by wjw on July 28, 2021

An excellent suggestion from the closed movie theater in Center, CO.


Local Green

by wjw on July 26, 2021

So the sign on the hotel door read NO SMOKING OF ANYTHING INSIDE!

“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “I must be in Colorado.”

We are on our first trip out of state since August 2019, cruising up central Colorado to Steamboat Springs and back, magnificent scenery all the way, cool temperatures, and signs of a thriving green economy. No less than three cannabis dispensaries are lined up in a row next to our hotel. I wondered if this was the one block zoned for cannabis.

New Mexico recently decriminalized simple possession, but it’s still illegal for me to buy it, or to buy legal Colorado pot and take it into my home state, which seems pretty silly. But then cannabis laws have always been ridiculous, and I don’t doubt that even after everything’s legal, legacy dimwitted rigamarole will remain.


Sun and Smoke

by wjw on July 21, 2021

The other day we meandered down to Belen to view a work by the artist Judy Chicago. She and her husband moved to Belen some years ago and bought an old brick railroad hotel. They live in part of the hotel, and use the rest to store art. (Since Chicago tends to go in for massive installations along the lines of The Dinner Party, they need a lot of room.)

(I might point out that while I live close enough to Belen to share a zip code, I live well out into the country amid the waving fields of alfalfa. So Judy Chicago and I aren’t neighbors or anything.)

Chicago has recently gone in for smoke sculpture, partly as a comment on the sort of (mostly male) artists who sculpt entire landscapes into works of “land art,” shoving dirt around with bulldozers and pouring tons of concrete. Smoke, by contrast, dissipates and leaves no footprint on the earth.

Chicago owns a small gallery in Belen, and the gravel lot in front of the gallery was loaded up with a large array of pyrotechnics. The performance was scheduled for 6:30, then moved to 6:00 out of concern for monsoon weather. We duly arrived on the hot sidewalk at six, and nothing happened. We toured the gallery, but found it hotter than the 90+ degrees outside.

A local wine bar was open, where one could sample and buy Judy Chicago’s bespoke wine. I heard the performance had been delayed for two hours, thought about drinking wine for those hours, and decided against it. If there were tapas, I might have changed my mind.

A strong wind was blowing, and I thought that most of the audience was going to get a lot of smoke in their faces. (In the event, they did.) I presume the delays mostly had to do with hoping the wind would die down, which it didn’t. No one seemed to know quite what was going on, and I wished someone with a bullhorn would come out and tell us what to expect and when. Members of Chicago’s posse wandered around carrying high-end video cameras intended to document the experience. A drone cruised overhead, and there was a flash as it took my picture. Thus was I made immortal.

“We’re on Artist Time,” Kathy said. “It’s like Indian Time, only more vague.”

With the heat and the delay and nothing to do but get drunk, I got pretty cranky before the event kicked off, nearly two hours late. I stationed myself on the flank of the event, so the smoke would get blown past me and not at me.

Someone came out and lit a fuse, and suddenly there was a rolling series of crackling booms as dozens of red highway flares lit. They had been set up as a rectangle surrounding the larger pyrotechnics, as a kind of delimiting boundary between the event and the rest of us.

Then the big bombs began to go off, hurling yellow and red smoke into the sky. The wind ripped it all away, and much of the audience vanished into the red cloud. The air smelled like fireworks. I have no idea what the sculpture was supposed to look like, all the smoke going straight up into the sky maybe, but what I saw was spectacular and joyous (but then I really love fireworks and blowing stuff up generally). It went on for maybe ten minutes, and then the smoke poured away between the buildings. (Driving home, I followed behind this big cloud of smoke as it traveled over the landscape. Probably my neighbors thought half the town had vanished in a huge explosion.)

Most fireworks shows have some kind of ideological content, from Bonfire Night to Cinco de Mayo to the Fourth of July, and Chicago’s was no different. I reflected that if this were a standard fireworks show, (1) it would have started on time, and (2) would have lasted a lot longer.

Nevertheless it was something unique, especially for the neighborhood, and it was colorful and noisy and fun. In the end, I had good time, but if this happens again, I’ll try to improvise some kind of personal air conditioner.


Foot of the Bow

by wjw on July 17, 2021

I apologize for the poor quality of this photo, but I shot in through the screen, in some haste to capture the image before it vanished.

If you observe the rainbow from today’s cloudburst, you’ll see it stretches all the way to the ground in front of the treeline. The rainbow actually touches ground a couple hundred yards from where I stood. I’d never seen that before.

The rain was intense while it lasted, and all the while in brilliant sunshine. I expected to see a unicorn, or at the very least a pot of gold.


Rain, Glorious Rain

by wjw on July 11, 2021

Of the last fifteen days, fourteen have featured rain of some sort, anywhere from a light drizzle to an hours-long thundershower. The monsoons came a month early, and it’s been glorious.

New Mexico normally receives half its yearly rainfall in July and August, as big brawling Pacific summer storms battle their way across all of Mexico to dump the last of their rain on us, but the last few years the monsoons have come late, leaving my neighborhood sweltering in 100-degree plus heat, and me hiding in my air-conditioned house. When the monsoons came in two weeks ago, they came with a cold front, and for over a week I could venture outdoors and enjoy mild temperatures.

But gradually the temperatures crept upward, and despite a considerable rainfall yesterday evening, today’s high was 104, so now we have heat and humidity.

Nevertheless we really needed the rainfall. The snowpack was light last winter, and the reservoirs were running low and the Conservancy District was restricting the amount of irrigation people could take.

When the rains come, all New Mexico begins to dance. The deserts take on this eerie pale green color that I’ve never seen anywhere else. And it’s possible to go to sleep with the sound of rain pattering on the roof overhead, which for me is the most restful sleep possible.

Maybe it’s time for my nap.


From the Family Archives

July 7, 2021

So have I ever told you about the time my dad was held hostage by a gun-wielding madman? No, I didn’t think so. My dad was quite young at the time, under ten years of age, so perhaps his memories of the incident aren’t 100% accurate, but on the other hand it’s not the sort […]

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Midsummer Sale!

July 1, 2021

The ebook of Fleet Elements is on sale most everywhere for $1.99! Check it out! The sale began on June 28— though I only found out today— and will run through August 2nd. Buy it while it’s hot!

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June 30, 2021

While the Northwest U.S. and Canada are suffering under their “heat dome,” with Canada thrice recording an all-time high temperature of 121F, my own neighborhood is experiencing a cold front. The weekend’s predicted rain in Taos Ski Valley was delayed— I got in two hikes, not one, before the skies opened— but when the rain […]

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Havoc x 2

June 28, 2021

June Havoc harmonizes with June Havoc singing “The Man With the Big Sombrero.” I keep thinking the sombrero is a metaphor for something, but I can’t imagine what. June Havoc, it will be remembered, was the younger sister of noted ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee. She was pretty much the definition of trouper, having (as “Baby […]

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Rained Out

June 25, 2021
Thumbnail image for Rained Out

I’m in my happy place, which is to say Taos Ski Valley. But Nature is not in tune with my bliss. We thought a few days in the cool of the mountains would be an antidote to the misery of the 100-degree parched desert of our home, and we were right. We got reservations on […]

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