Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Los Dias de los Muertos

Of course, there are as many ways to think about death as there are cultures. In my own culture, we tend not to talk about it too much. But think about the beliefs expressed in this Hopi prayer* that was read at the funeral of a friend, who was given back to us with these words:


Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on the snow.

I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry:

I am not there, I did not die.


I think of that poem when it is time to celebrate Los Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) here in New Mexico, observed from October 31 to November 2. On November 1st the souls of children—los angelitos—are believed to return, with adult spirits following on November 2nd. It’s a time to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us.



In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver tells how she is drawn to this celebration because our culture “allows almost no room for dead people.” It’s true, we honor our military dead in a formal way on Memorial Day and on Remembrance Day, but there really is no holiday that gives us a chance to honor our own lost loved ones in a personal way.


When I first moved to New Mexico and experienced Los Dias de los Muertos, I have to tell you that it shocked me in some fundamental way to see children happily munching on candy skulls, surrounded by grinning skeletons on display and altars (ofrendas) built in remembrance of the dead—perhaps for a grandmother or grandfather, a beloved pet, or even, in the case of the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History, an altar built in memory of extinct animals. Some ofrendas may be publicly displayed, as they are in the plaza of La Mesilla in Las Cruces, and some may be built at home. The altars might contain pictures of the deceased, religious symbols, objects to remind us of the person, dishes of their favorite foods, marigolds, and lots of candles—maybe even a calavera (also a colloquial term for skulls), a short mocking poetic epitaph. I was amazed to see the familiar attitude expressed toward death—a kind of sly, humorous, and elbow-nudging nod to our mortality.


Here is a calavera that I found on a teacher web site, with their English translation.

Ahi viene el agua
por la ladera,
y se me moja
mi calavera.
La muerte calaca,
ni gorda ni flaca.
La muerte casera,
pegada con cera.

Here comes the water
down the slope
and my skull
is getting wet.
Death, a skeleton
neither fat nor skinny.
A homemade skeleton
stuck together with wax.



I guess I needed to undergo an attitude change toward death, because it was something I was so uncomfortable with. I believe that now I’m ready to take part in the Days of the Dead celebration. I have the short life of my own little “angelita,” to celebrate. My daughter Angelina, who died not very long after being born, has never had a birthday party and has never been included in any other family celebrations. This year, I will build an ofrenda to help remember her, and I’ll make another for the lives of my parents.
Please enjoy my sister's photographs of the amazing ofrenda she built in Angelina’s honor. Thank you, dear Auntie.


Here are some links where you can see more ofrendas:

Celebrate Life on the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: http://www.dia-de-los-muertos.com/day-of-the-dead/tradition.htm


Dias de los Muertos, by Jeanne Treadway: http://www.planetwaves.net/contents/muertes_2.html

*Note about the poem, "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" from information I found out on further research: It turns out that there is much controversy surrounding the origins of this poem. Some believe that it is the work of Mary Elizabeth Frye (1904-2004), but apparently she neither published nor copyrighted it although that doesn't mean she didn't write it. It is often thought to have native American origins. On the prayer card from the funeral of my friend, it is called a Hopi poem.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

McGarrity on Kerney


Thanks to Towanda, over at La Casa de Towanda, I have been reading Michael McGarrity books one after another. McGarrity has a wonderful web site with all kinds of information about himself, his books, and their settings. I am now about halfway through the books in the series featuring Kevin Kerney, which are set in various areas of New Mexico. Here is what McGarrity has to say about Kerney:

“When I developed the character of Kevin Kerney, I wanted to put on the page a fully-drawn individual who would run counter to the trend of quirky or emotionally damaged protagonists in mystery fiction. Kerney carries his scars and emotional baggage well, and has a strong moral fiber which rarely takes him over the edge. He is a man who knows the difference between right and wrong and practices his profession with a sense of ethics, responsibility, and pride. While he's strong-willed and persistent, he is neither overly macho or flashy.Born on a ranch in the Tularosa Basin in south central New Mexico, Kerney has long dreamt of returning to his roots, which was taken away from his parents when the military expanded White Sands Missile Range, a high-security weapons testing facility.A college educated, decorated veteran of Vietnam, Kerney's life took a different turn when he entered law enforcement after military service, advancing through the ranks to chief of detectives in the Santa Fe Police Department until a gunfight with a drug dealer forced him into a painful, unhappy medical retirement.”

The books in the series, listed below, clearly show that to Kevin Kerney the idea of “being retired” means something very different from the usual definition.

This is a list for me as much as it is for you. I wanted to be able to scan through the titles in chronological order and to know where each was set in New Mexico. The links will take you to McGarrity’s page for each title, where you will find a synopsis, reviews, a location map and information/photographs about the locale, and book ordering information. As a recent retiree, I’m always interested in how people fill their time. Read what Kerney does with his!


Kevin Kerney books by Michael McGarrity, in chronological order, with the New Mexico setting noted

Tularosa (1996): Tularosa Basin and White Sands Missile Range
Mexican Hat (1997): Gila Wilderness
Serpents Gate (1998): Mountainair
Hermit's Peak (1999): Las Vegas (NM) region
The Judas Judge (2000): South central NM
Under The Color of Law (2001): Santa Fe
The Big Gamble (2002): Lincoln County
Everyone Dies (2003): Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Socorro, Mescalero Reservation
Slow Kill (2004): Northern New Mexico
Nothing But Trouble (2005): Boothill area of NM
Death Song (December 2007): Santa Fe and Lincoln County

Monday, October 29, 2007

In the Night Sky

“I think this is about the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in the sky!” ~Florian Boyd, Palm Springs, CA

"What a sight!” ~Alan Hale (co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp), Cloudcroft, NM

I didn’t know that an amazing phenomenon was taking place in the night skies until I was alerted by a scientist friend in Canada. Periodic Comet Holmes was acting just like its own little nonentity of a self only a week ago when suddenly, according to Sky and Telescope on Wednesday, October 24th, skywatchers looked up to see a bright new yellow-orange "star" shining in Perseus. For no apparent reason, the comet had brightened about a millionfold to shine at close to magnitude 2.5. That made it plain to see even in the bright moonlight and through all but the worst light pollution….It looked like no comet ever seen.

Luckily, the comet was still up there at the Red Sox’ victorious conclusion of the World Series last night. In spite of the bright moon, I was able to find Comet Holmes in the late evening (11 PM) northeast sky. I wasn’t too sure about what to look for until I came back inside to look again at Sky and Telescope’s Photo Gallery, then I realized that the comet was the bright orange-brown “star” I’d been seeing out the bedroom window for the past week.

“In ALL my years of observing...this is the most unusual comet, I have ever seen!” ~Dr. Sky

Here are some facts about the Comet:

-Comet Holmes is somewhere in the neighborhood of 152,000,000 miles from the Earth.

-The comet doesn’t have the characteristic comet tail. If one does form, it will be nearly away from us in space and will not be visible from here.

-The comet flared twice before, once in 1892 and again six months later in 1893.

-The only theoretical explanation that I could find for why the comet is flaring comes from Dr. Sky (Steve Kates, whose biography you can read at http://www.drsky.com/stevebio.shtml). He theorizes that a chunk of the comet has broken off and has released a surge of ice and dust which is moving toward the sun.

-Spooky fact: The last time the Sox won the World Series we were in the middle of a total lunar eclipse (Sky and Telescope)

Read more about the comet and see the photographs that are being sent in from all around the world at Sky and Telescope: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/10775326.html

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peanuts!





It’s the bountiful season in the Clovis area. Hay is being baled, the pumpkin fields are full, cotton is being harvested, and fresh peanuts are being roasted out in Portales. Before moving here, I’d never seen peanut fields or peanut plants, for that matter. I was fascinated when one of the farmers brought in a peanut plant to show off at the Clovis Farmers Market. A passing old timer shuddered and said it reminded him too much of all the peanuts he had to harvest by hand as a kid.

Peanuts are grown in the warm climates of Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America. Depending on where they are grown, they may be called monkey nuts, ground nuts, goobers, or earth nuts, although they are legumes, rather than nuts. George Washington Carver created 325 products from peanuts, including familiar and not so familiar food products ranging from peanut butter to mock goose. His peanut product inventions included types of stock foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, beverages, medicines, paints, dyes, stains, paper, and linoleum.

You can grow your own peanuts. Buy raw (unroasted) peanuts in the shell. Carefully take out the peanuts, doing your best to keep the skin intact. Plant an inch and a half deep in well drained sandy soil, to which you have added fertilizer and a legume innoculant. The plants will grow to one or one and a half feet tall. Don’t fertilize later in the season, and don’t overwater. The flowers are borne on shoots called pegs which then grow down into the soil and form the peanuts. When the leaves start to yellow, stop watering. Harvest at first frost. Pull up the entire plant and hang it up until the shells are dry. A single plant will produce 40 or more pods. For more complete instructions, see Painless Botany Lesson: Growing Peanuts.

I'm sure that peanut production is affected by the fact that many public schools now ban peanut products, due to the increasing numbers of children with peanut allergies. According to a Feb. 2007 news release from New Mexico State University, while commercial peanut production across the U.S. fell 29% during 2006 and “the planted area – 1.24 million acres – is the lowest in the United States since 1915” the organic peanut market is growing. New Mexico, Texas, and Georgia are the only states so far that are growing organic peanuts on a commercial scale.

There are a couple of peanut producers in nearby Portales—Sunland Peanuts, Inc. and the Borden Peanut Company. The Sunland plant has a retail store that sells raw, roasted, shelled, unshelled, salted and unsalted peanuts by the bag. They also provide an amazing variety of natural and organic peanut butters and peanut spreads (“Peanut Better”) flavored with raspberry, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, peanut praline, vanilla cranberry, and sweet molasses; as well as a line of savory spreads, including Thai ginger and red pepper, onion-parsley, spicy southwestern, hickory smoked, and rosemary garlic. We bought some of the Thai ginger peanut butter and plan to use it as a sauce with grilled marinated pork satay. See the Sunland recipe page for ideas for using these flavored spreads.

More links:

The Legacy of George Washington Carver: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/gwc/bio.html

Peanut Allergy Facts: http://www.allergyescape.com/peanut-allergy.html

World Geography of the Peanut:
http://lanra.anthro.uga.edu/peanut/

Friday, October 26, 2007

Things I Didn’t Know about Prairie Dogs


Humans and prairie dogs are, quite simply, in competition for the same land. People want the land for growing crops, grazing cattle, and for new construction, and the prairie dogs get in the way of all of those things. You can read about the history of the relationship between prairie dogs and humans in Becoming a pest: Prairie dog ecology and the human economy in the Euroamerican West, by Susan Jones. Environmental History, Oct. 1999.
Prairie dog colonies used to stretch for miles. Prairie dogs are prairie restorationists, helping undo some of the damage caused by humans. They help conserve water by channeling rainwater back into the water table, and they help improve soil health. By 1960, the population had been reduced by perhaps 98% by disease, poisoning, shooting, and habitat destruction. I see this destruction every day, right down the street from my house, where new houses are being constructed right in the middle of prairie dog towns. I suppose from the contractor’s point of view the prairie dogs are tearing up the next house lot he plans to build on.

The Prairie Dog Coalition is “dedicated to the protection of imperiled prairie dogs and restoration of their ecosystem [by providing] information and advocacy training, [facilitating] communication and planning, and [promotion of] conservation projects.” They explain that prairie dogs are “keystone species,” supporting an entire ecosystem:

Nine species can be considered to be dependent on prairie dogs and their colonies; burrowing owl, black-footed ferret, mountain plover, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, swift fox, horned lark, deer mouse and grasshopper mouse. Twenty more species benefit from opportunistic use of prairie dog colonies. Species that benefit from prairie dogs and the habitat they create include desert cottontails, lizards, prairie rattlesnakes, badgers, bald eagles, coyotes, vultures, prairie falcons, bison, pronghorn, mule deer, mourning doves, killdeer, barn swallows, red-tailed hawks, and harriers.

The Prairie Dog Coalition web site is loaded with information, resources (including the Prairie Dog Ecosystem Science Library , slide shows, etc.

For another web site with photos and general information: http://www.bobatkins.com/photos/PDZ1.HTM

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Southwest Books


Every time I check around the Santa Fe Public Library web site, I find something helpful that I can use. Even though I live far from this library, they provide me with lots of ideas about what to read next. Here is their list of the 100 most popular Southwest titles: http://www.santafelibrary.org/newsw3.html

Monday, October 22, 2007

Proud to be a Member of Red Sox Nation

Here is everything you need to read today: http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=bos

P.S. I loved watching Kevin Millar announcing the lineup.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The World Without Us

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
~Joni Mitchell(Big Yellow Taxi)


When I was a child I believed that pavement was permanent—that once that piece of earth was covered, it would never be seen again. Now that I’ve read Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us, I know that at least some of the things we do to the earth are not permanent.


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. ~Yeats (The Second Coming)

Weisman asks the question—What would happen if humans suddenly disappeared everywhere?—then “lets us view our Earth’s current myriad stresses from the disarming vantage of a fantasy in which we supposedly no longer exist, yet somehow we get to watch what happens next.” (p. 277). He shows us what would eventually happen to our homes, our cities, domestic and wild animals, farmlands, the great wonders of the world, the places where we have scarred the face of the earth, our art, our music, and even our radio transmissions.

While reading about what the world be like without humans, I learned about a great number of subjects along the way:
-Rothamsted Research in England, where agricultural research has continued for over a hundred years
-The legacy of our dependence on plastics and petrochemicals
-The Mannahatta Project, which aims to “reconstruct the ecology of Manhattan when Henry Hudson first sailed by in 1609 and compare it to what we know of the island today.”
-The building of the Panama Canal; and the underground cities of Cappodicia in Turkey
-The invention of chemical fertilizers, elephant research, gene splicing—my personal list of things I learned about goes on and on.


Here are a few statements from the book that might interest you:
· Plastic debris may be “the most common surface feature of the world’s oceans” p.125
· 200 bacteria species call our bodies home
· Every four days the human population of the world rises by one million
· It has been estimated that humanity’s current total biomass wouldn’t fill the Grand Canyon


For animated sequences showing what would happen to a house and to New York City without the existence of humans, see the World Without Us web site at http://www.worldwithoutus.com/index2.html.

To hear a National Public Radio interview with Weisman that includes call-in questions from radio listeners, go to "Imagining a World Without Humans" on Talk of the Nation with Ira Flatow, Sept. 7, 2007 at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14241572.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Eating Locally

Apparently, eating locally has become a big issue. I wrote a little about it after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life.

Take a few moments to listen to Manny Howard’s amusing story about the farm he created in his Brooklyn backyard, as he tried to eat only what he raised.
Man Lives Off Fat of His Brooklyn Land: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15337128

Here are some more National Public Radio audio stories on the issue of eating locally:

Will Work for Food: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10219029
Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon try, for one year, to eat only food produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver, British Columbia home. Weekend Edition, May 20, 2007. Their book is called Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally.

Back to Basics; Kingsolver Clan Lives Off Land: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9891473
An interview with Barbara Kingsolver and her husband, Steven Hopp on Weekend Edition, April 29, 2007.

Eating Local, Thinking Global: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5709576
Discussion and calls from listeners on Talk of the Nation, August 25, 2006.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crazy Wind





Soil going to Texas




The wind has been howling now for two days. It is blowing a solid 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mpg. I “tuned” my windows by opening them just a crack to make the sound even more dramatic, but I shouldn't have done it. Tiny particles of dust are now floating in the inside air, and there is a gritty coating on every surface.


There is drama enough outside. Yesterday a field caught fire and by the time the wind wound down after sunset, 22,000 acres had been burned. This fire jumped the four lane highway between Clovis and Portales, while fire companies from surrounding towns used their equipment and even some tankers from nearby dairies to fight the flames. I was out in the wind in the afternoon, taking pictures of the good New Mexico soil blowing east on its way to Texas, and I watched as a big piece of plastic tarp just hurtled across a whole field—it must have gone 100 yards in practically the time it takes to tell it—so I can imagine the speed of those wind-driven flames.
Dust Storm, Colorado (Library of Congress)*

Driving to Las Cruces from Arizona several years back, my husband and I were almost caught in a severe dust storm just outside of Lordsburg, NM. The highway signs there say Warning—Dust Storms May Exist, Next 17 Miles, but there isn’t a big enough warning possible for what we saw approaching the highway from the left. It was a sky-high cloud of dark brown, gathering up more and more soil from the fields it crossed as it headed for the highway. We had no idea what the right thing to do might be, but we did know that we didn’t want to get caught in that absolutely frightening thing while either driving or stopped along the highway, so we made the almost instant decision to try to outrun it. As we sped through the valley, we could see cars stopped any which way on the other side of the divided highway. It was apparent that another storm had just passed through and caught them. I saw a figure running wildly down the fast lane, arms outstretched and mouth wide open in terror. I had just that glimpse as we hurtled forward and got to the safety of some nearby hills.




Dust in the air inside (click on photo)





Listening to this wind, I think about what it might have been like to live during the Dust Bowl years. Here are a few web sites with amazing Dust Bowl photographs and other information about dust storms.

Dust Bowl Photographs: http://www.weru.ksu.edu/new_weru/multimedia/dustbowl/dustbowlpics.html


Dust Bowl Information and Photos—the second picture shows a dust cloud much like the one that almost enveloped us: http://www.usd.edu/anth/epa/dust.html


NASA Photos of a dust storm as seen from space: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=6220



Wind and Dust Storms across the Southwest (explains how dust storms are formed): http://www.srh.noaa.gov/elp/swww/v8n2/Wxbul8.2.8.htm
*Dust Storm, Colorado: The Library of Congress does not believe that there are any restrictions on the publication of this photo. If you know of any, please let me know via the comments section.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Amazing Statistics for Blog Action Day

If you are a blog fan, you probably read somewhere that October 15th was Blog Action Day—a day when as many Bloggers as possible wrote something about the environment. It was a project to get as many people as possible thinking about environmental issues, no matter what their interests. There were posts about ways to live greener, how to eat locally and why, and links to companies with environmentally friendly initiatives.

As you might expect, having so many different personalities expressing opinions on the same topic resulted in some unusual statements. One blogger suggested that we all drive the biggest cars possible because “If, as the theory says, our reliance on fossil fuels like petrol is the cause of the problem then it seems clear that the best way to end that reliance is to use it all up as fast as possible. Only then will car manufacturers consider it economically viable for their business to heavily invest in alternative fuels.”

When I published my environmental issue post on the Ogallala Aquifer the latest news was that almost 16,000 bloggers were taking part in the project. Here are the final numbers, which are even more impressive!

20,603 Blogs Participated
23,327 Blog Posts (search Google Blog Search to find them)
14,631,038 RSS Readers

See all the statistics for Blog Action Day at http://blogactionday.org/#1

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Living in a Little Adobe House*


Thick, thick walls made of earth and water and straw
connected to the earth they were made from
the same color as the garden soil.
Deep windowsills
the firmness of cool tiles underfoot
rounded corners
kiva fireplace burning fragrant wood
bancos to sit on
vigas and latillas up above
nichos in the walls.
A peaceful quiet, held and contained.
Warm in winter
cool in summer
windows looking out at desert willows and cottonwoods
and maybe some hollyhocks.
A strong sense of shelter.

**********
Kiva, bancos, vigas, latillas, nichos: See the glossary of New Mexico architectural and decorating terms at http://www.jkhomes.com/byjohn.html

Books About Adobe Houses:
Adobe Houses for Today, by Laura Sanchez.
Behind Adobe Walls, by Lisl Dennis.
The Small Adobe House, by Agnesa Reeve.


Children’s Books about Adobe Houses:
Grandmother’s Adobe Dollhouse, by MaryLou M. Smith.
This House is Made of Mud/Esta Casa está Hecha de Lodo, by Ken Buchanan.

----------
*Dedicated to our little adobe house in Las Cruces

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jacoby Ellsbury, First Navajo in Major League Baseball

The wind spins off into infinity, and time for baseball stretches endlessly before me.” ~Bill Brown, in the Taos Daily Horse Fly (11-16-2004)

It’s time to think about baseball. It’s time to be one with Red Sox Nation. It’s time to learn a little bit about center fielder and speedy Red Sox base stealer, Jacoby Ellsbury, the first Navajo in Major League Baseball.

Biography
http://themudvillemegaphone.com/NewsFiles/Ellsburybio.html

A Navajo Hero: Jacoby Ellsbury (photographs)
http://daily-times.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=348248

Red Sox Player File
http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=453056

Sox Nation Meets Navajo Nation
http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2007/03/11/ellsbury_a_rare_talent/

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ogallala Aquifer

This is it—Today is Blog Action Day. Bloggers around the web are uniting to put a single issue on everybody’s mind—the environment. According to the Blog Action Day web site: Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future. Close to 16,000 blogs with over 12 million readers are participating. This would be a great day for you to contribute to an environmental charity. Start here. http://blogactionday.org/charities .
**********

I am certainly no water expert, but I hadn’t lived in the southwest for long before I decided I wanted to learn more about the subject. Newspaper articles often referred to the Ogallala Aquifer, so I wanted to find out what it was and why it was important. Here is what I’ve learned.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a vast deposit of water lying under eight states in the High Plains of the U.S.: South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. It is variously estimated to cover between 174,000 and 225,000 square miles, and lies between 50 and 300 feet below the surface. It was formed about 10 million years ago of gravelly soil that holds groundwater down below the water table. Experts believe that the aquifer contains roughly the amount of water contained by Lake Huron. Drawdown, or water use, of the aquifer occurs when agricultural, industrial, and residential users withdraw water for surface use. About 94% of the water is used for irrigation in areas that formerly were a part of the Dust Bowl back in the 1930s. Recharge, water going back into the aquifer, comes from rainwater and snowmelt, a slow process in this dry climate area. Since the 1970s it has been apparent that drawdown is greater than recharge, leading to an ongoing depletion of the aquifer.

Adding a whole new aspect to any water discussion is our search for alternative fuels. The biofuel ethanol seems like a great answer to our dependence on oil-producing nations. However, in order to produce one gallon of ethanol, three to six gallons of water are used. Even more water is used in growing the corn necessary to make the ethanol.

The states concerned wrestle with issues of water policy, conservation, sustainability, and ethics. Should the water be used now, or should policy dictate sustainability? Do we continue with current irrigation practices to grow the corn and wheat that our economy demands, or should we conserve for the future? Do we continue expansion of biofuel production at the cost of permanently damaging water resources?

For more information, research, and discussions about the Ogallala Aquifer, see the following links.

Conserving the Ogallala Aquifer. http://www.choicesmagazine.org/2003-1/2003-1-04.htm

Ogallala Aquifer and Ethanol - The Potential for Another Dust Bowl: http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/09/21/ogallala-aquifer-and-ethanol-the-potential-for-another-dust-bo/

Ogallala Aquifer Depletion: http://www.iitap.iastate.edu/gccourse/issues/society/ogallala/ogallala.html

Producing Ethanol Could Strain Resources: http://environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=1550

Water Encyclopedia: http://waterencyclopedia.com/Oc-Po/Ogallala-Aquifer.html

Water-Level Changes in the High Plains Aquifer, 1980-1999: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2001/fs-029-01/

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Art in New Mexico

Maybe it’s the light, or the solitude, or the scenery, but art is everywhere in New Mexico. This list is just a beginning and is meant to give you an idea of what is to be found here.

Chile Pepper High
http://managementcraft.typepad.com/chile_pepper/art/index.html

Collectors’ Guide, Sharing the Art of New Mexico
http://www.collectorsguide.com/index.php

Fine Craftsmen Showing in New Mexico
http://www.taosis.com/nmcrafts/index.html

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/indexflash.php

[Gisella Loeffler]; A Taos Legend, by Michael R. Grauer. SouthwestArt at http://www.southwestart.com/document/578

New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails
http://www.nmfiberarts.org/

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
http://www.indianartsandculture.org/

Museum of International Folk Art
http://www.internationalfolkart.org/

New Mexico Museum of Art
http://www.mfasantafe.org/

Palace of the Governors
http://www.palaceofthegovernors.org/

Southwest Art from New Mexico
http://www.arteffects.com/Gallery/

Southwestern Art Collection
http://www.egallery.com/coll/southwestern.php

Taos Art Museum and Fechin House
http://taosartmuseum.org/fechin.php

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Picturing New Mexico

Before we ever came to New Mexico, we had vague impressions of what it might look like—red rocks and sand (me), snakes rolling down hills after people (Beez). Just in case you are wondering about our scenery, fill your eyes with these photographs of New Mexico and the Southwest.

Bob Thornburg Photography, Images of the Southwest: http://www.photowebs.com/thornburg/SouthwestGallery/index.htm


Don Bain’s Virtual Guidebook—New Mexico: http://www.virtualguidebooks.com/NewMexico/NewMexico.html


Fotofeed: http://www.fotofeed.com/index.html

Geraint Smith, Photo of the Day:
http://geraintsmith.com/potd/pages/archive.html

Gerald Brimacombe, Southwest: http://www.geraldbrimacombe.com/southwest.htm

Helmut Kuhn, Southwest Portfolio: http://www.helmutkuhn.com/portfolio/southwest/P_SW03.html

New Mexico Entertainment Photographs (indexed by town): http://www.newmexicoet.com/nm_photographs_01.html

Pam Segura, La Mesilla, NM: http://www.pbase.com/pamspics/la_mesilla_nm&page=all

Ramblin’ Cameras--Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: http://www.ramblincameras.com/Bosqueth.htm

Ramblin’ Cameras—Organ Mountain Scenic Photography Galleries:
http://www.ramblincameras.com/Omthome.htm

Ramblin’ Cameras—White Sands Balloon Invitational.
Gallery 1: http://www.ramblincameras.com/Wbfest.htm
Gallery 2: http://www.ramblincameras.com/Wbfest2.htm

TaosWeb Snaps: http://www.taoswebb.com/snaps/

Friday, October 12, 2007

Movies Made in New Mexico


A discussion on the New Mexico Forum of the City-Data web site about the best movies made in New Mexico made me wonder just how many movies have been made here. The people at the New Mexico Film Office have a great web site that includes a New Mexico Filmography,
listing and describing all the movies made here by year of release. They start with the 1898 documentary, Indian Day School, and continue right through all 35 (!) movies made here so far in 2007.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Volunteering in Clovis—Nice Work if You Can Find It

I was hoping that I could find volunteer work here in Clovis by checking either the newspaper or the city web site. There didn’t appear to be any one central listing of volunteer opportunities. When I started asking the people I met, they told me that there are a great many volunteer opportunities, but that people find out about them through "word of mouth."

So I made a list for myself and for anyone else trying to figure out where to start in Clovis. Here is my list of organizations seeking volunteers, with the information and needs that they list on their web sites in italics. I will add to this list from time to time, as I discover other organizations looking for help.

Clovis Public Library: http://www.library.cityofclovis.org/volunteers.html

Volunteer requirements:
Volunteers must be at least 12 years old
A record of hours worked is kept
Applications are required
Applicants are interviewed
Projects can be selected

**********
Curry County Literacy Council:

http://www.clovis.edu/EducationalServices/CSS/cclc.asp

Goal and mission: “…to provide one with a sense of security to gain employment, have life skills, and assist in language development. It is our mission to help English-speaking adults and families improve their reading, writing, listening, speaking, numeracy and other life skills through programs adapted for the needs of the individual.”

What you can do to help:
Tutor basic literacy students
Tutor English as a Second Language students
Tutor students in need of Life Skills
Help plan special projects, such as Workplace Literacy or Family Literacy
Help promote awareness


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HOSTS program: http://www.cms.k12.nm.us/federal_programs/hosts.html


What it is: H.O.S.T.S (Help One Student to Succeed) is a federal program in the schools where students work with a mentor to help them succeed in reading.


· HOSTS is not a curriculum, but an instructional strategy designed to complement the existing curriculum.
· HOSTS provides assistance to students who need help developing reading skills using one-on-one mentoring by a community volunteer.
· HOSTS mentors provide role models who motivate, support, and provide individual attention for "at risk" students.


The program is looking for people who:

Enjoy working with children
Have 30 minutes to 1 hour one day per week to volunteer
Have a desire to Help One Student To Succeed


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United Way of Eastern New Mexico; Clubs, Civic, and Volunteer Opportunities

http://www.unitedwayenm.org/index.php?pr=211volunteer

This is the kind of listing I wish I had found at the beginning of my search. It will connect you with volunteer possibilities for everything from animal welfare to youth services. 

**********
VistaCare (hospice) volunteer opportunities: 

http://www.vistacare.com/giving/volunteering.asp

VistaCare provides a comprehensive program of care for individuals with a life-limiting illness. VistaCare offers a wide range of supportive services to terminally ill patients and their families. [The] staff not only treats physical pain and symptoms, but also provides emotional, social, and spiritual support for the individual and their loved ones. [They] also work collaboratively with area physicians and clinicians.


For volunteers: Training is provided and assignments are based on your interests and availability. You can choose to:

· Visit with patients and families to provide companionship
· Visit with a patient to provide the caregiver a time of respite
· Assist with basic maintenance, yard, and handy work at patients’ homes
· Prepare meals or run errands for patients
· Provide assistance with light housekeeping for patients
· Provide grief and bereavement support for families
· Assist in the office with administrative and clerical tasks
· Help recruit and train other volunteers
· Work in your own home making special items for patients
· Contribute your professional expertise

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Which is Best--The Owl or the Buckhorn?

New Mexicans love their chile, and they love their green chile cheeseburgers. Ask a couple of New Mexicans where to get the best one, and you’ll get at least two (maybe more) answers. I once asked the people at the City-Data New Mexico forum where to find the best green chile cheeseburger in eastern New Mexico and was treated to a wonderful list of possibilities, encompassing the whole state.

One of the side discussions that came up in the Forum discussion was which San Antonio restaurant has the best burger—The Owl Café or Manny’s Buckhorn Bar. We had always thought of the Owl’s burger as the best in the world, so this time we checked out the Buckhorn.

We loved the Buckhorn burgers, we loved the green chile cheese fries, the service was great, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. That translated to a lot of time standing in line waiting to get in but it was a busy day, after all, as visitors were streaming into San Antonio from the twice-yearly open house at Trinity Site, 20-some miles away. Once we were seated all was well and the line had petered out so we didn’t feel guilty kicking back and taking our time. There are some really nice folks running the place there. There were a few signed dollars hanging up but the best sign was one proclaiming the Buckhorn GCCB to be “the 7th best burger in America” from a GQ article. The Owl has more seating, so you spend less time in line. On the other hand, the service is so quick that it seems you’ve been served and are on your way out the door almost before having time to savor the experience. The burgers are smaller than at the Buckhorn, but the meat has the best flavor I’ve ever tasted in a burger. The atmosphere is pure cowboy bar, as is the Buckhorn—you know you’re in the Wild West, and they aren’t putting on a show. The Owl has those great autographed-by-everybody-from-all-over dollars hanging all over the walls and the ceiling. For a lot of historical information about the Owl Café and some mouthwatering food photos, see Gil’s Thrilling Web Site, a wonderful place to roam around in search of New Mexico’s best food: http://www.nmgastronome.com/nm/burgers/owl.htm

Once you’ve read that page, and before you go wandering off, please see Gil’s page on the Buckhorn at http://www.nmgastronome.com/nm/burgers/buckhorn.htm

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Facing Up to the Past: Visiting Trinity Site



Trinity Site is a long way from our house but the ride is gorgeous. We passed through all kinds of terrain—prairie, desert, mountains, and something that looked a lot like California before all the people came—on our way to and from White Sands.

Just before reaching the Stallion Gate we were met by some very friendly folks who gave us printed directions and a brochure. It turns out that they were counting people and pets in the cars headed out to the Trinity Site. I’m not sure why they keep track of the pets, but you can check out past counts at http://www.wsmr.army.mil/pao/TrinitySite/trnatt.htm. Then we came to the gate where the scrutiny was a little more intense. We presented our identification documents and were allowed through.

Once we got up to the parking lot, we were surrounded by groups of people who had been riding too long together in cars. We noted license plates from New Mexico, of course, and Colorado, Texas, New Hampshire (we left those people a note), Michigan, Montana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Virginia, Idaho, and Illinois, and then we stopped keeping track because we were also too cranky from riding in the car.

Out to ground zero—it was a big disappointment. I would have thought that such a monumental event would have left behind more obvious evidence. There is just a slight circular depression, not a crater, as you might expect. The 1945 blast melted the desert sand into a green glassy substance called trinitite and the information I had seen implied that I would see plenty of it. However, the the government had apparently taken most of it away years ago so there was none to be seen. Apparently there is an area that contains some of the original trinitite in place, now covered over with sand, but it has a shed built around it that is no longer accessible. We saw lots of people crawling around looking for little bits that might be remaining, but no one seemed to be finding any. It’s illegal to pick it up—dangerous, too, as it is still radioactive.

Since I wasn’t finding the site itself interesting, I concentrated on the beautiful surrounding scenery and the people crowded around me. According to past figures, around 2800-3200 people attend these open houses. I was saddened to see some young kids who must have belonged to some kind of paramilitary organization tromping around in big boots and overlarge uniforms. Seeing them made me wonder if most visitors saw this whole atomic bomb thing as a tragedy of the greatest magnitude or as just another kind of theme park.

There wasn’t any ceremony, there weren’t any speeches—just a lot of tired, hot, crabby people shuffling around from historical marker to photo to bomb casing. Photography is allowed at the site, but not on the rest of the White Sands Missile Range. We left after taking lots of photos of the crowd and ground zero. I was relieved to be leaving, especially when I saw a group of what looked like Japanese tourists approaching the site. There was no right expression to put on my face, no way I could look them in the eye.

We headed off to San Antonio, to find the answer to a question that had long been bothering us. (Tomorrow: San Antonio).
**************************

Monday, October 8, 2007

Duck and Cover! Memories of the Atomic Age



I want to say right up front that I am not a military history buff. I don't like war, I don't like killing, I don't like bombs. I don't like it when our country uses its power against other countries.

Having said all that, I am going to write about the Trinity Site on the White Sands Missile Range in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico. This is where the first atomic bomb, results of the Manhattan Project, was detonated at 5:29:45 AM (Mountain Time) on July 16, 1945, bringing us the beginning, for better or for worse, of the atomic age. The second and third atomic bombs were exploded over Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, ultimately bringing the second World War to an end. The site of the detonation at White Sands is open to the public for a few hours twice a year, on the first Saturday of October and on the first Saturday of April.

Beez had long wanted to go see the Trinity Site. I was reluctant, thinking about exposure to radiation and just not wanting to have anything to do with the place. However, we agreed to take the trip and drove several hundred miles last Saturday to find out what the site was all about. Along the way, we talked about our memories of those times, and why there is such a fascination with this place.

Here are my memories of the bomb. I was less than a year old when the war ended, so I didn't know anything about that. But when I was 8 or 9 years old, my family lived in San Francisco in the early 1950s when atomic bomb tests were taking place in Nevada. My father drove a tow truck, working the night shift. I can remember my great excitement when he swung home to pick me up in the middle of the night when there were announced atomic tests at the Nevada Test Site at Frenchman Flat, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. My mother made sure that I was dressed warmly and off we went into the San Francisco darkness. What an adventure for a little kid, being allowed out well after bedtime and with special time alone with Daddy! We always went right up to the top of Twin Peaks and Daddy would park the truck so that the nose was pointed southeast to face where he figured Las Vegas to be. Then he would turn on the radio to an AM station that would actually tune into the countdown to the detonation. Five, four, three, two, one... We'd wait a few seconds and then we would see it--a flash like lightning out on the horizon. And that was it. We'd drive down Twin Peaks for the highlight of the night, to my 8 year old self, stopping in at the Flying Saucer Cafe where we'd eat "dollar pancakes" and I'd have a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. So much innocence on the one hand, and so much potential death and harm and chaos on the other.

Here is what Beez had to say: When you grew up in the 1950s learning to hide under your desk in case of nuclear attack (!), you owed it to yourself to go see the place that started it all.

To get an idea of the fears we faced as school children, you must first realize that all school-age kids were required to wear engraved dog tags that gave their names, addresses, and blood type. Somehow the space for blood type was never filled in. Even as a child I understood that there probably wouldn't be enough of me left over after a bomb to worry about blood transfusions.

Then take a look at the instructional film called Duck and Cover. It was meant to reassure children about the bomb, so that they would know what to do if/when it came for them. The film is anything but comforting. Here is a sampling from the film of what young children were being told:

  • We must be ready for a new danger...Tony knows the bomb can explode any time of the year, day or night...The flash of an atomic bomb can come at any time...vacations and holiday time...we must be ready
  • Sometimes the bomb might explode without any warning

  • You might be eating your lunch when the flash comes

  • If you are not ready and do not know what to do it could hurt you in different ways

  • There might not be any grownups around when the bomb explodes, then you're on your own.

  • [The bomb can come] on a beautiful spring day...but no matter where [children] go or what they do they must always try to remember what to do if the atomic bomb explodes right then. It's a bomb! Duck and cover!

  • You'll know when it comes.


Call it morbid fascination, but we were on our way. (Tomorrow: Visiting the Trinity Site).

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Duck and Cover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0K_LZDXp0I

Manhattan Project: http://www.mbe.doe.gov/me70/Manhattan/index.htm

Nevada Test Site Historical Information: http://www.ntshf.org/index.htm

Trinity Site: http://www.wsmr.army.mil/pao/TrinitySite/trinst.htm

White Sands Missile Range: http://www.wsmr.army.mil/



Sunday, October 7, 2007

Librophilia

Today's post is short and has nothing to do with New Mexico.

Take a tour through photographs of the world's most beautiful libraries, by way of a web site called Curious Expeditions: Travelling and Exhuming the Extraordinary Past. The exhibition is called Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries.
http://www.curiousexpeditions.org/2007/09/a_librophiliacs_love_letter_1.html

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Yet Another Plug for the Clovis Farmers Market…and other local food sources


I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp, and daughters Camille and Lily, moved from Tucson to the family’s farm in southwest Virginia. Their aim was to eat only food that they grew themselves or that was produced locally for a whole year.

We have gotten used to eating food out of season—food that is transported all over the world. There is a movement, variously referred to as Slow Food, or eating locally (those who do are called “locavores”), that challenges us to eat a more healthy diet and to help the environment and the local economy by not buying food that has been transported for more than 100 miles (“oily food” according to Steven Hopp). In doing so, we eat fresher, more wholesome food and support sustainable agriculture and our local farmers.

Here are some examples of “oily food” from my own kitchen here in Clovis, New Mexico. I have a package of Cape Cod dried cranberries which was purchased in Manchester, New Hampshire before we moved here. Cape Cod, where the cranberries grew, is 120 miles from the store where I bought them--a little over the 100 mile limit I’m trying for. However, the label tells me that the cranberries from Massachusetts were packaged in Kingsburg, California! That’s 3142 miles from Cape Cod, so my cranberries traveled from Cape Cod to Kingsburg to Manchester (and we know that there were probably grocery distribution centers involved along the way that would increase the mileage) for a total of 6,265 miles, plus the 16 mile round trip I made to and from the supermarket. I’m shocked, are you?

I don’t even want to try to compute the miles traveled and the gas and oil used to produce the grape juice I bought recently here in Clovis. The label tells me that it contains concentrates from the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. I could have bought fresh apple cider from right down the road.

When you eat locally, you can buy directly from the producer, often at farmers markets, or directly from the farm. Much of this food is produced organically, because it is grown on a small scale. The meat comes from animals who have lived a good life and have finished it up in grassy pastures, not in the crowded horror we see at feedlots.

We buy more and more of our weekly food from the Clovis Farmers Market. I have spent some time looking at sources for grass-fed beef and other meats, then checking maps to find which are closest to home—preferably under the 100 mile limit. Local Harvest is a good online resource for the best organic food that is grown closest to you. Check the distance from your door to the food producer’s door on Google Maps. The Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website has a good list of resources to help you start eating locally.

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle web site: http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/


FarmersMarket.com: Listing of markets by states: http://farmersmarket.com/


Google Maps: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

Local Harvest; Real Food, Real Farmers, Real Community: http://www.localharvest.org/

A source for grass fed beef that is only 53 miles from Clovis: http://www.milnesandgrassfedbeef.com/

Sustainable Agriculture: http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/concept.htm

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pari Noskin Taichert, a New Mexican Author

If you have read any of the novels by Pari Noskin Taichert, author of The Clovis Incident and Belen Hitch, you’ll know that her “whipped cream-dependent protagonist,” Sasha Solomon, works as a public relations consultant for various towns around New Mexico. The Clovis Incident shows that Pari did her homework—it’s full of little Clovis details that give it a real sense of place. Sasha drove down roads near my house, went to restaurants that I recognized, and dealt with members of the Committee of 50* (called the Committee of 25 in the book). The next book coming out in the series will be Socorro Blast. I can’t wait.

Taichert has made a list of "Little Known Facts About the 47th State" (New Mexico). You’ll learn a bit about saguaros, New Mexico’s wine industry, and the “rare mental multiculturalism” that is found here, something I touched on in Las Cruces and the Suspension of Disbelief. You can find her New Mexico list at http://acwl.org/maymug06.html.

More Links:

To see Pari Noskin Taichert’s own web site, go to http://www.parinoskintaichert.com/.

Taichert is one of nine mystery writers at Murderati; Mysteries, Murder, and Marketing. http://www.murderati.typepad.com/

And to find out the setting for the book that will come after The Socorro Blast, read the interview "Pari Noskin Taichert on Aliens, Belly Dancing, the French, Bad Girls, Agatha Noms and Why She Talks to Herself." (http://juliabuckley.blogspot.com/2006/08/pari-noskin-taichert-on-aliens-belly.html).

*If you are unfamiliar with Clovis, read a bit about the city and its Committee of 50 at http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-110619976.html

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Las Cruces and the Suspension of Disbelief

“Does anyone know of a good curandera?” I was having lunch in the Teacher’s Room of a southern New Mexico elementary school, and one of my co-workers was asking for advice. Curandera? I looked to my friend who usually helped me when I didn’t understand bits of the Spanglish that was commonly spoken there. “It’s...like a white witch, someone who can heal you,” she whispered. The other teacher went on, “It’s for my wife, she is bewitched.” By this time, I was pretty sure that this was all a joke and became even more convinced when he went on to explain that for the first 15 years of marriage, all went well; but for the last 15 years his wife has not been herself. Ha! I thought to myself—this is going to turn into one of those funny menopause stories.

I was very wrong. Everyone, it seemed, had a curandera to recommend—a friend of a cousin, a neighbor’s auntie, someone in an adobe house just around the corner from that little butcher shop on Rio Grande Street… I looked from face to face, amazed that I was hearing this conversation from these well-educated people.

I should have known better. When we first moved to Las Cruces in the late 1990s I was convinced that we had come to another world, maybe even another universe, given the wild desert and mountain landscape that was so different from our sheltered New England hills. The more I got to know the people, the more I really believed that I was somewhere far, far away from all that was familiar.

Our butcher, for instance, sold the best meat in the world. It all came from nearby ranches. You could practically cut the steaks with a fork and the flavor was unbelievable. He was a mesmerizing character who told stories to us the whole time he was putting together our order. We would just stand there, gazing at him and nodding, our hands hanging loosely at our sides. We spent a lot of time in that shop, listening to strange tales of people lost in the mountains, or thrown from their cars in horrendous accidents. Then we would gather up our bundles and say goodbye. When we went outside into the glaring sunlight, we would shiver a bit and look at each other and say, “Did you notice how sharp his teeth were?”

It is a strange and otherworldly place, Las Cruces. All of New Mexico has an indefinable mystery about it. That must be what they try to express by phrase “The Land of Enchantment”—but those are just words. You have to come here to experience the eery and unearthly sensations. Come with an open mind and be ready to be amazed.
Places to visit in Las Cruces: http://www.nmmagazine.com/NMREGIONS/swlascruces.html
For a discussion of curanderismo: http://healingtherapies.info/Curanderismo1.htm

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Newcomer’s Guide to Clovis, Part 3


The Clovis-Carver Public Library

The news is all good here. Bring a picture ID of yourself together with mail that you have received at your residence (no P.O. Boxes, please) and you can acquire a library card that will open all kinds of doors for you.

Good facility...
There are lots of books, comfy chairs, lots of space. There is a wonderful Southwest room for nonfiction books and documents about New Mexico and surrounding areas. Videos, children’s and young adult sections are all available. You can pick up an application for voter registration here. The library is centrally located at 7th and Main, and there is plenty of parking.

Good people...
There is a friendly, willing, and welcoming staff—the best asset any library can have. They will answer questions for you about the library and about the community. If they don't have a book that you are looking for, they will borrow it from somewhere else.

Good web site, with lots of information and local links... http://www.library.cityofclovis.org/index.html. In addition to a complete online catalog and lots of other resources, the web site allows you to look at a list of the books you have out, to renew the ones you need to keep longer, and to request books you want to have held for you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Newcomer’s Guide to Clovis, Part 2

Getting a Mortgage

This will be short: Before you choose your bank or mortgage company in Clovis, ask to be sure that the mortgage decisions are made right here in Clovis. Not in Albuquerque, not in Santa Fe, and certainly not anywhere else but right here in Clovis.

We chose a Clovis bank from online and worked out mortgage details from back in New Hampshire. We wanted to be prequalified and ready to go when we made our quick trip out to Clovis to buy a house. Everything was in place—We were prequalified by the bank, we went to Clovis and looked at houses, made an offer that was accepted, and went back to NH to firm up the details of our house sale there and to pack up.

Once we had moved our belongings across the country to storage in Clovis, and had taken up temporary residence in The Seedy Motel, everything went well and all was approved until our closing date approached. It turned out that the company that handled the mortgage was located in Albuquerque, and they really didn’t care when our closing date was supposed to be taking place here in Clovis. The first closing date was to be early on a Friday morning, and was rescheduled at 5 PM the day before. Eight more closing dates came and went, before I stopped counting. I figured no one would believe me, anyway.

Actually, all the bank professionals involved made this seem like the first mortgage they had ever handled. There were people at the mortgage company who didn’t know how to read a pdf document—the print was too tiny (they were looking at an online document reduced to 24% of its original size!). Fax machines didn’t work. We would be getting ready to go to the title company for (yet another) closing and would get a call half an hour before the appointment to tell us that it was (yet again) rescheduled. After a while they didn’t seem to have the strength to reschedule; they simply cancelled.

The sellers had to leave because they had out of state commitments. They graciously allowed us to move into their house a few days before the 8th closing date so that we could get out of The Seedy Motel, where we had been for two weeks. Of course, that closing date was changed, too. It became a joke, not so funny, that we might never close. The bank explained again and again that it had nothing to do with our qualifications and that we had been approved all along, but right up until the day before we actually closed they were phoning for us to fax proof of employment to the mortgage company in Albuquerque.

Oops, this didn’t turn out to be so short, and it’s kind of rantish, besides. Stop reading right now, and just memorize the first paragraph.

Oh, and by the way, the actual closing was quite pleasant and we love our new house.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Newcomer’s Guide to Clovis, by a Newcomer




Part 1, Driver’s Licensing and Motor Vehicle Registration






You might think that this is a strange subject for me to be blogging about but, believe me, I have valuable information for you on this subject that you will be glad to know about. Sorry that this is so long, but if you are planning to drive when you move to Clovis, you will have the benefit of my experience.

Getting our driver’s licenses changed over was one of the most difficult tasks facing us when we were getting settled in Clovis, and it was the one time when that famous Clovis friendliness was nowhere to be found. I remember going through this procedure quite painlessly 10 years ago when we moved to Las Cruces, and smiling on the way out. It is nothing like that in Clovis.

To change your driver’s license from another state to a New Mexican driver’s license, which must be done within 30 days after your arrival (but I doubt they are checking), you will have to go to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Have a good night’s sleep the night before and a nutritious breakfast, give yourself plenty of time, arrive early (45 minutes before opening time—I’m not kidding about this) and line up outside the door. Do not sit down, or you will lose your place in line. Take deep calming breaths, and bring something along to occupy yourself—but stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Don’t lose your place in line.

The people inside that you will be dealing with are angry and unhappy. We do not know why. They are probably not angry with you, but it will seem like it to you. See why I told you to be well rested and well fed before going?

But first…
Long before you go to the DMV, study the Dept. of Motor Vehicles web site carefully and print out the list of documents that you will need. The DMV’s official site is kind of clunky and hard to use. There is an “unofficial guide” at http://www.dmv.org/nm-new-mexico/department-motor-vehicles.php. It has a casual and jokey tone to it. Do not let this lull you into a false sense of security. To transfer your state license to a New Mexico license, you need to prove two things:
1. Your identity. For this you need your picture ID license from your former state, your Social Security card, and a certified birth certificate to prove your age.
2. Your address. This one is trickier. When you are new to a community, you really have to work to put together this documentation. The official DMV site will tell you that the following documents are acceptable:
Rental Agreement or Purchase Agreement, Any Original Government Issued document, Utility Bill (PNM, Waste, Water, etc.), Telephone Bill, Bank Statement, Check Book (note: must have printed address), Employment Pay Stub, Insurance Bill (Automobile or Home), Local Property Tax Statement, Proof of a Minor Child Enrolled in a Public/Private School, Proof that the person has remained in New Mexico for Seven Consecutive Months, voter registration, Original documentation from a New Mexico community service organization; or city, county, state or federal government service organization attesting to the fact that the person is a New Mexico resident. (PO Box allowed for mailing address only.)

Bring several examples of identity and address documentation. Be prepared for rejection. Have a whole file folder of papers with you. Don’t leave anything out in the car, thinking that you have all eventualities covered. You might have, but they will still reject everything you brought inside and you will lose your place in line when you go back outside to bring in the rest of the file folders. I know this from personal experience.

My husband went to that office three times before convincing them that he was worthy of a license. I was determined to be successful the first time, but here is what happened to me. I brought an insurance statement that was sent to my home address. They rejected it as proof of residence even though I had received it in the mail at my residence, because it was a statement indicating that my New Hampshire insurance coverage was cancelled. I explained that this was because I now had New Mexico insurance coverage, but they didn’t care.

I thought I had the proof of residency further covered with the complete documentation for our new mortgage, but they insisted on seeing our purchase and sales agreement (which was out in the car). When I brought it in, and my place in line came up again, they complained that the agreement was only signed by the purchasers (us) and not the sellers (who had already moved out of state by the time we had our much cancelled and rescheduled closing—See Newcomer’s Guide to Clovis, Part 2). After toying around with me a bit longer to see if they could make me cry or yell, my “service representative” took my personal papers off to another office and made me wait a while longer. When she finally returned, suddenly everything went smoothly. I got my license.

Once I had the license in hand I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Weeks later I noticed that they made a mistake—the license indicated that I must wear corrective lenses, even though I passed the eye test with no glasses on. What the heck, I’ll buy some clear lens glasses and keep them handy. In any event, I am never going back to that office. By paying a bit extra, I got my license for 8 years, rather than for 4 years. By that time I’ll probably just stop driving.

I had hoped that I could recommend the Portales DMV office, 19 miles away, as a better place to go, but I just came across an online discussion (http://www.city-data.com/forum/new-mexico/53882-difficulties-motor-vehicle-division.html) that indicates the opposite—that Portales was picky and that Clovis was an “in and out” deal.

At least I have this good news for you. To register your vehicles, do not go through the horror of the Clovis DMV. Simply drive up Prince St. to:

Complete Compliance Services
5307 N. PrinceClovis, NM 88101

Office Number: (505) 762-3077

Fax Number: (505) 762-9851

Bring along your vehicle, your check book, your old registration, and your proof of insurance that includes coverage in case a non-insured driver hits you. You might give them a call ahead of time to be sure your insurance has any other required coverage. As long as you don’t arrive during the lunch hour when they are closed from 12:30-1:30, you will have a pleasant and restful experience registering your car. They are lovely people and every bit as friendly as everyone else in Clovis (except for those angry and unhappy DMV employees).