Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Quiet Day

 Or Nothing to See Here, Move Along

We went today to Los Alamos, the site of the Manhattan Project to develop atomic weapons in World War II. I'm not sure what I expected, but it is an ordinary town with an extraordinary past. In 1942 it was a remote farming community on a mesa overlooking Santa Fe. It had a few distinctions, it was the site of a paleo Indian pueblo

as well as the New Mexico Ranch School, founded by Arthur Pond, a former Roughrider, to toughen up boys like TR and himself. Among its alums were such varied characters as Gore Vidal and William S. Burroughs, go figure.

And it was known to this man, J. Robert Oppenheimer, a Berkeley physicist and outdoorsman, shown here with his partner and nemesis, Brigadier General Leslie S. Groves
The city has a strange relationship with its past, partly apologetic, partly proud, and partly educational with a strong dose of propaganda. If you go, do the Bradbury Museum and maybe the Historical Museum which in quaint fashion celebrated the people of the community before and after the "Project."

And, finally, there was a pen
Tomorrow, depending on how much rain and/or snow, we will either kick about town for another day or head down to Albuquerque where the weather should be better.

Thinks and stuff and a pen, at last

or Santa Fe, Five: Taking care of Business

No images today as we spent our first totally kickback, non tourist day of the trip. I started the day with a meeting (friends of Bill W.), and then hit Ian’s Garage for an oil change. As much high speed driving under dirty conditions as I have been doing I thought it a good idea, and I generally like to do at least one oil change between scheduled intervals, this is my second. Ian Clemmer is a fanatic in the best sense of the word. If I were within 200 miles of him, he would be doing everything on my cars.

Meanwhile, Sharon was doing some necessary domestic chores and looking up bookstores, since she has already burned through what she bought and has discovered that the joys of e-books are not for her on a regular basis, so we hit Collected Wroks, a lovely little local bookstore, well selected as the best are, and then headed over to hook up with Neal Frank at Santa Fe Pens. As much as pens, Neal is now into SCCA racing, so we talked cars a bit and I came away not with the pen I wanted, a full cutaway demonstrator 1936 silver pearl Vacumatic standard, but a nice little silver plate Pelikan M750.

Dinner? El Meson, where David Huertas does a superb job with Spanish cuisine. As good as The Compound, though not quite as innovative.

Santa Fe: The Taos Edition

--> Everybody goes to Taos, from D.H. Lawrence to us, and there is a reason—the history, the people, the crafts. Even the town is somewhat special, but, especially it is the pueblo. It is the place that people have lived longest continuously in the current day US and it carries an indefinable aura about it that goes beyond that.

And as I remarked to Sharon, it is impossible to take a bad photo there. Unless you can’t take any, and that’s what happened to me mid-morning when I discovered much  to my horror that both of my back-up batteries for my camera were depleted.

Still, I managed to capture about 35 images before, here are a few.
Our tour guide, whose name I never got, is studying preservation architecture at UNM. Proceeds from the tours support her studies, we were generous

As we drove back through the town of Taos, we stopped and shopped, as we are supposed to do and picked up a lovely post World War II Acoma wedding jug and happened across the Taos county courthouse which is undergoing renovations, including some depression era murals. Left with only my iPhone working I snapped a few not so very good images.
These wonderful murals promulgate a liberal/libertarian agenda in the midst of the Great Depression

Dinner that evening was at The Compound, whose owner/chef, Mark Kiffen, received a James Beard award as best chef in New Mexico in 2005. The meal was more than worth the stop. Sharon thought is every bit as good as Chez Panisse.

Monday, April 28, 2014

This is a pen blog, right?

So where are the pens. Uhhhh, wellll, I did look at one or two places along the way between Bryce and Zion and saw one clapped out Eversharp Symphony, I think.

So my only pen companions are those I brought along. Thus far I have used just about everything except the Matador and the Pelikan lapis M101 replica set. I’m sure I’ll get to them.

But, wait, I did come up with a pen, at least an image of a pen, or rather a Waterman’s silver overlay pencil clipped in the jacket pocket (watch that clip) of an early naturalist in Zion Canyon. He was, to my dismay, unidentified, but clearly a man of taste and distinction in the wilderness.

Santa Fe Snow Day

It, truly, did snow today. Not enough to accumulate on the ground where we were, but there is some on the hills around. As a result we spent the day on Museum Hill, at the Museums of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

We had read good things about the Folk Art museum, but were not prepared for just how good it is. Usually I’m not one much for taking pictures of museum exhibits, but . . .

After lunch we went to see the Indian Arts museum. It was fine, good, but I am growing a bit frustrated at not being able to take respectful images of native American subjects. I totally get the point about why, and it is, after all, their heritage, but still . . .

And that’s pretty much it except for one thing. This morning Sharon decided that what has been plaguing her is not a cold so much as chronic altitude sickness. I did a quick Google search and came up with what has been a miracle cure for her. Two 2012 studies seem to show that 600mg of ibuprofen three times daily is effective in quelling the symptoms. FYI

Tomorrow, Taos.
Here you can see the hills frosted

At lunchtime, it actually began to look like real snow

One of the exhibits was on kites from Japan. Tako Kichi means kite crazy

My favorite of them

Another exhibit dealt with folk art and the immigrant experience, including experiences of refugees from the halocausts in WWII and Southeast Asia. This depicts workers trying to enter the US while on the other side a maid serves drinks to a wealthy gringo couple.

Here I was trying to capture the juxtaposition of the carreta driver and the fantastical jaguar motorcycle

The figures at right are Lampião and Maria Bonita, Brazilian Robin Hood figures from the 1930s

Here I imagine them standing guard over the exhibit.
The museum features a massive open storage exhibit of the collection of Alexander Girard. Once the cutting edge, open storage has fallen out of favor for the very reason that this room overwhelms one.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Santa Fe Two:

the Irony Edition. 

So, for the past three weeks we have been going across the southwest eating in roadside diners, cafeterias on Indian reservations, never any problem with food. We get to Santa Fe, one of the wortld food capitals and within twelve hours I am doubled up in the middle of the night with food poisoning. In part, it’s my own fault. Ceasar salad with traditional (raw egg) dressing? What could go wrong?

Nevertheless, we managed to show up at 10:15 for the Santa Fe History Museum’s daily walking tour of the plaza and surrounds. Our Guide was Phillip Jager, a nice man with a great store of knowledge. Among his more interesting-to-me tidbits of information was the headquarters of the Manhattan Project at 109 Palace Street.

We spent the rest of the day low key, wandering the city center and touring the exhibits at the Governor’s Palace. We ran out of steam before we could do the new History Museum proper, did some shopping for supplies, since the casita has a full kitchen, and took it easy the rest of Saturday. Sunday will be a museum day as I continue to recover from Friday’s (mis)adventure and Sharon still struggles with a cold she cannot shake.

One of the places Phil took us into was the historic La Fonda hotel, a marvellous Spanish colonial revival complex of hotel, restaurants and shops.

The Indian Detour was a tour of Indian villages offered by the hotel and the Fanta Fe Railroad in the 1920s

One of Santa Fe's many wonderful hidden placitas (small courtyards).
Inside the Governor's Palace Museum, the Segesser Hide paintings depict a 1720 encounter between the Spanish and the Natives they sought to conquer.

At the end of this corridor is a rather remarkable exhibit, Treasures of Devotion/Tesoros de Devoción, artifacts collected in the 1960s by Larry Frank. It shows how European iconography was practiced in the New World from 1700-1900.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Santa Fe, Parte Uno

It took just a brief afternoon orientation for me to be able, I think, to answer the question why Santa Fe and not Sedona. I’ve been in and through Santa Fe three or four times in my life and every time I came away wanting more, so here we are for a full week, in a very comfortable and spacious casita, where we can eat in if we choose, do laundry and spread out in a way we’ve not been able to in three weeks.

By the time we got here we had driven 290 miles and had stopped briefly in Albuquerque. We were both at low energy, but managed to walk a few blocks around the central plaza and environs and to make plans for tomorrow, to include a two hour walking tour of the city followed by free time to do as whim carries us. Dinner will be at El Meson, a Spanish restaurant that has been discussed favorably in the New York Times, no less.

For now just a few snapshots. I put the camera on auto and pointed and shot.
A few buildings on the main square

The Governor's Palace. Once the most important building in the province, it stretched for several blocks. Waht remains is an important remnant

Although this looks like a common street market, artisans have to be admitted to show here.

A side street

As I was charging ahead to somewhere, Sharon had to call me back to capture this scene. Like all great cities, Santa Fe has its hidden aisles and corridors.

Canyon de Chelly

“Busy” day today at the Canyon de Chelly (and it’s pronounced Shay, a corruption of the Navajo, “tsayi”).

We began the day with a vehicle tour of the canyon floor. These can be done only with a guide and a backcountry permit. Our guide was Terrill Spencer, despite the name, a Navajo.

Apparently man came to live in the canyon with the advent of the people often (and controversially) called the Anasazi around 700AD. It was they who built the cave and cliff dwellings the ruins of which you will see in the images below. No one knows why they left about 300-400 years later. The Navajo, Hopi and Zuni all moved back into the canyon later, around 1200 and it seems that people have lived on the canyon floors since.

What is remarkable is that people still live in the canyon today. Almost all the Navajos we have spoken with have family members who have land holdings and who spend summers down there.

What there is to see here is the “written” and anthropological record of man in the canyon.  What is written is literally carved in stone and painted on the rocks. The record of events, habitation and the like of the people who lived here. More remarkable yet are the ruins of what they built, villages carved into and out of the rocks, high above the canyon floor. Looking at images of these they often seem like miniatures, but people lived in them.

After Terrill left us, we toured the North Rim of the canyon by car and on foot from the overlooks, some of which are not easy to reach and must have been built many decades ago.

There’s a lot that could be said about this place. At one point near the end of the day, standing alone at a remote and windswept overlook, I heard music from a flute. Not I thought I heard music, I heard music, so clearly that I looked around to see some nearby source. There was none. Whether it was the music of the Anasazi or something more recent and “real,” I have no idea.

And there is a lot that could be said about the Navajo Nation, though I first want to thank the officer who stopped, but did not write me, for rolling a stop sign. The Navajos are more modern and adaptive than the Hopi, their family structures and housing conforming more to that of the mainstream culture. Terrill said that as many as half the Navajo follow Christianity. But they still seem to suffer some of the same ills their brethren do.

All that said, I feel that this aspect of our trip has enriched my understanding of the native peoples of America and how they live their lives in a culture that is so foreign to their values. Tomorrow we are off to another of the centerpieces of our trip—Santa Fe, where we will be for a week.

The petroglyphs tell a story here of a birth (kokopeli on his back with a snake approaching from the left, a birthing woman and the handprints of the family or clan

They look like miniatures, but here a village in a cleft in a rock, one of many in the canyon

The view from the canyon floor. Terrill said that in winter the water would be 10' deep, though not this last year

Terrill and Sharon in our trusty Jeep Wrangler

The first white man to see these dwellings, JV Conway of Santa Fe, left his mark in 1879

A modern day dwelling. Most move down here once the children are out of school for the summer.

Here you can even see some of the vigas used to support the roof

The building on the left is a hogan, the traditional Navajo house