Friday, July 31, 2009

putting a spin on it

Clearly, I need practice at focusing on pink plastic balls: as if yesterday's glittered and marbled pony-containing spheres weren't problematic enough, today's couple of shots of a plastic ball nestled just off a path in the Eldorado green belt weren't quite in focus either.  Hence it's Photoshop Radial Spin to the Rescue!   No prolonged musing about what the ball was doing there - rejected loot from the supermarket toy dispensers?  a failed bit of golf practice?  too slippery for a dog to carry? - no, I've just swirled it up into a faintly nipple-like, quasi-chocolate mousse melange - and will seriously attempt not to leave myself, late at night, with only images to work with that are badly in need of salvation.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

illicit plastic pony

Almost certainly, this would have been a better shot if I'd had a second, or third, attempt at it - I knew/suspected this wasn't quite in focus (it's not the easiest thing in the world, using a 18-200 lens to shoot the contents of small plastic balls inside a plastic dispensing machine in a badly, but fluorescently lit store.   But as I stepped back for a new attempt...

Officious large female supervisor in Eldorado supermarket:  Excuse me?   What are you taking photographs of?

Me: Er... the balls in this machine.

OLFS: You're... why?

Me: I like taking pictures of plastic ponies in strange places [readers of this blog will know that to be true.   And it was, therefore, an honest reply.   However...]

OLFS: Really?

Me: Yes...honestly...I'm not taking pictures of the rest of the supermarket, or anything...

OLFS: Show me.

So I showed her... and since there was just the one picture, and the previous one was of a sign in Mayan lettering in the village of Corrales, she seemed grudgingly satisfied.

This was not an encouraging encounter, and I slunk off.   My initial theory was that they are employing either undocumented workers or ones on whom they aren't paying tax of some kind.   Alice thinks that the supervisor must have decided that I was checking out what they're up to (displaying many different kinds of Mexican altar candle? running a rather greasy looking olive bar?  selling a rather good - I bought one - type of humming bird feeder) on behalf of some (imagined) competitor.   On reflection, I suspect she was just bored, and someone wielding a large Nikon was the most interesting thing to have happened there that afternoon - but I won't be taking any more views of Eldorado supermarket for a while, even if I have, just about, got another image for the plastic pony archives.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

seeing New Jersey

I was deeply alarmed to see this sponge lying forlorn and abandoned on Monte Alto this morning - for it reminded me instantly of the map outline of New Jersey.   I was even deeply more alarmed by the fact that anything should bring NJ so speedily to mind - next, I'll be seeing the outline of the Virgin Mary on the splotchy coats of tabby kittens or looming out of the ice in an over-frosted refrigerator.   It is, of course, a striking piece of bright blue abstraction in its own right: nothing could be less functional, so far as sponges go, than to lie on the graveled edge of a road, outside a house that's been on the market for a while - which suggests that the sponge itself has been dropped, whether deliberately (used to mop up some unmentionable fluid) or casually by an itinerant window-cleaner.   In other words, if I can't just be content to let it work associatively as a representation of NJ, or as startling color on a grey ground, I'm clearly driven to wrap it into some narrative scenario.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

free dog kisses

or so the sign reads.   Quite obviously, we weren't going any closer to find out whether these barking guardians were actually going to reach their pink tongues through the seriously taut wire fence and lick us lovingly.   We were in Corrales, just north of Albuquerque, on a hunt for the house that Alice lived in around 1974-5.   Only - especially in a village without house numbers, and where one small adobe house in a cluster of adobe houses some way back from the main street looks much like another small adobe house, it's not an easy a task as one might think.   She believes that this may well be the one - but the Cerberus types didn't make it somewhere to hang around.

It's also a good example of the arbitrary lining up of meaning, memory, association and the photographic record.   Of course if this is the actual house, it has a quite different set of memories and associations and significances that can be attached to it than if it's just another adobe dwelling in northern New Mexico - here's documentary proof of some kind, even if it doesn't much point to anything beyond the gap between now and then.   And yet - it's also typical modern not-very-well-off NM: the adobe and the blue paint, the dirt yard, the hand-lettered sign, the rolled-up carpet, the green plastic garden chairs, the possibly redundant bicycle, the red geranium in a terra-cotta pot, the sort of wooden shrine hanging on the fence, the strange thing stuffed through it, like a stuffed felted pig's head, the arbitrary lump of rock on a little table, and, in the foreground, holding the fence in place, perhaps, an old style piece of Hispanic wood carving - a corbel, or other piece of ceiling work? - lending the whole ensemble a local touch that makes it instantly identifiable as New Mexico.

Monday, July 27, 2009

harry's back yard

where the fairy lights (are they indeed called that in the US?   Having just had the misjudgment to go and see Brüno, I'm cautious about any reference that might be construed as homophobic...) come out in the trees, and above the hollyhocks, as the daylight goes down.   Today was a day of missed photographic opportunities - the large rattlesnake sun-bathing on Monte Alto Road, for example - but I was too preoccupied with trying to see if s/he really did have rattles on the tail to remember to get out a camera.   And then, going into the Regal Cinema 14, there was the surreal sight of two local ashram members (male), dressed all in white, wielding a toy machine gun at an arcade game.   So I was left with finding something that didn't make me forget about photography when I was looking at it.   To be honest, I was well aware from the get-go that the white robes and imitation firearm would have been a superb shot, but by the time I'd started to fumble in my bag, the guys had scuttled off.   Harry's Roadhouse has a tendency to serve as a photographic default option, its margaritas and Roadhouse Tostadas being all too convenient for the drive back from town.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

alternative art santa fe

Truly, Art Santa Fe was a fairly uninspired collection of gallery booths - with the exception of the reliable Monroe Gallery, in town, who represent Stephen Wilkes, and had some wonderful new photographs by him - some from his "China Old and New" series, and a couple of "Bethlehem Steel."   I have loved his Ellis Island pictures since I first saw them, and fantasize about being able to afford one - hauntingly melancholic views of the old quarantine and fever hospital quarters.   The same haunting quality is present in the three Chinese views on show, especially one of a snowy bridge in winter with a humpy little mountain behind the village - a curious mixture of a Chinese water color and, because of the way in which the bridge reflection is treated, an old-fashioned Cotswold view.   And all the images of rural China are melancholic when one puts them alongside (on his website, though not on show in this booth) Wilkes's images of factories.   The Bethlehem steel pictures are themselves full of perspectives that offer up the vast scale of industrial inaction.

But in general, it was more interesting to look around at the ways in which the whole railyard district is being developed - a scary enterprise in a bad economy.   This wall is the western side of a big youth center, and although doubtless it - like many Santa Fe blank spaces - will grow a mural soon, I rather like the dialogue that's taking place on it right now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

(anti) Art Santa Fe

Almost certainly I'll go to Art Santa Fe - a biannual art fair - tomorrow, to see what there is to see.   It's in a new-ish building in the railyard development, just opposite the Farmers' Market, where I was early this morning (art visitors are not, the show presumes, up before 11 a.m., but those of us who want French chickens for roasting, and fresh arugula and basil and snap peas and very new potatoes and dandelion jelly and goats' curds with green chile and a bunch of sweet peas certainly are).   So all that could be seen was a large pair of golden balls that usually sit on Paseo de Peralta opposite where the farmers' market was in its last incarnation before it moved to its permanent site (that's not an allusion to Posh Spice's name for David Beckham, which has, of course, irrevocably tarnished the phrase), and another concave bronze piece that looked to provide graffiti artists with an extremely tempting surface.   However, what really caught my eye was the door that may or may not lead anywhere; that wasn't covered with a shy little canopy like the main entrance; that announced that whatever is inside, a large tin shed is just a large tin shed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

sartorial standards

This poses some questions.   The sticker appears on a crossing light post on the corner of Montezuma and Guadalupe, in Santa Fe.   Who posted it, and why, and what's its audience?   Santa Fe undoubtedly needs tourism, from an economic point of view (although there seemed to be a lot in town today, and that barometer of tourist trade, the neon sign belonging to the El Rey Inn on Cerrillos, for the first time that I've passed it this summer read No Vacancies).   But is it an act of verbal aggression, or a piece of pomo irony?   To be sure, many tourists do dress, well, badly - in short shorts and Hawaiian shirts and with all kinds of bits of pink flesh showing (understandable - the temperature was in the 90s in town today).   But did one of the inhabitants of Las Campanas, or some other gated, and probably well-dressed by some standards, community on the north side of town stick this up?   That hardly seems credible.   By whose standards would the average sticker-poster be considered "well dressed"?   Probably not by the former group of inhabitants, and quite possibly not by the addressee themselves.   Perhaps it was stuck there so that the author of the sticker him or herself could take a photograph of it?   Perhaps it's part of a series - other ones may be found by the Eiffel Tower, by the Piazza San Marco, by the Houses of Parliament?   Any ideas?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


This is by way of being an accidental image: I took several shots of a very fine cactus somewhere round the back of the garage against a stormy sky - but (and this could have a good deal to do with kneeling on ground that was strewn with various ex-spikes) I seem to have been uncertain in focusing accurately on what I'd intended to be at the center - yellow flowers against thick black clouds.   However - it's the off-center spikes, instead.   I could pretend that I'd taken them as a metaphor for a disgruntled state of mind (inability to concentrate for long on  my work? running a department in mid-July? the kind of disturbed digestion that had me Googling symptoms of swine flu and e-coli poisoning, without being sure what my hypochondria wanted to settle upon?) - but it was a question of salvaging the accidental and making it look like an intentional representation of natural aggression.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sometimes the cliché, despite one's best intentions, trumps all.   Coming out of the front door for our evening walk, the sun setting over the Jemez mountains was serving up such extraordinary translucent light that it deserved capturing.   It's impossible to become bored with the sunsets here - so even if one suspects that every sunset photograph in and around Santa Fe is deeply generic, stock photography of the most obvious kind, it's still a form of celebration to add to the cache.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

strawberry rosemary lemonade

This is quite possibly the best glass of lemonade I have ever had: flavored with strawberry and - this was the inspired touch - rosemary.   It was served at The Grove, in Albuquerque, which is very highly recommended (not just by us - it's won just about every local award for lunch since it opened).   And this was accompanied by a grilled cheese and green chile sandwich, for me; a BLT with guacamole, for Alice, and we shared a carrot cake cupcake.   I maintain, rather faintly, that I don't particularly get excited about cupcakes, but I'll make an exception for this one.   I now wish that I'd taken a photograph of every single part of lunch.

This is also an antidote to what would have been the truly serious photography outing of the day, if we hadn't just gone down on the Railrunner (excellent views of pueblos: no photography - announced on the train - a complete antithesis to early C20th tourism) to pick up my car from the airport long-term parking.   The real project would be all the closed stores and businesses on Central (including the recently torched El Sarape) - motels out of business, gas stations closed, some of them just razed to the ground.   This eastern part of Central provided a quite shocking view of the effects of the recession: The Grove, at the other end of town - under I-25, towards the Old Town - could be on a different economic planet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

eldorado animal hospital

When my mother asked me this weekend what there was to do in Santa Fe - the kind of question that makes one wonder what she's actually heard and registered over the last fifteen years - I suppose that I could have answered Going to the Vets, because this seems to be a fairly regular activity.   Emmett, today, suddenly was manifesting a messy and possibly bloody mouth (cue for me to imagine bubonic plague - not as wild a piece of hypochondria as that might sound to some, for at least one cat has already been diagnosed in Eldorado with the plague this summer).   So off he went.   In fact, his gums are probably "friable" because of his kidney problems, so he's dosed up with pricey antibiotics.

We have the most wonderful vets here - ornamented by animal sculptures outside, including this mountain lion: he was looking strangely wintery against the lowering storm sky, so I helped the image a bit further along in the direction of menace.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

racing car

It's my car!   Liberated!   This Corgi model of a 152S BRM was my pride and joy when I was about 8 and it was brand new.   The fact that she now looks a little battered is the result of her being my favorite racing model.   The race track was the hallway of 14 Hillside, opposite where I lived, where Andrew Pemberton and I would have endless races of our model cars.   If one used the threshold of the living room as the starting line, one could get - with an energetic push - the car to go all the way down the long hallway, through the dining room, and tumble over the little step into the kitchen.   We raced car against car against each other - but this one (ergodynamically designed in the first place) was a winner.   Around this time my role model was Pat Moss - sister of the racing driver Stirling Moss, and herself a rally driver and show-jumper.   Looking back, it's striking how few women there were in the very early 60s with whom one might consciously identify - to be sure, Pat Moss was less glamorous than another show-jumper, Pat Smythe, but somehow more adventurous.

Although I'm now back in New Mexico with the car, this morning, when I photographed her, I was still in Wimbledon, and she's posing on another period piece - a Formica topped table from the 1950s.   This was our old kitchen table - I have very strong memories of it being the launching pad (when I was 6) for a plate of liver (yuk), frozen peas and mashed potato that my grandmother had served me and that I was violently refusing (but why such anger at liver?) - and it also being the site of a very guilty pleasure when  I was about the same age: I would take a very small piece of butter from the fridge, stick it on the edge, and lick it, slowly.   This same treat is, of course, now enjoyed (though off the NYT, not this table) by our cats, as part of their morning ritual - though I've only just, and with some puzzlement, drawn the connection.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

the ghostliness of the V & A

I really went to the V & A to take some photographs of the Beasts of Dacre, which have been in the museum since 2001.   Before that, they stood in the Great Hall of Naworth Castle, in Cumberland - two either side of the fireplace (the red bull and the black gryphon), and two either side of the front door to the Morpeth Tower - a.k.a. the front door to where I lived between the ages of 3 and nearly 7.   Our two were the King Salmon (though the V&A wobbles a bit about whether he may be a Dolphin - obviously he's a salmon), and the White Ram.   I was always told that the Salmon was the original for Tenniel's Fish Footman - certainly Tenniel would have known George Howard, 9th earl of Carlisle, who was a great friend of the Pre-Raphaelites and other artists.   (I should maybe point out that in no way do I have Carlisle Blood - my parents rented this tower from the then Earl when my father was site manager on the ill-fated Blue Streak rocket project on Spadeadam Waste, which is another story entirely...).

But as ever in the V & A I was distracted, and ended up not just talking to the Beasts, which I always like to do when I'm in London, to give them some kind of continuity, but looking at some of the Aesthetic Movement stuff on the top floor - hence this Miss Havisham like figure, and a curiously pert model wearing mourning costume.   Better yet (though no photography allowed) was the Telling Tales exhibition - not the best title - too redolent of secrecy, which took fairy tales and myth as its starting point, and then invited one to think of designed objects - a wardrobe, say, or a fire-blackened mirror - in this context.   What's more (as the website suggests) it's a very aural show too - the first room had much bird song; the second added dissonantly chiming clocks; the third, rather uncomfortably visceral one, a beating heart.   But it was brilliantly inventive, and so today's post is very much in the spirit of the spooky (and of course, is haunted by my own childhood, too).

Friday, July 17, 2009

the stables that never were

Between the ages of - roughly - seven or eight and thirteen or fourteen, I used to pass these very dilapidated looking garages every day, en route to Wimbledon High Junior School and, after that, to the station - or just when walking down the hill to the library.   I still walk that way to the station when I'm back, and they don't seem to have changed at all - a curiously dated little enclave in the midst of a whole lot of spiffily done up mews cottages and little (once upon a time) artisans' dwellings.

These garages were the site of my preferred fantasy when I was around ten or eleven - running a riding school.   Not the actual riding school where I worked before and after school filling water buckets and hanging haynets and filling feed buckets and stirring linseed mash and mucking out the stalls, but my own would-be enterprise.   I estimated exactly what it would cost to keep and shoe and run veterinary bills for ten or twelve horses, knew what the horses themselves would cost (indeed, chose good-sounding ones from advertisements in the back pages of Horse & Hound), worked out what the income from lessons and hacks and liveries would be, made up imaginary clients and schedules for imaginary horses; calculated, even, lighting and bills.

What's scary about this is that it sounds horribly, in retrospect, as though I was practicing running a university department - only I really, really, miss having horses looking over their stable doors.   Perhaps I could convert some rooms in Murray?   

It's also really striking, to me, how this photograph makes one kind of sense when filled with a narrative of nostalgia - or at least me trying to make sense of the past in light of today - and yet if one were to look at these shabby garages without text, they look like a rather sinister place - the kind of location in which one (at least in detective fiction) finds corpses or signs of violence behind these doors, or other evidence of crime.   The Hillside Detective Agency (one of my enterprises from a couple of years earlier, with me master-minding Andrew, William, and Simon) did, indeed, get very excited when, just up the next road, some of the loot from the Great Train Robbery (1963) was found in, yes, a lock up garage that was also used to store antiques (at least, so I've always believed and remembered, but, disappointingly, there's a strange lack of corroborating evidence on line...).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the meeting place

This monumental 2007 sculpture by Paul Day is St Pancras station's counterpart to the Jiminez statue at UNM: huge, unmissable, physical, and ugly.   I didn't think that it had any obvious political point, though (a Caucasian heterosexual couple - 30 meters, or whatever they are, of heteronormativity) - with a somewhat dated air - are they a couple from the 2000s, or when?   They look very 1930s, to me, but maybe it's those wrinkled trousers, the tight pencil skirt.

But in fact, the whole statue might be more interesting than it is.   Apparently Day wants to add to its base - add a pair of sunglasses, in which will be reflected, in bas-relief, someone falling onto a railway track - or committing suicide - and just possibly being pulled back (but most probably not).   In the midst of life we are in death, etc.   For some inexplicable reason, there are people who think that this might be a bit too grim a subject for a railway station...

Sculpture nothwithstanding (and there's a figure of John Betjeman just a bit further along, admiring, I suppose, the wonderful restored Victorian architecture, but actually looking rather like Paddington Bear), this is a quite stunning restoration.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

fish balloon

This happy little amphibious critter is swimming in air above the Pettitt-Ristuccia kitchen (and I've been given a cat balloon as a present, which I'll hang in the Chair's office, to cheer my surroundings on my return).   It's good recording other people's domestic details - and one's own, too - a kind of journal of one's surroundings, yes, but one that makes one look at them very closely indeed when choosing what to take (and this won out over the key chain ornament reflected in the shiny piano side, the washing hanging on a rack at the top of the stairs, various Italian food tins, and a strange kind of head - I think papier mache - that's a cross between a phrenologist's model and Garibaldi and that's on top of the piano, next to the metronome.

Very curiously (though with some logic), the first evening that I was staying, I kept trying to get on line using the "fishballoon" network that came up - guessing a combination of likely passwords.   No luck.   This was, it turned out, because the household doesn't have wi fi.   So does that mean that there's a whole shoal of these fish, swimming their way right down the street?


It's very wonderful to wake up to a Kitty Ristuccia Original looking at me from the bookcase (I think it was Romans and Vikings and Saxons this term).   The compound effect of a day's conferencing has been to make me wish that I was drawing, or painting, or taking photographs, or anything creative that isn't verbal: this may be an unfortunate byproduct of Too Much Academe All In One Place in the middle of July...

Monday, July 13, 2009

academic dining

It's most disorienting being at a very British conference (despite its supposed transatlantic marriage of NAVSA and BAVS) in a Cambridge college - with one's own Rutgers colleagues, doing departmental business with one hand and catching up with old graduates - and undergraduates - with the other.   The sense of dislocation was intensified by going into the bathroom in the Faculty Dining Room area, and finding Gowns hanging there - yes, one used to have to wear these for formal dinners, kleenex and keys shoved up the sleeves if one didn't have a purse or pocket, and yes, I occasionally lost one (an expensive matter) since they tended to walk away from their hanger.   English gowns are more substantial than their American counterparts, which have a nasty tendency to be made from something black and shiny and have zippers up the front, like a rather tame bondage outfit.   I'm not sure whether the red thing is a hood, or what - I didn't like to approach it to find out.   Just because I'm giving a paper on "Dressing Up" tomorrow (both Victorian and modern - and above all, the subjects of certain contemporary photographers) doesn't mean that I have a compelling desire to explore stray costumes...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

repetition and ritual

As I noted back in early May, one real treat of coming back to my parent's house is being greeted by a vase of flowers from the garden that my mother places in my room.   So I make no apology by offering another version of them.    Repeating the theme enacts the ritual and repetition that goes into the provision of the flowers in the firs place, of course, but it also enacts something that's endemic, as a question, to the exercise of taking a Daily Picture - how far do I allow myself to repeat myself?   And yet, as these two pictures two months apart show, difference in light, let alone in angle, let alone in types of flower, make these two very different images indeed.

Yes, it is dark and stormy - my dreams of sitting with a gin and tonic in verdant surroundings have been sadly shattered by dank and damp weather.

airport worker

If I feel weary with traveling this week - and I do - this is a timely reminder that it would be even more tiring to be a low-paid fast-food worker in an airport terminal.   And this can be a painful job, too - this woman (riding the light railway between termini at Dallas/Fort Worth) had a whole lot of burns down her arm from fat and/or hot pans.

The iPhone is a very useful photographic tool - as I keep remarking... - and I look forward to when it becomes economical to buy the new one, with focusing capacity - for one can sit opposite someone and look as though one's checking messages or playing my favorite game (Roach Madness! in which one gets to crush and obliterate the scuttering critters - v good for moments of frustration - otherwise I just quietly get to work on practicing the differences between British and American 8 ball pool) - but in fact, one's tilting it up and clicking the little camera icon...   This woman had a particularly haunting expression of tired melancholy, and yes, of course I felt photographically predatory as I waited for the train to swing round so that the light would hit her at the right angle...

Friday, July 10, 2009


The last few days have been completely chaotic - so although I've managed to take pictures, and semi-post those taken with an iPhone when I realized the problem of having no internet back in New Jersey - this has been a strangely silent blog.   Alas.   Technology.   And too many time zones, as witnessed by today's image, of New Brunswick station at dawn.

All of this has been due to moving Alice's things out to NJ - and the concomitant mounds of packing paper (image 2, yesterday...) and boxes and discoveries and anxieties about things that we can't imagine into what boxes they could possibly have been put.   

And the shock (image 3, the day before yesterday) of finding that NJ doesn't look at all like LA - though I love all the symmetries of the apartment block next door ...

And the day before that, Tuesday, here I was in New Mexico at another dawn, remarkably much more beautiful than the NJ one.

I wish that I could promise the resumption of Normal Service, but I'm off to England early tomorrow - but will do my best...

Monday, July 6, 2009


Panic set in: I knew that I was spending most of the day in a very small unadorned room meeting with Bread Loaf students and faculty - which, whilst a very pleasant activity, was not guaranteed to produce photographs.   So I looked around me - after all, a habitual enough activity when I'm bored (which I wasn't - let's try another locution - when I'm stuck in one place) to see what I could, possibly, take a photograph of.   Thank you,  SuZanne, for having brightened my dorm room (one desk, two chairs) with a vase of flowers.

The  moral is screamingly obvious: sometimes one just takes a much more interesting picture when one doesn't think one has any obvious subject at hand.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

stars and stripes, again

... which is in some respects a continuation of the 4th July theme, of course, but in others a reaction against the stuff that I've been working on today (for a paper aimed at the NAVSA/BVSA conference in Cambridge in just over a week's time - panic has jump-started me into writing.   My piece largely focuses on people who have produced pastiches of Victorian photographic styles - Annu Palakunnathu Mathew, Tracey Moffatt, Clare Strand - and much though I'm enjoying writing about their carefully constructed work, it belongs to a form of narrative photography that I don't have much chance to practice, or even think about, when thinking about an academic paper.

More than that, I read an interview with Strand in which she was very down on the notion of photographing for the sake of it - she starts from an idea, researches it, thinks carefully about how such an idea would be best treated by what photographic approach, and so on.   Which I'm totally in accord with as a means of approach - and it's an approach, of course, which is quite inimical to the Daily Picture.    So the sparseness of the chair and its shadow, the two stars that somehow must have escaped and become bleached and dessicated from some Christmas wrapping or tree decoration, suddenly caught my eye as an antithesis to this way of going about things - in other words, this may look tranquil, an accidental image created and caught in one of today's rare moments of sunshine - but actually there's an element of the transgressive, or at least the oppositional, about it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th July

It was hardly seasonal weather today, although the pops of rockets going off all around (much to the cats' dislike) testifies to the fact that it's no longer raining.   But the rain will have made the ground more or less safe, for once, for fireworks to land on, and (despite the cold) it was a beautiful day, with thunderstorms racing up from the southwest and the southeast.   This was the view from the back door around 4 p.m., with a bright golden stripe of sky, and what the Navajo call masculine rain - walking rain - moving rapidly across from the Cerrillos Hills and blotting out the Sandias.   I'd much rather have this rough weather than blazing sun: the light changes every minute, and one's made very much aware of one's own smallness.   

It wasn't a day for eating outside, however: the buffalo burgers (coated in oregano and ancho and chipotle) were cooked inside: ditto the yellow and white corn and the potato salad.   I've grown out of feeling slightly nationalistically awkward about Independence Day a long while back.

Friday, July 3, 2009

fishies (and lame ducks)

I spent the day in meetings in a hot room in St John's, and when I eventually emerged found that I hadn't taken a camera with me (comes of leaving at an unnaturally early hour to take a car to be serviced, first).   But I did have my it was back to playing around with its talents at the fishpond in front of the main building.   It's lucky for the inhabitants of this pond that Santa Fe is short on herons.   It's also short on ducks - I've just watched the hypnotizing ramble that is Sarah Palin's resignation speech as Governor of Alaska (wasn't she elected to do her civic duty for another year and a half? - or is something Nasty about to emerge from the woodshed, and is she jumping before she's pushed?)  and was struck by the  brainless serendipity of the background to this address.   She may not want to be a Lame Duck - but isn't it offering a hostage to fortune to stand with a lake behind one, on which many mallards are to be seen happily paddling around?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

st john's, santa fe

St John's College - Santa Fe/Annapolis - is like nowhere else, in its devotion to Great Books, primary texts, and Thinking.   I'm on campus for three days on Bread Loaf business - and it always has a strongly inspiring effect on me for its idealism about the humanities - an idealism that isn't just there in its ethos and curriculum (which might make it a strange place to teach, if not to study), but in the accompanying little bits and pieces.   This collaged tin was left on a table by the upper dorms - it looks as though it might have escaped from the library, a repository for pencils or scrap paper or - this being St John's - homeless, but interesting thoughts.   I love the idea that someone can be bothered to decorate a functional piece of institutional hardware in this way, with the sun, and cupids, and a classical head, and what looks like a slice of the Grand Canyon - or at least of some part of the American Sublime.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

failed 1929

This was once the Bank of Magdalena, NM - failed 1929.   I'm not sure that, in the current economy, that it looks as though it's doing a lot better in its incarnation as an ice-cream parlor. Magdalena is on Route 60 - a road that runs parallel with 1-40 some 70 miles further south, and which, in NM, is particularly remarkable for the pies of Pie Town.   Alas, I should have checked - no pies on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.   So we pressed on, through Magdalena - slowing down to an ostentatiously slow speed to avoid the omnipresent speed trap in its main street - in search of food and coffee at Martha's Black Dog Cafe in Soccoro.   This too has closed - but it's been replaced by the Manzanares St. Coffee House (minus, unfortunately, the stuffed, sculpted fork and spoon, and all the pictures of black dogs, and general funkiness - but with two wonderful women who served us even though they were shutting up shop for the day).   The (excellent) coffee there - I've just found out through checking them on the web - is supplied by Intelligentsia.  Er... we have Intelligentsia coffee - wrong tense - HAD Intelligentsia - at the end of the road in Silver Lake... it was a long way to drive for the same brew...