Monthly Archives: July 2013
I live downtown and yet almost never go the eight blocks to its very heart. An odd and …is eccentric the right word…little downtown it is. I worked there for many years managing the KiMo Theatre, a restored art deco movie house that, for awhile, was quite a thriving performing arts theater. It was never dull downtown even though the transition from being frequented by winos to horny young men and women in search of booze and each other had not yet transpired. Then, for food and entertainment there was only Lindy’s, a sort of great old-fashioned coffee shop on the corner across from the KiMo. Now there’s a multiplex with lattes and mineral water and a good Brazilian restaurant next door. Also many bars and pizza joints. The plan to make downtown a hub of arts and culture did not work out although 516 ARTS, a classy little contemporary arts gallery, does well and the KiMo seems to be okay sticking to a steady diet of classical movies. But I like it down there in a way because it hasn’t been renovated to that super cute stage. Between 1st and 8th along Central feels kind of like any one of a thousand small towns across the country that’s tarted up Main Street just enough to have an espresso bar and at least one restaurant that serves salads with field greens and cranberries. Albuquerque is a small city and not a small town, but I think it’s okay to have a vaguely old-west main street. After all we have malls and Uptown and Starbucks all over the place so our basic needs are pretty much covered and we can a afford a little funky ambiance here at the center.
My coffee addiction goes back a long ways–probably since I was about 16. Then it was coffee with my girlfriends at Elva’s cafe in Northome. Since Elva made fresh homemade doughnuts every morning, coffee immediately developed very pleasurable associations. There really is nothing quite like one of those long-ago crispy from deep-lard-frying, so-soft-and-sweet-inside doughnuts. Likening them to Dunkin Donuts products is like saying Kobe beef is similar to a McDonald’s burger. Really!
By the time I graduated high school and moved to Minneapolis coffee was a serious part of my morning life, somewhere in there it had been joined by cigarettes. And that ritual only grew stronger…and became ever more satisfying. Morning paper, morning coffee, morning cigarettes. Even though it has been quite some time since I smoked, that tradition has a very fond place in my memory. That first sip of coffee and first drag from a cigarette after you wake up is surely as satisfying a drug high as any illegal substance ever grown or invented. Needless to say coffee and cigarettes became a consistent part of everyday… all day. I know I know…I am a fortunate person to have escaped the grim effects so often accompanying almost a lifetime of smoking. So far so good.
Now, while my coffee addiction has not gone away, it has lost its nicotine partner; it is generally restricted to the early part of the day; and it is far far more expensive—thanks to the advent of Starbucks.
My choice of caffeinated beverage these days has been venti non-fat lattes—which would be perfect every morning (and this week since I’m working late every night I’ve indulged) but that does get a little pricey. Now my latte has competition which could make the trip through the drive-in even more costly; I’ve become quite infatuated with something called the Valencia Orange Refresher. Here’s how it’s described. “Three varietals of orange combined with floral and fruity notes from orange peel, cardamom, jasmine and apricot lightly caffeinated with Green Coffee Extract, served over ice.” Yeah, whatever.
To make up for this extravagant lifestyle on some days, other times I come to work with the assortment you see in the photo above. It’s much cheaper, especially if you use an old ice cream container for your coffee and heat it at work.
If this all sounds like a commercial for Starbucks remember, if I had a choice, I would still pick Elva’s café any old day.
New Mexican Food
New Mexican food is its own thing–not Mexican, not Texan, not Latin or Caribbean. It is mostly made of tortillas, beans, cheese, corn, pork, RED AND GREEN CHILI. It’s not my favorite of all the world’s cuisines but all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, I will crave it. Like today. Working late again will be my excuse for some of the hot greasy chili-laden stuff of ex-patriot New Mexican dreams. Minnesotans usually crave meat loaf and walleye and cinnamon rolls, flavored with salt and sugar and butter, but we do have our more adventurous moments.
There’s a new royal baby and if I weren’t theater-sitting again I would be home glued to the TV for any tidbit of information however small. What is this fascination with the royal family? Oh sure, everyone doesn’t have it but MANY of us do…. Why not really? They represent real live history in a generally charming format. And, like the Downton Abbey downstairs folks, most of us will never ever be privy to what it is really like upstairs so there’s mystery. Also mixed with manners galore is just the right amount of hanky panky. Usually, or at least sometimes, these royals are quite handsome or beautiful. Obviously those traits skip around a bit but even in Charles’ case he’s interesting and actually appealing in a sort of silly way. So there it is…I love them. There are national treasures—British royalty; Scandinavian mysteries; African dance; French baguettes—and for the U.S., well I guess what we treasure most are guns. On that sad note I will post this and troll the web for baby news.
Here’s a photo of South African rain just because… which in New Mexico we would consider a treasure of major proportions. Besides there are no royal babies in the family to photograph.
Ovidia and her Sheep
Mom always loved sheep; actually she always loved all animals but especially sheep. After she married my dad, she had Tula, her South Dakota lamb, shipped to her up in northern Minnesota. Tula was the foremother of a small herd that mom maintained until she and dad left the farm about 55 years later.
I wasted today. I did read one Danish murder mystery and slept a lot but that doesn’t exactly count as productive. Days like this make me a little depressed I must admit. So before I go back to bed…here are two of my favorite old photos, scanned just for these wordless times.
Much of my everyday life happens in the little north valley art center where I work and which is home to much of what gives New Mexico the rich tastes and smells and sounds of Old Mexico…and makes this place just a little more interesting than your average old American state. Even in my present jaded state of mind, I do appreciate that.
Iceland: More Photos…PUFFINS this time
MURDERERS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO DISGUISE THEMSELVES AS PUFFINS.
I once had a plan to do some reporting on all of the crime fiction I read. Forget that project…but I might say something about it from time to time…like right now.
Today was the day I was going to start writing about the Icelandic crime fiction authors I have read so far; unfortunately I did not have access to my Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir books. I had intended to bring the stack to work and use them for an essay about Iceland’s place in the literature of Scandinavian death and deception but the books were forgotten at home and besides work (the kind for which I get paid) consumed my day.
Tonight I’m the theater-sitter so there has been time for a little Google-work filling empty spaces remaining in the part of my brain reserved for Icelandic murder. In fact I’ve subscribed to one Scandinavian crime blog today and also discovered the “Nordic Noir Book Club” which is perfect for someone like me—except for the small drawback of all of the meetings taking place in London.
Now it is late and I’m still at work but to keep my Iceland mindset going without really writing anything—yet again, here’s a photo album from my summer 2012 visit to the island of puffins in Reykjavik harbor. ENJOY.
Iceland: Hiding the Bodies
Bob, Teresa and I spent a week in Iceland last summer. We fell in love with this odd and lovely island that still sees Vikings around every corner; is cold and windy and gray but NOT covered in ice; and feeds its visitors fermented shark.
Since Iceland is so picturesque AND because I have so many photos I am hoping to stretch my little essays over several days—off and on/now and then.
To begin exploring murder most northern, it seemed like a photo essay investigating the many places where victims could be cleverly concealed would be appropriate. You see we were there and, while we didn’t find any actual bludgeoned bodies or icy eyeballs we did go on a mystery writers tour which took us to various locations featured in Icelandic crime novels. I am sorry to report that what is a brilliant idea came off as earnest and uninspiring. The two well-mannered young women guiding the walk just could not manage any vicious vibes so we soon went off to have a nice Icelandic beer. I do hope that the suggestions of foul play accompanying the photos that follow will make you a little more leery of Reykjavik’s dark and shadowy corners than what our pretty tour guides could manage.
You can rest assured that Iceland does indeed support several interesting murder mystery writers so if you enjoy the deceptively cozy scenes that follow or the gloomy landscapes full of deadly potential in days to come, know that you can spend many book-hours deep within these often lethal nooks and crannies.