Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elvis Presley - Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues

…put away wet

I'm crispy, toast, burnt, fried, sizzled, pooped, pow, wrung out, driving on fumes. Texas just kicked my ass, as did the month in New Mexico and I am emotionally and mentally spent.

Frazzled, can hardly complete the most simple task. Close to being nonfunctional, has taken over a week and the shop still isn't back straight.

Like most of us, tomorrow I get to pay bills…

On top of it all, my dad isn't doing well and is going to require an 11 hour trip this weekend. Then a show in Palm Springs (Modernism) and on back to Santa Barbara. Death March 2014. But I will get through it.

I'm feverishly scratching, must find bedrock. The immediate future is weighing on me, as is the recent past. Casey Jones you better watch your speed…

Cop pulled Heisenberg over for speeding.

Do you know how fast you were going?
No, but I can tell you my position in space.

I was at the gym the other day and the owner, Matt, an affable ex hockey enforcer from Saskatoon, confided that a lady, a middle aged woman, was complaining about the music.

Gym music is always a hot issue of contention. He told me that he cocked his ear and said, "Um lady that's the Beatles," realizing that they were actually listening to Lady Madonna. She walked away, "Well, I never heard them sing a song like that."

One of the highlights of my trip was the Jetsons' style one minute pancake machine in Wilcox, Arizona. You pay a little more at this Holiday Inn but they get credit for trying to extend a foot into the space age.

While the final product was just a tad rubbery, it was definitely edible and I would do it again. Push a button and presto!

Kudos to Warren for bringing me back a quarter of a junior's cherry cheesecake from New York. Incredible.

Have you ever checked out my collaborative music blog, Birdseye Music? If you like a wide range of music, from psych to blues, jazz to pop, you may want to give it a listen.

Reading a very interesting book, The Invisible Gorilla, How our intuitions deceive us by the Harvard Nobel Prize winning psychologists, Chabris and Simons. You can look at their website here. Very interesting work on how our minds can deceive and our perceptions fail. Apparently we perceive what we expect to perceive. We are introduced to six illusions in this book, the illusion of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, cause and potential. I am not finished with it but can't renew because somebody else has it on hold. Will revisit later.

Red Kiva © Robert Sommers 2014
Knock knock.
Who's there?
It's the religion of peace.
Religion of peace, who?

I needed an oil change and had a bunch of sniggling matters attended to on the van and we put it up on the blocks at the mechanic's today.

We could see the red paint of the tire rim that I hit doing seventy scraped down the underside of the vehicle. Another half inch higher and I think that I am truly toast. Very lucky.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bob Dylan - Idiot Wind (New York Version 1974)

Wither art thou, Saddam?

Ali ibn Abi Talib (circa 697 - 661 AD).
Hyderabad, circa 1800.
The current situation in the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Syria, is giving new meaning to the term quagmire.

The United States is once again getting sucked into a war that it can not ultimately win, an intractable conflict that has its roots in the area at least as far back as 661 c.e.

In 661, Mohammed's cousin and son in law, Ali, was knifed in the back with a poisoned sword while praying in Kufa.

Ali, Mohammed's appointed successor (he was ten years old when he was the first person to recognize the voice of the prophet),  a member of the Quraysh tribe, was in line to be the fourth Caliph after Mohammed.

The killing raised a lot of understandable enmity and the neighborhood has never been quite the same since. And so the rift between the Shia (the followers of Ali) and Sunni was born. This struggle is a huge never ending fight currently being played out as a war between the proxies of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is tough to get a bead on all of the factions in the area. There are groups whose identity is primarily tribal and ethnic like the kurds, who are mainly Sunni but include other ethnic and religious subsets. There are other groups who identify more by creed, like Islamic State and Hezbollah.

It is also important to note that post Ottoman Empire, all of these Arab and Islamic countries were sort of created out of thin air, borders and nations were loosely drawn by the British, and sometimes inhabited by a host of different tribes that oftentimes hated each other.

Iraq was demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. The region was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created.

The country was controlled by the Ba'ath party from 1968 to 2003. Although the country is majority Shia, an estimated 65%, the Ba'athists were Sunni. Sunnis are estimated to comprise about 30% of the country with an estimated 5% of the population being Chaldean Christian.

When Saddam Hussein was in power there did not seem to be a lot of religious enmity between the people. Women were allowed to wear western dress and be educated. It was not a theological realm, more a rank dictatorship. Saddam was no choirboy, he led an awful arabization campaign in the northern Kurdish areas but pretty much kept a grip on things. And sadly, like Tito in the Balkans, he may have been the last and only man that could.

After the fall of Saddam, the United States refused to incorporate Ba'athists into the new government, what may have been a fatal mistake on the part of our country. We were worried about Saddamists infiltrating the nascent state. The power and pendulum swung over to the Shiite Dawa party of Maliki, a party that had some serious scores to settle. Now the minority Sunni, accustomed to power,  were the aggrieved party.

We currently have a situation where there is a full scale religious civil war taking place, the last thing we want or need to get in the middle of. There is a good reason why cops hate getting involved in domestic disturbances. Real volatile and a quite easy way to get killed.

We spent ten years in Iraq and billions of dollars equipping an ineffectual Iraqi Army that cut and run at the first sign of trouble. Now we seek to repeat those mistakes in Syria, under the delusion that there is some neutral moderate party that will fight the Islamic Front, a Sunni group.

The President of Syria, Assad is an Alawite Ba'athist who has aligned with the Iranian Shiite axis and invited his Hezbollah allies in Lebanon to help him kill his enemies. Not a very nice guy, has used chemical weapons on his own population.

The Nusra Front (Sunni), an Al Qaeda group is in Syria trying to take Assad down. There are scores of others as well, some getting quickly folded into ISIS's cloak. These groups are concentrating on the Syrian Kurdish areas, seemingly the only good guys in the whole movie.

By the way, the Syrian regime wants to be our new bff and gang up on the ISIS from two directions, further fortifying the Assad regime.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend and just watch us hold our nose and make nice with Hezbollah and the Iranians. We might have to cut the Israelis off but hey, everybody knows Obama can't stand them anyway and sometimes you have to break a few eggs.

In Iraq there is now talk of finding Sunnis willing to fight the incoming Sunni Islamic Front. Good luck with that.

I could go on and on but will spare you this Monday morning. We all have things to do. I will try to wrap this up. At the risk of sounding like an islamophobe. There are no good actors in the region, with the exception maybe of the kurds. Many of the groups that we are fighting are already using our own weapons against us. The internecine hatreds that now exist are unsolvable. The people are at least culturally, barbarians.

Who else kills and beheads aid workers, health workers, peacekeepers, journalists, people whose real and ostensible purpose is only to help them and their countrymen?

In Indonesia, the middle east, now in our own country, Africa with Boko Haram, everywhere there is this type of senseless violence against innocents, the answer is, while not politically correct, only too clear. There is a creed and people that never learned how to get along with others in a civilized way.

You can only hear about such and such being a religion of peace so many times before you begin to wonder why so many adherents never got the message?

If ever a region was crying out for a nuke and a reboot it is the current middle east. The idea that we will find a bunch of good guys some place that will serve as boots on the ground is ludicrous.

Massive air power to protect the kurds and let everybody else do each other in.

I was sitting at a black jack table with an Iraqi and tried to talk regional politics a while back and can still feel the glower when I brought up the Kurdish problem.

"Fuck the kurds," he spat. I decided to forego the rest of our conversation.

I have read some very sad accounts of what is happening in the villages that the Kurds and Yazidis so recently shared with their fellow iraqis. Here, here and here.
They knew him as Abdul Qadir, the handyman who repaired air conditioners, refrigerators, TV sets and any other busted appliances in their northern Iraqi town.
But after Islamic State forces took over the predominantly Kurdish town of Birdiya, residents learned that their pleasant, reliable Mr. Fix-It had another nickname, Haji, and was playing a senior role supervising checkpoints for the Sunni Arab extremists. He was killed Aug. 22 in a U.S. airstrike near the Mosul dam along with two other Islamic State fighters, according to Kurdish military officials.
"He used to come to my house. He knows my family," said Yusuf Ibrahim, who fled his home in Birdiya as the militants advanced. "And now we find out he wanted to kill us."
Sunni neighbors that had lived peacefully side by side with their fellow villagers for ever, or at least since Saddam's arabization campaign, were now fingering them and turning them in to ISIS.
ZAKHO, Iraq — The afternoon before his family fled the onslaught of Sunni militants, Dakhil Habash was visited by three of his Arab neighbors. Over tea, his trusted friend Matlul Mare told him not to worry about the advancing fighters and that no harm would come to him or his Yazidi people.
The men had helped one another over the years: Mr. Mare brought supplies to Mr. Habash’s community in the years after the American invasion, when travel outside their northern enclave was too dangerous for Yazidis. Mr. Mare bought tomatoes and watermelon from Mr. Habash’s farm and sometimes borrowed money.
But his friend’s assurances did not sit right with Mr. Habash. That night, he gathered his family and fled. Soon afterward, he said, he found out that Mr. Mare had joined the militants and was helping them hunt down Yazidi families.
“Our Arab neighbors turned on all of us,” said Mr. Habash, who recounted his story from a makeshift refugee camp on the banks of a fetid stream near the city of Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We feel betrayed. They were our friends.”“I called my closest friend after we fled, an Arab man who owned a shop in our village,” said a Yazidi man who identified himself only as Haso, declining to give his first name out of fear of reprisal. “
When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was looking for Yazidis to kill.
Sunnis try to downplay the betrayal.
By the time IS was expelled from around Amerli, many Sunni civilians had fled, fearing for their lives. They have few places to go and are too frightened to return.
"If a regular army were holding the area we could return, but as long as the militias are there we cannot,” said a 30-year-old displaced Sunni resident of one village near Amerli, who asked to remain unnamed. "They would slaughter us on the spot."
He admitted some villagers had supported IS, but said it was only one or two for every 70 to 80 households, and that the rest were innocent civilians who were too scared to stand against the militants or had nowhere else to go.
The new Iraqi Prime Minister, Abadi, hopes to reunite his country against the ISIS threat and not to repeat the sectarian mistakes of his predecessor. It may be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, too much hatred, too much blood spilled. 

Wishing that things were different and hoping that there is someone you can count on is not a sound foreign policy. We would be quite foolish to bet on such a strategy. What is not needed is for United States ground troops to be involved in a permanent battle without any end in sight. 

Kurdistan in Iraq is a legal entity, the only one in all the nineteen provinces. Recognize them and give them independence.  Too bad if the Turks don't like it. They should be more active themselves in confronting Isis. 

Split the rest of the region up into small homogenous blocks that hopefully have less desire to do each other in. Pluralism is not a concept that seems to have a lot of hope for success in the region, might take another century or two.

Or find another Saddam Hussein.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Aurora García

Mi familia

Seven years in, I guess its time you meet the family. Or at least some of them. My brother John sent me this picture, 1966 family gathering at the gypsum dunes of White Sands, New Mexico. My stepfather worked there for five years, an early drone designer for Ryan.

I'm the little chap in front, all of nine years old, maybe just nine, sans spectacles, they came a year or so later. Thankfully my ears eventually flattened out. When I tell people that we had 12 people in the house in El Paso they don't believe me but it is true. You learn to eat very fast. Don took his pointers in discipline from Goering or Himmler so you kept your elbows off the table and your mouth shut if you knew what was good for you.

That's my mom on the right with the sunglasses, Adelle. Crazy brilliant, progressive, loved to pick up strays and take them back to our nest. Teacher, editor, writer, agent, super high powered intellect. Did I mention batshit crazy?

Behind her is my brother Buzz, 16 months my junior, given name David Jonathan. Lawyer turned restauranteur. Behind Buzz counter clockwise is Gail, Don's niece. Gail and her brother Rusty, (not shown) lived with us for a couple years when her alkie dad had a breakdown. From Colorado. Rusty and I fought like banshees.

Next to Gail without the glasses is my sister Barbara, now a CPA. In front of Barbara with the sunglasses is my oldest sister Liz, serious rebel genius turned government coder. In front of Liz is Pretam Gandhi, a sikh from Poona, studying engineering at Texas Western. Lived with us for a year or two. A black guy named Ralph hung around a lot too.

Don't know how we jammed the whole lot into the green 64 fury station wagon with the simulated wood trim. Also don't know how we managed to evade the neighbors and their torches and pitchforks with our family's all around weirdness and atypical mien. It was a strange time and we were stranger still, definitely did not fit in.

In front of Pretam is my stepsister Donna, we haven't talked in years. Very toxic. LDS. Her brother David, who I idolized, is not in this picture and ended up dying on a motorcycle.  Donna is holding young brother John, now a fuel cell designer and engineer, very smart.

So who isn't here? Don, my stepfather at the time. My mom divorced my real dad when I was five. He remarried and they adopted two girls, Laurie and Amie. Amie died in a car wreck in 1983. My dad remarried again, a wonderful woman named Shela, with her own two kids, Richard and Sarah.

Early on we had another foster daughter, Sherie, whose prim air force boyfriend turned husband made me eat toast and french fries with a knife and fork. Asshole.  Plus we had a couple brindle great danes, a sheepdog, many cats, turtles, etc. The show dogs had the life (and diet) we kids aspired to have.

There you have it.

Who Are The Brain Police?

Get a warrant.

"If I'm not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn't be a secret police file on me." Mp3 founder Michael Robertson

I haven't really gone off too much on the current events front lately. It is so easy to be inundated with bad news these days if that is your pleasure. I did want to point out a couple things that got me to thinking.

I wrote last year about the license plate detection program that was being tested in San Diego. Cops roll through supermarkets, shopping centers and a variety of other places and scoop up license plate data. Reports are that they are reading roughly 3 million license plates a week.

A libertarian software bigwig, Michael Robertson, filed suit against this type of surveillance, which triggers all sorts of probable cause and privacy issues. Robertson sued in 2013, seeking all the license plate data the agency had on him in a database. A judge has now ruled against him in court.
"We saw these as records of investigations used by law enforcement and thus exempt from the Public Records Act," said Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal agreed with government lawyers that the records are sometimes used for law-enforcement investigations such as to locate stolen cars, and therefore can be withheld under the public records law. She also concluded that the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by law enforcement’s need to keep it secret. So now everybody in the United States is a suspect in a great big criminal investigation to be named at a future date.
"Bacal said the information is “clearly being used in an investigative capacity in furtherance of law enforcement purposes.”
She said if the information was made public, it could be used by criminals to identify where cameras are stationed or what police are investigating."
Granting Robertson's request "would create a precedent that these records are available to anyone requesting their records — including the very criminals seeking to discover and exploit weaknesses in the (license plate reader) system," she wrote.
So much like the warrantless NSA data mining that Snowden exposed, all of your information is now fair game for the police state, to be used to track you and just in case you may engage in criminality at some future point in time. This is like something from an apocalyptic Philip Dick novel. We are all suspects in an investigation to be named later and the constitution becomes once again seriously diminished.
"If I'm not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn't be a secret police file on me" that details "where I go, where I shop, where I visit," Robertson said in an interview with The Associated Press prior to the ruling. "That's crazy, Nazi police-type stuff."
On the other side are government and law enforcement officials who say they're not misusing the systems and that tracking and storing the data can help with criminal investigations, either to incriminate or exonerate a suspect.
"At some point, you have to trust and believe that the agencies that you utilize for law enforcement are doing what's right and what's best for the community, and they're not targeting your community," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. John Gaw said.
Sergeant Gaw, I have news for you, we don't trust you. There is an added concern that the heavy usage of police cameras that we are starting to see will soon be coupled with facial recognition capability. The spy apologists have chosen a great time to retool their arsenal and chip away at our privacy rights, at a time when the ISIS terrorism bogeyman makes the slender man pale in comparison. We cede these protections very easily when people get scared.

Ex FBI gumshoe turned congressman Mike Rogers had my favorite quote on the subject:
Rogers: I would argue the fact that we haven't had any complaints come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right.
Vladeck: But who would be complaining?
Rogers: Somebody who's privacy was violated. You can't have your privacy violated if you don't know your privacy is violated.
Vladeck: I disagree with that. If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a noise whether you're there to see it or not.
Rogers (astounded): Well that's a new interesting standard in the law. We're going to have this conversation... but we're going to have wine, because that's going to get a lot more interesting...
FBI Director James Comey is unhappy that Apple and Google no longer want to play ball with the government and allow them access to their user's encrypted cell phone data.
"I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing," he said. "What I'm worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."
I think that the American public have spoken quite clearly on this, Mr. Comey, from the left and the right. We believe that we have the right to privacy, even from our own government, and the specter of the terrorist threat pales with the possibility of surrendering our constitutional rights.

Good for Yahoo for fighting the government strong arm tactics of the Obama administration, ridiculous fines even before a FISA court had held that such snooping was legal. Thank you Apple and Google as well.

Bradley Manning, aka Chelsea,  has a very interesting article in the Guardian recently, How to make Isis fall on its own sword. Off the current subject but definitely worth reading.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fuck All Those Perfect People - Chip Taylor & The New Ukrainians

Going Going Gone

"Not much to be said, it's the top of the end... "

A nice workup of an oft forgotten Dylan masterpiece from Planet Waves. And an acoustic version from the bard himself that I have never heard before. I forget how much I like Planet Waves, don't listen to it enough, the rich textures of Robertson and Co. providing such a lush backdrop for the singer. Listened to quite a bit of Dylan on this trip. Not like we will have him around forever. Going going gone

Thursday, September 25, 2014


I asked a man at an antique store in Silver City where a photographer might go to take some good pictures. He mentioned a place called Ben Lilly. Said it was up the fifteen towards the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Well I had never been there. They were at least an additional hour and a half away. Shoot, I tells me, why not?

I made my way up and down the narrow mountain road, which has the official designation "Trail of the Mountain Spirits." At times it was slow going, especially with me having to stop at all the nice views.

I couldn't even begin to describe how gorgeous and wonderful the Gila Wilderness is. Way off the track. And the charts.

America's first designated wilderness, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, it is spectacular and verdant. Great rock formations, you can see why it made such a good hideout and home. Three forks of the Gila River converge here, before dropping into the Colorado River below. Geronimo was born here. Deer abound on the side of the road. The area is said to host over 330 different bird species.

I made my way up the heavily graffitied Ben Lilly monument, named for a long passed local farmer, who evidently long ago trapped a lot of bear and cougar in the area, ostensibly making it safer for the women and decent folk.

I drove on the rather long route to the Gila Wilderness, finally stopping at the Ranger Station and getting directions to the trailhead. The rangers told me the best shots were taken from off trail.

He also said that it was verboten to do so unless you had special clearance and permission, which I clearly did not. So I would just have to make do.

A steep hike up the down staircase, the normal entrance was flooded out the day before. Around fifteen ancient pueblo families were said to have perched in these Mogollon cliffside eyries around 1200 a.d.. The five caves had about forty rooms total, essentially early condominiums.

The caves somehow evaded the spaniards and were not discovered until the 1870's, unfortunately they were then quickly looted. Mummies have been found here as well as well as trade items like macaw feathers and over 32 species of plant remains including beans, corn and squash.

It was great to walk inside the caves, the only cliff dwellings that I have been able to explore quite like this.

I have been to Chaco, Mesa Verde and Canon de Chelle and this is a much richer and more direct experience. Bit dusty inside but worth it.

I hope that you enjoy the photographs. I have many more and look forward to sifting through them. Click on one and you should be able to see all of this batch in a slideshow.

I left the trail exhilarated, happy to be pushing my body and cardio after so long in the car. Happy to once again be in the middle of nowhere, the place where this person feels best.

One of my favorite fictional detectives was the character created by the british author Arthur Upfield in the 1920's. Inspector Bonaparte, or "Boney" was half aboriginal. When things got too hot in the city, he would strip naked and head into the outback scrub to reconnoiter with the forgotten parts of his psyche. That's me, except maybe for the naked part.

Sir Douglas Quintet - "Mendocino" - 25 January 1969, Playboy After Dark

Points west

I am finally back. Close to four thousand miles put on the van this trip, my right ankle is sore from pushing the accelerator pedal. The show in Texas was tolerably good, maybe even worth it if I get some after show business. Met some new clients, showed my face and wares in a new arena.

Van is reasonably okay, a few new cuts and scratches, a new check in the windshield courtesy of the car next to me kicking up some gravel near Fort Stockton. One near miss that brought me perilously close to total disaster, more on that later.

A few quick thoughts on the show and the trip. Texas is a very clean state, much less trash and litter than California. The restaurants are good, the state was beautiful and green, the rest stops are clean  ( although you are advised to watch out for the poisonous snakes, just what I want to see when I am on the can) the people are courteous and polite, albeit pretty conservative.

Saw two great bumper stickers on the trip, can't disagree and very Texan in attitude; God bless our troops, especially the snipers and Political Correctness was responsible for Major Nidal. I don't think I offended anybody at the show, two conversations about the Texas educational standards and I only brought it up once. She fled.

I started driving west from Houston monday morning, after filling up with gas. Cheapest I saw this trip was $2.99. I decided to hit a few barbecues that Bradford had suggested I check out. The first was Joel's, a rather flea bitten affair by the highway. Just my style.

It was early in the day and I decided to stick with the brisket and establish a base line. Pecan pie looked good but a man needs a certain amount of discipline and it was early in the day.

Joel's had atmosphere galore but the brisket was a little dry and only so-so. I headed down the road.

Next stop was the City Market in Luling, Texas. Now this place was like going to barbecue mecca, the real deal. A dusty old town with an oil museum, I finally found City Market by the train tracks after calling Mike for directions. Mike is a true expert Texas barbecue man and this was his favorite spot, so it definitely had my attention.

I walked into the old building, like heading back to 1910 and looked around. Stand for pop in the middle of the room, check, Cash register, check. Happy people gorging themselves at tables, righteo.

Just one question, how do I get food? A few seconds later I had it figured out. There were two doors to the inner sanctum at the back of the room, in and out.

Sort of like a dungeon or maybe a maternity room. I walked back and you could have bottled the atmosphere. Black streaked walls, the place was positively medieval. I ordered brisket and a pork rib. Should have taken a shot but I ate it too fast, washed down with a Stewarts root beer. Quite possibly the best beef I have ever tasted, maybe better than the place Leslie and I once found near Round Top. Bradford had given me a map of other places to try, a place up by Austin, the original Rudy's, Franklin's, etc. but I was starting to overdose on mesquite and thought it might be time to layoff for a while.

I continued down the road, plunging into the monotony that is Texas. I needed water and stopped at a gas station. Noticed the sacks of deer corn for sale outside.

"You feed them with that or blast them?"

"Well, both really mister,"the young lady said. "The white tails are thick as dogs around here."

I hardly pulled my camera out the whole trip. Everything with the crappy camera on the HTC phone but I hope you get the general drift.

A few comments. When I left Ford Stockton the first time, something literally stunk. Wasn't sure if it was the hotel, me, what the hell it was? It turned out to be Texas. West Texas smells, specifically like burnt fossil fuels. Kind of like Mt. Doom at Mordor might smell.

Very pretty though, nicer than I remembered. Lots of pretty flowers, no bluebonnets this time of year but lots of black eyed susan ant other stuff. A pretty vine at a rest stop, fruit undetermined. Anybody know? You must...

Didn't see a lot of birds, a large falcon or kite with a dark eye on the way out, sitting on a fence post. Looked like a goshawk but my friend Steve says it would not be a typical area for them to roost. Noticed a beautiful brown raptor on the way back west.

I made it to my first trip deviation around 2:30. I had wanted to explore the caverns of Sonora. located about 15 miles south of the freeway. I never got a detour on my august trip and it might have hexed me and contributed to my heart ache. This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful caves in the world, speleologically speaking.

I drove out, only to find out that the last tour of the day had already left. Damn. Will have to arrive early next time. Bought a little fudge. I had heard reports of vandalism to the beautiful butterfly formations and the girl gave me the sad story.

In 2006, a punk kid from Houston, 29 years old, broke off a piece of the butterfly helictite speleothem and stuffed it in his pocket as a souvenir. Might grow back in a half a million years or so, please let me know if you are around.

Humans, you have to love them.

I drove and drove and about a hundred miles from Van Horn, my old nemesis, and disaster near struck.

The rain had started to fall again and it was getting pretty dark. I was fiddling with the radio when I looked up, just in time to see the large object in the road directly ahead of me.

It was a truck tire, replete with wheel and I had no chance to swerve, hitting it straight on doing seventy.  "Oh, my god!" I felt it scrape all the way down my van's spine. For a few nervous seconds I watched my gauges, sure that I had done in cooling, transmission and various other systems.

But nothing happened. About forty more miles I pulled into a gas station and checked the underside. Disaster narrowly averted, once again, my specialty seemingly.  Told a guy in a truck what happened and called the cops to alert them to the hazard. It was really pouring and the mud getting in and out of the place was incredible. Later I found out it was a 250 year flood that had killed that day in both El Paso and Phoenix.

I found a hotel in Van Horn, not wanting a possible repeat with the gendarmes at the Border Patrol to happen late at night. I was sweating bullets thinking about what might happen this time, if I would be spending more extended time in a cell for my crime of offending their canine.

Next morning I hit the road early. Passed a herd of pronghorn that sprang into the bush upon sensing my scrutiny. I made it through the border check with a little small talk about my show, then a wave on down the road. Another disaster averted.

Talked to my wife. Evidently we have a broken water pipe. Asked the neighbor to help in my absence.  She has been without water for a couple days and I feel bad.

I drove towards my old hometown, El Paso. It was clear and didn't look quite as bad as on the way out. Passed Signal Peak and Hueco tanks.

The pride of MacArthur Elementary drove right on through El Paso. I decided to have breakfast in Mesilla, a wonderful town, maybe my favorite downtown in New Mexico. Loved to visit when I was a kid in Las Cruces. The Billy the Kid Bar is now the Billy the Kid gift shop. The old town is slow and somehow regal in its tranquility.  Unchanged.

The town square is much like the zocolo near my home in Las Cruces as a kid. Lovely place to stroll around on a warm evening.

I miss the lightning of New Mexico from my childhood. It was so dry that the blankets often made strong sparks when you opened them up.

I have a lot of rich memories of this place, will have a psychic connection forever. I was formed in the southwest, out of the native dirt and clay.

Had breakfast at Josefina's, from a nice mexican apache woman. Walked around the plaza for a while and just took it all in.

I think that it is important to circle around in our life, to come back around on and touch those things that were important to you once again. Places and people. Get a reality check, maybe see how things turned out.

I had an old love contact me through a friend while I was on Facebook. A very important old love, my first. I couldn't process everything that was going on at the time, it was right before my show and I ultimately severed contact with the proxy for one reason or another. She had said that my old girlfriend was aware of my writing and photography. Now I had last talked to this person in the late 70's, a very long time.

But I am happy that she reached out, only wishing her the best. Because to some degree, we helped form each other as well. I am very grateful to this person. Would be interesting to talk, if you are reading this, and you feel like it, drop me a line. Or not. Love for ever, to everybody.

I continued into the heart of New Mexico and suddenly had a wild hair. It is quite possible that I had never been to Silver City, don't remember going through there with Diann, never with Leslie. So I turned right and drove an hour or so north... New trails to explore.