Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Illinois Sky

Although usually nothing can compare to the Southwestern sky, last night, we had one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen in a long time. It was fading by the time I got to the house to get a camera, so I didn't try to get a picture. But local photograher Dan O'Brien has this incredible shot here. (But don't move to Illinois for the sunsets. Although we do often have nice sunsets, this one was way above average.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

What I Did in New Mexico

Among other things (playing rook until late at night, talking about old times and new ones,) my buddies and I on Saturday hiked up into a canyon in the foothills of the Organ mountains where we saw these remains of the Dripping Springs Resort, built originally in the 1870s. For a time it was used as a TB sanatorium. But now the buildings are falling down and the place is reverting to nature.

We hiked a little further and found ourselves on the edge of a live fire range on the grounds of Fort Bliss. We were brave. But not so brave that we went more than a foot onto the live fire range. (I was scratching my nose.)

My friend, Marv, is a great photo- grapher and went off the trail here to get a shot framed by the branches of a little tree. He needed some pictures of sky to take back to Oregon and Photo Shop into some cloudy Northwestern shots. The sky in New Mexico is amazing. I love the Southwest. This is where I would like to go to retire. The Wife says, "Nope." She likes trees, grass and four seasons. Give me low humidity and wonderful skies and you can have your trees and grass and pollen.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Narrow Stance

I'm pretty broad-minded and I certainly am not in favor of discriminating against or harassing gays (nor lesbians, trans-gendered, transvestites, etc., etc.) Yet, I have to confess to a perverse pleasure watching yet another family values Republican get caught with his foot under the bathroom stall divider.

Despite my delight at seeing the discomfiture of the hypocrites, I also have to confess to feeling a little sorry for Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested at the Minneapolis airport a month or so ago for "disorderly conduct." The "disorderly conduct," using the undercover policeman's version, was taking his rolling suitcase into the bathroom stall with him and placing it against the door, looking through the crack of the stall door when the policeman looked in at him, tapping his foot up and down, moving his foot into the stall next to his (by then occupied by the undercover policeman) so that the shoes touched and moving his hand along the bottom of the stall divider. Craig's version is that he is not gay, but he is fastidious about the tidiness of bathroom stalls, and that he has a wide stance. So, he says, he went into the stall, picked up his toilet paper lying on the floor and, because of his wide stance, may have let his foot stray into the next stall far enough to touch the policeman's foot. (The problem with Craig's version is that he has been forced to keep announcing that he is not gay for more than 20 years, while men keep coming forward claiming to have engaged in sexual encounters with him. I suspect that it's all in the definition of the word "gay." The sad thing is that we live in a society where gay politicians still get a political advantage in outwardly condemning their own sexuality.)

I may be oblivious, but in my half century or more of using public bathrooms, I have never encountered anyone who I thought was making a sexual solicitation. No feet into my stall; no tapping; no hands under the divider. I'm not particularly buff, so it may be just a matter of disinterest in me personally rather than proof of the infrequency of disorderly activity in men's restrooms. But why in the world is the Minneapolis police department assigning scarce resources to nab toe tappers at the airport? I just was not aware that this was such a problem that undercover police officers would be patrolling the bathrooms.

So, it was that I found myself at O'Hare Airport this weekend with a need to use the bathroom. And I found myself being reluctant to go in there, now that my eyes have been opened as to what's really going on in airport bathrooms. Might I discover that some of the noises I hear are not coming from the relief of flatulence but baser activities? And what if some undercover cop spotted me doing something that I didn't realize was a secret code? Maybe putting soap on my hands before I wet them is some kind of signal that I didn't know about. But the need to go finally overcame my reluctance, so I bravely started to go into the first men's bathroom I found that was open (several were closed for one reason or another.) What I saw when I got in there was a line of men (waiting to use the facilities, I hoped.) One appeared to be peering, or at least glancing longingly through the crack of what appeared to be an occupied stall. The man just ahead of me appeared to weigh about 450 pounds and I just could not envision the stall he would occupy to be very neat after he left it, and I knew I couldn't do any tidying up without the fear of arrest. The whole lot of them looked slightly disreputable and seedy; they might have all been cops.

So I just left. I told The Wife I would just wait and use the bathroom on the plane. Those plane bathrooms might be tiny, but I have a narrow stance.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Land of Enchantment

This was the view from our hotel room this morning about 7:00 a.m. I have always loved the Southwest. I had forgotten how blue the sky is out here. I even love the cacti.
This is a view of the front of our hosts' house. I suppose it's the novelty factor. Our hostess longs for trees and grass, and can't wait to get back to the Northwest where it is cloudy all day. I guess the grass is always greener somewhere else -- literally if you're in New Mexico, although it is amazing how much people out here use irrigation to try to recreate the grass lawns of less arid locations.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogging has been a little sparse here for the last couple of weeks -- okay, nonexistent. As I've noted before, sometimes inspiration just dries up and one has to wait until the well is replenished. I'm all wet again.

It's not that I've had nothing to blog about. Lots of bloggable events have been happening and I was going to write much about them, but it never happened. Maybe I was waiting for the perfect thing to say instead of going with "good enough." That's a weakness of mine.

Rachel Ries, folk singer and songwriter from Chicago was here at the end of September for a house concert at the house of my brother, the Humble Philosopher/Carpenter, in our twin city. Rachel has a clear, musical voice and she writes songs with idiosyncratic lyrics. She has developed a cult following all over the country. She grew up in South Dakota of Mennonite stock, attended a Mennonite college for a semester and then dropped out to become a full time musician. The Crockheads got to know her a few months ago in Kentucky when her brother married my niece. She is on tour to points west, promoting her new album, Without a Bird. You can read a review of the album, an interview of her and sample some excerpts of her songs here. One neat thing about the concert is that one of her fans, who had heard her in Chicago, was checking her website to see when she would be playing again and discovered she was playing at that very moment in the house concert just a few blocks from his house, so he came over and heard the last half of the concert.

The day after Rachel Ries, our reading group met at our house to discuss The Echo Maker, the new book by Richard Powers. The book won the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Powers lives in the twin city and rode his bike over to join our group for the discussion. He was with us once before, to discuss his book, The Time of Our Singing. This time, like the last, Powers was most gracious with out little group of amateur readers; answering each question as if it was the first time he had heard it. Powers is easily the smartest person I have ever met, but he wears his intelligence easily, never condescending or acting bored to have to interact with mere mortals like us. He hung around until almost everyone else had left and then rode his bike home in the gathering dusk, to the distress of one of our members who thought it was too dark to ride on city streets without a light and without a helmet.

I'm in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this weekend, hanging out with my buddies from 40 years ago, doing our now annual reunion. This is the home of Earl, the surveying professor, and his lovely wife, who stuffed us with Mexican lasagna and pecan pie. Our plane left Bloomington this morning at 6:00 a.m., which meant I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. in order to shower and get to Bloomington an hour before takeoff. The flight was uneventful except I have to tell you about going to the bathroom at O'Hare. (No, I didn't get arrested.) That will have to wait for a later blog.