Goodbye and Hello

Goodbye to great breakfasts

Silver City

cute babies who endure mardi gras photo shoots

Kate Marie White

And their older sisters who enjoy it a little more

Silver City, NM

To domesticity

Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

To Mad Hatter bridal showers

Silver City, NM

That migrate to the Buffalo Bar

Silver City, NM

Goodbye to all that and the lovely people of Silver City. It’s been an amazing month and I can’t wait to come back!

Until then,

Hello, Roatan.

Roatan, Honduras

It’s gonna be all diving and islands and adventure for the next 5 months. Stay tuned!

For the love of taco trucks

I didn’t have a real appreciation of taco trucks until I moved to Tucson. There I discovered that some of the best Mexican food in town was served in parking lots under makeshift umbrellas and out of dusty trailers that looked like they’d driven all the way from Argentina. Three words: Sonoran Hot Dog.

In New Mexico, it’s hard to find true Mexican food because New Mexican food is its own cuisine. Most Mexican restaurants in Silver City serve New Mexican dishes that all come with green chilies and lots of smothering sauces.

Except at the taco truck

Silver City, NM

Chip’s taco truck is an unassuming little trailer


Silver City, NM

set up in a former autobody shop with a shady overhang and little picnic tables for dining alfresco

Silver City, NM

Jen swears by the #1 combination with brisket and carne asada tacos but I’m partial to the #4 with queso quemado veggie tacos.

Silver City, NM

Queso quemado is cheese slapped on the grill until it’s browned and melting and then plunked on corn tortillas and topped with sauteed green peppers and onions.

And lots of salsa.

His salsa bar is outstanding

Silver City, NM

With pickled onions, fresh cabbage and salsas ranging from red and green “greasies” to mango salsa and spicy pico de gallo

Chip's Taco Truck, Silver City

There’s nothing glamorous about a taco truck, but sometimes really good food needs to be eaten with your fingers outside while the sun beats off the blacktop and grease drips down your hand.

When that’s the case, go visit Chip.

Silver City, NM

Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque

I wish this place were attached to a living history museum, something commemorating pioneers with a collection of dusty covered wagons while men in suspenders bale hay and sun-bonneted docents show you around.

Instead, this whole gigantic building is kind of a fast food restaurant.

Albuquerque, NM

The “kind of” part being the crowds, booths and ordering procedure

Albuquerque, NM

And the relative speed of service. However, the food is surprisingly good for a restaurant with foam cups. I got the breakfast burrito, which was full of green chilies and hashbrowns

Albuquerque, NM

This cinnamon roll might be the most decadent thing I’ve laid eyes on in weeks.

Albuquerque, NM

Yeah, that’s melted butter…

University of New Mexico students have been patronizing Frontier Restaurant for decades because it’s right on Central Avenue and it’s open until 1am. However, the Travel Channel has recently taken notice and guess who came to visit?

Frontier Restaurant, Albuquerque

Tune in next week to see if Adam Richman agrees that Frontier Restaurant serves the best green chili cheeseburger in town.

It’s hard to believe that Frontier Restaurant could get busier, but TV exposure tends to do that; so, if you actually want to taste that cheeseburger, you should go this week. Barring the cheeseburger, try the cinnamon roll. It’s de-li-cious.

Gila Cliff Dwellings and a Picnic

Alex, Carrie, Santouza and I took a picnic and went up to the Gila National Forest. Santouza got the seat of honor

New Mexico

But she really hated the switchbacks and needed Alex to keep her company

New Mexico

Alex lives in  Ohio so Carrie wanted to show him the Gila cliff dwellings, which were built by the Mogollan people on the outskirts of what is now the Gila wilderness.

New Mexico

They’re about 150 feet off the canyon floor and, unlike many cliff dwellings in the Southwest, we could hike up a relatively easy trail to these cliffs and actually go inside these caves.

New Mexico

Walk around the houses where people used to live

New Mexico

Look out their windows

New Mexico

See their artwork

New Mexico

And the way they organized their living space

New Mexico

It blows my mind that these stairs have survived the elements for 700 years

New Mexico

Sidebar -If you’ve read Born to Run, this is also the area where Caballo Blanco was found dead. And even further incidentally, if you haven’t read this book because you aren’t a runner, you should read it anyway because it’s a fantastic adventure story – Unsidebar

The Mimbres River runs near here

New Mexico

So we stopped near the river for a picnic

new mexico

in part of the dry river bed

New Mexico

It’s such a beautiful area and that much more of a bummer that it’s all closed now because of the smoke from the giant Whitewater fire that wiped out thousands of acres in the Gila forest.

We took this trip about 2 weeks ago when the fire was much smaller so these pictures predate the fire and I don’t know what this area will look like when it reopens. I’m hopeful that the cliff dwellings will survive this fire, like they’ve survived everything else for the past several centuries, and that the river will once again be full of kids.

I raise my glass to all the fire fighters who’ve been fighting the New Mexico forest fires over the last month. Thank you.

New Mexico

Airport breakfast in ABQ

Tia Juanita’s burrito.

Quito in T -14 hours!

Please Welcome, Kate Marie White

Dear Kate Marie,

We’ve been waiting for you all week. Your Gigi and Papaw came all the way from Nashville to be here for your birth and I came from Tucson.

It snowed on Sunday and I was sure you were going to be born. But you weren’t ready.

April 2012

Your mom was very tired of being pregnant by this point. For the past week, I’ve told her good night every night by pressing on her belly and saying “Baby, come out!”

Your mom had contractions on and off for several days but you weren’t ready to be born. This made her cranky. She made muffins on Sunday and then she threw them when they burned.

In other news, your older sister Ruby also throws things when she’s angry. We don’t know where she gets it.

Easter 2012

Today, I was writing about Michelle Shocked when I got a call from your Gigi saying “You better come.” So I did.

Your dad came home and your mom was in labor.

April 2012

Everything got really intense around 11am and your mom said “I can’t do this!” a lot but we all knew she could.

At 12:30 your Gigi sent your Papaw out for tacos because everyone was hungry. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to miss anything. Your Papaw walked in the door at 1:10 with 4 boxes of tacos and we said “Hurry!” He got there just in time to watch you come out.

Your shoulders got a little stuck but your midwife, Shauna, reached in and pulled you out. Your Gigi nearly fainted.

At 1:11 on April 16, 2012, you were born.

April 16. 2012

You were very purple and we were all a little scared but Shauna breathed into your lungs so you could breathe and you started crying and we knew you’d be ok.

We talked about you all day. Then your sister, Ruby, came home to meet you and tried to feed you a carrot. She thinks you’re pretty great until you cry.

April 2012

We’re all so happy you’re finally here.

April 2012

April 2012

Welcome to the world, little girl.

April 2012

It’s a pretty crazy place but I think you’ll like it here.

Auntie Kaitlyn

April 2012

Michelle Shocked at the Buckhorn

Buckhorn Opera House

I went to hear Michelle Shocked a couple of nights ago. I’m a fan of her Short Sharp Shocked album and even though I hadn’t heard anything she’s released since then (which isn’t much) I happily paid $20 for a chance to hear her play in the historic Buckhorn Opera House in Pinos Altos, NM (population 300).

Pinos Altos, NM

Strangest concert I’ve ever attended. Hands down.

Michelle is 50 (ish), very tall and thin with a slightly manic attitude and tendency to ramble. She admitted at the beginning that she talks a lot and that she enjoys a certain unprepared/extemporaneous vibe to her concerts, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality. In the 2.5 hours of the concert she played fewer than 10 songs and she talked for the rest of it, which is a rough ratio for a concert.

Moreover, she’s enchanted when other people sing her songs; so, whenever she did sing, she insisted that the crowd sing with her. That’s 2.5 hours of listening to your neighbor warble through “Memories of East Texas” and “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” while Michelle strums three guitar chords (she says that’s all you need), smiles maniacally and says “This is awesome! I love this!”

But the crowning moment of weird was her 20 minute lecture on foreclosures.

To repeat: Michelle Shocked took a 20 minute break from leading summer camp sing-a-long versions of her most popular songs to lecture us on bank foreclosure policies and how they may or may not be fraudulent.

So. Strange.

She tried to link the whole thing to the Occupy movement by putting signs over her speakers (fraudclosure!) that immediately fell down and had to be taped up with gaff tape. Then she unfurled a pop-up tent that filled the pocket-sized stage so she had to stand in front of the stage, which meant no one could see her except the front row. And then she lectured.

I don’t mean that she gave an impassioned speech on subject matter about which she feels so strongly that she can’t help talking or writing songs to proselytize. I mean that she pulled up notes on her iphone and gave the kind of speech you might hear in a college history class held in a giant lecture hall where the professor never looks up from his notes and is so far away that you can’t see him so you zone out and draw pictures of hearts all over your notes until he stops talking.

She started with a rambling history of America’s home mortgage policy since the Depression and progressed to a question and answer section to clarify what we’ve heard in the news about foreclosures.

She used the words meta story.

I was so fascinated by the twilight zone nature of the event that I sat through the whole thing, as did almost everyone else. I hate to miss things so I stick around through the boring parts in case the situation takes a weird left turn and becomes story-worthy. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was.

She finished the set by exclaiming that this second night of her tour was much more polished than the first night (!!), she tried to fold up the tent (no luck) and sang 3 songs. Then she requested donations so she could hire homeless people to make her more fraudclosure! signs and she called it a night.

Overall? Super awkward.

Worth the money? Definitely. I’ll pay money for Weird any day of the week.

Possible chance I’ll ever go to another of her concerts? Nil. Zip. Zero. Once is plenty.

Jen and Katie

Jen and I have known each other 22 years.  All but 4 years of our friendship has been long distance, which makes it even more remarkable that we have not only stayed in touch but have gotten closer over the years. I think she’s remarkable and hilarious and the more time I spend with her, the more time I want to spend with her. Our friendship has been marked by several amusing moments and in honor of her 40th birthday (officially tomorrow!) I’ll tell one of our many many stories.

One year Jen came to visit me in Tucson intending on a relaxing, rejuvenating “spa” weekend but without the requisite cash for a resort. Because we’re resourceful girls who love nothing so much as a challenge, we worked up a “ghetto spa weekend on the cheap.” It went like this:

Night #1: Jen arrives in town. We eat sushi for dinner and spend the rest of the evening driving around looking for yoga places advertising free first classes. She picks up several yoga flyers, free passes to the YMCA and then we find a community pool right down the street from my house. “$1 per visit? Perfect!” Jen says.

We go home and spend the next several hours on line searching for “cheap massages” only to find that there’s no PG rated way to make that search. After an hour of interesting websites and even more interesting speculation, Jen abandons the massage search and makes a list: “Tomorrow I’ll start at the YMCA with a cardio-kickboxing class, do yoga at 2 and go to the pool at 5.  I’ll pick you up after work, then it’s the sweat lodge and dinner.”

The next day she does her classes, drinks green tea, gives herself a facial and calls me “Think of all the money I’m saving! she says. It’s all going so well! Why doesn’t everyone do a spa weekend on the cheap!?” Full of success, she gets into her swimsuit, grabs her giant sunglasses and her beach bag with and walks down the block to pay her $1 only to discover a small blood-temperature community pool surrounded by an acre of blazing hot concrete. Not deterred, our fair maiden throws her towel on the concrete, slaps at the line of ants marching across her ankles and ducks as small children skid into her, eating potato chips and dropping crumbs hither and yon to feed the aforementioned ants. She’s not a quitter and hung in there for an hour as the sun blazed and pool practically boiled before calling me and saying “I’ve discovered the “ghetto” factor in my ghetto spa weekend. I can see why people don’t do this. Let’s go to the movies tonight. I’m as rejuvenated as I’m going to get.”

Day #2: I come home to find that the spa weekend has taken an interesting turn. Jen has cleaned out my freezer (This says 2006!!! I’m throwing it away and you can’t stop me!), grocery shopped and done my dishes. As we hang out she spends the rest of the evening making critical comments about the way I organize my living room while I drink beer and nod at the appropriate moments. None of this is unusual. When I visit her, she cleans out her own freezer, grocery shops, does the dishes and makes critical comments about her own living room. I drink beer and watch her. Ordinary people would consider this the demise of the spa weekend; but for Jen, organization is relaxing.

Day #3: I come home to a newly reorganized freezer and refrigerator containing the few remaining things deemed worthy (You have had this as long as I’ve known you! It goes in the trash!). We eat a dinner Jen made (delicious) and dessert (even more delicious) and then she does the dishes while I write in the living room. I finish up and put my laptop away where I ALWAYS put it, where it ALWAYS lives in my house, where it works PERFECTLY for my lifestyle. Jen comes in the living room, watches me and says “Did you notice that I created a new space for your computer?” Without a pause for me to respond, she walks over, takes my laptop away, turns to the shelf next to me, moves my bag from the place where it always lives and puts my laptop down. “See?” she says. “Now you can hide the cord.” And then she shoves it under the rug. “Perfect!”

Wanna guess what happened when she went home? Yep. But there’s always next time…

Happy birthday, my dear unstoppable-force-of-nature friend. I love you.  May your next 40 years be full of friendship and laughter. You can come organize my house and my freezer any time.

Actually, the sooner the better because you know how I get…

Sacred Southwest: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch and the Chimayo shrine

I came to Ghost Ranch because my friend Greta lives here. Georgia O’Keeffe used to live and work here. Her house is not available to the public but I got to go see it, though I couldn’t go in.

 The big window on the right is her studio space, facing the open valley. The surrounding cliffs are gorgeous, high plateaus of red rock and wide valleys of green shrubs, blue sky arching over all of it.

 Stunning. The best parts of the New Mexico landscape. Georgia loved this landscape, a couple of mountains in particular. She said that she painted Cerro Perdernal so much that she hoped God would give it to her.

Now Ghost Ranch is a business complex. Artists come to work and hold workshops on their specialties, groups of people use the grounds for conferences and individual people come to connect with the desert and to heal themselves. This place is deep. The sacred River Chama runs right through this canyon and you can feel the vastness and stillness of the desert here.

It’s the kind of place that makes you want to write or paint or build something, even if you don’t do any of those things. However, Greta writes AND paints and came here to connect with herself and the desert. This is the view out her front door:

You can see how the light changes every time I take a picture. We spent a great night watching the sunset over the River Chama, talking about our writing and our futures. I woke up to a lazy morning, of which I haven’t had many, and spent it with coffee and writing.

I left reluctantly and got on the road about noon to head up to Chimayo, NM.

Chimayo is the site of a shrine called the Lourdes of America because the location is said to be a place of healing. In the early 1800s a monk named Don Bernardo saw a light shining from the hills and when he went to investigate, he found a crucifix. He took the crucifix to his church in Santa Clara and in the morning the crucifix had disappeared. He went back to the hills and found the crucifix in its original spot and again took it back to his church in Santa Clara where it again was gone the next morning. After this happened a third time, the monks built a chapel over the crucifix in the hills and Chimayo was born.

For 200 years this place has healed pilgrims. The spot in the dirt where the crucifix returned 3 times is said to have magical properties and the monks built a “dirt room” over that hole in the floor. Sick people make pilgrimages from all over the world to take the sacred dirt, put it on their ailing parts and receive healing. The antechamber of the dirt room is inspiring and heart breaking. Pilgrims leave mementoes of their sick loved ones, especially kids because this shrine is dedicated to the Santo Nino, and there are hundreds of pictures of sick kids and shelves of baby shoes with names carefully printed on them. It makes my heart hurt to think of all those parents bringing their kids here to pray for a miracle. But then there are also mementoes of healing, rows of discarded crutches and walkers and shelves of casts, glasses and braces.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures inside the chapel area. But I spent quite a long time there, breathing in all this evidence of faith and wondering how belief works, exactly. We know it works. We’ve seen it work. There are many powerful and famous people who came from “the wrong side of the tracks” and never should have accomplished anything given their surroundings and their options; but they had parents or mentors that believed that they were worth something and were proven right. Whatever you may think about miracles or faith, even scientific studies show that sick people who believe they will be healed are more likely to be healed than people who think they’re done for. The book The Secret is all about the power of belief. What you put out there comes back to you.

Is it the power of the dirt in Chimayo that heals? I don’t know. But I believe in belief. I think that if you think something is true, you act like it’s true. When you act like it’s true, you have a better chance of making it true. Faith is a powerful thing and the collected faith of many people is an even more powerful thing. I think places and stuff can soak up the concerted energies of people, which would make Chimayo a powerful place given the 200 years of directed faith and prayer. So I took some dirt.

And then I wandered around the small pueblo of Chimayo and met local artists Lowlow and Joan.

Joan makes jewelry and Lowlow paints paintings and lowrider cars (thus the nickname). He also makes crosses out of barb wire with local turquoise woven into them and calls them the thorn crosses of the Chimayo Santuario. They’re cool and I bought a couple at the chapel gift shop and then went over to his studio.

Lowlow’s paintings are either sacred or secular, crosses and Christ vs. lowrider cars and babes. It’s an unusual combination in one artist.  He has an open air gallery to displays his paintings outside because he likes the way the wind and sun weathers the paintings, streaking the paint, fading certain areas and intensifying others until he gets a slightly different product than he set out to create. He was born and raised in Chimayo and I think the spirituality of the location and a childhood raised around pilgrims gives him a unique view of the world. I bought one of his little weathered icons and when he asked me where I was from and I shrugged and said “everywhere.” He grinned and said “that’s cool” while his wife laughed and said “that’s the best answer you could have given him!” On my way to meet Lowlow, I’d gotten scooped up by his brother, Carlito, who fed me some pistachio nuts and spices and talked me into buying some chilies. Clearly the family is fascinating. I’d love to be around a big Medino family gathering and see what goes down. When I left Joan directed me out of the driveway and then gave me a blessing and asked me to pray for the “spirit of God to flow everywhere because we need it!” I agree.

I spent the rest of the day driving up and down mountains headed for Miami, AZ and my brother Nate. After 7 hours of intense driving, I got to Globe, AZ, pulled over to GPS his address and then headed down the main street. About 4 blocks later a giant flash interrupted my navigation and I realized I’d just gotten busted by a speeding camera. I checked my speed and I was going 42 and hadn’t seen a single speed limit sign. When I saw one on the next block it said 30. And then I saw the red and blue lights of a cop that had just pulled someone over. 2 blocks further on I saw another cop pulling someone else over. Meanwhile the speed limit changed 4 times in the space of 2 miles, from 30 to 35 to 45 and then back to 35. That kind of thing feels like a set up.

I got quite aggravated about the potential speeding ticket because I’ve been careful about my speed this trip, even knowing that I’m in a rental car with NYC plates that traces back to mailing address in AZ where I don’t actually live. When I finally got to Nate’s place and told him the story – dramatically – ending with “And what’s that about?” And “How are they going to find me? “ and “I drive across the country with no problems and get busted by a camera in Globe, AZ? Really???” Nate put up his hands at the verbal onslaught and said “whoa, whoa whoa! You got lucky. The cameras were installed a week ago and everyone in Globe gets a month grace period to get used to them. You’ll might get a picture but you won’t get an actual bill or ticket.” So I just got a free pass. But I might get a pretty pretty picture of me looking intently for street signs while holding my GPS after 7 hours on the road. G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S.

And now I’m in Miami, AZ at the beginning of the Boomtown Spree. I hear there are mining sports tomorrow like mucking and hand drilling. Sounds fascinating and I’ll report back, dontcha know. With pictures.

See you then.

Tinker Town and the vast New Mexico sky

Driving through the panhandle today. Lots of this:

And this:

And the sun is HOT. I got sunburned just sitting in the car driving. But the wind is cold, sweeping over the plains in giant gusts that make picture taking almost impossible because I can’t hold the camera steady. I’m forever pulling over to the side of the road and waiting interminable minutes while trucks pass so I can photograph the horizon and remember what everything looks like.

Today the terrain changed a lot. I left Amarillo early and then gained an hour once I got over the New Mexico border; so, although I had a lot of driving, the day felt relaxed. As I drove through northern New Mexico, it got more mountainous with a giant sky and clouds but still the same cold wind and hot sun.

Disconcerting combination as I’d get hot driving in the car and need a jacket when I get out of it. I drove up into the Sandia Mountains on my way north of Albuquerque and arrived here about noon:

I didn’t know what to expect, and rarely do, but this place blew my little mind. TinkerTown houses the collection of all collections by collector and artist, Ross Ward:

It seems the Ross Ward’s collecting habits and his wood carving grew up together and this little town is an outgrowth of his collection. Creatively, the most impressive section is the world he created which is incredibly difficult to capture on film when it’s behind glass so here are some crappy pictures:

And an enlarged example of one of the figures.

This town is a fantastical version of the Old West with all the requisite establishments – saloon, candy store, general store, blacksmith, Chinese laundry etc. – all peopled with figures carved by Ross Ward, painted by him and dressed in clothes made by him doing things with accessories made by him on top of platforms and inside buildings created by him. He built this entire world from the bottom to the top from recycled wood, fabrics scraps and discarded items. Some of the pieces are animated and when you press buttons they move up and down or jump or fly or whatever. It’s literally thousands of little figures.

And that’s just the beginning of Tinker Town! The museum portion is an indoor/outdoor place with wooden pathways lined with cement walls inset with bottles that look this way on one side:

And this way on the other.

But each twist and turn of the pathways holds stuff. If you name it he collected it and then he painted it or plastered it or attached it to something else to create a mobile.

Around each corner is a shrine:

Or a sign:

Emphasizing a live free or die attitude that shines from every corner of this place. I love some of the quotes he chose to display, namely:

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

And my favorite:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely…broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the world. – Mark Twain

I met Ross’s sister-in-law Mary and his wife Carla:

Who now run the place as Ross died of Alzheimer’s a couple years ago. They were delightful and told me stories of his early collecting and his time traveling with the carnival. He sounds like a fascinating man and I wish I’d met him. I’m glad this place lives on in his memory.

Tonight I’m here:

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch up in Abiquiu visiting my friend Greta and it’s magical.

I have a million pictures and I’ll take more tomorrow and post them. But here’s the moonrise from tonight:

I don’t want to live up here but I can see why she did.

More tomorrow.