate my good fortune. I was soon certain it was the former, because Walt got pretty shit-faced.



Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Fourth of July 2019

Found all kinds of political stuff on the Internet that I could post here on this very, let's say UNIQUE, Fourth of July 2019.

But instead, here is a picture of my Bougainvillea that I bought from the barely alive plant clearance shelf at Lowe’s about two months ago. It was basically a stick with a few leaves in a pot of dirt. Paid $5 for it. 

I figured I could revive it but it has exceeded my expectations. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Pride Santa Fe 2019

Went to Pride Festival in Santa Fe with Denise and the dogs, Benni and Gilbert (our house guest while his dads are away).

New York it ain't...but....It is amazing that this festival takes place (or can take place) here and around the globe 50 years after the Stonewall riots. 

Stonewall...the protest that came as a result of so many years, so many centuries, of oppression. It is an oppression that we all carry within our collective and individual memory and in our consciousness and in our viscera. 

Liberation from that oppression is sweet. But we are definitely not there yet.

It is amazing that I can be there with my rainbow hat and a young woman comes up to me and says "I love your fedora!" and high fives me. We've come a long way baby.





I wonder if the youngsters know that the music they're dancing to is by Bronski Beat and released 35 years ago in 1984!
(Sorry for the delayed flip - it will go horizontal momentarily)



I remember going to Gay Pride in NYC in the late 80s or early 90s with a group of the kids from Your Turf - the youth support group I and Leon and Joyce and Robin facilitated. One of the "graduates" of the group had a job driving school busses and was able to rent a bus for the day. About 15 kids and 10 adults went to Pride on that bus. We never even thought about getting "parental permission" or whether we needed special insurance, or if it was illegal to transport kids across state lines. Most were in their late teens or early twenties, so I guess we were OK.


Me and Leon
I was moved when the "Gender Non-conforming" contingent marched by. 

I was thinking how wonderful that these individuals can express their "I Am What I Am-ness" and how they deserve the basic human right to be who they are and who they choose to be without some right-wingnut, fundamentalist christian judgmental bigot telling them otherwise and trying to deny them that right...so...

For the finale:




Friday, June 28, 2019

Happy 50th Anniversary Stonewall and LGBT PRIDE

I'm not going to write much except to say Thank You to all the pioneers of Gay Liberation and LGBT  Movement for Equality.

I've worn the Lambda since 1984
So many TV specials and YouTube documentaries have aired or have been available to stream this month. Go look them up.



Happy Pride!

sparkly rainbow

sparkly rainbow pictures

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Some of My Favorite Romantic Songs by My Favorite Artists

It's summer and thoughts of salt water waves, sandy beaches, romantic sunsets, fresh seafood, cruising the bay, driving over the dunes, and listening to beautiful music by my favorite artists takes over my thoughts frequently while living here in the high desert. Sigh.

Songs by Antonio Carlos Jobin, artists Laura Pausini, Gilberto Gil, Astrud Gilberto, Sergio Mendes are among my favorites.

Laura Pausini and Gilberto Gil alternate in this song which is so beautiful in the romance languages of Italian and Brazilian Portuguese. Gil's voice is sooo sexy.


I have never been to Brazil, but Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto transport me to a quiet, steamy nightclub overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Is it the saxophone that makes me feel so romantic?


Pure fantasy but I could put myself in the place of the morning sun....


Dindi, (pronounced chin-chi or gin-gee) ...telling stories that no one believes...


The English version of Seamisai (If you Love, You Know) is not what the Italian/Portuguese sounds like:
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/Se-ami-sai-If-you-love-you-know.html

Don’t say “no”, as I know you and I know
what you think
don’t tell me “no”.
It’s been some time now that I haven’t heard you
talking of love
using the future tense for us
and there’s no use in repeating to me again that you love me
because now that smile of yours in the mornings
has disappeared
because you don’t give me anything of yourself anymore.
If you love you know when everything is over
if you love you know, like a sad shudder
like a film whose scenes you’ve seen before
and that it’s going away now, oh no!
You always know when a story has concluded
and it’s not possible to make up more excuses
if you love, take my hands
as before tomorrow arrives
it’ll be over.
And it’s not possible
to close your eyes and pretend nothing happens
as you try and do when you’re by my side
and you don’t have the courage to tell me what’s going on
inside me it’ll be like a winter
night because
from now on I’ll be without you
If you love you know when everything is over
if you love you know, like a sad shudder
like a film whose scenes you’ve seen before
and that it’s going away now, oh no!
You know very well when the pain sets on
and the end of a love story has arrived
but if you love, take my hands
as before tomorrow arrives
you’ll leave, you won’t be
here with me

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Desert Contrasts - Gardens, Flowers, Sand, Stone and Water.

Desert Contrasts - Gardens, Flowers, Sand, Stone and Water: A photo montage. 
Click photos to enlarge.

Albuquerque has a beautiful Botanical Garden as part of its BioPark which includes a zoo and aquarium. I especially like the Japanese Garden which has a very New England feel, with trees, pond, and shrubbery that is found more often in Connecticut than in most of New Mexico.
#1 Spring display with pansies and poppies.
#2 Peonies 
#3 Koi Pond
#4 Pink Peony
#5 Sitting Duck
#6 Quack
#7 Koi in Foreground
#8 Walk Bridge
#9 Ornamental Garden
#10 Poppies
#11 Pretty (but I don't know what they are).
#12 Some Kind of Blue
#13 Alligator Juniper
#14 Columbine
#15 Pansies and Poppies
Leaving the environment of cultivated and irrigated flora brings us into the natural environment of the high desert where wild flowers were/are abundant this year. Here are some pretty ones:
#16 tetraneuris scaposa - Four-Nerve Daisy
Cochiti Lake, NM
#17 sphaeralcea ambigua - Desert Globemallow
Cochiti Lake, NM

#18 tetraneuris scaposa - Four-Nerve Daisy
Cochiti Lake, NM
#19 Loco Weed? Cochiti Lake, NM
#20 Un-identified Purple Flowers
Santa Fe, NM
#21 Cholla, Las Cruces, NM
#22 Cholla, Las Cruces, NM
#23 Opuntia - Prickly Pear
Las Cruces, NM
#24 Purple Cholla, Las Cruces, NM
#25 Ocotillo and Apache Plume
Organ Mt, NM
#26 Ocotillo, Blue Sky and the Outcropping
Organ Mountains, NM

On our current trip to southern New Mexico one of our stops was at White Sands National Monument. We'd been there eons ago, before we were likely to frequent Cape Cod. As we were driving in I couldn't help but be reminded of the dunes in Provincetown...and I immediately got into a funk.

So like Provincetown I half expected to see the ocean at Race Point beyond the highest dune, but, instead of an ocean (there was one here a million years ago) all there was was more white sand. So we saw white sand and more white sand and the more sand we was, the more depressed I got.

Besides it was hot. I don't seem to be able to tolerate heat (or cold) like I used to. Not to mention that hiking seems to take a lot more effort, even though I walk quite a bit every day. The heat just saps the energy out of me.

Enough of white sand, we headed up to Cloudcroft.

#27 Reminds me of the Dunes at the Cape
#28 Leon of Arabia and the Dog, Benni
#29 Blue Sky, Sand and Yucca
#30 Blue and White

In such stark contrast to the endless sand was the mountain country near Cloudcroft where evergreen trees - pine and fir - dominate the landscape. And where Benni was able to have a good, off-leash run, sniff new smells and chase sticks. 

We went from 90 degree+ baking heat at White Sands to wet, rainy and 50 degree cold in Cloudcroft. I had to buy a sweatshirt; I was shivering. Small town that survives on skiing and people from the hot regions going there to cool off. 

Flashback to Vermont. The cold rain ended and the sun came through to warm us up a bit.
#31 Leon and Benni in Cloudcroft
#32 Grassy Meadow with Aspen
#33 The Cool Green of the Aspen Trees
Went back to camp and heat in Las Cruces.

We were amazed at the agriculture in Las Cruces. Miles of pecan trees in neat rows were delightful to see. Many of the orchards were flooded - purposely - to irrigate the trees. Other crops were also being grown and the system of acequias or canals is vital to the farmers here and throughout New Mexico. Imported palm trees are common in landscaped yards.
#34 Rows of Pecans, Orchard in Las Cruces
From Las Cruces, we headed to Carlsbad. Later that day at camp, a pretty bad hail storm hit. New Mexico: heat, wind, lightening, hail. But it beats a large part of the US that is under water.

 Went to Carlsbad Caverns. We could have sworn we were here years ago but nothing we saw seemed to correspond to a memory. And Leon has a memory, whereas I have a forgettory. It was a long hike down into the cave where we saw all kinds of interesting stalactites and stalagmites and lots of rock. Almost as fascinating as the rock formations was the engineering feat that paved the walkway, built stone barriers and fashioned steel railings that followed a serpentine pathway. We emerged three hours later through the wonder of the speedy elevator.

Photos of the cavern are not spectacular as everything is monochromatic and theatrically lit.
#35 In the Cavern
Later that day we decided to drive out to Sitting Bull Falls. It is about a 36 mile drive off the main road through scrub desert terrain. The thirty-six miles seemed more like ninety-six. (Getting nervous as we had not filled the thirsty diesel truck). The only thing to see besides dirt and rocks and weeds was the occasional herd of cattle, some of the creatures actually crossing the road at their leisure. Out there somewhere is the promise of an oasis, a natural spring fed waterfall. We kept driving...
#36 Scrub Desert As Far as the Eye Can See
Near Carlsbad, NM
Yes, there, after the Lincoln National Forest sign (day use pay area - National Parks Senior Pass accepted) one comes to a very neatly kept parking lot, a number of picnic shelters surrounded by grassy lawns, a comfort station and info kiosk. Just beyond the picnic area are the falls. This is not a very crowded spot. There were maybe six other people there during our visit.

Interestingly, the falls, while surrounded by desert and desert flora had a very different micro climate and eco system. Willows, grape vines, ferns and mosses flourish there. In some ways I found this oasis to be more fascinating than the caverns of Carlsbad.
#37 Sitting Bull Falls

#38 Grape Vines
#38 Maidenhair Fern
#39 A Cool Pool
#40 Frank, Benni and Leon
A few more pics from a little restaurant in Mesilla (Josefina's Old Gate Cafe) where we had a late breakfast one morning this past week.
# 41 Leon, Benni Lounging
#42 Interesting Wooden Portal
#43 Old Gate at Josefina's
Spent the day tooling around Carlsbad. Impressions: Oil, gas, drilling, fracking, industrial, trucks, lots of very clean, fairly new, WHITE pick-up trucks (seems like some kind of status symbol), nice river front park, nice homes along and near the Pecos river, not so nice away from town, white and Mexican, lots of Texans, some wealth, some poverty, lots of machinery being lugged around, macho, family, religion, no ice cream shops we could find. Bought a tub of Butter Pecan and a tub of strawberry frozen yogurt at the market.

Heading home tomorrow - Sunday, May 19.

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