Monday, December 26, 2016

New Mexico: Highway 9: Lunch on the Road



September 2016


Brother4 spent a weekend with me in El Paso.

After considering the nearby options for touristy things to do in his short time here, we decided to take Highway 9 to Columbus, New Mexico, then walk over to Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico.


We stopped and had lunch on the road.


Lunch on the road, Highway 9, New Mexico. September 2016.



Literally.

Lunch on the road, Highway 9, New Mexico. September 2016.

Well, it was the road next to the road. 

This reminds me of other lunch spots past in New Mexico: 





Sunday, December 25, 2016

New Mexico: Highway 9: Bathing Birds


Ibis on Highway 9, east of Columbus, New Mexico. September 2016.

September 2016

Brother 4 came to visit and we pondered what to do with an entire day. So many ideas to consider:
  1. Go for a hike in the Franklin Mountains? 
  2. Take a grand tour up to Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and nearby sweet spots, then swing over to White Sands National Monument, maybe even stopping en route at one of the natural areas that hug the Organ Mountains? 
  3. Or just focus on one of the grand tour destinations? 
  4. Step into Mexico at one of the various border crossings close by? 
  5. Hit up some El Paso museums? 
We decided to go simple and low-key --> a lil' road trip to Columbus, New Mexico, and Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Ibis on Highway 9, east of Columbus, New Mexico. September 2016.
More on some of that later. The focus of this post is on the birds we saw at a watery stretch along Highway 9 just east of Columbus.

One of three shaky videos I took here:



Best I can tell, these were white-faced ibis. At first, the wing spreading made me think of anhinga, but the bills here are longer and curved. I'm not at confident about my identification.

Ibis on Highway 9, east of Columbus, New Mexico. September 2016.

There's never a bad time to look at and appreciate birds, but it felt especially nice for me on this day because it took me back in spirit to South Louisiana.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

El Paso: UTEP: Flowers on a Ledge

September flowers on a ledge, UTEP campus. El Paso, TX. 2016.


September 2016

On my way to a musical performance by some of UTEP's music faculty the other evening, the flamboyant mauv-y cactus called out to me. Its orange and burnt sienna neighbor, albeit quieter, was the perfect companion.

September flowers on a ledge, UTEP campus. El Paso, TX. 2016.

September flowers on a ledge, UTEP campus. El Paso, TX. 2016.

September flowers on a ledge, UTEP campus. El Paso, TX. 2016.

September flowers on a ledge, UTEP campus. El Paso, TX. 2016.

Friday, December 23, 2016

El Paso: UTEP: Evening on the Campus



September 2016 


I sauntered over to the UTEP campus for a UTEP faculty recital; this one called Baroque Gems. The bassoon was featured. What an odd instrument. Call me lowbrow, but I am underwhelmed by its presumed charms. Not the artistry of the musician, mind you, the instrument.

Nevertheless, here's a video from one of the composers highlighted in the performance, J.D. Zelenka. I quite like the combined sound of the instruments:




(Mmmm. During times such as these, in the midst of a vicious presidential campaign, classical music soothes like a hot, sudsy bath.)

It was light on my way to the concert, and dark when I left.

Some campus scenes on my way home. There was a beautiful moon:

UTEP campus, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.



UTEP campus, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.
 

UTEP campus, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


UTEP campus, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


Enshrined toilet, Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall, UTEP, El Paso, Texas.


Wait, before you go, "hanh?" I took the photo of the enshrined toilet because it made me think of an art installation. Being on a university campus and in an arts building and all. See lowbrow reference at the top of this post.





Thursday, December 22, 2016

El Paso: Jazz at Sunset


El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

September 2016

One of the reasons I stay in a place for a year is so I can experience an entire cycle of a community's cultural activities.

Jazz at Sunset only happens once a year, so it won out over some other tantalizing ways to spend a Friday evening in El Paso.

The first things to strike me upon arrival at the grassy venue on EPCC's Valle Verde campus were these:
  1. I need to find some shade; and
  2. Oh look! Mosquito-spray stations set up around the perimeter! Loved this for its thoughtfulness and, upon reflection, its low-cost, pro-active, practical approach to a public-health issue in the era of zika. 

El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016


Having only recently been introduced to the jugular force of the (well-)spoken word, I admired how the Jazz at Sunset organizers made stage space for two poets during each of the band set-ups. The conjunction of poetry and jazz is a natural one.

Jazz at Sunset featured two poets: Ebonee Norris and [why don't I write this shit down when I'm there? and why wasn't he on the program? So let's call him:] Greg.


Ebonee Norris, El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016


The jazz bands included:
  1. Frank Zona & Urban Edge
  2. El Paso Jazz Collective
  3. Billy Townes
  4. Ocean's Four Jazz

I left before Ocean's Four Jazz came on, but I got some film bits of the other three bands.

El Paso Jazz Collective:





Frank Zona and Urban Edge (with a drum solo and a sax solo):




Billy Townes:





Some music hits the spiritual, the emotional, or the physical.

The jazz tonight was like getting a brain massage. I mean, I almost felt the notes get into those wrinkles and crevices of my brain. It felt. Good.


El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

This makes me wonder what jazz does to the brain. Below are some ideas:


In Mozart and Leadbelly, Louisiana writer Ernest J. Gaines says about jazz: 
… I think I have learned as much about writing about my people by listening to blues and jazz and spirituals as I have learned by reading novels. The understatements in the tenor saxophone of Lester Young, the crying, haunting, forever searching sounds of John Coltrane, and the softness and violence of Count Basie’s big band – all have fired my imagination as much as anything in literature. But the rural blues, maybe because of my background, is my choice in music.
 








Wednesday, December 21, 2016

El Paso: UTEP: Berries Blue


Lantana berries, UTEP Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, TX. September 2016.

September 2016

Brother4 came by for a visit the other day.

We strolled through UTEP's Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, which is a strip of serenity within the campus. Little alcoves designed for contemplation. Water features with subtle sounds like quiet rainfall. Reminded me of the Dwan Light Sanctuary in Montezuma, New Mexico, for its thoughtful attention to how visitors might enter quiet reflection.

Lantana berries, UTEP Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, TX. September 2016.


Lantana bushes with orange flowers and metallic blue berries invited me to draw closer.

Alas, I didn't get a decent photo of the oranges and blues together, but the berries are stand-alone beautiful.


Lantana berries, UTEP Chihuahuan Desert Garden, El Paso, TX. September 2016.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

El Paso: The Adrenaline of Boxing and a Wrong Turn



Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


The wrong turn

Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is smack next to El Paso. There are a couple of roadways in El Paso that take you across the border OR to another El Paso destination. In split seconds. An adrenaline rush as one calls out to one's GPS guide: "This turn? Right here?! But it's pointing to Mexico! Are you sure?!" Oh, too late.

"Sorry, border patrol guy! I didn't mean to go to Mexico! I took the wrong turn!"

In reality, I did experience the chemical rush, but I disobeyed the GPS guide and veered off (in a wrong decision, requiring recalibration) just before - maybe - entering Mexico. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure this kind of thing happens all the time, and the border folks are accustomed to it. "Yes, turn around there, ma'am. No, there isn't a restroom on this side; you'll need to go on the US side. Thank you."

Which reminds me of that time in 1990, when Brother4 and I took a road trip to Europe, and in a small French border town, named St. Jean something, we kept circling and circling and circling its perimeter, trying to find the spin-off into Spain. Finally, on our 4th revolution, we saw a man walking alongside the road. Brother4 stopped. I rolled down the car window, and leaned out: "Où est l'Espagne?" (Where is Spain?)

The man looked over his shoulder, raised his arm, extended it, then pointed his index finger to a road that was right there. Right there. Apparently, every time we circled, we failed to see the sign ("Spain: Thataway.") because it was facing the opposite direction. From my trip journal:
"Brother4's theory is that there are men paid to change signs hourly simply to confuse strangers. May be a carryover from World War II days."


Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


Boxing

My intended destination on this foray was the El Paso Coliseum for a Labor Day Weekend fiesta. I'd expected a big affair, but it was quite small. But gee whiz, there was boxing going on. Not something I'd ever seen live, and which I generally flipped the channel on when I saw it on TV, because why would I get pleasure from watching two people beat each other up?

Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.



But I was there and I could see the intimacy in the interactions between the two fighters and between fighter and manager.

A video below. I like the tender, reassuring touches from manager to fighter at the end of this video.



And, of course, there is the visceral, ancient rise of the blood within when you see two living beings penetrate each other's space, slam the soft, thin shell with blunt blows, draw blood and fluids to the surface to make bruises and swellings.  A locking of horns or necks or legs. Embraces to pull opponents closer for pain and not love. An engagement that crosses all species, perhaps.


Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


Over at the Art of Manliness, I read of the "sweet science of bruising" that is boxing.


Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


Boxing has played an important role in American civil rights history. Jack Johnson.  Joe Louis. Cassius Clay cum Muhammad Ali.

By the way, the University of Texas - El Paso (UTEP) nee Western Texas University, figured into civil rights history: "The team made history by winning the 1966 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament in 1966, becoming the first team with an all-black starting lineup to win an NCAA basketball national championship. The Miners defeated Kentucky (a team that was all white until 1969) 72–65 in the historic championship game... "



Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


According to Pro-Boxing Fans, in its list of the 10 greatest Mexican-American boxers: "The impact made in this sport by Mexican-Americans is incalculable. As a group, they have basically single-handedly buoyed the sport on the west coast. Since way back, Mexican-Americans have provided star after star to the landscape of championship boxing. This list, unlike those of some groups, encompasses a wide period of the time–spanning from the 1940’s to this very day."

Boxing, El Paso Coliseum, El Paso, Texas. September 2016.


Round 3 below: