Been & Going

[Desert Droppings] Balloon Fiesta Adjacent

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(This post is dedicated to my father who was a great fan of Balloon Fiesta. Dad journeyed on his “final flight” during Balloon Fiesta 2012.)

When we first moved to ABQ and I heard people talking about Mass Ascensions, Glows, and Dawn Patrol, I thought I’d stumbled upon some arcane ABQ cult. I soon learned that this was balloon- speak referring to the main attractions of the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “Divine” doesn’t even begin to describe this exhilarating 9 day celebration of hot air balloons which arrive from around the world.
The 2014 Balloon Fiesta which just ended featured 559 balloons including 100 astounding “Special Shape” balloons. As the name Desert-101514-shapesimplies, these immense balloons are shaped like Snow White,  a butterfly, Darth Vader, Yoda,  Elvis, a costumed chicken, Spiderpig, a fairy tale coach, and lots more objects and characters. See for yourselves. Google “Albuquerque balloon fiesta special shapes” and tap “images” and “videos.”
For 9 glorious days, ISIS, Ebola, midterm elections, and the rest of the gloomy, gritty, nerve – wracking daily news fades away, as we concentrate  on Balloon Fiesta weather reports,  which Balloon Fiesta events to attend, where to take Balloon Fiesta guests, and what time to leave for the Mass Ascensions (mornings on which most of the balloons launch) or Glows ( evenings when the balloons are tethered but inflated and glow as their burners are lit.)

We chose Saturday as our Mass Ascension day, but didn’t  quite leave at  4:30am as planned.
Yes, 4:30 am! And that’s  even late by Balloon Fiesta standards! By the time we got packed up
(iPad, camera, gloves, hat, water, foil wrap to take home a cinnamon bun, sunglasses, sunscreen) and out the door, it was close to 6am. Yikes! Big Mistake!
As we sat in a long line of cars inching our way toward the exit to Balloon Fiesta Park, we could see the Dawn Patrol Balloons (a dozen balloons that launch  early to test the wind direction ) shining in the still dark sky. Suddenly, cars began to pull out of the main line of traffic and move quickly forward in the second lane-
“Hey! They’re trying to break into  the line farther down. Lots of luck! ABQ police control the flow of traffic into the Park and no one butts in!”
But cars kept  leaving our lane.  And then, on nearing the exit, we realized why.  Those cars had the Balloon Fiesta app on their smartphones and had found out that Balloon Fiesta Park had run out of parking spaces and was closed to further traffic. 100,000 people had already arrived by 6:30am!  What! We’d  been waiting in line for 45 minutes and couldn’t get in?!

Luckily, in a rare burst of common sense, someone in local law enforcement decided to allow the backed-up, shut-out-of-the-park Desert-101514-balloonshillcars to drive up onto a sandy hill adjacent to the freeway and view the balloons as they floated north from the nearby Balloon Fiesta Park launching site.
And that’s how we experienced “Spirit of the Winds” (the 2014 Balloon Fiesta title) from a different perspective than in all the  previous years we’d gone. That’s how we came to watch hundreds of brilliantly colored, fancifully named balloons drifting among the clouds in a vast blue sky – “Sun Racer,” “Enchanted Diamonds,” “Dawn’s Delight,” “Dances With Winds,” “Silver Spirit” ( to name a few) slowly floating by…Dad would have loved it!

The vision of hundreds of magnificent balloons sailing silently above the freeway is a dream-like image waiting to be recalled and savored on those wintry days to come when the world seems bent on self-destruction and the desire grows to sail off in a basket dangling below a huge, bright hot air balloon.

So- that was our Balloon Fiesta morning. In the afternoon, we went to Balloon Fiesta Park where the crowds had thinned, the balloons were absent, but the vendors were open. We couldn’t miss going to our favorite silly hats shop to buy a gift for a family Desert-101514-chickenmember who collects (and wears) hats that are snaky, fuzzy, creepy, and toothy.  There it was! This year’s pick -a plush version of a roasted chicken (turkey?) Just the thing to wear for Halloween and Thanksgiving dinner.
“White meat or dark?”
“I was going to wear my Jets cap, but I chickened out.”
“Cluck if you share my passion for poultry.”
“How’s this for fowl weather gear?”
“My other hat’s a scrambled egg.”
Add your own What-you’ve – never- seen- a- guy- in- a- chicken- chapeau- before one liners.

We also bought a jumbo frosted cinnamon bun to go, but prudently passed up the extreme State Fair- style offerings like the deepDesert-101514-foodsign fried bacon green chile cheeseburger, the deep fried Twinkies, the deep fried alligator bits, the fried pickles, and the sausage on a stick.

After a quick stop at the Official Balloon Fiesta Souvenir Tent to buy 2 glittery Balloon Fiesta pins for my collection, we headed home to welcome special Balloon Fiesta guests, prize-winning photographers who had actually flown in a Dawn Patrol Balloon and who were bringing 800+ truly spectacular photos of the week’s Balloon Fiesta events. BTW, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is said to be the most photographed event in the world!

Mark your calendars – October 3-11, 2015 and come to NM real quick for Balloon Fiesta which will be titled “Where Dreams Take Flight.”Desert-101514-sign
Where? Right here in ABQ!
Dreams take flight?  YES! They really do!

[Desert Droppings] inDIGESTable News

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A few weeks ago, there appeared on my iPad, an app called Yahoo News Digest. Every morning and evening, I receive a message that my News Digest is “ready to read” and swipety-swipe, I can get brief, bland picture and video clip- filled News accounts in several disconnected areas of media coverage- world news, US news, politics, business, technology, sports, etc. Some Yahoo staffer Desert-100114-yahoohas selected, summarized, and packaged articles from assorted news services to give me a swift, shallow update of happenings that Yahoo deems newsworthy. In the 3 minutes that it takes to swipe through the various sections, I can become instantly informed enough to comment sagely in water cooler conversations at work  ( if I went to work and there was a water cooler) but hypothetically…
Yahoo News Digest is called that, I think, because it’s easy to digest like gluten free, lactose free, preservative free soy cheese – neatly wrapped “slices” of soft, mildly flavored stuff that you can feel virtuous about ingesting. And my favorite part of Yahoo News Digest does make you feel virtuous. When you’ve swiped to the end of the series of articles, there’s a graphic with colored dots representing the articles you’ve read.  Uh oh! There’s a blank dot. You skipped the technology article! That’s right. Go back and read all about video games that can help the US win future wars. Good job! Now all the colored dots do a happy dance and you’re good to go until theDesert-100114-marissa Yahoo Evening News Digest pops up.
Marissa Mayer says, ” Read Yahoo News Digest or else!”
Yahoo News Digest says,” Shooting in Ferguson.”
Yahoo News Digest says,” Hong Kong Protests.”
Yahoo News Digest says, “Beyoncé”
“You’re out! Yahoo News Digest does not say,’Ebola.'”
“You-must-forget-Ebola. Ebola-was-yesterday. No-dots-for-Ebola!”

Shhhh let’s move over here where Yahoo News Digest can’t peek at us through my iPad and see that I’m still clinging to the anachronistic ABQ Journal.
Inspired by Yahoo News Digest, let’s pretend that we’re swiping through this post and digesting disconnected items of interest derived from real life (mine) and the alternative universe of the ABQ Journal.
1. Hearth and Home News – Behind Closed Doors
To impress guests with your impeccable housekeeping, here’s a technique that I’ve used successfully. Stop that laughing! I realize that a few (ok, a lot of) folks would say that my giving household hints has about as much credibility as Dracula detailing the delights of a vegan picnic at sunrise. But hey, it can’t hurt to listen and learn from the Doom Room.
You know how unread newspapers, unopened mail, and unfolded laundry tend to clutter up the place? You don’t know…your house is spotless and you’re sending me a shelfie…
Oh, go f…find some other post! JK JK Read on!
Gather up all that unsightly clutter in those boxes and bags you’ve been collecting.Desert-100114-biohazzard
You haven’t been collecting…Whew! Tough crowd!
Anyway, cram all the boxed and bagged stuff into one room like your  bedroom . Close the door.
Post on the door ominous signs like, “Haunted” “Biohazard” “Employees Only” “Hard Hat Area”
“Experiment in Progress”.  Signs that hint of catastrophic consequences  for guests who dare to enter. Trust me! No one will dare. Guests will tactfully avoid even mentioning the Doom Room. Better NOT to know! They’ll enjoy the remaining clutter- free rooms and happily spread their own stuff about.
Swiping right along…

2. Health and Wellness News – Shampoo, Skittles, and Surgery
On the first day of fall, I dutifully called my primary care physician (Remember when they were called doctors?) to schedule my annual flu shot.
“Oh, no,” the nurse said. “We’re not giving flu shots anymore. Go to your pharmacy.”Desert-100114-flu
Sure, I more or less trust Smith’s Supermarket Pharmacy to put the right pills in the right bottles, but I think of shots as something a doctor or nurse gives in a medical place. Well, forget that!
After signing a formidable form which said, in essence – “No matter what hideous, debilitating, unexplainable, unpredictable consequences might befall me as a result of the flu shot, Kroger Corp., the parent company of Smith’s, is in no conceivable way, even the slightest bit responsible!” I got my flu shot in a tiny, dingy closet pretentiously labeled “Consultation Room.”
And the very next day, having survived the flu shot, I happened to be driving past CVS where a large billboard proclaimed that CVS was removing tobacco products and setting up in- store “Minute Clinics” as it sought to morph into CVS Healthy-Wealthy or something like that.
Wow! Hang on! We’re at the pinnacle of a slippery slope. Next stop – Split Second Surgery!
“Hello, CVS, I have this pain in my side and webMD says it’s appendicitis. What? There’s an appendectomy app at the AppStore and a how-to video on YouTube?
So, all I have to do is stop in and pick up my CVS Kwik Kut Surgery Kit? You’ll even give me a few minutes in the Consultation Room/OR …and I get extrabucks?
Cool. Be right over.”
And swiiiipe!

3. Pets and Pet Lovers News – In-Completely Cute
The ABQ Journal is never at a loss for a shlock and awwwwww story to enliven page one on a slow news day.  Last week, the front page scoop headlined two absolutely adorable poodle pup siblings, bright, bouncy, perfect in every way – except they were bornDesert-100114-pets without their two front legs and scooted around on their bellies.
To quote the lady from the ABQ Animal Welfare Department, “It’s very mysterious where they came from…Where would they have strayed from?”
Where, indeed?! How about this question? What toxic waste dump and/ or polluted water source did the parents of the bi- pedal pups encounter that caused them to produce the mutant twosome? And could this poisonous place be in my neighborhood?
If the ABQ Journal has future front page write-ups  of two- headed terriers or polka dotted dashchunds,  I’m outta here!
End swipe.

So, did you read every inDIGESTable word? Good job! Making dots dance is way above my payscale, but here are some happy faces to accompany the virtuous feeling of being in-the-know DD Digest- style.Cal-Seething-122313-lessamuCal-Seething-122313-amusedCal-Seething--012014--stupiCal-Seething--012014--clown

At the end of every set of Yahoo News Digest pieces, there’s a quote of the day from some pundit or celebrity.
Here’s one for you, courtesy of  a close family member with a charmingly warped sense of humor:
“Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas.”Desert-100114-marx
You’re welcome.

[Desert Droppings] Losing Site- Winning Sights

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It’s official. Tesla finally announced the site for its $5 billion battery factory and it’s …NOT New Mexico! It’s Nevada.
Geez – just when we thought we could make the catch; hit one out of the park; score the TD ;  Gooooooooal!  (and any other sports Desert-091814-showgirlsmetaphors the even NM sports teams don’t merit.) Of course, if NM had sent Elon Musk a fleet of top-of-the-line Teslas bearing long limbed show girls dressed as topless giga batteries, maybe we’d have had a chance. I’m not saying Nevada actually did this, you understand, but if you’re in the mood to twitter this specious tidbit forward, go for it! Anyway, the best glitz play NM could have come up with would have been a Ford pick-up driven by the state Chile Pepper Princess with a gift basket of Indian fry bread and homemade salsa on the front seat.

In an effort to boost morale, Winthrop Quigley (I did not make that up!), ABQ Journal columnist, suggested that we blame not the Governor or the Democrats, but God! Because NM’s convoluted politics and bewildering business bureaucracy aside, the fact is God/Creator/Divine Source/plate tectonics/Big Bang Theory ( DD is totally non-denominational!) put NM 1000 miles from the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA and gave lithium (a battery mineral) deposits to NV.Desert-091814-god

It isn’t our fault NM got crammed between TX and AZ with a lifetime supply of roadrunners and yucca plants. Yeah! It’s God’s/Creator’s/ etc fault! And while we’re at it, blame You-Know-Who or What for NM’s dearth of beach front property, amber waves of grain, fruited plains, purple mountains maj…No, wait! NM and ABQ especially have got that purple mountain thing covered. Just ask any tourist who has tried to capture the lavendering of the Sandia Mountains at sunset on their iPhone.
But Tesla was looking for profits, not photo-ops, and so, in short, NM lost.

Take a breath, NM. Follow DD’s example and move on.
So, how about them UNM Lobos! (All NM sports teams are Lobos).  Ummmm….delete that.
It’s winners. WINNERS we want!

Speaking  of tourists, (ahhhh, that’s better),  ABQ and NM proved to be a winning choice for 4 guests who visited us recently. Our guests (family members ages 8, 11, and 40 something) easily found loads of unique local spots to keep them actively entertained.
Within an hour of their arrival, we found ourselves in an ABQ industrial park inside an old factory building that had been Desert-091814-coolconverted into a bouncing business called Cool Springz. The huge factory floor had been transformed into one immense trampoline where barefooted kids of all ages were happily jumping, flipping,bounding up the rubber walls, and diving into “foam pits” (holes in the floor filled with foam blocks). Our guests had a blast!! I had a bunch of questions.

While I may not be very neat and have been accused of having  a very slight tendency toward cluttering, I’m a nervous wreck when it comes to germs. I asked, “Do you think someone could catch foot fungus from all those bare feet pounding across this rubbery floor?” and “Do you think someone should sanitize those foam blocks after dozens of runny-nosed kids have burrowed around in them?”

After a bit of eye-rolling, in placating, syrupy tones, a grown-up guest earnestly described how the Lysol Fairy comes at night and sprinkles magic disinfecting dust that leaves every soft or springy surface sparkling and germ free.
Oh, ok. If a factory that once provided family-supporting employment to 100+ workers can be turned into a giant trampoline space that pays minimum wage to one cashier and one trampoline room “guard,” then, sure, I’ll believe in the Lysol Fairy!

From Cool Springz to hot springs! The next day, our guests set off on a trip to Jamez hot springs, a natural warm mountain mineral water pool.
“Do you think bathing with a bunch of strangers is…Oh, I get it! The Hot Springs Fairy…Great!”Desert-091814-magma

From the bubbling sulphur scented waters to a long dormant volcano- our guests traveled on to an awesome park ranger-led “Magma to Magpie” tour of Valles Caldera-a 12  mile wide volcanic crater in the midst of an 89,000 acre National Preserve.
“Do you think that volcano could suddenly become active?”
“Not a chance! Eye-roll. Eye-roll. “The Volcano Fairy, etc, etc.”
The caldera outing proved to be another winning adventure, just a relatively short drive from ABQ.

From the depths of the caldera, to the top of Sandia Peak! Our guests hopped on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tram for the 2.7  mile “flight” to a height of 10,378 feet! They had lunch at the High Finance restaurant, clambered down a highly precarious mountain trail, and braved a field of highly aggressive grasshoppers. (I was highly tactful  and didn’t ask any questions, did I, Mountain Fairy?) On the return flight, the Tram Guide proved by his frenzied over- the-top commentary, that he was even higher than the peak they’d just explored!Desert-091814-georgia

From marveling at mountaintop scenery to musing over scenes which depict NM’s desert landscape- our guests headed north to the Georgia O’Keeffe  Museum in Santa Fe. O’Keeffe loved NM and for years painted her favorite NM sites with her distinctive sense of form and color. It doesn’t take an Art Appreciation Fairy to know that her work is destined to be admired long after Tesla is a footnote in Wikipedia.

From an afternoon of culture to an evening of downhome kitsch- our guests excitedly drove to the NM State Fair in the heart of downtown ABQ. On the midway, against the wild glitter of a million neon lights, they careened around on the roller coaster, swirled out over the crowds  on this stomach churning swing thing, and spun in a saucer- shaped contraption  held in place, they assured me, by “centrifugal force.”Desert-091814-fair
“Do you think the safety inspector ch….ahhhhhhhhhhh! I can’t watch! Fair Fairy, get your butt over here!”
But all ended well with a successful smartphone search for a Greek restaurant open late on Central Avenue.

Our guests have now returned home to the east coast. They left behind a colorful plastic sculpture that resembles a fair ride, a set of sketches a la Georgia O’Keeffe, an eerie carved buffalo gourd, a solar powered cockroach, and a giga load of super terrific memories…
Oh, and an empty package from the ABQ Tortilla Co. – which our guests declared makes the best tortillas ever!

NM may be a loser in the Tesla- thon, but when it comes to tourism and tortillas, we’re tops!

Good luck, NV. May the  Tesla prize captured with $1.3 billion in ” economic incentives ” bring you everlasting fame and fortune.Desert-091814-val
“Do you think the giga factory  produces toxic waste?….Factory Fairy!”

[Desert Droppings] – The ABQ Journal-What’s NOT to love?

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Boom! Blast! Smash! Slaughter! Tape!
With hot spots flaring up around the globe and nerve-wracking scenes unfolding non-stop on the 24/7 news media, the ABQ Journal seems like an odd oasis of journalistic calm. It serves up a predictable mix of small-scale urban mayhem,political hanky- panty, and over- zealous policing with a smattering of tales of people and pets deserving of hugs, homes, hero awards, or jail time.
It’s clear that by the time the daily ABQ Journal lands on an ant hill in my front yard at 6 am, CNN et al have already publicized, analyzed, scrutinized, banalized, and pulverized every scrap of up- to- the- nanosecond national and international news.
While the New York Times sends correspondents to the Middle East, the ABQ Journal is lucky to have someone in the middle of Central Avenue to report on rain drenched cars floating by in the summer monsoon.
In an effort to maintain readership of its increasingly anachronistic print offering, the ABQ Journal has resorted to a story strategy for which I’ve coined the technical term, ” NOT Alotta news. NOT Alotta news stories energetically detail events NOT happening or actions NOT to emulate- stories like these:

“Breaking Bad,” ABQ’s favorite foray into TV land won 6 Emmys. Yippee! We’re…NOT famous. You see, despite its Emmy Desert-090414-bbaccolades, BB ended its run over a year ago. The award wining actors have moved on to other projects leaving ABQ with star-struck memories and a shelf of miscellaneous BB memorabilia in the Candy Lady’s shop. BB is NOT here anymore.
Adios amigos! Come back real quick. (“Real quick” is ABQ speak for an annoyingly indeterminate length of time as in, “Ma’am, I could get your dishwasher fixed real quick if I had a #4 left – centered anterior valve release siphon. I’ll just run on over to the shop to see where one is at and I’ll be back real quick.” Uh huh. That was 10 days ago.  “Real quick” is NOT!)

Moving from showbiz to schoolhouse, the ABQ Superintendent of Schools, Winston Brooks,  resigned after 6 years in that position. Was it because of the low math scores, the high drop- out rate? Was it because Brooks tweeted “Moo moo- oink, oink” when Desert-090414-brooksreferring to the female State Education Secretary? Was it because he was accused of “sex related bullying?”
Nyah! Nyah! NOT gonna tell! We (the ABQ Public School Board) know a secret and you (the taxpayer) don’t!
While Brooks receives a $350,000 buyout of his contract, information surrounding his resignation is going into a private, secret file no doubt to be buried under  tons of  concrete like Jimmy Hoffa.  Brooks , Brook’s wife, and the ABQ Public School Board are all going to live happily ever after and we’re NOT even gonna know why!

Some NOT Alotta news seems to be written by Mr. Obvious- like this front page article headlined, “Drinking Puts Pedestrians In Desert-090414-signPeril.”  Great Caesar’s Ghost! Stop the presses!
Get ready for the utterly jaw- dropping discovery that if you drive drunk or jaywalk while under the influence down ABQ’s main streets, YOU COULD GET KILLED!
That’s as mind boggling as the revelations that lack of rain causes drought, chile peppers make your tongue burn, and gobbling down a bacon cheeseburger with large fries and a slurpy will pump up your BMI.  Wow! Consider me boggled!
So people, heed the ABQ Journal. When feeling tipsy, call a taxi. Do NOT walk or drive.
Journal is watching!

And again, in the interest of public safety Mr. Obvious  hits the front page with the shocking, sodden saga of two people who were Desert-090414-arroyo2nearly washed away in ABQ’s concrete lined flood drainage channels, (arroyos), during a rain storm. Yes, readers, the arroyos are “flood channels” not walkways, shortcuts, or bike paths.
Folks! Do NOT walk  in arroyos on those rare occasions when a  downpour hits ABQ.
Repeat after me:
The rain, it’s plain
Falls mainly in the drain.
By George, I think they’ve got it!

Since no newspaper is complete without crime scene coverage, the ABQ Journal was right there  to chronicle  a robbery that did Cal Seething- 090414-gunNOT happen at a local Dairy Queen. A DQ employee shot the perp dead before he could  say, Add a triple cone to that cash.” Way to make ” Employee of the Month”  dude! Which raises some real questions  about DQ’s employee training.
Trainer: “So that’s how you make a brownie bit Blizzard thick enough not to slop out of the  cup when you flip it upside down.
By the way, you’re licensed to kill and the smoothie blender converts to a rocket launcher.
Have a nice day.”

Thank you ABQ Journal for NOT – Alotta news, for a welcome reprieve from the 24 hour news cycle’s beastly barrage of conflict and complication.

Thank you ABQ Journal for your collection of NOT very thought provoking articles and stories about what’s Not happening here.
Calm in an explosive world. It’s NOT a lot to ask.

[Desert Droppings] DD Does Dallas and ABQ Weasels In

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To a pounding , pulsating western beat, an eye- catching panorama unfolds: glittering gem-like skyscrapers, cattle herds thundering across vast green pastures, the sprawling white ranch house atop that oil-rich  land…
It’s ….NO! Not Albuquerque!
Guess again – Home of those charming connivers, the Ewings. Site of titillating internecine intrigue at Southfork. TNT’s remarkably successful resurrection of that 80’s prime time soap classic.  YES! It’s “Dallas!”  Dallas the city and “Dallas” the show whose new season premiers this week.
While monsoon rains move ABQ’s wetness needle from “severe drought” to “almost-enough- moisture- for-the- next-week”; while Desert-082014-peedpint-sized piddlers leave nasty puddles by the polar bears at the ABQ zoo, I’ve been watching re-runs of “Dallas.”
Although JR Ewing, the deliciously mischievous manipulator (played to perfection by the late Larry Hagman) is no more, his devilish spirit is cleverly woven throughout the convoluted story arcs about the next generation of Ewings, Barnes, et al. “Dallas” originals, age-defying Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy continue their must-see machinations as Sue Ellen and Bobby Ewing, while newcomers Mitch Pillegi  (“X-Files) and Judith Light “(Who’s  The Boss?”) play the most despicably dysfunctional mother and son since Oedipus and…uhm….Mamapus?
Everything on “Dallas” is larger than life – definitely larger than life in ABQ and NM!
Remember the endangered lesser prairie chicken from a previous post? Well, when NM’s real life Congressional Representative, Steve Pierce, held a town hall meeting about the lesser prairie chicken, the Washington Post clucked,”Congressman’s Town Hall Is For The Birds!”
BUT, when Bobby needed a quick ploy to keep John Ross (JR’s boy) from fracking on South Fork – AH HAH! Bobby waggled a Desert- 082014- chickencaged LPC  and smirked, “Isn’t he cute?” as John Ross (a muscular, mustached chip off the old JR block ) fumed at being kept from fracking his brains out on the endangered fowl’s fields.

When not fracking, the Dallas characters are busy f….fraternizing. From sassy, besotted, seventy something Sue Ellen to the steamy nubile threesome in last season’s finale (Downloadnetflixyoutube this one!), every “Dallas” character capable of unzipping a zipper is ready to “do it” at the drop of a plot line.
Everybody gets screwed one way or another as the xxx-hilarating  episodes unfold against the greedy grandeur of Dallas.

True, ABQ has had its sordid share of TV time:

There was “In Plain Sight” where ABQ served as a bleak, gritty, out of the way place  to stash folks in witness protection.
And let’s not forget “Breaking Bad” where ABQ was portrayed as a seedy spot to cook meth and stay far away from public education.
“Quagmire” or something like that, a show about a sheriff, filmed here with ABQ playing the role of a fictional western town, you know, because we have expanses of dusty sand and tumbleweeds ( perfect habitat, btw, for the lesser you -know -what). But ABQ has yet to rise to the glossy, sensuous, scheming  televised heights of “Dallas” filmed in Dallas.
Where Dallas reeks of oil deals with Arab sheikhs, ABQ awaits the autumn aroma of roasting chile peppers. Where Dallas’ denizensDesert-082014-burrito plot and play in posh restaurants and sleek hotels, ABQ seeks to lure residents and visitors to its “NM True Breakfast Burrito Byway” and  the “Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.” (Seriously!)
In a word, where Dallas (the city and the show ) has charisma, ABQ has charred chile peppers and chagrined polar bears. On a charisma scale of 1 to 10, ABQ is pushing 1 and not pushing very hard. C’mon Duke City ( a nickname for ABQ because it was founded by the Duke of Alburquerque who couldn’t spell), you can do better, Darlin’. You have sensational scenery and actually the breakfast burritos and green chile cheeseburgers are pretty good, just not exactly charismatic.
There’s help on the way, though. As the Wall Street Journal advised in an article titled “The Charisma Boot Camp,” building charisma involves “a magical mix of confidence, charm, and communications skills…” Hey, ABQ, you can do that, even though your whole downtown could be a miniature golf course on a side street in urban Dallas.
For a boost in the “confidence, charm, and communications” department, listen up!
The ABQ Journal reported on the front page just this week that plans are afoot to build a river otter exhibit at the ABQ aquarium. The chance to see the river otters (actually a type of weasel)
“romping and diving and wagging their whiskers” will purportedly bring in an additional 184,000 visitors to the ABQ Biopark ( No More Otterszoo+aquarium + botanical gardens). Post a few huge signs warning, “Urine big trouble if you pee-pee in the otter pool!” and this attraction could make ABQ as proud as a Ewing with a gusher in the garden. Best of all the otters were described as  “sleek, social, playful, and CHARISMATIC” ( though if cuddled, they’d be apt to “bite your face off” – sort of like  JR’s kinfolk!)
Which all goes to show that even without oil, orgies, and opulence, ABQ has found an otter way to conjure up charisma!

[Desert Droppings] Tesla, You’ve been SFOOFED!

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Tesla’s still not telling. Master manipulator…uh make that “marketer” (Bad, auto-correct!), Elon Musk has yet to announce the location of his $5 billion battery Gigafactory for which five states including NM are competing. Its potential location is generating Desert--080614--abqjournalmore rumors and speculation than Area 51.

No, I didn’t say they were breaking ground in Area 51. What? You already put it out on Twitter  #aliensruntesla. Fine. Wolf Blitzer’s on his way there now? And Tesla stock is soaring? Wow! Social Media sure beats an article in the “Enquirer.”

Meanwhile, rumors aside, ABQ, in an economic slump compared to glitzy, populous, popular cities like Dallas, Phoenix, and LA is trying to bolster its spirits with determinedly upbeat optimistic words from the NM Economic Development Department.  NM is “very much in the game.” Sure, if the game means pandering shamelessly to a guy whose $70,000 electric cars most New Mexicans can’t even afford. Still, NMEDD wants us to know that they’ll “continue to work aggressively (ie give Tesla zillions in bri….incentives) to make NM the home of Tesla’s Gigafactory. All this rah rah rhetoric and not a single word about what a “giga” is. It sounds like a computer generated monster menace straight out of SyFy.Desert-080614-tomato

“Gigapig vs Killer Tomatoes – BLTs will never be the same!”

“Attack of the Gigasaurus- Cancel Mass Ascension during Balloon Fiesta?! Are you cra…STOMP!”

How about “Gigabiters- Tesla groundbreaking unleashes the fury of vengeful mutant prairie dogs!”

And speaking of SyFy, while Tesla tests our patience and our purses, dangling  its prize just out of reach of our greedy, grasping fingers, let’s not forget  ABQ’s and NM’s love of all things show biz.  We are after all, aspiring to be Hollywood adjacent by encouraging TV and movie production here. So, Tesla or no Tesla, here’s my plan for a sure fire ABQ based Sy Fy project. NMEDD, are you listening?

I’ve actually done some serious research. Over the last week, I watched “Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus,” “Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus,” “Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark,” and “Mega Piranha.” (Mega schmega, Murray, we gotta break even on this meshugganah fish gizmo you bought! ) I also watched “Malibu Shark Attack,” “Sharknados 1&2,” and the best of the bunch, “Jersey Cal Seething- 080614-joeyShore Shark Attack” (Ya gotta see this one, ya know. Joey Fatone – Chomp!) I’m afraid to pour a glass of water for fear of what might jump out!

Listen up, ABQ. Here’s what I learned. Enough with the fish! SyFy is ripe for a new genre of animal and plant monster flicks and ABQ is a desert town with animals and plants just waiting for their close-ups. And the great part – no need to recruit screenwriters who will charge big bucks and pontificate over the existential symbolism of chainsaws and shark storms. No way! Just gather a bunch of bright 12 year olds with iPads in a garage ” incubator.” Let them brainstorm with the TA DA …SyFy Originals Originating Formula! Faster than you can say, “SFOOF!” you’ve got a pile of $aleable SyFy scripts taller than Godzilla.

SFOOF is a simple script synthesizer:

Weird or catastrophic event + violent transformed animal or plant (extinct is ok)=total, bloody low budget computer enhanced chaos to thrill audiences around the world.

Toss in an aging actor from an iconic 80’s tv show surrounded by a bevy of barely clothed cuties  (male and female. – acting experience optional) and folks, it’s show time!  To get those 12 year old’s creative juices flowing,here are a few examples of SFOOF in action. (Remember, no fish!)Desert- 080614- humming

“Slumming Birds” – Humming birds sip nectar from flowers in an urban park that has been contaminated by toxic waste from an evil Gigafactory. The birds are transformed into flying demons who threaten gentrification efforts in an apologetically dismal downtown.

“Yuccasuckers” – NM’s state plant, the yucca, takes root in soil from a vampire’s coffin. (Of course it could happen. Don’t you people watch “True Blood”?) The usually passive plant becomes the root of all evil and drains its  victims dry. “Dracula”meets “Little Shop of Horrors.”


Get the idea? Oh, you’re concerned about the logic of these plots? Logic? We don’t got no stinkin’ logic! If a cloudburst over Manhattan can become carnivorous and the SFOOFtacular Sharktopus can battle Pteracuda, then “logic” is just another name for “boring science stuff they show on PBS when there’s no pledge drive.” Down with STEM! Up with SFOOF!  Did Sharknado’s creator Thunder Levin worry about logic? (If Thunder is his real name, then I’m Cloudy-With-A-20%-Chance-Of-Rain Sims!)

Hasta la vista SyFy. Say adios to the sharks and get ready for the freaky flora and fauna of ABQ.

C’mon kids. Let’s get this SFOOFin’ show on the road!Desert- 080614-syfy

Imagine greater!


[Desert Droppings] The Spider Made Me Do It!

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In our backyard tomato planter box, there’s a hole for excess water to drain out. I noticed that a spider had woven a web on the planter. As I watered, I watched a stream pour out and discovered a black widow spider straddling the jet of water and crawling Desert- 072314- blackwidoback into the hole when the water stopped.  Dude! A surfing spider and a badass one at that – complete with a red tattoo and a reclusive attitude!  I quickly googled “black widows” and found on Wikipedia …
“Female eats the head of the male during mating (so much for date night!)…Only the females bite mammals.  (Oy, mine is a female.)…venomous neurotoxin…1% fatality rate…Ahhhhhh!
I called the Orkin man who arrived ready to  dispatch the nasty lady.
He shook the web. No spider.
He poked a stick into the hole. No spider!
He hosed down the planter until a stream of water shot out. NO DAMN SPIDER!
He looked at me with an “Are you sure you didn’t imagine this?” look.
I saw it! I really did!
I’ve been checking the hole since. Wouldn’t you know? Not a hint of a spider!Desert- 072314- cheer
I’m absolutely sure she’s inside the planter doing a little victory dance, shaking her pompoms, and shouting gleefully “Arach- nid! Arach-nid!”
Still, I’m worried.  Could she have just maybe decided  to keep house somewhere else? Wikipedia  also said that black widows like to hide in dry quiet places like piles of leaves. Now, I’m really worried.
I don’t have leaf piles, but here and there in my house, piled on tables and chairs, in boxes and bags and bins are newspapers. We have subscriptions to the ABQ Journal and The Wall Street Journal. These papers arrive faster than I can read them, but since I use them as a source of ideas for my various writing projects including Desert Droppings, they accumulate.
Some family members have even accused me of hoarding:Desert- 072314- hoard
“It’s all on the internet. Newspapers are obsolete! What good is last week’s, not to mention last month’s news? Re-cycle those paper piles NOW!” they yell.
Lalala-not listening. Not listening. My house. My newspapers- UNTIL that bit in Wikipedia about black widows hiding. What if the black widow has slipped into the house and is right now hiding in a newspaper pile and maybe even laying eggs? This is no itsy bitsy spider or folksy Charlotte’s Web heroine. This is a poisonous invader straight out of Arachniphobia! Ahhhhhhhhh!
Re-cycle! Re-cycle! Re-cycle!
I need to get those piles of papers outta here! FAST!
And that’s what I’ve been doing. But in the process certain articles caught my eye and I saved just a few (well, maybe a tiny bit more than a few) to post about.
And that’s how I came across “Bear Hair Snare.”Desert--072314--bearhair
This front page article in the ABQ Journal describes how the bizarre minds at the NM Department of Game and Fish have developed a device to estimate the bear  population in the state’s mountainous regions. They string up some barbed wire in areas that bears are known to frequent. To be sure the bears will come up against the wire and leave tufts of hair, G&F douses clumps of pine needles with “…skunk essence or a mixture of fish emulsion and bovine blood…an irresistible lure to bears.” Really? Did I mention bizarre minds?
Once they snare some bear hair, the hair’s DNA is tested and all kinds of bear facts are revealed to supposedly better “manage” the bears (ie-determine how many bears can be killed during hunting season or the “sustainable harvest limit”).
I’m hoping the bears turn up their collective noses at the fishy skunk and bovine brew and go “harvest” the peanut butter sandwiches in the G&F folk’s lunch boxes. That’s what Yogi and Boo Boo would do.
And since this article is brought to you by the Game and Fish department, let’s play the Bear-Snare Game- no apps needed!Desert- 072314- fozzie
Ok, you know the contraption devised to snag ursine fur is a bear-hair snare.
Now, what’s a hangout for naked lady horses?
Right! A bare mare lair.
How about borrowing an extra wig from a buddy?
Yes! A spare hair share.
And frightening someone into promising not to run around in the nude?
Yay! A bare swear scare!
One more …Looking straight at you – one time only, chance of a lifetime- betcha can’t do it-betcha can’t…
High Five! You got it! It’s a rare dare stare!
Your turn…Show your bear snare flair.
Did you see something scuttle under the furniture ? Where? There! Chair!

[Desert Droppings] Not Quite About ABQ Animals

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This post is brought to you by the animals in and around ABQ- the invasive, the endangered, the cute, the caged, and the extinct. You’ve got your filthy feral cats, your fertile feral pigs, your ravenous raccoons, and trashcan busting bears.
Politicians, bureaucrats, and environmentalists get their regulations and their reasoning all tangled up trying to save (or not) the endangered silvery minnow, the Mexican gray wolf, and the lesser prairie chicken. (Yeah, Arizona and Texas probably have the greater prairie chicken. They always get the good stuff.)Desert--071514--polar
And to lighten up a bad news day, where better to turn for awwwww photos, than the zoo. Polar bears and giant bugs trump Al Qaida and ISIS as reasons to read the ABQ Journal any day.
By far the most appealing and least controversial animals in these parts are those that are extinct, gone forever, kaput, like the fossilized stegomastodon  discovered at NM’s Elephant Butte State Park. (Ok, it’s “Butte” not “butt.” Let’s get the giggles out.)
Fossils, dinosaurs, prehistoric pachyderms, have been favorites of mine ever since I worked at a museum as a…
Riiiiiing! Phone call. Be right back.
“Hi! Happy Fourth of July to you, too. What’s on? Are you serious?! Starting now?! Thanks. Bye.”Desert- 071514- deadwhite
Hooray for the “Dead, White, and Blue!” It’s a July Fourth weekend marathon of “The Walking Dead.”
Yee hah! Now I can catch up on all the episodes I missed, learn the back stories. Relive every graphic, gloppy moment.
Of course, the best way to watch The Walking Dead (aka TWD) marathon is on the big flat screen in your parent’s great room with a bunch of buddies and pizza and beer-daring each other to stay awake for three days and nights and sharing the whole awesome, undead experience on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, whatever. (NB If you happen to live just over the NM border in CO, you can get a little Grateful Dead thing going, too.) Sounds like a plan. But not for me:
A. I’m a grown-up.
B. My buddies are more Fareed Zakaria fans, than flesh-eating zombie followers.
C. I’m allergic to pizza and beer and
D. My Desert Droppings post is due. Remember, ABQ animals living and otherwise?
Ok, deep breath. Multi-task. Multi-task. Watch and write.

Desert- 071514- dinoSo- I’ve had a thing for fossils ever since I taught Dino Intro sessions at the New York State Museum.
“Hi. Welcome to Dino Intro, ” I’d chirp.
“For the next thirty minutes, we’re going to go back in time millions of years. Did you know that dinosaurs and people were never…

In the barn! All this time Sophia was in the barn!Desert- 071514- sophie

“Um…were never alive at the same time. Even though Fred Flintstone has a pet dinosaur. That’s just pretend.  Yabba Dabba …”

Do you know what’s in that room?  Ruuuuuuun!

Desert--071514--steg2Deep breath. Dinosaurs, fossils. Right.
As I mentioned, a front page story in the Journal described a fossilized stegomastodon find.
This prehistoric pachyderm was found by “campers celebrating a bachelor party.”
Picture this- a group of tipsy guys sitting around exchanging raunchy tales of married life while waiting for the arrival of the lap dancer hired to spice up the festivities. Suddenly, a van dives up, the lap dancer leaps out, strikes a suggestive pose, and the groom-to-be yells out,Desert- 071514- merle

Good God, it’s one-handed Merle!

Sorry. I mean he yells, “Look at the size of those two tusks!”
Lap Dancer (indignantly): “Hey, bud, what are you calling ‘tusks’?”
And so (possibly) went the discovery of the most complete set of stegomastodon remains to date. Not exactly the basis for a Merry Mastodon theme park or even a Bones in the Butte miniature golf course, but it’s a…
Way to go, Michonne! Slash and bash those walkers! Whoo!
Rick, Carl, Daryl, Beth, Carol, Maggie, Glenn, Sasha, Tyreese, you’re gonna make it!
Lizzie, don’t you even think about …nooooooo!Desert--071514--lizzie

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Let’s see, feral pigs, check. Raccoons, check. Lesser prairie chicken…oh did I mention the swarms of grasshoppers that the ABQ Journal called…
A sanctuary? Terminus? I don’t think so. Maybe they’ll give some hints in tonight’s preview of season 5. But first I really need to finish…
This isn’t working, is it?
Ok, I tried.
Dear Masters of beenandgoing,
I’ve been hooked by TWD and I’m going to go sign up for TWD e- bulletins on
Yup, the zombies ate my post.  So bite me!
Back next week.

[Desert Droppings] Delicioso! Not entirely.

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I thought I had the makings of a perfect Desert Droppings post.
Da dum da dum da dum.  Da da da da dum da dum.Desert- 062514- hat
I’d start with a little “Mexican Hat Dance” beat to get us in the spirit, then move on to poke fun at my neighborhood Smith’s supermarket (part of the Cincinnati based Kroger Corp., the nation’s second largest supermarket enterprise.)
Imagine a bleak January day in Cincinnati as background for a meeting of the Kroger marketing division seeking to increase profits at the NM Smith’s chain.
The brainstorming begins.
“How about a foreign food festival?”
“Hmmm…foreign…like “world flavors.”
“Foods from Greece, France, Sweden, maybe?”
“No,” pipes up a new hire with a fresh MBA, recalling the sun-drenched vacation she took in Cancun. “Mexico!”
(Now, the poking fun part.)
And – without glancing at a map or pondering the wisdom of Mexico as a source of “worldly foods” for New Mexicans, especially in ABQ where folks of Mexican descent abound and there’s a Mexican restaurant on every corner; where Smith’s shelves are routinely stocked with dozens of “Hispanic” items and Mexican fruits and vegetables fill the produce aisles year ’round; Kroger’s marketing team went ahead and devised for Smith’s a three-week “Savor World Flavor-A Taste of Mexico” extravaganza.
How funny is this?! It’s New Mexico, guys! Mexican food is so every day here. If you want to tempt Smith’s shoppers with exotic flavors from far-off lands try Swedish meatballs or Manhattan Deli mmmmmm whitefish salad…
Ha! Ha! Mexico! You’re barking up the wrong burrito!
That’s how my post was supposed to go, until, driven by curiosity to experience up close Smith’s Flavor Fiesta Festivities, I grabbed my shopping list and joined the fun. And it was about as fun as supermarket shopping gets.
Outside the store, a Smith’s staffer sold grilled “Mexican Street Corn.”
Inside, signs, banners, flags, and balloons carried the “Taste of Mexico” logo into various departments.  Sampling stations offered Desert--062514--haulguacamole,fish tacos, and layered caramel cake.
Shoppers were invited to spin a wheel and win coupons for cupcakes, marinated fajita meat,  tortilla chips, and fresh pineapple. Special  displays  highlighted an array of products including Kroger Chili Hot Beans, Mexican soda, Cajeta Quemada (goat milk caramel spread),  Mole sauce, spicy cheese, Mexican cookies, and “Fiesta” cakes iced in Mexican-flag shades of red, yellow, green, and orange.
It all looked very bright and tempting. I started filling my cart with items that had never been on my list- Dulce de Leche cupcakes, a new brand of guacamole, a bottle of Kroger Picante sauce.
Then OLE! It dawned on me! Kroger really did know their Churros from their chipotle. This “Taste of Mexico” promotion at Smith’s was no comical concoction of a clueless Midwestern marketing group, it was a deliberately designed test market effort disguised as a world flavor fest. Kroger wanted to know if shoppers in ABQ and other NM cities would savor and buy the Harvarti Chipotle cheese from Wisconsin, the dulce de leche sweets from Canada?  Would they use Kroger frozen chicken breasts in their Tinga de Pollo and serve up some of the dozen types of salsa in their salsa bowls (made in China, of course)?
Bottom line – if these items prove to be bueno enough for ABQ, they’ll probably sell in Cleveland or Kentucky and wherever else Kroger’s group of supermarkets are found. No wonder Kroger’s quarterly sales rose more than expected.
Fresh baked Churros, anyone?

Still, I have to add that there is one dark corner of this light-hearted foray into food retailing.
While Smith’s “Taste of Mexico” thing has  been going on, the news media have been reporting disturbing accounts of the thousands of families and unaccompanied children “migrating” across the US-Mexican border, only to find harsh conditions awaiting them in ill- equipped, over-crowded US government detention facilities. Even now, VP Biden is  busily spreading the word in Central America that the US is not open to these “huddled masses.” Desert- 062514- deport
But, consider, for a moment, this jarring scenario (which is well within the realm of possibility):
A group of newly arrived and as yet unapprehended  migrant children wander into a Smith’s supermarket which is colorfully engaged in its “Taste of Mexico” merriment. The checkout cashiers are wearing sombreros and bright green t-shirts that say, “Delicioso!” Signs are in Spanish and festive cut paper flags flutter above displays of familiar foods.
What are the young migrants to think but that, “It’s true! The Americanos love us! They really love us! We’ve made it!”
No, ninos, you haven’t made it at all. While Americans welcome and promote products and produce (as long as there’s a profit to be made) from across the border, the tired, the poor, etc,from south of the Rio Grande are as unwelcome as flies on fajitas. Sad to say, you are the victims of the mother of all mixed messages.  Mole and melons, si.  Migrants, no.
Will the US ever find a humane solution to the distressing plight of the migrants and others who are undocumented? Not soon enough.
When it comes to creativity, collaboration, and competent planning, our government has a lot to learn from Kroger and Smith’s.