The Rest of the New Orleans Trip

January 12, 2013


We had dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico. Yes the famous Emeril. Myra loved it. I was underwhelmed. Except for the service. The service was charming without being fawning. Otherwise, I’ve had equivalent if not better meals at the local Italian restaurant. The waiters might be a little more surly, but the bill less than half. Myra’s research informed her that January sixth was the start of the Mardi Gras season. The one event of the night was the kick off by the Phorty Phunny Phellows. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is organized around Krewes. From what I gather a krewe is loosely an organization that puts together a float and the marchers for the parade While looking through Yelp for local color, I found information about one Krewe that organizes and designs floats around science fiction, according to Yelp anyone can join – for $42-and march as R2D2 or pull the Starship Enterprise attached to a decorated tricycle.- but I digress. We quizzed the concierge at the hotel about how to see the Phorty Phunny Phellows- since they traditionally ride a street car down the St .Charles’ line which apparently wasn’t running due to construction. He didn’t know. He thought they might take a bus. But assured us we could make an effort to find out. “You do know what you will end up seeing is 2 minutes of people dressing up, hollering, from some road-based vehicle?” We made little effort and took a taxi to Emeril’s. Where we were then seated by the window. I had that window facing seat and while our attentive waiter was painstakingly describing the ingredients of the night’s specials, a street car filled with dressed up people slid by.

“Look now,” I rudely interrupted and Myra caught the last 3 seconds of the passing Phorty Phunny Phellows. A half hour later, moments after Myra returned from her street cigarette break, they road by again returning to their base. Myra caught another two seconds and carnival season was officially opened.

Of course, we ended the night at the casino. Harrah’s has taken the video silly games to an even new absurd level and I found myself in a fishing contest on a giant HD screen. Amusing way to lose my money.

The Garden District

Day 3

Up before Myra again and I took an early morning walk, this time in a rare interval of sunshine. Tired of the overpriced breakfast in the French Quarter I walked over to MacDonalds for $3.00 worth of coffee and oatmeal.. I wound my way back through the French Quarter and ended up in Armstrong Park and photographed sculptures of Jazz museums before returning to the hotel to purchase Myra the expensive coffee.

Armstrong ParkOne of the rare glimpses of  blue sky during our trip

Armstrong Park
One of the rare glimpses of blue sky during our trip

The guidebook technology debate continued. We decided to go to the Garden District, an area outside the French Quarters filled with houses dripping with gingerbread, any architectural style of columns you could think of and plants and flowers everywhere. The Garden District was far enough away that it required a form of transportation other than our feet so Myra was off to quiz the concierge again, and I stuck the address into Google Maps app on my cell phone. Which resulted in our annual travel argument since Myra forged ahead convinced that the bus stop was off to right while I stood at the corner that Google Maps predicted would be where the bus would pull up and it did. But Myra wasn’t there so we missed the first one. But I called Myra, at least she has a cell phone, and she returned and we got on the next one.

With electronic and hard copy in hand we did not pay the $20 for the guided tour of the district, but overheard the paid guide telling stories in Lafayette Cementery. With her deep southern accent, she explained that the docent of a large funeral home in New Orleans signed all her correspondence, “eventually yours,” when Myra laughed she looked peeved, so we headed off in our own direction.

I liked the old fashioned hearse carved  into the stone

I liked the old fashioned hearse carved into the stone

We got a rhythm going finally. Myra used her hard copy map and I read the explanations off the e-reader all the while being careful not to trip over pavement which was uneven in a multitude of ways. We saw a variety of genteel southern homes, including one purportedly haunted, where a woman at least fifteen years our senior exited while we were reading. “Is this your home?” Myra asked.

“No its my mother-in-law’s, she replied. Made me wonder how old her mother-in-law could be. Maybe she’s the one doing the haunting.

We took a bus down Magazine Street,- Myra beginning to see the usefulness of Google Map’s direction application. We waited for a long freight train to pass and then wandered around the River Walk. The day had turned dreary again.

 At the Mighty Mississippi

A very long walk down Decauter landed us in the French Market,where we had lunch at Johnny’s famous for their Po-boys. Then over to Frenchman’s Street where the music is supposed to be much more sedate and authentic than Bourbon Street. Of course not at four clock in the afternoon, so we had coffee-and hung out a long time in the coffee shop -with comfortable chairs and couches and variety of seriously reading people. I believe the screen to paper ratio was about 4:1 among the readers). A short hike to see the Plessey Vs Ferguson memorial. (Extra points if you know what that is) And then Myra- now sold on the Google Maps directions capacity had me locate a bus to take us back to the hotel. Unfortunately the bus took us back to the Casino.

We took the long walk back to Frenchman’s Street. (well near Frenchman Street anyway) where Myra had located a Bluegrass band at the Hi-Ho bar and we bought drinks. We walked a lot and ate a little and two very strong rum and cokes had me feeling no pain. We met Thomas who told us his Katrina story which had to do with evacuation and young love gone wrong, but not serious injuries and then we were so detailed in our explanations of where we lived (Thomas’s lost love had lived on Long Island, and we got into another squabble about whether we actually live on Long Island) that he asked us if we were cartographer’s. Thomas gave us his recommendation on where we should eat dinner, which curiously was the restaurant in our hotel. We sobered up enough to get a cab back to the hotel, only to find that the restaurant was not serving dinner anymore but maybe they would do us the favor of serving us spaghetti at the bar for $40. We had hamburgers across the street for $7.50. I enjoyed better than the dinner at Emeril’s. (The result of a lot of rum vs. a little wine?)

Day 4

This is what schools look like in the Garden District

Myra was off to the next leg of her trip by 10 am (Panama), but I had a six pm flight Inspired by the HBO show I thought I would take a look at the Treme neighborhood. The concierge tried to discourage me but I would not be discouraged – I had spent a career working in neighborhoods that could not be considered anyone’s Garden District. The gray damp that characterized the rest of the trip continued and though many of the homes are indeed inhabited again the look of the neighborhood could best be described as sad. I passed red brick school building that would not look unusual in New York City and over the carved in Public School lettering where banners displaying new inspiring names that had words like academy and preparatory school. Not a syndrome I am unfamiliar with

And this is what a school looks like in Treme

And this is what a school looks like in Treme

I was attempting to get to the starting point of the third Frommer’s walking tour I had loaded onto the Nook and after blocks of small damaged bungalows I was at house the guide described as a plantation home that had been moved to Esplanade Street, And there I was,- back in the world of Southern gentility and gingerbread houses. Ten more blocks of it, including the home of Edgar Degas’ family (who knew he had American roots). This walking tour ended at the Art Museum where I decided I didn’t have time to walk around and fortuitously ended up on a street car that ran down Canal Street. I had to wait while the driver switched the wooden back benches around so the would face the forward as I got on either the last of first stop depending on your perspective.


I had lunch in Soubou on Chartres Street. Fancy food a butternut truffle soup with a crab salad and a 25 cents martini. Not much of a martini drinker, I managed to polish it.

I walked around the French Quarter a bit, bought stupid souvenirs and tasted every chocolate in the quite empty chocolate shop. “Go ahead, eat them all,” the clerk told me, very few people in the French Quarters on rainy day.”

I did my best.

And so did New Orleans- even in the cold and rain.


New Orleans Day 2

January 12, 2013

Andrew, our waiter at the Red Grill Fish, used to be an English teacher.  He came down to New Orleans, signed a lease,and was told New Orleans City Schools no longer needed English teachers.  “Its okay,” he told us, waiters have more fun and make more money.

Maybe- but with great alacrity, he served us a delicious meal.

Myra told me she had a brought an umbrella.  We wouldn’t need it- the forecast was for fair weather.

Wrong-  we woke up to pouring rain, and a note from the women across the way that we should stop taking her personal balcony chairs.  Myra smoked standing up and I went for a walk.  I brought my winter jacket which had a hood.

The French quarter had its charm in the rain.  Few people to block the view in the narrow streets.  I walked to ye olde Walgreens, bought Myra a birthday card and took a different route back.  A truck with a loud speaker blasting Iko Iko (which I expected to hear continously but heard for the first time) passed, then cops on motorcycles.  I asked the cop what was going on- “a foot race,” he replied.


Running in the rain

And then a very wet runner flew past us.  “He’s running his ass off,”the lady cop told the one standing next to me.

“You would be too if you were running in the pouring rain,” he replied.   I watched a few more soaking wet runners go by, and decided it was time to find a hot cup of coffee.


Jackson Square

Myra awake, we walked over to Jackson Square (guide book- cell phone debate continued- even though it would be really hard to miss Jackson Square with neither)> Myra felt in mandatory to have chicory coffee and beignot at Le Monde, so we sat for a cold, damp half hour and ate fried dough drowned in confectioner’s sugar and drank coffee.

The weather reports promised the rain would abate by the end of the morning. It didn’t. We bought a combination ticket to the two museums on Jackson Square, the Presbytere and and the Cabildo. Both well worth seeing even if the sun was shining. In the Presbytere, so named becasue it was once part of the rectory of the Cathedral, we saw an exhibit about Katrina. The horror felt even more real having just been Sandy and watching the hi tech exhibits explain how our current policy’s make the situation even worse, didn’t make me feel any better. On the second floor we cruised through an exhibit on Mardi Gras. Its the little things like the souvenir tossed coconut shells, and the collections of over a hundred years of commemorative pins that made the exhibit especially charming. The concierge in the hotel, told me there was a much more elaborate Mardi Gras museum (and read expensive as well) but this one he like better because you could get up close to the things that made Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras Crown and Scepter

Myra got hungry. We had lunch in Stella’s. Later I read that Tennessee Williams wrote a Street Car Named Desire on the very next block, so I am assuming that is where the name came from. I could be wrong. I didn’t ask. The siblings at the next table complained that they were always interrupting each other stories. I pointed out that we had been doing that for over fifty years.

The second museum provided a short tour of four hundred years of Louisiana’s History. On the other side of the cathedral from the Presbytere it is located in the building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. There were signs about a cell phone audio tour put together by an eighth grade class. Some of the stations worked, some didn’t. None the less I was impressed by the ambition of some local eighth grade teacher. It was a very nice museum and the third floor window afforded me my first non-airplane view of the Mississippi. I was busy snapping pictures of the Carnival Ship sailing of to the Caribbean, when the museum closed and I got kicked out.

Myra had ditched the museum somewhat before closing, so I attempted to follow the walking tour backwards. Not so easy, but I did managed to see US Mint, Preservation Hall, the blacksmith shop (now a bar) where the pirate Lafete fenced his stolen goods, and a less raunchy section of the French Quarter shiny after a day of rain in twilight. At a street corner a few utility trucks worked on something or another. I noticed one of the workers was wearing a FDNY cap. So I commented on it. He got it, he told me, when he went up to New York after Sandy to help out.

The French Quarter at Twilight

The French Quarter at Twilight

New Orleans

January 5, 2013

New Orleans
New Orleans on a chilly afternoon with Myra. Here we are halfway through our sixth decade, still traveling, still bickering.

We have different outlooks on life. She hates technology. I love it. She claims to be no good at it. I claim to have facility. So I turn on my cell phone and follow Google Maps. She claims I don’t look up. I read the Walking tour off the E-reader. (I down-loaded it off the web and transferred it to the Nook at 6am- when I couldn’t get the printer to work). She uses the guide book.

Back in the hotel- I panic. I’ve brought the wrong charger cord down- no lightening bolt in the battery indicator means no Google Maps on the Cell phone tomorrow. So I journey into the New Orleans junk world and purchase another. I am nobody’s fool, I check for the lightening bolt before I leave the store $24 dollars poorer.
It’s there. Back in the hotel room I plug in the phone- no bolt. But wait – I get it – the outlet must be dead. I move to the bathroom- Phew! phone charging. So is it possible the first charger worked? I check- it did. So much for technological genius!

We had lunch at Erin Rose’s bar(courtesy of my Yelp app, Myra’s guidebook not so swift at locating nearby restaurants). Killer po-boys and erudite discussion of history and literature. Then half of the walking tour mentioned above, before we returned to the hotel for a break.

We are opposites – she snoozes, I type. Tonight at the casino I will be nodding and she’ll be ready to go.

Hanging with the Cliff Hangers

August 30, 2011

In front of the Long House, Wetherhill Mesa, Mesa Verde

August 18

Mesa Verde

View across the valley of Cliff Dwelling, Mesa Verde, Colorado

When I told people back east I was going to Durango, the first thing they said was:

Oh you are going to Mesa Verde.

Well actually we were going to visit Wendy and Daniel in Durango- but maybe this Mesa Verde was something to check out.

Growing up, and even when I taught elementary school – studying Native Americans meant studying the different geographic groups, like Native Americans of the Northeastern forests,- which pictured a long house beneath tall pine trees or Plains Native Americans with teepees featured on a rolling plain. The picture for the Native Americans of the Southwest was always a picture of stacked Adobe dwellings built into a cliff. I didn’t know it then, but the prime example of these cliff dwellings are in Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde is exactly that, a mesa or chopped- off mountain. We paid our tolls at the entrance to the park and the drove another thirty minutes up a winding road to the Visitors Center. There Wendy and Eric purchased tickets to the afternoon tour of one of the dwellings while I shared my binoculars with a young man whose father told me his family used to run the concessions at the park. He remembered fondly climbing all up and down and through the dwellings which are now highly controlled by the Parks Department. I know the feeling, whether it was charging through Chichenitza with a dime store flashlight illuminating the scorpions, or scrambling along the walls of Fort Totten I understand the communal responsibility of preserving sites for all but the libertarian in me often feels WTF- let me loose -it was more fun the old way.

Oh and what we were looking at was Shiprock- visible through the haze forty five miles away.

View of Ship Rock from 45 Miles away, Far View Visitor's Center Mesa Verde Coloradop

We spent the morning popping in and out of the car as we did the self guided auto tour of Mesa Top Loop. There we saw a variety of dwellings ranging from the small pit houses we had seen at both Chaco and Chimney Rock, to the our first glance of the elaborate cliff houses built into the canyon walls We joined a tour where a a pleasant elderly man was giving yet another explanation of the Kiva. After explaining the circular walls, the log roofs and the sipapu the whole in ground related to the creation myth, the guide explained that the early archaeologists believed the kiva was the domain of males only. Now- the people who built these settlements had no written language, and the connection with the present day Pueblo is historical at best, so the rationale for this conclusion needs some explaining.

The first archaeologists to explore these kivas,” the guide explained, “were men So they looked around while digging out these sites and saw only males inside the kivas. They concluded, that kivas must be for men only.”

A view of the circular kiva structures at Mesa Verde, Colorado

He then went on to explain that the kivas on sub-zero winter night, might reach a toasty 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and he couldn’t see the woman standing for being left out in the cold. Especially if there were to be new ancestral Pueblans nine months later. (So if they wanted to get laid the male occupants had to let the woman in- I suppose that was his theory in a nutshell)

View across the valley of Cliff Dwelling, Mesa Verde, Colorado

We got our first views of the several groups of cliff dwellings nestled into depressions in the canyon walls across from us.

Archaeological at work, Mesa Verde, Colorado

We also got a binocular- aided view of a team of archaeologists working on an inner wall. They made quite a site with there matching cross -suspendered backs lined up in a row. The supervisor, though, was not among him. He sat on a ledge of the side working on a laptop. Oh the joy of a good pair of binoculars.

After another picnic lunch and a long winding drive up Wetherhill Mesa we arrived at the meeting point for the afternoon tour of the Long House, another site in the more remote part of the park There a different ranger guided us down into the site. She gave us her version of the kivas and returned to the theory that it was a male only “club” Earlier in the day I overheard a discussion between a park ranger and a visitor. The visitor was interested in getting at least a seasonal position as a ranger at the park. Among other things, the young woman ranger explained their training included being given library books to read, to provide them with the information to share with the visitors. Apparently there is no definitive version about what the Kivas were actually used for and what any particular group receives from a ranger depends on what library book they read and perhaps how much they think about getting laid.

Got caught in a thunderstorm on the way up the mountain. Wendy and I huddled under my umbrella. Is good to have friends for forty years.

Long House Wetherhill Mesa, Mesa Verde

Dinner some restaurant with Cypress in its name.

Daniel climbing out of an underground room, Long House, Mesa Verde

Old friends in the rain

Native American sites, museums and casinos Chimney Rock and Ignacio Colorado

August 30, 2011

August 17

Durango- Chimney Rock- Ignacio Colorado

 Wendy wanted to go to a casino. Yes I heard right. Wendy who brings lunches with us wherever we go, Wendy who orders on pizza for seven

people who just finished an eight mile hike uphill, thought it might be fun to check out an Indian Casino.

Boy – do I have a reputation.

 I fell asleep early Tuesday night, so Wendy and Eric planned Wednesday’s excursion: Chimney Rock, the Ute cultural center and the Ute casino.

 We drove to Chimney Rock, purchased tickets to the guided tour and then drove most of the way up the mountain. The tour had two parts. The first part consisted of a tour around a lower area, with several examples of pit houses, stone houses constructed around 850 CE by the Ancestral Pueblo, This time our guide was an older woman with an Australian accent. Her calves and thighs visible under her green park ranger shorts said outdoor hiker, but her long polished finger nails seemed more appropriate for a Bloomingdale shopper.

But she left me in the dust as she charged up the summit.

The second half of the tour brought us up to the summits where we could see incredible views of the valley below as well as the double obelisks of Chimney Rock. We learned more about the Kivas, the circular construction built for – well that depends on who was giving the tour. Perhaps they had a religious/spiritual purpose or purpose or something else. Nevertheless we saw many examples of them in all the sites we visited. It was the one constant. We learned that the different sites might have been connected and in fact there were clear site lines between a series of settlements from Chaco to Chimney Rock.

A kiva at Chimney Rock

Wendy and Daniel in front of Chimney Rock

Back down the mountain we found a shady picnic table and had one of those aforementioned cheese sandwiches lunches.

Onto Ignacio where we spent some time in the Ute Cultural Center.

It It is my personal theory that Casino money builds nice cultural centers- but that is only a theory. The Ute Cultural Center had a series of interactive exhibits one particularly interesting one featured the Indian Schools. The presentation pointed out that much of the purpose of the Indian Bureau schools was to eliminate traditional culture by indoctrinating the children with western values and forbidding the speaking of the Ute language. Still there was not a completely negative recounting of the time spent in the Indian Schools by the elders of the Ute and there was a hint of remembered good times and camaraderie as well.

And then we went to help fund the Cultural Center


The Ute Cultural Center, Ignacio Colorado

First a stop at the rules and regulations- where Eric pointed out the rule about no smoking while using oxygen tanks. Always a favorite of his.

Then into the casino.

Wendy- how do you know which machine to play

Me- You walk up and down the aisles until one sings to you.

I don’t know that much French but I could understand her subsequent explanation to Daniel.

All and all we didn’t do to badly- a couple a big hits and probably a net gain of about $30 dollars.

Back to the valley of the Walmart- where I showed that Walmarts have supermarkets- and then a wrestling match with an unfamiliar food processor and another dinner on the deck

August 16 Chaco

August 28, 2011

August 16,

Albuqueurque to Durango via Chaco

The Tamaya Hyatt Resort was beautiful. We walked around biked and took lots of pictures. The appeal being in no small part due to the fact that it was so different than anywhere else we’ve been. The buildings, a warm ochre three story set of buildings, is built to resemble an adobe village, The first of the three pools was circular and called the Kiva pool – for reasons we were soon to discover.

August 16,

Albuqueurque to Durango via Chaco

Workers at the Tamaya Hyatt, Bernalillo, New Mexico

The irony,of course, it that the Pueblo people, whose villages provided the model for our luxury resort, do not live in nearly as nice conditions. We left the lap of luxury and drove up 550 past the Zia Village (home of the Zia sun sign, displayed on the New Mexican flag- their sign informed us) From the distance of the highway I took pictures of the town where the festival had been held the day before. A New York Times article noted about nine hundred people lived there.

The Zia Pueblo, on Route 550, New Mexico

Everyone assured us that 550 passed a lot of nothing. But the nothing was spectacular and we fiddled with the new Hero camera we bought for diving in an attempt to record some of it. On one hand the scenery was like nothing we had seen before, mile after mile of desert punctuated with canyons and buttes of earth tones stark against the turquoise sky, On the other hand, it felt strangely familiar, for the scenery before us we had viewed in so many western movies.


Chaco National Historic Park appeared on our left suddenly The left turn lane has some sort of work truck perched in the middle of it, I spotted the sign and swung around the truck about 110 degrees-exciting- and then we were on the road to Chaco. And maybe the Navajo Reservation as well. The road was long and mostly dirt and gravel. We passed single and small groups of animals as well as a few small homes. But we did have cell service for our telephones.

Navajo Reservation house, Road to Chaco New Mexico

And then a fairly amazing butte appeared to our left and a yurt with an American flag in front of us to our right and we were in Chaco.

Fajada Butte, Chaco Historic Site , New Mexico

The Yurt Visitor Center, Chaco, New Mexico

In the most desolate spot I had ever been in were a series of archeological sites attributed to the Ancestral Pueblo dating from approximately 850 CE to 1250CE. A word about political correctness here. When I went to school the people who populated the American continent before the Europeans were referred to as Indians, and the builders of the sites we would visit for the next three days were called Anasazi. And we were taught that the Anasazi disappeared. So let’s see what has changed in the last 50 years. The term Indian refers only to be people from South East Asia, the creators of the Southwestern historical sites are now referred to as Ancestral Pueblans and nobody’s disappeared. We heard several different versions of what might have happened to the people who built these sites.

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco, New Mexico

A variety of different guides, all sanctioned (and trained) by the US Parks Department in one way or another, imparted a variety of different materiel based on a variety of different interpretations. This is what we know for sure. At Chaco between 850 CE and 1250 CE a group of people built a series of structures, the largest, Pueblo Bonito consisted of more that seventy rooms. The young woman who showed us around under the full desert sun, reminding me of the saying, Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun, made a good case for the theory that Chaco may have been some sort of meet up center, that could host large groups gathered for ceremonial practices or even trading sessions.

The site itself could not probably support a large year long community,

We ate our emergency tuna fish packets for lunch. Unlike any other National Parks Department site we had ever visited, Chaco has no facilities, no food services, no souvenir shops, not even a cold soda refrigerator.

Back out the bumpy road, through the Navajo reservation and we were back on 550. As we left 1700 the unpaved road there were a cluster of cars and trucks hanging out by the main road. Eric wondered what they were doing there. And the school bus pulled up And Eric had his answer.

We continued northward toward Durango. We passed a work crew paused in the middle of the road, hard hats in hand, they seemed to be engaged in a prayer service right at the highway’s median.

Casa Bonita, Chaco New Mexico

A wrong turn took twenty miles to the east and then on the return trip east we took yet another gravel road as a short cut back to 550.

The scenery turned greener and soon the roads took us in between irrigated farm fields. We had reached Colorado. And then we went down into the valley of the Walmart and we had reached Durango.

Wendy, Daniel and Denny were waiting for us, with home-cooked dinner, eaten overlooking another valley surrounded by mountains. Another continent another dinner with a view.

Casa Bonita, Chaco New Mexico

Casa Bonita, Chaco New Mexico

Albuquerque and the Zia Pueblo

August 19, 2011

A view at sunset from Tamaya Hyatt, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Eric photographing petroglyphs

August 15, 2011

August 15
Albuquerque and the Zia Pueblo

I have been in Europe on August 15. It is the feast of Asumption. What that means theologocially – you go me, what that means to an American vacationing in Europe is this;
You can ‘t buy breakfast in the Parisean bakery next door because it’s closed or you can”t book a passage on the ferry from Crete to Pireus- because all of Greece is on holiday and they have booked every available ticket.
Europe closes down on August 15.

But we were in Albuquerque this year on August 15, so I didn’t think about it. We went first to see the Petroglyphs at the National Historic Petroglyph site. We climbed a rather impressive mound of stones and inspected the various carvings of animals and birds, human figures and geometric shapes.

A bird petroglyph

And then we descended, With plenty of the day left we were off to find the Pueblo Cultural Center in downtown Albuquerque. I ashamedly admit that I expected to find a glorified gift shop with some culturally relevant information interspersed with shlock. Let me apolgize unconditionally to the Pueblo People because what I found couldn’t be farther from what I anticipated. The first class center was a mix of exhibits of material relevant to the Pueblo. The initial exhibit was titled Indi-visible and about the historic relationship between African Americans and Nativie Americans. Eric and I stood and read a story posted on one wall about a Blackman and his Indian wife who revolted against their master a William Hallet who lived on the tip of Long Island near Hell’s Gate. We know well , Hallet’s cove on the East River right next to the Hell’s Gate (the waterway between Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan) William Hallet, Hallet’s Cove- Conincidence – I doubt it,

The next two exhibits featured artwork of living Pueblo artists, the first a collection that consisted mostly of textiles and pottery. The second exhibit was a collection of paintings of the patron saints of the Pueblo by Charles Carillo. Paintings of the Saints or Santos, figures of the patron saints of each Pueblo village painted on gesso coverd boards was a traditional art form. These santos were originally designed by earlier Pueblo artists to adorn the mission churches until cheap plaster statuary from Europe and train travel in the American West suplanted the alter displays with, well, cheap plaster saints. The museum exhibited the work or modern artist who resurrected this lost art form and made paintings of each of the current Pueblo’s patron saint. Along with the display was an attempt to explain and justify the relationship of the Pueblo with the Catholic Church. The history of the Southwest with its colonization of the Native People’s land, the Indian Revolts and the subsequent domination of the Native Cultures to no small degree by the missionaries can lead one to question  why the Pueblo, a free people today, choose to practice the religion of the captors,. But, the guide explained to us the nineteen Pueblo villages today consider themselves devout Catholics.

And they celebrate Feast Days.
So on August 15, these middle aged Jews were again reminded it was the Feast of Assumption. We drove past our hotel up Highway 550 to the Zia Pueblo, There were no signs on the road announcing the celebration, but in the landscape devoid of human structures for miles on end the parking lot jammed with cars was visible miles ahead.

When we got there the sun was strong, the dirt path up to the main part of the village was lined with chotckes and junk food booths, no different than any street fair, but unlike other fairs, the drum beats throbbed. We climbed to the plaza.. There crowds under umbrellas, open to block the ferocious sun, watched as several hundred people in traditional dress danced to the beat of the center stage drum circle.. A large white cross stood in the middle of the dance area. There were clearly marked signs everywhere that photography and even sketching was prohibited so we watched from behind the only corner of shade we could grab. It was under a jewelery seller’s booth ( I bought a $65 necklace just to be polite). We watched the Zia dancers do a series of dances in native costumes, while the weather turned from burning sun to cold rain. There were no signs connecting anyone to any specific ethnicity, but I would guess we were one of the few non-Native Americans there.

Sometimes you plan your trip to Paris for months only to find it is shut down for a religious holiday, and sometimes you find yourself in the middle of an Pueblo Feast Day.

Back to the hotel for one more night at the Tamaya Hyatt were there are no prohibtions on photography so I took picture after picture of the sunset.

Sunset at Tamaya Hyatt

Sunset at Tamaya Hyatt

Santa Fe and Sandia Crest

August 19, 2011

The waitress asked if I needed anything. Breakfast buffet, a beautiful place and the SundayNew York Times – What more could I possibly need?
“Okay, then stay here all day,” she said.

But we didn’t we were off to Santa Fe.

View of St. Francis from St. Cathedral, Santa Fe New Mexico

"Myself among the churchgoers." 1939. Ben Shahn in the Georgia O'Keefe Gallery, Santa Fe , New Mexico

Once we would have asked directions, or followed the ones in the guidebook, but now we are all hi tech so we spent a few minutes loading the directions onto Eric’s new Nook and tried to read the screen in the bright sunlight. But we made it to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum anyway We listened to a guide describe the current exhibits that exhibits that explore the relationship between photography and painting. We were interested in a picture by that listed it as a digital print

Although it looked like a painting for all we could tell it was not The guard explained that the painting has been sold by the institution that owned it the week before. What was being exhibited in the museum was a reproduction that somehow had the texture and appearance of an oil painting.

We left the Museum to do the tourist thing (or more of the tourist thing) and walk around the Plaza. The Plaza is surrounded by mostly stores and some restaurants. We followed yet another downloaded guide around. The high point was finding the famous Roque Garcia (according to the guide) who sells carnitas, a “good energy restorer”(same guide’s quote) from a truck on the Plaza. We restored our energy and watched a group of people in kind of ad hoc costumes, play fight with each other in the middle of the square. The costumes consisted of everything from a pillow case with holes cut out to a professional looking Frankenstein costume, the weapons – tube balloons, plastic swords and the like. I finally asked someone what was going on and he told me it was the annual monster battle by a group called Miaow Wolf.

Monster Battle on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico

We left Santa Fe and talk the Old Turquoise Trail back to Albuquerque.

On the route to Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Its hard to say the main highway is not a scenic route, but the old Turquoise Route was chock full of scenic pullovers- So we pulled over and practiced our self photography.

Sandia Peak has  a tramway that lifts you above the New Mexico Scenery for 2.7 miles to crest.  One can only imagine the breathtaking views.  I can only imagine the breathtaking views- we drove up. At least I drove up – something a bit less harrowing than driving through the Sierra Madres in the mist (old story – from the time I kept journals in little pocket notebooks) but exciting none the less.

One of the most amazing things about New Mexico is  the big sky.  Wherever you look the sky looms above- often with different weather systems, blue sky with fluffy white cumulus clouds to the left, gathering storm clouds to left and mixing systems to with shafts of sunlight coming through up ahead.

The View from Sandia Crest, New Mexico

The parking lot at the top of Sandia Crest has a parking system that works on a quasi-honor system. Put three singles in an envelope, fill out the details and ascend a steep wooden staircase to the gift shop. We had no less than a twenty between us. So I figured we could just fill out the tear-off and return later with the stuffed envelope. There is little chance that we would stiff the National Park System for $3. But Eric was nervous. So he put his camera on the roof, rummaged through the car for change without finding any he ascended the long staircase to the gift shop. Then he looked down and saw the camera on the roof. So we went down.  Then we went up. Then I convinced him to just leave the filled out tag, so we went down.  Then we went up.

At the gift shop we got water, change and lots of pictures of humming birds.

The humming bird feeder, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Then we went down. Money in the box, our integrity restored- we went to find the place to hike across the summit to stone house.
Guess where the trail begins.
Then we went up.

But Sandia Crest is a beautiful place filled with magnificent views and beautiful wild flowers. And all that ascending and descending helped us get adjusted to high altitude climbing.

The Kiwanis Hut, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

Wildflowers, Sandia Crest, New Mexico

New York to Albuquerque

August 14, 2011

It is possible to hit traffic on the Long Island Expressway at 4:30 am.

We did.

We boarded the plane on time despite it.

A stopover in Minneapolis and then onto New Mexico.

Ah New Mexico, brown and golden – sand but no beach.

My first trip across  the Rio Grande. Despite its name a scrawny river as rivers go -imo.

We have made it to the desert.  Tamaya Hyatt Resort to be exact,  ascetics we are not.

Desert? maybe – but our visit had its usual effect.  As soon as we peeled the long planride off our skins and slipped into one  of the series of sparkling pools- dark clouds gathered above- thunder rumbled and thick cold drops gathered jntensity as they soaked the few dry things we left on the lounges.

But we spent an hour or so with Barbara, from Missippi  (I don’t have an accent – you do – she  answered the woman who said she liked her accent)  Barbara won the trip to the Resort through her Tree Farm business .  While the rain drenched the resort beyond the shelter of her patio, we learned of the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the tree business, her grandfather and grandmother’s romance on the Island of Nevis, the unfortunate health condition  of most of her family and her travels across the U.S.  in a 33 foot recreational vehicle.

And we probably out talked her.

It was a long rain.

After dinner the rain stopped and we walked around the resort- picture of Eric and the bread ovens.

And now the sun has set completely, Eric is snoring loudly and I have been up for more than 20 hours.

So many things to do tomorrow.

Time to go to sleep.

More walking

July 22, 2011

Trying to get out everyday.

Walking through Flushing.  It’s kind of like walking through a different country- just not sure which one.

House on Oak Avenue across from Kissena Park. (I have no idea what the significance of the banners are)

Then there is the more familiar-

And the particularly interesting:

And just the reminder that the world is a big place.