Monthly Archives: July 2013

DOWNTOWN

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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 very 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.

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COFFEE

This morning. That's coffee with milk, not ice cream.

This morning. That’s coffee with milk, not ice cream.

My coffee addiction goes back a long ways–probably since I was about 16. Then it was coffee with my girlfriends at Alva’s (Elva?) cafe in Northome. Since Alva 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 effect so often accompanying almost a lifetime of smoking. So far so good. DO NOT FOLLOW MY EXAMPLE!

 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 Alva’s café any old day.

YESTERDAY MORNING:

The uninspiring morning landscape as I head for Starbucks.

The uninspiring morning landscape as I head for Starbucks.

Just across the street. Nah...

Just across the street. Nah…

On the same lot, resulting in many traffic and parking issues. Nah...

On the same lot, resulting in many traffic and parking issues. Nah…

Yeah! Count money...

Yeah! Count money…

Orange juice and caffein, everything you need for breakfast.

Orange juice and caffeine, everything you need for breakfast.

Finally, at the window. The morning can begin.

Finally, at the window. The morning can begin.

New Mexican Food

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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.

A MONDAY

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 which in New Mexico we would consider a treasure of major proportions.

JO'BURG TWO 007

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.

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WASTED

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.

BEAUTIFUL BLUE NEW MEXICO

BEAUTIFUL BLUE NEW MEXICO

BEACH JUNK, OCEANSIDE, CA

BEACH JUNK, OCEANSIDE, CA

 

The New House

I am not a homeowner nor have I ever wanted to be one. Still, there is some nice excitement circulating throughout our rather small family because of new houses/new homes. Brother Robert and sister-in-law Marsha are completing their first week in the suburban foothills of Albuquerque and son Scott and daughter-in-law Sandra are in the same stage of habitation in their new place overlooking San Diego Harbor.

 I do have a new bookcase about which I am quite thrilled but I suppose that’s not in the same category.

 Last Sunday we gathered for the first family dinner in the new house. I brought a baked ham and my best-potato-salad-in-the-world (although not quite perfect this time—I’m copying my mom who always denied anything she cooked/baked turned out just right). I also found a recipe for Jell-O-poke cake at the doctor’s office which I remembered from childhood and decided to make. Don’t do that. It’s oozingly sweet and semi-disgusting—but with a lot of whipped cream it’s not impossible to eat.

 Here are the first photos in the new place which will all be re-painted, re-curtained, re-cupboarded in the very near future. It’s very very green pretty much everywhere right now. 

Sara, Patricia and boyfriend.

Sara, Patricia and boyfriend.

Buddy wants to share Steve's friend Jeff's food.

Buddy wants to share Steve’s friend Jeff’s food.

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Pretty Sara in the rain.

The pool...might be just a hair under olympic size?

The pool…might be just a hair under olympic size?

Marsha in her new house.

Marsha in her new house.

Buddy going for Steven's jugular...

Buddy going for Steven’s jugular…

The 'boys' gather to talk about boy stuff like hunting and war and big machines and stuff. Or maybe just their favorite shows.

The ‘boys’ gather to talk about boy stuff like hunting and war and big machines and stuff. Or maybe just their favorite shows.

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Back in Business

Today X 365 works best when it speaks to the happenings of everyday life: of family, friends and common histories; of the old familiar media and politics we share, and of shared frustrations with the new in both groups; and finally of age, health, weather and living in New Mexico. That is generally what I had in mind when I launched 365 as a daily blog.

 However I have gotten a little carried away with all manner of other things, especially books and travel. While book reading is certainly part of my everyday life, book talk just doesn’t respond well to daily snippeting. In fact writing about books—just like writing books—demands its own original narrative, focus and a whole lot of wordsmithing. It’s the same with travel writing…needs time and attention to jell.

 Therefore, for the next stage of its life Today X 365 will stick to the personal and semi-personal—generally in short bursts of casual language and amateur photos. Book talk and travel tales will soon show up elsewhere such as in a books-only blog and postings in Social Studies for Adults: a Travel Journal (nesetm.com).

 I am excited about a future where my excellent writing attracts a myriad of followers. Since I’m not quite there yet in the ‘excellence’ department, I know I must write and write and write in a serious vein, but surely it’s okay to have one carefree blog that is primarily for family and friends and an occasional passerby—that would be Today X 365.

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.

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THINKING ABOUT BLOGGING

Well. As I’ve been thinking (and writing) about how I can become a better writer through blogging, it has finally dawned on me that I also must become a better blogger. Of course blogging is writing, however it is also many other things to which I have not been attentive—such as having an attractive inviting easy-to-maneuver site; responding to comments; paying attention to WordPress perks/administrative support; maintaining a regular schedule; and exploring the vast sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane world of blogs.

 Still. The heart of blogging is writing and the main reason for my blogging is to write the pieces I want to write and to do so in ever more comprehensible, interesting, compelling, and vivid styles.

 So. I am going to take a few days off from “Today X 365” and the “NorthFourthArtCenter Blog” and take a serious look at my list of things to write about and the best format for them. Fewer blogs with more categories or more blogs that focus on one or two topics. I am leaning toward the latter because it occurs to me that eventual followers of my travel blog (when it is fully launched) do not necessarily want to read about my brother’s new house. By the same token, friends and family who do want to see house photos may not be the slightest bit interested in international crime fiction.

 However. It also occurs to me that my obsession with different styles of notebooks and pens is just being transferred to blog land and I will experience the same amount of personal confusion over which blog in the Cloud as I do over which notebook on Land.

 Finally. A few days of sorting then. Returning with new and better blogs.

Iceland: More Photos…PUFFINS this time

MURDERERS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO DISGUISE THEMSELVES AS PUFFINS. 

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 so to make up for my blog-negligence and 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 251

ICELAND 259

ICELAND 268

ICELAND 277

ICELAND 281

ICELAND 289

ICELAND 294

ICELAND 324

ICELAND 325

ICELAND 256

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