Month: June 2018

The Rewind Button. Part III.

500x350 four kachinas sign

The Church Of Beethoven.

The next day, our tour guides, Linda and Jim, took us back to Santa Fe where we meandered up the Canyon Road art district.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the way of art in its countless galleries, you may as well give up.  From there, we had lunch at the the historic La Fonda hotel, right on the central plaza.  Nothing changed my opinion that it’s tough to get bad Mexican food in New Mexico.

Back To The Four Kachinas.

On out way out of town,  we drove by the Four Kachinas, the B&B I’d stayed a couple of nights before.  Something we did a few days later in Albuquerque turned my thoughts back there.

The cook responsible for the second “B” was a young woman who lived in a trailer home outside of town.  After the other guests had left, I visited with her as she cleaned up.

She’s studying to be nurse at night school.  When she learned I was from Denver, she asked, “Have you ever heard of the Victory Chapel in Lakewood?”

An impressive woman.  Working at a B&B that caters to the affluent, scraping by in a trailer park, going to night school, and yet willing to go out on a limb for her Lord.

“No,” I answered, “can’t say that I have.  How do you know about that church?”

“It’s the home church for the one I go to here,” she replied.  “And I’m going to Denver this summer for a weekend convention there.”

“Well,” I said, “hope it goes well.  My wife and I attend a Greenwood Community Church in Denver.”

The Chattering Classes.

Sunday morning, back in Albuquerque, the four of us went to Chatter.  Not our first rodeo there with Jim and Linda; it’s an intimate space in the warehouse district where chamber music-among other things-are performed.

Formerly known as the Church of Beethoven, I have to confess to a frisson of Schadenfreude when I learned that the name change was due to a trade mark dispute with the estate of the deceased founder, Felix Wurman and his collaborator, David Felberg.

While, by the way, there is some dispute about Beethoven’s religious beliefs, it is generally agreed that he never attended church.  His friend, Haydn, thought he was an atheist.

Call me hopelessly old fashioned, but why not go to a real church on Sunday mornings?   Don’t get me wrong.  I like classical music as much as the next guy.  And the musicians excelled on works by Mendelssohn and Schumann.

However, I found that a couple other offerings on the morning’s program were about as soothing as ragged nails being dragged across a chalkboard.  The “Spoken Word,” by Megan Baldridge, featured a mercifully brief anti-Trump diatribe from her cleverly titled, UNpresidented, collection of poetry.   The audience was suitably appreciative.

And then there was the “Celebration of Silence:  Two Minutes.”  It was so easy to imagine this exercise morphing into an Orwellian “Two Minutes Hate” if the fellow up front had suggested that we focus our thoughts on the President.

Classical Music Awash In An Sea Of Fracked Oil.

At the bottom right of the program there was a little box that read, “Chatter is grateful for the support of New Mexico Arts, a Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs.”

“Aha!” I thought, “just like cultural events in Denver, this outfit is probably supported by a regressive sales tax to subsidize the elite pleasures of the old and affluent.”  Sure enough, as I walked out I conducted an unscientific survey and counted no more than about 20 in the crowd of 200-300 who appeared to be under the age of 35.  The rest, like me, were old codgers.

Wrong again-at least about the sales tax.  Although I checked the NMA website when I got home, it only said that the state devotes “1%” to support public art.  But one percent of what?  It didn’t say.

So I called.

The lady who took my call was pleasant and helpful.  “I went to Chatter recently,” I said, “and saw that you provide some of its support.  I looked on your website, but couldn’t figure out where that money comes from.  Is it a sales tax or something else?”

She reported that the legislature set the budget each year.  “And,” she continued, “a lot of that comes from oil and gas revenues.”

Indeed.  New Mexico recently passed Oklahoma and California to become the third largest oil producer in the country.  Being pumped from the Permian basin just across the border from Texas, virtually all of that oil is coming from fracked wells.

Maybe at the next Chatter, the leader of the “Celebration of Silence: Two Minutes” can suggest that the crowd send happy thoughts the way of the oil business.

What’s In A Name?

According to an Albuquerque newspaper, the organization’s founder, Wurman, intended the name, The Church of Beethoven, to be “ironic.”

Now, I know that “ironic” can be one of those slippery words with multiple definitions.  But according to Google, some synonyms include sarcastic, sardonic, cynical, mocking, satirical, caustic, wry.”  And context is telling.

And could the context make it any more plain what was intended by the original name?  The Church of Beethoven.  On Sunday morning.  This, in other words, is where the smart set is on Sunday mornings.

And to what end?  To demonstrate that these “church” goers aren’t among the booboisie squandering their Sunday mornings at those oh-soretrograde real churches.

Like, for example, the Victory Temple. The church the young woman at the Four Kachinas attends.  And who, scraping by in a trailer park, is going to night school.  And is, no doubt, a card carrying member of that booboisie.

I wonder what those two Jewish founders of the Church of Beethoven would think of a Friday musical soiree, at sundown, called the Shabbat of Wagner?  The irony would probably have them in stitches.

Happy Trails To You.

I could probably go on.  But, I fear, I’ve already kicked over too many hornets’ nests.

So, until we meet again.







There I Go. Part II.

600x450 marcus asmus

Truckin’ Like The Doodah Man.

As Jane Austen’s novel, Pride And Prejudice, works so deliciously toward its satisfying conclusion, Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper says of Darcy’s sister, “. . . and so accomplished!-She plays and sings all day long.”

Also true of my Albuquerque sister, Linda.  But playing and singing is just the beginning.  Yes, she’s good on the piano and guitar. And she’s sung in choral groups that have taken on some of the most demanding works in the repertoire.

She’s also multilingual, including fluent Swahili.  During her career teaching English as a second language, heaven only knows how many languages she picked up.

A serious birder, she has somewhere near near 6,000 species, of the world’s 10,500, on her life list.  A good enough seamstress, in her younger years, to make her husband, Jim, a work suit.  (My wife’s also very good, but that’s something she never even attempted.)

And, something I particularly admire, she’s given to hospitality with their elegant adobe style home that she largely decorated.

After retirement, and nearly single handedly, she ran a school for children in Tanzania for several years. She’d gone there originally to climb 19,340 foot Mt. Kilimanjaro-which she did.  But she fell in love with the people of Tanzania.  However, this was where the force of her irresistible personality ran up against the rock of African corruption.  Despite hiring a personal guard, the rock prevailed.

She wrote a book about getting up the mountain called, Climbing Kili.   She still writes.  But, now I think, mostly indignant letters to the editor about Trump, guns, and New Mexico’s notorious drunk drivers.

Did I mention that she and Jim are inveterate world travelers?  Oh, yeah.  I did.

I could go on.  But I’ll leave it at this:  of us four siblings, Linda best fits “and so accomplished!”

On To Taos.

But I get ahead of myself; I haven’t even gotten to Taos.  Let alone Albuquerque.

From Cimarron and lunch at the St. James, I headed west and then turned right on 38 to drive the northern half of the loop around the state’s highest peak, Mt. Wheeler.  The shortest day of the trip, it was a scenic cruise to my room at the Taos Inn, where they’ve been welcoming guests since 1936.

Not sure what came over me, but while at the Inn, I sprang for a whimsical, colorful painting by Mark Asmus of a matador leading a parade of bulls past the Taos library.  Entitled Mayhemit was one of a series based on quirky police blotter reports.  Marleen wasn’t amused.  When will I ever learn?

Going Nuclear.

The next morning, and at Linda’s suggestion, I headed northwest from Taos on US 64.  Good thing, too.  Otherwise, I might’ve missed the “High Bridge” over the thin, green ribbon of the Rio Grande, an airy 800 feet below where I iPhoned this picture.

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

That third day was the longest of the trip.  A favorite among bikers, I saw more motorcycles on the sensuous two lane road than cars.  Punctuated by views that seemed to stretch out forever, by the time I’d loped around to Española, my right knee was feeling every inch of it.  Badly in need of a break, I pulled into a taco joint that, at best, looked greasy.  But, apparently, it’s tough to get a bad Mexican meal in New Mexico; the food was fine.

The couple in the next booth, although a bit rough rough around the edges, were very friendly.  When I started off with, “You look like you know your way around here.  How do I get to Los Alamos?”, he was ready with an answer. “No problem. Go left out of the parking lot, take another left at the first light, and then go left at the highway.  That’ll take you right up to Los Alamos.”

Model of the Gadget

Model of the Gadget

Forty-five minutes later, I was standing in front of a mock up of “The Gadget,” the nuclear bomb that had been built at Los Alamos and then tested in the New Mexican desert.  And which, thankfully, brought World War II to a swift conclusion, sparing American and Japanese casualties that some have estimated could have run into the millions.

Road’s End.

Given the highly toxic and sometimes dangerous experiments that took place at Los Alamos, Santa Fe seems a bare hop, skip and a jump down the hill from where the nuclear age dawned.

And, after a restful night at the elegant Four Kachinas B&B in Santa Fe, it was not much further to Albuquerque. Where I dropped off my six banger Camry at Hertz. And where Linda picked me up.  What’s the saying?  “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  Probably not the smartest thing to have flit across one’s mind when visiting your sister. But it was going to be tough to top the journey.

However, if anyone could do it, Linda and Jim could.  They’d gotten a jump on it early that morning by taking Marleen on a day long excursion to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Reserve for bird watching on the lower Rio Grande.

And they were just getting started.

Here I Am. Part I.

Lobby of the St. James Hotel

Lobby of the St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico

On The Road Again.

It was a bleary eyed 6 a.m., only one day after I got back to Denver, when my trainer, Charlie, asked, “What was your favorite part of the trip to see your sister in Albuquerque?”

Almost without thinking, I answered, “The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico.  They had 26 killings there back in the days of the Wild West.  There’re still bullet holes in the ceiling to prove it.  I saw that on the Philmont Scout Ranch website.  Philmont,” I continued, “is close to Cimarron and my son and I went on a trek there years ago. They recommended getting lunch at the St. James at the NRA Training Center just down the road from Cimarron.  There’s a neat firearms museum at the Center.”

Talk about a guy kind of discussion.  And you’ve probably seen the news that both Cimarron and Philmont have since been evacuated because of raging wild fires.  Triggered by the relentless drought that’s had the Southwest in its grip for years.

But there was a lot more to like about my trip than the St. James.  Plenty more.  My wife, Marleen, unfortunately wasn’t with me because of a touch of sciatica.  She flew both ways; I rented a car down and flew home with her.

Don’t Be Myopic.  Take Your Eyes Off The I-70 Mountain Corridor. And See The Wonders Of Rural Colorado.

Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch in Colorado

Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch in Colorado

I took back roads, looping out to the eastern plains. I briefly stopped at the Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch.  I’d been to Peaceful Valley first when I was a kid in the Scouts; then years later with my own son, Byron.

From Peaceful Valley, it was further east through Calhan, the home town of Marsha Looper.  I sat next to Marsha for several years in the Colorado House.   She was a smart, capable legislator. She was traveling when I passed through her small town; too bad we weren’t able to grab a cup of coffee.

Then, it was further east to Limon, where I had lunch a few doors down from the dispiriting ruins of The Golden Inn.  The site of the biggest fire in Limon history, there was little sign that any progress had been made in cleaning up the blackened remains even though the hotel had been reduced to a tangled hulk six months earlier.

Sure, the Front Range and the I-70 mountain corridors are doing just fine, thank you.  But rural Colorado’s in trouble.  Need proof?  Look no further than the ruins of The Golden Inn in Limon.  And, while you’re there, get lunch; they could use your business.

Along The Ruts Of The Santa Fe Trail.

The "town" of Delhi, CO

The “town” of Delhi, CO

From Limon, it was a straight shot south on lonely highway 71 to US 350.   That two lane road, veers to the southwest, paralleling the fast disappearing wagon ruts of the old Santa Fe Trail.  As the sun declined in the west, the vast, gently rolling grasslands of Comanche National Grasslands and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site rolled by.  An occasional clump of antelope browsed near the barbed wire fence line.

Despite the drought that has wracked southeast Colorado for years, the late spring grass looked surprisingly good.  Clad in blue haze, ridge lines rolled away to the distant Rockies like ocean breakers.  Although now little more than tattered ruins, “towns” like Delhi, Thatcher, Tyrone, and Model still show up as dots on the map.

As I cruise controlled along, I listened, sometimes laughing ’til I veered toward the road’s shoulder, sometimes puzzled by snarled plot twists, to a wonderful tale of small time Boston hoods, The Digger’s Game.  By the prolific George V. Higgins, it’s definitely worth a read.

Occasionally, however, I turned off Digger and chewed on a nagging question:  “How did I vote on that bill expanding the Fort Carson army base in Colorado Springs to include the Comanche Grasslands and even more land around Piñon Canyon?”  I hoped the answer was “No.”  But feared, in the wake of the hysteria surrounding the “Global War On Terror,” that it was “Yes.”  Sure enough, when I got back home and checked, I was a “Yes”.  Not a vote I’m proud of.  Nor did I do any good for those folks down in that part of the state struggling to maintain their hardscrabble way of life.  The one redeeming virtue of my vote?  I was on the losing side.

That evening I pulled into Trinidad.  It’s where the Santa Fe Trail turned south to climb over the nearby Raton Pass before dropping into New Mexico.  I was on the lookout for the B&B I was booked into for the night, The Heart of Trinidad.  Not fancy, but my hostess served up some mean blueberry pancakes, good coffee, and friendly patter as I enjoyed breakfast the next morning.

“The Ludlow Massacre?  What’s That?”

mining monument in Trinidad

Mining monument in Trinidad, CO

Trinidad has a gritty coal mining heritage.  In 1914, The Ludlow Massacre occurred a few miles north and west of here.  The opening salvo in one of the deadliest labor disputes in American history, John D. Rockefeller’s coal company guards and Colorado National Guard troops machine gunned striking miners and their families in the tent colony they’d set up in the now abandoned ghost town of Ludlow.  The fighting raged for the better part of a day; tents caught fire.  Including one under which a pit had been dug and which sheltered four women and eleven children.  Two women suffocated, as did all of the children.  It’s estimated that 24 miners, their wives, and children died that day at Ludlow.

A couple of regrets about Ludlow.  And a question.  First, that I didn’t think to make the short drive to see the granite monument at the site.  Which someone, unbelievably, defaced a few years ago.

And, second, that I sat in stoney silence when the resolution commemorating the Massacre was read each year when I was in the House.  True, one of the leading proponents would have been Pueblo’s tough-as-nails Democrats, Dorothy Butcher.  Once or twice, she took what I considered cheap shots at me from the mic.  In return, on occasion-and from a safe distance-I called her “The Battle Axe.”  But Dorothy was an old school Democrat. Her heart lay with her Pueblo steel workers. And Trinidad’s now vanquished United Mine Workers.  And where did mine lay?  With Rockefeller’s thugs?  I hope not.

And my question?  Where are the Dorothy Butchers in today’s Democratic party?  All, or most, have gone to be environmentalists, enlisted in the War on Coal.  But why?  Is it “Because,” as Willie Horton answered when asked why he robbed banks, “that’s where the money is?”  Hopefully, not always.  But I do know that the money’s not with miners and steel workers anymore, the salt of the earth kind of folks who used to be the bedrock of the Democratic party.  But now, as Barack Obama derisively sneered, are “clinging to their guns and religion.”

From Coal.  To Sex Changes Operations.  To Marijuana.

But what machine guns couldn’t do, played out coal seams did:  mining is toast in Trinidad.

To be replaced by-first, sex change operations.  And then marijuana.  Great.  I could see the “Cannabis Station” from the front window of my B&B.  Because it’s located only a few miles from New Mexico, Trinidad is a favorite stop for marijuana “tourists.”  Pot’s big business in a town whose economy is struggling, generating $44 million of sales. That works out to an astonishing $3,100 for each man, woman, and child.  Moreover, pot has added $4.4 million to city tax coffers.

This isn’t the place to get into the fevered swamps of marijuana.  When I was in the state House, I voted to limit its use every chance I got.  But, at this point, it’s not going away.  The industry has more than enough cash to resist any attempt to turn back the clock on legalization.

Born To Be Wild.  Head Out On The Highway.

Yeah, that’s me all over: wild.  In my rented, white, six banger Camry.  But I did head out on the highway the next morning.  There were still two days to go before I hit Albuquerque.  Stay tuned.