Monthly Archives: August 2011

Lame excuses for not writing

The dog ate my computer.

Naw, that’s not right. Can’t blame my lack of writing on Aw’gy – in fact, I can’t blame much of anything on him. Darn that dog.

Here’s a better one: I’m selling my house and moving back to Familyville, aka Indiana. In the last three weeks I’ve interviewed five moving companies, sold

A lame excuse for not writing

most of my furniture, caulked the voids in the bathrooms while the pros have made minor electrical repairs, tarred rooftop cracks, combed the hail damage out of the air conditioner … and enjoyed my friends.

Why on earth leave the Land of Enchantment? It is beautiful here, the people are lovely and there’s that thing about the skies not being cloudy all day. (The Chamber of Commerce extolls 340 days of sunshine, but you know how copywriters exaggerate. Last year I counted a mere 328.)  Continue reading

Not exactly White Castle’s

Cousin Karen Sandrick was in town last week for a quick visit and tour before meeting up with her friend John from Albuquerque. Since ABQ is about 260 miles up the road from Las Cruces, John suggested we meet at The Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio. (Worth the trip if you’re ever in the ‘hood.)

Sandrick cousins last Friday at The Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio, NM.

I overheard Karen on the phone telling John we would meet him at The Owl ‘Café’ – since I’ve been there and know the place to be kinda funky, I told her I was sure it wouldn’t qualify as a café. Wrong again, chili breath. Yes, it is funky, but it weren’t for the café, we wouldn’t have had their world famous green chili cheeseburgers.

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Mountainous memory making

My cousin Karen flew out from Chicago on Wednesday. During our 50 or so hours together, we will have covered about 600 miles and enjoyed some of my favorite places in SoNewMex: the Rio “Petito,” The Lodge in Cloudcroft and White Sands National Monument.

Gypsum beach sans H2O.

Visitors have mentioned White Sands should be listed as one of the natural wonders of the world. Karen agreed. It’s 275-square-miles of the finest sand, which is made of gypsum crystals blown and tumbled over 45 miles from the dried up Lake Lucero. The dunes are thought to be only a few thousand years old, were the back yard to the Apache Indians and now a national park used for hiking, picnicking and even sledding.

Since I am in the process of selling my house and leaving New Mexico – oh, did I mention I’m moving back to the land of lush, east of the Mississippi? – it was a treat for me to share with Karen one of the local wonders. White Sands is in the Tularosa Basin, just over the St. Agustin Pass from Las Cruces. In addition to the natural beauty of the basin, surrounded by three mountain rangers, that part of the desert is home to White Sands Missile Range Headquarters. But I’d rather stick to the natural wonders than talk about military installations.

Karen in the Sacramento Mountains. Beyond is a small strip White Sands.

From the monument it’s only another 40 minutes or less to Cloudcroft. I love that we can be in the Las Cruces desert at 9, drive across the Basin to walk on the dunes, and be in the mountains for lunch.

Cloudcroft was hoppin’ yesterday and there was a line of hungry folks waiting to get into the bar-grill on main street, so I made a quick U-turn and headed up to The Lodge. It’s a turn-of-the-century inn and home to the ghostly chambermaid, Rebecca. Karen said her talapia was perfect. I’m trying to enjoy as much Mexican food as I can before I leave later this month so I ordered the Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla. And we shared a hot apple cobbler. Oh my.

I’m happy Karen wanted to come out one more time before I leave town. Her desire to see White Sands allowed me to implant some fresh memories of places that have come to love, and hope to see again.

BTW, the Rio “Petito” is my name for the Rio Grande as is passes through our Mesilla Valley en route to El Paso. It’s – I don’t know – maybe a hundred yards across and only a few feet deep. It’s the major feeder for the local farm irrigation system and it’s, well, turned off in the winter. I’ve seen people playing football in the dried river bed. It doesn’t seem to be that “grand” to me. But then people here think Lake Michigan is just a lake.


Raindrops on roses and Miles on the trumpet

What a gift to have grown up with music.

One of my favorite memories is walking into the kitchen where my mom had the radio tuned to WIND, WBBM or WGN from breakfast till bedtime – from Howard Miller till Franklyn MacCormack’s “All Night Showcase”. That was the ‘50s, so when DJ’s played “oldies” they dipped into a bucket of tunes from the ‘30s and ‘40s. All classics now and I still enjoy tuning to Sirius stations 04 and 05.

Which is leaves me wondering how I got to be such a jazz fan.

My love for jazz has grown over time. And while I’m not ready to write a dissertation on the difference between bee-bop and scat – I know what I like when I hear it.

Miles Davis, John Coltrain, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck. Come to think of it, it probably started with Brubeck and Getz, and I have my two older brothers to thank.

“Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” – well, they’re classics. Or what about Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia”?

For several weeks here in Las Cruces my friend Bob Burns, host of KRWG-FM’s “Burnsland” had a “Night in Tunisia” contest, playing at least a dozen artists’ renditions and asking listeners for their favorite. As I recall, Gillespie’s is still tops among Las Crucens.

My Pandora line up includes a Stan Getz station, along with Smooth Jazz, John Coltrain, and my new favorite Kurt Elling.

Sirius Radio has me hooked on the Real Jazz station. Friday afternoon I was on my way to pick up Aw’gy from a sedation “pedicure” (poor guy – HATES having his nails trimmed) when I happened upon Bruce Lundvall’s “The Blue Note Hour.” Some jazz man with a chocolatey-rich voice was singing Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” I was hooked.

Who is this guy? I left Aw’gy sitting in his semi-sedated state while I listened through the song, through many minutes of Lundvall’s comments in clipped New York, jazz jargon. Finally, he told me who he was interviewing.

Kurt Elling is said to be one of the few baby-boomer jazz singers. Visit his website Kurt Elling to learn more about him or hear one or two clips from his latest album “The Gate” – as in “swings like a …” he told Lundvall. The Green Mill in Chicago was one of his early haunts, and I see from his website that he’ll be back there in October. Sandwiched between a Portugal jazz festival and a gig at New York’s famed Birdland as in “ … it happened down in Birdland.”

With Internet radio, you can listen to your favorite jazz musicians anytime of day. My mom would be thrilled to know she could hear clips from Howard Miller, Frankyn MacCormack and Wally Phillips. As for me, right now, I’m listening to Coltrain.

Oh, perfect. Now it’s Stan Getz playing “Desafanado.” Hmmm. G’nite.