Thursday, November 30, 2017

Flashback: Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM

As was so often the case, New Mexico surprised me when I visited Bottomless Lakes State Park in April 2013.

Below is my post from back then:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bottomless Lakes State Park: Another New Mexican Surprise

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico 

I didn't have high expectations for Bottomless Lakes State Park. The photos on the New Mexico state parks page are a bit shoulder-shrugging, but since visiting all of New Mexico's state parks is one of my goals, I made my plans and went.

(A note to the state of New Mexico: I like your "find a state park page," but once you click through, the information for each of the state parks is inadequate in presentation and content. There aren't even directions to get to the parks. And wouldn't a link on each park page to your parks events calendar be nice? And because New Mexico is so rich in federal public lands, perhaps a link in that direction, as well?)

One of the coolest things about New Mexico's geography is that in one spot, you can look out over the horizon and see an uninterrupted plain of scrabbly flora and sandy soil. But take a few steps forward and a new world opens at your feet.

Thus Exhibit A at Bottomless Lakes State Park:

Exhibit A, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

 And Exhibit B, just a few steps into the frame, so to speak:

Exhibit B, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Thanks to the very pleasant volunteer at the park's visitor center, I learned how deep are the sinkholes - or cenotes - that dot the park, and how salty the water.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Visitors can swim in one of the sinkholes. At that lake are a couple of pretty stone buildings and shade structures with picnic tables.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

On the day I visited, there was lots of activity at the swimming hole.

Just across the street from this large sinkhole was a quiet boardwalk trail (the Wetlands Trail) with intermittent stick-built structures, I'm guessing birdwatching blinds, but also the perfect cool, shady places to lug your folding chair to and have a cool lunch, with only the sounds of birds, bubbling water, and sweet breezes to keep you company. I had this pleasant boardwalk trail entirely to myself.

On the surface, the wetlands soil is a mass of white or off-white crystalline crusts, some flat against the surface; others clustered around twigs, plants, or objects. If you push your finger into the surface just a little bit, you'll bring up water.

Do you see the perfect little paw print below?

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

I placed an earring close by for a size perspective.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

It's funny how there's a thin, red layer of silt over the white gypsum at the park.

The tamarisk, aka the Water-Sucking Soldiers, were in bloom the weekend I visited. 

A slide show:

Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM

And a video below, which wasn't in the original post:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ferguson: My Shower

Oh, my shower.

The water pressure.
The space.
The light of the sun that cascades through the window.
The window.
The Greek-Isle tile, the white walls.

The hot of the hot water, its arrival so prompt.

I am in the Mediterranean.

Shower, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.

After a year in the tiny capsule shower of El Paso, I am in luxury here.

Others may see just a typical bathtub and shower with a 1970s kinda vinyl liner surround.

Nay, 'tis a spa.

Shower, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.

My shower in Opelousas, not bad. But no window; dark. Scars and stains of many years in the tub.

My shower in Lafayette, also not bad. But also dark, dreary.

My shower in Alamogordo - no window, but fresh off of my time in Caucasus Georgia, it, too, filled me with grateful awe at its expanse.

My Ferguson shower.

It makes me sigh.

Monday, November 20, 2017

St. Louis: Early Days Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

November 2017.

Connect brunch and early-days jazz and pizazz and you've got a guaranteed good time on a Sunday afternoon.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers have a standing date with brunchers at Evangeline's Bistro on the corner of Washington/Olive and Euclid.

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

For your judicial review, I present my evidence below:

You can even get a personalized "dancake" at Evangeline's. Free!

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

I don't know how they taste. As my aunt June once replied to the offer of a sugary delectable: "No thank you, the visual feast is enough." I could enjoy the prettiness of others' dancakes without paying the penalty for the indulgence.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

The little scrub board held by the percussionist, put together with Evangeline's New Orleanic persona, gave me a tug toward South Louisiana.

Miss Jubilee, Evangeline's. St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.

No dance floor, alas.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Missouri: Silver Dollar City: Roller Coasters, the Swamp, and the People I Didn't See

Spring flower, Missouri. April 2007.

October 2017

Roller coasters

On my way to Missouri from El Paso via Big Bend National Park via Louisiana via Arkansas, I had some time to kill, and what better way to kill time than to ride roller coasters at Silver Dollar City?

When I say ride roller coasters, I mean just do that and nothing else. I was by myself, so I could choose to ride only the rides I wanted to ride. All day. ALL.DAY.

And a bag of kettle corn for lunch.

Jesus, it was fine.

The swamp

I noticed there were other solo visitors moving from roller coaster to roller coaster and then making the rounds again. So I guess I was part of a thing.

I chatted with one gentleman doing the coasters, and we exchanged the usual introductory questions, the almost-first of which: Where are you from?

He replied, "Washington."

I said, "Oh, the state of or D.C.?

He sniffed in contempt, "The state - not the swamp!"

I asked, "Oh, have you been to D.C.?"

He said, "No!"

I said, "Oh, it's a great place to visit. Once you get your travel and accommodations squared away, the museums and monuments and parks are free! The history, the art, the culture! It's a wonderful place to visit!"

But, of course, that's not what he was talking about.

Which brings me to:

The people I didn't see

This falls into the peculiar blindness category. Well, for those of us who are white folks, anyway.

The time is over in America when we can be blind to what we don't see. When it comes to Silver Dollar City, here's what I didn't see:
  • Employees of color. Of course, out of 1700+ full-time and part time employees, there are those of color, but I did not observe any measurable presence. 
  • Activities, exhibits, or stations that represent or include African-American participation in history or cultural traditions. Silver Dollar City purports to demonstrate traditional Missouri or Ozarkian - let's say rural Missouri - traditions and values. It needs to step up to share our comprehensive history in Missouri. Some historical stuff Silver Dollar City might look at here and here and here and here

I don't have any stats to support my perception of what I didn't see. .... Maybe Silver Dollar City is more inclusive in its hiring and exhibits than what appeared to be the case on the day I went.

All I've got is what I didn't see.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Arkansas: Racist Harrison Again

En route from Lake Catherine State Park to Branson, Missouri, I passed through Harrison, Arkansas, again.

Again, the same loathsome billboard from my last drive-through struck me. As did another one new to me, which proclaimed the local "white pride radio."

As I begrudgingly passed through Harrison's busy commercial section, and I saw all of the familiar signs for chain restaurants, retail stores, etc., I wondered how - or if - they ensure legal compliance for nondiscrimination in recruiting, hiring, and workplace practices. Does the composition of the local judicial system, including law enforcement, reflect the demographic composition of the town's population? Do any government-unit organizations tacitly approve Harrison's white supremacist influences by holding county, regional, or state meetings here, infusing this rotted-core dominion with cash? Do any religious groups do the same, staining the cloth of their espoused faiths? What about service organizations - Rotary, Lions, and the like, betraying their missions?

When I stopped at a red-lighted intersection, I wondered about the occupants of the vehicles next to me. White supremacists?

Next time I do a north-south run, I will re-route my trip to avoid Harrison. The sight of such blatant inhumanity to man brings up too much disgust.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 6: Coda

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri
Lake Catherine State Park

After the rain

I survived the previous evening's rain issues just fine, and got up early to watch the sun rise. Another camper was up even earlier, and he'd set up his chair at the end of the pier to watch the dawning of this good day.

The fellow nomad

On my Monday afternoon guided hike, I met another nomad of a certain age. I'll call her Susan. From a lifetime up in Maine or some other ungodly cold place, Susan retired two years ago. After a year or so of meeting friends frequently for coffee mid-day, she wondered, "Is this what the rest of my life is going to be? Meeting for coffee every day?"  And (I'm paraphrasing here): "It's fucking cold in Maine. I don't want to be cold anymore."

There came a time when Susan hatched a plan, and she delved into research about living and moving about in an RV. Friends of hers had bought a new Class B Pleasure-Way van. Eventually, she decided on the same.

When I met Susan at Lake Catherine State Park, she was slowly wending her way to a warm wintering place. California, perhaps.

Susan graciously allowed me to visit her van so she could give me a home tour. We'd noticed that my next door neighbors (who'd lent me the shovel the evening before) also had a Pleasure-Way, so we ambled over there to see if we could invite ourselves for a tour of their van.

My neighbors' van was a vintage one, I don't remember from what decade, but at least 20 years old. Although I'm not a fan of house tours, I do like to poke around RVs because ... you never know, I may end up in a tiny home space, whether on wheels or not.

It's fun to look at which amenities people choose, the utility of the various layouts, and imagine which amenities I'd choose and which layout I'd like.

My neighbors were delighted to give us a tour.

Susan is barely in her first year as a nomad. How long will she do this? Who knows? I hope she has a grand experience.

Neighbor exchange

When I walked over to return my neighbors' shovel, they said, "No, no! Keep it, please! We bought it awhile back and we've never used it!"

What a kindness.

I realized I might be able to reciprocate: I'd been lugging around two canisters of propane for a camp stove or lantern, and hadn't used them in ages. I asked if they might have a use for them, and if so, they'd be doing me a favor to take them. This is because I worried slightly about the safety of carrying around the canisters in a car in variable temperatures and in the enclosed space of my camp box.

They said, yes, the could use them.


A slide show of my stay at Lake Catherine State Park below:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas

.... back on the road to Missouri.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 5: Engineering

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri
Lake Catherine State Park

Tuesday evening brought a couple of challenges to my little campsite kingdom.

First there was the rain.

I'd chosen a level site for my tent construction.

What I discovered, however, was the lack of drainage for when the rain fell, and fell, and fell.

I found myself digging storm trenches around and away from my tent.

Water diversion, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

On one hand, this exercise caused no little consternation. Sleeping in a sodden tent is no fun, even though, fortunately, I could sleep off the floor, atop the springy cot my nonagenarian aunt gave me a few years ago. Because I would be leaving the next morning, it probably meant I'd have to pack a muddy, damp tent.

On the other hand, there was something satisfying about having to eyeball a problem, analyze how to fix it, and then execute on the plan, with adjustments on the fly. It reminds me of what an algebra-loving acquaintance told me once: "Every day is solving for x."

To divert the water from the tent, I had to dig trenches and clear debris from the corners of the railroad-tie-built platform so the water had a place to drain into, down, and away from the platform altogether.

Not having a shovel, I used the sturdy cap/cup to my large coffee thermos for the digging, and a knife and stick for the debris removal.

My next door neighbors, RVing it in a vintage Class B Pleasure Way, brought over a camp shovel for me to use in my excavations! They'd bought it awhile back and never used it. This helped a lot.

Water diversion, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

 Second, the uninvited guest. 

A goddamn wood roach or some such invaded my tent right before I went to bed. I tried to trap it so I could, if possible, scoot it out of my tent, and if not possible, kill it, but the damn thing eluded me. I do not like unpredictable strangers crawling about in my bedroom at night.

Eventually, I just had to live with the situation and hope it didn't surprise me by flying into my face or ear or start crawling up my arm or something while I slept. **Shudders.**

It didn't. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 4: The Ethereal

Early evening, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri

Lake Catherine State Park

On Tuesday afternoon, I took a short walk. Dewy webs and fungi were on the stage.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Look at those tiny leafen universes in the drops above!

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

For those who collect wild hearts:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

I'd like to have broken off the bread-like slab below and eaten it, but .... maybe it would kill me?

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Besides, I didn't have any salt with me. ..... Hahahaha! That's a joke. Of course I had salt with me!

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Mmmm, brown sugar with a sprinkling of roly-poly:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

I am curious about the cutting striations and also the waxy-pimply rounds on the base of this plank:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

I think of constellations and galaxies below, the whorls and swirls and stretching nebulae:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

And an ear cocked against the body of a tree:  

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

At night came the full moon. A video:

And some stills:

Full moon, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Full moon, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Full moon, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Full moon, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Good night.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 3: Squeaks and Squawks

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri

Lake Catherine State Park

On Monday morning, squawking geese trundled into the lake. I guess, traditionally, geese honk, but that would mess with my alliterative gimmick for today's title, so I'm sticking with the squawking. I'd also like to throw in the possibility of "squacking," but that might be overmuch. Also, I can't guarantee I actually heard any squawking, honking, or squacking on said morning when the geese slid into the water, but let's say it could have happened.

On Monday afternoon, I took a guided walk in the woods. After a year in the high desert of El Paso, it was a wonder to be back in the land of the deciduous. 

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

The bridge offered up satisfying squeaks as one walked over it. As below:

As I walk over it again (in the video), maybe it's more of a creaking than a squeaking. But again, alliteration. You know what I love? That I can walk over this bridge again and again and again every time I watch the video. No, every time I feel and hear the video. Gosh darn, it makes me smile.

The bridge's squeaks and creaks remind me of the sounds of the carriage ride I took on Heybeliada Island off of Istanbul, here and here.

One of my co-hikers was a solo nomad like me! More on her later. 

In my campsite, a glittery butterfly drew my eye. Sadly, it was dead.

Butterfly, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Butterfly, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Butterfly, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

Butterfly, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

My best guess is that it was a black swallowtail. My research tells me, however, that in future, I need to examine the bodies more carefully to note the color and shape of the insect's torso and the wings' topside.

I'm also thinking that if I were to pick up a hobby in which my choice was between birding and butterflying, then despite my affinity for birds, 'capturing' butterflies and moths might be more accessible to me.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 2: "Two White Boys Nervous ... "

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri

At Arkansas' Lake Catherine State Park, I encountered a couple who had recently moved to a private development on the lake. Young, robust retirees with two sons in and just-out of college. When they learned I'd lately come from El Paso, the wife shared that their younger son had been there in early September for the Sun City Music Festival!

Cool, I thought! Along with a wistful wish that I might still be in El Paso.

Then the wife remarked that her son and his friend had tried out one of the famous eateries in El Paso - one that Food Network had spotlighted - Chico's Tacos.

I asked how they liked it, and her response startled me.

Her son had described the visit, and as she related it to me, his story began with "two white boys nervous about" going in to Chico's.


This statement has stuck with me. "Two white boys nervous about ...."

What the holy fuck did these two young, upper-middle class, presumably educated men think might happen when they visited this restaurant?

It's a myth that only the so-called "uneducated" carry irrational fears about people, places, and things which represent the unknown, the Other.

I'm using the word "irrational" as a bucket to hold: statistically unlikely, untrue, untested, uninformed, racist (conscious or unconscious), classist, and, yes, thoughtlessly stupid.

Through my domestic and international travels, I've observed that irrational fears are not bound by education, socio-economic status, race, culture, religious beliefs, age, gender, and no, not even by allegedly-enlightening travels.

Irrational fear is a terrible, terrible thing. We exclude people we fear. We demonize people we fear. We de-humanize people we fear. We denigrate people we fear. We kill people we fear.

Out of fear, we imprison ourselves in enclaves - in bubbles - of pretend safety. We deny ourselves access to the entire banquet table that life offers us, partaking only of certain foodstuffs available in one small section of the buffet.

"Two white boys nervous" about going to Chico's Tacos in El Paso. 

Jesus. Such statements believed and uttered by men who, in their future professional lives, will likely make decisions that impact dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in their circles of influence.

Such things just make me want to cry.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Arkansas: Lake Catherine State Park, Part 1: Nostalgia

Sunrise, Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

October 2017
On the way to Missouri
Lake Catherine State Park

After completing my South Louisiana visit, bound for Missouri, I intended to book an airbnb around Hot Springs, Arkansas, so that I could get some work in. I'd found a fabulous place: A congenial hostess, lovely digs, strong and reliable internet (which I need for my work), affordable, and a good base for exploring Hot Springs. But that's when I hit up against airbnb's new "we take security seriously" gate, and I decided that even the sweetest temporary home was not worth sacrificing the seriousness with which I  take my security.

After considering various options, I decided to hell with trying to find a place to land with fast, reliable internet, and just go camping!

Geographically speaking, Arkansas is a gorgeous state. Lake Catherine State Park caught my eye because it sparked a pleasant memory. Many years ago, my mother and a sister booked a cabin at this state park. My mother brought back a soft sage-green (one of my favorite colors!) sweatshirt for my daughter, which had "Lake Catherine State Park" on it.

Decision made. I'd camp at Lake Catherine State Park for a couple of nights.

I arrived on a Sunday evening, which is a good time to roll into a campground without a reservation, as the weekend campers have long since left.

It was after 5:00 p.m., and the park office had closed, but thoughtful staff had left a sign noting available sites:

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

With my snap of this sign, I drove over the campground to see which of the available sites made me feel good.

My criteria for good sites are:
  • Close proximity to toilet;
  • Shade trees;
  • Flat area for tent;
  • Prettiness of view or site; and
  • Relative privacy from neighbors or frequent walk-through traffic. 

Having selected my site, I mentally expressed oohs and ahhs over the luxury of an electric site. Wow. I could bring out my coffeemaker for my morning coffee! Or a lamp!

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

It was especially pleasing to use my portable table, which I have schlepped with me to each of my year-long stays. This is the table I bought from my friend at her moving sale an eon ago. I sent her this picture. It is my office. It is my dining table. And in Arkansas, it was my kitchen counter. I love you, ma chérie table.

Speaking of nostalgia, the hanging dunk bag in the photo below is also a cherished item. My daughter and I made dunk bags together back when she was a Girl Scout Brownie. Only the one has survived, and I use it every time I camp.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017.

That's my tent in the background. On a flat surface. Foreshadowing: Engineering drama emerges later in my stay.

By the way, the fact that I had to attach my trash bag to a table leg and my dunk bag to the campsite reservation post should tell you there was a lack of (reachable by short me) resources to suspend housekeeping sorts of things. This is a pet peeve I have about some campsites.

Fortunately, I carry a l-o-n-g rope, and even though the distance between the two closest pairs of trees was also long, the length of my rope was up to the challenge. So later I was able to hang both my trash bag and dunk bag, plus other stuff like towels, in a right proper manner.