Monday, June 30, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Zee Goes Up will be published on The Elder Storytelling Place, a website published by Ronni Bennett, who "was a producer for such television programs as 20/20 and The Barbara Walters Specials on the ABC network and for shows at Lifetime TV, NBC, CBS and PBS" and "who was managing editor at cbsnews.com." (All quotes from the website Time Goes By ).
Watch for it on Tuesday, June 24. I'll be back after knee surgery.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Be sure to read this op-ed piece in today's New York Times--don't just read the hand-picked quotes I'm going to give you. It's not the most flattering picture of Barack Obama, but you've got to love this stuff. Brooks tells us that lest the Republicans "think they’re running against some naïve university-town dreamer" they should realize that he is "the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier...on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol...the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent..."
My favorite part is the last paragraph: "All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics."
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I just can't help myself. I've got nees on my mind. Some surgeon that I hardly know plans to remove some parts of my body next Monday--parts that I've had for a very, very long time--and is going to replace them with some fancy titanium bits. I've loved my nees, sorry, my knees for all these years, even when they hurt me. After all, they taught me some important life lessons. People don't limp just because one leg is shorter than the other, as I had always assumed in my frivolous, unthinking way. Lots of people endure pain every single day of their lives. And doctors aren't magic, they can't always take the pain away.
Now this surgeon, the one I hardly know, is going to inflict more pain with the hope of making things better. We'll see.
WARNING: Do not look at the following photo unless you are a medical student or a devoted watcher of House or any other TV medical drama. Do not look if you are queasy.
I just had to share this photo of an acquaintance's knee after knee replacement surgery, because this is the sort of thing that is on my mind these days. That incision is longer than usual because of several prior knee fixes. I'm hoping that my incision will be much shorter. I'm considering offering my assistance to this surgeon, because I have surely watched more House episodes than he has, and am thus uniquely qualified to take my place in the operating room. On the other hand, he may have other plans for my role there.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
There are thought to be fewer than 15,000 bonobos left in the wild. Vanessa Woods studies them in the Democratic Republic of Congo and writes about her life and research there on her blog, The Bonobo Handshake. You can sign up to be notified by email each time she writes something new on the blog. Just go to Bloglines and subscribe for free and then follow the simple directions to subscribe to Vanessa's blog and any others you might want to read on a regular basis.
The question is, how much of us is chimpanzee, how much is bonobo, and how much belongs just to us, as humans?
Monday, June 16, 2008
The third thing (beside the fact that I can't count) is that I've always treasured an old Herb Caen column in the San Francisco Chronicle that he wrote about libraries. It was probably during an actual long-ago National Library Week that he told us about the book that had been returned to the San Francisco Public Library with a piece of bacon in it that had apparently been used as a bookmark. I don't know if it was a need to protect books or a love of bacon, but from that moment on I knew where I wanted to work.
There. Now you can watch this video.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
...hearing Spanglish spoken
...going to basketball games at NMSU
...seeing that wonderful church with the blue neon crosses
...looking up at the Organ Mountains, even if they do look like the painted backdrop for an old cowboy movie
...the smell of chiles roasting in the fall
...the smell of mesquite and piñon fireplace fires in the winter
...the plaza in Mesilla when it's decorated for Christmas
...the celebration of los Dias de los Muertos
...hot summer evenings just after the sun goes down
...sitting out on the patio of a restaurant, drinking cervezas, looking across the river and up at the mountains and listening to the birds
...the smell of rain in the desert
...shopping! I'm not even a shopper but I do like to shop in Las Cruces
...the funky places along Picacho (they'd still better be there). We bought a crazy chicken cabinet from Mexico there that we've dragged all over with us ever since
...more shopping! All the little shops down in Mesilla, and especially that wonderful book store with all the little nooks and crannies
...that great vegetable and fruit store [somewhere in the middle of town] where we used to fill up several bags for only $10--all kinds of produce, including a bunch of stuff we didn't recognize
...sitting on that dirt road at the base of the Organs and watching the sunset. Then dragging our eyes away from the incredible sky to find we were surrounded by curious cattle
....driving up to "A" Mountain at night to look at the stars
...going to that strange butcher with the sharp teeth to buy the most incredible meat we've ever had, before or since
...eating at Peppers Cafe in Mesilla, sitting by the fountain and gazing at the bougainvillea growing up against the skylight
...appreciating the choices represented by the different residential areas--from brand-new subdivisions to the tree-lined streets of Mesilla Park to the lovely older adobes down in the Alameda
...doing business at a well-organized, friendly, and efficient Motor Vehicles department (sorry, Clovis)
...living in an open-minded environment where people are accepted even though they might be different (sorry again, Clovis!!!)
...driving through empty streets before the sun has come up over the top of the Organ Mountains, hearing the sprinklers going, and smelling the incredible morning air
...flowers blooming in February (sorry, New Hampshire)
...thinking about moving back there again someday
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I've been corresponding with some online friends about their upcoming moves to New Mexico--one from Washington State, and one who is coming all the way from Maine, as did my sister a few months ago.
I just can't help it, I get nostalgic for the road trip. Perhaps if I look at a few photos from our trip from New Hampshire to New Mexico, almost a year ago now, I can get over that desire to pack up and drive a long way. These photos will illustrate that, no matter how well you plan and pack, the chaos factor sets in sooner or later. We moved two dogs and three cats, several fragile plants (you can see their crushed remains peeking out from under the shifted load), and underwear. I know I packed underwear, but somehow it ended up in the bottom layer and was unreachable for the duration of the journey.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Our house back in New Hampshire was a center-chimney Colonial that had been built in 1770. We were charmed by its fireplaces. There were four, all built around that huge center chimney which gradually widened so that the base down in the cellar, built with a big brick arch, was at least twelve feet square. Each of the fireplaces had metal cranes, hinged at the side of the firebox so that they could be swung out over the hearth. You could hang your iron pot, if you had one, on the crane and swing it back over the fire.
The biggest fireplace of the four was in the old original kitchen, the room to the right of the front door in the photo above. Next to the fireplace opening was a small wooden door, covering what we supposed was a box for holding firewood. We struggled to pull that door open but just couldn't budge it. Several weeks after we had moved in, we heard a great crashing downstairs in the middle of the night. Because so many other "interesting" things had already happened to us since moving in, we chose to pull the sheets over our heads and wait until morning to investigate.
The next morning we cautiously came down the narrow curving "captain's staircase" that was built around the chimney. We were amazed to find that the little door, jammed fast the last time we had seen it, was now all the way across the room and up against the opposite wall. It was just as though the house was inviting us to look at what the door had been concealing.
What we saw were two openings, one above the other, built into the brickwork next to the fireplace and running back along the depth of the great chimney. The top opening was a much-coveted beehive oven and the bottom one revealed a storage space with all the old iron pots to hang on our empty cranes! We were thrilled to find that we owned a further bit of history. Research at the local library (in those pre-Internet days) showed that the Colonial housewife would build a small fire in the oven, close it up with a hinged iron door until the whole thing was thoroughly heated, rake out the coals and brush out the ashes with a long turkey feather, then do her baking. A good oven could hold as many as 17 pies, and could certainly bake up a quantity of bread and baked beans.
We searched around the property for years for the missing iron door to cover the oven but we never found it, although the hinges were there.
When we moved to New Mexico I was fascinated to see that many yards in the older parts of Las Cruces had beehive-shaped outdoor ovens, or hornos, made of adobe. According to this National Park Service website for Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque, NM, the Spanish explorers brought wheat to the Pueblo Indians, who had previously made their bread from corn meal dough flattened and cooked on hot flat rocks. The Spaniards taught them how to build hornos, which can be built of sandstone, lava rocks, or adobe bricks.
The photo below is one I took of an horno at the Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos, New Mexico.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
(Hum the theme song from Indiana Jones here).
I have just one little piece of advice--whatever you do, don't get yourself into a situation with that rig where you have to back up. U-Haul mentions that you shouldn't do this somewhere in the small print and probably everyone (else) in the world was born knowing it. However, we got stuck behind a motel in a parking lot that dead-ended instead of going all the way around and were forced to do a little backing. That was the end of the hitch that was holding on the car carrier. It broke clean off.
U-Haul came the next day and took away the car carrier and I ended up having to drive the car over the George Washington Bridge (New York City) during what surely seemed like rush hour to me.
Now, remember that part in one of the old Indiana Jones movies where Marion gets grabbed by some fez-wearing guys with mustaches in a bazaar and they carry her off in a big covered basket? Indie gives chase and turns a corner to find the bazaar filled with tons of fez-wearing guys with mustaches carrying big covered baskets that look exactly like the one Marion is in... (stay with me here, I'll get back to the U-Haul situation, I promise).
So I'm driving the loaded Subaru and following my husband who is driving the now car-carrierless U-Haul and we don't have cell phones and I'm not sure where we're going and I hate to drive and I hate traffic and there's lots of it and I'm talking to myself and singing through gritted teeth just to get through it all and he gets ahead of me and goes around a curve... and as I make it around the curve, trying to spot him, the whole highway is suddenly filled with U-Hauls that look exactly like the one he is driving.
Long story short, I never saw him again. And dang, he had the cats with him, too.
P.S. Of course, I saw him again, but I thought that other ending sounded better.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
We were new to New Mexico, living in the beautiful city of Las Cruces right under the Organ Mountains--those mountains that always seem like a fake painted backdrop for a cowboy movie.
Wanting to get a little closer to the land, we drove in our little Subaru over to City of Rocks State Park near Deming for a bit of back-to-nature camping. In those pre-arthritic days we did real camping, the kind you do on the ground in a tent. On the ground. In a tent.
The first thing we learned about City of Rocks was that it was, well, rocky. We tried every which way to drive our tent pegs into that ground, but all we did was bend them. Eventually we recalled the First Rule of Camping:
Rule #1: Sit down and have a nice iced tea. A well-hydrated camper is a happy camper.
We were sitting there, perched on some flat rocks while sipping tea and marveling at the views when the Park Ranger stopped by to give us our camper registration. We got our paperwork in order and he stayed on a bit. Gosh, he was a friendly fellow and was happy to give us a few tips about hiking around the City of Rocks.
“Watch your step,” he said, “and always know where you are placing your feet.” We nodded, sagely.
“Never put your hand down where you can’t see it.” Okay, we were happy to agree with that.
“And never, never step over a log or a rock without checking the other side first…” We tilted our heads quizzically, not wanting to give away our total ignorance with any comment, but we leaned forward waiting for the rest of the sentence.” …because that’s where the rattlers like to lie, right there in the shade!” he finished up triumphantly.
We stood up kind of abruptly from those flat rocks that were casting a bit of shade and reached out to shake his hand, carefully watching to be sure that our hands were in plain sight the whole time. He waved us a good-bye, stepped off in a lively way to his truck, and drove away to enlighten some more campers. In the meantime, we were mentally making a revision to our first rule of camping.
Rule #1: Have a beer, right away. Have two. You can do this standing up with your feet right where you can watch them.
In one of those golden moments of marriage where no words need be spoken, we set about picking up and stowing our tent pegs back in their little bag. No need to pitch that tent on such hard ground and no need to talk about it, either. The Subaru’s seats folded down and we could quite happily sleep in there, while keeping mental tabs on all of our extremities.
Better than a tent
But the sun was setting, and the day was cooling off. It was a perfect time for taking a nice walk along some of the ancient Mimbres Indian pathways that wound through the incredible rock formations. So, we set off for some exploration.
It was just as we were strolling down a little incline when it happened. I sensed an abrupt movement at my side, and there was something strange and unexpected about it. I later found out that Mr. Zee had seen a little slither out of the corner of his eye, and having those snakes quite clearly on his mind, had taken immediate evasive action. What I saw as I turned toward him was a sight that has stayed in my mind for all these many years: Mr. Zee went up. He went up in a fashion that would have done Michael Jordan proud. He went up and up, and up some more, and he kind of stayed there for a while. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. I just waited, gazing up into the sky at him, with my hands and feet right there in plain sight.
It took a while, but when he came down again he was looking kind of lightheaded from his recent venture into higher altitude. We searched around a bit and discovered our little slitherer, a tiny red snake who was as anxious to clear the area as we were.
Later that night, lying cozily on our reclining seats and watching the stars through the moon roof, we revised that camping rule one last time. We had just realized that all that beer consumption meant a night time trip to the loo, in the dark, without being able to keep a careful watch on our hands and feet. Thus:
Rule #1: Henceforth, Jack Daniels will be the refreshment of choice when camping. A little goes a long way, and it can be consumed without ever stepping out onto the ground at all.
Friday, June 6, 2008
You will see "art cars" parked around town:
Thursday, June 5, 2008
See that healthy woman way at the bottom of all those flights of stairs? She is young, she is spry, she has powerful lungs, and she is strong because she lives in Bisbee. She is probably on her way to her job in an art gallery because naturally art is very big in this colony of artists. Come back tomorrow and we'll look at a few examples of public art in Bisbee, and you will experience what will hopefully be your first and last example of questionable taste on The Zees Go West.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Modern brands come in two types, hot iron and freeze brands (the latter often used for horses). Tattoos and microchips can also be used as means of identification, but the brand is, of course, most easily visible.
Information from the New Mexico Livestock Board (“Your brand is your livestock’s return address”):
If the owner of livestock wishes to move his animals from one district to another, he must notify the Livestock Board and arrange for inspection of the animals, at fifty cents a head for cattle and bison.
Here is how you should read brands, according to the Cowboy Showcase website:
1. Read from the left to the right as ML (M L).
2. Read from the top to the bottom as (bar m).
3. When the brand is enclosed, it is read from the outside to the inside as (circle S)."
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I had to stop to get a picture of the gate for Kickin' Ass Ranch. Too bad I didn't get in a little closer. We walked along the old main street of the town. The church was especially beautiful, with its walls, nichos, sculptures, and its birdhouses.
We saw an old miner who had stopped in at Mary's Bar for a cool drink in the shade. Parked out front was his vehicle, an old converted pickup truck drawn by six or eight little burros, with a spare burro tied at the back. I would give anything if I had taken his picture, but I was too shy to intrude. Ah, well, I have the memory of the scene.
Monday, June 2, 2008
In the big landscape that is New Mexico your eyes constantly sweep the horizon, looking for what is next. Miles before you get to White Sands, for example, you will see a stretch of blinding white way off in the distance. As you drive west of Carrizozo on Route 380, on the other hand, you will see what seems to be a huge black shadow cast by a cloud. As you get nearer you will see that it is the ground itself, far blacker than the surrounding valley land. You have arrived at the Valley of Fires, which is one of the youngest and most pristine lava flows in the U.S.
You can see a video of a walking tour of the area at http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=f2ff029a833cccc778fd.
For some great aerial photographs of the area, see http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/tour/landmarks/carrizozo/how_formed.html
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Back when my mother was my current age and I was much younger and smarter, I expressed my concern to her about the number of pills she took every day. She more or less told me to mind my own business because without those pills she wouldn’t be alive and kicking, and then she shot out the door for another golf game.
As time went by, my doctor prescribed some pills for me, and Beez got a little prescription of his own. We kept them on the table in a little duck basket that became known as Drug Ducky. DD would “fly” over the table at suppertime, dispensing pills to each of us. The children (and their friends, including Erikka) were mildly amused at first, then patiently tolerant of our little ducky games.
Sadly enough, we slowly accumulated more prescriptions and outgrew the duck, so to speak, graduating to a much larger birdy basket called Goose Turk. The goose bore up well over the years under her ever-increasing burdens.
Fast forward to now, when both Beez and I have fallen victim to genetically pre-ordained cases of arthritis, in addition to our various other old people diagnoses. We are glad to take our pills and if my mother were still around I would certainly apologize for criticizing her drug regime. Having once again outgrown our fowl pill dispenser, we've devoted an entire cupboard shelf to our pill containers. The goose is retired and now we have opted for those grampy-style Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday dispensers, which have the added advantage of assisting with sometimes lapsing memories. (Did I take my morning pills? Did I remember to dust Drug Ducky?)
So, there you have it, the true story of the Drug Ducky connection in the Zee Family. My thanks to Beez for the title of this post and for all the other naming that goes on in our family.