Wednesday, March 31, 2010

black like me.... no more
Please note painted nails, first time in years. To quote Joe Biden: "This is a big f***ing deal". His eloquence knows no bounds. Having painted nails is one of the perks of my new non-manual labor lifestyle. I found this turtle on beach while picking up plastic trash. He is my new pet. I make trails with him in the sand. I guess something good can come of anything.

So how about a Good News for Women page today? We don't get enough for sure. First off –Rwanda. Women comprise 56 percent of the Rwandan parliament. A majority, folks. Now that's what I call representative government at its best. Makes us look rather shabby, doesn't it? "Us" as in U.S. One of the male members there insisted women were better at making "peace". Probably because he knew that not too far away the police force of Liberia was arming fed up women to the teeth and training them to "combat" sexual violence in a real way. Like Carlotta sez: If more women knew how to use a gun, more men would be better behaved.

And this good news provides counterweight to what I read yesterday about Al Kayda's latest innovation (at least according to the Brits): the terrorist org seems to be perfecting the art of equipping women bombers with virtually undetectable explosive breast implants. Yes, you heard right. The secret word for tonight is.... Anyway, that's what I would call really bad news. Makes you wanna slap those girls upside their heads. What are they thinkin? Apparently not much. Maybe send those Rwandan women down there to straighten them out!

So, hmmm .. .. reading the ingredients on my Chanel face cream, big bucks, this stuff. Guarantees me those lines will just disappear for a mere hundred and twenty an ounce or something. They put this goo in heavy weighted jars so you feel like you're actually getting something for your money. It has never been satisfactorily explained to me just why all this reconfigured detritus of crude oil refining is so damned expensive.. quoi? I mean, it's stuff they just pitched into landfills before they figured out they could reconfigure it without any government oversight and and charge a fortune for it. Wish there was somewhere I could look this up online and see if any of these things are gonna kill me sooner than I want to depart this world.

And WAALAA! (I love Kaye Gibbons) No sooner did I think it than T sez: Guess what, ma and proceeds to inform me that her 8th grade pal from St. Ignatius, Becky Prusinowski, is a journalist for PAPER, a NY mag, and she says there is such a place where one can consult on the health benefits or hazards of various cosmetics, shampoos, pretty much anything that lathers or claims to make you better looking, smelling, whatever, baby (unforgivably hazardous ratings on most of the commercial ones, J and J baby bath always seemed too good to be true) and household products, etc. Your everyday stuff, well, just check it out. The site was set up by none other than the beloved Environmental Working Group ( , which is an amazing resource for info about nearly anything you can consume that may pose a threat to your health. The website within the EWG is called Skin Deep, and it's the EWG's cosmetics safety database.

Just head on over there with your mouse (click on links I've provided) and be prepared to blow your mind. Choose a category from the drop down menu and go to town. Be sure if the product you're searching doesn't come up with a result that you downpage a bit and choose the fine print option "Dont see what you were looking for? Include old formulations." Betcha you'll find it there. Now I'm not averse to multisyllabic ingredients. I'm something of a multisyllabic gal myself. But are all these ingredients really necessary to achieve the desired result? I think not! And most of these petro-derived ingredients are temporary fixes, they don't really help heal the skin or nourish it longterm. And I was surprised to find that in many products the most toxic, and I mean toxic, ingredient was fragrance! That's the thing that makes us feel good about using the product when we smell how clean and innocent it is!

You know, girls (and any guys lingering on the edges out there), the Europeans are way ahead of us on this one. Not something the newscasters are anxious to tell you.

Take a little time with this site and you will be amazed (and send them five bucks if you can). They are doing a valiant job of trying to keep up with monitoring ingredients spewed forth from a petrochemical industry that is growing faster than the USDEP or the FDA wants to talk about and is worth billions a year of your dollars. Some products are less harmful than you might think, and others that bill themselves in nouveau langue au naturelle are megatoxic. Here's an almost infallible giveaway: If it says "natural" it probably is anything but. And the new nano technologies, meaning they can make the particles of whatever is in that jar more easily absorbed by your skin, can be your worst enemy. Yup, just jet propel that poison right into my wrinkles, guys!

Still frustrated by the amount of time it takes to find out what this stuff is in your moisturizer or body wash? (And by the way, body washes are a big negative for the most part. Avoid them all is my advice. Get a good bar of moisturizing, I use the olive oil, or whatever variety, Kiss My Face soap for "personal hygiene" areas and use a good washcloth sans soap on the rest, unless you're full of mud or something. Use your head for Pete's sake.) So don't be ignorant. GO to this amazing site and scroll down about 2/3 of the way on the left side to Toxins info. Click on that and enjoy all the hard work done for you by Kathleen in Illinois who sells some pretty nice, safe, hand crafted (truly) face and body products on her site as well.

Take a minute to educate yourself, especially for the benefit of anyone you may know with bambinos. Do you even KNOW the difference between non-toxic and toxin- free?I bet not! Neither did I, and I'm one of those informed types. What the hell is hydrolyzed anyway? Do I want that in me? Am I bioaccumulating this crap? Well, duh. But it's never to late. And all this stuff comes to us from the hated petrochemical industry, and I am on a one-woman campaign to stop buying everything they try to foist on me and mine. No more plastic liquid detergent bottles, no more water bottles, git that microscopic cheapass plastic crap out of my face cream, off my beach, and outta my life! I'm tossing about 75 bucks worth of Chanel, not to mention other crap I've bought in my more in-vain moments, and hitching up with sites like Kathleen's at Healing-scents, Solay, Sundari (I can vouch for their products, having used them in New Mexico at a spa in 07 with gratifying results), Tara, Jason's, Avalon Organics and the jillions of other genuinely pure products you can find on the cosmetics database. Just search there under dropdowns for skin, then nourishing, then say, moisturizer , and you'll get a long list of good- for- you products. Take the time to get good at using the site. Don't give these creeps any more of your money just so they can poison us with cheap crap.

Here's another site I found today with lots of interesting stuff there about food safety, women's health, etc. Check it out.

And don't worry, I'll recycle all the crap I throw away. But recycling isn't the answer, it's just a temporary fix. Our Penance for Past Purchases.We need to stop buying plastic stuff altogether in all its forms. Put these guys outta business and insist on better from the cosmetics industry. For In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was –– Sustainability.

(I have this on good authority, truly.) Make mindful choices today and the future will take care of itself.

I liked this quote: We'll either cross that bridge when we come to it, or burn it. Either way, we'll deal with it later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shoutout to the Sukester. Nice to see you, girlfrin!

Have decided on a title for a collection of short stories of people who have been mean to me and mine over the years: "Vicious Little Pinpricks and Other Tales of Heartlessness and Cruel Betrayal."

I like it!

Tomorrow.. or soon anyway.. What's on your face? with links to cosmetic remedies..
napoleon.. a propos of nothing
Out west.. space is the place..

So it's raining, cats and dogs here. The entire tiny yard is a sea of, well, what else? water. Pervious surface is at a premium here at the Jersey shore, so flooding in the streets and parking areas is the norm. I waded in four inches in my suede boots today trying to get to the Beachcomber to FAX something. jeez!

The beach can lift your spirits and break your heart, all within a few moments. You cast your soul over the sand's ascetic purity, out over the waves, smiling like a fool when suddenly that scene in The Graduate looms before you, where the cuckolded husband collars Benjamin and insists he listen up: the future belongs to "plastics, ma boy". Little did Mike Nichols know back in 68 that our beaches would come to fester with plastic of every conceivable size, shape and useless permutation, degraded to the most microscopic, yet ultimately indestructible particle imaginable, infesting the guts of seabirds, fish and all living things. Generally creeping me out no end. And , generally speaking, it pisses me off.

The other day T and I were taking our afternoon stroll on the beach, resting against a sanddune after a several mile hike, when a man smoking a cigarette came ambling along the path to the beach, moving ever so cautiously to about midway twixt the waves and the dunes, where he paused indefinitely to smoke and get his bearings. His carriage conveyed a general suspicion of the out of doors, a mistrust of the uneven sand and wind. He was followed shortly by a couple with a leashed rather large dog, an exuberant pair, and the three of them were taking the air together, it appeared, friends, as it were. The couple let the dog off the leash in order to encourage it to relieve itself along the dune line. The woman was loud and fond of the word shit; the man wandered over nonchalantly to kick sand over the dog's poop. Then they releashed the dog and all retreated landward at the next street exit. They were there to toss a ciggie butt and a dog poop on the sand; that was it. I fumed, exclaiming to T that it was precisely this kind of lazy, careless, me first, who gives a crap, the world is my toilet attitude that I found so vile in Americans today.

And then I started bitching about all the plastic the bulldozers were bulldozing off the beach and into the grassy dunes in preparation for the summer tourists. T wanted to believe the dozer fellas picked up all the plastic and carted it to recycle. I insisted no, that the tire tread evidence pointed to the contrary, that they just buried it and hoped for the best. A nice fresh looking sand dune with bits of evidence poking out here and there.

As you can probably sense, I am furious mad on the subject of plastic of every make and model. The way we use it, toss it aside, buy more, toss that aside, as it all finds its way to the ocean dissolving into microscopic bits that lay about, quite invisible, poisoning us all. Screwing with our delicate hormones..

It's enough to make you bitter, cynical, pissed, really pissed...

And then I realize, hey! i don't want to feel this way, Yes these folks are unfeeling, ignorant slobs, but that doesn't mean I can't do something to remedy this on my own. So I started picking stuff up. Just a few things every day, dumping it in the city trash can near the road or in my recycle at home. And I started to feel just a little bit better. Every thing I picked up was one less thing to offend my eye when I walked the beach.

Like I said when we were traveling cross country: America! Pick up your trash!! So i did.

And then I get this email from Sherry; and Waalaa! she sends me the story of the starfish. And here is it.

A storm tide had washed huge numbers of starfish up on a beach and when it receded they were left stranded. A man saw that they would die, so he began throwing them, one by one, back in the sea. Another man came along and said, “What do you think you are doing? Don’t you know that you can’t save them all?” The first man picked up another starfish and threw it back to safety. “I helped that one,” he said.

And her email read:

Sometimes those of us with grand notions of our own possibilities can feel defeated by the immensity of the problems and the often noisy ignorance of so much that passes for civilization. I love the (non-Biblical) parable of the starfish on the beach. We may not be able to rescue all the suffering masses, but we can help this one, and that one, and that other one. Thinking and participating globally is necessary, too, but it’s in our dealings with the people right here around us that most of us can change the world.

We have snow today, maybe a half inch, but Mainers are tough and can handle setbacks. I have one daffodil blooming, and so it begins….

I just loved that, timely wasn't it? Sherry is a doll.

So get out there and pick up some trash, people!! And get someone else to help you!!

Like my Nanny used to say: Don't make me get my shoe out!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

various pics....

map of where we've been (missing Alabama and MD)...

knife and fork inn, AC...

Atlantic City teardown with purple chair...

nutso place in North Carolina...

windy Jersey beach today...

and there will be a brief, very brief, interlude, encore, while i get my act together... lots of good stuff to come.. like "what's on your face?" (not unlike. "what's in your wallet?" gimmick) just hang in there, sportsfans...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Those are the token windmills erected by the good people of, I'm guessing here, The Glistening Borgata (on right) and other new casinos nearby to compensate for the immense drain on the electrical grid they create here on the north end of what were the AC salt marshes, the "livers" of the planet,

think about it, and are now a Gambler's Paradise! The other pic is the view from my kitchen table and I love it.

Well, it's raining outside my little beach house. I guess the sun can't shine forever. April showers and all that (in March?). So if the journey, for the moment, consists of short trips off island to, say, Salvation Army in Atlantic City for a frying pan or a decent sweatshirt (later today), or an Absecon health food store for short grain brown rice (a hellish experience last Wed. through some torturer's idea of suburbia) -- and, by the way, how did I find myself on an island again? Just like in 1994 in Maine? -- then I guess I'll write about shorts trips to the mainland, observations on the proximate gambling economy, internet journeys as I beg literary agents to find me a publisher, and the "inner journey" of deciding what I really want now -- now that I am free to choose where I want to be and what I want to do there. Do come along, as I will more than likely need an abundance of moral support. And feel free to advise or comment below any time. Greetings to those who have recently found me.

To be honest, it's the hunt for an agent I dread -- the part of 'artistry' I've always detested. Nothin will make you feel more like a pimped out hooker like trying to market your own creations in the abstract. A painter can sell her paintings: "Here, these are my paintings. Do you like them?" A songwriter lays out cds in a bar. But to have to contact someone via email, I mean that just screams lameness to begin with, don't you think? and sell your idea before they can actually read it, in order to convince them they want to read it? Does this not strike you as absurd? Who the hell am I? Sol Hurok? I mean, that's what the agent's for. Joni's words are appropriate here (when are they not?): "And ask some guy to circulate your soul around". OK. OK. But I don't know how successful people do it. I can work like a dog, finsh any project you give me and on time. But selling someone on a concept with wordsmithing? Arrgh.

However... cowardice is no longer an option as I so firmly believe in my story and my characters, it is now they (rather than my seething fury at the culture I'm living in, and "they" are far more charming) who stand over me and threaten the unthinkable if I fail to find them a literary home. So, yeah, today I'll sail on over in my battered volvo to see what the old beat up part of Atlantic City has to offer in the area of second hand pots and pans, custard cups for creme caramel -- an essential food IMHO -- and other junk. maybe even a good Italian deli and a slice of decent NY cheesecake. I mean, it is Jersey for Pete's sake. This should be easy!

Will miss walking the endless, sand duned beach here today (walked nearly 6 miles of it yesterday and my butt is feeling it) as it's raining and I'm a wimp. I am trying to get my legs to lose that frighteningly saggy look my mother's had (and she had nice gams) at 80. There is NO one on the beach yet. We basically own it. Miles of white sand, grassy dunes, tinkle shells, skittering birdlife, and room to dream big. The north end goes on forever into a state park, no houses. Will post pics whenever the rain stops. Let's go make some coffee.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brigantine and Atlantic City Boardwalks in the rain.

And were we not woefully disappointed in our fellow humans and their capacity for greed, sloth and myopia when we arrived today to check out the famous Atlantic City boardwalk and its pleasures? Everyone we spoke to was surly, seemed depressed in fact, including the employees of the god-help-them Bally's casino where we landed as I desperately tried to devise a mental map in order to remember where in the world I'd parked my car (in the multi level garages).

Maybe it was the rain. but it felt like, no.. it's the money, either lack of it, or envy of someone else's. The roulette tables! what a disappointment! Little plastic coated circles like you'd see at a rent-a-roulette church game, completely devoid of the sense of carefully weighted possibility the grand

wheeled tables of yesteryear conveyed with their vast, inviting green felt table and perfectly demarcated rectangles -- The last casino I was in was Vegas in the early 70s, okay? That was a real downer. This was git-er-done roulette. No romance, lady. whatdju tink? We left without spending a dime.

The general mood, a constant clanging cacophony like the sound of a train unendingly threatening to leave the station, put me in mind of what we saw traveling through small towns across the country (including parts of Atlantic City itself), places of once thriving community, however provincial, and meaningful interaction among folks dependent on each other for a sense of purpose, even in mean times. No longer. The hollow shells of those wonderfully conceived buildings, little works of art, in small towns everywhere; buildings that once held lively and essential local commerce, relationships, people's stories of first this and thats: haircuts, ice cream sundaes, brassieres, movie dates. Gone, abandoned. Blown out by overeager boom and bust economies and engineered debt followed by a nearly universal ignorant human response to the bust that lusted after convenience and a cheap sense of plenty. Some of those places are trying to come back, and they will I've no doubt if Americans come gradually to their senses and begin to think again after turning off Fox News, television in general. Exhausted with bitterness and anger they may decide to reintroduce reason into their lives and do some planning and working for the common good rather than for their own aggrandisement.

But the casinos spoke to the present, to a desperation, a slovenly wish for a better life without effort.

Casino Royale it wasn't.

Which was fine as we were underdressed.

The manager of the T Mobile store in Charleston SC where I bought my Blackberry insisted that, if we were going to Atlantic City, we eat at Angelos, so eat we did.

Angelo's Fairmount Grill is an Atlantic City landmark since the 30s. The portions there are hefty, the service fast and friendly, Jersey style friendly, which is to say a little curt but well intentioned. My son, who is a complete retro freak, was instantly charmed by the signed pictures of Sammy Davis, Wayne Newton and Steve and Edie (whose identity I had to explain) hanging over our red checkered table and the

mug shot of Frank Sinatra from 1938 hanging on the wall in the men's room. (Now there you go, Ladies. How about those eyes, eh? On the men's room wall no less, taken by my MI-5 minded son.) Dinner was okay, my shrimp fra diavolo way too hot and nothing to Bruce Hvasta's fra diavolo at the old Luigi's in Yardley, PA, but the place and the clientele were all so delightful and merry we loved it anyway. (New Jersey Italian men are the most shameless, fun flirts.) T's manicotti was without question the lightest thing on earth, lovely. Family style salads (romaine, I requested it rather than iceberg), chicken picante nice if a little girthy, and the chicken parm, well I just don't comment on dishes that I associate with strange places that were once called"italian-american restaurants". But I loved the place.

Understand that it was raining last night, cats and dogs at times, and here at the shore the wind can blow like crazy. Our evening started out with a futile attempt by four total gambling ingenues/James Bond suaveness wannabees (us) to find the entrance to the golden mecca of the Borgata Tower, where, we were informed on line, we would find Star Wars slots, games of chance eagerly anticipated by W and A. After much winding around parking lots and snaking newly paved roads with little signage in the blowing rain, we parked the car outside (garage parking reserved for employees, of which there must be thousands given the size of the garages) in a lot and tried to gauge how bad the rain would get by the time we gambled, got outta there, and headed to dinner. We wimped out completely and headed instead to Angelo's for dinner, laughing at our stab at gambling savvy as "Nerds Night Out".

We may try to find the Borgata entrance again this morning after breakfast and a walk on the beach, although rain threatens again. The gleaming towers of this gambling paradise, this homage to filthy lucre every bit as crass as Wall Street, looked strangely futuristic in the gathering fog last night as it obscured the top floors of shimmering towers of Harrah's and the Borgata. Like something out of Bladerunner.

Can't wait to try again....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

squished face mountain east of Flagstaff and west of Albuquerque. Can you see the face?

Here's a little ditty G the Brit sent me: Take heed, you FOX news watchers! (By the way, FOX news was the channel of choice in most of the "hot breakfast" --meaning they had a waffle machine and a nuker -- hotel/motels in the south. North of the Mason Dixon it was weather channel – another example of fact versus fiction. I could not help but reflect on the works of those social savants George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. "Wake up, people! It's time for your propaganda lesson! Your moment of hate!" What a way to start the day, eh?

Common entertainment [in the 17th/18th century] included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full deck.'

Think twice, you anti tax ranters...

new home sweet home

the bridge disappears below the water at about 5 miles...

and T has moment of full comprehension of that reality

Quick visit with The British H's, our wonderful friends and, happily, new neighbors here in Brigantine, here for a quick visit as it's tax time. Absolutely stunning moment to realize I'm sitting there, physically quite still, seemingly at a temporary cul de sac of rest although head still in motion, sharing a glass of wine with darling Av, face to face, as though such unexpected things were quite ordinary, after thousands of miles of constant movement for the last 6

weeks. It's sunny and warm and I plan to seize the day, go see what the Italian bakery has to offer on this sunny Sunday. More later... time to walk the beach a bit while the sun shines.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Needless to say, hours of work at the State ARchives in Raleigh turned up little of interest or usefulness. Crushing really. But I've felt all along our answers were in TN while T has insisted on NC. Still, state archives are generally wonderful hushed places to spend a day and we felt quite special handling original old wills from the 17th and 18th centuries by others with our family name, and the folks there were helpful. Raleigh also seemed quite a sane town, with charm and culture built right in. Will have to return to Chat and Nashville someday soon to solve the riddle once and for all. And I shall, by cracky.

Today is the day, the last leg of our travels (for a month or so anyway) and I, for one, can't wait to get to that little piece of heaven known as the Jersey Shore. We've taken a friend's little shack until May, which should be just about the right time to head up to Maine again (although we will be making a quick trip back north in a week or so for T's car and to sort out a few things). By May we should have a handle on where we'd like to move to, T will have a job, I will have a contract for my book (you gotta love that kind of optimism at my age) and south of the Mason- Dixon is a likely destination for both of us then. I shall keep on blogging throughout it all so stay tuned if you like.

The weather is warm, sunny, and T will definitely be the one driving today as we cross the 20 mile, endless "vehicular toll crossing" known as the Chesapeake Bay bridge and I manage my vertigo. If you've never driven that bridge, allow me to warn you, it floats, pretty much all 20 miles of it, on pilings. I'm sure the engineers knew what they were doing when they designed it, but it gives me no end of agitta driving on the thing just the same.

Will post a few pics above (as soon as I can manage to get my BB to talk to my email) from the drive up from Charleston yesterday. It was hard to part with T2. This morning we're in historic Suffolk,VA presently at a Holiday Inn Express where the pillows are decent, the beds comfy and I finally got a good night's sleep after watching "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", a film I've always wanted to see and it didn't disappoint. I slept in a meat coma induced by the ribeye I wolfed down at the Grey Fox in Franklin, VA. Hadn't had a real meal since the Crescent City Etouffee pig out; hunger is not good for sound sleep. The ribeye at the Grey Fox is edible --though the "chef" insisted the beans did not come from a can -- and the waitress was an earnest little thing who, nonetheless, had to read the two dinner specials from her printed list -- definitely not spelling bee material, that girl. I was hungry and grateful for the steak, such as it was, accompanied by an ok salad with cukes that must have run screaming from the veggie peeler, they had such a tough hide. But decently grilled was all I required. Like they say: it ain't love but it ain't bad.

Alrightythen! Let's go see what "hot breakfast" means to the good folks of Suffolk, Virginia.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Typical Charleston neighborhood park fountain

And here we have Don at T Mobile ringing me up as I dive headfirst into the world of Blackberry. Let me caution you to never go shopping for a phone with one of your high tech kids. They will insist you need the best, and that, in the long run, it will save you money. In this case T was right. Already I love the thing, what it can do. And I haven't even signed up for data yet. In fact, am

considering returning the camera I bought at walmart in TN as it's only ok and just using the one in the phone which is pretty good. I have already texted folks, set my alarm and ring tones, attached photos to address book. Quite accomplished really. We also got T2 a phone so she isn't trapped like a rat most of the day. Now she'll be ordering from Neiman's and doing other shameful things.

Charleston is one beautiful town. It will charm the pants off you. I highly recommend the Charleston Museum, right there on Meeting Street, free parking and wheelchair accessible, nice for T2. Nephew D said it was the first time he'd been to a museum in 6 years or more and loved it. A very impressive museum, and I've been in four now on this trip, all fabulous and worth the price of admission (in this case 10 bucks). Also a well thought out interactive children's section for younger kids. High quality stuff, history of the area, and then some rich guy's collection of everything in the natural history and archaeology area he could pilfer from the middle east and elsewhere back in the day. Big Egyptian statues and everything. A giant leatherneck seatortoise (about 7 feet long) found in Charleston harbor in the late 1800's. The gal on the phone advised us it took about an hour to go through the museum. Not! More like 4 hours minimum. Lots to see here. One special display, 200 years of wedding attire, was cool. We donned wedding gowns and took coy, virginal photos. Great dollhouses, history of rice and cotton growing in the area complete with well done videos and artifacts, geology, furniture (including my sewing table!), nice collection of old crazy quilts, ironwork, jewelry to die for, silver... Take my word for it, it's a wonderful place. We didn't get there til 330 and so didn't see it all. Will return for sure.

Suppah was a real treat. Thanks to again. We found an authentic Creole restaurant just ten minutes north of the city out on int 26 and less than a half mile off the interstate where, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed crawfish etoufee and a bananas foster the likes of which I have never seen before prepared by Iran ("like the country"), a Katrina evacuee and now proprietor of The Crescent Connection. The place was decked out for St patty's day/ mardi gras combo (even though it's Lent, and you have to think about that. I guess Catholics just can't do the entire Lenten thing without a break for a booze-up on St. Patty's day -- said the former catholic school girl.) So we all got complimentary colorful mardi gras beads upon departure. The gumbo satisfied, the jambalaya was divine, the dinner salads sweet and savory with sweet ripe olive tomatoes, and D had the primo dish of deep fried cornish hen entier, accompanied by a squash puree delicieux, dirty rice with giblets, and the best tiny dumplings in a light bechamel I have ever had the pleasure of savoring on my tongue. T2 ate the bread pudding dessert in pretty much one bite, but the bananas foster! Wow! Delicately battered and fried strips of ripe bananas in a deevine- ly flavored sauce arranged around a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream. IF YOU ARE EVER IN CHARLESTON, take the trouble to head out here to Montague Ave. and enjoy what Iran has to offer at very reasonable prices. Dinner for 4 with dessert and salads came to less than 100 bucks. And the service was warm, blessed and chatty. Sunday brunch, if you bring your church flyer you get a dollar off. Check it out.

Off to shop for shoes for D and peanut butter, fresh ground, for T2 today, then later on to Raleigh, NC, and the State Archives to see what we can find out about the missing gggggreat gf and his wife, from NC. Stay tuned.

Charleston house above is decorated with Lenten purple lights. You gotta love that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Munson the wonderdog

Back in Charleston visiting with T2 after delightful visit with nephew V and my first grandniece Matty in Rock Hill SC, another of those charming towns that's lookin for a comeback and is more than halfway there. V is the perfect dad of course and we loved spending time with him. Matty was the perfect nine month old hostess when we went out for Japanese dinner, playing baby taliban with her red cloth napkin on her head, charming all those around her.

Weather turned a little chillier now but still no coat required. A little rain predicted but nothing torrential so we're planning a day out with T2 exploring some interesting thing or other. Staying at the Sleep Inn, quite adequate for the price, nice people, clean and not snooty. Holiday Inns here are apparently in a momentary love affair with themselves raising their prices nearly 30 percent since amonth ago "because we can get it" the rationale when I asked. My response to her? "Well you can get it all you want but you ain't gettin it from me!" Sleep Inn is just fine.

Shoutout to W and L in Chat for the wunderbar visit and respite from the road. We love them and MISS them already. And Mr. Chad --- walkies?

Above is a picture of a NASA rocket we saw in Alabama on night. It was massive and tres chouette.

Am going to post some pics and get on with errands for T2 and all.
OH! We are composing our list of favorite tunes since 1963 (the year the world went to hell after JFK was done in by General Eisenhower's "military industrial complex" and their cohorts in crime, or whomever....) Slow start today.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

North Chat fence

I'm baaaacck! On the road tomorrow again and --

It looks like we have a plan. The last several days chez L and W in North Chattanooga, where the hospitality is warm and the towels are thirsty, have been wonderful. Such a gift to be able to spend time with them, sharing stories, catching up and eating good food. Chattanooga, or Chatt as the locals call it -- is a swell town where they seem to totally, well almost totally, get the revitalize-sans-terrorize-the-neighbors idea. It's a gracious mix of old and new with an obvious appreciation of what was special about past architecture and design. It's a very Euro city in that way, on a human scale like many euro cities. Not too big, not too small.

Fun birthday celebration with friends of W and L at Rain, a Thai place, last night, where I had the best sweet and sour chicken ( I know -- pretty pedestrian of me, but it was fresh thin slices of chicken breast, lightly floured with rice flour, fried, and with a charming collection of veg delicately cut -- not the usual chunky glob you get when ordering this dish) I've ever had. L and W's friends are charming and interesting, and a good time was had by all.

This a.m. we tried to get into Aretha's for Sunday breakfast, but an hour was too long a wait so we found ourselves, thanks to T's awesome deftness with her blackberry and, at a place called Blue Plate downtown that served Aretha's pancakes anyway! Cool place, although staff a little pouty IMHO in that self consciously nouveau urban cool kind of way. But the coffee was really good, local foods, free range eggs (giving me the opportunity to show W the diff twixt his eggs and mine, mine being bright orange!), nice fresh squeezed oj at a reasonable price. I liked it, although the waitress' lingo seemed limited to the phrase "no problem" no matter what we ordered or said to her. Implying there could have been a problem with whatever we said, but she'll forgive us. We could have said pretty much anything and she'd have mindlessly said "no problem" in response. I thought she'd catch on eventually, but .... no. Oh well. It was fun, down by the river, as Neil Young would say.

Tomorrow is L's birthday, and a happy 28th to her, fab gal that she is! Many happy reruns, girl. I know W will help make it a special day for her. They are a really loving couple and that is nice to see in this age of memememe.

And we are off to Rock Hill, North CArolina in the a.m. to visit with my first grand niece (9 mo old), Mattingly Mayes, and my nephew and his wife, who I have yet to meet. So -- totally psyched there. We have to go clear down near ATlanta to get there, then northward again as all the roads through the mountains are washed out or rockstrewn and I am not in the mood for that kinda hairy drive. Then onward to T2's for another quick visit, another day trip into Charleston. Then northward to visit an old pal, I hope and on to the Jersey shore where we have taken us a leetle cottage belonging to a new friend until the first of May. We intended to rent in Pawley's Island but were too late to grab the winter rate. Alas! Next time.

See you at the coast. Where we hope the sun (haven't seen it in days) will shine again...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shown here, a painting on the wall of Ajax, bar in Oxford, MS, and a wall on a bldg in New Albany, MS

And a pause to refresh is just what is needed. We are in Chat-Town, TN, back at L and W's for a little respite from travel and a moment to assess our progress. Alas, as hard as we tried we did not find the graves of Isaac and Lovey, (I'll write more about that tomorrow) but we did establish, we think, that they did not even move to Mississippi at all from TN. They are certainly not buried at Rucker Cemetery outside Ripley MS either. IN fact, their son, Barney, My gg whatever grandfather, while he is mentioned in histories in the Ripley Library (what helpful ladies there!) as an early pioneer of Tippah County (which was later split into several counties) owned land well west of Ripley (Benton County side) not way east where Rucker cemetery is. While Isaac, his dad, isn't in the Tippah records at all. And while we took the trouble to literally scrape around old graves, revealing some old inscriptions, and hunting down a few of the old cemeteries out his way, though mud prohibited us exploring some roads to a couple of old cemeteries, we still think Isaac and Lovey aren't there in MS at all and that Barney is buried in Benton County, not in Tippah. In fact, the census places him there in Benton in 1845, three years before he died. So Barney and family probably lived not in what is Tippah County now (but used to be) but in what is now Benton County. This accounts for many dead ends by other genealogists along these lines, wrong place. We plan on following up on that asap, getting some records from state archive resources. I still think the one citation I saw somewhere is correct, that Catherine Lovey is buried in Spanish Grove Cemetery in mid-western TN, near Carroll Cty., and I intend to find that grave. Another day.

I learned a lot about ways to search for ancestors on this trip. And of course, the biggest lesson of all for all of us is to get the family stories down told by the old folks who know them best now while they're still alive. Do it and you won't have regrets later.

Road life has been fun but it's as easy on you in as many ways as it is hard. We need a little time to regroup and make some life plans, etc. So we're headed for South Carolina near T2, to be still and spend precious time with her again. rent a cheap place for a few weeks there, off season now. Then, well, I guess we'll know then what's next. T needs a job and I need to find a literary agent who can sell my novel so I can write the sequel. This trip just filled me with a xzillion ideas for stories.

See you here in a couple days...... xoxo

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

crossing the mississippi -----------------------------

Well, let me say that my newfayund luuuv for nawthen Mizsippi is a thing of profayund pleashah, dahlin. I finding myself wondering about rentals in Water Valley, which is only 20 minutes from Oxford and, according to the editor of the local paper who was kind enough to share an old family scandal from the papers with me today, where the young hip wannabe Oxfordites are moving to as we speak. I hear tell my great

grandfather was quite the rake, causing a town scandal that raised a few hackles and set tongues to wagging for weeks. the newspaper man is emailing me a copy of the front page from 1915 and I can't wait to read all about it.

I have to say, the downtowns here in northern MS are nothin like those sad specimens that lay like weeping blights on the land in Texas or even Arizona or Arkansas. Mississippi, at least up north here, seems to have its act together, havin the energy to save what's cool about the old downtowns, revitalizing them. We saw a touch of that in TN too, but it seems like every single town of any size at all in northern MS is determined to revamp downtown and make it a happenin place again, all the while preserving the charm of the old buildings and relegating things like the local Walfarts and such to way outta town. Saw any number of buildings in Water Valley, New Albany, and other towns that are just waiting for the right person to come along and bring them to life again or have been lucky enough to have that happen already. It was inspiring. Real estate is cheap and the countryside is truly beautiful. We had lunch (an 8-oyster Po Boy sandwich and sweet tea) at Ajax on the square in Oxford. A cool bar, great menu and jukebox, and funky collection of people of all stripes and ages. Felt right at home.

Ol' Miss is a really beautiful campus. Every bit as verdant and spacious, replete with dozens of brick classical buildings and leafy roads, as any ivy league school. I had no idea so many generations of my family graduated from there, especially the law school, so if any of you youngsters wanna go, yer a shoe-in. And law school, well, that's always held a certain appeal for me.

Everyone is so friendly here. Polite too! Do anything for ya. Genuinely open and cheerful folks. Saw a few sourpusses in the local Walfart (needed cooler supplies, feel bad to be in there but the local Piggly Wiggly just didn't have what we were lookin for), mostly old guys in overalls, but that's to be expected; they are, after all, in that sinful store.

We found (I.T. )great great grandfather's grave and his wife (number one); I see wife number two wasn't permitted in the family plot. The cemetery fellas, William especially, were so helpful, in the rain no less. William even called up a local guy with the same last name as me to see if he had any family history to share. I mean, everyone just leans over backwards. Other family members we recognized (Boyds) in the ground as well. Auntie D gave me the deed to the space that's left in the plot and T says she wants to be buried there, her ashes anyway. We could squeeze any number of us in there, cremated and without the coffin rigamarole. Little stones to mark our passing.

Tomorrow, on to Ripley and, we hope, a key to the missing link, Isaac (b. 1771) and Lovey's graves and, hopefully, clues to their origins in North Carolina. What's left of the day devoted to Memphis, a visit to the Lorraine motel museum, Graceland's gates, and some real tasty barbeque a friend insists we sample. Can't wait.

windfarm - west TX morning fog - Lordsburg motel - stockyards

There is simply no doubt in my mind that if you start your day with the Beach Boys you just can't go wrong from there. "Sail On, Sailor", "Don't Worry , Baby" -- those guys are always admonishing someone to chipper up, get down, be happy, carry on, and in multipart harmony that just inflates your soul -- a good thing for those of us too lazy to get up and do yogic breathing in the morning.

We didn't see much of Shreveport, LA, and that's a shame since I bet the town is pretty cool, despite Larry Flynt's enterprises there. Counties in Louisiana are parishes and you feel like you're in a Dave Robicheaux story riding through them. I see on the Doppler this morning megarain is trailing behind us, and I guess we're due. We'll be wandering graveyards and Memphis in the rain, and that seems right.

Old Dylan on the box, "It's a hard rain's gonna fall" and I guess he saw this mess comin, in Louisiana of all places. Sorry not to head down to New Orleans. Another time. Note to West Monroe: Pick up your trash, people!!

A fresh rainfall here and spring has sprung in Louisiana. And look! -- JONQUILS! Hundreds of them, lining the highway with sprays of yellow. And white blossomed trees drifting through the woods along with what looks like miniature bamboo and palmettos among the deciduous trees and pines. The pint sized palmetto fronds carpet the forest floor lookin like a zombie uprising, waving their skeletal fronds at the living. These are wet woods, and where would the water have to go at an elevation of 74 feet above sea level? That's quite a drop from Texas' 2000 feet or so. Louisiana is pretty flat here. Farms stretch wide around us, some scattered with cattle. Kinda bleak, maybe it's the greying sky.

Should we stop at the Lion's Den adult Superstore? They don't have "adult superstores" per se in New England, or in the mid atlantic states either. Oh, yeah, the odd "adult" store (really now, "adult"? shouldn't that be "stuck in adolescence" or "I lack imagination" store?) but not "Super". The chaste, conservative new england Puritans would consider that too much of an admission of sex as a billboard- sized priority in anyone's life, and too great an intrusion on their privacy. No. "Adult Superstore" is the exclusive preserve of the south. So what's with that? It's like the south can't decide whether it's a den of iniquity or God's own little acre. And feels that conflict needs to play out on the very public stage of its highway billboards. The giant messages from God versus the Adult Superstores ads. The battle for your immortal soul raging large. Maybe the south needs a new constitutional convention to decide, once and for all, whether or not to secede from a union that protects freedom to believe or not, freedom to love whom you please. The notion of enslavement to one thing or another as a noble idea never seems to have let go here. Of course New England is just as sexually hungup; they're just less willing to discuss it publicly and seem to be more willing to leave you to your own conscience. Am I wrong to perceive that it was indentured servants (white?) who immigrated north and black slaves who were plopped in the south? Maybe that has something to do with it.

The thing I like about farming is the irrepressible human spirit that manifests in the attempt at orderly precision (row after exactly measured, hopeful row) and voluminous outcome in the face of that unpredictably chaotic factor, Mother Nature. It is a thing to be admired.

Jonatha Brooke sez:" To be true to be kind to never walk away." That's love. And that's hard to do. Love is a sacred thing.

The Mississippi River crossing at Vicksburg (they must have some cool Civil War places here, but we are on a mission and are sorry to miss those) is impressive. Riding over the bridge, you feel the pulse of the country's aorta, that mighty river flowing beneath you, dark and churning, thick as molasses, pulling everything to the gulf, draining the highlands. I love the Mississippi. And what a surprise the MS Visitor center is! Nice old building with glossy old brick floors, and the folks greeting you offering coffee and a map -- "You're from Maine!? Why you a long way from home!" Yes, ma'am, I am. But in a way i'm not. See this is also my home, MY daddy was born here. His story is part of my story.

The sign sez: Welcome to MIssissippi -- Home of America's music!! And indeed it is. Mississippi is beautiful! Rolling hills of farmland and woods just greening. Spots of jet black cattle wandering the the golden fields seem lifted and floating in the late afternoon light.

A bumper sticker on the local sheriff's car reads: Only trash litters. Well, right on there. Once when daddy had taken a notion to drive cross country and drop in unexpectedly on brother and me in AZ he expressed dismay that his son was "livin like po' white trash" with a woman (brother was a 20 year old college boy then). It was the first time I'd ever heard daddy use that expression, but he'd just come from a visit to the old homestead in Mississippi and was lugging his childhood vernacular with him I guess. Point is, Mississippians use the word "trash" with authority when they say someone is trash. It is a severe criticism. I like it.

The Quality Inn in Grenada, MS is a good deal for the dough, 54 bucks with my AARP discount. "Way to be old, Ma!" sez T; she likes the motel discounts we get. Clean enough and relatively quiet. There's a good mexican restaurant further down the road a mile, La Cabana. That makes 11 times we've eaten Mexican since the trip started and I couldn't be happier. Oddly enough, the best flan was in Virginia. Go figure.

On to grave trippin, and a search for gggggrandfather's grave. Maybe we'll visit Mr. Faulkner, IT's old pal, as well. Daddy used to say Mr. Faulkner was boring when IT would drag him along for a visit. I expect those boys could drink, and bore a young boy to death in the process.

"It would be very unreasonable to understand the sad legacy of the last forty years as something alien, which some distant relative bequeathed to us. On the contrary, we have to accept this legacy as a sin we committed against ourselves." Vaclev Havel said that. But it most certainly applies to America as well.
I heard a rushing sound and just looked out the window. It's raining cats and dogs out. Rats.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More pictures later, folks, when I repost this.

general store cafe

agave blossom

Let's talk about Texas. Texas is a BIG state. And if you drive straight across from El Paso (and was there ever on earth a more godforsaken town? It sprawls forever in all directions looking a shambles of makeshift housing, higgledy- piggledy lack of planning, and glaring storefronts along the highway that just scream desperation to be noticed -- our very own Mumbai) to the border of Louisiana it's about a thousand miles, and over 600 exits! That's one third of the total ocean to ocean trip if you drive straight! And that's exactly what we did yesterday in about 7 hours, accompanied by an iPod loaded with pretty much every tune Mark Knopfler ever recorded. God bless that man! If there was ever a guy a girl could love with every fiber of her being it's Mark Knopfler. A story teller extraordinaire, wicked, seductive guitar player, and empathetic interpreter of the human experience that moves me to my bones every time I hear him. His music seems to suit the American landscape more than any other composer I can think of, especially on Golden Heart, Money for Nothing in the cities and amidst the oilwells. We listened to a fair amount of Aaron Copeland and John Barry earlier on this trip, musical scores to suit the grandeur of the landscape, but it was Mark who really worked, got us across Texas, told the stories of the vast, passing land, the broke down towns, the grand sellout, the empty houses -- no easy feat. Station 1330am in Texas was really fine on Sunday, Willie Nelson, Elvis, you name it, til the religion part started, then we plugged in the iPod.

We'd started out from Lordsburg , NM, Saturday morning, driving east on Route 10 to Deming, then a two hour detour up 26 to Hillsboro and a stop at the General Store Cafe for a chocolate malt for me and apple pie and milk for T. It was just an excuse to drive through that gorgeous country, where Carlotta lives, and enjoy the scenery one last time. I stopped to pee in the bar in Nutt. When I asked the bar owner if she'd mind if I used the loo, she answered, " I Shirley would Knott!" and smiled. I was blown away, and her name was Sherry! (Folks who have read my novel will appreciate this coincidence.) Later on at the GC cafe, sitting next to me at the counter, at my back the warm wood stove, was Clyde, a local rancher with darling twinkly blue eyes and tanned hands wide as paws, and we talked about his lost dog and ranching. I hope his dog comes back, he seemed mighty distressed at the lost of his "buddy". T loved the town and agreed I'd fit right in if I decided to move there, which I think about from time to time. It's my idea of a perfect place, and the people are friendly, a trait we find pretty much universal here in the southwest, along with really good restaurant service and waiters who will actually tell you if something isn't very good. (couple of exceptions.)

Heading over to 25 and down to Hatch to cop a couple of ristras to carry home. Turning eastward to El Paso and into Texas, it was dark by the time we had to stop at the Border Patrol station and T, the driver, had to try and look unsuspicious as the guy shone a flashlight in her eyes and asked us what we were doing here from Maine, are we US citizens, etc. Her eyes were so fried from driving by then (dry, warm wind with the windows down, welcome but hard on yer eyes), plus there was the spectre of PMS looming, she did her best to not look like a crackhead. He softened when I asked about hotels and told us not to stop til Van Horn as the hotels before that were all fleabags. Nice guy really once he dropped the don't-lie-to-my-weapon routine.

Okay -- note to Van Horn, Texas, a few other Texas towns as well: Pick up your trash! I mean what would it take to get the scouts or some local prisoners or some drifting sideways teenage civic group out there to pick up all the plastic bags??! They lined the outskirts of nearly every Texas town we drove through, caught in the shrubbery that lines the highway, puffing up in the wind, a nonstop blight of ironic ghosts come back to haunt the petroleum industry, their shameless progenitor. Is it not enough to suck the earth dry with all these wells? You have to paper its surface with a sheet of petroleum byproduct plastic as well? It's like they don't see it, you know? Yet another sign of the despair that plagues the land. Okay, so you don't have a job, or things suck, so get some folks together and go clean up some of this mess! Like my nanny used to say: "Dont make me get my shoe out, chile!" Have some pride! There is a marked lack of civic pride across this country, both rural and city, and everyone needs to get off their lardasses and pick up some trash!! I mean do something. You don't need Washington to tell you to clean your house do ya? Well, how is your town any different?

I mean, you should SEE all the nice TARP highway projects completed out there, or in progress. They're really nice, new roads, well- built bridges, overpasses to make everyone's travels easier. The TARP thing is good, go see for yourself. But for the lovva mike, what are YOU doing to make things better? To renew America's dignity? My solution is to get out and clean something up that needs cleanin or repair in your town, get some folks to help you. America just needs to get off its collective lardass. Whether you're paid to do it or not. Simple.

I was sorry to miss stopping at Whooppee Bowl Antiques just over the NM/T X border; another time I guess. And I love the tumbleweeds smashed up against the cattle fences. I saw a wild pig running along the highway, escapee from some bunch of penned up unfortunates I guess. His prospects along the highway do not look good.

Sweetwater, TX, is the windpower capital. Also home of the World Rattlesnake Roundup, which just has to be about the scariest event in the state. I have a tough time imagining folks lassoing a snake, but whatever. Windfarms as far as the eye can see in all directions, and if you don't think you're lookin at the future when you see that vision, well think again, cause T. Boone has a pile of money invested in this and I have no doubt he aims to make it work for him. I've seen these windfarms from the air and they go on forever. It's stunning. The turbine blades are like 100 feet long, we saw one go by on a double length tractor trailer. The wind turbines seems to co exist peacefully with the oil rig dinosaurs bobbing up and down, suckin er dry, the smell of oil in the air near refineries (Texans used to call it the smell of money, I know cause I watched "Dallas" religiously). And there's Big Spring, the poinsettia capital. Saw a billboard advertising boots, a cowboy holding a rope saying, " I work in acres, not in hours." Loved that.

Texas, where the trains are long and the grass is short. The word "BOOK" painted in huge bright green letters on the front of an abandoned building. Who was Book? What was his story? I'm always wondering at the blown out buildings, What was the story here? And Knopfler: "I'm the fool I never thought I was.

Billboards from God say : " What are you doing with the rest of your life?" -- and they're signed God. My response? Well, if anyone should know it's You!

And - "One nation under me-- God" as if God were that conceited. I mean to have that much pride you have to be the conceited, fear mongering old testament God, not the God of Jesus and the new testament. Wish these folks would get it straight. There was a reason Jesus preached a new gospel of love rather than fear.

As for me, I'm with Einstein, who must have had a considerable experience of something grander than the average human can conceive of, and who said, when asked if he believed in God: "I believe in something much bigger."

Final complaint today, it pained me to have to drive the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway outside Dallas, especially as it used to be named after LBJ, who had his issues but was a damn site better for the place than Raygun. (An apropos moniker considering his starwars fettish.) We slept in Shreveport, where I am sitting in my bed writing this. On to Water Valley and the Blount family graveyard, Memphis, the Lorraine motel and maybe Graceland, with freshly laundered undies, and a smile in our hearts. Weather is gorgeous, warm --flipflops weather -- (we've had no rain to speak of the entire trip -- imagine that! -- but I see it's comin now). Today it's Koop on the box, and All Things Must Pass. Maybe some Paul Butterfield through Mississippi, New Walkin Blues sounds just about right.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

That's a last look at Humphrey's Peak from the northwest view below. You'll have to figure out what the rest are from description below. sorry, rushing. Will post pics from desert museum, including one of a Joshua Tree, which I'd never seen before. And many many cacti in flower, apparently during El Nino years, like this year, rains come early and heavy to the desert and Aprill blooms in March (aren't WE lucky! I really felt blessed.)

Must post before I get too far behind. I will edit it later when I get more time. Thursday our agenda included a visit to the Montezuma Castle site outside Camp Verde. For T, the cultural anthropoligist, it was a particular treat. It's a beautiful, naturally well maintained pueblo ruin with small but very together museum that explained the archaeological history of the place along Beaver Creek and the native peoples who inhabited it B.C. as well as A.D. We learned much about the local flora cause the guides were so informed, conversational and cheerful about storytelling, cute too (my age!).

You had to give it to these people who created the cliff dwellings; they just kinda took what was already there, steep cliffs with ready- made overhangs for a roof and deep indentations in the limestone (sediment of a fresh water prehistoric sea) formed by weather, and slapped outside walls on the place made out of adobe. Pretty efficient. Build into what's already there, go with the flow, as it were. They started at the bottom with a ground floor and over the years added on. No trips to Home Depot required, just use what's around. My kinda folks. Like forts you build as a kid. Only whoa better. As in: they last. We were completely enchanted by the place and the rush of water from Beaver Creek nearby made you just want to sit on the bench and stay there forever... staring. Learned about the stunning Arizona Sycamores, hackberry bush, and a dozen other plants and trees.

Loved it mucho.

On to Tucson and the steep slide into lower elevations and the first hints of cactus country. Those crazy saguaros and their "issues" as T calls them, manifest by their wonky arms that now and then splay in bizarre directions, oozing questions that reveal unresolved issues and neuroses in need of serious attention, or admission of utter failure. (Projection here? nah. Pics above) Then on to Phoenix (or Fleanix as we used to call it when I lived out here) was just endless mallness and multilane highway. LIke the cop says: nothing to see here, folks. Move along. But WARM? Yeah, open the window and let yer bare feet flutter in the breeze! (Provided you are not driving.) We spent the night in Tucson at La Siesta motel, a retro place, well run with nice beds but way too close to traffic and the occasional train. I didn't remember the 10,000 ft. Mt. Lemon as being that high, but there she was, snow covered and floating in 80 degree weather in the valley. I must say Tucson struck me as a bit insane, the city that is. The area around the Uni is not longer as it was 40 years ago. It felt like some kind of Dionysian nightmare created just to attract party animals, University St. Kinda pissed me off. That used to be a really nice area. I had trouble finding any landmark I could recognize. Even El Charro is a chain restaurant now. We managed to find a nice Guatemalan meal on 4th Avenue but that was about it. Mostly 'college kid' food. The traffic made me impatient, other drivers not so friendly. And the destruction of old neighborhoods in a blatant pander to the partying mentality is heartbreaking, but seems to permeate much of american business decisions these days. They'll regret it, I've no doubt. I keep hearing Cormac McCarthy in my head: This is no country for old men. I know exactly what he means by that.

Next day on to the Sonora Desert museum and wasn't that a pleasure to stop and just spend a day wandering the desert. It's an amazing place, not to be missed. We ran out of ram for pics, just another world altogether out there: the hummingbird aviary, the regular bird aviary, you can get right up close to them, they are fearless. The underground part with the little foxes in their dens and other nocturnal creatures is dark and cool, there are separate areas to study cacti, succulents, agaves, yet they all grow together. The flower sections are... well, i can't rave enough. LIke landing on another planet really. Something we'd all like to do from time to time. I recall when I lived out here how much I loved that.

I wanted T to see my favorite church in the world (I have not been to greece though): the mission San Xavier de Bac, 17th century out in the desert on the other side of the Tucson Mts. I'll just post pics for now. But what you see is all faux painting. The early folks couldn't afford marble and mosaic tile so they painted it, and it is gorgeous ... rich and evocative. A very spiritual place in the middle of a flat desert plain. A guy from the Guggenheim is in charge of restoration, which has gone on for years. Out of time this morning... on to laundromat and breakfast, then maybe Silver City. (We decided to head back into NM so spent the night here in Lordsburg at Best Western, very well run motel, nice folks too.) Gotta go check my weather now.

One of these days i just have to do my toes. They look like they've been run over by a truck.

Later alligators...